Culture shock: Jeremy Langmead when he was Wallpaper editor *
Jeremy Langmead, former Wallpaper * editor (2003 – 2007), remembers the tidy office and impeccable staff that brought him to the wonderful world of design and architecture. Langmead’s memories are featured in the ’25 Years of Wallpaper * ‘series, published in our October 2021 25th Anniversary issue
It was an intimidating office to begin with. Here is a perfectly dressed team – neither too fashion nor too street – perched in front of perfectly placed Vitsoe shelving systems by Dieter Rams. There were no coats hanging from the backs of the chairs, no clutter on simple white desks, and no legible expressions on the team’s faces (it had nothing to do with Botox, they were much too young). The staff embodied the pages of the magazine: sleek, comprehensive, and a tad aloof.
Having been poached from a post at Standard Evening – where you were sitting at your desk from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. five days a week, typing with one hand, making phone calls and eating a sandwich with the other – the first few months were culture shock. I had to sign giant furniture shipped from São Paulo to Shoreditch and back for two day design sessions; was awarded expenses claiming reimbursement for sunscreens worn during stays in five-star hotels in Thailand; and waited months before meeting some of the team who preferred not to visit the central London office.
And then there was the annual trip to the Salone del Mobile in Milan. A sensory overload of extraordinary new designer furniture, warehouses displaying the latest innovations in sanitary ware or lighting concepts, and evening after evening of parties, vernissages and exhibitions. It took at least a year for it to become normal.
The team changed and settled in and smiled a bit more, packing for a three-day trip once a fortnight to visit clients, sponsors and collaborators everywhere from Manila to Moscow felt the monotony, and the sight of armchairs constructed from teddy bears (Campana Brothers) or a lamp sticking out of a life-size horse (Moooi) that were carefully carried in front of my glass-walled desk every week hardly deserved a second glance.
Full size wallpaper * W * 80 high speed train
It also seemed normal to visit Zaha Hadid in her offices and ask her to design an exhibition for us (she agreed) in Giorgio Armani’s exhibition space (he kept looking around the door to see it build); persuading Bombardier to sponsor the construction of a full-size Wallpaper * bullet train that somehow resembled Dippy the Diplodocus from the Natural History Museum (W * 80); and to collaborate with Phaidon to publish more than 100 City Guides in Pantone colors in pocket format *.
By the time I left, I had grown to love the crazy world of big design and big business; the fact that on Friday nights the core team traded green tea at their pristine desks for messy pints in the shabby pub behind the desks; and understand and respect the dedication, curiosity and admiration for the new, beautiful and intelligent design that emanated each year from around the world that the magazine team was there to find, share and celebrate.
Tyler Brûlé cleverly created a magazine and brand strong enough to survive many incarnations, go through many twists and turns in taste and demand, and survive 25 years that have seen the media landscape change in unrecognizable ways. I feel very lucky to have played a small part in this sometimes minimal, sometimes colorful, but always eventful journey. §