The Quarterly Journal of Design #21 Winter 2018/19
This issue includes: A design policy from Industrial Facility; cardboard hardware and the rise of maker-tech; Judith Seng’s sand-fuelled performance for mediated value; photo-dispatches from Hong Kong’s growing transport infrastructure; Jasper Morrison and the history of the formal dinner service; digital piggy banks from Pauline Deltour by way of Yellow Innovation; negotiations of Scandinavian design history at Stockholm’s Nationalmuseum; and Dries Van Noten’s revitalisation of Verner Panton. UK £10
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You say “chair”, I say “wooden object shaped in such-and-such a way” Words Oli Stratford
“If we were oval and swam through our atmosphere like fish, there would be no tables and chairs in our world.” It’s a statement everybody should think about. What makes a chair a chair? In Fellow Creatures, a recent book examining the ethics surrounding human beings’ relationships with other animals, philosopher Christine M. Korsgaard sets out the idea that many of our notions are perspective-dependent. If something is important, it must be important for someone, Korsgaard argues; if good, it must be good for someone. Furniture, it turns out, may also be perspective-dependent. If something is chair (or a chair – although I prefer the first formulation) it must be chair to someone. “Chairs and tables exist in the perspective of creatures who need or use furniture,” states Korsgaard. “Without such creatures, there might still be, say, wooden objects shaped in such-and-such a way, but they would not be furniture.” What’s obviously a Rietveld-designed Zig Zag chair to you is just so many angles to a guinea pig. I, for one, find this refreshing. Too often, we design critics skate over what a nematode might make of the new David Chipperfield building and never stop to Introduction
question whether the lack of pick-up amongst the booted macaque community is deleterious to Eileen Gray’s legacy. Corbu, you note, has never gained traction amongst bream. Will the failings of modernism never end? Beyond the obvious pleasure in thinking through these issues (a personal favourite: “What might a cricket / make of Konstantin Grcic?”), it also strikes me that Korsgaard’s idea has wider applications. Much of what we apply to the world, whether in the form of descriptor or judgment, is perspectival: what seems a good chair to one person may appear differently to another. That’s not necessarily to say that everything is relative, just that a lot of descriptions don’t make much sense unless they’re tethered to someone. As a society, we don’t seem very good at acknowledging different perspectives – just consider the phenomenon of fake news. While reading this issue, I would recommend not taking any of its opinions as final. Have this journal’s writers fed you interpretations to which there might be alternatives and does this matter? If it does, how many times have the lying bastards lied to you? If this experiment grows tiresome, I have an alternative. What’s your favourite example in this issue of something typically considered not-chair but which might, in fact, be chair? Answers to email@example.com.
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Contents 7 Introduction You say “chair”, I say “wooden object shaped in such-and-such a way”
Comment Museums × Retail Enter, appreciate and exit through the gift shop
Roundtable Mediated Meaning Judith Seng’s cooperative sand castles
14 Masthead The people behind Disegno 17 Timeline September to November 2018 in review 22 Photoessay Retained in Long Island City The storage centres of New York 35
Comment DNA Schmee-N-A What’s at the core of contemporary branding?
Anatomy Du français au russe en français Jasper Morrison’s revisionist dinner service
Comment Milk from a Stone Pectoral nourishment
49 Observation Wired Seven odes to the filament
81 Travelogue Connections in the Pearl River Delta The politics of Hong Kong’s new urban infrastructure
Lest We Forget? (146) Remembrance from the First World War
Soft Work by Barber & Osgerby (150) Vitra’s deskless office
Tutto Ponti (154) Revisiting Gio Ponti at MAD Paris
In Fabric (158) A killer dress for Peter Strickland’s consumer horror
Project A National Design? Swedish history resurfaced in Stockholm’s Nationalmuseum
Profile Stroking a Cat the Wrong Way Industrial Facility embrace the weird
Technology The Dead Letter Office Pauline Deltour’s piggy bank perks up La Poste
178 Index Short stories from the creation of this issue
Interview A Panton Rendition Dries Van Noten reframes the interiors of Verner Panton
Report Do Humans Dream of Cardboard Sheep? Cardboard hardware for digital making
Crossword A Puzzling Brew Win Ian McIntyre’s re-engineered Brown Betty teapot
GROUNDPIECE SECTIONAL SOFA
Contributors Gian Luca Amadei is a visiting researcher at the Interdisciplinary Death & Culture Network at the University of York. p. 146 Zara Arshad constantly feels out of place. p. 81 Crystal Bennes is an artist, as well as an architecture and design writer. p. 107 Bowy Chan aims to discover the beauty of the unaware. p. 81 Thomas Chéné alternates between personal projects and work for the press, including M le Monde, Wallpaper*, Air France Magazine, and The Telegraph. p. 107 Ramak Fazel has a particular interest in storage and archiving, with his work including Milan Unit, an archival project that unfolded over 15 years. p. 22
Jermaine Francis now believes he is the fourth member of Larry Heard’s Fingers Inc, and has realised where Ainsley Harriott has been hiding all these years. p. 98 Fabian Frinzel is a photographer based in Munich. p. 129 Theresa Marx works between London and Berlin. p. 49 Ekin Özbiçer practices across documentary photography and film media. p. 65 Katia Porro manages to juggle working between art and design, despite her innate clumsiness. p. 154 Nina Power spends too much time thinking about Dürer’s Melencolia I but also loves being outside, thank goodness. p. 158
Vera Sacchetti has become partial to coloured sand. p. 65 Simon Skuteli is an artist, photographer, writer, reader, viewer, son, boyfriend and father. p. 161 Will Wiles’s third novel, Plume, will be published in May 2019. It’s a hallucinatory satire about alcoholism, magazine journalism and the London property market. p. 98 Alex Wiltshire is currently working on two books: one about the early Japanese game industry, and the other about the history of home computers. p. 129
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The Quarterly Journal of Design #21 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
Circulation and stockist enquiries Adam Long firstname.lastname@example.org
Subeditor Ann Morgan
Production assistant Steven Larkin
Distribution Logical Connections Distribution logicalconnections.co.uk
Colour management Terry Smith Complete Creative Services completeltd.com
Words by Johanna Agerman Ross, Gian Luca Amadei, Zara Arshad, Crystal Bennes, Ramak Fazel, K-Doc, Katia Porro, Nina Power, Kristina Rapacki, Vera Sacchetti, Oli Stratford, Will Wiles and Alex Wiltshire. Images by Bowy Chan, Thomas Chéné, Ramak Fazel, Jermaine Francis, Fabian Frinzel, Theresa Marx, Ekin Özbiçer, Leonhard Rothmoser and Simon Skuteli. Paper and print This issue of Disegno is printed by Park Communications on Arcoprint Extra White 110gsm and Symbol Freelife Gloss 130gsm. The cover is printed on Stucco Old Mill Premium White 280gsm. All of the paper used in this issue is from Fedrigoni UK.
Thanks Many thanks to the Aram Store for hosting the launch of Disegno #20 at a very difficult time; to Claire Martin at the Mill Co. Project for letting Disegno use the Rose Lipman Building vault; to Judith Seng and Elena Steffan for helping organise a roundtable from afar; to Silo Studio, Committee and Wembley Park for a festive collaboration; to Ian McIntyre and Cauldon Ceramics for supporting Disegno’s crossword; and to Chris Tang for his sterling organisation. We are very grateful to all our contributors, and for the help of everybody who has supported us and helped make Disegno #21 possible. Not least Edward the lykoi, who is growing into his chest mohican wonderfully. Finally, we are very sad to have said goodbye to Paula Wik, Disegno’s stalwart of a project coordinator. We thank Paula for her contribution to the journal and wish her luck in the next stage of her career.
Apologies In ‘From Rouge to Rage’, Disegno #20, we failed to credit Chris Kurz, who styled the models’ hair. Our sincere apologies to Chris. His work can be found on instagram.com/ chris_kurz_. 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 2, The Rose Lipman Building 43 De Beauvoir Road London N1 5SQ +44 20 7249 1155 Disegno Works Disegno also runs the new creative agency, Disegno Works. disegnoworks.com
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to be sated by the acquisition
and would present part of its
of Versace alone. “Versace is not
collections there from 2020, as it,
Robert Venturi (1925-2018)
only synonymous with its iconic and
in turn, undergoes a major renovation.
“Less is a bore,” as the architect
unmistakable style,” said Donatella
The demand for collections to remain
Robert Venturi’s oft-quoted mantra
Versace, who is to continue as the
accessible to the public while museums
ran. Venturi, who died in September
brand’s creative director, “but with
undergo necessary refurbishment and
2018, aged 93, was significant not
being inclusive and embracing of
expansion is ever-increasing. It is
only for his architecture, but also
diversity[…] This next step will allow
nevertheless a little sad to see the
for the plurality of his thought.
Versace to reach its full potential.”
Met Breuer (the Frick Breuer?), which
His great written works, Complexity
No word, as yet, as to how a $2.1bn
was once so intimately connected to
and Contradiction in Architecture
takeover from a conglomerate will
the identity of the institution that
(1966) and Learning from Las Vegas
enable a greater embrace of diversity.
housed it, kicked around like any old receptacle.
(1972), speak of the generosity with which Venturi and his partner Denise Scott Brown saw the built environment.
Financially equipping Clippings
Chief among their accomplishments
Design e-commerce platform
was the acknowledgement that the
Clippings revealed in September
dogmatism of modernism was too tight
that it had raised £11.8m of funding
a fit for a discipline that could find
through the venture capital arm of
room for both the functional and
Advance Publications, a body that
beautiful, and the ugly and banal.
has previously backed Farfetch,
“It is both complex and simple, open
Moda Operandi and Rent the Runway.
and closed, big and little,” wrote
In the grand scheme of such
Venturi of his now-seminal 1964 Vanna
investments, Clippings’s windfall
House. “Some of its elements are good
is small, but it does suggest
on one level and bad on another.”
a commitment to the venture that
With Venturi’s death, the architecture
ought to be taken seriously. Design
world has one less voice advocating
is notorious for lagging behind
for diversity. Without him, the world
fashion in e-commerce, with a clear
is undoubtedly a more boring place.
market leader within the online sale
Is it just Disegno, or has Instagram
of furniture design yet to emerge
lost a little of its former delight?
(with the exception, perhaps, of
It’s riddled with obnoxious ads
the mono-brand made.com). Whether
(a recent “green” campaign from Volvo,
Clippings will become that platform
in which a representative from the
remains to be seen, but its recent
carmaker berates a shamefaced family
round of funding is, at the very
for not recycling enough, takes the
least, a statement of intent.
grand prize). Most of these respond
Instagram co-founders depart
to searches made on other platforms
Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Ed Lederman.
(one of Disegno’s staff has watched
rather a few car ads recently for
One wouldn’t think a colossal
‘DNA Schmee-N-A’, p.35). The Instagram
granite‑clad museum could be kicked
features introduced since founders
around like a football, but that is
Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger sold
A one-way trip to Capri
– metaphorically – what has happened
their company to Facebook in 2012
“Decadent money” ran one of the
to Marcel Breuer’s iconic 1966 Madison
have commercialised the platform
comments on Versace’s Instagram post
Avenue building in New York. For many
to an unprecedented degree. Instagram
announcing that the brand had been
decades, it housed the Whitney Museum
has reached the one billion user mark
sold to Michael Kors for $2.1bn.
of American Art. Then, in 2015, the
by focusing more on growth, critics
It’s difficult to argue. In July 2017,
Whitney moved into its new Renzo Piano-
say, than on making it a “nice place”
Kors acquired shoemaker Jimmy Choo for
designed premises in the Meatpacking
on the internet, as was once Systrom's
$1.2bn and is now positioning itself
District and the Metropolitan Museum
goal. In September 2018, the site’s
as the US’s first luxury conglomerate.
of Art leased the Breuer building for
co-founders announced that they were
Kors has even renamed itself to suit
its 20th-century collections, as it
resigning “to explore our curiosity
the occasion – from henceforth, the
worked on the expansion of its modern
and creativity again”. Let’s see
overall company will be known as Capri
galleries. This, it was thought, would
how the app fares under full Facebook
Holdings. While Capri is a minnow
be the arrangement until 2023, but
control. Disegno suspects there will
compared to European super-heavyweights
in September 2018 the Frick Collection
be more cringe-inducing commercials
Kering and LVMH, its recent moves
announced that it had negotiated
suggest a rapaciousness unlikely
a sub-tenancy of the building,
skilled in computational techniques
watchdog announced that the companies
and interested in applying this
had “implemented dishonest commercial
Fronting Storefront image
knowledge to other fields. It’s
practices” and needed to make amends.
José Esparza Chong Cuy has big shoes
exciting news and a development
As delightfully unexpected as
to fill. Appointed as the new director
that all within the design fields
this news was, however, the response
of Storefront for Art and Architecture
ought to keep an eye on. With AI’s
from Samsung (Apple, wisely, chose
in New York, he succeeds Eva Franch
rapid advance, it seems vital
to keep its counsel) was tediously
i Gilabert, who departed earlier
that infrastructure be put in
predictable. “Samsung did not issue
this year to head the Architectural
place to support and shape its
any software update that reduced
Association in London. Franch
future applications. Certainly,
[older phone models’] performance.
i Gilabert was a dynamic – albeit
MIT’s new institute strikes a rather
In contrast, Samsung has always
gnomic – influence at Storefront
more optimistic note than the AI
released software updates enabling
and deserves credit for expanding
research body setup by the University
our customers to have the best
the institution’s reach and initiating
of Cambridge in 2012: the Centre for
experience possible,” explained
projects such as the highly successful
the Study of Existential Risk.
a spokesperson, somehow mustering all the credibility of a child whose mouth
Letters to the Mayor programme. She
is smeared with chocolate denying that
will be a tough act to follow, but Esparza Chong Cuy has made all the
Beyond the ethical norm
right noises so far, stating that he
Following the gruesome murder of
wants to create serialised exhibitions
journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the
that build on one another, and
Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the
All the freshness of unlicensed appropriation
expressing a desire to protect and
Saudi government was clearly keen
For the low, low price of $275,
cultivate Storefront’s “profoundly
to change the narrative. While the
you too can own a small Balenciaga
experimental voice”. Here’s hoping
world speculated about political
keyring in the shape of a tree!
he lives up to a promising start.
assassinations, the Saudi state
Wisely identifying a smash-hit
proudly (and somewhat pointlessly)
product when they see one, the
announced the names of its 19-strong
Car-Freshner Corporation of Watertown,
advisory panel for Neom, its proposed
New York, quickly filed a lawsuit
£382bn, fully automated megacity
arguing that Balenciaga’s new creation
in the desert. Included among the
exploited an obvious visual similarity
advisors was the architect Norman
to its own Little Trees car air
Foster, who scrambled to distance
fresheners, a design it has held
himself from events, his office
the rights to since 1952. It’s
stating that “whilst the [Khashoggi]
a move that Balenciaga’s creative
situation remains unclear he has
director Demna Gvasalia, who delights
suspended his activities in respect
in appropriation of (or, less
of the board”. It was the right move,
charitably, ripping off) low-priced
but Foster’s initial decision to
motifs, must have seen coming. In
become entangled with the Saudi regime
2017, he designed a leather iteration
was foolish. Foster and his fellow
of Ikea’s blue 99 cent Frakta bag,
board members could not have known
ramping up the price tag to €2,000.
what was to befall Khashoggi when
“We are extremely flattered to
they signed up for Neom, but they did
seemingly be an inspiration for
– presumably – know of Saudi Arabia’s
the latest catwalk designs for
airstrikes in Yemen and the resultant
Balenciaga,” said a spokesperson
humanitarian crisis. Protestations
for Ikea. The Car-Freshner Corporation,
of ignorance won’t wash.
clearly, is somewhat less pleased.
In October, MIT announced a new $1bn
Fines for failure
Single-use plastics directive unites
plan to create a new college devoted
Finally! In October, Italy’s
to study of AI: presumably as part
competition authority opted to
Have any of Disegno’s readers not
of some wider masterplan to corner
fine Apple and Samsung €10m and
heard the terrifying statistic, issued
the market on acronyms. The school
€5m respectively for the planned
by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in
is intended to foster dialogue between
obsolescence of their smartphones.
2016, that plastics will outweigh fish
AI and other disciplines, with MIT’s
After an investigation found that
in the world’s oceans by 2050 unless
president L. Rafael Reif declaring
both brands had used software updates
radical measures are taken to reduce
that it will “educate the bilinguals
to markedly slow down the performance
their production and use globally? In
of the future” – students who are
of older phones, the antitrust
October, the European Commission made
they ate all the chocolate.
Image by Ana Hop.
the beginnings of a step in the right
for everyone”, among other rather
therefore suggests that Pentagram’s
direction when, with an overwhelming
vague things. Not so vague, however,
partners see promise within sound
majority of 571 to 53, it approved a
that Amazon hasn’t already opted out.
design – both critically and commercially. From Kenneth Grange
directive banning single-use plastics
to Yuri Suzuki – it’s a trajectory
such as plates, straws, cutlery, and cotton buds outright – some of “the
No such thing as a free lunch
that shows that design need not
top 10 plastic products that most
“Just to be clear,” wrote the
remain within its traditional
often end up in the ocean,” according
architect Piers Taylor on Twitter,
furrows, but can profitably
to the proposal. The directive now
“[this is] an open competition that
venture into new territories.
needs to be negotiated by the European
many will enter that calls for ideas,
Council. “If all goes well, we could
images, plans etc for a scheme that
have it in law by the end of the
won’t be built & the winner’s prize
year,” a commission source told
is[…] lunch?” Taylor was referring
The Guardian. Fingers crossed.
to an “ideas” competition announced in mid-October by a historically visionary commissioner, the cancer charity Maggie’s. The call for ideas for a new 280sqm cancer-care centre in Newcastle was primarily targeted at students and was “never intended to be seen as a serious competition”, according to Maggie’s. However, a “professional category” also welcomed entries from architectural practices and this is what set Twitter ablaze: with the top prize being lunch at a Maggie’s centre, the contest appeared to embody everything that
is flawed and exploitative about the competition system at large. Maggie’s
Can’t we all just be nice?
has since apologised and taken down
In early November, when a video
the announcement from its website.
of a group of white British people Grenfell Tower for bonfire night
The sound of commercial viability
began circulating online, many felt
News broke at the start of September
that the internet had reached a fresh
that sound designer Yuri Suzuki had
nadir. And that’s saying something;
been appointed the 23rd partner in
the virtual world, and social media
Pentagram, the celebrated design
in particular, hasn’t had a very
studio founded in 1972 by, among
good rep for a while, what with the
others, designers Alan Fletcher
litany of privacy breeches, political
and Kenneth Grange. It’s exciting
manipulations and hate-speech
news for Suzuki, who has pioneered
platforms cropping up in the last few
the use of sound as a functional
years. It felt timely, then, when the
design “material”, but is also
inventor of the world wide web, Tim
encouraging for a generation of
Berners-Lee, announced at the 2018
emerging designers whose work
Web Summit in Lisbon that he was
does not fit neatly into existing
launching a “contract” for a better
categories such as industrial
web. The contract, which Facebook,
or graphic design. Pentagram,
Google and the French government have
to be blunt, does not fuck around
already signed along with almost 60
– the practice is highly decorated,
others, encourages governments, tech
commercially successful, and its
companies and individuals to respect
non-hierarchical structure means
data privacy and “support the best
that designers who join the firm
in humanity”. As individuals, you can
are expected to pull their own
sign too and pledge to “be creators
weight and bring in a steady stream
and collaborators on the web so the
of clients. To welcome a relatively
web has rich and relevant content
niche practitioner such as Suzuki
Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Mark Cocksedge.
cheerfully burning an effigy of the
Royal Opera House, Open Up Project Furniture supplied by Aram Contracts
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Retained in Long Island City Photographs and words Ramak Fazel
We seem to have an innate desire to latch onto our memories and relics, but this urge to move, shift and store our pasts can burn. What value is there in the things we decide to retain? Is it their emotional charge or the promise of future utility that motivates us to keep objects in storage? The accumulation of physical things, we are told, is a phenomenon tied to baby-boomers, while millennials are supposedly more interested in the accumulation of experiences. The documentation of the latter exists as digital photographs, videos and texts aggregated through social media and stored in the cloud. Physical collections, however, retain a presence in New York City. Dedicated storage units are still available for monthly rent, having matured historically as warehouses on the fringes of the city in proximity to the docks. Shipping, transport, and real-estate value dictated the placement of these facilities, and Long Island City soon emerged as an ideal location. In the public imagination, the New York skyline is Manhattan’s skyscrapers. With their emphasis on verticality, these buildings spoke to the industrial and corporate might of postwar America, while positioning New York City as its throbbing financial centre. Storage facilities, by contrast, were blots on the landscape – horizontal, squat structures in service of a fast-growing empire. A few generations on, the post-industrial landscape of New York has found itself in the sights of capital interests, but these units remain stubborn candidates for development. They are so cavernous that they aren’t easily converted into houses or offices, and while they may eventually be redeployed as distribution centres, for now they remain unchanged. At heart, storage spaces are repositories. Some of the older ones are actually a lot like crypts. There’s no natural light; there are lots of old corridors that people never really go
down; and there might be thousands of units under one roof, so you could spend weeks walking through them if you so chose. Some of the more modern spaces, however, have become almost hospitallike in terms of their presentation. They’re intentionally very bright with humidity controls that appeal to a more demanding clientele. As with so much of our built environment, you can feel that they’ve been designed using CAD programmes that optimise every square foot. These modern facilities have been created as storage spaces from the ground up, and you feel like you’re walking into a virtual space. The older ones were designed by hand in a more analogue way. The floor may not be level, the corridors are more generously proportioned, and there is a kind of unevenness in each of the spaces. They’re not cookie-cutter and there’s a great sense of mystery to them. What is behind each of those locked doors? You can’t assign a value to what might be in there from outside. That’s the mystery. People tend to rarely visit their stored items, but you can tell from the graphics that decorate the centres’ exteriors that they’re much in demand. They’re very colourful, with large typography of a style associated with gas stations – it’s a very specific, sophisticated visual effect that emphasises horizontality such that you see it from a moving car or from a distance. These centres are designed to call out to people. Within the storage industry, there’s an expression: “The Four Ds” – Downsizing, Divorce, Dislocation and Death. It lays bare the realities of not only the industry, but also the predisposition of certain populations or demographics towards reliance on storage. If you don’t own a home, or your family is historically nomadic, you might “need” storage. Circumstances relating to work and family patterns have tended to make Americans more mobile than their counterparts elsewhere and, up until
recently, house prices were considerably lower as a percentage of annual income. The typical American home was not considered a home for life or a family heirloom, and in search for opportunity, Americans moved frequently, developing less attachment to such physical structures. It was the contents that they carried with them through life – the things that bound them to family and to the histories they left behind. Of course, our attitudes towards storage have changed with the rise of digitisation. As part of this project, I have been looking through both old analogue and more recent digital pictures, and found that identifying images seems much easier in analogue form. I think physical objects activate our memory differently than digital files. They have a materiality that suggests they are to be safeguarded, but the clichéd idea that in the event of a fire, a family might grab their photo album seems particularly quaint considering the rise of cloud-based storage integrations. Within my work, a personal narrative around transmigration recurs. My father came from India and, as a child, I emigrated to the US from Iran, so a sense of movement has not only interested me but also helped me reflect on issues of identity impacting our socio-political moment. In 2009, after 35 years in our childhood home in Indiana, my mother Jaleh decided she would relocate to Brooklyn, New York. She had accumulated a lifetime of stuff that she wasn’t prepared to part with because it carried memories. Now, she and I are looking into storage again. I want to help her keep the things that are important to her, but the price of some of these storage facilities is prohibitive, particularly as a long-term solution. This experience has made me think about our need to hold onto things, while acknowledging that we can’t hang on to everything. As told to Oli Stratford.
The objective of sorting is not necessarily to create a systematic arrangement of photographs, documents or things. Ramak Fazel in Fort Wayne, Indiana, 2004.
On the eve of her journey to the United States, Jaleh and her parents at Mehrabad Airport, Tehran, 1965.
1,015 cubic feet of loosely packed boxes and furniture ready for the journey from Fort Wayne to New York City, 2011.
The former Manhattan Adhesives Company glue factory has now been converted into a storage facility somewhere along the border between Queens and Brooklyn, 2018.
A few blue moving blankets can be seen in a “Mom’s Attic”, the endearing term given to the area above the cab of U-haul trucks. New York City, 2011.
Flatware held in perpetual storage. Long Island City, 2018.
A storage facility becomes the site for mixing glaze formulas. Greenpoint, 2018.
Productive capacity as a measure of self worth in Safeguard Storage. Greenpoint, 2010/2018.
A motel parking lot somewhere in Ohio, 2011.
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DNA Schmee-N-A Words Kristina Rapacki Illustration Leonhard Rothmoser
“Mohammed Ali did not invent the knock-out punch. Elvis did not invent rock ’n’ roll. Amelia Earhart did not invent aviation. And we did not invent the electric car. We did something radically different. We injected it with the Audi DNA.” These lines introduce Audi’s advertising campaign for its new electric car. On screen, historical and contemporary footage flashes past: Ali, Elvis, Earhart, some Audi cars. Then boom: a double helix with one of its nucleotides adorned with the Audi logo. It is the most literal representation of the concept of “brand DNA” that I’ve come across, and I’ve come across quite a few in my years as a design journalist. A quick search for “DNA” in my work inbox brings up the following statements: “Tom Dixon is an extraordinary luxury lifestyle brand with a highly distinctive DNA”; “An intimate and engaging relationship with the art world has always been intrinsic to Marni’s DNA”; “Fendi seemed like the perfect partner, given their DNA.” What to make of this tendency? Is it simply interchangeable with “brand identity”? I’m not sure. Talk of “brand DNA” seems to want to establish something more concrete; something scientifically measurable; something definitely, essentially and recognisably there, independent of the turnaround of creative directors and designers. But is the “there” not mostly hot air in the world of PR and marketing? The physical infrastructure – materials, craftspersons and production facilities – could perhaps be considered the concrete stuff of a brand. But, by and large, even the oldest so-called heritage brands have outsourced and scattered these across the globe. I have yet to receive a press release boasting that “Offshoring to maximise profit is in our DNA.” Audi, part of the Volkswagen Group (of diesel-emissions-rigging notoriety), is a global company: today, its cars are made not only in Germany, but also Slovakia, Hungary, Brazil and China. Its gene pool is wide, to say the least. Whatever has been “injected” into its new electric car, it is likely to be as nebulous as a puff of exhaust from an Audi TT.
Du français au russe en français “I remember once being taken to lunch by an industrialist – who won’t be named – to a restaurant in Milan that was so ridiculously formal,” recalls Jasper Morrison, “that any atmosphere was immediately torn away. The waiters poured you wine endlessly. I think I am allergic to that level of formality.” In the absence of a named industrialist to pin this on, who or what is to blame for this officious formality? The most likely culprit, I would suggest, is an overly punctilious derivation of a service à la russe. 36
Images by Osma Harvilahti, with sketches courtesy of Jasper Morrison.
Words Oli Stratford
1 The Raami 26cl tumbler. 2 A table set with the Raami service, which Morrison designed to betoken informality and conviviality. 3 The Raami 1l carafe and glass tumblers, set out as part of a lunch service.
When dining à la russe, a form of service popularised in Europe in the 19th century, courses are served sequentially, with dishes prepared and plated in the kitchen before being sent out to individual guests. It is a highly formal practice, at least in its purest manifestations, and one that exemplifies what the curator Philippa Glanville, writing in Elegant Eating: Four Hundred Years of Dining in Style, identifies as one of the core components of dining: “There is something special about a formal dinner. Trouble is taken.” Today, the service à la russe is the foundation of much contemporary Western entertaining, yet at the time of its introduction it was a curious novelty. “Had a dinner party on the sensible principle enunciated by some letter-writers to The Times, and called à la Russe,” wrote Benjamin Armstrong, the vicar of East Dereham, Norfolk, in his diary in 1859. “It consists in having fruit and flowers on the table, with wine etc, the abolition of side dishes, and only one dish at a time placed opposite the host. The plan worked very well, and the cook said that it was much easier for her.” Armstrong’s dinner was no doubt a different experience to that undergone by Morrison, but the designer’s new Raami project for Finnish design brand Iittala grapples with some of the same ideas observed by the vicar of East Dereham 159 years ago. “It’s a conversation about how to make a good table, really,” says Morrison. “What makes a good table, a good lunch?” Raami, Morrison explains, is a table service intended to update the typology and cater for contemporary tastes. “The main topic at the beginning [of the commission] was how to do a modern-day service and, as usual, I was pulled in by the atmosphere that things make. There are certain items that highend restaurants love to use – such as giant wine glasses or triangular plates or whatever – and they make for a very formal atmosphere. But that isn’t what you need at home, where objects should be much more low-key or relaxed, or conducive to that kind of casual way of dining. Actually, this service is about eating rather than dining.” This difference is explicable, at least to Morrison, in terms of the relative levels of formality involved – an aspect of the service that has changed dramatically throughout its history. The form of dining that à la russe replaced in Europe was the more communal service à la français, in which the constituent dishes of a course were served en masse, with diners Anatomy
serving themselves and their neighbours under the auspices of the maître d’hôtel and assorted servants. “In dining à la français,” notes Glanville, “the great pleasure of ‘eating with the eyes’ lay in the mass of tastes, textures and shapes set out in geometric order before the guests arrived.” Certainly, profusion was critical. The poet Gervase Markham, in his 1615 book The English Huswife, describes the meat course of a dinner à la français as follows: “Next them all sorts of rost meates, of which the greatest first, as chine of Beefe, or surloyne, the gigget or Legges of Mutton, Goose, Swan, Veale, Pig, Capon and such like.” Markham further elaborates that the careful arrangement of these foodstuffs would inevitably provide “very great contentment to the Guests”. À la français was not casual. Entire books, such as The Modern Method of Regulating and Forming a Table (c. 1750), were dedicated to precise plans that showed elaborately engineered constellations of dishes, such as “Calve’s Head A la Turtle”, “A Small Ham Boiled” and “Bak’d Tench”. In comparison to à la russe, however, the formality of the French style was more tacit. In her essay ‘À la française to à la russe’, the curator Ann Eatwell (I know!) observes that “dining became more formal and structured” with the arrival of the new trend, and that focus shifted away from the surfeit of dishes and onto the service itself: “The dining table now looked very different from the traditional spread of massed open dishes of the past – exotic, fanciful and costly foods being no longer the sole means of creating an impressive and decorative effect.” Under à la russe, the service became about precision – place settings were immaculate and laden with phalanxes of silverware, with servants tasked with bringing out and serving each course. It is a scenario captured memorably by the journalist Sara Paston-Williams in her book The Art of Dining: A History of Cooking and Eating, in which she observes that guests to a service à la russe, “were no longer greeted, on entering the dining-room, by a table covered with an impressive array of different dishes. Now they encountered a profusion of cutlery.” With ballooning amounts of tableware, design became a key method of influencing the dining experience. “There are certain objects that can shape the atmosphere of a service,” says Morrison, and it seems likely that the formality of his Milanese lunch owed a debt to the effect of à la russe on the
4 The rim design on the porcelain elements of the collection was taken from a detail Morrison found on an antique plate. 5 The Raami cup and saucer. 6 The Raami egg cup.
development of tableware. With dishes now served individually as opposed to en masse, tableware and cutlery specialised rapidly, with increasingly specific implements and vessels developed for each dish – splayed-tine lemon forks, comb-like servers for egg-white cakes, scoops to extract a single serving of hard cheese. “Because the courses were separated it became a much more structured way of dining, and so with that people would want a much more unified aesthetic [across the dinner],” explains Danielle Patten, an assistant curator at the Geffrye Museum of the Home. “In addition to this, by the 1860s you’ve got the emergence of mass production and companies are starting to make large dinner sets.” With the rise of à la russe, industrialists such as Josiahs Spode and Wedgwood began producing full services of matching plates, cups and saucers. And while such services were rarely purchased in one go, even by the rich, the notion that all the elements in a service should match began to take root. Morrison’s service for Iittala aims to do away with this idea of unity. Instead of conforming to an overarching design language, Raami proposes a species of tableware stripped of any kind of designed self-consciousness. It’s a practice in line with what Morrison and Naoto Fukasawa proposed in their 2006 Super Normal project. In Super Normal, they advocated for “real, lasting, and pleasing things [that] avoid the designer’s trap of placing too much importance on how things look”. The Raami collection is formed from four separate families of object, each of which has little in common with its peers. There are fluted glasses, carafes and candle holders, all executed in moss, salmon, blue and orange glass. These sit alongside simple, unadorned items of stemware that are modest in size and utilitarian (bar, perhaps, a cute digestif glass that is a favourite of Morrison’s: “It would encourage me to drink more port”). There are also white porcelain plates and bowls with the sort of folded-over rims more familiar in enamelware (“a detail I found on an antique plate”); and a set of oiled oval wooden trays that blur the distinction between a chopping board and a serving tray. Together, the four looks form a collection, although one without a common aesthetic. Morrison’s elements sit together, but in the fashion in which any disparate items collected over time might come to enjoy harmonious resonances. That Raami’s individual items form part of a single collection is largely down Anatomy
7 The Raami serving trays in oiled oak. 8 The Raami wine glass. 9 The Raami tealight candleholder in seville orange glass. 10 The Raami plate. 11 The Raami 1l teapot.
to the fact that Morrison says they do. Worth noting is that “Raami” means “framework” in Finnish. To some extent, ’twas ever thus. “The concept that all elements on a table should match starts in the 18th century, but it’s only a goal – people were very rarely buying them all in one go,” says Patten. “As time went on, services were often given as wedding gifts, whereas the difference today is that people will usually cohabit before they get married, so you won’t necessarily need to buy everything at one point in your life. Consumers mix and match.” Morrison’s work on Raami is, in part, a response to the realities of buying habits that Patten describes. “The way of selling services has changed, because it used to be through wedding lists so you would actually want the whole design to be very tight,” he explains. “That has now evaporated completely, but I no longer believe in this idea of a fully matching set anyway.” This approach sits in contrast to previous services developed by Morrison; in particular 1997’s Moon range for Rosenthal, in which the designer developed a series of softly rounded, lightly squashed porcelain forms whose common aesthetic ranged across tea- and coffeepots, cups, plates and bowls. “I remember thinking that some of the [Moon] objects were a bit forced because they were obliged to be a part of that set, so I had a feeling that by freeing [Raami] of that rather design-imposed requirement of everything matching or having the same detailing, we would get something more interesting and relaxed,” he says. “Maybe subconsciously I was trying to design something as if it had been gathered by someone as opposed to designing it in a more forced way through matching shapes or details.” It is an approach that thumbs its nose at the service à la russe, but which does recall something of the service à la français. The French style’s idea of communality is not only echoed in the modern buffet (if you ever eat at a hotel breakfast bar, consider yourself – tangentially – to be breakfasting à la français), but also finds parallels with contemporary dining habits. “Although à la français was to a degree formal, its sharing of food is much more casual compared to, for instance, the mid-1860s where they’ve got a fork for nearly every piece of food,” says Patten. “Today, I think there’s been a bit of a reaction against that. If you look at how people now eat and drink, more people are eating out of bowls; there are trends for tapas foods; and if you
watch a cooking show, it’s always about communal dining.” Buttressing these developments is the pervasive influence of mid-century Scandinavian modern, which extends beyond furniture and lighting, and into food culture. The Swedish Smörgåsbord, for instance, reached an international audience when it was shown at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and its vision of communal, informal dining resonated widely. “Once adopted, informality became carefully orchestrated,” writes the curator Jennifer Hawkins Opie in her essay ‘Scandinavian Style’. “Beautifully composed table arrangements and traditional ingredients became a hallmark of Scandinavian entertaining throughout the twentieth century[…] From the first decades of the twentieth century Scandinavian design was driven by social concerns and the belief that functionalism and beauty, properly ordered, would enhance humdrum lives.” So too, it seemed, might communal dining – whose suggested spontaneity was highly aestheticised or, to quote Hawkins Opie, “studiedly casual” – offer a kind of social value. “Beautiful may be a pretentious word for [tableware], yet the good material and design of the equipment[…] add up to something which deserves such a description,” note Arthur Hald and Sven Erik Skawonius in their 1951 book Contemporary Swedish Design. “The setting is unpretentious but in each article there is evidence of design.” Lurking within this idea are values that remain of relevance to Morrison and which he hopes are embodied by Raami. It is a purposefully casual collection, stripped of the usual design imperative for obvious visual continuity, and this same ethos is intended to carry through to its use. “I think we all dream of a summer lunch with friends and more relaxed situations than we experience in our normal daily life,” says Morrison. “A dinner is still quite relevant to everyday life and you want the atmosphere for that dinner to be good. You want everyone to be cheerful and happy, and while that probably depends on the people involved, certainly I can feel very different based upon what is on the table. A factor in this collection has been the avoidance of formality and so the conversations for this have all been how to provide something that could work in that more relaxed way. I’m always looking for those things that are on the border of having been designed and just being there, as so many objects are.” E N D 44
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Milk from a Stone Words Oli Stratford Illustration Leonhard Rothmoser
In late October an exciting email arrived in my inbox. “NEWS STORY” it read. “A REVOLUTIONARY new concept enabling male breastfeeding has this week been crowned the winner of the world’s first Meaning-Centred Design Awards.” That’s weird, I thought to myself, what the heck is meaning-centred design? To try to understand this, I went to the Meaning-Centred Design Awards website, where I’m afraid I only grew more confused. The awards, it announced, had been created to “celebrate the best brands, organisations, services, apps and products which have managed their own meaning or that of the category/sector they live in”. It just didn’t feel any clearer. What even is managing one’s own meaning? Could I be managing my own meaning right now, without realising it? Confused and alienated, I decided to read up on male breastfeeding instead, hoping for a dose of sanity. Titled Chestfeeding for Dads, the project is the work of Central Saint Martins graduate Marie-Claire Springham and it’s absolutely delightful. Springham’s proposal is for a hormone kit that expectant fathers could, in principle, take in order to stimulate the development of milk-producing glands and, ultimately, breast milk. Complete with a pump and compression vest, Springham’s kit comes with an NHSstyle pamphlet: “Chestfeeding your Baby: what every dad needs to know.” Springham hasn’t done any medical testing, but there is some kind of internal coherence and research basis to her idea. The internet, however, disagreed. “Wtf is happening to this world??? I wish humans would stop playing god. We are creating freaks,” wrote one commenter on an article detailing the project on The Sun newspaper’s website. “This is UTTERLY sick. Its going too far utterly RIDICULOUS NO NO NO NO NO this is pathetic [sic],” proffered another. No word on whether these commenters find the contraceptive pill repugnant. Perhaps it’s only when the male body is subject to hormonal alteration that the practice becomes “UTTERLY sick”. Springham’s project never presented itself as anything other than a concept, but nonetheless attracted extraordinary anger – as if she were somehow already down at the YMCA, forcibly injecting hormones into every man-tit in sight. Its point, however, seems to be that it couldn’t currently go ahead, even if the science were in place – its implementation would mean adopting a different set of social paradigms. As absurd a title as “meaning-centred design” may be, if it encourages discussion about what this change might entail – and prevents existing models petrifying into reactionary bile – it is something worth promoting.
Contemporary furniture that defies expectations.
Wired Photographs Theresa Marx Location The Rose Lipman Building, courtesy of The Mill Co. Project
One of the ways in which Hunter S. Thompson used to inject urgency into his journalism was by inserting references to his Mojo Wire. In amongst the acid drops and slugs of Wild Turkey are persistent references to this device, which transmits information back and forth between Thompson and the wider world. “[We] are down to the deadline again and it will not be long before the Mojo Wire starts beeping and the phones start ringing and those thugs out in San Francisco will be screaming for Copy,” wrote Thompson with such brio that you could be forgiven for not noticing the Mojo Wire was just a fax machine. But that’s the thing with wires – they always seem to be fizzing with anticipation. Even as we move ever more into the territory of wireless connection, wiring retains a frisson – the wire hasn’t gone dead yet. In this spirit, the following pages showcase seven objects created by designers for whom the wire seems to have retained something of the old mojo. Observation
Looping – Formafantasma’s Wire Ring strips the lamp to its core components, transforming the electrical cable into both a means of delivering power to the design’s embedded LEDs, but also the sculptural body of the lamp itself. Wire Ring lamp, Formafantasma for Flos
Tempering â€“ Subverting the traditional characteristics of steel, Studio Ilioâ€™s vases are formed from felted steel-wool fibres that present the metal as textile. Simultaneously soft and coarse, the vessels challenge material preconceptions. The Soft Side of Steel vessels, Studio Ilio
Wrapping – A physical reductio ad absurdum of the lamp form, Andrea Anastasio’s Filo sees components of the traditional lumière balloon to enormous size, including an extended electrical cable that loops around the lamp’s frame. Filo lamp, Andrea Anastasio for Foscarini
Discomforting – A crown of thorns worn as a visor, Gareth Pugh’s mask delights in colliding competing symbols. Its barbed wire forms generate anxiety through their proximity to the eyes, but the effect is wilfully muddled by the mask’s execution in soft, squidgy rubber. Barbed Wire eye mask, Gareth Pugh autumn/winter 2018
Tidying â€“ Designed to address cable mess, Layerâ€™s charging accessories for Nolii clip together with magnets for quick assembly and disassembly, providing a form of cable management that is intended to be portable and intuitive. Set and Bundle charging accessories, Layer for Nolii
Slicing â€“ Hot-wire cutting comes to the fore in Martijn Rigtersâ€™s Cutting Edge project, in which polystyrene is pushed through a form prescribed by wires connected to batteries. As the polystyrene squeezes through the gap, the hot wires slice out the wavy patterns visible on the final form. Cutting Edge shelf, Martijn Rigters
Bending â€“ Two aluminium bars wrap around one another to form the structure of Max Lambâ€™s tracerylike chair. The delicacy and poise of the interlacing belies the physical force required to bend these bars into the final shape. Ali Bar chair, Max Lamb
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Museums x Retail Words Johanna Agerman Ross Illustration Leonhard Rothmoser
The concept of a museum is an odd one. A repository of objects, accessible to people through exhibitions and displays, it is unlike any other space you encounter in daily life, mostly because of two often unwritten rules: you cannot touch and you cannot buy. So when you visit an exhibition that invites another mode of interaction, it can be both confusing and exhilarating, like breaking the fourth wall in theatre, as two recent events have investigated. Passer-by from the collaborative fashion label Atelier EB at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London presents three distinct interiors: a display of historic material pertaining to the store mannequin; a series of specially commissioned contemporary artworks responding to that theme; and a showroom for Atelier EB’s latest collection. Like many other fashion showrooms it contains a display of clothes and mirrors, inviting visitors to try on the garments. If they like them, they can place an order. Meanwhile, Eckhaus Latta: Possessed just closed at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. This exhibition explored different aspects of the fashion system, from the traditional photoshoot to the voyeurism inherent in the field and its image-obsessed culture. However, as the Whitney’s website states: “The core of Possessed is an operational retail environment in which visitors may touch, try on, and purchase clothing and accessories designed specifically for the show.” It’s a fairly unorthodox approach, inviting often uncomfortable connections between retail and the sacrosanct environment of the museum. The architecture and organisational flow of these institutions mean that we tend to monitor our behaviour in them. Maybe our voices are hushed and our phones turned to silent; maybe we walk a little slower, always aware of gallery invigilators and the possibility of being told that what we do is not right. Both shows offer a welcome intervention. Not because we should uncritically welcome commerce into one of the few spaces where it’s long been at arms’ length (at least until you get to the museum shop), but because it opens up another way of being within these spaces that are ultimately there for our education and entertainment. As such, they should be considered long-overdue discussion starters.
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Mediated Meaning Introduction Vera Sacchetti Photographs Ekin Özbiçer
Arriving on the fifth floor of the Pera Museum in Istanbul, visitors last autumn would have been confronted by an immaculate white room. Here, brightly coloured sand was arranged in precise, triangular piles, displayed in neat rows that led the eye to the sweeping views of the city outside. This pristine curation was disrupted in scheduled interactions, with participants coming together to unmake and remake two piles of sand. The project was the work of Berlin-based designer Judith Seng, whose participation in A School of Schools, the fourth Istanbul Design Biennial, resulted in the seventh iteration of her ongoing Acting Things series. The series looks at production processes as if they were dances, plays or rituals. Acting Things VII: School of Fluid Measures questions values through physical interactions around coloured sand. The patterns that emerge reveal the fluidity of ingrained systems of trust, while the colours represent values as resources to debate, distribute and fuse into new forms. For these interactions, two participants each chose a pile of sand and an associated value – freedom, individuality, responsibility, to name just a few – before engaging in a negotiation in which no words Roundtable
were spoken, but instead sand was parted, thrown, spread and piled up. The colours would mix and mounds would be remade, creating new hues and new values. The materiality and the heft of the sand – each pile weighed about 70kg – invited those interacting with it to use a set of simple tools that Seng developed specifically for the installation: stark geometrical receptacles that acted as extensions of the body and made it easier to gather, collect or spread the sand on the white floor. During the six weeks of the biennial, 18 measuring sessions were conducted. All the negotiations were documented in video, images and annotations, and subsequently displayed in the space as an emerging notation system for the fluid making and mediation of meanings. Following the final negotiation, a group of thinkers from different disciplines came together in the installation space to consider the possibilities opened up by the project.
Viktor Bedö Street-game designer, philosopher and researcher at Critical Media Lab Basel Ayse Draz Dramaturg, performer and co-founder of the Hemhâl Theatre, Istanbul Jana Scholze Design curator and associate professor at the Kingston School of Art Judith Seng Designer and guest professor in design at HDK, University of Gothenburg Diane Sunar Emeritus professor in the department of psychology at Istanbul Bilgi University Vera Sacchetti (moderator) Associate curator of the fourth Istanbul Design Biennial
the start I had thought that we might fight because freedom and responsibility are very tricky values to negotiate. Diane Sunar My background is in social psychology and what I observed in the negotiations was social interaction. I don’t think that the experience you’ve described is all that unique in the dialogue that it generates. If you’re
Vera Sacchetti A number of the participants in this
conversation took part in a negotiation today – from your different disciplinary backgrounds, what did you experience and observe? Viktor Bedö By training, I’m a philosopher with a focus on embodied and visual knowledge, as well as urban mapping. The most striking aspect today was that during the negotiation I was convinced my partner and I were engaged in a genuine dialogue. This was validated after the negotiation session, as we had the same memories of the process. We manipulated sand piles representing responsibility and freedom, and one of the biggest learning points from the session was how freedom benefits from responsibility. Responsibility opens up and defines fields such that freedom can then come in. In our negotiation, we represented freedom with yellow sand, with responsibility represented by lines and dots that served as gates or walls. I think we were initially both biased towards trying to introduce more freedom into the system, but we realised that responsibility is an enabler and not just a blocker. Ayse Draz I come from the performing arts, where I work as a performer and director. Primarily, I thought of my experience, which was negotiating collectivity and standardisation, in terms of the material. It’s very therapeutic to come and play with sand. Maybe it’s because I tend to think dramatically, but I thought a lot about what the other person was going to do to trigger
“If you’re not using language, you use some other means to communicate.” —Diane Sunar not using language, then you use some other means to communicate and, actually, there is language in this project, because the colours are defined as representing certain concepts. What Ayse described in terms of thinking ahead – what are the effects of my actions going to be and how might the other person respond – is something we do all the time every day. It’s how we carry on conversations and relationships. What this project does is physicalise that interaction and take it out of the verbal realm. But human nature is such that we do that no matter the medium. Judith Seng I think this is a really good question to discuss – does this act of physicalising communication add something to what we are doing? My speculation was that materialising communication and creating physical interaction between two people might actually influence the dialogue and understanding. When I took part, I just expressed something that I felt represented responsibility. I wasn’t thinking about an overview but rather just giving a spatial expression to responsibility, creating a reality which my negotiation partner could react to. That reality changed over the course of the negotiation, however, so my perspective and role were also constantly changing. My first impulse, for example, was that responsibility would function as a cage around freedom, but through the working process I figured out that it has to be something rather more like a skeleton. Maybe I could have reached that conclusion through thought or discussion as well, but instead I experienced it. That seems like a different way of learning or understanding. My broader Acting Things project started with the idea of looking at daily situations as if they were choreography. I wanted to make these situations understandable as a work of design – a work
“Responsibility opens up fields such that freedom can come in.” —Viktor Bedö my action. At some moments, I even found myself thinking about the end of our story – was standardisation going to take over, or was collectivity going to find a way to survive? Jana Scholze I negotiated with Viktor and it was very important to the experience that we didn’t know each other beforehand. I didn’t really think about what Viktor might do, but I was very surprised that we seemed to think in a similar way – very often I saw my movements complemented or had a sense that he was doing what I would have done in his position. We weren’t throwing sand at each other, whereas at
that has been shaped, has a form and way of being performed that has developed for certain reasons. Coming from design, we are very much used to working with materials, but we are not so familiar with working with processes. So the research question was whether we could enlarge design practice and make social processes more tangible. Diane One of the achievements of social psychology over the last 50 years has been an investigation of values, which has been carried out across practically all major nations and cultures. It’s as simple as asking people what they agree with in terms of statements about values. If you boil all the answers down, you come up with around 12 values, which vary in their dispersion across cultures. Some people in all cultures agree with some of these values, but cultures tend to vary in their average amount of agreement. You can then boil things down further, until you really only have two categories. So basic human values can be summarised in that way, but a lot of what this project seems to be saying is not to lump these things together – let’s split them apart and see what the unique characteristics of each of these values may be. Judith When I was invited to develop a work for the fourth Istanbul Design Biennial, I wanted to connect to the context of the city. I became interested in a collection of Ottoman weights and measures here at the Pera Museum, which contains an early form of money. This particular object is a kind of clay plate, onto which has been etched the narration of a transaction. So, something like, “I gave this person this much grain on this date and this person will give it back to me on this date.” What I liked is that the plate is an object and is distributable, but it is still a situation that’s being described. As I was doing deeper research, I realised that I wanted to try and tackle situations that are more complex and annotate them in such a way that they also might become distributable. Close to Paris, for instance, is the Bureau international des poids et mesures, which is an intergovernmental organisation devoted to maintaining and caring for standards of measure – such as time, the metre, the kilogram and so on. Within that organisation, there has been a lot of effort to keep very mobile physics in a very stable state – such as specific physical objects that are, for instance, the standard of a kilogram – which equals a cubic litre of water at freezing point. In order to create standards, we have to find these very moments and then fix them.
These standards are quite artificial and I wanted to see if there was a way of describing a more fluid, dynamic, relational, or complex value that is still exchangeable and comparable. Can you create a pattern that can be read, repeated, distributed or compared? Ayse In the performing arts you tackle all sorts of human values, but you always need some sort of opposition to keep things moving forward. Perhaps that’s the case with human interaction too – we want
“You always need opposition to keep things moving forward.” —Ayse Draz to get something, but there is always some sort of hindrance. That makes me wonder what this performance would have been like if we had tried it with two similar or non-oppositional values. In the performing arts you perform for others, but here in the museum I had to remind myself that I had no such responsibilities. Maybe that’s why I found it so therapeutic – it creates a reality of its own. Viktor There’s a process of making things explicit in these negotiations through which a kind of dialogue might emerge. The negotiation is not abstract or formalised enough to be called a language yet, but if a successful dialogue has already happened, then there is the potential for a language. But why does it work as a dialogue before we use language? My hypothesis is that Jana and I engaged so successfully because we share similar experiences. Building on theories of embodied knowledge, you can say that our concepts derive from our experiences of interacting with the world. Knowing something would mean that we are able to reactivate these experiences mentally or materially in more or less abstract ways – and these manifestations display a kind of similarity with our experiences. Sharing similar life experiences with Jana might have been the enabler of our dialogue in which our conceptualisation of freedom and responsibility were accessible – because similar – even though they were manifested in thesize and shape of piles of sand. Sand might not work for negotiating everything, but it seemed to work very well in the case freedom and responsibility in the context of movement and personal relationships. Perhaps the first negotiations
are like early sketches. If we did them over and over again, patterns might emerge with recognisable symbolism or more elaborate meanings. The more we abstract these patterns, the more language-like the negotiation process becomes. Diane Listening to you, I was reminded that it’s not just civilisations that start from some place: individual knowledge also starts from what we call the sensory motor. In other words, our first knowledge is of the things we see, feel, taste, push and pull, drop, and so on. Experience of objects and the body work together to tell us what’s what. To a certain extent, meaning itself resides in these very primitive experiences. We’re all fully lingual, educated adults here, but we were babies also and we never lose the fundamentals of that early experience – they just get covered over and elaborated upon. I would say the same thing about your remark about the establishment of patterns, because interaction is another way we give meaning to the world. I’m sure that over the course of a few years you’ll see a lot of different sets of negotiation partners, some of whom will be oppositional while others will try to collaborate. If you randomly do something oppositional and then something cooperative, it doesn’t add up. You need to begin to trust the other person, or at least be able to predict the other person, and that gives you a pattern and meaning. Jana I am sceptical about the notion of language, however, because I feel this process actually allowed me to do something where language is very restricting
which is itself a form of negotiation. You have the project that a designer has brought you and the context it is going into. There is a negotiation between respecting the project and shaping it to fit the context – the better you negotiate and the better your relationship, the more the designer allows you to shape their work. Judith A lot of people reacted to the word “negotiation” as if I were talking about winning or some sort of definite agreement. That would have been very boring, because if one value were to win, there would be nothing interesting happening within these performances and their patterns – you’re not working towards something
“Language is restricting because of the limitiations of words.” —Jana Scholze definite but working out the relations and dynamics. What you say about curating is giving a certain structure and framework, in which the freedom of the work can develop, so that’s also not about winning – it’s more like a dance and trying to find a good dynamic between these roles. I think there are extremes in how people have manipulated the sand. One side is where the performance becomes illustration – people are tracing flowers in the sand, for example. That’s something I have tried to avoid, because this is intended as a dialogue – it’s not about putting out a preconceived idea or a picture of how something is, but rather about seeing something emerge through one person moving and the other adding something in response. The picture cannot be predicted from the beginning. And on the other hand there have been negotiations that are not about creating a pattern at all – it’s just a trace of some form of interaction. In one negotiation, for instance, one person only made smooth gestures like brushing, whereas the other was always constructing – using tools to make sharp lines and build things up. In the beginning, they were kind of erasing each other with their attitudes, but then they started layering it, which became quite an interesting process. We have been filming all of these sessions and we’re trying to understand what has happened in them – we always photograph the patterns that result from a negotiation before they are mixed to form a new colour and made into equal piles that become a resource for a new
“If one value were to win, there would be nothing happening.” —Judith Seng because of the limitation of the words that we have. If I did it again there would be a very different feeling, a different context and probably a different partner. The moment would be very different in terms of thinking about these concepts. I would be extremely interested to see whether similar shapes would arise – at the moment, I doubt this very much. I think this mode of negotiation permits you an expression that language doesn’t necessarily allow. With the relationship between design work and curation, very often we feel we are translating something into space,
negotiation. We’re also asking all the participants to reflect on their negotiation process in the form of a map key – to get a hint of the inside perspective of the negotiation process and see if that helps to read the pattern. Ayse What if we used your records from these negotiation in more of a performing-arts setting? I’m curious: if we used these video recordings and images, and whatever the negotiators noted as their key concepts, could we make something out of them that’s repeatable and more like a performance? You would then have a notation that is provided to performers as a choreography to repeat. They wouldn’t be able to make the decisions by themselves, as is happening here, but would rather be able to use these initial experiences as a score. Jana That would create something very different, because at present it’s such an individual negotiation. I feel repetition would only be interesting if, through that repetition, you could come to understand someone else’s feelings. If you could do that, then you might employ it as a kind of alternative to argumentation – you’d have a different kind of language through which to start negotiating and see other possibilities. It might make for a more peaceful discussion. Ayse You would, however, need to emphasise the original negotiators in order to properly repeat their score, which assumes some knowledge. But you would only really know their bodily actions – you wouldn’t know what they were thinking as they moved. So what
delivery of it – in other words, there is always going to be variation around the standard. I think that’s our human paradox – we all think we want perfection and permanence, but everything is conditional and
“Measurement is a fiction that helps us to understand what we are doing.” —Jana Scholze temporary. It’s subject to all the variations that human interaction and ageing and time bring to things. Viktor Standards are extremes, as they can be seen as crystallised forms of past negotiations. Most of our negotiations happen beyond what we can make explicit. Maybe being aided by fluid measurements is actually what we need most. Jana It’s a nice reminder of the fragility of our system – we have measuring systems, but these are totally liquid and artificial. In universities nowadays, everything is measured and all discussion becomes really complicated the minute you realise that we’re actually dealing with people who don’t behave as the system might want them to. Diane But there is no way to deal with those people without a system – that’s where the tension lies. Jana There needs to be measurement, but there needs to be a recognition of fluidity too. Measurement is a fiction that helps us to understand what we are doing and to negotiate situations. But it also leaves us the freedom to say that things can be different. We will never run out of varieties. Diane Variety is the reality; measure is the fiction. E N D
“How do you measure something that can’t be measured?” —Diane Sunar in that case would be the artistic interpretation by the performers? Diane It seems that the problem is actually a paradox. How do you measure something that can’t be measured? You said earlier that you need tension to create anything interesting – perhaps the tension here is between the desire for something absolute and the understanding that everything is continuously changing. In drama you have a script which is permanent, but then the actor can vary in their
Connections in the Pearl River Delta Words Zara Arshadâ€‚Photographs Bowy Chan
This page: the Zhuhai highway port exit. Previous page: a taxi station in Zhuhai.
and four artificial islands – all designed to withstand typhoons and earthquakes – has been designed to last for the next 120 years, costing RMB 120bn ($17.3bn). The current focus is on the potential economic returns of the new bridge. A long-established manufacturing base, the Pearl River Delta was recognised as the planet’s largest urban area by the World Bank in 2015. This urban and economic expansion is often attributed to Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening-up policy instigated in the late 1970s, which saw the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) calculated to attract foreign investment. Much like Shenzhen, which became the country’s first SEZ largely because of its proximity to Hong Kong, Zhuhai was designated an SEZ as a result of its strategic position facing Macau. Manufacturers relocated and opened up factories throughout the Pearl River Delta soon after, transforming the area into a dynamic economic centre. More recently, the Chinese government has been looking to shift the region’s focus from low-cost
The inaugural Zhuhai Design Week launched on 25 October 2018 at the Zhuhai International Convention & Exhibition Centre in Guangdong, south China. Affiliated with Beijing Design Week, the trade showlike event reportedly brought together more than 300 designers, both local and international, to participate in activities hosted under the theme “Innovate Again and Again”. It also featured exhibitions originally organised for Beijing Design Week 2018, including a 40-year retrospective detailing the development of design in China since Deng Xiaoping’s 1978 reforms. You would be forgiven for not having heard of Zhuhai Design Week. Initially set for a 2019 launch, the likely catalyst for its sudden materialisation was the October 2018 unveiling of the world’s longest sea crossing: the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge. Spanning 55km, this structure directly links Zhuhai to China’s Special Administrative Regions, Macau and Hong Kong, tangibly connecting the Pearl River Delta for the first time. The Y-shaped crossing, which comprises an over-sea bridge, an undersea tunnel,
manufacturing to technology and innovation (hence Zhuhai Design Week’s theme). Although some of the world’s biggest technology companies, such as Tencent and Huawei, already have a presence in the area, investors and government officials are now seeking to attract young entrepreneurs with the intention of developing a rival to Silicon Valley. One way of achieving this will be through using a series of large-scale infrastructural projects, such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, to further integrate 11 cities in Guangdong with Macau and Hong Kong. The result will be a megacity of sorts, otherwise referred to as the Greater Bay Area, projected to generate a GDP of $4.62tn by 2030. A new high-speed railway between Hong Kong and China is also part of these plans. Launched in September 2018, it enables passengers to travel from Hong Kong to cities across China – from Guangzhou to Shanghai and even Beijing – much more efficiently than ever before. Travel time between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, for example, is a mere 15 minutes. It’s a mind-blowing experience that’s augmented by the need to connect to a VPN to circumvent China’s Great Firewall on one side of the journey in contrast to easily being able to navigate using Google Maps on the other. Not that Google Maps is immediately useful: pulling into Hong Kong, visitors are welcomed by the new West Kowloon Terminus (WKT), a cavernous building that is as overwhelming as it is impressive. Designed by architect Andrew Bromberg of Aedas, the station extends 25m above ground and 20m below ground, and features a large central void. Despite its size, however, it is surprisingly well lit, with daylight filtering in through numerous windows. The idea, Bromberg explains, was that passengers would be able to see the Hong Kong skyline as they depart from and arrive at the station. Around the building, meanwhile, are 3ha of open space linking the West Kowloon Terminus with two nearby MTR public transit stations. Much of Bromberg’s initial research entailed studying how long it would take passengers to reach these stops. However, these open spaces are as much about connecting people as they are about functioning as effective thoroughfares. “In Hong Kong, urban parks are limited,” he says, “so the civic quality of the green space was one of the things that kind of became sacred.” As we approach the station’s outdoor plaza, Bromberg says that while he personally referred to the space as a “civic plaza”
during its development, it is officially known as a “green plaza”. “Green” is, perhaps, a less politically charged term than “civic”. Since opening, WKT has been criticised for implementing what is known as the “co-location arrangement”, an agreement under which around 105,000sqm of the station’s footprint has been (cheaply) leased to Beijing. Subject to Chinese law, this area is where passengers arriving in Hong Kong – after being greeted by Chinese police officers (both human and robotic) and hanging rows of surveillance cameras – are required to clear Chinese immigration. Although the arrangement is said to have been made in the name of efficiency – such that passengers travelling to Hong Kong wouldn’t have to interrupt their journey to pass immigration before reaching their final destination – it speaks to China’s growing political encroachment on Hong Kong. There is no doubt that initiatives like the new high-speed railway or the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge offer many benefits. For locals and visitors, this time-saving infrastructure increases accessibility, providing more opportunities for leisure, tourism, or for seeing family and friends, while businesspeople can now fully exercise the “time is money” mantra. From a government perspective – both Hong Kong and Chinese – these connectivity projects are key to the prosperity of the Greater Bay Area. But to borrow a sentiment expressed by Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s current chief executive, they are also a major boost for Hong Kong’s future integration efforts. A future within which, perhaps, Hong Kong will no longer operate as a Special Administrative Region, but as one of China’s newest SEZs instead.
Previous spread: a view from the green plaza of West Kowloon Terminus. This spread: passengers in the interior of the station, and workmen making repairs at Zhuhai port.
Previous spread: signage for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, seen from Zhuhai. This spread: the Casino Lisboa in Macau, the route into the city, and safety barriers erected ahead of the Macau Grand Prix.
Previous spread: a curve of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, wrapping around the coast of Lantau Island, Hong Kong. This spread: a boat ride from Tai O to Tuen Mun, stopping at Sha Lo Wan pier, Hong Kong. Golden HZM buses are the authorised public transport vehicles on the endless bridge.
For 6.7km, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge gives way to an undersea tunnel.
Associative Design ‘The Best of Portugal’ Global Showcases. Featuring an expertly curated mix of contemporary and
* KANDINSKY side table by OIA // WHITE HOUSE table lamp by Creativemary // CHARISSE armchair by Ottiu
luxury Portuguese design and innovation.
Stroking a Cat the Wrong Way “We do get titillated by oddity,” says Sam Hecht, one of the founders of Industrial Facility.
Words Will Wiles Studio photographs Jermaine Francis
Kim Colin and Sam Hecht seated next to their stainless steel Piatto table for Brianza-based manufacturer Fucina. The Piatto family of tables feature polished vertical planes that cut piece is resting on only two legs.
Product images by Miro Zagnoli and Gilbert McCarragher, all courtesy of Industrial Facility.
across the tabletop, creating the optical illusion that the
If it’s known for anything, Industrial Facility is known for its longstanding relationship with Muji, purveyor of Japanese minimalism to the high street. But while Muji’s brand of cultivated affordability is a quality that can be found throughout the studio’s work, there’s something else as well. While minimal, Industrial Facility’s design is never plain, it’s not purged of interest – there’s a distinct, consistent, thread of character. That’s what Hecht is trying to describe. “It’s important that as designers we allow space for oddity,” Hecht says. “Where we’re not quite sure
“The product doesn’t have to invent its entire universe. A lot of designers imagine a product as a world unto itself. That fiction doesn’t exist with us.” —Kim Colin if [a design is] right, but there’s something about it that is unique enough to be able to continue having a conversation.” “It’s a tension,” volunteers Kim Colin, Industrial Facility’s other founder. “It’s a friction. Some kind of gristle.” Gristle? “It’s like…” Hecht continues, “you can stroke a cat, but when you stroke it the other way, you get a tension. It’s the same cat, it’s the same fur, but what’s changed is the direction, the feel. So I think that’s one part of it. It’s not a roughness.” Not a roughness, but also not a slickness. The neatness and cleanliness of Industrial Facility’s products – radiused corners, smooth plastic surfaces – might lead one to expect that their design work has evanesced out of the intangible world behind the Mac screen, as is the case for more than a few of their peers. They inhabit two floors of a small Clerkenwell office building and all around them are other studios where only mouse clicks disturb environments otherwise noise-reduced by Bose technology. But Industrial Facility’s facility, by
contrast, has pleasing signs of actual industry: the bandsaws, machine tools and workbenches of physical making. “It’s quite important for us to try and reach perfection, as much as we can, within our studio,” says Hecht. That includes prototyping, on the premises, as far as possible. “So even if it’s quite rough, eventually it’s going to pop out quite beautiful. We try to do that. [Elsewhere] it’s kind of disappeared. But we’re still quite old-school in that.” For Colin, this idea is at the heart of why she and Hecht founded Industrial Facility in 2002, and what makes the studio different. “At the time, computers were becoming the predominant tool for design, and now for generating design, even,” she says, adding that Industrial Facility never begin a design process on the computer. “[If] you see a glass of water that’s just floating in white space, because you can model it that way, you visualise it that way[…] and design starts to be concerned with things that float in the non-gravity of space and you’re [only] evaluating the object’s surface.” Instead, Industrial Facility remains rooted in its context, which is what permits its peculiar brand of practical and stylistic innovation: it admits that surroundings exist. Take one of the studio’s first great successes, the Second Phone, designed for Muji in 2002. It is a highly distilled object, just a shaped white handset with an alphanumeric keypad. And that’s it: it’s so distilled it has done away with the cradle. The handset doesn’t have anything to sit on – or rather, it has everything to sit on, because it exists in a world filled with tables, desks and shelves. “If we understand that the phone handset is always going to sit on a surface, we all have surfaces,” says Colin. “The product acknowledges the fact that we have other things, and those things could be doing the job [so] the product doesn’t have to. The product doesn’t have to invent its entire universe, as if nothing else exists. I think a lot of designers imagine a product as a world unto itself. That fiction doesn’t exist with us.” Nevertheless, the lack of a cradle in the Second Phone is faintly disturbing – a thread of the oddity or tension that Hecht and Colin describe, which opens up new functional possibilities. The button that takes the phone off the hook when it’s laid down naturally sticks out when it’s picked up. In a sweet Rams-ish
touch, the phone’s microphone has been integrated into this button, so that it’s a little closer to the user’s mouth. The duo attribute their close attention to this kind of context to their differing backgrounds. Colin studied architecture in Los Angeles and Hecht studied industrial design at the RCA – they cover what Colin calls “the micro and the macro”. “Industrial design is looking at the details,” she says, “and architecture is thinking about the building as sitting on the ground and the street in the city.” But the ease with which Industrial Facility’s objects cohabit with the rest of their owners’ material universes, combined with the naturally self-effacing business of minimalism in general – especially Muji’s no-brand variety – means that the pair can be, as Hecht says, “a little bit invisible”. They don’t have a PR company or marketing team, and they are resolutely un-starry. They are, in many respects, designers’ designers. They are not namevalue designers who brands approach when they want a statement sofa for an ad in House & Garden. “Companies come to us when they have more fundamental questions, and they come to rely on us for our honesty about what we find when we’re doing a project – sometimes not even related to the project,” says Colin. “We’re quite generous in our thinking. And often with our long-term relationships that’s exactly the kind of thing that gets embraced and companies want more of. They want to know how we think as outsiders, but we actually have quite an effect internally.” This process is well illustrated by Lino, Industrial Facility’s new task chair for Herman Miller, which had an extremely long gestation. Ten years ago, the studio was one of a group of designers brought in to review the company’s design work – practitioners chosen specifically because they weren’t employees of the company, and had no vested interest. “There was a chair that was trying to be [produced at] a more affordable price, and it just looked dreadful – it looked really unfortunate,” Hecht remembers. “And we said to the CEO, ‘Why would you give the most complex, difficult challenge – making an affordable task chair, with all of those features and all of those requirements – to one of the least experienced designers?’ It’s less of a challenge to make a $5,000 chair, but to make a $300, $400
or $500 chair is tough. I think that stuck with him, and years later he came knocking on our door.” The Lino will be the cheapest task chair that Herman Miller makes, but it has achieved this without sacrificing functionality. To enable this, Industrial Facility studied Herman Miller’s production line and watched where costs started to add up. For instance, the chair has a rounded cushion, which needs only one seam – more complex shapes require multiple seams, each of which adds to the price.
“It’s allowing oddity to exist in a design and trying not to eradicate it or streamline it, but instead to see where it’s going.” —Sam Hecht The chair also does away with lumbar support, long seen as essential in ergonomics, but now up for dispute. “We spoke to comfort specialists at Herman Miller and they said that it’s actually the sacral, at the base of the spine, that matters,” Hecht says. Happily, sacral support requires a much smaller component than lumbar. As a whole, Lino has a softer, rounder appearance than most office task chairs, which often have an aggressive, over-designed look. The shape of the back is borrowed from Thonet’s bentwood café seats and somewhat recalls the flowing form of Industrial Facility’s own CNC-carved Branca dining chair for Mattiazzi. Every aspect of the form and the controls of Lino has been simplified, with the result that some find it a little, well, odd. “People say the arm rests aren’t ergonomic, because they don’t look all shaped,” says Hecht. “And we say they are, because they’re wider at the back than at the front, as is your arm.” Let’s get back to the gristle-including, catstroking business of oddity. Because it should be said that Industrial Facility’s work is not odd, even if it draws character from its oddities. “It’s not oddity for oddity’s sake,” Colin says. “It’s an ease,” Hecht continues. “It’s allowing oddity to exist in a design and trying not to eradicate 102
Above: the Pastille lamp for Swedish lighting brand Wästberg. Below: one of the workspaces in Industrial Facility’s Clerkenwell studio – a space that incorporates the prototyping facilities Hecht and Colin use to develop projects.
Above: the Lino task chair for Herman Miller stands next to the brandâ€™s wooden Tronco chair for Mattiazzi. Below: in 2018 the studio partnered with Phaidon on the production of a new monograph devoted to Industrial Facilityâ€™s work.
it or streamline it, but [instead to] see where it’s going. It’s only possible to do that through conversation. It’s very hard to deal with that if you’re a single designer working in isolation. We talk amongst ourselves enormously in the process and tear things apart.” Oddity, then, is the hook that pulls the conversation forward, and which keeps things interesting. And it’s these searching, roving conversations that drove the design for Pastille, the studio’s new lamp for Wästberg. At its core is a slender pole, supporting an armature that houses a single LED, whose output is spread into a “perfect halo of light” by a generous reflector and diffuser. The pole is not fixed to anything – instead it ends in a simple ferrule that can be slotted into a base. The power cable runs up the middle of the pole, and the ferrule has a slit, so the cable can exit either to the side or out the bottom. “Just that simple movement opens up a world of potential,” says Hecht. The lamp can be mounted in a base, as a mobile task light, or fixed in place on a table with the cable running out underneath. Or it could be mounted on the wall or on the ceiling. The on/off switch is located at the top of the pole, neatly filling its circular section. “It’s not on the cable, it’s not on the head, it’s not on the base,” says Hecht. “You’re following it up and there’s a very pleasing logic to that.” There’s one further twist. From a distance, the lamp appears to be made of powder-coated metal, but it’s actually made from bioplastic, derived from castor oil, which needs no painting or coating. Again, this is a project pitched at the more affordable end of the market, exactly where Industrial Facility likes to work. “All of these ideas of materiality, simplicity, application are trying to reach equilibrium,” Hecht says. “It’s not a statement piece – it’s a piece that brings light to surfaces. And that’s another reality that companies have been grappling with over the last few years. How can you reach an equilibrium with all those factors and [still] have something that you value and can afford? The only way you can get to that level is through care and conversation.” “You have to step back and appraise your own work,” Colin adds. “Ask if it has reached that point of balance or if it has tipped over into being just one thing – so strange that it’s just a novelty, or so mundane that it has no character at all.”
Conversation is a vital part of what Industrial Facility does, but – in terms of interactions with clients – it’s plainly not idle chitchat. “We’ve always said that the route to simplicity is an extremely complicated process,” says Hecht. “If we work with a client who is not prepared to ride those waves and discuss things and tear them apart, or who is scared of a different opinion, then it generally doesn’t result in a good project.” More than once in our conversation, a certain gloominess comes over the pair as they survey the field of industrial design. Hecht senses that the world has shrunk, in both scale and ambition. “I feel the landscape of companies out there has changed,” he says. “When we work for a company, they themselves have to have a fairly good level of knowledge and intelligence. When that’s not there, it’s very hard to get somewhere that’s fundamental. You might argue, what’s fundamental about a door stop [such as the studio’s 2010 Twin stopper for Droog]? But it sold; it’s still in production; people still love it.” The Twin stopper combines a thick wedge and a thin wedge, arranged in an L shape so it doesn’t stick out and trip the user. A simple object like a door wedge might seem almost unimprovably stable, but a prolonged confrontation with the form revealed a way. “That’s because there was something fundamental about the knowledge that was in that conversation,” says Hecht. “And there are fewer and fewer companies that are willing to work with wa designer who will question the very nature of what they’re trying to do.” Moreover, there are new areas of consumer culture that are crying out for intelligent design. Take the Internet of Things. “A lot of these devices are just there to sell the services, they’re not thought of as a product,” says Colin. “They’re not things yet, there’s no typology for them. The product, the hard stuff, shouldn’t just be a seduction for the service.” To try to create a market opening in these areas, the studio has founded a conceptual design wing called Future Facility. Among its first projects was Amazin, a proposal for a fully serviced subscriptionbased apartment, which was exhibited in New Old, the Design Museum’s 2017 show on design for the ageing population. For the moment, though, many consumer goods companies seem to have opted to jettison design and fixate on price. “It makes a terrible situation
for society, where our expectation is that a toaster costs less than a good loaf of bread,” says Hecht. “You can buy a toaster for £5 but a loaf of bread from [London artisanal bakery] E5, a good sourdough, is £6. It’s a weird society where that happens.” Not that there’s anything wrong with cheapness in itself – indeed, part of Industrial Facility’s reputation is based on the name Hecht and Colin made for themselves as poundshop connoisseurs, with their longstanding Under a Fiver project, collecting weird yet inventive cheap objects from around the world. (Japan is a particularly fertile hunting ground.) Under a Fiver has been an exhibition, a book and a recurring magazine feature (in Icon, at the time this writer worked there), while the couple’s eye for design is the basis of another part of their shared philosophy – they are keen borrowers, forever adapting forms and details for other purposes, a practice that gives their work some of its contextual rootedness but also some of its oddness. The typescript on a ubiquitous Japanese steel ruler becomes the Circumference watch face; the format of the passport becomes a notebook. “Often we’ve looked at something very mundane and very close by, and borrowed it,” says Colin. “So the diameter of the broom handle is the diameter of the handle in Branca for instance – not because we wanted to make an alignment, but because that made sense. There’s something familiar there, even though the chair had never been seen before. You have to have something that grounds it with familiarity – it didn’t [ just] come from space.” Borrowing, then, feels like the tissue that connects oddity and context, forming the supporting tripod of the studio’s philosophy. And it’s a philosophy that Industrial Facility is now keen to spread. Although the studio’s low media profile has not hindered its commercial progress, it does bring frustrations. “A few years ago we decided that much of our thinking and work was being appropriated by companies and designers who weren’t actually aware of the philosophy behind it, which is very important to us,” says Hecht. “That’s purely because images are shared so freely on the internet, so we end up on a lot of mood boards, devoid of context,” adds Colin. In response, the couple accepted an offer from publisher Phaidon to create a book. But rather than a typical designer’s monograph, they wanted
Industrial Facility to be animated by the same principles that underlie the studio’s work; Phaidon gave them unprecedented freedom to shape the project as they saw fit. Context is the connecting thread that runs through the book. Every project exists in a world that contains every other project – nothing floats alone in space. “We came up with this idea of doing it like a film,” says Hecht. “Often when people see our things, they don’t know it’s us who have done them. They take up a position in people’s homes and offices as people do.” The book draws on this sense of Industrial Facility’s products being a seamless part of the environment. A door handle, a very early project, opens a door to reveal the frame of a Herman Miller sofa; on the next spread a toy for Muji is pictured at the foot of the same sofa. A casual glance at the book wouldn’t reveal the scheme, but once you notice it, it’s gratifying. A central section, meanwhile, has “project notes”, which try to avoid matter-of-fact descriptions of the studio’s work and instead give the “absolute reality” of how the pieces came about. “All the stuff that is never discussed about mistakes and frustrations with clients,” says Hecht, in the hope that this proves more educational than just names, dates and smoothed-over, sanitised marketing copy. One project – the Semplice lamp for venerable Italian atelier Oluce – came about because the brand kept emailing the studio looking for another designer called Sam. “Eventually he said, let’s do it, because it’s ridiculous,” says Hecht. “But this sort of thing is really never described, you just see the gloss.” The passport memo, one of the studio’s biggest successes, had no heroic origin story. “There wasn’t a single drawing, it was just a conversation over the phone telling them what to make and describing it,” says Hecht. “That was trying to show that there is a form of design education that follows but it’s not prescriptive, it can never be prescriptive and any designer who says it’s prescriptive is deluded. It doesn’t work like that: it’s a whole manner of clashes of opinions, characters and thoughts.” Again, it comes down to conversation, to teasing out that odd strain of thought until it becomes a perfect, balanced, gristly object. “Whenever a client says, ‘It can’t be that easy,’ then you know,” says Hecht. “That’s the one.” E N D
The Dead Letter Office Words Crystal Bennes Photographs Thomas Chéné
In the 15 years that followed its privatisation in 1995, the German postal service sold all but 24 of its 29,000 post-office buildings and cut some 140,000 jobs. Following this sell-off, its services were relocated to banks, convenience stores or even, in rural areas, the front rooms of private homes.
The layoffs and offloading of Deutsche Post’s commercial assets were chiefly driven by the realisation that declining demand for traditional postal services – then decreasing around 1 to 2 per cent annually in many countries – was not simply a temporary blip but actually indicative of a lasting change in society. “We realised that being a national postal provider was an endangered business, that we had to redefine the role of postal providers in a digital world,” said Clemens Beckmann, executive vice president of innovation for the German post office’s mail division, when speaking to The New York Times in 2011. In subsequent years, Beckmann’s observation has been echoed by postal executives across the globe as countries seek to reimagine their services for citizens who no longer send letters, but who increasingly receive packages given the rise of e-commerce. By and large, however, imaginative solutions to postal difficulties are constrained by their status as public services and their need to deliver to every citizen’s address, six days a week. Consequently, strategies for reinvention have largely concentrated on the creation of digital services and cost savings. In this climate of change, France’s La Poste has sought fresh ideas to stem declining revenues and believes it may have found one solution in a peculiar combination of consumer-focused design and Silicon Valley culture. Two years ago, La Poste announced the creation of Yellow Innovation (named for the colour of La Poste’s corporate identity), a start-upinspired research hub to develop and test new products for the consumer market. “People don’t send letters anymore,” says Philippe Mihelic, Yellow Innovation’s creative director. “The rate goes down by around 8 per cent per year, but La Poste employs 250,000 people. It must provide different services – develop the business in other ways – to maintain those jobs.” Although France is not traditionally renowned for its start-up industries, in 2016 alone – the same year that Yellow Innovation was founded – technology start-ups in France, including ridesharing BlaBlaCar and audio brand Devialet, raised €2.2bn. In one of the city’s former rail stations, the incubator Station F opened its mammoth doors in late 2017 with space for 1,000 ventures. Funded in part by the billionaire telecoms entrepreneur Xavier Niel, and supported by the likes of Facebook and Microsoft, it’s now the largest organisation of its kind in the world. “It’s a curious wave,” Mihelic says. “France has had a culture of innovation which no one knew
about before, but digitalisation has really made everything explode. At CES [the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where Yellow Innovation presents new products], we are now the nation with the fifth-largest presence.” During the heyday of mail, huge volumes of post were delivered multiple times a day – in France, as elsewhere. In early 20th-century London, for example, many districts carried out 12 deliveries daily; today, there’s only one a day and none on Sunday. Between 1907 and 1915, the US Postal Service estimated that one billion penny postcards were mailed each year. But since the 2000s, and the rise of both email and e-commerce, industrialised nations have largely turned away from snail-mail and towards package shipping as citizens increasingly shop online. Although this is rarely appreciated, most national post offices are mainly business-to-business companies, explains Mihelic. “The post delivers parcels to you, but you aren’t really a client of the post; you are only one step in the delivery process,” he says. “Because [letter services] were disrupted by email, and because we deliver less mail and more packages, La Poste must speak to the end-user directly and create new services.” Yellow Innovation emerged as the direct result of such concerns. La Poste is divided into five branches: Services-Mail-Parcels, La Banque Postale, Network La Poste, GeoPost and Digital Services. It was from the Digital Services branch that the idea first emerged for an innovation hub to design consumer products. “La Poste is actually a big driver of innovation, but it has always focused on incremental business-to-business innovation, such as how to improve logistics and efficiencies,” says Mihelic. “Yellow Innovation is the only division to focus on new services for the consumer market. We take ideas and make the best prototype possible in four months before testing it on the market.” If a prototype should prove successful, Yellow would either hand it over to one of the five branches for industrialisation, or work out how to manufacture and bring it to market itself. In practice, Yellow Innovation has the freedom to identify problems or projects for development across any of the five branches of La Poste, or indeed any broader social topics of interest. “We work in many different ways because our mission is to help people,” says Mihelic. “When we hear people say that they have a problem in life, that’s the kind of problem we would like to resolve.” To address such issues, 108
This page: desk clutter in the Yellow Innovation office in Parisâ€™s second arrondissement. Previous page: Philippe Mihelic and Pauline Deltour have worked together across multiple projects for Yellow.
Deltour has been a near-constant presence in Yellowâ€™s projects to date, and her work has influenced the overall aesthetic of the studioâ€™s output.
Yellow also has the leeway to work with freelance designers or independent companies as best suits the need of any given product. This is one of the key reasons Yellow Innovation has its own office and workshop in the second arrondissement, in the centre of Paris, independent of La Poste’s headquarters on the other side of the Boulevard Périphérique. Not only does this separate base mean that the work of Yellow can take place relatively free from the internal politics of La Poste but, as Mihelic adds, also that it is easier to attract talent because of the central location. Mihelic and his team of around 30 people – comprising, among others, four creative directors, software engineers and product designers – seem to be racing through projects and prototypes. Much of this is down to Mihelic himself. Formerly creative director of the Fullsix agency (acquired in 2015 by Havas, one of France’s largest advertising organisations), Mihelic is enthusiastic about his work and seems to have his fingers in every project, revealing an obsessive attention to detail. During a walk-through of the Yellow office, Mihelic stops briefly to chat with someone working on a prototype of an in-progress project – high-fashion postal clothing. It looks like something a Tour de France cyclist might wear if their sponsor were La Poste (no, I don’t get it either), but Mihelic takes a quick look and asks for the drawings to be sent over later for a closer inspection. As much as Yellow Innovation is the business-to-consumer R&D wing of La Poste, Mihelic is clearly its driving force. When I ask whether he thinks he is controlling about Yellow’s output, Mihelic is reflective: “It’s difficult to say how I work, but I do give the team a lot of freedom. What I can say is that I know the people I work with very well and what they produce is often as I had imagined it. It’s a collaboration.” According to research undertaken for a 2016 United States Postal Service (USPS) report, the most innovative digital-post systems are those of Finland, Switzerland, Italy and Austria. These four countries continue to provide traditional services, but have also used technology to diversify. This increase in digital services and diversification in the sector is pushing the post to ever-more-imaginative, occasionally ridiculous heights. Take Finland, where in 2015, Posti, the country’s postal service, reported a net sales loss of around €76m. Because of such losses, Posti launched an increasingly bizarre series of offerings, such as the ability to hire a postal worker to mow your lawn for €65 per month.
In Switzerland, by contrast, where a unique political system sees citizens vote in referendums up to four times per year, Swiss Post has been developing an e-voting platform. Although critics have argued that hackers could tamper with it to rig votes, last year the Swiss government opted to expand e-voting across the country (in at least 18 of the country’s 26 cantons) by October 2019. On a broader scale, Swiss Post has
“People don’t send letters anymore, but La Poste employs 250,000 people. It must provide different services to maintain those jobs.” —Philippe Mihelic
also instigated a Development & Innovation business unit that looks to develop new products and business areas, including drone development for logistics, e-health platforms and carbon-neutral shipping. In contrast to focusing on client logistics and efficiencies, Yellow’s mission is to concentrate on La Poste’s end-users. “We don’t have a brief, we have a baseline and that is to simplify people’s lives,” says Mihelic. “But my [personal] mission was that I wanted to build something that creates new businesses and tests a lot of things, whether products or otherwise.” So, what products or services might the French post office want to offer its consumers? If some of the answers Yellow Innovation has provided to such questions seem logical and considered, others are rather unexpected. At the logical end of the spectrum might be its redesign of La Poste’s branches based on analysis of local-user data. Although obvious in hindsight, the notion that post offices shouldn’t necessarily offer the same services in every branch but should be adapted to best serve the needs of their local communities is simple and resourceful. To test its theory, Yellow Innovation is redesigning a branch of La Poste for students on a university campus in Roubaix, near Lille. “We created a methodology that explains that when a post office is close to a university it needs to provide certain services that are different to those of a post office near the Eiffel Tower or in the countryside,” Mihelic says. “The methodology enables you to determine exactly what kind of services you have to provide.”
The Monimalz piggy bank is the first physical product from Yellow Innovation to hit the market. The base unit of the device can be accessorised with magnetic decorative elements that transform the Monimalz unit into one of three animals.
A protoype for LĂŠ Velo, an electric bike designed by Pauline Deltour for Yellow.
On the more unexpected end of the spectrum, the Yellow Innovation team has also designed a connected hard drive and an electric bike. Lumi, the office’s first project in collaboration with product and interior designer Pauline Deltour, is a portable networked hard drive linked to a lamp that signals when photos have successfully uploaded to the cloud. Le Vélo (the electric bike), another collaboration with Deltour, is an impressive example of Mihelic’s strategy to build expertise and prototypes as quickly as possible. Mihelic is also quick to point out that although it may seem like the Yellow Innovation team is designing one product after another, what the office is really attempting to do is to create products connected to a network of potential business opportunities for La Poste. “We think of each product as a services platform,” he says. “So, Le Vélo is an electric bike, but it’s also a services platform. It’s like an Apple watch in that anyone who wants to develop a new functionality or new service [for it] can do so.” If Deltour’s Le Vélo bike frame isn’t overly headturning (perhaps a good thing for an urban bike), its details are certainly noteworthy. Computerised navigation systems have been integrated into a brightyellow box between the handlebars. Ingeniously, the user interface for the navigation system has been incorporated into the brake levers as buttons on either side. A slimmed-down battery with four hours of travel time is hidden within the down tube of the frame, while a smaller battery pack – which can be charged with a USB to cover journeys of up to 30 minutes – plugs in discreetly underneath the cross bar. “The idea behind the bike was that it should be super urban as well as super flexible,” says Deltour. “Its electric components should be invisible, so that you can’t tell it’s an electric bike.” Although the result is a single object with a corresponding app, Le Vélo paves the way for La Poste to implement (and earn money from) a range of related infrastructure such as cycle lanes, maintenance garages and charging points. When I ask whether or not that infrastructure will be put in place in advance of the bike coming to market, Mihelic says no: “At this point, we are simply testing a product. When someone buys the first bike, then La Poste will have to move forward on the infrastructure.” As of 2018, however, Yellow Innovation’s flagship project is Monimalz, a digital piggy bank that has also been designed by Deltour. First pitched as an idea back in September 2016, Monimalz became available
to buy in France in November 2018, with a view to launching in anglophone markets in 2019. Sold online at monimalz.com, as well as at Le Bon Marché and Publicis Drugstore, two high-end Parisian department stores, Monimalz is Yellow Innovation’s first product to be taken from prototype to production. Monimalz is a piggy bank linked to an app that allows parents or other friends and family to send money to children virtually. One option on the parents’ app interface allows them to establish a list of chores that can be completed for money that is then deposited into the bank. Another option is similar to WeChat’s redenvelope function, which allows any amount of money to be sent for birthdays, holidays or no reason at all. “Initially, we had the idea to create a connected piggy bank,” says Deltour, “but from the very beginning we had big debates about why we wanted to have a money display in a child’s room. Because of that, the money aspect is now only a small part of what Monimalz can do.” Those initial concerns encouraged Mihelic, Deltour (who led on the design of the physical object) and the rest of the team to expand its functionality. Now, Monimalz includes educational features: it can tell a child the weather in the morning after a musical alarm goes off, or bedtime stories in the evening after a teeth-brushing game; there’s a word-a-day lesson in English and an automatic deactivate function in the evening that disconnects it from wifi. Future iterations may include coding lessons. For those who might express concerns about the gamification of the parent-child relationship or worries about data collection and its later monetisation, Mihelic argues that Monimalz information is fully securitised. As for the financialisation of parenting, it is worth noting that parents have long used the motivating power of money to cajole their children into performing chores. There is, however, an option to somewhat de-monetise the Monimalz and incentivise children to complete chores for “nuts” rather than money. The “nuts” can then be used to buy accessories for their virtual Monimalz. The fact that Yellow Innovation’s design team has incorporated a de-monetised option for its connected piggy bank speaks to the fact that, although Monimalz is a networked object, it seems to have side-stepped the pitfalls of many Internet-of-Things devices. Unlike a smart home-security system or connected smart fridge – the former of which might malfunction and leave your front door unlocked and the latter of which
Yellowâ€™s team is currently around 30-people strong.
might be used to increase your health-insurance premium through monitoring your diet – it’s difficult to see anything overtly sinister in Monimalz. Although children can receive money from friends and relatives via its interface, they can’t then call those same relatives via Skype. Similarly, although Monimalz might remind a child to do their homework, it’s not possible for them to use the device to fact-check answers (and thus be tracked and traced) via Google, as with an Alexa. It is, mercifully, more limited than smartphones, which a quarter of children under six now own, according to a recent study by technology website musicMagpie. The Monimalz itself is a minimal, blackboardgrey semicircular shell of injection-moulded plastic that can be customised with interchangeable magnetic pieces to create three different animals: a panda, a monkey or a whale (complete with tail). The shell rests on a charging dock, cleverly disguised as feet on the panda and monkey, and as eyes on the whale. It’s adorable, without being overly cutesy. And there’s not a pig in sight. “We asked kindergarten children to draw their ideal piggy bank and not one chose a pig,” Mihelic says. Hidden beneath the semicircular chassis is a grid of hundreds of square LEDs that activate when Monimalz receives money either virtually or physically. The team worked with a sound designer to engineer a distinctive noise when a coin is dropped in. “Although we want to produce as many innovations, as many products, as possible within a short timeframe,” says Mihelic, “it’s important that we make things that are simple, beautiful and impactful, and much of that is down to the details.” The icons that appear on the Monimalz body also carry over into the app interface. There’s something charming about the marriage of the body’s pixellated aesthetics with the slick, graphic illustrations of the phone-based app. The games are played between the app and the Monimalz body where the phone acts as a keyboard and the body a monitor. Kids can choose to play Johnny Smoothie, where a fox encourages them to select the correct type and number of fruits to make a smoothie, or Space Cochon (aka Space Pig), a game of simple arithmetic exercises, in which a flying pig shouts encouragement for correct answers. Even the packaging has been as carefully considered as anything from one of France’s luxury brands. Opening up the main box, you discover a nest of smaller boxes holding the body, the magnetic animal masks, an energy supply
and the dock – all beautifully designed in rich, candy colours. One suspects that much of the strength of Monimalz’s aesthetic, and that of Yellow Innovation more broadly, is down to the influence of Deltour. There’s a strong sense of discipline to the designs of all her products for Yellow Innovation, but none more so than this. From the object to the app to the packaging, nothing is superfluous. Given Deltour’s
“We had big debates about why we wanted to have a money display in a child’s room. Because of that, the money aspect is now only a small part of Monimalz.” —Pauline Deltour four years working under the methodical eye of Konstantin Grcic in his Munich office before leaving to set up her own Paris-based studio in 2010, this is hardly a surprise. “Something I learned early on,” she says, “is that for any project you have to rethink your process of working.” Where the role of the designer in consumer-sector postal services may previously have been restricted to corporate rebranding or limited-edition stamps, the model being developed by Yellow Innovation carves out interesting new territories. La Poste is still publicly owned and therefore the provision of employment remains an important motivation. Given the simple fact that people no longer send letters in large quantities, the postal industry must change if it is to survive. Whether or not Yellow Innovation proves to be a long-term success or to have any significant commercial impact on the French post office remains to be seen. As Mihelic admits, “because La Poste generates €24bn per year, anything we do here at Yellow is ridiculously small in comparison. We’re like the chien de traîneau [sled dogs] for the group. We put things on the market, we test them and perhaps tomorrow they might make big business. But it’s the business the post can create around the objects we test that is really important. The real business of the post is not visible to us, the consumer. It’s through networks, not objects, that we will solve problems.” E N D
Monimalzâ€™s digital interface.
Words Johanna Agerman Ross 120
Images by Tommy Ton, Patrice Stable and Matthieu Ridelle; archive imagery courtesy of Carin Pantone von Halem.
A Panton Rendition Texture, pattern and colour have always been key components of Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten’s work, creating intriguing assemblages of materials.
For Dries Van Noten’s spring/summer 2019 men’s collection, the designer photographed elements from the archive of designer Verner Panton, subsequently reproducing those images as digital prints.
For its spring/summer 2019 men’s collection, however, Van Noten’s studio dialled up this pattern and colour by means of a visit to the late Danish designer Verner Panton’s archive at the Vitra Design Museum. The result is an uncharacteristically playful and “pop” collection. Robust uniform cotton, light linen and technical high-gloss nylon were emblazoned with some of Panton’s most powerful prints – reverberating squares, waves and cubes – executed in shades of emerald, navy, orange, yellow, mocha and khaki. The originals – developed for interior use – date from the 1960s and 1970s, but Van Noten’s team re-scaled some to fit their new application, subtly altering their colours to suit a more contemporary palette. “We were very well-checked by the Panton family and were respectful of the heritage of Panton,” says Van Noten. “But at the same time they allowed us to suggest colour variations and re-scale some of the prints.” Van Noten’s earliest encounter with a Panton design came when he purchased two Panton chairs for his dining table in the 1980s. Dating from the 1960s,
the dramatically cantilevered plastic chair is one of the enduring symbols of that decade – slithery, sensual and psychedelic. Its potency has waned courtesy of its ubiquity, but Panton is still regarded as an integral figure of that era. “When I think about 1960s pop style, I always think of Verner Panton,” says Van Noten. Panton, who was born in 1926, studied architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and was mentored by Poul Henningsen and Arne Jacobsen. Nevertheless, he departed from their tradition of minimalist design that relied on natural materials and the Danish system of skilled cabinet makers. Instead, Panton explored new manufacturing technologies and synthetic materials, creating a fresh set of ideals that was attractive to a burgeoning consumer market, within which design was a lifestyle signifier. It seems fitting, then, that his designs should find a new application in an age where digital technology has reinvented how textiles are designed and produced. Re-editions are part and parcel of the contemporary design industry. What makes the 122
collaboration between the estate of Verner Panton and Van Noten interesting is the approach that the latter has taken to the archival material. Rather than recreating the fabrics as they were, Van Noten took photographs of the original textiles and recreated these as digital prints. As such, the research methodology is made apparent in the finished garment, where one can spot the textures of the original substrate on which the Panton designs were printed. The design industry stands to learn from this particular collaboration. It doesn’t simply rely on re-releasing the original material to new fanfare, but instead invites it in for a dialogue that renders it contemporary rather than nostalgic. Johanna Agerman Ross How did the work of Verner Panton first enter your collection research? Dries Van Noten When we decided that we were going to create a spring/summer collection based on colour, we looked first to modern artists, such as Josef Albers, but very quickly we landed on Verner Panton. What’s interesting to me about Panton is not only his design for furniture and fabric, but also the positive mood he brought into his work. That felt important to capture. Johanna What was it about that mood that you were keen to bring to the collection and why is that optimism important to you? Dries Everyone knows the world we live in right now, so I said to my team that I wanted to make a very optimistic collection for the next season. I didn’t want to create something that was aggressive or sad, and looking to the optimism of the 1960s felt important as its ideals were so beautiful. Even if they were sometimes very naive, that naivety is something we can use again today. We now know so much and are so connected through the Internet of Things, but we can really learn from people’s thinking from that time. The theory of living with colour and the positive impact it can have on us, for example. You know, Panton proposed a collection of sunglasses where the lenses were all the colours of the rainbow, such that the colour of the lenses would change your mood. I just love that approach to design. As someone who is mad about colour, Panton’s theories speak to me. Johanna The research process seems important to you, as your recent Dries Van Noten: Inspirations exhibition at MAD Paris revealed. Every season you go down a different rabbit hole in search of new ideas. Why is that so vital to you?
season we explore artists and theories ranging across time and place. For every collection we start with a defined idea or area of interest, although sometimes we don’t even talk about it later on – it just served as a starting point. With something like this collection, it was different as we had a certain access and it’s interesting to dive into somebody’s work in a more serious way. You learn a lot by looking at things and you start to appreciate what they were trying to do a lot more. Personal stories are revealed that you might not have known before. For this project, for example, I learned that the ‘Hand’ and ‘Eye’ prints that we decided to use have a personal connection to Panton himself. The hand is his hand and the eye is his wife Marianne’s. I liked the idea that both these people, who had been so integral to making this collection happen, were present in the finished garments. Johanna And how do you ensure that all that research becomes a sellable product in the end? Dries Well, in the case of this collection, we started by exploring the possibilities of the raw material, because those fabrics were created in the 1960s, and were meant to be used for upholstery and curtains. They were not created to be worn in 2019 as part of a collection of menswear. So first we had to see if we could make clothes from those prints and make them wearable and desirable. The worst would be if it looked like we had found a curtain in the flea market and made pants from it. Johanna How could you ensure it would work before going down a costly production path? Dries The Verner Panton archive is held by the Vitra Design Museum and its curators were very open to us working there. They also allowed us to do tests as we went along. Photoshop can perform small miracles, so we used images of models in last season’s garments and then photoshopped the Panton patterns on top of them, ultimately creating a render of what the collection was going to look like before we committed to specific designs. From that process came this idea of photographing the Panton documents and using those images as the basis for the digital fabric prints. So if a pattern was originally printed on heavy linen, and we reproduced the pattern on poplin, it still had the heavy structure of the linen within the printed pattern. For me, this is more respectful. We took photographs of the original documents and then used those for the designs, rather than recreating a new design made to look like the old one.
you also altered some of the designs to fit your needs. How did that come about? Dries What was important with the collaboration was to make all the fabrics our own and add our own creativity to the project. So while being respectful of everything that was done by Panton, we also allowed ourselves to rescale motifs and change colourways. As mentioned, the fabrics were originally designed as upholstery fabrics or as curtains, and they wouldn’t necessarily work as designs for swimming trunks. For those specifically, we needed a smaller scale of the same design. So we contacted Marianne Panton, Panton’s widow, and their daughter Carin, to talk about it, and they agreed that we could re-scale some prints, as well as create new colourways. They were fine with it as long as it was in keeping with the initial colour effect and matched the intensity of Panton’s designs. The majority of the prints that we have used are the original colours and scale, and only a few were made smaller for garments, with one pattern made larger to make it more abstract. We also made some colourways that we consider to be more “acceptable” to today’s consumer, like beige-brown and navy. Johanna Looking at the work of Panton, something plastic and almost acidic comes to mind, but I associate your work more with something organic and natural. In some ways, there is a clash. Was that tricky to get past? Dries This is something I do very often. I work from things that are not really expected of me, and I like to play with things that don’t fit so well in my world – to try to make my own version of it, while also including the vision of the source of inspiration. I think it’s important to move the story on, so to speak. It was interesting to work on a project like this where we have a very plastic story, which we translated by over-dying nylon and using saturated colours, and [reflecting] the shimmering and shine of plastic in bright blue, burgundy red, apple green and shiny black. This was the way in which we created the plastic feel and atmosphere of the collection, without being too literal. Johanna Do you think this will open up a new audience to appreciate Panton’s work, or do you expect that your customers will already know him? Dries In order not to presume anything, we have added a label in every garment where we clearly explain who Panton was and what people are looking at. We have also planned a lot of pop-ups and presentations where we will show the clothes against a backdrop of big, blow-up photographs of the interiors that Panton
created, making it feel like the clothes are “coming home” if you can describe it that way. We also commissioned photographs [accompanying this interview], where the models are wearing the collection in front of panels showing Panton’s work – again, it’s this idea of connecting the finished product to its origins. Johanna You have said previously that you don’t like nostalgia or being nostalgic in your work, but how do you approach a collection inspired by a design and ethos engrained in the 1960s without being nostalgic? Dries We used Panton’s prints, but the shapes and cuts of the clothes and the atmosphere we created were not inspired by the 1960s. We were very careful to make sure that the clothes are wearable for a man of today. Another aspect of this is the technique we used. All the designs that Panton created were screenprinted, but as we reproduced photographs of the original work, we decided to print our fabrics digitally, bar one exception which we screen-printed. It felt more natural to print digitally, as our starting point for recreating the pattern was a digital photograph. So from that point of view, I don’t think it’s very nostalgic. Johanna This kind of collaboration seems to be prevalent right now. I’m thinking, for example, of Prada’s collaboration with designers and architects for recent collections. Do you think that there’s an increased interest in this kind of crossover? Dries I think you have to be careful not to exaggerate these events. For me, there always has to be a healthy crossover, but I don’t like when these things become repetitive, like “I am starting a new collection so who will be my next victim that I can approach for a collaboration?” That is not the way we work. This started because of the colour theme and the way we reached Panton felt like a natural progression. Next season we will do things in a completely different way, so I don’t think it should be too overstated as a trend. Johanna That seasonal aspect of fashion stands in opposition to architecture or furniture design, which tend to produce longer-lasting products. How do you avoid a collection like this being fleeting and temporary? Dries The attractiveness of Panton is that his designs have already lasted for 50 years. They stay fresh and still make sense, and there is still a modernity to them. His work had a powerful concept. By adapting and using some of that thinking, I hope we will give [our seasonal] collection a similar longevity. The intention is not that it will last for just a season. E N D 126
Do Humans Dream of Cardboard Sheep? Words Alex Wiltshire Photographs Fabian Frinzel
You haven’t experienced the delight that’s possible in folding a tab into its slot until you’ve used Nintendo Labo. This cardboard constructionkit-cum-game, made by the company behind Mario and Donkey Kong, comes with a stack of cardboard sheets that are die-cut and pre-scored such that each tab lines up perfectly with its target and slides in with a papery click.
It’s on-screen, however, where the magic happens. Your real-world construction of these sheets, converting them into models and mechanisms such as fishing rods and steering wheels, is mirrored on a Nintendo Switch console, all rendered in photorealistic, animated 3D graphics that show you the next step in the making process. Rotate the view with a tilt of the console’s joystick and a spectacular effect emulates light-catching fibrous texture and smooth print. The virtual cardboard’s corrugated insides are exposed as the model turns; the board is visibly plump around the folds, where
and consisting of flat sheets of brown, corrugated cardboard and a few strings, stickers and elastic bands. Nintendo calls the models Toy-Cons, a chirpily dorky play on Joy-Cons, the name of the controllers it supplies with its Switch console. The Variety Kit includes a working piano, a model house, a fishing rod and motorbike handlebars, while the Robot Kit constructs a backpack filled with intricate mechanisms that turn its wearer into a robot. The secret to how these rickety Toy-Cons are made into houses and robots is the Switch itself. When you insert a Joy-Con controller into the cardboard, its array of sensors – its accelerometer, gyroscope and IR depth camera – become conduits for a surprisingly imaginative set of functions. The piano is a particularly wondrous design. Its body and keys are entirely made from folded cardboard, and other than hollow thunks and papery rustles, it makes no sound. But when a Joy-Con is mounted at the back of the piano’s body, its IR camera points towards the reflective stickers you place on the backs of the keys such that it detects when they’re struck. The notes then play on the Switch’s speaker, visualised as little singing on-screen characters. It’s a delightful effect, a moment in which a basic and inanimate material seems to come to responsive life. But that’s not all the piano can do. There’s also a dial you can slot into the top of its body that turns the characters into cats and gives their voices a range of echo effects. (The IR camera can see reflective stickers of varying width placed around the bolt of the dial that tell it how it’s rotated.) A lever raises and lowers the octave, there are buttons that put the instrument into record and playback modes, and if you shake it while playing a note, the pitch will wobble. On an individual basis, the way these features work is graspable, because you made them. But in concert they’re magical, transcending expectations for what sheets of cardboard and a couple of hours of construction can achieve. Then again, cardboard is good at surprising. With water, a vice, an oven, fine sandpaper and a lot of patience, you can fashion a functional kitchen knife from an Amazon box, for instance, as demonstrated in the YouTube video ‘sharpest Cardboard kitchen knife in the world’. It’s an everyday material that is capable of much more than forming the packaging that enters through your front door and leaves by the back as recycling the next day, and one of the great appeals of making things with cardboard is discovering how easily it bends to new purposes. “There’s something very pleasing about putting something together like
On an individual basis, the way these features work is graspable, because you made them. But in concert they’re magical. the internal tension of the cardboard has been disrupted by the bend. You hold a button to continue the animation: a flap folds across, reaching its allotted position with a cartoon clonk sound effect. You repeat the actions you saw on the screen, and then, holding the button again for the next step, the moment comes: the tabs insert into their slots and, with a click, a gust of cartoon air blows out from the joint. Doing it yourself, you feel a ghost of the same satisfaction. Historically, Nintendo has been a master of interaction design and reinforcing action through displays of light and sound on your TV screen. But the company hasn’t applied these techniques to the physical world before. Not, at least, outside of the setup guides to its console hardware, and the playing cards and toys that were its business before its 1970s entry into video games. But Labo is a fully imagined break into a world of rough and ready cardboard. Filled with ideas about how to encourage creative and self-driven play, it’s an entry into a growing field of kits and projects that blend digital technology and cardboard in surprising ways. Although this has its roots in the maker movement, Nintendo’s take is very much a corporate one, consisting of multiple SKUs and backed by an international marketing campaign. Labo is available as a series of kits, each tailored to build a set of different models, 130
The Nintendo Labo Toy-Con Motorbike.
The Toy-Con Piano.
that,” says Ross Atkin, a designer who is currently finalising production of Smartibot, a build-your-own cardboard robot that plays on many of the same principles as Labo. “Particularly in using a material with which you’re very familiar in an unfamiliar way; things you don’t think you can do with that material.” Like Labo, Smartibot comes as a flat sheet of die-cut and scored cardboard and like Labo it operates on the transience of the substance. “The fact that cardboard is ephemeral and everyday is, in a way, the most important thing, because the reason to use it is to send a signal to the people who are building the robots that they’re made of nothing special.” “It’s kind of anti-technology,” says Rex Crowle, a designer and artist behind video games including LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway, which both use paper and cardboard as the virtual substance of their 3D worlds. “It’s the complete opposite of shiny consumer electronics. It’s just the packaging that goes around them, the thing they get sent to your house in. It’s a very cheap material and it’s not valued, so everyone feels very creatively open with it. When a new box turns up in the house you can immediately cut a hole in it and it becomes a house; you draw on the side and it becomes a spaceship.” This is the effect Atkin now hopes to engender with Smartibot – the cardboard is intended to signal to owners that if they can make a robot from such a mundane material, then they can also make one out of other things they have lying around. A former designer at Dyson, Atkin is interested in marrying digital technology with everyday design. His practice has worked on projects that make cities livable for disabled residents, such as Responsive Street Furniture, a series of prototypes that detect the smartphones of registered users and then adjust street-lamp brightness; illuminate signage; or provide fold-out seating. It’s an oeuvre that deals with making high technology better serve people. But Atkin is also interested in the reverse: helping people better understand and play with technology. “If you think something’s magic, you don’t understand it,” he says. “The people who designed it are a bit irresponsible. The objective of designing technology shouldn’t be to make people feel like it’s magic, it should be to make them understand it more than they did before.” Projects such as Smartibot and Labo form part of a wider design movement that has grown up around the increasingly closed quality of technology and the vast scale and hyper-commodified nature of modern
industry. On one side of this are formal organisations such as the Raspberry Pi Foundation, which released its first $25 computer in 2012. Raspberry Pi was prompted by a sharp fall in computer-science graduates in the UK around 2010, causing co-founder David Braben to worry that the inscrutable Steve Jobs-ian “it works like magic” nature of modern computers was stunting children’s understanding of how they functioned. He looked back to technology-education endeavours such
“The objective of designing technology shouldn’t be to make people feel it’s magic, it should be to make them understand it more.” —Ross Atkin as the BBC Microcomputer System of the early 1980s, which arose from the Computer Literacy Project in which the BBC partnered with Acorn Computer to market a home computer accompanied by a TV series to teach programming and IT. Raspberry Pi reinterprets this idea – a cheap but fully featured computer that requires its users to roll up their sleeves and learn about command lines in order to use it. “Raspberry Pi was designed to solve that education problem and also to make programming seen as a positive thing,” says Braben. He believes it worked. “I think applications to computer science in Cambridge were up by a factor of six. We were without new programmers for more than 10 years and we put an end to that.” On the other side of this interest in opening up technology is the wider maker movement, which expresses a renewed interest in craft, making and repair of all kinds – from woodworking and knitting to electrical and mechanical engineering. This, too, focuses on learning through doing, self-driven exploration of complex processes and techniques, and has in part been enabled by the increasing availability of cheap electronics platforms such as Arduino and production technologies like 3D printing. It began to grow in the US in the early 2000s through gatherings of like-minded DIY creators. “Maker fairs did something that no one had done before,” says Daniel Charny, professor of design at Kingston University and founder of Fixperts,
Ross Atkinâ€™s Smartibot Teabot.
a design-education programme. “They took craft and science fairs and put them together.” This mix of DIY, science and craft was founded in the hacker culture that originated in Stewart Brand’s late-20th-century counterculture magazine, Whole Earth Catalog. It introduced American garage tinkerers to issues of sustainability and participating in social change, all while their leading advocates debated the relative importance of their movement’s twin tenets: should it be about hands-on experience or about leading with values? Is it about being a maker or making things? In 2005, Make magazine was launched, from which branched Maker Faires – large-scale events held in San Mateo, California, Detroit and New York City that have provided the movement’s backbone in the US. “Make and Maker Faires became very commercial, about leisure and the middle class, but the concept travelled,” says Charny. In Africa, it evolved into a movement about personal empowerment and entrepreneurship, while in Europe it has largely remained a subculture (“In the UK there was more of a critical basis to it, as an alternative to the bigger systems,” says Charny), and in Japan and China the trend has been centrally run, with governments seeing it as a source of economic growth.
sides of the maker culture and what’s happened in design and sustainability.” Before Smartibot, Atkin had made another kit called The Crafty Robot, which leans on ideas from the maker movement. Its papercraft robots (sharable, printable) are fitted with a vibrating motor of Atkin’s invention called a Fizzbit; when switched on, its trembling causes the gadget to move in a pattern influenced by its shape. Atkin’s idea is that the complex relationship between the design of the paper robot and the way it responds to the Fizzbit’s vibration invites users to play around and iterate new forms to create new behaviours. The Crafty Robot is thus made to be hacked, which hinges on it being dumb. Smartibot, however, is not. Powered by computer vision, it can be programmed to recognise categories of objects and beings, such as people, cars and dogs, and it encourages users to play with artificial intelligence. “When we started designing Smartibot, we were trying to make it much easier to build robots,” says Atkin, “to make that accessible to a whole load of people who are interested in tech but aren’t necessarily geeky enthusiasts.” There are countless robotics kits on the market that typically consist of plastic parts and control systems, and usually cost hundreds of pounds. In contrast, Smartibot’s Basic Kit cost £35 when launched on Kickstarter, through which it was successfully funded at the end of July 2018. When it’s sent out to backers in December 2018, the kit will include a sensorencrusted circuit board, two motors, a battery box and a Labo-like sheet of cardboard that will build three different pre-designed robots. The smart part is the app that users can install on their phones, which acts as the bot’s brain. “That’s why we were keen to do the project with the knitting group and the ceramicists when we were putting the Kickstarter together,” says Atkin, referring to a video he made during Smartibot’s Kickstarter campaign, in which patrons of the Wild and Woolly knitting shop and Turning Earth ceramicists gave Smartibots knitted hats and transformed them into pottery unicorns. “We want to move the whole aesthetic of this away from where it is at the moment and include a different set of people.” In this respect, Smartibot demonstrates that AI tech can happily coexist with analogue self-expression. Atkin says it’s important that cardboard remains the default material. “The cardboard takes the sense of preciousness and completeness away from the thing
“We were trying to make it much easier to build robots, [for] people who aren’t necessarily geeky enthusiasts.” —Ross Atkin For Charny, cardboard kits such as Labo and Smartibot represent some of the tensions that have arisen in the way that the maker movement has changed over time, and particularly how its ethos of sustainability and self-improvement has been co-opted by commerce. “When you talk about cardboard, is it being used to replace something in a really sustainable and involving way, so you’re taking control of your environment, or are you being sold another thing that will end up in the bin? Cardboard is a really good way of looking at both 136
Google’s Daydream View headset, which replaced
the company’s earlier Google Cardboard project.
The Smartibot Unicorn.
you’ve made. It implies it’s in an intermediate state, not in the final state. I think that’s why it’s so powerful as a material.” He pauses. “There are other aesthetics within the maker movement for how you make things seem more accessible, like the whole 3D printing thing.” But though Smartibot is designed to accommodate it, 3D printing can’t beat cardboard for sheer inclusivity. Everyone knows how to cut a sheet of cardboard, while few have access to a 3D printer, much less the knowledge of how to use CAD software. In this sense, cardboard has become the basis of a growing design vocabulary that’s about making complex things accessible, something which LittleBigPlanet was using back when it was released in 2008. A video game about creation in which each level and every object is made by players, LittleBigPlanet is set in a world of craft materials, all given physical properties. It was a solution to the challenge its developer, UK-based Media Molecule, had in helping players understand how the game works and how to build things within it. “It was a very easy thing to say that this is sponge, this is cardboard, this is glue; you understand the metaphors because you learned them when you were three,” says Crowle, who worked as an artist on the game. “We were trying to replicate that very early tactile feel of playing but in a digital space.” Software makers seem fascinated by cardboard’s inclusiveness. It’s even played a major role at Google, which used it to help drive public interest in VR. Google Cardboard was designed by David Coz and Damien Henry at the Google Cultural Institute, a Parisbased initiative that makes cultural objects available on the internet. It consists of VR goggles made from cardboard and fitted with lenses that use a smartphone to provide 3D imagery. Its makers pitched it as a way to explore virtual museums, but executives saw more promise, announcing it in 2014 at I/O, Google’s annual developer conference, as the first easy and accessible way to experience VR. It was an immediate success. Cardboard’s cheerily self-built nature seemed to laugh at the expense, trailing wires, sensor arrays and high-end PCs required to run competing VR hardware such as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and Google says it sold 10m kits up to the end of March 2017. But the project gained even wider influence when Google released its specifications for anyone to make their own from scratch: its app has been downloaded 160m times. Cardboard was,
however, just a stepping stone. In 2016, it was replaced by Daydream View, which has a pre-built fabric-covered plastic body, and is rather more comfortable and durable than its predecessor. Daydream View is a neat statement about cardboard’s makeshift nature, and its potential to lead to new advances; happily, the Cardboard kit is still available on Google’s store. The rise of these products isn’t because of cardboard. Its price has not fallen markedly, according to Rose Bell of Zenith Print & Packaging. Nor, she says, have there been any particular advances in its engineering. Instead, these projects are enabled by the constant evolution of smartphones and handheld consoles. “The really exciting opportunity is that Smartibot gets better as phones get better, and all of that’s improving very fast,” says Atkin. He can add new functions over time, and fold into Smartibot emerging technologies such as augmented reality. “Both Google and Apple are making a really big play into AR at the moment and
“Both Google and Apple are making a really big play into AR at the moment and giving incredibly powerful capabilities away.” —Ross Atkin they’re giving really incredibly powerful capabilities away in their software-developer kit for free.” When Atkin and partner Akram Hussein looked at Apple’s ARKit, which any iOS developer can use to create AR apps, they realised it gave them tools they’d worked for five years to create at Dyson. “As a consequence of this, phones are really good at understanding where they are and what is around them, and that’s an amazing opportunity for a robot.” At their root, all of these projects are designed to educate. Google Cardboard taught familiarity with VR; LittleBigPlanet co-opted cardboard to teach players to use practical experience to understand the game’s world; Smartibot is about building comprehension of artificial intelligence. “It’s important to understand AI because as a society we’re having to make a load of decisions about how we’re going to use it,” says Atkin. 140
The Toy-Con RC Car.
“At the moment, the discourse around those decisions is really poor and there’s a lack of understanding about what it can and can’t do and how it works.” The product’s circuit board is designed for flexibility, able to control up to 14 motors to power complex machines, and operated via an app on a connected smartphone that acts on data fed to it from the board’s two laserdistance sensors and gesture sensor. As the Kickstarter campaign claims, it can be set to follow your dog around or to get out of your way, or you can code your own behaviours using Microsoft’s MakeCode scripting platform, which will come ready built into the app. As for Labo, Nintendo is less clear about its aims. “We didn’t intentionally aim to make an educational product,” explained Kouichi Kawamoto, one of Labo’s lead developers, in a promotional interview featured on the product’s website. “However, we did set out to make [Labo] as easy to use as possible, so that even young children can set up a project and experience the joy of seeing it work.” Perhaps Kawamoto is simply anxious that Labo isn’t infected with the whiff of worthiness that comes with teaching, but the US education body the Institute of Play has already started a programme to put Labo kits into selected elementary schools. Labo is, after all, keen to teach how its Toy-Cons work; its Discover mode lays out their hidden features, explaining their mechanisms in breezily written chat bubbles inflected with sound effects and videos. “We wanted to make an experience that helped people see that discovering how things work is fun in-and-of itself, and that making things is rewarding,” said Kawamoto. There’s certainly more depth to Labo’s Toy-Cons than is immediately obvious. This can be explored with additional modes such as the piano’s Studio, which surfaces an entire suite of music sampling and sequencing tools. And then there’s the Garage, which offers a powerful visual-scripting editor for the JoyCon and Toy-Con functions. This mode, taking inputs such as orientations of the controllers, piano notes and button presses, applies IF and NOT statements, timers and counters, before outputting sound effects, vibrations and many other functions. Garage is where Labo players can apply their own imagination to the system’s toolset and players have already used it to build things that extend far beyond what comes in the box. For example, Pocket Floor Piano, made by kimobe n, is a large cloth mat printed with piano keys that
players can dance on to play notes – a scaled-down version of what Tom Hanks plays in the 1988 film Big. On the basis of watching my children play with Labo, this is an extraordinary case. While my kids adored making the models, they quickly exhausted themselves. They were reluctant to read through Discover mode, and the leap from the colour and music of the core game to Garage’s spare technical interface sent them straight back again. Their bulky Toy-Cons have been taking up a remarkable amount of cupboard space ever since. Nintendo has nailed the art of ingenious cardboard design and construction, but, curiously, all its experience in play doesn’t seem to have translated into encouraging Labo’s users to explore its deeper and more self-driven aspects. Perhaps its instructions are too perfect and the finished Toy-Con too ingenious to deviate from. For Charny, makerinflected kits for children have to be inherently openended, inviting their users to set their own challenges. “You know it’s a consumer product when you don’t have options for what it could be,” he says. As Nintendo doesn’t allow you to make mistakes as you build, you miss learning something important. “Iterative failure means you’re progressing,” says Charny. In addition, there’s the question of whether the next generation really needs all these well-meaning endeavours to enrich its creative and technological development. After all, young gamers happily took Minecraft and made it their own long before the educators rolled in. And does the vocabulary of cardboard have the same meaning for children as it does for the generation designing all this stuff? “I often think, what is the Oliver Postgate of the digital age?” says Crowle, whose work references a childhood spent with the animator and puppeteer’s creations such as Bagpuss and Ivor the Engine. “There’s a lot more digital texture in the childhood experiences of the next generation and is that becoming the new language?” What’s certain, however, is that while cardboard has long been used for prototyping and maker projects, we’ve entered a moment in which it’s being wedded to technology as a result of the computers in our pockets becoming so powerful. “This little world of people I know have been camped out in this space for ages, and suddenly Google and Nintendo have turned up,” says Atkin. “It’s absolutely great for us, because it’s cool now, right? Before it was like, what are these weirdos doing with this cardboard?” E N D
Google Cardboard, one of the mass-market progenitors of cardboard technology.
Reviews Lest We Forget? Gian Luca Amadei Soft Work Oli Stratford Tutto Ponti: Gio Ponti Archi-Designer Katia Porro In Fabric Nina Power
Lest We Forget? Words Gian Luca Amadei
As commemorations to mark the end of the First World War unfold across the UK, an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North examines how its associated acts of remembrance have endured for a century. “Remembrance takes place in multiple orbits,” explains Laura Clouting, curator of Lest We Forget? an exhibition currently on at the Imperial War Museum North as part of the museum’s Making A New World season of events in both London and Manchester. “Personal remembrance takes place in the domestic space and its formats do not require the consensus of other people. Then there are more official ways of remembering that are coded in specific ways.” This is the essence of the curatorial narrative that Clouting and her team at the Imperial War Museum North have constructed to explore the ways in which the First World War and its human cost have ingrained themselves in our popular consciousness. Artefacts, drawings, film footage, photographs, poems and even footballers’ jerseys are all displayed. The result is an overview of the typologies of memorialisation that have been assembled over time, from official forms – such as the poppy pin or the two-minute silence on 11 November (introduced in 1919 to mark the Armistice on the first Remembrance Day) – to more humble ones, including everyday objects that have been invested with special value, such as ceramic mugs, plaques and photo albums. Historian Patricia Jalland has argued that the First World War had the most “profound impact on the prolonged process of change in attitudes and practices relating to death, bereavement and mourning in Britain in the fifty years after 1914”. So what role does the manner in which the First World War was commemorated play in the ways we grieve and memorialise tragedies today? The location of the graves of many of those who died has had a profound effect
on the way the war dead have been memorialised. From the beginning of the conflict, the British government stated that the corpses of fallen soldiers were not going to be repatriated. As a result, the remains of many of the more than one million fatalities sustained by British Empire forces between 1914 and 1918 were buried away from the motherland, in the vicinity of the battlefields on which they died. For the historian Norman Bonney, writing in his paper ‘The Cenotaph: A Consensual and Contested Monument of Remembrance’, this decision was a logistical one, given that “the scale of the carnage would have required extensive labour that would have diverted resources from the continuing war effort”. Nevertheless, it was a decision that disappointed bereaved families and put pressure on the government to find a solution. This tension, more than anything else, marked the beginning of a nationwide grieving process. Adding to the complexity was the religious diversity of Britain’s military forces, drawn from across the Commonwealth countries. The forms that state remembrance was to take, therefore, had to transcend religious beliefs. Since most soldiers were volunteers rather than professionals, there was also the issue of acknowledging their sacrifice. In pre-First World War conflicts, it had often been the case that only higher-ranking military personnel were commemorated. Tony Walter, an honorary professor at the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath, studies the evolution of bereavement in the United Kingdom. He argues in an article on theconversation.com that “from 1914 to the early 1950s British culture had
to privilege survival and restoration”. Out of necessity, people had to be singleminded and focused on survival rather than the psychological consequences of the two world wars. For Walter, 1960s counterculture proclaimed it unhealthy to repress emotions and the feminist movements of the 1970s made people more comfortable to express their grief in public. In the aftermath of the First World War, however, grieving was confined to the private domestic space. It was here that objects symbolised emotions that individuals were not comfortable sharing publicly. “[Soldiers] and bereaved families largely repressed their emotions and coped in silence,” writes Jalland, and mechanisation and mass production meant that the commodification of remembrance was taken to a new level. This also allowed for affordable customisation: memorial clocks featuring plaques, medals and photographs were just some examples. The Next of Kin Memorial Plaque, for example, was designed in 1917 by Edward Carter Preston. Each plaque was inscribed with the name of a fallen soldier and the words “He died for freedom and honour”. It would have been posted to bereaved families in 1919 and 1920, with Preston’s design becoming known as the “Death Plaque”, “Widow’s Penny” or the “Dead Man’s Penny”. In some cases, the plaques were mounted on a frame or wooden base, enabling recipients to display them on the mantelpiece. Memorial photo albums and mugs featuring messages of peace were smaller and more affordable objects of remembrance. One example is the Victory and Peace mug produced by Royal Doulton in 1919 to mark the end of
Images courtesy of the Imperial War Museum North.
A young woman rolls up one of the sleeves of her overalls to display a memorial tattoo.Â Tattoos were one of the private forms of memorial that emerged following theÂ First World War.
Paintings including John Singer Sargent’s Gassed form a central part of the exhibition.
the hostilities. It shows Britannia sitting in a battlefield, with a lone British soldier standing to attention at a distance. Other examples of private remembrance included memorial tattoos, documented in the Imperial War Museum North exhibition through black-and-white photography. One image shows a young woman with a sleeve of her work overalls rolled-up, revealing a tattoo featuring a cross and the name of her partner on her bare forearm. In her gaze, one detects both pride and tenderness, but there is also a sense of confidence in expressing her feelings in front of a camera. To use a technical term, one could say that she is an early “expressivist” – Walter’s name for baby boomers, who by the mid-1990s outnumbered wartime stoics. For Walter, that generational shift coincided with Princess Diana’s death in August 1997, which became a pivotal point in the way British society publicly expressed grief. The outpouring of tributes that flooded the gates of Kensington Palace was
unprecedented. Flowers, messages, candles, ribbons and even toys were left by the gates as tokens of remembrance and solidarity. In this case, the palace gate became a physical focus for people’s bereavement; despite not being Diana’s actual resting place, it acted as a temporary memorial. More recently, the 7/7 terrorist attack and Grenfell Tower fire have brought British society together to grieve publicly. As with the gates of Kensington Palace in 1997, the Grenfell Tower tribute wall became a temporary memorial that enabled people to express their grief and pay their respects to the people who died. The wall is located outside a church near the site of the fire, while the tower itself is now wrapped in scaffolding that displays a green heart and the message “Forever in Our Hearts”. Commenting on the task of deciding upon a fitting memorial for the Grenfell site, Adel Chaoui from the survivors’ group Grenfell United said that the committee involved
in the process should remember the “lives lost, ensure what happened is never forgotten and be something this community can hold in their hearts for generations to come”. In the aftermath of the First World War, private acts of remembrance were similarly complemented by an array of social activities. This was particularly evident in rural areas and small towns, where social cohesion was stronger and the loss of young lives directly affected not only single families, but the whole community, often having grave economic repercussions for small local businesses such as farms. “So much of remembrance is often associated with money,” explains Clouting. “Following the First World War, poverty was exacerbated, for example, by the loss of a husband. People came together to collectively contribute money towards a memorial.” Many local communities gathered financial resources, often through public subscription, to construct memorials.
In addition, recreation grounds, cinema halls and even schools were often dedicated to locals killed in battle. This was a pragmatic and utilitarian way of remembering the war dead, as it also provided for the living community – and in some cases, continues to do so. Often the decision-making generated friction. This was the case with the west London district of Chiswick, where the local committee was divided over whether they should construct a memorial or consider helping the soldiers returning from the fighting. The historical material on display in Lest We Forget? reveals that the local community eventually settled for a small memorial and also agreed to build a modest number of homes for disabled veterans. The question of how to remember people of different rank underpins some fascinating exhibits. In what became known as the 1918 Kenyon report, Sir Frederic Kenyon, then-director of the British Museum, advised the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission on how to undertake the task of commemorating the war dead. In the 22-page document (also on display) Kenyon suggested that “what was done for one should be done for all, and that all, whatever their military rank or position in civil life, should have equal treatment in their graves.” The underlying narrative for the war cemeteries, in his view, was very clear: “Where the sacrifice had been common, the memorial should be common also.” The egalitarian approach outlined by Kenyon, and implemented by the Commission, also applied to the graves of women who died in nursing roles or while serving in other branches of the military. In addition, Kenyon justified the need for individual headstones by saying that this option “will go far to meet the wishes of relatives, who above all things are interested in the single grave”. Kenyon anticipated that soldiers’ families would “be disappointed that they are not allowed to erect their own monument over their own dead; but they will be much more disappointed if no monument except a mere indication number marks that grave at all. The individual headstone, marking the individual grave, will serve as centre and focus of the emotions of the relatives who visit it.” With regards to the
design of the cemeteries and memorials, Kenyon made it clear that “the architects employed should make their designs as simple and inexpensive as possible[...]. The country needs dignity and refined taste, not ostentation.” The Imperial War Graves Commission was set up by Major General Sir Fabian Ware and granted a Royal Charter on 21 May 1917. Its official status and Ware’s role as director allowed it to reach out to eminent figures at the time, such as Kenyon. Ware also invited the architects Edwin Lutyens, Herbert Baker and Charles Aitken, then-director of the National Gallery, to visit France in the summer of 1917. The purpose of the trip was to gauge the state of the battlefields, which had turned into temporary graveyards. Ware appointed English poet and writer Rudyard Kipling as literary adviser to recommend inscriptions for monuments, memorials and graves, and commissioned the typographer Max Gill to design a Headstone Standard Alphabet. Gill, along with the architects selected by the commission, was already at his drawing board before the First World War was over. His task was to give physical form to the abstract and profound concept of remembrance. In the technical annotations to one of his drawings – shown in the exhibition – Gill suggests carving the lettering into stone at a 60-degree angle. In a brief note, Gill explains that this technique would allow the inscription to withstand weathering and erosion for longer. Gill’s technical annotations capture the complex relationship between remembrance, time and form with poignant lucidity. Physical representations of remembrance like the war cemeteries were complemented by rituals such as the two-minute silence. Although most welcomed its introduction on 11 November 1919, the event also sparked some protest. “A disgusting idea of artificial nonsense and sentimentality,” noted the 16-year-old Evelyn Waugh in his diary. “No one thought of the dead last year. Why should they now?” As Clouting explains, “not everyone was for remembrance to take place on such a large scale. There were contentions at the end of the war, as some people
wanted to get on with normal life and move on.” Despite the controversies, however, the two-minute silence has become the template for similar commemorations, as was the case with the recent one-minute silences for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and for marking the one-year anniversary of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing attack. While walking around Lest We Forget? I overhear young parents reading Siegfried Sassoon’s poems to their children and families examining the War Horse puppet used in the eponymous National Theatre production. In another part of the exhibition, teenagers are gawping at Gassed, a painting by the war artist John Singer Sargent. It depicts a line of soldiers temporarily blinded by a mustard-gas attack. Lest We Forget? provides a rare opportunity to view this large-scale painting close up, and it is displayed alongside others by Anna Airy, John and Paul Nash, and Wyndham Lewis. These artworks were commissioned in 1918 by the British War Memorials Committee of the Ministry of Information in commemoration of the First World War dead. Collectively, they were to form a Hall of Remembrance that would be a reminder and warning of the tragedies of war. The building, which was designed by architect Charles Holden, was never constructed due to lack of funds and the paintings are now part of the IWM collections. Standing in front of these impressive canvases, one can contemplate the sheer scale of the wall surface the paintings would have occupied as an ensemble had the Hall of Remembrance been built. Perhaps it is a good thing, in the end, that it wasn’t. This way, we retain the freedom to imagine this ultimate space of remembrance for ourselves. “Remembrance is not a prescribed thing,” Clouting reminds us. “This is the endpoint of the exhibition. We wanted to leave audiences with an openness towards ways of remembrance. Each expression is equally important, as it carries meanings, whether for a nation, a community or individual.” Lest We Forget? is on at the IWM North in Manchester until 24 February 2019.
Soft Work by Barber & Osgerby for Vitra Words Oli Stratford
The sofa migrates from the home to the office in Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby’s new system for Vitra, further blurring arenas that have become increasingly close bedfellows. In 1660, the naval administrator and English MP Samuel Pepys recorded his impressions of everyday office life in his diary. Even today, these observations remain startlingly relevant: 2 January: So went to my office, where there was nothing to do. 13 January: Thence to my office, where nothing to do. 14 January: Nothing to do at our office. 1 February: This morning I lay long abed, and then to my office, where I read all the morning my Spanish book of Rome. Like Pepys, I’m writing this essay from my office and I’m afraid the boredom is already starting to bite. While you might have sailed through that introduction and straight into this paragraph, I’m ashamed to admit that I took a 10-minute break. I don’t own a Spanish book of Rome, so instead I pretended to transcribe an interview, while actually listening to ‘Intergalactic’ by the Beastie Boys. Twice. I like my sugar with coffee and cream! Actually, coffee might be nice. I’ll be right back. Please don’t judge me, because this kind of lily-hopping procrastination seems endemic to offices. “Why can offices be so boring?” wrote the journalist Gideon Haigh in The Office: A Hardworking History, a 2012 study of the space. “It goes with the territory. There is a monotony to their condition, to the restricted space, constant temperature and unchanging light. There are inhibitions on behaviour – restrictions on physicality, sanctions against absolute candour – which sanitise and neuter interaction.” In other words, offices are boring because they’re spaces designed to enable work, and work is frequently tedious. So let the punishment fit the crime, as it were; and no point
zhooshing up the unzhooshable. “An office too exciting, of course, might conceivably be failing in its mission,” notes Haigh. Most approaches towards contemporary workplace design, however, fly in the face of Haigh’s sobering message. At the thin edge of the wedge, for instance, are Google’s offices, the kindergartencum-assault-course aesthetics of which have since percolated through to other
It’s undeniably juvenilising – an approach geared towards denying that what takes place in a Google office could ever be construed as something so mundane as work. companies, positioning the office as a site for fun rather than work.1 “The Google offices are some of the most talked about in the world,” reads a February 2015 article on appliedworkplace.co.uk. “In part, this is because they are, quite simply, incredibly cool.” Well, I don’t know about that, but a quick online search (this article will not buzz market any specific search engine) reveals a series of increasingly bizarre office spaces. Some Google offices incorporate hammocks and bunk beds as “workpods”, while others have adopted 19th-century beach huts as phone booths – as if Scarborough once had it off with Silicon Valley and picked up some of its ways in the process. Then there are alpine cable cars appropriated as meeting rooms and – most distressingly of all – a pink slide that resembles a colon, through which employees who ought to know better
are plopped out as they move between floors. Coolness here is probably in the eye of the beholder (I am, admittedly, quite taken with the pastiche Irish pub installed in Google’s Dublin office), but it’s undeniably juvenilising – an approach geared towards denying that what takes place in a Google office could ever be construed as something so mundane as work.2 “One of the things the Google effect has had is the idea that work is somehow a playground and you can infantilise your staff,” observed the design researcher Jeremy Myerson in a 2016 interview with Dezeen. “It’s actually a very bad idea.” “That’s a brilliant point,” says Edward Barber, co-founder of the industrialdesign practice Barber & Osgerby, whom I meet at the campus of furniture company Vitra in Weil am Rhein, Germany. “You don’t get anything in those kinds of offices that feels adult and refined.” His partner, Jay Osgerby, is sitting nearby, flicking through a glossy magazine of office design. “Here’s another classic,” he announces, flipping the magazine round to show off a double-page spread. It’s a photograph of an office that appears to be in deep cover as a soft-play area. The employees in the photograph are walking around purposefully and look as if they might be experiencing deep, shuddering synergies. The space has a number of traditional dedicated workstations with desks and task chairs, but these quickly dissolve into a landscape of vogueish breakout areas, potted plants and communal foam sofas that resemble obstacles from ITV’s 1990s television show Gladiators. These sofas are intended to betoken informality and the free exchange of ideas, but end up seeming more like pool floats – chubby blocks that a head
Soft Work is an entirely modular system, with tabletops
Images courtesy of Barber & Osgerby and Vitra.
and power outlets that can flip up between the seats.
of finance might roll across to express pleasure at cost-cutting measures, or which a sales director could jerry-rig into a fort when under pressure to hit target. “That’s where we are today in terms of office design,” says Osgerby. Osgerby has this magazine, I assume, because he is checking out the competition.3 At October’s Orgatec trade fair in Cologne, Barber & Osgerby debuted Soft Work for Vitra, an office system designed as a response to the ills of the contemporary office. “The key idea was to do a system that is nothing to do with the desk, because everyone’s working on tablets, phones and laptops anyway, so you don’t need a desk and task chair anymore,” says Barber. “We felt that a lot of people are now working in breakout spaces, so why not develop a serious contender for an office built around the sofa?” Soft Office, in short, takes the breakout spaces that have long been a quasi-recreational feature of offices and converts them into the meat and potatoes of the workplace
itself. “At the moment, Vitra sells 80 per cent desking and 20 per cent soft seating for a typical office, but within a fairly short amount of time it thinks it can flip that,” says Barber. “Soft Office,” adds Osgerby, “is the death of the desk”. Well – so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye, I suppose, although it’s not as if this hasn’t been a long time coming. As far back as 1952, Herman Miller’s then-design director George Nelson was advancing a vision of the office that, while not deskless, certainly gestured towards greater informality. An office, Nelson argued, should aspire to become “a daytime living room where work can be done under less tension with fewer distractions”. It’s a surprisingly contemporaneous suggestion, pointing out that excessive office-y specificity within the setup and functionality of a space might be deleterious to its operation. Certainly, Nelson’s suggestion falls within the same ballpark as the core ideas of informality
espoused by most major office furniture brands operating today. To quote a 2016 series of white papers issued by the US furniture giant Hayworth, in order to enable the “high-focus work” that is the output of an office, spaces need to make allowance for “restorative activities”. Such a vision, Haigh notes, may well fall within the historical remit of the office: “[A] truth of the history of the office: that it was an activity long before it was a place. The office did not come into being like the spinning jenny or the factory system. It was first an area – in a warehouse, in a store, in a home – cleared for keeping a ledger or writing a letter. Office functions are as old as commerce; the customised physical location is a far more recent development.” Barber & Osgerby’s Soft Office is an attempt to modify this physical location into a more discrete form that is better suited to open-ended working habits. The basis of Soft Office is a set of modular rails that are lifted off the ground to create
Barber & Osgerby identified the idea behind their system early on. The bulk of the project was then taken up with the complex engineering that supports the design.
a chassis, which can be specified in straight or curved formations. Combinations of seats and backrests, platforms, tables, panels and arm-mounted trays can then be applied onto it, with power connections that flip up through the gap between cushions before snuggling back down beneath the seam of the upholstery. It’s an ingenious and elegant setup, and one that manages the trick of feeling casual and relaxed without falling into the juvenile buffoonery of the Google office and its ilk. “The idea was very simple, so most of this project has been engineering,” says Osgerby. One result of this engineering was the decision to raise the Soft Office seating above the typical height of a sofa in order to improve ergonomics and create a more natural posture for working on a laptop. “If you think about a typical breakout space, the sofas don’t really work,” says Barber. “They’re typically too low, because they’re designed for reclining – as a sofa should be – but then you’re trying to recline while typing. So we’ve designed
a sofa that’s the right height such that you can work on a table. It’s quite a radical suggestion, and it may take up to 10 years for this to fully catch on, but I think people will understand the idea right away. Every single office – whatever industry it’s in – needs this.” Barber & Osgerby’s office, then, is a coup de grace. It’s meant as a killing blow for the traditional office, delivered 66 years after the hypothetical hiding that Nelson gave it in the 1950s – the irony, of course, being that Nelson did more than most 20th-century designers to reinforce the hegemony of both the desk and its close bedfellow the cubicle. Working with the designer Robert Propst, it was Nelson who developed the 1964 Action Office I system for Herman Miller (succeeded by Propst’s solo effort, the more commercially successful Action Office II) – a concept that was intended to promote mobility, flexibility and responsiveness through porous workspaces, but which ended up spawning the cubicle culture of the 1990s and early 2000s.4 All contemporary office
systems are, in one light, a reaction to the problems that emerged as a result of Propst and Nelson’s work. Action Office received initially rapturous reviews – the Saturday Evening Post ran with, “Office workers of America, beware! The Action Office is coming! We are in real danger of being enabled to work at 100 percent efficiency” – but these plaudits eventually gave way to more scathing remarks as the implications of the system and its propensity towards gruesome standardisation became clear. Within Herman Miller itself, staff were reported to label post-Action Office products with the faux tagline “From the people who brought you the problem, here’s the solution,” while Ada Louise Huxtable, The New York Times’s architecture critic, summed up the overall situation in verse: “Gild not the lily/ Perfume not the air;/ When the designer comes in/ Let the Worker beware.” Barber & Osgerby’s system is more contemporary and sensitive in its output than Action Office, but its
basic impulses are similar. “Even the most routine attempt to lay out an office[…] is a tackling of one of the foremost design challenges of the last century and a half,” notes Haigh. “[Balancing] privacy with communication, enclosure with access, autonomy with cohesion, the fear of knowing what’s happening with the desire to be secluded from it.” How that balance is interpreted tacks to shifts in technology and working
Excessive, intrusive overtime – whether explicitly or tacitly demanded – is a phenomenon that exists across industries, but which, as far as I know, only the world of video games has put a specific name to: “crunch”. cultures, but the virtues which designers espouse often remain consistent across generations: flexibility, free movement, and the accommodation of both private and communal activities. Lurking behind these ideals, inevitably, is an element of financial realpolitik, which Barber & Osgerby see as a boon. “Think how much space desks take up,” says Osgerby. “For a workstation that isn’t necessarily used or isn’t needed so much anymore, that’s a big investment.” Barber is quick to follow up on the point. “It’s about efficiencies of space,” he says. “It’s such a luxury of real estate to have a desk for someone who, for instance, will be going away on holiday for two weeks. So Soft Work comes in as a sort of replacement for that system, because you can have two people working comfortably in a space where previously you’d have only had one desk.” This diffusion of the office space has, in part, been driven by the diffusion of work itself. Nelson’s “daytime living room” betokens an early blurring of the professional with the personal, for instance, while the Canadian journalist Malcolm Gladwell claimed in 2000 that people “increasingly[…] receive all the social support they need – all the serendipitous interactions that serve to make them happy and productive – from nine to five”. Eighteen years on, with the rise of mobile technologies, this crosscontamination of the office and the
home has metastasised, creating a hybrid environment in which the office incorporates more elements of socialisation and relaxation, and in return likewise extends its reach into the home lives of employees – a kind of cross-fertilisation of the damned. “[Mobile] telecommunications completed not only the blurring of work and home,” argues Haigh, “but of work and play also, for the same devices filled leisure as well as labour roles: on a Blackberry one could flick between emailing a colleague, instantmessaging or texting a commercial partner, emitting a Tweet, scrawling on a Facebook wall, bidding on eBay, shopping on Amazon, and playing a game of 3D Tetris or Colour Virus[…] Never in the annals of the office have workers proven so biddable in the face of demands for extra work[…] Future generations will surely marvel that ours dived headlong into the BlackBerry so heedless of the sticky brambles round it.” This biddability is aided by the subliminal messaging of office spaces themselves – one corollary of Nelson’s mantra is that by making offices more like living rooms, living rooms are inevitably perceived as being more like offices too. Soft Work is perceptive in its identification of areas in which the office can be made more efficient and hospitable, but its real test will come in seeing to what use businesses put its virtues of informality, flexibility and variety. As with Action Office, well-intentioned, highly considered designs do not always have a wholly positive impact. In the 1971 film T.R. Baskin, actor Candice Bergen is welcomed to her new job as a typist with a recorded voice message: “We would like you to think of your desk as your home during the day.” This idea of work being positioned as a species of lifestyle ought to be familiar. At the time of this article going to print, a scandal broke out within the video-game industry when Dan Houser, co-founder of Rockstar Games, spoke with pride that members of his studio had been “working 100-hour weeks” in order to meet the deadline for its Red Dead Redemption II game. This kind of excessive, intrusive overtime – whether explicitly or tacitly demanded – is a phenomenon that exists across industries, but which, as far as I know, only the world of video games has put a specific name to: “crunch”.
It’s a phrase that ought to be adopted more widely. The evolution of the office across the 20th and 21st centuries has seen repeated collisions of home and working life, with the two now so splintered and splattered into one another that disentanglement seems hopeless. Even the sofa, for so long the sanctum sanctorum of the home, belongs to the office now. “Soft Work is about breaking down that very notion of the office building,” says Osgerby. “We question whether you need an office building anymore because in a sense all buildings are now offices, and even the word ‘office’ [could be] irrelevant. You can work from the minute you wake up to the minute you go to bed, and you don’t have to be at work to do that. And even the word ‘work’ doesn’t necessarily capture what we do so much anymore. You know, we ‘collaborate to earn money’.” Here, then, it seems that Haigh perhaps didn’t go far enough in identifying the office as not so much a space as an activity. Today, it seems, the office has become the only activity. To quote Nelson: “These are not desks and filing cabinets. These are a way of life.” Soft Work launched at the Orgatec trade fair in Cologne in October 2018. 1 Herman Miller’s 2013 Living Office programme, for instance, is marketed with the quote: “This is a place where people will work not because they have to, but because they want to.” I suspect that this is not true. 2 2 And which also helps the office to annex elements traditionally ascribed to an employee’s personal life. It is widely known, for instance, that Google employees can eat every meal at work for free. Convenient but whether people should ever be in a position whereby they might want or need to dine three times a day in the office is another matter. 3 Although who knows. Maybe he’s a keen subscriber. 4 Memorably captured in films like Mike Judge’s 1999 Office Space, which was tellingly publicised with the tagline “Work sucks”.
Tutto Ponti: Gio Ponti Archi-Designer Words Katia Porro
A Gio Ponti retrospective at the newly revamped MAD Paris reveals the diversity of the archi-designer’s practice but stops short of tackling the gnarly politics of mid-century Italian patronage. The Musée des arts décoratifs in Paris has rebranded itself as MAD Paris. MAD is no longer simply an acronym of its former name but instead of “‘mode’ (fashion), art and design”. Opening its autumn exhibition season is a show dedicated to the work of the Italian architect and industrial designer Gio Ponti (1891-1979). It is Ponti’s first retrospective in France and it seems an obvious choice for the museum to highlight a figure whose career helped shape design in the 20th century at this point in its existence. In parallel to the exhibition, the museum has also unveiled a reorganisation of its modern and contemporary holdings entitled La folle histoire du design, or The Crazy History of Design. This proposes a new global vision of the museum’s collection that particularly highlights transdisciplinary practices. Since the beginning of 2018 the museum – located in a 19th-century wing of the Louvre – has tried to shake its reputation of being dedicated solely to decorative arts by also highlighting the contemporary relevance of its collections. With Tutto Ponti: Gio Ponti Archi-Designer and La folle histoire du design, an eclectic image of design emerges. The influence of Gio Ponti is omnipresent in the fields of architecture and design. Tutto Ponti offers a chronological journey through the “archi-designer’s” career. Francesco Pastore, assistant curator of the exhibition, says that in selecting its title they had hoped to convey Ponti’s multifaceted oeuvre in a somewhat humorous fashion. Before the 1980s, there was no discrete design pedagogy in Italy and most industrial designers active in the postwar years were
formally trained as architects before developing an object-based practice. Today, a vocabulary that grasps the idea of a fluid, transdisciplinary way of working still remains to be developed. In an homage to Ponti written in 1985, Alessandro Mendini lists 30 terms describing Ponti’s career, beginning with “painter”. It isn’t until sixth and seventh on the list that Mendini arrives at “designer” and “architect”. Even Ponti added to the ambiguous nature of his practice when he stated, “I am an artist who fell in love with architecture” – a quote deemed important enough to be displayed prominently as a wall text in the exhibition. Tutto Ponti embraces its subject’s transdisciplinary approach, bringing together works in decorative arts, industrial design, publishing and architecture. It opens with a relatively late piece: a floor-to-ceiling wood reconstruction of the paper-cut-like facade of Taranto Cathedral, which Ponti designed in 1970. What follows in the museum’s nave and flanking galleries is a presentation of approximately 500 objects, spanning six decades of work. Ponti was trained as an architect at the Politechnico in Milan, graduating in 1921 and beginning his career shortly after. In Tutto Ponti, visitors can see porcelain works from one of his first professional endeavours: his artistic directorship of the factory of the Italian porcelain manufacturer Richard Ginori from 1923 to 1933. In her book Crafting Design in Italy, Catharine Rossi argues that architects such as Ponti relied on craft not only for the realisation of their designs, but also for the definition of their practice. “Aside from a superficial promotion of the
centrality of craftsmanship to Italian design,” states Rossi, “the majority of existing literature published has mostly favoured a narrative of industrial advance, innate style and hagiography of mainly male, northern architects such as Vico Magistretti, Ponti and Sottsass.” Ponti has described his role in the craft industry as that of designing, or making suggestions, “for able hands – not to work as a potter but to develop designs for pottery”. His architectural training is evident in the porcelain works on display – many of which are decorated with motifs such as columns and cityscapes, recalling the architecture of classical antiquity and the metaphysical paintings of Giorgio De Chirico, while also communicating the admiration for the modern Italian city that was common in the 1920s within movements such as futurism. Andrea Branzi wrote in his 1984 book The Hot House: Italian New Wave Design that attention during the interwar period was turned to the “theatre of the metropolis” as the city proved for Italians the “only real setting for an experimental existence”. The rapidly shifting cityscape became a playground for Ponti – almost half of his 100 or so architectural projects were realised in his native Milan. Bearing witness to a century of change in Italy, his career reflected not only his physical environment, but also the political turmoil that gripped Europe throughout the first half of the 20th century. During the First World War, Ponti served as an officer in the Italian army and was stationed in abandoned Palladian villas. Ponti later adapted a Palladian vocabulary of symmetry and perspective for several projects displayed in the exhibition,
Images courtesy of MAD Paris.
Sketches produced by Ponti that were presented as part of an exhibition of industrial design at the 11th Milan Triennial, held in 1957.
A bowl produced by Ponti while artistic director of porcelain brand Richard Ginori (left) is juxtaposed with his architecture, such as Milan’s Montecatini building (right).
notably in the furniture he designed between 1924 and 1926 for his family apartment in via Randaccio, Milan, and the country house, l’Ange volant, which he designed for Tony Bouilhet in 1928. One of the six period rooms in the exhibition recreates the entrance hall of l’Ange volant, located in the Parisian suburb of Garches. The facade represents a marriage of modernism and tradition: a nearly undecorated exterior penetrated with systematically placed windows, two of which bear broken pediments, and a classical Italian portico. This embrace of modernism veiled by an affection for tradition exemplifies the uniting of the past and the present often found in Italian architectural practices throughout the 20th century. In his 1957 text Amate l’Architettura (or In Praise of Architecture), Ponti stated: “All art, present and past, is simultaneous in our culture. We must understand that we are contemporaries also of Raphael because he is contemporary with us in our culture[…] We must measure ourselves with the past but also with the future.” This reverence for the past as informant of the future, and Ponti’s extensive research into international architecture and design cultures synthesised when he founded the influential architecture magazine Domus in 1928. The magazine, which celebrated its 45th anniversary at Paris’s Musée des arts décoratifs in 1973, is highlighted in Tutto Ponti, and can be considered one of Ponti’s masterpieces. It served as a platform to explore all forms of creative expression, introducing its
Italian readership to international design. Domus, in which Ponti published hundreds of articles and featured works and texts by other designers, Italian and foreign, quickly became a meeting place for international ideas as well as a vehicle for the promotion of modern design. By the end of Ponti’s career, the publication had developed into a multilingual magazine with a global readership. His editorial endeavours were not exclusively linked to Domus, as he also founded the magazine Lo Stile, and collaborated with others such as Aria d’Italia, Bellezza and the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. Editorial activities have proven to complement several designers’ practices, particularly in Italy, with examples including Alessandro Mendini (a successor of Ponti at Domus as well as editor-in-chief of magazines Modo and Casabella) and Ettore Sottsass (cofounder and editor of East 128, Pianeta Fresco and Terrazzo; and contributor to Casabella and Domus). Today, it is crucial to regard design practice as something fluid, with explorations in publishing capable of nourishing production. With Domus, Ponti not only proposed his ideas of total design and the art of living but also shed light on how design practices are intrinsically transdisciplinary. What is little-mentioned in Tutto Ponti, however, is the polemic that lies at the heart of the Italian modernist movement. During the fascist regime, Italy underwent a period of transformation in which many celebrated architects played a major role. Architecture and design history has often disregarded the controversial conditions under
which some of its most celebrated creators established their careers – ultimately allowing for a purely aestheticised presentation of the period. As Branzi puts it, design is “prey” to historical amnesia. It’s complicated to address this context in a museum retrospective, but the function and patronage ought not be removed from objects or buildings. Ponti’s most notable constructions of the period were the Department of Mathematics for the University La Sapienza of Rome (1932-1935) and the office buildings for the chemical group Montecatini (1935-1938) – the former commissioned by Mussolini himself, the latter by one of his supporters, Guido Donegani. Donegani was known to have fully accepted the dictatorship and it was under his direction that Montecatini began producing the synthetic nitrogen that proved essential to Mussolini’s goals: ruralism, militarism and autarchy. In Tutto Ponti, a reconstruction of the Montecatini offices is featured with a wall text simply stating that the “Montecatini [group’s] interests included the chemical, metallurgical and electrical industries, perfectly [illustrating] the tremendous economic development occurring in Milan in the 1930s.” There is no mention of how Montecatini’s visions were guided by the ideals of fascism. Another project worth mentioning, albeit realised after the fall of the fascist regime in the 1940s, is the celebrated Pirelli tower in Milan. For this project, Ponti was commissioned by Alberto Pirelli, the principal economic adviser to Mussolini.
Although Ponti has been considered politically moderate in that he was not an active member of the party – as compared to architects who openly subscribed to fascist ideals, such as the Gruppo 7 – he nonetheless contributed to several of Mussolini and his followers’ visions. Architectural historian Diane Yvonne Ghirardo has written about the architecture of the Italian modern movement, describing it “as modern as it is fascist”. This is worth consideration in relation to Tutto Ponti. Design is intrinsically political and the ignorance of the contentious conditions under which commissions have been made seems archaic today. The Second World War put an end to the fascist regime and called for a rigorous rebuilding of Italy, requiring significant efforts from architects and designers. The economic boom precipitated by the Marshall Plan and the reopening of borders in the 1950s and 1960s allowed for Ponti’s continued success in Italy and abroad. With international commissions from Venezuela to the United States, he took on a leading role in a globalising world of design. Postwar Europe not only witnessed a wave of reconstruction, but also the rise of mass production as a result of new consumer capital. This dolce vita period gave birth to one of Ponti’s masterpieces, the Superleggera (or super-light) chair produced by Cassina in 1957. Ponti sought to refine massproduced objects and the Superleggera was born after a decade of research and tests by him and the craftspeople employed by Cassina. Directly inspired by a vernacular chair used by fishermen in the Ligurian coastal village Chiavari, the chair transformed into a finished product weighing just 1.7kg. It not only reflects Ponti’s search for lightness but also the complicated system of subcontracted labour that arose in Italy during this time. The frame was realised by the firm’s head carpenter, Fausto Redaelli, and the handwoven seat was made in Chiavari by impagliatrici (female straw weavers), giving insight into the reliance on artisanal skills during a moment of industrialisation. As Rossi explains, “design and craft co-existed in a deeply inter-woven and complex relationship, and the production, dissemination and consumption of the former was continually and actively shaped by the presence of the latter,
be it through its embrace or negation.” This complicated relationship between craft and industrial design holds true not only in the case of the Superleggera, but also a majority of Italian postwar design. As with any retrospective of such a prominent historical figure, we must consider why Ponti has been regarded
Tutto Ponti bears witness to its subject’s advocacy for a synthesis of the arts. Each of Ponti’s creations were part of a larger, total design project. as revolutionary and what we can learn from him today. Architecture and design practices require a thorough understanding of the complex world and the various facets that make up the built environment, or as Ponti stated, “Architecture is the concrete result of human activities that it both interprets and expresses.” From the period rooms to the handwritten letters Ponti sent his friends and family, and from the everyday objects such as spoons and espresso machines to his contributions to theatre, Tutto Ponti bears witness to its subject’s advocacy for a synthesis of the arts. Influenced by schools such as the Wiener Werkstätte and Bauhaus, each of Ponti’s creations were part of a larger, total design project. Through the hundreds of articles Ponti published, as well as his manifesto Amate l’Architettura, Ponti provided the design world with
visions of how different practices can inform each other, and how the past can influence the present and future, thereby establishing foundations for design in the 20th century. In contemporary practice, this idea of a practitioner working across disciplines proves more complex than it was for designers in Ponti’s time, who relied heavily upon commissions by the state or wealthy patronage. The advances in design education and various specialised programmes have also compartmentalised specific skills. However, what can be absorbed is the idea of a synthesis and an understanding that strong work draws on diffuse fields. Design permeates the world around us and contemporary practices should continue to embrace its transdisciplinary nature. Perhaps more importantly, Tutto Ponti gives rise to the question of how and by whom design histories are written and told. Two of the four curators of the exhibition are directly related to Ponti: Sophie Bouilhet-Dumas, his great-niece, and Salvatore Licitra, his grandson. This provides an answer, perhaps, as to why the controversial foundation of Italian modern design is hardly mentioned, neither in the exhibition nor in the catalogue. In a moment of international uncertainty, however, it seems crucial to acknowledge the conditions under which many pioneers of modern design established their careers. Ponti was symptomatic of his time and his work cannot be extricated from its context. In order to render such figures relevant today, we must observe every aspect of their careers, particularly in moments of political tension. This is not simply a call to scrutinise Ponti’s commissions in the 1930s, but rather to observe how he was able to reinvent himself after this period and thereby help to establish roots for Italian design’s development over the course of the second half of the 20th century. Architecture and design call for constant transformation; with Tutto Ponti we are offered a vision of how a designer restlessly transformed over the span of 60 years. Tutto Ponti is on show at MAD Paris until 10 February 2019.
In Fabric Words Nina Power
What makes for the stuff of great horror? A perfect red dress and the hollow promises of consumer capitalism take the baton from Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman in Peter Strickland’s latest film. Fashion always depends on the manipulation and creation of desire: the desire to fit in or stand out; the desire to look good or look unusual; the desire to be desired. Consumer capitalism, meanwhile, creates a strange fusion of the desire for objects, the desire to be an object and the desire to be a subject participating in this carnival of longing. The perfect object – the perfect dress, let’s say; the one that will make you feel like a million dollars – is a kind of promise: participate in me and this will be your reward. Walter Benjamin in his 1921 fragment ‘Capitalism as Religion’, states that “capitalism is a pure religious cult, perhaps the purest there ever was”. It works by proliferating – infinitely – fetishes to worship. Into this heady swirl of fashion, desire, faith, false idols and, ultimately, horror, director Peter Strickland drops his new film, In Fabric. The work is an eerie, creepy-comic exploration of the allure of, on the face of it, a nice red dress. The garment, however, in classic spooky fashion, is cursed, causing suffering to whichever hapless woman (or man, in one instance) chooses – or is chosen by – it. The film is set in a perpetual 1970s, where fashion catalogues, department stores, tubes for sending receipts, weird office work and personal ads in the back of newspapers reign supreme. It is both an homage to Euro-horror films of that era – their ecstatic use of colour, as well as their off-kilter electronic soundtracks (In Fabric’s is supplied by Cavern of Anti-Matter) – and a contemporary comment on the high costs of fashion, such as slave labour, obsession and love affixed to objects rather than people.
Costume designer Jo Thompson does great work here. The red dress, which is advertised on television and of which there is only one, catches the eye of Sheila (excellently played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste). Sheila is a harried single mother working in a bank whose bizarre owners (Julian Barratt and Steve Oram) engage in something called “conceptual billing” and are constantly hassling her over her job. Sheila wants more from life than making dinner for her mildly ungrateful son Vince (Jaygann Ayeh), who is infatuated with his stroppy goth girlfriend (Gwendoline Christie), and starts to look for love in the personal ads. What does a proper 70s awkward date require? A fancy dress. The department store, Dentley & Soper, is the hellmouth out of which spills a whole host of slickly packaged longing and ritual. Sales assistant Miss Luckmoore, played by Fatma Mohamed, is a mannequin speaking in riddles: “A purchase on the horizon, a panoply of temptation, the hesitation in your voice, soon to be an echo in the recesses of the spheres of retail.” In fact, she perhaps really is a kind of mannequin, removing her wig after hours, sending herself down in a dumb-waiter to one of the lower rooms, and engaging in rituals with a shop-room dummy in order to pleasure the transcendentally creepy departmentstore boss (Richard Bremmer), who does a great job of making masturbation look like the devil’s work. Narrowly avoiding freaking her clients out (although not always), Miss Luckmoore circulates the dress amongst customers. Strangely, it always fits whoever tries it on, despite officially being several sizes
too small. A Latin inscription promises some sort of deep relationship with the wearer, and, to be honest, the dress looks pretty good on most people. Its colour, according to the catalogue, is “artery”. It is a dress of blood, lust and horror. As Jean Baudrillard points out in his 1968 book, The System of Objects, “If you wear a red suit, you are more than naked – you become a pure object with no inward reality. The fact that women’s tailored suits tend to be in bright colours is a reflection of the
The department store, Dentley & Soper, is the hellmouth out of which spills a whole host of slickly packaged longing and ritual. social status of women as objects.” Sheila, whose story dominates the film, becomes a kind of object, although she is always uncomfortable in this role, being too human to become either more mannequin-like or a sex worshipper. The dress gives everyone who wears it a rash, although they often put this down to an allergy to their washing powder. In this way, Strickland’s work echoes contemporary horror films such as David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows (2014) in understanding that the more menacing terrors of our age are less the explicit corridors of blood and violence of the past than they are things we cannot see, or those which get on or under our skin: viruses, infections, sexually transmitted disease, or perhaps eruptions of somatic undercurrents.
Sheila (played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste) is a harried single mother
Images courtesy of the BFI London Film Festival.
whose life is changed by the acquisition of the cursed red dress.
The dress must somehow be passed from person to person, latching onto their desires – for love, for a better life, for excitement – but it cannot be taken out of circulation. At various points in the film, it disappears; is mauled by a dog; is destroyed. But it always re-emerges restored to cause more havoc – rattling washing machines, shaking wardrobes. It is whatever is in our closet that brings us closest to madness. Strickland walks a strange line in terms of the narrative. He induces great affection in the audience for his lead character Sheila as she finds love, before bringing the full weight of the cursed dress down upon her. By contrast, the latter part of the film is lighter and weirder, and feels slightly uneven in this respect. The second main victim, Reg Speaks (Leo Bill) – a dull washingmachine repairman who nevertheless possesses the curious ability to drive
men and women sexually wild with his mantra-like recitations of spare washingmachine parts and diagnoses of technical problems – is less affecting. Speaks’s stag night involves the ritual humiliation of
The more menacing terrors of our age are the things we cannot see, or which get on or under our skin: viruses, infections, sexually transmitted disease, eruptions of somatic undercurrents. wearing a dress. Handily, his male buddy has quickly grabbed a red one from a charity shop and, oddly enough, it fits Reg quite well. Strickland might be making a point here about the unnecessary gendering of clothes – why shouldn’t a man wear a dress if he wants
to? – but as with the film as a whole, the atmosphere is one of fetishism. It was revealing that before the film screened during the BFI London Film Festival, Strickland introduced it by describing his obsession with ASMR YouTube videos. ASMR (Autonomous sensory meridian response) is that strange tingling, goosebump sensation you might get from stroking a particular fabric; whispering; the screech of nails on rubber balloons; the unwrapping of consumer goods as someone describes what lies inside. ASMR oscillates between soothing and arousing, a perfect state for the sensuality induced by activities such as shopping online in a state of drowsiness. It’s the listless sexuality that miasmically surrounds bodies that spend too long half lying down, half reading, half watching, half listening. In a sense, you can choose to read In Fabric as a plea for the recognition
Fatma Mohamed plays Miss Luckmoore, the mannequin-like sales assistant at department store Dentley & Soper.
and memorialisation of the reality of a certain kind of consumerism that orbited around clothes catalogues, department stores, sales clerks and the feel of fabric hugging a mannequin. How many teenage boys no longer need to tear out the underwear page of the Debenham’s
The final scene presents a kind of multilayered dark Satanic mill, in which the production of desirable fashion objects is revealed to be a hellish, slave-like proliferation of labour – which it, of course, is. catalogue? How much excitement has been removed from going to the shops when you can buy everything by clicking a mouse? ASMR videos are an attempt to restore some of the fetishistic quality to the experience of buying – to bring value back to the cult of capitalism, as Walter Benjamin might have it. While Marx’s idea of commodity fetishism should not be confused with fetishism in the
psychoanalytic sense – Marx describes the way in which relationships between people become obscured as relationships between things, whereas Freud describes the process whereby objects take on a sexual power in response to the fear of the mother’s genitals – there is nevertheless in Strickland’s film a presentation of both senses of the term. We perpetually find ourselves unwilling congregants in one of the many branches of the capitalist church: the church of fashion, the church of white goods, the church of technology. Why wouldn’t the pornography that accompanies these rituals sound like a woman describing the opening of the box of a new mobile phone? Is Strickland’s In Fabric a morality tale? In a way. The final scene presents a kind of multilayered dark Satanic mill, in which the production of desirable fashion objects is revealed to be a hellish, slave-like proliferation of labour – which it, of course, is. This points to a cost beyond the price of consumerism itself: what if, under its false promise of glamour and daily attempts to glom onto our selfimage, fashion desires only destruction?
Using comedy and horror to alert us to the fact that visual fields such as cinema are themselves plague-pits and graveyards of fetishes is perhaps more effective than leftie finger-wagging about consumerism and poor working conditions. It tells us something else; something bleak and inescapable about the malleability of human desire. What if a red dress could make us feel fulfilled? How many of us would refuse the perfect outfit, even at the cost of our soul? In Fabric, directed by Peter Strickland, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2018.
A National Design? Words Kristina Rapacki Photographs Simon Skuteli
On a gloomy October day in 2015, a small group of designers stands at the rim of a chasmal excavation in Dalarna, Sweden. The pit spans some 400m and is about 100m deep. In places, it has clearly delineated tiers and galleries, where little shrubs sprout. An asphalted road winds its way down to the bottom. All is yellow ochre: the leaves, the pit, the dust.
1 Amazingly, there were no casualties. The collapse took place on Midsummer’s Day, one of the two days the workers had off that year.
Above, the Great Pit at the old Falun copper mine, the industrial byproducts of which are still used to make the Falu red pigment. Below, a test wall at the colour factory. Opposite, TAF’s Atelier chair in natural beech wood.
Research images courtesy of Matti Klenell, Carina Seth Andersson, TAF Studio (Gabriella Gustafson and Mattias Ståhlbom), and Stina Löfgren.
This is Stora Stöten (the Great Pit), the gigantic hole created when the Falun copper mine in Dalarna collapsed in 1687.1 At the time, Sweden was at the height of its colonial powers: the ore extracted at Falun accounted for approximately two thirds of the world’s copper production and its 1,000 or so labourers made it Sweden’s largest workplace long before the era of Saab and Ikea. The open-pit mine ceased operations in 1992, and was granted Unesco World Heritage status in 2001 by dint of its being, according to the organisation, “one of the most outstanding industrial monuments in the world”. Today, the site houses a mining museum. Stora Stöten is an emblem of Swedish industry, and one of the sites visited by the designers Matti Klenell, Carina Seth Andersson, Stina Löfgren, Gabriella Gustafson and Mattias Ståhlbom (the latter two making up TAF Studio) on seven trips made as part of the development of a joint project for Sweden’s Nationalmuseum in Stockholm. Fast forward three years to October 2018, and this project has been unveiled in Stockholm under the name NM&: A New Collection. It comprises about 90 objects designed and created especially for the museum’s new restaurant as part of a renovation of the entire building. After a five-year closure, the Nationalmuseum has been re-opened with much fanfare by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, after its first complete makeover since its inauguration in 1866. In addition to NM&, the museum has a new climate-control system, lift tower and exhibition-design concept. Its collections have been entirely rehung, and its spaces populated by especially designed objects, such as a series of visitors’ benches by Swedish studio Folkform, and a new reading room interior by Emma Olbers. The sheer numbers of designers involved make the $132m renovation project unique. All this is far off for the five designers in Falun in 2015. It is only a few months since Matti Klenell, who acts as the creative head of the group, had his first exploratory meeting with Nationalmuseum’s two NM& project leaders, design historian Helena Kåberg and facilities expert Fredrik Eriksson. Kåberg and Eriksson wanted to commission as large and diverse a group as possible. “The more Fredrik and I talked about it, the more we felt that the museum is an arena for the entire design community,” says Kåberg. “We have large collections telling stories about different aspects of design, so we felt that it would be more in line with the vision of the museum to let as many designers as possible participate.” As it happened, Klenell, Seth Andersson, Löfgren and TAF had recently concluded a collaborative exhibition project called A New Layer (held at the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm), in which they had explored Taiwanese lacquering techniques through a “Swedish lens”. “When we met Matti Klenell it felt like a natural fit,” says Kåberg. “The entire renovation project is this gigantic piece of teamwork, where specialists work together to create something new, and he was very much interested in that type of approach.” The premise of A New Layer had been to learn from Taiwan’s unique lacquering tradition, and produce a collection of objects in response to field research conducted in the country. Given the participants’ different
backgrounds – Klenell is an interior designer and glass artist, Seth Andersson works with ceramics and glass, TAF are furniture designers and architects, and Löfgren is a graphic artist who also works with objects – the designs ranged from large-scale furniture to minimalistic tableware and colourful lacquered combs. “When we did A New Layer, we travelled to Taiwan something like 22 times,” says Klenell with a laugh. The group now decided to take the same approach to their own manufacturing tradition. If they were going to create restaurant space in Sweden’s national museum of art and design, they reasoned, should it not communicate something about the conditions of designing in Sweden in the 21st century? The restaurant space is an eclectic-looking affair that nevertheless manages to coalesce into a coherent whole, largely because of its colour scheme of ochres, red iron oxide and deep greens. The rooms, which have views of Stockholm’s Royal Palace across the water, used to house the Nationalmuseum’s paper-conservation studios. Now, they are populated with finely turned furniture, some of which has been produced ultra-locally – such as Klenell’s bamboo wicker armchairs, made at Larsson’s Basketry in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan or “Old Town”. The interior is punctuated by a rich variety of glassware. This culminates in a chandelier in the main dining room, the baubles of which were blown at the Örsjö Glass Factory in southern Sweden by the whole group of designers, as well as others. “We never wanted it to be a Scandinavian-looking interior,” explains Klenell. “But we wanted it to have a very strong sense of materiality and particular material processes going on.” These processes were to be drawn from research conducted during a year of preparatory travels, where the designers would investigate the current state of manufacturing in the Nordic region. This approach resonated with the museum’s aims, explains Kåberg. “We have an educational goal at the museum,” she says. “It’s not just about pretty things: we have to tell a story. The story here is to investigate a big topic. What can you actually manufacture in Sweden? Is there such a thing as national design identity? What does that mean in a global world?” For the designers, the disused copper mine in Falun was an appropriate place to begin thinking about such questions.
Above, stacks of furniture pieces in the Swedese factory in Vaggeryd. Below, a scene at Larsson’s Basketry
“More than anything, Swedish interiors, architecture and design have been distinguished by a democratic intention.” So reads a report issued by the Swedish government in the year 2000. It continues: “Furniture and interior designers often use materials in an economical manner, and tend to have a predilection for blond and airy interiors.” These lines, which appear in a section titled ‘A Democratic Tradition’, encapsulate an image of Swedish design – and of Scandinavian design – that has been propagated nationally and internationally for the best part of a century. According to this image, Swedish design is driven by particularly virtuous imperatives: its products are affordable and therefore automatically “democratic”. Consider Ikea: “We have decided once and for all to side with the many,” declared its founder, Ingvar Kamprad, in his 1976 Testament of a Furniture Dealer, “by offering a wide range of well-designed[…] products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.” This type of democratic design is also thought to have a particular look:
in Stockholm’s Old Town. Opposite: The main dining area features a table by Matti Klenell and Atelier chairs by TAF, all rendered in a burgundy shade inspired by Falu red. Against the window is Pine, a bentwood table light by Klenell for Swedese. Previous page: In the last five years, Sweden’s Nationalmuseum has undergone its first total renovation since opening in 1866.
blond, organic, minimalist, airy, hygienic. It is a notion of design identity that has become so widespread that even government policy appears to ratify it. But where did it come from? And is it accurate? In 1917, the Swedish Society of Crafts and Design (known, since 1976, as Svensk Form) organised a competition devoted to home furnishings at Stockholm’s Liljevalchs Konsthall. “The Society seeks to stimulate the production of furniture which could be suitable for mass production,” the organisers wrote in the catalogue, “but which is nevertheless characterised by good taste.” The Home Exhibition, as it became known, targeted the Swedish working classes as the consumers of such products: the Liljeblå service, for example, was designed by Wilhelm Kåge for one of Sweden’s oldest porcelain manufacturers, Gustafsberg, and was presented as the “Workers’ Service”. But this was a period when Sweden was going through wartime recession and a severe housing crisis: few workers would in fact be able to afford the Workers’ Service. And while the exhibition was unexpectedly popular, drawing some 40,000 visitors over its two-month run, it was primarily the Swedish middle classes who embraced the new mass-produced products. The idea of democratic mass-production stuck, however.2 In 1932, the Swedish Social Democratic Party began what would become one of the longest rules in the history of liberal democracy: with the exception of a brief interruption in 1936, the Social Democrats stayed in power until 1976. Design and architecture were to play a conspicuous role in Social Democratic ideology, as the country transitioned into a modern welfare state. Take the notion of the “folkhem” or “people’s home”, a term coined in 1928 by then-party leader Per Albin Hansson: “One day,” he said in a parliamentary debate, “Swedish class society must be replaced by the people’s home of Sweden. The home knows only solidarity and compassion. In the good home, no one is privileged or disadvantaged.” The people’s home was to become a powerful metaphor for progressive social reform. In 1930, the Crafts Society and the City of Stockholm organised the Stockholm Exposition, its largest event to date. The exhibition design of the city-wide event, which showcased architecture, crafts and furniture design, was conceived by Swedish modernist architect Gunnar Asplund, although Le Corbusier had briefly been considered. Almost 4 million people visited, from within Sweden and abroad, and the gleaming spaces presented – new show villas and flats were designed by architects Sigurd Lewerentz, Sven Markelius and Uno Åhrén, among others – seemed to embody the progressive social aspirations of the people’s home. An affinity was forged between the Social Democrats’ vision of Sweden’s future welfare state and the new functionalist style. Continental “funkis”, as functionalism was affectionately termed in Swedish, had landed.3 This marriage of progressive social reform and functionalist design was presented to international audiences at the Paris International Exhibition 2 It was reinforced in 1919, when the Crafts Society issued the hugely influential promotional pamphlet ‘More Beautiful Things for Everyday Use’. 3 Of course, funkis had its fair share of criticism too. In its report on the 1930 Stockholm Exposition, the local newspaper Östersunds-Posten suggested that Uno Åhrén’s terraced houses, with their flat roofs and rectilinear design, looked more like a “row of chicken coops and rabbit cages” than homes fit for human habitation.
A design by Stina Löfgren based on the tropical rattan plant, which began to be imported into Sweden in the 20th century. Opposite: Chapeau chairs by TAF for Offecct placed around Afteroom’s café tables for Källemo. In the windowsill is the Mela light by Matti Klenell for Ateljé Lyktan.
The bespoke Femettan dining table by Kristoffer Sundin and Stina LĂśfgren is surrounded by Botero chairs by Peter Andersson and Matti Klenell for KĂ¤llemo.
in 1937 and at New York World’s Fair in 1939. In New York, the Crafts Society was the organiser again, this time with Markelius as exhibition architect of the Swedish pavilion. A large portrait of Per Albin Hansson, the progenitor of the people’s home, welcomed visitors as they entered the pavilion, as well as a photomontage with the text: “WE KNOW the home to be one of the most important factors in modern society[…] WE KNOW that beauty and comfort should be provided to all. WE KNOW that beauty and high quality can only be achieved through the intimate cooperation of artist and manufacturer.” The pavilion was hugely successful and exemplified what became known, internationally, as “Swedish Modern”. This brand would be further cemented in the postwar period, when the exhibition Design in Scandinavia travelled across the US and Canada between 1954 and 1957, and ultimately canonised both within Scandinavia and outside of it. “At The Home Exhibition at Liljevalchs in 1917, you could only enter if you had produced and designed the object in Sweden,” says Kåberg. “This was to do with national economic interest: you weren’t supposed to import things. But you can’t really do that anymore. We’re part of the European community, so we need to follow certain procurement laws. And also, with globalisation, a lot of industries have moved out to lower their costs.” The academic and social activist Naomi Klein described the effects of corporate globalisation early on. “Many brand-name multinationals, as we have seen, are in the process of transcending the need to identify with their earthbound products,” she wrote in her 1999 book No Logo. Increasingly, Klein noted, it is on the production of abstract values that brands are spending their funds, rather than on physical objects: “This slow but decisive shift in corporate priorities has left yesterday’s non-virtual producers – factory workers and craftspeople – in a precarious position. The lavish spending in the 1990s on marketing, mergers and brand extensions has been matched by a never-before-seen resistance to investing in production facilities and labour.” In 1999, Klein was referring to multinational “super brands” such as Nike, but today, some 20 years on, the production model she describes has become the norm rather than the extreme. As any design-interested reader will know, the Scandinavian design brand is still going strong in contemporary marketing. Even claims of having superseded it – Danish furniture maker Muuto calls itself the “New Nordic”, for instance – rely on the consumer’s brand recognition of something like the “Old Nordic”. As Kåberg observes, however, the material conditions of producing design in Scandinavia have changed dramatically in the last 30 or so years. Increasingly, as companies have outsourced their manufacturing, or been bought up by larger conglomerates, it is rare for the entirety of their production to take place in the region. In the meantime, branding efforts have been dialled up to 11, taking advantage of the progressive associations of Scandinavian design; associations that have morphed from welfare and housing reform to more general feelings of well-being and high-quality, clutter-free lifestyles (think “hygge” and “lagom”). “Made in” labels offer interesting insights here: in principle, anyone marketing furniture and design objects as “Swedish” or “Scandinavian”
Travel photographs from the disused porphyry quarry in Blyberg, Älvdalen.
when they are in fact produced elsewhere, could be reported for a misleading trade description. The solution for a number of brands has been to tag their products with “Designed in Scandinavia” labels instead. It was within this context that NM& set out to work. For the flatware in the new restaurant, Klenell and his group approached Swedish multidisciplinary practice Note Design Studio (Kåberg and Eriksson encouraged the designers to invite more collaborators; in the end, almost 30 practices were involved). Note wished to produce its cutlery with Gense, a Swedish manufacturer established in 1856 and headquartered in the town of Eskilstuna. The rich history of metalsmithing in Eskilstuna dates back to pre-Viking times and has given the place the nickname of “knivstaden” or “Knife City”. However, recent years have seen many of its traditional producers, such as Eka, move production to cheaper locations in Portugal and China. Initially, Gense was excited about the NM& collaboration. “Gense is a really famous Swedish manufacturer,” says Kåberg, “but lately they have had trouble with competition from abroad. So they have some of their production in other countries now.” In fact, Gense announced in 2017 that it was planning to close down its Eskilstuna production site. “But for this project,” explains Kåberg, “they wanted to rejuvenate the Eskilstuna plant and to produce the flatware there.” During the development of the NM& cutlery, however, Gense was bought by a Norwegian company. “Unfortunately, this new company didn’t feel the same way. So we ended up manufacturing the table flatware in China.” Even when things did not go exactly as planned, then, they revealed something about the challenges facing manufacturers in Scandinavia. Another surprise came on the trip to Falun. One of the industries relying heavily on the copper mine is Falu Rödfärg, the makers of the rusty red colour, Falu red, found on many wooden homes and farmhouses throughout Sweden. The pigment is made from iron ochre, which is extracted from byproducts of the copper mine and heated, turning from mustard yellow to red in the process. “At Falu Rödfärg, they told us the pigment can only last 70 more years if it [continues to be] produced at the current speed,” says Mattias Ståhlbom from TAF Architects. “They still use the leftovers from the mine that closed a while ago, but it’s not an endless resource.” This pigment, which is integral to the way rural domestic architecture and farmhouses look in Sweden, is going to become less of a staple in the next 70 years, by necessity. In the light of this, the designers set out to present the colour in a new context, hoping to prompt visitors to appreciate it afresh. “It’s a colour we’re so used to seeing, but it’s always used outside on wooden facades,” says Ståhlbom. “We tried to create an indoor and furniture-coating colour with that shade instead.” The result can be found in the main dining hall of the Nationalmuseum restaurant, where a large table by Klenell for Gärsnäs is flanked by a host of Atelier chairs, designed by TAF for Artek – the entire ensemble is coated with a finish in the shade of Falu red. The Atelier chairs appear elsewhere in natural lacquered beech, and here the inspiration for their design is more evident. The solid-wood stacking chair has two low, floor-level beams connecting its front and back legs, a clear reference to Sven Markelius’s 1931 wooden stacking chair.
A kiln for firing bricks at the brickworks near Hedemora, Dalarna.
Markelius’s chair was originally designed for Helsingborg Concert Hall, but has since been so widely used that most Swedes know and recognise it. “We love the aesthetics and function of that chair,” says Ståhlbom. “It’s a very democratic chair that has been used in so many situations in Sweden.” It captures some of the spirit of the 1930 Stockholm Exposition, even though it was not created specifically for it: a functional piece of furniture, all in one material, without any formal fripperies. Markelius, in turn, had taken inspiration from a 1929 birch stacking chair designed by his friend Alvar Aalto and Otto Korhonen. Aalto, who would establish Artek together with Aino Aalto, Maire Gullichsen and Nils-Gustav Hahl in 1935, gave Markelius permission to use his and Korhonen’s chair for inspiration. As is so often the case, design objects viewed as quintessential of a particular national style, are the result of cross-influence and transnational collaboration. “Now,” says Ståhlbom, “we’ve almost come full circle with the Atelier chair being produced by Artek.” Artek was bought by a Swedish conglomerate in 1992, and sold to Swiss company Vitra in 2013. While the majority of its products are still made in Turku, Finland, this form of local production is not always the case in Sweden. “Every time you travel around Sweden’s old industrial regions, there’s a sense of melancholy,” says Klenell. The group made two trips to Småland, where Klenell lived as a child, in a village that used to serve the Orrefors glassworks until they closed in 2012. “The village is so beautiful and I hate that the factory closed,” he continues. “But then you look at Skruf, another old glassworks in the region, and they’re opening up new furnaces and hiring people.” Much of the glassware designed for the Nationalmuseum’s restaurant ended up being blown in Skruf. Carina Seth Andersson, who designed a large share of it, agrees there are reasons to be hopeful. “There is some growth in the glass industry,” she says. “But the biggest companies can’t make it anymore. It’s the smaller ones that can grow.” Perhaps, Ståhlbom suggests, these developments are not so bad. “Maybe companies aren’t meant to be so rich and so big,” he says. “There’s something nice about having a lot of smaller cottage industries. Maybe it’s to be preferred over one big industry that a whole region is relying on.” The designers are keen to stress that NM& should not be viewed as an exhaustive survey of manufacturing in 21st-century Sweden. “It’s not a full inventory,” says Ståhlbom, “because of course that’s impossible.” Neither do they want visitors to come away from the restaurant thinking they’ve experienced a quintessentially “Swedish” style. “Sweden is a long and diverse country and the design expressions vary a lot depending on where you’re looking,” says Stina Löfgren, whose woodblock prints and painted patterns depart from the minimalist aesthetic that she acknowledges “has been canonised” in Sweden and beyond. What makes the NM& collection fitting in the context of the Nationalmuseum is its research-based approach. Can one speak of Swedish design if an object isn’t made in Sweden? How have manufacturers changed to accommodate globalisation? Was “Swedish Modern” not always something of a construct? “We began this project with a year of travelling around Sweden and we took a lot of pictures,” says Klenell. “When we looked back at them as a whole, we realised that Swedish design is not so much blond furniture as it dirty warehouses.” E N D
The Klässbol linen weaving mill in Arvika, Värmland. Opposite: The renovation introduced a new and vibrant colour scheme, which drew on original 19th-century watercolours by the architect Friedrich August Stüler. Previous spread, left: In addition to the restaurant project, the Nationalmuseum renovation also features a new reading room interior designed by Emma Olbers. Previous spread, right: The five-year renovation restored the windows of the 1866 building. They had previously been covered in order to create more interior wall space.
Photographer’s note: Last night, as I was rereading my introduction, the news came across the wire services. Amazon was soon to announce the long anticipated “winning” city in its multi-year long search for its second headquarters. As you might be aware, our beloved Long Island City has been announced as one of the winners. The ripple effect of the arrival of Amazon in Long Island City can’t be underestimated. The charming skyline is
PHOTOESSAY: RETAINED IN LONG ISLAND CITY pp. 22-33
Writer’s note: A boy I went to university with once told me that his brother was born lactating, and that the milk was poisonous to all living beings. I’m not sure if that’s relevant to this story, but it’s something I think about a lot. —Oli Stratford
Apple – apple.com Balenciaga – balenciaga.com Car-Freshner Corporation – littletrees.com Clippings – clippings.com For the Web – fortheweb.webfoundation.org Foster + Partners – fosterandpartners.com The Frick Collection – frick.org Instagram – instagram.com Maggie’s – maggies.org The Metropolitan Museum of Art – metmuseum.org Michael Kors – michaelkors.com MIT – mit.edu Pentagram – pentagram.com Samsung – samsung.com Storefront for Art and Architecture – storefrontnews.org Versace – versace.com Whitney Museum of American Art – whitney.org Yuri Suzuki – yurisuzuki.com
Formafantasma – formafantasma.com Foscarini – foscarini.com Flos – flos.com Gareth Pugh – garethpughstudio.com
Editor’s note: These images were shot in the basement of the Rose Lipman Building in Haggerston, London, a multi-use building that also houses Disegno’s offices. I’ve always wondered who Rose Lipman was, but haven’t been able to find out. If anyone knows, please feel free to get in touch. —Kristina Rapacki
OBSERVATION: WIRED pp. 49-60
Meaning Centred Design Awards – meaningcentreddesignawards.com
COMMENT: MILK FROM A STONE p. 47
TIMELINE pp. 17-20
Aedas – aedas.com Andrew Bromberg – andrewbromberg.com
Writer’s note: Everything about this story was mad. To test the new transport routes, I took the ferry from Shenzhen to the Zhuhai-Macau area, the new seaspanning bridge from Zhuhai-Macau to Hong Kong, and the new high-speed rail from Hong Kong back to Shenzhen, with all kinds of transport in between – all in one day. Facilitated by two different SIMs and three different currencies, the trip was exciting, exhausting, but completely doable. —Zara Arshad
TRAVELOGUE: CONNECTIONS IN THE PEARL RIVER DELTA pp. 81–96
Fourth Istanbul Design Biennial – aschoolofschools.iksv.org Judith Seng – judithseng.de
Moderator’s note: Following the roundtable discussion on Judith’s project, we ended up going for dinner together at one of my favourite spots in Beyoglu, Yeni Lokanta. Four hours later, after an incredible multicourse meal and a lot of wine, the sommelier insisted on telling us that – “big secret!” – the owner is set to open a restaurant in London’s Soho in December, and – “big secret!” – it will also be called Yeni Lokanta. If you can’t make it to Istanbul… now you know. —Vera Sacchetti
Iittala – ittala.com Jasper Morrison – jaspermorrison.com
Writer’s note: In my house, I eat dinner from a bowl with stars on it and a Moomin mug of Ribena Really Light. It is the famed service à la Stratford, and it has delighted many. —Oli Stratford
ANATOMY: DU FRANÇAIS AU RUSSE EN FRANÇAIS pp. 36-45
Audi – audi.com
ROUNDTABLE: MEDIATED MEANING pp. 65-80
Atelier EB – ateliereb.com Eckhaus Latta – eckhauslatta.com Serpentine Galleries – serpentinegalleries.org Whitney Museum of American Art – whitney.org
Writer’s note: When I was a kid, my father worked in a local history museum and my favourite event was always the Christmas market, when local craftspeople came in to sell home-made objects. It was exciting to see the space come to life and to learn about local traditions through making. —Johanna Agerman Ross
COMMENT: MUSEUM × RETAIL p. 63
Writer’s note: In his 2018 book She Has Her Mother’s Laugh, Carl Zimmer shows how DNA can act in “laughably baroque” ways. DNA from a foetus can be passed back to its mother, for example, in the form of “microchimera”. The random nature of cell division means siblings can end up sharing as much as 61.7 per cent of their DNA, or as little as 37.4. —Kristina Rapacki
COMMENT: DNA SCHMEE-N-A p. 35
Layer – layerdesign.com Martijn Rigters – martijnrigters.com Max Lamb – maxlamb.org Nolii – wearenolii.com Studio Ilio – studio-ilio.com
about to go BOOM. As “current news”, this might merit mention. —Ramak Fazel
Monimalz – monimalz.com Pauline Deltour – paulinedeltour.com Yellow Innovation – yellowvision.fr
Writer’s note: Even though I unreservedly loathe pretty much everything about the Internet of Things, I wouldn’t have said no if the people at Yellow Innovation had offered to send me home with my very own Monimalz. It’s probably for the best they didn’t. —Crystal Bennes
TECHNOLOGY: THE DEAD LETTER OFFICE pp. 107-119
Fucina – fucinadesign.com Herman Miller – hermanmiller.com Industrial Facility – industrialfacility.com Muji – muji.com Phaidon – phaidon.com Wästberg – wastberg.com
Writer’s note: Can a product be too convenient? Industrial Facility’s Wireframe sofa for Herman Miller was designed with the elevator-less New York apartment in mind – the light metal frame can be carried upstairs by a single person. Handy! But the company never mentions this selling point – the website only says it’s “lightweight”. Does portability have unwelcome connotations? Heavy. —Will Wiles
PROFILE: STROKING A CAT BACKWARDS pp. 98-106
Fixperts – fixing.education/fixperts
Writer’s note: We have a small, brown lop-eared rabbit called Archie living in our house. His size belies his destructive ability and indomitable perseverance, and he applies special attention to wires, paper and cardboard. This made the process of constructing Labo Toy-Cons with my children on the living room floor extremely challenging. One of us had to be on guard duty at all times, but he got through our defences several times. The fishing rod never did end up working properly. —Alex Wiltshire
REPORT: DO HUMANS DREAM OF CARDBOARD SHEEP? pp. 129-144
Dries Van Noten – driesvannoten.com Vitra Design Museum – design-museum.de
Writer’s note: One of the most magical fashion shows I have ever been to was the Dries Van Noten spring/ summer 2015 show. It featured a 144sqm carpet that had been made by Alexandra Kehayoglou and which looked like a mossy landscape. —Johanna Agerman Ross
INTERVIEW: A PANTON RENDITION pp. 120-128
Writer’s note: Peter Strickland’s In Fabric got me wondering about the relationship between fetishism and epoch: could we wonder what is similar and different about fetishes in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s? How are our desires shaped by different models of consumerism? What works on men and what works on women? —Nina Power
REVIEW: IN FABRIC pp. 158-160
MAD Paris – madparis.fr
Writer’s note: My coup de coeur in the exhibition was the Tavola vase Ponti designed in 1925. Taking the form of an antique vase, Ponti decorated the surface with vignettes of other vases and small objects such as cubes and cylinders. Considering the French context, I couldn’t help but think of the mise-en-abyme seen on the packaging of La vache qui rit, or The Laughing Cow, cheeses. —Katia Porro
REVIEW: TUTTO PONTI pp. 154-15
Barber & Osgerby – barberosgerby.com Vitra – vitra.com
Writer’s note: You could probably write a whole essay on the name “Soft Work” alone. It is surely no coincidence that the design’s title is the opposite of wearisome hard work, while it also seems to tie Barber & Osgerby’s modular system to software – an upgradable, flexible, adaptable platform. Cunning, Vitra’s marketing department – very cunning. —Oli Stratford
Setter’s note: Last time, I promised I’d do better with the rotational symmetry of the Disegno crossword. Voilà! —K-Doc
REVIEW: SOFT WORK pp. 150-153
Allermuir – allermuir.com p. 48 Aram – aram.co.uk p. 21 Associative Design – associativedesign.com p. 97 Axor – axor-design.com p. 15 Bette – bette.de p. 46 Bolon – bolon.com inside back cover Celine – celine.com outside back cover Design Miami – miami2018.designmiami.com p. 64 Elmo Leather – elmoleather.com p. 13 Emeco – emeco.net p. 1, inside front cover Ercol – ercol.com p. 16 Flexform – flexform.it p. 11 Fritz Hansen – fritzhansen.com p. 6 Hastens – hastens.com pp. 4-5 Iittala – iittala.com p. 9 Latham – lathamtimber.co.uk p. 62 Laufen – laufen.com pp. 2-3 Sunspel – sunspel.com p. 19 VitrA – vitra.co.uk p. 61 Vola – vola.com p. 34
ENDNOTE: A PUZZLING BREW pp. 183-184
Writer’s note: I last visited the Nationalmuseum as a child in the 1990s, and remember it as rather drab. The windows had been boarded up in the 1930s to create more wall surface for the collections. Now, all 301 windows have been reinserted, and a colourful exhibition design by Joel Sanders has reinstated a pleasingly psychedelic 1840s colour scheme inspired by the original architect, Friedrich August Stüler. Revisiting was a total delight. —Kristina Rapacki
PROJECT: A NATIONAL DESIGN? pp. 161-177
Imperial War Museum North – iwm.org.uk/visits/ iwm-north
Writer’s note: While researching for this assignment, I discovered the moving poems written by Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen about their experience of WWI. Their lines still feel raw and powerful even 100 years later. —Gian Luca Amadei
REVIEW: LEST WE FORGET? pp. 146-149
Google – google.com Nintendo – nintendo.com Ross Atkin – rossatkin.com
The Quarterly Journal of Design
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A Puzzling Brew Crosswords and tea. They go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong. For the past three years, the ceramicist Ian McIntyre has undertaken a research project into the Brown Betty – the archetypal teapot. Produced in the Staffordshire potteries from Etruria Marl clay, the Brown Betty is a piece of authorless design that has developed into a highly sophisticated, immaculately functional teapot. In conjunction with Cauldon Ceramics, McIntyre has now produced a re-engineered version, one that takes into account centuries’ worth of the Brown Betty’s design innovations. “It’s never had an original author, so it’s almost an early example of open-source design,” says McIntyre. “So many people have worked to produce this archetype.” To mark the release of the new edition, McIntyre has kindly donated a teapot to give away to one Disegno reader. On the following page is a crossword whose answers all relate to design. Send a photograph of the completed solution to firstname.lastname@example.org to enter the draw to win the Re-Engineered Brown Betty by Ian McIntyre, produced by Cauldon Ceramics.
Image by Angela Moore.
Crossword by K-Doc
Send the completed solution to email@example.com to enter the draw to win a Brown Betty teapot by Ian McIntyre (see p. 183). ACROSS
05 Fossil fuel (9)
01 Latin name for Switzerland (8)
08 To chemically cover something in zinc (abbr.) (4)
02 The panopticon is such a structure (6)
09 Building ________, a chartered profession (8)
03 Featuring blossoming plants (6)
10 Compound used to produce synthetic blue dyes (6)
04 Kawaii often looks ____ (4)
11 Henning ______, architect of an Icelandic concert hall,
06 Duplex by Javier Mariscal and Miura by Konstantin Grcic (9)
among other things (6) 13 Tessellated image or pattern, as with tiles (6)
07 Dominant movement and style in 20th-century architecture and design (9)
15 Used to protect one’s intellectual property (6)
12 Historic pouch-like handbag (8)
16 There is no typewriter more revered by the design crowd (8)
14 Fibre that grows in bolls (6)
18 What “hygge” means, basically (4)
15 Paul ______, recently revived fashion house named for man
19 Paola _________, design critic and curator extraordinaire (9)
who died penniless in 1944 (6) 17 Popular plimsolls (4)
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A profile of Industrial Facility and its design philosophy; a photographic journey through the new infrastructure of the Pearl River Delta;...