Mirrl & Half Year Studio: Capitals
October ushers in Capitals, an exciting new collaboration in lighting by Mirrl and Half Year Studio, celebrating two of Glasgow’s most iconic historic designers – Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson and Charles Rennie Mackintosh
For a country that exists in near darkness for much of the year, it’s surprising that lighting design doesn’t feature more highly in the Scottish design scene. All the more reason, then, to sit up and pay attention to this most distinctive and experimental lighting series. Capitals is a collaboration between Glasgow designers Mirrl – maximalist manufacturers of resilient, colourful patterned surfaces – and Half Year Studio, led by David Ross, a designer who specialises in environmentally responsible materials and methods of production.
Together they have created a series of interior pendants which diffuse light through a structure of interconnecting timber slats featuring Mirrl’s eponymous surface material. The design references both the classical architecture which influenced Alexander Thomson’s work and Mackintosh’s interpretation of Japanese structure.
“Initial inspiration for the project came from the ornamentation of an understated Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson tenement in Glasgow’s Southside, just minutes from our workshop. This was used by David Ross to inspire a series of risograph prints celebrating Glasgow’s built heritage, before being re-considered – this time in a three-dimensional sense,” says Mirrl’s Simon Harlow.
As GSA alumni, it seems natural that the designers would refer to archival images of The Glasgow School of Art’s interiors and library as a key source of inspiration, as well as drawing on their own personal memories of the ‘Mack’ building.
“I first met Simon Harlow and Lewis Harley (of Mirrl) while researching new and traditional crafts across the West of Scotland. After finding out about the roots of their practice, which emerged from a form of traditional Japanese lacquering, I was reminded of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and how strongly his designs were influenced by Japanese art and craft,” says Ross.
The series was given the name Capitals in reference to the column capitals of the classical architecture which influenced Alexander Thomson. As with the columns of classical architectural order, the pendants represent a series of forms of increasing complexity, resulting in a visual grammar which can be used to differentiate between the functions of interior space or to create hierarchies in public settings.
Decorative elements are predominantly formed using narrow strips of Mirrl’s highly patterned surface material, so the opportunity to create new versions using offcuts offers a sustainable production method for future designs. The series employs a standardised construction process that allows for a variety of sizes and shapes to be produced. Individual pendants can be produced in any Mirrl pattern, or – in collaboration with the Mirrl studio – in unique colourways to suit new or existing interiors for both domestic and hospitality contexts.
At the core of each pendant is a small bulb which sits within a simple structure formed of four diffuser-frames. Using a minimal number of components, the small pendant can be added to with further diffuser-frames – a simple method of increasing scale and visual complexity for larger spaces. For the largest size in the series, a further four diffuser-frames can be added, assembling the design to its fullest form, creating an arresting statement piece, which casts intriguing light and shadow.
The Capitals pendant used in a variety of ways either in pairs, as three forms or individually would perfectly suit a bar or restaurant interior, as well as offering an atmospheric statement to a more minimal living room, dining room or commercial space.
“We’re so pleased to launch this collaboration. Capitals has taken a pleasingly full circle journey, around Glasgow and around the globe, from 3D architectural ornament, to 2D patterns, to new 3D expressions of Glasgow. We wanted to celebrate a particular period of the city’s history when it showed its confidence through design and architecture – that’s what the Capitals series means to us.”