The Quarterly Journal of Design #12 Autumn 2016
This issue includes: Interdisciplinary practice with Roksanda Ilinčić and David Adjaye; Iran’s design community after the sanctions; OMA’s Venetian department store; nine techniques for contemporary toasting; Italian Limes and the permutations of a glacial border within post-Schengen Europe; Studio Swine’s expedition to the Amazonian model town of Henry Ford; the secrets of UNESCO’s world heritage list; an ode to styrene by Raymond Queneau; and the forgotten history of the people’s teapot. UK £8
D E S I G N P O R T R A I T.
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Changing of the Guard Words Johanna Agerman Ross
It’s with mixed emotions that I’m putting this issue to bed. As Disegno celebrates its fifth birthday I’m stepping down as editor. It’s a time for reflection, introspection and looking forward. I remember clearly how on the night of going to print with the first issue, I couldn’t comprehend how I could muster the energy to publish another one only a few months later. Starting Disegno was a solitary and personal experience. In my first editor’s letter, I compared releasing the magazine to Yohji Yamamoto’s description of his feelings when he released a collection: “as though I have been stripped naked before the crowd”. But over the years – and with contributions and support from some brilliant freelancers and a growing editorial team – the experience has moved from the personal to the collective. Every issue feels fully clothed and confident. At five years old, Disegno is hitting its stride. It has found its voice, its expression and its niche – all through the many people who make each issue a reality. Now is an excellent moment for a changing of the guard. Handing over the editorship to my colleague Oli Stratford is a moment of pride and excitement. Introduction
It makes the collective intention of the magazine more pronounced and its future even more intriguing. In this issue, we celebrate Disegno’s first five years by inviting nine designers to reconsider the ritual of toasting. On pp. 113-128 studios such as Felipe Ribon, Formafantasma, Marije Vogelzang and Matali Crasset have approached the act of toasting from different perspectives, resulting in a rich document of 21st-century alternatives to an expression of pomp and tradition. So without further ado, I would like to raise a glass to everyone who has helped make Disegno what it is today and bid you farewell as editor.
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Contents 13 Introduction Changing of the Guard 18 Contributors 20 Masthead The people behind Disegno 23 Timeline June to August 2016 in review 26 Photoessay Fordlândia Studio Swine on the Amazonian trail of Henry Ford 37 Observation The Sea and the Shore by Werner Aisslinger for Axor Reflections on the value of water 38 Observation KUFtwist by Kia Utzon-Frank A blind that honours the louvre 40 Interview Human by Design Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley consider how design reshapes the species 49 Comment Her Meet Amelia – the digital town planner 50 Comment Autonomous Decisions What the first fatality means for driverless vehicles 53 Process When Genius Isn’t Enough The divergent UNESCO fates of Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright 63 Observation Reflex by Raf Simons for Kvadrat A cultural history of stripes in textiles 64 Observation Panini Colette Some football stickers are more equal than others
67 Observation NikeLab Windrunner x Kim Jones Reconstructing a jacket 69 Comment Voices from the Ether The hypocrisy of gendered AI 70 Comment Tulip Chairs, Glass Houses and Bombshells Eero Saarinen and violence in design 73 Report The Case for Repackaging Redressing shipping for the age of e-commerce 84 Made for Gaggenau Industrial Craft An advertorial about process 89 Travelogue After the Sanctions An exploration of Tehran’s design communities 105 Special Project Investigations in Toasting Nine experimental strategies for raising a glass 121 Gallery Pre-Commerce The empty spaces of OMA’s Fondaco dei Tedeschi, Venice’s first department store 137 Review
lay:ground (138) P Architectural history by way of junk playgrounds
T he Aftermath of Brexit (142) What happens when our designs for power fail?
The Great Animal Orchestra (145) Abandoning frames for soundscapes Kindle Oasis (149) The future direction of e-readers
153 Conversation Intersections: Roksanda Ilinčić and David Adjaye Decoding the relationship between architecture and fashion 169 Project From Border to Threshold Mapping nationhood in post‑Schengen Europe 181 History Unknown Brews Raymond Queneau, B&B Italia and the subtle allure of mouldable materials 190 Anatomy Teapot Genealogy How authorless design created the people’s teapot 196 Index Short stories from the creation of this issue 200 Endnote Fragile Chaos Fabrics not as we know them by Stefanie Tschirky
Contributors Iwan Baan photographed the refugee camps for the Western Sahara pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale. p. 181 Jeffrey Bernett is the first US designer ever to work with B&B Italia. p. 181 Michael Bodiam’s photography can also be seen in Port and FT Weekend. p. 73
Jamer Hunt is a designer working at The New School in New York. p. 70 Delfino Sisto Legnani photographed two stories for this issue. p. 121, 169 Ian McIntyre is a ceramicist doing a PhD on the Brown Betty teapot. p. 190
Juriaan Booij is shooting a 360° virtual reality film over five continents. p. 26
David Michon is the former editor of Icon magazine and is now a writer and editorial strategist. p. 40
Liam Cobb won the 2016 ELCAF audience award for his comic book Shampoo. p. 105
Alexander Groves and Azusa Murakami are working on a rubber design collection for Fashion Space Gallery. p. 26
Earlwyn Covington is a writer and innovator and co-founded Food in touch, an app for the food-obsessed. p. 105
Douglas Murphy is writing a book on the architecture of Boris Johnson’s London, titled Nincompoopolis. p. 142
Max Creasy’s photographs of posttsunami Tōhoku, Japan, will feature in the upcoming issue of Planphase. p. 153
Sarah Parker is a set designer working with Selfridges and Vogue magazine. p. 73
Sima Dehgani will soon publish an art book about the comfort provided by the objects refugees carry with them. p. 89 Jennifer Hattam writes from Istanbul about art, culture, environmental issues, food, travel and urbanism. p. 52 Dan Hill is a designer and urbanist, and works at Arup in London. p. 50
Riya Patel is launching Blend by Raw Color, her seventh show as curator of The Aram Gallery, this September. p. 73 Luca Pizzaroni is an artist and photographer based in New York. p. 40 Kristina Rapacki is Disegno’s new deputy editor. She trained as a cultural historian at the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Whitney ISP. p. 49
Vera Sacchetti is working with Superscript on Counter Borders, a project at the 2016 Oslo Triennale. p. 169 Tamar Shafrir has recently written about cost, beauty, bones, Tinder, rope-making and surveillance. p. 50 Lemma Shehadi helped create an online database of contemporary Iraqi artists with the Ruya Foundation. It launched this year. p. 89 Sabrina Shim has written for i-D, AnOther and Bon, and is plotting an eat-your-own-adventure in East Asia. p. 153 James Taylor-Foster is ArchDaily’s European editor-at-large and has co-curated the Nordic Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale. p. 145 Alex Wiltshire is launching a partdigital, part-physical family game called Beasts of Balance in November, as well as writing a game-design column for Rock, Paper, Shotgun. p. 149 Amber Winick received a Fulbright fellowship for her work on 20thcentury children’s design. She is currently writing a book about fashion and feminism. p. 138 Cemre Yesil’s new photography book is called For Birds’ Sake. She also runs FiLBooks in Istanbul. p. 52
The Quarterly Journal of Design #12 Editor-in-chief and Publisher Johanna Agerman Ross Deputy editors Oli Stratford email@example.com Kristina Rapacki firstname.lastname@example.org Online editor Anya Lawrence email@example.com Staff writer Joe Lloyd firstname.lastname@example.org Editorial and production interns Jessica Hazlett-Williams, Sofia Jergner Ekervik, Aggie Parker Subeditor Ann Morgan Creative directors Florian Böhm Annahita Kamali akfb.com Designer Anna Holden email@example.com Commercial director Chris Jones firstname.lastname@example.org Commercial manager Emily Knowles email@example.com Junior sales executive Farnaz Ari firstname.lastname@example.org Project coordinator Elizabeth Jones email@example.com Circulation manager Stuart White firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover Italian Limes expedition to Mt Similaun in 2014. Photographed by Delfino Sisto Legnani. Words by Johanna Agerman Ross, Jeffrey Bernett, Earlwyn Covington, Alexander Groves, Jennifer Hattam, Dan Hill, Jamer Hunt, Anya Lawrence, Joe Lloyd, Ian McIntyre, David Michon, Douglas Murphy, Riya Patel, Raymond Queneau, Kristina Rapacki, Vera Sacchetti, Tamar Shafrir, Lemma Shehadi, Sabrina Shim, Oli Stratford, James Taylor-Foster, John L. Walters, Alex Wiltshire and Amber Winick. Images by AKFB, Iwan Baan, Michael Bodiam, Juriaan Booij, Liam Cobb, Max Creasy, Sima Dehgani, Fabian Frinzel, Sarah Parker, Luca Pizzaroni, Leonhard Rothmoser, Delfino Sisto Legnani, Juan Trujillo Andrades and Cemre Yesil. Colour management Terry Smith Complete Creative Services completeltd.com Paper and print This issue of Disegno is printed by Park Communications on Arcoprint Extra White 110gsm, Symbol Freelife Gloss 115gsm and Freelife Vellum White 100gsm. The cover is printed on Constellation Snow Country Embossed 280gsm. Both from Fedrigoni UK. Fonts Disegno uses Tiempos and National from Klim Type Foundry, and Aperçu from Colophon Type Foundry. klim.co.nz colophon-foundry.org Contact us Disegno, Tack Press Limited 7 Ability Plaza, Arbutus Street London E8 4DT +44 20 7249 1155 disegnodaily.com
Distribution Comag Specialist comagspecialist.co.uk
Thanks Thank you to all of the contributors to ‘Investigations in Toasting’, who exceeded all expectations; Liam Cobb for his remarkable illustrations; the teams at Starworks, Roksanda and Adjaye Associates for their coordination skills; Madeleine Velguth and Conrad Steele for their excellent translations of ‘Le chant du Styrène’; Azadeh Zaferani for her wonderful support; Tina Kadkhodayan for being the best guide we could ask for; Farokh Falsafi for his expert assistance; Jeffrey Bernett for a fortuitous meeting that led to a great essay; and Complete for providing the perfect venue for our launch event. We are very grateful to all our contributors, and for the help of everybody who has supported us and helped make Disegno #12 possible. Not least Ethel, the Boston Terrier puppy who visited us for two days and displayed a commendable aptitude for tugging on trouser legs. The whole team is also delighted to welcome the beautiful Anton Kaspar Kamali to the world, the son of our creative directors, Florian Böhm and Annahita Kamali. Congratulations Florian, Annahita and Kaspar! Correction In Timeline, Disegno #11, we incorrectly stated that Yana Peel had been appointed co-director of the Serpentine Galleries. Peel has been appointed as CEO, while Hans Ulrich Obrist is their artistic director. Content copyright The content of this magazine belongs to Tack Press Limited and to the authors and artists. If you are tempted to reproduce any of it, please ask first. Tack Press Limited Disegno is part of Tack Press, along with men’s fashion magazine Jocks&Nerds and creative agency Tack Studio. tack-press.com tack-studio.com
CAPE COD The new bathroom series by Philippe Starck.
Everythings For Real, attests. It
the deaths serving as a sobering
is surprising, therefore, that she
reminder that product design matters.
Uniqlo appoints Christophe Lemaire
only graduated from Central Saint
The objects that surround us shape our
Christophe Lemaire’s career in fashion
Martins in 2014. Her work already
environment. That environment ought,
seemed to reach its apogee when he
seems mature enough to resonate
at the very least, to be a safe one.
served as Hermès’s artistic director
with a society undergoing radical
of womenswear between 2010 and 2014.
reconsideration of the nature of
Yet Lemaire’s recent appointment to
personal and collective identity.
Uniqlo – where he will lead the brand’s Paris R&D Centre, as well as overseeing a new line, Uniqlo U – may ultimately prove more influential. Speaking to fashion journalist Tim Blanks, Lemaire set out his vision for the brand concisely: “industrial design, not fake luxury or fake fashion.” After
the exclusivity of Hermès, Lemaire
Switch House, Tate Modern, photograph by Iwan Baan; Wales Bonner S/S17, photograph by Morgan O’Donovan; Ikea Malm drawers, photograph courtesy of Ikea; Dieter Rams, photograph courtesy of Gary Hustwit.
has a mass platform to play with.
Dieter Rams documentary gets Kickstarter funding When filmmaker Gary Hustwit – he
Tate Modern Switch House opens
of Helvetica and Objectified fame
The opening of Tate Modern’s Turbine
– decided his next documentary would
Hall space in 2000 triggered a gestalt
focus on the arch-functionalist Dieter
shift in thinking around (and public
Rams, he turned to Kickstarter. Within
access to) large-scale artist
15 days, the film achieved its target
interventions. Will the inauguration
of $200,000, reflecting the fascination
of Tate’s Switch House extension,
that Rams still holds in contemporary
Herzog & de Meuron’s twisted brick
design. The trailblazing work Rams
art-ziggurat, have a similar effect?
completed while head of design for
Given the sound and fury of the
In stark opposition to the advice of
Braun defined the tone of subsequent
building’s exterior, its interiors
academics, economists, the judiciary,
consumer product creation (see
are largely conventional in terms
the medical profession, most business
Jonathan Ive and Apple) and Hustwit
of the curatorial possibilities
leaders, most foreign leaders and the
is talented enough to make a film
they afford. The increase to Tate’s
vast majority of politicians, Britain
worthy of his subject. The sparsely
gallery space is welcome, yet the
voted to leave the European Union on
titled Rams (how fitting) should make
Switch House’s opening displays are
23 June. All areas of society, not
for compelling viewing.
disappointingly redolent of those
least the design industry, now stand
that its older brother has housed
on uncertain ground. Depressingly,
the best summation of the vote probably came from Michael Gove, one of the arch Brexiteers: “the people in this country have had enough of experts.” The results of the disillusionment that Gove’s remark captured are crushing; the reasons behind such disenfranchisement a comprehensive indictment of years of failed social policy – something that Gove and his
Dior appoints Maria Grazia Chiuri
ilk proved expert at preying upon.
Fashion remains disappointingly male in its upper echelons, so the appointment of Maria Grazia Chiuri
Grace Wales Bonner wins the LVMH prize
Ikea recalls millions of Malm drawers
as creative director of Dior is
Grace Wales Bonner, the winner of
Ikea issued a mass product recall
welcome indeed. Striking out following
the 2016 LVMH prize, is a designer for
in North America after three children
a 25-year collaboration with Pierpaolo
her time. Creating garments informed
were killed on separate occasions
Piccioli – which most recently took in
by extensive travel and research,
by chests of drawers manufactured by
their critical and commercial revival
Wales Bonner offers sophisticated
the company. The Malm, unless properly
of Valentino – Grazia Chiuri will
commentary on race and gender, as
anchored to a wall, is unstable and
become Dior’s first female creative
her African history-inspired zine,
prone to fall. It is tragic news, with
director, as well as one of only two
women to lead one of the 15 fashion
paper with a paper vessel that has an
maddening, it's disappointing,”
houses within parent company LVMH’s
easily separable internal film lining.
responded Apple’s Tim Cook,
portfolio. Grazia Chiuri deserves
It means – in principle – that the
inadvertently offering a perfect
the Dior role on her own merits, yet
Frugalpac can be recycled easily.
encapsulation of most people’s
the symbolic weight of her appointment
Whether the trial sticks, however,
reaction to the news.
should not be underestimated. It
is the big question. Can Frugalpac
is a herald of much-needed change.
prove to be more than a mere PR boon?
Raf Simons joins Calvin Klein And so Raf Simons returned to the
The launch of Pokémon Go
fold, his brief absence from a major
Who knew that Pokémon Go, an augmented
fashion house remedied when Calvin
reality game for iOS and Android,
Klein appointed him its chief creative
would be the tool to generate
officer. There is much to like about
pandemonium within urbanism? To its
the news, not least Simons’s brand
supporters, Go’s system of transposing
of menswear seeming a good fit for
digital monsters onto real-world
a brand historically focused on
locations is a triumph: the first
masculinity and male sexuality. And
mass-market use of augmented reality
yet… didn’t Simons leave Dior citing
and a spur to wide-scale engagement
“my desire to focus on other interests
with our neighbourhoods. To critics,
Widdershoven leaves Design Academy Eindhoven
in my life, including my own brand”?
it encourages a superficial, screen-
"After careful consideration I have
Calvin Klein is a considerably smaller
mediated view of cities that has
decided not to be available for
company than Dior, yet the difference
already prompted traffic accidents,
a second term in my present position.”
may prove negligible in practice. How
muggings and widespread trespassing.
Thus, Thomas Widdershoven signed off
will a designer who left his last post
Only time will tell if a generation
from his role as creative director
citing the gruelling pace feel about
of Pokémon trainers will produce
of Design Academy Eindhoven. It was
returning to the grindstone?
a generation of urbanists.
an eccentric resignation, albeit one that felt fitting for an educator who has breathed fresh life into the school since his appointment in 2013. He oversaw the inauguration of innovative Food Non Food and Justin McGuirk’s Design Curating and Writing, as well as staging a succession of experimental exhibitions at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven. It is to be hoped that his successor can prove half the eccentric he was.
The Nauru Files The full cruelty of the Australian government’s Pacific Solution, a plan
to house asylum seekers in detention centres on island nations, was laid
Apple falls foul of the European Commission
bare when The Guardian published the
While Apple geared up for its Supreme
Nauru Files: a cache of more than
Court date in October – a hearing to
2,000 leaked incident reports from
decide whether it is owed $1bn for
an Australian detention camp on the
Starbucks announces plan to trial recyclable cups
patent violations by Samsung – the
island of Nauru. That over half of
More than 99 per cent of the 2.5bn
European Commission ruled that the US
the recorded incidents – including
paper coffee cups used in the UK
multinational had been granted undue
assaults, self-harm attempts and
each year end up in landfill, so
tax benefits of up to €13bn by the
sexual abuse – involved children
the British government’s declaration
Irish state over 25 years, money that
shows the full extent of the policy’s
in March that there were "no plans"
it will now be required to pay back.
consequences. An architecture of exile
to tax paper cups (viz, no plans to
After a three-year investigation,
was never going to amount to anything
do anything) was disappointing. Bravo
the Commission said that Apple had
other than the degradation of human
then to Starbucks, which announced
paid corporate tax at a rate of just
rights; in deeming even fleeting
in July that its UK stores would
0.005 per cent through one of its
access to Australia beyond the pale,
trial Frugalpac cups, a new design
Ireland-based subsidiaries in 2014
the Pacific Solution denies the basic
that replaces standard laminated
– a statistic the firm disputes. "It's
humanity of those it polices.
Pokémon Go, photograph courtesy of Pokémon/Nintendo; Frugalpac, photograph by Jane Mingay; Raf Simons, photograph by Willy Vanderperre.
departments such as Marije Vogelzang’s
FRAME SOFA WITH TRAY AND TRIO OVAL COFFEE TABLE BY NERI & HU DELAESPADA.COM
Fordlândia Words Alexander Groves and Azusa Murakami (Studio Swine) Stills Juriaan Booij
When living in São Paulo in 2013, we heard rumours about Fordlândia: an American town established in 1928 by Henry Ford in the Amazon rainforest. As designers, we have always been drawn to crossovers and mix-ups. Fordlândia promised to be the ultimate incongruence. In August, we travelled to Brazil. We were there to research wild rubber, the harvesting of which has not changed for thousands of years. Despite the invention of synthetic rubbers in the early-20th century, natural rubber is unsurpassed for elasticity and grip. As global demand increases, more primary forests in Asia are being cleared for industrial plantations. Fordlândia’s contemporary rubber tappers, by contrast, extract latex from wild trees. They begin work at 4am and
walk forest trails for six hours, making cuts in the bark of more than 100 trees. After lunch, they repeat this trek, collecting the raw latex that has flowed out. This process is essential to the health of Hevea brasiliensis, the rubber tree native to the Amazon. Fordlândia’s history reveals the difficulties of producing rubber on an industrial scale. Ford cleared more than 8,000sqkm for his plantation, and built rows of Cape Cod-style bungalows for workers, as well as a school, hospital, golf course and dance hall. Yet the project was beset with blight and disease. After several failed seasons, Fordlândia was sold to the Brazilian government in 1945. What’s left today is a time capsule: around 1,500 residents inhabit the old
workers’ houses. Living in the shadow of deserted warehouses and the factory with its rows of tools still shelved and labelled, they fish the Tapajós river and grow produce in the fertile soil. This is a ghost of small-town American utopia. Ford’s vision for merging industry and agriculture – now overgrown and melancholy – has important lessons for the future of the Amazon, an ecosystem that faces constant pressure to yield economic value. Studio Swine’s expedition was supported by Fashion Space Gallery and the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. Fordlândia, an exhibition of furniture designed in response, opens at Fashion Space Gallery in London on 22 September and runs until 10 December 2016.
We walked Fordlândia’s forest trails with the tappers, who stop at each rubber tree like bees gathering pollen. They score a neat line in the bark and place a cup to catch the latex. The sap will flow for about six hours and the tappers need to collect it within a short time to prevent it coagulating before it can be processed. There’s something beautifully simple about the start of this supply chain – the only tools required are a handmade knife and a pail.
Use of rubber by the Central American Olmec civilisation, which translates as “the rubber people”, has been documented as having occurred as early as 1600 BCE. Today, rubber is part of a hugely complex global economy, with around 28m tonnes produced a year. Alongside iron and oil, it is considered one of “the big three” – the materials that have made the industrialised world a possibility. And yet, despite its importance, the production of rubber is largely unsung and unseen.
Santarém is a city some 12 hours downstream from Fordlândia by boat. It sits at the confluence of the blue Tapajós river and the muddy Amazon. Its fish market is the most bountiful we have seen and is stocked with great heaps of Amazon fish. Tall, white, wooden riverboats – replete with rocking hammocks – line up tightly along the harbour, while pink dolphins arrive in the morning to snap up fish thrown to them from the shore. In the evening, thousands of bats swoop up and down the main street, feasting on insects drawn to the street lamps.
We spent four days exploring Fordlândia. The abandoned factory still has its tools and labelled shelves from the 1940s, and sits oddly empty in the middle of the town. Most settlements have layers of history that reflect multiple periods, but Fordlândia has no heritage prior to 1930 – it only seems to have then and now. Fordlândia’s past is tangible beneath the rust, but it is also a contemporary community. There are pick-up trucks and satellites beaming the latest telenovelas in. Modern Fordlândia is seemingly ambivalent to the utopia that Henry Ford envisaged.
WWW.B ENE.C O M
The Sea and the Shore
Werner Aisslinger for Axor Even though around 70 per cent of the world is covered by water, only 2.5 per cent of this is fresh water. It’s a fact that makes fresh water a precious commodity for the world’s 7.4 billion people. Flicking on a tap or twisting a stopcock doesn’t quite do it justice – it doesn’t reflect the value that this resource should have for us. Might rethinking the armature that water comes out of change our attitude? The Sea and the Shore tap by German architect Werner Aisslinger started as a material experiment, but its final incarnation seems more of a reflection on the quality and worth of what it dispenses. Comprising a terracotta tray that rises up from the sink, The Sea and the Shore collects a small pool of water which then flows through a delicate, fountainlike spout. “A fountain is a very archetypal water object,” says Aisslinger. “I think the experience of the water – the quality of water it produces – is quite high, but the amount of water it uses is quite low.” The tray also acts as a small platform for plants, connecting water to the natural world of flora. “During the evolution of mankind it has always been important to find the spots where water connects to land and of course clay itself is a very natural material,” says Aisslinger. “It came together as a kind of storytelling project.” If we were to look at this story in terms of percentages one more time, it’s only the privileged one per cent who could ever consider owning such a tap. Then again, it’s probably the one per cent who could stand to learn the most by understanding the scarcity of water. Words Johanna Agerman Ross
KUFstudios Rows of vertical PVC blinds: all-consuming in their relentless geometry, all-pervasive in their admission of slatted light. These are the prison bars of the 21st century, the jailers of the contemporary office. Locked in by louvres. Against them stands KUFtwist, a prototype screen and blind system developed by the designer Kia Utzon-Frank while she was studying at the Royal College of Art in 2013. Twist places a manoeuvrable module on each slat that rotates the textile strip through 90°. The engineering is complex, yet the effect immediate – flexible apertures open and close as the slats twist into extraordinary configurations that play with light, shadow and texture. “I was making a model a day in preparation for my final show,” says Utzon-Frank. “I didn’t want to have a pre-fixed goal, so one model leapt to another and KUFtwist grew out of that. Since then, developing the system as an industrial project has been a slow process lasting several years. So the project totally backfired – a super-spontaneous process of letting go led to something as rigorous as this.” Yet Utzon-Frank’s confinement within her developmental process promises liberation at its close – freedom from the PVC bars of modernity.
Words Oli Stratford
Dornbracht Culturing Life Design Icons
Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley, the curators of the 2016 Istanbul Design Biennial.
Human by Design Introduction David Michon Photographs Luca Pizzaroni
“Design is everywhere.” It’s an adage one finds scattered throughout the design world, slapped onto press releases and slipped into speeches – a whoop of collective triumph. We like to see design as progress, a smile on the face of human history (with the exception of the atomic bomb and its ilk, perhaps). Whether it’s an app, a laptop, a chair or an entire skyscraper: with each innovation, we take a step forward. Not so, however, for the co-curators of the third Istanbul Design Biennial, the academics Mark Wigley and Beatriz Colomina.
Professor and dean emeritus at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and director of the architecture PhD programme at Princeton respectively. Wigley and Colomina talk about “good design” as an anaesthetic, something we create to dull the pain of life and distract us from the world’s woes. Design, the argument runs, is implicit in creating the great inequalities of the world. It’s a darker side of the discipline that we mostly choose to ignore – especially when there are big sponsorship dollars involved (for those interested, Vitra bathrooms and the Enka Foundation are the headline sponsors for Istanbul). Wigley and Colomina’s biennial, which opens to the public on 22 October is not solely focused on design from the past two years. Instead, it is due to examine far more varied timescales. Exhibitors have been asked to look at anything from the preceding two seconds to the last 200,000 years, all the while considering the central question, “Are we human?” The results ought to debate how an entire human history of design has shaped and continues to shape us. In Wigley and Colomina’s worldview, design isn’t passive and it doesn’t solve problems per se. Instead, it transforms us. We create something and then we adapt to that creation, rewiring our psychology and even mutating physically. We are the sum of all the design that has gone before. It’s an approach that is discordant with the dominant thinking around design or architecture biennials – usually optimistic and reassuring. One example of the stark contrast is this year’s Venice Biennale of Architecture, curated by the Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena. Reporting from the Front demanded solutions, almost styling itself as a crusade to elevate humankind through design. Wigley and Colomina, conversely, aren’t looking for answers, let alone trying to solve them. Are they nihilists? In the wake of the violent political and social disorder in Turkey, with 265 causualites after an attempted coup in July and a subsequent lockdown on the country’s academics, the Istanbul Design Biennial’s question of “Are we human?” may be greeted with added heaviness. It is almost as if the curators have asked us “What have we done?” For their part, however, Wigley and Colomina don’t at all embody the weight of what is implied by Istanbul’s theme or the trouble in Turkey.
David Michon You’ve said that design always presents
Mark People use the word “design” so frequently
itself as serving the human, but its first ambition is to redesign the human. Does that hint at a deceitfulness in design? Beatriz Colomina We don’t think about it in terms of deceitfulness, it’s more that people are not aware that’s what design is doing. Consider how the invention of shoes led to atrophy of the toes. In principle, shoes protect your feet from the environment, enabling you to walk further and faster, but in fact they redesign you. That example is very physical, but this idea applies mentally too. We will evolve from the cellphone, for example. There is a closer relationship between design and the human than simply that humans design tools to serve humans – all tools redesign the human. There is a constant redesign of the human by design and the important thing is that it has always been like that. From the beginning of humanity, design has been what makes us human and has been designing us as humans. Mark Wigley Designers always say they’re just solving a problem, but consider why you went to a designer in the first place. Designers almost say, “I will make a new you. You will be much better after my work.” No designer ever says, “You’re not going to feel good after my work.” Design is never just solving a little puzzle or providing for a certain function: it always has the aspiration to redesign the human, to make the human more human than before. Beatriz Clothing stores do that all the time. You put on a new jacket and they say “That’s so you!” How can it be so you? Who were you before you had the jacket? So our ambition with the biennial is to make people think about design and what design is, and to claim a much more ambitious draw for the field. Within art we regularly ask questions about our humanity and philosophical questions about the world, but we don’t expect those kinds of questions within design. In a world in which art is becoming more and more commercialised, and more about responding to the market than questioning humanity, we want to claim that role for design and expand it to become a field for cultural contributions.
and we live in a time in which a chief design officer is equivalent to a chief financial officer. The word has become more useful and powerful than ever, but it’s not a matter of saying that it’s difficult that the word “design” seems to apply to everything, because the real issue is determining what we think given that. Now that everything is being designed, what do we think? We live in an age of total design, so what do we want to do about it? The concept of design needs to be more attuned to the world we’re living in. David Is it the concern of the biennial that the designed
world we live in isn’t as good as we believe it to be? Is it a problem that we live in a totally designed world? Beatriz The idea that we have managed to cover the planet in design is also the idea that we are the only species that has managed to design its own extinction. We are very aware that we are on our way to that goal – exhausting every possible resource, for instance. Mark We are the self-consciously kamikaze species. It’s interesting that you use the word “good”. I think a big part of this project is trying to undermine the concept of “good” design. We are surrounded by good design, heaps and heaps of it: well-designed telephones, networks, systems, communication, government products, genetic codes, the weather. These things are all being designed, but maybe the design community is a bit stranded amidst that. Beatriz We live in a world in which design has taken over; in which politicians talk about design‑thinking; in which there’s a culture of business schools with design departments; in which the success of Apple is inseparable from its design; a world in which design extends itself over everything. In that context, the ambition of designers is very small. They don’t seem to realise how design could be construed differently. David Why do you think that is? Is that a result of the
way commerce works? Mark In the late 19th and early 20th centuries there was a thought that we could redesign everything, every system, and that would make for a better humanity. It was the idea of the “new man,” the suggestion that we could invent a new version of the species. But when design went viral it’s as if the world said that it didn’t need designers any more. There’s an important lesson to be learnt there because what we’re trying to suggest is that design
David Do you not think that it gets difficult to
talk about design if its definition becomes so incredibly broad?
All of the photographs accompanying this interview were taken in Colomina and Wigleyâ€™s New York apartment in July 2016.
is the thing that makes humans human. Design is not something that a designer does – design is something that a human does. Design is making an object or a system that perfectly, seamlessly, helps the economy move. The concept of design was invented to rationalise the production of objects in a world of industrialisation and globalisation. It was about minimising friction. David Yet in the technology world disruption has
become such a powerful idea. Mark Disruption may be what design should aspire to. If I were going to redesign the human, would it be an evolution or a smoothing out, or would it be quite a radical jump? We expect our artists to shock or disrupt us, whereas we expect our designers to blend in. Design has been thought of as not just non-disruptive but anti-disruptive. We are very interested in the anaesthetic quality of this as the smoothing out of so-called good design is often a very bad thing. It’s a kind of blindness. Beatriz Disruption is always important and you have to take people out of their conventions because otherwise we don’t move forward. One aspect of the biennial has been studying the difference between what the human brain can do and what a machine can do, and something that has come up is the idea of curiosity. Humans always have the idea that something may work, but we also consider whether we might do that thing differently. We are always thinking about what could also be, which creates disruption. An animal finds that something works and then keeps doing the same thing – they don’t think of a new, crazy way of doing it. Humans actually design very beautiful and useless things – things that don’t work. Mark Maybe the most important thing in design is hesitation. That’s what disruption produces – a gap in which you have to think or you have to make a decision. We’re interested in the ability of design to make people think and to see their world. And in this case to see their world as design. So one possible definition of design is that it’s simply human curiosity about doing something differently. Progress implies that A leads to B, which leads to C. But the idea that things could be different means that even the very nature of that journey is up for consideration. If you came to Earth from Mars you would notice how in the last 200,000 years humans have accelerated a lot of transformation of themselves in terms of their bodies and mental
capacity. They have formed a kind of geographical crust of design. The whole planet is designed. If I were coming from Mars I probably wouldn’t have a concept of nature – I would just have a concept of design. Beatriz Which you would have even before you hit the Earth because of all the space junk around the planet. Mark You might collide with design on your way in; you might hit Voyager 2 even before you get to our solar system. But let’s say that as a Martian, you see that this species has made this unbelievable spider’s web of design. If you asked why they were able to do that you might discover huge patterns of disruption. We’re a species that is always trying to do things differently, always interrupting, always hesitating. We’re so reliant on friction, conflict and silences, yet the grand narrative of modernity, progress and technological evolution has been to try to wrap all of that up and make the methods predict the outcome. At any one time there are a number of options and possible viral mutations within design, but modernity or industrialisation meant ignoring vast numbers of technologies and huge numbers of people – all of those narratives had to do with keeping more than half of the planet suppressed and on the edge of death. So this 19th-century notion of progress through design doesn’t sound good. Evolution doesn’t necessarily mean progress. David Is there such a thing as frivolous design? You
talk about design as a journey or as a very complex set of influences, so is there any piece of that puzzle that we could do without? Mark We’re interested in who decides whether something is frivolous. A big part of our social life is determining what’s frivolous and what’s not, but things that were once deemed frivolous have since proven transformative. One of the responsibilities of designers is to challenge what is frivolous and what’s not. That’s where this idea of good design is a bit of a nightmare because it implies virtue: good people have touched good design; good design produces good people. Beatriz What is good for one person is not good for another. What is good? People talk about how great everything was in the 1950s, but in fact there was a lot of racial and gender inequality, depression, violence, the threat of nuclear annihilation and so on. The society that gave rise to this idea of good design was actually very problematic.
Mark And when we’re thinking about design, it’s not
simply the work of designers. Consider Instagram posts and this gesture of saying, “Look.” That’s what makes us human and in that definition we are all designers through Instagram, Facebook and so on. Kids, for instance, are very precisely choosing which filter to communicate with on Instagram or which emoji to use. They have a highly trained aesthetic eye and are curating life in the most sophisticated way. Maybe for the first time, children have been brought up to be designers. Beatriz We’re saying that design is also philosophical and cultural, and has been from the beginning. The world of design for the most part hasn’t taken on big philosophical issues, but it should. Design is everyone. Mark I was thinking of something that Beatriz noted the other day: why do so many of the most important thinkers of our time now write about design? People in the fields of psychology and business feel like they have to have design, but so do people working in scientific research. Could we be living in a moment in which a single concept is exerting so much influence, has so much charisma, that it’s in almost any corner you look at? It’s not so much about whether design is related to psychology or philosophy, rather “design” has started to be the word we use to think about relationships to things.
“Good design provides people with a smooth package such that they don’t have to face the horror of the life we’re living.”—Mark Wigley because if what we’re saying is true then a visitor is far more radically designed and more of a designer than anything they will see in the biennial. Beatriz The idea of good design has a sense of morality embedded in it. Consider Max Bill’s Die gute Form exhibition after the war: people talked about that with a straight face, as if a display of “good” objects or a school like the Ulm School of Design would be able to reform society. The Americans put a lot of money into that school and from it emerged the theory of the “good form” that would reform those terrible Germans and make them more democratic. That idea persisted for a long time. Mark But could we risk some thoughts about what the characteristics of “good design” are? What about smoothness? Almost every work of good design is an essay in smoothness. Rounded corners, but also smoothness in the production line and marketing. That’s what we mean about anaesthetic – the feeling that everything is in its place and everything is OK. Good design provides people with a smooth package such that they don’t have to face the horror of the life we’re living. Imagine the smooth object you hold in your hand while you’re watching refugees in the Mediterranean. Marshall McLuhan had this wonderful argument that each new technology changes us, but that change is so shocking that we can’t face it. We anaesthetise ourselves so strongly that we only realise that the change has happened when the technology is replaced by another one. We’re not saying that anaesthetic is a bad thing, we’re just identifying the anaesthetic role played by most design. E N D
David You were talking about design as engineering
neglect and disparity, so is that a difficult thing to discuss in a place like Turkey with its recent conflicts? Mark Turkey doesn’t have a monopoly on the horrors of our time, but it’s a better place to talk about design than London, Paris, New York or Milan. Those places may not have the obvious conflicts that you get in Turkey, but they do have exactly the same issues because these are global issues. The heat of Turkey is never going to go away, but it seems like the right place to talk about design. Because there is conflict, let’s talk design. David Yet good design has traditionally been conceived
as the thing that protects us from hardships or makes our lives easier. Mark If you have a design biennial, you’re supposed to see tables, lamps and chairs solving problems in a beautiful way: practical, smooth, industrialised, good business, good life. Each object radiating the word “good”. To go to a design biennial is to bathe in goodness. But we’re more interested in the visitor,
The third Istanbul Design Biennial is on from 22 October to 20 November 2016.
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DISCOVER ORIGINAL DESIGN IN DUBAI 25â€“28 OCTOBER 2016
Her Words Kristina Rapacki Illustration Leonhard Rothmoser
Enfield Council, the local authority governing the largely residential Borough of Enfield in outer London, is not an obvious pioneer of artificial intelligence software. It is, nevertheless, the first public-sector body to deploy Amelia, a cognitive technology platform developed by IPsoft (“The Digital Labour Company”) that will take over the council’s frontline customer services operations this autumn. In IPsoft’s promotional videos, Amelia appears anthropomorphised onscreen as a young white woman (surprise!). Blonde and blue-eyed, her (its?) hair is scraped into a low bun and she (it?) wears a thoroughly inoffensive outfit of white shirt, tailored suit, stud earrings and unfaltering android smile. A talented multi-tasker, Amelia communicates with thousands of correspondents simultaneously, via telephone or an online chat interface, using apparently natural, context-sensitive language. That Enfield Council should employ a robot to take on customer services is no surprise – the council has suffered sweeping funding cuts from central government in recent years and will see another £56m knocked off its budget by 2020. At the same time, the borough is already one of London’s largest and is growing fast. The council has been reticent on the impact that Amelia’s employment will have on its customer‑service team, but given that Amelia has been developed specifically for rationalising customer interaction, further redundancies would appear inevitable. But here’s something Amelia hasn’t been specifically developed to do: town planning. Beyond Amelia’s interactions with Enfield residents, she (it!) will not only be taking customers through licensing permits and applications, but may also pre‑screen applications and certify some plans, a process that would typically be handled by building-control officers – often chartered professionals. Amelia isn’t set to become Enfield’s new town-planning mastermind. Not yet, anyway. But given the cuts to come, and this commentator’s Philip K. Dick-fired imagination, perhaps we should brace ourselves for a new outpost in north London. A place where infrastructure – housing and transport, sewage and drainage, even alcohol licensing (all things deeply human) – has been optimised by Amelia, who does not live, travel, shit or drink.
Autonomous Decisions Words Dan Hill Illustration Leonhard Rothmoser
On 7 May, 40-year-old Joshua Brown died in a car crash near Williston, Florida. So many people die in car crashes that this in itself is hardly remarkable; what was remarkable was that Brown was driving a Tesla Model S that was in Autopilot mode. So the Tesla was in fact driving Brown as it collided with a tractor-trailer turning left. This is not the first time a human has been killed by some form of autonomous machinery, but it is the most high-profile death, partly because of the massive systemic change suggested by autonomous vehicles (AVs). There’s an identity problem for cars around that corner, replete with unknowns. If, paraphrasing Cedric Price, autonomous vehicles are the answer, what are the questions? At core, this is a key 21st-century conundrum: which jobs are best done by people and which are best done by code? Just as contemporary airliners still have pilots despite being largely flown by computers, much systems-design orthodoxy recommends “the human in the loop”. With this in mind, should driving be a joint effort between human and code – just as advanced chess is played by a combination of humans and computers? Or is driving substantially different, with code increasingly so much better at driving that the addition of people can only make it worse? A fully autonomous service may be the most transformative approach. Ongoing research by ETH in Zürich suggests that a fleet of taxibots could remove around 80 per cent of private vehicles from cities. Imagine the impact on city space and street life, never mind safety. Yet we could achieve these numbers without AVs if we wanted to. Are we so incapable of making good decisions about urbanism that we need autonomous chariots? The mass introduction of cars was one of the worst non-decisions we’ve taken as a society – in terms of deaths and injuries, carbon, air quality, obesity, social fabric, and general deterioration of urban space and city life. Now we are on the verge of a similar revolution with AVs, but this time it is intentional. Could we take a more active decision this time – a choice with civic as well as individual gain in mind that actively looks to prevent people dying? Could Joshua Brown be the first and last casualty of this transformation?
When Genius isn’t Enough Words Jennifer Hattam Photographs Cemre Yeşil
What makes for outstanding universal value? UNESCO is the guardian of our architectural history, yet inclusion on its World Heritage List is a fraught and bureaucratic matter. The body’s most recent heritage conference, hosted in Istanbul, laid bare these complexities in the contrasting fortunes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier.
The 40th session of UNESCOâ€™s World Heritage Committee, hosted in Istanbul, Turkey, in July 2016.
Masterpieces such as Fallingwater, a residence dramatically perched over a cascade in the Pennsylvania woods, and Villa Savoye, a minimalist elevated home in the French countryside, have made architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier household names around the world, famed for their distinctive genius and lasting influence on the development of modern architecture. With credentials like that, the works of both men seem as if they would be a shoo-in for a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List, a prestigious global roster of sites deemed to have “outstanding universal value” based on meeting at least one out of 10 selection criteria. Not so fast. Inscription on the list, which was inaugurated in 1978 and now contains 1,052 cultural, natural and mixed properties (UNESCO-speak for anything from a cathedral to a canyon) in 165 countries, can be a convoluted, cryptic and years-long process. Proponents of both the Wright and Le Corbusier bids know this all too well. “Our approach with the first nomination dossier was a bit arrogant, really,” admits Michel Richard, director of the Paris-based Fondation Le Corbusier, which worked with the governments of France and six other countries on their joint bid to nominate 17 Le Corbusier buildings to the World Heritage List. “We were so sure Le Corbusier was the greatest architect in the world, we just laid out a story of what he did, how he started out here, and built such and such there.” Members of the World Heritage Committee struck down that approach when the nomination was first considered at the global body’s annual meeting in 2009, referring the dossier to the governments backing it (known as the state parties) for more work. When it came in front of the committee again in 2011, they demanded an even more thorough revision, known as a deferral. “We had a real difficulty understanding why we came off worse the second time around,” says Richard. “At some points, we thought about withdrawing the nomination, because we really didn’t want to go through a third failure.” The moment of truth came at the World Heritage Committee’s 40th session, held in Istanbul, Turkey, in mid-July, with the fate of the first nomination for Frank Lloyd Wright’s work and 25 other properties also on the docket. The 11-day session ended up being cut short after seven days due to an attempted military coup in Turkey, but even the truncated discussion provided insight into the challenges of the inscription process, particularly for serial nominations like those proposed for the two master architects. When the Wright nomination came on the agenda about halfway through the original schedule for the July session, the discussion began with a presentation from a representative of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), which advises the World Heritage Committee on cultural and mixed properties. (The International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, plays the same role for natural sites such as national parks or nature reserves.) Running through a slideshow of the 10 Wright-designed buildings that comprised the United States’s serial nomination, ICOMOS World Heritage Adviser Susan Denyer briefly and dispassionately described each structure’s distinctive attributes
Fallingwater (1935) by Frank Lloyd Wright in Pennsylvania, USA. (Photograph courtesy of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy)
Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut (1954) by Le Corbusier in Ronchamp, France. (Photograph Cemal Emden)
“Our approach with the first nomination dossier was a bit arrogant, really. We were so sure Le Corbusier was the greatest architect in the world.”—Michel Richard
before delivering the advisory body’s verdict to the country delegations and observers in attendance in the vast, windowless hall. “I have described the component sites, but not how each contributes to outstanding universal value as this is not articulated clearly in thenomination dossier,” Denyer said, explaining why ICOMOS’s recommendation was to defer the Wright nomination. “The series is nominated under criteria one and two, as a collection of masterpieces and for the influence they had. Although a few of the individual buildings might have the capacity to justify criterion one, the series as a whole is not justified as a masterpiece[…] nor can all of the buildings in this series be seen as influential.” The path towards UNESCO recognition in both cases began with single properties – Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye in Poissy, France, and Wright’s Taliesin, his home and studio in rural Wisconsin – before the respective state parties and their advisers embarked on more thorough evaluations of the architects’ oeuvres and put forward broader selections of their work. Whether single or serial, it can take years of expert assessments, stakeholder consultations and site visits for a country (or in Le Corbusier’s case, multiple countries) to put a property on its tentative list and then subsequently submit it for nomination. At that point, the advisory body, ICOMOS or IUCN, steps in to make its own evaluation. Only then can a property come onto the World Heritage Committee’s annual agenda. Following the presentation of each proposed property by ICOMOS or IUCN, representatives of the 21 countries that currently belong to the committee’s rotating membership make their cases to accept, amend, refer or defer the nomination. Delivered in a variety of official languages, these statements tend towards the bureaucratic and jargon-filled, although at times betray passion or pique, as when a representative from Lebanon suggested that the world’s smaller countries “launch a donation drive” to help the United States revise its Wright nomination after the procedure’s cost was raised as a potential issue. Debate on the Wright nomination during the Istanbul meeting was roughly divided between two camps. One, led by Croatia and Vietnam, proposed to immediately inscribe the property, but as a reduced list of four sites: Fallingwater in Pennsylvania; the prairie school exemplar Robie House in Chicago; the iconic reinforced-concrete Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois; and the strikingly cylindrical Guggenheim Museum in New York. The other group, led by Kuwait, preferred to refer the full list of 10 sites back to the United States for further examination. “These four sites convey a very strong message of organic architecture, the principle of connection to nature that is arguably Wright’s greatest contribution and continues to inspire architects today,” said Pham Sanh Chau, secretary general of the Vietnamese ministry of foreign affairs and a member of Vietnam’s delegation. “If we don’t inscribe works like these, whose outstanding value can be acknowledged even by ordinary people, our credibility is at risk.” Urging that the committee instead opt for referral, architect Jad Tabet, a member of Lebanon’s delegation, argued that “it would
Villa Savoye (1928) by Le Corbusier in Poissy, France. (Photograph Cemal Emden)
Taliesin (1911) by Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin, USA. (Photograph Andrew Pielage)
Musée National des Beaux-Arts de l’Occident (1955) by Le Corbusier in Tokyo, Japan. (Photograph Cemal Emden)
To be included on the World
which illustrates (a) significant
Heritage List, sites must be of
stage(s) in human history;
To be outstanding examples
earth’s history, including the
To be an outstanding example
record of life, significant ongoing
outstanding universal value and meet at least one of the following 10 selection criteria:
representing major stages of
of a traditional human settlement,
geological processes in the
land-use, or sea-use which is
development of landforms, or
To represent a masterpiece of human
representative of a culture (or
significant geomorphic or
cultures), or human interaction
with the environment especially (ii)
when it has become vulnerable under
To exhibit an important interchange
the impact of irreversible change;
To be outstanding examples
ecological and biological processes
of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area
representing significant ongoing
of the world, on developments
To be directly or tangibly
in the evolution and development of
in architecture or technology,
associated with events or living
terrestrial, fresh water, coastal
monumental arts, town-planning
traditions, with ideas, or with
and marine ecosystems and
or landscape design;
beliefs, with artistic and literary
communities of plants and animals;
works of outstanding universal (iii)
significance. (The Committee
To bear a unique or at least
considers that this criterion
To contain the most important and
exceptional testimony to a cultural
should preferably be used in
significant natural habitats for
tradition or to a civilisation
conjunction with other criteria);
in-situ conservation of biological
containing threatened species
which is living or which has disappeared;
diversity, including those To contain superlative natural
of outstanding universal value
phenomena or areas of
from the point of view of science
To be an outstanding example of
exceptional natural beauty
a type of building, architectural or
and aesthetic importance;
technological ensemble or landscape
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be a shame to reduce the nomination to four buildings that would not cover the full importance of Wright’s work.” “The outstanding universal value of this work is obvious but the problem lies in defining what makes it so,” said Tabet. “This is not only an academic question, since we have to know what exactly are the values we are inscribing in order to protect these values. If we inscribe a car, for example, we should know if we are inscribing its outstanding design, its revolutionary engine or its environmental qualities.” This struggle is one with which the head of the Fondation Le Corbusier is painstakingly familiar. Both the 2009 and 2011 assessments of the Le Corbusier nomination by ICOMOS called into question whether the outstanding universal value of all the works was defined clearly enough. Before 2011, the nomination process was “kind of a black box”, says Richard. “You presented the file and got the results, but there was no contact with the ICOMOS experts, no explanation, nothing.” A new committee rule came into place that year, however, that allowed the foundation and the state parties to enter into a challenging but productive dialogue with ICOMOS. “With ICOMOS’s advising, we decided to focus on questions of influence and exchange of ideas, and our case for universal value is based on those two criteria,” he says. “As soon as we decided on these criteria, we had to abandon the buildings [on the original list of 22 structures] that might be very interesting on their own, but could not be said to have influenced the architecture of the 20th century.” Richard says ICOMOS initially also opposed the entire idea of a serial nomination and worried about the management complications that could come along with what would be the World Heritage List’s first transcontinental inscription. (Numerous other properties, such as Victoria Falls on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, are already transnational.) “The state parties, however, felt strongly that Le Corbusier’s role as the first universal architect, and his contribution to the modern movement, was something that couldn’t be demonstrated through one building,” says Richard. “They felt it had to be shown through a series, from very modest homes [such as the Petite villa au bord du lac Léman in Switzerland] to very large structures like the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh, India.” Their persistence paid off. At the July session in Istanbul, a transnational serial property of 17 works by Le Corbusier – including the Ronchamp chapel, the Unité d’Habitation in Marseille and the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo – was finally inscribed on the World Heritage List to enthusiastic applause. ICOMOS representative Denyer praised the sites in the series as “outstanding responses to some of the fundamental issues of architecture and society in the 20th century” and declared that the outstanding universal value of each had been laid out with “great clarity”. The decision reflects “a new openness by UNESCO to thinking outside territorial designations and recognising a body of buildings that can never be seen together at the same time outside of catalogues or exhibits,” says Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History at Columbia University. Bergdoll, who co-curated the first major exhibition of
Robie House (1906) by Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago, USA. (Photograph Tim Long)
Unity Temple (1905) by Frank Lloyd Wright in Illinois, USA. (Photograph Roark Johnson)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1956) by Frank Lloyd Wright in New York, USA. (Photograph by David Heald, courtesy of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation)
Le Corbusier’s work at the MoMA in New York, hopes that the World Heritage designation will help broaden the public understanding of the architect’s legacy, as well as adding a new level of protection to the listed buildings. The ground-breaking nomination also lays out a potential path for the Frank Lloyd Wright bid, which was referred back to the United States for more work at the Istanbul session. “We previously didn’t have a serial nomination of 20th-century works [spread across a broad geography] to look at for comparison, so looking at the Le Corbusier nomination will be very helpful for us,” says Lynda Waggoner, director of Fallingwater and vice president of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which is advising the United States on the Wright nomination. Both serial properties contain multiple buildings with different private owners, and though the Wright bid is being put forward by a single country, Waggoner says that having sites in different states, subject to different law, makes it almost comparable to a transnational nomination. “It can be hard for other countries to understand how different US law is, how state and local laws can trump federal ones,” she says. Despite the encouraging example set by the Le Corbusier inscription this year, Waggoner knows there are still many challenges ahead. “Le Corbusier had very set principles, so you see them adopted everywhere. Wright’s work was very individualistic, based on the philosophy of an American society with individual rights and his feeling that there are as many buildings one can design as there are individuals. So trying to show the global influence of his style is not as easy,” she says. “Nevertheless, his ideas did permeate architecture, especially in terms of connection to nature. The open plan was first his idea, a break with Western precedent and classical models mostly appropriated from Europe. We’ll start making that narrative case as we work on re-framing the nomination.” The United States has three years to submit the additional information requested by the World Heritage Committee in its referral decision, but Waggoner says the hope is to get the work done by 1 February 2017. “That way we can resubmit the nomination next year and try to capitalise on the momentum that’s been built up.” The committee’s decision to refer the nomination rather than defer it for the more extensive reworking recommended by ICOMOS came as a relief, the Fallingwater director admits. “We were concerned about the possibility of having to start all over again with a deferral decision,” says Waggoner. “I don’t know that there would have been the will, or the funding, for that.” E N D
Petite villa au bord du lac Léman (1923) by Le Corbusier in Corseaux, Switzerland. (Photograph Cemal Emden)
Complexe du Capitole (1955) by Le Corbusier in Chandigarh, India. (Photograph Cemal Emden)
“Wright’s work was very individualistic, so trying to show the global influence of his style is not easy.”—Lynda Waggoner
A R E VO LU T I O N A RY C E R A M I C M AT E R I A L â€ƒ SA PH I R K E R A M I K I S A H I G H -T EC H M AT E R I A L D R I V I N G I N N OVAT I V E D ES I G N . W I T H I T S P R EC I S E , T H I N -WA L L E D FO R M S A N D T I G H T- E D G E R A D I I , L AU F E N B R I N G S A N E W L A N G UAG E TO BAT H RO O M S. CO L L E CT I O N VA L , D ES I G N BY KO N STA N T I N G RC I C.
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Raf Simons for Kvadrat The stripe has a particular position in 20th-century design. While its endorsement by Coco Chanel – who donned the traditional striped marinière jumper in the 1920s – made the previously controversial pattern de rigueur among fashion houses, it was relatively slow to gain a foothold in interior design. It wasn’t until the 1960s, when Scandinavian textile brands such as Marimekko and later 10-Gruppen championed bold block stripes for interiors, that it gained desirability, an impact enhanced by French artist Daniel Burens’s striped room installations. In previous centuries, wearing stripes had been considered degenerate and was reserved for prison uniforms, court jesters, servants and prostitutes. In the world of interiors, they suggested grandeur – think dainty rococo stripes or 18thcentury wall hangings. As a result, it seems that the pattern’s Venn diagram of clothing, furniture and acceptability only found a happy medium in the late-20th century. Raf Simons’s decision to use stripes for his new collection of interior textiles for Kvadrat is therefore historically loaded. Unlike the garish block prints of the 1960s – more sun lounger than chaise longue – Simons’s textiles are woven in beautiful wool by a family-run factory in Norway, adding a richness and quality to an otherwise cheap and cheerful stripe. After centuries of impropriety, perhaps it even adds an air of respectability. Words Johanna Agerman Ross
Photograph AKFB Reflex fabric photographed on a Kiki lounge chair by Ilmari Tapiovaara for Artek.
Panini Colette They’re all here! Grcic! Dyson! Lehanneur! The Bouroullecs down the flanks! Starck between the sticks! Koolhaas pulling the strings from the midfield! The Panini Colette Football 2016 sticker album is finally here! Who knows why it’s here, but it’s here. In collaboration with the French fashion boutique Colette, Panini has devised a twist on its classic football sticker album and assembled a squad of 22 designers (as well as corresponding sets for fashion designers, artists, musicians, and so on) in a series of line-drawing stickers for you to collect and treasure. It’s playful hipster nostalgia, so who cares that this is the kind of bizarre lionisation of big‑name designers that has proven so toxic in the past? And who cares that it imports the odious star system of professional football – however tongue-incheekily – into design? Well, they’re not all here. Only two women have made the squad (Patricia Urquiola and Matali Crasset working the channels) and no people of colour were deemed worthy of a place in this year’s team. Actually, no designer from outside western Europe managed to make the cut. So the most striking thing about the selectivism with which Design FC has been assembled is its unthinking non-selectivism. They may not all be here, but then practically no-one is. Words Oli Stratford
Alexander Girard Gerrit Rietveld The Revolution of Space A Designer’s Universe 17. 05. – 16. 09. 2012 12.03.2016 – 22.01.2017
Charles-Eames-Str. 2 Weil am Rhein / Basel www.design-museum.de
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NikeLab Windrunner x Kim Jones
“I haven’t worked in sportswear since 2008, which is really quite a long time.” Is that a note of trepidation from Louis Vuitton’s Kim Jones, the designer behind NikeLab’s new sportswear collection? When Jones graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2002, his newly founded label focused on sports and streetwear aesthetics executed using high-end fabrics. Yet his assumption of the creative directorship of Dunhill in 2008, followed by his current role as men’s style director at Vuitton, put an end to the dalliance: “Coming back to sportswear, I could see that it had changed immensely in terms of how things are made.” This potential for experimental construction resonated with Jones, whose NikeLab collection is themed around packability. Fabrics are lightweight and seams have been largely eschewed in order to reduce bulk. The Windrunner, one of the collection’s tent poles, is made from a single piece of polyester that folds away into a pouch built in the rear of the jacket. “It started out as a piece of paper,” says Jones. “I had nine Post-it notes stuck together which I photocopied and then worked on like origami. So you’re looking at a flat drawing, a flat piece of paper and a flat garment. It’s been absolutely amazing to return to working in this area.” Jones’s homecoming, therefore, is an exercise in delayed gratification. “You can see how much the technology has advanced in eight years,” he says. “I wasn’t trying to make a jacket of different proportions, so to speak. I just wanted to make it in a very different way.” Words Oli Stratford
Voices from the Ether Words Tamar Shafrir Illustration Leonhard Rothmoser
Even before we are born, our mother’s voice is the fundamental medium through which we receive information about the world around us. It slows our heart rate at seven months in the womb, regulates our sucking rate at one day old, and exerts an influence on brain regions dealing with emotions, rewards and self-awareness into adolescence. Given these human instincts, it’s unsurprising that the voices of consumer-oriented artificial intelligence skew female, among them Siri (Apple), Cortana (Microsoft), Alexa (Amazon), Hidi (HTC), Amy (X.AI), S Voice (Samsung) and Google Now. Notably, these AI personalities are designed for one-on-one relationships with end users that imply patient listening, considered responses and emotional intelligence. Electronic devices have been talking out loud to us since the 1970s, but no one seems to have fallen in love with Speak & Spell; it took the voice of Scarlett Johansson in the 2013 film Her to make Samantha a plausible non-object of desire. Not only are women’s voices overrepresented in AI, but they also predominate as ambient sources of guidance on public transport (Emma Clarke on the London Underground; Emma Hignett on London buses; Carolyn Hopkins on the New York Subway), in yoga classes and among the ASMR community, whose members watch lengthy YouTube videos featuring whispers or murmurs recorded on 3D binaural microphones to stimulate euphoric tingling in listeners’ skin. In these contexts, we hear the incorporeal female voice as an expression of personal attention, even when it repeats the same pre-programmed message to anyone within earshot. If our bus is diverted to a new route, we assume that Emma will sort it out for us. As a design tool, the female voice can make an AI system appear more intelligent than its programming would indicate. Yet when women speak in scenarios that require real intelligence, they attract far more criticism than men. In the world of podcasting, women are regularly upbraided for vocal fry, upspeak and other speech characteristics perceived as immature or unprofessional. Contemporary user-listeners seem more comfortable with the female voice as a disembodied entity than as one connected to a correspondingly female brain – perhaps we need the designers themselves to pioneer a new-WAV feminism.
Tulip Chairs, Glass Houses and Bombshells Words Jamer Hunt Illustration Leonhard Rothmoser
What should we make of Eero Saarinen’s role in the Second World War? Designer of the iconic and beloved Gateway Arch, TWA Terminal and Tulip chair, Saarinen also worked for the OSS, a forerunner of the CIA, creating and equipping “situation rooms and military schools” while providing “display equipment for conferences, pilot models of new weapons and devices”. Saarinen’s work for the OSS has been known for some time, yet was brought back to public attention in June by a Freedom of Information request by the journalist Matt Novak. The subsequent excitement was exacerbated by Novak’s story coming hard on the heels of the furore over allegations that modernist masters Philip Johnson and Le Corbusier were Nazi sympathisers and anti-Semites. What next? The Eameses were gun-toting racists? In the eye of a Twitter storm, all perceived crimes run together. You might even begin to wonder whether there isn’t some logic inherent in high modernism that links its practice to fascism, militarism or bigotry. The short answer, of course, is that there isn’t. Many modernist architects fled Europe to avoid fascist persecution or execution. Le Corbusier, Johnson and Saarinen were great designers, but also imperfect individuals. In Saarinen’s case, it is important to remember that many civilians joined the war effort expressly to dampen the flames of fascism. And many upstanding citizens (Barack Obama comes to mind) support clandestine intelligence operations. We can also look at it this way: are Saarinen’s acts any more responsible for violence than those of any modern corporation involved in gentrification of neighbourhoods, fast food retail, data capture or car production? In 2013 Paola Antonelli and I launched the online curatorial experiment Design and Violence. Our objective was not to sit in judgment, but rather to create a space where the design community could hash out its tangled relationship with creation and destruction. Critical reflection entails the hard work of understanding how best intentions might unwittingly lead to harm. The connections between the OSS and military operations are direct, but until we reckon with the true cost of design-asusual, we will only gain a false sense of self-righteousness in denouncing Saarinen. As the old adage goes, people who design Glass Houses shouldn’t throw stones.
Jackson Pollock, Blue poles (detail), 1952. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation ARS, NY and DACS, London 2016
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The Case for Repackaging Words Riya Patel Photographs Michael Bodiam Set Design Sarah Parker
Online shopping experiences often end the same way. A parcel arrives, packed within other parcels like cardboard Russian dolls. Already too large to fit through a letterbox, the item travels additionally cushioned by air-filled plastic bags, coils of thick brown paper, or on a soft bedding of foam peanuts. Sometimes all three. The mound of packaging that results is the physical manifestation of buying habits driven by convenience. These proportions of packaging to product are the unhappy consequence of e-commerce. Report
Fragile, a flexible packaging system designed by Mireia Gordi i Vila.
Although still just a fraction of the packaging waste produced by the food and drink industry, the discarded packing materials generated by the rise of internet shopping has become a visible focus for the online generation. Every year more than 3.7bn disposable packages are delivered to consumers in Europe solely from e-commerce. Along with other streams of consumer packaging waste, the increasing volume of goods ordered online is having a considerable impact on the environment. Around a third of all domestic rubbish is packaging and the average European wastes more than 150kg of it per year. With only a small percentage recovered, the rest is sent to landfill or incinerated. Aside from cardboard and paper, only two types of plastic commonly used in packaging – PE (polyethylene) and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) – are widely recycled. Polystyrene and polypropylene films are not. In the UK, some 1.2m tonnes of plastic film ends up in the waste stream every year. Meanwhile, discarded polystyrene is such a problem in the US that several states have banned the substance because of the difficulty of recycling it. The situation is wasteful in terms of material, but also energy. Producing raw materials for packaging, transporting packages and recycling all contribute to global carbon emissions. The problem has prompted a number of investigations by designers seeking to provide alternatives. Some believe biomaterials can answer the call. Made from natural and biodegradable substances, these materials are designed to mimic the capabilities of the plastic products society has come to depend on. Others take a structural approach, questioning throwaway culture and proposing re-useable products that require systemic change across the supply chain. Neither group can suggest a quick fix, but these inroads suggest a desire to re-evaluate why we use certain materials and how we value them. Could designers and entrepreneurs trigger a shift towards a more responsible material culture and are consumers ready for change? “Plastic is not often reckoned as valuable in daily life, but it is a precious material,” says Kosuke Araki, a designer based in Tokyo who graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2013. As part of design group AMAM, alongside Noriaki Maetani and Akira Muraoka, Araki won the 2016 Lexus Design Award with Agar Plasticity, a project investigating agar (a seaweedderived foodstuff) as an organic alternative to synthetic plastic. Araki labels the contemporary
culture of disposability a “seemingly ignored problem”. The group discovered that more than 36 per cent of all packing material is plastic and that 288m tonnes of plastic were produced worldwide in 2012. Agar is commonly sold in a dried state – as a block, flakes or powder – and is used for making Japanese sweets. “When we visited a local supermarket in Tokyo, we were attracted by its material qualities: delicacy, crispness and airiness,” says Araki. A series of experiments led the team to a range of packing material prototypes. By dissolving pure agar powder in hot water, pouring it into a mould, freezing, thawing and then air-drying it, the team found that it expands to take on a spongy texture. By varying concentrations and freezing speeds, they were able to produce a prototype transparent film, a loose-fill cushioning and a package with integrated cushioning. The team also found that they could mix agar with extracted red-algae fibre to make thicker and harder mouldable products, suitable for packing plant pots and wine bottles, or wrapping flowers. The versatility of the material, its natural abundance and easy decomposition are its most promising advantages over synthetic plastic, which takes years to degrade. Given that the 2016 edition of the Lexus Design Award was themed “Anticipation”, it is telling that the agar project was chosen. The proposal has the romantic sense of discovering an intelligent solution based on a resource that is right in front of us. Yet to frame designers as providers of scientific breakthroughs can be problematic given that such ideas rarely get the testing required for them to become feasible. The agar team hope that the recognition they have won will facilitate prototype development with research partners. So far, the cost of harvesting agar from the sea is prohibitive, but Araki believes that there is potential to grow the material in an aquaculture system that could reduce the price and thereby create a more realistic product. “The production process has to be industrialised, and that is what we are desperately aiming for,” he says. “What we can produce now is something functional, yet a bit like craft. We are making all the prototypes with our own freezers and do not have a big facility to produce it in quantity.” Some biomaterial discoveries, however, have led to industrial success. In 2006, at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre invented a mouldable material using agricultural waste and mycelium, the vegetative part
of a fungus. Mycelium is mixed with cleaned agricultural waste (such as corn stalks), which it attaches to through a network of fibres and thereby forms a composite. After a few days, the composite is broken into small particles that can be shaped in a mould. The material is then dried to prevent further growth. In 2014, New York-based architects The Living used 10,000 bricks made from the material in order to construct a 12m-tall installation for MoMA PS1’s Young Architects Program. “We think it’s interesting and important that when you start designing a building it’s not only about that single project, but also about things that are contextual,” remarked the practice’s founder David Benjamin. “Not only its relation to other structures in the area and its relation to the people occupying it, but also its relation to the physical world. Where did that stuff it’s made from come from?” Bayer and McIntyre’s company, Ecovative, also produces their mycelium material as Mushroom®
and using locally sourced raw materials.” The energy required to produce materials represents the biggest advantage of Mushroom® Packaging: producing it takes one-fifth to one-eighth of the energy used to make the equivalent volume of foam plastic. Charles Brill, co-founder of Rich Brilliant Willing, says that Ecovative’s products are used to pack his studio’s aluminium Monocle wall light, but others still require bubble wrap: “We always use the best solutions for each application. For items that are fragile, like hand-blown glass, we use a recycled plastic bubble wrap that we produce on-demand at our shop.” The cost of Mushroom® Packaging varies, but Brill says it “was less expensive by 15 per cent and also improved labour times. The only challenge is to balance lead time because the material has to grow into the mould.” Dell is a particularly prominent customer in the green-packaging market. Alongside using Ecovative’s Mushroom® Packaging, the Texas-based computer manufacturer has pioneered packaging made using wheat straw, bamboo and protection bags filled with captured methane. While many large companies are expected to address sustainability within their business, Dell goes further than most by partnering with start-ups to help scale their ideas. It has also pledged to make its packaging totally waste-free by 2020. Its next area of research is recycled ocean plastics – harvested from the great swirls of debris floating in the Pacific and Atlantic that were first found in the 1970s. According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, at least 8m tonnes of waste is dumped annually into the ocean. In 2015, China alone was thought to account for 2.4m tonnes. “We are in the process of conducting a feasibility study to determine if we will be able to use recycled plastics from oceans and waterways in Dell product packaging, which is our goal,” says Oliver Campbell, the firm’s director of packaging. The study will test supplier samples for the characteristics needed to comply with regulations and in-house requirements. “The ultimate goal is to establish a commercial-scale ‘ocean plastics’ supply chain.” Designers and companies have already noticed the potential for reclaimed ocean plastics. Gyrecraft was a 2015 project by Studio Swine that transformed cheap plastic into luxury items, reflecting the difficulty of recovering plastics once they have entered the ocean. In June 2016, Adidas and designer Alexander Taylor released a limited-edition shoe with an upper made from recovered ocean plastic. Yet the editioned nature
A designer’s instinct on discovering a new material is to use it to create new objects – the mechanism that has led to rampant consumption and waste. Packaging. In this form, it becomes a substitute for expanded polystyrene, a lightweight shipping foam formed from pre-expanded polystyrene beads. Backed with grants and capital from partners such as the US materials and technology conglomerate 3M, Ecovative has customers that include Dell, Crate & Barrel and New York-based lighting manufacturer Rich Brilliant Willing. Like foam or polystyrene, its material can be moulded to fit irregularly shaped items and it can be composted at home by the end user. Crucially, Ecovative says its price is competitive with synthetic plastic. “The cost and economic value proposition are typically the primary reasons customers switch to Mushroom® Packaging,” says McIntyre. “We’re able to deliver custom-designed parts that are grown using a fraction of the energy of plastic foams 76
RePack, a recyclable polypropylene package for shipping goods.
MushroomÂŽ Packaging, a material made from mycelium by Ecovative.
of these examples means that both projects served to highlight the problem, rather than taking steps to resolve it. A designer’s instinct on discovering a new material is invariably to use it to create new objects – the 20th-century mechanism that has led to rampant consumption and waste. Describing the dilemma in Design for the Real World, Victor Papanek writes: “With new processes and an endless list of materials at his disposal, the artist, craftsman and designer now suffer from the tyranny of absolute choice. When everything becomes possible, when all limitations are gone, design and art can easily become a never-ending search for novelty, until newness-for-the-sake-of-newness becomes the only measure.” Yet Dell’s large-scale and long-term ambition for recycled ocean plastics as packaging might prove a more legitimate use. Dell’s commitment to the environment also makes business sense. Incorporating sustainable materials and reducing overall usage has saved the company more than $53m and avoided 14,000 tonnes of packaging since 2009. Vitally, Campbell says the impetus for this change has come from consumers. “Customers on social media were providing feedback on the size of the boxes and the material we were using in our packaging,” he says. “That spurred us to look at how we could apply principles of the circular economy to design out waste and obtain the most value from the resources we use.” Social media has fuelled consumer activism; customers tweet companies with the hashtag #packagingfail and shaming pictures of outrageously outsized packaging. In Dell’s case, this drove change, but it also shows a disconnect between conventional buying habits and their consequences. While people are happy to accept the convenience of ordering products straight to our doorsteps (and the need for packaging and extra transport miles that this entails), we cannot accept the physical intrusion when this excess packaging enters our homes. This trope plays out in other forms too: fast fashion without acknowledgement of the sweat shops that create it; meat consumption without reflection on the processes behind it. In a chapter titled ‘Somebody Else’s Problem’ from the book Designing for Zero Waste, Dr Robert Crocker calls it “a conceptual distancing or ‘distantiation’”. He writes: “The ‘stuff’ we use and enjoy in our lives appears almost magically[…] the real origins, lifecycle, technical function in use, and ‘end-of-life’ destination of[…] products and services has been skilfully airbrushed out of the picture.”
Crocker believes this isn’t a “corporate conspiracy”, but the consequence of a transformed relationship with goods. Over 150 years society has gone from a small population of face-to-face customers to an “army of consumers, dependent on vast, often global mass-production and mass-distribution systems, whose complexity and lengthy supply chains render them opaque to us”. He argues that this distanced global activity makes asking individual customers to change their habits ineffective on a grand scale: we don’t have enough knowledge to act clearly and are easily misinformed about what and how we buy. The greater system, then, requires a structural re-organisation – one that designers and innovators might influence. One example is RePack, a Finnish sustainable design company that provides e-commerce sites with re-useable returnable packets for shipping. Co-founder Jonne Hellgren describes the lightbulb moment that came to the company in 2011 while it was working with the logistics centres of the Finnish post office: “One of our designers just blurted out: ‘Why is all this [packaging] disposable?’ In the Nordics, when you buy a beer and return the bottle you get some money back. We thought, why couldn’t we apply the same system to e-commerce deliveries?” Packets are made from durable and recyclable polypropylene (similar to Ikea bags), polyethylene and cardboard, and can be re-used between 20 and 50 times. The cost of return is prepaid by the company, and the customer is given a small discount on their next purchase as an incentive to comply. Designed for the postal system, the largest packet has a capacity of up to 45l, but still folds down to letter size after use. About 20 companies currently use RePack, most offering it as a delivery option rather than the sole means. It’s a soft start to changing behaviour, indicating that the solution works for ecologically minded buyers, rather than for everyone. It also demonstrates that even companies with sustainable brand values aren’t ready to make a total break with disposable packaging. The carrot method represented by RePack – rather than the stick of, for instance, the taxes on plastic bags that are increasingly common in Europe, and bans in India, China and across swathes of Africa – is not likely to effect profound change in the short term. Yet if RePack, or schemes like it, were offered as a free or cheaper delivery option than those that prioritise speed, behavioural change might be possible. Hellgren notes that options regarding packaging remain limited
and how customers receive their purchase is down to individual companies. “We also see people who use RePack are often the ones who shop online the most[…] the e-commerce heavy users,” he says. “It’s in the best interest of any e-commerce company to give them a better service and if that’s having a re-useable returnable package, then it makes sense to offer it.” In this respect, e-commerce and RePack might look for forebears in a number of small-scale initiatives from the food and drink industry. Shops such as Original Unverpackt in Berlin and In.gredients in Austin, Texas, style themselves as zero-waste supermarkets. The food on sale is not packaged. Rather, customers bring their own containers and pay by the weight of the groceries they purchase. The context is different to RePack, but the basic idea is the same. The giants of e-commerce don’t yet offer such alternatives, because packaging is not a priority. The sheer scale of their operations means that other factors come to the fore. Asos sources more than 2,000 tonnes of cardboard and over 400 tonnes of plastic a year, yet packaging makes up only 11 per cent of its carbon footprint, compared to the 68 per cent of emissions generated by air, land and sea transport. Amazon’s sights are voraciously set on reducing its own shipping costs, which last year rose more than 18 per cent to $11.5bn. And while Amazon is piloting automated systems for reducing packaging, far more activity is geared towards faster and leaner delivery modes that cut out third-party couriers: drones that can deliver products from warehouse to doorstep within 30 minutes and Europe-wide expansion of its locker collection system. Both schemes eliminate the need for a package’s final transport miles and indicate a move to more efficient, re-useable systems. If drone delivery takes off in the way that Amazon projects, the need for disposable packaging could reduce dramatically. A promo video of the Amazon Prime Air service shows products rolling off conveyor belts into Tupperware-like plastic cartons that could potentially be sent back to Amazon or collected for future re-use. Amazon’s locker system – a series of designated public collection points – also has wider potential. Designer Mireia Gordi i Vila had such a system in mind for Fragile, a flexible packaging product she designed in 2014 while studying at the Royal College of Art. Fragile consists of a case that grips objects within a membrane of mesh and Technogel – a tactile polyurethane currently used for cushioning in
mattresses – and which could be delivered to the end user wholesale. Neither disposable nor bespoke, her solution is adaptable for a range of objects. The customer would then remove their item and return the case to a locker for collection. Since 2014, Gordi i Vila has received offers to produce her design, but says that none of the interested companies have understood the infrastructure required to make it widespread, such as that involved in the recycling of glass bottles. “What’s really important for me is that the whole project must be understood,” she says. “You can put a very nice product out there and say it’s re-useable. But if there’s no logistics to actually make it happen, then it just won’t be re-used. You will have a very long-lasting piece of plastic that’s going to end up in landfill. That’s definitely not what this project is about.” She believes that it would be more productive for a large company like Amazon to trial Fragile. If this were successful, smaller and medium-sized firms could be tempted to change their systems too. In 2007, UK recycling charity Wrap.org.uk carried out a similar trial with the catalogue retailer Argos, testing the feasibility of a re-useable protective sofa bag. Argos sells more than 10m pieces of upholstered furniture a year, generating 30,000 tonnes of packaging. The bag, made bespoke for the trial, resembles an outsized jiffy envelope with an outer of low‑density polyethylene and an inner of non-woven polypropylene tissue. Three thousand bags were used during the trial, which showed them capable of at least seven uses. The results were mostly positive: Argos saw reduced product damage and packaging spend, eliminating the use of at least 17 tonnes of cardboard and plastic packaging during the trial. Consumers were happy not to deal with bulky waste as the delivery driver was responsible for returning the bag to Argos. Nevertheless, getting retailers to commit to re-useables has proven difficult. “It’s a big investment to get a re-useable system fully working,” says Claire Shrewsbury, packaging programme manager at Wrap.org.uk. “You need to control bags getting lost and leaked out of the system, because invariably that packaging is at a higher cost per unit than one that can go off and be recycled. A business would have to weigh up whether the reduced cost of returns would be better than a cheaper, less protective one-way system.” Where the investment in re-useables for an individual company is a barrier, external companies could be included to fill the gaps and control the 80
Zero-waste supermarkets, such as Original Unverpackt in Berlin, operate systems in which customers bring their own packaging to the store.
Agar Plasticity, a research project by Kosuke Araki, Noriaki Maetani and Akira Muraoka, of AMAM.
movement of packaging. Shrewsbury says there is already a shining example of such a system in the case of shipping pallets. Pallets rarely belong to any one owner; instead they are pooled by specialist companies. “In the UK, CHEP is the organisation that really owns all of those,” she says. “If one gets broken, it’s taken out to be mended and then goes back in.” Across Europe, French provider LPR controls the movement of more than 73m pallets annually; New York-based PECO Pallet operates more than 1,300 depots in the USA, Canada and Mexico. All the same, systems that rely on consumers for return would require a major cultural shift. In the last 40 years, a disposable attitude has come to largely erase traditional recycling. Many in the UK remember
The problem might not be creating alternatives for packaging, but designing to mitigate the waste we have already created. leaving milk bottles out for daily collection. Yet with the rise of the plastic carton, the British firm Dairy Crest announced in 2014 that it would phase out glass milk bottles. In 2012 just 4 per cent of its milk sales were in glass bottles, compared to 94 per cent in 1975. There is optimism behind this tale, however. In late 2015 Dairy Crest was acquired by the German brand Müller, which reversed the decision, incorporating glass bottles into its fresh milk and grocery delivery service Milk&More. The decision reflected the role that culture plays in determining our willingness to work with returnable systems. Speaking to trade publisher The Grocer, a member of Milk&More reflected on the cultural endurance of glass bottles: “For many they are just what the doorstep delivery service is all about.” After a long period of throwaway culture, the nascent sharing economy is further stimulating the required attitude change among a new generation. “You don’t need to own an object anymore to make use of it,” says Gordi i Vila. “The idea that you just pay for as much as you use[…] is transmitting to the design of objects. They are becoming a bit more flexible and functional.” The
“peak stuff” revelations of early 2016, a term coined by Ikea’s head of sustainability Steve Howard, reflected a shift in Western consumer spending from possessions to services. In February, the UK’s Office for National Statistics released data showing a decrease in raw material consumption per person: an average 15 tonnes of material in 2001 compared with just over 10 tonnes in 2013. The UK is the first to show the trend, but there are similar patterns in other European countries. Digitisation and increased efficiency are proposed to be behind the slowdown, prompting a re-balancing in our perception of product value. If we reach the state of peak convenience that Amazon’s 30-minute deliveries entail, will we still have the same appetite for accumulation? Soon the problem might not be creating alternatives for packaging, but designing to mitigate the waste we have already created and introduce new uses for it. When Wrap.org.uk started out its aim was to encourage reduction in packaging waste. But nine years on from the Argos trial it has changed direction to making recycling services more consistent across the UK. The change shows that although returning packaging might be more logical, it is still easier to throw things away (albeit into the recycling bin) than to re-use them. There is good reason, then, for designers to keep innovating with materials that can replicate plastic’s properties and usefulness. The regulation around global packaging, shipping and distribution has grown so complex that it requires expertise to navigate successfully, marginalising the product designer’s influence. Historically, the designer enjoyed more of a total role in this respect – the economy of Robin Day’s Polyprop chair, for example, went beyond form and material to consider efficient shipping, with the designer Ivan Dodd brought in to consider how the chair could be distributed and how its carton might double as display. Packaging waste, particularly from e-commerce, is the visible tip of a greater problem caused by mass consumption at hyper speed. All of the proposed alternatives essentially come up against the same problem of static consumer and business habit. Media campaigns lay over-packaging complaints at the retailer’s door, but cultural change on the consumer’s part looks to be a far bigger factor in redressing the balance. In a future where plastic becomes rarer and more valuable, and happiness is no longer linked to possession, that may just start to happen. E N D
Made for Gaggenau
Gaggenau – Industrial Craft As Gaggenau celebrates 333 years in business, Disegno looks at the beauty of longevity in design. “There is value in continually re-examining what already exists[…]. What untapped potential the materials, colours, functions and forms, still hold.” So wrote Hella Jongerius and Louise Schouwenberg in their 2015 manifesto Beyond the New. “It’s time,” Beyond the New concluded, “to rid ourselves of the obsession with the new.” Yet within one factory in Lipsheim, a small commune in the far east of France, such ideas are already being played out. Here, among the heat and noise of production, traditional handcraft techniques sit alongside cutting-edge laser-processing technologies.
This is the base of Gaggenau, a design-led German domestic appliance brand whose history has been marked by a resistance to the obsession with the new that Jongerius and Schouwenberg cautioned against. The company’s products – distinguished by their pure, minimal designs – are created slowly and assiduously, with an eye towards their precedents. “There’s no future without heritage,” says Sven Baacke, Gaggenau’s head of design. “You can’t tell stories without a past.” Gaggenau was established in 1683 by the Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden as an iron foundry. Yet by the end of the 19th century it had specialised in enamelling and was producing coal and gas stoves. In the 1930s,
Made for Gaggenau
Inside the Gaggenau factory in Lipsheim (clockwise from top left): industrial machinery; the proprietary cobalt‑blue enamel that coats the interior of all Gaggenau’s ovens; the clean room, in which precision work on the appliances’ electronics takes place.
Made for Gaggenau
Gaggenau produced its first electric stove and when the entrepreneur Georg von Blanquet took over in 1956, he refocused the company around his vision of a custom-fitted kitchen. His ambition was for appliances to not only become part of a room’s fabric, but also to emerge as its focal point – a modern-day hearth. “They’re proud in the kitchen,” says Baacke, “like a picture on the wall.” From that point on, Gaggenau devoted itself to this idea. Its ovens became distinguished by superior technology, ease of use and clean designs. Notably, and in recollection of its history, the brand developed a special form of enamelling that causes the interior of Gaggenau ovens to glow cobalt blue. The effect, which is achieved thanks to a mixture of oxides and additives, serves as a visual signature but it also enables pyrolysis, a form of automatic self-cleaning precipitated by extremely high temperature. It’s a beautiful detail, but one that is inextricable from the oven’s function. Instead of rushing in with a profusion of products, Gaggenau has gradually updated and augmented its core range. The new EB 333 oven, for instance, upgrades the brand’s classic EB 300 – the first such enhancement since the original appeared in 1986. “We kept trying to make it new,” says Baacke, “to put more technology aside, to give it a new look, to reinvent it for a new generation. But we always failed because we went too far away from the original design.” The EB 333 is a product of refinement rather than revolution; it is a design that gives thought to aesthetics, materials and durability, rather than constantly refreshing for the sake of the new. Baacke contrasts Gaggenau’s approach with that of mobile phone companies, in which a culture of planned obsolescence has led to superfluity: “They cost a lot of money, but you would never give them to your children because they become outdated.” The average lifespan of an electronic oven is 13 years, whereas many Gaggenau products from the 1980s still work today. Such longevity is practical, but also emotional – products that fade quickly rarely connect with their users. “You can’t create something timeless,” says Baacke, “because everything is created in time. But you can create something with longevity.” This concern for continuity is borne out in Lipsheim. “It’s a very traditional factory where metal sheets are produced using old, manual techniques,” says Baacke. “It’s very hot work.” Cobalt‑blue parts
emit an otherworldly shine and multicoloured cable trees hang knotted like the trailing tentacles of jellyfish. Thunderous machines stamp components while technicians work on more delicate pieces by hand. “If you don’t have humans adding the final touches,” says Baacke, “you won’t get the soul of the product.” Gaggenau runs the design and manufacture processes from the same plant – rare in a globalised marketplace where geographic compartmentalisation of production processes has become the norm. Throughout Gaggenau’s production, designers work in close contact with engineers. “It’s not that things are ready, and then the engineers give it to the designer and say ‘Can you make it look nice?’” says Baacke. Instead, they work in what he calls a “spiral”, interweaving their activities. Once the engineers have manufactured the larger parts, for instance, the designers inspect the pieces. On delicate matters such as interface, where design acumen needs to be balanced with heat-resistant technology, they work in tandem. Two sides of the same process, each adds their own interests and specialism to the whole. “The designers don’t want cable trees hanging out,” jokes Baacke, “but sometimes the engineers don’t mind.” This kind of interaction has also signalled a retreat from overreliance on the virtual in the design process. “Back in the day everyone was working with computers,” says Baacke. “Now we start in the office with paper models and then make metal mock-ups and working prototypes.” The result of this hands-on system, he hopes, are objects that maintain an aura of excitement: “I like the idea of products that you can use everyday and think, ‘I’m really thrilled to use these.’” Baacke has clear ideas about how this approach will feed into Gaggenau’s future. “The next big thing is interface. How will we interact with our appliances? I think we are still not there in terms of what is possible.” Here, too, the company is concerned with retaining the traditional set-up. “I don’t know if I look forward to a world where I just scream things out in the air. When we meet people, we shake hands because that’s the way we understand things: by touch.” Improve and adapt, but don’t forsake the principles that animate you. The future should be built on steady foundations. Words Joe Lloyd Interview Anya Lawrence Photographs Fabian Frinzel
Made for Gaggenau
After the Sanctions Design in Tehran Words Lemma Shehadiâ€‚Photographs Sima Dehgani
Friday afternoons in Tehran are known for gallery openings, a pastime hard to keep up with as new spaces spring up across the city at high speed. It is a rainy day, and we are making our way through traffic down Valiasr, a tree-lined avenue that stretches from the upscale neighbourhoods in the foothills in the north to the flatter, hotter and poorer districts in the southern parts of the city. Having already visited the galleries in the narrow mountain roads north of Tehran, we head to Karim Khan, a downtown district which has seen a recent resurgence of studio and gallery spaces.
“I grew up in Tehran, but I still don’t know where many of these galleries are,” says Tina Kadkhodayan, a PhD candidate in architecture at the Universität der Künste, Berlin. Kadkhodayan returned to Tehran this spring to run a workshop over the summer in two of Karim Khan’s new art and design spaces, New Media Society and Platform 28. “I follow what’s happening in Tehran online and many of the people who are active here are my friends. I wanted to be here and work with friends who share the same passion.” To our left, across the road, I catch a glimpse of the Tabiat bridge, a huge pedestrian overpass that sweeps across two parks separated by a highway. It allows visitors to access the parks more easily in what is otherwise a crowded city gasping for air. Its 33-year-old architect, Leila Araghian, won the Architizer A+ Awards for the design in 2015. That same year, her application to take part in the World Architecture Festival was rejected because its owner, the London-based Top Right Group could not undertake business with Iran due to an international embargo on the country. Yet the lifting of the sanctions in January 2016 will now afford new opportunities for Tehran’s creative and cultural community as the nation opens up to the world after nearly 40 years. “The art and design scene in Tehran isn’t new,” says Kadkhodayan, “but it’s flourishing now that doors are opening up for the country.” Tehran’s creative community is gaining increased international attention. The fashion designers Shirin and Shiva Vaghar were shortlisted in the 2016 LVMH prize for their Vaqar brand, and in 2015 the Guggenheim in New York held a retrospective for Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, a 92-year-old Tehrani artist known for her use of Iranian mirror-mosaic craft. Although Iran’s city of culture was historically Shiraz – home to the medieval Persian poets Hafez and Saadi, as well as the Shiraz Arts Festival that ran from 1967 to 1977 at the ancient site of Persepolis – Tehran has supplanted it. The city’s state-run and private art schools attract students from across the country, and the presence of more than 150 independent art and design galleries and two main arts institutions (the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art and the Artists House in downtown Tehran) make it the country’s key place for creatives and artists to gain exposure for their work. Driving through the city’s narrow and labyrinthine streets, past buildings of uneven sizes, built across four decades in divergent architectural styles, it is easy to get lost. But from studio to studio, there is an 90
“The art and design scene in Tehran isn’t new, but it’s flourishing now that doors are opening.” —Tina Kadkhodayan
Downtown and south Tehran are the hotter and more crowded parts of the city. They are also the liveliest, with long avenues filled with markets and small shops.
abundance of fashion and graphic designers, architects and artists, all of whom are making important contributions to the creative community. The increased visibility of Tehran’s arts and design scene coincides with renewed global interest in Iran. In January 2016, the EU and US lifted a series of long-running sanctions against Iran in exchange for concessions related to its nuclear programme. Under the previous embargo, many international companies had been banned from trading with Iranian businesses and the government. These were also unable to participate in global banking systems. Iran has been subject to sanctions since 1979 when a revolution deposed the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and left in his place an Islamic regime led by the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, a powerful and charismatic cleric. This was followed by the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, the scars of which are still present in Tehran where posters of martyrs adorn buildings and winding bazaar corridors. Tensions between Iran and the international community escalated in the 2000s over the country’s nuclear programme and its support of Islamist militias. Yet today oil and gas traders, construction companies, auction houses and luxury brands have turned towards Iran and its capital with expectations of significant commercial opportunities. Iran is oil-rich and has a population of some 80 million, within which sits an increasingly globalised middle class that is in touch with a vibrant diaspora community in Europe and North America. The diaspora has been active in supporting the creative industries inside the country; organisations such as Magic of Persia and Rose Issa Projects in London, among others, help artists inside Iran gain international exposure. “Hosting events on contemporary Iranian art and film in London followed by publications of the work in English and Farsi opened many opportunities for artists living in Iran,” says Rose Issa, a curator who staged a two-month-long Iranian film festival at BFI Southbank in 1999, and who has an extensive publishing and curatorial track record in London. “They gained exposure within arts institutions and met other artists outside of Iran, including Iranian artists in the diaspora.” Meanwhile, international luxury brands have begun to reach into Iran. Roberto Cavalli opened its first two-storey flagship store in a rich neighbourhood of northern Tehran in February 2016. According to a report by Reuters, LVMH is expected to open a Sephora store in late 2016, in
Marco Djermaghian has been experimenting with blends of cement, textile and colour for a new furniture series.
response to the nation’s booming cosmetics industry that achieved sales worth €3.4bn in 2014, a figure that is expected to treble in the next five years. This new climate of openness is welcomed by the local creative community. “Iran has been a harsh environment for designers and the creative industries,” says Azadeh Zaferani, an architect and urban planner who founded Platform 28, a space for critical discussions on art and architecture in downtown Tehran. “Because of the embargo, the main challenge has been financial transactions. Moving money is less secure and it takes longer. With the sanctions lifted designers can contribute to the international market much more easily.” In spite of the lifting of sanctions, in the short term Iranian designers are still likely to have difficulties obtaining visas to Europe and the US, places where they can participate in cultural events, trade fairs and exhibitions. “But people have adapted to the situation,” says Marco Djermaghian, a Tehran-based product designer and architect. “I can find ways to sell my work abroad, but I’m producing at the scale of limited editions.” Trained 92
Djermaghian trained at the Architectural Association in London and lived and worked in Paris before settling in Tehran in 2002.
Leila Araghian’s award-winning Tabiat Bridge in northern Tehran connects two of the city’s parks over a highway. Elsewhere in the city, women are pictured wearing the black chador (right). The garment is worn for religious reasons. Iran’s diverse nomadic tribes have a rich tradition of textiles, weaving and embroidery techniques that have been adopted by fashion designers in recent years.
The view from northern Tehran. This leafier part of the city at the foot of the mountains is largely middle class. Many of the city’s spaces bear state‑sponsored murals about the Iran-Iraq war.
“The economic concept of creative destruction: you destroy a building to create a bigger one.” —Nazgol Ansarinia
A detail from Nazgol Anasarinia’s studio.
Ansarinia outside her studio in Darabad. The artist has dedicated her recent work to the urban fabric.
as an architect at the Architectural Association in London before returning to Tehran in 2002, Djermaghian is creating a furniture series based on his studies of Kufic script and calligraphy, as well as experimenting with a blend of cement and textile. Tight government control and Iran’s strict interpretation of sharia law, however, causes issues around freedom of expression. In 2009, the regime brutally quashed the Green Movement, a revolt protesting what were widely perceived as rigged parliamentary elections. Within the cultural sector, even commercial galleries are monitored by the authorities. However, the election of President Hassan Rouhani in 2013 – who is regarded nationally and internationally as a moderate in contrast to his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – has given hope for reform. The plethora of commercial galleries that have opened is testament to this. One of the first to reflect the impacts of this growing arts scene was Studio Kargah, a graphic design practice founded in Tehran in 2001 by designers Peyman Pourhosein and
Aria Kasaei. “There’s been a cultural boom in the last few years,” says Kasaei. “So many galleries have opened across the city, with new exhibitions every couple of weeks. There is a huge demand for our work – we are overstretched.” Their studio, a busy basement space, is filled with calligraphy books and colourful posters. In the last four years, the team has grown from six to fifteen people and they have just opened a second space. Their practice specialises in cultural commissions, producing material for galleries and art books: “We’re not working with consumer brands; we prefer to support the arts,” says Kasaei. Studio Kargah is typical of a wider Iranian arts tradition in which graphic design is strong, with contemporary designers such as Reza Abedini and Tehran-based Homa Delvaray receiving international recognition for their studies in calligraphy and reworkings of Persia’s diverse traditions. Studio Kargah actively engages with this heritage, investing half of its time running not-for-profit projects that are aimed at documenting, archiving and studying the country’s history of graphic design through the print styles that were in circulation before the revolution. Kasaei shows me the studio’s collection of posters from the 1960s and 70s advertising the Shiraz Arts Festival, a music and arts event that drew in contributors such as John Cage and Ravi Shankar, and which was hosted by the Empress Farah of Iran. “These posters show that graphic design has always been strong in Iran. We had forgotten about it until recently because the sanctions, Iran-Iraq war and the years coming out of it put cultural activity to a stand-still,” says Kasaei. The strength of graphic design in Iran can be attributed to the country’s rich heritage in the decorative arts, but it also draws influence from the visual culture of the global powers present in Iran in the mid-20th century, not least the US and UK. The week I visit the city, Studio Kargah is busy preparing for Karnameh: Visual Culture of Iranian Children 1950-80, a major exhibition at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. “We exhibit our collections regularly to educate students and the public about Iran’s graphic design history,” Kasaei explains. Co-curated by Pourhosein and independent curators Ali Bakhtiari and Yashar Samimi Mofakham, the show includes print materials, children’s books and magazines, posters, and works by famous illustrators including Ardeshir Mohasses. The collection reveals the struggle for influence between the Russian and American colonial powers
and embroidery from Khuzestan,” says Parand. Much has been written about Iran’s Islamic dress code, which was made obligatory after the revolution. In line with religious tradition, women are required to cover their hair with a headscarf, conceal their arms and legs, and wear loose tunics when in public or in the presence of men who are not immediate family. A floor-length black cloak, or chador, is common. But a more individualistic contemporary fashion has emerged out of these restrictions, as well as the country’s rich and varied textile history. Today, Iranian fashion is finding a new expression. Parand’s practice involves both historical research and fieldwork into different weaving and embroidery techniques found across the country. To source her materials, she is active in setting up local cooperatives. “We train and teach women to work with these traditional techniques: many are losing these skills which are part of our heritage,” she explains. “In the early stages, I am present all the time, guiding and supervising the process. Once my own project is finished, the cooperatives continue to function, and I help them to sell their work.” Parand has four such cooperatives currently running in the regions of Yazd, Baluchestan, Khozestan and Qeshm. Other design industries also adopt this model of interaction with local craftsmen and artisans. “It’s one of the advantages of working in Iran rather than abroad,” says Djermaghian. “It gives me the freedom to experiment. I’ll develop the materials, techniques and prototypes in my studio before working with local craftsmen on producing the series.” In his designs for the partial reconstruction of the Liya Glass Factory, a float-glass manufacturer in the city of Qazvin, Djermaghian contracted its workers to produce the glass panels, along with other elements. This interest in locally sourced textiles and patterns has trickled down among an emerging generation of designers. “I’ve seen some excellent work coming out of Tehran’s young designers recently, based on reviving traditional textiles and techniques,” says Parand. This includes the designer Sanaz Nataj, who experiments with embroidery techniques from Qeshm. “As a child, I admired my mom’s embroidered pillowcase,” she says. “I fell in love with needlework even more when I travelled to Qeshm and other cities in Iran. My eyes were hooked on the handicrafts made by local women.” Nataj has also designed womenswear collections using motifs from Persian miniature painting, and pieces referencing the colourful, sequinned
Tina Khadkhodayan and Farokh Falsafi run workshops on urbanism and architecture.
in that period, with children’s magazines distributed in Russian and English. Experimentation with Persian visual culture and traditions also extends to the fashion industry, in particular to local couture houses. “People are rediscovering their identity,” says designer Shadi Parand, whose work has focused on reviving the textile and embroidery traditions from different regions of Iran. “When I first opened my atelier in the early 2000s, the demand was for Western-style clothing from the big European fashion houses. People were not interested in what could be found locally.” Parand’s studio and showroom are in the airy basement of a family home in northern Tehran. “My father built this house in the 1960s,” she says as we walk down its cool stone stairwell. A mother and daughter flip through issues of Elle and Marie Claire, and sip black tea as they wait for a fitting – far from the stereotypical image of Iranian women portrayed in the Western media. “I’m currently working on a wedding dress which includes handmade silk taffetas from Qeshm 98
Tehran is a patchwork of different building styles. Statesponsored murals are intended to beautify the cityâ€™s concrete walls, but also to transmit religious or political messages.
A portrait of the Ayatollah Sistani, aÂ powerful Iranian cleric, in Najaf, Iraq. Ansariniaâ€™s new project (right) explores the concept of creative destruction. Here, she is documenting a building that is set for demolition.
The New Media Society (left) and Platform 28 (right) are non-profit spaces in the Karim Khan district that offer critical approaches to art and design, drawing in students and creative professionals.
“Graphic design has always been strong in Iran. We had forgotten about it until recently.” —Aria Kasaei
Graphic designers Studio Kargah work with artists, galleries and museums to produce posters and art books.
Co-founder and creative director of Studio Kargah, Aria Kasaei.
trousers of the diverse minority groups living along the Persian Gulf. As attitudes towards the dress code have relaxed under the new president, a Tehran street-style culture has begun to emerge. To spot it, one must go to the gardens of the Cinema Museum in northern Tehran, or Café Nazdiq in Karim Khan, which also has an art bookstore and an adjoining contemporary art gallery. For women, street style at once adheres to the rules of the Islamic dress code, but also gives scope for individuality and self-expression. Women wear loose layers, to which they often add jewellery or bold colours and ornate prints. As such, they dress comfortably for what is often a hot and hectic city, while still breaking away from the homogenising force of the black chador. Although casual, this street style is expensive, and remains the preserve of the city’s middle class and elite. The style blog The Tehran Times documents 20and 30-somethings in a combination of high-street and luxury brands from Mango to Dior, as well as accessories
and costume jewellery from local designers. These Western brands have been hard to come by due to the embargo and are smuggled in by third-party salesmen through the Persian Gulf before being sold at premium prices in Tehran’s boutiques. Local fashion houses also cater to this growing trend. Tehran-based designers such as Anousheh Assefi of Anar Design and Mehrnoush Shahhosseini of Soha Design draw on affordable, mass-produced printed textiles from India and China that are found in the city’s bazaars. Shahhosseini’s most recent 2015/2016 collection, Kitsch, makes deliberate and self-conscious use of the excessively ornate and acidic colours from industrial textiles. She also references 1950s and 60s pop art, as well as ornamental patterns from the Qajar era in 19th-century Iran. Meanwhile, more critical approaches to design and architecture are being initiated, with the aim of educating a wider public. Two new spaces, Zaferani’s Platform 28 for Art + Architecture and the New Media Society by graphic designer Amirali Ghasemi have opened in Karim Khan in the last two years. They host regular talks, workshops and events aimed at engaging critically with issues related to art, design and urbanism. “We have a lot of commercial galleries in Tehran,” says Zaferani, “but there aren’t many spaces or programmes where people can engage critically with issues surrounding art, design and architecture. Every city needs that.” Tina Kadkhodayan also sees these spaces as contributing to the creative community in Tehran: “The New Media Society is very alive. It’s not institutionalised: it’s just people who are doing things.” A recent workshop at Platform 28, ‘Recycling Socialism’, explored Eastern Bloc countries and their sociopolitical changes after the fall of the USSR, as well as the design solutions that emerged from their participation in the global marketplace. “It’s a way of thinking about Iran’s own position and parallels that could be drawn as it comes out of the embargo,” says Zaferani. “We have dealt with issues regarding the city, such as urban development and pollution.” Zaferani, who is based between Tehran and Toronto, also hosts designers working internationally. “We do this to create a cultural exchange and bring in fresh perspectives on the city.” Such spaces often directly address the changing urban fabric of Tehran. The Grand Bazaar in the south of the city teems with people milling amongst the smells of kebabs, spices, flowers and exhaust fumes.
Just a few steps away, visitors can retreat to the gardens of the Golestan Palace, which became the seat of government in 1779 when the ruling Qajar family declared Tehran the new capital. Persian architecture is famed for its walled gardens – carefully manicured and tree-lined sanctuaries intended for reflection and leisure within the privacy of one’s home. Such was their reputation that the word “paradise” originates from the ancient Persian term “pairidaeza” (“enclosed garden”), with the most famous example being the gardens of the Taj Mahal. But the days of quiet reflection are long gone. A land reform programme set up in 1963 led to internal migration to the city and a population boom in the 1970s. Tehran is home to around 9 million people and has fast turned into a crowded urban sprawl, with traffic jams that can last up to three hours. Between 2005 and 2013, President Ahmadinejad oversaw a period of political instability and a crumbling economy (Iran’s currency, the rial, lost more than 80 per cent of its exchange value in the first 10 months of 2012). Against this background, wealthy Tehranis invested their assets in property. In 2015, 90 per cent of housing was built by the private sector. This has led to a rise in house prices, which have become unaffordable for poorer families. “There are empty apartment blocks across the city,” says Djermaghian. “It’s an easy way to make money, but it’s an urban vision that has failed.” From her studio in the quiet neighbourhood of Darabad, the artist Nazgol Ansarinia has devoted her recent work to Tehran’s built environment. Her Fabrications series (2013), in collaboration with the architect Roozbeh Elias-Azar, explores the statesponsored murals intended to beautify the city. “Today and in recent years, we’ve seen murals of traditional village scenes painted in a trompe l’oeil style, as if the landscape were actually there,” she says. “In the 80s, when I was growing up, they were dedicated to martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war.” Working with Elias-Azar, Ansarinia created 3D-printed models that combined the new buildings and the traditional architecture depicted in these murals. She is working on a new series about wide-scale demolition in the capital. “It’s based around the economic concept of creative destruction, whereby you destroy a building in order to create a bigger one that can house more people,” she says. “I am documenting sites and buildings in Tehran that have been prepared for demolition.” Although such projects are not creating new buildings, it is possible
that they may effect change at a local level, as can be seen elsewhere in the region. In May 2016, a group of activists led by a selection of urban planners, architects and designers set up an alternative political party in Beirut, Lebanon. The party, known as Beirut Madinati, stood in the municipal elections as a response to corruption, overbuilding and the destruction of heritage sites. Although its candidates did not win any seats, Beirut Madinati’s popularity gained international traction. Yet such a move is complicated in Tehran. As one artist, who prefers to remain anonymous, remarks, “Our galleries and art spaces need to have their programmes approved by the authorities; they can never be fully independent.” Yet, despite the obstacles arising from the local authorities and the country’s international relations, Tehran’s creative community has quietly flourished and is likely to start making important contributions to the global market. Its designers draw from the country’s rich visual heritage and their contemporary context, but their situation remains fragile. Although the sanctions were lifted in January, the agreement may be revoked if Iran does not comply with its terms and it is likely to remain difficult for Iranian artists to receive visas to exhibit in the West. “But the art scenes in Tehran, Beirut and Istanbul are so much more exciting these days than Paris,” says Kasaei, who travels often for exhibitions of his work. Perhaps it is Tehran’s instability, its political changes and its traumas that has allowed its creative and cultural environment to thrive? E N D
Investigations in Toasting
Introduction Earlwyn Covingtonâ€‚Illustrations Liam Cobb Special Project
To mark Disegno nine designers update the toa contemporary so are new typologie celebration that ble symbolism and 106
oâ€™s fifth birthday, were invited to asting ritual for ciety. The results es for communal end function, ritual, d social critique. Special Project
Tink-tink-tink! I would like to begin this discussion of the toasting ritual with alcohol and experience, rather than temperance or etiquette. Let’s start at home. I work in the global design industry and have a passion for contemporary art. I find myself, at the best of times, imbibing at least five or six times a week and multi-toasting throughout each evening. The 3rd arrondissement of Paris, where I live, has one of the highest concentrations of galleries in the world, yet even if a glass is raised at one of its various openings, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will clink against another and it is usually not refilled.
Within the gesture of raising a glass is a tacit acknowledgement that the resulting semi-ritual of the toast has been deemed acceptable by the urbane. I would suggest that the toast, a comparatively universal sign with past connotations of function or historic symbolism, has shed its meaning. There is no longer any pretence that the toast involves sloshing liquid between glasses as a guarantee against poisoning, nor is the sound of clinking glasses serving as a talisman to ward off the devil as in centuries past. These days, the toast is not rendered as a special action and when deployed in the context of art galleries or cultural institutions, it is little more than a vacuous gesture. An example of this type of uncharitable cheerlessness can be seen in the French artist Valérie Mréjen’s video, Blue Bar, in which acquaintances bump into each other during a gallery opening. The toast and its accoutrements, as well as the art, are suspiciously absent from Mréjen’s film. Human beings are heavily present, yet they communicate in an isolated and disjointed fashion. So does the toast loosen social inhibition by helping us become more familiar? Is raising a glass the essential social lubricant that compels physical action, moving us outwards from ourselves and towards each other? It is difficult to imagine a design event without the ritual raising of glasses that accompanies the many design weeks spanning the globe – and that’s without getting into the cultural prolongations of commercial and international trade shows, such as the Salone del Mobile in Milan or Maison & Objet, which now stretch from Paris to the Americas to Asia. Yet perhaps design can afford to transition traditions like the toast. The far-reaching aspects of the discipline, which brings together the commercial and creative, mean that design is a consciously social activity and profession – a great unifier. New products, systems and other orchestrations of design intent engross the world, and given the social and political implications of objects, we can be thankful that there are creatives and industries that strive towards manufacturing something more than dissatisfaction. The creative industry is toasting something progressively personal. While the supposition behind the work of the artist may be intensely personal, it is not necessarily progressive. The designer, by contrast, is an enlightened generalist. The nature of design is to bring together the necessary elements to either industrialise an object or to create limited editions, 108
such that while the artist may wait for the collector or the gallerist, the designer moves forward without any mediator but their own resourcefulness. The designer adapts, all the while remaining a part of the historic implications of the objects, functions and uses that surround us. Yet the designer modifies those implications towards a tacit understanding with the user. The gesture, the action, is the triumphant raising of comprehension towards the other. We can toast to great business, to encountering new people, to hearing good news and tip fondly to someone (un)known, all the while performing an inexhaustible ritual with glasses clinking. The collective repertoire of birthdays, anniversaries, housewarmings, et al., compounded by professional endeavours, means that we perhaps toast too often, yet something that has been socially designed is an action worthy of reflection. In both professional and personal realms toasting exists as an expression of genuine camaraderie and a proof of proper confidence. It is the assurance of a new life, marriage, year, journey, job or project. It is a materialised gesture to celebrate an action where a promise has been honoured. Taking us beyond ritual, the toast celebrates and embraces the unknown, revealing a manifestly human desire to meet tomorrow without fear. The act of toasting anchors the present in manifold possibilities. And, in its essential optimism, so does design. On the occasion of Disegno’s fifth anniversary, the editors extended an invitation to a small selection of designers to reflect on the idea of the toast and to design potential alternatives more adapted to contemporary life. The undercurrent running through each design is an implicit desire to reinterpret the toast in an age where social cohesion, confidence in the future and collective gratification are (re)considered. The designers have come up with solutions that range from the material to the immaterial, to the toast as the completion of the drink itself, and even as an expression of the democratic promise. They have translated meaning through the materialisation of ideas that bring human beings closer to an understanding of each other, and in the process deepen social inclusion regardless of cultural context. For a designer to raise issues that sometimes take into account words, brimming objects (or plastic cups), physical gestures involving the notion of two or many participants, and consideration of unexpected
outcomes is a celebratory challenge. The 21st century can, so far, be best described as a collision between geopolitical choices of remoteness and the more disconcerting shift towards individual seclusion in response to previously accepted universal behaviours or models. The pervasive and all-too-rapid nature of digital connection, of skimming, scanning and scrolling. Of boredom. Of playing. The rapidity of access that leads to adulterated access. The designer changes the game. Moving beyond any prescriptive discourse, each designer has provoked an individual design vocabulary that stretches the meaning of the toast. Attention has been paid to the critical role design may take by establishing a context in which gesture, environment and objects might be rendered by the designer’s preoccupations with contemporary life. They bring us to raise our own glasses, not to what design can do, but to thoughtful, fearless consideration of what it should be.
Marije Vogelzang For a number of years the food designer Marije Vogelzang has been toying with the toasting ritual in the events and installations that she runs as part of her practice. Vogelzang hands her guests a champagne flute that is tied to all of the other glasses by a single, long ribbon. “It means that all the guests are connected to one another,” says Vogelzang. “It’s simple, but immediately gives a sense of togetherness. If you need to freshen up, you have to give your glass to your neighbour to hold for you.” The effect is to engender interaction between guests, thereby heightening toasting’s function as a social lubricant. Symbolically, the communality of the toast becomes embodied by a single ribbon fluttering across a room.
Jacopo Sarzi “In these days of hate and terror, could the toast become the best symbol of solidarity, respect and willingness to learn from the unknown in front of us?” Jacopo Sarzi, a London-based designer, identifies the democratic nature of the toast as essential to its appeal, yet argues that this egalitarianism could be extended. Toasting is often tied to alcohol, which can prove alienating for those who do not drink. As such, Sarzi has proposed a series of vessels that conceal their contents. Rather than communicating the drink they contain, the vessels reflect the nature of the toast they are being used for – be it celebratory, romantic or secretive. “The choice of the drink becomes detached from the act itself,” notes Sarzi. “It’s a way of respecting differences in people’s beliefs and tastes.”
It is said that the first vineyard planted by mankind was watered by the devil with the blood of four sacred animals: the goat, the lion, the ape and the hog. The sacrifice transformed the sweet juice into wine.
Ever since, their spirits haunt us â€Ś
To appease their unfortunate souls we continually raise a glass and make a toast in their honour, hoping that the clinking sound will spare us the curse of being permanently possessed.
Felipe Ribon Rather than attempt to redesign the toasting ritual, the designer Felipe Ribon centred his proposal on shifting our perspective on the existing practice. Adapting an old folk story, Ribon has presented a fable in which alcohol contains the spirits of four animals. These spirits possess the drinker and pass on their traits as stages of drunkenness – the goat (tranquillity), the lion (confidence), the monkey (silliness) and the hog (slovenly desolation). “I’m currently working on superstitious belief and see that as a starting point for design,” says Ribon. “I want this story to shift our perspective of drinking. Objects are just the starting point for a designer – images, shapes and stories are all things that we can transform and manipulate to create something new.”
Matali Crasset Designer Matali Crasset’s proposal aims to lift toasting outside of traditional conviviality and to instead embody its values within an architectural context. Based on Charlotte Perriand’s design for her La maison au bord de l’eau beach house (1934), Crasset has proposed a tripartite structure in which three units open out onto a central space. Without communal activity in this space, the structure makes no architectural sense: it is only activated by shared experience. “I wanted to enlarge the moment of the toast and bring its ideology into daily life,” says Crasset. “It’s a proposal about how we might organise spaces. At present, you have private spaces and public spaces, but that division needn’t be retained. Things can be conceived differently.”
Emilie Baltz “My proposal is completely absurd,” says the New York-based food designer Emilie Baltz, who has created #Toastie, a means of converting social ritual into meme. “It’s a very dystopian view of how we are drunk on mass media.” To create a #Toastie, participants switch on the record function on their mobile phones, preferably with the slow-motion effect activated, and point their cameras at one another. The phones are then clinked together, with the resulting video uploaded to social media. “Toasting is an absurd thing, without true function, but it does have stimulation, pleasure, connection,” says Baltz. “Our interactions are now in a digital space and it’s there that these feelings are now most clearly expressed. The most natural thing for this project felt like making this ridiculous fist bump of a phone movie.” Special Project
Adam Nathaniel Furman The efficacy of simulation is at the core of the architect and designer Adam Nathaniel Furman’s toasting proposal. “The toast is an artificial way of marking closeness that operates a little like politeness in society,” he says. “You fake it until you make it, but that simulation can nevertheless stand in for a profound moment.” Furman created glasses that are shaped to slot together organically, mimicking the form of spooning human bodies. The toast may be atavistic, Furman suggests, yet it is too vital a reflection of human emotion to be abandoned. “I’m a fan of design silently embodying or representing complex human interactions,” he says. “These vessels are fun, but they’re simultaneously taking on the idea of the whole condition of toasting being a simulation of togetherness.”
Sebastian Bergne Toasting is a physical action rooted in a face-to-face meeting, yet it is threatened with anachronism in a time when relationships are gradually migrating onto social media. In response to this, the industrial designer Sebastian Bergne has devised Unison, an app that allows for networked digital toasting. “The phenomenon of social media is incredible and its power is undeniable,” says Bergne. “People enjoy speaking online and toasting digitally feels like a logical extension of that. You might start by connecting with friends, which is the way social media always starts, but that can lead you on to hook up with people who you don’t know. That kind of spontaneous connection is what we need at the moment given what’s been going on in the world.”
Formafantasma Implicit in redesigning the toast is the idea that designers can shape our social rituals. “But individually developed design rarely plays a good role in the invention of rituals,” note Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin, the co-founders of Amsterdam-based practice Formafantasma. “Rituals are usually collectively designed within a community over a long span of time.” With this reservation in mind, Farresin and Trimarchi chose to base their proposal around lightly modifying the existing ritual, removing the need for glasses and drinks and replacing them with a series of simple hand gestures: “As a continuation of Bruno Munari’s Speak Italian: The Fine Art of the Gesture, we propose two toasting gestures to be performed collectively and without objects.”
BCXSY The Amsterdam-based practice of designers Boaz Cohen and Sayaka Yamamoto conceive of the toast as not simply an adjunct to drinking, but as the completion of the drink itself. BCXSY’s proposal involves two martini glasses filled with a red cabbage-based cocktail, atop which float small cups that are made of ice and filled with lemon juice. When the glasses clink together, the juice spills into the cocktail and triggers a chemical reaction: the drink turns blue in response to the increased acidity of the liquid. “We enjoy these little customs in daily life,” says Cohen. “Toasting is quite intimate and something happens within that action on a symbolic level. We wanted to reflect that as a visual transformation. There’s something magical about seeing a colour changing.”
Pre-Commerce Images from Veniceâ€™s first department store, Fondaco dei Tedeschi, taken before the brands moved in.
Introduction and interview Johanna Agerman Rossâ€‚Photographs Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti Gallery
By the early part of the 20th century, most major cities in Europe had a department store – Tietz in Berlin, À L’Innovation in Brussels, Magazzini Contratti in Milan, La Samaritaine in Paris and Harrods in London. All were located in custom-designed buildings with central heating and electric lighting – luxuries of the day. But Venice, with its canals and narrow pedestrian streets never benefited from one of these urban mod cons or “Ladies’ Paradises” as Émile Zola dubbed them. Until now. In 2008, the Benetton Group purchased the 16th‑century Fondaco dei Tedeschi just by the Rialto Bridge on the Canal Grande in Venice. The building had most recently served as the city’s post office, but Benetton wanted to explore the idea of turning it into a hotel. With this in mind they brought Dutch architects OMA onboard to consult on its future use.
“Every time we inserted a new element into the building, we also excavated, revealing the real measure of the history of the building. We reveal all the layers.” SILVIA SANDOR
“We were against the hotel scenario: it would have become closed to the public or, even worse, fragmented into small apartments for rich tourists,” says OMA partner Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli. “We proposed instead to inject a consolidated, modern urban function such as a department store into Venice. We did not want the Fondaco to become a tourist trap or a parasite, but rather an urban device that offered a range of activities for everyday life: a place to buy a book or some bread, or just drink a coffee.” Over the last 30 years, Venice has experienced dramatic depopulation. In the 1980s, 120,000 people used to live in the city but now that number is just 55,000. Simultaneously, Venice has seen a sharp increase in daily tourism – people who stay outside the city but travel on its tourist-choked canals, visit its tourist attractions and eat in its tourist-friendly trattorias. As a result, infrastructures designed to serve the community have been sidestepped for high‑end hotel developments and art foundations for luxury brands. In this scenario, Fondaco dei Tedeschi could make a difference. As well as being an experiment in community building, while not cheating the developer out of the potential for making a good return on its significant investment, 124
Fondaco dei Tedeschi has been one of OMA’s most prominent preservation projects to date. As discussed in Disegno #10 preservation has been both an intellectual and practical concern for OMA over the last decade.1 In Fondaco dei Tedeschi many of its discussions around preservation have been played out in real time with layer after layer being uncovered to reveal the very mixed fabric of the building, from the 16th-century foundation, when it served as a German trading post, to the concrete beams that made it possible to turn it into a post office in the 1930s. “Our intervention starts from this question: What is authentic?” says Pestellini. “You could argue that everything is authentic, from the 16th century, through the 20th-century transformation up to our intervention. We decided to show the degrees of authenticity accumulated in the Fondaco.” This set of images take us through the Fondaco dei Tedeschi before the debris of commerce and customers filled its spaces. It’s a look at the different layers of the building and demonstrates OMA’s careful archeology. The images are accompanied by comments on the project by OMA partner Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli and project architect Silvia Sandor. 1 See ‘Preserve, Erase, Destruct’ in Disegno #10, pp. 189‑202.
â€œInitially we proposed a hinged escalator in the main courtyard, but the heritage commission considered the proposal obscene. They wanted to preserve the courtyard, but the irony is that we had to demolish more of the building by placing it here.â€? IPPOLITO PESTELLINI LAPARELLI
“In the 1930s every room was lifted on hydraulic pistons, the structure replaced with reinforced concrete connected by vertical posts. Concrete trusses replaced original wooden trusses to open up what were some of the first openplan offices.” IPPOLITO PESTELLINI LAPARELLI
â€œWhen this was a post office you used to come here to pay your bills. I went to university in Venice so used it all the time, but only the ground and first floor were accessible. The rest of the building was semi-abandoned.â€? SILVIA SANDOR
“The stairs are a completely new structure that we introduced. They’re clad in natural and oxidized brass, and over time the materials will provide different gradients, just like the walls on the top floor.” SILVIA SANDOR
“The criticism we received at the beginning of this project was largely due to people thinking we were touching something preserved intact through history, but it’s not true: this building has come to be what it is with several centuries of change.” IPPOLITO PESTELLINI LAPARELLI
Reviews Play:groundNYC Words Amber Winick The Aftermath of Brexit Words Douglas Murphy The Great Animal Orchestra Words James Taylor-Foster Kindle Oasis Words Alex Wiltshire
Play:groundNYC Words Amber Winick
A junk playground on Governors Island, New York, prompts consideration of a progressivist history of play in 20th-century design. On a recent sweltering day in New York City, my three-year-old daughter Alice stacked PVC piping in a rubber tire, crossed a plank over a sizeable muddied puddle and made a bouquet from the weeds and wildflowers growing between the junk. We were visiting a 14,000sqm experimental playground on Governors Island, a now-public landmass with a long and varied history that takes in an original Native American population, military and coast guard bases, and involvement in the 18th-century Battle of Brooklyn. Today, it is accessible by ferry from Brooklyn and Manhattan. Play:groundNYC, as the new site is called, throws cautious, overly prescribed play to the wind, instead taking its cues from a handful of the 20th century’s most innovative and child-centric urban design experiments. Frustrated by how lacklustre playground spaces and equipment (slides, swings and seesaws) had become, some 20th-century designers upended accepted ideas and experimented with new forms, materials and spaces. While their ideas didn’t always stick, a few have become standouts for today’s urban planners, designers and child advocacy experts. By letting kids have their way with a patch of earth, plenty of refuse, and a few tools, the organisers of Play:groundNYC are giving credibility to the notion that play spaces can be spontaneous, everchanging and even educational. In progressive educational circles, children are understood as active – rather than passive – learners who thrive socially and cognitively when they are given the freedom to engage in open-ended play. The 20th century’s most prominent educational theorists, from Jean Piaget (whose theory of cognitive development revolutionised
the way we understand childhood and the developing brain) to Friedrich Froebel (often called the inventor of the kindergarten), all agree that doing and interacting with things stimulates learning. And as anyone who has spent time with children has probably observed, this kind of learning comes quite naturally. “Children,” the critic Walter Benjamin wrote in 1924, “are particularly fond of haunting any site where things are being visibly worked on. They are irresistibly drawn to the detritus generated by building, gardening, housework, tailoring or carpentry.” So when the Danish landscape designer Carl Theodor Sørensen observed that “children play wonderfully on vacant lots” in his 1931 book, Parkipolitik, he certainly wasn’t the first to notice. Nor was Sørensen the first to observe that playing with open-ended materials and loose parts could be cognitively beneficial, the way that blocks have been celebrated for cultivating abstract thought. But Sørensen was the first to make free and voluntary child’s play a landscape-design issue: “Perhaps we should try to set up (on unbuilt sites) a kind of ‘junk playground’ in appropriate areas, not too small in size, well closed off from its surroundings by thick greenery, where we should gather all sorts of old scrap that the children from the apartment blocks could be allowed to work with. There could be branches and waste from tree polling and bushes, old cardboard boxes, planks and boards, ‘dead’ cars, old tires and lots of other things.” Sørensen’s career spanned the rise and evolution of modernism in the 20th century. Working with the majority of the leading architects of Danish functionalism,
Sørensen shared their belief that architecture should be spatially and socially useful. So when 900 children showed up on the opening day of his skrammellegeplads (junk playground) in August 1943, in the midst of the German occupation, it was clear that he had hit on something significant. Set within an embankment of trees in Emdrup Vænge, in the north of
Frustrated by how lacklustre playground spaces had become, 20th-century designers upended accepted ideas and experimented with new forms. Copenhagen, the skrammellegeplads was designed as a space for children to express their “primitive” urges in an otherwise tidy and tightly sanctioned city. Bits of building debris and branches were made available for children to use as they wished. Some built houses and forts, others took objects apart or set them alight. Others stacked tires, pallets and crates high into the air, jumping from them and knocking them over in turn. Although adults compared the space to “the trenches of the First World War”, the Emdrup site was an enormous success with children. Contemporary accounts estimated that 200 to 400 came to play daily. A playworker was on hand to help them navigate the environment, supplying them with tools like hammers and saws, and emboldening them to tinker, interact, explore and take risks. Compared to the tidy housing blocks of Copenhagen, junk-filled Emdrup was another world. As in Emdrup, the organisers of Play:groundNYC transformed an orderly
Play:groundNYC on Governors Island was founded to provide a space for unstructured play in an otherwise regimented urban environment.
space by bringing in cast-away objects, like broken toys, tires and crutches, and building supplies, including plywood, ropes, piping and pallets. And like Emdrup, this is a child-run space. A small row of trees partially blocks the view, creating a peaceful space for the adults outside and a sense of privacy for the children within. A few playworkers mill about. I watch as they hand out hammers and show a pair of eight-year-old boys how to saw a sheet of plywood. Meanwhile, a six-year-old girl jumps between pallets, then joins my daughter and a group of other kids as they fill a stack of tires with bits of plastic and pipe. According to co-organiser Reilly Wilson, a doctoral student and researcher of children’s environments, a major motivation for creating Play:groundNYC was to provide a sense of freedom and self-direction in a tightly managed urban environment. “It is so rare in NYC to be able to let your child take risks and ‘run wild’ without social sanction from other adults.” Free, spontaneous children’s play is at the centre of the junk/adventure
playground concept, but it is also inextricably linked to violence in the adult world. After visiting Emdrup in 1946, Lady Allen of Hurtwood brought the idea back to Britain, promoting it with an article for the November 1946 issue of Picture Press titled ‘Why not use our Bomb Sites Like This?’ (She also gave the idea an image-makeover, changing the name from junk playground to adventure playground.) She proposed that post-war Britain designate some of its bomb sites for children, believing this was a way to transform blighted urban spaces with cathartic, constructive play. As a landscape architect, pacifist and children’s welfare advocate, Allen was interested in helping children redefine rubble – through play they would process and repair the physical and psychological damage caused by war. The first of her playgrounds, built around 1948 and located in Camberwell, London, received extensive press coverage and was celebrated for addressing the growing problem of juvenile delinquency. Likewise, in the 1950s, her Lollard
Adventure Playground in Lambeth became a powerful symbol of renewal as children transformed a bombed-out school. After seeing a series of photographs of youngsters playing in the severely bomb-damaged and dilapidated East End of London, the English architects Alison and Peter Smithson became fascinated by children’s ability to make connections within existing aspects of the environment. The Smithsons were critical of the prevailing modernist dogma of the rational city with separate functions promoted by the Congrès internationaux d’architecture moderne (CIAM), and epitomised by the wide apartment blocks and landscaped public spaces in Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse plan published in 1933. Instead, the Smithsons advocated a more organic vision of urban design, guided by “human association”. In 1952, they became involved with the Independent Group, a radical organisation of young architects, artists, writers and filmmakers, and at the 1953 CIAM conference in Aix-en-Provence they
encouraging teamwork and independent discovery.
Photographs by Philipp Klaus.
Junk playgrounds are designed to generate a sense of selfâ€‘determination by allowing decision-making, as well as
presented their ideas in a visual statement titled Urban Re-Identification. The work offered a new architectural vision that paralleled the intuitive spatial connections they saw in the way children played, showing how play linked various elements of the city – homes, streets, neighbourhoods and beyond. It pointed a way to a new architecture and urban design, and an alternative to the established modernist stance, which the group believed threatened to create sterile cities devoid of community spirit. In Amsterdam, Aldo van Eyck also experimented with the improvisatory possibilities of playground design. Van Eyck’s work made use of existing spaces, defining environments without closing them off from the community. Between 1947 and 1978, he designed hundreds of playgrounds in Amsterdam’s derelict and under-used spaces, transforming them with minimalist and geometric equipment that invited children to play imaginatively and physically. Designed to be modular, the equipment added to the ad-hoc feel of the playgrounds; the basic elements – sand pits, tumbling bars, stepping stones, chutes and hemispheric jungle gyms – could be endlessly recombined depending on the requirements of the local environment. The last century has witnessed this kind of progressive play space spread throughout Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Britain, Israel and even the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja, yet the United States has been slow to join the experiment. From the 1950s through to the early 70s, designers like Richard Dattner, Charles Forberg, Isamu Noguchi and Victor Papanek tried in vain to propose alternative designs for US playgrounds, emphasising their sculptural, sensorial and abstract possibilities. But these designs were shelved after critics – among them Robert Moses, the infamous “master builder” of New York – complained that they were too dangerous, dramatic and expensive to be carried out. In 1965, the year that Thomas Hoving became the parks commissioner of New York City, Allen toured the playgrounds along the east coast of the US. She criticised the average American playground for being “an administrator’s heaven and a child’s hell”. In the 1970s, New York’s mayor John V. Lindsay offered a few vacant lots
for play experimentation, but they didn’t last long. Now, decades and a continent away from their original inspiration, the Play:groundNYC group is experimenting with radical forms of improvisatory architecture and play, and the play spaces have been a hit with NYC’s communities. The scheme started as a pop-up in 2014. Play:groundNYC’s organisers repurposed
Even in one of the most visibly violent moments in US history, an ingrained fear of risk remains a central theme in protective, litigious America. neglected urban spaces, endowing them with a socially progressive, child-centric mission. Before Governors Island, there were several pop-ups, including in Fort Greene Park, in Prospect Park and at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. They rented a truck and gathered materials from the curb at night. The Play:groundNYC organisers advertised their project as a way to “foster long term responsibility to [children’s] community and world.” Roger A. Hart, an expert in children’s play and development and a professor of environmental psychology at the City University of New York Graduate Center, said in a recent New York Times article that the current enthusiasm for adventure play in New York may reflect a “nagging doubt” about children’s tightly controlled and over-scheduled lives: “There has been a loss of child-initiated activity.” This sentiment crosses gender, economic and racial lines, becoming even more pressing and poignant for children of colour. “I very strongly feel that the over-policing of low-income children of colour warrants junk play spaces for them as much as the German Occupation warranted a space for young people in Emdrup,” says co-organiser Reilly Wilson. “Parents of black and brown children in NYC today share the very real fear that their own children’s play behaviours might be fatally misunderstood by police.” Even in one of the most visibly violent moments in US history, an ingrained fear of risk remains a central theme in protective, litigious America. Yet advocates maintain that actual danger is just an illusion and it is precisely the risk involved in adventure playgrounds
that develops decision-making power, enhances teamwork and gives young people permission to take control. As Allen opined in her 1965 tour of American playgrounds, “It is better to risk a broken leg than a broken spirit.” With the southern end of imposing, gridded Manhattan in the distance, there is a thrilling (if chaotic) beauty in seeing children build and un-build their own small worlds out of bits that the city chewed up and spat out. “Of all the things I have helped to realise,” said Sørensen, “the junk playground is the ugliest; yet for me it is the best and most beautiful of my works.” Sørensen was the first to interpret the playground as a collaborative landscape whose aesthetics and formal compositional concerns should largely be left to the child. I watch as Alice brings a bucket to the tire and PVC mound that a group of kids are now calling apartments. A girl takes the bucket and hangs it over a pipe. Nearby, a group of boys looks up. The biggest one opens his mouth: “That’s actually pretty good.” Play:groundNYC is open on Governors Island, New York.
The Aftermath of Brexit Words Douglas Murphy
Our media outlets are designed objects, with clearly defined aims, methodologies and effects. But what happens when those designs stop working? In a referendum on 23 June 2016, the people of the UK decided 52 to 48 per cent to leave the European Union. It’s not entirely clear why. Individual reasons for voting were tied up in a tight ball of conflicting arguments, beliefs, emotions and grievances, while various powers and influential groups attempted to channel and divert this chaotic mess towards specific – sometimes opaque – goals. Winning had initially seemed an easy task for David Cameron and the Remain establishment, but in a rapidly shifting media and political environment, the unthinkable occurred. Is there any hope of untangling what happened? Once everything was set in place for the referendum in early 2016, the public were buffeted and bombarded by all the
Suspicious and unattractive people who make up the political class grin out at you from cheap glossy paper. different actors attempting to sway them. Various parties made political broadcasts, the campaign leaders took part in televised debates, hustings were held, politicians travelled up and down the country, leaflets were pushed through letter boxes and volunteers phoned around and knocked on doors. These quotidian political activities are still the most vital part of any campaign and yet they exist in a clunky, unsophisticated aesthetic world, barely removed from takeaway leaflets or estate agent’s brochures. World-changing decisions are presented with almost no concern for visual impact, as the suspicious and unattractive people who make up the political class grin out at you from cheap glossy paper, promises
and paths to the future laid out as though they were pizza toppings. But political campaigns invariably take place in a maelstrom of news. Whereas direct messages from politicians are often startling in their crudeness, the mainstream media creates a hall of mirrors in which every message is distorted and every gesture taken the wrong way. Britain tends to be proud of its history of free speech, as patrolled and guaranteed by the rule of law, but the question of political reality in Britain is often as wildly distorted as in any dictatorship. We find it natural to think that newspapers, television channels and other sources of current factual information have a “line” that they push; that there is a definite and deliberate agenda to every word that they print or say. Take the newspapers. Britain is still one of the highest per capita consumers of newspapers in the world, after Japan and the Scandinavian countries. But despite the illustrious history – the coffee shop debates and the heyday of Fleet Street – the industry is in its death throes, with circulations plummeting and profits evaporating. Many of the papers are now effectively loss-making investments to promote the ideals of their owners, a motley crew, including porn baron Richard Desmond (The Daily Express), Viscount Rothermere (The Daily Mail), the tax-exile Barclay Brothers (The Telegraph) and of course the omnipresent Rupert Murdoch (The Times, The Sun). All of these papers took editorial lines that emphasised the benefits of leaving the EU, frequently as part of a long campaign against the institution itself. The right-wing press has long been obsessed with immigration, especially that of Muslims, as well as being deeply
upset about the supposed existential threat to British sovereignty that the EU represented. On this level, then, the way they tacked throughout the referendum was no surprise, but there will always remain an open question about motivations – when the Mail runs an article about immigrants stealing jobs, does Viscount Rothermere, or does his editor Paul Dacre, believe any of this? Or are they just jockeying for position within the British elite, taking editorial positions as part of influencing the political process for their own (usually economic) benefit? Murdoch is the classic quandary here, a ruthless bottom-line tycoon who also appears to have a festering desire to humiliate the British establishment that he felt shunned him in his younger years. The other question about the news media is the extent to which they lead public opinion. The Sun loves to claim that it influences elections, but in many cases its endorsements are safe bets, especially in the years of Tory disarray in the mid 2000s, when there really was only one game in town. It seems more fair to say that the papers cater largely to their audiences – note the preponderance of pension stories in right-wing papers whose purchasers tend to be older – but push heavily on issues that relate to their proprietors. This explains the constant demonisation of the benefits system, as media moguls tend to be the sort who resent paying any taxes whatsoever. However this doesn’t quite explain the heavy racism of the right-wing papers, and the constant demonisation of immigrants and foreigners in general. It’s impossible to disentangle the cart from the horse here: the extent to which the prejudices of Brits are led by their
Rosalie Schweiker and Mia Frostner for EU-UK.info #GBisNOisland.
media intake is the sort of thing that can perhaps never be measured in isolation. On the other side of the debate, the news media that advocated remaining in the EU tend to be owned by groups rather than individuals – The Financial Times (recently bought by Nikkei), which is the mouthpiece of capitalism in the UK and The Guardian (The Scott Trust), the only even nominally left-wing broadsheet. This meant that although the Remain campaign had the majority of parliament on its side, it was notably out-voiced in the media. It could basically count upon the entire British business community; time and again, economic heavyweights declared that leaving the EU was pointless, that it would create massive uncertainty and would damage Britain’s standing on the world stage. Economists joined in, as did leaders of other countries – even Barack Obama advised the UK not to leave, in the tone of an exasperated father passing advice to a surly teen. In terms of expertise and power, the entire endeavour was completely weighted to one side, and the pathetic, motley list of chancers who were signatories to “we’ll be fine” letters in the right-wing press was testament to this. But Leave had “Take Back Control”. This slogan, apparently devised by Michael Gove’s henchman Dominic Cummings, seared through all the arguments like a hot knife, embedding itself in the guts of the public. Who in today’s world doesn’t feel that their life is buffeted by immense forces beyond their grasp? And who wouldn’t want to be able to mould their own destiny? “Take Back Control” was a perfect attack based on weakness – there was no hope for the Leave campaign to win on empirical grounds, so they abandoned that territory completely. When Gove delivered his infamous “I think people in this country have had enough of experts,” the tables were turned – what should have been a simple case of demolishing the erratic arguments of the fringes of UK politics suddenly became a question of how a distant elite could possibly convince the public that what was best for them was best for all. All of a sudden, warnings of a post-EU recession coming from the head of a global bank could be dismissed as irrelevant nonsense. The problem, however, is that it’s easy to see this in hindsight. The fact that the
hyper-emotional Leave campaign was victorious was impossible to guarantee ahead of time. Had it gone the other way, we’d see it as a dangerous strategy forced by limited options. But this is how politics has to work – strategies have to be made with a certain blindness, in a state of vicious competition, and the tumultuous luck of the victor is subsequently recast as brilliance and foresight. If this sounds like it might be a similar process to the creation of a memorable slogan for a product, or a design that sets the standard for all subsequent efforts in its field, the events of 16 June – just days before the vote – show how much darker the forces involved can be. That morning, UKIP leader Nigel Farage unveiled a poster for the fringe Leave.eu campaign: below the slogan “Breaking point” was a recent photograph of a long line of Syrian refugees crossing from Croatia to Slovenia. It took all of a few minutes for people to note that it bore a striking resemblance to images from a Nazi propaganda film describing refugees as “parasites, undermining
Suddenly, warnings of a post-EU recession coming from the head of a global bank could be dismissed as irrelevant nonsense. their host countries”, which should have been an utter embarrassment for Farage, if he hadn’t already made a career out of rhetorically dancing at the edge of full-blown racism. But even as the furore unfolded, news came that the MP Jo Cox had been assassinated in the street by a man who later gave his name in court as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” The murderer of Jo Cox apparently screamed “Britain first” as he attacked: Britain First is a racist far-right group which, despite having only a handful of active members, has made an impact through the generation of patriotic memes that are regularly shared by millions of people on social media. It has been at the front line of the major changes in political campaigning that the EU referendum demonstrated – the inability of the traditional sources of political information to maintain their control over its flow. As the internet becomes ever more ubiquitous, two parallel processes are
occurring. On the one hand, the sources of information are getting wider. Old media are having to enter a new paradigm where the barriers to production are much lower, but extracting value far more difficult. This means that there are a greater number of agents producing consumable information, with a much more varied set of views expressed. The bottleneck whereby one needed access to mass-production printing or broadcasting rights is now almost eliminated. On the other hand, however, there is evidence that the range of views that people expose themselves to is becoming more restricted, that people seek content that reflects their pre‑existing attitudes, which might be where the likes of Britain First come in. The effect of these developments is that the weight that used to attach to certain voices naturally is becoming less apparent. Perhaps this is what is meant by having “had enough of experts”. The term “post-truth” politics has been coined for this phenomenon. On the one hand, this immunity to expertise and rational argument does feel novel. The Leave campaign’s consistent refusal to back down on the demonstrably erroneous £350m a week supposedly recoverable by leaving the EU is a grave example, but it’s especially worrying when viewed alongside the Donald Trump phenomenon in the United States – a candidate whose shallowness and wild irrationality seem to matter nothing to supporters, as long as they feel he is sticking it to “the establishment”. But demagoguery is nothing new. Looking at the world, who would genuinely say that the establishment has been delivering on its traditional pact that the elite’s rising tide will lift everyone along with it? Perhaps post-truth politics is just a new name for the old volatility of societies that have lost all faith in their elites. The collapse of the established hierarchies of political communication is clearly a dangerous phenomenon, but it also contains seeds of hope, as millions of younger people become energised by this apparent flattening. There are signs that this new malleability can be put to the service of new social movements and political causes, but we can only wait and see as it unfolds, taking us with it.
The Great Animal Orchestra Words James Taylor-Foster
The soundscape ecologies of artist Bernie Krause are made manifest in an exhibition that challenges the dominance of visual information in understanding spatial environments. In 1943 Antoine de Saint-Exupéry published Le Petit Prince, an illustrated novella for children. De Saint-Exupéry was an aristocratic literary-aviator who rose to the status of a French national hero following his disappearance in 1944; his protagonist the Little Prince hails from Asteroid B-612 and, upon landing on Earth, presents his unique perspective on the planet, its inhabitants, and their occupations to the author. The narrative gradually unfolds from a children’s book into an allegorical tale about human nature. On his travels across the solar system the Prince meets and learns from a variety of conceited grown-ups, from a drunkard to a geographer. Yet it is his conversation with a fox which has come to resonate in the public consciousness. “What is essential,” the fox suggests, “is invisible to the eye.” The American sound artist Bernie Krause was heavily influenced by the maxim of the fox while growing up in the American Midwest during the 1940s and 50s. Upon reading Le Petit Prince, Krause describes himself as having been struck by the notion of the sounds of the unseen natural world – “The Great Animal Orchestra”, as he describes it – seeding an idea that many decades later his recordings and pioneering research within soundscape ecology would echo in reality. This year, in Jean Nouvel’s Fondation Cartier building at the edge of Paris, Krause’s ambitious concept for an exhibition of the unseen has been manifested for the first time. It’s no secret that we exist in a predominantly visual culture. When it comes to depictions of the natural world, for example, images – static or moving stills – are often considered to provide the most truthful reality: the lens never
lies. We have become accustomed to interpreting the world through frames and, in so doing, the art of careful listening is neglected. John Berger argued in his 1972 television series Ways of Seeing that “seeing comes before words,” and this idea proved both accessible and influential. But by prioritising vision in this way, Berger’s argument fails to acknowledge the role of hearing and the supplementary spatial information it affords the eye. For places that we might never visit, such as the rainforests of Brazil or the Arctic tundra, we are left with little choice but to rely on a two-dimensional artificial render of a multi-dimensional world. In this sense, Krause’s exhibition, titled The Great Animal Orchestra, represents an exciting challenge to the ways in which designers and architects understand and configure the world – think of the emerging art of sound sculpture, or spatial acoustics (an often overlooked craft in the architectural sphere). In this sense, the exhibition represents a test of what it is possible to glean from sound. As a child, Krause was a skilled violinist and a student of classical composition who evolved his conventional musical training when he joined New York folk quartet The Weavers in 1963. He later pushed for (and eventually pioneered) the use of analogue synthesisers in sound recordings and movie scores, influencing the recorded work of Van Morrison to Brian Eno, as well as contributing to the soundtracks of the likes of Apocalypse Now and Rosemary’s Baby. The synthesiser became the most pivotal instrument of his career and Krause was at the vanguard of the commercialisation of the Moog Synthesiser, a machine
which used voltage-controllable modules (in place of today’s digital circuits) to oscillate sound waves as they were played. It represented a significant leap in recording technology: in one fell swoop, a whole new range of possibilities for those musicians, performers and record-artists astute enough to harness them became available. Krause rode this wave for some years and it was during a recording project for Warner Bros – a commission which was released in 1970 as In a Wild Sanctuary – that he ventured into a seemingly silent forest outside San Francisco. Krause connected two stereo microphones to a recorder and donned his headphones. What he heard would prove to be an epiphany of sorts: a cacophony of sound previously inaccesible to him. Krause had experienced his first soundscape and, in that moment, decided “to never spend another indoors.” It also marked his transition from pop-recording and cinematic-scoring to academic bioacoustics and, eventually, the emerging field of soundscape ecology. For Krause, soundscapes (a term coined by the composer and environmentalist Raymond Murray Schafer) are layered and allencompassing – the opposite of, and far more telling than, a two-dimensional still. These orbs of virtual acoustic data are formed of three principle sources: the first – which Krause describes as geophonic sounds – are those which are non-biological, such as waves lapping at a shore, the wind passing through a canopy of trees, or rain hitting a forest floor. The second, biophonic sounds, are those generated by living organisms in a given habitat, occurring at one moment and in one particular place: the collective
Photographs by Luc Boegly (top) and Thomas Salva/Lumento.
United Visual Artistsâ€™ digital installation of the sound recordings of Bernie Krause (top). Cai Guo-Qiangâ€™s White Tone
The Great Animal Orchestra is housed in The Fondation Cartier, which was designed by architect Jean Nouvel.
voice of the animal kingdom, in which each animal finds its “acoustic niche”. The third – what Krause terms anthrophony – is the strata of man-made sound, the majority of which is relatively chaotic and comparatively incoherent. In order to isolate the component parts of a soundscape, Krause spatialises his audible surroundings with precision. After stepping into his chosen world and setting up his equipment, he waits for the equilibrium of the extended “room” to rebalance before subsuming into the landscape. In his early field recordings he was limited to capturing the fragmented sounds of individual species. “This was a little like trying to understand the magnificence of Beethoven’s fifth symphony by abstracting the sound of a single violin player out of the context of the orchestra, and hearing just that one part,” he recalled. But as the equipment and processes used to record, filtrate and synthesise sound have gradually improved, they have revealed an unsettling reality. Whereas five decades ago Krause would require only 10 hours of recording to create a one-hour-long soundscape, he now requires, on average, over 1,000 hours to collect the same amount of scientifically viable material. He ascribes the exponential rise of the anthrophony as at the root of this fundamental reconfiguration of our natural world’s biophonic signature; a fact that without Krause’s work we might not fully appreciate the urgency of. As of 2013, around half of his archives are of
natural soundscapes that are either altogether silent or which have been drastically altered from their original state – a condition which Hervé Chandès, the director of Fondation Cartier and the exhibition’s commissioner, has described as “the inexorable disappearance of our planet’s biodiversity.” But sound only forms part of Krause’s archives. The recordings are the first step in a process in which audio-observations are transformed into usable data for measuring the health of a habitat or wider ecosystem over time. Krause represents these through precise spectrograms, which are displayed in the show at Fondation Cartier. They graphically illustrate sounds, with time represented on the y-axis and frequency and amplitude on the x. Much like an orchestral score sheet in which the various instruments are laid out with those that play the lowest notes at the bottom and the highest at the top, time is measured against frequency. Yet within this visual frame, chaos reigns. Just as an electrocardiogram can only be fully understood by a cardiologist, these spectrograms only reveal information to those with a trained eye. Unless, that is, you press play and study it alongside its corresponding recording. Once these two threads converge, it becomes hypnotic to watch – a visual stream of an audible world that is familiar yet distant, rendered with such precision and clarity that the tangle of colours, knots, peaks and troughs becomes both coherent and
beguiling. Surprisingly, perhaps, these mesmeric graphics highlight and specifically focus the ears, thereby revealing – quite viscerally – the latent value of sound in interpreting surrounding environments. Although they could easily be interpreted as nothing more than digital patterns dancing across a screen, these spectrograms represent valuable scientific data. The challenge of creating an immersive installation using these sounds and images (and the resulting dataset) was taken up by United Visual
Mesmeric graphics highlight and specifically focus the ears, thereby revealing the latent value of sound in interpreting surrounding environments. Artists (UVA), a London-based practice with a portfolio of projects enacting sound, light and computer programming to develop complex, often collaborative, scenographic experiences. Here, UVA’s installation translates Krause’s recordings into an all-encompassing digital environment. Like an inversion of the Musée de l’Orangerie, in which Claude Monet’s vast murals of waterlilies and willows sweep at eye-level around light-filled spaces, they have given a new dimension to three binary soundscapes, located in a large darkened subterranean room. The linear presentation of the spectrograms move in realtime to form
The scenography for the exhibition was designed by architects Mauricio Rocha and Gabriela Carrillo.
an orchestra pit, and of a similar size, each hemispherical wall is built up using sound in the form of hidden speakers. The promenade these boundaries create reveals the artworks on display gradually (most of which were not commissioned for the show), filling the momentary pauses with animal calls and birdsong. In this way, sound has been used as a material of sorts, compressing the large rooms through an intimate collection of unseen acoustic interludes. The intelligence of this grand gesture should not only be read in its context: it is also a direct reference to the ways in which Krause describes spatial sound. It is about expanding rather than framing and editing the world. If, in the words of Krause, “the magical ingredient of natural soundscapes is the resonant tension created between its complexity and utter simplicity,” Rocha and Carrillo’s scenographies at once magnify and condense the scope of work on display. While Krause does use conventional objective technologies – microphones, recording devices and sound processors – to collect his data, he presents it holistically, fluidly and heterogeneously. It is, in other words, a vehicle through which to understand and appreciate the complex diversity of the wider world. He is attempting to move perception away from the idea of the isolated frame and, in the same breath, suggesting that it is important to not shy away from more expansive and multi-sensual ways of understanding the world. In spite of a design world which is, on the whole, focused heavily on visual perception, this is simply not how we perceive, Krause
seems to argue. Whether or not this show does justice to Krause’s childhood dream is impossible to say, but it does put forward a robust message: that we must take care to recognise and appreciate that the rhythm and synchronicity of the natural world may be collapsing around us – and invisibly so. The Great Animal Orchestra is on display at Fondation Cartier, Paris, from 2 July 2016 to 8 January 2017.
Photographs by Thomas Salva/Lumento.
an abstract kinetic landscape, while at the base of the band of light sits a shallow pool of black water, the surface of which silently pulsates and ripples to disrupt its downward reflection. This total fusion of light and sound creates a powerful sensation of enclosure. The darkness, combined with a feeling of solitude, condenses the senses and focuses the ears. The Fondation Cartier itself occupies a building in the 14th Arrondissement, commissioned by the organisation in the early 1990s and awarded to Ateliers Jean Nouvel. The Fondation Cartier building has an almost illusory effect, quite different from much of Nouvel’s more recent work, and is set back from the angry Parisian traffic behind two towering glass screens and a rich, green urban woodland beyond. These gardens are key to the architects Mauricio Rocha and Gabriela Carrillo’s grand scenography in the gallery’s two primary rooms, reminiscent of an amphitheatre split in two and built of industrial terracotta bricks. Their installation imbues the building’s clean, clear rooms with a profound warmth, its gentle curves presenting an audacious spatial challenge to the rather clinical atmosphere the gallery has struggled to shake off in previous exhibitions. In this show, the spaces are layered in a way which re-orchestrates sight-lines toward the gardens, and gathers the surrounding greenery and the interior into a single spatial experience. Unsurprisingly, Rocha and Carrillo have also worked to considerably enhance the acoustics of the space. Not dissimilar in form to
Kindle Oasis Words Alex Wiltshire
The new iteration of Kindle draws the reading experience of e-books closer to the physical page, but is this the future that the medium should strive for? You can trace the arrival of the Kindle in our household by a sudden gap in the strata of our bookshelves. The date 28 January 2011 is a kind of K–T boundary, after which you can see no new books appearing. Once we had Amazon’s e-reader, there seemed no point in buying paper novels any more. Something far more practical had replaced them, something that automatically remembered my page number and was easier to read in bed, requiring one hand to hold and no need to change grip to turn the page. The books were cheap – many classics were free – and its storage capacity was positively cavernous, while its battery lasted and lasted. Its E Ink Pearl display was clear and comfortable to use, and it had apps that meant I could read on my phone if I was Kindle-less, while the third-party service Instapaper enabled me to send long web articles to it. My wife soon got one and we shared our library. A new era had begun. There were hiccups, like that time I knelt on our bed and from among the bedclothes I heard a muffled crack. My knee had shattered the internal glass layer of the Kindle’s screen, fragmenting into frozen shards its artful screensaver image of pens, but a call to Amazon resulted in a new unit arriving the next day at no cost, no questions asked. I wondered about our interior decor, why our bookshelves still displayed our dusty old collection when we’d moved on to intangible things, and privately I worried that visitors might think our intellectual lives ended in 2010. I remembered visiting my parents’ friends as a child and seeing how their shelves served as a record of their interests, from cloth-bound hardbacks of the 1950s through to orange-spined Penguins and
onwards. But the convenience of the Kindle was far too attractive, our library of unread impulse-bought e-books too big to ignore, and so we ploughed on into the future. Until, that is, I realised a year or two ago that I wasn’t reading much any more. Soon after, new paper books began to appear in our household. I was given several for a birthday and I began to visit bookshops again, enjoying their smell, the visual tangle of their covers in the stacks on open tables and the abiding promise of discovery. My Kindle’s capacious battery quietly ran out at the bottom of a drawer.
Privately I worried that visitors might think our intellectual lives ended in 2010. I remembered visiting my parents’ friends as a child and seeing how their shelves served as a record of their interests. It seemed that I wasn’t the only one. In the autumn of 2015, Waterstones announced it would no longer stock the Kindle because it was selling so badly, just as sales of physical books were booming. But I hadn’t any complaints. Being so single-minded, Kindle seemed free of technological limitations. My old keyboard-toting third-generation model served just fine, despite lacking features introduced in subsequent models: touch controls, fewer buttons, more responsiveness, finer resolution and an illuminated screen. Many generalist devices, from laptops to tablets, are locked in a technological race towards the Platonic ideal as they try to service every human whim at greater speed and
in a thinner case than ever before. But a device entirely focused on providing black and white text seemed blessedly free of having to satisfy every rising demand on it. I thought Amazon nailed it with the third-generation Kindle and I didn’t like the models that came after it. My wife’s Kindle 4 has smaller page-turn buttons, so my thumb never felt secure resting on and pressing them, and it also lacks a keyboard, so you have to use a horrific on-screen one. I imagined touch-screen models being prone to accidental sweeps turning the page. In a formal sense, books are free of such technical issues. They might be printed on paper that’s tricky to separate and turn; sometimes their typesetting is so small that it’s uncomfortable or difficult to read; and bindings can be tight so they’re hard to hold open. But these are the failings of a publisher unable to live up to the book’s ideal form, with good typography to lead the eye and structure content, and good paper to make it pleasant to touch. I wondered if my old Kindle had lost its place because it couldn’t live up to the beauty and physicality of the book, the sense of paper and each volume’s contrasting hefts and textures, rather than having to touch the same smooth plastic for everything I read. In April, Amazon announced a new model, the Kindle Oasis, marketing it with words that seemed to speak of a new sensitivity to the pleasures of the book: “unlike any Kindle you’ve ever held”; “perfectly balanced ergonomic design”; “reads like the printed page”; “rest[s] in your hand like the spine of a book”. Indeed, the Oasis is the Bentley of e-readers, its cheaper Wi-Fi-only model four-and-
life you expect of an e-reader and yet the cover does not feel like a compromise. It provides a degree of protection and – as with some previous models – when you open it, the Oasis automatically switches on. If you don’t want to detach it, it can be folded back to be read with one hand or opened like a book to be read with two. Either way, it feels good. Kindle Oasis is the best e-reader I’ve ever held, which makes it more comfortable to read than a book – and highly desirable for it. The software that the Oasis encases is less confident. Its homepage presents a jumble of images of covers. Whereas it used only to list titles, it now tries to sell related works, unless you switch this off in the settings. Three of the books you see are the latest in your collection, while four others are recommendations based on what you’ve been reading. There’s also a Reading List, taken from any books you may have put on your Amazon account’s Wish List. To have your own books surrounded by marketing pushes feels a little tawdry, especially for a device that has always struggled to remind me of the richness and pleasures stored on it. A Kindle ought to celebrate and make me feel proud of what I already have, something like my bookshelves do, rather than trying to tempt me to buy more. Besides, accessing the Kindle store is an ugly experience, a tangle of
blurbs and user reviews, and so very far from the sense-widening experience of visiting a bookshop, where inspiration comes from every corner. Powered by Amazon’s recommendations, the Kindle store is about fitting users to patterns and safe bets; it takes browsing long lists to come across the truly unexpected. Once into a book, however, the reading experience feels much the same as my old Kindle offered, although with some aesthetic changes. Kindle has regularly been criticised for its typography: earlier models were restricted to two typefaces, Helvetica and Caecilia. Helvetica is horrible to read, and while Caecilia sports rather lumpen letter forms, they were clear and easy to decipher on earlier Kindles’ lower resolution screens. Those of newer models have doubled in resolution, enabling them to represent subtler shapes; thus a new font, Bookerly, was released last year with the claim that it’s “inspired by the artistry of the best fonts in modern print books”. It’s a reasonably elegant evolution of Caecilia, but I soon chose the ever-more elegant Baskerville instead (other classics are also available, including Futura and Palatino, as well as Amazon’s own Ember and old Caecilia). Bookerly came with a rewrite of the software that lays out text on a Kindle – with tweaks to the way it justifies and
All images courtesy of Amazon.
a‑half times more expensive than the cheapest Kindle and £100 more than the next-most-expensive Kindle, the Voyage. And it feels like it. The Oasis has a leather cover that folds over its screen, and its casing is made from a sturdy polymer that is electroplated with metal. It feels smooth and utterly solid. The front is a glass touchscreen that’s matte-coated so it doesn’t glare with reflections or show up marks, and it doesn’t flex and bow. The Oasis feels wonderful in the hand, a sense further supported by its weighting. The side you hold is notably thicker than the other, giving a mass to grasp while also balancing the device so it falls naturally in your grip. Underneath, your fingers contact with a rubberised inlaid section of the case that affords even more grip. Your thumb, meanwhile, naturally rests on the upper page-turn button. And yet the Oasis is very light indeed, far lighter than most books – at least when the leather cover has been detached. The cover, in fact, is a clever design that actually enables the Oasis to be so light. The e-reader itself has a small battery that lasts a few days, but the cover is fitted with a larger one that recharges the main battery when connected with a magnetic clunk. Together, they lend the Oasis the battery
The Kindle Oasisâ€™s cover houses aÂ battery that recharges the device when attached.
kerns, and the addition of drop caps and other features. All the same, the Oasis’s 300dpi screen still does not match the fine typographic placement of a real book or even an Apple product’s screen, a point that’s made more evident by the Oasis’s clear but subtle front lighting. More subtly, it also hasn’t addressed
But the convenience of the Kindle was far too attractive, our library of unread impulse-bought e-books too big to ignore, and so we ploughed on into the future. the way that every book has its own character, through cover design, typeface and typography, thickness and paper. On a Kindle, every book feels the same. The Oasis lacks other esoteric reconsiderations of presenting books on a screen. In particular, it still hasn’t matched the way that books afford a sense of progression. Kindle’s software has always used progress bars and percentages, which are entirely efficient but can’t mirror that satisfying instinct you gain with a book of the relationship between reading time and thickness. The Oasis does not have a progress bar, a feature I’ve always favoured because it represents the breadth of a book, but it does have the option of displaying an estimated time it will take you to read to the end, which I found rather unreliable. When I accidentally flicked through a number of pages, it started to estimate me reading the next 100 pages in 12 minutes. It also lacks the sense of occasion of a page turning, flipping to the next without animation and with such instancy that I found this hard to register. This issue was compounded by how regularly I’d unintentionally trigger a page-turn by brushing the touchscreen (despite having buttons, you can’t switch this off). It has a new navigational feature called Page Flip, which allows you to hold your place while skipping back or forward through thumbnails of pages, but it’s a long way from being as intuitive to accomplish as placing a finger among a real book’s pages and thumbing. While Kindle still struggles with the affordances of the page, the Oasis is home to a couple of new softwareand network-powered features that can perform tasks beyond the scope of the
traditional book. I always valued the dictionary on Kindle, to the extent that I still find myself wanting to highlight words in printed books to get their definitions. That feature, joined by a Wikipedia search, is still on Oasis. But a set of newer functions aims to add more, although with dubious value. X-Ray, which is only available for certain books, provides a database of facts about characters, locations and other details. You get to see where mentions lie in the book, along with quotes, and Wikipedia entries explain certain terms. X-Ray aims to be a simplified and instant CliffsNotes, but it’s rather inconstant because it’s largely computer-generated. Word Wise inserts short definitions for words it deems difficult between lines. This certainly adds to the cruft alongside Kindle’s weird world of highlights, which allow you to choose to see the often inexplicable passages that have been selected by other readers. These features have an air of sporadic usefulness, but hardly mine Kindle’s value as a networked computer. It’s been argued that the Kindle’s greatest opportunity is to build in more social connectivity, something that takes advantage of its nature as an internet-enabled device. You always could share quotes on Facebook and Twitter, and the highlights system continues to give a fragmentary sense of the world reading the same book as you. As with some earlier models, Oasis also integrates Goodreads, a social network for rating books and seeing what others are reading, and I’m sure it’s useful for some. But all these features ignore another social dimension of books: people around you knowing what you’re reading so that books act as a form of self-identification. Even though a Kindle only does one thing, its anonymity still gives it the indefinite air of selfabsorption that swirls around anyone using a tablet or smartphone. You’re just staring at another screen. Naturally, for many, that’s an appealing notion. Reading doesn’t have to be a social act, and connecting readers together so they might share insights and opinions can distract (or worse) from the words of the book itself. For many of those for whom the words are enough, the sheer convenience of the Kindle far outweighs the aesthetic allure of paper, binding and print. But it strikes
me as strange that so many of those conveniences are identical to those that appealed to me in 2011; I was wrong to think Kindle couldn’t meaningfully be improved. Five years is a long time in technology, and while the Oasis’s physical form is a great step forward – for a hefty price – its software and technology haven’t managed to answer many of the book’s sensory properties. The Kindle Oasis is still just a Kindle, but it is so very nice to hold. And for now, that’s proved enough to reintroduce it to my bedside table. Sometimes on top of and sometimes beneath a paper book. The Kindle Oasis is available from Amazon for £269.99.
Intersections: Roksanda Ilinčić and David Adjaye Words and interview Sabrina Shim Photographs Max Creasy
The architect David Adjaye
Consider the case studies. OMA created the Prada store in New York, Zaha Hadid devised Seoul and Hong Kong stores for Neil Barrett, and David Chipperfield designed Valentino flagships in Milan and London. Yet in spite of the calibre of these collaborations, they are often rashly dismissed as purely commercial transactions. The few projects that do seek to offer serious commentary on the intersections – such as MOCA in LA’s 2007 exhibition Skin & Bones, theorist Kazys Varnelis’s essay ‘Architecture After Couture’ and OMA’s The Harvard Guide to Shopping – are notable as exceptions to the rule. That architecture and fashion are capable of enhancing each other’s value is undoubted, yet discussion of that interplay is undermined by ambiguities or laziness in language; garments are frequently described as “architectural”, but what this actually means is notoriously hard to pin down. In an effort to untangle the relationship, Disegno invited Adjaye and Ilinčić to meet and discuss the connections between their fields. The resultant conversation is a first-hand account of interdisciplinary design between practitioners. While theory in this area may lag behind, the designers themselves feel the links between architecture and fashion keenly. The discussion between Adjaye and Ilinčić, reproduced in the pages that follow, is testament to this. Over the course of their meeting, the two discussed their distinctive approaches to design, the importance of diverse practice, the value of fashion design and architecture as independent disciplines, and the purpose behind encouraging dialogue between their fields. It is a conversation between two creators who are curious about the work of their contemporaries, no matter which area they may operate in. Adjaye established his practice in 2000 and now has offices in London, New York and Accra. The practice works across typologies that span public buildings, social housing, retail spaces, temporary pavilions and private residences. This month, Adjaye will unveil his most important work to date – the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, DC. Uniting all of Adjaye’s projects is a sensitivity towards materiality and colour, as well as a thirst for embedding cultural discourse in built environments – a tendency likely to reach its zenith with the NMAAHC, the ornamental bronze facade of which references the metal balustrades and screens produced in towns
and fashion designer Roksanda Ilinčić are longstanding collaborators. They first worked together in 2004 and their most recent joint project was the flagship store for Iliničić’s brand Roksanda, which opened on Mount Street, London, in 2014. Such collaborations between architecture and fashion are now common. In the last 20 years architecture has become recognised as one of the most powerful tools for expressing corporate and creative identity within the fashion system, and collaborations are rife. So why aren’t these partnerships being considered more closely in critical discourse? 156
such as New Orleans by freed African-American slaves. Alongside his work in architecture, Adjaye has collaborated with artists Chris Ofili and Olafur Eliasson, as well as working across music, furniture design and television. Ilinčić is similarly multidisciplinary. Born in Belgrade, Serbia, she initially studied architecture and applied arts at the city’s University of the Arts, before moving to London to attend the MA course in fashion design at Central Saint Martins. After graduating, Ilinčić showed her nascent womenswear label at London Fashion Week in 2005, quickly becoming known for her sophisticated silhouettes, use of opposing fabrics on the front and back of garments, and striking colour blocking. Her eponymous brand now has stockists in more than 40 countries and has branched out into jewellery and handbags, as well as ceramics executed in collaboration with the Swiss company Linck Keramik. Throughout Ilinčić’s career, her design work has been led by art and architecture – her pieces frequently allude to the creations of 20th-century modernists such as Ellsworth Kelly, Josef Albers, Lygia Clark, Niki de Saint Phalle and Oscar Niemeyer. Yet in spite of Ilinčić’s pool of references and her architectural training, her garments are rarely described as “architectural” in the way that those of other designers are. Instead, her voluminous constructions and fluid shapes are typically discussed solely in terms of their femininity, sometimes at the cost of recognising their tailoring and materiality. Adjaye and Ilinčić first met when she invited him to convert a warehouse delivery yard in King’s Cross, London, into a home. The result, the Lost House, was completed in 2004. Built around a black reception room illuminated by three light wells, the house features two hallmarks of Adjaye’s design: a barely perceptible entrance and a complex interplay between interior and exterior. At the time of the Lost House, both designers were at formative phases in their careers. Adjaye was in the middle of his first largescale international projects, while Ilinčić was about to launch her label. When reunited for the Mount Street store project 10 years later, they were both riding high. Completed in eight months, the store brings alive Adjaye’s fascination with contrasting surfaces, as well as Ilinčić’s striking sense of colour. A herringbone, monochromatic marble floor and angular brass racks zigzag across the Grade II-listed Georgian building,
while tiers of pebbled cement cover the interior walls. Floating shelves in brass or blush pink jut out seemingly at random, while mirrors bounce natural light from the windows in front to frame the lush courtyard garden at the back. Downstairs, the same pink as upstairs is mixed with burgundy, aubergine and chartreuse to form the plush carpeting and felted walls of a salon and fitting rooms. It is a warm and intimate space, and an environment that embodies the connections between architecture and fashion design that its creators advocate. The store has not been designed to satisfy the intellectual curiosity of critical discourse, but rather as a space in which consumers can experience the interplay between architecture and fashion in the context of the everyday. It is a place in which the collaboration can play out in real time. It was in this space that Disegno invited Adjaye and Ilinčić to meet.
Draped fabrics in the studio of Roksanda Ilincic (above). Stacked material samples in the London office of Adjaye Associates (right).
“Architecture for me is a psychic dress, a psychic frame. It is something that is really outside of the body’s periphery, but which is still very much related to the body.”—David Adjaye
Architecture and fashion are united by their physical sensitivity to what people do and experience within a space. How is that achieved while working at very different scales and how do you express that within the work you have created together?
reactions to the same collection. You get different emotions and questions from people when they see the clothing. David This idea of how people react to environments is a hot button for me. The things that we make have codes embedded in them, so the question is what happens when new people have to read those codes. Do they have to have the same background to be able to understand what the original codes were? The most beautiful thing about the way the world is, and what keeps it from being insanely boring, is that the codes and the people who read them are mismatched all the time. So designers need to keep remaking to refit new groups and the same thing happens with architecture. There are a series of orbits and we keep retooling things so that new groups come along and forget about the old codes – why lapels might have been big or why bow ties were fat, for instance. Within architecture, that’s about why a building is made out of a particular material, why something is thick or thin and so on. All these things come into play, which is where you begin to get layers upon layers. So a city like London, which is thousands of years old, has what I call hyper-information: layers in which people can culturally surf in a really sophisticated way. When I am making things, I’m always thinking about the references: what am I referring to and what are people going to understand from that information? I am interested in the notion of the metropole, for instance, by which I mean something that is more than the city – it’s the place where the global condensing of people into civic life is mutually respectful and somehow elevating. The information is not literature, but it is a kind of literature – how do you continually remake information so that people realise what a government building is, what a house is, what a market is, what a park is? It may sound obvious, but it’s not. Roksanda I think the hardest part is to make people comfortable with what you do. You can get into over-designing or over-intellectualising certain things, which people may find slightly intimidating. For me, it is important to make people feel happy with your work. David The idea of emotion is interesting. When I talk about emotion, I don’t mean in terms of being happy or sad, but rather emotion as a philosophical construction – an idea of a state of being. So the state of being is the emotion; the emotion is simply the way
Roksanda Ilinčić It is very important how garments
make the person who is wearing them feel. That’s probably the most important element in my work. Of course, you also have to think about how the garments feel, how they’re structured, how they are constructed, what types of new technologies in terms of design and materials are incorporated within a certain garment, but I’m always quite aware of what women want to wear. Being a woman and designing for women brings a certain benefit in that you can test things yourself and quickly become aware if things are working or not working. David Adjaye In architecture, physical sensitivity is a different thing because it’s not as implicated in the body and it’s not as fabulous as what you do. Architecture for me is a psychic dress, a psychic frame. It is something that is really outside of the body’s periphery, but which is still very much related to the body. It’s interesting listening to you because the same things apply to my practice: I listen to my clients, I’m looking at what their influences are and thinking about what things are around them in their world. But I’m also thinking about a certain set of elements that have a kind of universal quality, and which say something about the place they’re in and what they’re intended for. That kind of tuning is something I enjoy and which changes between projects. So I like the idea of universal architecture, but I don’t think it’s a reality. The universal is actually a postscript we apply to something after we have enjoyed it and when it’s kind of finished. It’s a ruin of something that has become something else, having vacated its programme or purpose. Everything has a specificity and searching for that specificity is the joy of creating work that has a sensitivity to human beings. Roksanda Both architecture and clothes are there to shelter us, albeit in quite different ways, and that is an important connection between the two disciplines. People respond quite differently to garments depending on their culture, education and personal preferences. What’s interesting for us is that we have customers from around the world, so you get quite different
A model for Adjayeâ€™s Hallmark House in Johannesburg, South Africa. The project is an ongoing redevelopment of a 1970s mixed-use tower block and will reopen in 2017.
The flagship Roksanda store on Mount Street was designed as a collaboration between Adjaye and Ilincic. Based within a Grade II-listed Georgian building, the design introduced concrete walls, marble floors and blush pink shelving units.
in which you feel balance, which is what I am interested in within architecture. The emotional state of architecture is its having a cognitive impact, but not being overbearing, over-questioning you, or making you feel that you’re in the wrong place or the right place. Emotional imbalance happens when you are out of sync with that system or you don’t understand what that system is. So it’s when you start to think, “Oh, I don’t know if I should step here,” or “I don’t know if I should walk here,” within a space. When a building is really working, it puts you in balance. I love the way that children use my buildings, for instance. They go into them with no script and seem able to read the beauty without the baggage. They read the information as it is and that is profound. Roksanda For me, emotion is almost like falling in love with an object, which is quite a big deal. People come to a fashion show and they’re surrounded by the clothes and the music – the whole story. They see the garment and fall in love, such that they want and need to have it immediately, and they can’t wait the six months for it to arrive in the stores. It’s this notion of desire, which is about returning to the idea of something that feels comfortable and which doesn’t intimate you. It’s something that feels so precious that you have to have it, which is probably the most important element designers have to achieve. David How do you start working? Roksanda Well, I think you design constantly; I don’t think there is necessarily a time when you can say, “Now! I’m starting now.” You get inspired all the time and everything you do is, in a way, a design process. What is important, however, is that when you’re working on a certain collection you focus on that, because there are always so many different directions that you could take it in. So for me it is important to focus on one particular story and to develop that as much as I can. Very often I start a story, but the journey is so long and there are many different levels that you can change all the way up to the show, thanks to elements like the styling, the set and the music. Sometimes I don’t even know what is going to be at the catwalk until it actually happens, which is exciting. I love this idea that you can create and create all the way to the end. The process is crazy because it never stops, but that’s the beauty of it – it’s what drives anyone who is creative. David It’s the muse. It never, ever stops, but there are definitely different speeds, which is nice. There is
A brass display unit in the Mount Street store (top). A vase developed by Ilincic with Linck Keramik.
a kind of ambient speed – where you are on holiday, perhaps, but you are still ticking away. Maybe it’s a time when you’re incubating something in your mind. I really like this idea that you are always designing, but you don’t actually have anything specific. Your mind is just constantly clarifying things, and then there comes a moment when suddenly there is a problem or a project. You jump onto that and begin work with your team – the problem being that your poor team don’t have this same freedom in the process. So you come in with an idea and have to try and take people on a journey during which they are catching up with you. But as a designer there isn’t an on/off switch and there isn’t a process of thinking, “OK, I need to design, let me start looking at pictures.” If I think of someone who does that, then I’m not sure what to call that person. I’m not trying to be catty, but that’s a very different process, whereas it should just flow out of you. Artists are permanently in a state of work, which makes for very weird characters. You have to really like a designer or an architect to be with them as they are always in a zone. Roksanda When my Mount Street store came up, I was desperate for you to take on the project, because I wanted to create a space that was unusual for a fashion retail store. I wanted to create something that felt like sculpture, which was always something that had fascinated me about your work, in which there is a very thin line between art and a functional building. Another thing I love about your work is that you create architecture that doesn’t need much in terms of furnishings because it’s so beautiful on its own. David I’m always interested in this idea of disarming people such that they can discover things. What are the tools stopping people feeling like they shouldn’t do something? Within my buildings I want people to do things, so everything from the way in which their first view of the space is set up is really critical. This store, for instance, is not formulaic. You enter from the corner and the space then opens itself up and invites you to engage. I always tend to think of my plans as gardens. They’re not like French gardens in terms of being set pieces, it’s just that they offer you a way to discover them – the way in which they invite you in, create vistas and pull you through. But I actually choose to work across many scales now because I am frustrated by the speed at which architecture produces. I work a lot in furniture and installations because that allows me different speeds
and different operations. I am a junkie for doing things and my worst fear is boredom. If I don’t have something to do, I will start photographing or drawing. The works have to happen because there is a constant need to express. Roksanda Fashion has become too quick for my liking lately, because sometimes you don’t have the time to reflect on what you have done – what was good, what maybe wasn’t so great. You are constantly, constantly chasing the following season. And it is not even just about the seasons – there are many collections that are done in between seasons, as well as external collaborations. So I hope that the pace will slow down and I think that there are strong tendencies in fashion to give us a little more breathing space. I do love the constant design process, however, and how it doesn’t allow you to stop. I think design is very much about expressing yourself through different mediums. In my case, it is not just clothing but also lifestyle, which is something that lends itself to fashion. Recently I have been doing quite a few ceramic projects; I am interested in furniture and I love collaborating with artists. These projects always feel like some kind of interception, which then pushes me further into fashion. It is good to do those collaborations, as I then feel fresh coming back to fashion. David Working in a multidisciplinary way can take you to a new science that you can’t touch in your own practice. It maybe offers a new way of seeing something, which refreshes your core practice, whatever that may be. There is a way within that such that things get pounded and folded over, which is a method for revitalising the creative process. As a designer, you can get very quickly into a system of doing things, so the number one trick is to disrupt your flow because that forces a different perspective. You let your range and vision be disturbed for a bit, and then input something else. Roksanda I don’t know if it is good or bad to talk about it in this way, but you do have certain elements that apply in architecture and which also apply to my dresses. Above all, it is a culture of shapes and the way that things are constructed. I call my dresses fluid architecture – they have never had a corset or any type of restrictive construction that doesn’t feel comfortable for the body. I have always felt aware of dresses that are absolutely beautiful, but which are not so pleasant to wear. I prefer to have something like invisible strings inside the construction, which
A model of Adjaye’s 70-73 Piccadilly, a proposed mixed-use redevelopment of a block of disused postwar buildings in Mayfair, London. Garments from the Roksanda pre-fall 2016 collection, embellished with airy spheres of carefully constructed lilac fabric.
“Both architecture and clothes are there to shelter us. That is an important connection between the two disciplines.”—Roksanda Ilinčić
you could see as equivalent to an architecture without walls. So I can see a parallel there, although I don’t know whether that is a good or bad parallel to make. David It depends if it’s helpful to the end goal. When we talk about seeing things through an architectural lens, what do we mean by that? I don’t think we literally mean the implicit nature of architecture, but we do mean the fundamentals of architecture – the way in which it can embody certain Platonic systems. For me it is about a certain clarity. Architecture with a capital “A” has a kind of clarity of being in the world – it is what it is. You can name a million structures that have a singularity. Your work, for instance, has an immediate power. I think that the word “architecture” is slightly esoteric, however, as a lot of people who use it don’t actually know what the hell they are talking about. I like to ask people what exactly they mean by “architecture”, and then they will go off into their bit. And I’m like: “Interesting. Hmmn, that’s not what I would call architecture...” Roksanda But couldn’t you say that everything that surrounds us is architecture? David See, I would disagree with that. That’s talking about it in a purer sense and elevating it to Nirvana. But back on earth – no. Architecture is a construction. It’s an abstraction, it’s an artifice and it’s not real. It has its reality, but it is the conscious construction of an idea in the world. Nature is beautiful, but it’s not architecture; a vernacular building is beautiful, but it’s not architecture even though it fulfils a very primary need. It may have architectural qualities, but architecture is the construction of an idea, such as, “I’m going to make a church or a tomb.” Which is completely weird if you think about it. Imagine landing as an alien: “Why are you making a church and a tomb? You don’t need to – if you die, you can just go straight into the ground.” Architecture is the construction that we use as human beings to say we’re human beings and that we live in the world. It may be very powerful and very beautiful, but it’s not tangible in that sense. The medieval village was not architecture until someone said that they were going to build a Renaissance facade in the village and everyone was going to look at it. Roksanda Apart from sheltering us physically, garments are sheltering us mentally. Fashion is almost like some kind of armour – you put a dress on and it makes you feel really good or really unpleasant. When you wear something to protect yourself from the outside world,
Both Adjaye and Ilincic have studios in London, but as their practises have grown so too have their travel schedules. Adjaye, for instance, also has offices in New York and Accra.
Ilincic develops her collections from her studio in east London. It is here that her early material experimentation takes place.
you are saying a lot. You can show where you come from, what your culture is, what your needs are, your beliefs. It is a very, very powerful tool. Which is why I think it is important to feel comfortable in what you are wearing because if you’re not that will show. Very often people wear things that are not them and you can feel that juxtaposition. David My notion of separation between the interior and exterior within architecture is a device to help reconnection. I celebrate exteriors because there is so much permeability between them and interiors at the moment. We have become so accustomed to the idea that somehow the home and the city are interconnected and woven into each other that we have forgotten where the outside ends and the inside begins – except when it snows. It’s like how if you take kids to the countryside and they’re like, “Oh my god, there are stars up there.” I find that fundamentally problematic. I want artifice but I also want you to know where you are, so my notion of separation is to reconnect you back to the fundamentals. I want you to see light as a powerful, visceral element, not just a light bulb; I want you to feel the rain when it comes in. I think we are in an amazing time when we should be able to have both. We’re not in a dumb technological age in which you just have to shield yourself from it – you can actually be in nature and also outside of nature at the same time. So my game is intensifying our relationship with the natural world, but also intensifying the interconnectedness of the artificial world. Roksanda Which is what you did with the Lost House project – our first collaboration. My husband and I were lucky enough to discover this incredible old poppy factory in King’s Cross and I wanted to find someone who had a special sensibility to convert it. I absolutely fell in love when I saw your work. We ended up with this incredible, very dark space on the ground floor of the building. You couldn’t feel what was happening outside apart from by looking at the three light wells that were embedded within that space. When it rained or snowed it was like looking at the most beautiful art installation within these wells, with snow and rain almost swirling around you. In the case of the Mount Street store, I wanted something very welcoming and different from a classic retail environment. Every detail is properly thought through because there’s this idea of creating a perfect environment for my dresses to live in. It’s
“Architecture is a construction. It’s an abstraction, it’s an artifice and it’s not real. It is the conscious construction of an idea.”—David Adjaye telling a story that is not just about the clothes, but about the lifestyle, the woman, the freedom and the quality of everything I am trying to do with my design. David Generally, I think creative collaborations are really tough as they require a kind of sympathy between people, but we had that instantly. Normally when you collaborate you are very careful to try and guide and listen at the same time, but in this case there was trust. I always wanted to bring in your ideas because it’s your flagship store and I wanted it to reflect whatever energy you felt it needed to have. But this is a listed building, so realistically you can’t do anything with it except paint it. So we had to set up a strategy where we were building a building within a building, which was the only way we could get round the conservation issues. You don’t want to fight against a Georgian interior – which is magnificent, amazing, perfect and architectural – so we had to bring in our own language. But I felt that language had to be counter-cultural because, although your stuff is really luxurious, there is always a wonderful little slap to it. The work may be lush, but it also makes you do something that you would not have thought about otherwise: a certain colour combination that you have put on, modernity that you have taken on board, even if you didn’t realise you were doing it. We had to have that surprise, which is where we brought in the concrete, the marble and the colours. This store is a Roksanda dress. E N D
From Border to Threshold Words Vera Sacchettiâ€‚Photographs Delfino Sisto Legnani
Three years ago, the Italian Limes project set out to investigate the fluidity of the Alpine border between Austria and Italy. Since then, the discussion of national boundaries and plans to reinforce them has become a daily feature in the news, adding further layers of meaning to this prescient venture.
“We started from this image,” says Marco Ferrari of architecture practice Folder, pointing to a 1970s colour postcard depicting the Brenner Pass. The pass was one of the first trans-Alpine Roman roads, and the picture shows an elevated highway crossing the Alps between Italy and Austria. Ferrari is sat at his desk in Milan on a warm August morning. Three years have elapsed since the inception of Italian Limes, a visual research project on the changing alpine borderline between Italy and Austria that he and his partner Elisa Pasqual premiered at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. Since then, the venture has grown in scope, complexity and reach, expanding to a second, more ambitious expedition, and plans to produce a book and scientific paper. Although devoted to a specific case study, Italian Limes has come to embody the confusions and contradictions – and illusory and selective openness – of both EU borders and of the European project itself. And yet it started with this faded postcard image of progress – of human domination of nature, of gleaming infrastructure and sleek cars gliding through massive geographical formations that are thousands of years old. Above the pass is the Similaun mountain and Grafferner glacier, which form a section of the AustroItalian border. “There are two strong ideas in this project that, while working independently, should and can be read in a connected way,” says Ferrari. “One is the physical context in which this project is developed – that is the environment, the mountain, the glacier. The other is the idea of the border. When we started working on the project in 2014, we wanted to reflect on how the idea of the border had changed in Europe.” After the fall of the Berlin Wall and with it the Soviet Union, the 1990s ushered in an enthusiasm for globalisation. In Europe, this materialised in the 1995 Schengen Agreement, a treaty that enabled borderfree travel within a portion of the continent. Yet this freedom has become relative in a post-9/11 world that has seen greater emphasis placed on passports, airport controls and the enforcement of borders. With the events of the last two years, barbed-wire fences and armed police patrolling Europe’s frontiers have become commonplace, as has the rampant xenophobia finding a voice in many far-right parties. Digitisation and hyper-connectivity have eliminated many hurdles in daily life, yet we still inhabit a world where the 19th-century ideals of nation states and their sovereignty remain strong. “The struggle for
territorial independence remains a priority for any minority,” notes Ferrari in a 2014 article for Klat magazine, bringing to mind issues as diverse as the ongoing campaign for Catalonian independence and the conflict over the state of Palestine. This is because it is “rooted in the belief that recognition by the international community requires, in the first place, the definition of a boundary marking out an inviolable portion of land”. The northern border of Italy extends over 2,000km from Muggia, close to Trieste, through to Ventimiglia in Liguria. It follows the geography of the watershed line, which separates the adjacent water basins throughout the alpine landscape. Effectively comprising the borderlines of eight different countries, the Alps are a massive geological formation and have served as a natural boundary for centuries. For Ferrari, this border and many others in Europe have been dematerialising in the years following the 1995 Schengen Agreement. Yet while a generation of European citizens has been born and raised with the notion that the continent’s borders have been abolished, this is in great part an illusion. “The situation we are living now is temporary,” says Ferrari. “The border manifests itself first and foremost in the fact that we have different passports; then in extraordinary or emergency situations the borders are reinstated and Schengen is momentarily reversed. This has been verified in the last year in a flagrant way.” I first encountered Folder while working as the online editor of Domus in Milan. In 2014, while passing by Folder’s office, I witnessed the visit of Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, a partner at OMA and the main hand behind Monditalia, the exhibition that occupied the Arsenale at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. Monditalia proposed an analysis of contemporary Italy through research projects focusing on geographic locations throughout the country. Folder was quickly drawn to the theme of borders. Rather than focus on Italy’s obvious connections to the Mediterranean, however, Ferrari and Pasqual looked at its terrestrial borders. As Pestellini Laparelli entered the office, Ferrari unveiled a huge printed map of Italy’s northern region, its zigzagging border crisscrossing two-dimensional mountains, hinting at steep slopes and cliffs, all rendered palatable by virtue of their flat representation. One section in particular proved the focus: the Similaun mountain and Grafferner glacier, home 170
In April 2014 Folder set off for the Similaun mountain and Grafferner glacier together with designer and hacker Pietro Leoni and Alessandro Mason from the design production studio GISTO. The team reached their destination by helicopter, where they installed a network of five sensors equipped with GPS and transmitters such that they could communicate their exact location.
The border’s visual nature
explorations. That the movable border between Italy and Austria has been accepted, agreed upon and inserted into law is in itself extraordinary. In other territories, the bitter dispute of national borders has had devastating consequences on multiple generations. It is a topic that was picked up at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale by the presence of a pavilion from Western Sahara, a territory that is under the de facto administrative control of Morocco, but whose indigenous Sahrawi people, led by the Polisario Front, have pushed for independence for decades. For the Monditalia exhibition, Folder conducted research at the Istituto Geografico Militare (IGM) in Florence, digging up documents and statistics about the mobile border, as well as documentation from historical expeditions to Mt Similaun and the glacier to measure and record the border. As Folder’s understanding of cartography as a political tool
renders it a design subject, while its implications make it fertile ground for geopolitical, economical and social explorations. to a mobile section of the Austro-Italian border that has shifted every year as the glacial watershed – which connects all perennial glaciers at high altitudes – melts and reforms with the seasons. In recent years, rising temperatures and climate change have caused a considerable shift in the watershed, prompting the Italian government to include the notion of a moveable border in its national legislation. The constant alteration of something we are taught to think of as determined and fixed was a fascinating discovery. Back in Folder’s studio, Ferrari and Pestellini Laparelli were excited to explore this human construct alongside its political and cartographical implications. Italian Limes – “limes” being a Latin word for “border”1 – was born. “There are more international borders in the world today than ever there were before,” state Thomas M. Wilson and Hastings Donnan in the introduction to their 2012 volume A Companion to Border Studies, a text whose existence attests to the growing importance and scale of the field. “This is a significant fact when one considers the impact of these borders on the ways in which the billions of people encompassed by them live, work and travel.” The border – a construct that is simultaneously invisible and present – is at its inception a visual tool charted on a map. It is a line demarcating what is inside and outside, mine and yours, familiar and foreign. Its visual nature renders it a design subject, while its implications make it fertile ground for geopolitical, economical and social
In 2016 a new set of sensors were installed in a one-square-kilometre grid.
became sharper, the idea of mapping the shifting boundary in real time became more compelling. “Every two years a special commission, made up half of experts from the IGM and half of representatives of the cartographic institutes of the bordering countries, retraces the entire course of the state border,” writes Ferrari in Klat. “In addition to maintaining the boundary markers with which it is dotted, the aim is to determine, with the aid of high-precision GPS trackers, the shifts in the surface of the ice and calculate the exact position of the watershed, in order to establish the new borderline.” While apparently insignificant to daily life, this discovery triggered a deeper reflection on the dynamics of contemporary geopolitics. “It highlights
1 While the term “limes” has a variety of meanings in Latin, they all refer to delimiting systems, particularly marked or fortified frontiers, and the term is regularly used by historians when referring to the frontiers of the Roman Empire.
The transmitters installed in the glacier transferred data to a pantograph that drew up the shifting border between Austria and Italy in real time.
the provisional nature of any boundary condition, the fact that natural frontiers are subject to changes brought about by environmental processes and, finally, how technology influences the way we think and operate at every level today.” As the idea behind the undertaking became more defined, Folder contacted the designer and programmer Pietro Leoni to develop a drawing machine for the project. Inspired by the IGM’S research and the mapping processes of past explorers, the idea of a pantograph (a mechanical arm that throughout history has allowed cartographers, artists and engineers to replicate and enlarge drawings) was born. But how to make this pantograph work? How could it map the border in real time? Ferrari and Pasqual quickly realised they would have to climb to the Grafferner glacier at the foot of Mt Similaun. Informed by their research, and contacts with cartographers and scientists – and with the help of Leoni, as well as Alessandro Mason from the design production studio GISTO – Ferrari and Pasqual set out to create a set of sensors that would be installed
in the glacier along a 1km section of the border. Equipped with a GPS transmitter, the sensors would communicate their location to the pantograph, which would then precisely draw that segment of the border between Italy and Austria in real time, capturing the shifts in the glacier. Although the reasoning was simple, the idea of putting a team of designers on a glacier to install machines that could survive extreme weather conditions for the duration of a six-month exhibition was less so. “A large part of my work dealt with the expedition to the glacier,” says Mason, “from the transport of the various elements in the helicopter – which in itself is a whole project – to the design of the transportation boxes which would transform into sledges.” The conditions also dictated the design of the measuring equipment. “The sensors had to withstand snow storms, temperature variations of 40 degrees, and superficial movements of large masses of snow, while simultaneously being lightweight, stable, beautiful, and transportable in a helicopter,” says
For the second expedition in 2016, Folder expanded the collaboration to include members of the Italian Glaciological Committee and geophysicists. For this expedition a more sophisticated set of sensors were made with state-of-the-art components, designed from scratch.
to the impact that visiting the border had on him: “You are at 3,500m altitude, on a white surface where you cannot see a line; but that line exists and it moves.” Borders can only be so powerful and used so effectively as instruments of power because “only 3 per cent of the world’s population resides in a state other than the one in which they were born,” states the geographer Anssi Paasi in his essay ‘Border studies reanimated: going beyond the territorial/relational divide’, noting how “despite global flows, the bulk of the world’s population is still ‘trapped by the lottery of their birth’”. While mobility is encouraged, this has always (and especially following the events of 9/11) been tightly monitored and controlled in ways that prioritise some over others, as reflected by the insistence with which the politician Boris Johnson blusteringly called for “a humane points-based [immigration] system” as part of his Brexit campaign. The dematerialisation of borders that Schengen heralded is illusory. In fact, our progressively digitised world borders have become more and more connected to what Paasi calls “circulation and technologies”. “Passports, irises and fingerprints are new synonyms of borders,” he states when describing fellow geographer Louise Amoore’s 2008 concept of a “biometric border”. Within this, the body itself becomes the border, “inscribed with multiple encoded boundaries of access” in an ultimate dematerialisation of physical borders. In Europe, the improvised refugee camps in Calais or at the border between Greece and Macedonia serve as stark reminders that even though bodies are now the borders, the physicality of geographical confines is alive and well. At the opening of Monditalia in May 2014, Italian Limes was tucked away at the end of the Corderie dell’Arsenale. For Pestellini Laparelli, Italian Limes was “the final chapter of a sequential journey through Italy – from northern Africa to its Alpine borders – investigating issues at the edge between politics and spatial research, within the Italian and European context”. The installation showcased pictures from Folder’s expedition, one of its GPS sensors, a model of the movable section of the border under investigation and historical materials. And then, the cherry on the cake: the pantograph2 and a seemingly endless stack
Folder conducted inital research at the Istituto Geografico Militare (IGM) in Florence.
Mason. The result of these constraints yielded a set of cylindrical, red, solar-powered GPS sensors, a sleek and efficient design that brings to mind the geometry of domestic fireworks. The expedition climbed Mt Similaun in early April 2014 to install a network of five of these probes on the ice sheet of the Grafferner glacier. To get there, the group had to hike up to a refuge, then onwards to a plateau from where they could reach the glacier via a helicopter ride. “It is very powerful,” says Ferrari. “In flight, there is a strong feeling of lightness, but also of instability, because you definitely feel the wind, especially at that altitude.” Beyond the imposing landscape (his encounter with which Leoni recalls as being “the first time – if you discard the experience of being at sea – that you couldn’t see anything built by man”) the intensity of the expedition was felt in its rigorous timing and restrictions. “A helicopter mission constrains you to an essentiality and rigour that I would define as military and poetic,” says Mason. “The experience was much more intense and surreal than what I had imagined.” Ferrari similarly attests
2 The pantograph was powered by an Arduino board and programmed in Processing.
of maps, ready for visitors to approach, press a button and have a border with a time stamp drawn as they waited. “The physical representation of the border’s mobility was made possible by the technological apparatus,” says OMA’s Fabrizia Vecchione, “and brought to the show an element of poetry and irony.” The Biennale’s jury awarded Italian Limes a Special Mention for a Research Project for “showing how climate change and new technologies impact on territorial delimitation in the North of Italy,” and demonstrating “how intra-European borders move, revealing tensions between self-protection and free-circulation”. For Pestellini Laparelli, the project attested to Folder’s “great intuition to link history, geopolitics, regulation, science, environmental
At the IGM, Folder found a series of of maps and
Images taken from the archives of the Istituto Geografico Militare, authorisation no. 6778, 28/04/2014.
images from past expeditions to Mt Similaun.
change and geology in order to dig into the contemporary notion of border, nation state and by extension European identity”. The installation also caused a lasting impression on Kieran Long and Rory Hyde, curators at the V&A who acquired one of the maps for their museum’s permanent collection. “For me it’s also a drawing of a networked system, of a smart device and what it can accomplish,” says Hyde, the V&A’s curator of contemporary architecture and urbanism. “That it was created from the red GPS sensors up on the ice makes it a networked object that references things beyond itself. That’s an important architectural story. The maps (and drawings) we make now are somehow even more detailed than Borges’s 1:1 map.3 They contain invisible things, things which aren’t there on the landscape such as satellites and data.”
“You are at 3,500m altitude, on a white surface where you cannot see a line; but that line exists and it moves.” —Marco Ferrari Elsewhere, Folder was invited to take the projectto new heights in April 2016 for an exhibition at Karlsruhe in Germany’s ZKM Centre for Art and Media, curated by Bruno Latour, Martin Guinard-Terrin, Donato Ricci and Cristophe Leclerq. Titled GLOBALE: Reset Modernity!, it proposed to showcase a set of projects that would offer a philosophical recalibration of “this most obscure principle of projection to map out the world, namely Modernity”. The show advocated ecology as effectively shaping contemporary politics, which presented Folder with the opportunity to display their project in a context that allowed for a reading of its two strong ideas – the concept of the cataclysmic environmental changes affecting us all, and a reflection on the simultaneous permanence and invisibility of borders. For Martin Guinard-Terrin, “Italian Limes is a fantastic case study on natural space when borders are defined by ecological mutation, allowing an understanding of how borders are constituted and shaped by a variety of factors.” Guinard-Terrin argues that the opportunity to develop the project further for Reset Modernity! was a natural consequence of its research base: “Through dialogue, the project became sharper and more defined.” Building upon its previous research, Folder entered an exchange with the Italian Glaciological Committee’s Aldino Bondesan and Valter Maggi, as well as geophysicists Roberto Francese, Massimo Giorgi and Stefano Picotti, and devised a more ambitious mapping effort and a more sophisticated set of sensors with state-of-the-art components that were designed from scratch in collaboration with Leoni 3 The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote a 1946 one‑paragraph short story titled ‘Del rigor en la ciencia’. It purports to be written by a 17th-century traveller who learns of a guild of cartographers who took their art to such levels of exactitude that they charted an empire with a map of the exact same size and detail as the empire.
The dematerialisation of
significance of borders, now dangerously re-erected across Europe.” While Italian Limes is reinforced by its sociopolitical context, the project’s specific geographic focus means that its research will continue as planned. With the ZKM exhibition having completed its run in August, Folder is planning a new expedition to retrieve the sensors and the resultant data. The findings will inform a scientific paper that the studio will co-author with members of the Italian Glaciological Committee, as well as bringing closure to the project in the form of a book. Yet Italian Limes’s greatest legacy is likely to be how it has contributed in a completely novel way to the fields of design and architecture, and helped carve out a path for a new generation of researchers. It has shown how design can meaningfully contribute to social and political discourse. In stark contrast to the postcard of the Brenner pass that initiated the project, a current Google maps rendition of Italy’s border shows desolation and emptiness. A bare road leads to the Alps, as if entering the country were nothing other than simple and objective. And yet, as Paasi writes, “borders are still with us,” their meanings “more and more complex in both social and political practice and academic research”. Borders are contested, transformed, permeable to different degrees, dematerialised, present – and as movable in their definition as the section of the Italian-Austrian frontier analysed by Folder. “Consequently, it is crucial to step beyond simple dichotomies dictating that spaces should be understood as either territorially bounded or open,” concludes Paasi. “Even the most thoroughly fixed borders transform, are crossed, and are partly ‘mobile’.” E N D
borders that Schengen heralded is illusory. In fact, our progressively digitised world borders have become more and more connected. and Mason. A new expedition to Mt Similaun was arranged and a team of designers, scientists and geophysicists went to install the sensors in the same stretch of the border that had been studied previously, but this time laid out in a 1sqkm grid across the watershed, providing data for a precise description of the border’s shifts by detecting any change in the altitude of its points. Additional measurements were done on the site during the visit and a geophysical survey of the glacier was performed. This data would not only serve the installation at ZKM, but will ultimately lead to better understanding of climatechange dynamics in the region and inform new scientific research. Shortly after the expedition, however, hard snowfall buried the sensors, rendering them mute for weeks. Folder’s anxious members looked on in dismay at the silent communication interface before eventually the snow melted and, powered by the sun, the devices came back to life. “When they re-emerged from under 2m of snow and started communicating with us again, I couldn’t believe it was true,” says Leoni. But while the sensors had been silent, the rest of Europe was less so. From the aggression marking all stages of the Brexit campaign and France’s ongoing state of emergency following the November 2015 Paris attacks, to the violent reactions and effective closing of borders – from the temporary reinstatement of travelling restrictions to semi-permanent barbed-wire fencing and patrolling – across a continent seeking to control a growing refugee crisis, the territorial borderlines that Folder was mapping seemed to gain relevance with each passing day. For Pestellini Laparelli, this context enriched the Italian Limes research, which now stands for much more than it did upon its inception: “It demonstrates the resilient
Italian Limes is a project by Folder (Marco Ferrari, Elisa Pasqual), Pietro Leoni, Delfino Sisto Legnani, Alessandro Mason, Angelo Semeraro and Livia Shamir.
Unknown Brews In the 1960s, design fell under the spell of mouldable materials. A poem about styrene from the writer Raymond Queneau helps explain their allure, as a tribute to 50 years of B&B Italia. Photographs Iwan Baan History
A mould for Zaha Hadid’s Moon System sofa at the B&B Italia factory in Novedrate, Italy. It is made using injection-moulded polyurethane foam technology, a technique pioneered by the company, which was founded in 1966.
Le chant du Styrène
– the post-privation romance with things, which was accompanied by a fresh cultural energy. Presciently, it touches on industrial exploitation of the natural world, hinting at the siren song of industrial progress. For me, this French artefact also speaks of a remarkable pivotal moment that occurred in Italy a few years later. In 1966, Piero Busnelli founded C&B Italia (later B&B Italia), revolutionising furniture production with injection-moulded polyurethane foam technology – a production method that ultimately changed how people live with furniture, introducing a fresh freedom and informality to the domestic landscape. In the history of furniture production, there have been a few critical turning points in material applications and manufacturing. Steam-bent wood was introduced in the 1840s, giving rise to the ubiquitous Thonet café chair; bent tubular steel in the 1920s defined the industrial aesthetic of the Bauhaus designers; moulded plywood in the 1940s translated
Of the many sources of poetic inspiration, industrial materials have perhaps been under considered. And yet, in mid-1950s France, such was the subject of a soaring paean to mouldable plastic. ‘Le chant du Styrène’ is a poem by Raymond Queneau, the French novelist and poet whose inspirations included vernacular language and mathematics, and who founded the avant-garde Oulipo writing group. In its best-known form, the work provides the narration to a 1958 film of the same name by Alain Resnais, which was commissioned by the Pechiney industrial group to extol the miracle of polystyrene. Le chant du Styrène, for which Queneau’s poem was commissioned, is a seductive and surreal – at times faintly ominous – picture of polystyrene, celebrating its miraculous ability to give shape to modern needs. It explores the material’s production from petroleum, and, in turn, petroleum’s extraction from decayed fish and plankton. The film captures the thrilling promise of postwar synthetic materials
the wartime method of producing leg splints into strong, light furniture via the Eameses; and the enormous advances in plastic, polyurethane and other mouldable materials in the 1950s and 1960s made it possible to produce dynamic forms inexpensively, consistently and in unprecedented quantities. Each of these material advances aligned with dramatic cultural change, not least the mid-century advances in mouldable materials. By the mid-1960s, the world was in the midst of a social and cultural revolution that played out through music, fashion and art. Alongside these were film and television, powerful mediums that captured all and helped propel anti-establishment values around the world. The new mouldable materials being developed were perfectly in tune with the energy of the times. As youth culture shrugged off hierarchy and conformity, embracing freedom and possibility, the new materials permitted a complementary fluidity of form-making. Curves appeared that could not have been created with traditional furniture-making techniques; superb comfort could be achieved with futuristically thin cushions; large, light, seemingly unstructured volumes became a reality. These new mouldable materials were at the centre of the intersection of material science, industrial innovation, and creativity and imagination. It was during this moment of cultural flux that Piero Busnelli, a furniture manufacturer from Brianza, Italy, happened to see a moulded rubber duck pop out of an injection moulding machine at a trade fair in London. This duck was a demonstration of polyurethane-foam technology and Busnelli immediately saw the potential for furniture manufacturing: foam could be injected into a mould to form a cushion around a metal frame. It was a technology that could create unprecedented forms with extraordinary efficiency at a high quality. Busnelli recognised the aptitude of the new technology for the dynamic cultural moment he found himself in and worked from the beginning with visionary design collaborators, of whom Gaetano Pesce and Mario Bellini were two of the most important. Pesce’s Up series of armchairs, to which a ball-shaped ottoman was affixed by a chord, was billed as a proudly feminist statement about the oppression of women (albeit filtered through a 1960s, male perspective). It gained in stature
and poignancy through its delivery method: arriving vacuum-packed, Up expanded as it was removed from its packaging, seemingly in assertion of itself. Meanwhile, Bellini’s Le Bambole seating featured no visible armature – only cushions – and served as a manifesto for an unstructured, informal, sexy, free way of living. In the controversial accompanying publicity photos, Donna Jordan – a Factory model, direct from a downtown loft – was draped, topless, across the product. These were furniture pieces that revolutionised the industry and the domestic landscape, even as Andy Warhol’s pop art was up-ending the art world. When I began my design career in the early 1990s, B&B seemed to me to stand at the apex. It was a meeting point of design, technology and culture. B&B’s products were always cultural – propositions about how people live – but they also harnessed and reflected the company’s proprietary production technology. I was immediately drawn to discover the full capacity of B&B’s polyurethane-foam moulding, similar to a curious kid in a marvellous candy store. My first project for the brand, the Tulip chair, was based on creating wonderful, voluptuous, pure curves; the second, the Landscape chaise, was about making an extraordinary compound curve as thin as possible without losing comfort. Central to both was a tactile response to the material – its fluidity, resilience and even its inherent modernity. There is no question that production technology at once gives expression to and forms our desires. Perhaps this is the siren song to which the title of Queneau’s poem refers? As we push technology forward, our needs and aspirations change. With this in mind, how will designers respond to the latest industrial revolution, 3D printing, which allows for the production of impossible forms with an unprecedented degree of customisation? Queneau described polystyrene’s special expressive capacity and aptness for its historical moment, and looking into the future we can only guess at the technologies to come. Design is a language for solving human problems in a functional, industrial way, with tremendous creative freedom. It is a way of giving meaning to technical capacity. The greatest challenge for the designer is as follows – with these incredible technical and expressive means at your disposal, what are you going to say? How will you respond to this seductive call of possibility?
The B&B foaming plant is where the polyurethane is injected into moulds to shape the furniture. Here are a series of open moulds for Antonio Citterioâ€™s armchair Mart.
Original French by Raymond Queneau (1958).
Le chant du Styrène Ô temps, suspends ton bol, ô matière plastique
En perles se formaient. Oui – mais auparavant ?
D’où viens-tu ? Qui es-tu ? et qu’est-ce qui
Le styrène n’était qu’un liquide incolore
Quelque peu explosif, et non pas inodore.
Tes rares qualités ? De quoi donc es-tu fait ?
Et regardez-le bien ; c’est la seule occasion
D’où donc es-tu parti ? Remontons de l’objet
Pour vous d’apercevoir ce qui est en question.
À ses aïeux lointains ! Qu’à l’envers se déroule
Le styrène est produit en grande quantité
Son histoire exemplaire. En premier lieu, le moule.
À partir de l’éthyl-benzène surchauffé.
Incluant la matrice, être mystérieux,
Le styrène autrefois s’extrayait du benjoin,
Il engendre le bol ou bien tout ce qu’on veut.
Provenant du styrax, arbuste indonésien.
Mais le moule est lui-même inclus dans une presse
De tuyau en tuyau ainsi nous remontons,
Qui injecte la pâte et conforme la pièce,
À travers le désert des canalisations,
Ce qui présente donc le très grand avantage
Vers les produits premiers, vers la matière abstraite
D’avoir l’objet fini sans autre façonnage.
Qui circulait sans fin, effective et secrète.
Le moule coûte cher ; c’est un inconvénient.
On lave et on distille et puis on redistille
On le loue il est vrai, même à ses concurrents.
Et ce ne sont pas là exercices de style :
Le formage sous vide est une autre façon
L’éthylbenzène peut – et doit même éclater
D’obtenir des objets : par simple aspiration.
Si la température atteint certain degré.
À l’étape antérieure, soigneusement rangé,
Quant à l’éthylbenzène, il provient, c’est limpide,
Le matériau tiédi est en plaque extrudé.
De la combinaison du benzène liquide
Pour entrer dans la buse il fallait un piston
Avecque l’éthylène, une simple vapeur.
Et le manchon chauffant – ou le chauffant manchon –
Éthylène et benzène ont pour générateurs
Auquel on fournissait… Quoi ? Le polystyrène
Soit charbon, soit pétrole, ou pétrole ou charbon.
Vivace et turbulent qui se hâte et s’égrène.
Pour faire l’autre et l’un l’un et l’autre sont bons.
Et l’essaim granulé sur le tamis vibrant
On pourrait repartir sur ces nouvelles pistes
Fourmillait tout heureux d’un si beau colorant.
Et rechercher pourquoi et l’autre et l’un existent.
Avant d’être granule on avait été jonc,
Le pétrole vient-il de masses de poissons ?
Joncs de toutes couleurs, teintes, nuances, tons.
On ne le sait pas trop ni d’où vient le charbon.
Ces joncs avaient été, suivant une filière,
Le pétrole vient-il du plancton en gésine ?
Un boudin que sans fin une vis agglomère.
Question controversée… obscures origines…
Et ce qui donnait lieu à l’agglutination ?
Et pétrole et charbon s’en allaient en fumée
Des perles colorées de toutes les façons.
Quand le chimiste vint qui eut l’heureuse idée
Et colorées comment ? Là devint homogène
De rendre ces nuées solides et d’en faire
Le pigment qu’on mélange à du polystyrène.
D’innombrables objets au but utilitaire.
Mais avant il fallut que le produit séchât
En matériaux nouveaux ces obscurs résidus
Et, rotativement, le produit trébucha.
Sont ainsi transformés. Il en est d’inconnus
À peine était-il né, notre polystyrène.
Qui attendent encor la mutation chimique
Polymère produit du plus simple styrène.
Pour mériter enfin la vente à prix unique.
Polymérisation : ce mot, chacun le sait, Désigne l’obtention d’un complexe élevé De poids moléculaire. Et dans un réacteur, Machine élémentaire œuvre d’un ingénieur, Les molécules donc s’accrochant et se liant
English translation by Madeleine Velguth.
Poem reproduced courtesy of Editions Gallimard and the estate of Raymond Queneau.
Styrene’s Song Oh, time, suspend your bowl, oh plastic substance
The styrene was only a liquid, colorless,
Whence are you? Who are you? And what accounts
Somewhat explosive and not odorless.
For your rare qualities? Of what might you consist?
Do take a good look: it’s the only occasion
From what have you come? The object, as it now exists,
You’ll have to see what is in question.
Has remote ancestors! Let us in reverse unfold
Styrene is produced in great quantities
Its exemplary history. To begin with, the mold.
From superheated ethyl-benzenes.
Including the nest, mysterious entity,
Formerly styrene was extracted from benzoin,
It engenders the bowl or whatever else may be.
Product of the styrax, in Indonesia grown.
But the mold is itself enclosed in a press
And so from pipe to pipe we are going back,
That injects the paste and forms the piece,
Through the desert of canalizations’ track,
And thus most advantageously extrudes
Toward the raw materials, toward matter abstract
The finished object, ready to be used.
Circulating without end, effective and secret.
The mold is expensive; this could be a prohibition.
It is washed and distilled and then redistilled
But then it can be rented out, even to the competition.
And these are not mere stylistic exercises skilled:
Vacuum forming is another way of
Ethylbenzene can – and even should blow up
Obtaining objects: simple aspiration pays off.
If its temperature rises high enough up.
The warmed material, carefully gauged,
As for ethylbenzene, it comes, I have seen,
Is extruded in sheets at the previous stage.
From the combination of liquid benzene
To go into the injector a piston was needed, so
With ethylene, a simple vapor.
Too the isomantle – or the mantleiso –
Ethylene and benzene have as generator
Into which was fed… What? Polystyrene,
Either coal, or oil, or oil or coal.
Hardy and boisterous, rushing, not serene.
To make them both, they both can have a role.
Vibrating on the sieve, the granulated swarm
We could set off down this new avenue
Bustled happily in colors so warm.
To try to get of both of their origins a view.
Before being a granule it was an extruded string,
Does oil come from masses and masses of fish?
Strings of all tints, shades, tones, coloring.
It’s not really known, and coal’s origin’s a wish.
These strings had been, following a procedure,
Does oil come from plankton in labor?
A sausage to which a plasticating screw applied pressure.
A much debated question… growing ever grayer…
And what occasioned the agglutination?
And oil and coal went up in smoke
Pearls colored to suit every imagination.
When along came the chemist who, with luck’s stroke,
And how was it colored? Why, the pigment mixed
Turned these clouds solid and made of them
With polystyrene became homogeneously fixed.
Innumerable objects utilitarian.
But before that the product to dry was tumbled
Into new materials these obscure residues
And so, rotatingly, the product stumbled.
Are thus transformed. And unknown brews
It was scarcely born, our polystyrene.
Are still awaiting chemical mutation
A polymer produced by the simplest styrene.
So they can merit commercial exploitation.
Polymerization: this word, as we all know, Designates obtaining a complex product, and so Of higher molecular weight. And in a reactor, An elementary machine, work of an engineer, The molecules into pearls, clinging, formed And linked to each other. Yes – but before?
After the polyurethane foam has been formed into furniture, the pieces are trimmed and finished before being upholstered. At the front right of the picture are a series of Grande Papilios by Naoto Fukasawa. At the far left are examples of Gaetano Pesceâ€™s UP chair and footstool.
Teapot Genealogy It is one of the most functional teapots ever designed, yet the British Brown Betty is an authorless object – one developed over time by countless makers. The designer Ian McIntyre’s PhD is focused on the ongoing evolution of the Brown Betty, a process he discusses below. The Brown Betty is the archetypal teapot. Its original design is purely rational, stripped of anything superfluous to its function and production methods. It has always been the cheapest teapot you can buy and became one of the most-manufactured in British history. Yet, because the Brown Betty is so utilitarian and disappears into the fabric of everyday life, its history is hard to trace. One defining element of the Brown Betty is that it is formed out of Etruria marl, a red clay native to Staffordshire. The clay was originally used to make butter and milk pots but it had an incredibly low perceived value. Around 1693, however, the Dutch potters John Philip Elers and David Elers refined this clay, removing its impurities to make wares of a far superior technical and artistic standard. Soon after this, the Elers brothers began making teapots. At that point, tea was expensive – like gold dust – so naturally teapots were expensive too. The Elers brothers sold their designs to the luxury London market and often imitated and competed with wares imported from China. This was a defining point in the history of red clay: the Elers brothers had completely flipped perceptions of the material. Today, the refinement of Etruria marl is seen as a key catalyst for the proliferation of industry in Stoke-on-Trent. The design of the Brown Betty evolved over time at the hands of multiple makers and the fact that it is authorless partly explains why it hasn’t been written into the history books in the same way as other objects. It works as an early example of opensource: it has been in the hands of multiple makers, each of whom has made their mark on the object. The Brown Betty is in a continual state of evolution and each evolution is attached to a different point in cultural history. So nobody knows who its first maker was, although Alcock, Lindley and Bloore was certainly the most innovative. The company started producing the Brown Betty in 1919, when tea had
1 1 An extrusion of Etruria marl clay about to be bagged up by Valentine Clays in Stoke-on-Trent. (Photograph Glen Stoker)
2 Dipped in Rockingham glaze, an eight-cup Brown Betty is left to dry. (Photograph Glen Stoker)
3 A Brown Betty still soft in its open mould. (Photograph Ian McIntyre)
4 At Cauldon Ceramics, a teapot is fettled to remove rough edges before firing. (Photograph Glen Stoker)
The Brown Betty works as an example ofÂ opensource: it has been in the hands of multiple makers, each of whom made their mark.
Because the teapot is so utilitarian and disappears into the fabric of everyday life, its history is hard to trace.
dramatically dropped in price. Whereas the Elers brothers had designed for a high-end market, Alcock, Lindley and Bloore created an affordable, mass-market object: the people’s teapot. It was cheap to produce, efficiently made and functional. The Brown Betty’s popularity is mainly due to it being the most functional teapot that you could buy – every detail had a functional consideration. One example is the spout. The Brown Betty had two different spouts: a classic design and the patented non-drip design. They were made in the same way and sold concurrently, so the variation was simply marketed as a refinement. The beautiful detail on the classic spout is that it has a slight roughness under its lip, which cuts the flow of water into a drip rather than a dribble. The non-drip design evolved this feature further such that the problem was eliminated. The locking lid is further evidence of how the Brown Betty’s design was almost exclusively led by function. The height of the pot’s collar may look clumsy but it’s there to allow an undercut, which manifests in a ridge that the lid slides into, preventing it from falling out. The lid also inverts, which is one of the reasons its manufacturers managed to make so many teapots: it made it possible to stack them in factories. The Brown Betty wasn’t just designed to be efficient for the end consumer, it was efficient across the entire approach. Shifting cultural norms, such as the decline in loose-leaf-tea consumption, have also dictated the evolution of the design. The original teapot featured a grid that was pierced into its body to stop loose-leaf tea flowing out of the spout. But today the Brown Betty is made without the grid, a result of the proliferation of teabags. Given the globular shape of the pot, the teabag would sometimes slip up and block the flow of tea through that grid. So there is this wider significance within the Brown Betty: it is a cultural object and not just a design object. Today, most teapots are aesthetic judgments rather than being driven by functionality. Cauldon Ceramics, one of two remaining makers of the Brown Betty in Staffordshire, does little marketing and yet there is always demand. Approximately 80 per cent of what they produce is exported to America and Japan because the Brown Betty is seen as Anatomy
7 5 Rejected Brown Betty teapots gather dust beside the kiln at Cauldon Ceramics. (Photograph Ian McIntyre)
6 Cauldon Ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent still produces the Brown Betty. (Photograph Glen Stoker)
7 An Alcock, Lindley and Bloore advertisement in the Pottery
Gazette, April 1953.
8 The artist and set designer Leslie Hurry reflected in the glaze of a Brown Betty teapot. (Photograph courtesy of the Lee Miller Archives)
quintessentially British. There is a hazy line where the Brown Betty has shifted from being an icon of pioneering innovation to a symbol of heritage and nostalgia. This is something of a burden because there’s a balance to strike between the familiar aesthetics of the teapot, the history of its evolution and the fact that its underlying success was essentially due to its cheapness and functionality. As the Brown Betty’s history is vague, there is nothing to say what defines a fake. Our nostalgia for the design is what allows it to remain relevant: it is this that demands the Brown Betty should be made in Staffordshire and which dictates why an imported model is not authentic. There are highly regarded design shops selling teapots made of white clay and shipped from east Asia as “the original Brown Betty”. But to my mind, because of the history of red clay, they cannot be the real article. My project involves creating a new evolution of the Brown Betty that acknowledges this history. I’m designing around Cauldon Ceramics’ skill set while trying to understand the constraints of the cultural idea of what the Brown Betty is. The last thing I want to do is create a design-led object that alienates traditional consumers. It is about taking the DNA from past iterations and translating that into a product that works today. The project hinges on the idea that this pot is affordable, accessible and a great design, but I also want to elevate the perceived value of the object as well as that of the red clay. It’s about articulating what makes it special. Now that the UK has voted to leave the EU, the project feels a little inward-looking, but that’s why it’s important to tell the wider story of the Brown Betty: what makes it British is not actually British. The pot evolved from the work of two Dutch brothers who moved from Germany to Staffordshire to refine a British clay that they were trying to use to emulate teapots produced in China. E N D
10 9 Ian McIntyre opening a new mould for a two-cup Brown Betty.
10 The same teapot before being fettled and fired. (Photographs courtesy of Ian McIntyre)
Based on an interview by Anya Lawrence.
Photograph by Florian Bรถhm, Disegno #11.
The Quarterly Journal of Design
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Writer’s note: There’s a great book on the history of stripes in textile and interior design called Ränder Rytm Riktning, accompanying an exhibition of the same name
OBSERVATION: REFLEX BY RAF SIMONS FOR KVADRAT p. 63
Manufacturer’s note: Werner Aisslinger recommends the following plants for The Sea and the Shore tap: Epipremnum aureum, a vine, and Philodendron scandens or heart-leaf Philodendron. —Axor
Axor – axor-design.com Werner Aisslinger – aisslinger.de
Fondation Le Corbusier – fondationlecorbusier.fr Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation – franklloydwright.org UNESCO World Heritage – whc.unesco.org
Writer’s note: It was surreal to be in a bureaucratic meeting just a day after the streets outside had seen bloodshed during a failed military coup. But the situation in Turkey made the words of Antoine Picon, president of Fondation Le Corbusier, all the more resonant. Speaking of Le Corbusier’s “concern for treating every single human being’s needs with dignity” and “his faith in man and his ability to choose his own future,” Picon concluded, “We need this optimism more today than ever.” —Jennifer Hattam
PROCESS: WHEN GENIUS ISN’T ENOUGH pp. 52-60
Tesla – tesla.com
Alexander Taylor – alexandertaylor.com Amam Design Unit – a-ma-m.com Dell – dell.com Ecovative – ecovativedesign.com In.gredients – in.gredients.com Lexus Design Award – lexus-int.com/lexus-design
Disegno’s note: When organising the shoot with Michael Bodiam here in London we called in packaging from all over the world. It felt pretty stupid to be shipping empty packaging for a shoot illustrating an article which is all about how design can help reduce packaging waste and transport costs. —Anna Holden
REPORT: THE CASE FOR REPACKAGING pp. 73-83
Writer’s note: When I was writing about the Tesla crash, Uber announced trials of self-driving taxis in Pittsburgh and bought Otto, a driverless-truck startup. Tesla, meanwhile, updated the Model S, such that “ludicrous mode” now does 0 to 60mph in just 2.5 seconds. My article was about dabbing the brakes so we can think this transition through – fat chance of that. —Dan Hill
COMMENT: AUTONOMOUS DECISIONS p. 50
IPSoft – ipsoft.com/amelia
School faculty members to consult on using design thinking to help teach “ethical leadership”. As a pacifist, I was horrified by the idea, but part of me was intrigued. Was it morally reprehensible to engage? We did accept and, while the project never got off the ground, we spent a day shadowing young officers in training. I left with a changed perspective on how these men and women viewed citizenship, sacrifice and patriotism. —Jamer Hunt
referendum. “We’re totally screwed if it’s Leave,” she said, referring to her work. Then, in mock exasperation: “Oh, but then a robot called Amelia might be doing my job before the end of the year, so...” —Kristina Rapacki
OBSERVATION: THE SEA AND THE SHORE BY WERNER AISSLINGER FOR AXOR p. 37
Juriaan Booij – juriaanbooij.com Studio Swine – studioswine.com
Director’s note: For our third trip to Brazil, we traded the metropolis of São Paulo for the Amazonian rainforest. We wanted to film a pirarucu, a near-mythical freshwater fish. Eventually we found one; it wasn’t fully grown, but impressive nonetheless at nearly 6ft. —Juriaan Booij
PHOTOESSAY: FORDLÂNDIA pp. 26-35
Apple – apple.com Calvin Klein – calvinklein.com Design Academy Eindhoven – designacademy.nl Dior – dior.com Frugalpac – frugalpac.com Gary Hustwit – hustwit.com Grace Wales Bonner – walesbonner.net The Guardian – theguardian.com Herzog & de Meuron – herzogdemeuron.com Ikea – ikea.com LVMH Prize – lvmhprize.com Raf Simons – rafsimons.com Pokémon Go – pokemongo.com Samsung – samsung.com Starbucks – starbucks.com Tate – tate.org.uk Uniqlo – uniqlo.com Valentino – valentino.com
TIMELINE pp. 23-24
Writer’s note: Like many stories, this one originated in the pub. I was having an uneasy drink with my friend, an Enfield Council worker; it was the night of the EU
Writer’s note: Five years ago, a representative from a US military academy approached me and three other New
COMMENT: TULIP CHAIRS, GLASS HOUSES AND BOMBSHELLS p. 70
COMMENT: HER p. 49
Istanbul Design Biennial – arewehuman.iksv.org
Writer’s note: Since I wrote the piece, I spent a week cohabiting with an Amazon Alexa in San Francisco. I did grow a bit attached to her: bemused by her jokes, annoyed by her failure to understand my orders, validated by the ring of blue light indicating she’d heard me. In retrospect, I wonder if the feminine voice has another benefit: perhaps we’re less threatened by her presence in our homes, listening to everything we say, responding only when called and eager to do our bidding. —Tamar Shafrir
COMMENT: VOICES FROM THE ETHER pp. 69
Nike Lab – nike.com/lab
Designer’s note: I hope the new Windrunner looks like classic Nike, even for someone who’s not massively interested in design. But for someone who’s a bit of a geek, I hope they’ll love the technology. —Kim Jones
OBSERVATION: NIKELAB WINDRUNNER X KIM JONES pp. 67
Colette – colette.fr
Writer’s note: As I hope the article made clear, I don’t know why these stickers exist. —Oli Stratford
OBSERVATION: PANINI COLETTE p. 64
Kvadrat – kvadrat.dk Artek – artek.fi
at Stockholm’s Nationalmuseum. Sadly it only exists in Swedish. —Johanna Agerman Ross
Interviewer’s note: Wigley and Colomina are warm, easy conversationalists and enthusiastic about what the Istanbul Design Biennial can represent. To them, its theme isn’t pessimistic or Delphic – it’s essential. It’s a necessary step in understanding what design truly represents, something many biennials have refused to thoroughly interrogate. —David Michon
INTERVIEW: HUMAN BY DESIGN pp. 40-46
KUFstudios – kufstudios.com
Designer’s note: I’m a goldsmith, not an engineer or a product designer, so coming up with something that has really specific technical requirements is hard. Throughout the process, I’ve constantly come up against my limits and I’m very much a beginner. But I kind of like being a beginner. —Kia Utzon-Frank
OBSERVATION: KUFTWIST BY KIA UTZON-FRANK p. 38
Liya Glass Factory – liyaglass.ir/en Nazgol Ansarinia – gagallery.com/artists/nazgolansarinia New Media Society – newmediasoc.com Platform 28 – 28.platplusforms.com Sanaz Nataj – instagram.com/sanaznatajofficial Shadi Parand – facebook.com/shadi.parand Shirin and Shiva Vaqar – vaqar.com Studio Kargah – facebook.com/studiokargah
Writer’s note: What struck me in Tehran was the willingness among designers to engage with regional craft traditions. One architect brought truckloads of bricks from Tabriz, a city in northern Iran, to build the courtyard of a private home in Tehran. A fashion designer produced her own textiles by setting up and supervising regional cooperatives. I was left wondering how this will develop as the sanctions are lifted and local designers start catering to international clients and audiences. —Lemma Shehadi
TRAVELOGUE: AFTER THE SANCTIONS pp. 89-104
Milk&More – milkandmore.co.uk Mireia Gordi i Vila – cargocollective.com/please_draw Original Unverpackt – original-unverpackt.de RePack – originalrepack.com Rich, Brilliant, Willing – richbrilliantwilling.com Studio Swine – studioswine.com Wrap – wrap.org.uk
OMA – oma.com
Writer’s note: Visiting a department store after opening hours was a childhood dream fuelled by Hollywood blockbusters such as Mannequin. But visiting one before it was even a department store was an altogether different feeling. I have never before encountered such a vast uninhabited space. Wandering around here undisturbed while Venice’s streets and canals teemed with tourists was like entering a parallel universe. —Johanna Agerman Ross
GALLERY: PRE-COMMERCE pp. 121-136
Adam Nathaniel Furman – adamnathanielfurman.com BCXSY – bcxsy.com Emelie Baltz – emiliebaltz.com Felipe Ribon – feliperibon.com Formafantasma – formafantasma.com Jacopo Sarzi – jacoposarzi.com Marije Vogelzang – marijevogelzang.nl Matali Crasset – matalicrasset.com Sebastian Bergne – sebastianbergne.com
Illustrator’s note: Responding to different designers’ ideas makes for satisfying work. I hope I did them justice. —Liam Cobb
SPECIAL PROJECT: INVESTIGATIONS IN TOASTING pp. 105-120
CONVERSATION: INTERSECTIONS: ROKSANDA ILINČIĆ AND DAVID ADJAYE pp. 153-168
Amazon – amazon.com
Writer’s note: Having just been on a lazy holiday in Crete, I can note that the Kindle seemed to encourage lying curled, almost foetal, holding the device with one hand. Paperbacks seemed better suited to reclining with a two-handed hold. Sand, however, proved rather less friendly to the Kindle. —Alex Wiltshire
REVIEW: KINDLE OASIS pp. 149-152
Bernie Krause – wildsanctuary.com Fondation Cartier – fondation.cartier.com
display. The Fondation Cartier is, for me, Jean Nouvel’s finest project: delicate, beautifully considered, and conceptually pure. Never has a show been more suited to this little-known urban woodland on the Boulevard Raspail. —James Taylor-Foster
Artemide – artemide.com p. 12 Axor – hansgrohe.com p. 16 B&B Italia – bebitalia.com p. 1, inside front cover Bene – bene.com p. 36 Bocci – bocci.ca pp. 8-9 Coalesse – coalesse.com pp. 10-11 Crafts Council – craftscouncil.org.uk p. 88 De La Espada – delaespada.com p. 25 Dornbracht – dornbracht.com p. 39 Downtown Design Dubai – downtowndesign.com p. 48 Duravit – duravit.co.uk p. 21 Elmo Leather – elmoleather.com p. 51 Emeco – emeco.net pp. 4-5 Flexform – flexform.it pp. 6-7 Hitch Mylius – hitchmylius.co.uk p. 68 Helen Yardley – helenyardley.com p. 62 Biennale Interieur – interieur.be inside back cover James Burleigh – jamesburleigh.co.uk p. 66 Kvadrat – kvadrat.dk pp. 2-3 Lasvit – lasvit.com p. 19 Laufen – laufen.co.uk p. 61 Maharam – maharam.com p. 15 Royal Academy of Arts – royalacademy.org.uk p. 71 Saint Laurent – ysl.com outside back cover Sixteen3 – sixteen3.co.uk p. 72 USM – usm.com p. 47 Vola – vola.com p. 58
Stefanie Tschirky – stefanietschirky.com
Interviewer’s note: After Tschirky has finished moulding the material around the wearer’s body, she seals the ensemble with cling film “just tight enough for the wearer to be able to move”. —Anya Lawrence
ENDNOTE: FRAGILE CHAOS p. 200
Cauldon Ceramics – cauldonceramics.co.uk Ian McIntyre – ianmcintyre.co.uk
they were mass-produced and so cheap it was just accepted. I really like that. —Ian McIntyre
Index ANATOMY: TEAPOT GENEALOGY pp. 190-194 Writer’s note: One of the reasons I find the Brown Betty so special is that they’re everywhere. Tonnes of them have rough imperfections, but because
REVIEW: THE GREAT ANIMAL ORCHESTRA pp. 145-148
Writer’s note: I’m the sort of person who’s often far more interested in how exhibitions are arranged in space (and, often, the spaces themselves) than the actual works on
Translator’s note: Queneau loved to play with allusion. ‘Le chant du Styrène’ is surely intended to evoke “le chant de la sirène” – the siren’s song. —Madeleine Velguth B&B Italia – bebitalia.com Le chant du Styrène – vimeo.com/14154663 Éditions Gallimard – gallimard.fr
HISTORY: UNKNOWN BREWS pp. 181-189
Studio Folder – studiofolder.it Italian Limes – italianlimes.net
Writer’s note: I interviewed Marco in Milan on Ferragosto, the mid-August holiday when everything in Italy is closed. Arriving in his office, located in Milanese Chinatown, I was surprised to find a vibrant neighbourhood with lots of families out and about. We had an intercultural lunch at the office, combining Friulian cold cuts and cheese with takeaway Chinese dumplings and Tsingtao beer. I felt as though I were at a casual Sunday lunch, reunited with my Milanese family. —Vera Sacchetti
PROJECT: FROM BORDER TO THRESHOLD pp. 169-180
David Adjaye Associates – adjaye.com Roksanda – roksanda.com
Interviewer’s note: It had been a while since David and Roksanda last met – both are constantly travelling – and their pleasure at seeing one another for this feature was obvious. During their conversation, it struck me that this sense of joy extended to their collaborations too. —Sabrina Shim
Writer’s note: The EU Referendum occurred during the group stages of Euro 2016. It was notable that – unlike in sport – once the declarations began, there was no hope of a sudden change in fortune. The result poured out consistently, area after area. It was the opposite of enthralling, but I was still stuck to my seat watching Brexit unfold, unable to quite believe what we’d just done. That England were humiliated by Iceland only four days later felt a little bit like just deserts. —Douglas Murphy
REVIEW: THE AFTERMATH OF BREXIT pp. 142-144
Play:groundNYC – play-ground.nyc
Writer’s note: For a writer and researcher of children’s design, having a three-year-old is a great asset. Although we’ve “researched” many playgrounds, we hadn’t experienced anything like Play:groundNYC. While only one of us took notes, we both broadened our attitudes and approaches toward play. —Amber Winick
REVIEW: PLAY:GROUNDNYC pp. 138-141
Vitra Design Museum – design-museum.de p. 65 Wrong London – wrong.london p. 22
ENDNOTE Stefanie Tschirky – Fragile Chaos “I never wanted to use fabrics as we know them,” says the fashion designer Stefanie Tschirky. Instead, Tschirky’s garments are cut from a proprietary material created by laying a grid of threads onto Perspex, over which she pours a plastic-like mixture. Once this has set, she moulds it around a mannequin. The garment is then shaped a second time on the wearer, such that it sits like a second skin.
Photograph Timo Wirsching Model Jessia Lloyd at Premier Model Management Hair Paul Jones Makeup Enya Sullivan
Roksanda Ilinčić and David Adjaye on the connections between architecture and fashion; Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley reflecting on how to...