Wednesday 2 February 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 2/2/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Fair shot

It came as welcome news last week that Art Basel and its sister fair Design Miami will both launch Paris editions this October. Though the French capital is spoilt for world-class fashion and photography events, it has for years felt increasingly irrelevant on the design calendar. The pandemic has not helped the matter but even before 2020 the city’s main design forum, twice-yearly trade fair Maison & Objet, was beginning to feel out-of-touch with the international conversation. Also, the reach of Paris Design Week, which coincides with September’s Maison, never became quite strong enough to cut through on the global stage.

While those events were always useful for those in the industry, they have recently failed to highlight much of what is happening in the galleries and ateliers of the City of Light. This is where the new edition of Design Miami has its opportunity to shine. When it comes to design and home furnishings produced with savoir-faire at the most luxurious level, Paris is awash with talent.

From respected galleries such as Kreo (already a known name at Design Miami’s other editions) to emerging collectable-design practices including Theoreme Editions and Garnier & Linker, the city sets a high bar for refined craft. If Design Miami’s new curatorial director Maria Cristina Didero finds a way to channel the energy being generated by the city’s creative practices, Paris’s designers and galleries might finally have the global platform that they deserve.

Design News / Nanimarquina Studio, Spain

Red-carpet treatment

Since 2004, Barcelona rug-making studio Nanimarquina has called a former textile-weaving factory in the city’s Gràcia neighbourhood home. And as the business has grown, so too has the footprint it occupies within the complex. The company’s most recent expansion is a new design space adjoining its offices on the building’s third floor. Renovated by Barcelona-based architect Stefano Colli, it features a gallery-like archive of samples and is an ideal area to develop new designs and allow prospective clients to discover the brand’s extensive range.

The industrial past of the early 20th-century building is respected here too, with its vast original windows and concrete floor maintained; the latter is still covered in bright splatters of paint from when the building was used as an artist’s studio. “It’s part of the spirit of the brand to preserve the cultural legacy of the spaces where we intervene,” says founder Nani Marquina. The opening of the extension coincides with Nanimarquina’s growth into the contract market and allows the brand to show off its capabilities thanks to large, adjustable mood boards and a custom platform at the centre for displaying its creations.;

The Project / Laboratorium, Switzerland

Fit for purpose

Unsure about what to do with a vacant portion of the second floor of its Zürich office, architecture firm Caruso St John opted to collaborate with some of its own employees, gym enthusiasts keen on finding the right space for their new operation. The result is a new exercise area called Laboratorium, which doesn’t feel like a gym and caters for callisthenics workouts that are sparing on equipment. “We didn’t want it to be noisy, hectic or filled with machines,” says Adam Caruso, co-founder of the firm. “Rather, we wanted a much calmer place, where physical training can become something holistic.”

The centrepiece is a custom-made, floor-to-ceiling, stainless-steel frame with pull-up bars and horizontal beams, while simple timber screens in pastel colours define different areas of the workout space. “Using timber for everything is a sustainable way of building; the elements can be altered and easily reused in the future,” says Caruso, noting that his firm strives to use colour in a clever way to create the right mood. “The atmosphere for the gym is calm and relaxing, a bit like a studio or atelier – places that resonate with what the Laboratorium is about.”

Words with... / Bjarke Ingels, Denmark

To build a home

With offices in Copenhagen, New York, London, Barcelona and Shenzhen, Bjarke Ingels Group is one the world’s foremost design studios. Headed up by its namesake Danish architect, it works in the fields of architecture, landscapes, urbanism, interiors and product design on projects such as Copenhill, a power plant-cum-ski slope, and even a modular housing company called Nabr. To find out more about the latter, we caught up with Ingels on this week’s episode of Monocle On Design.

Image: Samuel Zeller/Olga Serjantu

You founded Nabr with a former Wework executive, Roni Bahar, and Nick Chim, formerly of Sidewalk Labs. What brought you all together to work on the project?
For me, it stemmed from my own frustration that, as architects, we treat every project as though we’re starting from scratch and building for the first time – even though this approach has a tendency to produce the same sort of buildings we’ve made previously. I started having conversations with Nick and Roni about this, and about architecture, sustainability and attainability. We realised that we keep making many other things better and better, and at lower and lower costs – from the way we drive to the way we communicate – while the places we live in tend to be getting more and more expensive and not exactly better and better. So we came up with this idea of unleashing the power of “productisation” on residential architecture.

That concept involves mass-producing a host of modular elements that can then be assembled to create a variety of homes. Can you tell us more about how this will work?
We have created this palette of plug-in, room-defining furniture elements that have all the utility and functionality you need in your home. This takes the form of kitchens, bathrooms and other storage and lifestyle elements.

What are some of the benefits of this approach?
What excites me architecturally about the power of productisation is the material scale we can achieve. Whenever we design a building, we have to scour the available suppliers to see what the highest-performing products are and which of those comes closest to delivering what we have an ambition to do. But with the kind of partnership potential and bargaining power that you get with this scale, you can create committed partnerships with vendors that supply the different technologies that can have a huge say in the energy consumption and carbon footprint of buildings. Together with these suppliers, we can actually evolve and accelerate the necessary transformation of the building industry, by bringing things to market that are currently unavailable, unattainable or unaffordable.

For more from Ingels, tune in to this week’s episode of ‘Monocle On Design’.

From The Archive / Gilbert Marklund chair, Sweden

Mountain range

For many people, midwinter in the northern hemisphere means packing the ski gear and setting off for a snowy mountain getaway. And while steeper slopes are found in the Alps than in Scandinavia, this honey-hued pine dining chair designed in 1970 by the Swedish interior architect Gilbert Marklund suggests that the Nordics can at least keep up when it comes to chalet interiors.

Illustration: Anje Jager

The chair’s manufacturer, Furusnickarn AB, was based in a small village just south of the Arctic Circle but closed down decades ago, an outcome that makes this rare design particularly coveted. Skilful invisible joinery gives it a lightweight appearance and Marklund, who had experience furnishing ski hotels, didn’t forget about ergonomics either: the unique V-shaped seat is exceedingly comfortable. Which, of course, is priority number one for anyone sitting down for dinner after a long day hurtling down the slopes.

Around The House / Expand dining table, Norway

Make room

Norwegian furniture brand Northern’s new dining table was designed by Gothenburg-based Sami Kallio. Aptly named Expand, it’s available in three sizes – two rectangular and one round – each of which can be lengthened by up to a metre. Its ability to accommodate extra seats allows for an element of spontaneity in homes where space might be scarce. “It’s great for flexibility,” says Kallio. “You can have a small cosy dinner or a big party with many guests.”

The decision to make the table from oak was a deliberate one, which allows it to stand up to the tests of time. “I chose solid oak for its hardness and durability,” says Kallio. “I want the product to outlast trends in colour and material.” And, with a slick and flexible design, expect that to be the case.

In the picture / ‘Snow’, the Netherlands

Cold comforts

The timeless yet nostalgic charm of European ski villages, from Kitzbühel to Cortina d’Ampezzo, is the source of inspiration for Snow. This soft-cover book consists of images taken over six years by Dutch photographers Arthur Groeneveld and Bamboo van Kampen of Arturo + Bamboo. Available from the studio’s website, its pages feature snaps of snowy chalets, deckchairs in primary colours and frosty funiculars.

“These villages are steeped in Alpine history and have a cosmopolitan atmosphere,” says Groeneveld, who now divides his time between Amsterdam and Paris with Van Kampen. The duo worked with Australian art director Adam Ridgeway on the book’s design. “His feeling for clean fonts and layouts worked nicely with our images,” says Groeneveld. “The collaboration felt very natural.” Upon flicking through its pages, readers will want to visit these Alpine villages too.


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