Posts Tagged ‘Zaha Hadid’

Books | Concrete Buildings – What’s Not to Love Now?

Friday, August 7th, 2015

Pierresvives by Zaha Hadid Architects, 2002 > 12, Montpellier, France
Archives, a library and sports department offices for the Hérault region.
The inclined concrete building combined with graphic
windows combine to give an impression of rapid movement

Photo © Iwan Baan



100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings
By Philip Jodidio
Published by Taschen
Hardcover, 2 volumes in slipcase,
730 pp, full colour



Bicentennial Civic Centre by Lucio Morini + GGMPU,
2010 > 2012. Córdoba, Argentina
Ministerial offices with cutout concrete facade
Photo © Leonardo Finotti



In the minds of many, concrete is synonymous with real or fictional, dysfunctional worlds. And, no matter how good they are, novels such as J G Ballard’s Concrete Island, in which his character Robert Maitland, a wealthy architect, finds himself stranded in a section of wasteland in the middle of a relentlessly busy motorway intersection and is forced to survive in his crashed Jaguar on whatever he manages to forage, don’t do concrete’s reputation any favours. Taschen’s non-fiction two-volume boxed set, celebrating the diversity of the best buildings constructed from this versatile, man-made stone, just might.

Editor-in-chief of French art magazine Connaissance des Arts in Paris since 1980 – his numerous published books include the Taschen series on contemporary American, European and Japanese architects, as well as monographs on Tadao Ando, Norman Foster, Santiago Calatrava, and Richard Meier – the books’ author, Philip Jodidio’s reputation and experience lend gravitas to subject matter already weighted down by its long-established association with urban decay and the detritus of past wars and present conflicts, but paradoxically imbues concrete’s history with unexpected lightness and sensitivity, in what must be the most comprehensive study thus far on the subject.

Amongst the global selection of individual architects (except for Foster, probably excluded because concrete is of a lesser importance than glass and steel in his building palette) and architecture practices’ projects, all the aforementioned practitioners are included. Alongside other famous names, such as Luis Baragan, Marcel Breuer, David Chipperfield, Antoni Gaudi, Herzog & de Meuron, Denys Lasdun, Oscar Niemeyer and of course Le Corbusier and Zaha Hadid, the publication also features many architects whose names are probably less familiar, but nonetheless worthy of inclusion.

Roberto Garza Sada Center for Arts, Architecture and Design,
Tadao Ando, 2009 > 12. New Mexico, USA
Part of the University of Monterrey, Monterrey.
The massive concrete
anchor of the building provides ample shade for pedestrians

Photo © Shigeo Ogawa



Jodido’s informative introduction reminds us that the Romans used concrete, but it comes as a surprise to learn that the ancient Egyptians invented and sometimes built with a variation of it. It’s interesting to discover that the concrete rotunda of the Pantheon was constructed without steel reinforcement – the key element that greatly strengthens the substance, allowing it to perform far better under stress, and which has been the backbone of countless concrete structures since the technique was invented by a Frenchman in the mid-1850s. By 1889, we learn that the first reinforced concrete bridge had been built in San Francisco and the construction of the Théâtre des Champs Élysées in Paris in 1913 established concrete – up until then regarded as ‘vulgar’ in certain quarters – as a ‘quality’ building material. Used, misused and abused, it is one that is as ubiquitously employed today in the construction industry, as once were bricks, wood and stone. Jodidio’s book set is about now rather than then, and our picture selections compare three recently-completed very different ‘quality’ buildings of similar scale from around the world, built for very different uses and designed by three very different architectural practices.

Lavishly-illustrated with high-quality photographs and sometimes the building plans of monumental as well as retail and small-scale residential projects, and with mug shots of the majority of the architects, as well as a respectable amount of informative text in English, French and German, you certainly get a lot for the modest price. From a readers’ perspective, however, the very long measure used for the relatively small – 11 or 12pt – condensed, sans serif text, throughout the book, might have been easier on the eye with more leading, or split into two, or even three columns.

Taschen has been known to publish gigantic books, as well as small fat ones. These two are neither excessively large, nor, at 352 pages each, so abnormally thick as to invite comment, but not only is the 100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings package designed to resemble a sturdy and uncompromising block of concrete, it is almost as heavy as one.

All images courtesy Taschen


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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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Design | Functional Sculpture

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Philippe Hiqily,
Henri Samuel chair,
designed 1975,
2004 edition

Sotheby’s estimate:
€20,000 > 30,000



Christie’s
Design, Vent du soir /
Design Day Sale
Paris | France
Exhibition 15 + 16 + 18 + 19 May 2015
Sale 19 May 2015

+

Sotheby’s
Design 20e siècle /
20th Century Design

Paris | France
Exhibition 16 + 18 May 2015
Sale 21 May 2015



Charlotte Perriand,
Free form table / desk,
designed 1956.
Steph Simon edition c 1960
Solid saple wood.
Christie’s estimate:
€120,000 > 180,000



Along with everyone else in the Sculpture Garden at MoMA, you can sit, looking cool – imagining you’re a sculpture yourself – on sculptor Harry Bertoia’s sculptural Side chairs. But you can’t do it indefinitely, because, if we’re being completely honest, they aren’t really that comfortable, especially if the little pad that prevents the supermarket trolley style grid from embedding itself into your bottom, is missing. On the Knoll website – they produce and market Bertoia’s furniture – it says that Harry, who was primarily a sculptor, ‘found sublime grace in an industrial material, elevating it beyond its normal utility into a work of art.’ But surely, since chairs, and, for that matter, any other item of furniture must be functional, the Side chair is disqualified from ‘art’ status. Does it matter one way or the other?

Georges Jouve,
Mirror, c 1955
Glazed ceramic.
Christie’s estimate:
€8,000 > 12,000

Jean Prouvé,
Table, c 1939
Painted and folded sheet steel.
Christie’s estimate:
€80,000 > 100,000



It would seem that Donald Judd, who created sculpture that looked like furniture and furniture that might be art, thought it did. An extract from a 1993 Judd essay called It’s hard to find a good lamp reads: ‘…[S]omeone asked me to design a coffee table. I thought that a work of mine, which was essentially a rectangular volume, with the upper surface recessed, could be altered. This debased the work and produced a bad table, which I later threw away. The configuration and the scale of art cannot be transposed into furniture and architecture. The intent of art is different from that of the latter, which must be functional. If a chair or a building is not functional, if it appears to be only art, it is ridiculous… A work of art exists as itself; a chair exists as a chair itself.’

Serge Mouille,
Pair of wall sconces with
Saturn motif, c 1957
Black + white lacquered metal
Sotheby’s estimate:
€4,000 > 6,000

Pierre Chareau,
Desk MB 405 + stool SN 3, c 1928
Wrought iron and rosewood
veneer desk + wrought
iron and rosewood stool
Sotheby’s estimate:
€250,000 > 350,000



On the other hand, as Design Museum Director Deyan Sudjic said in his 2008 obituary about the great Italian designer/architect Ettore Sottsass: ‘We live in a world which values the useless ahead of the useful, which celebrates art, untainted by the least hint of utility, above the ingenuity of design that is burdened by function, and creates a cultural hierarchy to match. It was perhaps the greatest achievement of Sottsass’s long and remarkable career that he made this distinction irrelevant.’

Zaha Hadid’s designs for amorphous benches and stools are intended to blur the line between utility and sculpture. Like her architecture, their streamlined curvaceousness isn’t purely functional, nor is it merely decorative. They are functional pieces, in that they are meant to be sat on, but just having them around enlivens a space and raises the spirits, rendering them objects of desire.


Eugène Printz,
Modernist console, c 1931
Palm wood veneer
Sotheby’s estimate:
€30,000 > 50,000



Many of the – in theory – functional, and sought after items being sold in the forthcoming Christie’s ParisDesign, Vent du soir /Design Day Sale, and in Design 20e Siècle / 20th Century Design at Sotheby’s Paris, including those shown here, were designed in the modern period, but, ironically, their sculptural qualities a result of their creators’ uncompromising searches for authenticity, they could easily be taken as examples of the rule-breaking that came to be a defining characteristic of postmodernism.

All images courtesy Christie’s and Sotheby’s, respectively.
Donald Judd quote © Judd Foundation.


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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which 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 which may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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Exhibition | The Architecture of Fashion

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Tour LVMH, Manhattan, New York,
by Atelier Christian de Portzamparc, 1995 > 1999

Photo © Atelier Christian de Portzamparc



Archimode
Six architects for fashion
Villa Noailles
Hyères | France
22 February > 22 March 2015




Mobile Art by Zaha Hadid Architects for Chanel 2008
Top, in Hong Kong, above, in New York
Photos © François Lacour



The Mobile Art Chanel Contemporary Art Container – to give it its full title – Karl Lagerfeld and Zaha Hadid’s touring pavilion, was conceived in 2007 when the design magazine Wallpaper* got the unlikely couple together for a photo shoot. Making its first appearance in Hong Kong in March 2008, the travelling pavilion, showcasing the work of twenty leading international artists, each inspired by Chanel’s quilted 2.55 bag, visited Tokyo and New York before it was given a permanent home in 2011 at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris – designed, incidentally, by another famous architect, Jean Nouvel.

Beneath the heading, ‘Chanel, Hugo Boss, Rick Owens: Fashion’s Latest Muse Is Architecture’, in summer 2014, writer Nick Remsen explained on the vogue.com website, ‘There’s a certain modishness – and beauty – in the urban blueprint, its pylons and crosswalks and anterooms rife for creative repurposing. I wasn’t particularly surprised, then, to see Karl Lagerfeld close his Emirati resort 2015 show via looks embellished with motifs of the world’s tallest building, the local Burj Khalifa [830m to tip].’ Soon afterwards, Lagerfeld showed Chanel’s fall 2014 couture collection, citing building materials, including concrete, as a inspiration, ‘Le Corbusier goes to Versailles!’ he told Vogue’s Hamish Bowles.

Remarkable and unique as it was, and remains, Mobile Art was not the first instance of a relationship between architecture and fashion, a phenomenon which dates as far back as the first decades of the 20th century – if not further – when opinionated, pioneering, Viennese functionalist architect, Adolf Loos (1870 > 1933), asserted that the naked woman is unattractive to man, and told the world that women dress and ornament themselves to appeal to man’s sickly sensuality. Fervent anti-ornamentalist, Loos, in his book Why a man should be well-dressed, didn’t confine his critical interest in fashion to women. The list of built works attributed to him includes an office building, several villas and houses, a café, a bar, and between 1910 and 1913 he designed the men’s haberdashery Kníže’s second floor, and later its shop front. Oddly, illustrating his story with amusing images of badly-dressed architects and their buildings, Hadley Freeman explained on The Guardian website, in 2008, that architects as a group ‘are just as style-conscious as fashion designers.’ On the other hand, in an interview on the Dezeen site last year, world-renowned Australian industrial designer Marc Newson, who has dabbled in architecture – Azzedine Alaia Boutique, Paris, 2006 – Qantas First Class Lounge, Sydney, 2007 – said, ‘Most industrial designers don’t have a clue about fashion… There’s never very successful crossovers, creatively.’ Putting the problem down to the ‘terrible snobbery’ between the two industries, Newson summed up by saying that the fashion industry was faster, more efficient and more in tune with contemporary culture than design and architecture.

Kris Van Assche Boutique, Paris, by Ciguë, 2013
Photo © Maris Mezulis



In London, Casablanca-born Joseph Ettedgui, who, with his family, established the Joseph brand and retail chain in 1972, achieved success through his ability to spot up-and-coming talent, working with many young designers and architects before they became famous. In the early years, well before the brand was sold and went global, Kenzo Takada, Margaret Howell, Katharine Hamnett, John Galliano and Azzedine Alaïa produced collections of clothes for Joseph, while Norman Foster, Eva Jiricná and Andrée Putman designed the company’s shops and restaurants.

Between 1993 and 1995, British architect John Pawson built the Calvin Klein Collections Store in New York, followed closely by the flagship Jigsaw Store in London. As Archie Juinio observed on the vogue.it website, ‘Since the ‘90s important changes have taking place in the business strategies for fashion: big groups have bought prestigious fashion houses, while flagship stores have acquired an essential importance in marketing strategies. In this scenario, the architect is called upon and assumes a key role: he or she has to translate their ideas into tangible forms, underlining the brand’s values.’

Before she dedicated herself to the pursuit of stricter, modernist design and architectural ideals – which owed much to Loos and his many followers across Europe – Eileen Gray had designed the art deco front of her Paris furniture and home accessories shop, Jean Desert, in 1922, where wealthy avant-garde patrons Elsa Schiaparelli, and Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, keen to experience a different kind of living, would congregate. The Noailles would commission architect Robert Mallet-Stephens to design their modernist Villa Noailles in Hyères, the venue for the forthcoming Archimode: Six architects for fashion exhibition, which includes, among others, Zaha Hadid’s Mobile Art for Chanel, Prada Transformer by Rem Koolhaas OMA in Séoul, and the Tour LVMH building by Christian de Portzamparc in New York. It also features work by less well-known contemporary architects, Diplomates, who designed the Boutique Damir Doma, as well as Ciguë’s Boutique Isabel Marant and Boutique Kris Van Assche.

Photos courtesy Villa Noailles



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The publishers of The Blog 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 which may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due must be borne by the source supplier



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Auction | Architect-Built Furniture

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Ettore Sottsass
Bookcase, 1994

Plastic-laminated wood.
Produced by Galerie
Mourmans, the Netherlands.
Estimate £6,000 > 8,000



The Architect
Phillips
Exhibition 23rd > 29th April 2014
Sale 29th April 2014
London | UK

Some 400 works designed by an august pantheon of international architects – among them, Michael Thonet, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Eliel Saarinen, Gerrit Rietveld, Poul Henningsen, Arne Jacobsen, Gio Ponti, Oscar Niemeyer, I M Pei, Buckminster Fuller, Ettore Sottsass, Richard Meier, Zaha Hadid and Shiguru Ban – encompassing items from the mid-19th century up to the 21st, will be auctioned next week in London.

For this inaugural event, uncompromisingly entitled The Architect, the auction house Phillips chose architect Lee F Mindel FAIA, of the New York-based multi-award-winning Sheldon, Mindel & Associates Inc, as curator. SM&A, who, since establishing their company in 1978, have designed numerous lofts and private homes – including one for musician Sting and his actress/producer wife Trudie Styler – were also responsible for the interior of the gallery/sales office for Herzog & deMeuron’s prestigious 56 Leonard Street development of luxury condominiums. The company have designed furniture and lighting as well as interiors for ocean liners and at least one Gulf Stream jet. They believe that ‘Simplicity is the most complicated thing to pursue, but when all elements synthesise, they transcend mere enclosure and become an art form.’ The latter is a quote from the magazine Architectural Digest, which has recognised SM&A as one of the top 100 design firms of the last century. On Phillips’ website Mindel himself quotes American architect Louis Kahn as having said: ‘Design is not making beauty. Beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, love.’ But, enough of this high-minded proselytising and sentimental stuff – so clearly intended for the unconverted. Let’s take a look at a selection of the inspiring array of objects on offer, which, hopefully, speak for themselves.



Gerrit Thomas Rietveld
Maquette, for the ‘Danish’ chair,
circa 1950>1956
Cardboard.
Estimate £4,000 > 5,000

Oscar Niemeyer
Pair of ‘Aran’ lounge chairs,
circa 1975
Leather, stainless steel.
Made by Aran Line, Italy.
Estimate £15,000 > 20,000

Arne Jakobsen
Designed for the American
Scandinavian Foundation,
New York, 1952

Leather, chromium-plated
steel, ebony, painted wood.
Made by cabinetmakers
Rud Rasmussen A/S, Denmark.
Estimate £40,000 > 60,000

I M Pei
Double-sided clock, from
the John Hancock Building,
Boston, circa 1976
Steel, acrylic
Estimate £6,000 > 8,000

Zaha Hadid
Ordrupgaard bench,
model no PP995
for the Ordrupgaard
Museum extension,
Charlottenlund, Denmark,
circa 2006.
Ash. Produced by
PP Mobler,
Denmark
Estimate £35,000 > 45,000

All images courtesy of Phillips


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The publishers of The Blog 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 which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Architecture | Collage City in 3D

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Cut ’n’ Paste: From Architectural Assemblage to Collage City
Metropolitan Musem of Art
New York City, USA
Until 1st December, 2013

When Pablo Picasso pasted an actual Italian stamp on to a painting of a letter, he really started something. Earlier artists had made occasional use of the technique and it had appeared in popular art, but La lettre (1912) was probably the first deliberate use of collage in fine art.

Dictionaries define collage as an ‘Art form and technique, incorporating the use of pre-existing materials or objects attached as part of a two-dimensional surface’, which is how most of us think of it. This exhibition at MoMA uncovers how the visual language of collage, springing from its early 20th century roots, has come to dominate contemporary architectural representation, and how it has impacted three-dimensional buildings.

Picasso’s cubist colleagues, Juan Gris and George Braque, also experimented with collage, and the next couple of years, leading up to World War I and the Russian Revolution, would see Kazimir Malevich, the Futurist movement and the Dadaists each adopting the technique and using it to suit their own purposes, with very diverse results. The Berlin Dada group – which included Helmut Herzfeld/John Heartfield – with whom the young Mies van der Rohe interacted, used photographs and newspaper cuttings to make raw political, satirical, and socially critical statements. Van der Rohe adapted the technique to function, not just as a tool for expressing his architectural ideas, but also as an aid to exploring and developing them. He placed colour reproduction prints of paintings as well as photographs in his renderings of the new interior spaces made possible by steel and glass construction, not merely as decorative elements, but to represent non-load-bearing walls or divisions. His early painters of choice were Bauhaus artists Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky: later – the Bauhaus, of which he was the final director, having been closed by the Nazis, his having emigrated to America in 1937 – in Museum for a Small City, Interior Perspective (1942-43) including, perhaps pointedly, Picasso’s Guernica (1937).

From the mid-1950s, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Richard Hamilton, among others associated with pop art, made extensive use of collage. Installation artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who in the 1970s, and later, in their preparatory drawings for projects often involving large architectural structures, such as Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin (1971-95), also sought the immediacy of incorporating collaged elements. Meanwhile, architectural critics Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter’s book Collage City (1978), which proposed a city of fragments from the past, present and future, taking inspiration from working examples in existing cities; some rational, some disordered, juxtaposing and layering smaller designs into a whole – a post-modern composition – allowing the city to create itself, was an urban manifesto for the medium.

Contemporary architects who have used collage methods to communicate their ideas and architectural landscapes include such luminaries as Zaha Hadid and particularly Rem Koolhaas, whose architecture itself, for example, the interior of the distinctive, futuristic, asymmetrical, faceted form of the Casa da Musica, in Porto, Portugal, incorporates gold wood-grained walls and traditional blue and white tiled areas complete with antique furniture.

The intention of the organisers of Cut ‘n’ Paste: From Architectural Assemblage to Collage City is to demonstrate that collage is much more than a continuation of drawing practices and that, via direct evocations of lifestyle or inventive connections to surrounding cultural conditions, as an architectural tool, this wide-ranging medium is capable of mixing high and popular references and offers a dynamic, inventive connection to cultural context, providing the means for architects to draw reality onto their projects from their earliest conception. These days, though, digital technology makes it all so much easier – and, unless you want them, there are no visible joins.

Images from top
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe,
Convention Hall project, Chicago,
Interior perspective, 1954
Cut-and-pasted reproductions, photograph,
and paper on composite board
Mies van der Rohe Archive, gift of the architect
©2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Ralph Schraivogel
Archigram 1961–74
Silkscreen
Museum für Gestaltung, 1995,
Exhibition poster
Gift of the designer

Paul Citroen
Metropolis, 1923
Gelatin silver print
Thomas Walther Collection
Gift of Thomas Walther
©2013 Paul Citroën/Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York / PICTORIGHT, Amsterdam


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Architecture | Design | Objects des Architects

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Arts Décoratifs du XXe siècle & Design Contemporain
Sotheby’s
Paris, France
Exhibition: 22nd, 23rd, 24th & 26th November, 2012
Sale: 27th November, 2012

If it isn’t a contradiction in terms, the phenomenon of modern architects creating furniture, and sometimes decorative items, for use in the buildings they design and elsewhere might well be termed a ‘tradition’. And the importance of this tradition is confirmed in the upcoming Arts Décoratifs du XXe siècle & Design Contemporain sale at Sotheby’s, Paris, which features items by, among others, Le Corbusier (with Pierre Jeanneret), Gio Ponti and Tadao Ando: architects whose work overlapped in a time span stretching from early 20th century modernism, through mid-century modern to whatever label we’re currently attaching to 21st century contemporary.

Sir Norman Foster, and Foster and Partners, responsible for many of the world’s key buildings of the last 30 years have designed sofas, lamps, bookcases, door handles and even sanitary ware for a range of clients, including Knoll, Molteni & Co, Acerbis and Nomos. There’s even a Gherkin lamp available from Kundalini. If modernism hadn’t already caught up with the future, Zaha Hadid’s and Amanda Levete’s respective oeuvres might still be referred to as futuristic. Zaha Hadid ArchitectsZ-Scape Furniture, designed in 2000 and produced by Sawaya & Moroni, is an ensemble of lounge furniture, whose forms derive from geology, glaciers and natural erosion but the company has also created equally-arresting and sculptural vases, lamps and tables. At Future Systems and currently, at AL_A, Levete has produced sinuous benches for Established & Sons and, in collaboration with Phillips, lighting, notably the Edge light. Always keen to control every aspects of the furnishing of his interiors, John Pawson, too, has had several of his spare furniture pieces produced by Driade. Common amongst all of the products created by these architects is quality design and a high degree of craftsmanship.

The fine, glazed earthenware Classical Conversation/’L'architetto’ bowl included in the Sotheby’s sale was produced by him around 1924, just one year after Gio Ponti began his career as an architect, during a period when he was influenced by and associated with the Milanese, neo-classical Novecento Italiano movement. Ponti would go on to become one of his country’s most important 20th century modernist architects, industrial designers, artists and publishers – he founded and was twice editor of Domus magazine. Building offices for Fiat during the war years, the attention attracted by his Pirellone/Pirelli Tower (completed, 1960), in Milan, earned him worldwide fame and international commissions, including the Denver Art Museum, 1971. His renowned furniture designs for Cassina include the 1957 Superleggerra/Superlight chair, and he produced lights for, among others, Artemide and Fontana Arte.

Le Corbusier – still probably the most famous architect in the world, and certainly of the 20th century, his array of built work too vast and familiar to list here – and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret’s wood and partially grey lacquered free-standing cabinet, was made in 1927, having been designed for The Poplars/Maison Guiette residence. Built by the practice in Antwerp, the house is an early and classic example of the International Style. Having been joined by Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier and Jeanneret presented their new concepts in furniture design at the 1929 Paris Salone d’Automne. That same year, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, whom Le Corbusier had probably met, along with Walter Gropius during a sojourn in Berlin, created the Barcelona chair for his avant garde German pavilion at the Barcelona Exposition. Although only two Barcelona chairs were made for the exposition, the design was put into production and became so popular that, with the exception of a sixteen-year period, it has been continuously manufactured. Earlier, In 1908, Le Corbusier had studied architecture under Joseph Hoffman in Vienna – himself an architect who loved to design furniture – and would have been familiar with Hoffman’s designs, based famously on the square, and particularly the Kubus chair, 1910, which was almost certainly an influence on his and his co-designers’ very cubic Grand Confort armchair, albeit the construction is entirely different. Centre-piece of the Salone d’Automne show, the famous design was reissued by Cassina in 1965. The company makes some fourteen other Le Corbusier furniture items, including the equally familiar LC4 chaise longue and LC6 dining table.

In a kind of reversal of the process, in 1924, furniture-maker, Gerrit Rietveld built the Rietveld Schröder house and filled it with objects he designed. When Eileen Gray, famous for her sumptuous Art Deco lacquered screens suddenly became a modernist convert, she built her exquisitely modern home, Villa E1027, designing for it radical, but equally luxurious pieces that required production by skilled craftsmen. Her Bibendum chair, originally created for the the rue de lota apartment in Paris, in 1925, lay largely forgotten until an original re-surfaced in a 1972 auction, which prompted a new production of the design classic. Eero Saarinen, studied sculpture in Paris and architecture at Yale before working on furniture design with Norman Bel Geddes and practicing architecture with his father, Eliel. His furniture for Knoll includes dining and low tables, the Executive chair, the Tulip chair, and the Womb chair and ottoman.

During the 1980s, when Alberto Alessi took over the management of the Italian Alessi kitchen utensil company, he began collaborations with designers, and especially with architects, to produce high-end, exclusive products. Among the best known of the company’s product range from this period are Richard Sapper’s kettle with a two-tone whistle and Michael Graves‘ kettle with the bird shaped whistle.

By 1941, when future Pritzker Prize winner (1995), Japanese architect Tadao Ando was born, modern architecture was firmly on the world map. Having taken no formal training Ando travelled the world visiting buildings by Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn, then established Tadao Ando Architect and Associates in Osaka, in 1968. Strongly influenced by his traditional Japanese background his architectural style emphasises empty space to represent the beauty of simplicity, placing the inner feeling of a structure before its appearance. Working primarily in exposed cast-in-place concrete, from a formidable list of 154 completed projects, Ando is best known for The Church of Light in Osaka, 1989, The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St Louis, 2001, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 2002. Current projects include a mausoleum for fashion designer, Tom Ford. His minimal buildings are designed to contain little in the way of furniture, however he has lately collaborated with Danish furniture company Carl Hansen & Son on a project to develop a prototype chair honoring the aesthetic of the late Danish designer Hans Wegner, which will be available in 2013. In 2011, to mark their 90th anniversary, he created a limited edition vase for leading Venetian glassmakers, Venini, established in Murano in 1921. At an estimated sale price of €35,000-45,000, a set of three of these vases, all signed and dated and coming from a private collection in Germany, is included in the Sotheby’s sale.

Objects included in the Sotheby’s sale, from top
Tadao Ando
Set of three coloured glass vases in anthracite, red and ochre, 2011, for Venini
Estimate €35,000-45,000

Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret
Wood and partially grey lacquered wood, double-sided cabinet, circa 1927
Estimate €12,00-15,000

Gio Ponti
Glazed earthenware bowl, Classical Conversation/’L'architetto’, 1924
Estimate €15,00-20,000

Photographs ©Sotheby’s/ArtDigital Studio

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The publishers of The Blog 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 which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Design | Swarovski Goes Digital at Design Museum

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Digital Crystal: Swarovski at the Design Museum
The Design Museum, London, UK
5th September – 13th January, 2013

When, in 1989, Terence Conran whose concept it was to create ‘the first museum of modern design’, in London, and whose company converted a 1940s banana warehouse into the Design Museum, his involvement may have had a little to do with personal vanity but probably wasn’t an exercise in brand awareness for his then-burgeoning string of high-quality retail outlets and smart restaurants. Along with Conran, the project was funded by many companies, designers and benefactors whose aim was to raise design awareness and the general standard of British design.

Its founding principles being to make works of art available to all, to educate working people and to inspire British designers and manufacturers, it was royal patronage that provided the driving force behind the Victoria & Albert Museum, set up in 1852 in the wake of the enormous success of the Great Exhibition the previous year. In a boom time for British industry, generous Victorian benefactors and a less competitive art market than today’s meant that the young museum was able to make many very important acquisitions and quickly build up the most astonishing collections. Although it set out to acquire the best examples of metalwork, furniture, textiles and all other forms of decorative art from all periods, it also acquired fine art – paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture – in order to tell a more complete history of art and design but recognising, and this is key, that there was a significant difference between the two. Commercial sponsorship of design would follow in the 1890s when Arthur Lasenby Liberty built strong relationships with many leading English designers who were prominent figures in the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements. Liberty himself, through his commissions, became instrumental in the development of Art Nouveau and in consequence his shop, Liberty, became one of the most prestigious in London.

Everyone is getting in on the relationship/benefactor/sponsor/collaborator act these days, and in particular there’s an ever growing crossover between luxury goods brands, architecture, design and the arts. It’s difficult to see where it will all end up. On the one hand, if fashion companies flirt with fine artists, inviting them to collaborate – as, notably, Marc Jacobs did at Louis Vuitton in 2002 with one Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami (who had already worked with Issey Miyake) and more recently with another, Yayoi Kusama – they blur the line between fine art and commerce. On the other hand, it can be said that in modern times the practice has been going on since the 1960s, when Pop art turned commercialism on its head, Op art visual illusions were applied to fabrics that were turned into dresses and Yves St Laurent designed his 1965 Mondrian dress. Taking hold of the baton in 2003, milliner Philip Treacy put Andy Warhol images on to his hats.

Selfridges and Primark owner the Canadian, Weston family claimed the top fashion spot in The Sunday Times Rich List, 2012. No strangers to art sponsorship, through the Garfield Weston Foundation, they are among the most generous supporters of the arts in Britain. Selfridges’ creative director Alannah Weston is quoted as having said: ‘My goal is to make Selfridges a destination where people can have an extraordinary experience. I have to surprise, amaze and amuse them.’ And by transforming and opening up the store’s interiors, establishing a gallery in the basement and by inviting well-known artists and young hopefuls to create cutting edge window displays, since she took on the role in 2003, she has certainly done that. And, if that wasn’t enough, she’s appointed The Shard’s architect Renzo Piano to redesign the entire store.

We’re in the middle of a confusing time when architects – Rem Koolhaas, 2009, United Nude – launch fashion footwear collections and design the stores they are sold in; when designers of the Olympic Torch, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby have shown non-functional designed objects at the Haunch of Venison gallery and Farrow & Ball are the official paint sponsor of Manchester City Galleries. Last year Swarovski, collaborators with the Museum of the forthcoming exhibition Digital Crystal: Swarovski at the Design Museum, worked with the Hello Kitty brand and Manhattan-based, Taiwanese Canadian Jason Wu’s Resort 2013 fashion collection, will contain hundreds of Swarovski crystals. Shared core values: artfulness, simplicity, creativity and beauty, apparently make it a safe bet to presume that Hello Kitty and Jason Wu customers will appreciate Swarovski’s creations and vice versa. Maybe, in the post-analogue era ‘when our relationship with objects and even with time is changing’ these same reasons are behind Swarovski and the Design Museum’s joint project, because  with these sorts of temporary partnerships it’s always a quid pro quo situation – nobody’s in it for nothing.

Swarovski, the world’s leading manufacturer of cut crystal was established in Austria in 1895 and has a long tradition of links with the fashion and jewellery industry, collaborating in the 1950s with Christian Dior and Coco Chanel to create avant-garde crystal jewellery. 42-year-old Nadja Swarovski, vice-president of international communications at the company began her career at the Gagosian Gallery, which probably explains a lot about her interests and the areas she’s taken the company into.

Now in its tenth year, the Swarovski Crystal Palace project – one of Nadia’s initiatives – has commissioned some of the world’s foremost  designers including Zaha Hadid, Yvés Behar, Studio Job, Ross Lovegrove, Tom Dixon and more. Initially, the idea was to reinterpret crystal chandeliers but the project has evolved into an experimental design platform allowing designers to conceptualise, develop and share their most radical works. In 2009 Nigel Coates, Professor of Architecture at the Royal College of Art designed 43 Swarovski ‘Cloudeliers’ for the restaurant at Glyndebourne and in 2011, St Paul’s Perspectives, was created by architect John Pawson, who used a precision-made Swarovski Optik lens and a suspended spherical steel mirror to reflect a new vision of the Geometric Staircase of St Paul’s Cathedral. As well as others, Ron Arad, Yves Béhar, Paul Cocksedge, Troika and Fredrikson Stallard – who actually include a section called Sculpture on their website – have been asked to take part in the Design Museum exhibition, reworking existing pieces commissioned from them by Swarovski, in response to the exhibition brief.

At the end of the analogue era Digital Crystal is intended as a catalyst for debate about the changing nature of memory in the digital world but may also force us to reassess our ideas about the role of designers and architects, and especially the role of fine artists in relation to the commercial world. And certainly there are questions to be asked. There’s something uneasy about design masquerading as art, but is that what it’s doing? Are designers and architects capable of producing great art? Is it all just business as usual? The sponsorship of design and architecture can certainly be said to usefully contribute to innovation when it provides the necessary funds to accomplish experimental projects, large and small, that otherwise might only be dreamt of, and while it can be seen to have democratised art – which must be a good thing – if it also leads to art’s total commoditisation, it remains to be seen whether it will be to art’s long term benefit.

Images from top
Ron Arad, Lolita, originally commissioned in 2004
Redesigned to receive tweets and text messages that can be displayed
on its spiral form

Paul Cocksedge, Crystallize, originally commissioned in 2005
Via single crystals mounted onto a tubular glass frame, trajectory
beams fill the room as light cascades from each crystal

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Books | Tree House Architecture

Friday, August 3rd, 2012
Tree Houses. Fairy Tale Castles in the Air
By Philip Jodidio,
Taschen, September 2012

The Baron in the Trees (Il Barone Rampante) by the Italian author, Italo Calvino was published in 1957. Set in 18th century Liguria, it has been described as a philosophical fiction and a metaphor for independence. It relates the adventures of twelve-year-old Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò who, in a rebellious fit, after refusing to eat a dinner of snails prepared by his sadistic sister, climbs up a tree and decides never to set foot on the ground again. I don’t have the book any more but having read it six years or so ago, seem to remember that the baron never got around to building a treehouse. ‘The idea of climbing a tree for shelter, or just to see the earth from another perspective, is probably as old as humanity,’ the Taschen blurb for Tree Houses. Fairy Tale Castles in the Air tells us, describing the phenomena as, ‘Childhood fantasy meets grown-up savoir faire’.

At Disneyland in California, where nothing is philosophical and everything fiction, you can take a tour of Tarzan’s Treehouse set high in an 80-foot-tall (24.4m) artificial Disneydendron semperflorens grandis, or Large Ever-blooming Disney Tree to you and me, on which we are told 450 – presumably, also artificial – branches and over 6,000 leaves grow – fake too, I would have thought. Hideouts like Tarzan’s jungle abode and Peter Pan’s Hangman’s Tree may come to mind when we think of treehouses but there’s a lot more to them than all the make believe.

Tree houses have a long and rich history in the real world and, as described in internationally-renowned author Philip Jodido’s forthcoming publication, building and designing them is still as popular as ever. Jodido, who studied art history and economics at Harvard has a long and rich history himself, especially with Taschen, for which his books include the Architecture Now! series and monographs on a list of prominent contemporary architects, among them, Tadao Ando, Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid.

The book offers a tour of the best tree houses around the globe covering all styles – a
lthough all the images released for press purposes are modern, contemporary – from romantic to modern, some designed by architects, others the work of anonymous craftsmen. Rather than relying  just on good photographs, each house is accompanied by one of new, young, LA-based illustrator Patrick Hruby’s charmingly primitive representations.

Images from top
Iwan Baan’s Go Hasegawa
Pilotis in a Forest
Kita-Karuizawa, Gunma, Japan
©Iwan Baan

Andreas Wenning of
Baumraum’s
Jungle House
©Baumraum/Andreas Wenning

Tom Chudleigh’s
Free Spirit Spheres
Qualicum Bay, British Columbia,
Canada
©Tom Chudleigh

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Happy Alvar Aalto!

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Aalto vase: 75th anniversary

It still looks like it was created yesterday but, arguably the best-known vase in the world – it could very easily be a product of the 21st century architecture/design practices of  Zaha Hadid or Frank Gehry was designed in 1936 by the most important Finnish architect of the 20th century, Alvar Aalto (1898-1976). Famous as much for his characteristically, curvy furniture designs as for his distinctive architecture, Aalto was a modernist, who fused the ideas developed at Germany’s Bauhaus and of the Dutch De Stijl group, for example, with traditional Scandinavian humanism. The result was that certainly his early creations, whatever their scale – from the Paimio Chair, 1933 – devised to ease the breathing of tubercolosis patients to his undulating, glass-fronted, Finnish Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair, 1939, where, incidentally, the vase made its debut – were more user-friendly, far less remote, than those of the other more rationalist moderns.

The organically-shaped glass vase was originally given the surreal name ‘The Eskimo Woman’s Leather Breeches’ by Aalto but became known as the Savoy Vase after a new luxury hotel in Helsinki that opened in 1937. Finnish glassware manufacturer Iittala market it eponymously as the Aalto Vase; each item individually mouth-blown, the design comes in a multitude of colours and sizes. It’s called a vase but apparently the most boring use for it is as a container for flowers; the owner is required to stamp something of his/her own personality on it. To me, diktats of any sort are like a red rag to a bull so, with that particular one in mind, I went out purposefully and came home with two bunches of beautiful, deep pink-red tulips, half-filled our Aalto with water and unceremoniously, pushed the stems into it. They looked colourful but, perhaps, a little sterile. Okay, I thought, maybe I should have been a bit more creative. Overnight, however – and I like to think it had something to do with the eskimo woman’s leather breeches – they sprang to life and arranged themselves prettily and naturalistically for my camera.

Do you have an Aalto vase?
What do you put it?

Please post a comment and, better still, send a picture


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