Tree top adventure

By Craig McIntyre,

Summer time at Four-by-Two sees the team depart to far flung corners of the world as they look to take a well-earned break, recharge the batteries and get to take life at a slower pace.

Little did the Edinburgh team realise that the somewhat relaxed and informal staff summer outing traditionally held in August would take them to new heights, literally! On a day-to-day schedule, we solve problems side-by-side, the creative energy and desire to fulfil the brief and deliver exceptional projects is the main reason we get up from our beds in the morning to make a difference. The difference on this occasion would be helping each other to overcome trepidation, working together as a team and inspire each other to complete the task!

The challenge for the summer outing was up for grabs – a day of outdoor adventure for the Four-by-Two tribe at Glentress Forest, taking part in a tree top canopy challenge hosted by Go Ape. It would be fair to say that the initial reaction to a day of swinging through the canopy, wiping out at the bottom of zip wires and traversing a river at a dizzying 50 metres above the ground was met with a few raised eyebrows – however, the team accepted the challenge and we were off!

Heading out of Edinburgh towards the Tweed Valley is Peebles and Glentress Forest – an ideal location for walking and cycling. In fact, Glentress Forest is one of Scotland’s 7stanes, seven mountain biking centres spanning the south of Scotland, from the heart of the Scottish Borders to Dumfries and Galloway. ‘Stane’ is the Scots word for stone, and at each of the 7stanes locations, you’ll find a unique stone sculpture – a stane – reflecting a local myth or legend.

We didn’t go in search of myth or legend on this occasion, the day was all about working collectively, as one, tackling a course that spans the forest, its jaw-dropping backdrop and hair-raising obstacles that stocked adrenaline and which culminated in a 300m long zip wire across the valley floor.

The Four-by-Two team were amazing, and everyone completed the course with plenty to celebrate – after a round of air punching and high fives we found our feet safely back on terra firma. The companionship we all share is never more evident than when we throw ourselves into the unknown, push the boundaries and come out the opposite side stronger than ever … well done all!

An architectural fiesta

By Craig McIntyre,

Summer at Four-by-Two is normally brought in with a party; a chance for the team to celebrate together, another year of exciting, successful projects. However, as Four-by-Two enjoys a special birthday and turns sweet sixteen, this year proved different. 

We are a team of brand storytellers, born in London’s Shoreditch, with studios in London and Edinburgh — working across Europe and beyond. To celebrate this special moment in Four-by-Two’s life, we decided to do something a little different to mark the occasion.

For work we travel often: for research trips and site visits it’s a necessary part of what we do. However, this month we were excited to wake early, pack a rucksack and head to the airport as a team, for pleasure rather than business. 

As a group of design enthusiasts, a day trip to sunny Bilbao meant we could take in the world-famous museums, architecture and culture. Our first stop was, perhaps predictably, the iconic Guggenheim Museum, designed by renowned architect, Frank Gehry. A striking yet beautiful site, it lies imposingly along the Nervión River and remains one of the most important, daring pieces of contemporary architecture of our time. 

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is home to one of seven permanent installations of Louise Bourgeois’s ‘Maman’ — a large-scale sculpture that sits in wake of the museum itself. It holds an eerie combination of elegance and horror, standing in juxtaposition to the bright blue sky, and yet, it is intended as a tribute to her mother, who was a weaver.

Entering the main atrium, another bold contrast in the form of Joana Vasconselos’s colourful ‘Egerie’ fills the heart of the building, stretching its tentacles through the space as if leading you to each exhibit. 

A favourite of ours, was Richard Serra’s ‘Torqued Ellipses’; large-scale sheets of weathered steel, warped into three-dimensional forms which create impact and emotion as they dominate the space with an air of magnificence. As well as the impressive permanent collection we were treated to exhibitions showcasing the works of Ai Wei Wei and a collection of Chagall paintings as well as more outdoor installations from Anish Kapoor and Jeff Koons. 

The rest of a beautiful day was spent meandering along the river, taking in Bilbao’s rich cityscape. A combination of authentic and contemporary, from the modern Calatrava bridges to the rustic Seven Streets of Casco Viejo. With its bustling art scene, green landscape, friendly people and simple but delicious cuisine, there was a lot to fall in love with. A visit to this charming Basque city offered us the chance to share our common passions and excite and inspire our minds purely for our own enjoyment. Staying passionate means discovering the things that spark your own creativity and remembering to explore them for yourself as well as for work. But really, what better way to celebrate a special birthday than bonding as team over the art and ideas that will inspire the next sixteen years of Four-by-Two?

Paris First

By Craig McIntyre,

With the recent launch of the new digital art centre, Atelier des Lumières in the 11ème arrondissement of Paris, we were excited to visit the venue for their inaugural exhibition. Set in a former iron foundry from the 19th century, the building itself has been revalued to its original steel skeleton. Utilising its open space and unique character, the addition of over 120 video-projectors transforms the room into an ambient canvas that plunges visitors into a new world of dynamic light, colour and sound. 

Combining motion and music using digital technology and artificial intelligence, paintings are propelled across walls, ceiling and flooring. Engulfing the audience; it allows them to experience traditional works from a different perspective than previously possible. It unlocks a new relevance that connects traditional skills and the digital age with exciting fluidity. 

Although the continued application of digital and AI in varying disciplines is often questioned, it is undeniable that without it, we wouldn’t get the chance to experience and appreciate developments like these. This exhibition captures an emotive experience in an hour-long video projection and mapping installation of large-scale visual frescoes of Gustav Klimt’s work. 

Klimt and the artists who drew inspiration from him (the “Vienna Succession”: 1892–1906) often used architecture as a means to express their art and as a way to grow their audience by bringing their art to community spaces. The exhibition recreates the pictorial intricacy of Klimt work and it is interesting that contemporary media like mapping creates a means of showcasing pieces that can’t be moved from Vienna.

The work of Hunderwasser, who was highly influenced by the Vienna Succession is also projected and accompanied by the music of Luca Longobardi. Every sense is engaged and the visitor not only views the art but becomes part of it. The scale and grandeur of the projections allows us to see in more detail, the techniques of the artist and his inspiration. The clever use of mirrors and water within the venue creates reflections and bounces playful patterns across the space furthering the dynamic value of the installation.

The use of AI adds to the agility of this project. On occasion, the vibrations of the score playing in the background informs the movements of the projections creating a seamless world for the audience to venture into. The use of new technologies don’t detract from the original beauty of Klimt’s art, but instead realises its agility in a modern setting; handling his works sympathetically creates something delicate, dynamic and alive.

In a very different way, but with similar values, the studio Ouchhh propose ‘Poetic — AI’ to transport us to a monotone, graphic universe. Using AI in the initial creative stages, the forms of light and movement viewed by each audience is completely unique, derived using an algorithm to inform the shapes and rhythm. The absence of colour and the sudden burst of bright light on concrete and steel is powerful. The effect is emotional, poetic and surreal. Like seeing a band play live, there is a joint swell of feeling within the crowd that happens when a moving experience is shared. 

The experience confronts the audience by its all encompassing and emotional impact. Transporting us into an exciting, innovative world between 2D and 3D our senses are met with compelling authority. The Atelier des Lumières offers a new exciting way to experience art. We cant wait to see what other innovative installations and events showcase over the coming months. If anything like this one, they will be all consuming, thought provoking and full of life.

Clerkenwell Design Week

By Craig McIntyre,

A unique, artistic hub, Clerkenwell is home to more creative businesses and architects per square mile than anywhere else in the world. It celebrates this inspirational community of rich diversity by hosting Clerkenwell Design Week where leading UK and international brands showcase their area of expertise through showroom events, exhibitions and installations.

Already in it’s 9th year, 2018’s rendition took place last week from the 22nd to the 24th of May. CDW has increased in popularity year-on-year with professionals and design conscious individuals alike, firmly establishing itself as the UK’s leading independent design festival. With last year boasting over 300 exhibiting brands, the design community attended in their droves with over 34,000 attendees and this year we were lucky enough to be invited by Source Developments to experience the exciting atmosphere and events in person.

Each brand cultivates a perfectly curated representation of themselves, showcasing their values, philosophy, new thinking or innovative new collections with each exhibition speaking with true idiosyncrasy. We loved all the bright and colourful rainbow hues that appeared throughout many of the installations that were utilised with varying methods, technique and results.

A few of our stand out exhibitions included Muuto, Alias Design and Stellar Works along with the gradient of multi-coloured ‘Working Girl’ lounge chairs by Dead Good. Kvadratt Textiles who are already famed for their colourful textiles created unity between the various exhibitions with the creation of their kaleidoscope coloured balustrade. Their showroom design was a collaborative process with graphic designer Peter Saville and architect David Adjaye.

The Next Generation Pavilion within the St. James’ Churchyard was particularly poignant; designed by GSCE students from around central London they responded to the topic of sustainability. A mesh of bright wires strung overhead within a red frame certainly had impact and the involvement of young people within a globally respected platform like CDW allowed dialogue to open up between industry leaders and the next gen of the creative industries which felt both special and important.

From inside to outside, the event is a playground of inspiration for the design community. Armed with exponential inspiration, we can’t wait to go back next year. A big thanks again to Source Developments for bringing us along and giving us the tour.

A GLOBAL SPACE

By Craig McIntyre,

Someone’s career is so often an extension of themselves; sometimes their passion, a vocation or in aid of a cause they care deeply about. We all spend a huge percentage of our time at work, so it is important then that the environment in which we find ourselves has the power to impact, influence and inspire our day and productivity. This is true across all jobs; whether a corporate role, outside in nature or in customer service, our surroundings have the potential to affect.

This is something we consider daily – as interior architects and branding specialists, we are constantly considering how someone will feel in the space we are creating and how they will bond with it. The creation of the Global Health Campus in Geneva, is a unique opportunity for Four-by-Two and how we envisage the creation of a collaborative work space for the Global Fund, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance as well as additional organisations and charities whose primary goal is tackling global health issues. The Global Fund’s mission is to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics. Gavi is a global partnership which brings together public and private sectors with the shared goal of creating equal access to vaccines for all people.

Working directly with the Global Fund and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, we have devised a transformative brand and space that unites both organisations, utilising the communal areas. These are designed to act as breathable and organic zones, with the ability to take on the many varying needs of the organisations working at the Global Health Campus.

The Global Fund and Gavi appointed Four-by-Two with the task of manifesting this collaborative space that aims to bring the efficiency and alliance of a creative working environment to a unique habitat. Housing not only the Global Fund and Gavi but also multiple organisations and over a thousand employees, it aims to increase happiness and yield innovation with a united front in a bonded location. It was immediately obvious that people are the heart of all organisations involved, whether staff, brand ambassadors or those the work is aiming to help there was a true sense of equality among everyone that we came across in abundance. It was this that informed our creative route.

Focusing on the notion of human touch we looked at the traditional art of body painting which inspired the word marque and signifier for the Campus. Again, replicating the concept of an organic, living entity, the design takes on this persona with the seven strands symbolising the seven floors of the building. Using pictorials as the common language throughout the building further enforced that we are all the same. By speaking to everyone in this language that we all understand, it unites us in deeper, meaningful ways. Looking closer at the functionality of the joint spaces was also a key factor in the project. Having bespoke areas, open plan office spaces and breakout areas for all the organisations housed in the Campus delivered flexibility and new interesting ways of working which was of the upmost importance. The floors have the added bonus of being able to take advantage of beautiful views over the Alps with an abundance of natural light so interiors themselves could be kept neutral in design and style with the addition of versatile features. We added timber frames and battens across walls that take on the appearance of art but have the functionality of hanging clipboards, pinning inspiration and propping timelines for meetings as well as large scale whiteboards that can be utilised when inspiration strikes. In the open spaces, that take on the titles of ‘workshop’, ‘greenspace’ and ‘retreat there are bleachers and benches forming a more casual, interactive space to gather and share thoughts and ideas.

With adaptability forming a root concept in this project we are excited by the implementation of phase one with the potential for continued growth, transformative augmentation and humble additions in ongoing phases that will always compliment the conscientious and dedicated work completed by those at the Global Fund, Gavi and the other organisations based at the Global Health Campus.

Up on the catwalk

By Craig McIntyre,

With bitter chills and heavy snow falls it feels less like the start of March – the month synonymous with daffodils and (surely) the inevitable change in season – and more like midwinter somewhere far more extreme than the UK! However, here we are amidst the ‘thundersnow’ which is making us long for the cosy cashmere and layered looks we saw recently at the Johnstons of Elgin presentation; their first at London Fashion Week. Showcasing their A/W 2018 collection at The College in Holborn, it gave us a perfect and exciting opportunity to celebrate a client we always eagerly anticipate working with. 

Johnstons of Elgin is rooted in Scottish history; taking note respectfully of heritage and traditions, skills honed over generations and the natural, raw beauty and colour of Scotland they have carefully crafted a brand that evokes tasteful, understated luxury. By focussing on exquisite, tactile fabrics paired with well considered designs that are not trend led they transcend the often crass nature of the fashion industry. By appealing to their customer’s emotions and desires by reflecting them in the brand rather than continually creating a different, opposing story to sell them they repeatedly remain relevant. Propelling the brand forward by bucking the notion of disposable fashion by crafting garments that draw on timeless beauty in turn weaves this personal, honourable value into the company itself. Johnstons of Elgin offer a rare, innocent product that is precious to their customer, only making it all the more desirable to the mass market.

In their most recent collection, neutral camels and charcoal greys are offset with statement, contemporary tartans in modern shapes. Belted, judo style jackets are paired with masculine trousers to create an androgynous yet alluring silhouette while completely tonal outfits evoke an understated air of luxury, wealth and poise. A youthful element is injected with the use of bright cobalt blue, high necks in warm yellow and minimal boxy shapes which bring a sense of effortless chic to the overall aesthetic of the collection.

Carving their own unique path within the industry, Johnstons of Elgin explore and champion creative expertise, true talent and stories with meaning. They are against fast fashion and strive for honest, everlasting philosophies. They are respected leaders in the field, who quietly but confidently make a difference by creating something they genuinely believe in. It is always a pleasure working with a company that has shared ideals to your own which is why we love working with them; helping to translate this pure passion and beautiful brand into an equally inspiring and thought provoking journey for their customer is what we love to do!

The January Blues?

By Craig McIntyre,

Our team at Four-by-Two decided to lighten up what is sometimes referred to as ‘the January blues’, by attending Lumiere London, the UK’s largest lighting festival, organised by Artichoke; a leading arts charity. Artichoke works with artists to create unique, ephemeral, large-scale art pieces, events and experiences with the aim of transforming people’s way of seeing the world.

During Lumiere, London’s night-time streets filled with dazzling light installations, creating a magical, almost out-of-body experience for onlookers.

So, we set out on a journey to discover the nocturnal gems of this festival and we were indeed mesmerized. One of our favourite finds was Aether by Max Cooper, an installation creating a three-dimensional lattice of light synchronised to an immersive audio experience. Colour and light projections by Patrice Warrener transformed Westminster Abbey’s 20th century martyr statuettes into kaleidoscopic illuminations. In Trafalgar Square, Childhood by Collectif Coin had dozens of luminous balloons playfully wafting in the wind, dancing and blinking to music. While in Granary Square, Waterlicht by Daan Roosegaarde enveloped us with a dream-like fog with colours criss-crossing its path, creating a virtual flood.

What a strange thing light is. It feels like a crossing-point between different worlds: the digital and the physical worlds. Light combined with sound and influenced by the randomness of meteorological and natural elements, as seen at Lumiere festival, provided an unforgettable performance for us. Having been completely hypnotised and inspired by so many extraordinary light creations, we woke from this surreal dream once again in a freezing January night.

Autumn Walk

By Craig McIntyre,

Nature has always been a great inspiration for artists and designers, and many people might be surprised that even in London you don’t have to go far to find natural beauty. The London team took full advantage of this on a cool Saturday in late October, to escape the busy urban centre and wander into the colourful autumnal foliage of Epping Forest, 5,900 acres of woodland still within Zone 6 on the Tube map.

Theydon Bois Station marked the start of our walk. We followed The Oak Trail, a 10.6km trail that goes through Epping Forest and its surrounding Buffer Lands. As we left the suburban neighbourhood, we climbed up the Great Gregories, which offers gorgeous views, and passed by horses grazing on our way down. Midway through, a majestic oak tree hosted us in its branches as we had our lunch.

Carrying on, we bid civilisation goodbye as we entered the Epping Thicks. We quickly found ourselves surrounded by the many colours and the crisp autumn air of the forest, the trickling sunlight making for an enchanted atmosphere. Strolling along on the carpet of fallen leaves, we followed the trail through Ambresbury Banks, an Iron Age plateau fort, and went deeper into the forest as we passed Jack’s Hill. We gradually reemerged from the thicks and stopped by the Debden Campsite for a short break and a bit of Frisbee fun.

On the way out of the forest, the trail led us to a deer sanctuary where we spotted herds of black fallow deer. Before we returned to civilisation, we took a minute to look back and admire a sweeping view of the forest we just traversed. After four hours of walking, we rewarded ourselves with well-deserved pints at the Queen Victoria pub.

It was great being able to bond out of the office and reconnect with nature at the same time. Truly an autumn day well spent!

#Wheel2Kelpies

By Craig McIntyre,

To celebrate the launch of our latest project with Scottish Canals, our lovely clients at the Falkirk Wheel invited us along for a team day out to enjoy the #Wheel2Kelpies Selfie Trail, which we have been working on in recent months. Hosted by our very own Craig McIntyre, our Brand Director, who headed up the project, we spent the day exploring the canal towpath to The Kelpies, situated at The Helix.

Our outing started at the newly revitalised Falkirk Wheel Visitor Centre, (which Four-by-Two also delivered) we then took the boat tour before progressing to the perhaps less traditional, but extremely fun, water zorbs, situated in the basin of the Wheel! Battles on the water provided some valuable entertainment – not exactly our usual Thursday afternoon.

Once everyone was back on solid ground, we walked along the canal towpath and the all new #Wheel2Keplies Selfie trail, which took us through all of the storytelling sites developed by our team on the route – featuring the striking sculpture designs. We rounded off the day with an obligatory stop at the local pub for drinks and ice-cream enjoying the sun before the rain chased us back to the mini van – a true Scottish day out!

We can’t recommend enough a day exploring the new #Wheel2Kelpies Selfie Trail. Whether families, friends or work team days out, it combines perfectly, fun interactive activities with some local history and culture. (Watch this space for more new developments with Four-by-Two and Scottish Canals.)

Blood, sweat & tears

By Craig McIntyre,

Recently, five of the Edinburgh team (David, Kirstie, Marta, Jenny and Chris) plus Ben – a resident of our Leith office – took the plunge into the Tough Mudder 2017. The event is a 12 mile obstacle course that is billed to “drag you out your comfort zone by testing your physical strength, stamina and mental grit.” Even writing that now makes me wonder why we signed up to it in the first place!

We set off early on the road to Dumfries on a glorious, sunny day with everyone in good spirits. Two hours later, we were greeted at the grounds of Drumlanrig Castle with a festival atmosphere of energetic runners, colourful marquees and pumping heavy metal music to get us in the mood from the off! Everyone excited and slightly nervous about what we had let ourselves in for we set off at 11am with a hoard of other ‘Mudders’ after collectively chanting a few spartan style war-cries to psyche us up. AHHOOH!!

Over the course of the 12 miles we tackled 10ft walls, slid through ice baths, battled through mud up to our knees and ran through electric cables … yep, that one’s as horrible as it sounds. Each of the twenty obstacles was a different challenge, but we were all delighted that we got through every one of them. Testament to great teamwork and communication we staggered through the finish line to get our victory pints and have a well deserved lie down in the sunshine, caked in mud but finished!

On to the next challenge!!