Wednesday. 16/11/2022

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Barbara Tili

Design for life

This week we stop into a restored home by Canadian architect Bob Lewis (pictured), visit a Zürich exhibition on timber architecture and talk with German artist Thomas Demand about the importance of architectural follies. Plus: we get cosy in a smart, modular sofa from the 1970s and wrap up in a blanket by Denmark’s Rawaii. First, Nic Monisse on the design agenda for architects in 2023.

Image: Barbara Tili

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Common ground

As a member of the curation panel for 2023’s London Festival of Architecture, I’ve spent the past few weeks reflecting on the theme for next year’s event. Like the jurors on committees for other design events across the globe, from the Venice Biennale to Dutch Design Week, I, along with my fellow panellists – including Melodie Leung from Zaha Hadid Architects and Greater London Authority commissioner Binki Taylor – have been looking for a statement to capture the pressing needs of the moment, asking ourselves what the priority should be for designers in 2023.

While next year’s Venice Biennale of Architecture, curated by Lesley Lokko, settled on The Laboratory of the Future, we chose In Common as the theme for event organisers – architects, developers, planners and citizens – to respond to when curating talks, events, walks and studio visits as part of the festival.

These two words, we felt, captured the need for design to serve all people at a range of scales, from the macro (the actual planning and design of the city and the creation of public places where we can find common ground) to the micro, from cutlery to sofas, that we fill our homes with.

Designers in 2023 can’t afford to work in silos: you can’t build creative communities in isolation and, I’d argue, you can’t create significant work that positively affects people’s lives in such a manner either. This is something that is appreciated by many of the most revered designers and activists, from the mid-century Danish architects who tapped into mass production to make quality work accessible to the masses to Jane Jacobs and her belief that “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody only because, and only when they are created by everybody”.

Given the pressing economic and social challenges we’re set to face in the coming year, finding and nurturing what we have in common will become more important than ever for designers.

Nic Monisse is Monocle’s design editor.

Design News / ‘Touch Wood’, Switzerland

Knock on wood

A new exhibition, Touch Wood, has opened at the Center for Architecture Zürich. The show – which has been curated and produced by architects Thomas Hildebrand, Celina Martinez-Cañavate and Carla Ferrer – explores the multifaceted role that timber plays in architecture. It features architectural models of significant timber buildings, 13,000 year old trees, a film on log rafting, and educational infographics by creative studio Integral Axe Steinberger, all of which aim to show the positive effect that trees, and building with timber, can have on the environment.

Image: Nakarin Saisorn
Image: Nakarin Saisorn
Image: Nakarin Saisorn

The show, which runs until 18 December, is essential viewing for any design enthusiasts passing through Switzerland’s biggest city but those who can’t attend can pick up the accompanying book (also called Touch Wood) by Lars Müller Publishers. The volume features 48 architectural projects that use timber as their main material, interviews with forest researchers and an examination of the role that engineers and architects play in the global timber-construction industry. Like the exhibition, it’s a book that’s as informative as it is beautiful. And, those looking for even more would do well to pass by the exhibition on 15 December at 19.00, when the curators will present their findings from two years of research and give an outlook on the role wood can play in architecture in the future.;

The Project / Rancher House, Canada

Home comforts

Tucked out of sight, in a densely wooded corner of suburban North Vancouver, sits the newly restored Rancher House – a fine, single-storey family home built in 1958 by architect Bob Lewis. The designer, whose homes were once prevalent across Vancouver, was one of British Columbia’s most significant mid-century architects, pioneering the West Coast Modern style that defined residential design in the city after the Second World War.

Its significance is not lost on the current owners, Diana Gehriger, a former manager of television and film actors in Los Angeles, and her husband, architect Daniel Hawreluk, who have undertaken a painstaking, decade-long restoration of one of the few remaining examples of Lewis’s work. “Every handle, every material choice was chosen as a response to the personality we felt from the house and its relationship with nature,” says Gehriger. “This has been a passion project that has resulted in something that feels like a retreat in the city.”

Image: Barbara Tili
Image: Barbara Tili
Image: Barbara Tili

The restoration has retained several of the five-bedroom home’s most notable features: a family room encased in walnut panelling and fitted with Cado shelving, as well as the original old-growth fir beams. It’s a project that has breathed fresh life into the home and one that is set to be enjoyed by new owners, after Gehriger and Hawreluk recently listed the house through specialist mid-century estate agents West Coast Modern. For the lucky buyer, it presents the opportunity to own the work of an influential architect whose residential designs once defined this corner of the Pacific Northwest.

Words with... / Thomas Demand, Germany

On good form

German artist Thomas Demand splits his time between Los Angeles and Berlin, and teaches at the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg. Appropriately, he also splits his time between disciplines, working across sculpture, photography and architecture. This summer he showed this skill set by teaming up with London-based architects Caruso St John to design a new pavilion for Kvadrat. Called Triple Folly, it sits on the campus of the Danish textile brand in the coastal town of Ebeltoft. We caught up with Demand on Monocle On Design to find out more about the project.

Image: Brigitte Lacombe

Tell us about the design for Triple Folly.
As the name suggests, it’s three follies – in the good old British sense of a folly in a park – dedicated to Kvadrat. When the company asked me to work on the project, it didn’t tell me what I had to do or what it needed. So I proposed three little pavilions: one of them is shaped like a paper hat, like the staff wear at a fast-food restaurant, another has a roof shaped like a paper plate, and the third is like a folded piece of notebook paper, including the lines and the punched holes. I use paper a lot in my work because it’s an accessible and ubiquitous material, so everyone knows how it works.

The exteriors of the three follies are all finished in different and unexpected colours – a bluish hue, a green and a white. Why was playing with colour important?
I wanted to revive the adventurous, iconic and colourful designs of the past. Now it feels like everything is so rational. I’m not an architect; with Triple Folly I realised that I was making an artwork so I didn’t feel the need to follow any rules around colour.

Even though the Triple Folly is permanent, you mentioned that it draws inspiration from the British tradition of building temporary, ornamental structures. What’s the benefit of such constructions today?
We need more follies. Temporary propositions are a big part of architecture. Take the Serpentine Pavilion: you remember all of them from previous years but you don’t need to have them permanently. The playfulness remains. Such projects don’t have to last to have an effect, they don’t have to be a proposition for solving all the social problems in the world and they don’t have to show the future of how we can live. Follies can just be something that is there for the moment to enjoy and to be productive.

For more from Thomas Demand, listen to ‘Monocle On Design’.

From The Archive / Down sofa, Italy

Better than new

In the early 1970s modular furniture was in vogue, as homeowners looked for more flexibility in their domestic spaces. It was a movement that prompted Italian designer Carlo Bartoli to team up with Giuseppe Rossi di Albizzate, a manufacturer near Milan, to create Down: low loungers with marshmallow-like cushions that could be lined up together into larger configurations. “There was an economic boom and from it emerged this demand to make furniture that could suit every type of family,” says Anna Bartoli who, along with her brother Paolo, runs Bartoli Design, the studio founded by her father. “It was also pretty innovative to make a simple wooden box, fill it with a big pillow and call it a sofa.”

Illustration: Anje Jager

Unlike some of the more outré designs from the era, the Down doesn’t feel dated today. Instead, it feels decidedly contemporary thanks to its use of natural materials – the frame is wooden and upholstered in wool and leather – and its ability to adapt to houses and apartments of all sizes. “Many of our father’s products were provocative at the time and are today iconic and relevant,” says Paolo. “We’d love to find someone to put them back into production.” Here’s hoping they do – and soon.

Around the House / Raawii blanket, Denmark

Cover story

Danes know a thing or two about creating cosy interiors to relax in during the winter months; we’ve all heard about the country’s concept of hygge. So it’s no surprise that design brand Raawii recently came out with a collection of comfy blankets in eye-catching motifs, which are ideal for snuggling on the sofa.

Image: Rawaii

Woven from a mixture of cashmere and virgin wool by a century-old textile factory in Florence, the Brush blankets are made to the design of Raawii co-founder Nicholai Wiig-Hansen and Italian illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli. The result is a range of colourful fabrics that will make a bold statement in any sitting room, putting them centre stage at a time of year when everyone is looking to cosy up.

In The Picture / ‘Modern Architecture in Japan’

Japan, revisited

Modern Architecture in Japan was originally written by Manfredo Tafuri, a renowned Italian historian and critic of 20th-century design, who penned the book on his first trip to Japan in 1964. At the time of its publication, it was one of the first guidebooks on contemporary architecture in the county, offering a detailed account of Japan’s postwar buildings and presenting a unique portrait of influential architects such as Kenzo Tange. The book, which has only been available in Italian, has now been released in English by UK publisher Mack.

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

Edited by Iranian architect Mohsen Mostafavi, the new edition presents Tafuri’s original text alongside essays by renowned architectural academics, including historian Ken Tadashi Oshima and author Catherine Ingraham. Their written work perfectly complements Tafuri’s original selection of images, providing a contemporary lens through which to view mid-century Japanese architecture.


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