Wednesday 10 July 2024 - Monocle Minute On Design | Monocle

Wednesday. 10/7/2024

The Monocle Minute
On Design

Image: Serena Eller

On the bright side

This week, we visit a Lisbon exhibition celebrating cork’s surprising potential as a material, bed down in a Tolentino hotel that immerses you in designers’ visual worlds and speak to Jesús Llinares, the CEO of Spanish furniture firm Andreu World, about how to build sustainability into his industry. But first, Nic Monisse shares his top picks for design-minded beachside reading

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Reading the fine print

Summer in the northern hemisphere is well and truly here, and the Monocle team is leaning in to the warm weather. At Midori House, our Grythyttan Stålmöbler chairs have been pulled out onto the terrace, while dining at our café on Zürich’s Dufourstrasse 90 is almost exclusively alfresco. Some of us are taking a quick break from the office too – our editor in chief, Andrew Tuck, is nipping around Mallorca and Grace Charlton, our associate editor and regular Monocle Minute on Design columnist, is escaping to Sicily. As for me, I’m beachside on Puglia’s Salento peninsula. Here are a few of the design-based summer reads that made it into my tote.

1. ‘On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change’, Ada Louise Huxtable
First published in 2008, this book collects nearly 50 years of writing by Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable. Her articles for publications such as The New York Times helped to spread public awareness of architecture’s importance and inspire curiosity about how and why we build. It’s a perfect beach read because you can open it up at almost any page and dive right in. Seek it out in a secondhand bookshop in a sleepy beach town (I found my copy in Elizabeth’s in Fremantle, Australia).

2. ‘The Art of Living’, Stephen Bayley
Looking for a novel that’s packed with real-world design references? Then pick up a copy of The Art of Living, which follows an egotistical editor’s rise to the top of the 20th-century design world (I felt slightly attacked reading it). Bayley, a longtime Terence Conran collaborator, fills the book with cool Scandinavian ceramics, Japanese paper lanterns and Italian fisherman’s chairs.

3. ‘What Adults Don’t Know About Architecture’, The School of Life
It’s easy to overthink architecture but The School of Life, the media company founded by Swiss-born UK author Alain de Botton, brings it back to basics. What Adults Don’t Know About Architecture muses on subjects such as why some buildings make us sad and how to make homes that are comfortable, all in very simple terms. It’s a reminder of the benefits of reclaiming your childlike wonder.

4. ‘Humanise: A Maker’s Guide to Building Our World’, Thomas Heatherwick
I have written about this book before but I’m mentioning it again because it’s the perfect follow-up to What Adults Don’t Know About Architecture. English designer Heatherwick challenges the notion that developers need to build cheaply and quickly to maintain a strong bottom line. Packed with striking illustrations, Humanise suggests that interesting and engaging architecture doesn’t have to be expensive.

5. ‘Monocle Mediterraneo’
How could I not mention Monocle’s own sunny summer paper that delivers essays, news and fresh perspectives on design, business and culture? Across its pages, our editors and correspondents across the globe report on beach houses in Greece, outdoor design museums in Portugal, Spain’s trailblazing furniture CEOs (see below) and plenty more.

Nic Monisse is Monocle’s design editor. For more bright ideas, pick up a copy of our ‘Monocle Mediterraneo’ newspaper, available on newsstands or online now.

The Project / City Cortex, Portugal

Material success

City Cortex, cork-processing group Corticeira Amorim’s research programme, has unveiled an “open-air museum” of installations in Lisbon. Curator Guta Moura Guedes enlisted six designers and architects to experiment with cork in urban-design projects; the resulting works are now on display in Belém and Trafaria, on opposing banks of the Tagus. Though synonymous with wine bottles or bulletin boards, cork is a highly adaptable, environmentally-friendly material. Derived from the bark of certain oak trees, it is hypoallergenic, resistant to moisture and fire, and forms soft, comfortable surfaces – useful qualities for outdoor public structures.

Image: Ricardo Goncalves/CORTEX
Image: Ricardo Goncalves/CORTEX
Image: Ricardo Goncalves/CORTEX

Among those who contributed playful and imaginative installations are Swiss designer Yves Béhar and Pritzker Prize-winning architect Eduardo Souto de Moura. The exhibition also includes a whimsical angular cork loveseat, circular cork bookshelves that encircle tree trunks (pictured, top) and cork benches shaded from the sun by a wavy canopy. “With this project, we were aiming for an unusual, thought-provoking reflection on cork,” says António Rios de Amorim, the CEO of Corticeira Amorim. “We wanted to show how it can enhance the quality of life in urban spaces.” Those visiting the Portuguese capital in the coming months can experience this at first hand. The installation will be in place until November.

For more on City Cortex, pick up a copy of our dedicated summer newspaper,‘Monocle Mediterraneo’. It’s available to buy online and at ‘quiosques’ now.

Design News / Interno Marche, Italy

Creation theory

“It’s more of a house museum than a conventional boutique hotel,” says Carlo De Mattia, the architect behind the newly completed Interno Marche in Tolentino. A passion project first and foremost, it was conceived by design mogul Franco Moschini, who brought Poltrona Frau from Turin to Tolentino in the 1960s, relaunching it from the art nouveau building that now houses this hotel. Each of its 25 guestrooms is dedicated to one of Moschini’s collaborators, from Gae Aulenti, Vico Magistretti and Michele De Lucchi to Lella and Massimo Vignelli. Filled with designers’ furniture, drawings and other historical materials, the rooms immerse you in their visual worlds.

Image: Serena Eller
Image: Serena Eller
Image: Serena Eller

Interno Marche also offers five suites, which are dedicated to 20th-century artistic movements including arts and crafts, the Vienna secession and radical design. Last month, Moschini celebrated his 90th birthday at Interno Marche’s inauguration. He created the hotel as a gift to the town; after all, Tolentino’s leather-working tradition helped Poltrona Frau to become a leader in high-craft design. The pretty town and its surrounding region remain little-known by international travellers but Moschini hopes to help change that with this destination hotel for design lovers – a homage to some of the modern era’s greatest creators.

Image: Carlos Chavarría

Words with... / Jesús Llinares, Spain

Squaring the circle

Jesús Llinares has led Andreu World as CEO since 2001. In the past decade he has deftly steered the company to win numerous design awards, while imbuing it with authentic green ambitions. The family-owned firm is the first in the furniture industry to have 100 per cent of its collection – 6,830 products – Cradle to Cradle Certified. That means that its products are endlessly recyclable and made from materials that aren’t harmful to people or the environment. Here, Llinares tells us how the company still maintains a healthy bottom line.

Why was it important that your entire collection was Cradle to Cradle Certified?
Our ambition is to be the world’s first company to demonstrate that a furniture firm can be part of the circular economy. So it was crucial that our entire collection was certified within that framework. For me, it makes no sense to only have a handful of products that tick that box. You need to be 100 per cent in or you risk being superficial.

How has your collection evolved since the certification?
The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute provides a list of materials to avoid. We have made efforts to eliminate things such as PVC from our products because it’s bad for human health. That has pushed us to start creating substitute textiles that don’t use PVC; we’re working on it now with one of Spain’s top research institutes. It recently showed me a sample of a material that it said we could patent but I’m not interested in that. I want to share what we develop with other manufacturers.

How does sharing knowledge benefit your bottom line?
It means that we can build a critical mass to deliver real change. Bad practices must be shared to make clear what needs to be avoided. But good practices also need to be shared so that we have reference points to help us all improve and develop. We believe that we have the skills to be a reference for the world.

For more insights from leaders in the design industry, tune in to ‘Monocle on Design’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Illustrator: Anje Jager

From The Archive / Shiro Kuramata hangers, Japan

Home enchantments

Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata once said, “Enchantment should also be considered as a function.” These coat hangers make clear what he meant. Born in 1934, Kuramata was known for creating interiors and furniture that broke the rigid rules of modernism in favour of something more irreverent. In a collection that Italian brand Pallucco put into production in 1986, he enhanced the classic coat hanger with colour, geometric shapes and small orbs that can function either as slip guards or tie dividers.

Kuramata was astonishingly prolific. During a three-decade career, he created more than 100 shop interiors for brands including Issey Miyake and Esprit. His star has risen in recent years – a solo retrospective closed at the Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art and Design this spring – but almost none of the commercial interiors that he designed remain intact. If Pallucco reissues Kuramata’s collection of hangers, people would at least be able to experience a little of that enchantment at home.

Image: Flavio & Frank

Around the Beach House / Hongkong by Vero, Italy

Playing the angles

Established in 2022, Italian furniture and design company Vero has swiftly become a go-to brand for those seeking striking designs by emerging talent. Its first outdoor collection, Hongkong, is the work of Swiss-German studio Hannes & Fritz. It features a chair, stool, bench and two tables made in Italy from stainless steel and available in satin or powder-coat finishes.

Both the name and design of the collection were inspired by a common sight in Hong Kong: a slatted 45-degree metallic form found on the stainless-steel doors of apartment buildings. Accordingly, the line’s seats and table tops are finished with metallic slats offset at 45-degree angles, which will cast striking shadows on terraces and patios this summer.

In The Picture / ‘Designed for Life’, USA

Top forms

Good design, the saying goes, should be invisible. But Designed for Life, published by Phaidon, delves into the work of 100 practitioners across 30 countries to help the reader see precisely how it’s accomplished. It examines how, in the late 20th century, product design increasingly became a matter of problem-solving – a discipline preoccupied with figuring out how to make things better, for more people and for less money. In the book’s introduction, Kelsey Keith, creative director at furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, asks: with such a focus on functionality and cost, is fresh design possible today?

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

Designed for Life takes in furniture, clothing, speakers and more, through the work of the likes of Jomo Tariku, Max Lamb and Faye Toogood. The book’s 500 images and accompanying essays provide Keith’s opening question with a multitude of answers. Good design, it turns out, is everywhere – in the use of innovative materials, in efforts to foster sustainability and in the development of solutions to future problems. For those seeking a sense of what it means today and where it’s headed, this book is a perfect place to start.


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