Wednesday 15 May 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 15/5/2024

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Gubi

Coast to coast

We witness all the fun of the fair in this week’s dispatch as Christopher Lord travels across the US for the biggest design events in New York and Los Angeles. We also admire a Swedish hospital with a considered approach to the lives of both its patients and its neighbourhood and visit a mid-century Danish design house (pictured). Plus: the ceramic light that has us all fired up and the chair that turned Japan’s woodworking tradition on its head.

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Market value

I’m in New York this week trying to see as much design as I possibly can. NYCxDesign, which begins tomorrow and runs until 23 May, invigorates the gallery scene across the city every year, with special exhibitions that take me everywhere from Brooklyn Metal Works to the once-desolate Hudson Yards neighbourhood in search of fine furniture. There is energy in the air and it’s exciting to see that the revival of Tribeca as a gallery quarter continues apace. Even though the collectable design market is growing, however, many gallerists question whether the hubbub will translate into actual sales and momentum for their designers.

Meanwhile, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair kicks off in Hell’s Kitchen at the weekend (see our story on its rebranding below). Now in its 35th year, the event is a fine barometer of whether buyers are feeling flush or flaky. It is the entry point to the US market for many global design brands, with 450 exhibitors from 35 countries taking part. This year’s fair has a section dedicated to Portuguese studios, especially those with a strong woodworking tradition such as Lisbon’s Daao or Porto’s Duisst. But the forum’s focus is as much on visuals as it is on sales, with pieces pitched at architects and interior designers who are looking to give their next fit-out some flair.

On the West Coast, Design Miami’s first foray into the Los Angeles market kicks off tomorrow. Opening a new fair on the same day that NYCxDesign begins is a bold move. But Jesse Lee, Design Miami’s owner and founder of online marketplace Basic Space, believes that he can attract new collectors to the participating galleries hosted at the Holmby Hills Private Estate. “There are a lot of people here with money, who want to spend on their beautiful homes, especially as Los Angeles expands,” he told me. There is certainly no shortage of design events in the US this spring – and, by the end of the week, we’ll find out whether the market can keep pace.

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor. For more design and analysis, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Project / Ersta Sjukhus, Sweden

Picture of health

This new hospital building at Ersta Sjukhus, on the island of Södermalm in Stockholm, is an airy yet homely space with soaring ceilings and wooden furnishings. “Ersta Sjukhus balances the feeling of a private home and a modern hospital,” says Hanna Philipsson, lead architect on the project with Tengbom, the practice that finalised the hospital plans, which were originally developed by Nyréns Arkitektkontor. The property connects snugly with the part of the hospital that has been operational since 1864, when it cared for and boarded destitute women and children. It’s this link to buildings and the wider city that defines Tengbom’s work.

Image: Ersta Sjukhus
Image: Ersta Sjukhus
Image: Ersta Sjukhus

In partnership with interior designer Emma Olbers, the practice used ochre-yellow hues inspired by the neighbouring buildings. This interaction between inside and outside is enhanced by the gorgeous views of Stockholm’s rooftops and the waters surrounding the archipelago from the hospital rooms. A large terrace on the sixth floor, where the hospice is located, encourages outdoor respite. Patients can be wheeled out in their beds, pick wild strawberries or smell fragrant herbs that grow within arm’s reach. Raised flowerbeds creates nooks where patients can gather with family in private. A final touch comes in the form of the Marie lamps, developed by Swedish firm Ateljé Lyktan, that are distributed throughout the building and inspired by nurses’ hats worn in the past. The result of this careful combination of details is a hospital that doesn’t just save lives but uses design to make the experience as pleasant as possible for everyone inside.;

Ersta Sjukhus is the recipient of the 2024 Monocle Design Award for best healthcare. Read about more winners in the May issue of Monocle.

Design News / Gubi, London

House proud

Danish design house Gubi, known for reviving mid-century-modern classics and working with a global line-up of creatives, has opened its first London showroom in a Georgian townhouse. Gubi House, a grand Grade-II-listed terrace close to Barbican and Farringdon stations, showcases a selection of work by 20th-century design icons, including lighting by Paavo Tynell, alongside modern pieces such as GamFratesi’s Beetle and Bat Lounge Chairs. Each of its four floors has a theme, from elegant 1970s leisure and boho chic to boutique-hotel elegance and laidback communal living.

Image: Gubi
Image: Gubi

“Gubi is an eclectic brand, which is one of the reasons that it really fits the UK market,” says Marie Kristine Schmidt, Gubi’s chief brand officer. “We wanted to embrace the culture here, so opening a townhouse felt right. Creating intimate rooms is a beautiful way of presenting our furniture.” Though visits to the townhouse are by appointment-only, Gubi is planning to host community events, talks and exhibitions, while the furniture will be rotated with the seasons. “It’s a dynamic space,” adds Schmidt.

Image: Matthew Williams

Words with... / Jen Roberts, USA

Westward bound

Design Miami will make its Los Angeles debut at the Holmby Hills Private Estate tomorrow. Founded in Florida in 2005, the fair has grown in recent years, with editions in Paris, Basel and Shanghai. Jen Roberts has been its chief executive officer since 2015, overseeing Design Miami’s acquisition by digital marketplace Basic Space, as well as its expansion to the West Coast this week.

Why are you bringing Design Miami to Los Angeles?
It was an obvious progression for us. We have been looking at Los Angeles for a while. So many galleries have opened up here in recent years, including top international design outfits. That, along with the fact that our parent company, Basic Space, is based in Los Angeles means that it made perfect sense. It also allows us to reach a broader and younger audience that we don’t necessarily tap into in Miami or Europe. But it’s not just about the people who we bring in; these events are also a reflection of the creatives in a particular market.

Design Miami has started experimenting with different formats, from booths in exhibition halls to showcases in grand buildings. Tell us about this.
When we hosted our first Design Miami podium show, we realised that there were other kinds of flexible formats that we could take on the road. These new formats give us the opportunity to identify new audiences and talent in different places. But they’re also about making sure that we reflect that locale authentically. While the flagship versions will always remain in Basel and Miami, these additional, smaller fairs allow us to explore a different side of the market. It’s a moment for us to develop relationships that we can then bring to larger events.

What’s going to make Design Miami Los Angeles special?
The event is set in a 1930s house that sits on a large piece of land. It’s an interesting place to visit. The architect was a gentleman named Paul R Williams. He’s celebrated on the West Coast. I think that we’ll be seeing exhibitions dedicated to him at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Getty Center soon.

For more coverage of the latest design events, tune in to ‘Monocle on Design’ on Monocle Radio.

Illustration: Anje Jager

From The Archive / Junzo Sakakura chair, Japan

Out of the woods

Japanese architect Junzo Sakakura is credited for being one of the first to combine Western modernism with traditional Japanese style. Sakakura spent seven years in the Paris office of Swiss-French designer Le Corbusier before he moved to Tokyo and opened his own practice. His Model 5016 lounge chair, put into production by Japanese furniture-maker Tendo Mokko in 1957, showcases this mix of influences. The seat takes its shape from classic European armchairs but is adapted to Japanese homes by way of its low-slung seat and flat base, which protects tatami mats from wear.

Sakakura had already created a version of this design in the early 1950s, which he submitted to the Museum of Modern Art in New York for a competition on low-cost furniture. The chair’s frame is made from simple teak plywood, an inexpensive material – and a favourite of Le Corbusier’s. Tendo Mokko still makes a version of Sakakura’s design for the Japanese market. Given its cross-cultural origins, however, the Model 5016 should probably be marketed across the globe.

Image: Philippe Fragniere

Around The House / Céramique by Flos, Italy

Light fantastic

Italian lighting company Flos has long been known for its ingenious use of glass but this year it made a smashing debut in the world of ceramics. Working with French design scion Ronan Bouroullec, it created Céramique, a fun, sculptural table lamp comprising a single ceramic structure with a fixed light diffuser.

Three variations are available, with the luminaire pointing up, down or sideways, allowing variation in lighting configurations. The crystalline lacquered finish comes in mossy green, navy blue and rusty red – all characterful colourways.

Céramique is our winner of best lamp in the 2024 Monocle Design Awards. For more winners, pick up a copy of the magazine online or on newsstands now.

In The Picture / ICFF visual identity, USA

Brand aid

The International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), North America’s biggest design event, is opening this week after a rebrand by New York-based creative agency Force Majeure. French design duo Odile Hainaut and Claire Poujoulat tasked the company with reimagining the fair’s look, which visitors will be able to admire at the Javits Center in Manhattan from 19 to 21 May.

Image: ICFF
Image: ICFF
Image: ICFF

Force Majeure took ICFF back to its New York roots, channelling the creative energy and vitality that characterises the city. Its new, bold lettering is reminiscent of building blocks, while a palette of primary colours represents the different sections of the fair. The ICFF logo, which features four black squares on a white background, shows the event’s growing role as a cornerstone of US design culture and commerce. It’s a straightforward and confident rebrand – and one that reinforces the purpose of the fair on the world stage.


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