Wednesday. 16/6/2021

The Monocle Minute
On Design


Making space

Making space For the designers out there: do you remember the first time you realised what an architect or landscape architect was? That moment when your childhood ambition to be, say, a builder transitioned into a dream of being a designer instead?

I do. It was the mid-2000s and Northbridge, a seedy nightlife hub in my hometown of Perth, Western Australia, was getting a facelift. A key part of its transformation was a newly designed plaza, replete with a lush civic lawn and grand public sculpture. It was a significant public work and the first time I recognised that someone clearly cared about, and was actively designing, the communal spaces in my sleepy coastal city. Why bring this up? Well, after speaking to London-based designer Yinka Ilori for this week’s episode of {Monocle on Design]( about his newly completed public artwork in Tottenham, I remembered the importance of good design in surprising places (see Words With, below).

By introducing a significant civic work to this often-overlooked part of north London, Ilori hopes to not only instil a sense of pride and ownership in the community but also open up the neighbourhood’s youth to the prospect of a career in design. “I hope it inspires children who want to be architects,” says Ilori. “And that it lets them know it’s possible to be a designer.”

The artwork, and Ilori’s ambition, are reminders that great public works shouldn’t just be commissioned in our downtowns and on waterfronts but in forgotten corners of the city too. In doing so, we ensure that good design is spread equitably across our neighbourhoods and show a host of young people the possibilities of a career in design.


Light touch

One of Berlin’s finest modernist buildings, the Neue Nationalgalerie, is preparing to reopen this summer with a slick update courtesy of David Chipperfield Architects. The gallery, which is home to an extensive collection of modern art, was originally designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and is his only building in Europe. Known as the “temple of light and glass”, Van der Rohe’s design consists of an elegant glass pavilion topped with an angular steel roof.

Image: Simon Menges
Image: Simon Menges
Image: Simon Menges

Almost 50 years of intensive use, however, left the gallery in urgent need of refurbishment. David Chipperfield Architects was called in to repair its reinforced concrete shell and bring the building into the 21st century. Functional updates include a new lighting system produced by Arup and facilities such as a cloakroom and shop. The result is a respectful renovation that has preserved all of the building’s interior fittings and added a reverential new sheen to this architectural icon.


Rest is history

The opportunity to work on a building complex that’s almost 900 years old isn’t afforded to architects very often. But when such projects do come around, as was the case for Brixen-based architect Modus at the Novacella monastery in South Tyrol, it presents an exciting opportunity to breathe new life into historic buildings.

Modus’s recently completed work here involved the restoration of an agrarian storehouse building into an airy atrium for the monastery’s museum, as well as the renovation of a 17th-century building into an event and exhibition space, and the construction of a new blackened copper-clad staircase and lift tower that links the two transformed structures.

Image: Simone Bossi
Image: Simone Bossi
Image: Simone Bossi

“Such renovation and restoration projects are a process of discovery,” says project architect Sandy Attia, of the two-year designing and building process. “We sought out the more timeless qualities of the existing buildings, regardless of their original functions.” These qualities were then celebrated with a neutral, natural palette of copper, wood and glass. The colours complement rather than contrast with the newly exposed timber, original rough-hewn plaster work and the restored pitched wooden roof of the atrium. It’s a combination that ensures the space feels contemporary, while also paying tribute to the monastery’s built heritage.


City spirit

Artist and designer Yinka Ilori’s colourful projects can be found across London’s boroughs, from basketball courts in forgotten parts of commercial districts to enormous murals in the city centre. It’s work that’s uplifting and often closely linked to the communities the designer is working in. For proof, look to Ilori’s new installation “As You Pass Me By, Know That It Is Nothing but Love from Me”. It’s the first public artwork in a series the designer will be rolling out in the neighbourhood of Tottenham Hale. To find out more about the desired effect of the work on the local community, we spoke to Ilori for this week’s episode of Monocle on Design.

Can you walk us through your design?
It’s a 9 metre-long artwork on a hoarding, at the top of which, and above your head, sits the text, “As you pass me by, know that it is nothing but love from me.” I’m trying to take the passerby on a journey. As they go past, they’re going to read this message and hopefully it will make them smile, maybe at the next person they see. The artwork has this really colourful, bright and vibrant colour palette, with yellow, orange and pink, that changes as you move along its length. During this whole year, I’ve been obsessed with the colour pink; there’s something quite joyful, positive and youthful about it. I wanted to use it to create an experience that hopefully will carry people through the whole day – even if they only walk past the artwork for a few seconds.

This artwork is the first in a two-year residency bringing new designs to the local community. What do you hope to achieve?
What is happening here is really special for the younger members of the community who are going to be the future face of Tottenham. Hopefully, having my work here inspires that next generation of artists, architects, and designers. What I like to do when I create work is remember that it doesn't belong to me anymore; it belongs to the community. Over time it matures and the people become the fabric of the artwork. For me, it’s also really important to try and make art inclusive in public spaces because sometimes art and design can feel exclusive. Maybe if it’s in a gallery or a museum people might feel that they don’t belong there or that they can’t access the spaces. So bringing art and design to their front doorstep – a place where people in their cars stuck in traffic can look at it – is really powerful.

As a designer, what are the benefits of this public side of your practice to your other work?
It’s incredible. You become a bit vulnerable because you go from working in your studio to a public space where you get to talk to children, adults and the elderly. Their stories are what fills me with inspiration to create new works of art. There’s a Nigerian musician called King Sunny Adé and he says, “The people are the fabric that I wear.” And that is what my work is about. It’s about the people. I get energy from their stories and experiences. Being in a community there is so much inspiration, so many ideas and feelings of love. And that’s why “love” is in the last line on that installation, because there was a lot of love in Tottenham.

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


Seat at the table

Italian-born architect Lina Bo Bardi created pioneering cultural buildings in her adopted homeland of Brazil but for years was obscured in the modernist canon. After a posthumous Golden Lion award at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, this is finally changing. But that’s not the only reason we have our eyes on this chair, which appeared in the original interiors of the iconic São Paulo Museum of Art in 1968.

The leather-and-wood Auditoriò Masp has the elegant design touch of a Gio Ponti, whom Bo Bardi worked with before moving to Brazil, and is currently made to order by boutique firm Es Passo. But since the partially foldable, stackable design is a practical choice for everything from public halls (as intended) to a chic outdoor café, we’d argue it should be more widely available. Though Bo Bardi’s buildings are found on only one continent, her furniture designs could impress on patios anywhere.

Image: Erik Undehn


Bar fly

This universal wooden chair is the latest addition to Artek’s portfolio of Finnish-designed furniture that dates back to 1935. Founded by the famed Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto and his business partners, Artek is known for its classics but also celebrated for introducing relevant new works from contemporary designers into its growing catalogue.

The Atelier bar stool from Swedish design practice TAF Studio is case in point. It features a simple sloping seat made from Italian wood, while the subtle curves of the crossbars are complemented by slender legs and foot rests with aluminium inlays, making the piece both sturdy and durable.


Feast your eyes

The team behind Parisian restaurant and chef residency Fulgurances has launched a new magazine. Covering everything from Brooklyn fishmongers to legendary French restaurant Le Clarence, it shines a light on both the fresh faces and icons of the culinary world. Creative direction is overseen by photographer (and Monocle collaborator) Benjamin Schmuck, a childhood friend of co-founder Hugo Hivernat, who mostly chooses photographers who don’t specialise in food in order to have a fresh perspective on the subject matter.

Thomas Couderc and Clément Vauchez from Studio Helmo are in charge of the magazine’s playful design and were given free range by the founders to create the format. “They had the idea of doing it a bit like a travelogue,” says Fulgurances co-founder Rebecca Asthaler. “They’ve done a really good job in creating a visual rhythm, with illustrations and images running between pages.”


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