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Treasured: Stephen Bayley on his favourite possession

The British critic, author and cultural commentator on the possession that lifts his spirits daily

stephen Bayley with aeroplane
Rick Pushinsky

I’m a bit of a plane-spotter. Indeed, I was educated by planes. My father worked in the aircraft industry and as a boy I was trailed around factories and learnt the language of machine-tools and the smell of hot oil. Long before I knew about ‘design’, I had intuited that an aircraft component carefully thought-out and skilfully made would very likely be beautiful.

And since Le Corbusier, architects have known what an inspiration aircraft can be. His book Aircraft: L’Avion Accuse made the point that aircraft structures were so elegant and fine, they humbled lumpen and earth-bound buildings. But there’s another aesthetic aspect as well: because aircraft have such a complicated relationship with space – experiencing what engineers call yaw, pitch, roll, surge, heave and sway – we see them from an infinity of different and always changing angles. And each one is unique and satisfying.

This wonderful model was a present from my wife and has dominated our drawing room for 20 years. It’s more of a fantasy than an accurate replica of a real plane, although it’s obviously inspired by the French Nieuport 23 C.1 fighter of the First World War. It makes me happy every day. And there’s another thing I marvel at: I simply do not knowhow my wife got this vast and delicate thing home because at the time she was driving a tiny antique Fiat 500. I guess she’s very good at spatial arrangements too. stephenbayley.com

This article appeared in ELLE Decoration March 2020

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