Coates of Arms




From Caffe Bongo in Tokyo to the National Centre for Popular Music, London-based architect and designer Nigel Coates has created an impressive body of work characterized by his subversive spirit.

“Subversion is a real power tool,” he said. “I’ve used it since adolescence, and now, hopefully with more skill and maturity. I want my work to unsettle and seduce simultaneously, to get through to our vulnerable side with a below-the-belt beauty, and for that you first have to have a clear idea about what you are dismantling.”

He favors pairing contrasting points of culture in his subject matter. For Barroccabilly, an exhibition last year at the London Design Festival, he infused Baroque styling with rockabilly swagger. “I was looking for a vocabulary that would be strictly masculine but with a sexy boudoir-ish quality at the same time,” he said. “The sofa and chair stemmed from the classic aviator sunglasses, which are themselves a fusion of protection and seduction.”

To achieve his results he relies on a mix of sketching, computer modeling and plain-old playschool experimention to develop ideas. “Design is a process with flashes of inspiration that occur along the way. It helps to find out whether the hunch stacks up. I constantly move the goal posts, test the object from all angles, and alternately enrich and simplify as I go.” Up next for the prolific designer, whose work has been shown in the Tate among other prestigious institutions, are limited edition furniture pieces, two lighting collections in Milan and a book. (