Wednesday. 13/4/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Charting a course

We visit a museum designed by Kengo Kuma & Associates, stop in for a screening at a recently renovated cinema in Berlin and talk Swiss-inspired architecture in the US. First, Nolan Giles on the busy months ahead.

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Dates for the diary

Emails about travel plans from Aussie friends working in design and architecture have started piling up in my inbox. A national lockdown has been lifted and they are heading to the US and Europe to attend multiple forthcoming industry events – and they are after advice.

Excluding Russia and some parts of Asia, I imagine that for most architects, developers, designers and design writers globally, similar plans are being hatched, with equal levels of excitement. With this in mind – and knowing that some hotel rates in Milan for industry mega-event Salone del Mobile have already tripled in price – here’s a loose itinerary of unmissable moments throughout May and June to base industry itineraries around. Get booking.

International Contemporary Furniture Fair 2022, New York – 15 to 17 May
With flight paths from the East into the US easier to manage than those crossing Russia, and with New York an easy hop away for Europeans, this furniture mega-fair makes a great entry point into the weeks of design immersion ahead.

Stockholm Creative Edition, Stockholm – 18 to 21 May
This new event is important as the annual Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair has yet to return since it was shelved at the beginning of the pandemic. Over a spring week in the Swedish capital, both established and emerging furniture firms and design studios will swing open their doors.

Monocle Quality of Life Conference, Paris – 2 to 4 June
Hosted at Le19M, Chanel’s new facility dedicated to craftsmanship, the conversations facilitated at our conference dig into how good design can make a city tick. Beyond speakers from the world of culture and travel, a smart cast of architects and urbanists will take the stage. Book your place here.

Salone del Mobile, Milan – 7 to 12 June
The world’s most important design and furniture fair is back at full capacity with its exhibitions and live events set to take over the city and its busy fairgrounds. Monocle will be producing a comprehensive newspaper, The Salone del Mobile Special, but expect showings from brands such as Artemide, alongside new collections from craft-minded Japanese furniture companies.

Design Miami, Basel Edition – 14 to 19 June
Under the curatorship of Milan-based Maria Cristina Didero, the Swiss iteration of the famous collectable-furniture fair is likely to impress. A calmer event than Salone, quality is emphasised over quantity by the exhibiting galleries from Europe and beyond.

3 Days of Design, Copenhagen – 15 to 17 June
Once a small event featuring a handful of Scandinavian furniture brands, this showcase of all that is good in Nordic design has grown to essentially take over the harbour city across its three days, which now feels too short. An emerging rival to Salone del Mobile, visitors will learn why developers from the US and Asia bank on Scandinavian furniture for both longevity and style.

The European Fine Art Fair, Maastricht – 25 to 30 June
While not the chicest of cities in which to wind down a design tour, the masters of art event here is a favourite of furniture aficionados. They attend to explore a wealth of galleries selling true treasures from the mid-century period.

The Project / HC Andersen’s House, Denmark

Make believe

With its grain and growth rings shaped by the environment, few materials tell stories as well as timber. So it’s appropriate that Kengo Kuma & Associates – with the help of Danish timber suppliers Dinesen – used wood as the feature construction material in a new museum dedicated to master storyteller Hans Christian Andersen. HC Andersen’s House is in a lush garden landscape behind the former family home of the 19th-century author in the Danish city of Odense.

Image: Inhouse Studios
Image: Inhouse Studios
Image: Inhouse Studios

Drawing inspiration from Andersen’s fairy tale The Tinderbox, in which a tree hollow functions as a portal to an underground world, the new museum comprises three timber pavilions sitting above a network of subterranean exhibition areas. And while these underground spaces are clad in concrete, almost everything else is constructed from wood. The circular pavilions are made from spruce and feature roofs supported by exposed larch beams; ash benches and floors, by Dinesen, are also found throughout. The result is a materiality that matches the depth of Andersen’s stories and creates inviting spaces that are perfect for luring people into the museum’s underground world.

For more on HC Andersen House, see our tour of Odense in issue 148 of Monocle.

Design News / Passage Kino, Berlin

Projecting success

A trip to the cinema is always more charming when the seats are plush, the foyer is gleaming and the popcorn fresh. Now one of Berlin’s oldest cinemas, Passage Kino, has been sensitively restored by interior design and architecture firm Batek Architekten. The neoclassical building in the borough of Neukölln was built in 1908; it served as a cinema until the end of the 1960s, when it was repurposed as a furniture warehouse. Since Yorck Kinogruppe reopened it as a cinema in 1989, it had remained mostly untouched.

Given the brief of bringing the building’s foyer and two of its smaller auditoriums up to date, Batek was also asked to retain its historical details. Picking up on the motif of its original arched façade windows, the architects repeated the pattern in their design for the new foyer bar. Original brass light fittings and plaster mouldings were carefully restored; new rows of plush, upholstered yellow and red chairs fill the two auditoriums. Prussian-blue fabric on the walls soften the interiors of one auditorium, while long vertical lights subtly illuminate the other. It’s a revamp that will delight design enthusiasts and movie buffs alike and inspire audiences to return for more than just the popcorn.

Words with... / Nicole McIntosh, USA

Small town Swissconsin

What does the Swiss canton of Glarus have in common with a small town in Wisconsin? Both are home to fine Swiss architecture. Established by Swiss immigrants in the 19th century, New Glarus, in the heart of America’s Midwest, is dotted with buildings that wouldn’t appear out of place in central Europe. It’s a phenomenon that Nicole McIntosh and Jonathan Louie (pictured), who run the firm Architecture Office, have explored in a new book, Swissness Applied. Now an assistant professor at Texas A&M University, McIntosh studied at ETH Zürich, which gives her a valuable Swiss-American pedigree. She explains why this phenomenon developed on a recent episode of Monocle on Design.

How did New Glarus end up looking like a Swiss town?
It was founded by people who had immigrated from Glarus in 1845. At first the town looked very American: there was a main street with typical American buildings. But that changed with an economic downturn in the 1960s. After the milk company that employed most of the people closed, they had to find another way to survive. So they decided to make New Glarus – their houses and businesses – look Swiss from the outside to attract tourists. Today the main street of the old town still has American buildings from the 1800s but, on the front of them, there are elements such as balconies and shutters that mimic traditional Swiss building styles.

This started in the 1960s. How has it continued?
In 1999 the town implemented a code called “Swiss architectural theme” in its building laws. It stated that future buildings in the commercial districts have to keep the Swiss approach and have a Swiss appearance. And so any renovation or new building has to look Swiss on the outside. The code is interesting in the sense that it references a lot of images of Swiss chalets from different parts of the country and shows the typical elements, such as shutters and doors. These images inform what is built in the town today.

So buildings in New Glarus are being designed based on reference images?
Yes. There is an extensive history of designing with images and reference photos, especially in the context of preservation. Designers use them to mimic older buildings but often working in a slightly different way, using different materials and so on.

For more from Nicole McIntosh, tune into ‘Monocle on Design’.

From The Archive / Artifort C275 Sofa, Netherlands

Light-blub moment

The official name of this sofa from 1972 is C275, the model code assigned by Dutch manufacturer Artifort. But it is better known by the moniker given by its designer Pierre Paulin: Blub Blub. Covered in a stretchy jersey fabric that came in bright hues, the seats are detachable, allowing the sofa to be assembled in smaller or larger clusters and for colours to be mixed or matched.

Illustration: Anje Jager

Created as part of a fruitful collaboration that Paulin enjoyed with Artifort in the 1960s and 1970s, the C275 helped the designer cement his status as one of the most influential names in the pop movement. Despite this, his irreverent designs fell out of favour during the more sober-minded decades that followed. But, thanks to a spate of recent museum retrospectives and product reissues, the Frenchman’s work has become highly coveted once again. Today more than a dozen of his pieces are in production by Artifort and this modular sofa would make for a cheerful addition to the offering.

In The Picture / Catching Light, Australia

Home alone

Perth, Western Australia, is the world’s most isolated major city. And its remoteness means that, from time to time, architectural masterpieces slip under the radar. Case in point is the work of designer Iwan Iwanoff. Born in Bulgaria in 1919, Iwanoff studied architecture in Germany before moving to Perth in 1950, where he went on to create some of the city’s most outstanding homes – houses that photographer Jack Lovel, who grew up in one of Iwanoff’s designs, has captured in this new book Catching Light.

“What’s really unique about Iwanoff’s work is that being in Perth, the most remote city on the planet, he had free reign to practise how he liked,” says Lovel. “He was given expansive landscapes to build on, in a very harsh climate and remote environment – and that enabled him to create these unique homes.” Indeed, they are homes that pushed boundaries: Iwanoff was known for creating ornamental exterior and interior walls, arranging concrete blocks to play with texture and light. Lovel thinks that today’s architects could learn from such an approach. And it’s why he’s hoping they’ll pick up the book, which has been released in a limited run of 400 copies.

Out and About / Vanmoof Bike, Netherlands

On the circuit

After a two-year break between releases, Vanmoof has added two new bikes – the S5 and A5 – to its offering. And both are perfect for city life. For the S5, the Dutch e-bike maker has revisited its trademark tubular frame, with smaller wheels and chunkier tyres providing control and balance in urban settings. In contrast, the A5 involved the re-engineering of Vanmoof’s typical form: the aluminium bike has a step-in frame that’s perfect for riders of all experiences, allowing first-time cyclists to hop on and off with ease.

Both models are available in cloud grey and have black matte handlebars with embedded lights that convey real-time information on battery levels and speed. Safety is assured by wide-beam front and rear lights, keyless locking and unlocking systems and anti-theft technology that includes GPS tracking. Cargo can be carried too, courtesy of generous front and rear baskets. Running late? Just hit the Turbo Boost button.


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