Wednesday 3 July 2024 - Monocle Minute On Design | Monocle

Wednesday. 3/7/2024

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Alexis Armanet

French connection

We make for a rendezvous in the backstreets, parks and canals of Paris this week, where we take a seat on a chair by a French manufacturer furnishing the capital’s landmarks and meet celebrated architect Manuelle Gautrand. Plus: we find Mediterranean-style hospitality down under and admire mid-century marvels in a new architecture monograph. But first, Grace Charlton reports from the City of Light on its thriving design scene (pictured).

Opinion / Grace Charlton

Capital creativity

The world’s eyes will be fixed on Paris over the coming weeks, with the second round of the French presidential election taking place on Sunday and the Olympics just around the corner. Monocle has already reported on both events and we’ll continue to do so from our newly opened Paris bureau. We have also explored the French capital’s enduring appeal in a dedicated newspaper, the Monocle Paris Edition, which spans everything from the mythical figure of the Parisienne to the cultural institutions serving up the best lunch. And on the design desk, we have focused on the growing international profile of the city’s new and established designers and companies.

Highlights from the Paris Edition newspaper include a visit to the studio of emerging design firm Hall Haus and reflections on heritage brands such as Fermob, whose chairs are increasingly prominent in the city’s public spaces (see below). Over coffee near the Jardin du Palais-Royal, I asked Charlotte de Tonnac, co-founder of Festen Architecture, what she thought of Design Miami establishing an annual Paris edition in October and independent salons such as Contributions and Thema gaining global attention. “There’s a good energy coming out of this city these days,” she said. “There has been a lot of change over the past four years and an influx of creative people has helped to regenerate it.” Is Paris’s reputation for good design finally rising to a level appropriate for a place that’s renowned for its taste and style?

To me, the appeal of Parisian design is linked to the French tradition of arts décoratifs and the specialist ateliers that studios can tap into, alongside luxury fashion houses such as Chanel and Hermès, which have fostered regional craft for years. Looking at the homes, restaurants and hotels that we included in the newspaper, I noticed that Parisians aren’t afraid of a little decorative flourish on a piece of furniture, one-off antique or material texture. The city is eclectic and irreverent, offbeat and chic. It certainly keeps me coming back for more, one Eurostar journey at a time. So, as they say, à bientôt, Paris.

Grace Charlton is Monocle’s associate editor. For more outstanding Parisian design, pick up a copy of the ‘Monocle Paris Edition’ newspaper today.

On the grounds of the French Senate and Fermob’s distinctive green chair

Image: Lorgis Matyassy

Design News / Fermob, France

Outside advantage

The sturdy yet stylish outdoor furniture that you’ll find in Paris’s public parks is a key part of what makes the city’s green spaces such appealing places to pass the time. The biggest supplier is French manufacturer Fermob, founded in 1890. You’ll spot the company’s chairs (pictured, right) in the Luxembourg Gardens, as well as on café terraces, in squares and on the banks of the Seine. Ahead of the Olympic Games, Fermob began furnishing another Parisian landmark, the Champs-Élysées, as part of a project to transform the avenue into a pedestrian-friendly garden by 2030. “The Champs-Élysées is a new story and we will see where it takes us,” says Fermob’s chairman, Bernard Reybier.

Fermob’s work first began to crop up in the French capital’s parks after it won a competition in the 1990s to produce new versions of the 1920s chairs made at the Ateliers de la Ville de Paris. In 2004 the company called on Frédéric Sofia to redesign its chairs in aluminium, making them lighter, more comfortable and easier to collect and stack. Its sage-green Luxembourg collection (originally named Sénat) has since become synonymous with Parisian parks. Soon, it’ll be associated with the Champs-Élysées too. “Maybe it will also become representative of Parisian identity more broadly,” says Reybier. “That’s what I hope.”

For our full report on Fermob, pick up a copy of the ‘Monocle Paris Edition’ newspaper, available online and at ‘kiosques’ now.

The Project / Hotel Sorrento, Australia

Med and board

Those in the southern hemisphere craving a little Mediterranean-style hospitality should check in to Hotel Sorrento. You’ll find the family-run establishment on the Mornington Peninsula, a 90-minute drive south of Melbourne (and about 15,000km from the homonymous beachside Italian town). Overlooking Port Phillip Bay and a shoreline punctuated by lush greenery and tea trees, the hotel has recently had a makeover, courtesy of local design practices Six Degrees Architecture and Jack Merlo landscape architects. Additions include 13 new luxury suites, a swimming pool and a spa. The existing rooms have also been completely renovated.

Image: Hotel Sorrento
Image: Hotel Sorrento

“Collaborating closely with the hotel’s owners, the Pitt family, we created a contemporary oasis that reflects its heritage,” says Mark Healy, director of Six Degrees Architecture. “We wanted to craft a unified experience that allows the original building to shine. The design embraces a clean, simple elegance, leaving guests to relax in a world-class wellness and day-spa facility, and to create fun poolside memories.” The project makes abundant use of raw materials such as limestone, travertine and timber, complementing custom furniture from Melbourne-based Jardan. The result is an earthy establishment that balances the old with the new.;

Image: Cretey Systermans

Words with... / Manuelle Gautrand, France

Building a reputation

Paris-based Manuelle Gautrand is one of France’s most celebrated contemporary architects. She has helped to shape the look of cities in the country for more than 20 years, working on a combination of commercial, retail, cultural and residential projects. In 2017, Gautrand became the first woman to win the European Prize for Architecture. She has designed a number of notable buildings in Paris, including Citroën’s C42 showroom on the Champs-Élysées. We visited her studio near Place de la Bastille to find out how the city that she calls home has shaped her practice.

You don’t have a trademark style that visually connects your projects. How do you ensure that you create distinctive buildings?
I don’t rely on ready-made or standard solutions. And I don’t want to create buildings that can be easily labelled. My projects have to be unique to the ecology of every site. That begins with the master plan and the way that you orient a building, its relationship with its neighbours. But it also involves working with natural ventilation and minimising the need for heating. I also like to repurpose materials.

Can you give us an example of this?
We worked on a residential project in Montpellier that was innovative in terms of sustainability. We had to excavate 12,000 cubic metres of soil to build basement parking for the apartment, which we then used to create beautiful, rammed-earth blocks. When the property is completed later this year, it will be the first building in France to feature rammed earth at that scale.

Does having a strong understanding of a place and its ecology result in more sustainable architecture?
Yes. We are facing an environmental crisis and many people are stressed and anxious. But architects can work in a conscious way that doesn’t result in sad-looking buildings. Sustainability can be playful and it can be generous. It’s important to realise this.

For more insights from leading designers, tune in to ‘Monocle on Design’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Illustrator: Anje Jager

From The Archive / Andorinha coffee table, Brazil

Free as a bird

Polish-Brazilian designer Jorge Zalszupin is known for exquisite pieces of furniture for which rosewood has been bent like origami. Their air of luxury comes not only from the expert woodworking techniques used in their construction but also from the way that they anticipate the practical needs of the user. One example is the Andorinha, a streamlined coffee table formed from one piece of wood with a hole cut out to make room for a leather newspaper holder. Created in the 1960s, it was manufactured by L’Atelier, which Zalszupin founded in São Paulo to market his designs to well-to-do Brazilians.

Zalszupin was born in Warsaw but fled to France during the Second World War, before moving to Brazil, where he disembarked in 1949 with just a motorcycle, a return ticket and a Latin-American edition of L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui magazine. He never used the return ticket – instead, he settled down in São Paulo, where he started collaborating with the likes of Oscar Niemeyer. The Andorinha (the Portuguese word for “swallow”) takes heavy jacaranda wood and bends it to make it seem as light as a bird. Zalszupin knew that nobody would want to sully a tabletop like this one with a messy pile of newspapers.

Image: Rise & Fall

Around The House / Rise & Fall, UK

Pillow talk

Staying cool and comfortable on a hot summer night can be a challenge. One way to beat the heat is to switch out your cotton bedsheets for a more breathable linen option. Cue Rise & Fall, a homeware brand founded in 2018 by New Zealand-born, London-based entrepreneurs Jed Coleman and Will Coulton.

We have our eye on the brand’s new linen duvet set, available in pale-cream, undyed or unbleached versions, as well as in more adventurous hues such as ochre, olive and indigo. The set consists of sheets and pillowcases made from 100 per cent European flax and is designed to soften with every wash while retaining its shape and colour. The natural fibres are lightweight and friendly on the skin, optimising your chances of a restful night’s sleep. Sweet dreams.

In The Picture / ‘Midcentury Houses Today’, USA

House rules

When Nazi pressure forced Berlin’s Bauhaus to close in 1933, several key figures of the design movement that had been fostered there crossed the Atlantic to the US. Among them was Walter Gropius, the school’s founder, who accepted a teaching position at Harvard and went on to transform American architectural modernism. The Connecticut town of New Canaan became a playground for like-minded architects, particularly the Harvard Five (Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, John M Johansen, Philip Johnson and Eliot Noyes), who, influenced by Gropius, created the first generation of modernist houses there. New Canaan remains a creative hub and authors Cristina A Ross, Lorenzo Ottaviani, Jeffrey Matz and Michael Biondo set out to meet the owners of these properties.

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

Published by The Monacelli Press, Midcentury Houses Today documents the evolution of 16 of these mid-century architectural gems. Through plentiful photography, a chronology of design changes, floor plans and more, the authors seek to offer a complete account of the houses’ thoughtful design and how, decades after their construction, they are adapting to contemporary life. Over the course of more than 200 pages, the book also reveals the many ways in which the Harvard Five’s timeless creations were precursors for what we consider durable building today.


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