Russ + Henshaw's Tile Mile brightens up
Clerkenwell's historic arches

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Clerkenwell Design Week 2014: design studio Russ + Henshaw used 7,200 ceramic tiles to create this colourful passageway beneath a medieval arch in London, marking the first day of Clerkenwell Design Week 2014.

Russ + Henshaw worked with tile manufacturer Turkishceramics to create the Tile Mile 33-square-metre installation beneath the two, six-metre high arches of St John's Gate, which was built over 500 years ago.

Tile Mile by Russ + Henshaw at Clerkenwell Design Week

Influenced by Turkey's traditional Iznic ceramics, the designers chose diamond-shaped tiles in ten colours – red, oil blue, yellow, sage green, dove grey, white, scarlet red, cobalt blue, sky blue and turquoise.

These were laid in four strips, each containing four patterns. This creates a total of 16 triangular sections designed to follow the lines of the vaults overhead.

Tile Mile by Russ + Henshaw at Clerkenwell Design Week

Mirrors were also installed along the walls and on the ceiling, creating infinite reflections.

"The reflection of the floor and ceiling planes in the mirrored arches will create the illusion of an infinite 'crypt-like' space, creating a dramatic, decorative pathway that disappears into the distance," said studio co-founder Phil Henshaw.

Tile Mile by Russ + Henshaw at Clerkenwell Design Week

The designers used a 3D survey to map the exact dimensions of the historical space, allowing them to entirely prefabricate the design before installation.

The project is on show as part of Clerkenwell Design Week, which runs from 20 to 22 May.

Here's a design statement from Russ + Henshaw:


Turkishceramics presents Tile Mile, an installation by Russ + Henshaw at Clerkenwell Design Week

The 'Tile Mile' installation within the the arch of St John's Gate has been conceived to celebrate both the products of Turkishceramics and reflect the built heritage of Clerkenwell. St John's Gate is over 500 years old and one of the area's most iconic architectural landmarks. In today's fast pace society, it is all too easy for people to go about their daily commute with a blinkered view and take for granted the built environment around them. Our vision was to create an intervention that would place a focus on this spectacular example of medieval design and engineering, and to remind people of the beauty within the city fabric that they navigate daily. Inspiration for the installation came from the use of ceramics in Turkish and Islamic architecture. In particular, we were fascinated with decoration that featured infinitely repeating mathematical patterns. These mesmerising designs contain both reflective and rotational symmetry; a form of patternation that inspired us to pursue the themes of infinity and reflection through the optical effects of mirrors.

Tile Mile by Russ + Henshaw at Clerkenwell Design Week

Parallel mirrors reflect a space or object between them creating a series of reflections that appear to recede into an infinite distance. By reflecting the double vaulted ceiling of the arch infinitely, an illusion will be created of an endless crypt like space reminiscent of the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul. To further echo the theme of reflection, the tiled floor has been designed to represent a mirror image of the vaulted ceiling above. The lines of the ribbed ceiling structure divides the floor into 16 triangular segments that frame patterns inspired by the striking colour combinations and bold decoration of Iznik ceramics.

Each of the four different patterns are created using a single geometric tile format in order to demonstrate that by using a contemporary product creatively a diverse range of visual outcomes can be achieved.

We wanted to create a modern reinterpretation of traditional Iznik design principles and have chosen 10 complimentary tile colours that make reference to this rich heritage including: cobalt and oil blue, sage green, turquoise, scarlet red and yellow over white.

Tile Mile is the product of collaboration between architecture, engineering and specialist fabrication. By working with skilled makers, we have been able to resolve problems and find clever solutions to retain the idea's simplicity whilst overcoming the logistical issues of the site. The entire installation is prefabricated in a workshop, and by using a 3D survey, is perfectly tailored to fit the idiosyncrasies of the Grade I Listed arch structure.

Infinity mirrors are an exciting and intriguing demonstration of the law of reflection. They inspire interest, intrigue and a sense of playfulness which will invite the public to engage and interact with the installation. Upon stepping into the arch, the viewer will experience the illusion of an elaborate pathway to a place and space beyond the mirrors.

  • Leo Moriarty

    Fun in the wet…