by Manuel Collado and Nacho Martin Intermediate 11 Unit Masters
24 July 2013 Bedford Square, London   Each year, a team of tutors within the school is commissioned to design the Strawberry tables for the Projects Review opening party in Bedford Square. While in the past, tables have been made of ice, plaster casts, inflatables and ceramics, this year they went radioactive with a design by Intermediate 11 Unit Masters, Manuel Collado and Nacho Martin, founders of the design studio, Mi5 arquitectos. The commission is described as a “dubious honour” by the AA exhibitions team who observe, year after year, as tutors struggle to complete not just the tables but also their unit’s exhibition in the two-week time frame. In the following conversation, the pair describe their inspiration and the challenges they faced along the way.   What was the idea behind your design for the 2013 edition of the Strawberry Tables?   When we were commissioned to design the strawberries tables for the graduation ceremony, our first thought was that for such an important event, at the end of the academic year, the simple contrast of eating fruit should be made symbolic. We decided to transform the picnic-like activity into a ritual, to recharge users with new energy for the future. For that reason we thought of strawberries as a fruit capable of providing superpowers to the talented architects graduating form the AA. The goal was to provide, through the tables, a special feeling of radiation, emanating from its form, the fluorescent colours and the mirrored surfaces, as a metaphor representing the explosion of energy.   How did this project relate to your brief for Intermediate Unit 11?   The concept of the strawberry table is strongly linked to this year’s agenda within Unit 11. We have been trying to define the magical and extraordinary conditions of the island of Ibiza, to create devices and architectures capable of formally translating the concept of an expanded experience that Ibiza implies. It’s this same concept of an expanded experience that we want to convey with the strawberry tables, working as devices that expand the way we understand the fruit, re-described as food with extended radioactive properties for the new AA architects.
What were the biggest challenges in constructing the tables?   The main challenges for building the tables were first to adjust the budget in order to obtain enough tables. We wanted to create an exploded landscape of multiple colourful pieces in Bedford Square, to reinforce the idea of expansion, activating a feeling of a certain invasion of optimism. Finally four tables were made, through a simple and effective construction system by twinning two CNC wooden stars. The following challenge lay in how to achieve strong chromatic effects, powerful enough to dematerialise the wooden stars and create a powerful representation of radiation. We used an effective psychedelic pattern of fluorescent colours and mirrored tape, which in turn made us face the hard reality of analogical production… hand painting and finishing the star-shaped components.   Unit tutor, Manijeh Verghese and the students of Inter 11 apply foil tape to the neon stars Image Credit: Manuel Collado
What do you feel this year's tables added to the long tradition of Strawberry tables at the AA?   We think that our tables add drops of optimism, colour and energy to this long legacy of tables along with some psychedelic flavour too. It’s a nice contrast to the traditional black dress code that architects love to display at such ceremonies.   [caption id="attachment_1902" align="alignnone" width="360"] The tables being installed in the landscape
Image credit: Manuel Collado[/caption]   For more information: Mi5 Arquitectos Intermediate 11 Unit Brief Intermediate 11 on Projects Review