To celebrate the beginning of 2014 Selfridges launches this week the Festival of Imagination; a programme of events and promotion of innovative products aimed at challenging design and creative thinking. The initiative, inspired by Harry Gordon Selfridges’ quotes “imagination is the mother of originality, we encourage imagination in every way possible” and “develop imagination, throw away routine”, will take place in the Selfridges stores in London, Manchester and Birmingham from the 17th of January to the 2nd of March.
Exploring future-gazed thinking and creative experimentation the campaign includes several different activities and dedicated spaces within the store. First of all the Imaginarium, the space whose design was commissioned to superstar architect Rem Koolhaas and where talks, debates and lectures will take place. The Imaginarium, an amphitheatre-shaped auditorium, has a postmodern look; it is bordered by one polycarbonate wall and mirrors on the other sides, the floor has an optical design with black and white stripes and green columns with black top form its structure. It can host about 70 guests and will be officially open by tomorrow.
Rem Koolhaas’ design will be also protagonist amongst the products showcased during the events. He has in fact designed footwear for the United Nude brand, the Lo Res collection which will be on sale during the exhibition.
Especially for the showcase of innovative products, the Festival has also a specific store within the space of the mall; the Image shop. Offering a unique retail experience the shop sells a mix of different items from the Dezeen interactive watch store to a wide assortment of technology-friendly products and other interesting items such as impossible cameras and 3D printers. In addition it offers the chance to buy the most expensive item ever on sale at Selfridges, a £300 million yacht available on sale via augmented reality. Among the most interesting products within the store in terms of design we will find furniture and other items by 19th Greek Street a design firm that based its design approach on sustainably and recycling. The shop will be selling some of their creations such as Robots, Chubby Chair, Chubby Coat Hangers, Flow Dining Chair and others.
As for the programme of events it includes lectures, debates and workshops. The leaders and protagonists of these programme, renamed the “Imagineers” (a word that suggest the mix of the invention of engineers with the creativity of designers), are designers, curators, journalists, psychologists and others. Between them we find Minimaforms, Vitamines, The Lost Lectures, Marcus Fairs of Dezeen blog, architects Magnus Larsson and Alex Kaiser of Ordinary, conceptual artist and designer Rolf Sachs, etc. The programme aims at giving to the public a cross-disciplinary perspective to design and innovation that branches out from dance psychology to bio-fashion, architecture, new technology and more. Some of these guest speakers have also been designing the windows of the store.
In particular the Lost Lecture Series of talks includes speakers such as Carol Anne Duffy (UK poet Laureate), Simon Chinn (multi-Academy Award winning producer: Man on a Wire, Searching for Sugar Man), Gavin Pretor Pinney (The Cloud Appreciation Society) and David McCandless, a renowned Infographic designer.
The Festival also includes an online competition and the “Butcher’s Apron radio show”. The competition challenges the public to submit ideas for the store such as a concept of service to improve the shopping experience. The radio instead, on display in one of the windows, offers a series of live broadcasts with interviews to key personalities and a great selection of music.
Beyond the commercial scopes of the department store what does the festival offer that can be challenging for the public and the design world? Is the open-minded, borderless approach to thinking offered by this revised concept of imagination a real open ground to construct social and cultural discourse?