Dezeen Magazine

Es Devlin's set design for Brit Awards 2021

Es Devlin and Yinka Ilori construct Brit Awards stage like rainbow-coloured maze

Glowing, zigzagging volumes were layered to form the labyrinthine backdrop of the 2021 Brit Awards, courtesy of designers Es Devlin and Yinka Ilori.

The ceremony for the annual music awards took place at London's O2 Arena on 11 May and welcomed 4,000 guests, making it one of the biggest indoor events to take place in the UK since the country first went into coronavirus lockdown in the spring of 2020.

Wide view of Es Devlin's set design for Brit Awards 2021
The 2021 Brit Awards took place at London's O2 Arena

The presenter stage, realised in collaboration with set building company Diagon, consisted of composite recycled plywood modules that were strategically layered and illuminated by LED strips to create the impression of a three-dimensional maze rising up behind the podium.

"The overall spirit of the Brits this year is characterised Yinka's stunning use of colour, which for me embodies hope," Devlin explained.

"[This is] combined with my use of maze architecture, which expresses the paths that many of those working within the creative industries have had to tread in order to progress through this challenging year – sometimes feeling lost en route."

Dua Lip accepting an award in front of a multi-coloured maze-like set
Devlin's set design incorporated zigzagging painted plywood modules

Devlin and Ilori, who were the co-creative directors of this year's awards, also worked together to create a pair of trophies incorporating the same vibrant colours and maze-like patterns as the set.

One of the statuettes was designed to be kept while the other is meant to be gifted to someone "worthy".

The Brit Awards, which highlight the best of British popular music, took place without masks or social distancing this year as part of the government's Events Research Programme, in a bid to assess the risk of Covid-19 transmission at mass gatherings.

Acting as a case study for how events could take place safely in the future, attendees were required to show a negative test result on entry as well as taking another test after the fact.

"Heralding the return of live music events, it was a special moment for everyone working within the creative industry, who have been especially hit hard by the pandemic," said Diagon managing director Liam Ownsworth.

Harry Styles in front of Es Devlin's set design for Brit Awards 2021
LED strips fixed to the volumes creates the impression of a three-dimensional maze

Devlin, who has previously designed sets for artists including Beyoncé and Kanye West, is also responsible for creating the headline installation at this year's London Design Biennale.

From 1 June, this will see a biodiverse forest of 400 trees erected in the courtyard of Somerset House.

Photography is by JM Enternational.