Wednesday 25 August 2021 - Monocle Minute On Design | Monocle

Wednesday. 25/8/2021

The Monocle Minute
On Design


From the rooftops

When it comes to urbanism done with sustainability in mind, sprawling Sydney (among other Aussie cities) has arrived a little late to the party. But late is better than never. The government is getting serious on new regulations that will forge the creation of planet-friendly buildings in Sydney’s rapidly growing suburbs – and it should be applauded. The rules will enforce the allocation of space for trees on new plots and ban dark roofs on new homes in the city’s southwest. The reason? Having countless dark-coloured roofs in cities with warm climates accounts for a massive amount of heat gain in the urban environment. Simply painting these surfaces white or creating them with lighter-coloured materials alleviates the problem.

Some have questioned how these rules will be enforced. But speaking as an Aussie who has been fined back home for everything from jaywalking to having a beer in a park, I’m sure that new-home builders will be harangued into sticking to the measures. But it’s the questioning and criticism of a new policy that seems so sensible and essential that worries me the most. Australia is at the coalface of climate change, as those suffering increasingly through wildfires and scorching heatwaves will attest. But the impetus to use progressive design ideas to drastically improve its cities doesn’t get as much traction with the public – or in the writing of government policies – as it should.


Full house

Sat between the Guadiana River and the Atlantic Ocean, this recently opened new stay is an homage to centuries of Portuguese heritage and design. Once a merchant’s house, the building in Vila Real do Santo Antonio has now been revamped into a cosy guesthouse by renowned Portuguese architect Atelier Rua and creative firm Studio Stories. It’s the latest in a series of design-centric destinations called The Addresses.

The third property under this moniker has been redesigned to amplify the house’s sunny interiors, while boasting a bright courtyard and outdoor pool. Inside, warm terrazzo finishes are complemented by designer furniture from the likes of London’s Faye Toogood, giving the place a modern, lived-in feel. Featuring a vaulted ceiling and touches of dark wood, the result updates the building’s original design without compromising its charm – a winning combination for anyone seeking a relaxed, sun-soaked stay away from the crowds.


Chef’s table

Instead of settling for a regular showroom in which to present its wares, Danish furniture brand Vipp decided to venture into fine dining. A supper club organised by the brand is slated to launch next month, housed in a former pencil factory. Guests will sit at a long communal table (produced by Vipp, of course) and be looked after by a rotating cadre of world-class chefs.

The pared-back concrete space has been decorated by interior designer Julie Cloos Mølsgaard, which has arranged pieces from Vipp’s catalogue with tasteful paintings, ceramics and art installations. Centre-stage will be the firm’s flagship oak-panelled V2 kitchen, which will be fired up by Noma alumnus Riccardo Canella, and an intimate live piano concert will accompany the meal. As far as design experiences go, this is one worth raising a glass to.


From stripes to Strip

Paul Smith didn’t plan to work in fashion but when an accident shattered his dream of being a professional cyclist, he turned his hand to design. Building a reputation with his namesake label and its signature multicoloured stripes, Smith soon became a pillar of British design and has spent the past 50 years working on fashion, furniture and industrial projects around the world. His latest project is the development of a concept car called Strip with Mini and BMW. To find out more about the vehicle and his approach to design, we caught up with Smith for this week’s episode of Monocle on Design.

Can you share with us a few details about the look and feel of the car? The starting point was the Mini shape that’s currently in production. It’s good so I didn’t want to change that at all. I left the body as raw steel, the way it comes after pressing, and it’s got lots of little marks and scratches – it’s not perfect at all. I’ve put one simple layer of clear lacquer on it. When you look at it from the street you may think, “Well, what’s he done?” because it just looks like a silver car. But on closer inspection you’ll find that it’s got these characterful little imperfections on it. It’s like your best pair of jeans or the suede jacket you inherited from your father that has little scuffs and marks on it.

Given that it’s a concept car, can you tell us more about your approach to thinking conceptually? What does it mean to you? I’m quite well known for my lateral way of thinking and not going down the obvious route: compare my shop in Los Angeles, which is a bright-pink box on Melrose Avenue, to my shop in my hometown [Nottingham], which is in a building erected in 1736. The fact that we’ve had this wonderful longevity as a company, independent of a big group, is often down to how I’m always challenging myself and saying, “What if?” I also work in a [space that’s] full of things that are inspiring. I describe it as a room that’s not “childish” – because it’s full of toys and objects and is kitsch and beautiful – but “childlike”. Being childlike is where you’ve not been cluttered with education and experience so you haven’t got strong reference points from things you’ve witnessed. You’ve got this freedom just to say, “Why don’t we try that?” or, “Let’s have a go.”

How does this affect your approach to business? My business has always been built on a balance of, on the one hand, selling a very large quantity of beautiful, simple navy blue suits and polo shirts and having shops in the Marais in Paris, Soho in London and Soho in New York; and, on the other hand, innovation and attention and fashion shows twice a year in Paris, with a beautiful shop in Albemarle Street in Mayfair and the pink shop in Los Angeles. So it’s very much about having the balance of paying the rent with more commercial things and then keeping the image high and doing special things that are quite self-indulgent, even though my financial director will always question them and say, “What’s the point?” But the point is that it’s your future because nobody cares how good you used to be.

To hear more from Paul Smith, listen to this week’s edition of ‘Monocle on Design’ on Monocle 24.


Two wheels good

In the 1930s, this snappy scooter was the coolest thing an American child could be seen cruising around the neighbourhood on. The Skippy Racer was the work of Harold L Van Doren, who had been commissioned by American National Company to redesign its entire range of wheeled toys. With its clean steel lines, this bright-red piece is an early icon of modern industrial design and is highly collectable today. Scooters have not looked better since.

Thanks to ride-sharing start-ups, scooters have gone from being children’s toys to filling cities from Berlin to Brisbane. Despite their promise of easy mobility, these electric devices in a range of crass colours can be annoying: they are often carelessly parked, damage-prone and inelegant. To make citizens, mayors and Monocle a little happier (at least when it comes to aesthetics), e-mobility designers would do well to take inspiration from the Skippy.


Show and tell

For children, the end of the summer holidays can come with some excitement. The unstructured days might have come to an end but heading back to class means seeing friends again, as well as acquiring nice new stationery sets and smart school shoes. Now Italian furniture brand Magis wants to add furniture to that mix with the development of a dedicated children’s line.

The resulting line doesn’t just consist of scaled-down versions of the grown-up pieces. Instead, it includes tables, chairs and beds that aim to stimulate the imaginations of children through creative shapes, vibrant colours and tactile, sustainable materials. The wares are suitable for both schools and home-education spaces, and highlights include the Little Big range of chairs and tables that were designed by Swiss studio Big Game. The sturdy plastic seats come in bright colours and the height is adjustable. When complemented by the colourful Eur shelving system designed by Giulio Iacchetti, it’s easy to create smart study nooks to nourish young minds. Class, it seems, is in session.


Prize rings

A brief for Thai-made, Japanese-inspired packaging design for a company selling “the world’s first tempura crispy doughnut” had the potential to get pretty weird. But Bangkok-based Itemmm Studio’s simple, fun approach has proven effective.

The two-colour design is a surefire smile-raiser, cleverly drawing a potential customer’s attention to the space where the brand mascot’s bulbous afro should be – where they can identify the type of doughnut in each box. While we’re dubious about the eccentric snacks themselves, we’re most definitely delighted with this witty communication effort.
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