Wednesday 29 May 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 29/5/2024

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Delfino Sisto Legnani

Game changers

In this week’s missive we celebrate out-of-the-box thinking, from the human-centred work of Keiji Takeuchi to future-proof, filmic design objects on display in Germany. Elsewhere, longevity is the order of the day as Finnish scissor maker Fiskars marks its 375th anniversary and Danish brand Bang & Olufsen’s restoration project tackles built-in obsolescence. But first, Nic Monisse takes a look at design’s potential to fundamentally change lives.

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Widening perspectives

It’s common to hear that a designer entered the profession because they wanted to improve people’s lives. And so it is with Japanese-born, New Zealand-raised designer Keiji Takeuchi (see below), who told Monocle that he’s “always thinking about people” when he’s working. This was evident in his recent exhibition dedicated to walking sticks and canes that restore dignity to their users – a demographic that is often overlooked.

The show was a breath of fresh air in a world where it can be challenging for designers to produce at scale (whether a multi-apartment residence or objects for mass production). When populations are so varied, it is easy to forget to design for the quieter sections of society and simply tick the “people” box by relying on data that fails to capture the nuances of lifestyle and culture.

A solution to encourage broader consideration for people might be found in the work of Enzo Mari, some of which can be seen at the current exhibition of his work at London’s Design Museum. A prolific designer, artist and educator, Mari was intent on bringing good design to a broad swath of people through modularity and mass production. But he was also set on encouraging the next generation of designers to create with empathy. To do so, he developed a board game with Milan-based furniture manufacturer Danese. Originally created for children, “Living” featured eight packs of cards – representing lifestyle factors such as profession, possessions and desires – that could be combined to create a fantasy life. Mari played the game with his students, encouraging them to “think about real people, forgetting abstract and flat statistics”.

For any designer hoping to broaden their perspective, running a similar exercise might not only be invigorating but also inspire new, life-improving projects in service of the people who need them most. Takeuchi certainly wouldn’t have designed the walking stick if he hadn’t been thinking of those beyond his typical audience of high-end consumers. Who knows, perhaps Mari’s game helped him to take the first step.

This column also features in Monocle’s June issue. For more design insights and reflections, subscribe to Monocle today.

Design News / ‘Science Fiction Design’, Germany

Back to the future

The link between science fiction and design has always been strong: ask any architect for their favourite film and there’s a good chance that the 1982 hit Blade Runner will be mentioned. The connection?: Thinking about the future is key to any work of design standing the test of time. This notion is being explored in a new exhibition at the Vitra Schaudepot museum in Weil am Rhein. Science Fiction Design: From Space Age to Metaverse features more than 100 objects from the museum’s collection, spanning the dawn of the 20th century up until the present day.

Image: Mark Niedermann
Image: Mark Niedermann
Image: Mark Niedermann

Many of the works have been featured in science-fiction films, including Marc Newson’s Orgone Chair from 2012’s Prometheus and Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Argyle Chair from 1897, which appeared in Blade Runner. Argentinian visual artist and designer Andrés Reisinger curated the showcase, which reminds us of fiction’s role in inspiring real-world design. After all, to design a better future, we first have to imagine one.

The Project / La Junqueira, Portugal

Creative licence

Founded in 2018 by French artist Stéphane Mulliez, La Junqueira is an artist’s residency in Lisbon that offers three-month stays to creatives, resulting in a presentation of their work at the end of the programme. This year’s showcase took place during Lisbon Design Week and featured the work of sculptor Max Coulon, who used wood sourced nearby, such as oak and eucalyptus, to create large-scale, figurative pieces. “I wanted to create a place where people could have artistic exchanges but also take time to breathe and take in their surroundings,” says Mulliez. “Lisbon is a dynamic city.”

Image: Francisco Nogueira
Image: Francisco Nogueira

Mulliez restored two floors of an 18th-century building, which was previously a primary school, to create space for the residency and accommodation for visiting artists. A decorative band of traditional azulejos (ceramic tiles) line the lower wall of the workshop, while multi-coloured stained-glass panels filter light from the hallway into Mulliez’s office. The result is a space that is not only a showcase of the work produced but also a reflection of the programme’s focus on craft. For those who weren’t able to visit La Junqueira during Lisbon Design Week, it might be worth applying for a residency to experience it first-hand.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Words with... / Keiji Takeuchi, Italy

Walk free

Born in Japan and raised in New Zealand, furniture designer Keiji Takeuchi is now based in Italy, where he runs his eponymous studio in Milan. Before establishing his firm in 2015, he studied in Auckland and Paris, and worked in Tokyo for designer Naoto Fukasawa. Takeuchi has created furniture and products for international brands including Italy’s De Padova, Herman Miller in the US and Portuguese cork specialists Amorim.

Tell us about your approach to design. What is your starting point?
My approach is organic and always adapts but there are a few core principles. I think a lot about materiality and production techniques, which change based on what the brand that I’m working with is capable of and what it needs. But my primary focus is on how people want to use a product; I consider the atmospheric effect that a piece can have on a space.

You recently showed an exhibition at the Triennale di Milano, presenting walking sticks and canes created by 18 international designers. What drew you to this subject?
I have been thinking about designing walking canes for years. There are a lot of elderly people in Japan and Italy, and I often see them struggling to get up and down steps. In both countries, the sticks look and feel quite medical. The purpose of a walking stick is to make its user want to walk. So I put together an exhibition that showcased canes that people could take pride in and would be happy to use.

What did you hope that the show would achieve?
It was a great opportunity to communicate that designers don’t always need to change things in a big way. We can encourage people to see objects differently, while pushing boundaries and, perhaps, creating something amazing.

For more interviews with top designers, tune in to ‘Monocle on Design’ on Monocle Radio.

Around The House / Fiskars Scissors, Finland

Blades of glory

Fiskars, makers of the world’s first plastic-handled scissors, is Finland’s oldest company. It marks its 375th anniversary this year and, to pay homage to its industrial heritage, it is releasing a special edition of its much-loved, orange-handled scissors. They are lightweight, streamlined and beloved by craftspeople, cooks, gardeners and generalists alike. This aesthetically pleasing accessory has earned its rightful place among the world’s design icons and is a part of The Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection in New York.

More than one billion pairs have been sold since they were first released in 1967; their ergonomics, high performance and good looks make them a must-have for every kitchen drawer or craft table. Fans of the brand will be pleased to learn that Fiskars haven’t altered the popular design or the recognisable colour of the handles of the anniversary-edition scissors; instead, stainless-steel blades have been decorated with a subtle, special engraving.

Illustration: Anje Jager

From The Archive / Beocom 2000 Landline, Denmark

Ring in the old

In the current issue of Monocle, we visit the factory of Danish technology company Bang & Olufsen, which is taking a stand against built-in obsolescence through its Recreated Classics Programme. The initiative sees the audio specialists buy and restore a limited number of its own iconic products. So far it has revisited the 4000C turntable from 1972 and the Beosound 9000C CD players from the 1990s. And we would like to suggest that the Beocom 2000 landline phone, which is enjoying a small renaissance in offices, receives the same treatment.

The Beocom 2000 was introduced in 1990 and originally marketed for domestic use. Its design veers away from B&O’s classic sleek aesthetic with an angular shape in primary colours and big, colourful buttons. Its bold look is probably why the phone can again be spotted in many young, design-forward offices: unlike most of today’s devices, it is a handsome object that takes pride of place on the work desk. The speed at which secondhand Beocoms go on Ebay proves that the landline phone is far from obsolete – and that this one deserves to be put back in production.

For more on Bang & Olufsen’s archival revivals, pick up a copy of Monocle’s June issue today. It’s available online and on all good newsstands now.

In The Picture / Marc Newson, Australia

Scope of work

Marc Newson is one of the world’s most influential living designers. Now his 40-year career has been captured in Marc Newson Works: 84-24, a large-format book published by Taschen. It’s an encyclopedic survey of his work, which includes everything from furniture and architecture to jewellery and transport.

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

The book was written by photographer and editor Alison Castle, in partnership with Newson, and features essays documenting the Australian designer’s products and process. It also profiles key projects, from his iconic Lockheed Lounge from 1986, which launched him to global fame, to his Tokyo public toilet, designed in collaboration with Toto in 2023. It is essential reading for any design enthusiast – and fans of Newson’s work will be pleased to find previously unseen pieces and forthcoming projects featured on page. Thanks to its smart binding and linen cover, designed by longtime collaborator Richard Allan, this new book will be a handsome addition to any home.


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