Soft Architecture


21 September 2018

Flexible, porous, adaptable and soft. These are buzzwords which have characterised architectural discourse for the past several decades.

Taken quite literally, they are also words that may be applied to the architect Sam Jacob's installation in Swedish bedmaker Hästens' Brompton showroom. For this year's London Design Festival (LDF), Disegno partnered with Hästens and Jacob to put on a playful, interactive installation, where guests could tuck themselves in and enjoy Jacob’s reinterpretation of the childhood bedfort typology.

The pillow-fort consisted of five beds, a sky-like canopy in Hästens’ traditional blue checkered pattern, and a set of bedlinen designed especially for the installation. The latter featured patterns evoking architectural elements and materials that are normally considered hard and immovable: window panes, floorboards, brick walls, and rusticated stone. With the aid of these soft architectural elements, visitors could reconfigure the installation into various architectural scenarios where the normal laws of structure and construction did not apply. Within the overarching framework provided by Hästens’ highly developed materials, Jacobs created space for reinvention and play, posing questions about the permanence and rigidity we traditionally associate with the built environment.

Architecture has something to learn from this playful approach, the installation seemed to suggest. Ordinary things can take on fantastical dimensions if we approach them like a child building a bedfort: a bed can become a type of architecture, big can become small, hard surfaces can become soft, and things normally seen on the outside can be incorporated within the interior of a structure.

The installation was also meant to prompt new ways of thinking about existing, "hard" architecture. The idea of architecture being all-enveloping, and something that exists in a direct relationship to one's body is key to understanding the building environment. Perhaps all architecture could stand to be a little more like a bedfort.