Posts tagged Milan
A Bohemian Haven in Milan

Japan meets Europe in this eclectic apartment in the heart of the city

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On the third floor of a 1920s building in the heart of Milan is a haven of oriental eclecticism. The home is located between Porta Venezia and the Centrale district, both lively, authentic neighborhoods that are chic without being haughty, offer a buzzing mix of tradition and contemporary culture, and are becoming increasingly popular with young professionals and creatives who are lured in by the affordable prices.

‘That was our case! We finally found the right apartment after months of searching,’ say homeowners Francesca Pellicciari and Giacomo Donati say. Pellicciari is a Chinese-Italian graphic designer, who earned her architecture degree in Venice; Donati is a lawyer from Piacenza. Along with their friend Ayaki Itoh, they are the founders of Nanban, an emerging online retail platform that brings the best of Japanese design to the European market. ‘Nanban is an attempt to introduce everyday Japan – its timeless objects and ancient traditions – to Europe; something of a bridge between two worlds,’ Pellicciari and Donati explain. The Japanese use the word Nanban to refer to the Western traders who reached the coasts of the archipelago in the 1500s.

‘So far, very little of the beauty that can be discovered in Japan is found on the old continent,’ they say. ‘We noticed this during our travels, and we had the idea to share our favourite findings. Our products range from utensils to modern antiques, from classics designs to the latest productions.’ And many of these can be found within the minimalist interiors of their light-filled, 120-square-metre apartment. The duo left most of the original structure and materials intact: high plastered ceilings, hardwood floors, leaded glass window shades, cast iron radiators, and – surprise! – a stunning courtyard packed with vegetation like persimmons, medlars, palm trees and hortensiae.

The space was almost perfect when they found it. ‘The only thing we modified is the hallway. It was the least interesting part of the flat, and now it’s a protagonist. It’s a sort of spine of mirrored surfaces and blue linoleum connecting the two ends of the house and the various rooms,’ they explain. The corridor acts like a sharply contemporary sign, its reflections offering different perspectives depending on the viewpoint. ‘For instance, the Pirelli Tower seems to bounce from the last room directly into the entrance hall,’ they note. Magnified by the expansive mirrors, the light reaches the hallway and changes throughout the day. ‘It was a great idea from our friends at Baukuh,’ they share, giving credit to the Milan- and Genoa-based collective of young architects known for their design of Casa della Memoria (House of Memory) in Milan.

The rest was small touches: ‘We connected the spacious living area and the guest room via two openings in the wall, slightly modified the layout of the kitchen, and we split the only bathroom to create a room dedicated to the traditional hinoki ofuro bath,’ they say.

The measured decor reflects their personal taste, which they describe as ‘not really a style, but more of a collection of interests and family inheritance.’ Rustic and custom-made furniture sits alongside classic Nordic, Italian and Japanese designs by the likes of Hans Wegner, Ico Parisi, Gio Ponti and Sori Yanagi, who they call ‘a Japanese Castiglioni’. ‘His chairs were a true coup de coeur on one of our trips. We had them delivered by ship!’ Pellicciari adds. On the other hand, the dramatic Ingo Maurer rice paper and bamboo lamp, another timeless classic, was discovered online. Other more contemporary lighting pieces come from designer friends, like Servomuto’s Flag and Filo by Andrea Anastasio. Given the couple’s love of flea markets, travelling and new discoveries, this list is bound to keep growing…

Text, production and styling / Francesca Sironi
Images / Monica Spezia, Living Inside

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Editor’s Picks: 10 Things To See This Milan Design Week

As the design world prepares to descend upon Milan, we’ve rounded up our list of highlights to add to your (probably already brimming) schedule

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This year high-street fashion brand COS have partnered with London-based French architect Arthur Mamou-Mani to create Conifera – a large-scale 3D-printed architectural installation made from renewable resources. The site-specific work in Milan’s 16th century Palazzo Isimbardi has been created from seven hundred interlocking modular bio-bricks, 3D printed in a mix of wood and bioplastic.

Where: Palazzo Isimbardi, Corso Monforte 35, Milan
Follow: @cosstores @mamoumani #COSxMamouMani

 

 
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Hong Kong designer André Fu, founder of hospitality design studio AFSO, will be showcasing his recently launched home and living collection. The collection, titled André Fu Living, will include furniture, textiles, lighting and porcelain tableware.  AFSO’s impressive roster of high-end hotel projects includes the Upper House, the Andaz Singapore, the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok and the recently opened St Regis Hong Kong.  He has also created suites for the Berkeley Hotel in London and  interiors for Villa La Coste Provence, and has worked with fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton and COS.

Where: via San Damiano 2, Milan
Follow: @andrefuliving @afso #andrefu #andrefuliving

 

 
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Brooklyn-based design duo Dylan Davis and Jean Lee of Ladies & Gentlemen Studio teamed up with Calico Wallpapers and Mud Australia to create the spatial concept for Still / Life. The space embraces a dual state of tranquility and vitality, revealing a calming yet enriching environment that opens the senses to elemental possibilities: a momentary daydream, a fond memory, or a chance conversation. The installation will incorporate elements of process and materiality from the exhibitors as a means to celebrate their collective creative energy.

Where: via Pietro Maroncelli 7, Milan
Follow: @ladiesandgentlemenstudio @calicowallpaper @mudaustralia #stilllife #ladiesandgentlemenstudio #calicowallpaper #mudaustralia

 

 
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British designer Tom Dixon returns to Milan after a year’s  hiatus with a space that reimagines how the brand can embed itself into the heart of the city’s cultural and design community. Aptly named The Manzoni, the new 100-cover restaurant has been created by Tom’s Design Research Studio. Pre-opening at the beginning of April to coincide with Milan Design Week, it will reopen after Salone as a permanent restaurant and a showroom.

Where: via Alessandro Manzoni 5, Milano
Follow: @tomdixonstudio @themanzoni #tomdixon #TheManzoni

 

 
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The Socialite Family, an online platform dedicated to decoration and the art of living for contemporary, urban and connected families, will be showcasing an apartment space especially imagined for Milan Design Week. The space will showcase founder Constance Gennari’s different sources of inspiration and latest creations.

Where: via Palermo 1, Milano
Follow: @thesocialitefamily #thesocialitefamily

 

 

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London-based Carpenters Workshop Gallery will present Anthology, a pop-up showcase at architect and artist Vincenzo De Cotiis’s namesake gallery. Curated by Claudia Rose and De Cotiis himself, the exhibition will combine pieces of De Cotiis’s own design placed in conversation with works by fifteen artists from Carpenters Workshop Gallery’s programme. The works selected for Anthology represent the archetypal gesture of material manipulation as their guiding thread. From a brutal approach to organic forms, reaching the purest conceptuality: a sculptural archive made up of elements that represent our eclectic times, establishing a dialogue among differences and consonances.

Where: Vincenzo de Cotiis Gallery, Via Carlo de Cristoforis 14, Milan
Follow: @carpentersworkshopgallery @vdecotiis #carpentersworkshopgallery #vincenzodecotiis

 

 
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For Milan Design Week 2019, Cosentino presents its collaboration with designer Benjamin Hubert of LAYER. Titled Raytrace, it’s an immersive, architectural installation showcasing Dekton®, the ultra-compact, large format surface by Cosentino. A 25-metre-long and 6-metre-high triangular passage composed of Dekton® surfaces is seemingly balanced on a single edge within a dark, atmospheric space. Upon entering the passageway, a mesmerising caustic pattern slowly dances across the surface, emulating the refraction of light through water and evoking the serene feeling of being underwater. As visitors walk through the passage, they become an integral part of the installation, as their shadows are cast against the structure’s surface. Two mirrors at either end of the vault reflect the installation, creating the illusion of an infinite space and offering glimpses of the caustic patterns playing out on the interior.

Where: via Ferrante Aporti 27, Milan
Follow: @grupocosentino @dektonbycosentino @benjaminhubert @layer_design #raytrace #CosentinoDesign

 

 

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Winners of the prestigious Milano Design Award in 2018 for their Monsters Cabaret, Lasvit returns this year at Euroluce with Theory of Light. After eleven years of diligent research, the Czech-based lighting design company has developed its own theory about light. They found that the beauty of light consists of four key elements – spectrum, reflection, perception, and nature, captured in four unique lighting installations. But there is also a fifth essential element which is common to all the others: glass.

Where: Salone del Mobile – Euroluce - Fiera Rho, Milan Hall 15 / Stand C43 / D36
Follow: @lasvitdesign #lasvit #lasvitdesign #theoryoflight

 

 
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Shanghai-based designer furniture brand Stellar Works will launch a number of exciting new collections. Behind the Scenes, curated by Stellar Works’ creative directors Neri&Hu will take place at Milan’s Galleria Teatro Manzoni.  Sydney-based industrial designer Tom Fereday who won Lane Crawford’s Creative Callout has been tapped to create an exclusive Stellar Works collection for the Hong Kong-based luxury retailer.

Where: Galleria Teatro Manzoni, Via Alessandro Manzoni 42, Milan
Follow: @stellar_works @lanecrawford @tom_fereday #stellarworks #lanecrawford #tomfereday

 

 
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After a twenty-year hiatus B&B Italia returns to exhibit its newest designs at Salone del Mobile, a presence that also marks the debut of Design Holding (which includes B&B Italia, Flos and Louis Poulsen) with an impressive 4000-square-metre stand located inside the new S.Project pavilion. New designs by Antonio Citterio, Piero Lissoni, Vincent Van Duysen and Michael Anastassiades will be presented in an exhibition space that aims to highlight the technological innovation and design research of the iconic brand. The B&B Italia store on Via Durini will host a special installation to celebrate fifty years of the Up Series by Gaetano Pesce.

Where: Salone del Mobile – Fiera Rho, Milan Hall 24 - S.Project / Stand C01 E20; B&B Italia showroom – Via Durini 14, Milan
Follow: @bebitalia @flos @louispoulsen #bebitalia #SaloneDelMobile2019 #UP50 #upseries  #antoniocitterio #pierolissoni #michaelanastassiades #vincentvanduysen

In Conversation with Doshi Levien

Design duo Doshi Levien spoke to us on the sidelines of Salone about their creative process and their new collection for Kvadrat.

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Design Anthology: I wanted to ask you about your childhoods and how they may have influenced your sense of colour, because both of you've obviously grown up in very different countries.

Jonathan Levien: If you were to limit it to the subject to colour, I'd have to have to say I like brown especially. I grew up in a factory environment. My parents soft toy kit manufacturers. And they had a factory where they were stamping out fabric and sending it off in brown carboard boxes all over the world.

Design Anthology: Not the green rolling hills of Scotland?

Jonathan Levien: No, <laughs> materials aplenty, tape machines and cardboard to play with. I think that did more than anything to inspire my love of making and design. So that's the colour of my childhood, sorry. Corrugated cardboard.

Nipa Doshi: The colour of your childhood was about making.

Design Anthology: That's interesting. What about you Nipa?

Nipa Doshi: I grew up in a dusty pink Art Deco house, in the heart of Delhi. But I was born in Bombay. My grandmother had a beautiful Art Deco apartment in Bombay. But they also had a beautiful little house in the village, a really old Indian house. And then my Aunt's house was designed by Le Corbusier's assistant, in Ahmenabad, where I went to college. We had Le Corbusier's Sanskar Museum opposite. Then Louis Kahn developed this incredible campus. And I think for me that the world that I grew up in was incredibly plural. I used to think that Vesper was an Indian brand. That Art Deco was a distinct Bombay style. And I think growing up there was a modernity, and in a way that also influenced everything in life. And you know everybody sees India as a land of colour. I think India is also a land of textiles. Colour and textiles. Of course we have incredibly barren desert. And yet the tribal women wear the brightest colours. And then you go to Kerala where everyone wears white because everywhere there is so much green, there is already so much colour.

For me I think the plurality of architecture, tradition, modernity, manufacturing and everything happening around me, really influenced my approach to colour. There's a plurality in how I see colour. I don't have a preference for colour, I think every colour is beautiful, it depends on how and where you use it. And it's something that's constantly evolving. I'm a person who looks, I'm a visual person. I remember when I was off to college when I was working in Delhi, and how it was incredibly painted it was. And I remember sitting in traffic and a really smoky bus was coming up next to us. And I noticed the red of that bus. You can see beauty in really ugly situations, there's always beauty everywhere. If you have the eyes to look. And I think perhaps that's where my love for colour came from. And I try to show that in our work, both of us. There is a sense of daring. Not having a style, but really going deep into something. And having an approach and making, and painting. It's a very hands on way of creating.

Photo by I Do Art Agency

Photo by I Do Art Agency

Design Anthology: I guess it's hard to pick one color when you're from a country like India. The two of you obviously have grown up in very different countries but also what you studied was very different.

Jonathan Levien: Le Corbusier didn't come to Scotland, unfortunately.

Design Anthology: What a shame.

Jonathan Levien: Deco pink was not there either. We had the yellow of the heather gorse bushes by the sea. But brown cardboard it is, I'm afraid <laughs>.

Design Anthology: Brown is a color.

Jonathan Levien: It's true. Every color is beautiful.

Design Anthology: Absolutely. So how much of that contrast between the two of your upbringings and your studies and your set of interests before you came together, how much of that do you think makes up the dynamic of how you work together as two creative people? Is that a big part part of what makes you two successful as a design duo?

Jonathan Levien: I think in the way that we work, and the way we think about our work and our process is remarkably different. I think that probably has more to do with the contrast in our work, and how we complement each other. I'm coming from making background and I would say I'm more three dimensional in my thinking and design approach. Making is still a really intrinsic important part of my process. Although I'm not making the final article any longer, it gives shape to what we create. Nipa, I think has a very different skillset and a very different way of looking. And as she just explained, her upbringing in India obviously contributed a lot to the way she sees the world, and how she interprets visual culture in her work. I don't have access to that. And I think that's wonderful, that we have this, that we have to reconcile our differences through our work. Fortunately there's an openness to each other that was established at the Royal College of Art. It's important to have contrasts and differences. But then you also have to be open to change, to see things from the other person's perspective. I think it's a very important part of being able to create something out of our different abilities.

Design Anthology: I can imagine being based in London must be quite unique, for a lot of the reasons that you've just explained. I'm wondering about the effect of Brexit, wherever that is right now, how are you feeling about being based in London? Do you feel like the creative energy is changing there or is it still as appealing as it always has been?

Nipa Doshi: London, for me, London belongs to everybody. London doesn't belong to Britain. It belongs to the people that come there because they can express their creativity, where young people have opportunities. Where you can be from any country. And I think London has many things which are beyond Europe. Our relationship with Europe is very important but I think London is bigger than that. And I think the relationship that London has to the rest of the world, it's not provincial. Which other European city can you go to and find people from everywhere, and dress in whatever way you want and nobody will even look at you twice. No one will say 'what are you wearing?' For me, it's incredible freedom. You know and coming back to your question about upbringing, I think that upbringing is one thing, there are a billion people like me. And there are a million people like Jonathan.

Jonathan Levien: Only a million? I'm more rarefied. <laughs>

Photo by I Do Art Agency

Photo by I Do Art Agency

Nipa Doshi: For me it's not the upbringing that's important. It's what you do with what you're exposed to. I think that for me that's more important. And it's also about the other person having something you don't. It's not even necessarily the cultural background, it's the fact that Jonathan can make things beautifully.

Jonathan Levien: The question was about Brexit.

Design Anthology: We're circling around to that.

Jonathan Levien: I think it's annoying. It's a big annoying waste of time.

Nipa Doshi: It's a political tragedy. 

Design Anthology: I'm looking at it as an outsider. 

Nipa Doshi: I don't think anything's going to change actually. 

Jonathan Levien: Ultimately it'll get resolved and we'll carry on as usual. But how can you undo something as intrinsic as the deep cultural relations that we've formed, over decades. How can you have the arrogance to think you can just undo that, and just unpick it. You can't. It'll find its way back once the politicians have stopped, you know. 

Design Anthology: Yeah, I think I think you're right. 

Jonathan Levien: I mean making a mess of things. I don't feel any differently. It hasn't impeded or enhanced my creativity or my desire to stay. I would say we are slightly apologetic to our European clients. I felt a little bit sheepish I think when the vote was called, and just to make it clear we're definitely not on that side. How could we be? All our clients are in Europe. 

Design Anthology: I agree with you Nipa, I think London is an entity unto its own almost, in way that it is almost a country in a city. So I hope you're right that it will never change. 

Nipa Doshi: I think it comes back to what's happening in Britain with Brexit is not that different to what's happening in Austria, or Hungary or the United States, or Australia. Or many other parts of the world. They have this wanting to go back to being 'pure'. 

Design Anthology: Whatever that is. 

Photo by I Do Art Agency

Photo by I Do Art Agency

Nipa Doshi: Whatever that is, right. And I think for me, that's the issue here. Brexit is just one thing. I mean, look at Italy. So many countries are now wanting to keep the foreigners out. When they were foreigners in the first place. It comes back to this idea of plurality of global culture. I think that there's beauty in plurality. And I think Brexit in a way is a rejection of plurality. But you know what's interesting to say that 'I don't want to be friends with my neighbour's but I'm going to be open to the rest of the world. 

Design Anthology: Yeah, it's ludicrous. 

Nipa Doshi: We'll do trade in Australia, and India and Brazil, and all over the world. But I don't want to do it people who are actually ethnically probably closest to me. It's like Australia or Hong Kong saying that we don't want to do business in Asia, but everywhere else. 

Design Anthology: So I'm curious to know about the creative process with you two. You now have a studio, there is a small team that you work with. How does that start when a client approaches you? Are you two off drawing or talking on your own, and then come together? Is the studio involved in that from the very beginning? And is it different with every project? How do you approach the process, considering your background and your training is quite different, maybe your approach is too? 

Nipa Doshi: I think that at first when we started the studio, you know, we had more client designer relationships. And I think what's interesting about working in Europe, in fact we don't call them clients, we really think we're collaborating with B&B, we're collaborating with Moroso, with Kettal, all the companies we work with. But of course there are situations where a make-up brand would come to us and say we want you design our packaging, and then of course you have a very different scenario, almost like a creative service provider kind of relationship. But the way we are working now with Kvadrat, who are equally interested in what we are bringing to the table, it's a true collaboration. If we are successful, they are successful. And that's something that underpins European design. Most designers in our industry talk about collaboration, not 'Kvadrat is my client'. 

Photo by I Do Art Agency

Photo by I Do Art Agency

Jonathan Levien: And as for how we work together, I think it comes back to a reconciliation of each other's approaches and we'll sit opposite in the studio where we can sit down and work together. We have a lot of other things to do also... But when we are just sitting face to face around a table with our sketch books out, and materials, and what have you. I think the real genesis happens, and the spark occurs, when we're interpreting each other's language, or ideas. And quite often it's a misinterpretation but it leads to something else. Like Nipa will be pouring through her art references and then she'll be re-drawing them as a way of learning about them and getting closer to the thinking behind those artworks and then that'll kind of morph into an object or it'll become something, it could be a table for example, and I'll look at her drawing and I'll say well there's a light idea in there, you know maybe because I'm seeing everything upside down from the side of the table. <laughs> So I'll start creating a light with that concept, that will quickly become a mock-up or a model.

Design Anthology: So it's a very organic process? 

Jonathan Levien: It is organic, even to the degree that, at the end of the day having created something you had no intention of making in the beginning. You have to be open to ideas, and you can't tell where the're going to lead. That's how the creative process plays out. 

Design Anthology: I heard you say in a previous interview that you often argue, and that you both think that you're right. That you always argue the point, and as a couple as well... Has there ever been a situation where you haven't been able to resolve a disagreement in a work setting? Or does it always end up with something that you're both happy with? Is that how you decide to go ahead with a design?

Nipa Doshi: I'm always right. 

Jonathan Levien: You're so predictable. It's really whoever argues the strongest. It really sharpens your intellect and you have to argue the idea out, rigorously, and fight for it. If you really believe in it. And try and encourage the other person to see the way you're seeing things, so you really have to describe it.

Design Anthology: The power of persuasion?

Jonathan Levien: The power of persuasion. And it's great, to have that.. It's good.

Design Anthology: Is that how the collection with Kvadrat came about?

Jonathan Levien: I have to say this is really, the colours, as a project, is coming from Nipa. Absolutely. I'm sort of looking from the wings, from the side. While Nipa is working on this, and she's painting and creating colours, not choosing colours. It's really about the process of painting. So there's that sort of coming back and taking a look, and really enjoying it, the process.

Design Anthology: That must be a really fun way to come up with a color palette.

Photo by I Do Art Agency

Photo by I Do Art Agency

Nipa Doshi: Actually this collection was interesting because we were looking at the royal miniature paintings from the Jodphur Palace, and equally I'm very inspired by Le Corbusier's paintings, his paintings are absolutely stunning. And looking at Chinese porcelain colours and trying to get a feel around the palette. And this idea that when you're looking at the paintings that other colours are coming through, and I think that's something that's really visible in this collection. Like you feel that there is another colour coming through, or there were two layers of colour and one layer has been taken off. So in that sense for me, this project was really about creating texture through colour. And texture through the actual yarn. So we were basically trying to capture the colours that we were putting together, and I was also looking at 50s fashion. Looking at Lanvin and Balenciaga. We were looking at ceramics from Sevres, so it was a very layered process of finding colours. You'll see the palette, they're not bright, bold colours. They're mid tones, they're quite soft in a way, and the combinations are really unusual. In the way that we combined Lavender with Brown. Or a Maroon with this almost Lemon Beige. So hence you have a new neutral. So their was a lot of research that went into creating the colours, and I think I painted at least 150 colours. We had stacks of these painted sheets. 

Design Anthology: What medium were you using to paint? 

Nipa Doshi: Guache. I love painting painting with Guache. It doesn't have any sheen, just that nice flat matte finish. We have images of some of the process. 

Design Anthology: So this is what you took to Kvadrat in terms of coming up with the actual weave and the texture of the fabric itself, it was still paintings?

Nipa Doshi: Yes. But I have to say that this exercise was mainly in colour. Because also when you look at a fabric like this, when you just have one colour, it's a different fabric. It's about working with the warp and weft and how do you add colour to it, and mix it, and play with it.

Design Anthology: How long was that process then, from you experimenting with these paintings, in terms of color, but also texture, and then translating that into a physical woven product?

Nipa Doshi: We started in March, last year.

Design Anthology: So not a quick process then.

Nipa Doshi: Relatively quick. With textiles you don't have to tool up. So then we gave the references of the colours to the textile mill, not references,the actual painted samples, they matched the actual painted samples. Rather than an NCS or something else. Because actually when you paint colour it's very difficult to get that colour in a another reference. And we didn't want to compromise.

Design Anthology: Right, it would've defeated the purpose almost.

Nipa Doshi: So, some of the colours don't exist in both collections. But some of the colors are across both. The collection is called Raas and Lila. And Raas and Lila in Hindi mythology is a sort dance of aesthetics. It's symbolic of the dance between Radha and Krishna, the god and goddess. And this idea that there's a play of aesthetics between these two fabrics. And it's very much about beauty as well. So Raas is like the essence of something, and Lila is play. So it's the play of the essence, or the dance of the essence, so to speak. So we called it Raas and Lila because basically one is more precise, almost contract and sharper, shall I say, and the other is a little bit looser and more flowing.

Design Anthology: I have one more question. So the studio is quite multidisciplinary in terms of the projects and the products that you do. Is there anything that you haven't designed yet that you like to?

Nipa Doshi: A hotel.

Jonathan Levien: We've done everything else, you know, to go in it.

As told to / Suzy Annetta

Photo by I Do Art Agency

Photo by I Do Art Agency

David Rockwell, The Diner

Veteran designer David Rockwell speaks with Design Anthology   on the sidelines of this spring’s Salone del Mobile about his pop-up diner installation, design trends and the role of research in his own practice

Design Anthology: In terms of interior design, many firms tend to specialise in one particular area but your firm seems to be very multidisciplinary and working in many sectors. Do you feel that because of that you need to be an expert in each those areas?

David Rockwell: I think what interests me and interests our studio is essentially not being defined by a box around project type. On the other hand, I believe that our design strategy and design research is very fluid. We believe in deep, deep, deep research. So if the you look at the thirty-five years of the Rockwell Group and our divergent practices, they're all connected.

I just turned sixty-one. As a designer, I now have a chance to look in the rear-view mirror to see what are the drivers, what are the things that I'm most interested in, and they're not project types. They‘re about certain ideas including design as a way to bring community together. As different as you could say an airport and a theatre project are, or a pop-up diner, there are certain common investigations. One of them is space as a way of bringing people together and connecting people. When we begin something, like the theatre, not only had I studied it, but I spent two or three years just meeting with directors, talking and sketching and realising that what they were interested in was what I was interested in. And that's how design helps tell a story.

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As you mentioned, your firm has been around now for over three decades. I'm curious to know what are some of the biggest changes that you've seen, particularly in hospitality, but also just in design?

That's such an interesting question because I really believe that by the time you can point to a trend, it's already over. So you know, diners for instance, as I started to work on this I looked into the history of diners. Diners have been in and out of fashion almost every ten years, as has some of the iconography of diners. But from the beginning, diners were about a place that was open when other places were closed, and a place where you could be alone and together. So I've seen so many waves of changes in hospitality.

You know, I've been through pre-‘everything looking like Brooklyn’ and hopefully post-‘everything looking like Brooklyn’. I've been through ‘open kitchens are no good’ and then ‘everything should have an open kitchen’. I think one of the trends I'm seeing now that's a good trend is restaurants based on a point of view of hospitality and food. I don't think design is a starting point. I think design has to come out of some point of view and I'm seeing a return to that. There are a million food markets and food halls and you know of course people will realise they're all similar too, and then that will change.

Well that leads to my next question, which is what do you expect to see more of in the future, either in hospitality specifically or just design in general?

One of the things is, this is a good example of what I'm interested in, is the balance between permanence and impermanence. Theatre is alive for the two-and-a-half hours you're there seeing the show. When you're not there, it's not alive; it only lasts for that period. So this [The Diner installation] is just here for one week. I'd love this to be up longer actually, but I think we're going to see more spaces that morph from day to night because of the difficulty in getting real estate. I think this place will be used for talks and lectures in the evening. It'll be used for karaoke on Wednesday. It's a very flexible space, and I think it's going to be a place people want to be. Not just something that looks good on Instagram and in photographs. The biggest memory will be being here, hopefully.

The day-to-night thing is quite interesting. It sounds like something that will have an effect on any big city in the world and be quite important, as you said, as real estate becomes very expensive. My next question is about the LAB that you have. Can you tell us a little about why you set that up and what you hope to achieve through it? 

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So I set it up I think in 2007 and it came out of a project in which a client was interested in having us develop a whole series of strategies that were outside of our core expertise. It really was there to look at the architecture projects we were doing and explore ways to use technology to keep people together, not to separate people. More and more people are separated by their technology. You can get your food at home, you don't need to leave for any reason. So the reason to come out is to, as I said, be alone and be together, or be alone together. So the LAB worked on a whole series of projects. And then there were sort of two projects where we started to find a rhythm for it, beginning with the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. When we came on board, we inherited a space that had concrete pillars like some Egyptian tomb. It had been built by someone else and abandoned before it was finished. I proposed that we look at technology as a way to put imagery up. It was all open source, so we created a lot of content but it would change over the years. The next project was the Biennale in Venice, where we did an installation around film and architecture. So the LAB has grown now to have several specialties but it is essentially R&D. I think the challenge is to not be predictable. The challenge is to keep looking for new ways to explore ideas and the LAB helps us do that.

That must be a very attractive capability for your clients, that you have the LAB and that you don't necessarily need to be an expert in any one field because you have that capacity for research.

The tech conference just finished. It was in a theatre we created in Vancouver. It’s a really interesting project that is a fifteen hundred seat pop-up theatre that sets up at the convention centre. It creates the perfect space for a one-on-one talk, then packs up in two days and sets up again a year later. That took a lot of R&D. 

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Well this diner is almost theatre in a way, as well. Had you participated in Milan for Salone in this way before?

I have. I wasn't here last year but we had participated before for other things, though nothing on this scale.

So how did this come about? It's a collaboration between you and Surface magazine and then there's a material partner as well — is that right?

There’s a whole bunch of us. What happened was Surface called us and said, ‘We'd like to talk to you guys about doing an installation’. So they said, ‘How would you like to design a diner in Milan?’. And I was immediately compelled and started to research the concept and thought it may be one of the great last symbols of American optimism in design — the history of the diner is fascinating! Plus if I was to create a big installation, the idea that it'd be a place where people could hang out and not just look at was sort of irresistible. So we just dove in head-on. And then we were like whitewashing the fence, like in Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain where he's whitewashing the fence and had to get everyone to help out — we got a lot of other partners who wanted to participate, including Design within Reach.

Speaking of optimism in design in America, is there optimism there at the moment in the design industry? What is the atmosphere like?

I think design is one of the ultimate optimistic professions because you're making things. There's a lot of complicated, challenging conditions in the US now, as there are around the world. Particularly in the US, I think there's a kind of sourness about the country being unified. But diners are a place that appeals to young kids, older people, singles, so I saw it as a chance to go deep into some of the symbols, like the counter. There's a reason why there's a culture called 'counter culture'. It allows you to be a part of the central element that almost organises the space. So there certainly was optimism in getting people to participate in this project. And we got to look back at the counter and the diner's role in popular culture.

Yeah, there's a very strong nostalgic element to it as well, which is quite charming. How long did the entire process take? When did you start working on this?

I don't know the answer to that — it’s one big blur! I don't know. But you know this was custom, custom chemetal. So there are these continuous elements, like the counter, and then there're these different environments. And if we stand here we're going from monochromatic East Coast luncheonette and then this feels more like the Midwest, with brighter colours. And the food, this grilled cheese, we brought the best cheese guy from New York. Murray's Cheese. You really have to try.

I've been hearing good things about the grilled cheese.

It's amazing!

Are diners in the US really that different if you travel from state to state?

Not necessarily. I wanted to emphasise the idea of movement and differentiation.

So the experience changes as you travel through space?

Right. The counter is very solid and on top of it, I've always loved internally lit globes, so we've got these white globes and our shop made these tattoos of the continents. So this is the looser space, where you can see this little stage in the centre, looser furniture, different kinds of booths, the banquette. So when you sit here, you can see there’s this unifying element but there're all of these individual places around, and I do think that people are going to find this to be of use. You can have a meeting, a bite to eat. There's one other subtle design feature, but it's significant, that if you follow this line, there's a clear horizon that continues. So people feel very nestled because of the horizon and the scale. And all of it’s back-lit, so people look great.

As told to / Suzy Annetta

Designer Q&A: John Pawson

Design Anthology’s editor-in-chief sat down with esteemed architect John Pawson at Milan Design Week for a conversation on his latest collaboration for Swarovski, some of his struggles as a perfectionist and his views on minimalism

Design Anthology: How has Milan been for you so far?

John Pawson: It’s weird being in Milan. On the way here from the hotel, we were stopped by three people who had to have a selfie together. I thought, 'Is this what it's like?'

That's part of the novelty of Design week in Milan for all of us, spotting designers on the street.

You mean I'm not unique? <laughs>

Of course you are, but it’s like Hollywood for the design industry.

It must be, yeah. I suppose in the age of the selfie and the age of Instagram, all these installations must be Instagram friendly. It's not my thing. I like Instagram, but I couldn't design for it. And I resisted doing something for Swarovski for ten years or more. Nadia's been after me.

I heard that you two are quite good friends, so that must have been hard for you to resist for so long. She gave you a hard time then, did she?

It’s hard to have a tall attractive blonde chasing me <laughs>. I'm lucky my wife is very calm and doesn't get worked up or jealous. And Nadia's very cool. So, I'm just really thrilled that we've been able to make it work, for myself, you know. I can only design things that I want and use, and this will suit our new house.

Is that how you’ve always approach things then? It's not about the prospective client, but about something you would want?

Yeah, it’s like that with architecture. If I’m designing a monastery, I design it obviously to help them run their lives, but also how I would want to live if I was a monk. So it’s the same with objects. All my glasses and plates and knives and forks are all designed for what I want. It's not that there aren't other really beautiful ones out there. It's not that I want everything at home to be me but I quite enjoy getting it right.

Personalising things?

Yeah

Architects designing products is not really a new thing. There have been several architects over the course of history who have kitted out spaces with products that they've designed, either for themselves or for that space. I think maybe architects collaborating with brands came along in the 20th century. How do you feel about that trend? And I'm wondering if you see it pushing architects in the direction of becoming brand names themselves and reinforcing this whole 'starchitect' phenomenon. What do you think about that? Do you want to be a brand name?

I mean, I'm part of this new phenomenon and it's fantastic, but it doesn't affect how you design. It just makes it easier to convince people. And you know, until I worked for Calvin Klein everyone was quite wary. They wouldn't commit themselves. But as soon as someone like him committed then Cathay Pacific hired me and it just went from there. Having a bit of profile certainly was a huge help.

So you would only really collaborate or design a product if you felt a legitimate desire to own that yourself? You have no desire to proliferate the market with John Pawson-branded product?

No, I think it's quite difficult because, well, architecture of course works very differently, fee-wise. When you're doing a building you get an advance because you have to run the office, you have to employ lots of people, whereas with objects it's more royalty-based. I think some manufacturers couldn't understand why I didn't jump at doing a sofa or a chair or something, which they could sell hundreds of. They kept saying to me, 'yes, but you will get the royalties' and I'd think, ‘Yeah, but that doesn't help me’. I mean, you have to be liquid to be able to finance the running of the office. But Catherine, my wife, likes the idea of future royalties. <laughs> They just come in, you know. You've done the work, then they just start coming in.

Is there anything appealing about how quickly you can design a smaller product as opposed to the length of time it takes to finish a building?

Of course, yeah. It's very satisfying and also you can go on designing it until the object is sitting in front of you and you can say ‘Okay, I'm not so happy about that’, whereas with a building, you can never. Of course, when I first started I drove my clients mad. It would go on and on and on.

And the contractors as well?

Yeah. One guy floored me. I didn't see it coming. He just went bang, and when you're hit properly, you just go straight down. It was quite dramatic. We were on the street in London, so I was in the gutter looking up at this guy. I know, I was stupid. First of all, I was standing too near, obviously.

I presume that never changed your resolve or your principles, or your wanting to see things the way you felt they should be done?

Well no, but I did learn to be a little more diplomatic. Also, you know at the beginning I had issues with clients because it mattered so much to me. If I wanted to reduce the height of the ceiling, I would, and some clients got upset about that.

Did you ever have arguments with clients who, after you'd created a beautiful space, filled it with all their stuff?

Well I think if I can get the building right, of course I'm interested in what goes in it. It’s really really important — it changes the building hugely. But, I mean, you can't control everything. I tried, back in the early days.

But now you must have clients that come to you for a certain aesthetic?

Yes, but everyone's different. Some people want you to do everything, including getting their lapsang souchong tea. Whatever. And of course, that's an extreme. Some people say, ‘I don't want you to do anything with the furniture, just the architecture’. And some people just want the interiors, not the architecture. So, we're flexible these days. As long as I'm able to contribute something.

So this is not the first time you've worked with Swarovski, but it is the first time that you're showing a product collaboration in Milan?

Yeah absolutely, with them, yes. As I said, I resisted for a long time. I mean you wouldn't normally associate me with what they do but I saw a way in. We'll see, who knows. When you do it, you don't know where it will go from here. But I'm happy.

It's a beautiful collection.

We did this church in Augsburg, a catholic church in the centre of town which the British had bombed. It used to be the most exquisite seventeenth century church and really beautiful, by father and son architects, quite well known, who did it very simply. But gradually stuff got added and subtracted and it was made a mess off, so they hired me to redo the church.

It was a very popular local place for people to just pop in, to talk to God and so on. And so there was a huge expectation. We had the opening with the bishop and I had to give the bishop the key during the ceremony, and we had a huge crowd outside because it was a very big church and everyone was of course eager to get in — a lot of people worshipped there. So they opened the doors, and it really was a spectacle. I was, like, in this scrum, and then there was this couple who saw it and, I don't speak German but, they were saying 'This is terrible, it’s horrible, a travesty!' I mean, I'm just imagining what they said, but they were absolutely apoplectic, and then they stormed out. And I thought, 'Oh no, I've messed up here' and I felt so bad. But then the others came in, and the whole place filled up and they had an amazing mass and an amazing concert afterwards, and everyone was really, really happy. It was just those two people. So, you can't please everybody.

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That's always bound to happen. Like you said, you can't make everyone happy.

Well if you could, it wouldn't be good work.

How did you approach the collection then? What was your thinking and process at the very beginning?

Well, I tried all sorts of things. I mean, to be honest, I tried that idea of having a tiny bit of crystal and a lot of silver, or something else and then I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ You know? And they kept explaining to me the properties of crystal, which of course means you have to face it. If you don't cut it in that way...

So we developed these random widths, which change as you move around it. I wanted things I could use and things I could put in my own home. So I just designed things that I wanted or needed: candlesticks, vases for flowers and just one centrepiece that you can put fruit on.

Does your wife ever get a say in this or are you the final decision maker?

You should interview her! She's incredibly calm and incredibly patient and generous. With our new house in the country — she wanted somewhere out of London — I said to her, 'Look, I've just got to make it clear before we go that I'm doing it' and she said 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, but when it's finished I can put stuff in that I want' and I said, 'Yeah, just after I'm finished.' So she's quite upset with me because I haven't put up any fixings for the curtain rods. But I will do it. I really will do it. We will have curtains.

But you'll have to get it photographed before then? <laughs>

Yeah. The thing is that I have to feel comfortable in the space all the time. I mean it's quite therapeutic to have it photographed in its idealised state. But then I tend to want it like that the whole time.

Well I guess that's the whole idea of having a comfy house. It’s somewhere to relax and if that for you is somewhere visually quiet...

Well yes, but there is more than one of us.

Marriage is all about compromise.

Luckily for us the compromise is in different areas.

My final question is how do you describe your work? I feel like ‘minimalism’ doesn't really cut it. Is there another word?

No. There isn't. I talk about clarity and I talk about feeling comfortable and atmosphere, but I wouldn't describe it as simply atmospheric or architectural. There are a lot of words, but whatever nice words you can think of should apply: honest, clear, direct.

I've never been bothered about being called a minimalist. To begin with, in the seventies when I first started doing this my sisters thought I was completely mad and they used to send blank pieces of paper saying ‘This is a membership to John's club’. They never understood — there was no one else doing it, no one would join the club. And then suddenly I look around and anybody who remotely felt they were doing something simple, even if it wasn't, suddenly became a minimalist. So there was a big group, of which I was just one, and then it shrank back a bit.

I can imagine that as the world gets more hectic, your architecture becomes more desirable.

It's always been hectic. I was always amazed because I always did it for myself. And then I was amazed that other people wanted it. It took me a long time to get my head around that.

As told to / Suzy Annetta

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Best in Show: Milan Design Week 2018

Our favourite installations from around the city during the most exciting week on the design calendar

Lasvit 's "Monster Cabaret" @ Teatro Gerolamo

Lasvit's "Monster Cabaret" @ Teatro Gerolamo

Calm and serenity from  Meridiani  @ Rho Fiera

Calm and serenity from Meridiani @ Rho Fiera

Hermes ' stunning Moroccan-inspired installation @ Palazzo della Permanente

Hermes' stunning Moroccan-inspired installation @ Palazzo della Permanente

Raw-Edges Design Studio 's "Fine Cut" at Really, Cicular by Design

Raw-Edges Design Studio's "Fine Cut" at Really, Cicular by Design

Layers of beauty from  Apparatus  at their via Santa Marta showroom

Layers of beauty from Apparatus at their via Santa Marta showroom

Kengo Kuma 's "Breath/ng" air purifying installation for Dassault Systèmes

Kengo Kuma's "Breath/ng" air purifying installation for Dassault Systèmes

Lee Broom's "Observatory" installation of his new lighting designs

Lee Broom's "Observatory" installation of his new lighting designs

bulthaup's installation inside an empty church in Brera

bulthaup's installation inside an empty church in Brera

Designers Rachel and Nick Cope of  Calico Wallpaper  and designer  Lindsey Adelman  in their shared space  image / Lauren Coleman

Designers Rachel and Nick Cope of Calico Wallpaper and designer Lindsey Adelman in their shared space
image / Lauren Coleman

New designs at the showroom of  Collection Particulière

New designs at the showroom of Collection Particulière

COS  x Philip K Smith III @ Palazzo Isimbardi

COS x Philip K Smith III @ Palazzo Isimbardi

Gubi goodness @ Palazzo Serbelloni

Gubi goodness @ Palazzo Serbelloni

Michael Anastassiades ' "Jewels after Jewels after Jewels"installation for  Flos   image / Germano Borrelli

Michael Anastassiades' "Jewels after Jewels after Jewels"installation for Flos
image / Germano Borrelli

People-watching at the new  Paper Moon Giardino  by  AB Concept   image / Michael Weber

People-watching at the new Paper Moon Giardino by AB Concept
image / Michael Weber

Minotti  celebrates 70 years @ Rho Fiera

Minotti celebrates 70 years @ Rho Fiera

Bethan Laura-Wood 's eclectic brand of fun at  Moroso

Bethan Laura-Wood's eclectic brand of fun at Moroso

The Rockwell Group 's "The Diner" in colalboration with Surface magazine

The Rockwell Group's "The Diner" in colalboration with Surface magazine

Ceasarstone  x  Snarkitcture  "Altered States"  image / Alex Lukey

Ceasarstone x Snarkitcture "Altered States"
image / Alex Lukey

Sensuous new sofa design "Infinity" by  Space Copenhagen  for  Stellarworks

Sensuous new sofa design "Infinity" by Space Copenhagen for Stellarworks

Chinese designer  Mario Tsai  at Salone Satellite

Chinese designer Mario Tsai at Salone Satellite

Designer Q&A: Rossana Orlandi

Iconic gallerist, curator and doyenne of design Rossana Orlandi’s eye for spotting — and launching — ground-breaking creative young designers is legendary.  From her creative hive in a former tie factory in Milan, she presents a refreshingly eclectic array of cutting-edge designs that range from her own signature large-framed sunglasses and bomb-shaped accessories by Marre Moerel to video art by ANOTHERVIEW and eco-craft contemporary furnishings by Italian designer Enrico Marone Cinzano.

On the eve of her dinner for 100 guests in the gallery’s vine-draped garden to celebrate April’s Salone del Mobile furniture and design week, the 74-year old design maven, who started out in fashion creating yarn for Kenzo, Issey Miyake and Giorgio Armani before launching her eponymous gallery, tells Design Anthology why she champions creative talent alongside established names and why she insists on visiting artists in their studios.

Design Anthology: How did this all begin? 

I was born into a family where my father and mother spoke only of business. I was happy but it was also super boring. I wanted to marry a husband who would talk of something else. He is a doctor.

You originally trained in textiles yet your life since 2002 has been all about design. What is it that appeals to you? 

Design for me is like water is for flowers. You see them looking like that [wilted] and you give them water and they revive. Add design and I feel energised.

How do you find the artists you represent?

When I see something I like, I just know that I love it. Sometimes young artists come here to show me their work. We also travel a lot and have a good network of people who know what I really like.

You have a reputation for spotting gifted new talents. 

I have super well-known designers but I still like to find new designers. You have to like people. Young people are a bit crazy but I am young at heart and I love my work. That’s very important because for me design is all about emotions. When I discover a young designer that I like, I just keep on and on and try to encourage them to do better. The gallery is like a home for design. Everyone comes here. We all work together like a family. Someone like Piet Hein Eek does new things every year and it’s always great. The first time I met him was fourteen years ago and I knew then that I loved his work.

How would you describe yourself?

I am a simple and honest person.

Do you feel like a mother to the young designers?

They call me mummy.

Does that bother you?

No, it would bother me if they called me their grandmother!

What is the most important thing for you to consider when you first work with a new, young artist?

When I find a new designer I like going to see what they do in their studios. With Sebastian Wrong, I flew to his studio in London and I bought everything he’d made. It’s very important to visit them because after I see their studio I know if they’re really good or if they’ve just had a chance to do one really good project. Some people have one good idea but it’s a mistake to follow that. I want to see what they’re working with, how they’re organised. You can see that sometimes they are a good designer but they cannot deliver so you have to forget about it.

You are strict but nurturing, just like a mother!

You have to be strict. I can’t support them if we don’t work well. I am super serious about my work. If I say I will deliver on a certain day, I want to do that.

So you rely on your instincts plus a bit of investigative work?

Yes. For example, a few years ago I was passing by a room in my gallery and saw a handsome guy. He was very chic, so I went over and said, ‘I’m Rossana. Who are you?’ It was Enrico and I loved him straight away. He’s a super perfectionist and does amazing super strong, technical pieces. He has fabulous ideas and taste but is also a strange mix of crazy and old-style gentleman. I want him to put more of his craziness out there. We’ve been working with him now for five or six years.

I see you’ve brought your iconic sunglasses into production and they are for sale in your gallery now.

Yes, people kept stopping me to ask where they could buy them.

What do your eclectic collection of products from accessories to furniture and art share in common?

There’s no one thing, although I do like really good, sincere ideas. Sometimes it becomes an interaction because I change things about the design.

The way you display pieces in the gallery is very distinctive — it appears a little ramshackle, but visitors love walking from one room to another, discovering the arrangements.

I always say that the gallery is like a magazine. We have to show things as they are in life. When I first started, people thought we were mad, but I like the way people walk around. It’s all over the place, a bit like my office and the inside of my head.

What do you think about the Salone del Mobile fair itself?

It’s important because it brings a fantastic spirit to the city as well as a dedicated audience. The fair is more suited for professionals and for them it is fantastic as there are so many things there for them to discover.

Everyone seems focused on identifying the latest trends. To what extent does that influence you?

I’m not interested in following trends but every year we discover afterwards that there are pieces that have something in common. They are not linked but have a relationship so perhaps I follow a trend without knowing it. I go with my emotions but when we put them together there is a common ground — like last year there was a lot of metal and technology.

What do you like about the new technologies?

I don’t understand anything about them although I know what I like. At the gallery, we have ANOTHERVIEW using technology to create a fantastic view filmed over days that’s shown through a window. Lighting by Francesco Meda is also very interesting; it uses technology to change the relationship of lighting, making it more like architecture.

What does it feel like when you find something you love?

I want it right away, straight away, yesterday — it’s my way! I can’t wait because it becomes difficult to live without it.

What’s next?

You have to come and see for yourself!

As told to / Catherine Shaw

Italian Masters

We speak with multi-disciplinary, mulit-award-winning designer Mario Bellini about what being an Italian designer means to him

With the theme of this year’s Business of Design Week being Italian design, what does it mean to you to hail from that tradition?

Literally, it means to be an Italian architect because traditionally my way of being an architect and designer refers back to the famous masters of the twentieth century, who didn’t used to specialise in the narrow fields but were widely interested. Take Le Corbusier as a symbol. I’m always interested in the full and diverse scales of design and projects, be it architecture, interiors, furniture, machines, objects, environment and so on. That’s the way I feel myself most involved because all of what you design has an influence and an effect on a lot of things.

I hate to be a specialist; it means you are finished, complete. I want to keep myself curious and open, flexible to all changes. When you are curious and endlessly interested in looking around, understanding more and more, travelling up and down, asking yourself more questions, you’re much more alive and effective in carrying out ideas and finding answers.

That leads nicely into my next question: What is it that's unique about Italy that firstly, most of its designers train as architects and then go on to work on all different scales, ranging from furniture and object design all the way up to city plans? It seems to be an Italian phenomenon.

Our particular cultural condition in Italy makes us involved and surrounded by so many levels of culture and things. First, we live in a country where wherever you turn your head, there's art and culture, monuments and paintings, and man-made landscapes. So even if you don’t know or understand it, you are surrounded by a continuous fabric of art and culture and exhibiton, past, present and future. We feel it is normal for us to exist in this condition.

And that is possibly the best disturbance we have living in Italy. Even in Milan, which isn’t Venice or Florence, as you go around, you have super modern things and very nice building and then the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio with deep cultural meaning and value. Wherever you turn as you walk around, you are surrounded by possibilities, opportunities, suggestions. And so, we live in a kind of theatre.

For example, when I studied at the the Politecnico in Milan, my professors used to be Ernesto Nathan Rogers, Gio Ponti and Portaluppi. And I live in a house designed by Portaluppi, full of furniture designed by Ponti. I had the opportunity to have his pieces in my house.

For us, it is absolutely normal and natural to be involved, as they say, from ‘spoon to the city’; it’s very natural to be involved in multi-layer solicitation and opportunities. And especially as an architect, you have this privilege.

I wouldn’t like to have been trained by a so-called pure industrial design school, which I don’t consider a perfect model of school. Architecture is the base of everything — you have the city, then the buildings and houses, the monuments and then interiors and finally the objects and furniture and machines. And this system of things interact all with each other, forming your total cultural and physical environment.

As told to / Jessica Vahrenkamp


Nilufar Gallery

Since the 1990s, Nilufar gallery in Milan has been a point of interest for those who are interested in historical and contemporary art and design. And during this year’s Salone del Mobile, the Nilufar Depot project set the stage once again for such interactions with more than 40 pieces of furniture and lighting, including works by 12 new designers contributing to the Nilufar collection for the first time.

Each featured design was chosen for its uniqueness, aesthetic quality and its embodiment of the gallery’s vision. Featured designers include the Lebanese Claude Missir, who created a series of sleek furniture pieces inspired by nature and unique in geometry. Lindsey Adelman’s three lighting projects are carefully crafted in blown glass, the Catch Rock table lamp accentuated by stones such as malachite, which suggests abundance and is believed to bring emotions to the surface.

Text / Kristy Kong


The Home Anthology Collection for Minotti

French designer Christophe Delcourt partnered up with designer Rodolfo Dordoni to create The Home Anthology Collection for Italian furniture brand Minotti. The self-taught Delcourt is known amongst the French design scene as a skilled craftsmen and for his commitment to perfection and boundary-pushing.

The designer has three furniture designs in The Home Anthology Collection: FIL NOIR, LOU and NOOR. The FIL NOIR armchairs take their name from thread, a thread that makes up the entirety of the chair, from its material to its structural support. Black and embellished with gold finishings, FIL NOIR embodies the elegance and comfort that is the Minotti brand. LOU consists of a family of tables and coffee tables. Delcourt takes inspiration from organs of trees and tree trunks to create his designs. Made with elegant wood, the LOU tables, are crafted with complex curves and are available in different sizes and color, such as Dove Grey, or with an open-pore lacquer finish in Licorice color. Delcourt’s final design in the collection is NOOR, a design that consists of two truncated cones merged into a single, coffee table. Made using ancient, hand-crafted techniques that radiates charm, the tables are available in two metal finishings: Bronze and Platinum.

Text / Kristy Kong


Airbnb: Una Passeggiata

Built in Milan in the fifteenth century, Casa degli Atellani was once the centre of parties and celebration for the city’s elite. It was also home for some time to Leonardo da Vinci, who lived there while he painted The Last Supper. Today the echoes of the home’s lavish heyday live on for visitors, who were privileged to experience a design curation at the casa during this year’s Salone del Mobile.

As part of Airbnb’s new Trips platform, the company partnered with Italian design publisher Martina Mondadori Sartogo and designer to present Passeggiata during Salone. Named for the Italian practice of leisurely walks, Passeggiata featured intimate and interactive explorations of the personal collections of internationally renowned and emerging designers, such as architect Roberto Baciocchi and Dimore Studio, set in the beautiful casa and other places around Milan. Guests were able to view exclusive personal collections by the featured designers, as well as attending curated experiences in other fields such as jewellery design and food.

Text / Kristy Kong

The Teahouse Collection

Yixing pottery has a lengthy history in China. Dating back to the Northern Song dynasty (960-1126 A.D), these vessels of unique purple clay from Jiangsu Province were primarily used to brew tea. With each infusion, the teapot absorbs a small amount of the tea into the porous material, retaining and enriching the flavour and colour of each brew over time.

British designer Christopher Jenner is bringing this distinctive style of pottery to his new collection, The Tea House. Jenner discovered the clay while on a trip to China, and subsequently created a collection that meets the desire of consumers for narrative and heritage. The designer puts a contemporary edge on the ceramics, resulting in a modern tableware collection including a tea service, plates, storage jars, jugs, vases, plates and bowls, all complete with the rich red of the ancient clay.

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Designer Q&A: Karin Gustafsson

Karin Gustafsson, creative director of Swedish high-street brand COS, talks with us about its much talked about collaboration with Studio Swine at this year's Salone del Mobile

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Design Anthology: Can you tell us a little bit the decision-making process behind choosing to collaborate with Studio Swine on this installation?

Karin Gustafsson: I came across their work a few years ago while doing research for the collection, and it gave me the feeling of the cinemas or the theatre — they are always sort of poetic and beautiful, but it also made me want to know more about them. So I started doing more research, and got to know so much more about them, and their approach to projects is very interesting, and also how they work with materials is very important to them and it’s something that we have in common obviously. Someone in the team knew them so we had a coffee, and then we approached them to see if they want to be featured in our magazine, and then we knew that we wanted them to be part of our exhibition at Salone.

It’s our sixth time here now. We’d be interested really, so we had a meeting and gave them our brief with all our expectation with our brand’s DNA in mind. We wanted them to focus on simplicity and modernity and also create an experience that would be tactile. But that was really all, and then they went away. It was almost like a blank canvas.

So you had no idea what they were working on to begin with?

No. We’ve been really lucky to have had the opportunity to collaborate with many different disciplines and different creatives. We carefully choose who we want to collaborate with, and the main thing is that we have a symmetry or a similar mindset and appreciation for design and art and, you know, aesthetic. And then, we don’t feel like it’s our position to make demands — we’re not the expert in their fields. It’s about creating an experience that we can share with the customer.

So you felt that there was a sense of trust there because you already knew their work and you had shared values, so you were quite happy to just let them go?

Yes, they obvioulsly came back with a concept, and it was really amazing, the thought process. Everything from the starting point throughout the entire process, they presented it in in a very clear way, so it was very easy, obviously, to be excited.

Right. So how did they present that first concept to you? Was it just drawings or, how?

No, it was like a PowerPoint, but it was a mix between film and images, and the final piece was in a drawing format.

Oh wow, that must’ve been quite interesting.

Yes, it was so nice. I wanted to share that here actually, but I think it’s quite difficult with images, so somehow we couldn’t.

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Well it’s quite incredible. I mean I have a feeling it’s probably going be one of the most photographed or at least video-ed installations from Salone this year. It’s been really fun watching people interact with it. There’s something very child-like about bubbles — it’s a very basic human reaction that everyone just so happy to see them but also play with them, you know, it’s quite fun!

Furthering that, when you are thinking about who to collaborate with, what is the thought process? Is it just people that you’re inspired by and whose work you’ve been following?

Yes, that’s sort of it. We’re very much going on our intuition and gut feeling but also a genuine appreciation of someone’s work, and that is how we tend to choose the people we collaborate with. For example, with Snarkitecture, we knew about Daniel Arsham’s work, and then we collaborated.

That was two years ago, right? I did see that one, I didn’t see Sou Fujimoto last year. That Snarkitecture one was great. So how do you find out about these designers? I mean are you reading blogs, is it mostly magazine, or is it combination of...

Yeah, I think blogs, for research we do read blogs for sure. And then we do a lot of research really. So we always try to see all the shows, you know the art shows — and London is amazing for that. You know, I think internet is good for that because you can do global research and we read. We’re just really curious I guess, as a team.

That’s one thing that struck me about your creative process and how you find inspiration. It seems quite unique to me in the fashion world, but I don’t know that there’re any fashion designers that are really looking at other creative disciplines as much as you guys seem to do. Do you think that’s partly what makes that the clothing of each collection so timeless? Because to me, I found it incredible that every collection comes out there is a sense of timelessness, it doesn’t seem so seasonal which to me it’s incredibly refreshing from the fashion world.

Yeah, I mean, that’s very important for us. We always want to create products, deliver items that have that feeling of long-lasting. You will keep it in your wardrobe and wear it for many, many years. You may want to rest it for a few years, but it should have that quality design of something you will want to keep.

I think the fact that we have a quite strong identity that’s also quite tight, and that almost acts like a frame around us and we always sort of stretch within that frame to find new way to reinvent these classic pieces. It’s always a focus on the world of essentials for us, like that shirt, the T-shirt, the chinos, the little black dress. I think doing a thorough research process and then translating that into a thorough exploration when you create a product really makes a better product in the end.

Even though our DNA is very understated, clean lines, we don’t want it to feel like it’s fashion or going to go out of fashion. It’s more about style and more about long-term style. But still that process is very important.

I love the fact that you guys revisit the same shape and you may see it in the store six months three years later in a different colour. Or I noticed recently that one of the dresses that I have from maybe last winter is now just a top. And I love the fact you guys do that because it’s so fast, the fashion industry, and you can’t keep up with it. To me, I’ve always wondered, it just can’t be sustainable — even more than just an environmentally. So I actually really love the fact that you guys do that. So when you’re putting the collections together, are you actually thinking about things that you want to wear or is there a COS customer that you have in mind?

Yes, everything at COS is about teamwork. When we think about our customer, we don’t’ think about one specific person. I think it’s an ageless customer, and it’s a customer that can more be summarized, in a sense, by their mindset. We sometimes say that it’s a big-city mindset, not necessarily that they have to live in a big city, but we believe our customer is sharing our interests in art and design and that they are very culturally aware. And that’s something that we have in common. They also really sort of appreciate good design and are quite demanding, in everything from product quality to the shopping experience.

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Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s something else for me that may be surprising from a high street brand that the quality is actually quite good, that it can, as you say, sit in the wardrobe for a couple of years and pull it back out again. But also the fit as well, and it’s one of the reasons why I’ve stopped shopping in other nameless stores.I guess I’m always looking for sort of simple wardrobe basics and I think we all know that when you walk into the COS store, you’re going to find those sorts of things. They are always easy to accessorise and mix and match.

Thank you. I think fit is very important to us, and we work a lot on it. It’s actually the starting point. You know, it was one of the first things we started with like eleven years ago now.

You have been with the brand…

I’ve been there for ten-and-a-half years.

It was almost the beginning of your career, is that right?

Yes, I’d just graduated from Royal College. But I was a mature student, so I’d done things in the past. I came on board as an assistant, and one of my first jobs was to work with the blocks and finishes and the inside of the garments — that makes such a difference in the quality in the end. We still focus a lot on that, and we review the blocks. Because we want to create simple pieces that feel effortless.

It’s not that simple, I’m sure.

It’s not that simple, at all! The process can be long, but it’s an enjoyable process and an important process, and we do tend to work a lot with our fits to get them right.

I guess you’re quite lucky that you sort of started out from that side of thing and really got to know the garments inside and out.

Yeah, I’ve not had one boring day really — it’s amazing!

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So what you are looking at now for inspiration? Is there anything in particular that you’re interested in? Art and architecture design-wise?

Not naming any names, what we’re seeing a lot is, like Studio Swine, the material process is very important and the creative process is very important too. The journey before you finalise the project is almost as important as the finished piece.

It’s just something we see. We have had really good response and we are going to continue with installation. I think people really appreciate the experience around art at the moment. So, it’s about blurring the line between disciplines and really sort of offering an experience.

Okay, interesting. One final question: As more and more fashion brands are feeling the need to have a presence at Salone, which isn’t really a fashion event, what is it that is important for COS to have a presence here?

I think for us is really that we see our customer sort of shares our interest in art and design, and this is now becoming like a creative happening. So all these disciplines getting involved. It’s not only about furniture design, it’s not only a furniture fair. So for all of us it’s a very inspiring place and a very inspiring place to come to for doing research, but also it’s an opportunity to meet the customer. And then also, obviously we take so much inspiration from different creative disciplines, so it’s almost a way for us to also give back. Really to share an experience together with someone that we get inspired by and share that with our customer.

Yes, that’s interesting and having you guys here really makes a lot of sense. Also, it’s incredible for creatives like Studio Swine to have patrons. To be able to do what they do, they need a patron that allows them that freedom and I think it’s wonderful that COS actually does that and lets people be creative, so congratulations.

Thank you.

Fiera Q&A: Studio Swine
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For the first installment in our extended online coverage from this year's Salone del Mobile Milan, an exclusive conversation between Design Anthology editor in chief Suzy Annetta and Japanese architect Azusa Murakami and British artist Alexander Groves of Studio Swine about their much-talked-about collaboration with COS at this year’s show.

Design Anthology: I’d like to talk a bit about you two first, your methods and the materials you work with, before we talk specifically about the installation here at Cinema Art in Milan.

Without going too much into the politics, how are you feeling about Brexit? Because you are of mixed nationalities and you travel quite a bit, it seems likely to influence your work. Obviously London has always been a very multicultural city, which adds to the creative scene. What are your thoughts?

Groves: Well, it just feels incredibly backwards, really. What we love about design in Milan is it so international and so open, and that’s something we want to celebrate with this piece actually. We found London very enriching for its mix of cultures — that’s what makes us like the place. It’s quite scary because we already, in the very few days since we’ve been here, have met four or five people that had galleries, or magazines, or whatever all based in London, but they are all now or already have moved back to Europe. So I think it’s going to be hugely damaging. We haven’t seen the effect of it yet, I just find it quite sad.

London has always been such a creative city, and that’s really quite shocking — I hadn’t heard of it  happening so soon.

Murakami: Even when we were students, there were maybe five British people in our class of about seventy-five. So, everyone was just from different countries. That’s what we enjoyed about being in college. We took a lot away just through conversations and learning about different cultures. So that’s inevitably going to drive people away, which is very sad. I’m originally from Japan, and I find it very hard to find a way of residing in the UK.

You studied in the UK, so you’ve been here for a long time now, right?

Murakami: I did, I’ve been in England for twenty years, but I still don’t have permanent residence. It’s a constant struggle, I have to renew my visa every two years.

Really? But you two are married, right?

Murakami: Married, but then every two years I have to renew my visa. It’s getting harder and harder every year, with the law changing all the time.

So, if you weren’t in London, where do you think you would base yourselves?

Groves: We think about that a lot, actually. We’d love to be based in America for a while, particularly in New York. We find that a really inspiring place, a lot of great energy. But we’d love to be based in Asia at some point, maybe either China or Japan. But we never really know where we’ll  be six months on. Since we started the practice, we’ve never really known. We make plans, and then just end up somewhere: we’ve lived in São Paulo, we’ve lived in Shanghai.

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You just took off after you graduated. I read, that you were in São Paulo quite early on after graduating.

Murakami: That was the decision that we made because there was a lot going on in London, but at the same time it was very hard for us to realise what we really wanted to do and with everyone coming out of college, the competition was very intense. So we decided to go away and do our own thing and then coming back to London and kind of launch that project.

You’ve talked about feeling like an outsider. Is that part of being in a foreign place?

Groves: Basically, we like that feeling. We go somewhere in order to be out of our comfort zone because we find that what we love about travel is that you’re constantly reminded that there’re so many different ways to live and different perspectives that you can have. We just really like getting out of that kind of comfortable mindset and being somewhere where you don’t know anyone, you kind of have to start from scratch.

Murakami: I think when we said we feel like outsiders I was referring to the fact that we come from a non-traditional design background; I studied architecture and he studied Fine Art. So, going into design and operating in the design world feels like we’re slightly different from everyone. I think through that, we find our own way of expressing design.

Do you think that’s a hindrance or a positive thing? Obviously you look at things differently because of your backgrounds. I think it’s a positive…

Groves: Yeah, I think so. It’s positive thing.

Murakami: We like to challenge ourselves to do new things every time, so we always try something we have no preconception of with every project. I suppose that sense of naivety really pushes us to innovate, so in that way I think it’s a positive thing.

Interesting. So I’ve been reading a bit about your previous projects and it seems like some of them are inadvertently political but also very poetic. Is that something that you deliberately try and balance in the work that you do?

Groves: Yeah, I’d say we don’t set out to be overtly political. I mean, we’re interested in making things that engage with the world and various problems or situations, so I think by nature it can be quite political. But we try not to push an agenda; we like to keep our work open for interpretation. And yes, it’s always really important to us to engage, particularly with sustainability. But it’s equally important is to engage with, like you said, that kind of poetic expression as well because I think sustainability can be kind of quite dry, and un-engaging. We really think that it should be the starting point for a designer in a way — that kind of environmental constraint. We wouldn’t like to be in a kind of ‘green’ category, but I’d like it to be the starting point for design.

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So would you say then that those challenges and limitations are behind what drives you?

Groves: Yeah definitely. I think that constraint really breeds innovation, so we love having certain constraints. We give ourselves constraints on each project. We try not to go for obvious materials that are already beautiful and valuable. And in general with our projects, we try to find materials that are maybe overlooked or undesirable, then use design as an agent of transformation. Because we love marble and brass and bronze all these things, but then…

Everyone is working with those…

Groves: Exactly. The thing is they are already beautiful materials, so for us we’re excited by the challenges of human hair or plastic from the ocean, for example.

They must be quite challenging to make beautiful, but you have certainly succeeded.

Groves: Thank you. The way we see it, the world doesn’t need more stuff and as designers, we are kind of responsible for making more stuff. So, let’s try and find something that at least doesn’t add to the problem and maybe can even help. Every chair that is removing three kilos of plastic out of the ocean — it’s a tiny difference, but at least it’s not adding to the problem.

So then is the narrative of what you are doing as important as the end result?

Murakami: I’d say so. We don’t really set out to, or we don’t think about, ‘Oh, we’re going make this object’, or ‘We’re going make a chair’. What we like is to create a world that people can be immersed in, so everything is working together in harmony to create this thing. And that’s the same with film, installation, object. Ultimately, I would like to create an immersive theatre performance, so it doesn’t have to be an object or design, it could be more experiential.

That’s interesting. I think you guys are really pushing the boundary between art and design, and many other disciplines actually. You’ve already talked about materials. Is there anything you haven’t worked with that you’re fascinated by and would like to experiment with?

Groves: There’s actually a few things that we’re working on, materials-wise, that we’ve been wanting to work with for a while. But we’re not really ready to talk about that further.

Murakami: We worked with this material called ebonite last year for the ‘Fordlandia’ project — it’s hardened rubber.

It looks amazing actually.

Murakami: Thank you. It used to be used quite widely before the invention of plastic, but now it has a very niche application, like clarinet mouthpieces or smoking pipe mouthpieces. We made furniture with it, but we haven’t really pushed it to the extent or fully explored potential of the material, so I think we want to continue working with it.

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For the New Spring installation with COS, what was the process like? I’m quite curious to know what the brief was from them, if there was a brief and how collaborative the process was.

Groves: We were really excited to be invited to propose something to COS for Salone. They told us their core DNA, which was timelessness, modernity, simplicity and tactility. It was really a natural fit for us because a lot of those resonated with us anyway and particularly their interest in materiality. It was an incredibly open brief that really gave us space to come up with something, whatever we want to do. But they did want it to be democratic — a kind of inclusive experience.

What we really love in Italy is that public spaces have quite a lot of beautiful fountains and there’s a lot of craft and design going into the public spaces. We really love that everyone can enjoy a fountain so we saw this as an opportunity. It’s an homage to in Milan in many ways, this piece. We’ve been looking at the city, we always look at the place because we really love things with strong regional identity, so we were looking at the palazzos with their baroque chandeliers all the way through to post war industrial designers like Castiglioni, who we really love. All that has really gone into the project.

I don’t know if it was deliberate, but I get the feeling of cherry blossoms and a sense of the ephemeral — that sense of short-lived and of time slowing down. I took a video yesterday and it’s quite strange because looking at it now, it feels like as if it was filmed in slow motion but it’s all real time. It really did remind me of hanami in Tokyo, so I’m wondering if that was at all part of your thinking?

Murakami: Yes, definitely. Well, first we were thinking about Salone and the time of the year because we always work with the theme nature and industry. How can nature and industry combine together to create something new? So we definitely wanted to kind of bring in this idea of seasonality and changing of the season — so what cherry blossoms and being under cherry blossoms makes you feel. It’s only this one time, one week in the whole year that you get to enjoy cherry blossoms. It’s there and then it’s gone, and you are really in the moment and you’ll enjoy this moment and it’s slightly melancholy because you know you’re here and nothing lasts forever — that sense of impermanence. We wanted to also work with the idea of wabi sabi and bring in that as well.

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I hadn’t really considered the Milan connection, but that is also a really nice connection for Salone. So how did you actually go about, I guess, creating bubbles that would interact in the way they do and the way they actually disintegrate very slowly?

Groves: Yeah, that’s the hardest question we get actually: ‘Where did you come up with the idea?’ We just have very wide interests and are very curious and really I think designers are kind of synthesizers, where you might pick one thing and you take it out of that context and you create another context for it.

So, really we were looking at a way of replicating nature, not in any direct way but in like the expression and feeling of ephemerality. We really love how bubbles are impermanent, but then we wanted to kind of transform the bubble and give it a bit more of a presence and weight. So we were looking at different ways of infusing it with mist.  We tried dry ice and various other things, but then what we really wanted was to make something very low power. So in the end, it just uses a little water vapour, then it disappears in the atmosphere and it kind of has the right way to fall quite slowly. There was a lot of prototyping and experiments to get that point.

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How long was that process then?

Murakami: We got the commission in October, and we were prototyping and experimenting a lot.

Really? Wow, I thought we’re going to say a year or so at least…

Murakami: No, it was quite quick because we didn’t start properly doing the project until February this year. So all this building and prototyping, and it’s not just the device but the solution for the bubbles as well. We went through a lot of different ratios and ingredients needed to make the bubbles strong to bounce on certain fabric.

So that was something that you had in mind,  that you wanted some of them to be able to survive intact?

Murakami: Yes

Okay, wow, I can’t believe you could do that in such a short period of time. It’s incredible! And then with the actual building of the device, how involved were you in that process? Or do you work with fabricators?

Groves: Yes, we worked closely with fabricators in London because we like to keep our studio totally flexible. So it’s just Azusa and I, and then we have some people we work with a lot like a Dutch filmmaker, a German editor and we work with London-based fabricators. We wanted it to be made out of industrial material that was pre-existing with just a tiny thing to transform it. It’s aluminium scaffolding, but then we’ve had it rolled, which gives it the arches and its shape.

So, it was already tubular?

Groves: Yes, and then we also changed the colour. We had it powder-coated white so was, again, a small transformation, just to give it a softer quality. And it’s all modular. So the idea is that although we designed it to exist for a week and to make all these bubbles that disappear, we also designed it to be able to pack down easily. It can come out in different sizes — it can be bigger, it can be smaller. So after here it’ll go into storage and well, we haven’t got any plans, but the potential is there to have it come out again.

Wow, that’s great.

Groves: We didn’t want to make something that was just here for a week.

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Or something that’s just going to be thrown away, that doesn’t seem like how you or COS would work. I have to say, it’s been really fun watching people interact with it over the last couple of days.

Groves: Oh good.

The kids particularly. I think there’s something about bubbles. I think we all feel like kids with bubbles. It’s quite an emotional response that people have been having — it’s a very basic kind of emotion that I think is sheer delight.

Groves: That’s nice. It’s changed a lot from what it was. You know, we’re never quite sure what it’ll be like. We just had them as pods dropping in the studio individually in a small space. So it’s really interesting seeing it completed. Also seeing it in the morning when no one’s there,and then seeing it when its absolutely packed — it’s all a different feeling.

I can imagine. How involved were you with the whole space where it is installed, and the lighting as well?

Murakami: We oversaw everything and decided this is what we wanted. Because the site, Cinema Arti, is an old 1930s cinema that is disused, we wanted to translate that feeling of, that kind of cinematic and immersive experience that people have when they come here. We want them to feel transported and not really aware of anything else. That’s why we wanted to black out everything so there’s complete darkness, so you just focus on this central structure and you are living in the moment.

The lighting is perfect as well, and the bubbles themselves feel almost otherworldly — it’s almost like they are internally illuminated.

Groves: Great!

Murakami: Actually, the music as well — we had it composed especially for the installation. It kind of symbolises the surface tension of the bubbles, so the sound kind of holds and then sways very slightly back and forth very slowly.  And there’s also scent inside the mist as well.

It’s all really quite incredible. I don’t know that there are many installations that I’ve seen that are so multi-sensorial. The smell is, it’s very subtle which is nice, yet it’s certainly something that you notice straight away. So well done, and congratulations!

Designer Q&A - Chi Wing Lo
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Design Anthology spoke with Hong Kong-born, Athens-based designer Chi Wing Lo during Business of Design Week 2015

Tell us a bit about your early years and your journey to becoming a designer.

I’m the third of six and the eldest son. The eldest son in society here is important. But there was not so much pressure in my family — just don’t steal, don’t do drugs and it was alright. It’s not like that now, with the one child policy, and we put all the effort into that one child. But at least how I grew up was not like that. It was more of a laissez-faire policy, like the British and Hong Kong.

What I have been interested in, since I was a child, was always the creative aspects of study. The other subjects — I failed all of them practically, not exaggerating. And I guess the creative parts were perhaps the only thing remaining that I had passion for.

It was not a normal development for a child at that time, but it gave me a very different experience from the rest. It was a messy period, nothing straightforward. You slowly find your interest and the beauty of that, although you’re late, is that once you find your interests and it’s clear, the rest is easy.

How old were you when you began your studies at Harvard?

At that time, I’d just finished my undergraduate, so around 30. I’d been working a couple of years in Hong Kong before, and when I went to American I needed to unlearn — unlearn meaning, and to start from the very beginning.

How was the approach different?

In Hong Kong education at that time, the idea was that learning a skill to ‘make a living’ was far more important that creative cultivation, and that part of the education I still feel is missing today, critically. It was painful in the first year because I was more senior than my classmates and you have to make an adjustment to reorient all your focus to something that you’re not good at. That adjustment took me a couple of years and then of course after that I got it and you start to fly again.

How do you reconcile your Chinese heritage with the Western approach?

The first few years, I didn’t really carry it with me that ‘this is who I am, this is what my culture is’ because at that time I was trying to be with the local mindset. The more you define yourself and impose the perspective of ‘this is where I come from’, it doesn’t do any good in the situation.

This is the problem of a society that is open to all the cultures — they are still defending where they are from, their origin. I think part of the beauty of the education in the US is that you’re exposed to that multicultural blending of everyone together. I think what is better in that society is not so much where you’re from, but how to together build new things out of all these mixtures of different ideas. That I think is a very important part of the education.

Who had the greatest influence upon your development as a designer during this period?

I never really had an idol or someone that I would say, ‘I would love to be like him’. I would more look at the pieces of work that different people had done and that had left an impression on me, and that included masters from different parts of the world — from the very unknown to very known.

Even now, I don’t care who people are, but I more care about what they do and I think that sort of set the priority for me, more than just fame.

Apart from idols or icons, was there anything else that really influenced your development as a designer?

In the university you meet different types of personalities. You have different types of classmates from all sorts of backgrounds and a dynamic mix that, I guess, all comes together to make that kind of path in front of you. It’s like a pin ball machine. When you pull the trigger, the ball spins everywhere and in a way, all the things happen in the way naturally.

What does the title ‘designer’ mean to you?

Designer? I think designers should have nothing to do with design. Because design is too specific and a designer is someone with some idea of how to live better. It doesn’t have to be a kind of training — I don’t think it’s necessary. Just a good idea: how to open a door and not to make it slam, but to close perfectly. Sometimes to design is not to give a solution, but to give an idea.

If someone has an idea and executes it, then perfect. Some design very well but then their great idea is destroyed in execution. A designer is someone who is very sensitive to how things are and able to identify certain things to improve upon. They are in a constant process of improvement, no matter how perfect things are.

In thinking about design for its utilitarian purposes, preventing the slamming door for example, is there a larger purpose in design that you think about?

I think that the reason design is a little bit more objective than art — I don’t want to mix with art because that’s another level of discussion — is because it’s something that is situated between you and me. It’s something you can offer and you can use. I think design has a kind of obligation to start with this.

Now, why people choose a certain shape for a sofa or put the legs on the chair in that way — that’s a design choice and adds another element to the design. And it’s not just useful, but pleasing and not just to the eye, but to a level that can touch your soul. That, of course, is another level of design.

If it’s not something that moves you as a design, then it needs to be useful to start with. Not an object that is dangerous to use, creates problems or collapses — it should not have those problems. It doesn’t have to be a lot. And then when you have the skill, sensibility and observation to elevate a piece to become more than just sitting comfortably- then great!

Do you see yourself as an Asian designer, and if so, what does that mean to you?

Sometimes I don’t want to put my picture up and be identified as a ‘designer from Asia’. In my very early years working in Italy, I was called ‘the Chinese designer’ for two purposes: for identification and for promotion. But I don’t like to think that way — that design has a kind of boundary. Good ideas are applicable everywhere. And once you say ‘Asian designer’ then people start to look at the designs in a certain way — ‘Does that look Chinese where the motif is coming from?’ — and it doesn’t appeal to me.

But the reason is that so many people have tried it — tried to tie a region or identity to their work. It’s a kind of playing with motif, and motif is too superficial. I think a subtlety is more important than giving a clear boundary.

As a designer, you’re very cross-disciplinary, working in architecture, landscape architecture, objet and furniture. Are there certain first principles that bring to each of your projects, regardless of their realm?

I guess for anyone, even a writer, musician or playwright, there is always something that carries you forward.

I think I have been very consistent from urban design to jewellery. You believe in something and you believe in it all the way. You say you love a woman, not just the hair, the suit — everything. Then all the parts become whole. And the tension between the parts becomes the entity of the whole. I guess each project invites the same sensibilities in many ways, although different scales. Some people say my architecture is like a huge piece of furniture or that my interiors are like a concert hall where the furniture are the different instruments, complementing each other, talking to each other.

So we can look at design from many different levels, coming from the same sensibility. I think the result has that kind of consistency.

Are there certain qualities that you aspire to in everything from a piece of furniture to an architectural project?

I like things that are always in the background. I don’t want things to always come forward and demand attention.

I think the whole world is not made of one thing. I think the world is made of all kinds of things coming together in harmony. And if all things are trying to speak at the same time, it’s not good for a piece of music. So in my design I tend to subdue, and this is the more difficult part — to add is easy but to subdue is difficult. I like to make things what they are supposed to be and nothing more, and I use natural colour because natural colour is the most beautiful, lasting colour.

I think quietude is also important. I don’t tend to ask my architectural spaces or products to scream out. I think today everyone is screaming. I think to find a peacefulness inside yourself, the things around you are important — more horizontal than vertical.

Where do you draw inspiration from outside of your work?

I think observation, meeting people from different walks of life, visiting workshops and construction sites, talking to people who are never in the same gear as you — and bringing all these things together to work in a way in which you believe in. That’s not just an inspiration, it’s always a challenge. I guess inspiration in this world implies a ‘magical moment’. I don’t believe in that so much. I believe with enough observation, enough study that it will come. And nowadays I spend more time making the ideas more solid, more convincing.

You travel a lot for work. Do you still find inspiration in visiting new places?

I think travelling is very much a part of education. Nowadays it’s more half-half: half the time I have the quietude just to do what I believe, half time I’m on the road.

But I think gathering all these experiences of seeing and talking eventually generates a sort of volume of ideas, knowledge to make the design more concrete.

When you started out, we weren’t using computers nearly to the extent that we do today, so your career has spanned a massive increase in the use of technology. How do you feel about the integration of technology and how has it changed design and your practice as a designer?

I think technology is something I take as a convenience. In my case, I’m more interested to look at the ideas and whether the technology is from a very wise idea from the past or from the latest one that we have — I don’t really care as long as it works. Look at the pyramids — it’s huge technology to do that, to put a stone on the top. And now we have the technology to build a skyscraper with glass and metal. I cannot say that one is better than the other — it is just what was available at different periods.

The interesting part of this question is that there are many product designs that look very technological, but they are very primitive. And some look very primitive, but are full

of wisdom. There are a lot of these misconceptions about ‘technology’. The technological part is important, but it’s not everything.

What’s the distinction between art and design in Greece where you live?

In Greece, design has a capital D. I mean you wake up and go out every morning and you look at the Parthenon and you feel intimidated because the best has already been created. What are you doing? It’s a pure equation of mind.

And that was 447 BC, so like 2500 years ago that it was already there. And they just worked with stone —  they didn’t have any computers. And the stones are just there, just like that, even after all these earthquakes and history’s problems, they’re still there. That’s the beauty of the ruins!

I think the idea of permanence and timelessness is still a substantial part of it. The Greek people still benefit from the artefacts of thousands of years ago — we still go to the same amphitheatre that was built thousands of years ago to listen

to concerts!

I mean the acoustics and to sit there with a view of the stars — what is more directly beautiful than that? Today we have all this technology with sound systems and bass, but at that time that’s what they had and it still works today. And that for me is the essence of timelessness.

Many of the designs today are worse than fashion. The moment they come out, it’s ‘next!’ We just consume and throw away. But if you look at it from an economical point of view, if everyone had the same sofa without ever changing, then we are dead and without any economy. We have to create demand. So I don’t know. I’m not a thinker in economic terms. But maybe there’s another way to build a society to have the sort of affluence to live differently than how we do now.

Michael Anastassiades for Flos
michael-anastassiades-with-.jpg

At Salone Milan 2015, Design Anthology sat down with Michael Anastassiades to discuss his lighting designs for Flos.

Design Anthology: Obviously there is a strong connection between this collection and the last one you created for Flos, but was there any specific inspiration?

Michael Anastassiades: There is a strong connection in the sense that first it comes from the same designer, it’s a language which is very much part of my work. I’m obsessed with the sphere, and that’s very obvious I think. You see the repetition of the sphere. Because for me the sphere is the ultimate primal form. Everyone can relate to it- it’s a very familiar form. And it’s interesting because that sense of familiarity comes from people being comfortable with it. It’s also a big challenge to interpret it and reinterpret it, because the sphere is always in all light fixtures. If you imagine if you were to draw a light pendant, it’s always a round thing. So for me it’s a little bit of a celebration of the sphere. Like making it into a piece of jewelry. And also what’s interesting, when you look at the dictionary at the definition of a pendant it has two meanings. The first meaning is a light that hangs from the ceiling and the second meaning is a piece of jewellery that hangs around the neck. Hence, the name of this fixture.

notch ceiling pendant

notch ceiling pendant

So it is deliberately meant to be like a piece of jewellery for the home then?

Yes, it is, very much.

I love how simple and elegant it is. What about the rest of the collection?

The other pieces, like this table lamp, which we have been developing for a while now, is already available on the market. It’s called ‘Copycat’ and it’s made of two spheres, a small sphere and a large sphere. So Copy Cat has kind of a humorous angle – it’s like a baby always wanting to mimic a parent. There is that relationship there of what is precious to the big sphere, and the smaller sphere wanting to be like it is actually glowing. It’s quite interesting as a metaphor. It comes in a variety of finishes – gold plating, copper, black and chrome.

Copycat

Copycat

I feel like there is a strong relationship between this design and the ball pendants you are known for. Was that deliberate, or is that just the path you’re exploring as a designer?

Well, the scale is different, the application is different, the technology is very different. This is LED. It’s quite amazing you can achieve this glow, warmth and the uniformity of lighting which was not so easy before with a bulb. The ‘ball’ light had a different approach behind it- it was a celebration of the bulb itself. It was a repetition of the bulb shape.

Did you get quite involved in the technology side of the developments? Did Flos come to you and say they wanted to use LED?

Everything is moving towards LED technology- it’s a universal demand, also from the consumers. Everyone is asking for LED, so it's normal that you would use LED. In some cases, for example with the IC lights, we decided consciously not to use LED purely because the opening was so small and the contact point on the wall is so minimal that the only way to achieve the design technologically was to use Halogen. Halogen is still being used, but they are slowly being phased out- in maybe five years or so. The technology is changing all the time. If you start with wanting to work with LED you can incorporate the limitations, but still maintain the poetry in the design, which can be a challenge.

ic wall

ic wall

ic table

ic table

ic floor

ic floor

ic ceiling

ic ceiling

I can image it must be. You do see a lot of environmentally friendly lighting that isn’t necessarily beautiful. Even the colour of the light itself from new technology like LED is not as nice. To get a balance must be a challenge.

Well, Flos are the masters at that- at getting the right temperature, the right glow, sufficient illumination- you can’t get any better.

Is that part of the appeal for you as a designer to work with someone like Flos?

Well of course it’s part of the appeal. But I believe in relationships. My relationship with Flos is very beautiful. There is amazing communication. It’s a partnership- it’s phenomenal, it’s very constructive. Everyone is joining forces to achieve what you set out to create. There are no politics. There are no complications. Their spirit is the design, the design is up there. Of course it’s a complicated system and structure but everybody has the ultimate goal of maintaining the purity of the idea, and reinforcing that idea, and everybody works towards that. So that’s what makes Flos unique as a company and my relationship with them. The whole structure from the technical people and the CEO to the PR people, the whole team has that target to not compromise the design, to go with the spirit of the design.

Tell us about this floor lamp.

This is Captain Flint- a floor lamp which has a marble base.

captain flint

captain flint

Is it based on the previous floor lamp design for Flos with the spherical light?

It’s similar, but it’s different. It's adjustable- it’s a reading lamp, a ceiling lamp, a wall lamp- it can be everything. It’s dimmable, it’s LED, whereas the IC collection is not LED. So it’s very different in its own right. You can see that I wanted it to be different. There are familiar elements- you could argue that parts of it are similar to IC. It’s kind of everything fused together.

So there is a consistency, but the design is moving forward?

Yeah. It’s an evolution, something evolves into something else.

How did the first collaboration with Flos come about? They obviously approached you to design a collection?

Well they didn’t obviously approach me. It’s interesting because I first met with Piero Gandini--Flos’ CEO--via a different source. The first time he saw my own collection, the mobile chandeliers in the Moss store in New York, he was intrigued. He was very intrigued by what he saw, so he said to himself, ‘who is this guy’ and then suddenly we were introduced to each other, so we met and we talked about things and shared the same passion and he said 'okay'. So our first project was really the ‘string’ lights.

string pendant

string pendant

So how long did it take from first meeting him to the launch of the first collection?

I think the string lights were launched two years ago in Euroluce. The development took about a year and a half, and that was the first time I met Flos and I said okay – let’s do the project. So it’s an amazing lead time for the complexity of such a product.

And you were asked to design a second collection based on the success of the first collection?

No, it’s an ongoing relationship. This is not the end, this is the beginning. What is great about it is the fact that we have a lot of other ideas under development. You know it never stops. It’s just that there are these deadlines we meet and whether that is Salone or another exhibition somewhere else, or a one-off project. We also do amazing one-off exhibitions like we did at the London Design Festival– a beautiful installation at the V&A Museum called 'Amma' and it was beautiful- a piece that had an amazing response. We are now doing a project for a house in London which is a 1640 building by Inigo Jones and is part of the Greenwich Conservatory. So it’s good to have the support of somebody like Flos to be able to realise these ideas.

Tell us about this design.

These also part of the new collection for Flos, it plays with two obsessions of mine – the sphere and the reflection. Emotional reflection. What is the real image? What is the virtual image? The part that you see, the missing part of the sphere in the reflection. It’s quite a versatile collection. It’s in LED again. The fact that you can use it as a wall sconce, as a ceiling fixture- there are many different arrangements here and again they are very versatile in the way you position them. The metal finishes are different, and were selected for this particular design. They are very clever in that they help to dissipate the heat.

Can you tell me, other than what you are working on with Flos, what else are you working on?

Well, of course there is also my own new collection.

I don’t want to work with too many companies, that’s not my interest. I’m not one of those greedy designers that wants to be behind every single product and spray their perfume all over the world. I don’t have that ambition. For me it’s about being creative, having the opportunity to be creative.

So even if I am focused on lighting, I’m happy. It’s something I know I can do well, and I know that I have the right support to do it. It’s a beautifully poetic medium.

flos.com / michaelanastassiades.com