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Set designer Es Devlin builds a mirror maze to evoke memory in London’s Peckham

Es Devlin has created a dizzying maze of mirrors in London’s Peckham that plays with the relationship between memory and scent.

Mirror Maze is Devlin’s first solo exhibition, commissioned by The Fifth Sense – a new partnership between Chanel and I-D. It unfurls as a series of multi-sensory rooms inside a cavernous warehouse in Copeland Park.

‘I like the smell of bonfires, seaside, burnt toast, tarmac, sparklers,’ says the Olivier Award-winning designer. ‘I’m interested in the phenomenon of scent and how it can transport you into a moment in the past. This installation is about how I can make people experience that.’

In the first room, a doorway punches through a projection of Devlin drawing the installation’s set. This ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ style hole leads visitors into the real thing, a reflective labyrinth set over two levels.

Mirror Maze by Es Devlin presented by The Fifth Sense. Photography: Victor Frankowski Courtesy of I-D
Mirror Maze by Es Devlin presented by The Fifth Sense. Photography: Victor Frankowski / I-D

When you reach the end of this disorientating warren, you’re hit by another assault on the sense inside the warehouse’s arched brick wing. Bathed in orange light, it is filled with perfumed mist created specially by Chanel’s in-house perfumer Olivier Polge for the duration of the five-day installation.

‘Once the installation’s over, that’s it – you’ll never smell this fragrance again,’ says Devlin.

The maze’s reflective form was inspired by two spaces from Coco Chanel’s lifetime: the spartan convent in which she spent her childhood and the mirrored staircase in her apartment on Paris’ Rue Cambon.

Mirror Maze by Es Devlin presented by The Fifth Sense. Photography: Victor Frankowski Courtesy of I-D
Mirror Maze by Es Devlin presented by The Fifth Sense. Photography: Victor Frankowski / I-D

‘I was very taken with the story of Coco Chanel growing up in a convent with no mirrors, just these white arches,’ says Devlin. ’The space that I found [in the warehouse] had these arches, so I wanted to make that feel like the convent. Then I took the staircase and extended it infinitely.’

‘Mirror Maze’ runs until 25 September at Copeland Park in Peckham, London

Read next: 10 things to experience at London Design Festival

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