Wednesday 21 April 2021 - Monocle Minute On Design | Monocle

Wednesday. 21/4/2021

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Jonas Marguet


Greater good

As we will reveal in our Design Awards, out in Monocle’s forthcoming May issue, we are enamoured by the pioneering Tip Top Re chair from Swiss furniture brand Vitra. It’s not a new design; it’s a version of a Barber & Osgerby chair created a decade ago. But its rereleased form, made entirely from German plastic waste, points to a huge shift in the way we will view our products in the future. The material is made from recycled items such as yoghurt pots and comes in a cool grey, with speckles from the original waste remaining within the newly made plastic piece. Its look is imperfect and Vitra chose to embrace this rather than treating or bleaching the material.

These are the aesthetics that will define better design in years ahead, as we find ways to reduce waste, recycle more efficiently and make furniture with products that are less harmful. The patchworked garments of fashion brands such as Bode that draw upon offcuts from manufacturers’ floors are already pointing our eyes in this direction. The question is, can we live with this different aesthetic all around us in our homes and offices?

In a recent conversation with Vitra’s CEO Nora Fehlbaum for Monocle’s forthcoming edition of The Entrepreneurs magazine, she told me: “The aesthetics of a sustainable world will be different and hopefully we will come to the conclusion that this is a very attractive world.” The truth is, however, that if we want to live with the right products in the years to come, we’re simply going to have to get used to living with design that looks different.


House proud

Sometimes the best holidays are those spent in the villa of a good friend with even better taste than our own. This is an experience that new Portuguese hospitality brand The Addresses hopes to give holidaymakers who stay in its private guesthouses.

Image: Francisco Nogueira
Image: Francisco Nogueira
Image: Francisco Nogueira

Working with Lisbon-based architecture studio Atelier Rua, the company’s initial offerings includes Casa Um in the Algarve town of Tavira. A former shepherd’s hut situated among orange groves, the space has been transformed into an airy four-bedroom retreat, blending time-honoured southern European architecture with a modern extension. “We filled the spaces with traditional architectural elements stylised into contemporary ones,” says architect Ana Tomé. “There’s a Gelosia pattern on the kitchen-cabinet doors, while stone from the Algarve is used as a reference to the memory of the place.”

Complementing the interiors by Studio Stories are a selection of objects and books ideal to enjoy on holiday or – The Addresses assures us that this is permitted – take home with you.


Higher education

To accommodate the increasing number of students enrolling in Oxford University, London-based architecture studio ALA has designed two handsome buildings at the heart of Wadham College – the William Doo Undergraduate Centre and the Dr Lee Shau Kee Building. With neat quadrangle lawns and gardens in front, the undergraduate centre’s façade draws upon a boxy glass-and-steel design that reflects its green surrounds and offers a warm welcome to new students.

Image: Hufton & Crow
Image: Hufton & Crow

“These two buildings are designed to radiate openness,” says Amanda Levete, principal of ALA. “Modest in scale but high in aspiration, they express the liberal and egalitarian values of the college and create a sense of belonging for students and staff.” Filled with natural light, the undergraduate centre prioritises socialising with an open layout that combines a common room, café and bar, as well as work areas.

Image: Alamy


Land of opportunity

Author, curator and architecture critic Sam Lubell has written eight books about design, covering everything from unrealised projects in New York to tips for travellers to explore modernism on the US west coast. The latter, Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide, is essential reading for anyone looking to visit Palm Springs for the city’s Modernism Week – an outing we took for this week’s episode of Monocle on Design. Here, Lubell acts as our guide, explaining how the southern Californian town became a design mecca.

How did Palm Springs become a hotspot for mid-century modern design?
The West Coast really embraced modernism – it was a sort of coming of age, so to speak, at a time when mid-century modernism was also coming to the fore. Palm Springs was this amazing escape from Los Angeles; all these celebrities started to go there and architects including Albert Frey, who was part of the Bauhaus and modernist movements, were coming out there and introducing it. It was the perfect place for it because people didn’t live there full-time, they would often only come in winter, so the architects could experiment a little more. Plus, it was outside the spotlight of LA, in the desert. So there was this starting-over kind of feeling and people said, “Well, let’s see what we can do here.” It was very, very experimental; perfect for a place like Palm Springs – and perfect for modernism.

Can you tell us a little more about that experimentation that took place here?
It was really about glorifying the place more than the architecture. You have these homes with large glass walls, sliding glass doors and clerestory windows, bringing in the sun, bringing in the wind, bringing in this amazing landscape. In some ways, many homes were inspired by the landscape with angled or zig-zagged roofs and concrete block screens that protect you from the sun but also let in the wind. The homes were oriented incredibly well for this particular landscape. And people love that, especially these celebrities escaping LA; they wanted to get out of that crazy city and be enveloped by this landscape. And that’s what modernism was able to do. You’re building something that suits this place perfectly.

Is there a particular residence in Palm Springs that captures this best?
I always have trouble picking my favourites. But I have to say – and it’s not original by any means – the Kaufmann House by Richard Neutra is just spectacular. I was lucky enough to visit once at sunset, feeling the breeze coming in while looking out at the mountains. You understand very quickly why this place appeals to people.

To hear the full interview, listen to this week’s edition of ‘Monocle on Design’ on Monocle 24.


Collect call

The Both Phone, created in 1963, provided Japanese offices with a unique way of cutting costs on phone bills, with two dials on either side of one device. Landlines were costly and it meant that staff could take it in turns to make calls from the same phone, from opposite sides of the desk. The idea was born when retailer Kametaro Tanimoto saw his employees working with a single telephone placed in the middle of his office, turning it back and forth in a manner that disturbed the order-conscious entrepreneur.

Tanimoto pitched the product to Iwatsu Electric and, soon after, the Both Phone was born. Sadly this characterful design didn’t take off in the way Tanimoto had hoped but it did enjoy success on the busy editorial floors of Japanese newspapers and media companies. Perhaps that’s why we at Monocle are so taken with it. In a world of office design where plexiglass dividers are becoming commonplace, it’s a timely reminder not to forget the value of shared workspace (and products for that matter) that foster a better company culture.


Standing to attention

The wooden stool has evolved from being a purely functional piece of furniture to a versatile object that designers love to tinker with and release in myriad shapes and forms. The recently released Portao stool by German brand Favius, designed by Porto-based designer Christian Haas, is testament to this. Its two tapered timber legs make for a striking shape, while the rounded front edges of the seat add softness and comfort for the user.

Crafted from solid oak at the Favius workshop in Germany, the stool, which can also be used as a side table, comes in oiled or black-stained versions. “The Portao combines the warmth and feel of solid oak, a material that we love to work with, with a minimalist sculptural design,” says Christian Stoffel, CEO of Favius. “The high-quality material and high-end craftsmanship that go into this piece are two factors that make up our brand philosophy.”


Impeccable taste

Acclaimed architectural designer John Pawson has used a year at home to put together this wonderful new cookbook with his wife Catherine, which captures the rural lifestyle the pair and their family have enjoyed at the converted farmstead he also designed. Published by Phaidon, Home Farm Cooking tells the stories of the meals Catherine prepares through the creative lens of her husband, with the sumptuous food shot across the pristine property and on tableware he has designed.

“There was quite a lot of discussion about meals that might not look good on the plate, like fish pie or a risotto,” says Catherine. “But we decided that they tasted so good it didn’t matter; they had to be included.” With images mostly shot by Gilbert McCarragher, typically an architecture photographer who offers a unique visual perspective on the subject of food in the book, we can say confidently that everything on these pages looks good.


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