The Agenda: Design - Issue 170 - Magazine | Monocle

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Secret space

Many people who pass the work of Jonathan Tuckey Design (jtd) may never guess as much. The London-based architecture and design studio’s projects are defined by subtle renovations and conversions. Case in point is Urban Barn, a home combining a garage, workshop and existing house into one residence. The project, on an unassuming terraced grove in west London, is part of jtd’s efforts to reimagine housing in the capital. Here the focus has been on creating privacy for the owners – and expressing something of their character through an intriguing sequence of rooms.


“We wanted each of the spaces to reveal something new about them,” says Jonathan Tuckey, founder of jtd. “We thought about it like one of those grand country homes that were built with an enormous number of rooms. As you get to know the owner better, you are led deeper and deeper into their home.” Appearing as three homes from the outside, the building is defined by exterior features including a porch and a cloister. Tuckey cites industrial spaces as inspiration, alongside garrets from the tops of castles and tiny chapels. “Throughout the project, there was a sense of the building being a collage of different spaces that had evolved over a long period of time.”

As much a place to entertain, Urban Barn is a space for residents to retreat. “There is a hideaway in the mini library,” says Tuckey. “But that space also offers a view down the long gallery that can take you from one end of the house to the other.” The end product is a maze of a home, hidden behind the façade of ordinary terraced housing – a prime example of how generous residences can be created without destroying the look and feel of a neighbourhood.


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Sharjah Architecture Triennale

The second edition of the Sharjah Architecture Triennial, a platform for design in Asia and Africa, is in full swing. Curated by Lagos-based architect Tosin Oshinowo, it examines how a culture of reuse and reappropriation in the Global South can help to deliver more sustainable and resilient buildings across the world. The projects on show are impressive – and so is the setting of the event.

The triennial is spread across several repurposed buildings in Sharjah. Al Qasimiyah School was designed in the 1970s and decommissioned in the 2010s; it’s now the event’s headquarters and main exhibition space. The abandoned Al Jubail Fruit & Vegetable Market, from the same era, is hosting exhibitions in its shady arcade. In the Old Slaughterhouse nearby, you’ll find a showcase by Nairobi-based architecture firm Cave Bureau. All these structures were made using locally sourced materials and maintain a cool temperature. They were largely forgotten, unable to compete with the city’s shiny, newer buildings that rely on glass, steel and air-conditioning to function.

The decision to give them a new lease of life reinforces the aim of the event. “We want you to ask questions about how we design, build and reduce our carbon footprint,” says Oshinowo when she takes monocle on a tour of Al Qasimiyah School. Looking back at simpler solutions from the past is sometimes the best way to build a better future. Visit the Sharjah Architecture Triennial before it wraps up in March 2024 and see for yourself.

For more design and architecture analysis, subscribe to the Monocle Minute On Design.



Culture swap

The American Midwest has strong links with the Nordics: about three million Scandinavians immigrated to the region between 1825 and 1925. It’s a heritage that is celebrated in the small town of Decorah, Iowa, at the campus of cultural institution Vesterheim, which Norwegian-American studio Snøhetta is gradually overhauling.


First opening as a museum dedicated to Norwegian-American history in 1877, the architects were tapped to develop a masterplan for Vesterheim (which means “western home” in Norwegian) in 2019. The first fruits of their labour appeared in late 2023 with the opening of a new building called The Commons. The large structure is a fresh entry point and community space for the campus, which contains a museum and folk-art school. In addition to providing a central gathering space for the cultural institution, it will also serve to visually link Vesterheim with the town’s main thoroughfare, thanks to its striking wooden-canopied conservatory. “The canopy projects out over the sidewalk, evoking some of the geometry and profiles of traditional Norwegian sailing vessels,” says Chad Carpenter, the project’s lead architect.

In addition to paying tribute to Nordic heritage, American-built traditions are also incorporated into the project, with the exterior masonry locally sourced from the Iowan town of Adel, the brickworks of which date to the 1880s. The outcome is a building that is, according to Carpenter, simple and robust, welcoming, warm and light-filled. “They’re all values that can be found in both American and Norwegian design,” he says.


Save the dates

The first few months of the calendar year are action-packed for creatives and design-enthusiasts, with a host of events, exhibitions, fairs and trade shows. Here’s monocle’s pick of the bunch.

Stockholm Furniture Fair
Starting on 6 February, this is Scandinavia’s trade fair of choice. The region’s top brands will show their contract and residential furniture.

Design Doha
The first edition of Design Doha, which begins on 24 February, will include exhibitions on weaving and architecture, and a coaching programme for designers.

Milan Design Week
The world’s biggest design event takes place from 16 to 21 April. EuroCucina, a section of the trade fair dedicated to kitchens is slated for 2024.

The icff, WantedDesign and Lightfair take place during the annual festival, from 16 to 23 May. Expect everything from large contract works to collectible pieces.

Orgatec Tokyo
Pick up tips on materials, lighting and fit-outs for offices at this event, which takes place from 29 to 31 May.


The right path


Escadinhas Footpaths is a colourful network of pedestrian walkways in Porto’s seaside municipality of Matosinhos, which links the neighbourhood of Monte Xisto to the banks of the River Leça. Designed by Portuguese architect Paulo Moreira, the project was, in late 2023, nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award – a EU-backed prize for contemporary architecture that recognises works of conceptual, social and cultural excellence.

Moreira’s intervention involved the rehabilitation of existing stepped footpaths through repairing of handrails, the addition of new benches and a simple lick of paint. Repairs were made to the riverbank too and the Porto-based architect also opened up a new web of footpaths that carve their way through a ruin on the neighbourhood’s outskirts, transforming the dilapidated site into a vibrant yet calm spot for locals.

The project was made possible thanks to the Portuguese government’s Healthy Neighbourhood Programme which, in 2020, set aside €10m for community building initiatives. Moreira was able to request funds without prompting from private investors. “As an architect, I’m always looking for ways to contribute to improving invisible areas,” he says. “I am curious about the strangeness of these spaces and how they could become something more.”

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