David Mellor Design – The Round Building
David Mellor (1930 – 2009) is one of our great British designers. He’s famous for everyday street furniture like the traffic lights we’ve all waited at and the pedestrian crossings, whose buttons we’ve all pressed, as well as bus stops, post boxes and benches. Sir Terence Conran regarded him as “Britain’s most serious, modest and greatest post-war product designer.” He also designed furniture for Abacus – his steel tube and wire ‘700 outdoor seating system’, designed in 1973, is now in the permanent collection of the Design Museum. But David Mellor is perhaps best known for his tableware and cutlery.
In his late thirties he decided that he no longer wanted to design by committee and instead wanted to take control of the process of the design, making, marketing and selling of products. He had long been fascinated by the endless possibilities of cutlery, and this fascination shows in the beauty of the pieces he creates.
As well as being an industrial and product designer he also turned his hand to designing buildings. He worked closely with the architect Sir Michael Hopkins to design the (award winning) Round Building which enabled the company to expand in 1990. The design was largely lead by the circular concrete foundations of the gas cylinder that stood there before it. Constructed of natural stone and steel, the building’s tour de force is its bicycle-wheel-like, exposed-steel roof structure which rises towards a central hub. The roof itself is made up of Finnish pine box panels hooking on to the circular purlins. Most of the construction work was carried out by Mellor and his employees who (amongst other things) made all of the 480 roof panels and crafted the internal light fittings from the same material. David’s cutlery is still handmade there today – the round shape of the building lending itself perfectly to the step-by-step process of production. Factory manager Andrew Cisalowicz, who has worked at David Mellor Design since 1979, took the time to show us around.
If you’ve ever used David Mellor’s cutlery you’ll know that he has the ability to give each piece a character of its own. Sophisticated but not pompous, he designs pieces that add to the holistic enjoyment of a meal. They embody the ethos of good design, seeming effortless.