Wednesday 18 January 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 18/1/2023

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Wichmann + Bendtsen

French connection

There’s a distinctly Gallic feel to this week’s dispatch, with the interiors and furniture fair Maison & Objet kicking off tomorrow in Paris. As part of our preview coverage, we visit an artwork in a Parisian mansion commissioned by Liaigre and take a seat in the new Wind chair by La Manufacture. Plus: Dutch architect Marc Koehler, a photography exhibition on Alvar Aalto in Seattle and the new Esbjerg Maritime Center (pictured). Nic Monisse opens the show.

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Handle with care

Tomorrow morning the doors of the Paris Nord Villepinte exhibition centre will be flung open to welcome throngs of interior and furniture designers, collectors and buyers for trade fair Maison & Objet. Here, about 2,300 exhibitors from 150 countries will present new furniture and homeware, and curate their stalls to reflect this year’s theme, “Take care!”. The organisers hope that those participating will respond to one of four “axes”: taking care of yourself, taking care of others, taking care of the planet and taking care of craft and heritage skills. As far as themes go, it’s a strong one. “Taking care” is something that’s easy to talk about but hard to do – and that makes it a worthwhile theme to explore.

In a design context, it’s easy to say that you’ll take care of others when manufacturing a product but, when push comes to shove, choose a cheaper process with inadequate safeguards for factory workers. In the process, you’ll also kill off heritage or specialised skills. It’s also easy for a brand to declare that it will make a product from recycled and reusable materials without having a system that allows its users to responsibly dispose of it once its life has come to an end.

These are challenges that have long fascinated us at Monocle. You only have to flip through our December/January issue to find brands, such as toothbrush maker Suri, that are looking after the environment while making attractive products. When I recently spoke to the brand’s co-founder Mark Rushmore, he told me that his brand delivers sustainability without compromise; its toothbrushes are responsibly made, look good, work well and can be fully recycled through the company with minimal inconvenience to the user. It’s an approach to design that considers products and the systems in which those products operate, with the designers helping users to genuinely take care. It’s that sort of approach that I hope to find on the floor of Maison & Objet over the coming days.

Nic Monisse is Monocle’s design editor. See below for a selection of what to visit during Maison & Objet and read next week’s edition for more from the trade halls.

The Project / Liaigre installation, France

Bending the rules

In an effort to move beyond the trade halls at Nord Villepinte, Maison & Objet’s organisers have curated an event called In the City, for which 100 shops, galleries, mansions, maisons and workshops in Paris will open their doors to visiting designers, furniture buyers and design enthusiasts. Many of the hosting venues will be displaying decorative works and exhibitions to showcase local craftsmanship and capture the ethos of their brand; among them is Liaigre.

Image: Albarran Bourdais / Clerin_Morin
Image: Albarran Bourdais / Clerin_Morin

The French interiors and furniture studio has taken over a private mansion on Paris’s Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré to stage an exhibition by Swiss artist Felice Varini. The show, D’éclat en éclats (pictured), features four in-situ artworks painted on the walls, floors and architectural elements of the 19th-century structure. As visitors move through the space, Varini’s paintings appear to move and change form, turning from a disparate collection of lines into a cohesive shape when viewed from a particular location.

It’s a reminder that the furniture and other items with which we finish our homes can look and feel different when viewed from certain angles – whether that’s from above, when you’re looking down on the foyer from the mezzanine, or from the front, when you’re entering through a door.

Design News / Esbjerg Maritime Center, Denmark

Shining light

Copenhagen-based practice WERK Arkitekter has teamed up with Norway’s Snøhetta on a new maritime centre in the Danish port town of Esbjerg. Nicknamed “The Lantern”, the centre was completed to the designs of a winning architectural competition entry from 2019. As its new moniker suggests, the building is best appreciated in the early evening when the timber structure is lit by carefully placed exterior luminaires and glowing windows. “The goal was to create a unique destination that lights up the Danish West Coast, so that everyone at sea can find their way to new communities,” says Thomas Kock, WERK Arkitekter’s creative director.

Image: Wichmann + Bendtsen
Image: Wichmann + Bendtsen
Image: Wichmann + Bendtsen

Catering to watersports clubs and visitors to the port, the maritime centre has been built with the climate in mind. The robust, curved, timber-panelled exterior (inspired by the wood cladding on traditional boats) and terraced internal courtyard shelter users from the strong winds. The potential for rising sea levels or flooding from nearby dams is also accounted for, with the structure’s first floor made from concrete that was poured in one go – a construction process that protects the building from water damage. The outcome is a striking architectural landmark that is equipped for the challenges of unpredictable weather.;

Designer’s note: Smart light placement can be used to shape the way that users experience a building. In the case of Esbjerg Maritime Center, interior lights are positioned to illuminate the indoor areas and turn the exterior into a glowing beacon.

Words with... / Marc Koehler, The Netherlands

On the home front

Dutch architect Marc Koehler is one of the leading thinkers in his field. A winner of several international design competitions, including the 2022 World Architecture Festival award for future residential design, he is widely recognised for both his built works and conceptual projects, all connected by his practice’s focus on sustainable urban living. Monocle On Design met him to discuss his vision.

What are some of the biggest challenges that architects face today?
Many are struggling to make projects sustainable at a time of financial and ecological crisis. It’s hard to realise a project when it feels as though everything is working against you. Architecture as a practice is under threat because of people “designing” with algorithms and because of commercial forces that are incorporating architecture into property-development models that leave no space for autonomous design. So it’s important that we come together as a community to redefine our values.

How does your practice approach these challenges?
Different generations are moving apart from each other, rather than living together. We think that it’s important to create projects that connect generations and sociodemographic groups. We want to work with younger people, wealthy people, less wealthy people, expats and locals, as well as people of different nationalities and cultures. People are seeking a more harmonious world where we actually know our neighbours again, can rely on each other and can share inspiration.

How is this reflected in your World Architecture Festival award-winning project, Robin Wood?
We realised that this issue demands new community-building models and that’s what we’re trying to do with the residential communities that we design. They are a revival of this idea of communal living but they offer privacy and freedom to live how you want to while still giving you the possibility of living and working together.

For more from Koehler, tune in to ‘Monocle On Design’.

From The Archive / Meribel Log Basket, France

Bright spark

If you have a skiing trip in France planned this winter, you partly have Charlotte Perriand to thank. From the late 1960s onwards, the architect brought modernism to the slopes with Les Arcs, a resort in Savoie that is credited for helping to turn Alpine sports into a mainstream pastime. Perriand’s design style is best captured by the small chalet in Méribel that she built for herself in 1961 and filled with her own furniture and small, finely crafted pieces that she brought back from her travels.

Illustration: Anje Jager

By the chalet’s central fireplace stands this Japanese bamboo basket, which Perriand bought in the 1950s. Opening up like a suitcase, the clever, lightweight basket is traditionally used for carrying groceries – but Perriand repurposed it to hold wood to store next to the fire. It isn’t surprising that it caught her eye as she was heavily influenced by Japanese aesthetics in her Alpine architecture. The design helps its users carry out the chores of mountain life with ease – and we’d gladly see more of them in cabins from East to West.

Around The House / Wind chair, France

Seat couture

French brand La Manufacture is known for both furniture and fashion, with its clothes and finely crafted pieces on show at its shop on Rue Edouard VII. It’s here in Paris’s 9th arrondissement that, as part of Maison & Objet’s In the City programme, La Manufacture will show its new Wind chair. Designed by Patrick Norguet, the perch offers a new take on stackable chairs with armrests.

Image: La Manufacture
Image: La Manufacture

Rather than simple, angular lines, it draws inspiration from objects bending in strong winds. Its curving frame neatly encompasses the seat and wide backrest, before extending down into four thin, fluid legs. Those seeking smart additional dining chairs that can be neatly stored when not in use would do well to test one before Maison & Objet wraps up next week.

In The Picture / ‘Alvar Aalto’s Jyväskylä’, USA

Hometown hero

Finnish photographer Janne Tuunanen’s current exhibition at Seattle’s National Nordic Museum is inspired by his hometown of Jyväskylä. So what is special about this small Finnish outpost? The town features 29 early buildings by Alvar Aalto, many of which have largely been overlooked by fans of the Finnish modernist architect. Among those who took these for granted was New York-based Tuunanen, who returned to his hometown at the height of the pandemic. “I was surrounded by this architecture while growing up and you get used to it,” he says. “To appreciate it, I had to revisit my hometown.”

Image: Jovelle Tamayo
Image: Jovelle Tamayo

Once the photographer realised how important these civil and residential structures were, he set about creating a portfolio of images of them. The result is an exhibition that looks at Aalto’s work from a new perspective. “There are many books and magazines from a documentary point of view, focusing on the materials and whole buildings,” says Tuunanen. “I shifted my focus and approached it all from an aesthetic point of view by really looking into the small details that make these works so special. For example, Aalto bends wood in a way that creates wavy shapes, such as in the roof of the Museum of Central Finland.” Those looking for a new perspective on Aalto, through Tuunanen’s lens, can visit the exhibition until 19 March.


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