This is the latest in a series of interviews with designers identified by the Design Council as the rising stars of the future – the so-called ‘Ones to Watch‘. Thomas Savage‘s ‘In Praise Of Nests & Other Things’ is a collection of towers designed to sit along shoreline of Blyth, Northumberland. “The nine-storey hostel towers comprise steel scaffolding and concrete cabins, offering habitats for wild birds in the winter and water sports enthusiasts during the summer,” explains the Design Council. “The scheme responds to two local interests: ornithology and water sports, giving both birds and people the chance to temporarily ‘roost’ during different seasons.” Thomas’ project was highlighted in the Material World category alongside Effie Koukia’s edible spray paint and The Narcissus Project by Christos Diplas – a series of sunken walkways, floating islands and greenhouses designed to remove pollutants from London’s Royal Docks.
What inspires your work?
Many things, at the moment I’m incredibly influenced by the Japanese metabolism movement and recent advancements in digital fabrication. Saying that a lot of my references come from the fine art world, Stelarc, for instance, really influenced a project I did recently.
Talk me through your design and making process.
This changes in formality from project to project, it could be exploration through drawing, through material research or digital tools, but I always try to start with an abstract idea, something non-architectural, because this frees me to play with the concept without thinking of a specific outcome.
What’s your favourite part of the process?
The beginning, when you’re exploring the possibilities of the initial idea.
What’s your favourite tool and why?
I like to make and I like to draw, these processes should, for me, compliment each other. You draw then you make, then you draw what you’ve made and so on, this process of learning from what you’re doing is central to how good work is made. The idea is born out of continuous process. So I suppose my favourite tools are both my hands and the pencil.
Tell me about a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Thomas Savage.
A really good day probably starts with somebody else’s work, when I’ve seen something totally new and exciting and I’m motivated. A really bad day is when I’m stuck on a task, usually representative, that’s not really working and I’m just making it worse.
What defines good design?
Good design should be simple to read, it should give you atmosphere, it shouldn’t make you think of the great tests the designer put themselves through for the outcome you see to be a reality, but rather the thought: “of course it’s like that, that’s the way it should be”.
What are you most proud of?
The recognition I’ve received for my work so far has been extremely humbling.
What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?
Chuck Close said it best: “If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lighting to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something that you reject will push you in another direction.”
What did it mean to you to be selected as one of the Design Council’s Ones To Watch?
A great honour to have my work recognised by such a prestigious award. These sorts of things rarely pay in any monetary sense, but they do allow you to discuss your ideas with an incredibly esteemed range of practitioners and academics which certainly wouldn’t be possible without the award. This has definitely had a positive effect on my development as a designer.
And finally, what’s your favourite colour?
Unlike most architects, it’s probably blue.
Further reading for the especially geeky:
Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.
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