“An imposing yet compact building with genuine bespoke features and outstanding kerb appeal” is what I would say if I were an estate agent flogging one of London’s Serpentine Galleries’ summer houses. In fact we need not jest, for that is precisely what’s happening. Every year since 2000 the gallery has commissioned and built a sizeable temporary structure in its garden in which to work, rest and play. This summer Bjarke Ingels’ building will be joined by four extra houses: Asif Khan’s big, bold tiara; Barkow Leibinger’s wooden Close Encounters mother ship; Yona Friedman’s gauzy grid-like structure; and Kunlé Adeyemi’s witty neoclassical fragment. They will then be sold by those brutalism-fancying wide boys The Modern House. Of course you’ll need a decent-sized garden to accommodate one of these little wonders – and about £125,000 (€148,500) plus VAT.
Glitzy commissions erected by lauded architects scoop up most of the column inches when it comes to design coverage but what about the authorless objects that surround us? Eleanor Herring’s new book Street Furniture Design unpacks what the UK’s street furniture says about the shifting role of design in public discourse. This five-chapter affair reveals why updating bike racks, bollards, bins and humdrum minutiae of civic life has been contentious. It also takes in the work of Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert – the clever souls who established the look of the UK’s street signs in the 1950s and 1960s – and David Mellor, better known for designing cutlery but also the man behind the look of British traffic lights. The book’s a worthy, wordy meditation on an often invisible (but oddly enlightening) aspect of the built environment.
Turkey has received its fair share of negative press over the past few weeks, overshadowing positive cultural strides such as the recent design upgrade and renovation of Istanbul’s oldest library. Turkey’s own Tabanlioglu Architects took a minimalist approach to the project, adding modern touches to the Beyazit State Library without harming the integrity of the 1884 original. The library’s considerable collection of rare books, including manuscripts from the Ottoman era, is preserved in air-conditioned glass cubes, while sleek white worktables are framed by elaborately painted vaulted ceilings. The renovation of the state library – which in past lives has served as a soup kitchen and a traveller’s inn, a primary school, a hospital, a madrasah and a hammam – is a welcome reminder of the rich legacy of this storied city straddling East and West.
This weekend the National Design Centre in Singapore is proudly promoting all things homegrown at Singapasar, a three-day fair showcasing the latest products from craftsmen such as Onlewo’s Mike Tay. Tay is known for his cheery and modern riffs on traditional landmarks and iconography, which he applies to everything from handmade cushion covers to stools. “Singapasar is especially meaningful as the National Design Centre is a space that recognises and supports local designers,” he says. The food offering will also be based on local delicacies and is bound to surprise residents and visitors alike. The fair’s name – a portmanteau of the Malay word for lion (not to mention the country’s name) and market – is a symbol of the growing confidence of a nation whose creative talents are ready to roar.