Lighting designer Ben Rousseau shows us around the secrets of his futuristic ‘batcave’ creation in Notting Hill
What was the idea behind this project?
I thought the project was to be used for the client’s business to start with but after meeting him and quickly building an exciting relationship it became about delivering and developing the clients ultimate dream entertaining space. Working on a really personal level to push my ideas and capabilities to compliment the client’s love of art and design in a way that allowed him to show off this love and support of artists and designers in a way that embraced the clients style and passion.
How was the space before you began?
It was a concrete shell with a number of spaces already part planned but not committed. When the client invited me round he was excited to see what I would do with the suggestions he had for these spaces. I elevated these ideas and then added my own personal twist to them and combined them with my love for technology and materials and my sensitivity to how the client would use them.
Why do you call it ‘the bat cave?’
Before the initial meeting I was thinking I would be producing something for a venue, but the client informed me he was actually sourcing artworks and collectors pieces for his personal ‘bat cave’. The description just stuck. And for me having always loved the idea of a bond villain or a (Bruce Wayne) batman owning my work meant that it had a sort of fantasy feel about it.
Who, in your option, is the best batman?
I love the edgy feel of the newest batman so Christian Bale would get my vote, though I hate his silly gravel voice which sounds really put on. I’m a big fan of the Parker Brothers in the us who built the mad vehicles he drives.
What aspect of this project are you most proud of?
Maybe the snug, as the client had a collection of Verner Panton wall panels he wanted to use and had already cut a space for them to be displayed. Verner Panton is one of my all time idols and to produce a space that utilises these original 60s pieces alongside a bunch of my current ideas was great. The result was just like they were meant to be together.
The other idea has to be the laser cage around the car, it was another idea that really grew and also grew in terms of cost to produce but it is so unique and a perfect ‘bond villain’ thing to have.
What artists inspired ‘the bat cave’?
The client is really an artist and designer in his own right so he is the inspiration, he has a wide range of collectables from graffiti to high brow art and iconic designer furniture and products.
What was the idea behind the underground car port – how was it created?
The car port was already a fixed idea and is testament to the client’s personal imagination, I just helped push the idea of how to display a vehicle that otherwise be sat in a garage somewhere never to be seen. I know Carl Cox (the DJ) has an amazing collection of motorbikes and who he’s has them displayed in his house, it is just something that if you can do, you would do. I certainly would. My dream house would be like a museum of collectables ranging from furniture classics to Hod Rods, Skateboards to boxing gloves, a real treasure trove of a lifestyle led by someone that enjoys the story behind where an item came from and how you use it. Or with something like and ASton Martin DB4 it is so well designed it is as good as any artwork or sculpture.
If you were to design a superhero’s secret layer – what would it look like?
If it was wolverine it may be sort of Barbarella-like with lots of fur, but then lots of spiky details in metal with light features like my claw light. If it was for Spiderman it may be with lots of hanging nets that illuminated but hold pod rooms and spaces.
What is it about the futuristic style that intrigues you?
I grew up in Colchester which is England’s oldest recorded town, I’ve been brought up learning about history and I respect it, I’m just interested in the future! How technology improves our lives, what I can do with from a design point of view that enhances peoples lives and to then create desirable things that are just cool to have. I started off my career wanting be involved in film special effects from my love of films like star wars and the designers from that like Ralph Mcquarrie who created these futuristic city scales and vehicles by people like Daniel Simon who designs all the Hollywood Sci Fi vehicles, (Tron bikes etc ). I love old buildings with modern interiors and love even more high tech buildings that really push the imagination of how we can use them.