Chain reaction - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 20/10/2021

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Drawn together

What a pleasure it must be to be a designer in Portugal. At our launch of The Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs in Lisbon last week, we were introduced to a cast of creative talents who enjoy an enviable access to nearby manufacturing. It’s safe to say that there are few places in the world where a designer can draw up a concept, hop into their car and simply drive to a world-class carpenter, ceramicist, basket-weaver or glass-blower whose company can bring their ideas to life. These are just a few of the many skills that are readily available in a nation that’s also globally renowned for its fashion-manufacturing industry.

Being close to makers here means that designers can think about projects such as restaurant fit-outs and furnishings for hotel developments in a more creative way. In doing so, they’re defining a more sensitive concept of modern luxury, in which the premium experience is about placing customers in surroundings that offer a true taste of Portugal. Designers here can apply marble that was quarried in Alentejo to sleek bar-tops and commission finely crafted bed linen from Guimarães.

​​Yet, while the product output is of a high quality, there’s little that is pretentious about Portuguese design and manufacturing. For the large part, making in Portugal is pretty cost-effective – much like living there. It’s for all these reasons (and maybe the good weather) that enterprising designers from all over the world will, and should, continue to flock to Portugal to further their practice.

The project / RATP Habitat headquarters, France

Nature’s bounty

The term “biophilic design” describes homes, offices and public spaces that offer connections with nature by using organic materials, embracing natural light and providing visual and physical access to flora and fauna. And while the term has become something of a buzzword in recent years, in reality it’s a shorthand for a building that’s in tune with its surroundings. It’s exactly the approach that Paris-based architecture studio Atelier du Pont has used with its newly completed headquarters for social housing provider RATP Habitat.

Image: Takuji Shimmura
Image: Takuji Shimmura
Image: Takuji Shimmura
Image: Takuji Shimmura

Situated on a dense block of Rue de Bagnolet in the 20th arrondissement, the three-storey wood-framed structure sits across its entire parcel. Rather than having green space on the ground level, the building has a series of gently sloping rooftop terraces, complete with plant beds, pots and a vegetable plot, that face onto the office. It facilitates a gentle flow of RATP employees between the indoors and outdoors throughout the day – a connection further enhanced by a central atrium that brings light into the building while also providing an effective source of natural ventilation.

All this means that the open-plan workspaces, not to mention the building’s café and cafeteria, are flooded with light and a green outlook. It’s a combination that will certainly make it hard to want to leave the office on time.

Design News / Hermansen x Wood Wood bike, Denmark

Chain reaction

Only three things in life are certain: death, taxes and impeccable Danish design. We have our eye on Hermansen Copenhagen’s latest version of its Red Dot award-winning e-bike, Bike One, which it produced in collaboration with fashion brand Wood Wood. Former Bang & Olufsen designer Anders Hermansen worked with Brian SS Jensen, co-founder of Wood Wood, to update the Bike One with a khaki and army-green palette, with red anodised details.

This is Wood Wood’s latest collaboration after having worked with the likes of Nike, Lego, Barbour and Elmgreen & Dragset. This iteration of the bike retains Hermansen’s distinctive asymmetric shape and 20-inch wheels, which are powered by a bottle-shaped battery at the rear. The sturdy Reynolds steel frame is lightweight and ideal for navigating city streets in style.

Words with… / Reiko Kaneko, UK

In the mould

Despite having designed a range of products from lighting to armchairs across a 14-year career, Japan-raised designer Reiko Kaneko is perhaps best known for her ceramic work. Now in the UK and splitting her time between London and the famed potteries of Stoke-on-Trent, the designer melds traditional manufacturing processes with contemporary aesthetics. We caught up with Kaneko for Monocle on Design, to talk about her most recent exhibition in the West Midlands and her involvement in London Design Festival.

Image: Francesca Jones

Tell us about your recent show in Stoke-on-Trent.
There’s a big exhibition called the British Ceramic Biennial that lands in Stoke-on-Trent every other year and we wanted to open the doors of our studio while the show was on to share our recent work. I presented my work in two parts. First, my mould-maker in Stoke-on-Trent recently passed away, so I wanted to honour him as a maker and a person. On show were his case moulds, which are essentially master moulds that are beautiful objects in themselves. The second part of the show, since the open studio wasn’t intended to be a commercial venture, showed my works in progress: my failures and beginnings of inquiry. One item I exhibited was the initial inspiration for the Ikebana vessel that I’m launching in December: a black bone-china bowl balancing on shards of black stoneware, lifted by the mistakes of the past.

Can you tell us about your contribution to the show by London furniture brand SCP and Ishinomaki Laboratory at the London Design Festival?
I designed a little piece that’s like a bird table. It’s the simplest construction; so simple I don’t feel that I can even call it a design. The idea behind it was that Keiji Ashizawa, the architect of Ishinomaki Laboratory, is really interested in the DIY philosophy and using what you have to create something. So I wanted to make something so simple – just two planks that raise up a bird table – reflecting that DIY ethos.

The SCP and Ishinomaki Laboratory project involved multiple designers working together. How did the end result remain consistent?
The Ishinomaki philosophy has really strong intentions. And while every piece does show each individual designer’s personality, it still has a really strong language. I don’t know whether that is connected to the material restriction of only working in wood or if people were aware of that very strong sense that Ishinomaki Laboratory already has in terms of its style and aesthetic. I mainly do ceramics and if you look at the work of potters, you can always see their intention in the end piece. It’s really evident and the spirit of the maker really lives on; maybe there is a bit of that with this project and what Keiji was trying to create.

To hear more from Reiko Kaneko, listen back to our interview on ‘Monocle on Design’.

From The Archive / William Lescaze shakers, USA

Perfectly seasoned

In much of the northern hemisphere, it’s that time of the year when evenings get darker, trees start shedding their foliage and winter jackets and scarves are pulled out of storage. Fortunately, it’s also the time to start looking forward to the festive season and long, cosy dinner parties at home, for which we wouldn’t mind having these 1930s salt and pepper shakers at hand to set the table.

Swiss-born architect William Lescaze might well have designed these shakers for his own home in Manhattan, which was completed in 1933 and was one of New York’s first buildings in the International Style. The implements’ minimalist aluminium form, with a refill mechanism hidden in the base, suited the modernist interiors. Today the shakers are in the permanent collections of both the Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York but would look more at home on candlelit dining tables.

Around The Home / F Chair, Denmark

Wood working

This wooden chair with a handwoven, all-natural linen seat is the latest addition to the F Chair series, made by respected Danish furniture maker Brdr Krüger and designed by Rasmus Fex. Intended as a modern take on storied Danish wood-making tradition, the update comes in an earthy monochrome tone, with a choice of light or fumed oak and available with or without armrests.

The Krüger-Fex partnership has produced multiple versions of this modern classic in the years since their first encounter at the 2013 Mindcraft, the annual expo that celebrates Danish design. “The F Chair is a celebration of old crafts,” says Fex. “It is born from hands-on work at Brdr Krüger workshop, where we fine-tuned the simple construction to gain the right expression and feel.”

In the picture / Marset, Spain

Illuminating literature

If the sheer volume of brand catalogues and publications landing in the hands of potential buyers at design events over the past few weeks is anything to go by, standing out is no easy task. But Barcelona-based lighting brand Marset has managed to do just that with its new catalogue.

Printed on sturdy stock with an eye-catching, glossy cover, the publication presents the brand’s two new lighting systems, Ihana and Ambrosia, with beautiful in-situ photography showing the pieces working in multiple contexts. But more than simply being a collection of pretty pictures, the 36-page booklet also includes interviews with the designers behind the pieces – Alberto Gobbino Ciszak and Andrea Caruso Dalmas, and Finnish architect Joanna Laajisto respectively – who muse on their approach to craft and seek to define exactly what good design is.

It’s an inspired approach to putting a company’s work on page, which will provide equal inspiration to whoever picks it up.


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