Wednesday. 29/6/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Under the covers

This week we enjoy a lie-in in a smart new bed – and bedding – by John Pawson for Tekla and catch some rays on the island of Capri (pictured) at the collectable design fair Nomad, before dropping into the Danish mission in London with Marie-Louise Høstbo, head of design at furniture company Fritz Hansen. First, Nic Monisse on Spain’s new law on the quality of architecture.

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Trading places

If you’ve ever spoken to me about my work as a design journalist for more than a few minutes, you’ll know that I’m a landscape architect by trade. Why? Well, aside from clunkily dropping it into conversation so that I can talk about a few of my works, it’s also a key part of why I ended up in this role.

Practising in Australia, I was frustrated by developers constantly taking shortcuts on projects based on near-sighted economic grounds, opting for cheaper materials or dull designs that eventually would need to be replaced or overhauled. I was so frustrated by the regularity of this move that I eventually ditched my Cad programmes for word processors, and instead started writing about quality-driven projects that don’t fall victim to this trope. And now, with the Spanish government approving its law on the “quality of architecture” this month, federal governments that don’t fall victim to it too.

This new piece of legislation is headlined by the creation of a national architecture museum and a new federal design council. But I’m most excited by the fact that, in public-works competitions, the quality of a proposal will now take precedence over economic matters – character and longevity will be prioritised over short-term costs. It means that major government works on the Iberian Peninsula are now less likely to be hamstrung by myopic moves.

My hope is that it will not only lead to better civic infrastructure in Spain, from stadiums to concert halls, but also encourage private developers to follow suit and invest in quality over cost. If this is the case, it will also mean fewer designers leaving their posts to write about the industry. That means fewer landscape architects-turned-journalists trying to chew your ear off about a project they worked on five years ago.

The Project / Henrybuilt showroom, USA

Right at home

Henrybuilt’s new Los Angeles location is an antidote to the stark, unwelcoming design showroom that many brands opt for. The Seattle-based firm, best known for its US-made, architecturally integrated kitchen systems, has transformed a former gallery in Downtown LA’s arts district into a series of sun-lit spaces that transition from hallway to library to kitchen. Each area feels like a real room. “We introduced ceilings and elevated the feel of the skylights to give some sense of scale,” says Julianna Morais, vice-president of design at Henrybuilt.

Morais led the LA fit-out using an interplay of textures and materials to help clients better imagine living with the brand’s creations. “Our goal was for people to come in, to touch and to feel,” she says. The new showroom offers a broad sweep of Henrybuilt’s 21-year history, from its origins as a kitchen brand to its introduction of standalone furniture pieces. It’s a valuable addition to a neighbourhood that has a growing number of design studios and shops, with Japanese homeware stalwart The Good Liver just down the street.

Design news / Nomad, Italy

Treasure island

Travelling collectable design and art fair Nomad has been finding unique settings for its showcases since 2017. For its summer 2022 edition, running from 6 to 10 July, its organisers might have secured its most dramatic venue yet: the Certosa di San Giacomo monastery, built in 1371 on the island of Capri. “We’ve been thinking of Capri for years because July is a key moment for the US market here,” says Nomad co-founder Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte. He adds that the 4 July weekend is when the “proper global jet-set crowd” descends upon the island, booking up its finest hotels and mooring yachts at the Marina Grande.

“The old monastery is not necessarily ‘on the map’ for people who visit, so the idea was to valorise the space,” says Bellavance-Lecompte. As ever, Nomad has challenged designers and galleries to find creative ways to display their work in the unique location, so guests can expect something far more unusual than the booths found at most fairs. At Certosa di San Giacomo, galleries will make use of the sprawling complex and transform former stables and grand halls into new works of art for a discerning audience to enjoy. We suggest being in its number.

Words with... / Marie-Louise Høstbo, Denmark

Total immersion

The Danish mission on Sloane Street in central London – a combined embassy and official residence that opened in 1977 – is one of the more prominent diplomatic outposts in the British capital. The boxy building by master architect Arne Jacobsen is packed with fine pieces of furniture, produced in Denmark, by designers such as Line Depping and Hans Sandgren Jakobsen. And while this makes it a beautiful destination for diplomats, it begs the question: what can a mission tell us about a nation’s design ambitions? To learn the answer, Monocle On Design visited the ambassador’s residence and met Marie-Louise Høstbo, a Scandinavian design specialist and head of design at Danish furniture company Fritz Hansen.

Image: Jan Søndergaard

To start, tell us about the significance of the project in the context of Jacobsen’s extensive portfolio of work.
It was finished some years after Jacobsen’s death but it stands as a prime example of his architectural style, which evolved over the course of his career. Here, he took into consideration the structure and the proportions of the streets surrounding the embassy. On the Sloane Street side, the structure is taller as there are mid-rise buildings nearby, while towards Pavilion Road, where there are row houses, it’s lower. It also has a big courtyard, which brings nature into the architecture, creating a quiet space in central London.

How do the furniture pieces in the building complement Jacobsen’s work?
The furniture and building connect across styles, decades and designers. The contrast is really interesting in the dining room, which has a setting designed by Ole Wanscher and built by cabinet-maker AJ Iversen, with a sideboard and tabletop in Öland stone. Wanscher’s furniture is traditionally made but in a brutalist building it piques your curiosity and encourages you to look at the details in a new and unexpected way.

While the London mission is furnished by works from different designers, Jacobsen was perhaps most famous for his ‘total designs’. Can you tell us about those?
Jacobsen’s most well-known “total design” is the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, where he designed the building and everything in it, from the lighting and furniture right down to the doorknobs and cutlery. It meant that wherever you looked, it was considered and part of the overall design. Despite this, several of his works from this project showed their relevance for spaces elsewhere and were then put into wider production. The Egg Chair was one example of this: sitting in it at the hotel, you feel safe and like you have privacy in a huge public area – this proved appealing for people to have in their own living rooms.

For more from Marie-Louise Høstbo, tune into Monocle On Design

From the archive / Meroni table, Italy

Mixed use

“My father didn’t like to apply decoration intentionally,” says Emanuela Frattini Magnusson, daughter of Italian postwar designer Gianfranco Frattini. “But some of his pieces are extremely decorative in the way that they express their structure. The Meroni table is an example of that.” Designed in 1964 as part of a small collection for the cabinet-maker of the same name, the piece reflects Frattini’s nous for designing furniture that is adaptable yet sleek: the middle section can be used as a container for liquor bottles or plants, or be flipped over to become a pedestal for an artwork.

Illustration: Anje Jager

Frattini, who was an apprentice under Gio Ponti, completed dozens of private and retail interiors in Italy and several projects abroad but remained relatively under the radar throughout his career. “He was never one of the very well-known names because he was always focused on his work and didn’t worry much about communication,” says Frattini Magnusson. This approach means that others have to advocate on his behalf: at Monocle, we firmly believe that his Meroni table is worthy of going back into production.

In The Picture / New Queensland House, Australia

Outside in

Smartly designed homes in tropical environments should allow occupants to make the most of balmy year-round climates through structures that effortlessly blend indoor and outdoor living. It’s an approach embraced by many of the best contemporary architects in the Australian state of Queensland – and one that Cameron Bruhn, dean at the University of Queensland’s school of architecture, and editor Katelin Butler are celebrating in their book, The New Queensland House.

Image: Thames & Hudson Australia Pty Ltd
Image: Thames & Hudson Australia Pty Ltd
Image: Thames & Hudson Australia Pty Ltd

Published by Thames & Hudson and set for release in July, the volume profiles 28 houses completed in the past decade that allow their owners to enjoy the best that the region’s weather has to offer. Across its pages are a range of buildings, from glamorous hilltop villas to airy suburban homes, that are presented as replicable models for designers creating work in similar climates across the globe. The result is an inspiring read for architects on the hunt for smart precedents and tropical design enthusiasts seeking inspiration for their own home.

Around the House / Tekla X John Pawson, Denmark

Ready for bed

Any hotelier worth their salt knows that when it comes to bedding and sleeping quarters, it’s best to take a pared-back approach (with the exception of a high thread count). This is an outlook that’s not lost on John Pawson: as part of an ongoing partnership with Danish fabrics brand Tekla, the British architect has created a new, minimalist range of wares for the bedroom.

Image: Tekla
Image: Tekla

The collection’s flagship pieces are a bed, bedspread, cushion covers and decorative pillow shams, which feature a textured surface created by blending a small amount of silk with a predominantly linen weave. Available in white and shaded white, the bedding is inspired by the landscape surrounding Pawson’s 17th-century country house in Oxfordshire and is intended to be a perfect complement to the collection’s low-slung elm bed frame. The best part? Avid bookworms will delight in the bed’s hinged headrest, which allows for a reclined lounging position, perfect for reading comfortably before gently dozing off.


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