The Barbican’s spring show, The Japanese House – Architecture and Life after 1945, is narrow in focus, universal in appeal and a masterpiece of curation and execution. It’s also perfectly summed up by its title: the what, how and why of what is built to be lived in directly affects life – and life directly affects those dwellings. In Japan that can mean houses as places apart from the purely practical; readable as artworks, buildings with an average lifespan of just 26 years make experimentation easy and attractive. Postwar Japan was effectively a developing country whose stimulation of growth resulted in a fetishising of the new and, perhaps, allowed the country that was bombed and the country that rose from the ashes to co-exist. Hideyuki Nakayama’s O House is a giant’s sentry box; Sou Fujimoto’s House NA is a transparent garden-house; best of all is the full-sized reproduction of Ryue Nishizawa’s Moriyama House, a modular stageset of a dwelling. The creeping suburbia of hyper-ordinary family dormitories are also considered and are just as fascinating. The architectural, the social and the psychological dance elegantly through this wonderful show.
While Bangkok’s brilliant clubs mean that a night on the tiles is typically a good one, the highlight of a steamy all-nighter is often found on the street, where casual fry-ups are served deep into the night. Street food is an integral component of life in Bangkok but citizens are currently getting to grips with a government crackdown, which will ban vendors from key areas of nightlife. By 17 April stalls on busy streets – including club hotspot Thonglor Road – will cease operation and famished party-goers will need to look elsewhere for good grub. While congestion and licensing issues around street vendors certainly need improvement in the Thai capital, outright ban on these businesses is too brash. Singapore solved this problem by providing purpose-built centres for its hawkers but in Bangkok, a city for which chaos is a big part of its charm, a less straitlaced approach would be more suitable.
Hong Kong’s March madness, a month of art-themed events, reaches its apex this weekend at Art Basel’s Asian edition. The challenge for Hong Kong, once the dust has settled and the last business jet carrying art-loving international tycoons has departed, is how to maintain this interest throughout the year. Two new openings pencilled in for 2017 promise to put art front and centre: H Queens, a skyscraper purposely built for art galleries, and Tai Kwun, an arts centre housed in a newly restored heritage building with an added flourish by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron. This formerly blank canvas is gradually being coloured in.
Five years ago you might have turned tail to avoid walking through Brunkebergstorg, an unattractive square surrounded by hulking grey-and-black bank buildings in Normmalm, central Stockholm. But this week marks a change with the opening of two superb new hotels: the At Six and the Hobo. The latter is a lighthearted and colourful 201-key affair kitted out by Berlin-based designer Werner Aisslinger, whose sofas for Cappellini sit alongside curios, books, plastic flamingoes and potted plants. The ground and first-floor bistro and bar are agreeable places to linger, whether or not you’ve booked a room. Next door the museum-like At Six is a larger, plusher affair decked out by London-based Universal Design Studio. Think basalt, granite and Carrara marble finishes throughout, plus the odd leather accent to soften things up. Both openings come courtesy of Norwegian developer Petter Stordalen, whose new premises are applying some much-needed pressure to the city’s staid but fast-improving hotel scene.
A special screening at the Barbican in London aims to present the great French film-maker Henri-Georges Clouzot’s unfinished film The Inferno as it might have been; we speak to its director, Serge Bromberg. Plus: Vienna’s unluckiest address and how Brazil’s Aquarius director Kleber Mendonça Filho became a reluctant but popular political symbol.
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