Wednesday. 28/9/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: William Jess Laird

Eyes on the prize

Beautiful items that we’ve been surveying this week include the new Flora lighting range from the workshop of In Common With (pictured), a necklace that celebrates the Queen of Denmark’s 50th jubilee and an array of pieces that were on display at Lake Como Design Festival. We’ve also been wistfully wishing that Braun’s L2 speaker was still in production. Nic Monisse, however, is focusing on another matter.

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Less talk, more action

Last week, Design Declares, a new collective of companies aiming to reduce their environmental footprint, proclaimed a climate emergency on behalf of the design industry. While the cause is a good one, I’ve realised that I can’t help but tune out whenever I’m told, as if it were breaking news, that the world is in the midst of an environmental crisis. To be clear, I think that architects, furniture designers and craftspeople should be mindful of the effect that their work has on the planet – it’s just that we already know this is fundamental to good practice, with a sustainability element now built into almost every project brief.

So, what could have been more effective than a declaration that feels a little like greenwashing? In my opinion, it would have been better to highlight projects that are outstanding works of design in their own right and are also doing (not declaring) something for the environment. There are plenty of candidates.

Take Danish cycling brand Pas Normal’s new headquarters in Copenhagen, designed by interior-architecture practice OEO Studio. (For our full report, pick up a copy of our special issue of The Entrepreneurs, landing on newsstands tomorrow.) A focus was placed on making a light-filled workspace for employees that is rooted in the city. To do this, OEO Studio used local timber and worked with Copenhagen-based carpentry workshop Raaschou to create furniture with a small carbon footprint. It also fitted the building with smart apertures by Danish window specialists Velux that automatically open and close depending on the weather conditions outside, ensuring that heating systems are only used when essential. Both decisions, while good for the environment, were also the ideal way to provide qualities that the client wanted the space to have.

If we want to address the climate crisis, we should focus on celebrating such projects, highlighting how we can build better and improve the environment’s health. Progress here involves taking action and not just adding hot air to a discussion that we’ve all heard before.

The Project / Flora, USA

Glass fusion

New York-based lighting studio In Common With has launched Flora, a collection made in collaboration with French-American designer Sophie Lou Jacobsen. Inspired by the rich traditions of Murano glassware, as well as the boundary-pushing work of Italian architects Carlo Scarpa and Ettore Sottsass, the delicate pendants, sconces, floor lighting and table lamps are crafted using ancient Venetian glass-making techniques to create wavy luminaries with sinuous edges.

Image: William Jess Laird
Image: William Jess Laird
Image: William Jess Laird

In Common With’s founders, Nick Ozemba and Felicia Hung, approached Jacobsen in 2020 and they have since collectively experimented with various glass-blowing techniques to finesse the Flora range, which comes in shades of poppy red, pistachio, lilac, tobacco and opaline. “Sophie’s playful forms and joyful use of colour brought a new perspective to our work,” says Hung. “Our collaboration married her playful aesthetic with our more classic and minimalist approach to create an entirely new design language.” Those wanting to see the pieces in person can visit In Common With’s new showroom and production space in Brooklyn, which opened to coincide with Flora’s launch.
incommonwith.com; sophieloujacobsen.com

Design News / Lake Como Design Festival, Italy

Open season

Lake Como Design Festival, whose fourth iteration wrapped up over the weekend, has aimed, since its foundation in 2018, to encourage attendees to look beyond the area’s waterside activities. “It’s about focusing on the architectural and historical heritage of the city,” says Lorenzo Butti, the event’s founder and artistic director.

To do this, Butti opens buildings that are typically closed to the public, furnishing them with works from Italian and foreign galleries and designers. At this year’s event, for instance, Geneva-based Galerie Philia exhibited an array of pieces in the lakefront Casa Bianca. Our pick of the bunch includes the new Etérea end table by US-Italian studio Karu Design, which was conceived in Los Angeles and handcrafted with Calacatta marble in Tuscany (pictured, top), and luminaires by Warsaw-based lighting designer Jan Garncarek (pictured, bottom).

Image: Yaochen Wu
Image: Yaochen Wu

Though the works are now available for purchase through the gallery, Butti recommends keeping an eye out for next summer’s festival. “It’s not just another commercial fair or one of the 800 events at Salone,” he says. Instead, it’s a celebration of Como’s architecture and creative scene, where people can also pick up collectable design wares.
lakecomodesignfestival.com

Words with... / Héctor Serrano, Spain

Great outdoors

Spanish designer Héctor Serrano established his eponymous studio in 2000. He has since worked for the likes of Roca, Muji and Gandia Blasco, shown works in London’s V&A and New York’s Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and showcased his creations at design events and trade fairs across the world. His latest appearance was at Feria Hábitat Valencia, which ended last week. There, he showed his new Xaloc Collection, a shapely group of outdoor tables, chairs and loungers. To find out more about the pieces and the importance of the fair, we spoke to Serrano for this week’s episode of Monocle On Design.

Image: Carlos Segura

The Xaloc Collection was designed for Spanish furniture brand Möwee. What makes it distinctive?
It's a collection of pot plants, chaise longues, sofas and tables made using die-cast aluminium. We poured the molten metal into large, reusable moulds in order to create the structure of the furniture. Importantly, it is 100 per cent recycled aluminium, which is 100 per cent recyclable too. This means that all of the furniture can be repaired if it is damaged, so it’s robust and timeless, and it can be easily disassembled, making transport and logistics straightforward.

Why was the diecast process important?
This approach gave us a lot of freedom in terms of creating a formal, organic language and allowed us to make very natural forms across the collection. Significantly, we tried to make the moulds as big as we felt was appropriate so we weren’t constrained by size. This meant, for instance, that we could create the whole side of the sofa in one piece, which makes the furniture very robust and allowed us to have that organic language. If we’d used smaller moulds this would have been impossible. Also, normally, with outdoor furniture, pieces are made with extrusion aluminium or steel, which means using hard joints. We’ve been able to change that and make softer, more natural and organic furniture.

Tell us about your experience at the fair this year.
There was a more positive vibe compared to other events in recent years, when there weren’t that many people attending. It has also been positive for the city this year because Valencia is the World Design Capital for 2022. I think that this helped to bring more members of the public to the fair, which definitely makes it feel more alive.

For more from Serrano, tune in to this week’s episode of ‘Monocle On Design’.

From The Archive / Braun L2 Speaker, Germany

Sound of the future

Those who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s can often recall their first encounter with a hi-fi stereo system and the booming sound that it delivered in their home (or that of a lucky friend’s). In those years, electronic audio set-ups were, for the first time, becoming common in households across the globe after companies such as Braun brought them to the mass market. They looked impressive from the get-go too. The classic walnut L2, designed by Dieter Rams in 1958, was only the second hi-fi loudspeaker that Braun ever introduced.

Illustration: Anje Jager

Today there is no shortage of at-home listening devices, from handheld Bluetooth speakers to multi-room, app-controlled systems. But for anyone looking for something like the L2, which delivers both a beautiful sound and an upgrade to the living-room interior, there aren’t many entry-level options. With this in mind, this impeccably designed and affordable offering from Braun, which stopped producing speakers in the 1990s, is clearly long overdue for a comeback.

In The House / Fauteuil Kangourou, Switzerland

Bouncing back

From Japanese designer Sori Yanagi’s Elephant Stool to Alexander Girard’s dove-shaped ornaments, Vitra’s catalogue and archive includes a menagerie of animal-inspired designs. And springing into its collection this month is the Fauteuil Kangourou, which was designed by Jean Prouvé in 1948. Produced at the behest of a select number of clients, the original pieces are today considered valuable artefacts by private collectors.

Image: Florian Böhm

As the name suggests, the lounge chair’s curving form resembles a perched marsupial, with the reissue pairing a dark oak frame with pale bouclé cushions that have contrasting brown piping. However, only 100 of them went on sale via Vitra’s website, so if you were lucky enough to pick one up, you will be enjoying a similar experience to owners of the original iteration by possessing an exclusive piece of design history.
vitra.com

In The Picture / Georg Jensen X Big, Denmark

Special occasion

Two design giants from very different disciplines have come together to mark the Queen of Denmark’s 50th jubilee this month, with silversmiths Georg Jensen teaming up with architecture studio Big to create a one-of-a-kind necklace. Composed of 50 sterling-silver blocks of varying sizes, its geometric form is inspired by Big’s 50 Queens exhibition, in which the studio placed a circle of plinths around Copenhagen’s Kongens Nytorv square.

Image: BIG

“Our internal nickname for the exhibition was always ‘The Necklace’ so it was natural for us to turn it into a real necklace as a miniature representation,” says Big partner David Zahle. “It will be the only physical evidence of the temporary exhibition and will thus be part of history for years to come.” The project, which was presented to the monarch, is a reminder of the ability of different design disciplines to play off one another, with architecture and the built environment providing the perfect inspiration for product and jewellery design.
big.dk; georgjensen.com

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