St Mungo’s & Woodworks Project: A Design Process

January 31, 2014

The V&A approached St Mungo’s, a charity which works with homeless people to prevent and alleviate homelessness. They work to assist personalised recovery for homeless and excluded people and in the process, improve their quality of life and seek to prevent homelessness and the exclusion that embeds it. Dopo Enzo is a film about a recent project which was developed to celebrate the opening of the Dr Susan Weber Gallery of Furniture at the V&A in 2012.

Woodworks was a project based within St Mungo’s, situated in a purpose built workshop nestled under the Harrow Road Flyover. The workshop, which ran from 1986-2013, had the aim of providing clients with new skills to enable them to find employment.

Men and women of all abilities became part of a workshop team, learning the skills involved in producing a range of quality pine furniture and wooden items. The furniture they produced; beds, wardrobes and bedside tables, furnishes St Mungo’s hostels and other projects.

We invited workshop leaders, Steve Jennings and Anna Zucchelli, and a group of clients from Woodworks, Tom Keegan, John Lonnie, Anthony O’Donnell, John Osborne, Tony Wheeler and Przemyslaw Wojtasczyka, to visit the V&A and explore the Furniture Galleries. None of the clients had ever visited the museum before. The Furniture Gallery’s focus on materials and techniques was especially interesting to the group.  Each member was able to apply their knowledge and skills with materials to historical work and processes they found in the collection.

To learn more about current furniture design practice we took the group to meet three very different designers and makers, David Gates, Julia Lohmann and Michael Marriot. Each of them invited the group into their workshops and shared their knowledge and expertise.

The film documents the group’s design process. As Anna Zucchelli says in the film:

They have the skills to produce: what they learnt was to design something useful for them”.

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Film made by  Gordon Beswick and the V&A © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The group produced four chairs inspired by Enzo Mari’s 1974 manual Autoprogettazione  and designed them to their own specifications. Mari’s project emphasised a system for producing furniture which could be made by anyone from standard sized and cheap widely available materials. The group drew on their experiences on the street, the work of the designers they met and their ideas about the homes they would like to inhabit in the future. The chairs were displayed in the British Galleries at the London Design Festival in September 2013. The project underlines the Museum’s mission to use the collections to inspire new designs, making and manufacture for all.

About the author

January 31, 2014

Matilda Pye is a V&A East and V&A Research Institute (VARI) Public Engagement Fellow within the VARI-led Show + Tell + Share research project. Pye works with the knowledge and...

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