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Asif Khan’s MINI Living Forests for London Design Festival explores the possibilities of Third Places

United Kingdom Architecture News - Sep 17, 2016 - 15:20   27653 views

Asif Khan’s MINI Living Forests for London Design Festival explores the possibilities of Third Places

Asif Khan's new MINI Living green-filled relaxing spaces presented at the London Design Festival 2016 set a new breathtaking environment for individuals, offering locals places to connect create and relax. MINI has teamed up with designer Asif Khan to continue its MINI Living programme and explore new architectural solutions to urban living challenges that kicked off earlier this year at Salone del Mobile in Milan. 

While the debut installation explored forms of collaborative living, the follow-up in London addresses the need for a functional and flexible network of ‘third places’ in the urban environment. 

Asif Khan’s MINI Living Forests for London Design Festival explores the possibilities of Third Places

“Given the trend of urban densification we need to tap urban potentials in creative ways,” explains Oke Hauser, Creative Lead of Mini Living. “Given the amount of left-over public space we need to ask: how can we activate this spatial innercity potential and turn it into contributing functions for the urban community?”

MINI Living scanned London for spatial potentials within the public realm and identified a network of three exemplary locations of underused public spaces within the city fabric. These locations serve as the basis for the Mini Living “Third Places” concept and its interpretation by Asif Khan. Asif Khan has designed a family of architec- tural installations called “Forests” using plants to explore the relationship between public and private space in the city. 

Asif Khan’s MINI Living Forests for London Design Festival explores the possibilities of Third Places

The designs speculate on the possibilities of “third places” as described by sociologist Ray Oldenburg; places which “host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work.” 

Around Shoreditch, visitors can find a series of ‘forest’ environments each holding miniature forests populated by plants which visitors can take home during the Festival. Established Horticulturalist Jin Ahn of the Conservatory Archives in Hackney has curated the plant life at the installations.

Asif Khan’s MINI Living Forests for London Design Festival explores the possibilities of Third Places

Three architectural installations with different interior landscapes and plant life are inserted on nearby sites in Shoreditch’s busy city streets, offering visitors a temporary network of “third places” to connect, create and relax in an immersive atmosphere. Although each space is open to different types of activity, the layout also enables the hosting of specific events during the Festival. 

Asif Khan’s MINI Living Forests for London Design Festival explores the possibilities of Third Places

In the square next to Shoreditch Fire Station a long communal table has been installed, encouraging visitors to meet and interact. Not far away in Charles Square stepped seating serves as a place for visitors to work in quiet surroundings. Finally, the junction of Old Street and Pitfield Street features an elevated room that offers passers-by a secluded green room in the city.

Asif Khan’s MINI Living Forests for London Design Festival explores the possibilities of Third Places

MINI invites the Festival visitors to use the installations as extensions of their private space and to link the public and the private by taking plants home, growing them in their own homes and sharing their plant’s progress on social media.

Asif Khan’s MINI Living Forests for London Design Festival explores the possibilities of Third Places

“There is a Japanese phrase ‘shinrin yoku’, which literally means ‘forest bathing’. It means every sense switches to absorb the forest atmosphere, what you hear, what you smell, even the feeling underfoot. At another scale we use plants as a tool to assert our personal space at its boundary with public space, whether on our desk at the office or at the perimeter of our home. The project brings these two ideas together for visitors to experience new sensations within the city,'' says Asif Khan.

Asif Khan’s MINI Living Forests for London Design Festival explores the possibilities of Third Places

Jin Ahn says, “Every day in London we can see the efforts and abilities of plants in the city. In our project, two of these qualities will shine through at a larger scale – the compelling aesthetic pleasure of plants and their ability to connect people.”

Asif Khan’s MINI Living Forests for London Design Festival explores the possibilities of Third Places

The concept of the MINI Living, Your Side of Town is to provide a network of spaces between the home and the city, between work and play, between public and private space. The three plant-filled spaces, named Connect, Create and Relax are located at different points of the city. 

The Relax room, located on the junction of Old Street and Pitfield Street, is elevated from the ground while The Create structure is located in Charles Square in the middle of a residential estate. The final room, titled Connect, introduces a corridor-like space set up in the square next to Shoreditch Fire Station.

Asif Khan’s London-based practice works across the fields of architecture, industrial and furniture design. It is dedicated to pushing these disciplines in innovative and unexpected directions. In recognition of his design and delivery of the MegaFaces Pavilion at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Asif was awarded a Cannes Lions Grand Prix for Innovation. This is the first time the panel have awarded the prestigious prize to an architecture studio or a Russian project.

All images © Theo Cohen

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