Experience and scenic design, Interview, Product and Industrial Design
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DesignTalks follow-up

Studio Swine


DesignMarch, Reykavik opened with DesignTalks, a full day of inspiring talks lead by internationally renowned designers and design thinkers at the architectural astounding Harpa.

Part of the impressive line-up was Anglo-Japanese Studio Swine, co-founded by Architect Azusa Murakami and Artist Alexander Groves. They gave an exceptional talk sharing their unique approach to design and explained their nomadic way of working. Operating across a wide range of disciplines, Studio Swine’s work has gained an international audience within and beyond the design world.

Their first proper encounter came as a heart-warming surprise to the audience, having been trapped in Milan after an RCA school trip, due to the volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull back in 2010. They have not left each other’s side since.

(HA caught up with them briefly before their talk.)


Studio Swine was founded on the basis of cooperation of the architect and an artist and the result of this cooperation is quite extraordinary. How do you deal with the different perspectives of Art, design and architecture during your work? 

Azusa: “Architecture – able to see the big picture in an analytical way, architecture essentially has to respond to the environment, in terms of sustainability it helps also to use the vernacular material to reduce enormous cost, deeply rooted by the sites, symbiotic relationship.”

Alexander: “Always loved designing details, with product design I can focus on details more, with shorter turnaround.”


We only think about categories when we have to think about where a project might show, it’s more of a question for galleriest than creatives as it’s really more important for the market to categorize. I used to be an artist and I have never truly felt I was designer but now I don’t feel like I’m an artist anymore either. So our work is without a true home, our studio is nomadic in both geography and in discipline. 


Design medium gets completely unexpected form in your work. You are often dealing with environmental and social issues. How do you feel about the connection of art, design and political issues? Are you also considering this idea in your work or do you prefer to keep it apolitical?

Questions of environment, distribution and management of natural resources and regional/cultural identity are by default political but we don’t start with politics and it’s not what inspires us. We try to stay quite neutral to allow the viewer more space for contemplation which is one reason we don’t have voiceover on most of our films, we want to show the plastic pollution in a way that is paradoxically beautiful and that can help draw people in to engage with a often depressing issue. With Hair Highway we kept a somewhat neutral stance showing the situation of a Hair Market and factories as we saw them whilst also showing the potential of the material. 


For more visit www.studioswine.com

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