Wednesday. 27/10/2021

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Field experts

When I was practicing as a landscape architect and told someone about my work, more often than not, people would try to be funny and ask me to design their back garden for free. That, or they would ask which fertiliser they should use on their begonias.

Sometimes I’d cave and fabricate a recommendation (“Dr Potty’s is particularly good right before spring”). Other times, I’d launch into a tirade explaining that the role of a landscape architect reaches much further than back gardens, melding planning and architecture, and playing a critical role in shaping public spaces and connecting the built environment with nature.

It’s understandable, then, that I felt a little relief earlier this month when US designer Julie Bargmann was announced as the inaugural winner of the Oberlander prize – landscape architecture’s answer to the Pritzker, the architecture industry’s top gong.

Established by the Washington-based Cultural Landscape Foundation and named after celebrated practitioner Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, the $100,000 (€86,000) award aims to increase the public’s understanding of the profession. By spotlighting work that is groundbreaking and essential, the prize should help to independently set the direction and enhance an appreciation of the practice.

The hope is that landscape architecture’s most accomplished designers, such as Bargmann, will become household names, in much the same way that Kenzo Tange and Frank Gehry’s profiles grew beyond the design community after they claimed architecture’s most famous gong. For the discipline as a whole, this can only be a good thing. And, selfishly, I’m hoping that it will also mean fewer requests for pro-bono garden work.

The Project / Bess Imago, Japan

Moving house

Launched this month, Imago is a mobile hut on wheels made by pioneering Japanese log-cabin builder Bess (see our feature on the company in the latest edition of The Entrepreneurs). Before the recent compact-living boom in Japan, the Tokyo firm offered a similar, stationary hut without wheels. But the pandemic has inspired it to design a private, on-the-go space to shape a new lifestyle.

Made from Japanese cedar and available in two sizes (a cosy 6.5 sq m hut and a larger 11.2 sq m option), it can be towed easily to the beach or mountains. Bess delivers it unpainted and unfurnished so that you can kit out your own room in which to play, work and live.

Design News / New Mags, Denmark

Good books

Stone and timber are the key ingredients deployed across New Mags, a new bookshop and showroom in Copenhagen’s old town. The design by Danish firm Norm Architects takes inspiration from that most cherished of literary institutions: the library.

Image: Sandie Lykke Nolsøe
Image: Sandie Lykke Nolsøe

“With iconic elements such as long study tables and large wooden shelving filled to the brim with beautiful, large volumes, we set out to design a contemporary and more minimalist version of the library,” says Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen, co-founder of Norm Architects. He adds that the fine carpentry of the timber elements – doors, dividers and shelving – echoes the wooden landscape of the traditional library, as well as offsetting the space’s cooler stone elements. “All the books are displayed in this warm, cosy and stimulating atmosphere.”

Words with... / Sara Staunsager, Denmark

Pure tone

Interior and furniture designer Verner Panton is perhaps best known for creating iconic lamps and seats (such as his namesake chair, which is still in production by Vitra) and his clever use of mood-enhancing colours. It’s an approach to design that’s currently being celebrated at the Trapholt museum in southern Jutland, Denmark. The exhibition Colouring a New World explores the late Danish designer’s work through a series of immersive environments that feature his furniture, lamps and textiles. To find out more about Panton’s legacy and the exhibition, we spoke to the museum’s curator of collections, Sara Staunsager, for a recent episode of Monocle On Design.

Image: Kenneth Stjernegaard

Why is Verner Panton important?
For me, Panton is very important because of his interiors. For many today, Panton is best known for a chair or a lamp he designed. But with this exhibition, we recreate whole spaces that he masterminded throughout his career, from the 1950s to the 1990s. The aim is to show his conceptual take on design.

What can you tell us about the exhibition?
Panton actually designed this installation for the Trapholt gallery in 1998 and we have put it up again, collecting almost all the same items to recreate the show. It is an architectural tunnel in a way. You go through eight rooms in different colours furnished with his designs, mostly furniture and lamps, and all the lights and colours embrace you. You can stand still and just feel the colours and lights, or you can walk and be in motion, feeling the contrast from one colour to another.

Tell us more about Panton’s use of colour.
He used colours as his first priority, followed by light. These were the two most important things to him for a room’s atmosphere. If you are inside a blue room, you can feel very cold. If you are inside a very red room, your heart will beat faster. Orange or yellow rooms will feel warmer. He said that we should remember to use our bodies and our senses, through colour, as well as through materials, forms and light.

To hear more about Verner Panton, listen to our recent feature on ‘Monocle on Design’.

From The Archive / Jamaica drinks cabinet, Italy

Tipple threat

Osvaldo Borsani may be less well-known than his contemporary Gio Ponti but he was almost as influential a figure in shaping Italian mid-century design. In 1953, he founded furniture firm Tecno with his twin brother Fulgenzio in a villa and adjoined factory he designed in Varedo, a leafy town just outside Milan. For more than 30 years, some of the country’s finest modernist pieces were put into production here, including this drinks cabinet from the 1960s.

Illustration: Anje Jager

The Jamaica was designed by Eugenio Gerli, a regular collaborator with Tecno, and came in a lacquered red, white or a natural oak. The oval plywood cabinet swings open to reveal two shelves for bottles and cocktail glasses, which are held steady by elegant, interlocked chrome barriers. While Tecno has today grown out from its former suburban HQ into a multinational manufacturer of workplace furniture, we still think that the Jamaica could join the collection. After all, we’re never ones to argue against a well-stocked office bar.

Around The Home / Maruni, Japan

Top of the pile

The stackable T1 chair by esteemed UK designer Jasper Morrison for Japanese wood manufacturer Maruni is an exercise in functionality that doesn’t compromise on lightness of form. “The T1 has its roots in an exploration of utility that combines wood with elements of precise metalwork,” says Morrison, who has collaborated with the Hiroshima prefecture-based brand for many years. “For ultimate utility it was important to consider a stacking version of the chair.” And stack it can, up to six times to be precise.

Part of the broader T&O collection, this chair derives its name from the T-letter shape it forms when seen from behind, with a minimal backrest and powder-coated steel elements that come in red, green, black or silver. Buyers can also choose from three different types of wood – maple, oak or ash – and various finishes. We see the T1 slotting in perfectly in homes and hospitality venues alike.

In the picture / ‘Dig it!’ by Bjarne Mastenbroek

From the ground up

A building’s relationship with the landscape it sits in is inescapable: slopes, soil and prevailing site conditions all affect what, and how, architects build. As a result, many designers seek to work with the terrain, creating buildings that appear as though they are part of the landscape, not merely sitting on it – a concept that’s celebrated in a new publication, Dig it! Building Bound to the Ground.

Published by Taschen, the book is a global survey of structures by Dutch architect Bjarne Mastenbroek, which profiles some 500 buildings, from African churches chiselled out of rock to a villa built into the cliffs of Capri. And while the structures themselves are undoubtedly impressive, it’s the graphic design of Amsterdam-based studio Mevis & Van Deursen that truly makes Mastenbroek’s work a pleasure to read. Over 1,400 pages, analytical architectural drawings are combined with stunning photography from Iwan Baan, bringing together the conceptual and the actualised in much the same way that the buildings merge with the landscapes surrounding them.


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