Posts in Design
The Four-handed Creations of Takahashi McGil

The husband-and-wife duo combine Japanese and Western woodwork techniques to produce homeware and furniture that highlight the material

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Working with wood is a labour of love, and Kaori Takahashi and Mark McGilvray — who founded their eponymous studio together in 2016 — know this well. Born in South Africa and with a father who was a self-taught cabinetmaker, McGilvray has been surrounded by wood as far back as he can remember. Takahashi — who moved from Japan to the UK to study — discovered her adoration for the material later in life, though she is no less passionate about and involved in the business.

McGilvray and Takahashi met at the Wimbledon College of Arts in London, where they both studied fine art, and eventually decided to settle down 300 kilometres southwest of the British capital in Cockington, a picturesque village in Torquay, Devon, where they now live and work. They started out producing simple pieces for themselves, and gradually their hobby evolved to become the woodworking, furniture and homeware brand Takahashi McGil.  

In their studio, the couple planes, chisels, turns, waxes and lacquers with precision, celebrating the natural beauty of their sole material. Made by hand from mostly local and sustainable hardwood slabs that have been gradually air-dried over several years, the pieces created by Takahashi McGil are usually finished with hard wax oil or tung oil, both made from natural ingredients. While McGilvray starts with the woodturning, Takahashi finishes the pieces, doing most of the chisel work. Working as a couple, this four-handed process is what makes every bowl, spoon, decorative pot, tray or furniture unique. Making their process and pieces even more compelling is their dual heritage and the combination of Japanese and Western woodworking techniques and tools they employ.  

Both admirers of Japanese-American woodworker and furniture maker George Nakashima, who mastered live edge furniture, the couple try to maintain a close connection to nature through their pieces. For Takahashi McGil, beauty doesn’t mean perfection. On the contrary: their wood creations often incorporate knots, voids and cracks, results of the drying process.

Always striving to expand their knowledge and hone their craft, the duo visits Takahashi’s family in Japan once a year, taking the opportunity to reconnect with the culture and attend courses, like the one they took on urushi lacquering in summer last year.

At the crossroads of different cultures, Takahashi McGil brings together the best of both in refined and functional objects that exemplify the infinite possibilities of one material.

Text / Karine Monié
Images / Courtesy of Takahashi McGil

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nendo Designs a New Lifestyle Complex in Tokyo

Forget conventional shopping malls: a series of boxes — with glass facades, sunlit interiors and leafy roof terraces — takes centre stage at Kashiyama Daikanyama

Image by Takumi Ota

Image by Takumi Ota

Designed by Japanese studio nendo and its interior design arm onndo Space Design Office, a clue into the concept behind the Kashiyama Daikanyama complex can be found in its name – with a sense of yama (Japanese for ‘mountain’) reflected in the staggered heights of the overlapping box-like units.

As elegant as it is discreetly luxurious, the complex – created for the major Japanese retail company Onward Holdings – could have been built on a much larger scale. However, Oki Sato, the founder of nendo, instead made a conscious decision to keep the dimensions on a smaller, more layered scale so that the complex would fit better within its low-rise setting in Daikanyama.

The result is a complex of seven staggered ‘boxes’ housing shops, galleries and eateries, overlapping horizontally to resemble a series of small hills. Each of the units has an exposed glass facade that allows natural light to flood in, and they are all loosely connected by external staircases and rooftop terraces.

There is the airy basement cafe, complete with soft-edged circular seating, minimal white pebble-like motifs on the walls and clutches of hanging plants (plus a tasty Basque cheesecake on the menu).

A gallery and lounge area occupy the ground level, while Market spans the second and third floors and offers upscale, creative fashion (curated by Opening Ceremony founders and Kenzo creative directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon) scattered among abstractly minimalist and soft-edged interior displays.

The fourth-floor restaurant is another highlight: Coteau (French for ‘hill’) is run by cult Tokyo chef Yosuke Suga, who is behind the widely acclaimed Sugalabo restaurant. Here, new generation French cuisine is served against a bolder backdrop of rich ochre yellows and greys, metallic curves and hanging lighting. At the apex of the building is an intimate bar, with expanses of dark woods, night-sky blues and brass fixtures.

In trademark nendo style, the individual elements of each ‘box’ are woven together by overlapping textures and interconnecting structures – and perhaps best reflected by the juxtaposed medley of contrasting yet complementary floor materials like herringbone terrazzo, fabric-textured cement and marble printed on glass.

Text / Danielle Demetriou
Images / Courtesy of nendo

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New China Fusion: Chinese Designers to Watch

We highlight the top ten finalists of the AD Emerging Chinese Designer award at this year’s edition of Design Shanghai

The fifth iteration of the AD Emerging Chinese Designer Platform took place at Design Shanghai earlier this year. Under the theme New China Fusion, ten of the country’s most exciting designers presented pieces ‘uniquely Chinese in nature yet global in outlook’.

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ABOVE Studio

The winner of this year’s Emerging Chinese Designer award, ABOVE Studio was founded in 2017 by Chinese designers Lu Xu and Zihan Zhang, and was based in Providence before its recent relocation to Hangzhou.

The studio designs and manufactures furniture and objects that explore the balance between emotional expression and the beauty of nature. The Spoon chair and Lotus table combine modern production techniques with traditional handmade woodcraft, while the stainless steel 15° Chair is inspired by Ming-style seating.

Look out for our interview with Xu and Zhang in issue 21 of Design Anthology.

 

 
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Chen Shangyi

Using traditional metal weaving techniques, Chen Shangyi transforms our perception of metal with her delicate lights and vessels that appear to be made from soft fabric. ‘One piece of work requires thousands of repeated weaving moves, requiring the producer to have great patience to complete. Every stitch is a practice, and each piece is unique,’ she says.

 

 
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Foam Studio

Foam Studio’s founder Tianyi Shi draws inspiration from foam and the opportunities for combining it with other materials to create new objects. With the Inside Out series of sofas and chairs, the designer playfully deconstructs furniture and upholstery to highlight the often-hidden textures and colours of foam.

 

 
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Hi Thanks Bye

Formed in 2017 by Chinese-Canadian duo Stein Wang and Topher Kong, Hi Thanks Bye is an interdisciplinary design studio based in Toronto. For Design Shanghai’s Emerging Designers competition they exhibited their first collection, the minimalist and sculptural Collection O, which led to a Rising Star Award nomination at the Stockholm Furniture Fair in February 2018, and elsewhere in the fair debuted Be My Guest, their latest collection of inspired by the revived art of home entertaining.

 

 
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HOII Design

Zhu Yaowen, Guan Xiang and Zhuo Yizhe founded HOII Design just last year in Shanghai. The trio’s collective disciplines span product, furniture and interior design, installation art, brand strategy and art direction, and they pride themselves on their ability to work in a variety of styles and beyond the confines of rigid design principles. This year HOII Design exhibited the Phi table, chair and stool, which all featured semi-circular and two-toned details.

 

 
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Huang Jing

Chengdu-born designer Huang Jin studied at Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts before returning to her home town, where she now lives and works. With an appreciation for the handmade and a desire to experiment with new materials, Jing aims to create objects that carry stories and emotions. At Design Shanghai, she exhibited a series of bamboo lamps, the elasticity of the material giving way to elegant forms that appear to twist and pop.

 

 
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mutuopia Studio

As the homeware studio of innovative product design studio Mutto Group, mutuopia seeks to bridge the gaps between innovation and heritage, form and application, and advanced manufacturing and traditional craftsmanship – a mission conveyed succinctly in their Fireworks collection exhibited this year.

 

 
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Re:Studio

Re:studio is an eco-design project that, through extensive research and experimentation, creates objects solely from recycled materials. In the Repaper and Replastic collections, plastic and paper waste is turned into terrazzo-like surfaces and home accessories.

 

 
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THESHAW Studio

THESHAW was founded by Shaw Liu in 2017, and the studio combines material and craftsmanship to create minimalist objects that are heavily influenced by Liu’s understanding of spiritual and religious elements. The play of steel, glass, mirror and light in the Sanctuary series of arc-shaped lamps presents ever-changing perspectives, and reflects the studio’s signature fusion of spatial and three-dimensional elements.

 

 
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Studio Dejawu

Stockholm-based designer Qian Jiang established Studio Dejawu in 2015, and he has since been creating furniture, products and art based on the concepts of familiarity, honesty and timelessness. At Design Shanghai, Jiang exhibited a set of stackable brass candle holders, oak and cast zinc furniture and an aluminium tape dispenser, the surprising forms of each adding a sense of the unfamiliar to everyday objects.

Text / Simone Schultz

Images / Courtesy of Design Shanghai

Space Copenhagen talks Nordic Design and Poetic Modernism

During Salone del Mobile earlier this month, we sat down with Peter Bundgaard Rützou and Signe Bindslev Henriksen, founders of the multi-disciplinary design studio, for an illuminating conversation about their influences, practice and philosophy

Peter Bundgaard Rützou and Signe Bindslev Henriksen. Image courtesy of Space Copenhagen.

Peter Bundgaard Rützou and Signe Bindslev Henriksen. Image courtesy of Space Copenhagen.

Suzy Annetta: Space Copenhagen seems to be going from strength to strength; has your studio and practice changed since you started in 2005?

Peter Bundgaard Rützou: The simple answer is yes, it’s changed a lot. It's probably a natural progression in a way – when we started it was just the two of us, and aside from the design we also handled all other aspects of the company. And now, there are about 20 of us, so naturally it means that the whole structure and method of working has needed to change. We’re very engaged in all the projects, but we also have the fortune of having an incredible crew and an amazing group of project managers who are assigned to each project. So Signe and I sort of drift between all the projects and develop the concepts, and then we very much depend on having a great staff to help us move through these sometimes very long processes of getting from A to B. Some of the hospitality projects especially can take anything from two to seven years to complete, and it takes a lot of effort and quite build-up of momentum to keep focus throughout such long projects.

Signe Bindslev Henriksen: Having said that, we also promised each other from the beginning that we really, sincerely wanted to go for the right projects, sharing a mutual energy and passion with our clients, rather than just focusing on growing the studio and becoming bigger. And that means that even though we’ve grown a lot, we’re also very aware that it's at a size that we can handle, and that still allows us to be fully engaged in every project. Even though our daily routines and structures are more organised, it actually still allows us to stay as intimately involved with the projects as we have been from the beginning.

Rützou: Signe touched on something quite essential: we have the fortune of being two designers working together, so very often you'll find us debating, or nurturing our curiosities, or trying to tackle real-life issues that we need to somehow get a grip on. And one of the things we realise is that as designers, the final product isn’t really ours. The projects we work on always belong to someone else, and part of our job is to make the end result flow smoothly into the hands of whoever commissioned it. In terms of a product, the purpose of it is that somebody other than us is going to use it or attach emotions to it.

We come from a long tradition of Scandinavian design, and I think one of its most successful approaches is this longevity. It results in objects that become like members of the family, that you attach emotions to and that are passed from one generation to the other. If even a few of our projects can achieve that, I think we'll consider it work well done.

That actually leads nicely into to my next question, which is about Danish design heritage. I wonder whether there is any pressure that comes from being from a country with such a long tradition and history of design, and whether that informs your work. Is it more of a burden or do you feel that it's a strength that you can draw from?

Henriksen: I think it's a little bit of all of that. I think it probably feels more natural for us because that's how it used to be – it’s sort of in our genes. It was a part of our childhood, even though we didn't know what we wanted to do professionally at that time, but it's also a part of our upbringing as designers. So, it kind of rests on your perception of life, and I think from a very early point we decided that it should be a strength rather than a burden. We feel very proud to come from such a respected tradition, but when you actually start analysing all of the old masters, you realise that they were very different, their expressions were very different, and they drew inspiration from all over the world. They were extremely curious. They wanted to travel and be inspired, be it by Japanese culture, or by African or American industrialism, and they would seek out that inspiration and then go back and somehow filter it into a Nordic design language. And I think more than anything we tried to copy that – copy that curiosity, and the urge to move constantly, which keeps us awake and open to the world – and not necessarily look back at a certain way of doing things but rather examine where those ideas came from, and then make our own story.

Rützou: I think you can definitely say, though, that there is an element of ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ syndrome. I think our timing has something to do with it, because it was something of a dense impact period that was shaped in the 20th century and then for some reason, into the 70s and 80s that whole way of working, that sense of being unintimidated and on the contrary combining architecture and design in a natural way, got separated somehow. It sort of disappeared, the whole way of working with spatial aspects and the detail of the craft. But it was a very natural appetite for the both of us – without having any plan actually, we were just drawn to the approach of regarding architecture and design as one. And I think it has been our fortune – it’s natural that when something really amazing happens it takes time to digest. I think after leaving it for a couple of decades, perceptions of Scandinavian design have resurfaced or been reinvented, especially in the past 10 years – and that has certainly been in our favour.

I feel like there has certainly been a resurgence in that kind of aesthetic around the world. I don't know if you perceive it in the same ways as we do from the outside, but I feel like that fascination is definitely back again.

Henriksen: You know, we discuss what makes good design and what is beautiful, and we all have our own subjective ways of perceiving depending on where we come from. We often debate this, because our studio is filled with wonderful colleagues from all over the world. People come to Scandinavia not just because of the design tradition, but also because the design tradition relates so directly to the way we live. Our democracy and being a small country makes it easier to design a well-organised society, and we definitely have a reputation for having good work-life balance. All these things relate to the lives we live, our preferences, our needs, and how we’re engaged in both our social and work lives, and all these things come together somehow. I think people perceive Scandinavian design through these values.

Rützou: I mean, you could probably label design and aesthetics in general as a feedback system. It’s also a derivative of being exposed to cultures outside your home, and it's a sort of give-and-take process. You could certainly say, as Signe said a little bit earlier, that our design masters were influenced by different cultures, and the urge to travel is sort of the implicit consequence of being from a very small place. I think what we do when we go back home is use our travels well, nurture our curiosities and strip them from their origin to see if we can use them somehow in our part of the world – how we can use them to define the choices that we make, the value packages that we represent. And I think people can see that. I think they can see an honesty in that, there's a sort of resonance between an intuitive understanding of something and the choices that have been made by the design tradition that sort of embodies Scandinavia as such.

You've described your approach as ‘poetic modernism’. How would you explain what that means, and how do you interpret it as a philosophy or an approach?

Henriksen: We feel like our generation is somewhat detached from the previous generations, but at the same time we were also born and raised through the academy in a very theoretical manner. Very early on when we started working together, we also felt that at the end of the day it's also about the human being as a sensory organism. We would have these long conversations about what happens when you walk into a space and actually just feel embraced or at home, even though it might not be what you would normally choose aesthetics-wise; or what happens when you find a random stone that just has this amazing, beautiful shape that you can't define. There's something about the human species, across cultures, that holds us together, and it’s not linked to anything else but the intuitive perception of the world, and you know, things that have a more fluid nature and a more poetic nature. This is what we’re seeking. We're also seeking the answers, and being able to say that at the end of the day, it's just beautiful. And you don't have to put all these words into it and describe the entire design process, the function, all the detailing and dimensions and so on. The thing is, ultimately you perceive everything in a split second, whether you like it or not.

I think we’re very attracted to this weird condition, and that’s also what it's about. It's about understanding that there's something extremely ancient in our way of perceiving the world, and we find that fascinating.

Rützou: It’s a very intentional,  constructed package of words. And it's also a belief that some things are very difficult to explain. Through industry and geometry, modernism strove to put an honesty and explanation to things, allowing them to be without any middle equation, and almost stripped from decorative aspects. However, in literature the ability to be poetic actually enables you to understand concepts that are difficult to describe objectively. Yes, design is defined by function, which links us to modernism, and we grew up that way, there's no escape. But it also should be understood that it’s object as metaphor. It's object as something that transcends the cognitive approach to things, it's intuition. It's the curve of something that touches somewhere deep in your memory and reminds you of something, it's transcending nature. These qualities are what we aim to embody. A piece should fulfil its purpose as a design object, otherwise it wouldn't be design, but then it should transcend into something else – it should have sculptural values that define its attachment to space.

As told to / Suzy Annetta


Space Copenhagen designed the 11 Howard hotel in New York’s Soho neighbourhood, which combines Danish design with New York attitude. Image courtesy of 11 Howard.

Space Copenhagen designed the 11 Howard hotel in New York’s Soho neighbourhood, which combines Danish design with New York attitude. Image courtesy of 11 Howard.

Image courtesy of 11 Howard.

Image courtesy of 11 Howard.

Image courtesy of 11 Howard.

Image courtesy of 11 Howard.

Image courtesy of 11 Howard.

Image courtesy of 11 Howard.

Having designed Rene Redzepi’s noma, the studio was called upon to design restaurant 108 in Copenhagen. Image courtesy of 108.

Having designed Rene Redzepi’s noma, the studio was called upon to design restaurant 108 in Copenhagen. Image courtesy of 108.

Image courtesy of 108.

Image courtesy of 108.

Image courtesy of 108.

Image courtesy of 108.

Image courtesy of 108.

Image courtesy of 108.

Image courtesy of 108.

Image courtesy of 108.

Image courtesy of 108.

Image courtesy of 108.

Arte Povera in India: The Craft of Bijoy Jain

Architectural firm Studio Mumbai has once again teamed up with MANIERA gallery in Brussels, this time creating a collection of strikingly beautiful furniture pieces that teach a lesson in economics and intercultural exchange

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With Pierre Jeanneret’s Chandigarh chair being the ‘it’ item in Europe today, the Indian atmosphere is extending somewhat into Western homes, magazines and mood boards. Now there’s a possible successor, a Chandigarh 2.0 if you will. Although still a mix of east and west, it’s this time conceived by an Indian designer: Bijoy Jain.

From May 18th until August 24th at Brussels MANIERA gallery, architect Bijoy Jain of Studio Mumbai will exhibit a new furniture series, made up of beautiful wooden chairs, brick textures and tables made using the fresco technique. The work was commissioned by the gallery, whose first collaboration with Studio Mumbai in 2016 resulted in conceptual furniture pieces that ended up in the collections of SFMOMA (San Francisco), LACMA (Los Angeles) and Centre Pompidou (Paris).

The mannerisms of architects

MANIERA was founded in 2014 by Amaryllis Jacobs and Kwinten Lavigne, who both have a background in the arts: Jacobs was a a communications manager and Lavigne a production manager. Their goal with MANIERA is as easy as it is genius: to offer architects and contemporary art makers a segue into design. ‘We look for artists and architects with a very specific design language,’ Jacobs explains. ‘Nobody builds like OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen (known for their project Solo House) or Studio Mumbai, for instance. Their language is so clear you can almost pitch it in one line.’

By offering big names who all have signature styles  – think Anne Holtrop and Jonathan Muecke – a design playground, what you get is a set of very intuitive and unconventional design-art objects. These striking collections, all handmade in limited editions, rocketed MANIERA to an international level. But Jacobs also credits the gallery’s success, in part, to Design Miami, who contacted them within their first week, and The New York Times, where MANIERA was listed as one of the top five new design galleries in the world in 2016.

Indian crafts

MANIERA’s most successful artist is Bijoy Jain, hence this second collection. Jain founded his architectural practice Studio Mumbai in 2005 and has since become known for creating contemporary architecture from a craftsman’s point of view. ‘He’s an architect who simply knows how to make things, from windows to furniture,’ Jacobs says. ‘He is very craft-minded. When commissioned for a project, he searches for local craftsmen. The entire building, from brick to beam, is made in the vicinity.’ Palmyra House is a good example of Jain’s approach and style. Built in 2007 in Nandgaon, India, it consists of two beautifully crafted volumes set among palm trees on a coconut plantation. Inside, the sunlight filters through the wooden louvered walls and creates a staggering play of chiaroscuro.

The pièce de résistance in Jain’s first collection was Brick Study II, marble and artisanal red brick bench that clearly references architecture. His second collaboration with MANIERA also aligns with his architecture practice, in the form of furniture handmade with artisan materials. Take, for instance, Jain’s almost minimalist palisander and bamboo chairs. When asked about the design, Jain himself downsizes the discourse of the crafts he is so renowned for. ‘My starting point was to create a light and effective chair that can be economically produced,’ he explains. ‘And I mean economically in the sense of effective use of materials, energy and technology. These chairs can be put together without the need for any sophisticated machinery. Basically, they consist of bamboo and rope.

Arte Povera

 Materiality and handwork weren’t priorities for the architect, and neither was aesthetics. ‘I want the chairs to have a certain anonymity to them,’ Jain says. ‘The aesthetics are just a result of the search for an economy of means.’ His research, however, did lead to a visually striking set of chairs. Being so lean, fragile and natural, the chairs are almost Arte Povera. They are the primitivist’s version — or rather the ecologist’s version — of the Chandigarh chair. The seats are reduced to a minimum of weaving, the backs often bare. Stripped to their essence, they emanate an enormous poetic strength.

Apart from the wooden chairs, Jain has also designed fauteuils, stools, consoles, brick textures and tables, in materials that include bamboo, marble, sandstone, silk rope and washi paper. The collection contains design objects that are both functional as well as conceptual, and all reflect Studio Mumbai’s design language. At first sight, one would say it’s Indian – but at a second glance, it could be anything. Jain explains that he mixed Indian with Italian, Egyptian, Japanese and other influences. ‘I would call it hybrid design. My inspiration comes from literally everywhere, up to the point where it was hard to track the exact origin. When integrating different cultures, the location of the designer becomes irrelevant. I feel my designs could’ve been conceived anywhere in the world’.

Studio Mumbai’s collection will be exhibited at MANIERA Brussels from May 18th until August 24th 2019 at MANIERA Brussels, and with MANIERA at Design Miami/Basel in June.

Text / Ringo Gomez-Jorge
Images / Jeroen Verrecht

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Bijoy Jain. Image courtesy of Studio Mumbai.

Bijoy Jain. Image courtesy of Studio Mumbai.

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The Urge to Create: In Conversation with Ian Schrager

On the occasion of the recent opening of Ian Schrager’s latest EDITION Hotel, this one in the much-maligned New York neighbourhood of Times Square, our managing editor Philip Annetta spoke to the legendary creator of Studio 54, the Palladium, Morgans Hotel Group and many more

Image by Chad Batka

Image by Chad Batka

Design Anthology: This is EDITION number ten of a mooted one hundred, plus you’ve created your own hotels and many projects as a developer and designer. Are you still learning?

Ian Schrager: Of course. And evolving. Working with Marriott in and of itself is an expansive experience for me, so still learning, still refining the craft. Always.

There’s been a lot of scepticism about opening the hotel in Times Square, and I guess you’re aware of that. Did it impact your decision making?

You know, I’ve been dealing with scepticism my whole life and I’ve also been dealing with hotels, nightclubs and luxury apartment buildings in unlikely locations — creating neighbourhoods — and I know better than anybody else that if you build something special and unique and distinctive then people will come to the moon.

I’ve already had a number of projects in and around here — the Royalton on 44th Street, which up to then was unsafe to walk on. And the Paramount on 46th Street. The only thing in Times Square at that time was the Marriott Marquis and the Paramount Hotel — that whisky bar was where Rande Gerber met Cindy Crawford, and there were all these stylish, chic people walking through Times Square to get to the hotel, to the whisky bar. Studio 54 was in this neighbourhood, before Robert De Niro was in Tribeca it was a truck stop, then there’s the East Village and the West Village west of Seventh Avenue and the meat market and Wall Street and Columbus Avenue and on and on. The city is like an ebbing and flowing river, and when I hear that type of thing it’s preposterous. Let them come tonight or tomorrow night or the night after and see all the people that are here and see if that’s questioned. That, to me, interests me, upsetting the status quo.

You referred to building a neighbourhood. Is that how you approach things?

No, I don’t think like that. I’m not a real estate guy — I don't go into a neighbourhood and buy everything around it. I’m very product-driven, you know, do something great and it lifts the tide. 

I remember when I did the Delano in Miami Beach, the hotel next door was available for three million. My partner said ‘buy it, buy it!’ But I wasn’t excited about doing another hotel there at the time. Do a great product, that’s the credo. Everything else gets taken care of. 

OK. But knowingly or unknowingly you’re building third spaces — you’re really strong on bringing people into the lobby and doing things on the ground level — and in modern cities there’s this constant question of whether the third space is a good space. And do we even have a third space?

You know, fashions change but the human condition doesn’t change. Ever. Socialising is a human urge. I don’t care if it’s dating over the internet, you know, all those things change but they don't change the basic urge to socialise and meet people. So to me, staying in a hotel and having a microcosm of the best that that city has to offer right downstairs in the lobby just made a lot of obvious sense.

And it’s not a totally original idea — that’s the way hotels used to be. But then the real estate guys, they couldn’t figure out how to make any money with food and beverage — it’s too labour-intensive for them, so they got rid of it all. Then the bars and the restaurants and everything became boring to be profitable. It used to be that the restaurant and event spaces in hotels, they were like the social centres of the cities they were located in. Those great hotels like The Plaza in New York… but we got away from that. So I just thought, you know, let’s do it again. But let’s do it in a modern way.

It seems boutique hotels always try to bring a sense of place more than you get with a big chain hotel. Do you think that’s more crucial than ever? Especially given that cities are getting more homogenous and that we’re in an era where I can go online and book someone’s apartment in Madrid tomorrow. So is it more important than ever for a boutique hotel to actually curate the best of a city like that?

I think you can book an apartment wherever it is, in Madrid or Barcelona, but you’re not going to get the community social space and the public space that a hotel has to offer. Airbnb, which I assume you’re referring to, they can’t do that and that’s a critical structural element of a hotel and it plays to our strengths, and I think that has to continue. Whether cities get homogenous or don’t get homogenous, there’s always diversity, whether it’s in the suburbs or in the mountains or in the desert it doesn’t matter – you have an elevated product with an elevated experience, it will attract people who are interested in being a part of what they think is going on that manifests the zeitgeist, that manifests popular culture – it’s just an obvious thing to me, it comes as second nature.

As far as that goes, and you can see that in evidence here, the rooms are really subdued. It’s Yabu Pushelberg and yourself, and they’re very calm, very minimal, but then the public spaces, that's where the pizzazz is.

Well, it’s a different function. I think the room is supposed to be a sanctuary where you sleep and eat and bathe, you know, you’re coming in here rest and to kind of recharge and regroup. I find it more difficult to do the rooms because they’re not very forgiving. If you make a mistake, you go in to shave and you bend your elbow into the shower door, where the public spaces are more operatic, they’re more flamboyant, more dramatic, more forgiving. We’re not quite sure how they’re going to be used specifically but I think they’re supposed to complement each other, you know, where the public space is supposed to make the room look better and the rooms are supposed to make the public space feel better because it’s an outlet – it’s like a very tight concept. Originally we were toying around with the idea of black and white here – you see it in the lobby. Originally these rooms were black and white. I didn’t think that worked in the rooms. It didn’t feel calming and comfortable. You never know what’s going to work.

That’s true, not till you see it. So talk me through the process with Yabu Pushelberg.

They were part of the team, but I can’t delegate to them responsibility for doing a successful product, whether it’s the room or whether it’s the public space or whether it’s the towels or the sheets or whatever, you know. There is no detail, no matter how small or insignificant, that we didn't consider or contemplate. And I also work with a very talented team of people in my office. I think you’ll find this room and this public space is different from other Yabu Pushelberg spaces.

It does feel that way. So do you start with a very strategic idea? You also worked with Madison Cox on the garden design, but you have experience designers as well — that’s The House of Yes for the live shows — and you’ve designed down to the curation of the music. Do you start with that very strategic approach?

I do, but I didn’t do it so much with The House of Yes, because that’s a new medium. They’re doing something new and original down there, there’s something new and original going on with entertainment period — that whole industry, content, is undergoing radical change, you know. I relied on them — I wasn’t sure what they were going to do even, to tell you the truth. But, you know, we agreed on an idea that was a collaborative effort to rethink, restructure a performance that’s chaotic, evolves, changes. Every performance is different — it doesn’t follow the traditional theatrical structure of a play. We agreed on that, but they really did all of that because I didn’t really have any skill set in that area. But even there, when it came to the lighting I was tempted to get involved, but you know I’m very tentative because it’s their gig. There’s no other place in the hotel that I could say it is anybody else’s gig.

It’s funny to hear you say that that’s not really your thing when you you’ve come from nightclubs…

Yes, that might be, but the actual show itself, that’s their idea.

Speaking of which, where did the idea for the jumbotron come about? To show the stage shows on the building?

It was part of the real estate transaction. But, you know, our idea for that is to use the jumbotron with no commercial purpose — we’re not selling anything, you know, we’re elevating the experience for all the people and for free. It’s not unlike what Andy Warhol did for art, making it accessible and taking the pretention out of it. It’s just great to see something up there that doesn’t sell anything! You know, it’s just visual, stimulating. It’s a civic-minded thing, and we really enjoy it and we’re going to get a bunch of young people to do a lot of great stuff with no purpose in mind other than entertaining people, just making people smile. No purpose, but…

But you can walk on the street in a busy commercial area and feel like you're not being sold to.

Which I think this whole area needs — to leave some of the touristic things that are going on here, you know, the appeal to the lowest common denominator. Not the lowbrow and highbrow mix — that we love. But it needs to be elevated — I think it needs to go back to what it was in the 20s and 30s and 40s where it was a very naughty but avant-garde cultural area. I think that — you’ve got to understand what’s going on over here — there’s the theatre district, Tin Pan Alley where all the songs were written, the Brill Building where all the rock and roll got written, the jazz clubs which are just as prominent as the ones up at the Cotton Club, the Metropole, Birdland, Roseland, the Paramount Theatre, where Frank Sinatra and all those people performed — I mean, it's a cultural centre.

I don’t think people realise what was going on over here — Madison Square Garden was part of it too, originally. Everything was here. It was a cultural Mecca. It was the crossroads of the world — you came to New York, you came to Times Square. And so it had a bad period — had the dark ages, I suppose — now hopefully it’ll come back.

On a personal note, you went to university and studied law. What happened? What led to all this?

I studied law because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. How can you be? How can you know what you want to spend the rest of your life doing? You know, the only thing you can do is get out there, start with what you know and things happen. I went to law school because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I thought no matter what I do it would be helpful. And then, you know, I see people waiting on line at clubs — that was just when the baby boom generation had come in to New York, the sexual revolution was in full bloom, people were going out — and I thought, here are people waiting on line to get in to nightclubs, taking all sorts of abuse before they got in! [laughs] That was the business I wanted to get in to. Life is… you can’t connect the dots till later, you can’t make sense of it till later. That’s what I found.

OK, and I want to finish with one last design-related question. There’s a school of thought that nobody opens a hotel for pleasure — it’s for commercial reasons. Because a hotel has to make sense operationally, has to make sense commercially, has to make sense from a usage point of view, still has to look good.

I don’t really believe that. All the great hoteliers in the past were hotel people, you know, Statler, Issy Sharp from Four Seasons, Portman, Bill Marriott, they loved to do hotels. You know, maybe the finance guys don’t care for anything but for the numbers, but that hasn’t been my experience. I like to create — it doesn’t have to be a hotel, could be anything. Could be an apartment, could be a nightclub, could be anything, but I enjoy it, and yes, it has to work financially or else you don’t get another opportunity. But I’m still doing what I’m doing because I love it, and I’ve got a job I would take if I didn’t need one. 

So that sounds like a rather bleak, pessimistic view of things, and it hasn’t been my experience. The great hoteliers are all people who like to create hotels. Kemmons Wilson, the guy that did the Holiday Inn, they all were creative guys. You have to make money or you don’t get an opportunity to do it again. That simple. But you can’t do it just for making the money — it’s a perversion of the process. You have to do it for doing something great. You know, Steve Jobs said he didn’t care how much people made, he cared about what you made, and I don’t think he was doing that because he had the most valuable company in the world maybe — I don’t think so. He cared about what the insides of the machines looked like — nobody even saw them, you can’t open them! So I don’t believe that.

Text / Philip Annetta
Images / Courtesy of EDITION Hotels


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In Conversation with Patricia Urquiola

Last month, ahead of Cassina’s first Hong Kong showroom opening, the brand’s art director and design doyenne spoke with Design Anthology about upcycling, her multi-disciplinary career and engaging a young audience with classic design pieces

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Design Anthology: Hi Patricia, it's great to meet you and welcome to Hong Kong! Your work spans architecture, design, interiors and furniture. How do you find the experience of working across all these disciplines?

Patricia Urquiola: I think for me, it was what I grew up with. I studied architecture at the Polytechnic University of Milan, which was a mix of design and architecture, so it was quite natural that these subjects should be together. I was the type of young person who really needed to get out of her comfort zone and I think my background in architecture gives me a special point of view into my design work.

More and more, we’re in a kind of ‘non-referential’ world and we need to find new ways to rewrite the rules. We have to wake up every morning rethinking the way we do things – with my clients, I question why we might still use a raw material that isn’t very sustainable, why we can’t change a process or why we don't upcycle materials.

I love the word ‘upcycling’; we have to re-educate ourselves and introduce upcycled materials. I have this new kind of leather (she pulls a small piece of this ‘leather’ out of her pocket and shows it to me) which isn’t actually leather –  it’s made from apple skin, and we used it for a sofa designed by Philippe Starck.

And aside from apple leather furniture, what else are you working on?

I’m currently working in hospitality; hotels are always in crisis in some way because they try to look like they’ve solved everything, but they know people are always evolving. I'm also working in healthcare making nicer spaces for people who are suffering from cancer. I’m working on the future of offices in America, rethinking the 9-5 structure, cubicles and so on – the solution isn’t just designing a chair anymore. And I'm working in ceramics, which is today very advanced technologically, in marble, wood and new recycled materials.

Many people who come to my studio say ‘We know you’re an empathetic person and you’re going to be open. It’s new for you too, but we know you’re going to find a solution.’ They know that I'm not just going to choose something that exists already. That's good because we’re in a continuous laboratory of connection.

My work is trying to be a catalyst to connect my culture and my point of view. I think you learn a lot from mistakes, and we’re living in a very interesting moment. I like to work with people that I like and I'm always pushing the limits. I'm a person who is never happy enough, this comes to me very naturally – it’s an Italian thing.

What about your art director role at Cassina?

I’m lucky to take care of Cassina. Being inside the company is very interesting because it’s more than 90 years old and it has always been about the idea of progressive design. If you do a couch, do it in an industrial way – they invented this kind of attitude.

We’re really trying to look at the company with an open mind towards the future. The company is quite complex because of its long legacy. We have to keep a process of looking into the future while also rethinking all our masters of design. We’re continuously looking back into the archive, and speaking with new designers, and my job is to be open to these kinds of interconnections and crossovers. We have to rethink the materials, for example the Feltri chairs project we did with Raf Simons was an interesting way to look at our pieces from another point of view. As an architect I think about the spaces where we introduce our pieces, and how to make them evolve in a social, aesthetic and material way.

How do you introduce iconic designs to a younger audience who is perhaps unfamiliar with them?

We just had an Achille Castiglioni exhibition at the Triennale di Milano, which exposed the millennial generation to one of the most important Italian masters of design. Achille was my mentor and teacher at university, and I think it was very interesting to do the exhibition with a fresh attitude towards young people, and make them understand without any kind of chronology.

After our conversation, Patricia then spoke to a small audience about her work. She shared her beliefs on the importance of breaking one prejudice every day, and how she had broken her prejudices towards marble, a material she is now working more in and how she’s also trying to abandon the idea of gendered design and the design categories of masculine and feminine.

As told to / Babette Radclyffe-Thomas
Images / Courtesy of Cassina

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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

Reviving Traditions

Traditional Taiwanese craft meets contemporary design in Formosa: A New Layer Taiwan meets Yii, a European exhibition highlighting the forgotten crafts of the ‘beautiful island’

Image by Margaux Nieto

Image by Margaux Nieto

Taiwanese craftsmanship has never received the attention it deserves. However, a collaboration between the National Taiwanese Craft Research and Development Institute (NTCRI), Brussels and Paris aims to highlight the quality of Taiwanese craft through an exhibition of more than fifteen projects created by international designers working in partnership with Taiwanese craftspeople. 

Formosa: A New Layer Taiwan meets Yii exhibits beautiful collectible design objects created by young emerging talents like Sebastian Herkner, Anton Alvarez, Jin Kuramoto and Julie Richoz in collaboration with Taiwanese artisans. The show is organised by A New Layer Taiwan, which was originally set up in 2011 as a partnership between Swedish designers and the NTCRI under the name A New Layer I. In 2016, the curatorship was handed over to Lise Coirier, founder of creative consultancy Pro Materia and the Brussels gallery Spazio Nobile, where the exhibition is housed before it moves to Paris next month. While A New Layer I focused on the Swedish-Taiwanese connection, Coirier has broadened the collaborations to the rest of the world and launched the platform at Design Miami/Basel in June 2018.

‘Although there are many crafts in Taiwan — such as glass, bamboo, lacquer and ceramics — the country is fairly unknown in the design world,’ Coirier explains. ‘Even in Taiwan, the crafts have been forgotten for a long time.’ Rain Wu, the London-based Taiwanese designer behind the exhibition’s scenography explains that ‘the craftsmen were telling the next generation better not to get involved. Fortunately, though, there has been a revival recently.’ According to Coirier, ‘This revival began about a decade ago when the Dutch curator and designer Gijs Bakker started the first session of collaborative workshops in Taiwan under the name Yii.’

The reason for the invisibility of Taiwanese design is its lack of a linear marketing story. ‘The Taiwanese are in fact a mix of Chinese, Japanese, Dutch and Portuguese culture,’ Coirier says. From the 16th century on, the island was colonised and dominated by a myriad of cultures, and each left its mark on the island. Although this multi-cultural identity offers a richness, it comes with a predicament. ‘The Taiwanese struggle with their creative identity,’ Wu says. ‘Their design isn’t monocultural; you can’t define the creative output in one aphorism like you can with Nordic or Japanese design. It is too varied.’

On the other hand, the knowhow and the business are there. ‘I’ve visited plenty of workshops over the course of two years,’ Coirier says. ‘The designers have direct contact with the manufacturers, which allows tailor-made designs to be produced en masse. Taichung-based NakNak (a Taiwanese metal company that works with young Asian and Nordic designers) is a good example of that.’

Thanks to her collaboration with the NTCRI, Coirier has connected international designers with Taiwanese workshops to create hybrid designs. For instance, she put Japanese designer Jin Kuramoto together with Zhongyi Industry, a workshop based in the town of Yingge — part of the New Taipei City —  that is known for its many ceramics studios. The result is the staggering Neolithic Collection, a set of organically shaped vases based on the Taiwanese Neolithic collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Anton Alvarez worked with Chiayi county’s craft of Koji pottery: colourful ceramic sculptures mainly conceived for temples. Working with craftsman Ban Tao Yao, Alvarez designed contemporary vases inspired by traditional forms.

Most designers found inspiration in traditional Taiwanese culture, and merged antique objects with contemporary design. Swiss designer Julie Richoz took a traditional Cong vase as a starting point to create her Cong Collection. Cong vases are rectangular on the outside and cylindric on the inside, a shape that dates to as early as 3400 BC. Although the originals are made of jade and ceramic, Richoz chose lacquered wood. The result is a contemporary version with a deep black complexion and sharp contours.

The pièce de résistance of the show is by German designer Sebastian Herkner, an emerging design star in Europe who has already collaborated with Moroso, pulpo and Thonet. Herkner opted to work with bamboo and designed a bench in the shape of a bridge. ‘Taiwan has many bridges because of the large number of rivers and regularly occurring typhoons,’ Coirier explains. The form of the bench presented a challenge: Herkner wanted to create the length of the bench out of bamboo slats each 165-centimetres long, which craftsman Ming An Wu was eventually able to manually bend.

Coirier hopes that the exhibition will draw attention back to the Ihla Formosa (Portuguese for ‘beautiful island’). The country is a cultural mixing bowl, a metaphor playfully exemplified in Taiwanese designer Rock Wang’s Brick Plan – a bowl shaped out of brick. ‘Back in the 17th century, the Dutch shipped tropical products from Taiwan to the Netherlands,’ Wu explains. ‘The ships came back to Taiwan with bricks to build forts. Later on, the Taiwanese began to make bricks too, and these were laid with a home-made mortar of sugar, sticky rice and oyster shells.’ It sounds almost tasty.

Formosa : A New Layer Taiwan meets Yii is on at Spazio Nobile Gallery, Brussels, until 12 May 2019, and in Paris at the Révélations Biennale, Grand Palais, from 23-26 May 2019. The exhibition at Révélations is an initiative of the Taiwanese Cultural Institute, with the support of the NTCRI and the Taiwanese Ministry of Culture.

Text / Ringo Gomez-Jorge
Images / Courtesy of A New Layer Taiwan

Anton Alvarez — Dragon Head

Anton Alvarez — Dragon Head

Jin Kumamoto — The Neolithic Collection

Jin Kumamoto — The Neolithic Collection

Julie Richoz — The Cong Collection

Julie Richoz — The Cong Collection

Rock Wang — Brick Plan

Rock Wang — Brick Plan

Sebastian Hercher — The Bridge Bamboo Bench

Sebastian Hercher — The Bridge Bamboo Bench

Awards 2019: Announcing the Winners

Following months of submissions, short-listing and deliberation by an esteemed panel of industry experts, the results are in. Here is the complete list of winners of our inaugural Design Anthology Awards


In the five years since we launched Design Anthology, we’ve defined what we stand for and what our core philosophies are. Among them is our sincere ambition to create a platform for showcasing, celebrating, supporting and promoting original design in Asia and by Asian designers. And much like our motivation for starting Design Anthology magazine, we felt there remained an appetite for something different in the design awards landscape.

As an extension and evolution of the magazine, the Design Anthology Awards are an opportunity for us to be change agents in a more tangible way. For the awards to be truly meaningful, they required judges who are the best in their respective fields, with an even representation of genders and a balance of countries and regions. For the winners, we’ve chosen prizes we hope will benefit their careers in meaningful ways.

In addition to those prizes, together with our generous venue sponsor The Murray we’ve launched the Design Anthology Education Fund. This is a charity dedicated entirely to providing grants for design education in Hong Kong, and our hope is that in the future the grants will expand in size, scope and beyond the borders of Hong Kong. The awards and related events are the first of many fundraising platforms for the charity.

We’d like to extend our sincere gratitude to the judges, for their belief in our vision, but equally so for their time and commitment. The level of detail and rigour with which they assessed the shortlisted entries exceeded our highest expectations.

We’re also deeply grateful for the support of our sponsors, without whom the Design Anthology Awards would not have been possible, nor would they be the success we hoped for. 

And finally, thank you of course to the designers and nominators. The response was overwhelming and the entries of the highest calibre. To the finalists and winners, a resounding and heartfelt congratulations!

Text / Suzy Annetta


Learn more about all the finalists and winners in our 64-page stitch-bound Awards publication, now available to purchase

Watch the full ceremony at awards.designanthologymag.com/gallery

 
 

Products

 

The Finalists

Accessories

  • Templates Watch by Michael Young
    Shenzhen CIGA Design Co., Ltd

  • ESCAPE Luggage
    Studio Gooris Limited

  • PR/01 Speaker
    NATIVE UNION

  • JIA Hand-Drip Coffee
    Studio Shikai

Furniture

  • Tripodal Stool
    Studio Adjective Limited

  • The Roundish Armchair
    Maruni Wood Industry

  • GRACEFUL REINA Series
    camino × ViiCHENDESIGN

Lighting

  • Kelopak
    Ong Cen Kuang

  • Ripple Lamp
    Poetic Lab + Studio Shikai

  • Linear Task Light
    Singular Concept

Textiles

  • Horsehair Collection
    Ausara Surface & Textile

  • Lake Under The Forest
    Aya Kawabata Design

  • SUPERTEXTURES
    Tiffany Loy


The Winners

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Accessories

Hand Drip Coffee Set for JIA Inc.
Studio Shikai

The JIA hand drip coffee set fuses Eastern design language with Western lifestyle. Comprising two types of double-walled ceramic drippers, server, dripper sit, ring and coffee grinder, the set is designed to provide everything needed to brew the perfect cup of coffee.

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Furniture

Graceful Reina Series
Camino and Vii Chen

From Taiwanese designer Vii Chen comes a series of tables and chairs for camino that are unified by their curvaceous contours, clean lines and elegant finish. The series is inspired by the sense of beauty in classic Western skirt frames and the graceful gestures of ballerinas.

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Lighting

Kelopak
Ong Cen Kuang

A product of a commitment to extensive experimentation, artisanal craftsmanship and a passion for lighting that was sparked by the region’s ubiquitous paper lantern, Kelopak represents what the studio creates best: sculptural and poetic lighting that uses surprising materials, in this case the zipper.

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Textiles

SUPERTEXTURES
Tiffany Loy

Designed in Singapore and made in Finland, SUPERTEXTURES is a collection of woven rugs in four distinct designs, all of which are an exploration of the dynamics between weave structure, material properties, colour and texture.

 
 

People

 

The Finalists

Ambassador

  • Tony Chi

  • André Fu

  • Kengo Kuma

Architect

  • Ma Yansong

  • Andra Matin

  • Mun Summ Wong

Emerging Designer

  • Frank Chou

  • Olivia Lee

  • Elaine Yan Ling Ng

Female Designer

  • Vii Chen

  • Rachaporn Choochuey

  • Naoko Takenouchi

Industrial Designer

  • Naoto Fukasawa

  • Oki Sato

  • Gabriel Tan

Interior Designer

  • James JJ Acuna

  • Frank Leung

  • Ed Ng

Vanguard

  • Bill Bensley

  • Joyce Wang

  • Kenya Hara


The Winners

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Ambassador

Kengo Kuma

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma is at the forefront of a small group of Asian architects working internationally. His firm Kengo Kuma & Associates represents Japan and Asia with groundbreaking works, while Kuma himself influences designers all over the world and is a role model for aspiring architects in Japan and the rest of Asia. Kuma's work is distinctly Japanese, and in every design he distills and refines the best of the nation’s aesthetics and culture.

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Architect

Mun Summ Wong

Singaporean architect Mun Summ Wong co-founded WOHA with business partner Richard Hassell in 1994. In the decades since, the firm has completed more than 50 projects throughout Southeast Asia, China, India and Australia, including residential towers, public housing estates, mass transit stations, hotels and cultural institutions; the duo’s contribution to Singapore’s cityscape in particular has been undeniable.

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Emerging Designer

Elaine Yan Ling Ng

Elaine Yan Ling Ng is a British-Chinese ‘materialologist’ and the founder of The Fabrick Lab, Hong Kong’s first textile laboratory, which brings together textiles, electronics, biomimicry, interiors and installations.

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Female Designer

Naoko Takenouchi

Japanese-born Naoko Takenouchi is one half of Singapore-based integrated design firm Takenouchi Webb. The firm, which specialises in hospitality projects, was established in 2006 and has had a profound effect on the design scene in Southeast Asia.

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Industrial Designer

Oki Sato

Oki Sato is the chief designer of eminent Milan- and Tokyo-based design studio nendo. Having established the Tokyo studio in 2002, Sato launched the studio’s Milan outpost in 2005. The year after he was named one of The 100 Most Respected Japanese Designers by Newsweek.

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Interior Designer

James Acuna

For more than a decade, James Acuna has worked on a range of lifestyle and workplace projects in Hong Kong, China and the wider Asian region, honing his skills at renowned firms Woods Bagot, Ronald Lu & Partners and LWK&Partners. In 2015, the designer founded JJ Acuna / Bespoke Studio in Hong Kong and Manila, which specialises in bespoke designs for lifestyle-oriented clients.

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Vanguard

Joyce Wang

Focusing on luxury hospitality and residential design, Joyce Wang’s Hong Kong- and London-based studio has amassed an impressive global portfolio since its inception in 2012. Wang’s goals are to push cultural and geographical boundaries and in doing so become known as an Asian designer capable of setting new standards globally.

 
 
 

Places

 

The Finalists

Adaptive Reuse

  • Office project, Bangkok
    Creative Crews Ltd

  • Office project, Shanghai
    MONOARCHI

  • Song Art Museum
    Vermilion Zhou Design Group

Commercial Spaces

  • Batubata Office
    Studio Air Putih

  • Khromis
    A Work of Substance

  • Wantou (Anhui Investment) & Vanke Sales Center
    Karv One Design

Cultural, Arts & Educational Spaces

  • ArtisTree
    via architecture limited

  • f22 foto space
    LAAB Architects

  • The Book Stop Project
    WTA Architecture and Design Studio

Hospitality Spaces — Dining

  • Boy’N’Cow Meat Boutique
    ANP (A&Partners)

  • Origin
    A Work of Substance

  • Ta-Ke
    Steve Leung Design Group

Hospitality Spaces — Hotels

  • Amanyangyun
    Kerry Hill Architects

  • Kosmos
    THE_SYSTEM LAB

  • Treewow Villa / Hotel
    MONOARCHI

Residential Living — Interiors, Compact

  • 28 Aberdeen Street
    via architecture limited

  • Stark House
    Park + Associates Pte Ltd

  • Vintage Vibes
    the monocot studio

Residential Living — Interiors

  • Artists Retreat Pittugala
    Palinda Kannangara Architects

  • SalaAreeya
    CHAT architects

  • Sanga Mandala House
    budipradono architects

Urban Redevelopment

  • Garden Restroom
    LAAB Architects

  • Kowloon Bay
    Steensen Varming

  • Kunming Project
    Kokaistudios


The Winners

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Adaptive Reuse

MONOARCHI Office, Shanghai
MONOARCHI

Rather than take a space in a commercial building, Rotterdam- and Shanghai-based architecture firm monoarchi chose to redesign a heritage-listed courtyard house in Shanghai’s French Concession, one still housing residential tenants.

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Commercial Spaces

@Batubata Office, Jakarta
Studio Air Putih

When architecture and interior design firm Studio Air Putih came to design an office for its own team, it chose a curious location in Serpong, west of Jakarta. The designers saw the primarily residential surroundings as scattered and disorganised, and it was this environmental context that drove their concept and design of the office, which mirrors the surrounding structures’ moderate size and spread-out positioning. 

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cultural, arts & educational spaces

f22 foto space, Hong Kong
LAAB Architects

Hong Kong is blessed with a growing number of gallery spaces, but only a small minority are dedicated to the photographic arts. In this context, the founders of f22 foto space aim to cultivate contemporary photography as an art form in Hong Kong, as well as to bring local and international photographers together as a community.

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Hospitality spaces — dining

Boy’N’Cow Meat Boutique, Bali
A&Partners

Located in the heart of bustling Seminyak, Bali, Boy’N’Cow Meat Boutique specialises in aged meat. Design studio A&Partners took its lead from these aged elements when considering materiality in the design.

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hospitality spaces — hotels

Amanyangyun, Shanghai
Kerry Hill Architects

When construction began on a dam in Jiangxi province, Ming- and Qing-dynasty villages and forests were threatened by rising waters. The client decided that a rescue was in order, and duly documented, disassembled and transported to Shanghai a chosen few houses along with 700 camphor trees. These would become the core of Aman’s fourth China property.

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residential living — interiors

Casablancka Residence, Bali
Budi Pradono Architects

The starting point for this project was a transformation of traditional Balinese buildings known as taring, temporary bamboo structures used for special occasions and characterised by the clear separation between floor, wall and roof structures. In the transformation, the design team at Budi Pradono Architects aimed to bring users close to nature on the sloping site through open volumes and strategic use of materials.

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residential living — interiors (compact)

Everton Park, Singapore
The Monocot Studio

What started as a request from the owner of this 90-square-metre apartment to incorporate some vintage furniture became a project to remodel it into an open space in which mid-century design could shine.

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sustainability

T·CAFÉ, Hong Kong
LAAB Architects

Hong Kong’s T·PARK is a sewage treatment facility and public education centre focusing on waste and sustainability, which was a key driver of the design for its on-site cafe. Reclaimed wood forms the centrepiece of the design, with the team utilising discarded wood from the Wan Chai Pier, the second iteration of which was demolished in 2014.

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urban redevelopment

Garden Restroom, Hong Kong
LAAB Architects

Situated in Hong Kong’s historic Tsim Sha Tsui neighbourhood is Salisbury Park, a public space that needed new facilities to match its recent overall renovation. In their design for the park’s new restroom, the team at LAAB Architects sought to respond to the garden setting and historicity. 

 
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A Timeless Aesthetic

Designer André Fu’s collection of homeware spans styles, cultures and settings

 
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Responsible for the design of iconic hotels and restaurants including Hong Kong’s Upper House and Kerry Hotel, and international destinations the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok and The Berkeley in London, Hong Kong-based designer André Fu has redefined contemporary luxury in Asia and beyond. In 2015 he launched lifestyle brand André Fu Living and followed with a series of products in collaboration with international creators such as Tai Ping and Lasvit.

Recently Fu brought his signature relaxed-luxury style to a homeware collection launched exclusively at Lane Crawford. Drawing on his experiences designing opulent spaces around the world, the concept behind Fu’s collection revolves around what he describes as ‘the ethos of “lifestyle from within” — a world of aesthetics that is timeless, culturally informed and modern.”’

Fu’s cross-category line of homeware is intended to present a cohesive narrative that extends throughout the home, which the designer believes is often lacking; in this case, he says, it’s ‘understated elegance that provokes emotion’. As he puts it, ‘The pieces are all designed to subtly complement and enhance different environments. In some ways, they present a visual narrative that’s delightfully quiet. What’s unique is the strong holistic quality of the pieces when viewed together.’

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Despite his Asian heritage, Fu disassociates the collection from any singular cultural reference. ‘The subliminal quality of Asian craft is deep in my roots and there are subtle references throughout, but the goal for the collection is about creating everyday objets that transcend cultures. In particular, the tableware was designed in such a way that the shapes could cater to both Eastern and Western dining styles.’ 

The aim, it seems, is to move away from typical notions of Asian design (or designers). Instead, Fu brings his distinctive multicultural and international background into the collection, revealing a contemporary collection that has the markings of his style and perspective. ‘There’s an opportunity to offer a different point of view that allows me to express my personal aesthetics; it’s a tangible representation of my personal taste. The brand's vision is deeply inspired by my childhood memories of significant places and different cultures. It celebrates my own nomadic life and my personal experience of the world of hospitality,’ he says. 

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It’s fitting then, that Fu has employed multiple design languages. Taken as a whole, the collection spans two design languages: ‘“artisan artistry”, inspired by artistic expression, and “vintage modern”, a range inspired by the geometric patterns typically featured in 1960s modernist architecture.’

Made up of tableware, furniture, blankets and scarves, the collections are designed to appoint the most used spaces in a home, and feature luxe materials such as oak, fine porcelain, silk and hand-painted elements. For Fu, the collection is ‘as much about the materials as the craftmanship’. Here, Fu and his team worked with experts through a rigorous process of sampling and refinement, which the designer calls ‘a tremendously engaging challenge’.

Challenges overcome, the collection presents a range of adaptable pieces that permeate any space with the mark of Fu’s tastemaker sensibilities and refined aesthetic.

Text / Simone Schultz
Images / Stephanie Teng

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City of Liberation

Bombay Atelier’s urban minimal aesthetic comes to life in the studio’s debut film

City of Liberation (Shehr-E-Nijaat) was created by the studio’s founder Farzin Adenwalla in collaboration with filmmaker Abhilaash Sahu of Nudo Films. The Crow chair is central to the film’s theme of urban isolation; cinematic elements, symbolic references and the lyrical Urdu language are interwoven in a poetic and sparse imagination of a young man as he navigates through New Delhi

Courtesy of / Bombay Atelier

Zens

This young Guangzhou-based furniture brand is working hard to change preconceptions of what ‘Designed and Made in China’ means

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Founded in 2009 by Tony Zhang, the founding director of Guangzhou Design Week —southern China’s most established design event — ZENS lifestyle exhibited for the fifth time at the January edition of MAISON&OBJET. This time Zens launched the latest collection by British industrial designer and long-time Hong Kong resident Michael Young, alongside new collections by the prolific designer Oki Sato, founder of Japan- and Milan-based nendo; and a furniture collection by the brand’s own inhouse design team.

Michael Young’s new Eclipse series adds to his lighting and ceramic designs launched in 2017. Curved plywood gives each piece a modern look and a sense of fluidity; they are compact yet comfortable. Complementing the furniture designs are the Fold mirror and Visage vase. Young says the inspiration for the new designs came from observing the lifestyle of the younger generation in Asia and the increasingly blurred boundaries between work and life.

nendo studio’s latest collection displayed the designer’s signature sense of humour, wit and experimentation with form. The extensive collection comprises furniture and accessories; nendo studio worked with wood and stainless steel for the unconventional Waterfall series of tables that mimic nature and seem to defy gravity, the Clip chair’s frame resembles a bent paperclip, with seat cushions that attach with magnets, while the Cut series features four different table profiles, each with a piece of the wooden frame deliberately ‘cut’ leaving the designs with a touch of surrealist minimalism.

Ming Liu, Chief Design Officer of Zens, teamed up with multiple award-winning designer Yuan Yuan of RUYI to create the Ming Corner collection. The duo was inspired by traditional Chinese furniture from the Ming era, widely considered to be the pinnacle of furniture design for its refined forms and use of quality materials. Designed for the modern home, or an office environment, the sofa is available in multiple configurations making it personalised and practical.   

Text / Suzy Annetta
Images / Courtesy of ZENS Lifestyle

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Q&A with Patrick le Quément

The renowned automobile designer turned co-founder of the Sustainable Design School shares examples of sustainable design solutions and the principles that drive them

 
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Following a prolific career as an automobile designer — he was formerly chief designer of Renault — le Quément now shares his wealth of design knowledge and experience to guide projects that have a positive environmental and social impact. During the recent edition of Business of Design Week in Hong Kong, he shared with us his ideas on collaboration, the concepts of frugal and ‘garage’ innovation, and designing circular economies.  

D/A: How did your career as an automobile designer segue into sustainability and your co-founding the Sustainable Design School?  

Patrick le Quément: Over my career I’ve been associated with the production of 60 million vehicles, which is an awful lot of cars – if you were to line those cars bumper to bumper, they’d circle the globe 6, 438 times. From very early on in my career, I was conscious of the negative aspects of the industry and of the automobile itself, like congestion, traffic jams, and the health issues that develop far later on. Today we know that pollution — not necessarily car pollution, which only constitutes a portion — causes more deaths than wars, smoking or tuberculosis. 

When I left the automobile industry, I embarked on two new careers paths, one as a sailboat designer, and the other as a co-founder together with Maurille Larivière and Marc Van Peteghem of an international school focused on sustainability. That’s how the Sustainable Design School started, but it really started long before that with a gradual shift in mindset and then translating that into what I consider to be a positive action. 

At the SDS I apply so many of the concepts that I used throughout my career in the automobile industry. My role is related to the practice of creativity, of getting people to work in a collaborative manner and using analytical tools like design thinking and frugal innovation.

How do these tools and methods present in the projects that the SDS is involved with?

Companies around the world are becoming increasingly concerned with issues of sustainability, and we work with many large international companies who want to involve creative thinking into their solutions. Each semester we do approximately five major projects with various companies, including Schneider Electric, Hermes, Toyota, and Renault in India and Brazil. 

Toyota sponsored a noteworthy project called Toyota Power; a group of students, a professional designer and an anthropologist travelled to northern Tanzania to engage with the Maasai people. The students spent time with the Maasai to understand how the community was structured socially, and what difficulties and health issues they face. They then identified two areas regarding health that they could work on and find solutions for.

The first was related to the Maasai method of cooking. They cook on woodfires inside their homes, and the smoke affects young children and the elderly in particular. They’ve been cooking like this for centuries, so we knew it wasn’t a matter of moving the cooking outside.  Instead, we worked on a new clay oven that uses modern physics – combining traditional material with modern design. It’s based on the Seebeck effect, which is the conversion of heat into electricity. Now, heat is generated by woodfire outside of the home and converted into electrical energy that is stored in batteries in the oven handles, so cooking can still be done inside the home. 

Another invention that came about on that assignment in Tanzania was related to the availability of drinking water. The students designed and made a wonderful device: a 15-metre-tall flower-like wooden structure. Fishing nets are attached to the structure, and because it’s so humid, the water vapour in the air becomes dew on the nets, which then becomes pure water that trickles down and is stored in a semi-sunken tank. 

We were involved in another project that tackled plastic pollution, Plastic Odyssey. There are numerous projects internationally working to reduce this overwhelming problem, and rightly so; every minute, 18 tonnes of plastic waste is thrown into the ocean. 

For this project we worked with a group of Merchant Navy captains. Throughout their travels, they’d seen so much plastic waste in the ocean, from litter to the ‘plastic islands’ called gyres, and they approached us with a project. It involved the creation of a boat (designed by professional architects) that will be powered by petrol made from plastic waste conversion. The transformation of plastic waste into petrol isn’t rocket science, it’s actually very simple and can be done with basic tool. The significance of this project is that it aims to set up circular economies by sharing how to monetise garbage and waste. It will involve a world trip, going from harbour to harbour to set up organisations that encourages people to collect plastic waste in the water or on land, bring it to central points where they’ll be given money for it, and the plastic waste will then be transformed into petrol. 

As I said, it’s not rocket science. It’s simple solutions, and that’s why we believe so strongly in ‘frugal innovation.’ Navi Radjou, from Pondicherry in India, is a guru on the matter. His book, Jugaad Innovation (co-written with two others) about frugal innovation changed my life. In it, they encourage low-tech development, which is not anti-modernity; it just affirms the enormous wealth of intelligence in what people call ‘garage inventions’. After all, Steve Job started out in a garage! 

One of the school’s co-founders, Marc Van Peteghem, runs an NGO called Watever. The school was involved on a project with a former member of this NGO,  Corentin de Chatelperron, who has now embarked on an around-the-world sailing trip. de Chatelperron brought together a network of garage engineers under the project Nomade des Mers to come up with solutions that would allow him to be autonomous at sea. The point is, working collaboratively can yield incredibly smart yet simple solutions. 

de Chatelperron himself is a brilliant young man. He went to Bangladesh with Watever, where the NGO planned to build boats to help fisherman recover from a recent natural disaster. On this trip he discovered that Bangladesh was known for jute, and he began to explore the possibilities of mixing jute with fibreglass and using that material to build boats. In Bangladesh, fishermen were vulnerable because the wood used to build their boats was of such poor quality, and he introduced the idea of replacing the wood with jute. He built an eight-metre long boat out of this hybrid material and he sailed it from Bangladesh to in the South of France to prove his idea. That’s one example of Jugaad. It’s not an alternative to progressive science, it’s using science differently.

The school’s international programmes span the globe from China to Peru. How do the programmes differ between countries that are industry-oriented or craft-oriented, in terms of sustainability?

The Sustainable Design School belongs international association called Cumulus that unites more than a hundred of the world’s best design schools, and many of our international programmes are conducted with those international schools. 

Of course, there are differences between working with an advanced country like China versus working with Tanzania, for example. And in the case of Tanzania, those projects were in fact a combination of low tech and very high tech (which in this instance came from Toyota). But our low-tech approach is to source locally as much as possible and emphasise that process. In all cases, whether in China or Tanzania, we base our work on the principles of eco design, which means we aren’t only involved in the end results like aesthetics or user-friendliness and so on, but rather we approach it as a circular process. We’re interested in the materials that are dug up, the transportation, the construction, all the way through to the recycling. That, as a principle, remains constant no matter the country’s stage of advancement – the process is always respectful to the country we’re operating within, and the circular economy looks different in each country. 

The concept of a circular economy is interesting. Design processes can’t take place in a vacuum, so what do you think is an effective way of measuring the sustainability of a process and its outcome?  

I think measuring the carbon footprint of a product is the surest way to get a sense of the overall impact or how successful a circular economy is. 

But we've learned over the over the years that there is never an ‘ultimate solution.’ For example, in the automobile industry today, the electrical car has been presented as ‘the solution’, which of course it’s not. It’s only a partial response, and there are some negative factors associated with it. We know that it’s a better alternative, and we also know that other solutions will arise in the future. It’s very important to think about the contribution one can make towards the right direction, even though it might not be 100% optimised yet.  I say that because we have very passionate and committed students, and when we began working on Plastic Odyssey, some of them refused to join the project because they thought that manufacturing petrol was at odds with sustainability. But it’s crucial that one can accept the paradoxes that we continually face as designers. It would be great if you could find ‘the ultimate solution’, but it’s already good if you can do even fraction of a good thing. I think we’ll reach a better future through small steps.

And so what are developments in sustainable design are you most optimistic about?

I think what most impresses me is the rise in awareness. It’s not in the solutions themselves, it’s the fact that people are more and more aware, and that they’re actively responding. Again, take the example of plastic in the ocean. There are so many projects and initiatives to raise awareness and solve the problem, and even ten years ago, there was nothing like these initiatives. And it’s encouraging to see the growing number of students who are committed and who want to do something – young people are becoming conscious and they want to participate. To me, that’s the most important and the most exciting.

As told to / Simone Schultz
Images / Courtesy of the Sustainable Design School 

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Latina Manila

Jonathan Matti’s recent collaboration with de Gournay is inspired by the rich history and culture of the Philippines

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The word luxury gets bandied about so often these days that it’s lost much of its impact and meaning. Manila-based designer Jonathan Matti, however, knows the true meaning of the word, and that it doesn’t refer to anything ‘that can be found in a department store,’ as he often quips. According to the designer, true luxury is something that is hand-made, bespoke, unique. It’s for this reason that Matti often specifies custom de Gournay wallpaper in the homes he decorates for the upper echelons of Filipino society.

The British wallcovering company de Gournay was originally founded in 1986 by Claud Cecil Gurney, who purchased a few panels of antique Chinese export tea-paper at auction and was looking for a way to restore and replicate them. Gurney’s mission took him to the source, and after touring studios and factories in China he decided to create the company (named after the original spelling of the family name). Over the following decades, de Gournay has built a solid reputation for providing high-quality, hand-made and highly customisable wallcoverings based on the traditional chinoiserie patterns and scenic landscape panels that were originally created for some of England’s most stately manor homes.

Over lunch, after meeting Matti for the first time serendipitously at Decorex, Jemma Cave — de Gournay’s design director —  ‘popped the question,’ as Matti says, inviting the designer to partner with them to create a new panorama design based on his native country. The collaboration was unprecedented for the company. Matti, initially put off by his admitted lack of drawing skills, eventually agreed, knowing that Cave shared his vision.

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What he may lack in drawing skills, Matti more than adequately makes up for with his encyclopedic knowledge of Filipino culture, design and art. The designer shared visual references from his own library with Cave, and after more than two years and several trips back and forth between Manila and London, Latina Manila was launched at Elements, de Gournay’s distributor in the Philippines, last month.

Made up of 20 individual panels, the panoramic design illustrates a bustling scene of the Philippine islands —  Chinese traders, farmers and landowners all going about their days under palm trees that sway in the tropical breeze — depicted beautifully in colours reminiscent of fading light. An effect perhaps symbolic of a faded grandeur, the scenes are evocative of a bygone era, a time when the Philippines was one of the wealthiest countries in the region and under Spanish rule.

The design is an amalgamation, or a pastiche if you will, of a variety of elements of Filipino flora, fauna and colonial architecture. While not all the designs are historically or geographically accurate, they are the result of Matti’s exuberant imagination — and it’s about time somebody drew on the rich culture and heritage of the Philippines for inspiration.

Text / Suzy Annetta
Images / Martin Garcia Perez, courtesy of de Gournay

‘Childhood Series’ by Wanghe Studio

Wang He’s debut collection is designed for young urbanites

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China has a staggering 160 cities that each accommodate more than a million residents; at least fifteen of them are home to over 10 million people. The younger generations, like in many parts of the world, are drawn to these cities and the career prospects, culture and lifestyle they offer. Urban sprawl and density are increasingly serious issues in the world's most populous country, and with the recent end to its one-child policy, who knows what the future holds for affordability and average living space sizes.

Up-and-coming designer Wang He knows all too well the issues facing the younger generation who live in China's most crowded and expensive cities. Beijing, where he lives and works, ranks third in terms of overall population.

The young designer graduated from London's Central Saint Martins’ Industrial Design programme and stayed on in the UK to take up a job offer at Theo Williams Studio. During his time with the studio Wang worked with clients such as IKEA and John Lewis & Partners — both of which helped shape the designer's ideas about affordability and design democracy.

Upon returning to his home city in 2016 Wang landed a job with the in-house design team of Chinese furniture brand ZaoZuo (read more in DA11), a brand quickly establishing a reputation for desirable, high-quality products made in China and designed by an impressive roster of international designers, including Sebastian Herkner and Luca Nichetto.

Earlier this year Wang moved on to establish his own company, Wanghe Studio. His breakout collection, titled ‘Childhood Series,’ was exhibited at the London Design Festival this September. Consisting of five essential pieces, the collection was designed with the younger generation in mind: ‘drifters,’ as Wang calls them, are those who sacrifice personal space for the dream of city living. The collection is meant to be affordable and appealing to these young urbanites.

The materials used are simple and don’t require expensive moulds or tooling. This means that production in China is quick and affordable, and the results are of good quality. The shapes, profiles and colours are playful and youthful, but most importantly they are lightweight and portable, with the rental market in mind.

As large cities the world over become increasingly crowded, average home sizes are shrinking while prices rise. The need for well-designed, flexible and affordable furnishings is not unique to China. However, taking the lead in the design and production of pieces so widely appealing and attainable may go a long way towards changing the stigma attached to the ‘Made in China’ label.

Text / Suzy Annetta
Images / Wanghe Studio

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A New Narrative

In her latest collection, interior and furniture designer Joyce Wang reimagines traditional terrazzo

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With bases in London and Hong Kong, Joyce Wang’s eponymous studio specialises in hospitality and residential interiors and furniture design, and her name is on a host of top international locations, including the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, and Mott 32 in Hong Kong and Vancouver.

The studio’s latest collection, FLINT launched at a week-long open studio during this year’s London Design Festival. Inspired by the idea of reinventing an old material into something new, Wang reimagines and elevates terrazzo beyond its traditional uses in flooring and surfaces, diverging from those rectilinear forms to create curves and domed shapes that reveal the material from a sculptural perspective.

Featuring a series of objects, vessels and furniture, FLINT is a celebration of contemporary design, modern techniques and classic materials. Wang developed the collection in Hong Kong, experimenting with various tools, technology and techniques, and developed FLINT in collaboration with a third-generation Italian terrazzo manufacturer. The collection also features the studio’s signature metalwork, with solid brass accents that form complimentary motifs throughout.

With FLINT, Wang has created objects that are refined and robust, and that breathe new life into the humble material.

The full series is available in charcoal, and also includes limited edition rose- and sage-coloured ice cream bowls.

Text / Simone Schultz

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Q&A with Kenya Hara

On a recent trip to Tokyo, Design Anthology sat down for an insightful conversation with venerable design theorist, author and art director of Japanese lifestyle brand MUJI, Kenya Hara

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Exformation — unlearning or unknowing — is the subject of your book. What can we gain from this?

As a graphic designer, I am always creating information. These days there is too much information floating around in the media, but a lot of information is not enough. But these days, people always say “I know, I know," and I don't know why people always say that, because how much do you really know about something? They don't get enough information to really know something, but they always say "I know." We should be worried, we’re being consumed by saying "I know.” We should make people aware how little they really know about a subject. How do you really know about things? If I can make people aware of how little they know about something, they might wake up with more of an interest in something, and I am aware of that. We don’t have to only inform, we can highlight how little is known. We can make things unknown. Making things unknown is a fantastic way to communicate, and it’s a fantastic way to create interest about things. How you create exformation is a lesson in making things uknown. If we can see something as if we were seeing it for the first time, suddenly it becomes new and fresh. That is a type of exformation, and I created this concept with my students at Musashino Art University. I graduated from Musashino, from the Department of Science and Design and then 15 years ago I was asked to teach there. From 2003-2015 we researched the concept of exformation with the graduate-level students. The brain of the student is very soft and flexible, and students always surprised me with their ideas. Every year, together with the students, we would decide on one thing that we would exform. The themes could have been nakedness, or pear, or Tokyo, or air, they were always very different but every year we tried to make a new approach to a subject. I think the experience was fantastic. Then Lars Müller, a Swiss publisher who is a friend of mine, was interested in this project, and he asked me to publish our research in a small book, which I titled Ex-formation. I think that this is a kind of hidden message in my communication design: making people aware of how little we know. This ‘awakening’ plays a very important role in designing.

You speak a lot in the book about people saying “I know, I know,” and collecting facts but not really understanding the subject. How do you feel about technology — is it making the situation worse? Are we just collecting more facts; have we stopped thinking?

Yes, I think so. Too much information stops us from thinking. It’s terrible. AI is terrible I think, although of course AI has great possibilities. I curated a special exhibition at Salone del Mobile with Andrea Brandi in Milan in 2016, ‘Neo-Prehistory: 100 Verbs.’ It was a huge exhibition, and in it we charted a kind of history. History is connected with many aspects such as politics, religion, technology, but I tried to plot history by showing the history of human desire by showing artefacts created by man. Starting at the Stone Age, I combined the artefacts and certain verbs, it became a kind of metaphor for human desire… destroy… kill. And when man created a new tool, a new desire was created, new desire created new artefacts, and new artefacts created a new desire. An artefact of desire combines it all together. And so the Stone Age progressed to the Bronze age, and then the Iron Age — there was progress. The exhibition was a great collaboration between Italy and Japan. We selected important artefacts and verbs, 100 artefacts and 100 verbs. The exhibition revealed a new aspect of human desire, in fact a new situation: we are in the new Stone Age. The Age of Hunt. The hunt creates something, and this period proves that art can change humans. Historically, man created tools and the tools changed the world, but in this new age, tools created by man will change man. We, the humans, will be changed by artificial intelligence. I don't know if it’s right or wrong, but we will change. A new era is coming.

We don’t have to only inform, we can highlight how little is known. We can make things unknown. Making things unknown is a fantastic way to communicate, and it’s a fantastic way to create interest about things.

Do you think globalisation and immigration are changing our intelligence? Are we losing our cultural intelligence by becomingly increasingly homogenous?

I sometimes use the concept of ‘glocal’ — global and local are not opposite concepts, I think. Today is a new age, I call it the ‘new Nomadic Age’. People like you and I are always moving, moving is a new daily thing, it’s not special or unusual anymore. The people who have great influence are always moving. They only stay in one place for a few weeks, and they’re always moving. When they move so much, they can understand the value of locality more and more, and culture is only dependent on locality — there's no global culture. Culture is dependent on locality, so we polish the locality and it contributes to the richness of the global. Global is a context that locality contributes to, and the more the locality is polished and flourishing, the more value it contributes, and so the broader context becomes richer. l think, the age that we live in, in fantastic houses, collecting many fantastic goods, this  rules us. If I want to have good spaghetti, I should go to Milan, but then when I am satisfied with the pasta in Milan, that is when I realise how fantastic Japanese food is. It’s is an important situation, and in this situation, locality should have mean meaning. I think China has created a new situation for the world, there are many possibilities for China, and it’s in a very good position, but it’s not always good. The centre of the world is moving to Asia — to China — I think.

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I'm always talking to the G-Mark people, and of course it’s good to focus on the product design, but a new situation is coming and we should change our concept of, and what we recognise as, good design. The very special words ‘Made in China’ used to be the symbol of fake or poor quality, but now China is striving to transform ‘Made in China' into a symbol of high quality and progress, at least by 2025. I agree with them, it could and should be. Huge numbers of students are going abroad, and they’re learning a lot about today’s world, they get good academic results and work for top companies for three or four years and then go back to China. Students will create new opportunities, new jobs, new services, and join new industries with the help of IT. In China people always use electronic money, they don't use paper money these days, so if you think about the population of China, you can imagine the situation, and how much time it will take them to progress. So that is a very important thing for Japanese people to think about, but the Japanese archipelago is a great very unique landscape, most of the archipelago is mountainous surrounded by the sea, and sea is very delicate and changing. There are hot springs everywhere, and we have very special traditional culture that has existed for more than a thousand years, so we as a country don’t have a very simple situation.

The Chinese have a four-thousand-year history, but the country is divided into smaller regions, and there’s a vast history of conquests and defeats. But Japan is only one country, and its accumulation of culture is expansive, so if we combine technology, aesthetics and historical heritage into a new situation, not only to produce a product but also to create a bind, Japanese people can see a new vision of Japan, besides just China. Speaking about the G-Mark a little more Kazafumi Nagai, the Chairman of the Good Design Awards, created the new concept of a focus issue and the aim of creating this focus issue is to move from productive design to value-making design in a social situation; it is very important. I’m very interested in the areas where new technology, historical heritage and aesthetics combine.

The role of design is to visualise the hidden possibilities of industry.

I noticed on your website that you post some of the topics that you’re thinking about, whether it's travel, or other topics, I thought it was an interesting idea to show people what you are thinking about, and I wondered what is it that you are thinking about now? Is there something on your mind that is important to you?

I'm very interested in new tourism trends. In the next year I will be taking a break from University to explore Japan. On my website I like to share fantastic places or things from around the Japanese archipelago. By using my own words and photos, I can share my small, personal view on the world. This small and personal view is very important.

I am also the general producer of Japan House, run by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which  showcases Japanese culture to people around the world. There is a Japan House in London, São Paulo, and Los Angeles. As I said, Japanese culture is difficult to explain. Most of the time, Japanese people use certain methods to communicate their culture instantly, like Ikebana, wearing a kimono, origami, sushi, and so on. Of course, this is a very brief understanding of Japan, it’s exoticism. But if people can touch the essence, they’ll understand better. Even Japanese people don't know the essence of their culture. When I learned Japanese Ikebana, I was deeply moved. I think in that aspect, most of people have never thought about Japan, only a small group of people know about Japan and have some interest, most people, even us, never think about Japan, but by using the facilities and different experiences in Japan House, I awaken the people to how little they know about Japan. In these spaces, there are also shops selling Japanese items that I selected with a special buyer. We have a 250-square-meter gallery and we select three exhibitions from Japan, and these exhibitions move to São Paulo, Los Angeles, and London. They last two months, and then another two exhibitions are created in each place independently, and the exhibition, as well as individuals from supporting organisations, come from Japan, and in this facility they have a dedicated spaces to host shows and talks, as well as a fine-dining Japanese restaurant. Not just Kaiseki or Sushi, also Teishoku.  Locals in London can have lunch in this restaurant, and the quality very good. In London, there was no Japanese food on Kensington’s High Street. This area is very interesting, there’s a great design culture, and the Design Museum, so we opened our space there in May. The architect of this project was Masamichi Katayama of Wonderwall. In São Paulo, the architect was Kengo Kuma, and in Los Angeles the architect was Kohei Nawa.

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These hubs are very significant, I think, to share information about Japan and Japanese culture. This is the age of the nomad, more and more people are moving around the world, more and more people are coming to Japan, and this is a special time to create a new industry in Japan. Not only to share information, but to consider the more overlooked places in Japan. Kyoto, Nara, Tokyo, those first-tier cities are places of the past now, the second and third tier places are more important, I think. The Kumano Kodō is an old, very special place, the people who visit there have great knowledge about it, even more than the Japanese people who live there now. We have a vast heritage, and we should take better care of it. We should create new systems to cater for more people, of course we need more hotels, more restaurants, but the image of tourism in Japan is cheap, I think. We should ask 'Why?’ Why is Bourdeaux so expensive? In Japan there is a special industry to deal with the language of tourists, but there is no industry to deal with the dynamics of this situation. Most of the Japanese sake is seen as lower value when compared with the quality of Bourdeaux wine. Value is subjective and always changing; it’s not decided, and there is no measurement of these things.

I'm very interested in this, and that is why I created my small website to share and highlight these special aspects of Japan. I'm not a Nationalist, but when I became the art director of MUJI, I made a point to look for Japanese Culture. I avoided using Japanese icons in my design, I don't use Japanese symbols, I cut out everything. My designs are always very minimal, but in that situation, some essence that is inside of myself is a continuation of the Japanese essence. But I like Italian design, I like Chinese design, and their heritage also, and I learned about American technology and the American mindset, but to think about the global situation, actually we should focus on the local situation. As I said, the global and the local is a sense.

What role does design play in society? Do you think the purpose of design has changed in recent history?

The role of design is to visualise the hidden possibilities of industry, and in that context it’s always getting better. The role of the designer is to find a way to identify an organisation or company, or some fantastic shape and forms for functional products or architectural projects. That is the very important role of design, as is branding and product designing, but the world is changing. In this situation, the role of the designer is to visualise the essence of things. As I said, Japanese industry faces a new situation, and in this sitatution creating a fantastic product is of course very important, but it’s not only about creating fantastic products or shapes, but also to visualise more and more possibilities, the hidden possibilities, of the industry. As you know, I created an exhibition called ‘House Vision’ and it’s a very special exhibition. Most people recognise it as an exhibition of new house, so most of the people who visit are very interested in architecture. Of course I am too, but the house is a very important crossing point of many industries like electric, mobile, information and circulation, and to take care of the elder generation. The house is very important. I'm very interested in the important position of industry. I think the house is an important corner stone, because a human cannot diminish its physical body, a human is only a body, the human senses are very important to industry. Japanese people take off their shoes when they enter their houses, the human body in that sense is a very good touch point already. You can learn a lot from that, and to create energy, and to keep energy in the house is very important. How about mobility? Personal mobility, auto-mobility, it all has a deep relationship with houses too, and if we can influence personal spaces the house becomes very important. If we imagine a new house, we can visualise the new situation of industry clearly.

As a designer, people sometimes tell me ‘you are not a designer, you are a producer.’ No, I don’t think so. That is designing.

Today, every possibility has already been imagined and that when a living company and the design combine together, and create one house. It is very influential, I think. I selected a building company and an architect and combined them together, to create the exhibition house. I am only the producer of this exhibition, so I borrowed a very huge space in Odaiba, the same scale as a baseball stadium,  and selected 12 companies to create 12 exhibit houses. I was very excited. The first exhibition was in 2013, the second was in 2016, and the next will be in Beijing this year. I think House Vision can visualise new, hidden possibilities of the industry. This kind of activity is a very important role of the designer, but in today's context it’s very difficult to understand but I'm really interested in that situation. Also, one reason why I’m taking this exhibition to China, the company that is joining this project is a very young company, the age of real estate in China is just concluding, and the new companies that are working in the AI or mobile industry, some co-working offices, many companies in China will join this project. It’s not only the possibilities, but also China is creating many social programmes, the possibility and the programme are from resources of new innovations. Next year, China will be the host. That situation is good for House Vision, I think.

As a designer, people sometimes tell me "you are not a designer, you are a producer." No, I don't think so. That is designing.

As told to / Suzy Annetta
Image / P: Akihito Ito
©️ Hara Design Institute. Nippon Design Center, Inc.

 

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

Japan House London

Japan House London opens in the heart of the British Capital, a mecca of Japanese culture, design and aesthetic refinement

It’s nirvana for Japanese design lovers: the minimal interiors inspired by a Japanese house; the restaurant serving seasonal sushi and wagyu beef; a contemporary gallery showcasing futuristic architecture; and a design shop selling crafts ranging from handmade paper to kitchen tools.

This may sound like the kind of impeccably presented creative venture found only in design-conscious Japan, so its location — more than 5,000 miles away from Tokyo —  may come as some surprise: London.

Welcome to Japan House London. Perhaps the Japanese government’s most ambitious cultural project in recent years, Japan House consists of a series of permanent architect-designed spaces in cities across the globe.

Its goal is as simple as its spaces are invariably stylish: to create international platforms showcasing the very best of Japanese culture, from design, art and architecture to food and technology.

Japan House London opened its doors Friday, June 22nd in a historic art deco building on Kensington High Street in the heart of the British capital. It is the third outpost following openings in Sao Paulo and Los Angeles last year, and is likely to become a bold new Japanese fixture on London’s cultural landscape.

An impressive roll call of Japan’s most high-profile talent is involved in the project, among whom rank Kenya Hara — the iconic designer, art director of Muji and Japan House’s chief creative director — and Masamichi Katayama, the interior designer from Wonderwall, who designed the London space defined by its minimal, contemporary aesthetic deeply rooted in Japanese concepts such as tokonoma — the raised, empty alcove traditionally used in homes to display seasonal flowers or scrolls.

‘The objective here was not to create a bridge between Japan and Britain but to present a genuine Japan, for today and the future,’ explained Katayama. ‘Key words are kyo (虚) which means a vacuum and kuu (空) which is emptiness. This is a uniquely Japanese notion that the imagination is enriched by blank, empty spaces. It’s also about how humans, spaces and objects interact with each other to maintain delicate balance and harmony. Our goal was to create this beautiful harmony.’

The building spans three levels and attention to detail is apparent throughout, from the hand-made kawara clay floor tiles from Awaji Island to the scene-stealing central spiral staircase, which was built in Japan before it was shipped to London and re-assembled, piece by piece.

The lower ground floor is home to The Gallery, where an inaugural exhibition casts a spotlight on one of Japan’s most cutting-edge contemporary architects with the show ‘Sou Fujimoto: Futures of the Future’.

Meanwhile, an authentic taste of modern Japanese gastronomy is served up in the restaurant Akira — named for its chef Akira Shimizu — with a menu including charcoal-grilled kushiyaki skewers, seasonal vegetables and sushi.

The Shop at Japan House also showcases contemporary design products and artisan-made crafts from across the country. Japanese teas and cloth-filtered coffees are sold at The Stand, while nearby, The Library is packed with books curated by cult bookstore creator Yoshitaka Haba of Bach alongside a nature-themed exhibition by photographer Risaku Suzuki.

Workshops, seminars, talks and performances feature heavily on the packed schedule at Japan House London. And for the opening weekend? Avant-garde, Tokyo-based floral artist Makoto Azuma has created an abstract installation complemented by 30 so-called ‘Flower Messengers’ who visited Kensington’s cultural institutions on foot, handing out blooms to passers-by along the way — the first of many innovative events likely to forge a deep-rooted cultural connection between London and Japan.

Reflecting on the final production, Katayama said: ‘This project gave me great pleasure and an opportunity to relearn, revisit and reevaluate Japan's aesthetics and the mindset of our people.'

 Text / Danielle Demetriou