Architecture - Issue 109 - Magazine | Monocle

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Studio profile

Isla works — Mallorca

“I always knew I would return.” Surveying the juniper tree-filled valley from the veranda of her Mallorcan townhouse, architect Marta Colón de Carvajal is sitting pretty. Together with partner and fellow architect Juan Palencia, her move to the Balearic isle began with the renovation of Can Rei, their own humble abode in the coastal village of Banyalbufar. The sandstone home, which rekindles the traditional vernacular on the exterior but pares back the interior, has served as the foundation for their practice Isla Works. Beautifully realised, Can Rei served as an assured announcement: new architectural talent had arrived on the island. Many of the island’s homeowners are now knocking on their freshly painted door.

This is no fledgling studio though. The couple honed their skills in Madrid, Paris and Basel: Palencia during several years at Swiss firm Burckhardt Partners on projects such as the Grosspeter Tower; Colón de Carvajal at Herzog & de Meuron on the La Vela building for banking giant bbva, and the Parisian skyscraper Tour Triangle. Despite their propensity for grandeur, the couple’s sea-change means they are now channelling their technical acumen into the domestic domain. “There’s no such thing as a small project,” says Colón de Carvajal. “The complexity of co-ordinating the sum of all parts is the same.”

As Mallorca continues to shore up its status as both a summer and winter refuge for northern Europeans, once-decrepit village homes are switching hands. “Most of our clients hail from other parts of Europe,” says Palencia. “Speaking English, German, French, Spanish and Mallorquín gives us an advantage.”

After opting for the serenity of island life, this small-scale studio clearly wants to share the dream – even if it still means they have to work in the meantime.

Notable projects:

Can Rei
Restored the main structure and minimised the interior to enhance the original character.

Sa Vinyassa, Estellencs
Repurposed an antiquated stone piggery and adjoining pond into a home for an English family. Isla Works also landscaped the 5,000 sq m seafront garden.

Retreat, Palma
This redesign added a swimming pool, yoga platform, covered picnic pergola and cactus forests.


Benjamin Pardo

Design director, Knoll


As the centenary of founder Florence Knoll’s birth closes and with the brand’s 80th anniversary on the horizon, Knoll’s design director Benjamin Pardo reflects on the American furniture company’s history.

How do Florence Knoll’s ideals influence the brand?
She lived through different historical periods and always understood how the company needed to adapt. If the way architects plan spaces changes, the planning of objects also needs to change. In the 1940s and 1950s she was a pioneer of understanding how people had to move seamlessly through a space as corporate and residential worlds came together.

How are spaces changing now?
The question is not only of spaces becoming smaller but also of efficiency – how can they facilitate various activities? Nowadays we are moving towards “immersive” planning: often there is a 50-50 split between personal and communal space. Workspaces also need to face a generational question: people like me often work with people in their twenties so we need to find a generational balance when designing spaces.

Shaping young minds


The University of Toronto’s Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design’s new facility was inaugurated in November 2017. While the building’s ornate 19th-century exterior has been kept largely intact, its interior has been revamped. The design is guided by gentle undulations, most notably its roof, allowing natural light to permeate the building. “The billowing ceiling is meant to inspire intellectual flexibility in the students,” says designer Nader Tehrani of US firm Nadaaa, who led the project.

It’s only natural

by Nolan Giles

I always loved visiting the office of celebrated graphic designer Kevin Finn in Brisbane. Set high up in a corporate cbd building, the space has gorgeous views of the city. Finn’s space is quiet and calming, thanks in part to a soundtrack of Aphex Twin and Brian Eno, but also because it is isolated from the bustle of any other creative practices. Brisbane didn’t really have co-working spaces or designer-filled neighbourhoods when he established his practice here in 2010 but since then such areas have become abundant. Finn, however, remains steadfast in his location. “I’d get caught up in conversations if I was in a collective space,” he says.

Today my inbox is bombarded with press releases about new purpose-built design districts in places from London to Dubai. Buzzwords such as “cluster” and “architect-designed” are thrown into the mix in the pitching of creative utopias in up-and-coming neighbourhoods. I wonder how conducive they are to the creative fabric of a city? It feels more like a developer adding value to a residential site in an unloved part of town to give it some cool cachet.

Yet on my visit to Amman to report on the city’s burgeoning design scene I felt the effect of what happens when no such creative corners exist. The design was strong and the energy optimistic but the community felt disjointed. There was a yearning among its many young creatives to feel closer to their contemporaries.

Designers don’t need to sit in ivory towers to do good work but nor do they need purpose-built pens. The best cities for design are the ones that are left to evolve naturally. I’m sure Amman’s creative community will find its sweet spot but I’m also sure this will be without the help of a developer trying to ride off the back of its success.

Room for adjustments


Vitsoe’s new HQ and production space in Royal Leamington Spa, UK, was designed to reflect the company’s long-term system-thinking, exemplified by its 606 Universal Shelving System, designed by Dieter Rams. The building too is universal, serving not only as a factory but also a creative space with showroom, museum, kitchen and overnight accommodation for its staff. Constructed from the same beech wood that’s used in Vitsoe’s furniture, the structure was designed to be simple, adaptable and sustainable.

The sprawling space is situated in the heart of England, at the centre of Vitsoe’s supply network. The company claims its new HQ is the first UK building to be constructed from this type of beech laminate-veneer lumber. The liberal application of this material forms an adaptable environment that can be modified according to the requirements of its occupants.

Managing director Mark Adams says: “The building is intentionally unfinished – and it is unlikely that it will ever be ‘finished’ – because it is alive and learning as it responds to an ever-changing world.”

Vitsoe elected to have the building designed with the wellbeing of its staff front and centre. Sixteen roof lights ensure that the space is illuminated during daylight hours, while the north-facing windows in the kitchen and dining area offer stunning panoramic views.

Streets ahead


Tomtom, an Istanbul district of architectural wonders from the Ottoman era, was transformed into a modern design mecca in October 2017 for the third edition of “Design at Tomtom Street”. The event highlights an impassioned effort to champion the creative industries, despite political troubles in the city. It brought together more than 100 designers, 50 artists and 50 guest speakers.

“When we launched the project we thought, ‘Why shouldn’t Istanbul be like Milan or London?’” says executive board member Hakan Kodal. “The city needed an event that would steer the design world.”

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