Series of images showing Huckletree's Memphis Design inspired interior

Huckletree, Manchester

Memphis Design. Once described by the San Fransisco Chronicle as a shotgun wedding between Bauhaus and Fisher-Price, it’s fair to say that the short-lived Memphis Design Movement is at best, misunderstood.

Although the name might imply that Memphis Design originated in Tennessee, it was, in fact, started in Milan in 1981 by architect and designer Ettore Sottsass. The group took their name from Bob Dylan’s Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, which was stuck on repeat during their first meeting.

Memphis was a bold post-modernist reaction against the status quo, and implicitly, a reaction against what was considered ‘good taste’ at the time. The movement took its inspiration from Art Deco, pop-art, and 1950’s kitsch, eschewing the prevailing trend for modernism and minimalism in favour of bold pastels, geometric patterns and abstract shapes.

Memphis epitomised 1980’s pop-culture, but by the end of the decade it was gone, seemingly consigned to design history. Or was it?

In the late noughts, Memphis began to make a comeback, appearing first in fashion designs and then objets d’art. Now it seems, that comeback is complete, matured and softened by the distance of time and nostalgia, and with a new respect and fresh relevance.

Self-serve bar in hot pink, hanging frame for plants above

Huckletree – A Community for the Curious

Huckletree is in the business of building hubs across Europe for companies of all sizes to come together by sector, scale, be brave, and lead industry change. They create spaces for original minds and ambitious teams to come together, grow, and make a tangible and positive impact on the world.

Some bold statements, and ones that fit well with the Memphis ethos. Which is probably why Huckletree turned to Memphis for inspiration when designing their Manchester hub in the iconic Express Building in Ancoats.

Touchdown tables with Memphis-inspired kitchen beyond.

The influence of the Memphis group can be seen throughout the bold interior scheme created by OBI Property. Geometric patterns of black and white stripes cover the floors, whilst an abstract array of colourful pastels adorn the walls, softened here and there with greenery, or hardened by the semi-exposed fabric of the building where concrete structures, services, and the raised access floor grid are allowed to peep through.

Nomique A-frame table

Such a bold interior requires furniture to match and we worked with the OBI team to suggest a shortlist of furniture elements for the client and then arranged a showroom tour to further enhance and finalise this selection. The selected furniture pieces, upholstery and finishes were chosen to integrate and further enhance the Memphis design language.

The building's concrete structure is allowed to dominate this desking area.
Three images show various space including the Imaginarium - a framed box draped in greenery for contemplation.

The scheme includes a variety of co-working spaces including hot desks, amenity areas, meeting rooms, a live lounge, and a bar. There is also a hangout area – a convenient hub designed for chatting or to host informal events, a hangout zone – an area of soft seating shielded behind dramatic tensioned cables, and the Imaginarium – a green enclosure for respite and reflection.

A soft seating area enclosed in pink tensioned cables.

Furniture included desking and task seating from Spacestor, tables from Connection, Frovi and Ocee, and lounge chairs and soft seating from Agilita, Buzzispace, Deadgood, Hay, Hitch Mylius and Naughtone.

Understairs library area

As is says on Huckletree’s website – Here be renegades. Normal need not apply.