Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

Design | Olivetti’s Anti-Machine Ethos

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Poster for the Valentine typewriter,
Designed by Walter Ballmer, 1969
Courtesy Associazione Archivio
Storico Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy



Olivetti: Beyond Form and Function
ICA Fox Reading Room
London | UK
25 May > 17 July 2016



Olivetti Showroom, Venice, Italy
Designed by Carlo Scarpa, 1958
Both photos Marco Ambrosi
Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan



My first typewriter was an Olivetti Praxis 20 Electronic Typewriter, designed by Mario Bellini in 1983. At the time I couldn’t type. I bought it because I admired its sculptural beauty. Even now, having used computer keyboards for some 30 years I remain a one finger typist. If not for Olivetti’s pioneering and beautifully designed products and their attention to the environments in which they were sold and used – hailed as the precursors to the user-friendly Apple products that began to appear in the late 1990s and and the Apple stores that followed – it’s possible that the world may not have taken up desktop and personal technology quite so swiftly or as readily as it has over the past three decades.

Polymath Ettore Sottsass, who was responsible for designing the bright red Valentine portable typewriter (above) – produced by Olivetti from 1969 to 1975 – once remarked: ‘When I began designing machines I also began to think that these objects, which sit next to each other and around people, can influence not only physical conditions but also emotions. They can touch the nerves, the blood, the muscles, the eyes and the moods of people. Since then I have never designed a product in the same way as I would design a sculpture, and I have been utterly obsessed with the idea that by designing an object or a machine I would be setting off a chain reaction of which I understood very little.’

Poster for the Divissuma 24 calculator
Designed by Herbert Bayer, 1950s
Courtesy Associazione Archivio
Storico Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy



Olivetti Lettera 22, poster
Designed by Giovanni Pintori, 1954
Courtesy Associazione Archivio
Storico Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy



Adriano Olivetti had established the importance of design as a pillar of the company founded by his equally forward thinking father in 1908 in Ivrea, Italy, that was growing at a phenomenal rate. As the company expanded and occupied more and more space within the city, hiring some of the country’s leading architects, the philanthropically-minded Adriano built carefully planned new neighbourhoods with abundant green space and compact apartment blocks to accommodate the expanding workforce. Arguing that because workers inside must see the mountains and valleys where they come from, and that people outside the factory should be able to observe what was going on inside, the new factory buildings were built almost entirely of glass.

In the 1950s designer Australian designer Gordon Andrews and FHK Henrion, a key figure of British post-war design, were asked to create the Olivetti London Kingsway showroom, and in 1957 Adriano commissioned architect Carlo Scarpa to design the showroom in Venice – opened in 1958, restored in 2011 – on the basis that it would be a space designed to show the products, but also to showcase Scarpa’s talent as an architect.

Sottsass was brought on board as a consultant in 1958, and in 1959 Adriano’s son, Roberto, insisted that he be allowed to design the Tekne, which would transform the typewriter into the first systematically conceived business machine. That same year Olivetti won the prestigious Compasso d’Oro with the Elea 9003, the first Italian electronic calculator (computer). Under Roberto Olivetti’s aegis, with the engineer, Mario Tchou, and using his ‘anti-machine machine’ approach, Sottsass’s relationship with the company thrived and he went on to create a series of technically innovative products that thanks to his love of pop art and interest in beat culture looked and felt very much of the moment.

Olivetti Showroom, Barcelona, Spain,
Designed by BBPR, 1965
Photo F Català Roca
Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan



Numerous other well-know designers, architects and artists including Gae Aulenti, Louis Kahn, Le Corbusier, Mario Bellini, Milton Glaser, and Herbert Bayer were commissioned by Olivetti, who had also established a commercial art department within the company in 1937. From 1940 to 1967 this was led by the innovative and versatile Giovanni Pintori whose approach and aims: ‘I have always believed in the strength of simple ideas and the demand for clear, immediate language that is accessible to everyone. This doesn’t mean that the language of graphics is downgraded to the most common taste. Just the opposite: it means that the language intends to improve average tastes,’ sum up the progressive cultural ideals at the heart of the company’s ethos: a model that still resonates today.

Olivetti: Beyond Form and Function at the ICA Fox Reading Room presents Olivetti’s design work from the mid-20th century.

All images courtesy the ICA


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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


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Photography | Kathy Ryan: Modern Times

Friday, May 6th, 2016

Office Romance, 5:39 p.m. October 30, 2014



Office Romance, 9:15 a.m. August 14, 2014



Office Romance, 9:43 a.m. September 23, 2013



Kathy Ryan
Office Romance
Howard Greenberg Gallery
New York City | USA
Until 19 June 2016



To say that Kathy Ryan knows her subject inside out is an understatement. She shot every image in this exhibition inside the New York Times building – the workplace she loves. But the visual subjects that matter to her are not restricted to architect Renzo Piano’s landmark structure (built 2000-2007); although nowadays her more appropriate title is director of photography, Ryan has been chief picture editor of The New York Times Magazine since 1987.

Office Romance, 10:32 a.m. September 17, 2015



Office Romance, 9:54 a.m. November 20, 2015



Office Romance, 9:59 a.m. August 11, 2013



Ryan is one of the few who commission and select photography for prominent editorial publications who have become legendary. Echoes of legendary photographers’ work – Man RayLaszlo Moholy NagyBerenice AbbotErwin Blumenfeld – are evident in hers, and serve as evidence of the gamut of her visual knowledge. Here the atmosphere pays homage to painter Edward Hopper, there the minimal treatment is reminiscent of some of Frank Stella’s stripe work. However there is nothing nostalgic in her pictures, which were first published on her Instagram feed (kathyryan1 with 96K followers); she has a great talent for commissioning new and interesting contemporary photography, often from unexpected sources, in particular from artist photographers such as Taryn Simon and Thomas Struth, among many others. Kathy Ryan’s own pioneering spirit is reflected in these intimate images from her everyday world.

Each 6 x 6 inch (15.25 x 15.25cm) image produced as an archival pigment print on 14 x 11 inch (35.55 x 27.95cm) paper for Kathy Ryan, Office Romance at Howard Greenberg Gallery, was photographed on Ryan’s iPhone. Office Romance was published in book form by Aperture in 2014.

All images courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery


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Photography | Brasilia, Utopia, and Inertia

Friday, April 15th, 2016

Chamber of Deputies (Annex IX) #2, 2012



Vincent Fournier
‘Brasilia’
The Ravestijn Gallery
Amsterdam | The Netherlands
16 April > 28 May 2016



Brasilia, the purpose-built federal capital of Brazil, constructed from scratch in the middle of the 1950s by urban planner Lucío Costa with landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx and architect Oscar Niemeyer, is grappling with a dilemma. Planned for around 500,000 inhabitants, in 1960 – the year of its inauguration – there were already almost 140,000 people resident in the city. By 1970 the figure had grown to 537,000. It has now reached 2.5m and is growing at a phenomenal rate of almost 3% per year. The question is how to reconcile the pressing needs of the increasing population with the utopian dream on which the city was founded.

The Claudio Santoro - National Theatre,
ceramic tile panel
by Athos Bulcão, 2012



The torpid atmosphere pervading the narrative in Vincent Fournier’s ‘Brasilia’ series seems to imply that a solution, which deals effectively with the situation, if indeed one does emerge, might be a long time in coming. The anonymous single figure in his Chamber of Deputies (Annex IX) #2, 2012, could be looking for an inspired idea in the landscape beyond his circular window. The image conveys no sense of anticipation, but the bored children photographed at The Claudio Santoro National Theatre appear to have been waiting for some time – the security man, a permanent fixture, is rooted to his position.

The Itamaraty Palace - Foreign Relations Ministry,
spiral stairs, 2012



Having been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1987, Brasilia’s extremely strict planning controls ensure that, unlike it’s close contemporary, Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh (still only tentatively listed for UWHS status), which is gradually being eroded and is at risk from the ad hoc mixed development that scars most other Indian cities, and where slum areas have already been established, the pristine Brazilian city’s limits are still easily distinguishable from the expanse of virgin landscape into which it was introduced.

The Itamaraty Palace - Foreign Relations Ministry,
wood and steel panel
by Athos Bulcão, 2012



Inertia stops the energetically curving spiral staircase in Fournier’s photograph of the Foreign Relations Ministry, at The Itamaraty Palace, dead in its tracks, while a busy wood and steel decorative panel at the same location masks a hive of inactivity.

Unesco go so far as to admit that Brasilia is vulnerable to urban development pressure including increased traffic and public transport requirements, but insist that the singular and outstanding value of Lucio Costa’s scheme, ‘which remains wholly preserved, both physically and symbolically’, is not in jeopardy.

The Ravestijn Gallery is showing a selection of 36 photographs from Vincent Fournier’s ‘Brasilia’ series, prints from which form part of the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the LVMH Contemporary Art Foundation in Paris.

All photographs are C-prints on Ilford Fine Art Baryta with white border
All images courtesy The Ravestijn Gallery


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Art | John Piper: Man of the Cloth

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Air Motif , 1966
from Chichester Cathedral Tapestry



John Piper:
The Fabric of Modernism
Pallant House Gallery
Chichester | UK
12 March > 12 June 2016



John Piper photographed by Nicholas Sinclair, 2000



Try to bring to mind what a typical, domestic, post-war British fabric design looked like. The image inside your head, if any, will probably resemble one of John Piper’s screen-printed designs for Arthur Sanderson & Sons.

Now imagine how a typical Anglican Church minister (albeit off-duty) should look. Sallow, long in the face, with high cheekbones and large fleshy ears – even by middle age his hair has receded and turned white – your vision might easily be John Piper himself. In his later years, the pious look would become increasingly appropriate to his output, especially with regard to his work in textiles.

Born John Egerton Christmas Piper in 1903, after art school at Richmond and Kingston and a brief year at the Royal College of Art, he began his career as a landscape artist then, after a visit to Paris in 1933, turned to abstraction, producing paintings, prints and collages inspired by Picasso. By 1938, however, he had returned to representational painting. In the 1930s, in pursuit of his great love of architecture, he had worked with John Betjeman on the Shell County Guides, and having been accepted into the Anglican church in 1939, while working as an official war artist from 1940, he asked to be allowed to concentrate on bombed churches. That year he would arrive the morning after the air raid that destroyed medieval Coventry cathedral to record the scene for a series of haunting paintings. During the following decade, having his first exhibition in New York, providing decorations for the British Embassy in Rio de Janeiro, and supervising the design of Battersea Pleasure Gardens with Osbert Lancaster, Piper would achieve national and international fame.

Chiesa de Salute, 1959, issued 1960*
Screenprint on Sanderlin fabric,
made by Arthur Sanderson.
Private collection



Abstract, 1955
Screenprinted rayon.
Published by David Whitehead Ltd.
Private collection



The repeat patterns of his commercial fabric designs – often abstract, sometimes based around architectural themes and landscapes and also including churches – reflected all that was going on in his own life and work in the 1950s. His involvement with textiles wasn’t unique, among his artist contemporaries, Henry Moore and Edward Paolozzi dabbled in fabric design too. But perhaps the catholic mix of subject matter in Piper’s work that rendered it suitable for use in modern, as well as more traditional homes ensured the commercial success that made it ubiquitous.

In 1958 Piper would return to Coventry Cathedral – then under reconstruction by Sir Basil Spenceto design a stained-glass window for its baptistry. The ecclesiastical robes he had created in the early 1950s for the clergy to wear for services at Coventry, and for Chichester and St Paul’s cathedrals may be clearly influenced by those designed by Matisse for the Chapel of the Rosary at Vence in France, but also make reference to the ballet productions Piper was involved in in the 1940s, and for the series of operas by Benjamin Britten, which he worked on.

But religion went out of fashion in the free-loving 60s, and just as Piper was on the cusp of elevation to the immortal pantheon of great British artists, by sacrificing fame for faith, consciously or otherwise, he was perhaps unjustly relegated to the second tier. Piper’s first tapestry designs, however, produced in 1966 for Chichester Cathedral represent a gathering together of a lifetime’s worth of ideas, imagery and personal fervour and are amongst the most important examples of twentieth century religious art. They form the centrepiece of the exhibition John Piper: The Fabric of Modernism at Pallant House Gallery.

All works by John Piper, © The Piper Estate, except* image reproduced by kind permission of Arthur Sanderson, a wholly owned subsidiary of Abaris Holdings Ltd, owners of the original copyright.
All images courtesy Pallant House Gallery


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Architecture | Japan’s Unmodern Architects

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Sou Fujimoto, House NA, Tokyo, 2007 > 11
Image © Iwan Baan



A Japanese Constellation:
Toyo Ito, SANAA, and Beyond
Museum of Modern Art
NYC | USA
13 March > 04 July 2016



Toyo Ito, Tod’s Omotesando Building, Tokyo, 2002 > 04
Image © Nacása & Partners Inc



Perhaps the Museum of Modern Art should consider temporarily altering its title. For the duration of this forthcoming contemporary Japanese architecture exhibition, Museum of Unmodern Art – or even Unmodern Architecture – might be more appropriate.

If modernity is about simplification, clarity and the stripping away of ambiguity, the work of Toyo Ito, SANAA (Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates), and the younger generation of Japanese architects who all share a similar philosophy doesn’t conform to this ideal. While at first glance the overall whiteness of their architecture might provide a reminder of rationalist perfection, it is soon apparent that here, humanism has been playfully nudged aside for the sake of humanity.

When Toyo Ito (b 1941) was still at school in the 1950s, the world had been boiling over with all manner of individuals and movements, not only in art, design and architecture, but also in the performing arts and in literature, all seeking a new way forward. By now the spatialist ideas formulated by Lucio Fontana in Milan during the previous decade, had been mixed in and melded with those of the Zero artists, who took light and space as their palette and exerted a global influence. At around about the same time, Gutai, the first radical, post-war artistic group in Japan became established. Emphasising the relationships between body, matter, time, and space, through conceptual, performance and painting, stressing freedom of expression, Gutai challenged the prevailing notions of art itself. Published in 1963, Niikuni Seiichi’s Zero-on, long considered the best individual collection of Japanese concrete poetry – in which the meaning or effect is conveyed partly or wholly by visual means – focussed avant garde ideas that had been around since the 1930s. It’s not surprising then that Ito and his peers, graduating from Tokyo University’s Department of Architecture in 1965, would draw upon this heady mix of influences to create a new kind of architecture.

Ito, established his first office in Tokyo, Urban Robot (Urbot), in 1971 – renamed Toyo Ito & Associates in 1979 – and won his first architecture award for his Silver Hut in 1986. Designed to function as his own home it was nevertheless an expression of his desire to create architecture that ‘felt like air and wind’. Ito has become one of the world’s leading architects and has received dozens of prestigious awards, including the 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize. Attacking strict adhesion to rationalism, he has described how the system of the grid was established in the twentieth century, but that while its global popularity allowed a huge amount of architecture to be built in a short period of time, it made the world’s cities homogenous, making the people living and working in them homogenous too. By modifying the grid, as in such projects as his critically-acclaimed Sendai Mediatheque, one of the most identifiable characteristics of which is its structural columns, comparable in shape to large trees in a forest, rising up through the layers of the almost transparent building, Ito says that he attempts to find ways of bringing buildings closer to their surroundings and the natural environment.

SANAA, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art,
Kanazawa, Japan, 1999 > 2004
Image © SANAA



Gallery director Julia Peyton-Jones described the 2009 reflective aluminium Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London by SANAA, as ’strange and gorgeous’. Representing a later generation of Japanese architectural practices, SANAA was founded in 1995 by Kazuyo Sejima (b 1956) – who had served an apprenticeship under Ito – and Ryue Nishizawa (b 1966), and won the Pritzker Prize – two years before Toyo Ito was awarded his – in 2010.

Echoing Ito’s unmodern sentiments, the architects themselves have referred to their Rolex Learning Centre in Lausanne (2010), where the building’s library, restaurant, exhibition areas, offices, etc are differentiated by undulations of a continuous floor, which rises and falls to accommodate the different uses, while allowing vistas across this internal spaces as a ‘landscape for people.’ In line with their belief that buildings should never lose the natural and meaningful connection with their surroundings, SANAA have recently completed a sinuous concrete, steel, wood and glass walkway that winds across the landscape of a nature reserve in Connecticut.

Akihisa Hirata, Showroom H Masuya,
Niigata, Japan, 2006 > 07

Image © Nacása & Partners Inc



Akihisa Hirata, Foam Form (Project),
Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 2011

Image © Akihisa Hirata Architecture Office
and Kuramochi + Oguma



Junya Ishigami, Kanagawa Institute of Technology
Workshop, Kanagawa, Japan, 2005 > 08

Image © Junya.Ishigami + Associates



Currently ranked among the hottest architectural practices in the world, with a string of much talked about projects behind them, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, in Sydney, and the Louvre Lens, and many more – such as the new national gallery in Budapest’s City Park, won against fierce competition from Norway’s Snøhetta architects – in the pipeline, the company is enjoying exponential success.

A Japanese Constellation: Toyo Ito, SANAA, and Beyond at the Museum of Modern Art offers a retrospective of recent works by three generations of internationally acclaimed designers, including Sou Fujimoto, Akihisa Hirata, and Junya Ishigami.

All images courtesy the Museum of Modern Art


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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Exhibitions | The State of the Art of the Skatepark

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Magny-les-Hameaux, Île-de-France
Photo Stéphane Ruchaud, 2016


Rue Léon Cladel, Paris
Agence Constructo & Raphaël Zarka, 2012
Photo Stéphane Ruchaud, 2016


Toulouse, Midi-Pyrénées
Photo Maxime Delvaux, 2016


Courbevoie, Paris
Photo Stéphane Ruchaud, 2016


Baumes-les-Dames, Franche-Comté
Photo Cyrilles Weiner, 2016


Bois-le-Roi, Île-de-France
Photo Stéphane Ruchaud, 2016



Landskating
Architecture Exhibition
Villa Noailles
Hyères | France
21 February > 20 March 2016



Oddly contoured, possessed of an eerie, otherworldly atmosphere, had they been around in the early 20th century, Edward Hopper might have been inspired to paint empty skateparks. Perhaps it was an oversight on his part  – maybe the subject wasn’t sophisticated enough to appeal to his taste – that JG Ballard never constructed a dystopian epic with skateboarding culture as its hub.

Rooted in Los Angeles in the 1950s when surfers, looking for something to surf when the ocean waves were too flat, hit on the idea of taking to the streets on strips of plywood with roller skate wheels attached, skateboarding, having developed into a global youth leisure pursuit –  its sister sport, snowboarding was first included in the winter Olympics in Japan, in 1998 – has been recommended for inclusion at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Early skateboarders called their invention ’sidewalk surfing’, but with lumber purloined from construction sites they also constructed skateboarding ramps in their backyards/gardens. These, together with the curving surfaces of drained swimming pools were the forerunners of today’s skateparks. Skateboarding, therefore, was about the emancipation and creative re-use of existing space, so perhaps the very idea of trying to construct a state-of-the-art skateboard park is a contradiction in terms and British architect Guy Hollaway’s (2015) plans for the world’s first multi-storey arena in Folkstone, based on the premise put forward by the developer that ‘it might stop people leaving because there’s nothing to do there’, probably run contrary to the renegade/make-do/spontaneous ethos of skateboarding aficionados.

One section of the forthcoming exhibition Landskating at Villa Noailles focuses on a photographic commission – from which the images above are extracted – of thirty or so skateparks in France, and another explores the architecture of nine international skateparks. However, the object of the show is to examine the effect of the global proliferation of skateparks on youth culture, urban regeneration and town planning.

All photographs courtesy the Villa Noailles © the photographers


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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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Architecture | All Hail the Image Resolution!

Friday, January 29th, 2016

The Leadenhall Building, London, UK
Photograph by Mark Gorton
Architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners



Philharmonic Hall, Szczecin, Poland
Photograph by Laurian Ghinitoiu
Architect Estudio Barozzi & Veiga



Building Images
Sto Werkstatt
London | UK
5 February > 25 March 2016



The winners of the Arcaid Images Architectural Photography Awards 2015, showcasing the world’s most renowned architectural photographers, were announced in early November at The World Architecture Festival 2015, so it’s very likely that regular subscribers to daily newsletters from architecture and design sites such as Designboom or Dezeen, or those who follow the likes of ArchDaily or Architizer on Twitter, have already seen these pictures: or at least some of them, albeit fleetingly, online, as here, at 72 dpi.

Overall Winner 2015
EPFL Quartier Nord, Ecublens, Switzerland
Photograph by Fernando Guerra
Architect Richter Dahl Rocha & Associés



Sede Transforma, Torres Vedras, Portugal
Photograph by Fernando Guerra
Architect Pedro Gadanho + CVDB



But looking at photography only on our computers, on our tablets or on our phones does the images and their respective photographers little justice. We may be able to scan a tremendous volume of architecture images every day in this way, but whereas a few single images – usually of buildings designed by famous architects – might have the power to stick in our minds, the majority tend to blend into one amorphous mass, soon to be replaced by another. And besides, architecture is generally concerned with scale and space, elements that are not easily transported at low resolution from within the confines of a laptop monitor, and tend to appear coarse and lacking in detail on larger screens.

De Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Photograph by Ryan Koopmans
Architect Rem Koolhaas OMA



Long Museum West Bund, Shanghai, China
Photograph by Su Shengliang
Architect Atelier Deshaus



Yick Cheong Building, Hong Kong
Photograph by Lingfei Tan + Song Han
Public housing development



There are a great number of hard copy architecture magazines in which the winning images from this competition and even some of the runners up will also have appeared, where the photographs can be better examined and appreciated, providing they were well laid out. But if this wasn’t the case, the printing was a bit off, or the pictures were overwhelmed by text, their quality may have been compromised, or they could have been denied their potential in terms of scale.

As Lynne Bryant, co-founder of Arcaid Images, reminds us, ‘…the earliest known image [View from the Window at Le Gras, 1826 or 1827 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce] taken with a camera obscura, could be said to be architectural,’ therefore as a genre architectural photography is particularly worthy of our respect and should be treated with due dignity.

It might be stating the obvious, but the advantage of visiting the Building Images exhibition at Sto Werkstatt is that all the Arcaid Images Architectural Photography Awards 2015 winning pictures, and all of the runners up, are each displayed at their best, as large, high resolution prints, all accurately credited and captioned. The experience must knock the socks off  viewing these photographs by any other method.

All images courtesy Sto Wekstatt and Arcaid, © the photographers


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Fashion | Iris van Herpen: High-Tech Hero

Friday, November 6th, 2015

Voltage, dress, January 2013
In collaboration with Philip Beesley
Laser cut 3D polyester film lace, micro fibre.
Collection of the designer



Iris van Herpen:
Transforming Fashion
High Museum of Art Atlanta
Atlanta Georgia | USA
7 November 2015 > 15 May 2016



Biopiracy, dress, March 2014
In collaboration with Julia Koerner and Materialise
3D-printed TPU 92A-1, silicon coating

Collection of Phoenix Museum of Art.
Gift of Arizona Costume Institute



It was announced this week that the focus of the Costume Institute Benefit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in May 2016, will be on technology’s impact on fashion. The event will be co-chaired by Jonathan Ive, Taylor Swift, Anna Wintour and Idris Elba – a somewhat mixed bag of nevertheless prominent names – while the eminent Karl Lagerfeld, Miuccia Prada and Nicolas Ghesquière will sit as honorary chairs. Oddly, Swift is the only American included and Ive the only one with any in-depth technology-related knowledge. Sounding, perhaps appropriately, like the latest blockbuster video game, Manus x Machina will be the title of the accompanying exhibition, with the subtitle Fashion in an Age of Technology. The image – a dress with a silicon feather structure and mouldings of bird heads on a cotton base – used on the Met website with the announcements for both events is from the autumn/winter 2013 > 14 collection of visionary Dutch designer Iris van Herpen (b 1984).

Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion, opening tomorrow at the High Museum of Art Atlanta – a comprehensive survey of her career to date, with 45 outfits from 15 collections, designed between 2008 and 2015, includes some of the world’s first examples of 3-D printed fashion.

Hybrid Holism, dress, July 2012
Metallic coated stripes, tulle, cotton.
Collection of the designer



Magnetic Motion, dress, September 2014
3D printed transparent photopolymer,
SLA (sterolithography) resin.
High Museum of Art, purchased with funds
from the Decorative Arts Acquisition Trust
and through prior acquisitions



Lady Gaga and Beyoncé have worn van Herpen’s futuristic dresses, as has British actress Tilda Swinton. Björk is a big fan, too – donning the designer’s creations for live concerts and for the covers of both her Biophilia album, and the single, Crystalline. In 2014, eminent champagne-maker Dom Pérignon approached van Herpen to be the most recent collaborator in its Power of Creation series, which has seen creative talents such as Marc Newson, Jeff Koons and David Lynch produce innovative special edition packaging for the brand. Earlier this year, van Herpen, who trained as a classical ballerina for fifteen years before working for Alexander McQueen – whose Spring / Summer 2010 show, incidentally, was all digitally-printed – created bespoke garments for visionary dance performance in Spatial Reverse, Warren du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones’ ethereal short film in which the definition of contemporary clothing is pushed to the limit.

Andrew Bolton, Curator of The Costume Institute, is quoted on Vogue.com as saying, ‘Traditionally, the distinction between the haute couture and prêt-à-porter was based on the handmade and the machine-made, but recently this distinction has become increasingly blurred, as both disciplines have embraced the practices and techniques of the other.’ Van Herpen is responsible for some of that blur. Having garnered international acclaim for her couture designs, which interweave traditional handwork with groundbreaking technology, computer modelling and engraving, constructed in collaboration with architects, engineers and digital design specialists, she has cleverly adapted and applied the same ideas for use in her phenomenally-individual and successful prêt-à-porter clothing. A selection of her acclaimed shoes designs (including 3D-printed examples), created in collaboration with United Nude – co-founded by architect Rem Koolhaas – will feature in the High’s show.

Capriole, ensemble, July 2011
In collaboration with Isaie Bloch
and Materialise.
3D printed polyamide.
Groninger Museum, 2012



With a long list of awards including, most recently, the 2015 Marie-Claire Prix de la mode, for best Dutch conceptual designer and the 2014 ANDAM Awards Grand Prix, Iris van Herpen is widely heralded as a pioneering new voice in fashion, known and respected for her willingness to experiment – exploring new fabrics created by blending steel with silk or iron filings with resin. While she may not (yet) have such a big name as those chairing the Costume Institute Benefit, perhaps an additional chair should be pulled up to the table for one whose forthcoming show at the High must be considered as far more than a taster for next year’s Manus x Machina, in which, no doubt, her work will feature prominently.

The designer’s first solo show in the USA, Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion, makes it’s debut at the High Museum of Art Atlanta before touring North America.

All images courtesy The High Museum of Art Atlanta.
All photos Bart Oomes, No 6 Studios, except 5, by Ingrid Baars, © Iris van Herpen


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Culture | Hippie Modernism Comes of Age

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Haus-Rucker-Co
Environment Transformer / Flyhead Helmet, 1968
Archive Zamp Kelp
Photo © Haus-Rucker-Co, Gerald Zugmann



Hippie Modernism:
The Struggle for Utopia
Walker Art Center
Minneapolis | Minnesota | USA
24 October 2015 > 28 February 2016



Archizoom Associati
Superonda Sofa, 1966
Archive Centro Studi Poltronova
Courtesy Dario Bartolini
(Archizoom Associati)



In the year 1967 – incidentally that in which contemporary artist Olafur Eliasson was born, but more of that later – the total number of American troops serving in Vietnam was increased to 475,000. Peace rallies multiplied as the numbers of anti-war protesters swelled. In the Middle East the Six Day War saw Israel attacking Syria, Egypt and Jordan, resulting in Israel’s occupation of massive areas of land outside their previously-designated borders.

That summer cities throughout America exploded with rioting and looting, Detroit being the worst-effected, where, to restore order 7000 National Guardsmen were drafted in.

In stark contrast, 1967 also played host to the ’summer of love’. For three days in June, 200,000 young Americans gathered at the Monterey International Pop Festival in California where they smoked a lot of dope, danced and were entertained by some of the biggest names in music including Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Janis Joplin, Simon & Garfunkel and the Mamas and the Papas, and where Scott McKenzie would sing the words of his anthem that came to symbolise the era, ‘If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…’ While it is claimed that the counterculture movement began in the USA before it became established in Europe, the peace symbol, designed and first used in the UK during the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, later became synonymous with opposition to the Vietnam War, and was much in evidence at events such as Monterey. Elsewhere the ‘flower children’, or ‘hippies’, as they became known, stuck flowers in the barrels of guns held by US National Guardsmen in demonstrations against the masculine culture that gave rise to wars and supported racial discrimination.

Was the hippie culture naive and deserving of the scorn that was poured over it over the next few decades? Once dismissed as both a social and aesthetic failure, the counterculture of the period embraced themes and ideas – ecological awareness, audience participation, the resurgent interest in yoga and spirituality, organic foods, local agriculture, marijuana legalisation, climate change, alternative energy, and social protest movements – that persist and are growing in popularity today. Step into one of fashionable contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama’s immersive visions of endless dots and nets or infinitely mirrored space – currently on show at Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art – and you’re sampling experiences that began life in the ‘hippie’ era. Indeed, regarding them as fundamentally important to her life and work, 86-year old Kusama, who talks of seeking a cosmic vision, longs for love and peace.

Corita Kent
yellow submarine, 1967

Silkscreen
Corita Art Center, Immaculate Heart Community, LA
Photo Joshua White



Sheila Levrant de Bretteville
Women in Design: The Next Decade, 1975

Poster, cut blue-line process print
Courtesy Sheila Levrant de Bretteville


The conceptual work of the Viennese group Haus-Rucker-Co, founded in 1967, explored the performative potential of architecture through installations and happenings in which, using pneumatic structures or prosthetic devices that altered perceptions of space, viewers became participants with the possibility of influencing their own environments. The radical ideas promoted by seminal British group Archigram include Walking City, a peripatetic giant reptilian structure, Living Pod a miniature capsule home and Instant City, an airship containing all the cultural and education resources of a metropolis which could land in remote areas giving inhabitants a taste of city life, ideas that were not lost on Richard Rodgers and Renzo Piano when they came to design the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and later on Future Systems, founded by experimental non-conformist architect Jan Kaplický, said by fellow Czech and also British-based Eva Jiřičná to be ‘considered one of the visionaries of modern architecture’.

As radical as they come, Ant Farm, though rooted in architecture, was devoted to cultural critique in different forms, especially video with Cadillac Ranch Show (1974), Media Burn and The Eternal Frame (both 1975) ranking among the most poignant early examples of the genre: the collective is infamous for having briefly ‘kidnapped’ their hero Buckminster Fuller, whose ideas and work continue to influence new generations of designers, architects, scientists and artists working to create a sustainable planet.

Fuller’s former protégé, Icelander Einar Thorsteinn (1942 > 2015), sometimes referred to as architecture’s mad scientist, worked with Frei Otto from 1969-1972 helping to design the futuristic Munich Olympiapark for the 1972 Summer Olympics and later designed mobile lunar research laboratories for NASA. In 1996, he would team up with Danish-Icelandic Olafur Eliasson, 25 years his junior, and become the mad scientist collaborator behind some of Eliasson’s more renegade works. It would be Eliasson, who would pick up the torch of countercultural experimentation and carry it into the third millennium, in so doing making himself into one of the most successful artists of our era. In 2003 he installed The weather project at the London’s Tate Modern, converting the massive open space of the gallery’s Turbine Hall into an awe-inspiring sun-worshipper’s paradise. His design for the annual London’s Serpentine Pavilion in 2007 was produced in collaboration with Kjetil Thorsen of Oslo and New York’s Snøhetta architectural practice. The timber-clad structure, resembling a spinning top, acted as a ‘laboratory’ where, every Friday night, artists, architects, academics and scientists lead a series of public experiments. The programme culminated in an extraordinary, two-part, 48-hour marathon event exploring the architecture of the senses. In November 2013, at the Falling Walls Conference in Berlin, Olafur presented with Ai Weiwei, connected via an internet link from Beijing, their collaboration Moon, an open digital platform that allows users to draw on an enormous replica of the moon via their web browser, is a statement in support of freedom of speech and creative collaboration. For Contact, which ran from December 2014 to February 2015 at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, and reflected Olafur’s on-going investigations into the mechanisms of perception and the construction of space, artworks appeared as a sequence of events along a journey. Moving through passageways and expansive installations, visitors become part of choreography of darkness, light, geometry, and reflections. Rooted in the late 1960s and 1970s, Eliasson’s ideas lead us on into the future.

Neville D’Almeida and Hélio Oiticica
CC5 Hendrixwar / Cosmococa Programa-in-Progress, 1973

Coloured hammocks, 35mm slideshow, audio disc
Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
T B Walker Acquisition Fund, 2007



Explorations into domestic living during and after the hippie period led to innovative designs such as Ken Isaac’s Superchair – a frame structured structure with inbuilt shelving, suitable for books, and supporting a platform that doubles as an easy chair or bed. In 1973, Switzerland’s Ubald Klug combined diverse elements into ‘lounge landscapes’, comparable to layered topographical models, on which Mick Jagger posed for an advertising shot illustrating the extent to which the concept captured the contemporary zeitgeist. Also in Switzerland, Danish architect and designer Verner Panton, who idiosyncratically fused pop art with design, created a domestic utopia in his own home, which he used as a showroom and laboratory for his experiments. Echoes of this pioneering spirit could be seen at London’s V&A Museum in 20111, when French designers Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec laid a striped field of fabric loungers inside the Raphael Court as part of the London Design Festival. The Textile Field installation covered 240 square metres of the gallery floor and encouraged gallery visitors to sit or even lie down, to contemplate the renaissance artworks exhibited rather than merely to view them.

Works on show in a new exhibition at the Walker in Minneapolis include Ken Isaac’s pioneering The Knowledge Box (1962 > 2009), a room-size chamber where one is immersed in a montage of projected images culled from the popular press. According to the Time Life website ‘built in 1962, [it] predated the internet by three decades — but also hinted at information-gathering techniques that we all use today, everyday, online.’ An integral part of the Black Panther Party, Emory Douglas designed potent, hard-hitting artwork for newspaper illustrations, posters and pamphlets that became symbolic of the movement and which inspired many to act are also included. Meanwhile, work by Corita Kent, aka Sister Mary Corita, who gained international fame for her vibrant typographic silk screen prints during the 1960s and 1970s, who was a sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, running the Art Department at a convent until 1968 when she left the order to pursue her commitment to social justice and hope for peace, is featured.

Loosely assembled around the American psychologist, writer and advocate for psychedelic drugs, Timothy Leary’s famous mantra, ‘Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out’, Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia, at The Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis examines the intersections of art, architecture, and design of the era.

All images courtesy The Walker Art Museum


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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us that we think might interest you.

The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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Books | Cosy Contemporary – Maximising on Minimal

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Living room with wide wood floorboards, minimal
cantilevered shelf and Eames rocker in a home in Barcelona



The Monocle Guide
to Cosy Homes

By Monocle
Published by Gestalten
402 pp, full color
Clothbound hardcover
Text in English
Available now



Monumental Mies van der Rohe-style architecture in São Paulo
softened with wood furniture, a large rug and soft lighting



I can lay claim to being the first person ever to tell the architect John Pawson – in about 1988, before he was world famous, but was nevertheless well-known amongst the London design and architecture cognoscenti for his minimal approach – that any of his interiors felt cosy.

It was the first house Pawson had adapted for himself and his family to live in – pictures of which are rarely seen now – that we were photographing for a main feature in The Sunday Times Magazine. Invited to have a look around before a group of friends would arrive for a casual supper to which I was welcome, I had got there at about five-thirty. John led me past his signature, geometric wood staircase that due to the gaps he used in his treatment of the edges appeared to float. Via the main living area – two rooms knocked together to create one making the interior of the relatively small house less cramped than it was originally – he took me through the white kitchen. Nothing cluttered up or was even visible on the long, wide work surfaces. Sliding open a drawer with his fingertips – there was no handle – he showed me his ingenious built-in and very sensible system, designed to keep the assorted implements necessary for cooking, tidy and accessible. Outside, down a few steps were a lawn and a single, elegantly-shaped tree, probably birch. To a height of about two metres above the white-painted end and two side walls, all about two metres high, tennis-court-style chain-link fencing had been erected, up and across which climbing plants – evergreen, all the same – were trained, so that nothing but sky was visible above them.

It must have been either early or late on in the year, when it starts to get dark round about six o’clock, and having been shown the little niches built into the floor-to-ceiling bedhead upstairs, where money, watches, etc might be deposited so as to remain out of sight, I paid a quick visit to the bathroom with its deep, square wooden tub – the toilet, which at first I was at a loss to locate, hidden beneath a lidded wooden bench. I re-joined John in the pristine, white space of the living/dining room with its wide-boarded wooden floor, plain white blinds that he had contrived to open from the bottom, that were drawn halfway up for privacy, and just enough to mask out any intrusive views of the outside. Other than a wooden dining table and (I think) two wooden benches, there was no freestanding furniture. Half a dozen floor-to-ceiling panels along the greater part of one side, were closets, containing anything from store-cupboard items such as tinned food, to a television that could only be watched if the door of the particular cupboard in which it was located was kept open. There were other benches built into the alcoves on either side of the chimney-breast, in the simple square aperture of which a (wood?) fire was ablaze…

Stockholm interior shot through simple square windows with cushions,
dog, blazing fire, plants and lanterns – all the elements of cosiness in place



That was a long time ago and long before Canadian journalist, entrepreneur, and magazine publisher Tyler Brûlé launched Wallpaper*, the style and fashion magazine, in 1996, at a time when minimalism, in terms of global interior design and architecture was at its zenith, John Pawson having been commissioned to design the Calvin Klein Collections Store, New York, completed in 1995. Not long afterwards, French design diva, Andrée Putman (1925 > 2013) would be quoted as saying: ‘Minimalism in interior design has become a caricature. Everywhere you find shops or hotels with an ambience that makes you feel like you are in a refrigerator.’ She could easily have made the same observations about some minimalist-inspired homes. In 2007, having left Wallpaper* in 2002, Brûlé launched Monocle, which carries the tag-line ‘A briefing on global affairs, business, culture and design.’ Monocle also has a website, a 24-hour radio station and a shop, and publishes various other spin-offs including books. Published by Gestalten, the latest of these is The Monocle Guide to Cosy Homes.

The book’s unobtrusive format and simple typographic clothbound cover dispenses with the more usual, but unnecessary paper wrapper, and is a cosy coral pink. Inside, the pages are laid out in a manner consistent with Monocle magazine, however the book is constructed as a manual. At the front, essays by such design luminaries as Ilse Crawford, Terence Woodgate and Stephen Bailey appear alongside The River Café’s Ruth Rogers‘ description of the perfect kitchen, while a section called The Directory, at the back, shows how best to plan your kitchen, as well suggesting cosy places to live wherever you happen to be in the world, and offers craftsmen and retailers for your consideration.

Practical arrangements for ‘the most important room in the house’.
Another spread suggests cosy arrangement for seating in the living area



Functional, fold-away Le Corbusier-influenced and
approved kitchen, by Janette Laverrière for a Paris apartment



As unlikely as it may seem, the minimal modernist aesthetic, sometimes visible, often obscured, provides the unlikely framework on which The Monocle Guide to Cosy Homes comfortably sits. Albeit every example shown is contemporary, the influences of early modernists such as Adolph Loos, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe – all of whom continue to influence the work of such minimalists as John Pawson and David Chipperfield, neither of whose work, understandably, is included – is not difficult to spot. Much of the furniture, too, is either first generation modernists like Alvar Aalto, or second generation / post war modernists, such as Arne Jacobsen, Charles and Ray Eames, and Hans Wenger, all of whose pieces might be chosen as sculptural accessories for a minimal interior. While fake ‘vintage’ will never have lasting value, the sense of history inherent in patina is important; in his introduction Brûlé tells us that ‘a few dents and scratches only make them [our homes] better.’ What is uncovered by this book is that we’ve learned from modernism – and minimalism which was one development from it – that a little less can be a lot more. Uncontrolled clutter remains a no-no – we need to keep our houses in reasonable order – but it’s fine to put some pictures up and to scatter a few cushions about. It’s important to remember that people make and live in homes and unlike the majority of books and magazines about the subject, this one shows quite a lot of them.

…By now John’s wife, Catherine, had come home and we were introduced. As the fire started to glow, candles were lit and the whiteness of the walls glowed a soft golden yellow. The bunch of friends arrived all at the same time. Conversation filled the room. Wine was poured from the big 1.5 litre bottles John preferred, and very soon we were all sitting at the table enjoying a simple cosy supper.

Photographs of the book pages by Pedro Silmon



Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us that we think might interest you.

The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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