Wednesday. 12/10/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Peter Flude

Work ethics

We visit furniture and art fair Pad London (pictured) and reflect on a temporary refit of the Barcelona Pavilion. We also take a seat on a new design from Sweden’s Jonas Bohlin, admire some cheerful crockery created by Laila Gohar with Denmark’s Hay and meet artist and designer Theaster Gates. Plus: a lawn chair by Henry P Glass that’s ripe for revival. But first, Nic Monisse on Budapest’s burgeoning design scene.

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Separation anxiety

It’s a difficult proposition: how to respond when a government agency in a country led by a questionable leader is doing good work? Do we write such projects off and “cancel” them? Or do we look beyond the leader to the work and the people championing it? Last week, on a visit to Hungary – whose prime minister, Viktor Orbán, regularly makes headlines for unfavourable reasons – it was easy to choose the latter.

Here, as part of the festivities surrounding Budapest Design Week, I dropped into the Design360 showcase. The exhibition was put on to highlight the work of the government-backed Hungarian Fashion and Design Agency (HFDA), which has, with federal funding, been developing the country’s design and manufacturing sector by pairing emerging creatives with local makers to craft beautiful furniture and homeware.

For those in the industry in Hungary, this backing from the HFDA is essential. Indeed, without it, many could not work in the sector and create furniture that is good for the local community and economy. With the agency’s support, for instance, designer Máté Horváth uses Hungarian-grown wood, which is typically exported to countries such as Germany, to create furniture for the domestic market. Meanwhile, designer Annabella Hevesi has partnered with a historic enamel factory through the HFDA, creating a series of lights that have pushed the manufacturer to work in a new way and, in doing so, breathed new life into the factory. “I wanted to create something contemporary that also defines me as a Hungarian designer,” explains Hevesi. “So, by working with a very traditional old-school factory, which has roots in the Hungarian Bauhaus and typically only produced enamel dishes, I was able to make products that expanded its portfolio with modern work, as well as mine.” Just as we can separate art from artists, we also need to be willing to separate governments from designers and the organisations supporting them.

Nic Monisse is Monocle’s deputy design editor.

The Project / ‘Mass Is More’, Spain

Critical mass

Last week the iconic Barcelona Pavilion, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich for the city’s 1929 Expo, looked a little different from usual. The modernist structure’s glass, steel and pale-stone finishes were temporarily overlaid with timber wall partitions, rooftop walkways and open-air seating, as part of an installation called “Mass Is More”. “It was a bit of a provocation,” says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder of sustainable-building organisation Bauhaus Earth, which collaborated with the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia on the temporary project. “We took this old temple of architecture and filled it with the material of the future.”

Image: Adria Goula
Image: Adria Goula
Image: Adria Goula

While “Mass Is More” was only in place for a short period – it has now been disassembled – Schellnhuber believes that it will have a lasting effect. By cladding one of the 20th century’s most celebrated glass-and-steel buildings in timber, Schellnhuber hopes that contemporary designers will see that similarly impressive works can be created out of more environmentally friendly materials. “If we embrace wood-based architecture, we can turn one of the biggest climate sinners into the biggest climate saint,” he says. “We just need to get architecture out of that comfort zone.”

Design News / Pad London, UK

Economy of scale

Berkeley Square in London’s Mayfair is unrecognisable this week. A marquee has been erected in the leafy park to house the 14th iteration of Pad London, a fair dedicated to 20th-century and contemporary furniture and artwork. Overlapping on the calendar with Frieze, it makes an attractive stop on the itinerary of design and art enthusiasts, thanks to a carefully curated list of 61 exhibitors from 14 countries, which allows the fair to operate at a manageable scale that benefits both visitors and exhibitors.

Image: Peter Flude
Image: Peter Flude
Image: Peter Flude
Image: Peter Flude

“The people here are actually interested in what we’re saying and what’s on show,” says Guillaume Excoffier of New York-based gallery Gabriel & Guillaume. “It’s not just advisers buying for clients.” To cater to this design-savvy crowd, many curators and creatives are attending in person, so visitors can discuss the pieces on show with those who know them best. Among the highlights are Excoffier’s game table and heart chairs by Jean Royère (pictured, second from bottom) and the Jaka coffee table (pictured, second from top) by Parisian designer and gallerist Thierry Lemaire. So whether you want to make a purchase or simply talk shop, make your way to the fair before it closes on Sunday 16 October.

Words with... / Theaster Gates, USA

Sweet home Chicago

Theaster Gates is a Chicago-based artist and designer whose practice interrogates issues of social and economic inequality. His work, which includes installations, sculpture and performance art, draws on his training in urban planning and ceramics. It’s a combination that has made Gates well equipped to serve as professor of visual arts at the University of Chicago, run the Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab, which supports emerging talent with the Prada Group, and pick up commissions such as this year’s Serpentine Pavilion in London. To find out more about his approach to design, we spoke to Gates on this week’s episode of Monocle On Design.

Image: Rankin

You have projects all over the world. What keeps drawing you back to your hometown of Chicago?
When people talk to me about what Chicago is, the first thing that they often think about is the architecture. The second thing that they ask me about is the violence. I feel that there is a disconnect between the history of beautiful things that have existed in the city and this anxiety that, when you’re here, you have to be fearful for your life. With work like the Dorchester Projects, which is turning a group of abandoned buildings on Chicago’s South Side into cultural environments for the community, I’m trying to disrupt that violent stigma.

How do you bring the approach that you honed in Chicago to other projects in other parts of the world, such as this year’s Serpentine Pavilion, ‘Black Chapel’?
I really believe that I’ve been in the process of making a series of “Black Chapels” all along. We didn’t call them that and the architecture was less formal but they’re all disruptors. In every place, every neighbourhood and every part of the world there are challenges. And then there are zones of safety, where even if you’re a little jacked up, you can find peace. I hope the “Black Chapel” was one of those places.

How do you balance community-building initiatives with your art and architecture projects?
I don’t separate them. When I’m in the studio, firing my Japanese-style kiln, and people ask if they can help or if they can have some firewood or if they can have some barbecue, that’s great and I welcome it. I want the creation of these beautiful vessels and projects to happen alongside the community. All of my projects need artistic inspiration and they need inputs from other people too.

For more from Gates, listen to this week’s episode of ‘Monocle On Design’.

From the Archive / Cricket chair, USA

Return to the fold

The days might be getting shorter in the northern hemisphere but for the lucky residents of Sydney and Cape Town, it’s time to bring out the lawn chairs for summer. Which begs the question: what makes the perfect portable outdoor perch? Besides being comfortable, it should fit into the boot of a car and be easy to assemble. In those respects, it’s difficult to top the Cricket, designed by Henry P Glass in 1978. The canvas-and-aluminium chair can be folded together in one move around the central joint and is less than 3cm thick when packed up.

Illustration: Anje Jager

Austrian-born Glass, who established his career in Chicago, believed that a designer should never stop improving a product. As a case in point, he first made a folding chair resembling the Cricket a few decades before it was put into production by Brown Jordan. The US furniture-maker briefly reissued the Cricket in 2013 but it is again no longer in production. For the sake of backyard barbecues everywhere, we hope that a new iteration will be available soon.

Around The House / Jonas Bohlin, Sweden

Material matters

Swedish interior architect Jonas Bohlin has long brought his special touch to public interiors and objects. Now, his work is making its way into private homes too, thanks to a collaboration with Swedish department store NK Interior and design brand Ingridsdotter. The result is a selection of Bohlin’s covetable objects for public sale, from tables and sinuous steel chairs to a bulbous, solid-steel coat hanger.

Image: Patric Johansson

The pieces, many of which will be familiar from restaurants, are made on a small scale in Stockholm and the province of Småland, using locally available materials and artisanal production methods. “It was an obvious choice to choose the best natural materials and tap into the high-quality manufacturing that exists in our country, with the utmost respect for our environment,” says Christine Ingridsdotter, founder of Ingridsdotter.

To mark the collaboration, Bohlin has also developed a piece of furniture called the Hava cabinet. Handmade in Swedish pine and birch, and painted a vibrant blue, it’s a distinguished piece that, like the wider collection, speaks of its designer’s continual celebration of his country’s material and design heritage.;

In The Picture / Sobremesa Collection, Denmark

Mix and match

New York-based artist and chef Laila Gohar has created a bright, new range of kitchen accessories that will ensure that your disposition remains sunny as winter approaches. Created in collaboration with Danish furniture and homeware brand Hay, the Sobremesa Collection includes plates and vases finished with bold stripes of colour and delicately embroidered linen. The pieces have been designed to complement an owner’s existing homeware. “I like the idea of being able to create your own visual story with different pieces,” says Gohar. “Maybe you have a tablecloth that you inherited from your grandmother. You can combine it with the Sobremesa vase.” She hopes that the collection’s bold graphics, together with such mixing and matching, will bring extra meaning, colour and optimism into your home.

Image: Hay
Image: Hay


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