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
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
Keep your spirits up and subscribe to ELLE Decoration here, so our magazine is delivered direct to your door.