Wednesday 3 August 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 3/8/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: William Jess Laird

Brighten the corners

This week, we luxuriate in the view from a clifftop weekend house near Seoul, find tranquillity at Ace Hotel’s first Canadian outpost (pictured) and fantasise about an electric Honda CB50 bike, before taking a load off on a new edition of Acerbis’s playfully architectural Med chair. But first, Nolan Giles on the gaudy horrors of TV sports-show sets.

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Shield your eyes

When you’re a journalist you often get emails from your editor after working hours. News, after all, is a 24-hour business – even design news. So when a message from the boss arrived at about 20.00 on Friday, I scrambled into action. “BBC Commonwealth Games set” was its subject line. I changed channels on my TV to investigate further; that I’d switched over from a sumptuously shot film only made clearer why this urgently needed addressing. Suddenly my bleary eyes were cast onto a garish combination of bright colours, deployed across a broadcast set that made me shudder. Views of the Games’ host city, Birmingham, were drowned out by chunky, toxic-waste-green window frames, while the hosts sat on an oddly curved couch, not far from some scary-looking stuffed mascots.

I considered how best to deal with this. My initial plan was to point to benchmarks in nations known for their quality news and sports productions. Sadly, my research was thwarted at every turn by sets that relied on huge neon lights, punchy fluoro-colours and UFO-like central consoles that dwarfed the glasses of water placed on them. I understand that this type of design is supposed to accentuate the excitement of a live sports spectacle but surely it could be done a bit more subtly?

Surprisingly, it was another BBC sports set in which I was able to find some solace. For the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the broadcaster relied on a simple, elegant copper plinth – which I’m guessing was a reference to the locally mined metal – and let the dynamic views of the city behind it do the talking, alongside the hosts.

That approach seems easier to implement and a better use of resources for most types of broadcast. This seems pertinent today when it feels increasingly jarring to see TV anchors lamenting climate change and energy shortages on sets that require the power of a small British village to light up. TV is a powerful tool to convey messages and sports broadcasting is among the most emotionally driven arenas for storytelling. Hopefully, broadcasters will strive to use the sets on which they conduct these lively conversations (or those on climate change) to show that good design can be a powerful tool too.

The Project / Bugok Friday, South Korea

Ways of seeing

Designed by Seoul-based firm Tru Architects, Bugok Friday is a one-storey weekend house inspired by the country’s jeongja pavilions, which were built at scenic viewpoints. Sitting on a cliff on the outskirts of South Korea’s capital, the house has been designed to make the most of the views to Bukhansan mountain. A simple, linear structure, the building appears to be influenced by the country’s traditional hanok houses – a resemblance that its chief architect, Cho Sungik, says isn’t intentional.

“Hearing that one of my buildings resembles a hanok is high praise,” says Cho. “But I didn’t make design decisions with that likeness as a priority.” He says that a second floor wasn’t added because it would have created a longer shadow in the yard, not because the hanok is one-storey. And while the corrugated steel used for the roof resembles a hanok’s stone tiles, it’s also a material that’s affordable, widely available and easy to instal, says Cho.

Image: Song Yoo
Image: Song Yoo

These design decisions – as well as long windows that frame the view and a semi-enclosed terrace – create a home that puts the surrounding natural environment front and centre. “We wanted the owners to see all the things that we don’t take the time to look at [in our daily lives],” says Cho. It’s an approach that we would welcome in any weekend home.

Design News / Ace Hotel Toronto, Canada

Still point

Ace Hotel’s first outing in Canada has just opened in Toronto. The 123-key project, designed by the city’s own Shim-Sutcliffe Architects, stands in the historic Fashion District, a former manufacturing hub that has become a thriving artistic neighbourhood. While the hotel is a new build, the structure is imbued with a strong sense of place, fitting in seamlessly among the buildings that surround it. Its red-brick façade references the slabs pressed by the nearby Don Valley Brick Works, which are used in countless buildings throughout the city. Guests are greeted upon entry by “Horizon Line”, a large, site-specific art installation that represents Lake Ontario’s glittering water.

Image: William Jess Laird
Image: William Jess Laird

Complementing Shim-Sutcliffe’s work is that of Atelier Ace, the hotel’s in-house architecture and design team. The atelier is responsible for the hotel’s interiors and custom furniture, which take their cue from Toronto’s legacy of manufacturing and textiles, as well as Ontario’s verdant forests and sinuous rivers. Guest rooms feature Douglas fir panelling, copper accents and deep-set window benches. The result is a hotel that offers respite from the capital’s hustle and bustle in spaces that still feel firmly rooted in the city.

Words with... / Federica Biasi, Italy

Northern exposure

Federica Biasi’s star is on the rise. The Italian creative director and consultant, who graduated with honours from the Istituto Europeo di Design in 2011, won young designer of the year at the 2021 Edida International Design Awards. Today she runs her own namesake practice in the Lombard capital, where her clients and collaborators include the likes of Nespresso, Mingardo and furniture brand Lema. To find out more about her approach to work and the connection between Italian and Nordic design, we caught up with Biasi for Monocle On Design on Monocle 24.

Image: Virginie Garnier

Despite your Italian roots, your work would feel quite at home in the Nordic countries, thanks to its clean lines and pared-back material selections. Was this a deliberate choice or something that evolved naturally?
I think of myself as European, both as a person and as a designer. I was born in Italy but when I started working I was living in Amsterdam. While I was there, I was researching trends and going to design fairs in northern Europe to help my clients understand the influences and developments in the design industry in that part of the world. So a lot of my early inspiration came from the Nordics rather than from Italy. When I returned home my approach was probably more northern European as a result. I probably started to merge these influences.

Despite working as a trend forecaster early in your career, your work feels timeless. How have you avoided the temptation to create pieces that will only appeal to current tastes?
I believe in creating work that lasts. I don’t want to do anything based on a trend but I still have to convince the companies that I work for that what I want to design will sell this year. As a result, sometimes I play with materials or colours but the shapes that I work with are always timeless.

Are there any materials that transcend trends?
Yes and no. Metal, for example, almost always ages well but some finishes don’t. Think about brass in the past 10 years: we have seen so much of it, in all sorts of projects, that we don’t want to see it any more. While metal might be a timeless material, the fact that brass became trendy has made it lose that timelessness.

For more from Biasi, tune in to ‘Monocle On Design’.

From The Archive / Honda CB50, Japan

King of the street

Ride-sharing mopeds, which can be rented via an app after a quick verification of your driver’s licence, are now common in many large cities. These electric vehicles offer a practical way to zip around town but their growing popularity raises an important question for bike-makers: why would a city dweller bother buying a moped if there’s one available on every street corner? To entice new customers, we suggest that manufacturers introduce electric versions of their best-loved vintage models.

Illustration: Anje Jager

Take, for example, the Honda CB50 from the 1970s. This compact street motorcycle almost seems designed to run on a battery: it is about the same size as a bicycle, weighs just 74kg and is perfect for short urban adventures. And in terms of character, this Japanese beauty beats any app-based service by a mile. Offered the choice between a generic ride-share and an electrified CB50, we know which we’d jump on.

Around The House / Acerbis Med chair, Italy

Three-point turn

Completed in 1902, New York’s Flatiron Building remains a favourite of many architecture buffs, thanks to its striking triangular form. In 1983 it inspired Giotto Stoppino and Lodovico Acerbis, founder of his namesake furniture company, to design the Med chair. With its front legs sitting significantly wider than those at the rear, its proportions playfully allude to the Manhattan skyscraper. The chair has now been reimagined by Acerbis’s current creative directors, Francesco Meda and David Lopez Quincoces.

Image: Alberto Strada

Inspired by the original concept drawings of the Med, which were discovered in the brand’s archives, the duo have made the new iteration available in solid, dark-stained walnut or black-stained ash, with a seat and back upholstered in either fabric or leather. It’s a smart take on the classic design and we expect it to be a popular choice among the design-savvy for years to come – much like the building it draws inspiration from.

In The Picture / Forward, USA

Effing awesome

Nobody understands America’s viewing habits quite like Tatari. The San Francisco-based data and analytics company studies advertising across television and streaming platforms to help brands ensure that their ads are reaching the right eyes. But what does the future have in store for this industry? That’s what Tatari will be exploring at Forward, a conference that it is organising in New York.

Image: A LINE Studio
Image: A LINE Studio

To publicise it, the company called in the services of digital design studio A Line, which named the event and created its visual identity. The result is a “design system” that uses pixelated, F-shaped graphics, which can be translated onto an array of colourful, geometric posters and slick signage. “The shape of the letter F forms the basis of a grid,” says James Trump, A Line’s co-founder and creative director. “This was an exciting realisation, as it meant that the F logo that we designed could be used at a range of scales on our layouts. It can be supersized to feel really bold or used more quietly, with the square grid guiding copy and iconography.” Fans of the work will be able to pick up clothing and water bottles featuring an appropriately scaled logo mark when the event kicks off in September.;


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00