Apple's Chief Design Officer Jonny Ive has driven the design of nearly every one of the company's products, including the iMac, iPhone, and even the trademark plexiglass and cable design of Apple's flagship stores. He's just unveiled his newest creation in collaboration with industrial designer Marc Newson.
Their work not only challenges the status quo, but also delights those who experience it with simplicity and elegance. The design is minimalism at its finest. No, it's not an Apple product. Ive and Newson's lastest creation is a Christmas tree. Well, kind of. The tree is part of it.
An annual Claridge's Christmas tradition
For the past seven years, luxury hotel Claridge's has invited a renowned designer to create a Christmas tree for its lobby. Past designers have included Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, Dior's John Galliano and Burberry's Christopher Bailey. The unveiling of the Christmas tree kicks off the holiday season in London, much like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting.
This year, Claridge's tapped Ive and Newson to adorn the iconic lobby with their creation. The two didn't stop at putting their unique spin on the Christmas tree. They collaborated with set designer Michael Howells to bring their vision to life. The three completely reimagined Claridge's art deco lobby to transform the entire space into an immersive woodland experience. Walking through the revolving doors of the hotel is like stepping into the magical world of Narnia.
A gargantuan tree stands where a Christmas tree always does: centered, impossible to miss, and framed by the master staircase wrapping around it. But unlike Christmas trees of year's past, this one has nary a bell or whistle in sight. Not a single ornament, light or string of tinsel adorn the tree. It's simply a fir tree. Just as one might exist in nature.
Visitors walk through the lobby into the forest installation. Surrounded by snow-covered silver birch trees, a canopy of fir branches, and chirping woodland birds, it no longer feels like you're walking through a hotel. It feels like you're actually in a forest.
Ive and Newson leveraged both real and fake elements to create the experience. The foliage is made from natural green pine branches. Some of trees are real. Others are black and white photographic images of trees. Light boxes help set the scene. The lighting and sounds of the room gradually shift from sunrise to daytime to dusk to nighttime. Starting with the morning forest sounds and cycling through to dusk, visitors hear owls, nightingales, sparrows and foxes.
"There are few things more pure and beautiful than nature, so that was our starting point, layering various iterations of organic forms with technology," Ive and Newson told Claridge's. "Our aim was to create an all-enveloping magical experience that celebrates our enormous respect for tradition while recognising our excitement about the future and things to come."
The entire experience is cohesive, except for one small detail. It's a tiny young sapling tucked into a corner. The tree is real, but dusted with fake snow. Doused in light, the little so-innocent-looking tree is impossible to miss. It instantly harkens the image of the bathed-in-light baby in a manger in any nativity scene. It seems the designers intended we make this connection. Ive and Newson told Wallpaper magazine this young tree is a symbol of our future.