Profile: Jason Bruges
Architect, artist and innovator – Jason Bruges is one of the UK’s rising stars of design.
By Sarah Brownlee
The range of work to come out of Jason Bruges’ studio is remarkable. From large-scale lighting schemes for public and private spaces through to one-off sculptures and installations, there’s always something to inspire and delight.
‘Our work is primarily site specific so we’re always responding to a site whether it’s a table top, a facade, or an interior. With each project you’re looking at the environmental conditions, you’re looking at the brief and you’re looking at the type of people who will see it.’
Sometimes the briefs are purely artistic and about ‘creating magical environments’ and other times there’s more of an agenda with the scope to make something truly iconic. One of Bruges’ latest installations – the Ebb & Flow lighting sculpture – sits somewhere in between. Designed for the new Chelsea base of upscale bathroom retailer C.P. Hart, it has garnered much praise so far. The studio was initially approached by brand and design consultancy i-am Associates who had the idea to create a light-based piece to fit inside the ceiling plane of the showroom. C.P. Hart was ‘bold and brave enough’ to OK the collaboration.
Glass hemispheres filled with water were suspended from the ceiling, acting as lenses to ‘create forever-changing lighting patterns using computer-controlled LEDs and fans’. Bruges saw it as an opportunity to explore using water as a digital medium ‘blurring the boundaries between natural resources and the application of digital technology’. Visitors to the showroom simply think it’s beautiful. In fact, there’s been so much interest that Bruges has been pondering how they might develop the design, possibly producing similar sculptures on a commission basis or building and assembling a limited number.
Bruges enjoys a challenge. He originally studied architecture and worked for Foster + Partners for a time before joining the much-admired communications agency Imagination, where he could indulge his passion for all things interactive. After a few years doing ‘weird and wonderful things’ there he branched out on his own, establishing his studio in East in London in 2001. You could describe the work as interactive design, but he describes himself as ‘an architect, artist and innovator’.
You’ll hear mostly about his work for public environments, of which there is a lot, and rather less of his residential projects, simply because most clients want to keep it private. This can involve anything from lighting artworks to developing entire lighting schemes where mood and ambience is all to lighting up parts of a building. The studio has just been approached to work on a scheme for a luxury yacht: ‘These tend to be playful environments where you’re trying to create some kind of spectacle,’ says Bruges, ‘but you have to work quite cleverly with materials and details because you don’t have much space.’
There’s a lot of technology involved in what Bruges does, but it’s not always as complicated as people think. With the C.P. Hart installation, for example, they used what he describes as a ‘relatively straight forward set of components’ but simply applied them in an unusual way. He’s careful to develop schemes that aren’t too high maintenance. The studio produce manuals and work closely with other design teams involved in a project to make sure the ambition of a piece doesn’t get swallowed up by its maintenance requirements. ‘With the home, you’re looking for things people can change, own and update,’ says Bruges. ‘Everything has a design life – most things contain small parts and it’s about understanding what a client or commissioner wants.’
Aside from some top-secret residential schemes, current projects include a series of chandeliers for high-speed railway stations in Saudi Arabia, a lighting design for a public lounge in San Diego International Airport’s new terminal, an installation for Tate Modern and a visitor experience for the WWF’s new building, designed by Hopkins Architects. So, that’s plenty more ‘magical environments’ to come.