Appealing to all senses with Bompas&Parr – Interview featured by #jungbleiben
As fireworks illuminate the sky of London, the city is bathed in a strawberry-flavored cloud. Sounds fictional, but it’s actually the work of Bompas & Parr, a studio for multi-sensory experience design. Sam Bompas and Harry Parr combine food with a wide range of creative disciplines and thus create works of art and experiences for all senses. We had a chat with them for our series “Featured by #jungbleiben magazine“.
How would you explain your work to a kid?
We make jelly.
“Wonka-esque” or “Mad-Hatterish”. Are those labels you enjoy being associated with and why?
They are pretty flattering. I picked up Charlie and the Chocolate Factory recently and the range of fantastical foods is visionary. My first cookbook was Dahl’s Revolting Recipes filled with Mr. Twit’s beard made of chip and stick-jaw toffee for talkative parents. Actually being able to visit chocolate factories like Mars and working with the Dahl on various projects as an adult is terrific.
Can there ever be such a thing as too much weirdness?
Weird for its own sake is irksome but it can lead to a sense of jamais vu.
There can never be too much joy in the world though. Our wholehearted endeavour is to contribute to the sum of human joy.
“If you can imagine it you can do it.“ What about the financial part though?
If it is a genuinely good idea someone, or lots of people, will pay for it.
My favourite pieces of graffiti are in the toilets of the Royal Academy. Someone’s inscribed the inside of a cubicle with ‘£3.00 for a cup of tea, do you even support artists?’ Below it is the challenge ‘Are you not very good at creating!’
You said “working hard and being very naïve” has helped your career. How come?
In the early days some of the things we pitched were outrageously outside the realms of our experience. We had no idea how tough it could be to create working chocolate waterfalls, New Year’s Eve fireworks shows for all London or flooding the roof of Selfridges. The hard work saw us through alongside judiciously putting together teams of experts. The result was building up a decent portfolio at speed.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Inspiration comes from the studio’s Soyer Memorial Library. Shelf marks range form Drinking History, to Death, World Fairs, Fireworks, Magical Herbs, Lust and Chemistry.
You said your best ideas come from you having a massive argument with each other. Why is that?
A difference of opinions is a powerful editing tool. Defending a concept exposes its weakness. Ultimately our interests are aligned; giving people the best or second best night of their lives.
Is everyday food a form of inspiration for you or is there a work-life balance, so to speak?
“I can’t imagine being on my deathbed and thinking ‘I wish I’d worked less’. Bompas & Parr is a fountain of dreams.”
Not to work on stimulating projects would be to waste it. Gordon Selfridge said ‘There’s no fun like work’, we wholeheartedly agree.
You’ve just been part of a design competition jury. Would you say you’re actively involved in the creative community?
We tend to be satellites in the outer orbit of numerous creative communities – food and drink, design, architecture, marketing, museums and attractions. This has considerable advantages as you can deploy your learnings from one effectively in others and create mutant hybrids. So our first success came with using architecture programmes and techniques with food, specifically jelly. This we tackle all sorts of problems this way.
Is sustainability a topic you pay attention to in your work?
We create events with huge builds so sustainability is a crucial focus. Thankfully the studio’s early projects had microscopic budgets so we were habituated early on to being thrifty and reusing material rather than putting it in the skip. There’s a piece of timber in the studio that’s been part of at least six installations which is rather satisfying. Every time we use it in a different configuration is rewarding.
You mentioned you’ll be moving into more serious areas as you grow up. What difference does age make in creativity?
“I heard that creativity peaks at 34 and Harry and I are past that.”
But the studio is a swashbuckling mix of twenty full-time staff and a miscellany of partners, contractors, scientists, engineers and freelancers. It is a group effort and the pooled expertise means more can be achieved, at greater speed and with more panache than in our early days. You might loose the ‘blind mission from god’ of earlier years but the expertise, confidence and competence of age is a boon.
If you’re interested in Urban Food & Design, make sure to apply for this year’s Forward Exchange Program, which will be taking place on October 8th-9th 2020 & will focus on exploring innovative approaches to sustainable consumption.