Wednesday 3 April 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 3/4/2024

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Francisco Tirado

Music to our ears

This week we visit an urban regeneration project in Copenhagen that’s hitting all the right notes and head to a geometric gallery in Porto changing the shape of the city’s architectural scene. Plus: we celebrate grown-up models of childhood chairs and learn how technology is affecting the design of hospitality spaces. But first, Nic Monisse has a few lessons from the floor of Pad Paris.

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Best in show

Some of Europe’s top furniture designers, gallerists and collectors gathered in a marquee at the collectors’ preview of Pad Paris design fair today in the Jardin des Tuileries. Running until Sunday (and open to the public from tomorrow), the fair is a marquee event in the world of collectable design. It not only serves to furnish the homes of the discerning but helps to set the design agenda at the more boutique end of the spectrum. We caught up with a few of the galleries exhibiting at the event to find out more.

1. New networks
While other design showcases dwarf Pad Paris, where only 74 galleries and brands will be exhibiting, the savviest among them know that it’s sometimes best to be a big fish in a small pond. That’s part of the appeal for Theoreme Editions (see below), which is showcasing works at the event for the first time. “We launched our company five years ago and have built a worldwide collector base that we are constantly seeking to expand,” says its director, Lucy Keohane. “Pad Paris will provide exposure to a new network of interior designers and collectors who are seeking to acquire forward-looking works of quality furniture.”

2. National pride
The French value their artisans and it would seem that many of the country’s designers prefer working with smaller makers than factories that produce at scale. Take design office Nocod Studio, which is making its Pad Paris debut this year. Its collaboration with Anne Jacquemin Sablon Gallery, the Safari chair, was made entirely in France. “This is a very special project for us,” says Floriane Dosne, who co-founded Nocod Studio with Baptiste Dosne. “The pieces of leather [required to make the chair] were handcrafted by our team. It’s like a piece of haute-couture furniture. It’s a way to highlight the wonderful and historical French know-how – a statement of who we are and where we stand.”

3. Material matters
“Natural fibre is the future,” says Humberto Campana, co-founder of Estúdio Campana. “We need wood, bamboo, Indian cane and straw. I have been working with them since we launched our studio about 40 years ago. In my work I always ensure that I contribute positively to the planet because environmental responsibility is part of our studio’s DNA.” It’s a sentiment that Campana shares with Indian design gallery Aequō, which was founded in 2022 to support artisans and designers using local materials in their work. The result, which is on show in Aequō’s booth at Pad Paris this year, is a cabinet made from grass that was developed in collaboration with Estúdio Campana.

Nic Monisse is Monocle’s design editor. For more news and analysis, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Project / Opera Park, Denmark

Fairest of the seasons

Copenhagen’s waterfront has undergone an impressive redevelopment in recent decades. A host of cultural institutions and recreational hot spots have been built on the harbour, transforming a polluted industrial port into one of the Danish capital’s most popular destinations. The latest addition to this ever-evolving urban landscape is Opera Park, courtesy of architecture studio Cobe. Commissioned to design a parking facility for the Opera House, it added a lush, green space on top.

Image: Francisco Tirado
Image: Francisco Tirado

“The unused plot was meant for housing but the client scrapped the plan,” says Cobe architect Alexander Ejsing. “Instead, we created a new recreational spot for everyone to use.” The park features paths that wind across six gardens with plants from around the world, inspired by the area’s history as an international trade hub. At its heart is a glass pavilion that offers expansive views of the surroundings. Inside, you’ll find a restaurant and a café offering seasonal dishes, while a garden of tropical vegetation, including a 12-metre-tall tree, leads to the underground car park. As well as being a spot to refuel with food and drink, the pavilion plays a crucial role in making the green space a year-round destination. “Winters are long here so we didn’t want the park to be desolate for half of the year,” says Ejsing. “It’s important that we make good use of it.”

For more on Cobe’s work in Copenhagen, pick up a copy of Monocle’s April issue, which is on newsstands now.

Design News / Álvaro Siza Wing, Portugal

All the angles

The Porto School design movement is synonymous with the city’s contemporary architectural vernacular. Likewise, the Serralves cultural campus has come to define Porto’s art scene. Now these two symbols of Portugal’s second city have come together in a new space with the completion of the Serralves Museum’s Álvaro Siza Wing, designed by its namesake architect. While the first exhibitions hosted in the structure will celebrate Siza’s work, this isn’t the first time that the Pritzker Prize winner has left his imprint on the estate. The nonagenarian architect designed several of the buildings adjacent to the original art deco Serralves villa.

Image: Fernando Guerra
Image: Fernando Guerra

The 4,200 sq m wing has corners that protrude into the sky and geometric cutouts that open up views of the surrounding Serralves Park. Spread across three floors, its halls will host exhibitions dedicated to art and architecture. “Álvaro Siza is one of the greatest names in the history of architecture,” says Ana Pinho, CEO of the Serralves Foundation. “Here the Serralves Collection will be on permanent exhibition and we will have dedicated spaces for architecture programmes.”

Image: Mark Cocksedge

Words with... / Joyce Wang, Hong Kong

Thinking ahead

Joyce Wang is the founder and principal of her eponymous interior-design practice, based in Hong Kong and London. Her portfolio includes restaurants, such as The Magistracy and Mott 32 in Hong Kong, and hotels, including London’s Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park and The Hollywood Roosevelt in Los Angeles. Wang recently joined Monocle on Design for a live recording in Hong Kong to discuss timelessness in design.

How would you define a timeless interior?
A great interior is like a great film: you want to return to it and rewatch it again and again. And every time you revisit it, there’s something different that grabs your attention. It brings me a lot of joy when people discuss something in my designs that I might not have anticipated. These conversations extend beyond the space. The aesthetic of an interior can be designed to be timeless to a certain extent but some things, such as the lease on a space or the permanence of an establishment, are beyond our control. Understanding these constraints helps us to design better.

How is technology affecting the design of hospitality spaces?
Designing for hospitality is completely different to residential design. Clients can be much more specific about their preferences when it comes to their homes – the temperature of the lighting, say, or even the position of the drapery that can be controlled from an iPad. Hospitality design, on the other hand, is focused on design that everyone should be able to use as soon as they enter a room. Once, we worked on a hotel project that we initially thought would incorporate hi-tech programmable devices into the rooms but, in the end, we decided to go with traditional on-off switches. Instead of overcomplicating things, we went with something that people are familiar with and intuitively understand how to use.

How does your choice of materials contribute to a project’s sense of timelessness?
I named my daughter after architect Christopher Wren, who once had the foresight to plant a tree next to the cathedral that he was building. The beams of the cathedral were huge and [the wood needed for them] wasn’t something that you could easily find. So he planted the tree ahead of time to ensure that it would be ready and large enough when it became necessary to change the beams. It’s this sort of foresight that I strive to incorporate into my work and, as such, materials and where they come from are a huge factor in our designs. We like to consider the durability of materials and embrace how they will change. There’s a beauty to things that are used over time, such as scratches on a doorknob.

For more live Monocle on Design recordings, join us in Paris and Berlin next week.

Illustration: Anje Jager

From The Archive / Flötotto S23 chair, Germany

Back to school

Many countries have a classic chair that entire generations spent much of their childhood sitting on. Finns have the Artek Stool 60; in the UK, it’s the PEL classroom chair. For Germans, it’s the Formsitz by Flötotto. In 1952 the Gütersloh-based company patented a design for an ergonomic seat made from thin moulded plywood. It was hard-wearing and stackable, and Flötotto even invented a wagon with which you could move piles of the chairs around. There were various iterations of the Formsitz, such as this S23 model from 1970, and the company sold more than 21 million of them.

Flötotto remains a family-owned company and offers an updated version of the Formsitz as part of the Pro series of plastic seats designed by Konstantin Grcic. While this version is ideal for schools, the old wooden design, available from vintage retailers, remains in demand. Flötotto would be wise to reissue this pressed-plywood model as a more sophisticated option for the dining table or conference room. Some of today’s businesspeople might enjoy having meetings on a chair that they grew up sitting on.

Image: Mickael Llorca

Around The House / Theoreme Editions, France

Hand in hand

Founded by David Giroire and Jérôme Bazzocchi in 2019, Paris-based design company Theoreme Editions champions emerging French designers through collaborations on collectable furniture and homeware. This week it will showcase this work in its debut appearance at Pad Paris design fair, as well as in its gallery on Jardin du Palais Royal (pictured). Both spaces will spotlight works by French artist Daniel Buren, with the Palais Royal space featuring his pre-1964 paintings. “Many of these artworks are from before he began working with the stripe motif that is now synonymous with his practice,” says Lucy Keohane, director of Theoreme Editions. “The works exhibited range in materials from marble to cloth and traverse decades of his distinguished career, including his later mirrored works.”

Until May 11, Buren’s works will be shown in the gallery alongside Theoreme Editions pieces, including Pool’s modular Sistema sofa and Adrien Messié’s Fibonacci Table with a lacquer tabletop and Constantin Bench in a teal resin. This thoughtful juxtaposition will help to define the space – and demonstrate how art and design can complement each other.

In The Picture / ‘Studio Ashby’, UK

Inside jobs

A quick flick through UK interior designer Sophie Ashby’s new book, Studio Ashby: Home, Art, Soul, will reveal her love of bold colours, playful shapes and eccentric textures. Published by Rizzoli, with a layout designed by London-based Studio Small, the book is a celebration of the practice’s 10th anniversary. “We wanted to do something lasting to commemorate our first decade,” says Ashby. “It’s really important to take stock, rather than let these milestones pass you by.”

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

The book features 12 projects that reflect the studio’s central themes of art and soul, including a Grade II-listed Edwardian villa that was once owned by Peter Pan author JM Barrie and an equestrian-inspired apartment near the Longchamp Racecourse in Paris. The aim, says Ashby, is to present readers with a selection of the studio’s key projects, while highlighting some that they might not have seen before. With a thoughtful foreword and offering plenty of insight into one of the UK’s most popular interior-design studios, Studio Ashby’s print debut provides a compelling glimpse into its whimsical world.


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