Wednesday 19 June 2024 - Monocle Minute On Design | Monocle

Wednesday. 19/6/2024

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Mathias Eis

In the hot seat

All the fun of the fair continues in this week’s missive as we bring you highlights from Copenhagen’s recent 3 Days of Design festival. We also step inside a Paris pavilion breathing new life into a city park and pull up a chair at a modernist furniture showcase in New York. First up is Grace Charlton with how enduring design can help shape the future of the industry.

Opinion / Grace Charlton

In pursuit of timelessness

Now that we’re halfway through the year, it’s a good moment to reflect on what 2024 has delivered so far in terms of design. At the industry’s most significant European events, from Milan’s Salone del Mobile in April to Copenhagen’s recent 3 Days of Design, last year’s fuzzy, creamy bouclé fabrics and rounded shapes have been replaced by sleek, angular aluminium, such as that of Carl Hansen & Søn (see above), and darker wood details. A move towards 1970s-style oranges, browns and yellows stood out in Milan (though the Danes are still betting on beige). Some worry that the fashion industry’s increasing involvement in the field of design is bringing faster trend cycles that put pressure on production, while testing the “buy less, buy better” mentality that has been carefully cultivated by much of the sector over the past decade.

To counter this pressure, a pursuit of “timelessness” has been at the top of the agenda for many designers eager to distance themselves from short-lived fads. The result is plenty of minimal, natural and often very beautiful pieces that are inoffensive enough to suit any setting. That makes me question my own fretting about buying into the latest look (my browser history is full of anodised aluminium stools, shelves and homeware) and whether or not any investment made now will look out of date by 2025. It also begs the questions: is it OK to bear the mark of your time? Can a material such as metal really go out of fashion? And how will the 2020s be remembered by future generations if we just keep referencing previous eras?

To be clear, there is beautiful, contemporary design being created and exhibited in cities from Stockholm to Seoul by the likes of Sabine Marcelis (see below), Formafantasma and Studio Halleroed, to name just a few. But the enduring appeal of mid-century modern design comes down to its pioneers – Ponti, Jacobsen, Knoll, the Eameses and so on – and their willingness to shake up ideas of what design can look like. I hope that 70 years from now, the present moment will be referenced in its own right and designers such as Marcelis will join Ponti and co in annals. After all, researching new environmentally minded materials and production methods, as well as testing out different silhouettes, is an eternal pursuit.

Grace Charlton is Monocle’s associate editor. For more news and analysis, subscribe today.

The Project / Pavillon Jardins, France

Green rooms

Architecture studio Atelier du Pont’s new pavilion in Paris’s Parc de la Villette will serve as a flexible workspace for the teams running the park and the on-site cultural centre. French-Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi won an international competition in 1983 to design the green space on the outskirts of the city. His proposal included 26 bright-red architectural structures – or follies – that are scattered across the landscape.

Image: Charly Broyez
Image: Charly Broyez
Image: Charly Broyez

The new pavilion has replaced a set of prefabricated office buildings from the early 1980s that were no longer fit for purpose. Central to its design are two interlocking structures: one made from concrete, chosen for its robustness, and the other from wood, selected for its lightness and low environmental harm. The pavilion is organised on two levels around a central atrium, where a large staircase-cum-seating area allows for both conferences and informal get-togethers. “Tailor-made micro-architectures punctuate the space, serving as meeting points, work booths and coffee lounges,” says Atelier du Pont’s Anne-Cécile Comar, who co-founded the studio with Philippe Croisier. “The workspaces are flexible and enjoy panoramic views of the park’s abundant vegetation.”

The pavilion sits snugly among Tschumi’s follies and its compact footprint allows more room for green space. The project’s environmental ambitions inform many of the design choices, from the use of natural air circulation to the central atrium’s ability to act as a thermal regulator. Office design has rarely been so cool.

Design news / Ariake, Japan

Think global, act local

Japanese furniture company Ariake has unveiled its 2024 collection, with the pieces making their Scandinavian debut at last week’s 3 Days of Design festival in Copenhagen. The exhibition was curated by Porto-based designer Gabriel Tan and produced by Danish design distributor Est18. Ariake was founded in 2018 as a result of a partnership between the Legnatec and Hirata Chair factories in Saga prefecture, with both operations sharing expertise to craft the fine furniture now associated with the brand.

Image: Mathias Eis
Image: Mathias Eis

Twice a year, Ariake invites designers to take part in a workshop in Japan’s Saga prefecture, most recently Norwegian duo Anderssen & Voll, Stockholm-based Monica Förster and Japanese designer Keiji Ashizawa. This year’s result is a line-up of eight new homeware pieces, from cabinets and tables to chairs made from local materials, such as washi paper and delicately scented hinoki wood. “We like to host workshops in collaboration with local craftspeople and carpenters,” says Ariake’s Kengo Kabashima (pictured top left, on left). “We’re tied to our location on the Ariake sea.”;

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Words with... / Sabine Marcelis, The Netherlands

Pride of place

Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis works across scales and media, from civic installations in London to furniture for Swedish brand Hem. Last year she was on the selection committee of Design Space Al-Ula’s first residency. The programme invited both Saudi and international creatives, such as France-based Leo Orta and Hall Haus, to make new pieces inspired by the ancient city’s architecture and landscape.

Why are creative residencies important?
It’s about creating pieces that are linked to the setting. For the Al-Ula residency, we selected designers who we thought would get involved in the Saudi scene. France-based artist and designer Leo Orta is an excellent example of this: he was in Saudi Arabia for a few months and became good friends with some of the country’s makers, who helped him to create furniture with earth and wax that captured the materiality of Al-Ula.

Why focus on the creation of place-based works?
We’re at a sad moment when everything is starting to look like everything else. If you go to a hotel in Barcelona, there’s a good chance that it’ll be furnished in the same way as another in New York. But there’s something special about being very specific to a place in terms of aesthetic and materiality. There’s plenty to be gained by everyone: designers learn a lot from the residents of a place, who, in turn, learn from the designers.

Is a residency ultimately more about the making process than the end product?
Yes. I hope that people think carefully about how production is linked to design. I have noticed that there’s a tendency today for creatives to envision designs that are completely removed from how it will ultimately be made.

For more from Sabine Marcelis, pick up a copy of Monocle’s June issue, which is out now on newsstands and available online.

Illustration: Anje Jager

From the Archive / Giraffe chair and table, Brazil

Take a seat

New York’s Museum of Modern Art (Moma) is holding an exhibition on Latin American design for the first time in more than 80 years. Crafting Modernity: Design in Latin America, 1940-1980 runs until 22 September. “The modern period in the region was very different to the modernity that existed elsewhere,” says co-curator Ana Elena Mallet. “We’re used to seeing glass and cement but it was warmer in Latin America and tied to the local context.”

An example of this is the Giraffe table and chair, designed by Lina Bo Bardi and her collaborators Marcelo Ferraz and Marcelo Suzuki. They came up with the Giraffe concept in 1986 and it was used in several of Bo Bardi’s projects, including the Casa do Benin cultural centre in Bahia and the SESC Pompéia museum in São Paulo. Made from warm Brazil cherry wood, the chair is both lightweight and stackable. Thanks to its compact size and all-wooden joints, it’s safe and comfortable for people of all ages. “It’s made for spaces where people spend their whole day,” says Mallet. Ferraz still makes Giraffe furniture to order. With a prototype now on display at Moma, hopefully this iconic piece of Latin American modernism will gain popularity beyond the continent.

Image: Mathias Eis

Around The House / Verpan, Denmark

All together now

Furniture firm Verpan works closely with the family of 1960s Danish designer Verner Panton to revive some of his best works. For the recent 3 Days of Design festival in Copenhagen, it showcased reissues of the Easy series and Moon Opal pendant in an installation called “The Verpan Club” at its new flagship. Designed by All the Way to Paris studio, the showroom riffs on Panton’s passion for turning living spaces into immersive, sensory experiences. “His work invites people to have conversations about design,” says the studio’s co-founder Tanja Vibe. “It’s playful yet sophisticated.”

Panton defied furniture and lighting conventions with his bold use of colour, shape and materials, breaking away from the strictures of functionalism. The newly reissued works – particularly the Easy series, a seating family created in 1964 – embody Panton’s commitment to bringing people together. “He designed pieces to encourage social interaction,” says Verpan’s CEO, David Obel Rosenkvist. “We wanted to celebrate that ambition.”;

In The Picture / ‘Enzo Mari’, Italy

Keep it simple

Italian modernist Enzo Mari is revered in the design world, having revolutionised the industry with his simple creations. After his death in 2020, his personal archive was donated to Milan on the condition that it would be kept closed for 40 years. According to Mari, it would take that long “before we have a new generation that is not as spoilt as today’s generation and that will be capable of using it in an informed manner”.

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

In 2020, a few days before Mari’s death, Triennale Milano staged a retrospective of work, curated by Swiss art critic Hans Ulrich Obrist and editor Francesca Giacomelli. Its catalogue, published by Electa, gathers the designer’s sketches, plans and exhibited works in one hefty volume. Accompanying interviews with Mari detail his approach to design and his reflections on the industry. Those in London can now catch the first solo exhibition at the Design Museum until 8 September.


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