Wednesday. 7/9/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Studio Marcus Kraft

Fresh perspectives

Two intriguing Danish projects caught our eye this week: a public artwork celebrating 50 of the nation’s trailblazing women and a sleek reimagining of the humble tennis ball basket. Mud Australia and Frost Collective’s ceramic house numbers are another example of a simple item enjoying a design makeover and the posters for arts festival Zürcher Theater Spektakel (pictured) have a new look too. Meanwhile, here’s Nic Monisse.

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Comparing notes

In 2007 I harboured ambitions to be a musician. I started playing in a band and taking guitar lessons. Sadly, the record deal never came through, even though my group won a high-school battle-of-the-bands competition (although this was suspect as my mother was on the voting committee). But I’ve retained a few important lessons from this period. One of these was passed along by my guitar teacher, who told me to always practise by playing along to the recordings of great artists: why strum solo when you can put on a record and jam with the world’s best musicians?

Through talking to architect Antonio Citterio this week, I’ve learnt that the same approach can be applied to furniture design. When discussing his work for Knoll on the newly minted Klismos range, which includes a bench, chair, chaise longue and sofa, he explained that each piece was designed to work with items beyond his own collection. Citterio says that, when creating prototypes, he would place his samples alongside the works of revered designers. “The interesting thing was looking at how I could combine my chairs with tables by Eero Saarinen or seeing how they could work alongside chairs by Mies Van der Rohe,” he says. The logic? That the pieces will never be used only with items from the Klismos collection. “I wanted to see how my product would work with the classics.”

This was Citterio’s version of jamming. It’s a reminder for furniture designers that, as your work will almost always sit alongside that of others, it’s a good idea to use classic pieces of design to push your creations, seeing how your proportions and forms gel with those of the greats. And while such an approach didn’t work for me musically, the popularity of Citterio’s output suggests that it’s a worthy method for furniture design.

The Project / Frost Collective x Mud, Australia

Prime numbers

“When walking around my neighbourhood I noticed a mishmash of very ordinary fonts and materials used for house numbers,” says Vince Frost, founder of creative studio Frost Collective in Sydney. It was a situation that prompted the designer to begin to imagine a more inspiring alternative, with the simple, elegant curves of the products made by porcelain homeware brand Mud Australia coming to mind. “I knew that, if paired with the right font, we could create a product that is suitable for a whole array of architectural styles and materials,” he says. “I pitched the idea to Shelley Simpson from Mud Australia and she loved it.”

Image: MUD
Image: MUD
Image: MUD

Frost went on to provide the bespoke font, which has been interpreted by the Mud Australia team and hand-carved into plaster moulds for porcelain slip casting. Carbon-neutral and produced in Sydney, each house number is made to order, comes in two sizes and is available in 19 colours, as well as an unglazed, zero-waste recycled clay. The door numbers are shapely and tactile but retain the minimalist aesthetic and functional design ethos that Mud Australia is known for. “No matter where you live, what you see when approaching your entryway should make you feel happy that you’re home,” says Simpson. We’re confident that this door furniture will do just that.;

Design News / Czech Radio, Czech Republic

Surround sound

The Czech Republic’s national broadcaster is getting ready to inaugurate its newly finished premises in the city of Olomouc, a three-hour drive east of Prague. The building was originally constructed in the early 1900s as a furniture showroom, with an ornate art nouveau façade that was destroyed in the Second World War and replaced with a sober, tiled exterior. However, despite now having a quiet and unassuming frontage, the building has a vast, light-flooded atrium around which Czech Radio’s new studios and workspaces are situated.

Image: BoysPlayNice
Image: BoysPlayNice

Behind the renovation is architecture studio Atelier 38, which aimed to keep as much of the original structure as possible. “We worked hard to preserve the temple-like effect of the central area,” says architect Tomáš Bindr. The biggest difficulty was providing the necessary conditions for recording audio, a challenge that saw the studio call in the help of the acousticians who had worked on Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie concert hall. “In this regard, it’s trickier when you’re working on a conversion and not designing a new building,” says Bindr. “You have to constantly improvise.”

Words with... / Giulia Frittoli, Denmark

Circle of femmes

Italian landscape architect and urban designer Giulia Frittoli is a partner at Copenhagen-based studio Big. In her time at the firm, which she joined in 2017, she has overseen master plans for projects that range from Gulangyu Island in China (work that contributed to the site being Unesco heritage listed) and Toyota Woven City, an urban infill project in the Japanese city of Susono in Shizuoka. Her most recently completed project, however, is located closer to her current home in Denmark’s capital. Called “50 Queens”, it is an installation in the city’s central square, Kongens Nytorv, to mark Queen Margrethe II’s 50th jubilee by drawing attention to other Danish women who were pioneers in their field of work. We caught up with Frittoli for this week’s episode of Monocle On Design to find out more about the work.

Image: Marcus Mork

Where did the idea for the installation come from?
There’s a great symbolism associated with statues and monuments. [In preparation for the celebration of the jubilee], we learnt that there are 101 statues in Copenhagen but only five show women; in contrast, 26 are of animals. We started to think about creating an installation in a public space where a series of pedestals inhabit the street and recognise these voices that are missing from the city’s public sculptures.

Tell us about the design.
We have arranged 50 pedestals in a circular form in Kongens Nytorv. A circle doesn’t have a start or end and is meant to represent an infinite loop where we look at the past but also the future. With the city and a cultural foundation, we selected a jury of 10 people, which included philosophers, politicians and artists. They chose 49 women who were leaders in fields including literature, science and education to be represented on the plinths. Each pedestal’s height corresponds to how long the woman in question lived. The tallest one doesn’t have a name and has a mirrored surface so that everyone will see themselves reflected in it.

The installation is temporary. How did you factor this into your work?
We had to think about sustainability. So we built the pedestals – which we painted white so that they stood out in the square – from plywood. It’s a natural material that can easily be recycled for other purposes.

For more from Frittoli on ‘50 Queens’, which is on show until 18 September, tune in to ‘Monocle On Design’.

From The Archive / Glass Desk, France

Taking office

French furniture designers Antoine Philippon and Jacqueline Lecoq can be envied for both their professional and marital consistency. Having met in Paris in their early twenties, the duo founded a joint studio in 1956 and collaborated until Philippon’s death almost 40 years later. From the start, the couple focused on making furniture that could be mass-produced but didn’t compromise on quality, often with impressive results. Take, for example, this ethereal glass-and-rosewood desk from 1967.

The desk is nicknamed the President because it was manufactured by the French state and used to furnish several ministry offices. But even when designing for the upper echelons of society, Philippon and Lecoq conjured the elegant piece by putting together basic materials – glass, aluminium and timber – in a way that was also suited to industrial production. The result summarises the couple’s approach and good modernist design overall: while made for the masses, it’s of such a high quality that it’s worthy of being used by a head of state.

On The Court / Trophy ball basket, Denmark

Game changer

From Uniqlo’s polo shirts to Lacoste’s racquets, much of the clothing and equipment associated with tennis has, over the years, had a savvy designer’s eye cast over it. All, it seems, except the wire ball basket. Cue tennis-inspired Danish menswear brand Palmes, which has partnered with Copenhagen-based studio Frederik Gustav to reimagine this humble piece of training equipment as an objet d’art.

Image: Benjamin Lund Nielsen
Image: Benjamin Lund Nielsen
Image: Benjamin Lund Nielsen

Named Trophy and made from wide oak slats that are darkly stained to contrast with the neon of tennis balls, it features a basket which can be configured to sit podium-like on the top of the structure or closer to the ground, to allow flexibility when training. It’s limited to a run of 12 made-to-order pieces, so tennis enthusiasts looking to up their game would do well to place an order faster than a John Isner serve.

In The Picture / Theater Spektakel, Switzerland

Poster boy

With a portfolio of work that includes campaigns for Breitling and On Running, Zürich-based graphic designer Marcus Kraft knows a thing or two about creating eye-catching visuals. “A good campaign should work well on two different layers,” says Kraft. “The first layer must be bold and deliver the content that has to be communicated. The second is made up of tiny details or a hidden message that you only discover on repeat viewing and makes you want to look at it over and over again.”

Image: Studio Marcus Kraft
Image: Studio Marcus Kraft

It’s this attention to detail that Kraft has brought to his latest campaign: a series of posters created for the 2022 edition of Swiss performing arts festival Zürcher Theater Spektakel. His brightly coloured designs match thick-set typography with dreamlike images by Parisian illustrator Maïté Marque that represent the dynamism of the festival’s performers. The result is a set of visuals that are at once surreal and calming – a perfect fit for the eclectic event. And designs that we certainly want to look at again and again.


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