The Quarterly Journal of Design #20 Autumn 2018
This issue includes: Eero Saarinen and the urban reintegration of St. Louis’s Gateway Arch; port diplomacy in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota; Michael Marriott’s primrose Volvo potato prints; a second serving from food developer Carolien Niebling; soft power in the Vatican’s outreach programme; Gary Hustwit’s punk-rock vision of Dieter Rams; Palestine’s outpost for national identity; plans to jumpstart Kickstarter from Oscar Lhermitte; and a fashion history of rethinking pink.
D E S I G N PO R T R A I T.
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Strength in Adverbsity Words Oli Stratford
While noodling around Google, hoping to ﬁnd a topic for this issue’s editor’s letter, I happened to come across a trailer for Design is a Verb, a ﬁlm by the design consultancy Leftloft that screened as part of the Milano Design Film Festival. Well, that struck me as a trendy title. “Design is a verb, not a noun,” is one of those platitudes that seem to get thrown out there a lot. I think it’s well meaning – something about emphasising process over end product something something – but I’ve never fully understood it. It’s got too much the smack of something shouted during a TED Talk. “It’s a verb, people! A verb!” First of all, design is not a verb: it’s a discipline, in much the same way that while “bear” might be a noun, a bear is not a noun. This distinction may seem ﬁnicky, but such things matter. Just imagine trying to fend oﬀ a grizzly bear that’s entered your tent and begun to eat your legs in Yellowstone National Park. (It’s just a noun! It’s just a noun!) If it weren’t for an overriding faith in verbs, you probably wouldn’t be able to bear it. Leaving that aside, why is a verb such a good thing anyway? Nobody goes crazy when “design” is used adjectivally, but that function is often very useful. Introduction
Consider, for instance, the following scenario: “What do you think of that new chair produced by injecting mycelium into moulds formed naturally over time by beeswax?” “It’s, erm, very design.” My main issue, however, is that talking about design in terms of verbs suggests a unity of activity, which I’m not convinced exists. I design, you design, they design, we all design. I mean, sure, but also – not really. It may be worthwhile acknowledging similarities between the industrial designer, the systems designer, the designermaker and the speculative designer, but that shouldn’t blind us to their stark diﬀerences. Thomas Chippendale produced lovely cabinets, but I wouldn’t ask him to create an AI interface. It would be far too rococo for one thing. As such, might I suggest the following mild course correction? Rather than nounal or adjectival, I propose that design be most proﬁtably thought of as adverbial in nature. An adverb is deliciously vague and pleasingly inclusive. How did they build that system, shape that table, envisage that scenario and develop that environment? They did it designedly. Anyway, mull it over. I really think it might save a lot of bother. For more information, please watch my new ﬁlm – Design Might Actually Be an Adverb – hopefully premiering at the Milano Design Film Festival.
Pierpaolo Ferrari, 2018
106 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3NB Tel. 020 7631 5200 email@example.com
Introduction Strength Through Adverbsity
Masthead The people behind Disegno
Timeline June to August 2018 in review
Observation Figuration If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck
Comment The Allure of the Inane Facebook offers an apology and a glimpse into the void Photoessay Building Against Fragmentation Inside Palestine’s A.M. Qattan Foundation in Ramallah Proﬁle The Food Developer An afternoon with Dutch designer Carolien Niebling Comment Burberry is Burning “Burnberry, Burn (Wasteful Inferno)”
Comment Air on Tap The commodification of clean air
Roundtable A Quick Kick? Oscar Lhermitte and company reset the debate on crowdfunding
Travelogue Searching for Hambantota Port politics in southern Sri Lanka Gallery From Rouge to Rage How the colour pink speaks to contemporary culture
Project A Letter from St. Louis What a recalibration of Eero Saarinen’s Gateway Arch says about American cities
Report Catholic Tastes Soft power and the Vatican’s cultural outreach programme
Project Most Yellow Cars Tend to be Signal Yellow Cars Michael Marriott potato prints with a primrose Volvo
Interview A Recaptured Production The legacy of Dieter Rams with filmmaker Gary Hustwit
Reviews OK, Mr Field () Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye springs up in Cape Town Om krisen eller kriget kommer () The changing face of Sweden’s crisis preparation pamphlet The Kenneth Pint Glass () Old beer in new glasses from Kenneth Grange
Index Short stories from the creation of this issue
Crossword Set by K-Doc
Courtesy of “Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office”
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Contributors Raed Abughazaleh is a Palestinian photographer who also happens to be a pharmacist. He enjoys street-, nature- and, apparently, architectural photography too. p. 38 Reza Akram recently contributed to the 2018 publication Mammals of Sri Lanka for Children. p. 82 Michael R. Allen is senior lecturer in architecture, landscape architecture and urban design at Washington University in St. Louis, and is usually much more fascinated by “how” than he is by “what.” p. 128 Sarah Archer and Glenn Adamson are the editors of the Instagram account @unthinkpink. They freely admit to seeing design history through rosecoloured glasses. p. 95 Tessa Fox juggles her time between finding stories and skate spots. p. 38 Jermaine Francis still believes he is a secret member of the Wu Tang Clan and likes to ponder the world’s deep conundrums, such as “Whatever happened to Ainsley Harriott?” p. 161
Giulio Ghirardi is a photographer and architect, who divides his time between the two disciplines. p. 145 Sam Jacob wrote his contribution to this issue of Disegno on a deserted island right at the edge of the United Kingdom. p. 116 Peter Kapos is a writer, curator and creative director of the London-based graphic design office, Systems Studio. p. 170 Kieran Long is the director of ArkDes, the national museum of architecture and design in Stockholm, Sweden. p. 120 Theresa Marx captains Her Majesty’s Inflatable Dinghy, which has cruised London’s Regent’s Canal this summer. p. 26, 95 Matthew O’Shea has been an independent St. Louis-based artist and photographer for 30 years. p. 128 Leonhard Rothmoser can’t get the images from Ken Price’s print series Heatwave out of his head. p. 37, 65, 66 Lemma Shehadi has a newly acquired interest in fisheries, ports and oceans. p.
Peter Smisek has spent his whole life resisting his Catholic heritage. p. 145 Kay Sunden is definitely not a nom de plume for a member of Disegno’s editorial staff. p. 65 Lucy Upton-Prowse would find it extremely difficult to not move (in a dance sense) to Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker. p. 95 Matthew Williams lives in New York, and can’t imagine why everyone else doesn’t also. p. 170 Marvin Zilm is a German photographer who’s been living in Zurich for the past 18 years. He’s finally becoming a Swiss citizen, which he is very much looking forward to. It’s about time. p. 53
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The Quarterly Journal of Design # Editor-in-chief Oli Stratford firstname.lastname@example.org
Founder and publication director Johanna Agerman Ross
Publisher and commercial director Chris Jones email@example.com
Deputy editor Kristina Rapacki firstname.lastname@example.org
Creative directors Florian Böhm Annahita Kamali akfb.com
Sales executive Farnaz Ari email@example.com
Editorial project coordinator Paula Wik firstname.lastname@example.org
Designer Jonas Hirschmann email@example.com
Accounts department Sharon Williams firstname.lastname@example.org
Subeditors Ann Morgan Rosie Spencer
Colour management Terry Smith Complete Creative Services completeltd.com
Circulation and stockist enquiries Adam Long email@example.com Distribution Logical Connections Distribution logicalconnections.co.uk
Cover The cover shows model Victor Haisch, photographed by Theresa Marx, styled by Lucy Upton-Prowse, and with hair and make-up by Anne Timper. Words by Glenn Adamson, Johanna Agerman Ross, Michael R. Allen, Sarah Archer, Tessa Fox, Sam Jacob, Peter Kapos, K-Doc, Kieran Long, Kristina Rapacki, Lemma Shehadi, Peter Smisek, Oli Stratford, Kay Sunden and Paula Wik. Images by Raed Abughazaleh, Reza Akram, Jermaine Francis, Giulio Ghirardi, Theresa Marx, Matthew O’Shea, Leonhard Rothmoser, Matthew Williams and Marvin Zilm. Styling by Anne Timper and Lucy Upton-Prowse.
Paper and print This issue of Disegno is printed by Park Communications on Arcoprint Extra White gsm and Symbol Freelife Gloss gsm. The cover is printed on Arcoprint Extra White gsm. All of the paper used in this issue is from Fedrigoni UK. Thanks Thank you to Phil Cuttance for his wit and workshop wizardy; Zara Arshad for leading a ﬁrst-class tour; Tomorrow PR and Mater Design for generously hosting Disegno Works; to all the participants in the ‘A Quick Kick?’ roundtable for their time and expertise; to Erica Overmeer for going above and beyond in her support of Disegno; to the residents of the Terrassenhaus for their patience; and to Matteo Fogale and Amorim for generously supporting our inaugural crossword.
We are very grateful to all our contributors, and for everybody who has supported us and helped make Disegno #20 possible. Not least Fouz, the lovely cat who has waited patiently for his time in the sun. Content copyright The content of this magazine belongs to Disegno and to the authors and artists. If you are tempted to reproduce any of it, please ask ﬁrst. Contact us Studio , The Rose Lipman Building De Beauvoir Road London N SQ + Disegno Works Disegno is proud to have launched a new creative agency, Disegno Works. disegnoworks.com
Taking inspiration from one of Lucian Ercolaniâ€™s archived designs â€“ the 427 Chair, which was originally launched in 1956, the new VON collection by Hlynur V. Atlason offers a response to this design that is fit for the 21st century. Reflecting an increasing fluidity between the modern home, workspace and hospitality settings, VON is a part of the evolution of how we see furniture design in the present day.
former director of ready-to-wear
stood for to push the limits and solve
at Céline. He has big shoes to fill,
problems in unexpected ways.” Disegno
Return of the Mack?
although it is refreshing to see
knows whose vision it prefers.
It was with a heavy heart that
the house select a relative unknown.
Disegno received the news that the
Bottega Veneta will no doubt hope
main building of the Glasgow School
its left-field appointment pays
Apple and Samsung ﬁnally settle
of Art, designed by local arts and
off as handsomely as those of Demna
Try, if you can, to cast your mind
crafts master Charles Rennie
Gvasalia at Balenciaga and Alessandro
back to the days when smartphones
Mackintosh in the first decade of
Michele at Gucci.
and tablets were still relatively
the 20th century, was on fire once
new things. Around that time,
again. Following a smaller blaze
in 2011, Apple and Samsung began
in 2014, which badly damaged the
what was to become a seven-year
school’s library, the Mack was
multinational legal battle over
undergoing a major and nearly
design patents pertaining to these
completed renovation when a second,
emerging technologies. The patents
much larger fire broke out on the
circumscribed basic utility features
evening of 15 June. It was later
such as tap-to-zoom and the home-
revealed that sprinklers had not
screen app grid. Longterm Disegno
yet been fitted in the evidently
readers will remember Amber Winnick’s
fire-prone building and that highly
report from the press gallery of
flammable insulation panels had been
the US Supreme Court (‘But is it
installed. Since the fire, the debate
a Beetle?’ Disegno #13) when the
has raged over whether the burnt-out
lawsuit reached its apogee in 2016.
shell ought to be stabilised and
To be perfectly honest, Disegno
rebuilt, or whether it’s best to
thought that ruling might have ended
commission an entirely new building.
the saga, but it wasn’t until June
On 10 July the decision was made.
2018, almost two years later, that
The school’s director Tom Inns stated:
Apple and Samsung announced that they
“From our point of view and that of
had reached a settlement. Its terms
the city of Glasgow, it is critically
important that the building comes back
Farewell to independence? The acquisition of Universal Design
It’s not me, it’s you
Studio and Map Project Office by the
News broke in March that Stella
innovation agency AKQA raises many
McCartney was to buy back the 51 per
questions, not least: what even is
cent stake the French conglomerate
an innovation agency? AKQA intends
Kering has held in her namesake
to run the two companies – both of
fashion label since 2001. Three months
which were founded by designers Edward
later, Kering announced another split:
Barber and Jay Osgerby – as distinct
this time with the Scottish designer
entities, although the agency has
Christopher Kane, who is now in talks
also stated that it will nonetheless
to buy back the 50 per cent stake the
coalesce into “a pioneering
luxury group holds in his eponymous
multidisciplinary experience design
brand. Kering acquired its stake in
practice”. In principle, this is fine.
Kane’s brand in 2013 and over the
Daniel Lee joins Bottega Veneta
Universal is a talented architecture
following five years growth has been
Seen against the rapid turnaround
practice and Map has an enviable
minimal. This seems to be the new
of personnel witnessed elsewhere
portfolio. The unknown quantity is
business reality for conglomerates:
in fashion, Tomas Maier’s spell as
AKQA, which has an impressive client
speculate to accumulate and don’t
creative director of Bottega Veneta
roster, but a worrying tendency
be shy of cutting brands loose when
could almost be measured in geologic
towards corporate speak. “This new
they fail to ignite. While Kane will
time. Maier’s 17-year stint at the
partnership with AKQA will give us the
regain his independence, Kering
house was transformative, successfully
opportunity to redefine the interface
will no doubt start hoovering up
revitalising a brand that had largely
between architecture, product and
buzzier emerging designers, as well
fallen into irrelevancy, yet a marked
experience design,” said Barber and
as concentrating on its other, more
downturn in sales from 2015 onwards
Osgerby, while AKQA’s CEO Ajaz Ahmed
exciting relationships – namely its
meant that his departure in June came
said: “It is the culmination of an
booming super-brands Gucci, Saint
as no surprise. He has been replaced
exciting vision that embodies the
Laurent and Balenciaga.
by Daniel Lee, a largely unheralded
spirit of invention we have always
Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Bottega Veneta.
as the Mackintosh building.”
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Former Stedelijk director exonerated
industry’s senior roles are held by
It was a story many felt embodied
women. The worst part, however, is
everything that is wrong with the
that these statistics are not even
art world. Last year, Dutch news
surprising. Britain is hardly alone
media reported that Beatrix Ruf,
in exhibiting this kind of gender bias
then director of Amsterdam’s Stedelijk
and, as is often the case, it seems
Museum, had been making nearly half
to largely fall to individuals – and,
a million euros annually as a private
depressingly, largely women – to deal
art consultant, and had failed to
with what is chiefly an institutional
report her activities and earnings to
issue. In July, the architect Jeanne
the museum. Ruf subsequently resigned
Gang closed the gender pay gap at her
year, the scandal took an unexpected
Musk the show go on?
start by looking to the fundamental
turn. A legal report commissioned by
It says a lot that Elon Musk’s
issue of respect in the workplace
the Municipality of Amsterdam found
description of a diver who helped
– pay. Unlike other measures of value,
that while Ruf had not technically
save 12 children trapped in a Thai
pay is a number. It's tangible and
done anything wrong, her activities
cave as a “pedo guy” (simply because
objective.” Quite right too.
had certainly looked rather dodgy.
the diver had questioned Musk’s inane
Ruf “does not always seem to have
plan to build a child-sized submarine
understood that her function must
to rescue the group) felt par for
Cleaning the Taj Mahal
be performed not only in accordance
the course. In recent months, Musk
With insect dung and industrial
with the wording of the governance
has stolen an artist’s drawing of
pollution rendering the 17th-century
rules, but also, and above all, in
a farting unicorn, characterising
Mughal mausoleum’s famously white
the spirit of the rules”, the report
the subsequent request for compensation
marble facade all shades of grime,
concluded. She has since been
as “kinda lame”; tweeted that his
India’s Supreme Court gave the
company Tesla had “gone completely
government body in charge of the
and totally bankrupt”, before claiming
conservation of national monuments
that this was a joke (although not
an ultimatum: “Either you restore the
before adding that “I’m back to
Taj Mahal, or it has to be shut down
sleeping at factory”); been accused
or demolished.” Although it’s unlikely
AT&T building becomes New York’s
by the musician Azealia Banks of
that the Supreme Court would knock
being “too stupid to know not to
down India’s top tourist destination
A group of notable architecture and
go on Twitter while on acid”; and
– it attracts up to 70,000 visitors
design practitioners and critics will
announced plans to take Tesla private,
a day – the threat seems to have done
have breathed a sigh of relief when
causing shares to drop by a fifth. Musk
the trick: the organisation is finally
New York’s Landmarks Preservation
must be the absolute bane of his board
working on a 100-year-vision to save
Commission (LPC) announced that Philip
– a braggadocio, cocksure peacock who
the Unesco World Heritage Site. Here’s
Johnson’s 1984 AT&T building was
seems more interested in social media
hoping the Indian government pulls its
granted landmark status on 31 July.
than addressing his company’s net loss
finger out and sees to the critical
The news marked a victory for filmmaker
of $709.6m in the first quarter of
task of decreasing the area’s
Nathan Eddy, who had launched the
2018. If Musk is ever to fulfil his
industrial pollution, which is the
campaign – backed by Norman Foster
aspirations with Tesla, starving
ultimate source of the discolouration
and architecture and design critics
himself of the oxygen of publicity
– ideally some time before those 100
Alice Rawsthorn and Oliver Wainwright,
would be a good place to start.
years are up.
among others – to protect the tower’s facade from an invasive development scheme proposed by Norwegian practice
Sex and the design industry
Snøhetta. The original plans would
Seventy-eight per cent of the UK
have almost completely covered the
design industry’s workforce are male,
lower levels of the building with
and within that figure lurk even
glass. Snøhetta will now have
scarier ones: 95 per cent of product
to revise its proposal. “This
designers are male, as are 85 per cent
is the building that established
of digital designers and 80 per cent
postmodernism as a legitimate
of architects. These findings were
architectural movement,” said an
published in the Design Council’s
LPC spokesperson. The AT&T building,
latest 'Design Economy' report, which
with its fanciful broken pediment
also showed that despite more women
roofline, now stands as New York’s
than men studying design in British
youngest official landmark.
universities, only 17 per cent of the
Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Annie Spratt for Unsplash.
firm Studio Gang, commenting: “We can
in October 2017, but in June this
through the museum, desperately trying
The bridge’s fall was an avoidable,
to make sure that the petits fours
infrastructural disaster of the ilk
Evil is OK now
shaped as rifles weren’t delivered
of the Grenfell fire and speculation
Mmm, humble pie. In 2010, Google’s
to 'Corbynmania', nor Billy Bragg
has already begun as to its cause:
parent company Alphabet withdrew
accidentally directed through the
a lack of maintenance; the structure
from the Chinese market – the second
wrong door to strike up his musical
employed by the bridge’s designer
largest in the world – where it had
finale to disastrous effect.
Riccardo Morandi; widespread failures
been operating for four turbulent
within the construction industry
years. However, while Google had been
resulting from its entanglement with
cooperating with Chinese authorities
organised crime; and, shamelessly,
during that time, it had also found
claims by Italy’s far-right interior
itself policed and infiltrated by
minister Matteo Salvini of decay
state-sponsored hackers. Now Google
prompted by “rigid [EU] calculations
has come crawling back and has agreed
and[…] rules” surrounding public
to omit content blacklisted by the
spending. Since the tragedy, Salvini
Chinese government from its search
and his Lega Nord party, which is in
engine. Incidentally, Google also
coalition with the anti-establishment
removed its much-ridiculed “Don’t be
Five Star Movement, have surged in popularity, with public backing rising
evil” motto from the code of conduct it distributes to employees earlier
Apple hits the trillion mark
from 17 per cent in early March to
this year. Perhaps this was in
News that Apple has become the world’s
hit 30 per cent in the latest polls.
anticipation of its latest venture,
first trillion-dollar public company
Politicisation in the immediate
which activists have described as
beggars belief, not least because it
aftermath of a tragedy is rarely
“putting profits before human rights”.
propels the brand into parity with
a good idea; making political capital
the world’s true financial big boy –
from the deaths of 43 people is
The Simpsons’ Mr Burns. Preposterous
Hope to Nope
wealth aside, the story does serve as
With all the structural finesse of
a vindication of design’s commercial
an Alan Ayckbourn play, the Design
value. In 1997, the company was near
Museum’s Hope to Nope exhibition
bankrupt, and its dramatic turnaround
of contemporary graphic design and
has largely hinged on the emphasis
politics closed in August amidst
that chief executive Steve Jobs and
recrimination and zemblanity. In
his successor Tim Cook have placed
late July, the museum hosted a private
upon the work of Apple’s chief design
event for Leonardo, an Italian arms
officer Jony Ive. While the quality and
company, prompting a number of artists
originality of some of Apple’s designs
featured in Hope to Nope to remove
can be debated, the company has been
their work, arguing that the museum
canny in its presentation of design
could not co-opt the credibility
as a core value. Rightly or wrongly,
of radical anti-corporate artists
Apple in 2018 is synonymous with
while suckling at the teat of the
design. In kind, its coffers have
military-industrial complex. The
museum’s directors responded in kind, of public funding and emphasising the need for corporate events as a source of income. There is undoubtedly an important discussion to be had about museum funding, but this was lost amidst the bedroom farce of the whole situation. The Leonardo booking was discovered because the museum scheduled it for the same night as 'Corbynmania', a panel discussion of radical leftwing thought, with
The collapse of the Ponte Morandi
guests at the two events reportedly
On 14 August, an 80m section of
asked to use separate entrances.
the Ponte Morandi motorway bridge
Disegno just feels sorry for the
in Genoa, Italy, collapsed during
poor staff, no doubt rushing madcap
a rainstorm, killing 43 people.
Images courtesy of Design Museum, Apple and Wikimedia Commons.
pointing to the institution’s lack
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Figuration Photographs Theresa Marx Location scout Paula Wik
“Stone[…] is hard and concentrated and should not be falsiﬁed to look like soft ﬂesh[…] It should keep its hard tense stoniness.” Thus wrote the sculptor Henry Moore in . It’s an idea in keeping with the modernist dictum of “truth to materials”, a principle propounded so widely in the th and st centuries that it has become a catch-all phrase for good aesthetic sense. Stone ought to be celebrated for its “tense stoniness” just as we ought to rejoice in paint’s drippy sloppiness – think Jackson Pollock. Such is the belief in material truth that it has led architects to have conversations with bricks. “You say to a brick, ‘What do you want, brick?’ And brick says to you, ‘I like an arch,’” Louis Kahn once gnomically recounted. The following pages showcase nine objects that ﬂout this philosophy. In their own way, each masquerades as something it is not in order to achieve an ornamental, narrative or otherwise fanciful eﬀect. 26
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Downplaying â€“ This logo-embossed beach bag emulates a plain rubber garden bucket. Rubber bucket bag, Gucci
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Camouflaging â€“ Drawing on a tradition of trompe lâ€™oeil tableware, the ceramics company Bordallo Pinheiro, founded in the 19th century, moulds its products using real vegetables. Pumpkin pitcher and tureen, Bordallo Pinheiro
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Mimicking – These rubber slippers mimic fish, because why not? Fish slippers, Disegno’s own
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Stylising â€“ The light sources that perch on the frame of Neri & Huâ€™s Yanzi lamp have been designed so as to appear as pert brass songbirds. Yanzi lamp, Neri & Hu for Artemide
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Confounding â€“ In a surrealist juxtaposition, this brass door handle is the exact shape and size of a madeleine sponge cake. Madeleine door handle, Inga SempĂŠ for DND
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Elevating â€“ A piece of concrete from a south London council block has been mounted in the fashion of Suiseki, the Japanese art of stone appreciation. Suiseki, James Shaw
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Doubling – Marteen Baas’s oak table is styled to evoke a child’s hurried sketch of a vehicle. Turbo table, Maarten Baas for Moooi
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Referencing – Werner Aisslinger’s Autobahn watch, as its name suggests, has been developed with a non-functional decorative detailing reminiscent of a car’s speed dial. Autobahn watch, Werner Aisslinger for Nomos Glashütte
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Endearing â€“ Frontâ€™s knit-covered bear for Vitra is part of a wider series in which the Stockholm-based studio has appropriated the forms of sleeping and hibernating animals as furniture items. Resting Bear stool, Front for Vitra
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The Allure of the Inane Words Johanna Agerman Ross Illustration Leonhard Rothmoser
On 25 April, Facebook released what has been dubbed its “apology ad”, the company’s largest marketing campaign to date ( following CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance in front of US Congress, testifying about Facebook’s involvement in data misuse and the spread of fake news). Facebook calls it, rather disingenuously, Here Together, but tellingly doesn’t allow for any comments on its YouTube posting. The ad was first aired on US television during the National Basketball Association play-offs, and then spread globally online and in paid-for TV spots, with Facebook spending around $23m in the US alone. The advert made repeated appearances during the World Cup, its monotonous message and low-fi assemblage of Facebook screengrabs appearing more empty and unappealing with every airing. “Facebook will do more to keep you safe and protect your privacy so we can all get back to what made Facebook good in the first place,” the ad promises. And while plenty of criticism has been levelled at the company for portraying itself as a passive bystander while data misuse and fake news “just happened”, little has been uttered about the ad’s portrayal of the fundamentally empty appeal of the platform. As examples of what made Facebook “good in the first place”, the narrator states: “We came here for the friends, we got to know the friends of our friends, then our old friends from middle school, our mom, our ex and our boss joined forces to wish us a happy birthday. Then we discovered our uncle used to play in a band and realised he was young once, too.” Somehow, the real malice of Facebook lies in that statement – the allure of the totally inane and how it miraculously preoccupies Facebook’s 2.23 billion monthly users. In 1843, observing the similarly numbing effects of religion, Karl Marx described it as the “opium of the people”, continuing that “Religion is, indeed, the selfconsciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again.” Now replace religion with Facebook. Not even Marx could have predicted that it would be a 21st-century social-media invention, rather than millennia-old belief systems, that would send billions of people aimlessly chasing the dragon, while never reaching satisfaction.
Building Against Fragmentation Words Tessa Fox Photographs Raed Abughazaleh
Rising out of the Jerusalem stone houses and built atop the terraces of a hill overlooking olive groves, the new A.M. Qattan Foundation building is a symbol for the future of Palestine. Situated in Ramallah, the de facto and cultural capital of Palestine since East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel in , the Qattan building has only recently opened and it is still abuzz with construction workers. The olive trees that once grew where the building now stands will soon be replanted in the gardens at the entrance. Olive trees have long been a symbol for Palestinians’ attachment to the land, as well as of thousands of years of subsistence through farming and harvesting. The uprooting and burning of olive trees, however, is often orchestrated by illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank – one element of the IsraeliPalestinian conﬂict. The ,sqm building is the new headquarters for the A.M. Qattan Foundation (AMQF), a cultural- and educational-development organisation with a focus on children, teachers and young artists. The centre comprises an open-air public plaza that can be used for concerts; a library spanning two ﬂoors; conference rooms for training teachers, students, artists, writers and organisations; a sqm gallery; a guest house for researchers; a public café; and a science-exhibition room that hosts interactive displays. “We want to serve the community and for them to feel they own part of this place,” says Nader Dagher, AMQF’s director of communication and public relations. Now in its sixth year of construction, the US$m venue was opened oﬃcially on June . Despite this being two years after the scheduled completion date, contractors will still be working on the ﬁnishing touches until the end
of September . But this is with good reason. Ziad Khalaf, AMQF’s director general, describes it as a “complicated building” and for a country that has experienced more than years of occupation, the structure is an architectural feat. The building is the ﬁrst to be registered with the Palestinian Higher Green Building Council, which, as Khalaf points out, reﬂects “the mandate of the Qattan Foundation that models good practice at all levels”. The approaches required to ensure this certiﬁcation were new to the local labour force: instead of the structural stones being ﬁtted with mortar as in traditional Palestinian housing, for instance, dry cladding has been used. While they used local stones, the team had to import the pins and mounting mechanisms from Germany. This form of construction prevents moisture and humidity from forming, allowing rainwater to drop through the stones and dry up rather than pooling in the mortar. Across the facade, metal louvres reach skyward from the base stone. This aesthetic not only distinguishes the structure from the familiar stone-coloured houses and apartment buildings seen across Palestine, but also reduces the direct heat of the sun entering the venue. “We wanted a building that is [futuristic],” explains Khalaf. “We need to be a futurefacing foundation [and] a future-facing society. We need to have the conﬁdence that the future is better for us [as Palestinians].” Subtly incorporated into the design, however, are elements taken from historic Arab architecture. The skylight atrium in the main reception hall, for instance, which allows for natural ventilation across several ﬂoors of the building, is a concept used in Yemen more than , years ago. The inauguration of the building coincided with the opening of its ﬁrst
exhibition, Subcontracted Nations, a show that examines global, national, governmental and neoliberal structures and what they do or don’t provide for. The curatorial statement seems to mirror the AMQF itself. Since its independent establishment, AMQF has ﬁlled a gap in public funding for culture and the arts in Palestine. “It’s not on our government’s priority list, sadly,” says Khalaf. “It’s something we all need to advocate for.” Given that a large portion of Palestine’s population is living in diaspora after multiple Arab-Israeli wars and considering the internal restriction of movement of Palestinians enforced by the Israeli occupation, it is important for the foundation to mitigate the fragmentation of Palestinian society. “Working against this fragmentation is in the best purpose of peace,” says Khalaf. “This will be a place where people from all social status and all geographic localities in Palestinian society meet, converse and work together to hopefully produce and enjoy each others’ creative cultures.”
The A.M. Qattan Foundationâ€™s (AMQF) new building has been designed with a cubic shape that is intended to distinguish it from other buildings in Ramallah.
A painting by Palestinian artist Sliman Mansour, titled Harvest (2016), was part of Subcontracted Nations, the inaugural exhibition at the AMQFâ€™s new space in Ramallah. Previous spread: A series of vertical metal louvres distinguishes the building from its surroundings and reduces energy consumption throughout the year.
Signage for the centreâ€™s inaugural exhibition (left). The stone used in the building was sourced locally and mounted using drycladding instead of mortar as per tradition. This is intended to reduce moisture and humidity within the building. Previous spread: Architectural details inside the cultural centre.
The new building sits on a hilltop that overlooks the city of Ramallah. Previous spread: Although the building opened in June, construction is expected to continue until September 2018.
To Change Photoessay
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& INTERIEUR City Festival 18.10â€“04.11
The Food Developer Words Kristina Rapacki Rapacki Portrait Portrait Marvin Zilm
Dutch designer Carolien Niebling has recently moved to Zurich from Lausanne, and has just embarked on her next research project, a much-anticipated follow-up to her award-winning book The Sausage of the Future.
“Whenever I visit a new country, I have to visit a supermarket,” says Carolien Niebling. “There you really see what people are eating. I don’t really like specialised or high-end food markets.” Niebling and I are walking through a specialised, high-end market in Zurich. There’s charcuterie, an artisanal bakery and crates of organic vegetables. I silently curse myself: I suggested we meet here, as Niebling is mid-move from Lausanne, and consequently has no studio. I had hoped that the novelty sausages in the market’s cured meats section might serve as prompts for our discussion of Niebling’s most well-known project, The Sausage of the Future. The book examined, in forensic detail, the cultural history, constituent parts and sustainable futures of the lowly sausage – “a product with more than 5,000 years of research and development,” as Niebling likes to point out. It won her the prestigious Grand Prix at last year’s Design Parade competition in Hyères, France. As it turns out, I would have done better to suggest the Coop down the road for our meeting. Although Niebling presents her work within relatively rarefied contexts – The Sausage of the Future has been exhibited at Villa Noailles in Hyères for Design Parade, as well as Wanted Design Brooklyn for the 2018 edition of NYCxDesign – she considers her field to be much more quotidian. “I don’t see myself as a food designer,” she says firmly, “if food design at the moment can be defined as mostly experiencedriven. It’s not [concerned] with industry, but rather with how you experience something, or the social dimension of it. You eat from your elbow; you can’t see what you’re eating; or you have pink bones in chickens. Very conceptual things.” I ask Niebling how she would categorise her practice as we make our way to the market’s café. “I don’t know if there is a real definition,” she says. “If somebody makes a Mars bar, what is that person? A food developer, maybe. I think I’m closer to that.” The Sausage of the Future was an exercise in hypothetical food development. Niebling’s premise for the project was simple: we need to eat less meat in order to reduce the environmentally damaging effects of the global meat industry, which currently constitutes approximately 14.5 per cent of the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and is one of the main driving factors behind the sixth mass extinction. “It started with me just being interested in the question: ‘If we’re going to eat less meat, then what are we eating instead?’” explains Niebling. “And then I noticed that the solutions out there were not ones I thought were good. I believe that it would be an easier and much more efficient solution to start reducing now, quickly, and try to change the way we produce rather than have the meat industry continue as it is, and add a lot of new industries next to it.” The new industries cropping up alongside the traditional meat industry are manifold. Silicon Valley, for instance, is currently abuzz with biotech startups such as Beyond Meat and Memphis Meats, which offer lab-grown meat and meat-like vegetable protein (“meat-free meat” is the ontological conundrum these companies claim to produce). While Niebling welcomes such ventures in principle, she also points to the prohibitive cost of the finished products – at the time she was researching The Sausage of the Future, a single lab-grown burger would put you back
“It started with me just being interested in the question: ‘If we’re going to eat less meat, then what are we eating instead?’”
Carolien Niebling photographed in a market in her new hometown, Zurich (left). Below: an image from Nieblingâ€™s
The Sausage of the Future shows a blood sausage photographed by Jonas Marguet. Bar her portrait, all imagery accompanying this article appears in Nieblingâ€™s The Sausage of the Future.
Above: a liver and raspberry jelly sausage, photographed by Jonas Marguet. Left: an insect collage by Emile Barret.
US$25,000, although prices have dropped considerably since then – and the fact that they cannot draw on much existing infrastructure for their production. Veganism as a panacea for the meat industry’s ills is also something Niebling is sceptical of: “[If everyone went vegan,] there wouldn’t be enough surface on earth to farm plants that give us enough protein to survive,” she says. Instead, with The Sausage of the Future, Niebling sought to build on an existing infrastructure and body of expertise in order to introduce incremental changes. “I try to be more realistic,” she says, “almost as if it were a lamp or a chair. I look at production processes, materials, availability, market value and those types of things.” Before redesigning the sausage, however, Niebling needed to understand it. The first part of her book is devoted to the cultural history of preserved meats, a topic she had already explored while a graduate student at the École cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL) from 2012 to 2014. “For example, I find it fascinating that [preserved meats] made us travel!” she says, as we sit down to talk. “We couldn’t go for long distances without protein. Then all of a sudden, we could.” The waitress brings in the coffees we’ve ordered, and I wonder if the Venetian merchants who first brought coffee to Europe in the 17th century would’ve done so without salami. Niebling snaps me out of my musings. “My favourite part of a project is researching where something came from,” she says. “Because the ‘where, when, and how’ is often the reason why it’s still here. The sausage is, in its very essence, a good object, because it came out of efficient butchery and preservation.” After establishing the “where, when, and how”, Niebling proceeded to examine the constituent parts of the sausage: its skin, bulk, glue and flavouring. “I dissected the sausage and tried to tackle every single element,” she says. “For example glue: how can I explain in two pages what the glue is that holds a sausage together?” The Sausage of the Future explains the function played by each element in existing types of sausage, whether they be dried, fresh or fermented, and then offers alternative ingredients with similar properties to those traditionally used. Rather than gut, for instance, the skin might be made from beeswax or seaweed. Rather than mince, the bulk of the sausage could consist of ground-down worms, crickets, grains or protein-rich seeds, the latter being “the most underestimated thing ever”, according to Niebling. Identifying the potential replacement proteins, skins and gelifying agents led Niebling down the route of nutritional science. The fruits of her research can be found in the form of tables detailing the structural formulae of different types of protein, and a Protein Chart, which lists the calories, amino acid score (“If it’s over 100,” explains Niebling, “it’s a protein replacement”), and nutrient score of everything from pork ears to poppy seeds. “It’s one of my favourite things in the book,” says Niebling. “It’s only three pages but it took forever.” This meticulous approach has come to characterise Niebling’s way of working, and is something she developed under the tutelage of the designer Jonathan Olivares at ECAL. “There was a research workshop that I did with Jonathan,” she says, “and he said a few things that made
me think, ‘Oh… research!’” Niebling’s eyes widen as if she’s reliving the epiphany. “It’s something I hadn’t considered to be so important. [But I realised that] actually, it’s not all about the object. In the end you can translate research into an object – but you don’t have to. That’s what I loved about it.” She refers to Olivares’ painstaking book A Taxonomy of Office Chairs, which was published by Phaidon in 2011, as an important source of inspiration. “For me, that book was an eye-opener,” says Niebling. “So I made a book about food preservation for Jonathan’s workshop. I covered maybe 35 different forms of preservation, and for each one, I wrote a little text: is it healthy or not? Where does it come from originally? Then I categorised this information in five different ways: on a map, a timeline, as an index, as categories, and alphabetically. And every time you look at it in terms of a new category, you read things differently.” Niebling laughs. “I didn’t know that I liked to classify things so much.” While the research process can be an end in itself, Niebling’s work does tend to materialise as so-called end products. As a follow-up to the preservation project at ECAL, for instance, she made three objects designed to aid food preservation: a smoker, a vacuum-packer and a dryer that uses silica pearls. Each is an intuitive and well-crafted object in its own right, and faintly reminiscent of lab equipment. Similarly, The Sausage of the Future resulted in a number of newly designed sausages developed in collaboration with the Dutch butcher Herman ter Weele and the Lausanne-based chef Gabriel Serero: a mortadella that has had some of its pork filling replaced by broccoli; a fuet with pig’s heart and nettles; a fruit and nut salami; an apple and blood sausage; and an insect paté sealed within a soft wax skin (the insects were sourced from Thailand, Niebling says, explaining that European insects taste too “dusty”), to name just a few. Each sausage features in the book in the form of an explanatory text, an illustrated cross-section, a still-life photograph, and, in the Sausage Matrix at the back of the book, a pie-chart recipe. Niebling has a knack for finding appealing ways of presenting things that are intuitively unappealing. Ground-down grasshoppers, chopped-up belly fat, and the very concept of animal guts stuffed with animal viscera are all rendered in such a friendly, neat and stylised manner that they not only feel inoffensive, but actually seem rather chic. Although Niebling likens herself to a food developer, she is not particularly interested in having her future sausages taken on by a food company. She prefers, instead, to think of her research as a catalyst: “The future sausage is a metaphor for the possibilities that lie ahead,” she writes at the very end of her book. I can’t help but think, as we sip our coffees, that her apple boudin or liver and raspberry gel sausage would do rather well in the specialised, high-end market we’re sat in, but Niebling sees things differently. “The thing is, there are millions of options to think about if you applied the rules [set out in The Sausage of the Future]. The sausages that I made are only suggestions for butchers, who can then go and do things themselves in the way they want to with local, seasonal ingredients.” Niebling’s presentation of the project at Wanted Design Brooklyn was a case in point. “I worked with a butcher [Brent Young for The Meat Hook] in New York, and it almost made me emotional to see
Above: A heart collage by Emile Barret. Right: a heart and herb fuet, photographed by Jonas Marguet.
Right: a bangers collage by Emile Barret. Below: vegetarian bangers photographed by Jonas Marguet.
what he made of it,” she says. “I gave him the book and told him: ‘Do whatever! As long as it’s reducing meat in some way, go for it.’ And he made a smoked apple and pork skin sausage, and a heart and tongue sausage. They were both delicious. Even the fruit salami that he made was really good.” This is the sort of impact Niebling values the most: for her ideas to be taken up by specialists and artisans themselves. “That’s much more important than to have a sausage with my name on it,” she says. I have managed to catch Niebling at an unusually hectic time in her life. She is in the middle of her move to Zurich, and is also in the final stages of preparing for her wedding. When we meet at the market, she has recently returned from Hyères, where she sat on the jury for this year’s Grand Prix and also presented the first fruits of a new project centred around seaweed, developed as part of the two residencies the Grand Prix winner undertakes as part of their prize: one for the historic French porcelain manufacturer Sèvres, and another for the glass-making centre CIRVA in Marseilles. These residencies were a challenge for a designer who prefers to delve deeply into the material properties of her subject before thinking about aesthetic applications. “I had to do a vase [for CIRVA], so I thought, ‘Water plant vase!’” says Niebling. “And for Sèvres, they asked me to do something decorative, like tiles. But I was a bit stubborn and made them a plate. I thought, OK, decorative – why don’t I look at the aesthetics of seaweed, because it’s so beautiful.” The resultant CIRVA vases are jar-like, with subtly coloured gradients – blue, ochre, mint green – at their bases and narrowing brims, the shape of each adapted for a specific type of aquatic plant, ranging from waterlilies, which need tall vases, to micro-plants such as fanwort and duckweed, for which smaller vessels suffice. The Sèvres plates also drew on the material properties of aquatic plants by moulding rehydrated supermarket-bought seaweed to form textured patterns on top of each plate. “I thought it was a bit funny, because the seaweed is plated on the plate,” says Niebling. “But I was also surprised at the beauty of it. Sèvres porcelain is super precise and loyal to the seaweed’s shape. You see all the bubbles and every type of wrinkle. Dulse seaweed, for instance, has tiny little leaves that are about 2mm, and you can actually see them [on the plate].” The process of designing the objects for CIRVA and Sèvres clearly yielded interesting insights into the characteristics and properties of different types of aquatic plants. However, there is one particular aspect of seaweed that Niebling is looking to focus on when continuing her development of the project. “The branches of seaweed can grow in any direction, and because of the waves they need a thickening agent: their cells contain a little gel to prevent them from tearing. None of our air plants have these properties,” she explains. This is something Niebling discovered while working on The Sausage of the Future: sausages need a binding agent such as starch, blood, eggs or gelatin to stay compact, and seaweed could potentially be processed into a sustainable glue substitute. I ask Niebling what format her seaweed project will eventually take, and she laughs. “Well, my boyfriend begged me not to do a book again. It’s really, really
“I should’ve made a sausage with my own blood and cured it with my sweat.”
time-consuming,” she says. “But I love books. I think they are this moment in time. Probably in five years it will be a bit useless,” she says, gesturing to the copy of The Sausage of the Future she’s brought with her. “There will be new developments. But still, I think it paints a good picture of the moment.” We get the bill, which amounts to a sum that is to be expected from one of the world’s most expensive cities. It reminds me to ask Niebling why, as a young designer, she has decided to settle in Switzerland. “I don’t mean to be crass,” I venture, “but some would say it’s a surprising decision to base yourself here.” She laughs. “I know. And for food, it’s not a great location either, because I think Switzerland has one of the poorest food histories that I can imagine,” she says. “I mean, we’re surrounded by Spain, Italy and France.” But there are redeeming factors. “There are loads of science and research funds and resources here,” Niebling explains, “and as I also teach on the side, that’s really good.” A final factor concerns something less tangible. “It’s not easy to be a designer in Switzerland, but I think me and what Swiss people are expecting are aligned.” I must look bewildered. “Much more than in Holland, where I’m from,” she explains. “The Sausage of the Future was well-received everywhere in Europe, except Holland. They think it’s too normal. It’s like, I should’ve made a sausage with my own blood and cured it with my sweat.” We both chuckle. “Something provocative, always.” Niebling is a pragmatist, not a provocateur – this much has become evident during my afternoon with her. She’d rather tweak an existing industry than attempt to overthrow it; she’d rather suggest a solution for immediate implementation than adopt shock tactics. Niebling’s pragmatism has an optimistic edge to it. I ask her what she thinks we’ll look back at in 50 years’ time – provided we’re still here – and find most shocking about the food industry in 2018. “Meat,” she says immediately. “I think we’ll look back at some point, maybe when we’ve found a way to make protein more concentrated in plants, and look at the way we consumed meat, and think … God.” She doesn’t believe that meat will have disappeared completely from our diets in 2068, however. “The idea of going to the supermarket, buying a piece of raw meat, throwing it in the pan, and for that to be part of our three-component meal – I think that will go,” she says. “Maybe beef jerky and those types of things might stay.” We make our way out of the market, and Niebling picks up the thread of our conversation. “I’m so curious,” she says. “I hope I’m there to witness these things. And I fear it too, obviously. But I would love to see the world in 50 years.” E N D
“The sausage is, in its very essence, a good object, because it came out of eﬃcient butchery and preservation.”
Above: a mortadella collage by Emile Barret. Right: insect patĂŠ, photographed by Jonas Marguet.
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Burberry is Burning Words Kay Sunden Illustration Leonhard Rothmoser
In July, a shareholders’ report revealed that the British luxury brand Burberry has been burning $100m-worth of its own stock over the past five years. Why? To protect its brand, Burberry claims. Burberry is no stranger to brand dilution. (Brand dilution, by the way, is the polite term that companies use to say they resent the people who are wearing their stuff or appropriating it with knock-offs.) Fifteen to twenty years ago, at the beginning of Christopher Bailey’s storied stint with the luxury brand, Burberry’s distinctive beige tartan was associated not with exclusivity, but with British football hooligans. Owen Jones’s 2011 book Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class featured the image of a single checkered Burberry cap on both its hard- and paperback editions: in 2011, it still resonated in the popular imagination as a potent emblem of the British upper classes’ resentment of working-class people. Burberry took measures in the mid-2000s to stop the overexposure of its beige tartan: it discontinued the cap, for instance, and brought the percentage of goods featuring the pattern down from around twenty to just five. Much more recently, it commissioned the designer Peter Saville to redesign its logo. Saville’s new design, which was revealed in August (no doubt timed to steer the conversation away from handbag bonfires and onto the safer territory of serifs) features a new monogram pattern (with interlacing Ts and Bs for Thomas Burberry, the firm’s 19th-century founder) and the brand’s name in unfussy sans-serif lettering. Not a check in sight. Meanwhile, the amounts of perfectly good stock that Burberry has been burning have risen over recent years, with £26.9m-worth of clothes, accessories and cosmetics incinerated in 2017 compared to “only” £18.8m in 2016. (Beyond the sheer excess of the whole thing, one wonders how a FTSE 100 company can repeatedly get its projections so wrong?) Burberry’s burning may have helped keep excess stock out of the grey market, but this comes with a fresh PR disaster. Despite excess stock incineration being common across the fashion industry, from H&M to Cartier, “Burnberry” has now become synonymous with it.
Air on Tap Words Paula Wik Illustration Leonhard Rothmoser
“If you don’t have high-speed, fast, easy-access internet for free, then it’s over,” said hotelier John O’Shea to The Guardian earlier this year. “The indoor air quality is going to be like that too – if you can’t guarantee your customers much better air quality than the competitors, it’s going to be a fait accompli. It’s already getting that kind of importance.” O’Shea is the managing director of the Cordis Hongqiao hotel in Shanghai, which boasts an indoor air quality around 10 times better than that outside of its doors. Although a quick scan of the hotel’s TripAdvisor reviews show no proof of guests’ interest in this amenity – they seem more concerned with the softness of the kingsize beds – O’Shea believes that the hotel’s air quality will eventually allow the branch to increase its room prices by 10 per cent. It’s not an unfounded prediction. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), air pollution causes one in nine deaths worldwide, with 91 per cent of the global population living in places where air quality falls below the WHO’s guidelines. In response to this, objects and services have begun to crop up to capitalise on this fear of impending doom. Sales of air purifiers in China are rising, with 7.5m expected to be sold by the end of the year, boosting a market allegedly worth nearly 16.5bn renminbi (about £1.88bn). A more unsettling example is bottled air. Vitality Air, the company that seems to have originated the fad, modelled its business plan on bottled water. “The truth is we have begun to appreciate the clean, pure and refreshing taste of quality water[…] Air is going the same direction,” the Canadian company states on its website. This commodification of clean air is undoubtedly frightful, but its comparison to water is telling. Many nations take clean and hot water for granted, for which water bills cover the cost of purification and delivery. Now, imagine that concept applied to air – a future in which we pay state taxes or corporate fees in order to receive clean air. Vitality Air certainly seems to favour the latter of these two options. It is presently targeting its “air products” – canisters filled with 160 breaths-worth of “fresh air” – to Asia’s most polluted cities. Charming.
Sibast Furniture at Aram during London Design Festival
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Victor Papanek The Politics of Design 29.09.2018 â€“ 10.03.2019
An exhibition by the Vitra Design Museum and the Barcelona Design Museum in collaboration with the Victor J. Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna
#vitradesignmuseum #VDMPapanek Charles-Eames-Str. 2 79576 Weil am Rhein Germany www.design-museum.de
The German Federal Cultural Foundation
Vitra Design Museum
A Quick Kick? “DOGME95 is a rescue action!”
Introduction Oli Stratford Roundtable
(smartphone highly recommended); 6) Don’t do any PR and media outreach (unless you get contacted); 7) Don’t run any paid ads on social media; 8) No stretch goals; 9) Include “Quickstarter” in your campaign name. Quickstarter, in its simplest form, is a reaction and partial course correction to developments on its host platform. Kickstarter was founded in 2009 by the entrepreneurs Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler and Charles Adler, and over the course of its existence has raised close to US$4bn for projects. In 2015, the company was reincorporated as a benefit corporation – a form of for-profit that includes positive social impact alongside profit among its legally defined goals – yet the platform has also experienced an increasing professionalisation of use that arguably seems to steer against this. Whereas once the platform was principally the province of independent, DIY projects that provided individuals with a means to bypass industry and traditional routes to market – as well as, crucially, providing a direct link to users – Kickstarter has increasingly played host to professional PR campaigns that are unabashed in their commercialism, launched by brands with considerable resources at their disposal. Quickstarter, Lhermitte argues, is a means of restoring something of Kickstarter’s original emphasis. To explore the launch of Quickstarter, Disegno invited a series of designers and curators to discuss the opportunities and pitfalls that crowdfunding presents to designers. Joining Lhermitte in conversation were Heather Corcoran, Kickstarter’s outreach officer for UK and Europe; Peter Marigold, a designer who has launched projects on both Quickstarter and Kickstarter, and who has incorporated the platform into his teaching at London’s Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design; Daniel Charny, the creative director of cultural consultancy From Now On and a professor of design at Kingston School of Art; Matt Johnson of printed electronics company Bare Conductive, which launched projects on Kickstarter in 2013 and 2017; Boaz Cohen of design studio BCXSY, whose work has twice been picked up by the Hong Kong-based brand Huzi and launched on the platform; and recent design graduates Ray Gonzalez Brown, Ella Merriman and Audrey Julien, all of whom launched their first postgraduate work on either Kickstarter or Quickstarter.
In 1995, the Danish film directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg swore 10 vows of chastity. At a conference devoted to the future of cinema, hosted at the Odéon Theatre in Paris, von Trier showered the audience with hundreds of pamphlets that outlined 10 filmmaking rules the pair had developed with the intention of doing away with “superficial action and the superficial movie”, putting an end to an era of “decadent film-making”. “Temporal and geographical alienation are forbidden” – rule 7. “The camera must be hand-held” – rule 3. “Genre movies are not acceptable” – rule 8. Dogme conceived of itself as stripping away the artificiality and superficial bombast of filmmaking, dragging the discipline back to its perceived founding tenets of story, acting and theme. “My supreme goal is to force the truth out of my characters and settings,” intoned the closing lines of the vows. “I swear to do so by all the means available and at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations. Thus I make my VOW OF CHASTITY.” In June, a series of 14 new projects went live on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter, all of which appeared under the banner “Quickstarter”, a new initiative launched by the service in conjunction with the designer Oscar Lhermitte. “Dogme95 was definitely a reference,” says Lhermitte, who has been heavily involved with Kickstarter since 2012. Over the past six years, Lhermitte has launched four products using the service, as well as supporting around 50 more through Sidekick Creatives, a consultancy that helps designers use crowdfunding to realise projects. In addition to these commercial outlets, Lhermitte has also employed Kickstarter as a teaching aid during his tenure as a tutor on the Design Products MA at London’s Royal College of Art between 2015 and 2017. Now, Lhermitte has set about redesigning the use of the platform itself. Quickstarter is a platform intended to encourage small, spontaneous projects on Kickstarter, free from the complexities, costs and time investment required by the wider platform. Like Dogme95, the platform is governed by a manifesto, set out in nine rules: 1) The development process – from sketching an idea to launching it on Kickstarter – should take no more than three months; 2) Keep the campaign under 20 days; 3) The funding goal should be below $1,000 (or thereabouts in your local currency); 4) The main reward should be under $50; 5) The video should be shot over one day with whatever camera you have
Images courtesy of Matteo Fogale and Joscha Brose, Jean Jullien, and Max Frommeld and Arno Mathies.
Accompanying this article are a series of images showing design projects that have launched on Kickstarter or Quickstarter.
72 Images courtesy of Studio Swine and Team Lasso.
Oscar Lhermitte I’ve been very involved with Kickstarter since 2012 and it’s completely changed over that time. It was originally very independent – anyone could make a project, ask for money and people would respond to that. Today, there is still a community, but very large companies, start-ups, investors and similar bodies have now also become involved. A lot of companies are launching products not to raise money – which they don’t need – but as marketing and PR exercises. That’s a fair usage, and I don’t think there is any way you could or should control that, but it means that everyone is now being bombarded by PR information from companies who are not doing very interesting things. I see a lot of Kickstarter campaigns with very polished videos, but they’re missing a bit of edge, a bit of roughness. I wanted something that felt
like it gave me the freedom to make a less highend product, and a product that was more linked to experimentation. I wanted to make cheap, fun, dirty campaigns on Kickstarter. Heather Corcoran When Oscar came to us with that proposition, it rang true. One of the things I often get asked is whether Kickstarter has changed over the years and while the mechanism hasn’t altered very much, the internet around it has shifted a lot. Back in the day, things would go viral randomly and there was less competition online. Now, the internet has essentially been professionalised. Things are on lockdown and social media has turned into a pay-for-play arena where you have to pay for advertisements, so it’s harder to gain traction. We’ve all been watching that professionalisation happen over time and it’s been difficult. We wanted to encourage small projects and help designers feel OK about launching quick experiments. Matt Johnson You sometimes hear design students, for instance, say they don’t have enough money to launch a Kickstarter. That’s an impostor syndrome – what they’re really saying is that they’re afraid their idea isn’t good enough, or that they feel they need to do something of a higher quality. But for me, the excitement of Kickstarter is that it’s you – it’s you who can do something high-end and you can do something fast. When Kickstarter launched, people would come out with a really crappy video: “Hello, this is me, I have an idea.” There was no impostor syndrome at all. So, the question is whether the presence of people on Kickstarter doing things other than launching small, spontaneous projects is dangerous or injurious to the platform, or whether it’s beneficial to have more people participating. Can you misuse Kickstarter? Is there a wrong way to use it? Heather When it was originally conceived, Kickstarter was about removing barriers and gatekeepers, whether they be venture capital funders or grant funders or whoever it is who gets to decide how things are made. This idea of coming onto Kickstarter and asking a network – whether yours or the internet at large – to weigh in and have a choice in how products are made is still powerful, but there is a sense in which designers see these amazing projects that are super professional and have done super well, and feel intimidated. What Quickstarter is good at is giving designers permission to go back to the way that it was and that it could still be – release something online and say it’s an experiment.
opportunity for a recently graduated designer to try and get a product out there. I have never known Kickstarter as this more playful, low-key kind of platform that has since been exploited or gone down a commercial route. When I graduated in 2016, I purely identified it as the most accessible and promising opportunity available to me and that’s how I still understand it. If I’d discovered Kickstarter later in my career when I had other stuff on the go, perhaps I would have wanted to protect it as a pure haven of designing for the sake of designing. But it is really good for the commercial stuff – that’s the main purpose I consider it as having in my practice today. Ella Merriman My experience is slightly different because I just saw it as an opportunity to see whether anyone actually liked my stuff other than my mum. I’ve never had to move my design outside of my tiny Instagram bubble of friends, so this was a test as to whether it was realistic to start a studio on my own and the systems you need to go through to achieve that. It was such a valuable experience because of that learning curve. Kickstarter presents itself as such a friendly atmosphere in that you feel as though most people on it are interested in design and care about you as a person. Whether they actually do or not kind of doesn’t matter because it feels like a positive experience and that’s important when you start out. You feel as if you can make mistakes and people seem to be quite open to that. For someone who’s never done anything like that before, even just calling up factories and saying, “I want you to cost this up – I might need 10 or I might need 200,” is intimidating. Audrey Julien I had heard that Kickstarter was stressful and time-consuming, and I didn’t know if it was worth it to kickstart a simple project like the lazy postcard, which is just a set of postcards with shapes cut out so you don’t have to write as much. It wouldn’t have been expensive to print a first batch, so I wondered if it was worth creating a campaign just to get some money that I could probably borrow from my family anyway. But I was convinced that Kickstarter could be a good opportunity to reach people other than just friends and family, so something like Quickstarter seemed perfect. If people got interested and bought the postcards, then it was a good way to know if it should go further. Ray Kickstarter was the first means by which I tried to do something with my career and it’s intimidating to do anything where you’re making contact with the real world for the first time. But I found the experience
Daniel Charny I studied industrial design in the early 1990s. At that time, there were four options you could take after graduating: you could go and work for an agency; you could set up your own consultancy; you could become a designer, but then you’d have to be discovered; or you could become a product manufacturer. Those were the options, whereas crowdfunding opens up something much more fluid in that you don’t have to decide what you are. Peter Marigold I’ve encouraged a number of former students to use Kickstarter. When you’ve secured funding, you can choose which position to adopt or which route to go down. Are you going to go to a manufacturer and ask them to take on your idea, are you going to ask them to buy it from you, or are you going to do everything yourself? The path really opens up. Daniel But if Quickstarter has come in and said, “Wait a second, red flag, something is going wrong with the platform,” then the risk is that it’s the mindset behind Kickstarter that is being co-opted or hijacked. It’s a battle between a platform being open, free and providing access for all, versus an appropriation of the platform for a more traditional business model. The real problem is the proliferation of point-of-sale culture. In education, you see kids going into design and technology. They’re not taught to design something to change someone’s life or to improve their quality of life, but rather it’s all entirely point of sale. Kickstarter has that dilemma to deal with because it’s so focused on things and not what they do in the world or who they’re for. That may be an inherent problem within the platform. Matt I think there is now a mindset that presupposes that you would use Kickstarter to launch an ongoing product. Not that I disagree with that, but it’s perhaps a result of the co-option of the platform Daniel’s talking about. In the beginning, Kickstarter was, “Hey, I want to do this thing, it’s limited-time only and I want to make a bunch of them, before doing something else.” When I think about Kickstarter now, I wonder if I make something and a lot of people like it, do I then have to start looking for distributors? Actually, what I should be saying is, “I’m going to make 200 of them. It’ll be fun and then that’s it.” The idea that everything becomes a business is definitely not where Kickstarter started. Ray Gonzalez Brown Well, I’m afraid to say this to Kickstarter purists, but the first and only thing I understood Kickstarter as being was the best
Images courtesy of Bare Conductive, Massoud Hassani and Granby Workshop.
Images courtesy of Ella Merriman, Ray Gonzalez Brown, Ilona Gaynor, Bare Conductive, and Peter Marigold.
Images courtesy of Oscar Lhermitte, BCXSY, and Ray Gonzalez Brown.
empowering and it enabled me to do a lot more and a lot quicker than I would have been able to had I gone down the traditional route of trying to get manufacturers to like my ideas and put them into production. I had all this in mind when I heard about Oscar’s Quickstarter idea and I recognised that this new format could be treated like a little academic exercise – it’s almost like a brief you might do quickly as a student, just for the sake of problem-solving. It’s the best way to come up with something and get it out there – it kind of works both as a way to stimulate the brain and also as a way of making something. Oscar I totally agree with you. The main thing about Kickstarter for a designer is that it’s the best way to make money and launch a product. But what is happening with the platform is that a lot of crap is coming to the forefront. Quickstarter is essentially trying to remove all the pressures from a normal Kickstarter. In the manifesto we specified that there couldn’t be any PR, marketing or Facebook ads attached to a campaign – all the stuff that costs money. It’s almost trying to go back to basics and just do a pure Kickstarter and remove all of the greediness like stretch goals – which is when, say, you reach your goal of £2,000 and then set a stretch goal that if you reach £10,000 everyone gets a free sticker or something. Matt I feel that Kickstarter’s like a neighbourhood experiencing a lot of change. It’s a neighbourhood that was full of creative people, which was quite a cool, nice, interesting place to be, and now people are starting to move in who care more about getting a coffee quickly than getting a good coffee – they’re less willing to deal with the eccentricities. That’s where conflict happens. I back a lot of campaigns and so don’t care if the stuff is late – it’s part of it and it doesn’t really bug me unless people are being untruthful. But I always read the comments and see that my expectations are not in line with everyone else’s. I think Kickstarter’s trying really hard not to turn into a shop, but the audience is trying really hard to turn it into a shop. That can’t last forever. Oscar Let’s face it: for most people it’s a shop. We’re all buying something that we expect to get in a few months. So, whenever there is a product that raises hundreds of thousands of pounds, but experiences a problem with manufacturing, everyone gets super upset and wants their money back. Heather Of course Kickstarter is a place where you can raise funds, but a couple of other things are really
important. One is building a community around not only a product, but also your studio for the long term. If you’re someone who wants to continue to have an independent practice, using crowdfunding as a way to build a community is important. The second is the ability to circulate your stories alongside your objects. If you have a product and the story of how it’s made is important or the context around it is important, then Kickstarter is useful because it’s a video-based platform – it’s a way for audiences to connect beyond the object itself in a way that’s more difficult at the retail stage. When I’m advising startups and designers, I’m always saying that authenticity and transparency are so important – don’t treat it like an advertisement. The opportunity is there to have a deeper connection to the people backing the thing and who will buy into you and your creative vision. If you treat it like a store, you’re putting yourself at risk because if you do then experience delays, people will get upset as they had a different impression. You’re communicating something different from what the actual case is, which is that you’re really only putting forward an idea. Daniel Something that has become much stronger in design education and design is the pitch, and Kickstarter is a form of pitch. It’s always been part of the design process that you pitch and then you prototype, but what’s great with crowdfunding is that you pitch directly to users and so you’re also building a market or a user group. As Kickstarter matured, people understood a bit more that it’s not only about getting money, but is really about gathering information about who your product is for, whether they want it, what you can do to change it, and so forth. Creating a market ahead of launching has changed the nature of the pitch. Who you address the pitch to has changed and that’s causing a big shift in how designers are designing because they are now designing for the user and not the producer. Crowdfunding has influenced these kinds of shifts between the designer, the user and the maker. Boaz Cohen I’ve never launched anything directly on the platform, although my studio did do two projects for a Hong Kong-based brand that launched them on Kickstarter. When they initially suggested using the platform, we weren’t into it at all. We felt that if a brand was really convinced about what we were doing, they should be able to fund it themselves. Once we did the campaign, however, our opinion changed 180 degrees. Of course, it was nice the project was funded, but it was
be prodcued at greater scale. The original handmade version has got attention in a kind of niche, art-gallery way, which is of course nice, but it isn’t going to progress as far as a product. Peter Ray’s cardboard project is inextricably linked to him. So, once it goes into production and appears in shops, that umbilical cord is going to be cut – the designer is not going to be there and the story is not going to be there. Matt This is the e-commerce-to-retail gap. You try to sell on e-commerce and you have tonnes of context, and then you put it in a retail store and people are like, “What is this thing? This is weird.” Daniel But one of the things that any user research will tell you is that you should start with the people around you. Because of digitalisation, however, you can now spread your message so fast and far. As a result of that, there is a kind of fatigue with very early ideas that have not been filtered out because they don’t have the knowledge of industry to act as a filter any more. When you’re designing for manufacture, your Kickstarter is never going to raise the amount of money that you actually need, for instance. As a designer, you need to understand that, but sometimes people don’t. Their target is actually about a third of the finance they’re really going to need to get to manufacturing. What this does is bring crowdfunding back to pre-manufacturing: develop the ideas, the ethos and the mindset to correct something. Oscar One of the reasons I started Quickstarter is that I self-initiate a lot of products, and get bored to death when I’m stuck on the same one because it then becomes all about sales, and I’m not a salesman. It’s extremely boring, so my question with Quickstarter is whether I can actually live from Quickstarter campaigns? Essentially, can I do a campaign and quickly raise money, before going on and launching another one? I’m not selling things at a price where I could make margins if I sold into a shop, but I could maybe live from it because with Quickstarter your investment is so minor. Daniel Fulfilment is the elephant in the room that no one talks about. Heather Fulfilment is such a big part of running a Kickstarter campaign. Making the campaign and launching a project is really the first step and then you have to deliver the rewards. It is a commitment. There was a study done that showed that 9 per cent of projects that launch on Kickstarter fail to deliver
much more interesting in terms of giving us the chance to interact or hear real-time feedback from people. Peter That’s definitely true. I’ve been thinking about the next campaign I want to run and even before the Quickstarter phase it should feel like flicking through a sketchbook and saying to an audience, “How about this idea? Or this one? Or this one?” There is absolutely no pressure on you at all, because it should be a tool that lets you discover whether you have a good idea that should be pursued. Daniel I think crowdfunding is now being used much more in relation to industry. One of the problems with the whole approach of using crowdfunding as a way of leapfrogging the wait to be discovered by industry is that it comes with a heavy price: you miss out on all the knowledge present within industry. For a few years in design there has been an antagonism towards industry – a desire to do things without it – but then who do you talk to about what you’re doing? The maturity that is beginning to occur within crowdsourcing is that it’s not seen as being instead of industry, but rather as something that we need to be able to do as well as industry. Boaz When you design or bring something to the market, there is so much more than just having an image, idea or model. Realising it properly and keeping to your terms is extremely important. It can be a great lesson in responsibility to the designer and helping them really realise that complexity. It’s interesting for us as a design studio, however, because a few years ago we stepped aside from self-production, so now work almost exclusively with brands or other makers. Crowdfunding could therefore allow us to avoid having a producer or manufacturer who we have to listen to too much. If we make compromises, it should be our choice to do so. As a platform could offer much more control to a designer who wants to take control and do their own thing. Ray What I learnt with my Cardboard Ceramics project [ceramics formed using moulds made from coffee-cup sleeves] was how laborious it is to make that amount of product on my own, because it’s not very productionfriendly – each mould has to be made individually and then the ceramics firing process is also laborious. I got lots of feedback that the whole nature of the production really spoke to people, but I just don’t want to make them myself anymore because it’s not fun after the first 100. So, I’ve started talking to factories in Stokeon-Trent about making a slip-cast version that could
Images courtesy of Audrey Julien and Studio Swine.
on their rewards. Actually, that’s a stat we’re relatively comfortable with because we want everyone who backs a Kickstarter project to see that it’s not a store. Innovation requires risk and there is risk in backing a project. It’s not for sure – you’re backing an idea and a vision. Matt Students should be encouraged to do Kickstarters as part of the learning process, but design school only equips you to make an amazing prototype, a super cool video and great visual copy. It basically lets you load the gun, but it doesn’t teach you how to deal with the consequences of firing that gun, especially if your campaign is a success. I’ve backed so many campaigns where the person has had a minor breakdown because they’ve made a tonne of money and then don’t know what to do. So, Kickstarter is a good way to learn, but there could be a better discussion about what happens if you raise £100,000 and you then have to ship that many products. Ella On our course at university we really didn’t do anything that was particularly business-orientated. So Quickstarter was the biggest thing I had done and I learnt more about the business side of design doing it than I did in three years of university. Our university taught us how to go to a client wanting a dining table, make it for them and how you might then cost it, for instance, but I don’t have a clue what VAT is – it baffles me. For that reason, Quickstarter was amazing. Audrey It’s a professional context. You have to not only think about your idea, but also how you can share it and how you’re going to talk to people about it outside of your teachers and fellow students. It’s good to have these professional, first steps and Quickstarter is
particularly exciting because its campaigns only run for 20 days – it could be a single workshop. I think the lesson of Quickstarter is that these platforms are here and you can adapt them to your own ends. Daniel The heart of our conversation here has to do with the culture of the platform – how the culture has changed or shifted, or how the culture of Kickstarter once had this wacky aspect where you could try things out, in way that could be suited to education because it’s a horizontal platform. Kickstarter at Cass will be different from Kickstarter at the RCA or Kickstarter in Plymouth, but there is a shared experience – you have something to connect people and places that is transferrable and repeatable. In a way, the launch of Quickstarter is saying that that form of connection and experimentation was once an important element to Kickstarter, but has now been lost. Maybe this is a way of lighting it up again – like a fire-starter. E N D
Searching for Hambantota Words Lemma Shehadi Photographs Reza Akram
The oldest known shipwreck in the Indian Ocean lies km oﬀshore from the ancient harbour of Godawaya in Sri Lanka’s southern district of Hambantota. Excavations of the shipwreck in by nautical archaeologists dated it between BCE- CE and supplied new evidence on the cultural exchange between the Roman and Indic worlds. The area’s position at the conﬂuence of two monsoon systems, and the obstacle presented by coral reefs further east, made it a rough journey for merchants. 82
The old Hambantota harbour and fisheries, which house a settlement of Malay-descended people.
Echoes of a Faustian bargain ring strongly at Hambantota, amid the silence of the portâ€™s lack of activity.
A fisherman in Hambantotaâ€™s old harbour.
These same monsoon winds, however, also facilitated navigation along the island’s coastal ports. “In maps of the classical era only a minor part of China was known and they had not yet ventured into America,” says Osmund Bopearachchi, a Berkeley professor who co-led the excavation. “This placed Sri Lanka at the centre of the world, in the heart of the Indian Ocean.” Ports are the historic gateways into the island. They opened it up to trade, and made it vulnerable to conquest. As Sri Lanka develops its port sector, new debates about the island’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean have surfaced. Today, Godawaya is an unassuming fishing hamlet, where thick jungle directly meets the sea. Seven kilometres east of the ancient harbour, however, lies a different beast. The Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port is a maritime centre in Hambantota, the neighbouring town. The port, called Hambantota for short, was built in 2010 as the country’s second largest. To complete the project, Sri Lanka took $1.4bn in investment from the Chinese government’s Export-Import Bank, responsible for financing trade and development projects, and also subcontracted the state-owned China Harbour Engineering Company. Though it is located only 12 nautical miles off the main trade routes on the Asia to Europe run, ships seldom stop in Hambantota. Between 2010 and 2017, the port incurred losses of 44bn Sri Lankan rupees ($274.74m) according to the country’s Ministry of Ports and Shipping. Hambantota’s commercial inactivity and running costs prompted the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) to seek a debt-for-equity deal with China in 2016, which gave China Merchants Port Holdings Company a 99-year lease on the facility from December 2017. The port raised questions about the implications of Chinese investment on Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. It has now become symbolic of wider, global criticism directed at the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s large-scale trade infrastructure development strategy. I arrived in Sri Lanka in the immediate aftermath of a controversial New York Times investigation about the port at Hambantota and its funding model (‘How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough Up a Port’, 25 June 2018). The article has ruffled feathers, and stoked an ongoing dispute in which Sri Lankan governments past and present sling mutual accusations of corruption and over-reliance on Chinese investments at one another. The New York Times piece revealed,
among other things, that China Harbour had supported long-time former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s electoral campaign in 2015 with a donation of $7.6m – a claim that Rajapaksa has firmly denied. In spite of multiple requests, I was unable to get a permit to visit the port as a journalist. I set off, instead, on a week-long journey around the island nation to try to understand the geopolitical stakes of Hambantota: how does a country plan its infrastructure for international maritime trade as the world order shifts? Maritime trade along the Indian Ocean forms part of the foundational legends of Sri Lanka, as well as its contemporary vernacular. At a dusty junction on the outskirts of Colombo, the nation’s commercial capital and largest city, a modern shrine modelled on a ship with a banyan tree growing at its centre symbolises the arrival of Buddhism into Sri Lanka, as chronicled in the nation’s Dipavamsa historical record. “The spread of Buddhism from South Asia to South East Asia is closely connected to the growth of maritime and fluvial networks,” says Bopearachchi, whom I meet in one of Colombo’s newly built high-rise hotels. “Buddhist iconography helps to examine the dynamics of trade and the geographical and political orientation of routes. The bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara was depicted as the protector of mariners.” Recent archaeological discoveries, including the shipwreck at Godawaya harbour, further emphasise the importance of ancient inland and maritime trade to the ancient Kingdom of Ruhuna, in Sri Lanka’s southern province. “Buddhist temples along the inland and coastal trade routes developed as a result of donations from wealthy merchants,” says Bopearachchi. “I don’t think that monarchs had so much authority.” A Brahmi rock inscription at Godawaya, dating back to the 2nd century CE, states that a custom duty for ships passing through the harbour, collected in the name of the king, will be donated to the temple. Godawaya sits at the mouth of the Walawe Ganga river, where goods delivered to the port would have been transported upstream, and vice versa. Yet this same historical precedent of the ancient maritime silk roads is now being used to promote China’s Belt and Road Initiative. “Our ancestors, navigating rough seas, created sea routes linking the East with the West, namely, the maritime Silk Road,” announced China’s
president Xi Jinping in his inaugural speech about the Belt and Road initiative in 2013. “The Chinese didn’t build ships until the eighth century,” says Bopearachchi, with a hint of irritation. Maritime trade on the Indian Ocean was instead driven by Persian, Arabian and Indian ships travelling from West to East. Today, however, the Belt and Road Initiative encompasses Hambantota. Announced by the Chinese government in 2013 as “One Belt, One Road”, the initiative aims to increase trade networks along the Eurasian continent and several maritime routes, including the Indian Ocean. The strategy has been described as the biggest infrastructure development project since the US’s post-Second World War Marshall Plan, signalling China’s rise as the most active player on the world stage. Countries along the initiative’s routes – most of them emerging economies, many of them politically fragile – have two options: they can opt in to the vision of a new
government and the separatist Tamil Tigers in 2009. It was part of a wider masterplan to turn the town, which is based in Rajapaksa’s home district and constituency, into the country’s commercial capital. The new developments under that plan also include the Mattala airport, whose only commercial flight ended in April this year; a cricket ground to support Hambantota’s application to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which ended up taking place in Australia; a hospital that is still under construction; a luxury hotel; and a conference centre that has never been used. By contrast, the lively fisheries in the old harbour are run by a settlement of Malays, a Muslim coastal trading community whose arrival in Sri Lanka dates back at least to the 13th century. For the global critics of China’s expansion, the port is symbolic of the terms under which China delivers modernity. Rajapaksa’s relationship with China grew in the final years of the civil war. China supported the government both militarily and at the UN, when mounting evidence of war crimes isolated Sri Lanka from the international community. When the war ended in 2009, China supplied the Rajapaksa government with loans at high interest rates to develop the country’s infrastructure. As it has done in other countries, Chinese construction companies built the projects with a Chinese workforce, preventing wages from trickling back into the Sri Lankan domestic economy. “They want us to open the doors for our capital, but they shut the gates for our labour,” says T. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan, senior lecturer of economics at the University of Colombo, who I meet on campus. “Countries can trade with each other when they’re of equal power and equal dignity. China’s relationship with Sri Lanka is like the marriage between an elephant and an ant.” During the lease negotiations, a petition filed to the Supreme Court objected to the absence of an open competitive bidding process. The final terms gave China Merchants Port an 80 per cent stake in Hambantota, at a lease price of $1.2bn. Sri Lanka is a highly indebted nation, and the International Monetary Fund estimates that 77 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product will go towards servicing its debt this year. Regular protests against the lease of the Hambantota Port and its land to China Merchants Port for construction of a mooted special economic zone are being led by Buddhist
How does a country plan its infrastructure for international maritime trade as the world order shifts dramatically? globalised world spearheaded by China, or risk remaining on the periphery as global power shifts from West to East. Echoes of a Faustian bargain ring strongly at Hambantota, amid the silence of the port’s lack of activity. Hambantota currently has only two cranes, and only 187 of the estimated 60,000 ships crossing the main shipping line stopped at Hambantota in 2017. Due to its arid climate and strong winds, ancient rice and salt cultivations, as well as a wind farm, make up the surrounding land. In the forests surrounding the harbour, homes have been abandoned. Herds of cows cross the slick but empty four-lane motorway that connects the town to the busy coastal road. The port’s development was led by Rajapaksa, who is credited by his followers for winning the 26-year civil war between the Sri Lankan 86
A school in the old town of Hambantota (above). Meanwhile, the A2 highway (right) connects Hambantota to Colombo via the coastline. At Hambantota, the highway has been split into two one-way roads to ease traffic.
Homes and shops in the centre of Hambantotaâ€™s old town.
monks, who have a strong political influence. The protests are being further supported by residents from Hambantota and neighbouring Ambalantota, who fear the loss of their private land and the creation of a “Chinese colony”. “Often the issues are due to the local government’s mismanagement of the project,” says Raffaello Pantucci, director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London, describing China’s foreign infrastructure projects in general terms. “A single piece of infrastructure without proper planning will not make contributions to the economy. When local anger turns to national anger, China becomes the scapegoat.” At the heart of the disagreement is how Sri Lanka should position itself within a shifting world order. Many Sri Lankans in government and among the general population view Chinese investment as a way of maintaining balance in a policy of non-alignment. It is a chance to recalibrate the country’s fraught and historic relationships with Western powers, as well as neighbouring India. “Our policy is to make Sri Lanka a hub of the Indian Ocean. We can accommodate One Belt and One Road and Make in India both,” said Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka’s current prime minister, in a recent statement in Beijing, citing India’s 2014 Make in India initiative to promote its manufacturing industries. “We’re a small country with good relations with two of the biggest economies in this part of the world: China and India,” says Romesh David, CEO of the South Asia Gateway Terminals, a terminal at the Port of Colombo. “A lot of South Asian countries fight with each other, but we have few enemies. We bring that Singaporean and Hong Kong-type equation to the table where it’s a great place for businesses to meet and for political ideologies to be set aside. But we can’t be a banana republic forever out of fear of upsetting anyone.” Yet there are also concerns that Hambantota places Sri Lanka at the heart of China and India’s rivalry. The lease of the port in 2017 spelled fears that China now held control of strategic territory near oceans dominated by India, and while the terms of the lease forbid the use of the port for military purposes, sceptics point to China’s previous deployment of a submarine at the Port of Colombo. Meanwhile, a lease of the loss-making Mattala airport in Hambantota is currently being discussed with India. Such concerns are aggravated by the
country’s history of colonialism. British colonial powers, who shifted major trade and naval activities from the Dutch-controlled port of Galle on the south-west coast to the Port of Colombo, were the first to develop the modern town of Hambantota, where they set up the Central Governor’s Office – known for having been the British author Leonard Woolf’s outpost for seven years. Next to the lighthouse and gallows, a Martello watchtower – the only one in South Asia – offers sweeping views of the land and sea. These simple cylindrical structures were designed to exercise total control of the land, the sea and the people.
“Countries can trade when they’re of equal power and dignity. China’s relationship with Sri Lanka is like the marriage between an elephant and an ant.” —T. Lalithasiri Gunaruwan A new masterplan for Hambantota, however, is yet to be announced since the lease. “We are in the final stages,” Wickremesinghe has said. “Given the strategic location, the initial plans are to tap the transhipment potential and develop the ship services to the ships that currently pass and bypass Hambantota.” Meanwhile, debates about the commercial possibilities for the Hambantota Port persist with no consensus. It is often accepted that Rajapaksa chose Hambantota in order to develop his own home constituency, but many disagree about the commercial prospects of the port’s location. “The location is perfect,” says Gunaruwan, who was involved in proposals to build the port in 1994. “It should have been built 10 years prior with public funds at a tenth of the cost, with an oil refinery. Today, you might have had another Singapore [which, in 2017, handled 33.7m containers].” Others disagree with this assessment, however, pointing to the lack of industries that could support
commercial activities at the port. “Hambantota has no hinterland with which to generate enough cargo to make a vessel call economical,” says Rohaan Abeywickrema, managing director of the freight forwarding company Sathsindu Group. There is also the challenge of developing the industries and services required to attract more vessels. “At present, Sri Lanka does not have anything that is outstanding in terms of service and repair facilities that would allow it to compete on the Asia-Europe run,” says Amal S. Kumarage, senior professor in the Department of Transport and Logistics Management at the University of Moratuwa. “It must create a business edge of a professionally driven and competitively priced logistics services, supported by value adding industries that will enable lower costs from increased scale of shipping volumes.” Regardless of the complexities, Sri Lanka certainly has plans to become a maritime hub in South Asia, where it would act as a centre for trading and port services. The SLPA, a government body, states that its aim is for the port sector to become a leading contributor to Sri Lanka’s economy, given the country’s strategic location in the middle of the Indian Ocean. According to the Indian Ocean Rim Association, an intergovernmental organisation of which Sri Lanka is a member state, half of the world’s container shipments, one third of its bulk cargo traffic, two thirds of oil shipments, and more than 50 per cent of the world’s maritime oil trade pass through the Indian Ocean. “The region represents a huge market with enormous potential of which most remains untapped,” reads one of its reports. As well as its proximity to the main Asia to Europe shipping route, Sri Lanka is located directly south of India, where its regional ports feed to Colombo. “India is a great engine and factory, and Sri Lanka benefits from the boom. It is cheaper and more efficient to redistribute from Colombo or Hambantota than it is to do this from any point in India itself,” says David. The success of the Port of Colombo, which today handles more than 350 vessels a month, leads Sri Lanka’s ambitions for its port sector. This container transhipment port has four terminals and was rated 13th for connectivity by the maritime services consultant Drewry, and the 25th best port in the world according to Alphaliner in 2017. Last year, the port handled 6.2m containers, while India’s total container throughput was 13.71m. Its growth
rate of 16.2 per cent for the first quarter of 2018 over the previous year was second only to Singapore, which grew by 16.5 per cent. As we meet in his office, David often glances back towards the window overlooking the busy terminal’s 12 cranes, 31 gantries and an estimated 16,000 stacked containers. “The view is a real privilege,” he says. “The Port of Colombo was Sri Lanka’s first publicprivate partnership in the shipping sector. It brought together a lot of global and local players and the government had a stake.” In the institutional structure for ports adopted in most places across the word, a publicly owned landlord port authority owns the land, maintains the infrastructure, regulates activity and provides navigational services. The port or terminals are then leased to private operators who invest in the superstructure and equipment and carry out cargo handling activities. “It helped put Colombo on the map and this success set a precedent for public-private partnerships in Sri Lanka’s ports sector,” says David. A new deepwater terminal, the Colombo International Container Terminals, was built between 2011 and 2013 under a 35-year build-operate-transfer agreement between China Merchants Port and the SLPA. China Merchants Port’s 85 per cent stake in the new terminal in Colombo is often cited by sceptics. While Colombo grows steadily, it still has a long way to compete with major global ports such as Singapore. Further services and facilities are required for Sri Lanka to develop its port sector. “Despite our clear geographical advantages for international transport, our economy is plagued by the fact that we don’t have energy. A niche that can combine the two is ports,” says Gunaruwan. Hambantota Port was devised to provide relief for the Port of Colombo and to also serve as a refuelling and services point for ships passing through the Indian Ocean. “Hambantota is the only multi-purpose port in Sri Lanka geared to handle dedicated facilities. It will play a critical role in the port sector,” says Tissa Wickramasinghe, Hambantota’s current chief business development officer for the joint-venture companies that were recently established by the SLPA and China Merchants Port. As a man-made harbour built into the land, Hambantota was modelled on Dubai’s Jebel Ali Port, with a 17m-deep access channel to accommodate very large and heavily loaded ships. The port’s three existing 90
The islandâ€™s strategic location on the Indian Ocean is at the heart of the debate.
The New Mosque at the entrance of Hambantotaâ€™s old town. The mosque was rebuilt following the 2004 tsunami.
terminals are dedicated to oil tankers and roll-on roll-off ships. In order to store petroleum products and petrochemicals and to supply fuel, a bunkering facility and tank farm are connected to the oil terminal through a pipeline. A container terminal and multipurpose terminal remain under construction. In addition, China’s presence in the developing world grew out of a frustration with Western institutions. “They were perceived as politicised and opaque in their decision-making. In contrast, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has been a lot more transparent,” says Pantucci. “China is less focused on local contexts, and often the ports are built at much greater speeds. Western institutions are slower and put a lot more conditions.” This raises concerns about China’s foreign policy as its becomes an active player in overseas development projects. “Often the countries have inter-ethnic tensions. The more China gets involved, the more these countries will start to look to Beijing for domestic solutions. Beijing will have to think carefully about how it wants to resolve these issues,” says Pantucci. “For all their mistakes, US and Western-backed institutions have been more supportive of democratic styles of governance and more open to dissent,” says Alan Keenan, project director for Sri Lanka at the International Crisis Group. “The civil war in Sri Lanka was resolved militarily, but many of the political issues and grievances remain to this day.” Infrastructure projects such as the port of Hambantota take time to complete and deliver, and the politics around them often cause delays. While the Belt and Road Initiative envisions a new age of global connectivity, the rise in populist strongmen with nationalist agendas also threatens this. “It’s difficult to predict how the trade war between the USA and China will affect us,” says David. “It could have a positive impact if it generates more trade between India and the USA, and it will obviously generate more trade between the Far East and Europe.” Growing protectionism may also affect Sri Lanka, which has upcoming elections in 2020, and concerns about growing Buddhist nationalism. Posters of Rajapaksa adorn parts of the south coastal road, and framed photographs of the leader appear in the dwellings of monks that I met in the ancient temples. As Sri Lanka plans the infrastructure for its port sector, questions about who operates these ports
and on what terms have surfaced. The island’s strategic location on the Indian Ocean is at the heart of the debate. In a poor suburb in the leafy outskirts of Colombo, the artist Pala Pothupitiye shows me around his studio. His work brings together world maps with the ornate visual traditions of his native town in the southern province. The paintings appear
“At present, Sri Lanka does not have anything that is outstanding in terms of service and repair facilities that would allow it to compete on the AsiaEurope Run.” —Amal S. Kumarage to express a popular concern: “I’m mapping Sri Lanka’s history of colonial subjugation, past and present,” he explains. References to the colonial export of timber appear alongside religious symbols and depictions of figures ranging from Napoleon to Batman. The maps envision the world as an open platform for trade on the one hand, and as a playground for international powers that puts sovereign states at risk on the other. With similar polarity, some view Sri Lanka’s geographical location as an opportunity and others as a weakness. While many fear China’s growing presence on the Indian Ocean, others foresee further independence from the historically dominant Western institutions. The island’s power balance between merchants, rulers and monks has long adapted to shifts in global history, as it is doing once again today with China’s Belt and Road. E N D
The Shoreditch Design Triangle celebrates ten years with a host of exhibitions, installations, workshops, talks, tours and culinary delights, for the London Design Festival in September, the Christmas Triangle in December and for other key events throughout the year. Discover the true rebel spirit of the East End through the creative companies who work there.
Master artisans. Exceptional objects. A new perspective.
From Rouge to Rage
Images courtesy of the UnthinkPink Instagram feed (@unthinkpink). @unthinkpink @unthinkpink).
Words Sarah Archer and Glenn Adamson
Round about January 2016, we became very interested in the colour pink. And we weren’t alone: the streets were full of pink pussyhats, placards, and other forms of protest gear, all mobilised in response to Donald Trump’s inauguration. This politicisation was all the more striking because a particularly inoffensive version of the hue – originally marketed as rose gold, but now universally known as “millennial pink” – had dominated recent fashion cycles. As design historians, we were fascinated by how the colour could take on drastically different meanings, all of which were nonetheless totally legible to the general public. So, we looked into it. Given its topicality, we decided to take our interest to social media. The result was our Instagram account, @unthinkpink – “exploring a sensitive subject” – which we have since tried to edit in the associative spirit of the avant-garde fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, whose favourite version of pink, a deep fuchsia, she once called “shocking.” A portrait photograph of her, tinted deep pink, serves as our mascot. About 600 posts in, we have made a few new discoveries, some of which won’t come as a surprise: people really seem to like fashion. Roly Poly Chair, Faye Toogood, 2014. And cool chairs. And shiny ceramics. But alongside the eye candy, we have been able to get into some fascinating byways in the history of the colour. For example, we were surprised
to learn that there was no fixed conception of pink until the 18th century. In one way, this makes sense. English doesn’t have a comparable term, for instance, for a light blue (although languages such as Russian, Greek, and Modern Hebrew, do have specific words Giovanni Battista Moroni, for that colour). But it is Portrait of Prospero still intriguing to consider Alessandri, 1580. why pink emerged with its own distinct, fleshed-out personality, round about the 18th century. One point of origin is technical in nature. A bright pink enamel was invented to paint glass, most likely in Germany, in roughly 1670. When this colourant made it to China, it was applied to porcelain, which was then re-exported, before being imitated in turn by European ceramic manufacturers. The products of this cultural boomerang eventually came to be called famille rose, and they were intrinsic to the rococo taste, which also featured an iconography of blush-cheeked figures – cherubs, children, ladies and gentlemen alike. Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s favourite mistress, famously loved pink, and she had a pink porcelain china service made at Sèvres, for which the manufactory developed a new colour, inevitably dubbed Rose Pompadour, in 1757. Yet frivolity and style were not synonymous with femininity during
of a concerted campaign to encourage US women to dedicate themselves to lives as homemakers. Pastel colours subtly but unmistakably marked the postwar home (and, by extension, the postwar housewife) as totally childlike, dependent Pink silk faille cape, and in need of a husband Traina-Norell, 1958. for support. Now, with the protest movements of recent years, we arrive at a forceful twist in this tale. To some extent, pussyhats and related uses of the colour are simply a strategic re-appropriation of a stereotype. Rather like the rehabilitation of the word “queer” in the LGTBQ+ community, women use pink simply to claim identity on their own terms. Yet there is some complexity here. A century ago, the suffragettes used a colour scheme of purple, white, and green (symbolising royalty, purity and hope). If contemporary feminists wanted their own symbolic lineage, that would be the obvious choice; instead they have gone for a colour that is at once more charged with sexism, and less stable in its references. After all, it was AIDS activists associated with the ACT-UP movement in the 1980s who first used pink to dramatic political effect, reclaiming the pink triangle used by the Nazis to designate homosexuality as an emblem of empowerment. Conversely, as many activists of Asian, African and other ethnic heritage have pointed out, pink vaginal iconography is Graphics from ACT UP’s Silence = Death itself exclusionary. It’s campaign, 1986. a more than fair criticism. The only rejoinder might be that pink, these days, has come to stand not for any one gender or ethnicity, but for fluidity and tolerance itself – until, of course, it comes to stand for something else.
this period. In Madame de Pompadour’s time, pink was more apt to be associated with luxury than with a particular gender. It would take more than 150 years before girls started wearing pink and boys started wearing blue. Babies and toddlers had been dressed primarily in white throughout the 19th century, owing to its practicality. White clothing could easily be boilwashed and bleached without fading. It was also the colour of innocence. Though we endow children (possibly to their detriment) with strong, visuallycoded gender identities today, in Victorian times, gender was understood as an aspect of adult sexuality, and thus something to keep at bay during childhood. Pale colours, including pink, blue, pale yellow and pale green, were interchangeable choices for nursery décor and clothing throughout the first decades of the 20th century. It was the emergence of colour as a new marketing tool by manufacturers, department stores and advertisers during the 1930s, 40s and 50s that ultimately cast pink as the universal feminine hue. It became the colour of choice for little girls’ toys and clothing (Barbie first appeared in 1959), as well as for certain A Reynolds Aluminium products aimed at advertisement from women. Appliancethe 1960s. makers soon borrowed the colour from car design and produced pink stoves, refrigerators and dishwashers, with flooring companies and countertop-makers like Armstrong and Formica producing surfaces to match. Tupperware already came in pink in the 1950s. Clothing and cosmetics in the colour were plentiful, and foods such as cake icing and Jell-O could add pink to a party spread thanks to postwar innovations in food science. It was also First Lady Mamie Eisenhower’s signature colour. None of this was an accident. At the very moment when women were thanked for their wartime service and dismissed from the assembly line in 1945, their return to the home front became part of a massive marketing effort, calculated primarily to sell houses and the durable goods needed to furnish them. The rescripting of pink as feminine and girlish was part
Photographs Theresa Marx Styling Lucy Upton-Prowse Hair and make-up Anne Timper Models Veronika Baron and Victor Haisch Location Terrassenhaus Berlin, Brandlhuber+ Emde, Burlon with Muck Petzet Architects
Vintage glasses and shirt from The Market Cartel, boots from Dr. Martens. Trousers are the modelâ€™s own.
Anorak by Prada, autumn/winter 2018.
Jacket, dress, and gloves by Pierpaolo Piccioli for Moncler Genius, autumn/winter 2018.
Entire look by Simone Rocha for Moncler Genius, autumn/winter 2018.
Vintage Bernhard Willhelm shirt from Storm in a Teacup. Trousers from Mulberry, autumn/winter 2018. Jewellery is the modelâ€™s own.
Jacket, trousers and shoes from Richard Malone, autumn/winter 2018. Stockings are the stylistâ€™s own. Vintage jewellery from Gillian Horsup.
Jacket and trousers from Mulberry, autumn/winter 2018. Vintage shirt by Vivienne Westwood from Storm in a Teacup. Boots by Yuul Yie, autumn/winter 2018, and gloves by Richard Malone, autumn/winter 2018. Tights are the stylistâ€™s own.
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Reviews OK, Mr Field Sam Jacob Om krisen eller kriget kommer Kieran Long The Kenneth Pint Glass Oli Stratford
OK, Mr Field Words Sam Jacob
A concert pianist moves to an exact copy of Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye built just outside Cape Town, but how are we to conceive of the performance of replication that follows?
“We saw a picture of it printed in Domus, back to front,” says Howard Raggatt of Australian architects ARM. He’s talking about ARM’s design for the National Museum of Australia, which features a black copy of Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, created to house the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Not actually back to front but, rather, a negative. In artist Amie Siegel’s work Double Negative, two silent, black and white mm ﬁlms simultaneously project images of Le Corbusier’s white Villa Savoye outside Paris and its black doppelgänger in Canberra. It was this that Raggatt saw in Domus. Each ﬁlm follows an identical choreography, moving through the space in the same way (each a “performance” of the other, just as the second villa is a “performance” of the ﬁrst), and each is a negative polarity print, reversing black and white. The two architectural protagonists, the white European and the black antipodean, switch identity and so do the swans that also feature in the ﬁlm – the black swans indigenous to Australia are rendered white and vice versa. For a museum of indigenous culture, the choice of the Villa Savoye – a symbol, Raggatt says, of Western enlightenment – has special signiﬁcance. Rendering this iconic piece of white modernist architecture in black sees the original transformed in its antipodean re-enactment. Canonical modernism upside down and back to front. As a side note, when talking about copies it may be important to be speciﬁc about how they come into the world. Perhaps copies are not made but rather performed? A third replica Villa Savoye,
for instance, features in Katharine Kilalea’s debut novel OK, Mr Field. Here, the villa is ﬁctional (or, at least nothing comes up with a Google search), and it is apparently completely faithful (at least in form) to the original buildi. The story concerns Mr Field, a pianist who overhears a couple discussing his qualities as a performer post-concert: “The way he played was just so... so... Unmusical? The woman said. Yes, he said, horrible. Mechanical, even. Yet somehow also heartbreaking.” In this short passage, Kilalea reveals a whole universe of ideas about cultural production, feelings and originality: Le Corbusier’s famous epithet “Une maison est une machine-à-habiter” (A house is a machine for living in); the concert pianist whose performances of a score produces “copies”; the irony of the overwhelming feeling of empathetic emptiness generated by an emotionally drained replica. This performance also turns out to have been the pianist’s last (his last copy?) – the train he is riding in is driven into the buﬀers at high speed, smashing up his hands and resulting in a large compensation payout. It’s a transport infrastructure disaster that has echoes of another novel about ideas of re-enactment, Tom McCarthy’s high-concept Remainder. Given the subject matter of both books, this resonance surely can’t be coincidental. Both OK, Mr Field and Remainder speak to remembering and obsession, and how these might be processed through replication. In Remainder, a strange and elusive memory haunts the main character, whose recall has
been disrupted by amnesia caused by the accident and whose subsequent compensation payout allows the pursuit of this fugitive recollection. Mr Field’s obsession with the Villa Savoye (or at least its replica) starts when he comes across an article when ﬂicking through a newspaper on his fateful post-concert train ride. Headlined ‘All That Was Left Was His Red Swimming Cap’, the piece is about a minor South African architect named Kallenbach, who has been eaten by a shark, and is illustrated by a picture of the replica villa he... designed? Built? Performed? See what I mean? It gets complicated ﬁnding the right word for the act of making a copy. Note: You should remember that Le Corbusier also drowned, in the Mediterranean Sea oﬀ the coast of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. And remember too that the scar which is so visible on Corbusier’s leg in the famous picture of him painting murals in the nude at Eileen Gray’s Villa E- (an act that Gray was furious about) was (self-)mythologised as the zigzagging bite of a shark – although may more realistically have been a wound caused by a boat’s propeller. Is this a case of the re-enactment, then, being more lethal than the original and bringing its own complexities to what appears on the surface to be a simplistic act of copying? Given ARM’s black villa – which gets a mention in OK Mr Field, along with another (I think) ﬁctional version in Boston “in which every aspect of the original had been shrunk per cent to ﬁt the client’s budget” – it is interesting to consider the location that Kilalea has selected for her re-enactment. From what I remember of a ﬂeeting visit to the city, Cape Town feels like a piece of Western
Images courtesy of Faber & Faber; Philippe BerthĂŠ/CMN; and Jann Averwerser for Studio Amie Siegel.
In OK, Mr Field, a maimed concert pianist moves to Cape Town to reside in an exact replica of Le Corbusierâ€™s Villa Savoye. What results is a series of meditations upon the nature of reproduction, as well as the boundary between the real and the fake.
Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye in Poissy outside Paris.
urban-ness teleported to South Africa. Harbourside developments, shopping malls, luxury hotels and apartment blocks, all built with that form of contextual and historical amnesia that feels the same from Vancouver to Docklands to Auckland. This is another sort of replication – a kind of urban cloning that, even as it colonises the entire surface of the planet, remains innocent of its own oppressive aesthetic and social ideologies. Instead, it oﬀers up the same limited cocktail of lifestyle activities and possibilities, imagining and then enforcing its own ideas of what constitutes a valid citizen – of who is included and who is excluded. In post-apartheid South Africa, these issues remain hardwired into urban planning. At one point in Kilalea’s novel, an academic visits Mr Field, rocking up at his villa “as though it were a museum rather than a private residence”, in order to explain the origin of the replica house, retitled by Kallenbach the “House for the Study of Water”. The academic explains Le Corbusier’s Five Points (a quick recap: pilotis; roof gardens; free plan; free facade; horizontal windows). She explains too
the Johannesburg Group’s application of European modernism in South Africa. This is also the story that the architect Denise Scott Brown tells of her own childhood in Joburg. As she recounted to Domus: “My mother’s other passion was architecture. She had studied it at the University of Witwatersrand but had dropped out when money ran out. But while there she had joined some students in an early turn toward Modernism. A letter to those students from Le Corbusier in the middle s asks, ‘Could you ﬁnd a Croesus in Johannesburg to bring me there so we can work together?’ In my mother approached these architects to design our family home. So I grew up in an International Style house with a mother eager to explain her love of early Modernism.” But the architect of OK, Mr Field’s villa goes one step further. Not just inﬂuenced by Le Corbusier – working “à la Corbu”, as Kilalea has it – Kallenbach “had been so seduced by the Master, as he’d called him, that he believed the practice of architecture post-Le Corbusier could oﬀer nothing more than to replicate his buildings verbatim”. For committing the ultimate sin of
modernism – unoriginality – Kallenbach was ostracised from the inner circle. All copies produce complexities that emerge from the way in which they are made, who made them, when and for what purpose. But in architecture, a fundamental weirdness is introduced because of the issue of context. The same thing in a diﬀerent place will always have a disjointed quality. Given architecture’s intimate relationship to location (to sun, view and topography at least, if not history, culture and so forth) an out-of-place quality is inevitable. As Mr Field remarks, “I’d often thought it perverse that a house overlooking the sea should have windows so narrow that they hid all but a sliver of it.” Of course, this is really the product of a window imagined for one view looking out on another. This is a kind of alienation between “thing” and “place”, between architecture and site. The same seems to occur to the inhabitants of the novel’s villa. First, prior to his being devoured by a shark, Kallenbach’s wife leaves him. Then, the pianist hoping that a new life in this new home will bring some kind of happiness (or at least less unhappiness) is also left by his wife Mim, who is found in the dead
Amie Siegel’s Double Negative – two synchronised 16mm films on display at Museum Villa Stuck in Munich.
of night “standing by the foot of the chaise[…] wearing a jacket”, before vanishing. Left alone, Mr Field’s sense of abandonment and emptiness grows. Is this a function of his own circumstances? Or is it a function of the replica villa? Or even of the original? After all, Le Corbusier’s own carefully staged original photographs of the villa – the ﬁsh on the kitchen counter, the roof terrace with hat and glasses – always seemed to stress its emptiness, as if these signiﬁers of human habitation only served to amplify its deserted state. A “mechanical” pianist, holed up in a mechanical reproduction of a machine for living. What might this form of sterility produce? Could it, like the conversation the pianist overhears on the train, produce something more than the sum of its parts: “I mean there was nothing sad about his phrasing or his interpretation – what was so moving was, how do I say it, well, it’s as if what was so moving was his absence of feeling.” The villa, like the pianist’s own interior, becomes a void. Its emptiness a place from which to observe other forms of domesticity and other kinds of building. First, the neighbouring building site, whose clanking, bashing and grinding
appears to him as a choreographed soundscape – or, more speciﬁcally, like an orchestra tuning up and never reaching the moment of coherence. He watches the builders in the act of construction: “Their activities said Everything can be made good again. The bricklaying said One thing, stacked on another, will amount to something.” Then there is the pianist’s growing obsession with the architect’s widow. After his initial encounter with her to buy the villa, she reappears ﬁrst in his imagination – her voice apparently talking to him, instructing him, chiding him and speaking in some kind of romantic manner. Then, thinking he recognises her in a passing car, he follows her home. Parking outside, he spies through her window, imagining the domestic life occurring within. In a world of facsimiles, ﬁxed identity becomes smeary. Who and what is really there? What do feelings whose intensity suggests they must be authentic attach themselves to? Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Double charts the descent into madness and more that the appearance of a doppelgänger brings. Collapse of identity and reason, spiralling doubts
and a creeping sense of unreality unravel the protagonist’s psychological coherence. OK, Mr Field suggests a more ambivalent condition: a world of doubles entered into by choice, a self already emptied out of authenticity and structures of all kinds constructed by precise reproduction. Like Amie Siegel’s work produced by oscillating between poles of originality and reproduction, something far less catastrophic than Dostoevsky’s vision occurs in the doubling of the Villa Savoye, and something far more nuanced. In this mode, it’s not a grand battle between truth and lies, the authentic and the fake, good and evil. Instead, these re-enactments show us how things are performed into the world though simple and ordinary gestures. They speak not to the easiness of the copy, but rather to the fragility of the world, and to the care and precision necessary for things as they are to be maintained – for things not to shatter or deﬂate. It’s not the fakeness of the copy that is at stake, but rather the precarious and provisional nature of the real. OK, Mr Field by Katharine Kilalea is published by Faber & Faber, price £12.99.
Om krisen eller kriget kommer Words Kieran Long
The ﬁfth iteration of Sweden’s national pamphlet about preparing for existential threat reveals a changing perspective on how society conceives of catastrophe.
“The clocks stopped at 1:17. A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions. He got up and went to the window. What is it? she said. He didn’t answer. He went into the bathroom and threw the lightswitch but the power was already gone. A dull rose glow in the windowglass. He dropped to one knee and raised the lever to stop the tub and then turned on both taps as far as they would go. She was standing in the doorway in her nightwear, clutching the jamb, cradling her belly in one hand. What is it? she said. What is happening? I don’t know. Why are you taking a bath? I’m not.” The Road, Cormac McCarthy The short extract above is the most terrifying thing I have ever read about how your mind might work in the instant you realise that a devastating, comprehensive crisis is about to hit. In Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road, most of the pages are taken up with depicting the consequences of a complete breakdown in human society after an unspeciﬁed nuclear holocaust. No technology, no food, no rule of law, no authorities left. The book is full of more obviously violent and gruesome moments of rape, cannibalism, brutality and death. But this paragraph always scared me the most because the narrator still has a certain presence of mind. The bomb drops. He ﬁlls the bath with water, knowing that those few litres could save him and his pregnant wife, at least for a few days. But this act of ﬁlling the bath, of using this piece of technology while it still works, is also an admission: we are not ready. We are not prepared.
How could we be for the kinds of disasters that might befall us in the st century? The Road is probably the greatest literary example of an apocalyptic genre that dominates popular culture today. I thought of it again in May this year when the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency’s information leaﬂet ‘Om krisen eller kriget kommer’ (If Crisis or War Comes) dropped through my letter box. It is a -page information pamphlet that raises the question of what you would do should Sweden experience a systemic crisis or existential threat – either military or civil – and gives some practical advice about how to prepare. It is, in a sense, like Cormac McCarthy’s novel, dystopian futurism, but with a very diﬀerent emphasis and intent. “Om du är förberedd bidrar du till att hela landet bättre kommer att klara en svår påfrestning./If you are prepared, you will contribute to the whole country better overcoming a major crisis.” The leaﬂet is the ﬁfth time the Swedish government has issued advice about how to survive the worst. In , the government issued the ﬁrst edition of ‘Om kriget kommer’ ( pages) at a time when neutral Sweden was watching from the sidelines as Europe consumed itself in the Second World War. It was dry and completely without illustrations, with no apparent thought for design beyond the heraldic symbol of Sweden that lends a bureaucratic authority to the front cover. The content was overwhelmingly focused on how a country might function when at war: resistance, the avoidance of being captured, measures to prevent spying
and your rights under the rules of the Hague convention. There followed a -page version in and then in , with the Cold War just beginning, the document was further updated and extended. That edition ran to pages, with detailed descriptions of how to stay safe in conventional, biological and nuclear war. It was beautifully illustrated, with informative diagrams about nuclear fallout and photographs of the food you would need to get ready if you were required to leave your home. There was also much more propaganda value. The front cover was a beautiful, abstract image that appears to depict ominous, dark clouds gathering. There was, in , a pretty gung-ho belief in Sweden’s ability to defend itself. The ﬁrst double-page spread has a wonderful illustration of two supersonic Saab Draken aircraft racing to engage a squadron of shadowy enemies, accompanied by the words “Sweden wants to defend itself, can defend itself and will defend itself!” in large point size and italics. A version of this sentence was in the leaﬂet too, but the illustration of Sweden’s ﬁnest aircraft added patriotic and technological conﬁdence. By the s, the mood had changed and, by the evidence of the third edition of ‘Om kriget kommer’, released in , the standard of public-sector graphic design and illustration had declined. Badly drawn, faux-Otl Aicher stick men hide in ditches, lie on the ground and cower in basements in gas masks. While in the emphasis was on how to gain a modicum of safety, the sense of Sweden’s own strength was still present – according to the text, the country then had the potential to mobilise ,
Illustrations courtesy of Arvid Steen.
The latest iteration of ‘Om krisen eller kriget kommer’ features illustrations by Arvid Steen. In contrast to previous versions of the pamphlet, the focus is on showing ordinary people and their reactions to crisis.
people, including , volunteer soldiers, in the event of war. “Tänk igenom hur du och personer i din närhet kan klara en situation när samhällets normala service och tjänster inte fungerar som vanligt./Think through how you and people near you would manage a situation where society’s normal services do not work as normal.” The reason for the publication of a new version in is not entirely clear, but it hardly takes a genius to imagine what it may be responding to given worsening geopolitical and environmental outlooks. The reason provided by the Swedish authorities is simply that “it was about time”, and that previous guidance is out of date and required refreshing. The decision was made in parliament in and the government gave the role of informing the public about how to be prepared to
the Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB). In response, MSB has for the last two years run something called “Crisis preparedness week” (with its inevitable hashtag #Krisberedskapsveckan), during which schoolchildren and adults participate in seminars and events about how to ready themselves for the worst. This year, the publication of ‘Om krisen eller kriget kommer’ was the key event of the week. It was distributed to .m households in Sweden (more or less all of them) and advertised widely. There are similarities between ’s leaﬂet and those of previous years but there are a couple of striking diﬀerences. The biggest is that this year’s leaﬂet is not just about war, but evokes more general crises for which we need to prepare, whether they be ﬂoods, ﬁres or other environmental disasters. It became particularly timely this summer, when Sweden experienced a profound heatwave
that led to widespread forest ﬁres as far north as the Arctic Circle. The broader scope of the leaﬂet means that it does not include very much practical advice about how to escape nuclear or biological weapons (as previous versions did). The tone in general is more constructive than that of earlier versions and somehow softer – less interested in describing a speciﬁc enemy or threat. Instead, the text asks citizens to think about what they would do if services stopped working as normal. To that end, the centre spread is a handy, tickable checklist that has a list of items you should have at home in readiness. It is lengthy and predictable: canned food, candles, water containers, batteries, transistor radio, warm clothes. The list is almost cosy, more suggestive of preparations for a camping trip than for the apocalypse. As the brochure progresses, there is a shift of focus from civil to military crises.
This is the bit that raises some fear. Most signiﬁcantly, there is a frank admission about Sweden’s readiness for war that could be seen as a startling attempt to justify increased defence spending. “For many years, preparations for war and war have been very limited in Sweden,” says one special boxed-out section. “[…] Therefore, planning for Sweden’s defence will be resumed. It will take time to develop all the aspects of this.” Also, there is a bullet list of threats that raises the prospect of terrorist attacks on nuclearpower stations, fake-news campaigns, food crises and even “robot attacks”. Graphically, the front cover sets the colour scheme of orange and red that represents diﬀerent levels of seriousness. Orange is used throughout the leaﬂet to denote civil emergencies; red, military ones. On the cover, we see an illustration of a mixed-race family preparing the things they might need to get them through a couple of days. In red-tinted counterpoint, a collage of three illustrations at the bottom of the page shows a bridge collapsing, a ﬂood and the army advancing through a pine forest. “Du som privatperson har också ett ansvar/You as an individual also have a responsibility.” The illustrations printed throughout the pamphlet are by Arvid Steen, a Swedish illustrator and animator. The pictures are easy to relate to, with an emphasis on a diversity of ordinary people, rather than the heroic, square-jawed soldiers one might expect to be represented as the potential saviours of the nation. Although they were produced digitally, their hand-drawn appearance – a function of Steen’s distinctive, pencil-sketch style – is part of the reason they are so eﬀective. Steen describes this commission as “my proudest achievement in my working life so far” and he has clearly thought carefully about the tone of the imagery. For me, his approach makes most sense when seen in relation to recent video games and graphic novels. The mix of depicting older technology, ordinary domestic settings and a diversity in gender, race and age evokes The Last Of Us, the Naughty Dog-designed video game from that is one of the great recent depictions of a post-apocalyptic world. Steen’s illustrations similarly resist the
temptation to depict catastrophies, sticking instead to human relationships. The illustrations provide a powerful narrative and emotional arc to accompany descriptions of scenarios that, for most, are very diﬃcult to imagine. We see a kindly but serious grandfather considering his granddaughter’s questions as they listen to the radio, one arm wrapped protectively around her back. We see a woman with a clipboard shepherding people down a staircase and into a safe room. And we see a similar woman helping a limping and semi-conscious man away from a burning building. In each of them, a gesture or an expression gives you a sense of your own responsibility to those in your immediate vicinity and the emotions you might experience in that situation. The illustrations are humane and convey the strong impression that kindness and solidarity will be our most reliable assets in the event of catastrophe. Steen’s approach was to make things look as real as possible. “I have done a lot of things for games companies where the objective is to create an impact and eﬀect, but here I was as naturalistic as I could be,” he says. “I was really careful not to make the soldiers look badass. They are real people, as real as I could make.” One of the illustrations shows soldiers advancing through a typically Swedish forest and coastal landscape. There is less gung-ho nationalism in this image than in the ones from the document but the aeroplanes still have the just-detectable silhouette of Saab ﬁghters. Accompanying this image, in a red box, is the only sentence that has barely changed in all four editions of the pamphlet: “If Sweden is attacked by another country, we will never give up. All information about resistance ending is untrue.” “Om du hör signalen: gå inomhus, stäng fönster, dörrar och ventilation och lyssna på Sveriges Radio P4 som har i uppdrag att ge samhällsinformation./If you hear the warning, go indoors, close the windows, doors and ventilation, and listen to Radio P4 which has the mission to give the community information.” It is very diﬃcult to measure the eﬀectiveness of a publication like this. Its publisher, MSB, did some research that suggests that per cent of people who
received the leaﬂet have kept it, and that half have read it in some detail. Thirty-four per cent of people said they would make some preparations at home, and about the same percentage reported that the leaﬂet had worried them. I wonder if these two groups are the same people. I suspect it will encourage a few preppers in their endeavours. For the rest of us, it gives the feeling that there is something we can do should the worst happen. Nowhere in all the information around the leaﬂet is there mention of where potential threats are coming from – no mention of Russia, radical religious terrorism, large-scale arctic-ice melt, Trump or anything else – and I cannot escape the feeling that there might be a very diﬀerent draft of this leaﬂet somewhere, ready for the moment when one of these theoretical threats becomes a reality. In the blasted landscapes of The Road, the lead character is constantly hunting for food, water and shelter, but it is his sometimes-obsessive love for his son that keeps him going. ‘Om krisen eller kriget kommer’ is a less extreme reminder of this. It is a bold and uncynical statement about individual responsibility and collective care, even if it euphemistically avoids describing the worst that could happen as a result of climate change, terrorism or war. I have not yet started stockpiling energy bars and rosehip soup, but I have thought more carefully about those who would be in my care in the future and what I might need to do for them.
The Kenneth Pint Glass Words Oli Stratford
Kenneth Grange’s pint-glass design for Camden Town Brewery prompts a review of a life in lager.
I am a drinker, which I mean with the same level of dedication that someone else might apply to being a smoker. It’s worth being upfront about that. A recent paper published in The Lancet medical journal found that the safe upper limit for weekly alcohol consumption is roughly ﬁve pints of beer, with any intake above this level raising the risk of stroke, aneurysm, heart failure and death. Each pint beyond this upper limit shortens life expectancy by half an hour, which is roughly the amount of time I would take to drink a pint, thereby making the whole aﬀair something of an eye-for-an-eye-type arrangement. Anyway, I drink regardless – usually with moderation, but sometimes to excess. Because of this week’s intake, for instance, I will die an hour and a half early. That’s suﬃcient time to have watched Rob Reiner’s coming-of-age drama Stand by Me. We’re not even at the week’s end, so I can only speculate as to future losses. Half a pint more and Sleepless in Seattle will also be oﬀ the table. So there’s no denying that I’m a drinker. Because I live in the UK, much of my intake of alcohol has been in the form of pints of lager. So I’m a lager drinker, although you mustn’t take that as an endorsement. I have drunk jenever and jabukovača; Poire Williams and cachaça; Baijiu, applejack, ouzo and shōchū; tiswin and kasiri; grappa, arak and Mamajuana. I have drunk wine. All of these I have enjoyed more than lager. But I live in the UK so, well, lager. It’s drunk by the pint because that’s the size it comes in, as with milk or blood. An imperial pint is ml, and the human stomach has a rough volume of one litre. A little under two pints, then, will force your stomach to distend to
contain its milkman’s delivery of bottomfermented malted barley. Nobody ever seems to suggest that this means a pint is too large a measure, or that if a drinker lost the same amount of blood as they consumed lager, they would probably die. Like I mentioned, pints are too treasured to ever really be questioned. And I do treasure them, so just imagine my delight when Disegno invited me to review a new pint glass created for Camden Town Brewery by industrial designer Sir Kenneth Grange. Part of the thrill of such an assignment is its symbolism. The pint glass is emblematic of British national identity, while Grange is a designer whose work has played a signiﬁcant role in shaping cultural perceptions of Britain. Over the course of a career begun in , Grange has designed widely for the country’s public and private realm, producing ubiquitous creations such as the Intercity trains (), the Venner parking meter () and the London TX black cab (), as well as a raft of domestic staples like Kenwood mixers, Anglepoise lamps and Wilkinson razors. Grange is a designer whose output has pervaded and deﬁned postwar Britain. A pint glass is a thematically consistent and welcome addition to his corpus. More than this, there is a speciﬁc pleasure in a designer of Grange’s temperament taking on the project. His creation is less conscientiously styled or dogmatic than many of his contemporaries’ and his public persona is pleasingly grounded – albeit streaked through with a certain mischievousness. While Grange’s reﬂections on design are serious and thoughtful, they are often delivered with the air of an after-dinner
raconteur. There is a YouTube video, for instance, in which Grange introduces himself with the line, “The name is Grange; Kenneth Grange”, before going on to praise the design world as stocked with decent people, with nary a “scallywag” in sight. When asked by The Guardian in to assess the design of ﬁve-bladed razors, Grange’s response was delicious and a bit naughty: “Three of the fuckers don’t do anything.” Kenneth Grange, I suspect, has the right attitude to design a pint glass. When I drink, I rarely experience any overriding sense of volume. This is likely down to gluttony, but it might also be because of the nature of the glasses used in bars and pubs. Excluding a raft of increasingly dildonic craft-beer outliers, there are three main variations of the pint glass: a) the conical, which is straight and resembles an amber papier-mâché beak; b) the tulip, which curves out from a narrow base into a wide brim in a fashion Wikipedia deems “continental”; and c) the nonic, a conical vessel whose lines are interrupted by a spare-tire bulge that prevents the glasses from sticking when stacked or chipping when loaded in a dishwasher. Truth be told, there isn’t a great deal of diﬀerence between the three. They’re all rounded and innocuous. The glasses are comfortable to hold because they’re smooth, but this smoothness also elides the distinction between hand and glass. They are so visually and tactilely easy that they become non-presences, extending your body’s capabilities like a beer prosthesis or your own private hand-bladder. They’re devoid of any identity other than lager vector. None of these glasses makes a signiﬁcant diﬀerence to the taste of
The vessels that beer has been served in over the years have undergone constant revision. Designer Kenneth Grange’s new proposal, the Kenneth,
Image courtesy of Camden Town Brewery.
is pictured on the right of this image.
a beer either. One reason for this is that their basic proportions are similar, particularly around the brim. Of the distinct sections of a glass, it’s the brim that has the greatest eﬀect on the way you drink and, as a result, the taste of the beer. A narrow brim encourages you to sip, directing the beer to the sides and front of the mouth where taste buds registering sweetness are situated. A wider brim is geared towards glugging (viz. lager loutery), during which the drink slips directly to the back of the mouth where bitterness is detected. It’s quite hard to game this system. When I sip from a wide-brimmed glass, my lips are King Canute trying to hold back the tide; when I glug from a narrow-brimmed vessel, ﬁzz goes up my nose and into my sinuses, prompting a sensation of drowning followed by lager sneezing. Grange’s glass, the Kenneth, is no gestalt shift to this existing order. Whereas
Camden Hells previously used a branded conical glass, the Kenneth’s basic form is that of a straight Pilsner ﬂute (imagine a taller, lither Germanic cousin of the frumpy conical), with decagonal facets on its lower half that are borrowed from the steins traditionally used for Munich Helles lager. These facets provide texture when the glass is held, as well as creating amber distortion patterns when light passes through the liquid. Two thirds of the way up, they smooth out to allow a traditional rounded brim. “At the end of the day, [the brim] has got to suit somebody’s lips,” explains Grange in a promotional video, “and [the faceted base] has got to suit somebody’s hands.” The line is delivered with suﬃcient aplomb and conﬁdence to brook no further comment. As research for this article, I invited a group of four friends to try the Kenneth and mark it out of . One gave it a six;
one gave it a seven; one refused to grade it, declaring the idea of reviewing a pint glass stupid; and one said that although they liked the glass, they preferred wine, so would switch back now if that was OK. Once the two illegitimate reviews had been stricken from the records, I arrived at an average grade of .. This may sound underwhelming, but is actually high praise indeed if you consider the market a new pint design enters. In , George Orwell penned his seminal essay ‘The Moon Under Water’ for the Evening Standard, in which he sets out his vision for the “ideal of what a pub should be”. It’s a charming essay, albeit ﬁlled with bizarrely resolved opinions on issues that really don’t matter, such as the writer’s insistence that beer tastes best when drunk from “pleasant strawberrypink china”, and his disdain for the “mistake of serving a pint of beer in a handleless glass”.
The Kenneth doesn’t quite melt into your hand or disappear. It feels like a distinct object and impresses its physciality onto you. Basically, it digs into your palm a bit. Nicely mind.
Yet, this kind of partisanship provides the backdrop to the launch of any new pint glass. Drinkers are full of partialities and preferences, most of which are irrational. I have seen glasses sent back for not having handles; for failing to properly deﬁne the head; for seeming foreign; for looking squat; for looking camp; for ungainliness; for not being matched to a speciﬁc beer; for bulging weirdly; for not bulging weirdly enough; for causing excessive ﬁzz; and because someone saw another glass that looked “more my style”. The glass designs that tend to survive and propagate are not necessarily the best, or those with the ﬁercest advocates, but those whose innocuousness renders them hard to object to: a survival not so much of the ﬁttest, as of the ﬁnest. A similar, albeit more positive, framing of this idea is found in Jasper Morrison and Naoto Fukasawa’s Super Normal manifesto, although this document also speaks of the manner in which its titular objects “outperform their counterparts with ease when it comes to long-term everyday use”. In the case of a pint glass, however, I’m not sure function particularly comes into it. Most glasses are equally good at administering their prescribed dosage, and if they’re not, the nature of drinking means you soon cease to care anyway. What matters more in the case of alcohol is the sense of ritual ceremony surrounding the act of drinking,
and ritual is an area dominated by things more ephemeral and irrational than those dreamt of within functionalism. “It’s as good as I would like it to be, so on you go,” remarks Grange at the end of his promotional video for the Kenneth, and this seems the critical point. The Kenneth is good enough. It does not disgrace itself against the time-worn blandness of the tulip, nonic or conical, all of which have pursued a strategy of pleasing neutrality to which no criticism can stick. The Kenneth cuts more of a dash than some of its counterparts – “It’s a bit, tall, isn’t it?” asked one of the friends I invited to review it – but it does nothing so bold as to scare the horses, by which I mean drinkers, or provoke any kind of meaningful consternation or delight. The design arrives at a sweet spot: it is a perfectly pleasant, clearly resolved object that more than holds its own against its rivals, even if there seems little real reason to have bothered creating it in the ﬁrst place. Which, in the realm of pint-glass design, is how it should be. There is, however, one respect in which I believe the Kenneth is exemplary. Because of its facets, it never sits entirely happily in the hand. It’s not uncomfortable, but its angles make you continually shift your grip, ﬂexing your ﬁngers to feel its lines press into your palm. “It lacks that assurance that it’s entirely secure in your hand,” oﬀered the friend who scored it a six. “It feels more like a glass you’d pick
up lots of times from a table, but maybe standing for hours with it wouldn’t be so nice,” added the seven. In contrast to many other pint glasses, the Kenneth doesn’t quite melt into your hand or disappear. It feels like a distinct object and it impresses that physicality onto you. Basically, it digs into your palm a bit. Nicely, mind. One corollary of this physicality – and let’s revert to the professional parlance here – is that you’re more aware of what you’re drinking, as well as the amount you’re drinking. Your drinks remain discrete, countable units, and because you’re putting their container down more regularly than you might a traditional glass, they don’t ﬂow into one another quite as eﬀortlessly as alcoholic drinks are wont to do. The Kenneth impresses its objecthood on you: a pint glass has heft and a pint glass has volume, and sometimes it’s good to be reminded of that volume. Using it, I found myself drinking less and feeling more conscious of when I was sated. Four pints did not become ﬁve. Three pints did not become four. Two pints did become three. But only because I was in the pub as a trained journalist and wanted to do my job properly. The Kenneth Glass is available at the Camden Town Brewery in Kentish Town, London, price £4.
A Letter from St. Louis Words Michael R. Allen Photographs Matthew O’Shea
On any given day in late summer this year, visitors to the park beneath Eero Saarinen’s Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, arriving from the west – emerging from the city’s still largely intact orthogonal grid of downtown streets – would have met with children splashing in a fountain and pool surrounded by the striking, curving glazed walls of an underground museum. This play space is likely to have been teeming with tourists entering the museum, passers-by of no special affinity, and even people just standing or sitting
in repose. Through the glass walls, the same situation: a throng inside of the museumâ€™s spacious entrance. Turning around, back across a new park connection concealing an interstate highway, and there would have been more of the same. People.
Arch Park Foundation, managed to inscribe a major revision to one of the nation’s few urban riverfront parks that belong to the federal government. The winning team, headed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), proposed turning a hallowed design by Saarinen and Kiley into a palimpsest in which the modernist designer was attenuated through a careful programme that connected the park back to the city’s downtown; overcame accessibility issues; reworked the park’s main museum; and finally banished cars altogether. The result has neither suffocated Saarinen’s earlier vision, nor sheepishly held it in sacrosanct reverence. Instead, MVVA took aim at the contextual and experiential deficiencies of the site without trying to rebrand or otherwise mark the land. Most of the changes are peripheral – small modifications that are conscious of the urban context and which attempt to integrate the park site and the larger downtown into a single living landscape. MVVA inherited a parametric nesting doll: the landscape surrounding the Arch responded to a tightly defined 1947 design competition; the park was governed not only as a national monument, but also as a landscape designated as a National Historic Landmark, the highest preservation protection in the US; the site had been isolated by the construction of the I-70 interstate highway at its west and an interstate bridge at its east (along with a spaghetti junction where these two meet). Saarinen and Kiley’s plans are nominally sacrosanct under federal historic preservation protection, but had been implemented by NPS administrators in small, steady measures commensurate with congressional appropriations, with the landscape construction not completed until the late 1970s after Saarinen’s death and without Kiley’s oversight. Fundamentally, MVVA had to unpack the earliest framing of the Arch park as a distinct monumental landscape. The incipient idea of the memorial resisted integration into a downtown that city leaders in the mid-20th century had wanted to demolish rather than revive. Part of the framing of the memorial in the 1930s was that it would create payouts to investors for their depreciated (and architecturally significant) riverfront warehouses, and then in turn raise values in the downtown core, such that new office blocks might rise and pull the area out of the Great Depression. On top of that, the city’s long-time planner Harland Bartholomew greeted urban renewal projects as
Ten years ago, this scene would have unfolded differently. At that time, the entrance to the museum was buried at the legs of Saarinen’s Arch; the highway was a wide-open cut, flanked by two outer roads that served as traffic funnels, and very few people would have been in sight. Most people, in fact, would have been arriving in a car and heading to an on-site garage, traipsing hurriedly through the park, and down into the depths to catch the elevator to the top of the Arch. Somehow, this overall experience was supposed to connote a multitude of disparate ideas: an understanding of the nation’s western expansion, the grandeur of modernist visual culture and the significance of the old city of St. Louis. Most views of St. Louis begin with the Gateway Arch, which sits at the city’s edge of the Mississippi River. The city’s downtown lies directly west of the Arch park, and the red brick neighbourhoods span out radially from the Arch site. The Arch is the keystone to the image of the city, and the park stands between much of the centre and the riverfront. While the riverfront historically was a working waterfront where the city’s warehouses and factories were located, today it is a major destination for tourists, cyclists and weekenders. The Arch park is the result of a quest that began in the 1930s to create a national monument to the expansion of the US across the mighty Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean shore. In the 1960s, that dream led to parklands designed by the landscape architect Dan Kiley, with Eero Saarinen’s Arch at its centre. The duo imagined the Arch as a mythic sculpture rising from a site whose trees and topography could conjure the expanse of wilderness that the US had to conquer to expand its settled territory. Rather than bind the riverfront to the city, however, the Arch park and the interstate to the west made for a gauntlet. The confusing gap between the park and the city has drawn assiduous local critique from day one, and drew the local American Institute of Architects chapter to sponsor a charrette for improving the connections across the interstate as early as 1982. In recent years, however, a group of civic leaders wrestled the Arch’s owner, the National Park Service (NPS), into a public-private partnership that sponsored a major landscape architectural design competition and raised nearly $380m to fund the winning design. The process, led by what was initially called CityArchRiver and is now called the Gateway
The park surrounding the entrance to St. Louisâ€™s Museum of Westward Expansion has been freshly landscaped to better connect to the cityâ€™s downtown.
New parkland, as seen above, was created by removing a garage that had previously existed on the site.
opportunities to revamp the city for automobile circulation. Although the final competition brief in 1947 included both the city’s 19th-century landmark Old Courthouse and the 40-block riverfront site that would become the Arch park, its original framer – the attorney and political bigwig Luther Ely Smith – never envisioned reasons to create pedestrian connections or strategies to activate the surrounding streets. In subsequent years, the city would blight the blocks just west of the Arch site, redeveloping them with a superblock and several office and hotel towers – none of which had a single storefront facing the Gateway Arch. Saarinen and Kiley therefore faced the demands of the NPS – which included the mandate for a museum of western expansion – as well as the faith of the competition sponsors that the singular form of the Arch would be enough to draw anyone into the allées and groves of the Arch grounds. The design was, however, stymied by being forced to retain the elevated railroad line that ran along the riverfront, forcing the Arch up to the top of a berm. If the western highway closed downtown off from the Arch, the berm meant that the 40ft drop to the river became a manicured precipice, and the grade as a result went up and then down. By the time the Arch was completed in 1965, no-one could see the river from the Old Courthouse or anywhere at street level in downtown St. Louis. The Gateway Arch is a monument set into a garden, with a clear perimeter around the site. Landscape architecture’s broadest premise, that it unifies object form and land form, remained for many years a hermetic reality at the Arch: the Arch and its park were unified, but the Arch and the centre of the city stood in visual antagonism. From within the site, one could cherish the acumen of Kiley, who drew out the visual symphony in which Saarinen’s Arch becomes an extended movement. From outside, the park seemed like an intentionally disconnected sculpture, with its landscape limited to its own plantings and entourage. Yet the Arch itself connected to the viewshed of almost every point within a 10-mile radius. This paradox of the Arch site required a tactical remaking of the edges of the park landscape, which MVVA approached with clear purpose, although with a more radical path abridged by imposed bureaucratic and political limits. Gullivar Shepard, MVVA’s project
designer, says the team learned early on that to please the myriad government agencies at all levels, “things have to conform”. According to Shepard, CityArchRiver bound the firm and its team to include in its final plan only those things achievable by 28 October 2015 – the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Arch. This short timeframe, starting in 2010, inexorably stretched by nearly three years as a result of funding issues and other delays. The signature element of the new project is a reworked version of Luther Ely Smith Square, a small park in front of the Old Courthouse that now serves as a biomorphic head with splayed nerve endings leading to Kiley’s broad paths. The park has been extended across the depressed interstate and packed between tall concrete walls that shelter the park experience from the reality of its tumultuous edge. The new design means that visitors need only cross one street to enter the park, instead of the previous three. Strikingly, the axial symmetry of Kiley’s design has been extended through the new entrance park, with the centre of the new Museum of Westward Expansion meeting that of the Old Courthouse. MVVA avoided clever tricks in the design, honouring Kiley’s formalism. The Museum of Westward Expansion entrance might have been a discordant or needlessly showy element within the project, given that it disrupted Kiley’s idea of concealing the museum in favour of a seamless topside landscape. However, while the museum’s entrance previously gave off the appearance of descending into a basement, its new architects at Cooper Robertson, led by Scott Newman, adopted a different strategy. “The museum now allows a visitor to not feel that they are underground,” says Newman, who created a slope into a glass-walled, warm, urbane entrance that is gently modern, while still reverent to context. As mentioned at the outset, the museum interjects a new kind of public space into a city that has not seen a major park space created since the Arch park itself. No St. Louisan could have predicted that a real agora could transpire on the Arch grounds, but now it exists, within glancing distance of downtown’s streets. Almost as emphatically as the reworked entrance, MVVA successfully pushed to remove the parking garage at the north end of the site. In a downtown that already has 43,000 off-street parking spaces, circulation around the site could be extended such
MVVA’s clearest achievement has been definitive improvements to the perimeter of the park, where it meets the city’s streets and people. Shepard says that the main objective was to make the first 100ft on each side enticing enough that people would be drawn in. This revision recalls the teachings of landscape architect Garrett Eckbo, who advocated for landscape architecture to integrate built and land forms, and to define a site through its relational values. “The site only exists in its visual and spatial relation to people, through the introduction of the building which establishes a permanent relation between people and site. The building and the site are in fact one and the same in use,” wrote Eckbo in his 1950 text Landscape for Living. MVVA pushed the Gateway Arch park across the highway and into downtown, and extended it into the Laclede’s Landing area. Although these gestures are not complete solutions to accumulated spatial barriers, they do counterbalance the accumulation of isolating infrastructures surrounding the park site. Reflecting on the Arch, the architectural historian Hélène Lipstadt wrote in her 2004 essay ‘Co-Making the Modern Monument: The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial competition and Eero Saarinen’s Gateway Arch’ that “[i]conic status is only achieved through co-making”. That co-making has never, however, been constituted as a single era or even a single set of designers. Saarinen died before the Arch rose, and Kiley was rarely consulted by the NPS in the final years of implementing the landscape. MVVA’s fulfilment of the recent design competition acknowledges the site’s complex production: it is not a perfectly realised object or even landscape form, and part of its struggle has been the inability to determine where its actual site lies. MVVA has embraced a larger conception that encompasses the links from the park over the highway, trail and north edge. In time, however, it could generate a larger geography in which the park provides a space for recreation for the growing number of St. Louis’s downtown residents. The most inexorable aspect of the Arch project remains the endurance of the interstate chasm, however. Although the designers were initially charged to complete the work by the Arch’s 50th anniversary, the extended timeline took place at a pace that would have allowed even the most snail-like agencies to make key decisions. The choice to not
that visitors would be able to start anywhere along the park perimeter and wander in. This gesture not only opened space for a new set of paths – including a parabolic overhead ramp negotiating a steep grade change – but also accomplished a behavioural modification with long-term positive benefits to downtown. People now have to start outside of the park to experience it. The team decided to complete Kiley’s original idea of having the park meet the historic Eads Bridge – the steel bridge completed in 1874 that inspired Louis Sullivan to successfully attempt a vertical “skyscraper” version, the 1891 Wainwright Building, also in St. Louis – at its north, and elected to remove most of Washington Avenue, which stood there previously. Perhaps this extension will enliven the fragment of the city’s riverfront warehouse district to the north, although this district – named Laclede’s Landing after city founder Pierre Laclède Liguest – is now itself isolated from downtown by the elevated section of freeway. The city did not follow up the removal of Washington Avenue with any new pedestrian or automotive paths. On the riverfront, there is a new trail that extends into another riverfront trail that tracks along scrapyards, a soap factory and an Underground Railroad site. The slope of the Arch park here has been replanted in native plantings to conceal the inset accessibility ramps – MVVA has balanced the standards of landscape preservation with the need to add ramps and a few other grade changes such that all people can access the site. In the past, accessibility had been a major problem. Other deft work comes through what Shepard terms “smaller assignments within a whole that tell stories”. Saarinen’s preferred complex lampposts are now in place for the first time on the main allées, replacing the generic, new formalist globe lamps that the NPS had previously installed. There are new plantings – not just the 900 London plane trees replacing fragile Rosehill ash trees along the allées, but also pawpaw trees selected as a result of what the famous 19th-century explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark found on the bank of the Mississippi at St. Louis. MVVA continued to balance the primary monocultural allées with diverse plantings across the rest of the site, a balance that Kiley sought for its productive tension between evocation of both the modern and the natural – the echo of the site’s own development across time.
Eero Saarinenâ€™s Gateway Arch was envisaged as a mythic sculpture rising from a site whose topography would conjure the wilderness that the US had to conquer in order to expand its settled territory.
The new museum entrance (above) and a view of the riverfront directly in front of the Arch (below).
remove the depressed and elevated interstate remains cryptic and tragic. Today, entering the park has become nurturing, deliberate and humane, but the space nonetheless exposes a visitor to the unanswered civic question of the interstate highway. Along the entire western edge, the now-underutilised canyon and ramp still beckon for better consideration than they received during the renewal of the Arch site. During the development of the General Management Plan, even the oft-decried NPS displayed wilder dreams of connectivity than St. Louis’s civic heavy-hitters. That plan, laden with technocratic detail, includes a preferred alternative in which Interstate 70 would have been removed completely between the bridge south of the Arch and the bridge to the north – the section of St. Louis’s useless freeway that continues to serve as an extended middle finger and which is a constant reminder of the city’s dependence on the automobile. Each design team in the competition listed highway removal as the best option, although generally only after lobbying from an advocacy coalition led by architects, developers, activists and others, which calls itself City to River. City to River presented clear plans for deleting the freeway and inserting an urban boulevard at grade in its place. The coalition’s dormant website remains online today, entombing a prescient call to not only yank the highway, but to create new sites for buildings facing the Arch. St. Louis’s civic leaders recoiled from this crystal ball, but recent building permits urging high-rise construction in the downtown area suggest that the market would have been capable of absorbing new buildings sites. City to River pressed against civic heavyweight players Jack Danforth, a former senator and attorney, and Walter Metcalfe, Danforth’s partner at the Bryan Cave law firm, who led the early moves toward the design competition. Danforth and Metcalfe framed the competition specifically in relation to the Arch site, and were impatient with those attempting to add on what might become expensive wish-list ideas. Visions of open-streets and downtown freeway removal were most viable as aspirations of urban design among the local avant-garde, while the establishment was – and still largely remains – a class that sees the downtown as a hub for car culture: a place that only makes sense with big roads, exit ramps and ample parking. They do not generally
admire the walkable global cities whose approach St. Louis has eschewed for most of the last 70 years. City to River was necessarily brash in its approach, and found its message resonated with the design teams and in the press. Mayor Francis Slay also seemed to endorse the group’s plan in a tweet posted on 30 September 2011: “Yes. @CityToRiver is a good idea. The Arch work will get done sooner.” But to the funders and government agencies behind the project, the vision was a wild beast that did not fit formulaic expectations or the deadened image of downtown as a co-dependent parking basin for white-collar motorists. City to River had plenty of work to do in transcending the impasse with these power players, and, like many activist fronts, it faltered. To the politicians, the group never represented a voter bloc to fear. To the agencies, it represented a rogue call for actions that would have unforeseeable consequences and whose management fell outside of any existing part of local, state or federal government. And to the donors and business elite, the group became a heretical mass, urging a future that they could not envision themselves. Yet to the millennials of the city, City to River seemed to comprehend the challenge of enlivening the city’s downtown streets. City to River, however, faltered after its chairperson Alex Ihnen decided to leak on his news site the announcement of MVVA’s victory in the design competition ahead of the official announcement. CityArchRiver rightly took offence, and the highway removal idea lost political traction. Today, the approach to the site beneath the elevated freeway at Washington Avenue stands as the mnemonic cue that more was – and remains – possible for reconnecting the entire park edge to downtown. Waterfront freeway removal has previously reversed similar urban “breaks” in Portland, Seattle and San Francisco, while other removals have eliminated the citadel-like barriers to central Milwaukee and Montreal. Buffalo is now exploring removing its notorious Scajaquada Corridor, which bisects a Frederick Law Olmsted park, and Oakland continues serious discussion around the removal of Interstate 980. Furthermore, Dallas has shown how a city can go over a freeway in a colossal manner with the Office of James Burnett-designed Klyde Warren Park. St. Louis has accomplished a one-block park very gracefully, but has left it surrounded by the sounds,
Opening at the nation’s bicentennial in 1976, the Museum of Westward Expansion curated both the national and site narratives with close cropping of dissent and problematic encounter. The bookshop refused to sell narratives that criticised the clearance, and the exhibits presented settlement of the Louisiana Purchase and the larger west as a fulfilment of nationhood, downplaying the existing nations that were destroyed in the process. Today, the revamped museum explicates more complex stories, with indigenous histories on display alongside mockups of old riverfront buildings lost to the Arch construction. Still, whose culture the Arch performs can be unclear. A “new” Arch remains shy about presenting the site as a space of encounter, although its manufactured topography shelters layers of settlement reaching back before European arrival. Those deepest layers were underfoot when Pierre Laclède Liguest arrived at St. Louis, and began trading with the native Osage, Iowa, Otoe and Missouria tribes. Although the French pursued reciprocal economic relations, they also were agents of smallpox, influenza and other illnesses that decimated the indigenous populations. Later, under the flag of the US government post-1804, the settlers who staked farther western and northern reaches on the new national territory relied on more overt and deliberate violence to hew the land. While the Arch is more candid now, its interpretation should envision a better symbolic relation to the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, built by the Mississippian civilisation just across the river. The Arch tells the story of national violence, but Cahokia – a city that was larger than London was in the year 1200 – showcases indigenous political and economic power. The two sites together evoke a historic imagination of the long past of encounters and the longer work ahead of a shared North America: a sharing that will manifest in many future ribbon cuttings, design competitions and official museum narratives to come. Writing in his essay ‘Designing Indian Country’, the landscape architect Rod Barnett positioned the Arch site as one in which nothing is truly postcolonial, as the native and nation-state forces are not truly binary. The negotiation of spaces, identities and political power continues in the US. The Arch transposes its intended meanings in the opening
smells and sights of an inchoate motorway. The blank backsides of big buildings still face out, with no reason to open to the Arch with shops, restaurants or invitational features. As this desolate edge remains, St. Louis shows a conservatism in urban design that even the CityArchRiver competition could not budge. With the additional three years of work after the scheduled completion of Arch park work, the excuses of local political leaders seem fearful rather than pragmatic. At the completion of the renewal of the Arch site, a sharp reminder of its culturally contested meanings was revealed. On 3 July 2018, a group of 18 government officials and foundation executives cut the ribbon beneath the apex of the catenary curve. All were white. Within hours, local black political leaders began the viral hashtag campaign #ArchSoWhite, pointing out the discrepancy between the assembled dignitaries and the population make-up of St. Louis city, which is only 44 per cent white. Two days later, an alternative ribbon cutting placed leaders of colour – black, Mexican-American, Asian-American and others – front and centre. Mayor Lyda Krewson, who is white and the city’s first female mayor, attended both ribbon cuttings. With the Old Courthouse the site of slave auctions as well as the early 19th-century trials of Dred and Harriet Scott – slaves freed by a deceased master, but still claimed as property by the master’s family, which would foment the Civil War – the early tone-deaf ribbon cutting seemed particularly ill-conceived. Landscape architecture is a public cultural performance, with a wide audience holding a difference of opinions, and the Arch grounds have always performed an ambiguous and seemingly exclusive set of values. The site is officially dedicated to the enterprise of the westward expansion of the US and the ideal of “manifest destiny” – in base terms, a glorified settler colonialism with genocidal implications for indigenous populations. The evictions that were needed to clear the riverfront for the site displaced black residents, white labourers and many of the city’s artists and writers who had flocked to the warehouses. During construction, white construction companies and unions excluded black workers. In 1964, during construction, activists Percy Green and Richard Daly bravely occupied a platform on the side of one of the Arch legs for four hours in protest of racist hiring practices.
Remnants of the 19th-century levee on St. Louis’s waterfront.
of its site – as it reaches into the city it also dissolves the bounds of its mandate to tell a heroic nationalist tale. The challenge for the stewards of the Arch remains openness to expressing the site not as a completed place with limited meanings, but as a space of unending historic encounter between indigenous and European, white and black, civic elite and everyday people. These encounters do not diminish the achievements in urban design that have accumulated since Saarinen and Kiley won the 1947 competition. Perhaps the Arch could become a marker of unending negotiation of settlement, ecologies and cultural visibility. When black political leaders created their own ribbon cutting, the Arch instantly became a token of manifest political power. If the NPS cannot overtly open the narratives beyond the new museum programmes, the ways in which the people of St. Louis and beyond occupy or extend the site will open its new meanings up to scrutiny. This is a site of encounter – not marking the past, chronicled or
buried, but engendering emergent and unrealised potential. Saarinen’s abstracted triumphal arch remains at degree zero, seemingly always open to cultural meanings beyond its closely inscribed original intent. Welcome to a new Gateway Arch, no longer a didactic symbol detached from its own city. Welcome also to a new telling of what the US’s own histories of settlement, urbanism and power represent, and how they may bend next. E N D
The Quarterly Journal of Design
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Catholic Taste Words Peter Smisek Photographs Giulio Ghirardi
The Catholic Church has been one of the most generous benefactors throughout the history of Western art, but the world has moved on considerably from the times when popes commissioned Michelangelo and Bernini to paint, sculpt and otherwise edify the glory of God.
Carla Juaçaba’s minimal composition of stainles steel bars is one of 10 chapels shown by the Vatican at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale.
In May, the exhibition Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) in New York, alongside the museum’s de rigueur gala at which Rihanna appeared to take direct inspiration from the wardrobe of the Pope himself, turning up in a heavily bejewelled Maison Margiela corset dress and papal mitre. Later that month, the Venice Architecture Biennale saw the Vatican present 10 contemporary chapels on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in the Venetian Lagoon. Even more unusually, at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Wim Wenders premiered his new documentary, Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, for which he received unprecedented access to the Pontiff himself. Taken together, these events seem like a soft power coup for the Vatican in 2018. It is not,
represent a country, but the interests of the Holy See and the Catholic Church”. A further statement from the Vatican Museums, which are administered by the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State rather than the Council for Culture, argued that “the Holy See is very different from other countries that have a permanent presence at the Biennale”. The Vatican is very different indeed. Technically speaking, it’s an absolute electoral theocracy and a spiritual and administrative authority contained within the walls of Vatican City. It is also the world’s smallest sovereign country – with only around 800 inhabitants and an area of 0.44sqkm. Of course, that is not what gives the Vatican its influence; in principle, at least, it presides over 1.299 billion Catholics around the world, although falling church attendance and rightful exposition of numerous abuse scandals have put a dent in its moral authority. Nevertheless, other Christian denominations have fewer followers and similarly checkered histories; and although Sunni Islam now counts more followers than the Catholic Church, it lacks the hierarchy and centralisation of the Church of Rome. These features, in principle, allow the Vatican to project a coherent message through any medium it chooses, particularly in the arts. As with any large organisation, the Holy See is not wholly in control of the many different activities, cultural outreach included, which occur under the broad umbrella of Catholicism. It is the individual dioceses, for instance, that commission new church buildings according to their needs and their financial capacity. Style and taste are locally determined rather than centrally dictated. It is also true that Vatican-led reform of the Catholic Church, whether artistic or liturgical, has often involved acknowledging and building upon practices previously begun at a grassroots level. Liturgical reforms undertaken at the Second Vatican Council or Vatican II (1962-65), such as preaching mass versus populum (facing the people), and in vernacular languages, are two examples of this. Both were already practised, although only within certain congregations. Announced by Pope John XXIII in 1959, the Council’s aim was to address the need for renewal within the Church in the aftermath of the Second World War. Engagement, both internally and externally, was the guiding principle behind many of the decisions taken by the council.
The Church presides over . billion Catholics, although falling church attendance and abuse scandals have put a dent in its moral authority. however, the first time that the Church has realised the importance of contributing to current cultural discourse. The Holy See has participated in the Venice Art Biennale for a number of years, for instance. For the 2013 edition, Micol Forti, curator of 19th-century and modern art at the Vatican Museums, organised Creation, Uncreation, Recreation, an exhibition based on the first 11 books of Genesis. The Vatican pavilion at the 2015 edition of the Venice Art Biennale was entitled In the Beginning … the Word became flesh, and brought together three young artists from different corners of the world. In 2017 however, the Holy See decided not to participate in the Art Biennale. Monsignor Pasquale Iacobone, representative of art and faith at the Pontifical Council for Culture, said in a statement to The Art Newspaper that selecting artists posed too many challenges, as the individual “[does] not 146
The Asplund Pavilion by MAP Studio is a Nordic-inspired structure that contains an exhibition on Gunnar Asplundâ€™s Woodland Chapel.
Out of the 10 pavilions, Ricardo Flores and Eva Pratsâ€™ chapel references baroque traditions most clearly.
Not a project; a reflexion by Francesco Cellini was created in collaboration with Panariagroup.
Eduardo Souto de Moura’s structure encloses an intimate space within a roughly-hewn stone wall. “It is not a chapel,” says the accompanying catalogue. “It is simply a place.”
Vatican II also embraced modern art, another area in which grassroots movements within the Church had pushed ahead of mainstream Catholic thinking. In 1923, modernist architect Auguste Perret completed the first church in reinforced concrete at Raincy, near Paris, and in the 1930s, the French Dominican order took a radical turn towards modern art and engaged with Marxist thought as an antidote to capitalism and fascism. These efforts continued after the war with renewed intensity, and included the commissioning of further modernist chapels by the Dominicans such as the French architect Maurice Novarina’s 1950 Notre-Dame de Toute Grâce in Plateau d’Assy, in the French Alps, and Henri Matisse’s 1951 Vence Chapel, on the French Riviera. Such projects, favouring modernism over historicist styles, were reflected in the pages Sacré, a magazine edited from 1936 to 1954 of L’Art Sacré, by Dominican friar and stained glass artist MarieAlain Couturier, who had also been involved in commissioning Perret. Pope Pius XIII may have seen these movements as dangerous insubordinations, but Father Couturier eventually prevailed, and his clandestine manipulations secured Le Corbusier, a student of Perret, commissions for both the Notre Dame du Haut pilgrimage chapel in Ronchamp, eastern France, and the Sainte Marie de La Tourette priory near Lyon. The Father was also adamant that the Catholic Church needed to embrace the best artists of its time, regardless of their faith. Writing in Harper’s Bazaar in 1947, he stated his conviction that “a great artist is always a great spiritual being”. The Catholic Church adopted this attitude more explicitly post-Vatican II, and began seeking greater dialogue with the wider secular world. The Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers was established in 1965 and, in 1982, Pope John Paul II – who had attended Vatican II – established the Pontifical Council for Culture. The two bodies merged in 1993 to create a de facto cultural ministry within the Vatican, which is today responsible for the highest order of cultural outreach organised by the Catholic Church towards the world at large. The current president of the Pontifical Council for Culture is Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, who has held the post since 2007, and who was responsible for commissioning all three of the Vatican’s Venice exhibitions. Other Council activities include organising and partaking in academic conferences
on topics ranging from anthropology to music, and sporting events at various Catholic universities in the United States. The council’s secretary, Monsignor Paul Tighe, recently spoke at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, calling for “compassionate disruption” as a digital strategy for the Church – using social media to spread a message of kindness and disrupt online negativity by offering alternative spaces for discussion. The Council for Culture does not, however, lead on all cultural outreach by the Church; for the Met exhibition, both the Archbishop of New York and other local Church figures led preparations, with Cardinal Ravasi contributing a personal essay titled ‘On Priestly Garments’. It is notable too that Wenders’ documentary was produced without any influence from the Council for Culture; instead the Pontiff’s participation was assured through a personal acquaintance with Monsignor Dario Viganò, who suggested Wenders shoot the film. Viganò is a cinephile and was the then Prefect of the Secretariat for Communication, but Wenders was nevertheless given final cut privileges. The filmmaker’s own religious affiliation – he is a convert from Catholicism to Protestantism – was not an issue. At the 2018 Architecture Biennale, dialogue with non-believers is central. The Church’s project includes a roster of well-known architects such as Norman Foster, Flores and Prats, Smiljan Radić and Terunobu Fujimori, as well as more obscure names such as Carla Juaçaba and MAP Studio. Francesco Dal Co, a seasoned curator who had previously directed the Venice Architecture Biennale in 1991, was appointed to lead the project under the patronage of the Vatican. According to Monsignor Tighe, the initial idea was to produce an exhibition showing models and drawings of recently completed sacral buildings, but Dal Co instead proposed the idea of commissioning brand new structures. Of the six countries participating in the Biennale for the first time in 2018, the Vatican seems to have generated the most enthusiasm among journalists. Some of the old prejudices endured however: The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright commended the exhibition, but suggested the chapels could use more of the “camp theatrics” that many associate with Catholicism. Another critic quipped privately that even the famously secular Norman Foster was in the Vatican’s good graces, although both Dal Co
and Monsignor Tighe were keen to stress that religious affiliation played no role in selecting either the curator or the participating architects. Indeed, the brief stated that each chapel had to contain just two liturgical elements – a pulpit and an altar – to represent, says Cardinal Ravasi, “The Word, and the bread and wine, which are the basis of Christianity”. Liturgical elements aside, many of the 10 chapels are masterclasses in the different ways of delineating contemplative space. Dal Co’s brief used the Swedish 20th-century architect Gunnar Asplund’s 1918-20 Woodland Chapel in Stockholm’s Skogskyrkogården as the basis for the commission, and the story of this structure is told within an 11th pavilion in Venice. “With [the Woodland Chapel] – a small masterpiece – Asplund defined the chapel as a place of orientation, encounter and meditation,” says Dal Co, adding that the structure seems “formed by chance or natural forces inside a vast forest, [and] seen as the physical suggestion of the labyrinthine progress of life, the wandering of humankind as a prelude to the encounter”. The word “encounter” is often used to mean an encounter with Christ in Christian discourse, though in its broader sense it can mean an enlightenment or transcendent experience. The “Culture of Encounter” is also one of the cornerstones of the papacy of Pope Francis. Broadly speaking, it means building bridges and relationships between Catholic congregations the world over and their sometimes non-Catholic neighbours. The idea is to reach out beyond the Church’s usual audience using cultural influence, and it is surely no coincidence that Dal Co’s model for the architects was a non-denominational 20thcentury chapel built in majority Lutheran Sweden. Furthermore, there’s nothing to mark out the resulting 10 structures as obviously Catholic, although the presence of crosses clearly identifies their Christian origins. The 10 chapels are splendidly diverse, ranging from a relatively traditional edifice designed by Japanese architect and critic Terunobu Fujimori, which perhaps most closely recreates Asplund’s chapel, through to Carla Juaçaba’s composition of polished stainless-steel bars. These bars intersect in the middle of a nearby meadow to form a row of benches beneath a gleaming cross. Visitors are free to roam between the chapels and explore them at will, just as they would roam Stockholm’s
Skogskyrkogården, although it must be said that the garden in which the chapels are placed does not afford the sense of being lost in a Nordic pine forest, and not all the chapels exude the quiet grace of Asplund’s prototype. Javier Corvalán’s boldly angled, hovering ring, consisting of plywood sheets attached to a robust steel frame, comes close to being the kind of grand gesture that became typical of Baroque churches, for instance. There is also some truth to Dal Co’s assertion that “the designers have been asked to come to terms with a building type that had no precedents
The brief stated that each chapel had to contain just two liturgical elements – a pulpit and an altar. or model”. While freestanding chapels do clearly exist – think roadside chapels or Peter Zumthor’s Bruder Klaus Field Chapel in Bavaria – the Vatican’s Venice ensemble seeks to question traditional models, with the architects free to choose their own references and narratives. Ricardo Flores and Eva Prats, for instance, clearly drew inspiration from Antonello da Messina’s 15th-century painting St Jerome in his Study. Their chapel provides a kind of half-shelter from which to observe the world around them, but which nonetheless encloses the body, while a round opening in the chapel’s arch directs the first light of the morning onto the altar. Other architects indulge in their trademark moves. Foster + Partners’ chapel delights in showing off playful structural gymnastics, with two rows of timber slats undulating down from the structure’s slender steel frame. These slats focus the visitor’s gaze on the trees and lagoon beyond, and suggest a more outward-looking way of practising worship. Pluralism, which is so often the grassroots reality of any religious organisation, has been given concrete form. But it is perhaps Andrew Berman’s understated contribution that is the highlight: a mysterious prism clad in white polycarbonate, the interior painted black, with only a small opening letting through 152
Andrew Bermanâ€™s ostensibly mute chapel sits, like the others, in the gardens of San Giorgio Maggiore in the Venetian lagoon.
Foster + Partnersâ€™ chapel features two rows of timber slats that drop down from a slender steel frame.
Theatrical and focused, Javier CorvaiĂĄnâ€™s large gesture is awe-inspiring and all-enveloping.
a little light, but otherwise leaving the visitor in the dark. It creates a kind of confrontation with the self, an idea with a long religious tradition, and Monsignor Tighe explains that the chapels aim to induce transcendence as a way to create a shared experience for the faithful and non-believers alike. “Beauty and art, at their best, have the capacity to invite people to go in a little deeper, to break with what Cardinal Ravasi calls the scourge of
sparse, but still able to contain the Church’s diverse flock and, most importantly, accessible to believers and non-believers alike. While it is still uncertain whether the chapels will remain in place or be transported to parishes in need of such structures, Monsignor Tighe suggests that lessons may be learned from them in the form of new guidelines relating to the design of ecclesiastical buildings commissioned by the Church. “We would be hoping to speak with Catholic universities that have faculties of architecture,” he explains, “[and] to speak with dioceses which are in the business of commissioning churches and to look to this as something that tries to raise the bar on a distinctively Christian understanding of beauty and how that translates [into] church buildings.” The Catholic Church’s cultural outreach is not, however, always quite so forward-looking: the exhibition at the Met, for instance, parsed Catholicism’s back catalogue with considerable gusto. The exhibition is split into three parts: the first scatters garments inspired by Catholic iconography through the entire museum, pairing them with artefacts from the Met’s extensive collection of fine and decorative arts. Visitors are encouraged to undertake a kind of pilgrimage through the museum’s Byzantine and Medieval galleries, which show the deep historical roots and unwavering presence of Catholic iconography that has undoubtedly had a deep impact on the designers featured in the exhibition, many of whom grew up Catholic. The second part consists of more than 40 items from the Sacristy of the Sistine Chapel, exhibited as a standalone exhibition at the Anna Wintour Costume Center – in fact, one of the conditions of the loan was that these sacred garments not be mixed with the profane ones. The third part of the exhibition is located in the Cloisters – a fanciful reassemblage of fragments of old European monasteries brought to Harlem in the 1930s – and showcases a more muted procession of profane couture. Critics have been divided. Many praised the exhibition’s ambitious staging and impressive scope, with The Cut’s review resplendent with praise, calling it the “most ambitious show conceptually” staged under Andrew Bolton, the Costume Institute’s head curator since 2015. Certainly, Bolton’s work on the exhibition is worth recognising. The Vatican does not
“Beauty and art, at their best, have the capacity to invite people to go in a little deeper, to break with what Cardinal Ravasi calls the scourge of superﬁciality.”—Monsignor Paul Tighe superficiality,” he says. “It creates a space for reflection, for silence, to get in touch with what’s happening in their own heart and we would believe that allows the person to be in contact with God, whether he or she believes in God.” In this respect then, some of the architectural ideas shown in Venice represent spiritual continuity expressed through formal innovation. The architecture critic Nikolaus Pevsner once wrote that a “bicycle shed is a building; Lincoln Cathedral is a piece of architecture”, but the 10 Venice chapels challenged their architects to create beauty on the scale of the former. Beauty is one of the cornerstones of Catholic liturgy, celebration and architecture. The 11th-century Benedictine abbot Suger, who commissioned the French abbey of Saint-Denis, wrote: “When – out of my delight in the beauty of the house of God – the loveliness of the many-coloured gems has called me away from external cares[…] by the grace of God, I can be transported from this inferior to that higher world”. The Vatican’s Venice pavilions possess a kind of beauty that Pope Francis’s Culture of Encounter might approve of – forward-thinking, perhaps a little 156
Terunobu Fujimoriâ€™s contribution is perhaps the most recognisably archetypical, despite being the only structure by a non-Western architect to be included in the exhibition.
Smiljan Radicâ€™s pavilion references a roadside shrine.
regularly endorse such extensive loans and it took Bolton two years and twelve visits to Rome to seal the deal. The last time that items from the Holy See went on loan to the Met was in 1983 for the exhibition The Vatican Collections: The Papacy and Art. More than 890,000 people paid a visit then, making it the museum’s third most visited exhibition ever. Between its opening on 10 May and the beginning of July, Heavenly Bodies had already attracted half a million visitors and is on track to rank among the museum’s most successful exhibitions before it closes on 8 October. Criticism of the show, however, focused on its lack of diversity. The designers on show were mostly male and Western, and the clothes were mostly for women – a problematic proposition considering that executive power in the Catholic Church is, and always has been, in male hands. Some critics pointed at the almost deferential treatment of the subject, with The Art Newspaper calling it “Church propaganda” and Refinery 29’s Connie Wang pointing out that for many of the featured designers, Catholicism was not “something
“Catholics live in an enchanted world, a world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive candle, saints and religious medals.” —Andrew Greeley
to run towards but rather something to run from”. The loan from the Vatican was only secured after Bolton presented a lookbook to Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who helped pass on the curator’s request to Monsignor Guido Marini, the keeper of the Sacristy. It’s easy to imagine Bolton had to walk a fine line between kowtowing and curatorial vision – by definition,such archival research did not encourage a forward-looking approach. While some Catholics would balk at any attempt to appropriate religious iconography and symbolism
into something so seemingly superficial as couture, the exhibition gave no space to more forcefully subversive garments and objects, such as the quasi-religious garb that is regularly donned by pop stars such as Madonna and Lady Gaga. The only exception to this kind of appropriation was the inclusion of Rick Owens’s 2015 men’s tunics that expose the wearer’s genitalia, supposedly referencing characters from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Indeed, the Vatican’s contribution, which included the diamond-encrusted papal tiara once worn by Pius IX, seems out of tune with a Church that now preaches modesty, compassion, charity and poverty. But the central thesis of the whole exhibition is the “Catholic Imagination” – a term coined by priest and sociologist Andrew Greeley in 2000 in his book of the same name, and who is quoted extensively in the exhibition catalogue. “Catholics live in an enchanted world,” he wrote, “a world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive candles, saints and religious medals, rosary beads and holy pictures. But these Catholic paraphernalia are mere hints of a deeper and more pervasive religious sensibility which inclines Catholics to see the Holy lurking in creation.” In this light, the exhibition would have you believe that the lavish, laboriously constructed vestments are presented not as self-serving, but as a celebration of faith and life within the Catholic liturgy. There was, however, an aspect of the exhibition that the Vatican had little control over: the Met Gala. The event is one of New York’s most extravagant red carpet outings, marking the opening of the annual show and offering a chance to fundraise for the Costume Institute. Outrageous though the garments clinging to the stars may have been – Sarah Jessica Parker wearing a Nativity scene that seemed bizarre rather than subversive – the reactionary cries of cultural appropriation and blasphemy were countered by the presence on the night of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, while Cardinal Ravasi repeated, in interview after interview, that the garments on the red carpet actually demonstrated the power of Christian symbols. “The desire to desecrate is innate to the human soul,” he told Marina Valensise from Vogue Italia. “Only what matters can be desecrated.” Heavenly Bodies continues the uptick in visitor numbers that major museums such as the Met increasingly rely upon, and, for its part, the Vatican
has received extensive coverage in titles like Vogue – something of a coup for its overarching outreach mission. In the April issue of Vogue Italia, Cardinal Ravasi explained the connection between beauty, ecclesiasticism and fashion. He was also able to highlight the work of the Courtyard of the Gentiles, a forum that facilitates cultural debate between believers and non-believers. And for a good measure, he also mentioned the Holy See’s presence at the Venice Architecture Biennale. “Whoever enters a museum of paintings without knowing anything about the Bible,” the Cardinal said, “cannot understand 80 per cent of what he or she sees. It is precisely for this reason, that is, that we need [a] dialogue with the world of beauty.” Although the Church can no longer command Europe’s armies, its soft power, accumulated through centuries of cultural production and evangelisation, is unlikely to wane any time soon, and can only be amplified through its presence in magazines and broadsheets that normally do not report on religious matters. But there is nevertheless the feeling that the Catholic Church cannot afford to stand idly by. The May 2018 Irish referendum on overturning the Eighth Amendment of the country’s constitution and creating a pathway for legal abortion sent shockwaves through the Irish clergy. In the Amazon, there have been calls to allow parish clergy to marry, as the profession is otherwise not attractive enough and many congregations have been left without a priest. The Vatican seems to recognise these realities – it is slowly starting to allow a degree of consultation on celibacy, while the Pope reached out to the LGBTQ+ community in 2013 when he said, “If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge?” It must be said, however, that the Culture of Encounter often stops short of real dialogue, and there has been no official change in the Church’s doctrine regarding LGBTQ+ rights. On the more purely cultural front, progress seems more encouraging. The Pontiﬁcal Council for Culture is organising a conference entitled ‘Doesn’t God dwell here anymore?’ as part of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in November, which will look at the question of abandoned churches and the ways in which they can be used to enhance their communities. In Europe, at least, it seems that the Catholic Church will need to wield its cultural capital more deftly, even as it may
reform itself internally for the sake of the rest of the world. It is initiatives like this that could see the Pontifical Council for Culture play its biggest role yet – recasting the Catholic Church as a major and active cultural force in the 21st century. The Catholic Church also needs to engage further with initiatives outside its own walls. Monsignor Tighe spoke enthusiastically about London academic Aaron Rosen’s “extraordinarily powerful” Stations of the Cross, a guided tour of classical and contemporary art that includes museums, churches and sitespecific installations spread across Britain’s capital. Rosen is Jewish, but conceived of the idea with his wife, an Anglican minister, creating an art pilgrimage that transcends religious affiliations. The Church can and wants to learn from these initiatives –
Although the Church can no longer command Europe’s armies, its soft power is unlikely to wane any time soon. after all, the exhibitions in Venice and New York show that it is willing to reach out and successfully engage believers, non-believers and those in between, the new cultural Catholics. “We want to make sure that the great heritage of religion that we have is not seen simply as a museum but as something that continues to speak to people, that can offer them hope, that can inspire them, that can lift them and encourage them with their own decisions,” Tighe concludes. In the future, the success of the Pontifical Council for Culture will therefore also likely determine the success of the Vatican itself on the world stage. E N D
Most Yellow Cars Tend to be Signal Yellow Cars Words Oli Stratford Photographs Jermaine Francis
“I’ve got some cashew milk if you like.” Well, that just blew me away. Two minutes through the door of Michael Marriott’s studio in Dalston, east London, and my entire paradigm of studio visits had shifted for the better.
everything out on display, with nothing to hide. Even the mechanical pencil sharpener is transparent, meaning you can really peer at all the guilty shavings in its belly and wonder what on earth’s been going on to prompt that amount of sharpening. Then there are the prototype chairs and stools stacked high atop cabinets; the tins of vinyl matte paint set out in jumbled rows; a series of postcards Marriott printed for his Millimetre Mandate campaign, which shanghais a drawing of Tintin’s Captain Haddock into promotional service for its claim that millimetres “are the perfect measuring unit for man and machine”, while centimetres are “capricious, casual and can cause confusion”. I also note two tennis balls in a tube; a shelf devoted to coloured packing tapes; and every sort of woodworking tool you can imagine. “Not that I collect tools,” notes Marriott, who has the air of a kindly woodwork teacher. “I just have a lot of them.” Well, I say it’s very open as a space, but one thing has been deliberately hidden away. Head down a staircase and you come out into the building’s underground carpark – the sort of place where a crime on Luther might take place. Here, lurking amongst the family sedans and tucked away beneath a green plastic sheet, is the monster to Marriott’s Dr Frankenstein. Strip lighting illuminates the space like a surgeon’s theatre, Marriott steps forward and the sheet is thrown back. Behold – a Volvo! In primrose yellow! “It would fit in a nursery environment quite well,” says Marriott and he’s dead right – it’s an absolute Easter bonnet of an automobile, albeit stripped to the chassis. The windows have been plucked out, its engine is missing and the interior has been gutted. “Just the idea of stripping a yellow Volvo to its bare yellow skin and shell,” says Marriott, running his hands delicately over the primrose cadaver. “I knew there was going to be beautiful stuff in there.” But are you allowed to have this down here, Michael? “I shouldn’t really,” he admits. “That’s why I’ve got the cover on it.” Anyway, don’t let that bit of naughtiness put you off. Marriott really is a very nice man and it’s worth spending some time with that thought because it’s important to what follows. First, however, some background. Marriott studied furniture design at the London College of Furniture in the early 1980s, before graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1993 with a master’s in the subject. Since then, he’s spent a career
Usually when I visit a designer’s studio, I’ll have a coffee if asked. I’m actually more of a tea drinker, but I’m also vegan and tea isn’t up to much if you have it black – too bitter, too herbal and too nonconformist. While non-dairy milks may have spread through London’s cafés like spores,1 it feels a bit much to ask what non-dairy milks a designer has. So Marriott having cashew milk was a real game changer. Or it would have been, had there not been a problem. I can’t, Michael. I’m intolerant to cashew. Marriott looked a bit disappointed and said this was
It’s not so much cluttered, as very open: everything on display, with nothing to hide. Even the pencil sharpener is transparent. a shame, and what was nice was that he seemed to really mean it. “It’s the only non-dairy milk I’ve found that has the creaminess of real milk,” he said. I don’t mean to bore you with that. Fact is, Marriott isn’t even vegan – he’s just trying not to have too much dairy – but it seemed like a good way to set out the fact that Michael Marriott is a tremendously nice man. Sitting in his studio and workshop, you start to get a feel for this. Firstly, there are the stickers dotted around everywhere, printed with slogans like “SO GOOD”, “PEACE it’s not just for CHRISTMAS” and “WORK HARD & BE NICE TO PEOPLE”.2 Then there’s the objects: a serving hatch leading between the kitchen and workshop that’s printed with a smiling Alpine cow wearing a garland of stars, which looks as if it might once have advertised soft cheese; an orange and white billiard ball that’s been repurposed to serve as a handle knob for a router or some such. That’s just a nice thing to do. But then, the whole place is filled with touches like that. The studio is like the best garage you’ve ever been in – no windows and absolutely crammed to the gills. It’s not so much cluttered, as just very open: 1 2
You cannot yet make milk from spores. See – nice.
Marriott photographed in the carpark of his Dalston studio, alongside the primrose yellow Volvo he is slowly dismantling.
creating objects that, while meticulously designed and constructed, are often deliciously jerry-rigged in aesthetic, ranging across editions, installations, commissions and, occasionally, industry. Four Drawers (1996), for instance, is a cabinet on wheels, constructed from birch plywood and pegboard, with four interior drawers made from repurposed cardboard fruit crates. The Ply stool (2009) is a set of interlocking, screen-printed plywood sheets, held together by plastic zip ties. And the Skittle table (1996) for longtime collaborator SCP is a glass tabletop seated upon four wooden bowling pin-style legs. They’re wilfully make-do-and-mend creations – the kind of furniture you imagine Stig of the Dump might
produce were he to develop an interest in cabinetry once he hit adulthood – but absolutely consummate in their conception, execution and construction. They’re pieces that balk at the spit polish perfection hankered after by so much contemporary design. They almost seem to respond to any questions over their mode of construction with a kind of insouciant shrug – Well, why not? Even Marriott’s more traditional pieces evince elements of bricolage – a clarity and upfrontedness about their mode of construction. Shoes shelf (2014), for instance, has a fluoro yellow birch ply frame, the acidity of which highlights the points at which its grey horizontal shelves connect to the overall structure.
logic than surface, I do love colour and pattern, and so I’ve always loved screen-printing,” he says. “I like a coating of ink to be very thin, because then it sinks into the wood and the grain really stands out, giving you this kind of analogue warmth. It doesn’t kill the material, whereas so many objects today feel like they’ve been generated and designed through a computer. But we’re not machines – we’re these imperfect, lop-sided, sort of asymmetrical things – and design needs to remember that.” Even the ink Marriott is using to print with has been produced by means of the Volvo, and is imbued with the kind of narrative and sense of humanity he craves. “I had the idea of making the ink out of soot from the exhaust, although it’s proven not as straightforward as I thought,” he explains. “It’s difficult to extract much soot because the exhaust pipes are packed with fibre-glass wool, but we’ve managed to get a small amount and we’re mixing that with carbon black and some of the sump oil. It makes a superblack printing ink that just feels right.” This sense of rightness is important to the project, in part because the Volvo has a personal history that Marriott is keen to honour. “I was working with a friend on a project in a school in north London,” he explains, “and one day when we were leaving the school, she started telling me about her car which she’d had for 10 or 12 years. I knew the car very well because it stood out and I’d always really liked it because I knew a bit of the story behind it. Several years ago, her old car had broken down, and as she was parked on the side of the road waiting for the AA, her husband said that he was going to go into the Volvo garage over the road and ask how much secondhand cars cost. Their daughter had just been born, so they really needed a car for the family. Half an hour later he came back and got back into the car: ‘You see that pale yellow Volvo over there? I’ve just bought it.’ It was significantly cheaper than a silver or black one because nobody wanted a primrose-yellow car and I just thought that doing that was such a beautiful contribution to his new family. It’s quite a traditional way of providing for a family to say, ‘OK I’m going to spend my savings on a very safe, Swedish vehicle.’ So it was a very significant thing in their lives and the whole family grew to love this car, partly because it stood out so much. Anyway, as we left the school that day, she told me she was going to have to finally get rid of it because it needed a new gearbox and the front
The Around the World tables (2015) have diamond plate steel bases, onto which Marriott has affixed sumptuously veined marble tops, creating the effect of a Roman villa descending upon an industrial slaughterhouse, while the Hoop bench (2014) attaches a plain timber top to two loops of folded metal that serve as legs. They’re designs that luxuriate in the collision and connections of their components; carefully balanced assemblages that amount to more than the sum of their parts, but which are nonetheless quite interested in making sure you’ve seen all their parts regardless. “The thing that really made me want to be a designer was to understand how things are made,” says Marriott. “I have this slightly naive belief that if you make objects that are accessible to people, it gives them an ability to pick the world apart and understand how they might connect to the world. I like a certain utility in the design and manufacturing of things, as opposed to having a total object.” Hence the gutted estate car, which is the subject of “You Say Volvo, I Say Potato...”, a show and project that came out of Marriott’s 2017 design fellowship at the Stanley Picker Gallery in Kingston, southwest London. “I think most vehicle design is terrible,” says Marriott. “It’s all a bit homogenous, which is partly because cars need crash zones and airbags
“We’re not machines – we’re these imperfect, lop-sided, asymmetrical things – and design needs to remember that.” and other health and safety things. But it means that they’ve all become a bit overfed – they’ve eaten too much meat and dairy and they’ve become a bit bulbous. But when you take all that skin off, what you have underneath is something like pure design.” Hence Operation Peel the Primrose, which is due to culminate in an exhibition opening in September 2018 when Marriott will display a series of prints on plywood, each produced using elements of the Volvo reappropriated as potato-print stamps. “Even though I’m more interested in constructional
wheel bearings had gone, and the garage had said it wasn’t worth fixing it. So she was reluctantly coming to terms with letting go of it, while I had been having some early, vague thoughts around what I might be interested in printing for the Stanley Picker fellowship. Suddenly, this car felt like the missing link. It was a big shift in the project – and sort of a big, random shift in a way – but it just felt like it made sense. Anyway, do you want an orange or something?” he asks, offering the fruit bowl. I do, but I also don’t want sticky fingers when out on the job. After all, there’ll be time for an orange later. For now, it’s all about the primrose yellow. “You Say Volvo, I Say Potato...”, then, is a kind of memorial to the Volvo – a means of extending its lifespan beyond its breakdown, and a way of encapsulating the memories encoded within the object in a new physical form. To date, Marriott has coated the Volvo’s tires in ink and run the car over ply boards, as well as setting the windscreen wipers to swash ink back and forth across a plywood windscreen. The results are inky memento mori, prompting reflection on the life of the car and its emotional resonances, while the next stage in the project will see the production of a series of potato prints created using elements of the Volvo’s engine and other inner workings. “I really wanted to find a way of printing that was controllable from the studio, so from the beginning of the project I’ve always referenced the immediacy of potato printing, which has now become far more literal given that we’ve discovered a lot of things we’re printing with are potato-sized,” says Marriott. To facilitate his project, Marriott has taken on the mantle of a dissector. He walks over to a plastic tub full of cleaning fluid, in which various elements of filleted Volvo have been left to soak, their oil and grease leaching away. “Don’t touch,” says Marriott, pulling on a pair of gloves and wisely staving off my plan to thrust my hands into the bath in the name of experiential journalism. “You know, you don’t want that cleaning stuff on your skin.” From within the bath, he pulls out a silvering trophy – a section of the pump used to drive the Volvo’s air-conditioning unit. “That pump is a spectacularly beautiful, amazing little device,” he says. “It’s got three cylinders that go up and down via a sort of disc that’s mounted on a rotating spindle – as that revolves, it pushes the cylinders up into a little dance. It’s so beautifully
simple and clever as a way of achieving a pumping action, but it’s also just a beautiful object. You could almost do this whole project with just that pump.” That kind of eulogising is telling because the description usually attached to Marriott’s work in the design press is “utilitarian”, something that the designer has himself encouraged through comments like those to It’s Nice That in 2015, in which he explained his enduring love for plywood as resulting
“People say my work is utilitarian because it’s something that was written once and then it’s been regurgitated ever since.” from its “utilitarian soul”, in contrast to the “oak paneled rooms that the royalty flounce about in”. But while the utility of devices like the pump and materials such as plywood clearly appeal to Marriott – as well as generating an aesthetic force to which he responds – his connection to objects appears more complicated than the brute practicalities suggested by labelling his design as utilitarian. “I think people say my work is utilitarian because it’s something that was written once and then it’s been regurgitated ever since,” Marriott notes. All things considered, he’s probably right. Since when have fluoro-coloured bookshelves and coffee tables made from fruit crates been utilitarian? And while a Volvo estate is, admittedly, something of a symbol for utilitarian travel, it’s an image that is utterly undone by the overarching and undeniable primrose-ness of the car parked in Marriott’s basement. “Probably less than 1 per cent of cars today are yellow whereas 90 per cent are silver and the other 9 per cent are black or red,” explains Marriott. “Then there’s the fact that this car is primrose yellow, whereas most yellow cars tend to be closer to a signal yellow. I’d always really liked the car, but without the colour you probably wouldn’t look twice at it. It’s the colour that really makes it.” Which seems to capture something important about Marriott’s design ethos. Rather than a strictly utilitarian designer, Marriott
“You Say Volvo, I Say Potato...” is an exhibition of Marriott’s ongoing project, opening at the Stanley Picker Gallery in September 2018.
seems something more like a nice designer. His work is open-handed and friendly, pushing existing material characteristics to the fore, rather than trying to impose a strict style. “I’m interested in social values and ecological values,” says Marriott, “So with that piece with the fruit crates [Four Drawers], that’s made
“There’s a kind of beauty and rightness in how materials meet and are connected. It’s not hidden – it’s expressed.” using 3mm-thick perforated hardboard on the sides. It’s incredibly reduced and light in terms of material usage – regardless of the fruit boxes being found objects – while there’s a sort of logic I like where the pegboard already has holes in it that allow you to put screws straight though into the ply. There’s no excess in that structure.” Moreover, Marriott’s work is inclusive. It finds space for plywood, marble, metal and timber, mixing these materials with fluoro colours and graphic pops – how many utilitarians, for instance, would throw Captain Haddock into the mix? – before gleefully showing off the ways in which these elements have been brought together, given purpose, and balanced accordingly. As a designer, Marriott is something akin to a devoted primary school teacher, working tirelessly to make sure every material gets a good role in the school play and nobody has to play anything crap like a shrub. “There’s a kind of rightness and a beauty in how materials meet and are connected,” says Marriott. “It’s not hidden – it’s expressed and it feels like a part of the whole thing. That sense of ‘rightness’ is really important for me and the other word I use a lot in relation to objects is ‘handsome’. Handsomeness in an object isn’t to do with masculine features, but refers to a sort of no-nonsense simplicity – if something doesn’t need to be aerodynamic, then don’t apply curves.” This, he notes, is the design approach exhibited by the Volvo’s constituent parts and it’s the same ethos he hopes to embody within his own work. If you’re going to mix materials, why
go to the effort of concealing the transitions? An object whose material properties and functionalities have been carefully considered has no need for disassembly or artifice – nice objects need not finish last. “This maybe sounds a bit hippy,” says Marriott, who – admittedly – is sat in front of one of his “PEACE it’s not just for CHRISTMAS” stickers, wearing shorts and drinking tea with cashew milk, “but I like design that almost feels closer to nature, rather than being the result of the ego of one person and their taste in lines, curves or colours. Those Volvo components, for instance, have been engineered for maximum efficiency. If you thin down a wall section in an engine, you’re in danger of the pressure blowing that wall out, or rust eating it away, so there are reasons for everything. An engine feels like pure design, because it’s led by engineering, material and manufacturing concerns. There’s no superficial styling to it, which is what I dislike about much of what the traditional design world produces.” Marriott has little time for such fripperies or flimflam – it’s straight to the good stuff. If you need him, he’ll be down with the primrose-yellow Volvo. E N D
A Recaptured Production Introduction Peter Kapos Kapos Photographs Photographs Matthew Williams
Gary Hustwit has a new ﬁlm out. Focusing on the approach of the seminal industrial designer Dieter Rams, Rams adds to the ﬁlmmaker’s trilogy of design documentaries: Helvetica (), Objectified () and Urbanized (). Although the ﬁlm is presented as a portrait, Rams’s preoccupations – the entwining of industrial design and consumerism, questions of sustainability and the future of industrial design itself – open the ﬁlm to more general and far-reaching issues.
Gary Hustwit’s first design documentary, Helvetica, was released in 2007.
models, with all the limitations and compromises those entail, and thereby allows him to engage and build audiences directly. Hustwit’s practice of “punk” ﬁlm-making, as he calls it, completes the critique of contemporary consumer society oﬀered by Rams’s reﬂections on design. The restless object world produced by the cult of novelty has resulted in alienation and ecological catastrophe. But since the s, alternative practices, whether they be in industrial design or industrialised culture, have struggled to ﬁnd viable forms. Presenting Rams’s diagnosis of industrial design’s complicity with consumer culture, Hustwit’s ﬁlm – in the agility of its production and craft – suggests another, better way of getting stuﬀ done. What would design look like if practitioners took Rams’s views seriously? It might look something like Hustwit’s ﬁlm.
I recently spoke with Hustwit about the new ﬁlm and was struck by the connection between its making and his interest in s design. As for many who take design seriously, the period’s appeal to Hustwit lies in its openness to possibility. In part, this has to do with a certain utopianism – a general agreement among designers that they were designing for the future. But related to this, as a negative condition, is the fact that marketing’s inﬂuence was yet to constrain designers in their relation to clients to the extent that it would in the following decades. For Hustwit, the positivity and creative freedom of the s are not sources of nostalgia so much as models. He makes ﬁlms to his own brief, completing them to his satisfaction in as much time as they take to be done properly. Rams has been a year in editing, an unusually extended and open process allowing for continual feedback between the developing edit and what still remains to be shot. A similar pattern can be found in Hustwit’s method of production through crowdfunding, which circumvents established
Peter Kapos Is there a process that you follow in your
ﬁlms? Can you characterise the way you work? Gary Hustwit With all the ﬁlms, it usually just comes
down to “I can’t believe the ﬁlm doesn’t already exist.” I’m somebody who wants to watch ﬁlms about design, and so with Helvetica, I couldn’t believe there wasn’t already a feature-length documentary about typography and graphic design. I self-funded that ﬁlm, and friends and family helped out, because I wasn’t going to go into a boardroom and try to get broadcasters on board for a ﬁlm of minutes talking about kerning. But it showed that there was an audience other than me for ﬁlms about design. Peter It’s odd, isn’t it? Because there’s no shortage of publications on design, but there really aren’t many ﬁlms. Why do you think that is? Your ﬁlms have proved that there is a market and that people are very happy to watch them. Gary Since Helvetica came out in , there have been around documentaries and series, so I think it’s changed slightly now. But in , when I started working on Helvetica, I couldn’t believe it. When I contacted people like Massimo Vignelli, Matthew Carter and the other designers in that ﬁlm, no-one had asked them to be in a documentary before. Even with Rams, I expected that someone would be making a feature-length ﬁlm about Dieter, particularly after the high-proﬁle exhibits and the Phaidon book. But in this case, it was more Dieter’s reluctance to be the subject of a documentary that was the reason it hadn’t been done. I felt that all the books are amazing, but ﬁlm can reach a diﬀerent audience, and tell a diﬀerent story about him and his philosophy of design and living. So I pitched to him on that and he semi-reluctantly agreed. That was three years ago. Peter I was wondering whether you have a particular audience in mind for your ﬁlms. Because, from the way you’re describing them, it seems that you’re the audience. Gary Deﬁnitely. That’s how I see it. I’m trying to make a ﬁlm that can be enjoyed by people who have no idea who Dieter is, but which is hopefully also engaging for people who design for a living. But it’s impossible to try to tailor something to a speciﬁc audience. Everybody has their own idea of what a ﬁlm about Dieter Rams should be. I don’t think about that while I’m making the ﬁlm, as it’s impossible to predict what people’s expectations are. Peter One of the things that it seems all your ﬁlms share is a conversational aspect. I get the feeling, from the way your subjects talk, that they feel comfortable with you and that they maybe even know you. There’s
a particular register, which feels very straightforward, direct and honest. Gary Well, I’m really interested in them and what they do. And, you know, these projects are self-initiated. I’m not on assignment from the BBC to go interview this designer. I’ve ﬂown half-way around the world to be there for an afternoon and I really want to know this stuﬀ. I spend a lot of time in the conversations just getting the subjects to forget they’re being ﬁlmed. The conversations can go on for hours, but we’ll only use two or three minutes. It’s funny – people tend to
“I don’t start out with some sort of rigid structure and screenplay for the documentary. It’s in the editing that the story comes out.” bad-mouth the “talking head” documentary, but I love watching people talk about things they’re passionate about. I could watch that all day long. Peter This conversational aspect of the ﬁlms is also reﬂected in their structure. Gary Yeah and that’s a good thing. If I already knew what the conversation was going to be and knew everything about the subject matter, that would be the most boring ﬁlm ever. Peter So when you’re making a ﬁlm, you allow for that kind of openness of where it’s going to end up? Gary Oh, deﬁnitely. It changes with every conversation we have and every shoot we do. I don’t start out with some sort of rigid structure and screenplay for the documentary. A documentary is really made from editing all that footage together and it’s in the editing that the story comes out. A lot of times, we’re overlapping the editing and interviews. So in this case, with Rams, once we’re six months into editing, you start to see the gaps. You start to see, “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to have another designer come in right about now with the T radio and tell us exactly why, from a designer’s standpoint, this thing was revolutionary?” And so I get on a plane and go to Tokyo.
Peter I feel that you can sense that in the ﬁlms. That
a pretty unique situation. But they had certain products that were wildly successful and those subsidised the more esoteric products or hi-ﬁ systems. Peter That cross-subsidy is interesting: this idea that it’s good business to have a whole section of your programme that is losing money and fund that with more successful lines. So shavers and photographic ﬂashlights were paying for all the audio equipment in the s, which was actually losing the company money – and that made good business sense for them. Gary I don’t know. Did it? Peter It did! Because I think they were totally committed to the idea of building a brand and having a programme. From that standpoint, it was good business but it wasn’t good business from the point of view of Gillette, which thought that good business was about maximising proﬁts. It’s just diﬀerent concepts of good business. I think that what you’re doing with spending a year in the editing, in a way, is good business and in another way, it’s horrendous business. Gary True! Peter That’s a kind of utopian business and maybe people are coming back around to the realisation that actually, the bottom line isn’t really what it’s all about. That’s something that a young designer could think about. I had a conversation with a young designer who told me that a good design was a design that stayed in production and sold. He wasn’t interested in what it looked like, how it functioned, or any of the considerations that I think about when I think of good design. It’s purely, “How pleased is the manufacturer?” Gary It’s the same thing in ﬁlmmaking too – on Netﬂix or the BBC there is one methodology and goal in the process. What I love about documentary as a medium is that it can be wildly diverse. If you look at how the technology has become more accessible in terms of cameras, editing systems and even distribution, you can make a documentary today for what you can put on your credit card. Filmmakers now have that ability to do it themselves and not be constrained by what would’ve been the situation to years ago. Peter You funded Rams through Kickstarter, which is a diﬀerent way of getting funding. Gary Yeah, a portion of it. My background is in music and the ﬁrst ﬁlm projects I did were music documentaries. In those cases, it was very much about a relationship to the audience. You know, you had fans dying to see the ﬁlms, and they wanted to buy the poster and T-shirt, and come to a screening and
openness, which is ultimately aimed towards a kind of narrowing or deﬁning, is similar to the process of design itself. Or more precisely, it’s similar to the design process in the s. The s seem to recur in your ﬁlms, both in Helvetica and with your interest in industrial design. What is it about that decade? Gary I don’t know. There’s sometimes a fascination with the decade in which you were born – the music, design, popular culture and fashion of the s are all things I come back to. But it’s not a conscious decision. Peter But what you’ve done in your ﬁlmmaking, in a way, is recover something of s production. You’ve found a singular way of working, which releases you from the constraints that would ordinarily come to bear on this kind of production. If you think about Rams’s career at Braun in the s, before the Gillette acquisition, there was an enormous amount of freedom in the studio. If you wanted to design something and put it into production, you only had to convince two people and you were oﬀ. It was completely speculative, open-ended and incredible. And Rams’s role from the s to the s was about shielding the studio from increasingly destructive pressures. Gary But if we look back at Rams’s most iconic objects, which are now in design books and being auctioned oﬀ as masterpieces, they weren’t wildly successful at the time. That is probably the reason for their scarcity now. These are things Braun didn’t make that many of because consumers weren’t ready, at least not on a mass level. Dieter had the freedom to help bring these things to life even if they didn’t sell. And that’s
Peter How do you understand Rams in relation to your
support the process. So even before Kickstarter, we were doing something along those lines. The funding part is obviously necessary but when you put a project out there on Kickstarter all these possibilities open up that wouldn’t if I were locked in the studio making this thing with no input from the audience. I’m not the world’s foremost expert on Dieter Rams, so I want help and input. Peter There’s a beautiful symmetry of allowing the audience to become part of the production and also, in doing that, there’s the opportunity for them to become part of the content of the ﬁlm. But it’s odd thinking about these diﬀerent kinds of making in relation to the current situation of design. It feels like mass manufacturers don’t have that kind of agility. There are constraints that bear upon the design process. That aﬀects industrial design but also the way that visual communication generally now exists in the world. The considerations in marketing now are so horrendously constraining that they end up with this kind of very diluted result, trying to please the largest number of people all of the time. I think there’s a connection between your interest in the s and what you’ve created: the contemporary conditions of making which are very diﬀerent from those in the s, obviously, but which have allowed for a similar kind of freedom. Gary I would put it down more to the punk-rock DIY ethos and practice. At least in terms of my experience, which came out of working at punk-rock record labels and just building the companies, the events and the projects that we wanted to see, and that we couldn’t get from corporate culture. So, for me, the Dieter Rams ﬁlm is totally punk rock.
other ﬁlms? Does it belong within a set, or is it doing something diﬀerent? Gary Formally it’s doing something diﬀerent. It doesn’t, I think, look or feel like the other ﬁlms. But it does have a lot in common with Objectified: some of the things we were talking about years ago in that ﬁlm are still unresolved. When it comes to issues like sustainability, I’m in some ways shocked that so little has changed. So some of the questions are the same, but obviously, Dieter has his own interpretation of them. It’s the ﬁrst time that I’ve been able to go into one person’s story for minutes. And so, by deﬁnition, it’s going to be diﬀerent from the other ﬁlms. Working with Brian Eno also made it a much diﬀerent process. There’s some sort of commonality between his and Dieter’s ideas about simplicity and complexity. When I ﬁnally got Brian to be part of the project, his music totally changed the way that
“For an -year-old who spends most of his time trimming bonsais, Dieter Rams’s ideas are still incredibly relevant.” I structured the ﬁlm. A lot of his music is rhythmic but there’s not a hard, percussive rhythm to it. So, when you put it together with visuals or multiple shots, you’re not locked into a rhythmic editing style that’s dictated by the music. A scene can be four seconds or it can be seconds. There’s no constraint. I think Brian’s score freed me up to let the shots go on as long as they want, and simplify a lot of the scenes and areas of the ﬁlm that needed clarity. In a sense, I’m also channelling Rams’s principles into the making of the ﬁlm. I don’t think I could make a messy, cluttered ﬁlm about Dieter Rams. Peter Is there a particular aspect of design or industrial design that the ﬁlm focuses on or is drawing attention to? Gary I’d say it’s more focused on Dieter’s ideas and philosophy than it is a history of Braun or Vitsoe. Those companies are obviously hugely important parts of his life and I’m interested in the work that
Hustwit in his Brooklyn studio, where he is currently editing his new film, Rams.
he’s done for them, but I’m also interested in exploring this relationship that we as consumers of products have with the creators of them. I knew all these products in the s and s when I was a kid and my family wasn’t design-conscious – just an average southern-Californian family. I have memories of my alarm clock and the juicer that we had on the counter. My mom just sent me that juicer and it still works perfectly. We’ve somehow accepted that the objects we buy are not going to work after a few years, which is a false construct. Peter Is there an element of anti-design in some of what Rams is now thinking about industrial design? Gary I think so. It’s just the basic question of, “Should this product exist?” which I think still needs to be asked. It’s deﬁnitely a big part of the ﬁlm’s narrative because of Dieter’s whole philosophy of “Less, but better.” What’s hard is that we’re in an economic system that relies on constant consumption and anyone who says “consume less” is demonised. But I think it’s valid, not just on a personal level, but also
on a planetary, sustainability level. It’s important to talk about. And I think per cent of people don’t think about it. They don’t consider what their purchases facilitate and the impact that they have. What do we really need to live on this planet at this point in time? We’ve seen these tidying-up trends recently, which encourage people to get rid of excess clutter and just live with what they need. I think it’s a conversation that increasingly needs to be had. Peter It seems that it’s quite unusual these days for designers to comment and certainly to be critical. Gary Dieter is from that generation of designers that did call out bad design. People got into ﬁghts over whether a design was good or bad and designers spoke their mind. Now there is a little bit of a culture of politeness within the design world. Peter I wonder if it’s because there doesn’t seem to be so much at stake. Because the connection between design and maybe not politics, but some more social kind of activity seems to have been broken. Maybe it’s generational.
Gary What’s generational is also just the time. Post-
Gary It seemed the simplest solution to the design
Second World War, there was the reconstruction and optimism about what the world could be. Designers were asking if there was a way of making the world more democratic through design. It was a time of a lot of change but, in some ways, we’re also going through a time of technological and social change now. It’s one of the reasons I thought that a ﬁlm about Dieter’s ideas was timely. For someone who does not have a computer or a phone, he’s incredibly well-read on current events. He’s constantly talking about US politics, Trump and so on. For an -year-old who spends most of his time trimming bonsais in his backyard outside Frankfurt, I think his ideas are still incredibly relevant to everyone. Peter Because I’m interested in the history of Braun design, it’s led me to researching the [German postwar industrial design school] Ulm HfG and I was really surprised to learn that what I’d ﬁrst thought was the work of a genius was actually something much more distributed between a whole group of people working in similar ways. What Braun did in the s in the way that they promoted Dieter Rams was partly a publicity eﬀort. I think of him almost as an umbrella that covers a huge amount of other stuﬀ. Gary Deﬁnitely. Those are both things that we go into in the ﬁlm: both the inﬂuence and participation of the Ulm school, and the collaborations that Braun had with the designers and students there, and also this idea of Dieter being put forth as an avatar for the new modern German design aesthetic. He looks back at it and wishes there had been more of an acknowledgement of the design team. Braun’s promotion of Dieter really foreshadowed today’s era of star designers. That’s why people call him Mr Braun. The company put him forth as the personiﬁcation of their design ethos and Dieter was made for the part. Peter For a long time, to the public, Braun’s design credits were only to Dieter Rams. Some of the designs that weren’t by him were actually wrongly attributed to him. There were occasional credits to the “Design Department” but none of the other designers were named. The attribution to individual designers other than Dieter was the result of eﬀorts on the part of other department members, culminating in a lawsuit in . The question that I guess I’m working up towards is: why did you give the ﬁlm the title of the name of just one person rather than that of an approach?
challenge. But you know, I get what you’re saying. It’s the collective versus the individual. And that can play out on both sides of design. And it’s hard because it is political. Design is political. Peter Equally, design history is political – how you frame it, what you emphasise, what you suppress. Gary Oh, deﬁnitely. But with a ﬁlm about someone like Dieter, there are people and companies and products and whole decades that we’re just not going to be able to cover in any kind of an encyclopaedic way. Sometimes in order to tell a story, per cent of that story has to be left out. It’s never going to be all-encompassing. Peter It sounds like part of the content of the ﬁlm is a kind of self-critique of the myth, though. Gary Half the time in the ﬁlm we’re just hanging out with Dieter as he does things like talk to design students in Munich, or work with Vitsoe in London to redesign the chair. Just spending that time with Dieter and showing all that stuﬀ does defuse the myth a little bit. He is someone who has an objective view of the st century from the standpoint of having rejected and refused to participate in the digital revolution. It’s an interesting viewpoint to see someone who was so involved with consumer technology, who has watched it change human behaviour, and who is now just looking at it in horror. E N D The UK premiere of Gary Hustwit’s Rams is on 5 November 2018.
Artemide – artemide.com Bordallo Pinheiro – bordallopinheiro.com DND – dndhandles.com Front – frontdesign.se Gucci – gucci.com Inga Sempé – ingasempe.fr Moooi – moooi.com Neri & Hu – neriandhu.com Nomos Glashütte – nomos–glashuette.com James Shaw – jamesmichaelshaw.co.uk Vitra – vitra.com
I absolutely loved wearing my bucket. Everything felt so lovely and peaceful, and there seemed a strange permissiveness to totally shut down from within the pink shelter. My eyes were closed and the market moved around me. I was very disappointed when the shoot ended and I had to leave its conﬁnes. —George Isleden
OBSERVATION: FIGURATION pp. -
AKQA – akqa.com Apple – apple.com Barber & Osgerby – barberosgerby.com Bottega Veneta – bottegaveneta.com Christopher Kane – christopherkane.com Design Museum – designmuseum.org Glasgow School of Art – gsa.ac.uk Google – google.com Kering – kering.com Landmarks Preservation Commission – nyc.gov/ landmarks MAP – mapprojectoffice.com Samsung – samsung.com Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam – stedelijk.nl Stella McCartney – stellamccartney.com Tesla – tesla.com Universal Design Studio – universaldesignstudio.com
TIMELINE pp. -
Burberry – burberry.com
Writer’s note: This comment was originally going to consist of newly authored lyrics to The Trammps’ hit ‘Disco Inferno’. It included unforgettable lines such as “Burberry burn, (wasteful inferno) / Burberry burn, (it’s the talk of town) / Burberry burn, (wasteful inferno) / Burberry burn, (a PR meltdown)”. I can’t see why the editor turned it down. —Kay Sunden
COMMENT: BURBERRY IS BURNING p.
Carolien Niebling – carolienniebling.com
Photographer’s note: When I photographed Carolien in a Zurich food market around am, it was already very hot and we were both looking forward to going for a swim later on. We talked about marriage, because she was about to leave for her wedding in Finland, and I will marry my boyfriend in October in Berlin. —Marvin Zilm
PROFILE: THE FOOD DEVELOPER pp. -
Bernhard Willhelm – bernhardwillhelm.com Dr. Martens – drmartens.com Gillian Horsup – gillianhorsup.com Moncler – moncler.com Mulberry – mulberry.com Prada – prada.com Storm in a Teacup – storminateacuplondon.com The Market Cartel – themarketcartel.com Vivienne Westwood – viviennewestwood.com Yuul Yie – yuulyieshop.com
Stylist’s note: Upon arriving at the shoot location, we learnt that the lift wasn’t working. Given that we were shooting at an unﬁnished building site, I don’t know what we were expecting. Fast-forward to myself and the photographer hurling two kg suitcases up six ﬂights of stairs. —Lucy Upton–Prowse
GALLERY: FROM ROUGE TO RAGE pp. -
Gunaruwan, a lecturer in economics at the University of Colombo. An hour into the meeting and we digressed to the ideas of liberal economist David Ricardo and former Libyan president Muammar Gaddaﬁ. One viewed the world as an open platform for trade, the other as a playground for international powers. These two diverging perspectives were key to understanding the disagreements around who should own and operate Sri Lanka’s ports. —Lemma Shehadi
A.M. Qattan Foundation – qattanfoundation.org
Photographer’s note: Working on this story was a fun little challenge, not only because it was my ﬁrst architectural assignment, but also because I discovered that the building was still very much under construction, and that the recent opening was only ceremonial. I had to be extra cautious with my compositions to isolate the architecture and design elements from construction mess, but in some images I decided to include both. —Raed Abughazaleh
PHOTOESSAY: BUILDING AGAINST FRAGMENTATION pp. -
Writer’s note: “If you want a truly global village, then everyone has to be on equal footing,” said T.L.
TRAVELOGUE: SEARCHING FOR HAMBANTOTA pp. –
Bare Conductive – bareconductive.com BCXSY – bcxsy.com Audrey Julien – audreyjulien.fr Daniel Charny – fromnowon.co.uk Ella Merriman – ellamerrimandesign.com Kickstarter – kickstarter.com Oscar Lhermitte – oscarlhermitte.com Peter Marigold – petermarigold.com Quickstarter – kickstarter.com/quickstarterprojects Ray Gonzalez Brown – raygbrown.com
Moderator’s note: A number of the panellists had to join this conversation over Skype, which is normally a total nightmare to manage – faces glitching, audio stuttering, and bemused faces peering out from a ﬁve-second delay. This time, however, everything ran smoothly. Perhaps given the subject matter of the conversation, the internet gods were simply on our side. —Oli Stratford
ROUNDTABLE: A QUICK KICK? pp. -
Cordis Hotels – cordishotels.com Vitality Air – vitalityair.com World Health Organisation – who.int
Camden Town Brewery – camdentownbrewery.com
Writer’s note: At the same time as the Kenneth glass, the Camden Town Brewery launched another pint glass: the Jack, by Jack Smith of SmithMatthias. It’s really not my cup of tea – at all. It’s about half the height of a regular conical glass and, in order to contain its load, therefore has to be grossly fat. Whereas the Kenneth feels like a quiet, considered update to a timeworn design, the Jack seems showy and gimmicky: a glass whose main point of recommendation is that you wouldn’t believe it can hold a pint. —Oli Stratford
REVIEW: THE KENNETH GLASS pp. -
MSB – msb.se
Writer’s note: Sweden, and in particular Stockholm, is consistently ranked as one of the safest places in the world, but there is currently widespread panic about everything from personal safety in public spaces, to terrorism and environmental disaster. Fake news is alive and well, even in the Nordics. —Kieran Long
REVIEW: OM KRISEN ELLER KRIGET KOMMER pp. -
Faber & Faber – faber.co.uk
Writer’s note: I was overcome with jealousy and regret at not having written a novel with the same basic idea of a replica building at its heart. Given the theme of the copy as performance (and re–performance), I wonder if a “cover version” of the novel’s central conceit might be culturally acceptable. —Sam Jacob
Writer’s note: A particularly ludicrous example of the commercialisation of clean air is the RepAir T-shirt from Klotser, which includes a pocket made from the reportedly air-purifying material The Breath®. Mystiﬁed, I asked Helen ApSimon, professor of air pollution studies at Imperial College London, what she made of such a material. “I am afraid I am very sceptical about any of these claims, and ignore them,” she responded. —Paula Wik
Writer’s note: I wrote this comment piece while on a two-week forced abstinence from social media after I fell into the sea with my phone in my pocket while on holiday. It was bliss! —Johanna Agerman Ross
Facebook – facebook.com
REVIEW: OK, MR FIELD pp. -
COMMENT: AIR ON TAP p.
COMMENT: THE ALLURE OF THE INANE p.
Writer’s note: While it’s only mentioned in passing in the piece, the th-century history of the French Dominican order and Father Couturier is absolutely fascinating. I only had time to skim parts of Richard Dunlap’s PhD thesis entitled: ‘Reassessing Ronchamp:
REPORT: CATHOLIC TASTE pp. -
Photographer’s note: Never underestimate the power of an Instagram-worthy location. St. Louis ﬁnally has an easy, beautiful place to shoot selﬁes – and more – with its new Arch grounds. —Matthew O’Shea
PROJECT: LETTER FROM ST. LOUIS pp. -
Setter’s note: The avid crossword-solver may have noticed Disegno’s inaugural crossword does not have perfect rotational symmetry. This is just to say, I’m aware of it, thank you very fucking much. Please don’t send me an email about it. —K-Doc
Gary Hustwit – hustwit.com
Photographer’s note: I photographed Gary Hustwit at his oﬃce in an old industrial building in Brooklyn. It was a treat just to visit the building. Built around , it has a medieval-esque courtyard; narrow brick alleyways; huge, ancient, unidentiﬁable metal machines scattered about; and old misshapen train tracks snaking through the basement ﬂoor. Its tenants are artists and designers, and they have a wonderful movie screen on the rooftop. Magic. —Matthew Williams
INTERVIEW: A RECAPTURED PRODUCTION pp. -
Michael Marriott – michaelmarriott.com Stanley Picker Gallery – stanleypickergallery.org
Photographer’s note: On my journey to Michael’s studio, I walked through the colourful and vibrant world of Ridley Road Market in Dalston, a stone’s throw from the studio. Michael’s studio is similar to the market in that it’s a beautifully curated chaos with a lot of character. —Jermaine Francis
PROJECT: MOST YELLOW CARS TEND TO BE SIGNAL YELLOW CARS pp. -
Pontiﬁcal Council for Culture – cultura.va The Met – metmuseum.org Venice Architecture Biennale – labiennale.org
the historical context, architectural discourse and design development of Le Corbusier’s Chapel Notre Dame-du-Haut’, but I will deﬁnitely return to it during long winter evenings. —Peter Smisek Artemide – artemide.com p. 13 Axor – axor-design.com p. 17 B&B Italia – bebitalia.com pp. 2-3 Benchmark – benchmarkfurniture.com p. 64 Bienale Interieur – interieur.be p. 51 Bocci – bocci.ca p. 10 Celine – celine.com outside back cover Dare Studio – darestudio.co.uk p. 113 Dubai Design Week – dubaidesignweek.ae inside back cover Elmo Leather – elmoleather.com p. 23 Emeco – emeco.net pp. 4-5 Ercol – ercol.com p. 19 Flexform – flexform.it pp. 6-7 Hastens – hastens.com pp. 8-9 Homo Faber – homofaberevent.com p. 94 Jennifer Newman – jennifernewman.com p. 114 Laufen – laufen.com p. 52 Moooi – moooi.com p. 15 Poggenpohl – poggenpohl.com p. 25 Prada – prada.com p. 1, inside front cover Shoreditch Design Triangle – shoreditchdesigntriangle. com p. 93 Sibast Furniture – sibast-furniture.com p. 67 Sixteen – sixteen3.co.uk p. 127 Technogym – technogym.com p. 20 Vitra Design Museum – design-museum.de p. 68 Vola – vola.com p. 36
Are you an avid Disegno reader? Complete the crossword and take note of the letters in the white boxes. They will make up an anagram. If you can solve the anagram, email it to email@example.com and enter the draw to win a specially designed side table by Matteo Fogale, produced by Amorim. Crossword by K-Doc DOWN 01 _____ point, prominent design feature (5) 02 Much-ridiculed wellness company (4) 03 Makers of the Aviator and Wayfarer (3-3) 04 Narrowing at one end, as of a table leg (8) 05 Thin, stiff fabric commonly made from silk (7) 06 Functional (2,3) 09 ____technology, a component of electronic products since the 1980s (4) 12 Bauhaus form master 1921-31 (4,4) 14 Book-research topic of this issue’s Profile (7) 16 Plant used for fabric, rope, food, paper, plastic and biofuel (4) 17 Can come from Carrara, for example (6) 18 Could be an A-line or a mini, for example (5) 21 _____ House, LA landmark originally co-designed with 11 Across (5) 22 What this issue’s interviewee makes, for short (4)
ACROSS 01 Topic of this issue’s Observation slot (10) 07 Site of manufacture (7) 08 A.W.N. _____, prominent figure in the Arts and Crafts movement (5) 10 ____ Studio, London-based design practice featured in Disegno #19 (4) 11 Surname of arch architect (8) 13 What unites Niemeyer and de la Renta? (5) 15 What the potter needs to do in preparing clay for throwing (5) 19 Shockingly, female designers and architects still rarely receive this (5,3) 20 Popular material for mid-century furniture (4) 23 Mother-of-_____, iridescent inlay material (5) 24 Amelia _______, gave name to a popular dress-reform garment (7) 25 Cappellini’s Tube chair and Molteni’s Gio Ponti collection, for example (10)
Carolien Niebling's food design philosophy; soft power in the Vatican's plans for cultural outreach; a masquerade of nine designs for preten...