Wednesday. 15/6/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Tour of beauty

The European design festival circuit continues this week. We check in at 3 Days of Design in Denmark and Design Miami in Basel. We also speak with an architect whose work was on display at Salone del Mobile, before taking a seat on the new 75th anniversary iteration of Børge Mogensen’s J39 chair (pictured) for a well-earned rest. First, here’s Nic Monisse on the significance of the season.

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Fair play

For architects, gallerists and design-minded journalists in 2022, June is a busy month. Fresh off the heels of Salone del Mobile, the ninth edition of Copenhagen’s 3 Days of Design festival officially kicks off today and the design set – including yours truly – are here in force.

Personally, after a busy few days in the trade halls of Milan, this event is offering some welcome respite. Why? Well, there’s no central venue or fairground, so I’m spending my time moseying between destinations in the Danish capital instead. It is smart of the event organisers to entice people to experience the furniture, lighting and products on show in the context of the city – just as you would in everyday life. As such, I’ve ridden a bike to the Gammelholm neighbourhood to see a series of tables by &Tradition and had dinner on smart furniture by Fritz Hansen, in a pavilion in the garden of the Designmuseum Denmark (pictured). I’ve also stopped for plenty of Danish hot dogs along the way.

Image: Jan Søndergaard

The success of 3 Days of Design, off the back of this decentralised concept, is a reminder that design events need to be clear in their offering in a busy and international industry calendar. For further proof of the importance of distinction, one only needs to look to Design Miami Basel, which is also in full swing.

Here, in comparison to 3 Days of Design, there’s a more global outlook and an emphasis on quality over quantity. As such, savvy buyers, curators and editors from across the world (including our own executive editor, Nolan Giles) are there, browsing and buying a covetable array of collectable designs from its booths at Basel’s Messeplatz. Both events are a reminder that design fairs don’t have to be everything to everyone. Instead, success is built off the back of a clear and distinct design offering – and maybe some tasty hot dogs too.

The project / OEO Studio at Designmuseum, Denmark

Great Danes

Originally designed as a hospital by master architect Kaare Klint in the 1920s, Designmuseum Denmark is reopening after extensive renovations, coinciding with the conclusion of 3 Days of Design. The public will be able to browse its collections for the first time since 2020.

Celebrations are headlined by a temporary summer pavilion in its courtyard but we’re most excited about the permanent transformation of the café and shop by Copenhagen’s OEO Studio. “We had to ask ourselves: How do you build on the legacy of a master such as Klint?” says Thomas Lykke, the practice’s head of design.

Image: Jan Søndergaard
Image: Jan Søndergaard

His team’s answer: quite simply, to take inspiration from the considered craftsmanship of Klint’s work. The oiled-oak and hot-rolled steel café counter, for instance, is bespoke, while the folded paper ceiling lamps in the room have been specially designed to enhance the original architecture’s clean lines.

The shop, while incorporating glass cabinetry originally designed by Klint, also pays tribute to the contents of the museum: guests can pull up a seat on iconic perches designed by Danish masters such as Bodil Kjær and Arne Jacobsen. For guests, this renovation ensures that good design and smart craftsmanship aren’t confined to the exhibitions but shape the public spaces too.;

Design news / Design Miami, Basel

Bright ideas

The Basel edition of Design Miami kicked off yesterday and the fair, beloved by collectors of unique and rare furniture, is in fine fettle. Upon entering (and until the event wraps up on Sunday) visitors are greeted by a huge, cocooning sound-and-lighting installation by Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. The piece, presented by BMW i and Miami art platform Superblue, surrounds the audience with 6,000 suspended light bulbs. The lights flicker in rhythm with the heartbeats of guests, who can have their pulses scanned as they enter the immersive installation.

Image: World Red Eye, James Harris
Image: World Red Eye, James Harris
Image: World Red Eye, James Harris

It is the less-gargantuan pieces of design, however, that collectors from around the globe have flown in to see and buy. Early favourites include limited-run editions of Herzog & de Meuron’s Hong Kong Stool, presented by Brussels gallery Pierre Marie Giraud. The timber pieces – delivered in parts, somewhat like a puzzle – can be constructed into a cosy stool. Another coveted work comes courtesy of Marc Newson, one of the designers behind the Apple Watch. The Australian is showing a shelving system with Paris’s Galerie Kreo that is not only beautiful but functional too. “Design, by definition, is functional and even though I collect design, I use it too,” says Craig Robins, co-founder of Design Miami and a keen collector. He tells The Monocle Minute on Design that one version of Newson’s system will soon be his.

Words with... / Andrea Forapani, Italy

On the road

An architect by training, Andrea Forapani heads up Lombrello, a Milan-based studio known for its highly customisable steel-frame chairs. Established in 2018, Forapani has, for the past four years, shown his collection at Salone del Mobile on Via Solferino, one of the busiest streets in Milan’s Brera neighbourhood. We caught up with him at his showcase last week for ‘Monocle On Design’ to find out about the brand and why he likes the street as a display space.

Tell us about Lombrello.
I started it with the idea that furniture can be simple and personal. I began with a design with which I had an emotional connection. It’s a chair in a similar style to the Eames’s work in the 1950s, which reminded me of a chair that my grandma had in her kitchen. We now have a range that is fully customisable with different laminates, textiles and accessories.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto
Image: Andrea Pugiotto
Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Tell us about the evolution of your range.
We started with a simple plywood dining chair. But we saw a need to add some additional value to the collection and we slowly set about trying to solve all of the problems that are associated with seating. So we have a chair for a coffee table, low and high stools for kitchens and bars, a lounge-style seat, a seat with a coat rack – and there’s even the option of having an umbrella attached to the back of a chair, which makes it perfect for sitting outside on a sunny terrace. The whole idea is that we give complete customisation.

Many designers opt to present at the Fiera Milano in Rho or in showrooms in the city. Why do you present your work on platforms in the street instead?
When I made my first prototype four years ago, I wanted to find a place to showcase it so that many different people would have the opportunity to try it and give me feedback. So I went to the most congested area of Brera and took over a parking space on the street. I built a wooden platform and put my products on it and people started to sit down. There was a lot of love for the product and the feedback I received opened up my mind and convinced me that there was value in this work.

For more from Forapani and Salone del Mobile, tune in to ‘Monocle On Design’.

From the archive / Frank Lloyd Wright chair, USA

Best seat in the house

Frank Lloyd Wright is one of the most celebrated American architects of the 20th century but furniture designed by him is exceedingly hard to come by. Despite commissioning items for the interiors of almost all of his projects, his designs were never put into wider production. So when the Paris-based Galerie Alexandre Guillemain staged a show of Lloyd Wright’s works in April this year, the two dozen-plus pieces on display – including this dining chair from the Clarence Sondern House in Missouri – had taken more than five years to source.

Illustration: Anje Jagerr

Built in 1939, the low-slung house is one of a series of modern villas designed for middle-class families, which Lloyd Wright termed “Usonian houses”. The chair displays many of the legendary architect’s signatures, including the use of warm-hued cypress wood and an origami-like form that draws on his Japanese influences. Interested? Tough luck. Alexandre Guillemain had just one on offer; along with every other piece in the exhibition, it was snapped up within days.

Around the House / J39 chair and exhibition, Denmark

This year’s model

Børge Mogensen’s work embodies good Scandinavian design. The Danish furniture master’s well-crafted, durable output from the 1940s and 1950s remains as coveted today as it was back then. To celebrate this legacy and the 75th anniversary of Mogensen’s J39 chair, Danish furniture producer Fredericia is releasing a new take on the model. While current versions, available in walnut, oak and beech timber, have a hand-woven paper cord seat, this new iteration uses sedge grass for the perch in tribute to the 1947 original.

Image: Jan Søndergaard

Those who want to test out the J39 would do well to stop into Fredericia’s showroom on Løvstraede in Copenhagen during 3daysofdesign. Here, they’ll find the chair and an exhibition about it, curated by British designer Jasper Morrison, documenting its evolution and that of Mogensen’s work. Visitors who don’t purchase a piece will at least walk away with a little more knowledge about one of Denmark’s finest designers.

New release / L Ercolani Grade Collection, UK

Comfort zone

L Ercolani, the sister company of UK furniture favourite Ercol, showcased a suite of eye-catching furniture at Salone del Mobile last week. The Grade Collection, designed by Sweden’s Jonas Wagell, proved popular at the brand’s stand due to its sharp form and an emphasis on comfort.

The piece, which comes in versions with one, two or three seats, is manufactured in the UK and sits atop a solid ash frame, with cushions structured in a way that luxuriously supports the body. Users gently sink into the sofa without feeling like they’re swimming in a sea of upholstery.


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