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‘Thinking Big’ with Fung and Bedford

For autumn/winter 2021/22 Design-Nation is exploring the theme of ‘Thinking Big’, looking at individual projects and entire design practices working at significant scale. Here we interviewed Angela Fung of Fung + Bedford, the multi-disciplinary design studio of Angela Fung and Ashley Bedford.

Design-Nation began by asking Angela to briefly describe their practice:

Angela Fung answered: We love origami! As designer makers we create origami inspired large scale Tyvek paper installations and faceted sculptures for commercial spaces and interior projects. Working together since 2003, as we began as award winning jewellery designers, but with added architectural background (Ashley), we have built a multi-disciplinary practice, applying our aesthetic to architectural origami.

We combine our architecture experience and jewellers’ fine eye and intricate folding techniques to challenge the boundaries of the traditional craft of origami, using it on an architectural scale and transforming it into a contemporary art form.

D-N: Where do you work and what are your most essential/valued tools?

A.F: In our Sussex-based studio we create bespoke architectural origami paper installations and faceted sculptures for interior designers, architects, commercial developers, galleries and private clients. These large scale structures clad walls, ceilings are free hanging or wind themselves across a space, bring bringing beauty, calm and serenity to the environment.

We use a precision cutter plotter we call Mr Roland (that’s the brand) – he’s 6 and half feet long and occupy a good part of our studio. Without him we would never have been able to achieve the precision folds that we are well known for – humans are just not able to score the complex designed folds that we do. Whereas Mr Roland’s tolerance is within 1mm for a 20m stretch of paper!

The other valued tool is our hands – this is the other spectrum of combining modern tech with human interpretations. We are still our best people to create these folds!

D-N: Tell us about your most recent large project: how did it come about? What did you create and where/for who?

A.F: Our client was architect/interior designer form MoreySmith, who were woking for main contractor BW for a global consultancy firm’s HQ in West London.

The challenge MoreySmith set us was to develop a unique suspended ceiling system, combining origami and Tyvek for this new office development. They asked us initially to propose a variety of unique creative ceiling designs, to be part of a pilot project/test bed for the new office development. The successful design would be selected and rolled out over the whole new office complex.

We applied our design expertise to the challenge, developing an original concept using folded Tyvek panels to be hung from stainless steel tension cables. The panels were designed to concertina back to facilitate access to the ceiling void. LED strip lights were to run between each panel for efficient lighting systems.

We had a happy result from this pilot: MoreySmith were so impressed by our work, they requested that we create new designs for all of the feature open areas, in addition to their original brief. We were successful and were selected to roll out the main project, which comprised of 40 office/work room ceilings, and feature ceilings for 4 large open circulation areas, all top lit with LED panels.

The initial design concept was developed and enhanced by us to adapt as the build progressed, working closely with the client and the developers to ensure a smooth implementation. The project was completed on time and on budget in spring 2019 – it was big in every way:

  • 6 months production time
  • 1200 linear metres of Tyvek
  • 1800m of stainless steel cable
  • 116,000 hand folds
  • 800 magnets
  • 126,000 square feet of space,

D-N: Have you delivered any other projects at this scale?

A.F: This is so far our biggest project – we have been in talks with other architects to create similarly ambitious project but sadly due to Covid – many projects have been put on hold or cancelled. We are only beginning to come out with more meetings with potential projects although we are not allowed to say what at this early stage as clients are secretive(!).

We have been working in this manner for the last few years – as these projects generally take a year or so to get the concept stage done, before the final approval. So it’s a long game we play….

D-N: Do you prefer this type of project, or smaller scale work? Would you ‘think big’ again?

A.F: We like working in all sizes of projects! Large one-offs are great – as they are the most challenging. It most likely gives us the biggest scope in terms of creativity too! But once things are finalised its a long hard slog of production. (But thankfully we love folding! So this part of the work is like therapy.)

Whereas the smaller scale projects are simpler, though its more bread and butter in terms of income, they are no less satisfying.

D-N: What are the challenges and what gives you satisfaction about working at large scale? Does ‘thinking big’ require a different mind set in the development phase? Is it more or less demanding than other work?

A.F: You’ve got to think about installation in a practical way. It’s no longer just about folding and origami, but how to create something substantial and long lasting. As well as health and safety – which is paramount in interior builds. Suddenly rules and regulations are also to the forefront.  Basically a lot of things that an artist doesn’t necessarily think of usually, but a building contractor does – this is the realm we occupy.

It’s super helpful that Ashley is an architect by trade, so most of these hurdles we are aware of. Logistics is also high on the list – where do you store all your work before install? Do you have capacity in the studio for have hold all the work? Delivery? Hire of transport? All of these things add to extra costs that one wouldn’t normally think of…

On top of that – having the capacity to visualise (both in drawing and verbally) what your ‘big vision’ is helps immensely!

D-N: Do you have a dream project, place, process or material that you’re long to try?

A.F: To have our work at the Tate Modern as the Turbine Hall is such an inspiring space. We are also developing some different techniques as well as ways to hang our work, but can’t share anything at this early stage.

D-N: Any other comments about ‘thinking big’?

A.F: It’s great to ‘think big’ – this is how we come to do what we do. The ‘why not?’ attitude, it’s healthy in a way that it prompts you to ask questions and pushes you to go from big to small. This way of thinking frees up our imaginations!

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Laura Jacometti


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