Wednesday. 22/3/2023

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Germán Saiz

Speaking design

In this week’s dispatch, we check in to a winning new cluster of hotel apartments in Seville (pictured), ponder the thought-provoking ad campaign for the upcoming Salone del Mobile and explore the boundaries of art and design at Oscar Tuazon’s mid-career retrospective. But first, Mae-Li Evans reflects on the lessons of this year’s Madrid Design Festival.

Opinion / Mae-Li Evans

Slow and steady

As the Madrid Design Festival enters its final weeks, let’s take a moment to reflect on some of its highlights – and its potential legacy. As I reported on an exhibition called Slow Spain for Monocle On Design, it became clear that mentorship is a top priority for budding designers on the Iberian peninsula. The show, exhibited at the Fernán Gómez Cultural Centre, featured an array of wooden shelves, seats and desks produced by students from across the country under the guidance of top Spanish designers: Inma Bermúdez, Moritz Krefter, Álvaro Catalán de Ocón and Jorge Penadés. Not only were the students pushed to expand their understanding of design but they were also given advice on how to navigate the industry and build a sustainable career.

“Students know how to use their talent but they don’t usually know how to make money out of their creativity,” says Penadés. “In my first years I was just pretending to be a designer, which made it a very expensive hobby. The challenge in the academic context is to ensure that students can pay their bills from work.” Penadés says that Slow Spain goes some way towards helping them to transform what could be a hobby into a paying gig and giving them a taste of what it takes to be a design professional – which goes beyond what a standard design-school education offers.

“Design education in Spain gives you the skills to work for someone else but doesn’t offer you the chance to think about working for yourself, which is something that in other countries is completely normal,” says Penadés. “I was living in the Netherlands and 16-year-olds there buy tools, make things and start selling them. It’s immediate. In Spain, we’re not used to that way of working.”

So how do we create an industry that encourages mentorship to flourish beyond design festivals and one-off events? Perhaps the answer is to build programmes such as Slow Spain into formal design education. This could help young designers to establish viable careers and would, at the very least, make for more inspiring shows at events like the Madrid Design Festival.

Mae-Li Evans is the producer of ‘Monocle On Design’. For more on the Madrid Design Festival, tune in here.

Design News / Oscar Tuazon exhibition, Switzerland

Blurred lines

Throughout his career, US artist Oscar Tuazon has blurred the boundaries of art and design with his signature architectural sculptures. It’s this intersection of disciplines that a mid-career retrospective explores at the Kunst Museum Winterthur. The museum’s contemporary-art curator, Lynn Kost, worked with Tuazon to install a number of his works inside the museum, building scenes of architecture within architecture and rooms within rooms.

Image: Reto Kaufmann
Image: Reto Kaufmann
Image: Reto Kaufmann

Among the highlights of the exhibition is the expansive wooden structure of a model house, inspired by a building that Tuazon found in the woods of Washington state, intended as a communal space for cultural conversations. “My approach is always to get into a space and fill it up,” he says. The exhibition encourages visitors to consider what architecture can and should be. Is it something that’s only to be lived in or can it be a sculpture too? Visit the exhibition before it wraps up on 30 April.

The Project / Bos-Cos Seville, Spain

Stay and play

Bos-Cos is a new cluster of hotel apartments in Seville for travellers who want to linger in the Spanish city. Its central location – close to the church of San Juan de la Palma and the Renaissance-era Palacio de Dueñas – inspired Madrid-based architecture firm Febrero Studio to emphasise local specificity. “Seville has such a powerful and strong image,” says Jesús Díaz Osuna, partner and architect at Febrero Studio. “Most elements in this project are present in traditional architecture: the vertical proportions of the windows, the zaguán configuration, the terracotta bricks and the plants. We try to give a contemporary turn to all of these elements to create a personal style that is honest, contextualised and modern.”

Image: Germán Saiz
Image: Germán Saiz
Image: Germán Saiz

A 19th-century wooden door invites visitors into a central courtyard, which is a welcome oasis during the balmy Andalusian summers. Four flats with access to private terraces and pools have been neatly laid out in creamy-white, sage and burnt-red hues that recall the southern Spanish landscape. Tactility is provided by linen bedspreads, rope chairs and dark wood panelling in the kitchens. The result is a Seville getaway that’s perfect for escaping a long winter – and one that you might never want to leave.;

Words with... / Inês Cottinelli, Portugal

Life after death

Portuguese designer Daciano da Costa built up an impressive body of work in the second half of the 20th century, creating furnishings that appear in notable buildings such as Lisbon’s Centro Cultural de Belém. Demand for the work of the late designer has grown in recent years – but how does a designer rise to prominence after their death? In Da Costa’s case, this posthumous flourishing is thanks in part to his daughter, Inês Cottinelli (pictured), who looks after his archive. Recently she helped two of her father’s chairs enter the permanent collection of the Vitra Design Museum. We caught up with Cottinelli to find out more.

Image: Marco Goncalves

For the uninitiated, how would you describe your father’s career?
If I were a historian talking about Daciano’s work, I would say that there were three main areas. First, he was a professor: he introduced design as an autonomous discipline to the faculty of architecture at the Superior School of Fine Arts in Lisbon. Second, he was an industrial designer; his furniture-making collaboration with Portuguese factory Metalúrgica da Longra lasted for more than 30 years. Finally, he was an interior architect, with projects such as the National Laboratory of Civil Engineering from 1971. Today you can see it as it was 50 years ago. The Quadratura chair, which is now in the Vitra Design Museum, belongs to that work and is still there. That is the place to visit to feel my father’s work; it’s where he was a total designer.

You’re a landscape architect by trade. What prompted you to join your father’s studio?
In 2013 I decided to mentor in the studio that my father founded in 1959, with the purpose of extending and maintaining his legacy. The atelier is now a place where we can work and that we open to the public at times, so that they can see a little bit more of his pieces. We have some originals on show, as well as some of his reissues that are now available to the public. That includes the Alvor chair, which was designed for the Hotel Alvor Praia in 1967 and is now in the Vitra Design Museum.

Finally, what steps are you taking to build his legacy?
We’re reissuing everything from his furniture to his tapestries. We believe that this communicates his graphic-design approach and the important fact that Daciano da Costa never saw boundaries between product design, object design and graphic design.

For more from Inês Cottinelli on Daciano da Costa, listen to ‘Monocle On Design’ or pick up a copy of our March issue.


On reflection

Swiss designer couple Robert and Trix Haussmann once described their approach as “taking up lost traditions, developing them further and giving them a new, modern interpretation – combined with humour and a touch of irony”. Lounge Seating, designed for Knoll in 1988, is a case in point. The sofa was inspired by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Weissenhof chair (and was originally called The New Weissenhof chair). While Van der Rohe’s chair uses arched tubular steel to do away with the back legs, the Haussmanns employ mirrors to achieve a similar partial vanishing trick.

But the Haussmanns didn’t design Lounge Seating just so design enthusiasts could entertain visitors with the story behind it. The mirrored loungers will reflect any carpet or parquet pattern that they are placed on, creating the illusion of extra space in the living room. Knoll still has Van der Rohe’s original Weissenhof chair in production (under the name MR). There’s no reason why this irreverent homage to it shouldn’t be too.

In The Picture / Salone del Mobile, Italy

Parlare games

With less than a month until the world’s biggest furniture fair, Salone del Mobile, kicks off in Milan, designers and architects across the globe are finalising itineraries and planning meetings with developers and brands. While it’s a significant event for the industry, outsiders might wonder why they should care about what’s on show in the Lombard capital from 18 to 23 April. It’s a valid question – and one that Salone del Mobile addresses in its advertising for this year’s event. The “Do you speak design?” poster and digital campaign was created by Milan-based branding and design studio Leftloft with illustrations by Gio Pastori.

Featuring 26 brightly coloured posters, each corresponds to a letter of the alphabet and a piece of everyday design that starts with it: so “A” is for “armchair”, “B” is for “bookcase”, “C” is for “chair” and so on. “Illustrating an ABC of objects is a method that invites people living in Milan and all around the world to relearn how to read them, to dig down into their souls unhindered by trends or brands,” says Pastori. The campaign reminds us that design doesn’t have to be intimidating – and that Salone del Mobile impacts us all, whether you work in the industry or not.;

Around The House / Mater Ocean OC2, Denmark

Back in the mix

Copenhagen-based design brand Mater is a pioneer in sustainability and the circular economy. Its ambition is to inspire makers and design lovers to think more sustainably. In 2019 it reissued a chair and table originally designed by Nanna and Jorgen Ditzel in 1955 and made from wood veneer as part of the Ocean collection, using old fishing nets and ocean-waste plastic as its materials. Now, Mater has launched a new version made using circular principles in collaboration with Carlsberg and A:gain, an organisation that develops and produces upcycled building materials.

Image: Mater

Named Ocean OC2, the chairs, benches and tables, which come in Carlsberg’s distinctive green, use plastic waste from the beer company’s kegs (as well as other repurposed plastics) and a frame of partially recycled steel. “The collaboration between Carlsberg, A:gain, the Ditzel family and Mater is a unique example of an innovative way of thinking about circular production across industries,” says Henrik Marstrand, Mater’s founder. “We are constantly looking for similar collaborations where we can use upcycled plastic or other waste streams and send it all back as furniture and lighting.” The resulting pieces look just as good outside as they do indoors and now take pride of place at Carlsberg’s headquarters in Copenhagen. And if you drop by one of Mater’s shops, they could take pride of place in your home too.


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