Frieze designer Edward Barber on this year's fair

How the Universal designer and partner Jay Osgerby brought a more generous, human scale to Frieze 2014
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Frieze London 2014 - photo by Andrew Meredith
Frieze London 2014 - photo by Andrew Meredith

If you've made it down to Frieze Art Fair this week we're sure you will have noticed just how much more comfortable and amenable it is to navigate and spend time at this year. This is pretty much down to Universal's Ed Barber and Jay Osgerby, designers of the fair. 

Building on the success of Frieze Masters, New York and London, Universal worked to a formal plan using symmetry to make the spaces easier to navigate, and also to lend a sense of stature and structure. The orientation of the fair’s structures shifted to allow for a greater use of the available ground area and the entire experience of Frieze London has been unified pretty much from outside to inside. 

You enter through a darkened timber-lined courtyard that surrounds the existing trees, referencing and intensifying the park’s location. A long passageway then opens out into the light spaces for the galleries. A series of main ‘avenues’ connects all the tents, while small ‘public squares’ punctate the galleries to offer a moment to rest, and to enjoy the live performances. The colour palette throughout uses high contrast whites and blacks shot with blues, reds and browns, to create a crisp, contemporary yet classic feel. We caught up with Ed to ask him a little about the design. 

 

Frieze London 2014 - photo by Andrew Meredith
Frieze London 2014 - photo by Andrew Meredith

What was the brief? To make the fair more mature and elegant, and to look at Frieze London from both a visitor and gallerist's point of view.

How did you achieve this? By really looking at the fair from the ground-up, creating a really strong masterplan that makes the fair a more unified experience, and pushing the quality of all the spaces, both within and outside of the gallery settings.

Could you describe the kind of feeling you are trying to engender in the visitor? We're trying to make people remember how great the whole concept of Frieze is, and make the entire experience more generous, human, and frame the art as the focus of Frieze. 

 

Frieze London 2014 - photo by Andrew Meredith
Frieze London 2014 - photo by Andrew Meredith

Frieze has a history of working with great architects and designers – did you you feel the pressure in any way? Yes of course! but Frieze were fantastic, they trusted us and took our advice, and we relied on their experience of what could work and what couldn't. They were incredibly open to new ideas.  

What particular challenge does designing for an art fair of this kind present? The sheer size was a particular challenge - 162 galleries and 55,000 people over 5 days. The fair is temporary, which represents huge construction and logistic challenges, but in the end creates a very special energy within the project.

 

Edward Barber of Barber & Osgerby and Jason Holley, director of Universal Design Studio
Edward Barber of Barber & Osgerby and Jason Holley, director of Universal Design Studio

What are you looking forward to most in regards to this year's fair? It is such an exciting week in London with everyone in town for one reason - there is a real buzz in the air and it is great to be able to see the work of the best commercial galleries in the world, all under one roof. 

Don't forget you can get 20% off our Frieze-related books until Sunday. You'll find them here. Be sure to let your friends and colleagues know. 


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