Wednesday. 9/11/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Anna Nielsen

Week of wonder

This week, we visit a Jacquemus shop by AMO, take a seat on a modular sofa from Karimoku New Standard and reflect on the work of US architecture studio Messana O’Rorke. Plus, we turn our attention to the Middle East’s most significant industry event, Dubai Design Week, where we visit an exhibition dedicated to rug-makers and a new pavilion made from fishing nets. First, Grace Charlton on the importance of storytelling.

Opinion / Grace Charlton

Inside stories

“The Middle East has a real energy and Dubai specifically has a growing creative community,” says Kate Barry, director of Dubai Design Week, when I ask her about the event’s rapid growth. “Arab culture is based on storytelling, so it makes sense that this is embodied in the festival.” To illustrate her point, she leads me and a group of design enthusiasts on a tour of this year’s main attractions, including the material innovation exhibition Matter-ials (pictured above). It quickly emerges that the fair, which runs until Sunday in the downtown Dubai Design District (D3), is not just about brands showcasing their latest wares. It’s also about designers telling stories about how their work can positively affect both people and the environment – appropriate, given that the theme of the event’s eighth edition is “Design with Impact”.

Barry steers us towards a temporary pavilion that local firm Quartz Architects has installed on a plaza in D3. Called “How Much Does Your Debris Weigh?” it features more than two tonnes of demolition and construction waste, suspended in mid-air by wire. The work seeks to affirm the importance of building responsibly and prioritising retrofits. “Health and safety had a field day with this one,” says Barry, as she leads us under the debris.

She points out that alongside international brands such as BMW, which is showing an electric car made from fully recycled materials, there’s a growing number of local companies that are exhibiting here for the first time. For example, Dubai-based interior design studio Styled Habitat has created an apartment installation called “Saudade”, which explores how people can live with a smaller footprint.

These installations and exhibitions remind us that the ways in which designers present their work – and the storytelling behind it – are crucial when it comes to engaging with the broader community and not just designers. Judging by the number of people at “How Much Does Your Debris Weigh?” and at Styled Habitat’s installation, it’s an approach that other fairs would be wise to follow.

The Project / Jacquemus, UK

Coastal comforts

French fashion designer Simon Porte Jacquemus’s namesake brand is best known for its simple yet playfully eccentric style. Its new shop in London’s Selfridges department store reflects this unique identity. Designed by AMO, the research-and-development arm of Dutch architecture studio OMA, the shop takes inspiration from Provence, where Jacquemus was raised. As part of its preparation for the project, AMO conducted research into the French region to gain extra insight into Jacquemus’s influences.

Image: Benoit Florençon
Image: Benoit Florençon

Settling on the landscape as Provence’s defining feature, AMO clad the shop in terracruda, a clay-based, terracotta-coloured material, which evokes the colours and forms of the coastal province’s terrain. “Using a single material comes with its challenges but, in the case of Jacquemus, terracruda inspired the sculptural character of the space,” says OMA partner Ellen van Loon. Applied by hand, terracruda gives the shop a sense of natural imperfection and a domestic ambience, making its chairs, tables, shelves and walls feel invitingly tactile. Carefully framed by the department store’s street-facing windows, the new Jacquemus shop is sure to entice passers-by with the warmth of a Provençal home.;

Design News / Dubai Design Week, UAE

Pearl of the quarter

At Dubai Design Week, an installation by Bahraini designer Sara Alrayyes catches the warm breeze between the glass-and-steel buildings of the city’s Design District. “Al Gargoor” (pictured), including its inviting blue seats and tables, is made from upcycled gargoor – the fishing nets found on waterfronts in countries across the Gulf that have long relied on industries such as fishing and pearl-diving. “I wanted to respect this year’s theme, ‘Design with Impact’, while preserving but also modernising Gulf heritage,” says Alrayyes. “The low seating is very traditional in the Middle East. There are also holes in the coffee tables to store the card games that would typically be played around them.”

Image: Anna Nielsen
Image: Anna Nielsen

Though the temporary installation looks lightweight, it’s surprisingly solid and comfortable. The work incorporates a traditional palm-tree-weaving technique called sa’af in the lanterns and tables, which Alreyyes hand-painted in gradients of blue and white. Colourful naseej textiles made by Bahraini craftspeople sway gently in a corner of the pavilion. “I want to educate the next generation about the value of our heritage and the history of pearl-diving,” says Alrayyes. Creating eye-catching structures at high-profile events such as Dubai Design Week is certainly a good place to start.

Words with… / Mohamed Maktabi, Lebanon

Rugs of choice

Mohamed Maktabi is co-founder of Iwan Maktabi, a family-run carpet company based in Beirut and Dubai. Its exhibition at Dubai Design Week, Terminal G, is a collection of carpets showcasing the work of designers from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. We caught up with Maktabi to learn more about his curation process and the designers who are showing their work.

Image: Anna Nielsen

On display as part of the exhibition is the “Water Memory” collection, a series of rugs with blue, green and white hues, reminiscent of a tiled swimming pool. Can you tell us about the brief you gave its designer, Kuwait’s Aseel Al Yaqoub?
We selected Aseel to represent nostalgia, one of the themes that we wanted to include in Terminal G. She decided to explore the nostalgia of water and her memories of sitting on a plastic chair next to her grandfather’s Olympic-sized swimming pool through a series of rugs.

You also have work from Afra and Sheikha Bin Dhaher, whose rug designs, with cream and brown hues, reflect the region’s landscape. Why was including them important?
Afra and Sheikha, who are sisters and graphic designers from the UAE, tell the story of the mobility of this region’s people. They drew inspiration from the historic movements of the tribes in the desert for a collection called “Taghrouda”, which is the name of the kind of poetry that was sung to caravans passing through the region to entertain travellers. There’s a parallel with today’s increased mobility in the Gulf states, where airports are popping up in every city.

Why did you choose Dubai Design Week to launch the project?
Terminal G is a regional concept, so we wanted to launch it here. An alternative would have been to launch it internationally and then bring it back but Dubai presented itself as a logical choice. My aim at the moment is to focus on regional designers and to see what work they are producing.

For more from Maktabi and Dubai Design Week, tune in to this week’s episode of ‘Monocle On Design Extra’.

From The Archive / Rio thermal jug, Germany

Feel the heat

This sprightly item might resemble a kettle but it is, in reality, a thermal jug that maintains the temperature of any liquid that’s poured into it for hours. German plastics-maker Emsa manufactured the cone-shaped Rio jug, with its screw-off top and glass interior, in the 1970s. While thermal jugs are ordinarily reserved for use on camping trips, this one looks good enough to be a coffee-table centrepiece.

Illustration: Anje Jager

The Rio is also a reminder that plastic is only really problematic when combined with careless design and a throwaway culture. Like the rest of Emsa’s products, which include reusable cups and containers, the Rio is a well-made, useful item that can happily become a permanent part of your kitchen interior. That’s why it is a valuable vintage piece today, decades after going out of production.

Around The House / Castor Lobby Sofa, Japan

Flexible friend

Since its foundation in 2009, Japanese design brand Karimoku New Standard has lived up to its name by setting the bar when it comes to functional, contemporary wooden furniture. Its Castor Lobby Sofa, designed by Swiss studio Big-Game, is no exception. A new addition to the Castor series, which includes tables and work chairs, the modular, oak-framed sofa is available as a one-, two- or three-seater and can be finished in a wide range of upholstery. Armrests and alternating seating surfaces are also available as add-ons. Because of this flexibility, the Castor Lobby Sofa can be endlessly configured to suit any environment. Expect to see it in offices, hotels, waiting rooms and – for those seeking flexibility at home – living rooms.

Image: Masaaki Inoue / Bouillon

In The Picture / ‘Building Blocks’, USA

Clear spot

Though you’ll find Messana O’Rorke’s office in the hustle and bustle of New York, the architecture studio’s work evokes serenity and peace. Established in 1996 by Brian Messana and Toby O’Rorke, the firm is renowned for its pared-back residences and commercial interiors – work that this new monograph published by Rizzoli sensitively captures.

Building Blocks features 25 projects, including a boutique hotel and private residences in upstate New York and Wyoming. Each work is presented alongside an outline of the designer’s approach to the brief and high-quality images that immerse readers in the aesthetics of the practice. Rizzoli has worked hard to capture Messana O’Rorke’s ethos on page, with plenty of white space to encourage moments of pause and contemplation. In a world where we’re often visually bombarded, this monograph serves as a reminder of the importance of clarity.;

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


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