Month: September 2014

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Travel: Vitra Campus, Weil am Rhein

Last week I was lucky enough to make the pilgrimage to the campus of Swiss furniture manufacturer Vitra, set in the bucolic surroundings of Weil Am Rhein, a short drive from Basel in Switzerland. If you are as addicted to design as me, this is an absolute must-visit; an architectural theme park with work by some of the most well-known architects in the world, such as Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid and Tadao Ando. It requires a day, if not two, to see the current exhibition, join an architectural tour, take a ride down Carsten Holler’s new slide, stop for a coffee, and of course, visit the shop. It all started in 1981 after a major fire destroyed most of the factory buildings built in the 1950s. Since then the site has grown organically, with a fire station by Zaha Hadid (her first built project), a bus stop by Jasper Morrison, factory buildings by SANAA, Alvaro Siza and Nicholas Grimshaw and a petrol station by Jean Prouve, to name a few. First stop, VitraHaus, a jumble of house shaped blocks designed …

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Introducing… Monologue

A fab new design shop has opened on Shoreditch’s Redchurch Street called Monologue. I discovered it during London Design Festival and instantly fell in love with its curated collection of stationery and homeware, which at the moment is centred around themes of marble and bright pops of colour (just look at that marble till/workspace unit!). Founded by interior designer Pavel Klimczak, the store focuses on conceptual designs by emerging designers and young talent. It carries a range of furniture by French brand La Chance (the only shop to do so in the UK), including the playful cork and orange stool by Stockholm-based Note Design Studio above, and the distorted blue shelving by Paris-based Charles Kalpakian below. There is also lighting by Helsinki-based Mari Isopahkala, which shows the influence of the Dutch De Stijl movement and the clean lines of modern art. Her tall rectangular light rests on the floor, leaning against the wall, with a red cord twirling down to the green power unit below. It’s almost a piece of art as well as a functional object. Elsewhere, …

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Travel: Hotel Droog, Amsterdam

Hotel Droog, housed conspicuously in a 17th century building in the heart of Amsterdam, is one of THE design destinations in the city, let alone The Netherlands. It’s a high-concept, playful store where you can go for a drink, a bite to eat, shopping, exhibitions, a stroll in the garden, a lecture series, or even a bed for the night (despite the name they only have one single suite, after tight planning rules meant that they couldn’t expand their existing shop into a hotel). As Renny Ramakers, co-founder and director of Droog says: The concept of a hotel has been reversed. Whereas a hotel is usually mostly about sleeping, here we have enlarged and emphasized all the aspects that many hotels also offer and made them central to the hotel experience—and it even has a room to sleep in. Hôtel Droog brings all of our activities under one roof—from curation to product design, exhibitions and lectures—and invites people to plug in as they choose. I paid a visit while in the city for the weekend and had a …

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Travel Guide: Amsterdam

Here’s my definitive guide to Amsterdam – a sort of alternative guide to the city, off the tourist-trail – featuring high-concept design shops, art galleries, independent boutiques and some of the best coffee shops. We went for my birthday at the weekend and had such a lovely time exploring the city, meandering around the canals and soaking up the atmosphere. There was something instantly relaxing about the water and the slow pace of the bicycles. Of course it did help that the weather was bright and sunny, but one of the best ways to get around was on foot or with one of the canal cruises (we did the hop-on hop-off orange line that took about an hour). There were certainly plenty of higgledy piggledy houses and pretty windowsills to photograph en route! So below I’ve listed Places to See, Places to Shop and Places to Eat, all highlighted on a handy map made with Jauntful. See the printable, pocket-sized map here. PLACES TO SEE Rijksmuseum, Museumstraat 1 This is the Netherlands national museum dedicated to arts and history, …

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I wish I lived here: a modern apartment in an old German farmhouse

This small project by Italy-based Francesco di Gregorio and Karin Matz inserts a contemporary wooden structure clad in over 3,200 tiles into a traditional farmhouse on the German island of Föhr. The former barn, used for hay storage, now has two new volumes, with a bedroom and bathroom in each. The bedrooms, painted in a dark turquoise, are described as ‘nests’ by the architect, in contrast to the light and airy living spaces, where more than 500m of polypropylene blue rope has been used to form a transparent division between the staircase and the apartment. di Gregorio and Matz, inspired by the traditional architecture in this rural environment, say: Föhr is an island belonging to Germany but first and foremost to Nordfriesland. The Friesians have their own language and culture. In the 17th century a school of navigation was founded on Föhr and many people sailed to Asia and North America.  Sailing to other countries brought back the tradition of ceramics and tiles from Asia. Being rich meant having as many painted Friesian tiles as possible on your dining room walls. Wood …

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designjunction: Catherine Aitken

Catherine Aitken is a London-based furniture designer whose work I spotted at this year’s designjunction at the London Design Festival. Her work stood out for both its simplicity in form – the clean lines and skeletal frames – and the complex patterns that subtly, but beautifully decorate parts of her pieces. Fade Stool was my favourite of hers, a pretty little piece of furniture that wraps lengths of cotton cord around a plywood plate for the seat and powder-coated steel base for the legs. The design explores a gradual change in intensity (hence the name Fade) by increasing and decreasing the levels of colour of the cord as well as the spacing of the thread from the inside out. Another favourite was the Hexagon side table, made up of a tightly slotted together ash dowels. The tables neatly fit onto the utilitarian steel base as well as to each other.   Images above: James Champion Images above: ESW Shelving, developed in collaboration with David Murphy for Edinburgh Sculpture Workshops, photo by Gordon Burniston

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London Design Festival at Ace Hotel Shoreditch

The ever-popular Ace Hotel in Shoreditch – the trendiest place to be seen with your laptop and a flat white in hand – is the hub location for this year’s Shoreditch Design Triangle, part of the London Design Festival. For the next week it is holding an exhibition called Super Stimuli, which presents a series of installations throughout the public areas of the ground floor, from the chilled lobby, through to the restaurant Hoi Polloi and the lush, fragrant That Flower Shop. The four London-based designers whose work is on show were invited by magazine Modern Design Review, launched in April during the famous Milan Salone del Mobile. Bethan Laura Wood, (above and below) for example, was inspired by floral temple displays, alterpieces and harvest festivals for her set of slip-cast ceramics and hand-drawn vases. Step down to Hoi Polloi and you are greeted by a riot of colours, wild flowers and ceramics, some made by herself, and others by friends Max Lambs, Martino Gamper and Silo Studio. She has also rethought the familiar foliage …

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#LDF14: Seams by Benjamin Hubert for Bitossi Ceramiche

Research into creating mass-produced products with one-off marks from the manufacturing process inspired British designer Benjamin Hubert to create these tactile vessels for Italian ceramic manufacturer Bitossi Ceramiche. They are currently on display this week at Vessel Gallery in Notting Hill as part of London Design Festival. Hubert began the project by studying slip casting – a technique used in pottery for mass-production, often for shapes not easily made on a traditional wheel. He investigated ways of introducing decorative elements to a design, without having to carry out multiple processes. The slip casting mould fortuitously created an interesting additional seam line that would normally be cleaned off and eradicated from memory. Now the seams are the defining part of the pieces, a mark of the manufacturing process, only added to by a matte glaze. Each mould can be rotated to various positions for every piece produced, meaning that no two are the same.        Images courtesy Benjamin Hubert

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#LDF14: Screen printing Workshop at SMUG, Islington

New this year, the Islington Design District – part of this week’s London Design Festival – brings together a collection of some of my favourite design shops and cafes from Angel through to Camden Passage and Upper Street. It has been organised by SMUG (you might remember I wrote about them recently when I attended an origami workshop, see here) with a programme of fantastic workshops as well as a new collection from Donna Wilson. Their hub, Cafe SMUG is also offering free WiFi for design hunters seeking a respite from the hustle and bustle of the festival. At the weekend I attended a screen printing workshop with Lambs Conduit Street resident Thornback & Peel. They create quintessentially British homeware inspired by an eclectic mixture of Victoriana,  Mr McGregor’s garden and 17th century microscope imagery of the natural world, among other things. They have an exclusive guinea pig and pineapple print with SMUG, so the session offered visitors the chance to create their very own hankies. I had never done screen printing before but it was remarkably easy, as long as …

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London Design Festival 2014 at the V&A

London Design Festival kicked off last week for me with a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the hub location of the festival for the past six years. This year’s programme is packed to the rafters with innovative installations and product displays, from the scale of a pencil sharpener to Barber & Osgerby’s extraordinary Double Space that twists and turns two reflective structures in the Rafael Gallery. One of the highlights for me was The Wishlist, a joint project between Sir Terence Conran, Benchmark Furniture and the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC). They invited 10 design legends – from Zaha Hadid to Paul Smith – to nominate an up-and-coming young designer to create for them a product that they had always wanted, but never been able to find. All the items were crafted during one intense making week at Benchmark’s workshop in rural Berkshire (I visited them back in July, you can read my article in Blueprint’s September/October issue, out now). They range from a ladder for Richard and Ab Rogers, a table for Alex de Rijke and a …