12 of the best projects by London Design Medal winner Es Devlin

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12 projects worth knowing by London Design Medal winner Es Devlin

Es Devlin has been named the winner of this year's Panerai London Design Medal, and to mark the occasion we've rounded up 12 of the set designer's key projects.

Devlin, born in the London suburb of Kingston-upon-Thames, began her career in theatre – but has become known for her extensive work with some of the world's biggest music acts.

Over the course of her career, which began when she took an art foundation course at Central Saint Martins, she's produced backdrops for the likes of U2, Lady Gaga, The Weeknd, Pet Shop Boys and Kanye West.

She's also designed catwalk show sets for the likes of Louis Vuitton, created a scent-infused mirror maze for Chanel in London, and worked on the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.

In 2015, Devlin was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's New Years Honours for her services to the stage and set design industry.

She'll take away the top accolade at this year's London Design Medals when they're awarded later this month, making her the 11th winner of the prize, awarded annually since 2007 to an individual or group that has demonstrated "outstanding contribution to London and the industry".

Here are 12 key projects from Devlin's career.


Es Devlin

Katy Perry's Grammys stage set, 2017

Earlier this year, Devlin caused a stir with her set for singer Katy Perry's politically charged Grammy Awards performance, which featured a picket fence that grew into a wall – a reference to the barrier Trump intends to build between the US and Mexico.

Read more about Katy Perry's Grammys stage set ›


Es Devlin creates Louis Vuitton cruise collection catwalk in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Louis Vuitton catwalk, 2016

For Louis Vuitton's Cruise Collection catwalk show, Devlin created a twisting pathway around the Oscar Niemeyer-designed Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Niterói. Models walked along pathways that meandered along the museum's twisting access ramp, through permanent concrete benches and temporary seating in its forecourt, and then around the bottom of the circular building.

Read more about the Louis Vuitton Cruise Collection catwalk ›


The Weeknd's world tour stage set, 2017

An origami paper plane and futuristic star destroyer formed the backdrop for The Weeknd's Starboy: Legend of The Fall world tour. The structure started as a flat triangle, with wings that slowly drew up closer to its centre.

Read more about The Weeknd's world tour stage set ›


Carmen, Bregenz Festspiele, 2017

For the opera Carmen, which was performed on Lake Constance at the Bregenz Festspiele in Austria this summer, Devlin created a sculptural backdrop of a pair of 25-metre-high hands holding a deck of cards.

"The design was inspired by a sequence in the opera during which Carmen reads her fortune and throws the cards in the air – prepared for whichever unknown direction they would take as they fell," she told Dezeen.


Mirror Maze by Es Devlin

Mirror Maze, Copeland Park, Peckham, 2016

In 2016, Devlin worked alongside French fashion house Chanel and magazine i-D to create a scent-infused installation titled Mirror Maze, which was set up in a former industrial estate now used as artists' studios in southeast London.

"I wanted to slightly turn the tables," she said at the preview of the installation. "My work normally has the audience outside, the performer elevated and broadcasting, and I wanted the visitor or the guest to be welcomed into the art piece."

Read more about Mirror Maze ›


Beyonce: Formation tour, 2015

Devlin created a towering, 60-foot-tall revolving screen for Beyonce's Formation world tour. The set also consisted of a runway that performed as a treadmill, and a pool of giant water that contained 2,000 gallons of liquid.


Don Giovanni, Royal Opera House, 2014

For the Don Giovanni opera performance in London's Covent Garden in 2014, Devlin designed a set of stairs and doorways that featured projection-mapped videos by Luke Halls.


Chimerica, Almeida Theatre and Pinter Theatre, London, 2013

Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica play was accompanied by a cube-shaped box designed by Devlin. The play is based on a photojournalist's search for a Chinese protestor he captured an image of in 1989 – and Devlin was inspired by this to create a boxy set with shutter-inspired compartments that opened and closed throughout the performance.


London Olympic closing ceremony, 2012

In 2012, Devlin worked under creative director Kim Gavin – turning London's Olympic stadium into a giant representation of the Union Flag designed by Damien Hirst. A number of London's landmarks were recreated for the performance, including the Big Ben clock tower, the Tower Bridge and the Gherkin.


Kanye West and Jay Z: Watch the Throne Tour, 2011

Kanye West first became aware of Devlin's work in 2005, when he saw images of the installation she created alongside the Chapman Brothers for post-punk band Wire. He went on to commission her to create the set of his Touch the Sky world tour, and later his Watch the Throne Tour with Jay Z – which featured monolithic screens installed in the middle of the stadium.


Gods Plenty by Rambert Dance Company, London, 2000

Devlin worked alongside lighting designer Ben Ormerod to make the simple – but effective – sets for Christopher Bruce's Gods Plenty dance performance, staged at Manchester's Palais Theatre in 2000. The pair used sliding screens and coloured lights to create different landscapes and interiors for the performers from London's Rambert dance company.


Louis Vuitton's Autumn Winter 2016 show, 2015

Models walked through three interconnected domes – conceived by Devlin – at Louis Vuitton's Autumn Winter 2016 fashion show, which was set in the grounds of the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. Interiors were filled with multicoloured carpets, and the audience sat on bleacher-style seating.