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architecture—sÃo paulo

Show of appreciation


Roca has opened a gallery-cum-showroom in São Paulo, following its creation of similar spaces dedicated to culture and conversation in Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, London, Shanghai and Beijing. The Spanish bathroom specialist, which was founded near Barcelona in 1917, is aiming to contribute to the design scenes in the cities where it has outposts. The Roca galleries showcase sustainable architecture and design as well as hosting talks that are open to professionals and the public. The new space, created by Brazilian architect Fernanda Marques, draws inspiration from the Atlantic forests of South America, while keeping a contemporary touch via sleek black façades.

Located in São Paulo’s central Jardim América neighbourhood, the gallery sits on one of the most vibrant avenues in Brazil’s biggest metropolis. “For me, the significance of the gallery transcends professional achievement,” says Marques. “The Atlantic Forest is a biome with one of the highest diversity of plant and animal species on the planet, heightening the urgency of its preservation. In this sense, I dare to assert that the work, in and of itself, serves as a manifesto.”

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Dubai Design Week


Since 2015, Dubai Design Week has rounded off the year of design-minded fairs and trade weeks. At its 2023 iteration in November, more than 20 installations and architectural structures were installed in the Dubai Design District. A key theme that ran through much of the work on show was an eagerness to connect architecture with place – apt in a city often accused of constructing soulless buildings.

“Dubai has always been about the biggest, the tallest,” says Abdalla Almulla, who won Dubai Design Week’s annual Abwab pavilion commission. “It’s important to take what we have learned in the past and use it to change perceptions. We want the uae to be seen as forward -looking.” Almulla, whose pavilion, made from palm trees, was hinting at a return to regional materials to ground architecture in place.

It’s a theme that Shabir Mir, a Pakistan-born, Dubai-based creative also addressed. “The main issue across the world is identity: we’re experiencing a crisis of it,” says Mir, whose “Ring of Life” sculpture utilised waste fishing nets, once ubiquitous in Dubai. “One hundred years ago, this object was everywhere in the city. I want us to consider how we can reflect these things in our surroundings today.”

Almulla and Mir’s installations suggest that designers should look beyond their immediate surroundings for materials and structural inspiration. The results are sustainably minded and give architecture a sense of identity.


Holding the fort


For decades, the Warsaw Citadel, near the centre of the Polish capital, was largely closed off to the public. A 19th-century fortress built on the imperial order of a Russian tsar, it has a long and, at times, harrowing history. But Varsovians are now able to return to the citadel, thanks to the construction of a new public building within its walls: the Polish Army Museum, which has been designed by wxca Architectural Design Studio.

“We wanted to create a site for the capital’s residents and visitors for cultural events and everyday activities,” says Marta Sekulska-Wronska, ceo of wxca. Structurally, the new museum is composed of eight blocks united by a shared green roof, enhancing the verdant surrounding citadel parkland. wxca’s architects were sensitive to the original features of the fortress and its history during the design process too. Chevron patterns on the surface of the museum evoke military motifs, while the walls feature a coloured concrete that alludes to the red brick of the Citadel. Space for reflection was key too. “It was important for us to create a sense of tranquillity,” says wxca architect Pawel Wolanin. “We wanted the interior of the museums to have a slightly sacred atmosphere. During the planning stage, we imagined people whispering inside.”

The new facility is part of a wider development of the citadel. Other additions to the complex, which are currently under construction, include a second wing of the Army Museum (essential, given that it has an archive of more than 300,000 exhibits) as well as the new Museum of Polish History. “As well as hosting visitors to the new headquarters of the Polish History Museum and the Polish Army Museum, the complex of fortifications and expansive green spaces will be opened to the public,” says Sekulska-Wronska. She hopes that, collectively, the buildings will form one of Europe’s largest museum complexes – and transform a long-overlooked part of the city.


Trade mission

Design Nation is a new Belgian trade show focused on the contract furniture market. Its first iteration took place in the town of Kortrijk in October 2023 and, aside from offering a new forum for brands to present work, it served as a new physical model for industry fairs.

“We decided to move away from a traditional trade show format to a concept with fixed surfaces and plug-and-play booths, so brands don’t need to invest a lot in building a stand,” Design Nation’s exhibition manager, Hannelore Caenepeel, tells monocle. “If you go to a city such as Marrakech, you have narrow streets where you go from one shop to another, and a central square where you can have a drink.

“We decided to move away from a traditional trade show format”

This is where the idea came from.” The result was a maze-like exhibition hall with booths separated by gauzy white curtains, offering a sense of both airiness and intimacy.

Smaller than many trade fairs, with just 74 companies present, the event had a sense of conviviality that proved popular. “The new format is convenient in terms of setup and costs,” said Philipp Mainzer, co-founder of German interiors brand e15, which was presenting the new Galerie table designed by David Chipperfield. “This trade-targeted event is in our interest because at least half our business is commercial.”

furniture — global

Turning heads


Office life has evolved in the past three decades – and so too has Vitra’s partnership with Antonio Citterio. The Swiss furniture firm has, over the course of 30 years, worked with the Italian architect and furniture designer on 10 iterations of the office chair – the latest of which, acx, has just hit the market.

The ambition of its designer was to create a perch that is compact and offers some much-needed comfort for desk-based work. Its standout feature is a mechanism that allows the chair to automatically adjust positioning based on the weight and dimensions of the individual sitting on it. This is supported by a number of control elements, hidden under the seat, which allow the user to further tailor their experience. “The idea was to have an understated chair with a reduced backrest and a warm array of upholstery colours, suited for both home offices and open-plan workspaces,” says Citterio. Much of the chair is made from recycled materials and it can be easily separated and recycled again at the end of its life. It comes in seven fetching mesh colours along with a matching seat fabric and a light-coloured or black frame. The result allows the user, and chair, to sit pretty in any work environment.

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