Wednesday. 24/8/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Pedro Kok

Sharp style

This week, we work up an appetite thanks to a publication celebrating European dining, catch up with Luc Donckerwolke, chief creative officer at South Korean car-maker Genesis, and celebrate a new collaboration between Danish and Japanese brands. We also sip from an iconic cocktail glass and wander around the lush atrium of a new São Paulo research centre (pictured). First, Nic Monisse on holistic design.

Opinion / Nic Monisse

One vision

If you follow this column, you’ll know that we’re big fans of the design scene in Denmark. Visiting the country for a story last week, I stopped in to chat to our friends at Norm Architects and the conversation turned to the country’s tradition of holistic design. Starting in the 1940s, it was kicked off by a golden period in which architects such as Arne Jacobsen and Børge Mogensen created not only outstanding buildings but furniture to go inside them too.

The logic? Well, as a designer you should control the entire experience in a space, so the architecture and furniture had to be developed together. This makes perfect design sense and seems an ideal way to practice but, by the turn of the century, the practical nature of production took over. “Architects and furniture designers were put into silos and bespoke designs became rarer,” says Katrine Goldstein, Norm Architects’ managing director. “It was a complex and costly way to work, so people steered away from it.” But things, she says, have changed.

Danish practices, Norm Architects included, are finding ways of operating in a holistic manner that makes good business sense, working around the practical concerns that curtailed the movement. Now architects partner with furniture brands to make custom pieces for projects, with the intention that these can then go into wider production as stand-alone furniture items.

The approach is a boon for design enthusiasts, making it easy to buy furniture conceived by the country’s leading architects. Could we be entering another golden period? Here’s hoping.

The Project / AEERC, Brazil

Outside in

A new generation of Brazilian doctors and medical specialists will receive their education and carry out essential research in the lush confines of a new facility designed by acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie. Called the Albert Einstein Education and Research Centre (AEERC), the new building in São Paulo’s Morumbi neighbourhood, which opened this month, is centred around a vaulted, skylit atrium garden.

Image: Timothy Hursley
Image: Timothy Hursley

Planted with native trees and vegetation, and paved with stone from nearby, the atrium includes stepped terraces that allow for informal gatherings to spill out from AEERC’s laboratories, classrooms and communal areas. The hope is that students and researchers will mix, sharing information and ideas. “We wanted to design a space for learning and research where interactive exchange and a strong connection to nature could foster the next generations of medical leaders,” says Safdie. So while the meetings taking place in the building’s verdant public areas might appear informal, the structure’s interior has been intentionally designed to cultivate them.

Design News / Frama X Hender Scheme, Japan

Better with age

Careful material selection and finishing have always been central to the work of Copenhagen’s Frama since it was founded in 2011. The Danish furniture and homewares brand is renowned for its use of raw and untreated wood, aluminium and clay. Its new collaboration, with Japan’s Hender Scheme, continues this trend. The two brands have teamed up to reimagine a selection of their existing ranges using the Tokyo-based company’s signature natural leather.

Famed for working with Japan’s finest tanners, Hender Scheme has applied neutral-tinted and vegetable-tanned leathers to pieces such as Frama’s Adam stool and Tasca table (both pictured), to handsome effect. “We always joke that our products are ugly when you buy them and then become beautiful as you use them and they take on a patina,” says Niels Strøyer Christophersen, Frama’s founder and creative director. “The Hender Scheme leather adds another dimension. It will age in a new and different way to our existing products.” Those looking to see the works, which launched this month, would be wise to drop in to Hender Scheme’s showroom in Tokyo or Frama’s equivalent in Copenhagen.;

Words with... / Luc Donckerwolke, South Korea

Hot wheels

Initially founded as a division within the Hyundai Motor Company, South Korea’s Genesis was established as an independent automotive brand in 2015. Since then it has challenged the notion that electric cars can’t be luxury vehicles, thanks to smart and elegant rides like the GV60, its high-performance coupé. This is largely thanks to the direction of the brand’s chief creative officer, Luc Donckerwolke, whose career prior to joining Genesis saw the Belgian designer work with Lamborghini, Audi and Bentley. To find out more about his work at Genesis, we caught up with Donckerwolke for Monocle On Design.

Genesis is a young company. How has your team worked to design a strong brand in a short period of time?
Our concept started with the idea that the brand is design and design is the brand. This is not just about cool styling but using the brand as a way to materialise the design and the DNA of the cars. This started with the face of the cars, which were inspired by the logo: the crest informed the design of the grille and the feathers on the wings became the quad lights.

Tell us about your process more broadly. How do you approach the design of your vehicles?
We start with the customer experience. We never start talking about styling, first we discuss the journey of the customer. For example, the crystal sphere of the Genesis GV60 [a glowing and mobile orb embedded in the car’s interior] is actually an element that was born out of a will to visually show that the engine is on. This came from the fact that combustion engines have an acoustic reference to signal that they are in use, while an electrical engine doesn’t. So we designed the sphere to rotate and give you access to the commands of the car as soon as the engine is live. It means that the moment that you see those commands, you know that the car is running.

How do you hope people feel when they drive or ride in a Genesis?
I hate being told that I’ve designed a nice car or a beautiful car. I’ll go back to the drawing board. I want a car that people look at, frown and think. And then, after reflecting and interacting with it, suddenly they start liking it. And the more they get to know it, the more they see the refinement and the contrast. This is where I like to play with the opposition of characters and tension. Black is nothing without white – and too much of one thing is never good.

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

From The Archive / Memphis Martini glass, UK

Straw goal

If you are anywhere in the sweltering northern hemisphere, the idea of lounging by a pool with a frosty cocktail in hand is sure to be appealing. To make the thought even more irresistible, imagine sipping from this glass: the Memphis Martini. First produced in 1982, it has a base that doubles as a built-in straw that twists back up above the rim – kitschy but undeniably fun.

Illustration: Anje Jagerr

Invented and manufactured by designer Richard Holloway through his London-based company Straight Lines, the design was also adapted into a highball model, with the straw spiralling around the glass. Both were a hit, with the Memphis starring in an advert for Diet Coke (tagline: “trim your drink”) and Holloway claiming that more than 10 million of the glasses were sold in total. Today, however, Straight Lines has shut up shop and the glasses have become exceedingly rare – to the loss of thirsty pool-goers everywhere.

Around The House / Fritz Hansen, Denmark

Smart office

Danish furniture brand Fritz Hansen marked its 150th anniversary in style this summer with the construction of a custom-built pavilion at Copenhagen’s Design Museum. It’s continuing the celebrations with the launch of its new collection which, appropriately, includes a number of reinvigorated classics from the brand’s archive.

Our pick from the new range, which will be on sale in September, is an updated version of Arne Jacobsen’s classic FH3605 desk. Now including a single drawer and available in walnut veneer and black stained ash, it’s an eye-catching focal point for any office. The piece would be nicely complemented by the reissued version of Spanish designer Jamie Hayon’s JH tray (pictured). Made from Oregon pine and brass, this item is an ideal way to keep the desk’s surface clutter-free. Both products are a reminder that, despite the brand’s age, it still means business.

In The Picture / ‘Menu Design in Europe’, Germany

Art du jour

Following the success of its 2018 book Menu Design in America, German publisher Taschen is serving up a tasty second course, aptly named Menu Design in Europe. For this volume, Los Angeles-based editor Jim Heimann has crossed the Atlantic to explore the continent’s design à la carte. The publication presents mouthwatering menus printed between 1800 and 2000, with Heimann, a trained historian and cultural anthropologist, explaining the link between each work and the gastronomic era it was printed in. Menus featured include an extravagant belle époque number from Parisian bistro Le Grand Véfour and a colourfully illustrated piece from Salts Diner menu created by David Hockney.

“Being handed a menu is the continuum of a long-held restaurant experience,” says Heimann. “When the menu is well designed and superior graphics are present, customers know that they are being given special attention and see their visit as something more than having a waiter place food in front of them.” The result, he says, is an enhanced dining experience. And, at least for Heimann, the chance to add a new menu to his collection.


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