Wednesday. 2/11/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Hublot Design Prize

Eyes on the prize

This week’s dispatch puts in focus a retrospective book celebrating the work of Caruso St John, a colourful take on an iconic stool and a chat with the managing director of lighting brand Lodes. Plus: an illuminating reminder of the joys of Louis Kalff’s NB100 lamp. Are you switched on?

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Shout it from the rooftops

The award ceremony for the seventh Hublot Design Prize, a showcase of work by eight emerging designers chosen by a jury including Hans Ulrich Obrist, Philippe Tardivel, Alice Rawsthorn and former winner Samuel Ross (pictured above, left to right), took place at the Serpentine Gallery in London on Monday. The prize’s ambition, like many industry gongs, is to raise the profile of those doing outstanding work and give them grant money to continue. So it was heartening to see that one of Hublot’s laureates in 2022, US architect Maya Bird-Murphy, is also working to raise the profile of design itself.

Bird-Murphy, who received the Pierre Keller award (the runner-up prize with a £10,000 grant) at the ceremony, has been running Chicago-based Mobile Makers since 2017. The non-profit organisation offers free and accessible design programming, teaching architecture and construction to young people in a country that doesn’t have strong architectural education pathways built into its formal curriculum.

“When we started, it was about creating career pathways for children to become architects,” says Bird-Murphy. “Now it’s more broad: it’s about giving kids life skills. For example, a teenager who comes through Mobile Makers and can now work a bandsaw can get a job in a carpenters’ workshop. Others might just realise that design is fun.”

This shift in ambition is a reminder that raising the profile of design and educating young people about architecture, especially in cities and countries without a strong design heritage, can have a far-reaching impact beyond simply enticing people to work in the profession. It can also help create jobs in adjacent industries and, through an element of fun, shape engaged citizens who are knowledgeable about the effects of design.

With this in mind, here’s hoping that Bird-Murphy continues to spread the word and do good work. Her Hublot nod should also be a reminder for all of us: the more we all talk about design, the better, stronger and more diverse our built environment can become.

The Project / L’Étoile des Baux, France

Rising star

From Picasso to Cézanne, the rolling landscapes of Provence have long provided a bucolic escape for artists in search of inspiration. It’s in this tradition that interior designer Joséphine Fossey chose to decorate L’Étoile des Baux, a new private guesthouse. “I liked the idea of a refuge immersed in nature and the creative release that kind of setting can allow an artist to feel,” says Fossey. And it’s that kind of feeling that Fossey has tried to capture in every corner of the former farmhouse, which is now filled with sculptures, photographs and paintings from contemporary Provençale artists, including Joseph Bayol, Arsène Welkin and Caroline Beauzon. There’s even a large mural in the entrance painted by Parisian illustrator Florence Bamberger. “She had never done a mural or a painting of that scale before,” says Fossey. “We love to push the envelope and ask artists to go where they’re not used to going.”

Image: Mr. Tripper, Josephine Fossey
Image: Mr. Tripper, Josephine Fossey
Image: Mr. Tripper, Josephine Fossey

Perched high in the hilltop village of Les Baux-de-Provence, the building overlooks the rocky Alpilles mountain range, with parts of the house carved directly into limestone cliff faces. The project is the first in a string of Fossey-designed launches by new hospitality company Iconic House. The property offers visitors the privacy of a holiday rental with all the services of a hotel, including a dedicated chef and concierge. Those seeking a rural retreat in late autumn would be wise to book now.;

Design News / Wood Wood X Artek, Denmark

Made in the shade

Copenhagen-based clothing brand Wood Wood is celebrating 20 years in business – and Artek is helping to mark the occasion. To do so, the Finnish furniture firm gave Wood Wood’s co-founder, Brian SS Jensen, artistic licence to reimagine its iconic Stool 60 in a range of semi-transparent colours. “It’s a simple and modest design so it felt like a blank canvas, making it a challenge to restrain myself,” says Jensen of his approach to the project, which saw him test translucent finishes using linseed-oil stains on different timbers.

Image: Taby Cheng

Originally designed by Alvar Aalto in 1933, this new iteration of Stool 60 is stained in a blue, yellow and pink to Jensen’s design, allowing the natural grain of the birch wood to show through. The result is a colourful perch that’s both bright and simple – much like Jensen’s ambition for the collaboration. “For many Scandinavians, design is something we grow up with and learn in kindergarten and school,” he says. “Alvar Aalto’s stool is a familiar piece but you have to take a second glance at it to really appreciate the way it’s built.” Here’s hoping that the new hues encourage people to look twice at Stool 60.

Words with... / Massimiliano Tosetto, Italy

Illuminating chat

Massimiliano Tosetto is the third-generation managing director of Italian lighting brand Lodes. Under his leadership the company, which was founded by his grandfather in 1950, has experienced something of a renaissance with a rebranding and a widening of its catalogue to accommodate a range of environments and budgets. Case in point is Lodes’ trademark “canopy”, which incorporates a smooth plate that conceals the electrical joints of a light source. This allows interior designers and architects to create a bespoke grouping of lights by hanging luminaires from the canopy either individually or in clusters. To find out more about this relationship between lighting brand and designer, we caught up with Tosetto for this week’s episode of Monocle On Design.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

How do architects and lighting brands work together on interiors projects?
We don’t pretend that we can teach architects how to do their job; I’m here to make their life easier when designing. We put all our efforts into helping them because while the designer can have a brilliant idea, they need products to make it happen. Otherwise a brilliant idea sometimes just stays an idea. A good product is a balance of design, aesthetics, budget and people (the taste of the designer and client). We try to create products that let the designer install and create a range of combinations that fit any environment. It’s not about Lodes’ style; it’s about your style.

Lodes has an emphasis on craftsmanship, like using hand-blown glass in certain products. Why is that?
First, it gives you a sense of uniqueness – no glass is ever exactly the same. I always use fashion as an example for why this is good: there’s not just one jacket style that everybody wears but you [gravitate towards] a jacket that fits your body better and is better crafted for you. Craftsmanship is our heritage at Lodes, it’s in the DNA of the company, so sometimes we don’t even realise that we are doing it for craftsmanship’s sake because it feels natural to us.

With this emphasis on craftsmanship and a commitment to serving the designer, how would you describe Lodes’ ethos on making lighting and luminaires?
Lodes lighting is for you – the client – it is not for us or about creating products for our own ego. We put our product at the service of our customers so that they can create their own distinct environments.

For more from Tosetto, tune in to ‘Monocle On Design’ or pick up a copy of Monocle’s November issue.

From The Archive / NB100 Lamp, The Netherlands

Light-bulb moment

Philips was already one of the world’s leading light bulb-makers in 1925 when Louis Kalff sent the Dutch company’s executives a letter arguing that its advertising wasn’t up to scratch. It was a move that paved the way for the then-27-year-old architect to become Philips’ de facto creative director. In the following decades, the appointment saw him overhaul the company’s identity through the design of posters, exhibitions and a collection of lamps, which included this desk model from 1958. The NB100 has a hole in its shade where the bulb peeks through, spreading a glow around the room as well as illuminating the surface below.

Illustration: Anje Jager

For those lucky enough to own one, the NB100 is a lovely addition to any bedside table or home office. But it also serves as an example of Kalff’s marketing savvy. The designer transformed Philips from light bulb-maker to lighting brand, showing that even a generic household product can become desirable when fitted into a characterful piece of design. It’s a straightforward business approach that any hardware manufacturer expanding its horizons would be wise to follow.

Around The House / OVO Collection, US

Seats, shoots and leaves

Five years on from their first furniture release, New York-based design studio Roman and Williams have unveiled their sophomore collection, Ovo. The studio’s founders, Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer, are best known for their work in architecture and interior design, and their focus on other projects has lengthened the gap between launches. But Ovo’s handcrafted hardwood table and chairs are well worth the wait.

Image: Roman and Williams
Image: Roman and Williams

Inspiration for the collection comes from Alesch and Standefer’s property in Montauk. The bolthole on New York’s Long Island is surrounded by elm and beech trees, and the soft lines of Ovo’s tabletops and the chair’s backrests mimic the rounded symmetrical shape of a leaf. Available in a variety of hardwoods, from old-growth white oak to dark, oxidised maple, the creative partners have ensured that there is an Ovo option that will work with any interior scheme. Those looking to make these a smart addition to their home should check out the duo’s Manhattan homeware shop and online store, Roman and Williams Guild, where the new collection is being sold exclusively.

In The Picture / ‘Collective Works’, UK

Brought to book

With a Stirling Prize to its name and clients including the Barbican and Swiss railways operator SBB, Caruso St John is a particularly revered contemporary design practice. To celebrate and document its work, the London-based architecture studio is working with UK publisher Mack to print multiple volumes dedicated to its achievements, the first of which is on shelves now. Called Collective Works, the tome offers an intellectually and visually inspiring reflection on Caruso St John’s projects between 1990 and 2005.

Image: Tony Hay
Image: Tony Hay
Image: Tony Hay

The book’s composition reflects the studio’s multidisciplinary approach to its work. Along with detailed accounts of the design process for renowned projects such as the New Art Gallery Walsall, it also includes unseen drawings and other images of contemporary artworks and architecture that have inspired the firm’s co-founders, Adam Caruso and Peter St John. Together, the images and text show how the duo’s seemingly complex concepts can be translated into easy-to-understand ideas – perfect inspiration for designers and design enthusiasts across the globe.


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