Wednesday. 20/7/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Claire Lavabre / Studio Bouroullec

Way to go

Do trade fairs and exhibitions always have to be so difficult to navigate? Nolan Giles thinks not – and he’s laying down the gauntlet to anyone who thinks they can be simplified. Elsewhere, we dust off a classic rattan chair for alfresco loafing, do a drive-by of an eye-catching installation and talk to an architect with plenty of natural talent. Start your journey here.

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Route master

I’ve made a mess of my time at many a Messeplatz, wasting precious hours getting lost at gigantic convention centres while trying to navigate design trade fairs. While I imagine that all the major industry gatherings held at these venues face similar issues, it feels especially counterintuitive when events are showcasing design. Here delegates pay to see innovations that are supposed to make their lives easier yet are forced to endure labyrinthine layouts that utterly confuse them.

Surprisingly, very few brands exhibiting at these events have made the effort to get ahead of these issues and please guests by making the navigation less painful. Eurobike, the world’s biggest bike fair, held at Messe Frankfurt last week, would have been the perfect moment for such an initiative. Here, I was tired even before I found the huge hall I was meant to be milling around in. If only one wise bike company was offering a two-wheeled shuttle service from the train station to their stand. I would have been loyal to that brand for life, even more so if they had whisked me off in a cycle wagon and provided a cold bottle of water to quench my thirst en route.

Never has the opportunity been greater for a clever graphic design firm to capitalise on the messy trade-fair wayfinding system market to help manage the mêlée. They would win thousands of adoring fans by stamping their name on a simple system akin to the one you find at, say, Schiphol Airport. Those pitching to improve this process please email me at; I have a career’s worth of criticism to help guide your proposal.

The project / Akris boutique, USA

Material matters

When David Chipperfield Architects (DCA) was enlisted three years ago to develop a new retail concept for Akris, the challenge was to represent the Swiss fashion house’s heritage in a fresh way. The family-owned brand, which celebrates its centenary this year, is rooted in St Gallen, a city famed for its textile craftsmanship. “Swiss tradition, precision and perfectionism are not easy to translate into something conceptual,” says Giuseppe Zampieri, director of DCA’s Milan office, which led the project. “One always has to be careful to avoid trivialising through clichés.” The first DCA-designed Akris shop, which recently opened in Washington, is far from running that risk.

Image: Alberto Parise
Image: Alberto Parise
Image: Alberto Parise

In the new boutique devotees of the brand will spot nods to Akris’ signature materials, such as the horsehair fabric that lines the fitting room walls. But overall, the design is pared back. The interiors feature white-painted maple panelling and pale limestone floors, while the clothing racks and shelves are suspended from the ceiling on slim steel cables. “We chose an extremely light display system to focus all attention on the materiality and quality of the product,” says Zampieri. It’s the right approach: for a fashion brand with a story to tell, it’s best to let the clothes speak for themselves.

Design News / Lincoln Pavilion, France

Driving ambition

In the 1930s, Parisian visual artist Norbert Bézard and Le Corbusier dreamed up plans for La ferme radieuse, a working farm in the village of Piacé near Le Mans. The utopian social project fell through but in its place the Piacé Le Radieux arts centre was established. Beyond an exhibition about the proposed farm, the institution, which counts the Fondation Le Corbusier among its partners, has grown to become a platform for showcasing contemporary architecture, design and art.

Image: Claire Lavabre / Studio Bouroullec

Now the centre’s director, Nicolas Hérisson, has commissioned a permanent roadside installation to catch the attention of those driving through the village. French contemporary artist Pascal Rivet’s Lincoln is a full-size wooden replica of a black Lincoln Continental car. It’s protected from the elements by a handsome pavilion by Parisian designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. The ceramic and glass structure has a steel frame and a corrugated-iron roof painted the same red as the terracotta tiles that cover the interior, provided by Italy’s Mutina. It’s worth a pit stop to see it.

Words with... / Mario Cucinella

Natural selection

Milanese architect Mario Cucinella’s rapidly growing portfolio includes the city’s new hospital, a soon-to-be-completed skyscraper for insurance group Unipol and the masterplan for a mixed-use development on the outskirts of Lombardy’s capital. His works are built with the climate in mind and imbued with features that complement the natural world, such as ceramic tiles that absorb air pollution. To find out more about his design approach, we caught up with Cucinella for this week’s episode of Monocle On Design.

Image: Giovanni de Sandre

Tell us about the outlook that defines your practice.
I have been working for 30 years. And from the beginning I thought that the relationship between building and climate was one of the pillars of architecture and one of the major points on the agenda for the future of design. So the practice focuses on our interpretation of the relationship between architecture and nature.

How has that evolved?
With time we’ve started to appreciate the complexity of nature. For a long time, as a society, we looked but didn’t understand. Plants, for instance, are very intelligent and they’re millions of years old, so we can learn from them. We can use their knowledge to see how buildings can behave like them and how materials can react with the climate. This approach is opening frontiers into what new technology can be; it’s no longer about big machines and computers but the ways in which we design and use materials, and how the buildings react to their surroundings.

You’re quite happy to share new building technologies developed by your studio, such as smog-eating tiles, with other designers. Why?
We don’t like to keep information to ourselves. Sharing innovation is a way for society to find an equilibrium.

For more from Mario Cucinella, listen to ‘Monocle On Design’.

From the archive / Rush rattan chair, Italy

Hot seat

Though Maurizio Tempestini is not a household name, the Florentine interior designer is revered in the specialised world of garden furniture. Aficionados scour vintage resale websites for rare listings of Tempestini’s elegant outdoor pieces, such as the Rush rattan chairs, which were designed in the late 1950s and produced by Italian manufacturer Rima throughout the following decade. Like these spindly chairs, which have a seat inside a circular frame, Tempestini’s designs are sculptural without looking overwrought.

Illustration: Anje Jagerr

Tempestini, who was active from the 1930s until 1960, only ever designed a few pieces for industrial production. For much of his career he worked on interiors and gardens of private villas with architect Nello Baroni and landscape architect Pietro Porcinai (see issue 155 of Monocle, which is on sale now). A focus on quality and craft is also evident in Tempestini’s mass-produced designs, which make us think that much of the outdoor furniture on offer today veers a bit too far towards the utilitarian. Gardens would look much better with designs that employ less thick steel and polyester and more of a Florentine sense of style. Perhaps Tempestini should be a household name.

Around The House / Squarely, Denmark

Room to grow

In 2018 architect Agnieszka Szwarczewska founded Squarely, a Copenhagen company specialising in smart and sustainable planter boxes. After starting her collection with a small planter, the range has grown to include boxes in three different sizes, which can be wall mounted, used as room dividers, positioned on balconies, or placed on windowsills and tables. Made from recycled wood, each box is equipped with a self-watering mechanism: ideal for those lacking time – or a green thumb.

Image: Squarely
Image: Squarely

Szwarczewska's hope is that by making the watering process as simple as possible, people will be inspired to create more verdant homes and workplaces. “We want to reintroduce greenery to all kinds of spaces, from window sills to balconies,” she says. “After all, people are born to live in nature.”

In The Picture / Migros Shopping bags, Switzerland

That summer feeling

Swiss supermarket giant Migros has gone into full summer celebration mode with an extensive advertising campaign with top Zürich ad agency Wirz. The joyous simplicity across TV and digital advertising, which revolves around a new term that the brand has coined: Sommern (a verb meaning ‘to summer’ in German), has proved a contagious success. Across Zürich, and places further afield, sun-kissed residents can be seen sporting these cute, special-edition shopping bags. We hope that the treats they’re carrying inside are as refreshing as the ice-cream illustrations cleverly splashed over the Migros “M”.

Image: David Willen/ Tania Willen/ Studio Willen
Image: David Willen/ Tania Willen/ Studio Willen


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Monocle 24

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