Purpose built - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 22/6/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

The Project / Mona Vale Surf Life Saving Club, Australia

Part of the scenery

Often tucked behind sand dunes or sitting tired on top of a vast car park, many surf life-saving clubs across Australia fail to capitalise on the natural beauty of their locations. But the elevated glass pavilions designed by architects Warren and Mahoney for Mona Vale Surf Life Saving Club on the beaches north of Sydney buck this trend. Here, the three new structures, which house a restaurant, bar and function room on the top level, are smartly positioned to ensure that those inside can enjoy views along the coast. It’s a theme that continues on the ground level too – where the life-saver facilities are located – with a public café that enjoys sightlines to the beach. “So many locals have commented on how it fits into the surrounding landscape – and it looks fantastic from the water too,” says club president Paula Tocquer.

And while the client is happy with the natural outlook, the architects were keen to ensure that the building’s materiality responded to the terrain too. “Timber and textured raw concrete were chosen to reflect the natural environment,” says Warren and Mahoney’s Sven Ollmann. “We wanted them to work with, as well as resist where necessary, the harsh coastal environment.” The outcome is a structure that visually enhances its location, whether you’re looking at it or from it.

Design news / Venice Airport, Italy

Flying colours

Venice’s sleepy Nicelli Airport, situated on a sandy island at the edge of the Venetian archipelago, has been newly reimagined by Nina Yashar, the founder of Milan’s Nilufar Gallery. As part of Venice’s Biennale Arte, Yashar (pictured) has furnished the building’s arrivals and departures hall with colourful wares and turned an adjacent structure that once served as a petrol station into a gallery space. Why? Well, the airport is an example of Italian rationalism, which cherished straight lines and muted colours – a stark contrast to the Milanese gallerist’s signature style. “It is a fantastic place,” says Yashar. “But when I first saw the beautiful building, all grey inside, I thought, ‘Oh my God.’”

The result of that exclamation, she says, was an exhortation to bring “warmth, colour, energy and joy”. Nothing has been lost of the original 1920s interior but much has been added. In the main hall, there are now fluffy white chairs by Franco Albini, Gio Ponti lamps and carpets by Martino Gamper, while the gas station gallery features an exhibition of oversized porcelain vases by artist Sin Ying Cassandra Ho. It’s definitely not dull. Indeed, it feels a lot like a very well-decorated modern Italian home – definitely worth visiting before Ho’s show is packed up at the end of the month.


Words with... / Annabel Karim Kassar, Lebanon

Purpose built

Architect Annabel Karim Kassar and her team at her studio, AKK, have spent much of the past two years restoring buildings in Beirut damaged by the 2020 port explosion. The French-Lebanese creative has developed a rich understanding of the design details of the city’s classic Ottoman-Venetian houses, a knowledge she’s now sharing in a new exhibition at the V&A Museum, as part of the London Festival of Architecture. Called The Lebanese House: Saving a Home, Saving a City, the show features a life-size reconstruction of part of Bayt K, a traditional Lebanese home in the historic Gemmayzeh neighbourhood that AKK has been restoring. We caught up with Karim Kassar to find out more about the installation for this week’s episode of Monocle On Design.

Image: Mark O’Flaherty

Tell us about the installation at the V&A.
I tried to bring a piece of a Lebanese house to London by constructing a section of a building with five-metre-high ceilings, so that people could get a sense of the scale of these structures. The installation is not just about the façade but the key parts of a house too. In the traditional Lebanese home, you have three areas: the liwan (a small salon), the big hall and then a more familial room. We recreated these parts of the house because I wanted visitors to have a feeling that what people lost in the blast is not only architecture but also the memory of this way of living. I want people to be aware of the importance of keeping the traditions associated with this architecture when rebuilding.

What’s appealing about the arrangement of these traditional Lebanese rooms?
I love the fact that the interior layout is built around a big hall; this is in opposition to the idea in Europe where you separate the living room from the other rooms with a corridor. I love the conviviality of the Lebanese house as a result of this approach. I also love the ornamentation and decorative architecture, with beautifully painted ceilings and flooring.

The installation was built by Beirut craftsmen. Why is it important to involve them in the process?
Their work is a practice that’s worth preserving and protecting. By involving them in this installation and the rebuilding of Beirut, we’ll ensure that their knowledge of traditional construction is kept alive from generation to generation.

For more from Karim Kassar listen to ‘Monocle On Design’.

From the archive / Sunball, Germany

Sphere of influence

It has been a hot few weeks across Europe, with most people on the continent looking for a comfortable way to soak up the sun. One of the best options, in our opinion, is the Sunball from 1969. Designed by Günter Ris and Herbert Selldorf for German company Rosenthal, this fibreglass sphere slides open to reveal an adjustable two-seater lounger, with accompanying side trays for holding refreshments. The futuristic design is particularly practical for outdoor use as the plush interiors are completely protected from the elements when the sphere is closed.

Illustration: Anje Jager

Despite this ingenuity, production of the Sunball stopped in the mid-1970s, with originals difficult to find. But we hold out hope: the licensing rights of the design have been snapped up by entrepreneur Olaf Bollmann, whose website advertises made-to-order manufacture in updated materials and an array of colour combinations. However, when Monocle approached Bollmann for comment, and a potential Sunball order, he couldn’t be reached – hopefully that’s because he spent last week sprawled out on the iconic design.

Around the House / The Pigeon Table, Belgium

Rainbow perch

One of the most colourful collaborations unveiled at this year’s Salone del Mobile came in the form of Muller Van Severen’s Pigeon Table. For the piece, the Belgian studio teamed up with Laila Gohar, a New York-based chef and artist, to create furniture inspired by the mud-brick pigeon houses in her native Egypt. The result is a striking piece with various colourful platforms rising above a white polyethylene tabletop. Perched on galvanised steel rods, these platforms can be added according to different aesthetics or unscrewed entirely.

When it comes to the intended uses of the design, Gohar is keen to leave it open to the interpretation of the owner. “The table is to be used for everyday life, however people want to,” she says. “It’s better not to dictate too much how someone can live with an object.”

In The Picture / Hay book, Denmark

Home tome

In 2002, Rolf and Mette Hay noticed a gap in the furniture and lighting market for accessible, high-quality works of design. The observation prompted them to establish their namesake homeware brand. Over the ensuing 20 years, Hay has become beloved for its playful approach and collaborations with international studios, such as Muller Van Severen.

Now, to celebrate these two decades of business, the Danish company will release a book published by Phaidon featuring more than 600 images, essays and interviews. The title will be separated into four sections – origins, collaborations, locations and colour – with graphic design by Stockholm-based Clara von Zweigbergk, editorial direction from Herman Miller’s Kelsey Keith and a foreword by Nike’s chief design officer, John Hoke III.

The book will also feature interviews between designers, with pairings such as Nipa Doshi with Jonathan Levien. On shelves in October, it’s set to be the perfect publication for those seeking inspiration for a vibrant home and an insight into the brand’s savvy approach to business.



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