Shigeru Ban Nelly Ben Hayoun Maria Blaisse Design Erotica Olafur Eliasson Eley Kishimoto Orhan Pamuk Victor Papanek Julie Richoz The Fold
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M E M B E R O F T H E FA G E R H U LT G R O U P
Design Miami/ The Global Forum for Design 5.–9. December 2012/ Preview Day 4. December 2012/ Meridian Avenue & 19th Street Miami Beach/ USA designmiami.com Design Galleries/ Caroline Van Hoek/ Brussels Carpenters Workshop Gallery/ London & Paris Cristina Grajales Gallery/ New York Demisch Danant/ New York Didier Ltd/ London Gabrielle Ammann // Gallery/ Cologne Galerie BSL/ Paris Galerie Downtown - François Laffanour/ Paris Galerie Jacques Lacoste/ Paris Galerie kreo/ Paris Galerie Patrick Seguin/ Paris Galerie VIVID/ Rotterdam Galleria Rossella Colombari/ Milan Gallery SEOMI/ Seoul Hostler Burrows/ New York Industry Gallery/ Washington DC & Los Angeles Jason Jacques Inc./ New York Johnson Trading Gallery/ New York Jousse Entreprise/ Paris Magen H Gallery/ New York Mark McDonald/ Hudson Moderne Gallery/ Philadelphia Nilufar Gallery/ Milan Ornamentum/ Hudson Pierre Marie Giraud/ Brussels Priveekollektie Contemporary Art | Design/ Heusden R 20th Century/ New York Venice Projects/ Venice
C U – O M I N Design On/Site Galleries Antonella Villanova/ Florence, presenting Delfina Delettrez Booo/ Eindhoven, presenting Front Carwan Gallery/ Beirut, presenting India Mahdavi Design Space/ Tel Aviv, presenting Michal Cederbaum & Noam Dover Erastudio Apartment-Gallery/ Milan, presenting Gaetano Pesce Victor Hunt Designart Dealer/ Brussels, presenting Sylvain Willenz + CIRVA Volume Gallery/ Chicago, presenting Snarkitecture
F O R R I U S D S Wendell Castle/ Pinkie/ 1969/ R 20th Century Gallery
M A S T E R O F C O U T U R E
Book Now For This Major New Exhibition 29 November 2012 – 3 March 2013 Open Daily 10.00 –18.00, Thursdays 10.00 – 21.00 £12.50 / £9 (concessions) Somerset House, London WC2R 1LA somersethouse.org.uk #ValentinoExhibition
“Three points is the minimum necessary to make a stable structure in space – perhaps the same applies for an initiative in time.” Those were the words of one of Disegno’s first contributors, the writer and architect, Julian Worrall. It was a comment on the progress of Disegno and the fact that issue three was on its way. I hadn’t thought of it until then, but what he said was true. We are still a small and independent enterprise, and the Disegno team has to live with the chaos and pressure that sometimes come with that, but little by little we are creating a more stable structure and with that an imprint on the world. This issue has a richness and breadth that we are very proud of. From the interview that Deyan Sudjic did with Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk about his Museum of Innocence in Istanbul, to photographer Ola Bergengren’s study of the fold, and the specially commissioned short stories by author Will Wiles, it is a varied and inspiring look at what design, architecture and fashion can entail. This is ultimately what Disegno is trying to promote – a broader view on the culture of design. This autumn we take that concept even further with a series of Salons at the RIBA in London, where we have invited fashion designer Antonio Berardi, architecture practice Urban-Think Tank’s Alfredo Brillembourg and architectural theorist Pascal Schöning, to present a film each. While issue three has taken shape, Disegno’s website has also enjoyed some attention. By the time you read this, disegnodaily.com will be up and running, with daily news updates on fashion, architecture and design to set it apart from this biannual tome. So as Worrall observed, three is indeed the magic number for this initiative in time. Editor-in-Chief
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The cover was photographed by Ola Bergengren. It is a picture of a folded garment from the 132 5 Issey Miyake autumn/winter 2012/13 collection. Contact us
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Rebecca Arnold, Oriole Cullen, Edwin Heathcote, Tiffany Lambert, Pete Maxwell, Nemonie Craven Roderick, Vera Sacchetti, Malgorzata Stankiewicz, Deyan Sudjic, Will Wiles. Photos by
Emre Akcora, Refik Anadol, Iwan Baan, Ola Bergengren, Neil Berrett, Matthew Booth, Thomas Brown, Colin Christie, Anne Deniau, Nicolas Genta, Felix Friedmann, Leewei Swei, Orhan Pamuk, Sekure Pamuk, Felipe Ribon, Linus Ricard, WassinkLundgren. Illustrations by
Olof Svenberg, Hayley Warnham. tHANK YOU
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Author Will Wiles writes short fiction
Eley Kishimoto is turning 20
A visit to Julie Richoz’s apartment
Maria Blaisse on retiring
Strelka Press introduces essays on architecture and design
Museums take their fashion archives online
The editorial team’s current favourite reads
The Beauty of Completion
Beyond the Tin Can Radio
A look at the legacy of Victor Papanek
International Space Orchestra
Nelly Ben Hayoun is causing a stir at NASA
Museum of Innocence
Shigeru Ban on temporary structures
Olafur Eliasson introduces Little Sun
Aitor Throup on skulls and seam allowance
Berg’s Little Printer says hello
From the Archive
Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk on his new museum
An essay on the process of folding
People and brands in this issue
Charles Pollock makes a comeback
Furniture brands release their own lines of accessories
Venice Architecture Biennale
An overview of the biennale and its two Golden Lion winners Torre David and Home-for-All
Italian furniture manufactuer Mattiazzi’s special brand of making
Masks make an appearance in both fashion and design
12 Disegno. contents
Royal Academicians from Anish Kapoor to Zaha Hadid Public previews 3 – 7 October 2012 Public auction 9 October 2012 Exhibition 11 October – 11 November 2012 RA Friends go free royalacademy.org.uk
film nights 13.11.2012 Pascal Schöning
4.12.2012 Antonio Berardi
15.01.2013 Urban-Think Tank
As part of the ongoing Salon programme, Disegno has teamed up with RIBA London to do a series of film nights. Leading names from architecture, design and fashion have been invited to present a film that has been an influence on their work. The night will start with a Q&A, followed by a drinks reception with opportunity for further discussion. The starting time is 7pm. Fees: £8.50 non-members / £5.50 members Advance booking essential at architecuture.com/programmes or you can leave a message on RIBA’s recorded booking line 020 7307 3699. A full schedule and information on the films and the presenters will also be posted on disegnodaily.com/salons.
A month ago, she graduated from the BA Industrial Design course at the Ecole Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne (ECAL) in Switzerland, and shortly after, she won the Grand Prix at the 10 Young Designers competition at Villa Noailles in the south of France. >
Photo LEEWEI SWEE
There is a smell of fresh paint in Julie Richoz’s Lausanne apartment. She moved in a few days ago and a pile of neatly arranged cardboard boxes rests in the small, open-plan kitchen. This is a new beginning for Richoz, in more ways than one.
16 Disegno. Exposé
The linear Fierzo desk divider designed by Julie Richoz, made from steel bands with an ash wood base, will be produced by Alessi this autumn.
18 Disegno. Exposé
> And, in just a month’s time, her first commercial product will launch with Italian homewares brand Alessi – the Fierzo desk divider, made from two softly curved, parallel rectangular steel bands on a base of ash wood, to screen work areas. The divider itself is constructed by the customer, from readily available office material – card and paper – which slots between the steel wires. While the immediate future often seems uncertain for recent graduates, Richoz’s already has a sudden, if somewhat unexpected, structure. Through the Grand Prix from Villa Noailles she won two residencies: one at Cité de la Céramique de Sèvres and at Centre International de Recherche sur le Verre et les Arts Plastiques de Marseille and a €5,000 prize to develop a new project for the Parisian Galerie Kreo. “So, I will be spending this coming year working on these three projects,” says Richoz as she sits down at a small dining table in the apartment’s modestly furnished living room. The balcony door is open, allowing for a breeze, a few lazy wasps and the distant sound of a neighbour’s piano playing to enter the room. Richoz is taking it all in and looks a little pensive: “It will be challenging to work on these projects because, so far, I have always worked at university with other people – in collaboration. It will be very different to work by myself; there will be no teacher and, for me, this is the challenge, to see if I can do it on my own.” In 2011, while a second-year student at ECAL, Richoz designed Fierzo, the linear desk divider. Conceived during
a workshop with Alessi, Fierzo was among five desk objects selected for production. Its strength, like all of Richoz’s projects, lies in its simplicity and it’s these minimal objects, which she enjoys designing the most. “The designs I like to create are small, like bowls or plates,” says Richoz. “When I think about an object, I try to find the easiest way to make it because I have to do it myself and I don’t want to use complicated technology or machinery.” As a result, her portfolio of work is deceptively simple. At the ECAL exhibition during the Milan furniture fair earlier this year, she exhibited Armand – coloured paper with
Her uncomplicated, straightforward approach gives her designs their functional and humble character. an extraordinarily delicate cut out pattern, which is formed into different-sized tubes which she inserted into each other to recreate the feeling of “soft focus”. It was a brave choice at an event where designers come to launch their careers, often with bravado and grand gestures. It is Richoz’s uncomplicated, straightforward approach that gives her designs their functional and humble character and it was this no-fuss attitude that swayed the jury, led by French designer François Azambourg, to give her the Grand Prix at Villa Noailles. The perfect example of her approach is the metal bowl Thalie. It starts
out as a flat surface – imagine a child’s drawing of a sun with a solid, round centre and spindly rays coming out of it – then, imagine it created from a fine sheet of spring steel. All Richoz does to create the bowl is, pick up the “rays” one by one and fasten them in the desired position with the help of metal wire. “I am fascinated by turning something from one dimension to three dimensions,” says Richoz. However, if it was just this ingenuity and economy of material that was Richoz’s stamp it would be easy to imitate, but her sensibility and feeling for the materials she works in and the forms she creates is what really sets her apart. Her brand is a fragile beauty which is seductive to look at and pleasant to the touch. With her two forthcoming residencies she will be let loose on materials she has never worked with before – porcelain and glass – richer, rarer, more complicated materials to the ones Richoz has favoured until now. It will be interesting to see how she treats them and how it will propel her work forward, but before then she is taking a long holiday. She’s leaving tomorrow and an empty backpack lays deflated and empty in the middle of her new apartment. For six weeks this piece of luggage is going to hold all her belongings. But it’s not a real concern; after all, Richoz has a certain talent for creating meaningful somethings out of almost nothing.
The 10 Designers exhibition closed 30 September at Villa Noailles. Malgorzata Stankiewicz is a freelance writer based in Zurich.
Photos LEEWEI SWEE
Newcomer The Thalie bowl transforms from a flat metal sheet to an object by picking up the fine rays.
Julie Richoz sits in her new apartment in Lausanne, Switzerland near ECAL, where she graduated from earlier this year.
20 Disegno. Exposé
In fact, I’m surprised that a vocabulary for all the new fingerings hasn’t yet emerged. So far, the new digital reading platforms have been simulacra of the book. The turning pages of the iPad and Kindle, the bookmarks and even the yellow highlighting, are all imitations of what we are already familiar with. But one thing that is different is that they allow length not to be an issue. We can take a 24-volume series on holiday as easily as we can take a single article. This has created a new opening for a format that has never really found its proper place in English culture – the essay. A medium which was pivotal to Central European culture, which Austrian writer and journalist Karl Kraus and his contemporary, architect and theorist Adolf Loos, turned into an art form at the beginning of the 20th century and which still survives in the serious papers of continental Europe but which only appears in Anglo-Saxon culture in the pages of literary journals. Justin McGuirk, Guardian design critic, calls it “long-form journalism”. McGuirk is the editor of a new series of ebooks from Strelka Press, an offshoot of the Moscow-based, Rem Koolhaas-programmed and oligarch-backed postgraduate architecture and urbanism school. The first tranche of essays from Strelka Press, which are available to download for £2 each and launched this summer, looks like a worthy attempt at geographical, stylistic and subject spread. There is McGuirk’s own Edge City: Driving The Periphery Of São Paolo, a road trip around the almost mythical edges of
an endless city. Drawing a little on Iain Sinclair’s selfconsciously visionary circumnavigation of the deadlands of London’s M25, McGuirk’s prose is quiet, reserved and observant, different to the slightly gonzo absurdity I’d been half expecting. It takes in wellintentioned modernist housing and ramshackle shacks alongside the ubiquitous non-places and junk-spaces that define the universal experience of the urban periphery. It is a warm, humane and readable piece, far from the pretentious and condescending architectural critiques of the megacity we have become used to from some of theory’s biggest names, paeans to informality from the pens of those living in Georgian houses and generous brownstones. Then, there is China. Julia Lovell’s Splendidly Fantastic: Architecture And Power Games in China is another readable history, which embraces the politics of planning and resistance as well as documenting arguably the fastest and most extraordinary urban development in mankind’s history. Entirely lacking in the spurious justifications for megalomania which often appear in such
It is, as you might expect, erudite and clever. texts it is a useful introduction to a world that is both visible yet opaque. Keller Easterling, normally a fine writer, falls slightly flat with The Action Is The Form: Victor Hugo’s TED Talk. Rather as Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian philosopher, argued that “the medium is the message”, Easterling attempts to explain, I think, how architecture is, in fact, information. I had the nagging sense that I was being thick and missing the point. Alexandra Lange, who teaches criticism and writes for the Design Observer website caused a ruckus in New York when, in 2010, she wrote a piece entitled Why Nicolai Ouroussoff Is Not Good Enough slating the then New York Times architecture critic in what looked a little like a blatant pitch for the job. Lange’s essay lounges around
the banal architecture of Silicon Valley, asking mild questions about its urbanity, suburbanity and lack of ambition. It’s a shame Frank Gehry’s plans for the Facebook campus hadn’t been published yet as it would have given Lange more meat. As it is, this is more of an amble than a critique but pleasant enough. Dan Hill’s Dark Matter And Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Vocabulary is the most ambitious of all the essays, touching on politics, global economic crises and quoting one of my favourite design writers, Norman Potter. But it proved too dense and, although quite possibly brilliant, went over my head – I began skimming, lost track and finally gave up. Finally, comes the irrepressible Sam Jacob of London-based architecture practice FAT, who has, I think, long been one of the sharpest, funniest and finest critics of contemporary design culture. Make It Real: Architecture As Enactment is an ambitious study of copying, reenactment, the simulacra and the reconstruction of architectures in history from Henry Ford’s nostalgic Greenfield Village to Mies van der Rohe’s replication of his own buildings. It is, as you might expect, erudite and clever but, with the exception of a brilliant introduction, Jacob forgets to be funny, which is what he is so brilliant at. His schtick is to find the funny on the everyday, much as the French might have found the excruciatingly dull in the everyday. It is a good essay but it shows a drift towards the language and concerns of academia (Jacob teaches at the Architectural Association and at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Yale), which begin to dilute his style. For the real thing, go to his website strangeharvest.com. None of these essays are brilliant – but it does begin to provide a platform for what I think could be a very valuable gap in contemporary architectural culture, a forum for engaged, intelligent and international writing where length is not the main issue.
Visit strelka.com/books Edwin Heathcote is the architecture critic for the Financial Times and about to launch a platform for critical design writing.
Photo MATTHEW BOOTH
The medium, as we know, is the message. And the message of the moment is the iPad. Spending much of my time in airports, I am surprised at the banks of people of all ages being pacified by stroking, swiping, goosing and jabbing the screens of their iPokes.
The Strelka Press booklet detailing new essays on architecture and urbanism is designed by OK-RM.
22 Disegno. Exposé
Curator Tim Long of the Chicago History Museum describes the process of putting the institution’s fashion collection online. In July, the museum launched the first stage of its Costume and Textiles website, showcasing an initial 400 garments from its collection of more than 50,000 items. Collections such as the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London have many more items available to view online, but these are taken from existing museum databases and worked into formats already used for the general collections. What’s different about The Chicago History Museum’s online archiving is that it’s built to provide a platform specifically for dress and textile objects. Often an insider secret, the hidden treasures of museum fashion archives are beginning to surface in the digital world. Every aspect of fashion – from livestreamed catwalk shows, magazines and blogs to retailing – is already available, but now museums are getting in on the action. With high-profile fashion exhibitions drawing ever more attention worldwide, a spotlight is being focused on what lies behind the scenes at these museums – namely rich, extensive archives with row upon row of outstanding examples of historic and contemporary fashion. Academics and designers have long been seeking inspiration from these treasures, but as the objects are fragile – requiring a controlled environment and a team of trained staff to facilitate viewing – it is difficult for museums to cater to the demand for physical visits. So, over the past decade, the majority of museums have been making their collections available online. Photography is one of the main challenges in this. Each garment requires time to be mounted on a mannequin, and many historic garments require conservation, underpinnings and support
before they are camera ready. In short, each dress requires its own photo shoot, and it is rare for a museum to have time, staff or funding for this. Chicago History Museum’s dedicated Costume Council took to raising funds for developing an online collections database. The project took three years to develop, with Long researching other museum databases and websites to find out what worked. Most collections resort to using existing images, which have been taken for publications. In the case of the Kyoto Costume Institute in Japan, known for its high-quality pictorial records, this can work well and result in an elegant website. However,
the problem remains that the images are often cropped shots, close-up details or single-angle photographs that omit too much information. While a front-view photograph of a painting can be useful, three-dimensional objects such as garments demand full-length images from every side view to be of any real use. Of course, the process is not just about photography, but also working out a userfriendly system, including cataloguing protocol and accessible search terms. Museum records can be highly detailed, often including rather obscure or antiquated terms for an item of clothing. With regard to colour, for instance, Long says: “We stuck to nine-colours to keep things
ILLUSTRATION HAYLEY WARNHAM
“We avoided terms such as ‘periwinkle’ and narrowed it down to ‘blue’.”
easier for the online visitor.” Long did not opt to look at online fashion retail sites while developing his site, but there is a wealth of useful information for museums in these online ventures, not least in how an audience is accustomed to accessing fashion online. However, as museums are not as flexible and do not have the finances to continuously update their platforms, their main goal is that a good basic site is provided, which sets out all the required information. Privately funded ventures can often afford to be more adventurous. In fashion label Valentino’s online archive, launched in December 2011, visitors can walk through a virtual museum and click on
dresses for information, which includes design drawings, images of a dress being worn and additional sound-bites from the designer himself.
Often an insider secret, the hidden treasures of museum fashion archives are beginning to surface in the digital world. But many museums are progressively pushing forward, and one of the more exciting new initiatives is the Europeana Fashion project, launched in March this year.
Funded by the European Commission, the venture has already created an impressive digital archive featuring many of the greatest collections from museums, archives, audiovisual collections and libraries across Europe. Institutions from 12 countries have signed up, including the V&A, Antwerp’s Mode Museum, Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Madrid’s Museo del Traje and private collections such as the Pucci, Missoni and Rossimoda archives, all working towards a target of putting 700,000 items online. Advice is also given on the site about the creative reuse of images and for those wishing to use the information on their own sites or platforms. While nothing can compare
to seeing an actual object, a digital platform allows a great number of people to have at least some knowledge of the item. It can also incorporate photographs, articles and advertising, adding a rich context. Even the most basic image and data can act as a springboard for further research, providing inspiration in the increasingly digital world of the fashion consumer.
Visit the archives online: chicagohs.org/research/ aboutcollection/costumes; metmuseum.org; vam.ac.uk; kci. or.jp/archives/index_e.html; valentino-garavani-archives.org; europeanafashion.eu/ Oriole Cullen is curator of Modern Textiles and Fashion at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
Useless edited by Critical Writing in Art and Design ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART £7.50 In this compilation, graduating students from the Royal College of Art’s Masters in Critical Writing in Art and Design explore the notion of uselessness. Students were specially commissioned to respond to the theme, resulting in a range of essays, interviews and short stories. E20 12 Under Construction photos by Giles Price SEE STUDIOS £20.12 In the first issue of Disegno, we published the stunning photographs of London’s Olympic Park under development. Now photographer Giles Price has released a publication collecting his super detailed aerial photography. Pleats Please Issey Miyake edited by Midori Kitamura TASCHEN £24.99 Launched in 1993, Issey Miyake’s Pleats Please collection was innovative both in terms of design and production processes. The story of the collection, from conception to critical reception, is told through archival material and essays edited by Midori Kitamura, the president of 21_21 Design Sight. Why We Build by Rowan Moore PICADOR £13.50 This book offers a broad architectural history that weaves in tales about architects and their buildings as protagonists. Moore addresses some of the non-architectural issues that relate to building: culture, society, politics and economics. The anecdotal elements of Why We Build makes it read more like a novel than a typical architectural history textbook.
24 Disegno. Exposé
Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations edited by Elisa Urbanelli METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART $45 This book offers a beautiful selection of archival photographs from the careers of Italian fashion designers Miuccia Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli, set in an expensively produced volume that accompanies the exhibition of the same name. It also prints some very frank interviews with both designers, including quotes such as this one from Prada: “The gold sari dress in my Tourist collection is too predictable. I look at it now and I hate it.” 21 Twenty One by Gareth Williams V&A PUBLISHING £19.99 Gareth Williams is a senior product design tutor at the Royal Collage of Art. In 21 Twenty One, he has selected 21 designers whose work feels particularly relevant in the 21st century.
Henrik Vibskov edited by Henrik Vibskov and Alastair Philip Wiper GESTALTEN €39.90 Danish designer Henrik Vibskov’s work traverses fashion, art and stage design. Highlighting his diversity, Gestalten’s new monograph is a visually dazzling tour-de-force through Vibskov’s wide-reaching and eclectic practice. Concrete edited by William Hall PHAIDON £29.95 William Hall brings together a volume that celebrates the flexibility and many uses of concrete. From a German skatepark to a Japanese crematorium, a Chinese opera house to a Portuguese swimming pool, Concrete highlights the versatility of this ancient Roman invention. Read the full review on disegnodaily.com
Century of the Child: Growing by Design 19002000 edited by Emily Hall and Libby Hruska MOMA $60 This catalogue accompanies the major exhibition on 20th-century design for children at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. With 400 illustrations and 65 short essays on the many fields of design treated in the exhibition – clothing, toys, school architecture, playgrounds, animated graphics – the catalogue is the most exhaustive publication to date on this important but overlooked part of design history. photo matthew booth
Disegno’s diverse editorial team selected the reading for this issue. Visit disegnodaily.com to find out more about our reading habits.
From the Archive
In 1965, Knoll introduced a tufted leather executive chair designed by Charles Pollock.
26 Disegno. Exposé
Only his second design in production, it later became the best-selling task chair in history before Herman Miller released the Aeron chair, designed by Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf in 1994. Though the name Charles Pollock may have been unfamiliar until his commission earlier this year from Bernhardt Design, Pollock’s successes are deserving of reflection. Jerry Helling, now the president of Bernhardt Design, came to admire Pollock’s executive chair when he made the transition into the design world. “There was something about that chair that really appealed to me – it’s modern in one way but an unmade bed in another.” But Helling was similarly taken by the absence of information on what became of Pollock since the success of his chair and, in 2010, set out to locate him. The now 82-year-old Pollock was born in Philadelphia and raised in Detroit. As a teenager he was admitted to the illustrious Cass Technical High School, whose classrooms were once attended by eminent designers such as Harry Bertoia and Niels Diffrient. However, Pollock’s parents left him in a boarding house when they moved westward to Muskegon in search of work. He struck a deal with the school administration and subsequently occupied time in a grocer’s market and on the assembly line at Chrysler to support his education. “I know what it is like to come from nothing,” Pollock reminisces in his now comfortable surroundings in Manhattan’s Upper East side. His efforts paid off and he eventually studied industrial design on a full scholarship at the Pratt Institute in New York, where he garnered particular attention from the highly regarded professor Rowena Reed Kostellow for his elegant sculptural forms, and developed the beginnings of what has become a lifetime friendship with classmate Lucia DeRespinis (the first female designer for industrial
design studio George Nelson Associates). DeRespinis, thinking back on her days as a Pratt student, recalls Pollock’s aptitude for design: “He had such sensitivity to curves, positive form and negative space – his talent was just amazing.” It was DeRespinis who eventually recommended that Georg Nelson should hire Pollock, but he stayed with the firm for less than a year. Instead, Pollock left to open his own design studio and secured an arrangement with Florence Knoll, co-director of Knoll, to produce his first chair for the firm, the 657 Sling Chair, in 1960. Remarkably, the 657 Sling, assembled from pieces of saddle leather, cast aluminium and tubular steel, required very little industrial investment because it used no tooling. As it was Pollock’s first chair for the company, Knoll didn’t want to invest a large amount of money to produce it. So Pollock designed it to be assembled from standard pieces that he fashioned in a unique way.
Helling was in California on business when he received a call from the designer, who announced in a brusque yet cagey inflection, “This is Charles Pollock.” In 1982 he created Penelope for Castelli, a permeable steel mesh chair treated in a thermo-plastic resin, which would be his last design for the next three decades. Pollock speaks openly about his life-long battle with bipolar disorder, and even credits his psychiatrists over the years for helping properly steer his focus towards design and other forms of making, which have occupied his time since 1982. “I haven’t dropped dead, in between designs I paint,” says Pollock. His paintings and sculptures fill his home, alongside an original Calder, and are
gifted to close friends and new acquaintances. One such new acquaintance is Halling, who after navigating his design channels, eventually confirmed Pollock’s current address. He left a package disclosing information on Bernhardt Design along with his phone number, urging Pollock to consider speaking with him about a potential collaboration. Helling was in California on business when he received a call from the designer, who announced in a brusque yet cagey inflection, “This is Charles Pollock.” The designer agreed to meet with Helling, and their discussions eventually unfolded into a commission from Bernhardt. The result, the CP Lounge, which comes in two versions – one handquilted, one smooth. “For people who love iPods,” explains Pollock. The chair was released earlier this year at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York and featured a suited Pollock poised for conversation atop the leather chaise, with profiles of his former chair designs behind him. His return to the design world summons the ghosts of his past successes, where each design is an attempt to shape a sculpture for sitting. “I’m always reaching for a whole new kind of furniture,” says Pollock. Perhaps through these reinstated efforts, Pollock, who continues to design future projects for Bernhardt, will find notoriety in the public’s consciousness.
Tiffany Lambert lives in New York, where she is about to graduate from the D-Crit programme.
Pollockâ€™s line drawings of the CP Lounge for Bernhardt Design (top) and his task chair for Knoll (bottom).
“It can be used as a doorstop,” said the attendant. Displayed under the name Eclectic by Tom Dixon, this was a new direction for the British design brand. A few aisles down, the Danish furniture company Hay was showing items of a similar size but with more functionality: dish brushes, octagonal trays and balls of attractively coloured rubber bands. “We are focusing on accessories this year,” explained the Danish woman who was >
Photos thomas brown. styling sarah parker
A shiny shoe cast in solid aluminium and with a copper-plated finish felt utterly out of place at the Parisian design fair Maison & Objet earlier this year. Flamboyant, decorative, seemingly useless, there was still something appealing about it.
28 Disegno. Exposé
Kaleido, painted steel tray by Clara Von Zweigbergk, PlissĂŠ, archive folder and wooden tray, all from Hay Market.
Design Accessories Pour, pewter jugs from Established & Sons.
30 Disegno. Exposé
> demonstrating the use of the many items on display. Starting with Chanel in 1921 when Coco Chanel launched the perfume Chanel No 5, high-end fashion brands have long used accessories and cosmetics lines as a way of extending their reach into mainstream retail markets by producing items available at a lower price. The key to this approach is that it allows designers to keep their main clothing collections highly priced and exclusive while creating additional tiers of products available for a larger audience. Now, several furniture brands, ranging from Tom Dixon and Hay to British design company Established & Sons are embracing the same concept by launching their own accessories to complement their core product lines. It’s a phenomenon which serves as a response to a changing market caused by the ongoing recession and a move towards online retail as well as a sign that design brands are becoming more customer facing. Accessories are the goods with which they set their traps.
“With accessories, it’s like fashion; you can move just a little quicker,” says Mette Hay owner and creative director of Hay’s accessories. “As a furniture company, you can bring in [a fashion element] with your accessories. It’s easier to sell a quilt in fashionable colours, while people might hesitate to buy a new sofa in a trendy shade.” The Hay accessories line came into being when they opened a showroom in Copenhagen. They found it too empty and sterile so added accessories to the display to draw customers into the store. But it wasn’t until last autumn that they decided to create a standalone accessories line as part of the brand, called Hay Market. Now, the new store and showroom in a central townhouse Copenhagen has the customers picking at notepads and pencils while also trying the sofas and beds. “Accessories by their very nature are meant to be fast moving,” says designer Tom Dixon. Sebastian Wrong, design development director of Established & Sons, agrees: “The whole chain is much shorter: the development,
launch, integration, supply into the market and consumption of the product is more immediate and the cost to make smaller objects is far less than the cost of making larger items in terms of investment, time and packaging. Therefore, small objects are more manageable and open up a whole new network.” Even the well-established Swiss furniture manufacturer Vitra decided to place their focus on small-scale items at the Milan furniture fair this year. There, it launched the Corniche shelf, in three different shapes and colours, by Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec. Along one wall, several dozens of the shiny, pebble-like pieces were mounted, displaying small, classic items from the Vitra collection as well as plants and books. Although a shelf is not strictly an accessory, its bijou size is certainly intended more for decoration than functionality and what’s more, it is a product, that when it reaches stores this autumn, the customer will be able to buy and leave the store with. When even Vitra, through its two-and-a-half year old >
Photos thomas brown. styling sarah parker
Accessories are a response to a changing market caused by the recession and online retail.
Solid copper Hex champagne bucket from Tom Dixon Eclectic held by model hand from Hay Market.
32 Disegno. ExposĂŠ
Photos thomas brown. styling sarah parker
This page: three stacked Cast Mini Jacks from Tom Dixon Eclectic, rest on a marble tray from Hay Market. Opposite: Gro Watering Can designed by Hallgeir Homstvedt, Anderssen & Voll and Skogstad for Established & Sons.
> initiative Vitra Haus, is focusing on smaller, consumerfacing goods, it is an indication of how the design industry is changing its focus, or at least diversifying. “There’s room for a new sector of clients here, because not everyone is in a
into hotels, bars, restaurants and offices, through architects. We’re opening the doors a bit more to consumers and retail.” The other side of this is the growing opportunities that online retail offers. Online stores such as Net-a-Porter
We’re aware of the opportunities of online retail so we consciously thought about designing products well suited to that market and process of selling. position to buy a new set of chairs, so the idea is that accessories can appeal to people beyond who I’m selling to at the moment,” says Tom Dixon of his brand’s Eclectic range. First presented in January this year, the range will be available in stores as early as September – much like fashion’s six-month turn-around. And Tom Dixon’s retailers include the fashionable London department store Selfridges. “There’s a very clear reason to get more consumer facing,” says Dixon. “What we’ve been doing so far has been more contract-based, going straight 34 Disegno. Exposé
have been credited with changing how high-end fashionable goods are consumed and online retail is a growing market for design brands with online department stores such as Yoox.com launching design-only sections, next to its fashion offering. “We’re aware, like everyone, of the emerging opportunities of online retail, so we consciously thought about designing a collection of products well suited to that particular market and process of selling,” says Sebastian Wrong who oversaw the launch of the Estd accessories collection for Established
& Sons in 2010. Now incorporated under the main Established & Sons brand, among the latest accessories to launch were Gro, a peagreen watering can by the Norwegian designers Hallgeir Homstvedt, Petter Skogstad and Anderssen & Voll, and the shiny pewter jugs designed by the in-house team. “Fashion’s a great one to keep an eye on,” says Wrong. “The fashion industry has achieved huge success online. We watch from the design industry and try to understand how design might plug into that. It’s a different medium. On one level there are some cheaper, accessory items that could fit into that fast-moving market, but then on another level I don’t know if it’s a positive thing. It’s commercially good in terms of sales, but is it sustainable? I don’t know. On a more long reaching, higher-value principle, less is more, I think.”
Interviews by Andrew Jones, Kristina Rapacki and Oli Stratford. The full interviews with Mette Hay, Tom Dixon and Sebastian Wrong are published online. Go to disegnodaily.com/accessories
Photos thomas brown. styling sarah parker
Design Accessories Small Kaleido tray in painted steel, designed by Clara von Zweigbergk for Hay Market and Potto, a Japanese Tokoname pot from Established & Sons.
Ronan and Erwan Bourellec’s Corniche shelf for Vitra.
The Dutch designer Maria Blaisse demonstrates the flexibility of her bamboo structures, part of this summerâ€™s exhibition programme at the Domaine de Boisbuchet in southwestern France.
40 Disegno. The beauty of completion
The Beauty of Completion Maria Blaisse, the Dutch designer who came to prominence in the world of experimental sculpture in the 1980s, is in the process of rounding up her career. Disegno met her at the Domaine de Boisbuchet in southwest France to talk about her love for bulbous shapes, bamboo and beautiful endings. WORDS Kristina Rapacki photos Linus Ricard
The beauty of completion
A 1 The Domaine de Boisbuchet is a historic estate located between the Poitou-Charentes and Limousin regions in France. Run by Alexander von Vegesack and affiliated with the Centre Pompidou and the Vitra Design Museum, the estate has organised workshops and exhibitions within the fields of design and architecture since 1992.
Maria Blaisse created a line of hats for the Japanese designer Issey Miyake’s (b. 1938) spring/summer 1988 collection.
Kuma Guna was a dance performance initiated by Maria Blaisse and performed by dancers at the Bickersgracht Studio in Amsterdam in 1996.
A torus is a ring-shaped form created by revolving a circle in three-dimensional space.
5 In the 1980s, Blaisse’s children asked her to make them firemen hats for a
42 Disegno. The beauty of completion
n image of sand dunes lights up the screen when Maria Blaisse opens her laptop. Undulating with geometric precision, they are a very conscious choice for the designer. Blaisse explains that the dunes can be found in the Atacana Desert in South America, and exist as the result of a toroidal movement within the sand’s substratum; a principle she has explored throughout her career as a designer. I must look perplexed, because she adds: “It’s science. But don’t worry, I’ll explain.”
We have just sat down for a cup of coffee in a quiet room at the Domaine de Boisbuchet1 in the southwest of France. Moving Meshes, an exhibition of Blaisse’s flexible bamboo structures, opened earlier in the summer at the estate’s 19th-century chateau. Now, Blaisse has come back to lead a week-long workshop entitled Awareness of Form, one of several summer workshops organised by Boisbuchet. We have reached the end of the week and have found a moment to pause and reflect; on the workshop, her exhibition, and her career.
Blaisse clicks away at her laptop to show me an image slideshow. Her most well-known projects flash by; the rubber headpieces and wispy veil hats from a collaboration with Issey Miyake in the late 1980s2, bulbous foam costumes for the 1996 dance performance Kuma Guna at Bickersgracht Studio in Amsterdam3, and the kooky C-shoe for Spanish footwear brand Camper. But it is an image of a rubber torus4 from the 2003 project Gomma, a series of rubber vessels5, that becomes the fulcrum of our conversation. This essential form looks like the inner tube of a car tyre, a vortex ring, or more prosaically, a doughnut. “I have the torus in my system,” says Blaisse. This shape, and the infinite formal variations latent within it, has preoccupied the designer for decades. In rubber, mesh, felt, leather and bamboo, the shape is a constant in her work. Even though the final product may not be a recognisable torus, its form will often be derived from it. Blaisse takes my notebook and sketches a circle within a circle.
“If this is a torus and I slice it in half,” she says, demonstrating with two short lines, “it has so many possibilities.” With pen and paper, Blaisse proceeds to outline some of the reconfigurations of the toroid. Cut at various axes and reassembled imaginatively, the toroid can reform into sleek convex or concave cones, globular mushrooms, and strange rumpled textures similar to the South American sand dunes (no coincidence, according to Blaisse); and these are only a handful of options. >
â€œI have the torus in my system,â€? says Maria Blaisse. Here, a bamboo mesh is gracefully looped to create a torus, an essential circular form.
The beauty of completion
44 Disegno. The beauty of completion
Visitors are invited to interact with the bamboo structures, exhibited in the distressed spaces of Boisbuchetâ€™s 19th-century chateau.
The beauty of completion
“Each encounter with a bamboo structure feels personal; here, one is sat proudly in the centre of the room; there, another is slumped lazily in a corner.”
fancy dress party. An inner tube from a car tyre (a torus) served as the starting point for the hats, as well as decades of research leading to the Gomma series. The rubber series is from 2003. An oloid is a form made from the hull created by two congruent circles placed at right angles to each other. An identifying characteristic is that the form develops its whole surface when rolled.
A spheroid resembles a perfect sphere approximately but is either oblate (compacted) or prolate (elongated).
Marcela Giesche is a Berlin-based modern dancer and choreographer.
Kenzo Kusuda is a Japanese contemporary dancer and choreographer based in the Netherlands.
46 Disegno. The beauty of completion
> The torus also informs Blaisse’s bamboo structures that are part of the Moving Meshes exhibition, staged on the ground floor of the chateau. In preparation for the show, the distressed spaces have been subtly revamped by students from Parsons The New School of Design in New York; part of a fellowship programme organised by Boisbuchet. “The students did a beautiful job of preparing the space,” says Blaisse. “The pieces are at home here.” The rooms have retained their soul, their flaky paint, and creaky floorboards. Each encounter with a bamboo structure feels personal; here, one is sat proudly in the centre of the room; there, another is slumped lazily in a corner. As you walk past them, they quiver or bounce lightly, then settle. There are open-ended toroids, cushion-shaped structures, an enormous oloid (a shape that roughly resembles a mussel)6, and a circular net that wiggles along at an astonishing speed when Blaisse sets it into motion.
Structurally, all the forms share a basic diagonal grid of thin bamboo strips; edges are held together with transparent silicon tubes sourced from hospitals. “In the 1970s, I studied plaiting techniques,” says Blaisse when I ask how she arrived at these highly complex meshes. “But the weave is always straight. With a diagonal grid [as in these works] you have so much more flexibility. The most beautiful quality of bamboo is its flexibility.” Indeed, Blaisse has coaxed the material into mind-bending elasticity. Convex planes can be flipped into concaves with a gentle tug; voluminous spheroids7 can be collapsed into flat bundles. Blaisse demonstrates the malleability of each piece by entering the structures and pulling lightly at connective points. As if by magic, they gracefully rearrange themselves in response to her touch.
In the last room sits a large breathing spheroid, derived from the torus form. Its centre is connected to a string, which is pulled and released at a meditative pulse-like pace. It feels like a giant lung. “People say that it’s as if they’re alive. The staff at a hospital said they wanted this in the waiting room, to calm people. And it’s only by compression and release that this movement is created, just like in the body.” Throughout her work, Blaisse taps into natural movement and elemental forms. Inside and outside, concave and convex, positive and negative space are some of the binaries that are negotiated in her practice, just as in the geometry of nature: spiralling galaxies, vortexes, or the super coiling of DNA. During our conversations, Blaisse talks repeatedly of the importance of alignment: with movement in nature, alignment with a certain creative energy on the site, and the human body. Blaisse will occasionally offer such cryptic reflections, but her calm and confident delivery gives them a certain mystic gravity. Many will know Blaisse as a designer who straddles product design, fashion, and performance. The bamboo structures, which Blaisse has worked on since 2007, can function simultaneously as furniture and garments. The ease with which they move by themselves also makes them perfect props for improvisational dance, though prop is perhaps the wrong word. In a series of contemporary dance performances by dancers Marcela Giesche8 and Kenzo Kusuda9, made in >
This page and opposite: Blaisse uses the elasticity of bamboo to its fullest in her meshes. Concave planes are easily flipped into convex ones.
The beauty of completion
The main workshop space in the barn at Boisbuchet is buzzing with activity in the days leading up to the final performance.
48 Disegno. The beauty of completion
The beauty of completion
The Paper Pavilion by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban (b. 1957) was the architect’s first permanent structure on the European continent. It was constructed as part of a workshop in 2001.
There are three bamboo pavilions by Colombian architect Simon Vélez (b. 1949) in Boisbuchet. As a counterpart to Blaisse’s flexible bamboo meshes, Boisbuchet staged an outdoors exhibition with Deidi von Schaewen’s photographs of Vélez’s bamboo architecture.
12 Jörg Schlaich (b. 1934), who developed the Munich Olympic stadium together with Otto Frei in the 1960s, built two domed pavilions in 2008 as part of a workshop at Boisbuchet. 13 There are two pavilions by German architectural practice Brückner & Brückner (established in 1990) the Log Cabin and the Pyramid from workshops in 2006 and 2007, respectively. 14 Markus Heinsdorff’s (b. 1954) bamboo pavilion was created in 2007 as part of a travelling exhibition in China Recently, the Goethe Institute and the People’s Republic of China transferred the building to Boisbuchet as a gift.
50 Disegno. The beauty of completion
> collaboration with Blaisse and screened in the exhibition, the meshes take on the role of dance partners. So, why it is important to traverse categories in this way? “You mean to work at the connecting point of dance, fashion, architecture and science? That’s where everything happens,” says Blaisse firmly, as if it’s as a matter of undisputed fact. Though Blaisse argues that this is where everything happens, it is also by selecting this territory to operate in that she has taken on the role of a design and fashion outsider. Her name rarely conjures up recognition in people’s faces, in the way that, say, Miyake’s does. This is mainly because Blaisse’s work is not about results, but almost entirely about process. As such, it is not easily communicated outside the intersection of the disciplines she works within.
Blaisse’s creative process relies on staying in the investigative mode for as long as possible. The question of category, function, or end product is kept at bay while she immerses herself in the material and its potential. “If I work in this way,” says Blaisse, “I will actually have lots of things ready when people ask for them. For fashion, product design and architecture.” This approach seems at odds with the archetypal role of the designer as problem-solver. Rather than tinkering away a single formal or functional crux, Blaisse delves into the exploration of a material and its properties with the assurance that the products will emerge on their own accord. Why the fascination with bamboo? “I went to an exhibition of bamboo design in Eindhoven some years ago,” explains Blaisse. “And I was furious because the designers had used it in such a solid way. I was furious about it’s unused potential. I’ve had bamboo growing outside my studio in Amsterdam for many years, and the most beautiful quality about it is the way it sways gracefully in the wind. Two weeks later, I had the first moving mesh.”
Blaisse’s emphasis on research, improvisation, and free experimentation makes Boisbuchet an ideal setting for her exhibition and teaching. Since 1992, Boisbuchet has been organising workshops within the fields of design and architecture. The estate has been run by Alexander von Vegesack, the founding director of the Vitra Design Museum, Germany, since 1989. Affiliated with the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Vitra Design Museum, the estate has become a unique creative hub in France. On its grounds, one can find the fruits of previous workshops; a total of eight new pavilions by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban10, Colombian architect Simón Vélez11, German structural engineer Jörg Schlaich12, German architectural practice Brückner & Brückner13, and German artist and architect Markus Heinsdorff14, in addition to the chateau, mill, and farmhouses belonging to the original site. At the time that I join Blaisse, there are some 40 students on the estate; 12 are part of her group. There is a jovial summer camp atmosphere; amidst frantic creative activity, friendships are forged between young participants from all over the world. Meals are announced with the sound of a ceremonious gong, and taken outside or at a communal table in the barn. Mid-week, there is a fancy-dress party, the theme of which is announced the same afternoon. The participants are invited to create their own costumes; the result brings to mind the theatrical antics of students at the Bauhaus school in Dessau, Germany almost a century before.>
“i’ve had bamboo growing outside my studio for years, and the most beautiful quality is the way it sways.”
Many participants in Blaisse’s workshop at Boisbuchet take on the Dutch designer’s penchant for spiralling forms.
The beauty of completion
The students’ first experiments are left untouched on the barn floor, even as they move on to other projects. “Never throw anything away,” says Blaisse.
52 Disegno. The beauty of completion
The beauty of completion
Above: During the first days of the workshop, Blaisse’s students are set the task of observing movement in nature and translating it into paper forms. Below: The Boisbuchet chateau where students from the Parsons News School of Design in New York prepared the ground floor to accomodate Blaisse’s exhibition.
READING LIST Design with Nature: The Bamboo Architecture by Markus Heinsdorff, HIRMER PUBLISHERS, 2011 Upcoming book on Maria Blaisse to be published by NEDERLANDS ARCHITECHTUURINSTITUUT, 2013
> Blaisse’s students stage a catwalk show on the night of the fancy-dress party, wearing paper and cardboard garments made during the first days of the workshop. The first task Blaisse had set the group was to spend a day observing movement in nature, and to derive paper forms from their findings. The morning after the show, I sit in on a feedback session led by Blaisse. She is gentle but constructive; never offering ready solutions, her advice is suitably open-ended and processorientated: “Be nice to the material,” Blaisse says to one student, and, “Don’t get lost in technique,” to another. And finally, to the group as a whole: “Dare to work on a much bigger scale.” On the final evening, Blaisse’s group stages a performance in Patrick Heinsdorff’s elegant oval bamboo pavilion, the most recent addition to Boisbuchet’s grounds. The students perform wearing their new work; larger, bolder, and much more confident creations than those from the catwalk just two days earlier. Many have taken on Blaisse’s penchant for spiralling forms – one student has made a full-body coiling cone in cardboard mesh. Another dances in an intricately pleated paper skirt that unfolds into a billowing ball gown. The audience is spellbound. In only a few days, Blaisse has imbued her students with the ethos of her unique working method.
Blaisse clearly feels at home at Boisbuchet and I ask her if she has plans to return. “Oh, yes,” she says. “I want to turn the bamboo structures into pavilions. Two, for sure. The breathing toroid, because the base can open up so it will be like a dome – and the oloid. And inside them, I will have all my other work.” She’s hinting at a conclusion, a summing-up of sorts and coinciding with the opening of the pavilions next year, is the planned publication of a book outlining Blaisse’s career by the Nederlands Architectuurinstituut (NAI). Its contributors are suitably eclectic and will include fashion designer Issey Miyake, cellist Frances-Marie Uitti and dancer Kenzo Kusuda. So does this indicate the end to her practice in the hinterland of dance, architecture and science? “This has kept my attention for 35 years now! So I’d like to complete the book, the architecture and then it’s out of my system,” says Blaisse with a calm that is curiously practical and placid. “Afterwards, perhaps I’ll write children’s books or something. Or arrange flowers. Of course, no-one believes me when I say it, but I want to finish this as a beautiful project. There is beauty in completion.”
Kristina Rapacki (see p. 10)
Linus Ricard photographs advertising campaigns for French clothing brand Rodier and has shot for Vogue. He has been working with Disegno since its launch.
54 Disegno. The beauty of completion
Never offering ready solutions, Blaisseâ€™s advice to her students is suitably open-ended and process-oriented.
The beauty of completion
photos courtesy of the victor j papanek foundation
Radio receiver designed for the third world, designed by Victor Papanek and George Seeger.
58 Disegno. beyond the tin can radio
Beyond the Tin Can Radio Victor Papanek is the poster child of the sustainability movement, but his life is still shrouded in mystery. The newly established Papanek archive in Vienna may help to shed some light on his work and person, assigning him the status he deserves. WORDS Vera Sacchetti Photos Victor J Papanek Foundation
beyond the tin can radio
n February 2007, Thomas Geisler, design curator at Vienna’s MAK Museum of Applied Arts, and Martina Fineder, senior researcher at the city’s University of Applied Arts, sat inside an apartment in Atlanta, Georgia in America, with Jennifer Satu Papanek – the youngest daughter of the controversial and prescient designer Victor Papanek. After Geisler and Fineder’s several email exchanges and meetings with Papanek family members, and upon the recommendation of Papanek’s fourth wife, Harlanne Herdman, Satu Papanek had agreed to meet the researchers and show them a few things that belonged to her father. “In her first email she said she had a couple of documents, a couple of slides and the like,” says Fineder. “And with this expectation we were thinking of starting some kind of oral history project related to Papanek.” Little did they suspect this visit would lead to the unearthing and subsequent foundation of an extensive Papanek archive.
Victor Papanek, who died in 1998, aged 72, was a Vienna-born designer famous for his bold statements, contentious thinking and radical stance. Designer, professor, author of eight books, lecturer and provocateur, Papanek is best known for his 1971 book Design For The Real World: Human Ecology And Social Change, in which he famously proclaimed: “There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a few of them … Today, industrial design has put murder on a mass-production basis. By designing criminally unsafe automobiles that kill or maim one million people around the world each year, by creating whole new species of permanent garbage, and by choosing materials and processes that pollute the air we breathe, designers have become a dangerous breed.” Such affirmations granted him expulsion from the Industrial Designers Society of America and general scepticism from the US design community, until his work was revisited and brought into the spotlight with the rise of sustainability and concerns in design. As Geisler and Fineder sat in Papanek’s daughter’s apartment, she kept disappearing down to the basement, returning with ever more boxes. “We heard the library was with his younger daughter, but we had no clue about how extensive it was,” says Fineder. This was their second trip to the US in search of information about Papanek, having already visited the designer’s old haunts in California and Kansas. “We had a few original documents that were split up between the family, between the daughters and his fourth wife,” says Geisler. After a number of boxes were revealed, along with more than 20,000 slides, numerous books and many other documents, the real scale of this library began to take shape. “After a while we realised its size,” says Fineder. “I remember writing to the dean of the University of Applied Arts in Vienna saying: ‘It feels just like Christopher Columbus…’”
After Geisler and Fineder’s forays to the US, alongside the interest of the Austrian ministry of culture and successful applications for funding from Vienna’s University of Applied Arts, the Papanek archive and its managing foundation were established. All the boxes in Satu Papanek’s basement were transported to Vienna, alongside a number of other documents collected by the researchers during their trips. Establishing the archive in Austria was an enormous victory for the University of Applied Arts – which could now establish a research centre and reformulate some of its courses and research curriculum around such an important figure of 20th-century design.
60 Disegno. beyond the tin can radio
I felt a little like Christopher Columbus myself when, on the cold night of 10 November 2011, peering past a dark wooden door behind the lecture room at the university, I got my first look at Yves Béhar’s One Laptop Per Child (OLPC). Green, rubbery, round and tiny, it was one of the winners of the first Victor J Papanek Social Design Award, a parallel initiative of the Papanek archive alongside the inaugural Victor J Papanek symposium – the first day of which I had just attended at the university. Entitled Anti-Design: Prescription For Rebellion?, the symposium celebrated the legacy of Papanek as a leading critical thinker in design. Commemorations of a successful day were in full force, and the sound of chatter filled the air. >
Moveable Playground Structure, as featured in Papanekâ€™s book The Green Imperative (1971).
beyond the tin can radio
“he was the first industrial designer to really begin to talk critically about design as a force for good.”
1 The Design For The Real World Redux competition was established in 2011 and entries were solicited world-wide. Information on upcoming events can be found on vjpsocialdesign. madmuseum.org
Ralph Caplan, quoted in Victor Papanek, email communication from the Environmentally Conscious Design & Mfg List, 23 January 1998, www.yale. edu/engineering/eng-inåfo/ msg00368.html
Martina Fineder and Thomas Geisler, Design Clinic: Can Design Heal The World? Scrutinising Victor Papanek’s Impact On Today’s Design Agenda, 2011.
Henry Dreyfuss (1904-1972) wrote Designing for People in 1955 and published The Measure of Man in 1960.
5&6 Martina Fineder and Thomas Geisler, Design Clinic: Can Design Heal The World? Scrutinising Victor Papanek’s Impact On Today’s Design Agenda, 2011.
> The day had been filled by presentations on the ways in which radical design could transform the future of society, allowing a diverse, illustrious group of speakers – from John Thackara (director of the design conference and network Doors of Perception) to Jamer Hunt (director of Urban and Transdisciplinary Design at the Parsons school in New York) and Felicity D Scott (director of Critical, Curatorial and Conceptual Practices in Architecture at Columbia University) – to introduce their views on how Papanek’s legacy lives on today. A rather full schedule had been capped with the announcement of the Design For The Real World Redux1 competition winners. This was a joint initiative between the Papanek Foundation, the University of Applied Arts, the Museum of Art and Design in New York and the Austrian Cultural Forum, attributing the Victor J Papanek Social Design Award to “projects that upheld Papanek’s vision of environmental and/or social responsibility”. Aside from Béhar’s OLPC, version XO-3 – the third iteration of the iPad-like tablet that sought to “revolutionise education”, providing poor children all over the world with an affordable laptop that would double as an entertainment hub and an educational tool – other award-winning projects included Wendy Brawer’s Open Green Map project (an interactive online platform linking and mapping green sites across the world), Terreform One and Planetary One’s project for the Ecological City of the Future (a speculative vision for the future of Brooklyn), and the Jani sanitary pad – a prototype designed by a group of Swedish students working with a Kenyan community, using fibres from local plants to create an affordable pad for the many young women who were missing school several days a month because they could not afford the standard alternatives. Intrigued by the concept, I approached the five students – Lars Vedeler, Marc Hoogendijk, Sophie Thornander, Karin Lidman, and Kristin Tobiassen – shortly after the announcement and was surprised to discover that some of them didn’t even remember the name of the village they visited, let alone details about the project. Pondering the symposium later that evening, I felt that overall it lacked unity and purpose, despite some brilliant interventions. The awards announcement felt the same way: nothing was fresh or innovative, and, despite the muchdeserved recognition of Brawer’s project, I had the feeling that Papanek would not have been happy to have his name associated with projects such as the Jani pad — which, in this western corner of the world, seemed a superfluous, uninformed afterthought to a very real problem. Upon the announcement of Papanek’s death in 1998, design writer and critic Ralph Caplan remarked how “he was the first industrial designer to really begin to talk critically about design as a force for good.”2 Writing in an Industrial Designers Society of America email notice at the time, members Wendy Brawer and Philip White noted how “he travelled around the world giving lectures about his ideas on ecologically sound designs to serve the poor, the disabled and the elderly. He was closely connected with folk art and crafts and studied Oriental, Eskimo and American Indian cultures to better understand basic human needs and their relationship to design”. Born in Vienna in 1923, Papanek fled Austria on the eve of the Second World War, arriving at Ellis Island, New York – where the American world, at a time of streamlining and standardisation, must have made a strong impression on him. A young refugee from Europe, his first steps in the New World led him to study under Frank Lloyd Wright in Taliesin West, Arizona, in the late 1940s. Papanek earned his BA in design at New York’s Cooper Union college of art and science in 1950, and in 1955 completed postgraduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The name of his first design studio in New York, established in the late 1940s – Design Clinic – clearly resonates with a certain idea of design as a precise discipline with the potential to improve people’s lives, engineering them to perfection, much in synch with the spirit of progress and development of post-war America. “In those days,” argue Geisler and Fineder in a recent paper,3 “industrial development and progress through design was considered THE strategy to enhance people’s quality of life and well-being.” Papanek seems to have been fascinated by industrial design in these years, stating his admiration for American industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss’ books on ergonomics and human factors.4
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Fineder and Geisler argue that 20 years later, “against the background of the increasing global social and ecological crisis of the 1960s and 1970s, Papanek radicalised himself and the role of design in shaping the world”.5 Design For The Real World was a turning point in his career – no doubt influenced by a number of recent experiences – but it still promoted design as an “extremely valuable instrument in ‘healing’ and even saving the world”6, despite adopting a polemical tone. >
Designer and educator Victor Papanek, 1923-1998.
beyond the tin can radio
“an awful lot of designs, make life a lot more inconvenient… so many switches and toggles and buttons to confuse people.”
A stove from Jalisco in Mexico, made of used car license plates.
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> The reasons for this shift of perspective – from the traditional studio to design for the underprivileged – start early on. Recalling a photograph of Papanek’s New York office, Geisler points out the presence of Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Map on the wall7. “He must have been very inspired by Fuller’s ideas,” he says. Fuller was to speak, in the late 1920s, of a “comprehensive anticipatory design science” as a human practice that would align men and women with the evolutionary forces of the universe. His ideas on “systems thinking” helped crystallise design’s thinking on sustainability – and its subsequent boom after 1992 – which was in turn a strong driver for what became known in the early 21st century as social design: the design field’s connection to the social sector, where Papanek was undoubtedly a pioneer.
Buckminster Fuller’s (18951983) Dymaxion Map or the Fuller Projection Map presents the entire surface of the Earth as one island in one ocean. Fuller applied for a patent in 1944 which was granted in 1946.
Papanek’s interactions with indigenous cultures began with his stint in the American army – in order to speed up an ultimately successful citizenship process – and he immediately travelled to Alaska, and then the south of the country, where he encountered American native culture. “It was more or less by accident that he started work on this volume [Design For The Real World], after he was invited to join the UNESCO technical experts programme,” says Fineder. The programme enabled Papanek to travel extensively, continuing his interactions with different cultures and allowing for the realisation of projects such as his famous Tin Can Radio – a low-budget radio made from discarded cans – which Papanek developed with his student George Seeger as part of the UNESCO programme for Southeast Asia in the mid 1960s.
Parallel to his work for UNESCO as well as the World Health Organisation, Papanek began teaching at the end of the 1950s, first at the Ontario College of Art and Design and later at Indiana’s Purdue University – where most of the projects included in Design For The Real World were developed. In the 1970s, he lectured at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), the Royal Academy of Architecture in Copenhagen, and at the Kansas City Art Institute, until 1987. His prolific, multifaceted, almost obsessive lecturing, workshop-conducting and public speaking is, says Fineder, proof that Papanek “was also a child of his time”, and the same impulse behind his fascination with designers of the 1930s and 40s in America was the impulse behind his identification with the spirit of the late 1960s. At the time of its first publication in the United States in 1971, it’s easy to see how Design For The Real World expresses much of the anger and hope embedded in the student movement of the previous decade. And yet, Papanek’s claim that design was contributing to the decline of the environment introduced a new element into design discourse, alongside his pioneering defence of a more meaningful practice that embraced the whole world – and not just the west. “All designed tools and objects are sort of extensions of human abilities, and they do tend to make life richer for us,” Papanek would later state in a 1994 interview. But “an awful lot of designs, especially in this country, make life a lot more inconvenient. I’m thinking, for instance, of high-fidelity units that have so many switches and toggles and buttons and things that they confuse most people”. Throughout his career in the late 1960s and 70s, Papanek engaged in a design effort towards the developing world, and was among the first to consider the effects of western consumption for people on the other side of the world. “Papanek always said design should be a mediator,” says Fineder. “He never considered the idea of a genius, an artist sitting alone in his studio.” When Geisler and Fineder first came across Design For The Real World, both were discontented with the design discipline as it presented itself in the first decade of the new millennium. Their encounters with the book prompted their curiosity about a man they knew very little about. “At the time the only information that existed was a very short biog attached to his books,” says Geisler, who happened upon Papanek when he began teaching. “We started to think, who actually was this person? Why can’t we find anything about him?” In February 2007, following the institutions list in the back of Design For The Real World, Geisler and Fineder decided to take a trip retracing Papanek’s steps. This would be the first of three trips, and it took them to New York’s Ellis Island and Cooper Union, Kansas City Art Institute, and CalArts. Along the way, they came across an extended network of people who had known and interacted with Papanek, and had a first glimpse into who the designer had been and what he had left behind – which ultimately determined the course of their research in the following years. “It was really good to talk to all the people that he worked with,” says Geisler. “Through the interviews you get different perspectives on who this person was. It was actually relieving to know that he wasn’t a guru. He was a human being, and he had his faults like all of us do. He loved sports cars and dressing up.” Through their years of research, writing, and assembling what has now become the Papanek archive – never mind the effort of packing it in one week and shipping it from Atlanta to Vienna – Geisler and Fineder have managed to uncover much about Papanek’s life and achievements. Through a series of papers and writings, the researchers have been able to slowly start inserting layers of complexity in this designer’s life, work, and legacy. Particularly enlightening is Papanek’s pioneering defence of the idea of the designer as a mediator, which contradicts a generalised idea >
beyond the tin can radio
According to Tim Brown in his book Change By Design, 2009.
READING LIST Design For the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change by Victor Papanek, Granada, 1971 Design for the Other 90% by Cynthia E Smith, CooperHewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Organization, 2007 Nomadic Furniture: DIY Projects That Are Lightweights and Light on the Environment by James Hennessey and Victor Papanek, Pantheon Books, 1973 For more information on the Victor J. Papanek Foundation, the Victor J. Papanek Archive and the 2013 symposium, visit: papanek.org papanek.org/archive
> of the lonely prophet and “design gadfly”8 frequently associated with Papanek. The idea of the mediator was, in Papanek’s day, extremely progressive, and a definite cut with the past, when designers were seen as almighty rather than just nodes in a network of several stakeholders. “If you look into sociology and cultural anthropology, mediator means a mediator of culture,” argues Fineder. “A mediator of the teams, of multidisciplinary teams, between clients and consumers.” Papanek experienced the social and economic crisis around him just as everyone else, but he was fundamentally different from his contemporaries, particularly in his extreme outspokenness. The imperative, urgent tone of his writing is characteristic of the time’s rhetoric, and filled with fabulous sound bites, which can, however, read today as anger and frustration.
“I don’t think he’s angry,” counters Geisler. “Papanek is a very funny person. When you read his books, actually you realise he has a big ego but he has no problem making fun of himself.” Fineder adds. “He was a great storyteller, everybody we met pointed that out. Students, colleagues, family, he used to have lots of people around in his house, for dinner, and people were staying to listen. He was a very talkative and inspiring person: people liked him around, and he’d always be in touch with them… he created a huge international network of people from Denmark to Australia, of people to live with, to spend time with, to research with.” Inspired by Papanek’s network, a similar effort is also being fostered by the current director of the Papanek archive, Alison Clarke. Alongside categorising and labelling the full contents of the archive – which Clarke says would ideally have a digital version for everyone, everywhere, to consult and access – the foundation continues to pursue the organisation of a series of events and lectures. After 2011’s vaguely disappointing first edition of the symposium, next year will bring the 2013 Papanek Memorial lecture – focusing on technology appropriate to Papanek but making the leap to the digital world – as well as the second Papanek symposium. This time, two years of work seem to have resulted in a promising programme: taking place in December next year, the event will “bring together global experts from the fields of economics, social anthropology, design and policy making to critically examine the myths, ideologies and practices of these emerging design economies”. Clarke refuses to engage in western fascination with these economies, and instead wants to ask practical, difficult questions, and understand what Europe and the US can learn from them. “This is not about social design, and not about taking advantage of their networks,” says Clarke, pointing out how “we need to engage in a global approach”, seeking to get away from the white, male, western paradigm of design. “The complexity of Papanek’s writing and work has been lost,” she says, stating how the archive is mostly composed of documents and books, which can be frustrating for designers who are still object-centric. After the cataloguing and labelling process is complete, Clarke is interested in projecting the archive and Papanek into the future, but her background as a historian has her currently writing a book about 1970s critical design for MIT.
Meanwhile, Geisler and Fineder are no longer working with the archive, but their years of research on Papanek keep finding new outlets for expression – especially at a moment when 1960s and 70s utopias seem to be consistently revived by both designers and architects. Fineder is completing her PhD, which focuses on critical design practices in East Germany in the 1970s. Next year, at Vienna’s MAK, Geisler curates Nomadic Furniture, a show titled after one of Papanek’s books, which seeks to shed new light onto the designer’s furniture production, informing it historically and geographically. “Obviously there are some parallels with political, sociological changes between the 1970s and today, but the 1970s are not the starting point,” says Geisler. “We must connect Papanek with what Rietveld did in the 1920s, do-it-yourself furniture, Autoprogettazione in Italy, there are quite a few prominent protagonists.” Geisler argues that the possibility to distribute open-source design is something Papanek would have dreamt of. “Papanek has always been framed in a very specific direction,” he says. “And if you read through Design For The Real World, there is just so much more. It’s not just about the third world. It’s really very much about our world. Looking through projects for developing countries actually teaches us to look at ourselves, and our environment, and how we create our surroundings.” Geisler would like to see the Papanek archive serving as a resource for these and other enquiries, which would add to the debate on Papanek and would continue to inform researchers and the general public about the personality and character of the designer. As a kick-off, Geisler and Fineder will compile all of their writings on a website, distributing them for free and opening the doors to all the world, in true Papanek spirit.
Vera Sacchetti moved to Milan in Italy from Lisbon, Portugal, at the beginning of the year, when she was appointed website editor at architecture and design magazine Domus.
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Canes for the blind of hand aligned fibre optics, designed by Robert Senn and featured in Design for the Real World (1971).
beyond the tin can radio
Designer Nelly Ben Hayoun is causing quite a stir at NASA Ames in California as she rounds up astronauts and CEOs alike to create the International Space Orchestra for an experiment in political design. WORDS Nemonie Craven Roderick photos Neil Berrett
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International Space Orchestra
international space orchestra
T Charles Elachi (b. 1947) is the director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. 1
The Ames Research Center (ARC) is one of NASA’s major research centres. It was founded in 1958, and entered a partnership with Google in 2005.
Moffett Field is a joint civil-military airfield in California, USA. At its peak in the 1990s, it was the US Navy’s principal Pacific Fleet base.
Hangar One was built in the 1930s as a naval airship station. It is one of the world’s largest freestanding structures and large enough to fit three Titanic ships inside. There is an ongoing debate to the future of the hangar. In 2003, it was found to be leaking toxic chemicals and work to strip it and clean it was completed this year. Recently, Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt, the CEO, co-founder and executive chairman of Google, proposed paying the full $33 million to renovate it in exchange for using two-thirds of the floor space to house their eight private jets, however it was reported in September 2012 that NASA has rejected this proposal.
he private memorial service for Neil Armstrong, all-Amercian hero astronaut, was held on 31 August 2012, just as a blue moon rose low over California – the second full moon in one calendar month. On 5 August, the first moon had been flying high over NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles, which erupted with joy as the six-wheeled robotic rover Curiosity touched down on the surface of Mars. “I’m sure if Neil Armstrong was watching the landing of Curiosity, he would have been cheering that next step to what he had done,” said the laboratory’s director Charles Elachi1 to the Los Angeles Times.
At the NASA Ames Research Center2 at Moffett Field3, Silicon Valley, North California, an incongruous figure was also cheering the rover: a young Royal College of Art graduate from the south of France who has, in record time, successfully infiltrated this institution. A place where the very essence of America has crystallised – in Houston, in California, on the moon and now on Mars – since its inception in 1958. This figure is French-born Nelly Ben Hayoun, who describes herself as “just a 27-year-old girl from Valence”, and also happens to be a politically minded designer capable of persuading senior NASA Ames employees to join her avant-garde International Space Orchestra, performing original compositions by the likes of Damon Albarn. The International Space Orchestra (trademark pending) was rapidly assembled in July by Ben Hayoun, and rehearsed between 5pm and 7pm on weeknights in a former military ballroom on the Moffett Field site, after a day’s space-related work by its participants. On 6 September, the orchestra performed for the cameras in front of the vast, controversial Hangar One4 structure, which stands like a spider over Moffett Field. While invitations to the main performance on 13 September, entitled Ground Control: An Opera In Space, have been circulated globally.
The show, which according to the invitation is “inspired by our desire to understand the universe and rocket-propel our souls to further galaxies”, is created by Ben Hayoun, and features music written by Blur frontman Albarn and American singer and musician Bobby Womack. The stellar list of collaborators also includes Japanese performance artist Maywa Denki, composer and Penguin Café founder Arthur Jeffes, lyrics by science-fiction author Bruce Sterling and author Jasmina Tesanovic, and musical direction by Grammy Award-winning composer Evan Price. The piece was first performed in San Jose, California, as part of the city’s ZERO1 Biennial, which focuses on work at the meeting point of art and technology. Ben Hayoun is currently in talks with NASA and various independent commercial ventures at Moffett Field about broadcasting the International Space Orchestra repertoire infinitely, to the ends of the universe. This vaulting ambition is only slightly diminished by the recent broadcast of Will.i.am’s song Reach For The Stars from Mars, played on the Curiosity rover.
“I call myself a designer,” says Ben Hayoun. “But when I work with scientists, I create chaos.” It is three weeks until the Hangar One performance when I get a moment with her. She is vivacious, distinctive, French in a very deliberate way, and, as of now, a brand – look at her Twitter feed, her websites, the jumpsuits she wears, received in sponsorship from UK clothing label Ruby Rocks. Her background is an appropriately unusual mix: she initially studied medicine before moving into fine art and then textile design. She was trained in the secretive art of kimono design by Japanese masters (again, achieving unique access as a “foreigner”) before changing course once more to study Design Interactions at London’s Royal College of Art under designers Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby. >
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The cello case of one of the musicians in the International Space Orchestra.
international space orchestra
Exterior view of a component of a wind tunnel at NASA Ames, Moffett Field.
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international space orchestra
The Old Vic is one of the most famous theatres in London, presently under the artistic directorship of American actor Kevin Spacey. In 2010, the theatre acquired the tunnels under Waterloo train station as a new performance space. 5
In the Norse mythology of the afterlife, Valhalla is the great hall in which heroes slain in battle would reside for eternity. This is also a lyric from Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song.
> Since she graduated in 2009, Ben Hayoun has made London her home and has emerged as a prominent figure in Dunne and Raby’s inspirational movement “design for debate” – the idea of using design as a medium to stimulate discussion. But while her mentors operate in a meditative fashion, where the potential outcomes of alternative ways of thinking and working as designers is pondered in exhibitions, discussions and books, Ben Hayoun’s way of working involves attentiongrabbing quirky gestures.
Ben Hayoun describes her way of working as that of a “samurai”, immersing herself in extreme situations. The idea of creating an orchestra composed of astronauts and space scientists – a kind of a focus group for researching a “mission control-room opera” she plans to stage next year in London’s Old Vic Tunnels5 – started taking shape about two years ago, and now forms part of her PhD research into the social implications of high-pressure environments, in the field of human geography, which she is pursuing at Royal Holloway, University of London.
As part of this, she started a residency at Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga, California in July. However, just a few weeks before she was due to fly out, her ambitious endeavours led to political complications with her US visa application: who is this woman (self-identifying as Algerian, Armenian, French) attempting to reach into the heart of America? US Homeland Security was asking. But a few weeks later, Ben Hayoun tweeted a photo of herself – in one of her trademark jumpsuits – sharing a jovial moment with the director of NASA Ames, Simon P (“Pete”) Worden. “Valhalla, I am coming,”6 the picture announced, just weeks before the Curiosity rover tweeted, “Gale Crater I am in you!!!”, in a style more American Pie than American Dream. Ben Hayoun had arrived and was ready to start work at NASA.
“Why did I want to do an opera?” questions Ben Hayoun as we bomb down the freeway in a clapped-out Volvo towards Moffett Field. She is completely immersed in her project, and so busy explaining it to me that we whizz past the turning she usually takes every day on the way to rehearsals. “Because I am a designer and I don’t know anything about operatic forms. Probably because I am trying to figure out what design is in some ways and how I can push it.” Speaking of her librettist, writer Bruce Sterling, Ben Hayoun hypothesises that, as he has never written an opera before, his conversations with musical director Evan Price will break new ground. “They don’t speak the same language and yet somehow they can understand each other,” she says. The project is a first for many of the people involved. Astronaut Yvonne Cagle (who plays percussion for the orchestra) has never played an instrument. Worden has expressed his desire to play the gong (he had hoped to play bare-chested like the gong player at the beginning of Rank films, but Ben Hayoun is having special jumpsuits made). “I really want this to be a success for Nelly,” says Barbara Navarro, assistant chief at the Flight Systems Implementation Branch at NASA Ames and trumpet player for the orchestra. Navarro is currently working on a design for a cage that will enable scientists to send animals into space for a protracted period of time.
Ben Hayoun has galvanised these people around her – a political and, she would argue, performative feat in an already politically delicate situation involving Homeland Security and senior figures in the US military. NASA synthetic biologist John Cumbers will be singing in the choir and has even offered up his baby daughter for the show, in which his fictional role as flight director is dramatised by a series of dynamic movements – including the symbolic act of pulling his child from the kind of sturdy box usually used to transport space equipment. By day, Cumbers >
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The concept of space features everywhere at NASA Ames, here a close-up of anâ€“ employeeâ€™s tie.
international space orchestra
Nelly Ben Hayoun in her trademark jumpsuit from Ruby Rocks by the entrance to the 6x6 supersonic wind tunnel entrance at NASA Ames.
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international space orchestra
The ISO rehearses every week night between 5pm and 7pm.
Announced in 2007, The Google Lunar X Prize is an award for landing a robot on the surface of the moon, having it travel 500m over the surface, and sending back images to earth. Some have called it Moon 2.0. 7
The NASA insignia, originally designed by James Modarelli in the 1950s, features a planet, stars, chevron and an orbiting spacecraft. It is nicknamed the “meatball” logo. 8
> is working on the necessary science to create food from DNA that will facilitate sustenance for longer manned missions. It is an event that his daughter might well experience in her early twenties – NASA administrator Charles Bolden Jr said, on the occasion of the recent rover landing on Mars, “President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid2030s and today’s landing marks a significant step in achieving this goal.”
When I speak to Ben Hayoun, her persona as director and creator of the International Space Orchestra, and that deliberate Frenchness that has so charmed everyone from Worden to Cumbers’ nine-month-old daughter, drops away. I am speaking to someone who is impressively strategic about a project that has accelerated from zero to infinity in just two months, and which she speaks of with the utmost seriousness. Her self-imposed brief is to “test out the hierarchy in place” at Moffett Field, “playing the game of the speculative designer”. On the one hand, this hierarchy is tested playfully within the ranks of the NASA Ames employees in the orchestra, as participants perform roles more senior in the imagined mission control room to their superiors in real life – Cumbers plays flight director, while the real flight director, Rusty Hunt, works the saxophone. On the other hand, the tested sphere of hierarchy extends to the organisation’s relationship with commercial ventures such as Space, a space transport company, and lunar transportation and data services firm Moon Express that share the site in other buildings at Moffett Field. At a time when funding is increasingly hard to come by, Worden is consistently alert to the benefits of commercial interests to NASA Ames research. In May 2012, for example, SpaceX conducted a successful mission to the International Space Station, and Moon Express is among the competitors seeking to win the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize8 for the first privately funded team to safely land a robot on the moon.
In a move to bring employees of these enterprises closer to NASA Ames team members, Ben Hayoun has established her own competition on the Moffett site: who can recreate, as a sound, the kind of vibrations that emanated from Armstrong’s one small step? Moon Express project engineer Mike Vergalla has risen to the challenge – with the aid of a vacuum chamber, an accelerometer (which Ben Hayoun is tasked with obtaining from Worden) and a vibration sensor – and was soon trying to sell Ben Hayoun the means to create such an auditory signal from one of the lander feet of the first three Moon Express missions. “We’re the company sending stuff to the moon, so why not work with us as a customer? We are a business,” Vergalla pitches to Ben Hayoun. “Oh my God, Mike, you are so good! You are trying to sell something to a poor artist!” responds Ben Hayoun.
Vergalla’s whole life has been a preparation for the astronaut training he hopes to undertake by his mid-thirties. When Ben Hayoun – who has him crawling on the ground at Moffett Field to recreate “the magic one” (the sound of a footstep in a semi-vacuum) – reveals that she too plans to train as an astronaut, Vergalla’s immediate reaction is not one of incredulity, but to offer a number of variations on “I’m cool with that,” and, “I’m not threatened”. Ben Hayoun has already secured letters of recommendation from the people who are her champions and, it seems, mentors: Worden and the former head of NASA Ames, Jack Boyd. When trumpet-player Navarro later hears of Ben Hayoun’s plans her eyes pop with delight, “If you can get a letter of recommendation on headed paper with the meatball on it, then that’ll be something,” Navarro half-whispers, referring to the legendary NASA logo9. Ben Hayoun goes as far as to suggest that Vergalla should get involved with the International Space Orchestra if he wants to get close to the key figures at NASA Ames: “If you want to go to the moon then you better be kind to me.” >
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Ben Hayoun has commissioned special costumes for the orchestra.
â€œBen hayoun is testing out the hierarchy in place, playing the game of the speculative designer.â€?
international space orchestra
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View of wind tunnel structure at NASA Ames
international space orchestra
“i am improvising. I am doing an opera with the head of nasa ames playing the gong. All of this is so surreal.” The Soyuz rocket was a Soviet carrier rocket developed by OKB-1 in the 1950s and 1960s. It first flew in 1966. 9
The Challenger space shuttle broke apart 73 seconds into its flight on the 28 January 1986 killing its seven crew members while the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated shortly before it was to conclude its 28th mission, as is re-entered the earth’s atmosphere on 1 February 2003.
The Comte de Lautréamont’s (1846-1870) simile in Les Chants de Maldoror (1968-69) is famous for inspiring the Surrealist group in the 1920s. He describes a young boy “as beautiful as the chance encounter on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella.” 11
READING LIST Ascent by Jed Mercurio, JONATHAN CAPE, 2007 In the Stream of Stars: The Soviet American Space Art Book edited by William K. Hartmann, Andrei Sokolov, Ron Miller and Vitaly Myagkov, WORKMAN PUBLISHING, 1990
> For Ben Hayoun, this is what she calls “political design” – design that operates as more of a social experiment. As a designer, she adopts a position that is both disruptive of the status quo and revealing of the hierarchical relationships already present. On other occasions, however, she simply marvels at this situation of her own making. She says she will write her findings up as part of her PhD. “I am improvising. I am doing an opera with the head of NASA Ames playing the gong, and I am doing it in front of Hangar One. All of this is so surreal.” I put it to Ben Hayoun that her personal investment in this project must also be part of a romance with space. Her previous projects include the Soyuz Chair, which recreates the experience of lift-off atop the Soviet Soyuz rocket10. But she tells me it’s really about challenging impossible situations, the way of the samurai. Her ambition to become an American astronaut is a prime example of such an impossible situation, notably because she is not an American citizen. Yet. Perhaps Ben Hayoun’s affinity with Worden and Boyd comes from their particular brand of avant-gardism, which embraces the possibility of ridicule and failure as well as personal sacrifice, in a country that seemed to back down from its ambitions in the face of the space-shuttle disasters11. Worden, for example, has mooted the possibility of “one-way missions” to Mars. As scientists Dirk Schulze-Makuch and Paul Davies have written, “Explorers such as Columbus, Frobisher, Scott and Amundsen, while not embarking on their voyages with the intention of staying at their destination, nevertheless took huge risks to explore new lands, in the knowledge there was a significant likelihood that they would perish in the attempt.”
Ban Hayoun’s intervention at NASA Ames has surely created vibrations that will continue to resonate long after the last chord played by the International Space Orchestra on 13 September. But it’s not yet clear that the Moffett Field orchestra will have permission to continue to play under its current moniker after Ben Hayoun’s departure. After all, once the trademark is assured, they would have to apply for permission from Nelly Ben Hayoun Studio. And by then she might be working with the European Space Agency, or with the Japanese Space Agency – leaving behind a vacuum in Silicon Valley in a vanishing act that might sound only as improbable as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of an accelerometer and a conductor’s baton12.
Nermonie Craven Roderick is a literary agent and writer based in London.
Neil Berett lives between Oakland, California and Berlin, Germany. When he isn’t working as a photographer he is opening a menswear store in Oakland in October.
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The orchestra is made up of employees of NASA Ames and Hangar One (below) is one of the rehearsal settings.
international space orchestra
Museum of Innocence Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk has blurred fiction and anthropology by opening a museum based on his novel of the same name. Here, he explains the process of collecting a set of objects that documents an imagined world.
Photo Refik Anadol
Words Deyan Sudjic
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One of the cabinets in Orhan Pamukâ€™s Museum of Innocence.
Museum of Innocence
Orhan Pamuk (b. 1952) is a Turkish author and academic who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. 1
Turkey’s policy of trade protectionism in the 1960s and 1970s included import substitution and high tariff walls, preventing competition from foreign markets.
Mustafa Kemal Attatürk (1881-1938) was a Turkish army officer who founded the Republic of Turkey in 1923 and became its first president. The reforms instituted by Attatürk transformed Turkey into a secular and democratic nation state.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the largest architectural firms in the world. Founded in New York City in 1938, SOM was an important propagator of the international style in 20th-century architecture. The Istanbul Hilton Hotel was designed by SOM in 1951 and opened in 1955.
Turkey had not yet fully come to terms with rapid modernisation: a term that had particular resonance in the republic that Attatürk had built on militant secularism3. Istanbul had its SOMdesigned4 Hilton Hotel – in which a key scene in the novel is set. Perched on a hilltop, it was an architectural symbol of modernity, visible from across the city. Yet, it served as much to draw attention to Turkish ambivalence about modernity. Pamuk suggests it was one of the few places in Turkey that couples could register without producing a marriage certificate. This is all described in the novel in exquisite and affecting detail, while in the background the regular military coups, and the bombings of the period, are glimpsed from a distance, barely acknowledged by the characters who furnish the foreground. Gradually, it emerges that the novel is not what it appears on the surface. From the opening of the book, Pamuk’s protagonist starts to measure out the course of his relationship in objects: the earring that Füsun loses when they are making love; the handbag that he buys for his fiancée Sibel, from the shop in which Füsun works, and which he is embarrassed to discover may be a locally made copy of a French original. Pretty soon he is surreptitiously pocketing Füsun’s discarded cigarettes. Then, he starts to steal things from her >
Photo (left) Şeküre Pamuk, Photo (right) Orhan Pamuk
rhan Pamuk’s1 novel The Museum of Innocence, published in 2008, at first reading, appears to be the story of a doomed love affair between Kemal the narrator, and Füsun a young woman who though she is his distant cousin, is represented as his social inferior. Pamuk uses their relationship as the underpinning for a miniaturist portrait of the society in which it took place: the Turkey of the 1970s. It’s a world of chauffeur-driven, vintage American cars kept running in the absence of more up to date replacements deterred by tariff walls2. There are advertising hoardings adorned by imported blonde German models, a far from subtle cinema industry and venal gossip columnists. But it was also an Istanbul, as Pamuk describes it, that had mass circumcision ceremonies arranged in poorer neighbourhoods for boys whose families could not afford them. It had dance halls and belly dancers; certain streets ran with the blood of sheep sacrificed in huge numbers on holy days.
Orhan Pamuk drawing Bosphorus landscapes on the balcony of his home on the hills of Beşiktaş in 1970.
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An old photograph of a street in Beyoglu, the area of Istanbul where the Museum of Innocence is located.
Museum of Innocence
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The cabinets in the Museum of Innocence are providing â€œthe tip of the icebergâ€? of the story the museum tells.
Museum of Innocence
5 Walther Benjamin (1892-1940) was a German-Jewish philosopher and cultural theorist. In his essay Unpacking My Library, published in 1931, he discussed his own obsessive book collecting.
Henry James (1843-1916) was an American writer whose novels, in particular Age Of Innocence include many characters who collect. Literary historians argue that James’ characters reflect the emergence of a culture of consumption, dating approximately from the 1870s to the 1920s in the west.
In the past decade, the average Turkish household income has tripled. In 2011, Turkey saw a GDP growth of more than seven per cent, a considerable sum in the light of Europe’s continued financial turmoil. Some have called it “the Turkish miracle”.
> parents’ home. Pamuk is in fact following a long and distinguished literary tradition in exploring the meaning of collecting. It is a theme addressed in many of Walter Benjamin’s writings5 as well as those of Henry James6. Both authors believed that the writer can be seen as a kind of collector.
Benjamin suggested that: “For the collector, the world is present, indeed ordered, in each of his objects. We need only recall what importance a particular collector attaches not only to his object, but also to its entire past, whether this concerns the origin and objective characteristics of the thing. Or the details of its external history, previous owners, price of purchase current value and so on. All of these ‘objective’ data come together for the true collector, in every single one of his possessions to form a whole magical encyclopaedia, a world ordered, whose centre is in the fate of objects. It suffices to observe just one collector, as he handles the items in his showcase. No sooner does he hold them in his hand than he appears inspired by them, and seems to look through them into the distance, like a portent of the future.”
Pamuk, however, didn’t just explore the meaning of collecting in fictional terms in his novel, he built an actual collection, and a museum to accommodate it, in Beyoglu, the area of Istanbul in which its Jewish, Greek, and Armenian citizens lived until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It was where the Sultan installed the trams, electric street lights and department stores that coexisted with an atrophied government system in the last years of the 19th century. It’s the area in which Pamuk set Füsun’s parents’ home. It was somewhat rundown at the time they would have occupied it. But is now attracting affluent newcomers, a change made possible by an economy that has been growing with almost Asian speed in the past decade7. And this is where Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence opened earlier this year.
For Pamuk, the history of all museums begins with the freakish and the extraordinary . “The first story is of a cabinet of curiosities, of tobacco specimens and, crocodile feet”. These are the exotic specimens that rich men assemble to demonstrate their wealth. “It shows that the collector is powerful and strong. Then, collections become more rational. I was not hoarding, I was building a monument for love, a dignified thing to do.” His words have the self confidence of poetry; but Pamuk is restless. From time to time he rises from the bench and sets off on a circuit of the room, returning to his seat just as I am about to follow him.
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The novel reflects a collection that was built up over many years, both before and after Pamuk began writing it. Since his days in the flea markets and shops piled high with salvaged fragments of past lives guarded by unshaven men, the digital world has transformed the way people collect. >
PhotoSPhoto (right) Refik Refik Anadol Anadol
Pamuk’s book is in part a reflection on the nature of the museum as physical experience. It is also an account of what it means to collect that appears to be a partly personal. “Kemal has a little theory of collectors, he is close to me,” Pamuk tells me as we sit on a bench in the entrance hall of the museum. “I think that getting attached to objects happens in traumatic times, and love is a trauma. Perhaps when they are in trouble, people hoard things. People get attracted to objects. Hoarding reaches the level of collecting when there is a story that unites them.”
Opposite page: The museum is painted ochre-red “to overcome Istanbul’s greyness”. This page: The collection is made up of old objects that Pamuk has collected, as well as replicas and fakes that he has commissioned from designers and artists.
Museum of Innocence
Photo Refik Anadol
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A view from inside the museum. Pamuk bought the building in 1998.
Museum of Innocence
Ihsan Bilgin (b. 1953) is a Turkish architect and academic associated with the Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul.
In an interview with Das Magazin in 2005, Orhan Pamuk made statements implicating Turkey in the massacres against Ottoman Armenians during the First World War. This led to a national hate campaign against the novelist as well as criminal charges which were later dropped.
Gregor Sunder-Plassmann is a German architect. He runs Sunder-Plassmann Architekten, an architectural firm with offices in Kappels, Berlin, and Hamburg.
> “Once you did it on foot. With the internet, you collect by finger, click, click, click,” says Pamuk. “We may ridicule that, but the effect was that prices went up. People never collected used toothbrushes, people did not collect liquor bottles, but they did collect miniature bottles. Key holders used to be collectibles, suddenly, they disappeared.” The museum is a tenement house that would once have had four families living in it, each occupying a floor. Later, it seems to have become a kind of hostel. It stands on a corner. There is a hammam nearby. The house has been painted a deep ochre-red by Pamuk, who sees it as his contribution toward overcoming Istanbul’s greyness. He bought the house in 1998, “There are four architects,” Pamuk tells me, and catching my interest in the spiral cut in the floor explains it is “a simplified version of Aristotle’s theories of time.” He continues. “One is the original architect from 1897. He was probably Armenian, maybe Greek. In those days, this house was 10 minutes from the Wall Street of the Ottoman Empire, until 1910, until the collapse of the empire, Ottomans still made lots of money. This side of the Golden Horn was essentially populated by the nonMuslim, bourgeoise of 19th century. I guessed that it was lived in by the clerks working in Bank Street. Each generation is 25 years, more or less, so it is four-and-a-half generations since that first architect; we don’t know his name. Then, 102 years later, I began building.”
Pamuk’s first Turkish architect was an academic: Ihsan Bilgin8. “I started working with him before I started writing the novel. He trained me to work on a small scale, but there were political problems.” This was at the height of the threats to Pamuk after his plea to Turkey to accept the reality of its treatment of the Armenians, threats that still oblige him to accept the services of his state-appointed bodyguard9. “I was nervous to start. Then, Bilgin closed his office and began teaching. I was writing, and at the same time buying things from the flea markets. I had wanted to write a novel about two families, with new objects in the novel that are also exhibits in a city museum, objects of daily life.”
A postcard from the SOM-designed Hilton in Istanbul.
After Bilgin, Pamuk was introduced to Gregor Sunder-Plassmann10, a German architect with a record in working on modestly scaled historical museums. But it’s clear that the last, and perhaps the most significant of the architects in the history of the house is Pamuk himself. “I had the idea of writing a museum annotation, one so long that it was both a novel and an annotated catalogue. My first idea was to publish the book and open the museum on the same day. It didn’t work out. Plumbers have trouble finishing on time. There was so much shouting. I got frustrated. It was a wise decision for me not to be an architect. My character is not fit for working with other people.”
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Pamuk has written of his decision to drop out from architecture school in 1974, when he was 22 in his memoir Istanbul. He got as far as the third year at Istanbul Technical University. The school was the alternative to the Beaux-Arts approach of Istanbul’s other architecture school, and a puzzling choice for Pamuk, given that he had seen himself as a painter since he was a school boy. “There was a screw loose in my head; the technical university was the naive dark side of >
Completed in 2005, Tom Kundig’s Delta Shelter is located in the village of Mazama in the Methow Valley in Washington State, USA. Kundig describes architecture as “basically shelter”.
A collection of photographs from Istanbul and its society.
Museum of Innocence
Photo Refik Anadol
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Football and film star cards form part of the display.
Museum of Innocence
“Pamuk didn’t just explore the meaning of collecting in fictional terms in his novel he built an actual collection, and a museum to accommodate it.”
Museum of London is a museum that displays objects of everyday London life, historical and contemporary.
12 The collections of London’s Geffrye Museum comprise furniture, paintings, and objects that map the development British domestic interiors from 1600 to the present day.
> modernism. I regretted going there,” says Pamuk. Once the museum took physical shape after the book was published and he had assembled the elements of the collection at his own home, Pamuk was involved in every detail of the display. “From spring to autumn 2011, I stopped writing for the first time in 35 years. I worked at the museum every day at a table.” He spent the time very slowly, drawing out the content of every single case, positioning every single object, interrupted occasionally by the curious, who would knock at the door to ask if this was the Museum of Innocence and if it was open yet. “It was like finishing a novel. Everything was in my head; there were endless, suggestions, repetitions, public and private jokes; additions that enriched the texture of the museum. We had a building, we had the objects. The naive way was to place the objects without hierarchy, in a linear, flat way. I already knew it should follow chapters of the novel. I already had an idea that the museum would narrate through objects. Even if you had not read the book, you would have an idea of a narrative.”
Pamuk’s museum is not simply a literary device, nor is it only a species of art installation, though it could be seen as one. Installations do not however, for the most part, come equipped with an operational fire exit. There is a recently appointed director; there is a bookshop selling postcards and a range of art books; there is a ticket office and security guards. And there is a steady stream of visitors prepared to pay the modest price of admission (which is free if you have purchased the book). Tickets are sold from a window that looks out onto the street: the door opens and they find themselves in the midst of a hollowed out space that Pamuk compares to the Guggenheim spiral. Like the book, which appears to be a love story, but is something else, so the museum only appears to be a museum of social and urban history. It was put together with the kind of skills and techniques that you might expect to find in a new gallery at the Museum of London11 for example, or the Geffrye12 in London’s East End. It is intelligently lit, there are carefully composed cabinets and cases, and some larger-scale items to punctuate the journey through the museum – with each chapter represented by a case in the same sequence as the book. It culminates in the only attempt at the creation of a full-size architectural space, the bedroom in which Füsun lost her earring, with a couple of chairs for voyeurs to sit and speculate. Then, we see Pamuk’s handwritten manuscripts for the novel, pinned to the wall of the corridor outside.
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Though both novel and installation give a remarkably resonant portrait of a complex city at a very particular moment in its long history, it is in fact an exploration of the nature of collecting and its obsessive character. And that is what sets it apart from any museum of civic life that it may
superficially resemble. One entire wall of the Museum’s entrance hall displays the 4,213 cigarettes that Füsun smoked from the day she first met Kemal until the termination of their relationship. Each cigarette is annotated in Pamuk’s handwriting, whose angular compression reveals his years as an architecture student. The cigarettes, of course, are elaborate fictions or can perhaps be described as fakes. Even if there had been a real Füsun, she certainly did not smoke these particular cigarettes. But the handwriting is real enough.
Pamuk has made a museum that is far from innocent. He has worked with a skilful graphic design team to fabricate many items such as the Turkish-made fizzy drink that features prominently in the novel, as well as the advertising featuring the glamorous German model. The label looks utterly authentic; a loving evocation of a moment when sideburns had first sprouted in modern Turkey, but is as fictitious as the wall of cigarettes. The brand never existed. The book is no more innocent: Pamuk’s protagonist, Kemal, shares many of Pamuk’s own biographical details, but there is also a character, named Orhan Pamuk, who takes on the narrative at the close of the book. Pamuk’s lovingly created mementos sit alongside artefacts, which actually are old: wireless sets, bird cages, crockery, cutlery and matchbooks. Some of the glass cases remind me of the collection boxes of American artist Andy Warhol13 who spent 17 years of his life filling innumerable cardboard boxes in his New York townhouse with the detritus of everyday life. Every time he filled one it was sealed, numbered, dated and shipped off to a store in New Jersey. At the time of his death in 1987 he had completed 610 boxes. They now sit in the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. A team of archivists took six years examining their contents and entering the result of their work into the museum’s database. Their content ranges from a moldering piece of Caroline Kennedy’s 1986 wedding cake to a mummified human foot belonging to an ancient Egyptian. When I make the comparison, Pamuk tells me that he met the man who catalogued the Warhol boxes. But he is not convinced, “Warhol was so smart about organising his own fame. I did not see it as art. There is a difference between randomly collected objects: these are not random,” he says of his museum. Pamuk may not be entirely convinced by Warhol, but he does see himself in some sense as an artist; and hints at the influence Josef Beuys14 has had on him.
The Museum of Innocence is a reminder that collecting could be understood as a spectrum. At one end, is the quest for order, provenance and control. At the other, is the kind of collection that can overwhelm the collector: the response to trauma that can turn into a compulsion that ends only with death when reclusive individuals are found overwhelmed by stacks of newspapers and >
13 Andy Warhol (1928-1987) was an American artist, considered one of the most important figures in Pop Art. As a keystone in its archival collection, the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh houses Warhol’s Time Capsules, 612 cardboard boxes containing collections of ephemera and objects from the artist’s life. The museum’s researchers are still in the process of cataloguing and digitising the Time Capsules. 14 Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) was a German performance artist known for his involvement in the Fluxus movement.
Museum of Innocence
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PhotoS (LEFT) Refik Anadol PhotoS (right) Emre Akรงora
Film star cards and old Istanbul street signs form part of the collection.
Museum of Innocence
“Pamuk’s museum is not simply a literary device, nor is it only a species of art installation, though it could be seen as one.”
The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk, FABER, 2009 Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk, KNOPF DOUBLEDAY, 2006 Unpacking my Library by Walter Benjamin in Illuminations, HARCOURT, BRACE & WORLD, 1955, p 61–67
All images appearing in this feature are part of The Innocence of Objects by Orhan Pamuk, published 18 October 2012 by Abrams.
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> unopened cans of food. It would be fair to say that this is the end of the spectrum that interests Pamuk, even if the Museum of Innocence is a deft and delicate experience of some beauty. The museum is, I suggest cautiously, like a series of miniatures. Pamuk responds by setting off on an exposition of the relative status of the miniaturist and the calligrapher in the Islamic tradition. “The miniature was used to embellish books, the calligraphers were paid more.” He sees the scale of the boxes as a practical question: “You can’t exhibit armchairs or a lot of beds, or big furniture. The intention from the beginning, to use a cliché, was to exhibit the tip of the iceberg, and leave the rest to be imagined.”
The book, and the museum are in part a speculation on the nature of museums. Just as he spent hours in Istanbul’s junk shops and flea markets, Pamuk has been collecting museums around the world. “I have seen a lot of museums. Every time I was in Europe for book festivals, I would look for small museums, museums close to the heart of the city that gives you a different sense of time, an aura of belonging to another epoch or decade.” Pamuk was also conscious of the architectural qualities of museums set against those of literature. “When you read a book, there are other texts whispering. In a museum, you look with others. In the Guggenheim, Frank Lloyd Wright identified it and successfully made it a big part of his design. You are not just looking at an object. You are acknowledging the presence of others, which lends gravitas to the experience, which makes the museum give more energy.” This is a bold, even monumental idea of what a museum might be as a kind of public institution. Pamuk’s museum is of course both a private, and a deeply personal place. He acknowledges the quixotic nature of the enterprise that he has funded himself. “I expected that nobody would come, the failure of my museum would have been its glory.” But Pamuk is in too deep now and he has no intention of letting his museum fail. Not all of the 83 cabinets are full, and he is working on the completion. At the same time, he is thinking about making temporary installations; possibly even of other people’s collections. It’s the approach of museums the world over, looking to ensure that their visitors have something to attract them back after their first visit. Yet, this is a museum like no other, a powerful evocation of an Istanbul that no longer exists, and which through its nuances, is a demonstration of what it has become.
Deyan Sudjic is the director of the Design Museum in London. He co-founded architecture and design magazine Blueprint in 1983, and was editor at Italian architecture publications Domus between 2000 and 2004.
PhotoS Refik Anadol
There are 83 cabinets in total, but not all are completed and Pamuk is still working on them.
Museum of Innocence
110 Disegno. The Fold
PHOTO Gabby Laurent/Sebastian Tarek Bespoke Shoes
Scoring an edge into a piece of paper or fabric creates another dimension. This essay explores the complexities of the fold as observed both in academic writing and design history. WORDS Pete Maxwell PHOTOS Ola Bergengren
I Exquisite corpse is playful automatic technique invented by the Surrealist group in Paris in the 1920s. 1
Inga Sempé (b. 1968) is an award-winning French designer who has created products for Cappellini, Edra, and Ligne Roset.
Cappellini is an Italian design firm founded in 1946. Its furniture collections have included pieces by Erwan and Ronan Bourellec, Tom Dixon, and Inga Sempé.
Greg Lynn (b. 1964) is an American architect and theorist. He is the owner of the Greg Lynn FORM office, and teaches at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, and the Yale School of Architecture.
5 Deconstructivist architecture emerged in the 1980s in response to postmodern thought, particularly the French philosopher Jacques Derrida’s theory of deconstruction. Fragmentation and distortion are typical characteristics of the style.
Frank Gehry (b. 1929) is an American-Canadian architect whose most famous buildings include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
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magine you are with your friends. Take a piece of paper. Write a word, either a noun or an adjective; make it something provocative, droll or banal. Fold the paper so that it covers your contribution and pass it on to the next person to repeat the process. Once everyone has deposited their word, you can take the concertina and pull it open. The result, occasionally poetic, often amusing, always relies for its pleasure on the ability to unify the incongruous.
This is the game of exquisite corpse, an old Surrealist trick1 for experimenting with writing. Beyond any potential literary merits, however, this activity also acts as an exposition of what is often an overlooked topic in design – that which gives the exquisite corpse its creative facility is not the written word, but the fold, which subsequently encloses it. This game exhibits all the characteristics that make the fold such a powerful design principle – the playfulness of the enterprise, the economy of both material and action. Most importantly, however, it charts the repetition of many hands tracing the same movement. It is for this reason that, no matter how complex an object may appear, if it takes a fold as its main structuring principle it also becomes something that feels familiar. We understand the methods of its construction and so, are drawn to interact with it in a similar manner. This characteristic of the fold can be clarified by looking to its linguistic construction – “to fold” is a resultative verb, and takes an effected object, the fold that is brought about by the folding event. This event and its effected object exist as an inseparable pair, the one predicated on the other. This is why, when we describe the fold, what we really describe is the gesture that created it.
The fold has come to take up a discreet but important place in the contemporary design landscape, making up the structure of projects like Parisian designer’s Inga Sempé’s2 High Pleated lamp for Italian firm Cappellini3 and serving as the philosophical backbone to Issey Miyake’s 132 5 range, which expanded with the In-Ei lamps for Artemide earlier this year. So what is the meaning of folding in design?
There have been attempts to theorise the fold used in design. In 1993, Architectural Design published a profile by professor of architecture Greg Lynn4 dedicated to it, staking a claim for what was to become a conceptual driving force, at least within disciplinary confines, for the rest of that decade. The fold was seen as enabling a theoretical transition away from the confrontational models of deconstructivist architecture5 and into something much smoother, as it was deployed by Canadian architect Frank Gehry6 and American Peter Eisenman7 among others – swapping the fractured and oppositional for the interwoven and entwined. Arising from German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s 17th-century discussion of the concept and, following, French philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s8 application of his theory of the fold or “Le pli” in his 1988 work The Fold it became a method for destabilising boundaries and harmonising conflicts. >
In-Ei, foldable textile lamp shades designed by Issey Miyake for Artemide.
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In-Ei is the Japanese term for “nuance”, “shadow” or “shade”.
“Folding is entrancing, because it is a technique open to anyone who is able to motivate their fingers.”
Peter Eisenman (b. 1932) is an American architect who knew and collaborated with Jacques Derrida (1930-2004). He is known as one of the chief proponents of deconstructivism in architecture.
Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) was a French philosopher, whose most famous works include Anti-Oedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980), both written in collaboration with the French philosopher Félix Guattari (1930-1992).
Todd May (b. 1955) is an American philosopher who is famous for developing the theory of post-structuralist anarchism.
Margaret Boden (b. 1936) is a British cognitive scientist who has worked extensively in the fields of artificial intelligence, philosophy, computer science, and psychology.
Juhani Pallasmaa (b. 1936) is a Finnish architect who has taught at the Helsinki University of Technology, the Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Illinois. Pallasmaa is a former director of the Museum of Finnish Architecture, and is an active cultural commentator.
12 Friedrich Fröbel (1782-1852) was a German pedagogue and education theorist. He coined the term “kintergarten”. 13 Operating from 1919 to 1933 in Germany, the Bauhaus was a famous avant-garde school of fine and applied art, craft, and design.
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> Lynn states that, “If there is a single effect produced in architecture by folding, it will be the ability to integrate unrelated elements within a continuous mixture.” Because of its unparalleled scales (spatial, economic, cultural) it is often inadvisable to retrofit architectural theory to other design disciplines, but this emphasis on the pliable and fluid can be usefully transposed. It aids us in recognising that folded objects are never truly discrete or stable; instead, they exist in a state of flux. Here, political philosopher Todd May9, using paper folding as an analogy to clarify Deleuze, is useful: “We must see each figure as part of a process, not a finished product.” The fold is the point at which something can be unfolded. It is a hinge created from the very material that it articulates. In this, the fold elicits what Margaret Boden10, expert in cognitive science, would term an “enactive psychological mechanism” – as the fold offers us the possibility of manipulating it, we are drawn to repeat that interaction; to participate. Folded forms might also offer a connection to what Finnish architecture professor Juhani Pallasmaa11, in his seminal study The Eyes Of The Skin, describes as being modern (and particularly Western) culture’s harmful shift towards ocularcentrism. He argues that a rebalancing of the sensorial hierarchy would grant us a richer, less alienated relationship with our environment. It is this encouragement to reach forward and engage that has seen the fold employed by contemporary designers keen to foster a more nuanced relationship with their work.
But while it may now be seeing a resurgence of interest, this deployment of the fold has had a history within the modern movement. Much of our basic understanding of how to manipulate our environment develops in early childhood as we use play as a form of spatial investigation. In the mid 19th-century, German educational theorist Friedrich Fröbel12 championed his concept of free play, allowing young children to learn about basic physical and geometrical principles under a self-guided process of study. Fröbel encouraged children to experiment by introducing them to toys as well as instructions for folding and the paper to do so. In 1837, Fröbel opened the first Kindergarten, and paper folding was made a part of its curriculum. The success of the Kindergarten system in Europe ensured that many future Bauhaus13 faculty members, Klee and Kandinsky among them, were trained under Fröbel’s tutorship. There were three types of Fröbelian folding – The Folds Of Life provided an introduction to paper folding techniques; The Folds of Truth were an elementary demonstration of Euclidean geometry; and The Folds of Beauty, by far the largest category, allowed room for more elaborate and inventive form-making. Fröbel realised that the hand played a central role in the learning process and should be valued alongside oral and written methods of tuition. It’s a notion that resonates with a young London-based design studio, N&R Foldings, a collaboration between Spanish designer Rodrigo Solórzano and his Japanese colleague Naoki Kawamoto. The pair met while studying at the Royal College of Art in London: Solórzano was working on a system “to have children build their own toys from cardboard or textiles – anything that they could cut, fold and glue”. While Kawamoto had designed a suitcase that collapses into jointed fragments. >
Issey Miyakeâ€™s 132 5 is a collection of folded garments that extend from two to three dimensions as they are unfolded and worn.
The Orishiki folded clutch bag by N&R Foldings, a London-based design studio that specialises in folding techniques.
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> Initially, they set about developing a children’s toy. This utilised a structural concept created by Kawamoto that used angled edges to make sure that each facet cannot over fold. The resulting prototype transfers seamlessly between flat expanded patterns and abstracted but, clearly, animal forms. What is obvious in both states is the manner in which the toy is to be manipulated.
Following on from this, and destined to be N&R Foldings’ first product to market, is a pair of accessories aimed at an older audience. Their Orishiki collection comprises a glasses case and a clutch bag which, when closed, resembles a chunk of faceted onyx. Once laid out it is easy to see the variety of angles and panelled sides that make up this product, and consequently the pleasure of the rebuilding process is more explicit. “It’s all about behaviour, a clutch bag is not a practical item; yet this bag has the advantage that it can be flattened for storage or travelling, but engagement with it is a playfulness – like building a toy,” says Solórzano.
14 Hannes Beckmann (1909–1977) was a German photographer who studied at the Bauhaus in Dessau from 1928 to 1932. After the second world war, Beckmann moved to New York and became head of the Photographic Department at the Guggenheim Museum.
Josef Albers (1888-1976) was a German artist and educator who attended the Bauhaus and taught there from 1923 to 1933.
While the fold is inherently playful in manner, to design solely within its constraints has been taken by some as a test of the practitioner’s ability. The photographer Hannes Beckmann14, who trained at the Bauhaus, recalls his first experience of the preliminary course under Josef Albers15: “[He] entered the room, carrying a bundle of newspapers, which were distributed among the students.” Albers then turned to his audience and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are poor, not rich. We can’t afford to waste material or time. We have to make the most out of the least. […] I want you to take the newspapers and to make something out of them that is more than you have now. I want you to use the material in a way that makes sense – preserve its inherent characteristics. If you can do without tools like knives and scissors, and without glue, the better.” Later, when Albers had returned to judge the students’ efforts, he picked out one project that he felt had achieved his aims: a piece of paper that had merely been folded lengthways and stood on its side. This, he said, was the purest meeting of technique and material. A century later and Albers’ sentiment is just as valuable. In the introduction to his recent book Folding Techniques For Designers, Paul Jackson suggests that he might be the only specialist teacher since the Bauhausler to privilege the fold. Nonetheless, he insists, “All designers fold”, and looking at the work produced by Inga Sempé it would seem it remains a relevant skill. Folding is a method that she often returns to in her lighting and furniture, and she does not believe that her reasons are unique. “Folding is entrancing, because it is a technique open to anyone who is able to motivate their fingers.” She admits: “For me, it is a lazy way of making models: using what is in the room with the tools that are at my disposal.” >
“There is no greater contemporary practitioner of the fold in clothing than the Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake.”
16 Moustache is a new French furniture brand that features pieces by Big-Game, Inga Sempé, and Matali Crasset in its collections.
William Forsythe (b. 1949) is an American dancer and choreographer. He has run the Forsythe Company since 2005.
> You can’t help imagining that had Sempé submitted her High Pleated floor light, produced by Cappellini, during the German-American master’s introductory course at the Bauhaus, it would surely have received his admiration. Initial models were made from a single, large sheet of paper. The multitude of pleats gave these models all the structural integrity they required to be selfsupporting – a transformation that Sempé values for its effortlessness: “You begin with a flat and flimsy thing – a sheet of paper – and you make it rigid.” Although the final outcome of this project is constructed from fabric mounted on a wire armature, its material origins are obvious. This is in fact one of the joys of High Pleated, that the light-emitting transparency of its fabric is mirrored by the transparency of the design process that created it. Seven years later, in 2009, Sempé designed Armoire Souple, a stackable storage module with corrugated front and back panels, for French furniture company Moustache16. This displays a shift in the designer’s attitude towards the fold – if High Pleated romanticised the story of its construction, then Armoire Souple set about rationalising its mechanical properties. The panels, made from a stiffened fabric, are clean, regular, and clearly mass-produced, but this does not amount to sterility. It is precisely the durable and homogenous characteristics provided by the material’s industrial manufacture that allows it to be a human-centred object. “It is a fascinating fabric that is almost alive,” says Sempé. “You can punch it or kick it and it bumps back in a surprising way, without showing any wrinkle or other mark.” At a distance, Armoire Souple appears to be an almost minimalist composition, but up close its pleated walls reveal it to be something much gentler, something that thrives on the involvement of the user.
It is this immediacy of touch that the fold requires that make it such an intimate and appealing device, and there are few designed objects that are as immediate as the clothes we wear. There is no greater contemporary practitioner of the fold in clothing than the Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake. His first and most single-minded study came with the introduction of Pleats Please Issey Miyake in 1993, though the development of its fundamental construction technique can be traced back to the spring/summer 1989 collection. Each item is made from a single piece of polyester fabric; this is cut several times larger than the garment is intended to be, before being fed into a heat press; the pleats that are formed during this process reduce the garment to its correct size.
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What is most distinctive about this clothing is that it is kinetic: it is only as it is being worn that the movement provokes the fabric to expand and contract around its multitude of sharply pressed folds. Indeed, a crucial preliminary stage in the line’s development came when choreographer William Forsythe17 approached Miyake to design clothing for his production The Loss of Small of Detail, performed by the Frankfurt Ballet in 1991. Fashion historian Lou Taylor noted, Miyake had to reassess methods of exhibiting this line precisely because attempts at static display had proved unsatisfactory. Miyake realised one solution when, in 1998, for Centre Cartier’s retrospective of his work, Making Things, he suspended this collection from wires that, on being activated by passing visitors allowed the folded fabric to move through its full range of expression. >
Hydro-Fold, a paper designed by Christophe Guberan at ECAL, reacts to the moisture of the ink when printed, and contorts into three dimensions.
This page: N&R Foldingsâ€™ Orishiki glasses case. Opposite: A shirt from Ann-Sofie Backâ€™s autumn/ winter 2012/13 collection.
122 Disegno. The Fold
124 Disegno. The Fold
132 5 autumn/winter 2012/13 collection. The garments are folded through a mathematical formula by Jun Mitani.
“Given the repetitive nature of folding it has often seemed to be a ritualistic gesture.”
18 Artemide is an Italian lighting manufacturer founded by Ernesto Gismondi and Sergio Mazza in 1958. 19 Jun Mitani is an associate professor in the department of computer science at the University of Tsukuba. Issey Miyake and his team met Mitani in 2008.
> Throughout his career Miyake has made conspicuous use of new technologies. In the 1980s, Miyake and his master weaver became fascinated by traditional Japanese craft weaving and the weft of hand-woven material. Keen to emulate this aesthetic but at a modern scale they were successful in reprogramming computer-driven looms to produce a fabric that aped those original qualities. Here, Miyake was exploring that philosophic Japanese aestheticism that prizes imperfections as a tacit reminder that such objects are the result of human ingenuity and dexterity.
Reality Lab, a new research arm set up by Miyake in preparation for the XXIst Century Man exhibition, which he directed for Tokyo’s design and fashion gallery 21_21 Design Sight in 2008, is charged with matching this technological drive with a defined social conscience. Reality Lab’s most successful contribution to date is undoubtedly the 132 5 Issey Miyake project, launched in autumn 201018. It shares a corollary with Pleats Please in taking the folding of a single piece of fabric on a more formally ambitious scale. On first assessment an item from this collection is likely to confound the viewer: its flat, complex geometry appearing as some sort of graphical symbol rendered in fabric. It is only once the item is lifted up, the body allowed to extend, its folds to develop, that the user gets a sense of how they might inhabit its strange contours. 132 equates to one piece of fabric that changes between three dimensions and two. The taking out or putting away of these garments becomes their primary point of expression, and so encourages a fascinating reanalysis of their purpose as clothing, and of how to enjoy fashion.
Given the repetitive nature of folding it has often seemed to be a ritualistic gesture. For the Japanese, however, the practice holds a more developed cultural association. Paper was introduced to Japan earlier than other nations, crossing the water from China in 6th century AD. Some of the earliest folded paper objects are thought to be the zigzag paper strips called Shide, used in Shinto purification rituals – hung from a sweeping stick they are intended to bush away impure spirits, the folds marking a boundary between worlds. Shoji, the paper sliding screens that partition traditional Japanese dwellings, and Sensu, folding paper fans, are still in use and so handling structured paper remains an everyday occurrence. Chochin, the ubiquitous paper and bamboo lanterns that hang outside temple and restaurant alike, clearly influenced the In-Ei lights by Issey Miyake. A collaboration between Reality Lab and Italian lighting firm Artemide18, In-Ei applies the same design methodology as 132 5 to create a range of collapsible lamp shades.
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Of course, Japan has also developed a codified tradition of paper folding, Origami. In the past few decades a new perspective on origami has been provided by the use of advanced mathematics and computer software. Though paper folding is inherently governed by mathematical principles, it is only through the scholarship of scientists and mathematicians that origami has truly evolved in complexity, and that its properties have been recognised as advantageous to engineering and design disciplines. It was for this reason that Reality Lab called on the expertise of Jun Mitani19, associate professor in computer science at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, to make 132 5 a
feasible proposition. Mitani’s work focuses on the application of algorithms to the computer modelling of elaborate paper forms, and it was the software that he wrote that allowed Reality Lab to realise 132 5’s ability to transform between worn and folded compositions. For Mitani, the collaboration was mutually beneficial: “It was a surprise to me that cloth could flexibly change shape because my origami is rigid once folded. The fact that a shape was set in the cloth but could then change its shape smoothly was a discovery.” Mitani has garnered much recognition for his folding work, which ranges from organic spiral forms to planar futurist box sets, but while others might view these as decorative objects, Mitani’s attitude is different: “I would like to say that my origami pieces are some kind of art, because I intend to design geometrically attractive shapes. But in the view that I am primarily a researcher, these pieces are really intended to showcase the ability of my software programs.” Despite all the processing power employed by Mitani, there is one area in which technology cannot aid him: “Folding a sheet of paper is difficult for a machine. Although there are several researchers who have developed robots to do this, the simplest piece of origami is a major challenge.” This does not perturb him, however, as he finds that the tension between an abstract design process and a heuristic method of construction is a positive one: “Making real objects with the human hand has always excited us, and will continue to do so into the future.” Not only this, but the hand has one benefit, albeit paradoxical, that the machine does not – fallibility. “Making by hand sometimes generates failures or unexpected results, and these can lead to new discoveries. Some of my origami designs only came into existence through failure.”
READING LIST Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque by Gilles Deleuze, CONTINUUM, 2006 Folding Techniques for Designers: From Sheet to Form by Paul Jackson, LAURENCE KING, 2011 Architectural Curvilinearity: The Folded, the Pliant and the Supple by Greg Lynn in Architectural Design, No. 102 1993, p. 8-15
A recent invention has in fact gone someway to breaking that link between the hand and our ability to create folded forms, though it cannot match the intricacy of origami. Hydro-Fold, the idea of Christophe Guberan, an industrial design student at Ecole Cantonale d’art de Lausanne in Switzerland, takes a standard printer but exchanges the contents of the ink cartridges for a combination of ink and water. Once this is applied to paper and the moisture allowed to evaporate, it causes the fibres in the paper to contract. By designing simple line-based patterns on the computer and then feeding these to the printer, Hydro-Fold allows the creation of surprisingly ornate configurations without any physical intervention by the author. But what is exciting about these objects is not their final, arrested shape so much as watching them achieve it. The paper curls slowly towards itself; the peaks, edges and declivities appear in the surface as if it were being manipulated by some unseen entity. This imagined entity is, naturally, a human one. This seems to us an inescapably as a human action. Even when beyond our grasp, the fold rehearses that memory of contact. As Pallasmaa has it, “Vision reveals what touch already knows.”
Pete Maxwell started out as a Disegno intern and is now a freelance writer after graduating from the MA in Critical Writing in Art & Design at Royal College of Art, London. Ola Bergengren is a Stockholm-based photographer whose work has appeared in Another Magazine, Dazed & Confused, Vogue, and Bon.
The Arsenale was the venue of the 13th Venice Biennale
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Venice Architecture Biennale Venice's 13th Architecture Biennale, with the theme of Common Ground, is this yearâ€™s Biennale Director David Chipperfield's attempt to galvanise architecture that is as much about thinking and writing as it is about practice. Words Edwin Heathcote
Venice architecture biennale
W 1 A press release by Wolf Prix was first printed by the Architects' Journal in London, criticising the Venice Biennale. The press release was titled, The Banal: architectsjournal.co. uk/news/daily-news/ajexclusive-chipperfield-countersprixs-venice-biennalecriticism/8635216.article.
Kazuyo Sejima directed People Meet in Architecture, the 12th architectural exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2010. Her biennale explored the essential role of architecture and the importance of recognising relationships between individuals with their social and natural environments.
In 2008, Aaron Betsky directed Out There: Architecture Beyond Building, the 11th Venice Architecture Biennale. Betsky argued that architecture can’t be practised in isolation, and that art, literature, film, landscape architecture and design play a role in the way we think about and live in buildings.
Richard Burdett directed the 10th Architecture Biennale, called Cities: Architecture and Society, in 2006. It explored issues of density, mobility and sustainability in global cities such as Mumbai, Tokyo and Bogota.
ith a theme like that, you might think you’re setting yourself up for a fall. The assumption that architects are all in it together and that, even if at loggerheads, they share at least a common culture of architecture, seems optimistic at best. Certainly insults have flown. Austrian architect Wolf Prix of Coop Himmelb(l)au derided the show in writing1 (without, amazingly, having seen it). British architect Peter Cook insulted Hans Kollhoff’s little corner comprising exquisite models of serious, bricky urban structures, and the Venezuelan establishment has been up in arms about British critic Justin McGuirk and Venezuelan architecture practice Urban-Think Tank’s Golden Lion-winning installation, which incorporates images of Caracas’ infamous squat Torre David alongside a jerry-built café.
Yet, despite this animosity, British architect David Chipperfield has really managed to pull it off. This is a very different show to Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima’s sensual, tactile but perhaps slightly vacuous attempt two years ago2. It is very different too to American architect and critic Aaron Betsky’s biennale in 20083, and equally unlike Chipperfield’s old friend Ricky Burdett’s (of the London School of Economics) urbanist attempt in 20064. Chipperfield has tried to bring together architects who not only practise but think and write, and – to his great credit – has not stuck solely to those who chime with his own rather minimal tastes. It is true that there is much Swiss and Portuguese aesthetic austerity on show, but it is equally true that alongside Portuguese architects Alvaro Siza (who received the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement) and Eduardo Souto de Moura you can see London-based FAT and Zaha Hadid. Part of Chipperfield’s rationale has been an attempt to examine architectural elevations (facades) as containers of the urban realm, as extensions of the public space that make cities civilised places to be in. Elevations have long been unfashionable, yet here they are, almost Beaux Arts in their brashness, as if setting out an agenda for a revival of architectural articulation.
Both the 300m-long Arsenale exhibition hall and the Italian Pavilion are stuffed with beautifully rendered (and often even pencil-drawn) facades – simple, elegant, stripped, exactly the kind of thing to irritate Cook and Prix. There is an attempt at seriousness here, at asking architects to focus not only on themselves, but to attempt to communicate with the city around them. I am not sure it has entirely worked. Architects tend towards self-promotion and, even in a show such as this, where they are speaking amongst themselves, the efforts at collaboration look strained. This is, perhaps more than usual, a show aimed at the world of architecture itself. Perhaps in a climate of financial uncertainty there is a need for Venice to become an expression of angst, a group hug. Whereas Sejima’s show could have been read as an attempt to reconcile the world of architecture with the more familiar tropes of installation and sculpture, to express a kind of existential joy in the sensual, physical presence of objects, Chipperfield’s show has been more about restoring a sense of common good. The title is a quotation from sociologist Richard Sennett – and very good it is too. It implies a social agenda, associations with public space and the intellectual commons. It consciously distances itself from the beauty parade of architectural icons that the biennale has often descended into. Interestingly, some of the most sophisticated architects have produced some of the dullest installations. Swiss architect Peter Zumthor arrived only with a short film, even if it was directed by Wim Wenders, and his fellow countryman Valerio Olgiati presented a table of uninspiring
132 Disegno. Venice architecture biennale
David Chipperfield chose the theme of Common Ground for the Biennale.
snapshots called in from fellow architects, artists and designers. Yet there is substance here, and depth, evidence of real thinking about the city, about adjacencies, about how architecture engages with context, art and humanity. I felt I could have spent a week here and still had more to see.
McGuirk and Urban-Think Tank’s Torre David/Gran Horizonte, containing a Venezuelan café, is a masterstroke. Apparently outselling all the other food concessions on site (and making itself unpopular because of it), the stand manages to convey something of the energy of the squatters who have transformed Caracas’ 45-storey Torre David bank tower, which was abandoned before it was complete, into a residence for 3,000 people. Iwan Baan’s wonderfully evocative photos explore a world of innate architectural intelligence, in which empty space is magically domesticised and in which the residents create their own infrastructure, their own shops and semi-public spaces. It is a testament to a natural sociability, brilliantly in line with Chipperfield’s theme. The national pavilions in the adjacent Giardini are a different matter. There is very little that is striking or memorable. There are occasional moments of beauty, such as Petra Blaisse’s moving curtains in the Dutch pavilion, or of worthiness, such as David van der Leer’s intelligent US pavilion and encyclopedic look at recent architectural projects with a social conscience (which would have worked better as a book), but most of it is a morass of self-similarity. The British pavilion is, as it has recently been, woeful. This is a terrible pity because its contents are thoughtful, considered and insightful, but it looks a mess, pretentious and unreadable. The idea, to send people out to bring back innovative ideas to inspire change in British architecture, was worthy, but to many it smacked not of open-mindedness but of a kind of piratical colonialism. The catalogue is a far better piece of work than the pavilion, but it could not be said that the pavilion has affected the way the British are represented.
5 John Morgan is a London-based graphic designer that has worked on projects such as the award-winning AA Files and books on Horst P Horst and Mario Testino.
Reading List Architecture on Display: On the History of the Venice Biennale of Architecture by Aaron Levy and William Menking, ARCHITECTURAL ASSOCIATION, 2010 Common Ground: A Critical Reader edited by David Chipperfield, MARSILIO, 2012
The rest of the show is stuffed, perhaps over-stuffed, with Brits, from Norman Foster and Sergison Bates to Caruso St John, Haworth Tompkins, Patrick Lynch and Eric Parry, you can’t escape British architecture in this biennale. That so much of it is genuinely good, intelligent and elegant is extremely encouraging – perhaps the British need to see their own architecture taken out of context and displayed together to begin to appreciate the leaps it has made in recent years The Japanese pavilion (Home-For-All) is, as ever, a sophisticated relief from the banal installations that dominated the national pavilions. A study of the tsunami-hit Rikuzentakata region, this is a genuine collaboration, a real attempt to engage with the Common Ground theme. Curated by Toyo Ito, the exhibition relates the story of an attempt to work with the local population to find “the best way forward for architecture”. It is modest and contemplative, and, of course, it looks good. It won the other Golden Lion, for best national pavilion.
The final aspect of the biennale that has shown a change is in the unaccustomed idea of legacy. Firstly London-based John Morgan’s5 absolutely superb graphic identity for the show – based on Venice’s stencilled street signs – has made a mark in the imagination like no previous visual identity. But more than that, the idea of creating a “reader” – a book to perpetuate the thinking that comes together at a biennale and something that will outlive the show as a product, more than a catalogue that quickly loses any relevance – is a fine idea. What better legacy could you have than a book?
The 13th Venice Architecture Biennale closes 25 November 2012. An in-depth look at the projects behind the Golden Lion-winning exhibits, Torre David and Home-For-All, follows on p. 134-149.
Edwin Heathcote is an architect and designer, and the architecture critic for the Financial Times.
Venice architecture biennale
Efforts to address the growth of slums tend to focus on their eradication. But Urban-Think Tank conceives of them as vital, vibrant laboratories to learn from. Its investigation into Torre David, a unique informal community in Caracas, is now compiled into a book. Words Urban-Think Tank* Photos Iwan Baan
* Urban-Think Tank Chair of Architecture and Urban Design, ETH Zürich, Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner.
1 There is no small irony in Fernando’s participation: this passionate anarchist supporter of extra-legal invasions is also a municipal employee, working for one of Caracas’ five mayors.
In one way or another, the third tallest building in Venezuela has been under construction for more than 21 years. While Torre David (formerly known as the Centro Financiero Confinanzas) stands at an impressive 45 floors in the heart of Caracas’ former central business district, it is unlikely that the building will ever be finished – at least not in the conventional sense. After the developer, David Brillembourg, passed away in 1993 and the financial group supporting the construction collapsed in the wake of the 1994 Venezuelan banking crisis, the tower was abandoned and became a magnet for squatters. Today, it is the improvised, continually revised home for more than 750 families living as a self-organised community in what some have called a vertical slum. That this community has not been riven by the contradictory and potent forces that surround and impinge upon it – that its members have, with great ingenuity and determination, turned a ruin into a home, albeit a precarious and marginal one – is nothing short of astonishing. It is 11:30 on a Thursday night, and some 40 men and women are gathering in the unfinished lobby of the equally unfinished skyscraper in the neighbourhood of La Candelaria/San Bernardino, in the Libertador Municipality of Caracas. The space, originally intended as a soaring atrium topped by a glass cupola, is open to the night sky and barely lit by fluorescent lights wired into corners and hanging from wall hooks. A recent storm has left puddles of water on the floor, and parked motorcycles tick quietly as they cool down.
The men and women are representatives of the residents of the skyscraper – “squatters” to some, “invaders” to others. They themselves prefer “neighbours”. Some of the attendees are floor managers, others simply civic-minded. The tower’s secretary and deputy manager of social services and finances is Gladys Flores, a petite 47-year-old woman with an air of authority. She calls the meeting to order; everyone stands, clasping hands for the customary opening prayer. Many of the residents are Evangelical Pentecostal Christians, their flock led by Alexander “el Niño” Daza, who is also president of the tower’s cooperative. He delivers a passionate 20-minute sermon in which he asserts his conviction that Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez will, upon his inevitable reelection in October 2012, bless the residents with property rights. Other speakers, too, have politics on their minds: two floor managers explain how fellow residents can register as official members of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV); Fernando, a former resident and a long-time supporter of the tower’s occupation, is fed up with the government and expounds on the merits of anarchism.1
Sometimes called a vertical slum, some 750 families have made the ruins of this postmodern tower their home.
Finally, under the wary gaze of the residents, a representative of an architecture and urban design firm rises to speak. He tells the group that his practice would like to work with the residents and to enlist the participation of the private sector, to help conceive, construct, and test various physical interventions and experimental prototypes, while documenting the ways in which the community has already transformed the tower into their home.
How did the ruins of a postmodern skyscraper, conceived and launched with the corporatecapitalist optimism of the late 1980s and early 1990s, come to be home to a 3,000-person squatter community whose operating framework is social and its inclinations anarchist? >
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Venice architecture biennale
“In the heart of a struggling financial district, the tower stood dark and silent.”
Cousin of the author, Alfredo Brillembourg.
David Brillembourg Jr, interviewed by Ilana Millner and Daniel Schwartz, Caracas/ Zurich, 2 July 2012. 3
Carlos González Saavedra, El Musmon Vuelve A La Carga: Confianza En Las Alturas, Inmuebles (Caracas), 30 September 1992, p. 10-18.
Enrique Gómez and Julio Rey, interviewed by Rafael Machado and Mathieu Quillici, Caracas, 15 February 2012. Enrique Gómez was the Centro Financiero Confinanzas project architect, and Julio Rey was an intern in Gómez’s office at the time of construction.
> In January 1990, ground was broken in the Libertador Municipality of downtown Caracas for the Centro Financiero Confinanzas. Its location could not have been more advantageous. Libertador lies in the western portion of Caracas, in the heart of the valley that holds the city. A concentration of political and financial power, literal and symbolic, distinguishes the district: the presidential palace, federal legislative palace, public ministry, headquarters of the Central Bank of Venezuela, and some of the tallest of the city’s skyscrapers. The area had become Caracas’ Wall Street, the centre of finance and the prime location for building the global city.
Even amid such wealth, the Centro Financiero Confinanzas was intended to stand out as the epitome of luxury and prosperity. The man behind this vision was developer Jorge David Brillembourg Ortega2, a primary investor in the construction of the Centro Confinanzas, conceiving it as the largest private skyscraper complex in South America. Brillembourg had built another tower in the neighborhood in 1983; 10 years later he decided to purchase the site upon which he built Torre David – what he hoped would become the “financial nerve of the city”.3 Brillembourg expected that, within four or five years, there would be a dearth of office space in Caracas and, anticipating high demand, planned to offer luxury offices and hotel space on prime real estate at the heart of Caracas’ banking district.
At any time, and in any place, the five concrete structures that comprised the Centro Confinanzas would have been ambitious. The total cost of the complex was expected to reach 5,700 million bolivarés – the equivalent, at the time, of approximately US$82 million.4 Edificio A (Torre David), the main building, was to top out at 45 storeys, surmounted by a helipad. The first six floors were to house hotel support services; floors seven to 16 were intended for the hotel; floors 18 to 45 were planned for 30,000 sq/m of office space for the Confinanzas Group and the Banco Metropolitano de Crédito Urbano. The 17th floor was designed as a pressurised, hermetically sealed shelter for office workers, able to withstand four hours of intense heat from a possible fire. If the office floors were distinctly high-end, the hotel was grande luxe: its design called for no less that 21,000 sq/m of Italian marble.5 For almost four years, the complex gradually emerged from the ground, Edificio A rising to meet its skyscraper neighbours. The scheduled completion was July 1994, with the grand opening of the hotel planned for December of that year. Then things went terribly wrong, beginning with the death from natural causes, in April 1993, of David Brillembourg at just 55 years old.
Perhaps Brillembourg’s brother René, could have picked up the reins, aided by the design and construction team, had it not been for a far greater crisis: in January 1994, Venezuela was hit by a series of bank closures that brought the financial sector to its knees. Brillembourg’s financial arm, Grupo Confinanzas, had been supported by a number of banks and it, too, failed. Without leadership or funds to continue construction, the project was almost immediately abandoned, leaving Edificio A 90 per cent complete.6 Within months, a government financial agency, Fondo de Garantía de Depósitos y Protección Bancaria (FOGADE), seized the assets of Brillembourg’s financial group, including the nearly completed complex. In 2001 FOGADE unsuccessfully attempted to auction the complex, but has otherwise largely ignored the project for the past 18 years, leaving the tower to sit vacant. As of September 2012, the complex has yet to be sold.
Periodic invasions of squatters and looters picked over abandoned machinery, construction materials and large glass windows in Torre David, selling off whatever they could salvage. In the heart of a struggling financial district, the tower stood dark and silent – a sad relic of the hopes and ambitions harboured by Venezuelans in the 1970s and early 1980s, and an inescapable reminder of the economic upheavals that followed those boom years.
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Floors destined for offices have become domestic spaces.
With the economy truly disabled, it was the turn of the body politic to run amok. At the epicentre of a decade’s-worth of convulsions was Hugo Chávez Frías, the beginning of whose ascent to power coincided with the construction of Torre David. Chávez was elected president in 1998.
Chris Kraul, “Venezuela Polarized Over Chavez’s Land Policy”, Los Angeles Times, 7 April 2011.
With just two months in office behind him, Chávez proposed a new Venezuelan constitution to replace that which had been in effect since 1961. In record time, the new National Constituent Assembly drafted that document and, following a popular referendum, the constitution took effect in December 1999. Between 1999 and 2012, a series of laws and presidential decrees were passed that granted the government increasing control over public and private land, undermining existing Venezuelan property law. Coupled with a growing housing crisis and the precarious condition of houses in the city’s many barrios, these changes created an environment in which the squatting of public and private land has become a common practice. As of April 2011, an estimated 155 office, apartment and government buildings in Caracas were occupied by squatters, Torre David among them.7
On 17 September 2007, a group of caraqueños was evicted from a squat in La Candelaria; searching for shelter, they turned their gaze towards Torre David. That same day people in the barrios of Caracas began receiving phone calls and text messages from “professional” squatters, urging them to converge on and occupy Torre David. Word spread rapidly until that evening when, in heavy rain, a large number of families appeared at the entrance to the complex. The two guards on duty took one look at the mass of drenched humanity, turned over their arms, and opened the gates. Thus began the current occupation of Torre David, which has become one of the world’s largest vertical squats. Those who entered the complex on the first evening of the invasion and in the days following quickly staked out space in the ground-floor lobby, establishing communal kitchens, setting up tents and other makeshift shelters, and delimiting their territory. Many people came from other invasions and barrios in the surrounding area, flooded out by tropical rain and driven by the >
Venice architecture biennale
To some, the original architectural design reflects a period of corporate-driven development in the 1980s and early 90s.
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Venice architecture biennale
The inhabitants have created new connections within the building's fabric. We later changed our name to Urban-Think Tank as we broadened our research base and began working in other cities as well.
For these endeavours, we received a research grant from the Schindler Group and support from the ETH Zürich.
> promise of better housing closer to jobs in the city. Some families, wary of the unknown conditions inside the tower, sent one representative to investigate before shuttling the entire clan through the city and out of the rain. Word of this gargantuan, empty, open space spread rapidly, and soon friends and family members of the original occupiers gathered. Three days later, their numbers had grown exponentially. There was little privacy, but a great deal of space available to each family, as well as the hope that the authorities might turn a blind eye. During the first few weeks, as the new arrivals waited to see if they’d be evicted, leaving the space amounted to risking forfeiture of one’s stake. Family members guarded their space in shifts – a relay-style, endurance occupation. As the immediate threat of eviction began to subside, the new inhabitants, urged by the original initiators of the invasion to occupy the rest of the tower, began to explore the whole complex, evaluating the potential for habitation of various spaces. Together they cleaned Torre David, floor by floor, removing the rubble and trash that had accumulated since the tower’s abandonment, and allocated spaces for each family. Gradually, they organised the construction of balustrades and painted communal spaces and private apartments. Through group organisation and hard work, each floor soon had 15 families. Initially only Edificio A was occupied, and by 2009 it was estimated to house 200 families. The location was especially advantageous for informal vendors, greatly reducing the distance and time from home to work and providing storage space for their carts. The population of Torre David has continued to grow, and the residents have made extensive modifications to the complex. It is impossible to live in Caracas and not know Torre David. It made news when the development was announced. It made news when it was under construction. And it made news again when the financing collapsed and all work ceased. More recently, it has made local and international news for its occupation and “re-purposing”. It is also a distinct physical and symbolic presence, and an unmistakable and inescapable feature of Caracas’ cityscape.
As architects, urban designers, and caraqueños ourselves, we established Caracas Think Tank in 1993 as a way to bring together architects and urbanists to consider how we might create a new strategic urban plan for the city.8 Even as we explored, worked in, and wrote about various barrios, we had Torre David in mind as a laboratory for a different kind of informal settlement. As early as 2003, we contacted FOGADE, which had taken possession of the complex, to find out what their intentions might be and whether we could assist in whatever efforts they might be planning. Unfortunately, the issues surrounding Torre David became highly politicised in the context of Chávez’s election, and we were compelled to retreat to the sidelines.
Nevertheless, we kept a watchful eye on Torre David as, in 2007, the current population moved in and began to modify and adapt the structure to their needs. Finally, in 2008, we decided to try once more to become involved and to learn just how Torre David was being used. This was no simple task: over the course of three years, we made routine – and routinely unsuccessful – efforts to reach the community leaders by any means possible, including frequent visits to the gates of the complex. It wasn’t until 2011, with our proposal to help redesign the facade for safety and aesthetics, that we were able to begin our year-and-a-half of investigations.9
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Shops Administration/Meeting Apartments Sports Religious Entrance
An interior perspective of the Torre David complex.
Having examined Torre David closely and intensively, in this snapshot in time, we began to look for answers to some of the questions it raises. It does not truly meet the conventional criteria for a slum, vertical or otherwise. Neither does it meet the equally conventional standards for a residential high-rise. It would seem to partake of both, as well as its own, singular category of urban development. We know of no other example of the informalisation of the formal, quite so singular or so capable of exciting the architectural imagination, as Torre David. As a laboratory, or zone of experimentation, Torre David challenged us to conceive new technical retrofits and structural solutions that can enhance the safety, functionality, and social vibrancy of the space.
illustration (top) Urban-think tank. Illustration (bottom) suat
Our vision arises from the premise of sustainability as the only practical and ethical basis on which to build and grow. Conventional concepts of sustainable architecture, of course, do not readily apply to the circumstances of Torre David. Even in the context of the retrofitting or adaptive reuse of existing buildings, and certainly in regard to new structures, we typically design for a reduction of energy consumption, a smaller carbon footprint, self-sufficiency of the structure itself – anything, in other words, that will mitigate the impact of our designs on the environment, as well as improve the health and well-being of the users. This last is of vital importance in our approach to sustainability for Torre David.
The interventions we explored during this project and present as possible approaches are aimed at raising the standard of living for the residents of Torre David. They were also aimed at minimising the demands on Caracas’ already overtaxed power grid by capitalising on renewable resources, while taking into account the social and economic issues that are inextricable from any notion of “sustainability” in the context of Torre David. Any intervention we considered also had to be organic, in the sense of enabling and requiring the direct participation of the residents. Sustainability, in any context, is not merely an issue of architectural and engineering design and of technology, but of operations and behaviours.
A diagram showing the infrastructure and vertical mobility of Torre David. IMAGE SuAT
Our proposed interventions, developed with collaborators in the Assistant Professorship of Architecture and Sustainable Building Technologies (SuAT) at the ETH Zürich, focused on three categories prioritised by both residents and our research team – vertical mobility, energy consumption and production, and facade safety and aesthetics.
The first of our designs addresses the pressing need for better vertical mobility within the highrise. Currently, there are no elevators, effectively making the building a walk-up. Some residents, particularly the young, elderly, and infirm, spend considerable amounts of time and effort each day accomplishing the simple task of moving themselves and their belongings up and down the stairs. Unfortunately, the residents cannot afford to purchase, install, or operate a traditional elevator system. Thus, we have proposed an alternative elevator prototype – one that would operate more like a city bus, running on a set schedule throughout the day transporting people, goods and waste. It would employ counter-weights, stopping on select floors that service wider sectors of the Torre through a new network of ramps. This is a significantly more affordable and energy-efficient elevator system that could be upgraded over time. >
Venice architecture biennale
Possible retrofits to Torre David.
Concept for electricity generation.
> Our second intervention addresses the fact that currently, the tower’s energy demands surpass the electrical supply of the city’s grid, which they now pay to tap into. We have proposed a new system of electricity production and storage that would sustainably supply Torre David with some of the energy it needs. In the simplest terms, arrays of wind turbines placed on the upper portions of Torre David’s east facade would generate electricity during the day. The turbines would be structured as racks of eight small pinion-shaped horizontal axis wind propellers, with a 25cm diameter, interlocked horizontally. Located on the facade, they would only reduce air circulation into the tower by 30 per cent, pose no safety threat to residents using internal spaces, and generate only a slight increase in noise pollution compared to the existing levels of sound produced by home appliances and street traffic. The electricity produced by these turbines, available at times of high wind energy and low demand, would primarily be used to pump water up to a series of reservoirs located at different levels within Edificio K (one of the complex's adjoining buildings). This water, meant for distribution and consumption, would also be instrumental in the pumped pico hydro system, which uses the potential energy of the stored water to generate electricity.
We also considered ways to alter the physical appearance of the building, both because the residents have indicated its importance to them, and because an improved outward aspect would help integrate the community into the social and economic fabric of the city – by compelling outsiders to reconsider their perceptions and preconceptions of the residents.
Water supply and energy storage. Non peak hours, blue; afternoon peak hours, green.
This is an edited extract from Torre David: Informal Vertical Communities, edited by Urban-Think Tank Chair of Architecture and Urban Design, ETH Zürich, Lars Müller, available from October 2012.
Squatter settlements are not new, nor are they unique to Latin America. Nearly every mega-city in the world has its version: Caracas, Mexico City, Mumbai, Lagos, Johannesburg, Jakarta, Abuja and Beijing. They differ in cultural conditions and expectations, in the geography that dictates their form and building materials, in the abundance or scarcity of basic resources such as water, and in the factors that drive people from rural areas to cities: poverty, famine, natural disaster, war. What they share is a population that grows with every driving impulse and that continues to grow exponentially. To date, efforts to “deal with” slums, wherever they appear, have focused on their eradication, with the objective of creating a slum-free world. Rather than seeing slums as tumours on the civic body, we conceive them as potentially vital, vibrant laboratories, from whose successes we can learn and whose failures we can seek to mitigate. They hold the potential for extraordinary design innovation and exceptional architectural achievement. The informal expands, reproduces, and generates new structures and new alternatives to the traditional urban grid, in a process of incremental development. It is the way of the urban future, one that is antithetical to notions of completeness and finality. It is what we found in Torre David. It is time for professionals – urban planners, social activists, engineers and most especially architects – to confront the realities of the future by helping to develop the urban fabric from the ground up; to interact forcefully but productively with politicians, policy-makers and community groups; to enlist the private sector in developing and deploying innovations; and to participate collectively in the creation of more equitable, workable and sustainable cities.
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illustration (top) Urban-think tank. Illustrations (bottom) suat
In releasing the stored water during times of high electricity demand, the falling water’s gravitational force drives a series of pico hydro turbines located below occupied levels, thus generating electricity. This combination of technologies, implemented in a vertical manner to serve the needs of a large population, is without precedent. It is a system that is capable of producing approximately 24 per cent of Torre David’s electricity, though it would likely require experimentation and monitoring to derive and sustain efficient usage. With a computerised control station, and initial expert monitoring and training, we believe that residents would be able to operate and improve upon the system over time as electricity demand rises.
An exterior view of Torre David. The high-rise is part of a five-building complex, including Edificios B and K, an atrium, and a parking garage.
How can a natural disaster such as the tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 help to define the essence of architecture? That’s the question the Japanese pavilion exhibition in Venice was posing in its Golden Lion-winning project Architecture: Possible here? Home-For-All. Words Johanna Agerman Ross Photos Japan Foundation
1 Shinkansen is also known as the bullet train and is a high-speed Japanese rail network opened in 1964.
Hirata (b. 1971) studied at the Kyoto University and worked with Toyo Ito before setting up his own practice in 2005.
Inui (b. 1969) established her own architecture practice in 2000 and is an associate professor at Tokyo University of the Arts.
Fujimoto (b. 1971) is probably the most well-known of the three young architects with his Tokyo Apartment project from 2010 (several houselike buildings piled on top of one another), being much publicised.
5 Ito (b. 1941) realised the first Home-for-All in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture in autumn 2011. It is a timber building with a gabled roof.
Hatakeyama (b. 1958) is an art photographer that exhibited world-wide. His series of images of exploding limestone mines in Japan are probably the best known.
On the morning of 26 November 2011, a group of Tokyo-based architects set out from the Shinkansen station1 in Ichinoseki by bus. Their destination was the city of Rikuzentakata at the heart of the area devastated by the tsunami almost nine months earlier. There was a chill in the air and the first snow had fallen, giving the surrounding hills a light dusting of white. “I could almost not feel anything when we arrived and saw this place,” says architect Akihisa Hirata2, describing the feeling of powerlessness on encountering this part of Japan he had never visited before. “All I knew was that I had to do something but was not sure of what.” A 535 sq/km area, stretching over six prefectures on Japan’s northern coastline and once a rural fishing community made up of 263 fishing ports, was now devastated along with 62 cities and towns further inland – some completely swept away with the tsunami. The remaining buildings were shattered by the earthquake or ruined by the water carried inland and standing as deep as 2m in places.
There were three other architects on the bus with Hirata: Kumiko Inui3, Sou Fujimoto4 and Toyo Ito5, along with the renowned photographer and Rikuzentakata native Naoya Hatakeyama6 and representatives for the Japan Foundation who is supporting the project. The architects were already acquainted with one another, but this was the first time they had been tasked with working together. The objective had been set out a month earlier in the offices of Toyo Ito in Tokyo, when he asked the three younger architects, branded as “emerging” by Ito, to collaborate on the next stage of the Home-For-All project. Ito had established the project six months earlier with a more established generation of Japanese architects: Kengo Kuma7, Kazuyo Sejima8, Riken Yamamoto9, and Hiroshi Naito10. The projects were created under the name of KISYN-no-kai (the name KISYN association is constructed from the first letter of the architects’ surnames), but each of the first five Home-For-All houses to be built across the affected area were designed individually, one per architecture studio. This time around the project was to build one structure, with the ideas of three architects and the local community embedded within it. Home-For-All isn’t a home in the traditional sense. It has a “home-ness” in regard to scale and the division of rooms, but it isn’t inhabited. Instead, it functions as an informal meeting point for the community. Ito describes it as “an attempt to provide places where those who’ve lost their homes in the tsunami can meet and enjoy a little breathing space”. The temporary housing erected for those made homeless after the disaster provides little in terms of individuality or even comfort, so the Home-For-All spaces focus on bringing people together, serving as important nodes in a society that has little else in terms of public space. The function becomes that of rebuilding the community spiritually while the restoration of the physical infrastructure is yet to start. >
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Kumiko Inui, Toyo Ito, Akihisa Hirata, Sou Fujimoto and Naoya Hatakeyama in front of the construction site of Home-For-All in Rikuzentakata, in August 2012.
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The exhibition Architecture: Possible here? Home-For-All in the Japanese pavilion at the Venice biennale. The tree trunks spread throughout the space are cedar trees from Rikuzentakata.
Venice architecture biennale
“This is the perfect opportunity FOR US TO TAKE A FRESH LOOK AT WHAT ARCHITECTURE REALLY IS.” Kuma's (b. 1954) proposal was to build a structure out of stackable plastic water tanks made from PET plastic. It has still not been built.
Sejima (b. 1956) realised her project with architecture firm Sanaa, in Higashi-Matsushima, near Sendai. It has large an eliptical, metal roof, supported by thin poles.
Yamamoto's (b. 1945) project is located in Kamaishi city in Iwate Prefecture and is made from a waterproof fabric stretched over a steel frame.
Naito's (b. 1951) project remains unbuilt, and is still seeking sponsorship.
READING LIST Post-disaster Design: Shelters for all by Julian Worrall, in Domus 957, April 2011
> On that first day in Rikuzentakata, the group visited several housing sites. They were startled by the reality of people’s lives there, and the quotidian atmosphere that had started settling in: potted plants decorated the window sills and orange persimmon fruits were hanging from the eaves of the temporary dwellings, drying for the winter. The communities had erected tents to use as communal spaces, the atmosphere was jovial and people were sharing their stories. As the cold winds blew across the now devastated planes, the visiting group sheltered in one of the tents, sharing a drink with the people living there and experiencing first-hand the importance of such a meeting place. The first visit was unsettling for the three architects, causing them to consider their own roles in the project. “It was about participating in it and it didn’t feel suitable to express our own individuality in such a site, we didn’t want to create something normal for us,” says Hirata. Over 200 models were made in the process of deciding on the suitability of the design. The architects met once a week for almost four months, most often in Ito’s office, even if he wasn’t always there. There are pictures from this time in the leaflet that accompanies the Japanese pavilion exhibition, and in one particular image the three architects look exasperated, fed up, everyone staring stubbornly in front of them – except for Hirata, who shoots Fujimoto a sideways glance. “It was a very intense period for all of us,” remembers Hirata. “We sometimes passed the models between each other, to develop each others’ ideas, but this wasn’t very successful.” The photos are captured by Hatakeyama, who has photographed his hometown of Rikuzentakata repeatedly since the tsunami. He lost his mother and his childhood home in the disaster, and these images have an urgency and realism that his other work as a photographer doesn’t. “These images are very different for him,” says Hirata. “He was in the same situation like us, somewhere in-between individual expression and the situation which is happening from the interaction with this area.” It wasn’t until another visit, in January, that the process of designing the Home-For-All became easier. The leader of this community, Mikiko Sugawara, took the group to a site that the locals thought would be a suitable location. It was situated at the edge of the flat land washed away by the tsunami, just where the raised ground stopped the wave. Having this physical space to work with helped in the next stage of the project. “The house shouldn’t be complicated or too designed,” says Hirata, recalling the thinking behind the design process. “It should be simple and powerful but at the same it should be very symbolic, celebrating the geography of the site.”
The last visit before the opening of the Japanese pavilion in Venice was in early August. The structure that has now appeared is built from salt-damaged cedar trees that grow in the area. It resembles a watch tower, a final outpost overlooking the vast, flat land that holds the memories of so many people. When the building is completed at the end of October it will contain a series of interwoven indoor and outdoor spaces that will suit all seasons – heated by a stove in winter and ventilated by open windows letting in the breeze in summer. The architects are not yet sure what the community will make of it. They have shared their plans and models but are not convinced that they can visualise the final outcome. But the portrait taken of the participants from this last visit has an air of optimism about it. “This was a very happy time for all of us,” says Hirata, looking at the picture.
As well as setting out on a journey to create another Home-For-All, Ito intended the project to also question the idea of architecture. “Since the modern period, architecture has been rated highest for its originality,” says Ito in his introduction to the exhibition. “As a result, the most primal themes – why a building is made and for whom – have been forgotten. A disaster zone where everything is lost offers the perfect opportunity for us to take a fresh look, from the ground up, at what architecture really is.” However, from the many reiterations of the Home-For-All, from the tents erected by the communities to Sejima’s elegantly undulating structure or Ito’s quintessential house shape, what is really questioned here is the concept of home. Alongside the other winning exhibit at the Venice architecture biennale, Torre David/Gran Horizonte, the installation presents alternative ways of looking at this idea. While a home is normally built to house a family associated by blood, in an area where the family unit has been shattered with the loss of tens of thousands of lives the community becomes the closest resemblance to the idea of family. So the Home-For-All is a home-like shelter used by family-like units, healing a community that is preparing itself for rebuilding, both physically and spiritually.
Johanna Agerman Ross, (see p. 10)
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The structure of Inui, Hirata and Fujimoto's Home-for-All is made from local cedar trees. The building is due for completion at the end of October 2012.
Venice architecture biennale
There are three CNC machines in the Mattiazzi factory. The work they do is precise and very sculpted.
High-tech Handmade While many Italian manufacturers are struggling, Mattiazzi is smelling sweet success from its busy factory where chairs from revered designers take shape. words Johanna Agerman Ross photos Felix Friedmann
Q 1 CNC, or computer numerical control milling, is a technology which allows a horizontally mounted workpiece (in this case wood) to be rotated and allowing asymmetric turning. The multiaxis machines, where all axes are used in conjunction with each other, can produce very complicated, organic shapes that would be impossible or very time consuming to achieve through regular milling. At Mattiazzi they have three CNC mills - a five axis, six axis and eight axis machine.
German designer Konstantin Grcic (b. 1965) and French Ronan (b. 1971) and Erwan (b.1976) are famous for their work with lighting manufacturer Flos and Swiss Vitra. Sam Hecht (b. 1969) started Industrial Facility in 2002 and has been working with companies like Japanese Muji and British Established & Sons.
At the Cosmit-owned Salone Internazionale del Mobile, based in the Fiera Rho, outside Milan, there are 14 exhibition halls. The halls have different themes such as lighting and bathrooms, but it is normally Hall 16 and 20 that play host to most of the contemporary furniture manufacturers, such as Vitra and Moroso. It is difficult to get a space here as it is operated on a “one out, one in basis” and once you are in very few brands want out.
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uickly and precisely, a robot locked away in a metal and glass cage is going about its work of shaving off excess wood from a block. Its eight-axis, CNC-milling head1 follows a mould and little by little it unearths a gracious shape, apparently hidden in the rough wood block all along. When it finishes, it obediently returns to its resting position and offers up its work for inspection to a bespectacled young man – who frees the wood from its shackles, runs his hands over its now much smoother surface and places it on a trolley with a dozen or so identical pieces. It’s the back left leg and part of the back rest of Sam Hecht’s Branca chair. The young man then places another raw piece of wood onto the stretcher-like contraption, which is soon fed to the computerprogrammed robot once again. The floor in its cage is brimming with curly, yellow wood shavings. It’s a humid and hot summer’s day, one of those days when even standing still makes you perspire, but the open doors allow a cooling breeze through the Mattiazzi factory. Outside, the Italian countryside is in prosperous bloom, the vine stocks heavy with ripening fruits, fields of corn looking bushy and full of promise. The worker wipes his brow and dreams of vacation. The robot dreams of nothing but the next chair leg.
Mattiazzi is a specialist manufacturer of wooden furniture, just outside of Udine in northeastern Italy, seven kilometres from the Slovenian border. Founded by Nevio Mattiazzi and his brother Fabiano in 1979, it's a family-run enterprise that for 30 years was a subcontractor for furniture brands. But around the same time that the 2008 recession hit, the firm decided to take the leap into designing its own furniture. A brave choice for a company previously operating on the outskirts of the design world, and even braver considering that many family-run factories in the surrounding area were closing down. But Mattiazzi wasn’t going to fail. It had recently invested in some state-of-the-art CNC-milling machines and over the next few years lined up some of the world’s best-known designers to work with it: Sam Hecht, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec and Konstantin Grcic2. In April this year, the brothers celebrated their first significant triumph – a 8x8m exhibition stand in Hall 20 at Salone del Mobile in Milan. “Getting a space, even as small as ours, is like winning the lottery,” says sales and marketing manager Cristina Salvati3. So how did a local Italian brand producing only for others go from obscurity to the heart of the design world in just four years? “Five years ago, Mattiazzi was not what it is today,” says Salvati. We are sitting in the white, airconditioned office that belongs to her and Nevio Mattiazzi, after a tour of the factory next door. Mattiazzi has proudly been demonstrating everything, from the supply of wood (mostly from eastern Europe) to the lethal-looking saw heads of the CNC mill, the solar-panelled roof (generating all the energy the factory needs) and the heating system that uses the wood shavings to heat the complex during the winter months. Aside from Salvati, the Mattiazzi brothers and their sons Paolo and Francesco, there are 15 people working here. Most of them have been with the company for many years, growing and changing with the enterprise. “We have started from zero on everything,” say Salvati. “Nevio and Fabiano’s business started from nothing. It hasn’t happened in a day. It’s been a lot of hard work and tough times. It’s an uphill road, and we’ve arrived at a point that we feel is deserved so far.” >
Even with the high-tech CNC machines, the hand plays an important role in the manufacturing process.
â€œhow did a local Italian brand producing only for others go from obscurity to the heart of the design world in four years?â€?
The Branca chair by Sam Hecht launched in Milan 2010.
The Medici chair by Konstantin Grcic launched in Milan 2012. It is a lounge chair and also comes in a wood treated for outdoor use. The Medici in this picture is a prototype.
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There are many sanding machines in the Mattiazzi factory, each one performing a slightly different function.
> One late afternoon in April 2010, I walked down Via Savona in Milan and turned into one of its many courtyards. It was during the Milan furniture fair and the streets were filled with design students, journalists, trend-spotters and buyers, all in search of the next thing. The courtyard was busy with people standing around chatting and swigging beer from bottles. In a bare room just off the courtyard was a small exhibition of chairs: He Said/She Said by Munich-based product designer Nitzan Cohen, and the Branca chair by London-based Sam Hecht, of Industrial Facility. This was Mattiazzi’s second exhibition in Milan, but the first that got any attention. The year before, I received a beautifully designed mail-out showing pictures of Cohen’s He Said/She Said debut at the furniture fair, saying: “You probably missed this in Milan.”
It was this polite marketing strategy that first brought Mattiazzi to my attention. I called Cohen to ask about the project, and he started talking about a family-run business in the north of Italy, and high-tech manufacturing married with an expertise in wood-based craftsmanship. I scribbled down Mattiazzi and its location, San Giovanni al Natisone, in my notebook for further investigation. These were early days for Cohen and Mattiazzi, who at that point had only known each other for a few months. It was the launch off Via Savona that came to set the foundation stone for their future collaboration, with Cohen taking on the role as art director. “I think that was a key moment for this whole project,” says Cohen of the Branca chair launch in Milan. “I had done one project already and it was right for the time, but it was crucial that what came next had to be a really big step forward. The challenge for Mattiazzi was to get someone as big as possible, someone who would challenge us in the most positive way.” Cohen and his art director partner, graphic designer Florian Lambl, have been crucial for Mattiazzi’s choices in terms of the creative direction moving forward. “We have a lot of passionate arguments,” says Salvati about the collaboration, which seems to have happened almost by coincidence. “We discuss things between us to formulate ideas, possibilities, and to balance each other,” says Cohen. “From the beginning, there was respect and a trust that developed very quickly. When you have those two together, you can do quite a lot.” Lambl’s role originally involved designing the visual identity around the He Said/She Said launch, but quickly developed to be more involved in creative decisions on future commissions, always framing them in neatly designed publications.
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Hecht, known for his product design with his firm Industrial Facility, had never designed a chair before Cohen contacted him, and yet he was convinced by the Mattiazzi set up. “There’s something very accurate and clear about what they do, namely all things wood, and you know what they >
â€œThe challenge was to get someone as big as possible, someone who would challenge us in the most positive way.â€?
All the moulds that are used for the CNC milling are kept on an open shelf.
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The Osso stool by Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec is a spin-off from the Osso chair that launched in 2011. On the wall hangs a poster of Nitzan Cohenâ€™s She Said, the first designer collaboration for Mattiazzi, from 2009.
Nitzan Cohen Solo chair 2012 in the corner of the factory.
> produce is quality, built with a craftsman's attitude,” says Hecht. “My contribution was a sense of naivety of wood and in some respects furniture. It was Matiazzi's expertise and my naivety that probably resulted in me suggesting something that they had not tackled before. Had I known how challenging Branca was to be, I probably would not have suggested it.” The sinuous and branchlike Branca pushed CNC milling to beautiful extremes, and won an award at the Design of the Year exhibition at London’s Design Museum in 2011. Hecht described the project as “a labour of love” at the time. Now he says: “With all of the work I have done the creative decisions are brought about by conversations and in this project there was a continuous discussion between my studio, the factory and the design directors. I think it is these conversations that brought the best result in the end, because the meeting point of naivety and expertise is where great things can happen.”
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Mattiazzi has two fundamental strengths. The first is the material expertise. Both Fabiano and Nevio have worked with wood for over four decades – first in their uncle’s workshop and then in their own factory, which they set up in another uncle’s garage (the uncle whose business they left 35 years ago is still not over what he considers to be a betrayal, Nevio says). This makes the development process more efficient, as all expertise is available in house. “When Nevio likes something,” says Cohen, “he’ll just keep the drawings and won’t tell the designer anything, and then three days later he emails a picture of him sitting on it [the design].” Mattiazzi’s second strength is its focus. As a design company it launches one project every year, and that’s a fundamentally different attitude to many of its fellow exhibitors in Hall 20. Here products are often previewed during the annual fair to see what interior designers and retail buyers want before deciding what should go into production. This results in so-called PR products that draw a crowd and get attention in the press, but never actually hit the shop floor. However, Mattiazzi’s attitude is completely different. It commits wholeheartedly to a project already at development stage, working closely with the designers, engineers and factory workers on developing the best product it can. “Each designer that we work with puts so much effort into what they do. Each project is like a baby for them and we have to respect that,” says Salvati of Mattiazzi’s commitment to each product. This is why, when the exhibition opened in Hall 20 back in April, there were only five chair projects on display: He Said/She Said by Cohen; Branca by Hecht; Osso by the Bouroullecs; Medici by Grcic; and Cohen’s latest chair, Solo. It was a stark and minimalist display, but one that communicated Mattiazzi’s strengths perfectly. The Bouroullecs compare it to working with an organic farm and say that it is this “back to basics” attitude that made them interested in the company in the first place. But Mattiazzi’s way of working also recalls that special quality >
â€œthe meeting point of naivety and expertise is where great things can happen.â€?
The Osso stool, from 2012, is waiting for the finishing touches.
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Since its foundation in 1979, Mattiazzi has been producing wooden furniture, especially chairs for other companies. The prototypes are stored on an open shelf next to the factory floor.
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The Osso chairs by Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec are waiting to be packed up and sent out to a retailer.
Magis was founded in 1976 by Eugenio Perazza and Moroso was founded by Cavallico di Tavagnacco in 1952
5 Kartell was founded by Giulio Castelli in 1949, Zanotta was founded in 1954 by Aurelio Zanotta. B&B Italia was founded as C&B Italia by Cesare Cassina and Piero Busnelli in 1966, but became B&B when Cassina left the company in 1973.
Reading list Design Directory Italy, edited by Claudia Neumann, PAVILION, 1999 Italy: The New Domestic Landscape, edited by Emilio Ambasz, MoMA, 1972
> that has made Italian design manufacturing famous worldwide: a combination of flexible production methods and highly specialised knowledge to realise complex, and sometimes seemingly impossible, designs. The Branca and Osso chairs in particular are pushing the envelope of wooden chair manufacturing with their sculptural qualities, making full use of the six- and eight-axis CNC mills – meaning these chairs are sculpted rather than bent or joined into shape. Medici, by contrast, is playing with the most basic components of manufacturing in wood – the wooden plank. Here the joinery is plain and immediately legible, creating an angular lounge chair, without sacrificing any of its comfort.
Mattiazzi is located on the outskirts of Italy’s furniture manufacturing region – Moroso is not far from here, in Udine, and Magis too, in Torre di Mosto, closer to Venice. This is one of the areas of northern Italy that kick-started the economy after the Second World War, where architects and industrialists came together to build a new country that became world famous for its design exports with brands such as Kartell, Zanotta and B&B Italia4. They were all founded on the principle of collaboration, between architects and manufacturers, and between small workshops and large industrial suppliers. These small, local businesses grew into global brands, promoting the idea of Italy as a design nation. But this is also an area that is suffering greatly from Italy’s current economic crisis. “If you have a tour of the neighbourhood nowadays, you’ll find empty buildings everywhere,” says Nevio. “When we started in the 1970s, there was not a single room that was empty. We had a hard time starting our business because of the lack of space. Business was very strong back then.” The abandoned factory buildings are the physical reminders of a changing economy and a shift in where the world now manufactures its goods. China and the Far East are the cradle of mass production, and the smaller, more specialist businesses are left behind. Here Mattiazzi fits very well, marrying high technology with the hand-finished, but it’s also a precarious situation to be in. When the company changed direction, it had to let some factory workers go, reduce the work force and take on fewer contract projects. Mattiazzi’s own designs are now taking centre stage on the production line, and during the factory tour I see Ossos, Brancas and Medicis in various degrees of completion. “The companies that are recognised are the ones that do things that other people cannot do,” says Nevio. “What we feel is important is to stay away from the mass, and do things that other people can’t, and this should help us get through this crisis that is affecting everyone.”
“The way that Mattiazzi is working is representing both a past and a future,” says Grcic. “They understand the value of tradition, yet they are open to what is next and the new. The need to focus on their own story, their own values and their own way of doing things has never been as great as in today´s competitive world. What will set them apart from other chair makers is not so much their expertise in manufacturing wood but their story as a company.” However, their story as a familyrun enterprise is a deeply traditional one – rooted in a time when offspring stayed within the fold and carried the family business forward, out of obligation as well as lack of other options. The world now is very different, and these family-run enterprises that seem to have been the foundation of Italy’s industry are under threat, as much from economic meltdown as by the choices that a digitally networked world offers. The founders' sons, Paolo and Francesco Mattiazzi, both in their 20s, are making a career choice that is bound to be the exception rather than the norm in the future. But four years in, Mattiazzi’s concept seems to be working. As we sit and talk in the office, Salvati takes an order of the Bouroullecs' Osso chairs for a restaurant in Auckland, New Zealand. The initial run of Osso, which launched in 2010, has sold out. “We first make a small batch production to see how it sells,” says Salvati. “Then we increase the quantities little by little.” There is an air of anticipation around the enterprise, in this silent and bare office, in the factory halls next door, and in the eyes of the Mattiazzi brothers. The investment has already been made in machinery, in solar power and in securing the expertise that is taking the company in this new direction. The display in Hall 20 was, as Cohen puts it, “The end of a big road and the beginning of a new one.” Only time will tell how Mattiazzi will navigate this new environment. However, more immediately than that, it’s time for Italy’s annual vacation. The CNC-machine operator will get the holiday he was dreaming of and the CNC robot will be turned off, whether it wants it or not.
Johanna Agerman Ross (see p. 10)
Felix Friedmann is a photographer whose work has appeared in Icon, Die Zeit, The Guardian, Apollo and Apartamento.
168 Disegno. high-tech handmade
â€œThe way that Mattiazzi is working is representing both a past and a future.â€?
Moulds for the Osso and Branca chairs are lying on the factory floor.
photo ANNE DENIAU
A shot from the Alexander McQueen autumn/winter 2012/13 show in Paris. The models are wearing high-shine reflective silver plexiglass visors.
170 Disegno. Masking identities
Masking Identities At a time when fashion and design are experimenting with the form and identity of the mask, Disegno takes a look at their meaning. Words Rebecca Arnold
Musée Bible et Terre Sainte is a small museum operated by the Institut Catholique de Paris.
Benjamin (see Museum of Innocence, p. 88).
Fashion house Maison Martin Margiela was set up by Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela in 1989 and was acquired by Italian brand Diesel in 2002. The brand showed its first haute couture collection in Paris in July, for autumn/winter 2012/13.
Bertille Laguet (b. 1988) and Mathieu Rohrer (b. 1989) met at the Lausanne-based design school ECAL and have run a studio together since graduating in 2012.
5 Bertjan Pot (b. 1975) studied at Design Academy Eindhoven and now runs his studio together with co-workers Vladi Rapaort Marjolein Fase and is currently based in Schiedam in The Netherlands.
The film was released in 1980 and is based on the life of Joseph Carey Merrick (1862-1890), a man with severely deformed facial and bodily features.
Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) was a French poet who is credited with coining the word Surrealism. He fought and was wounded in the First World War and died from Spanish Flu.
Bogdan Dumitrica (b. 1963) is born in Romania but studied art at California State University. The series Everybody has the Right to Wear a Mask comprises 18 paintings of oil on paper.
172 Disegno. Masking identities
n a small museum in Paris’ sixth arrondissement there is a stone mask believed to be the oldest mask in the world1. It dates from 7000 BC and is oval in shape with two circular holes for the eyes and a half moon-shape cut out for the mouth. Even in this most basic form, the mask has the power to unsettle. Covering your face renders you ambiguous. Both absent and present, yourself and other. This slipperiness changes the rules of the wearer’s behaviour and teases onlookers, who can no longer be certain of your identity or intent. We are all in disguise. Fashion twists and toys with our identities; interior design extends these games into the home. In his 1929 essay Some Remarks On Folk Art, the German philosopher and literary critic Walter Benjamin2 recognised masking as part of our interior, as well as our exterior world. “Disguise seeks the arsenal of masks within us,” he wrote. This autumn, these masks have become literal, and theatricalised in the catwalk shows of fashion houses. And they are spreading from face to body and into our interiors too as artists and designers are creating masks to adorn our homes with.
In Paris-based Maison Martin Margiela’s first haute couture show3, craft, artifice, history and theatre were spun into deconstructed outfits that quoted past collections from the Maison and earlier fashion styles. References were diverse, from Edwardian tailoring, left raw at the edges to draw attention to its presence, to American sportswear, in the form of torn-apart and reassembled baseball gloves. But it was the masks that drew the eye. Models became anonymous androids, each wearing a bejewelled mask. Coloured gems or bright white “diamonds” turned their faces into jewels, while bouncing light and gaze away from their surface. In some cases, the crystals dripped down the models’ bodies to encrust their clothes and turn their whole torso into elaborately embroidered shell carapaces. This dramatised the label’s craftsmanship, and placed emphasis on handwork, while simultaneously creating a sensual link between the artisan and the disguised. Model and worker were linked through their apparent anonymity, yet celebrated in the glittering display – body and clothing masked to pull focus onto process and product. Also playing on fractured identities and the nature of craftsmanship is French-Swiss design duo Bertille & Mathieu4 who has designed paper masks that reference children’s toys, and African tribal masks. Made of layers of different coloured card, sewn together and folded into shape, they are meant to provide several masks in one, with layers tearing off, producing new faces in the process. For some years now, Dutch product designer Bertjan Pot5 has also experimented with the masked face. His masks are the failed result of an attempt at creating a rug by coiling and then stitching a length of rope together. The material experimentation instead created spirals that mimicked exaggerated facial features. The final product, recently on display in Milan, during the April furniture fair, are simian and even has a taste of film director David Lynch’s The Elephant Man6 about them. Like Maison Martin Margiela and Bertille & Mathieu, Studio Bertjan Pot emphasises the mask’s transformative element an its potential to reconfigure an identity, and it isn’t always a more attractive one. >
photo Felipe Ribon
The Mask mirror by Jean Baptiste Fastrez are produced for Galerie Kreo in Paris and was first shown at Villa Noailles in Hyeres.
photo Nicolas Genta
The Venice masks in paper are designed and made by Bertille & Mathieu.
174 Disegno. Masking identities
Photo Courtesy of maison martin margiela
At the Maison Martin Margiela show the modelsâ€™ faces turned into jewels.
“Models became anonymous androids, each wearing a bejewelled mask.”
Jean Baptiste Fastrez lives in Paris where he used to work for the Bouroullec studio. He has now set up his own practice after winning the Grand Prix at the 10 Designers competition at Villa Noailles in Hyeres in 2011.
Since the fashion designer Alexander McQueen died in February 2010, the brand’s creative director is Sarah Burton (b. 1974) who also designed the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress.
12 AF Vandevorst is a Belgian fashion brand created by An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx. They met at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 1987 and presented their first collection under the current name in 1998. 13 The band Pussy Riot was founded in 2011. They came to the attention of the world media when three of its members were arrested and charged with “premeditated hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility” after a “flash performance” in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow, in February 2012. Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova have been sentenced to two years in a penal colony.
READING LIST Calligrammes: Poems of Peace and War (1913-16) by Guillaume Apollinaire, University of California Press, 1980 Mask, Mimicry, Metamorphosis: Roger Caillois, Walter Benjamin and Surrealism in the 1930s by Joyce Cheng in Modernism/ Modernity, Volume 16, Number 1, January 2009
> Pot’s surreal headgear bring to mind French poet Guillaume Apollinaire’s7 evocative description of a First World War soldier’s gas mask. Apollinaire’s words linked uniform and macabre accessory – the gas mask’s case was fashioned from the same fabric as the soldier’s uniform, both disguised his body, making him one with his regiment. When worn, the gas mask protected him from threat, and he was, Apollinaire noted, dehumanised. Yet, as with the current examples, he was somehow also supernatural, beyond mere human.
This tension between masks’ functional yet otherworldly meanings hints at their sinister and ambiguous nature. Although the origin of the word is unclear and has appeared in many languages throughout history, it is thought to have links with the Medieval Latin word “masca” which means spectre or nightmare. Romanian artist Bogdan Dumitrica’s8 2012 painting cycle Everybody Has A Right To Wear A Mask pushed these contradictions of masks further, exploring not just the shapes and forms of everyday masks, from motorcycle helmets to Muslim hijabs, but imagining how these masks themselves might transform and degrade over time. Dumitrica’s images envisioned them overgrown with weeds, gnarled with barnacle-like growths. Time and change was made visible, destructive yet beautiful. This spoke of masking as historical process, both natural and artificial, protective but also potentially oppressive. Giambattista Valli’s9 couture collection also combined organic with manmade and brought to the surface the violence implicit in masks. His black nets caught models’ faces in a hazy, mutable shell that emphasised their beauty but trapped it within. They became Schiaparelli dolls, their masks a direct quotation from the Italian fashion designer’s 1930s’ shop mannequins. Violence was made delicate but explicit as the models’ mouths were spiked with a butterfly, their lips erased and replaced by the insects’ wings.
This link between beauty and horror, shield and protection is present in young, French designer Jean Baptiste Fastrez’s10 work. His sleek, modernist mirrors are cupped in acetate, toying with nature and artifice. They mimic tortoiseshell shields to hold and protect the mirrors’ reflection and were produced using the same material that is used for the production of spectacles. This idea of shield and protection was also present in Alexander McQueen’s11 autumn/winter 2012/13 show where the models entered the catwalk with a large, reflective, silver plexiglass visors covering their faces. Like oversized sunglasses, they took the idea of concealing your face from the sun and your eyes from the gaze of others to RoboCop-like extremes. Other examples from the autumn/winter collections were less subtle in their explorations of body and object. At the Belgian designers’ AF Vandevorst’s12 show masks did not just edge around the frame, or hint at fashion and beauty’s inorganic nature. Instead, the clothes themselves seemed to have engulfed the body, as scarves crept up the models’ forms, in some cases morphing into hot, thick, clotted twists of animal pelts that consumed their faces and erased their identities completely. This returns us to a central aspect of the mask’s ambiguity. Who can wear them and who controls their meaning? Recently, Western governments have sought to control masking, for Muslim women wearing the hijab, as well as for political protestors who want to disguise their identities. And it’s not in fashion or design that the the most poignant recent example of the mask’s current political resonance can be found: the Russian, feminist, punk-rock group Pussy Riot13 have appropriated the mask to question identity, gender and political control, using jewel-coloured, knitted balaclavas to jolt expectations. In their jerky, explosive performances, they have restated the masks’ ability to provoke, to challenge and to question socially dictated identities. That is maybe why, seeing three of the group’s members on trial in a Moscow courthouse, de-masked, exposed, they appear extra vulnerable, mere human and literally powerless.
Rebecca Arnold is Oak Foundation lecturer in History of Dress and Textiles at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.
176 Disegno. Masking identities
photo courtesy of Giambattista Valli
Giambattista Valli is Italian but lives and works in Paris where he runs his own atelier. He made his haute couture debut in January 2012.
At the SumGiambattista esto et reproValli doloris haute couture show for doles sin prate volupit, sam, autumn/winter 2012/13, tem doluptatiur, ommolup thetusdaerit, modelsâ€™ heads were saecum faccupt covered finedoluptur net and si iusciisinnos their mouths marked with a butterfly brooch.
178 Disegno. Masking identities
photo courtesy of studio bertjan pot
Bertjan Potâ€™s masks are the outcome of a failed attempt of making a rug in 2010. The studio continue making them as and when they feel like it.
It is two weeks until the studio’s 20th anniversary exhibition opens at London’s Aram Gallery and the pots that Eley refers to are made in collaboration with Moorcroft pottery. To add an interactive element to the show, Eley Kishimoto has asked composer Daniel Pemberton to create a sound installation for the pots. “You can hear the pots talk. But some of them are too narrow for the speakers. And another has a lid, so it has a bit of a muffled sound.”
“We’re having trouble making the pots talk,” says Mark Eley of design duo Eley Kishimoto, which he founded with Wakako Kishimoto in 1992.
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The ubiquitous Flash pattern on a pair of Converse trainers in Eley Kishimotoâ€™s studio.
founded in 1900 (as Morton Young and Borland). We wanted to include this Scottish manufacturer with a huge heritage, a great industry, and generation after generation running the mill, which is super old,” says Eley, adding that this choice of partnership is another first for the company. “This is the first time we’ve actually gone and approached somebody ourselves rather than other people approaching us.
At the back of Eley Kishimoto’s studio is a corner stacked with different dyes.
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Eley Kishimoto is known as a fashion brand with a talent for print and stepping into the studio’s pleasantly intimate entrance hall, you’re greeted by the pungent smell of screen-printing chemicals, a formidable plaster owl painted in jolly pastels, and a special edition BMW R 1200 motorcycle covered in the company’s ubiquitous pattern Flash. In the world of Eley Kishimoto, the mash-up principle reigns supreme. The spring/summer 2013 womenswear collection is well underway, and the studio is buzzing. Pieces from the collection will be shown at the Aram Gallery but besides garments, the exhibition will feature the results of collaborations across a wider field of design. “We have always been kind of outside of the fashion industry,” says Eley. “We don’t fit into the normal personality that you’d expect to find doing the six-monthly rejuvenation of fashion. Though we do have a fashion tag – it is what we’ve trained to do – our other activities stimulate us just as much.” Eley does most of the talking, but Wakako Kishimoto nods in agreement now and then, while sipping green tea. This is the usual division of tasks. The night before they gave a lecture on their work and again Eley was the one talking, while Kishimoto did live drawings on an overhead projection while sipping wine. The other activities Eley refers to include collaborations
with as broad a range of players as Eastpak, BMW, MacLean Interiors and BSkyB. Five years ago, Eley Kishimoto sold 49 per cent of the company to the Japanese corporation Mitsui, only to buy it back three years later when the pair felt they were losing control of the brand. The business plan had involved passing the licensing of the trademark to alternative areas such as kimonos, leather goods, jewellery, interior design, and stationery, so the idea of Eley Kishimoto as a cross-disciplinary brand is not new. So how is the exhibition at Aram different? “Well, before it was a bit crass because it was like just putting Flash on a BMW bike,” says Eley with a laugh. “There is a message behind what we’ve done in this exhibition, in terms of what design should be respecting more, perhaps.” This message is about craft and tradition as an important element in commercial design. “So that’s why we’re working with Moorcroft, which is one of the oldest Stoke-on-Trent potters,” Eley continues. “They were really big, Liberty owned them at the turn of the previous century. We’ve managed to do a mash-up of Eley Kishimoto contemporary and archive, and Wak[ako] has designed one new Moorcroft identity. And it’s all done by hand, in the same factory.” Another of the pair’s collaborations is with MYB Textiles, a Scottish lacemaker
We wanted to work with a few people and bring them into this exhibition with us.” Eley Kishimoto has a long-standing relationship with Aram, forged in the early 1990s when Kishimoto exhibited her BA graduate collection from Central Saint Martins College there. In 2004, Eley Kishimoto produced a range of rugs in collaboration with the gallery, and now, alongside its spring/summer 2013 womenswear collection, the lace, the shoes, and the pottery, it will display a new line of Aram rugs. Adding further to the sense of a variety show, Eley explains that the opening night will feature a performance by the Royal Organ Duo. “We really like topical variety,” he says. “It’s all craft and I really like Surrealist environments. We like to push people to question what the hell they’re doing there.” All work will be for sale. “After all,” Eley says, “we’re designers who make products, we’re not artists. As artists you really have to talk about society a lot more, whereas designers can just put flowers on pots and make things pretty. No? Isn’t that true?” Eley and Kishimoto both grin mischievously, well aware that they are not giving themselves enough credit.
Living with Patterns is open until 27 October 2012 at the Aram Gallery in London. Kristina Rapacki (see p. 10)
It’s all craft. But I really like Surrealist environments. We like to push people to question what the hell they’re doing there.
Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto.
184 Disegno. Forecast
says Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. He is sitting in the lobby of a New York boutique hotel, housed in a very permanent-looking Romanesque revival building in Soho. “So I ask: ‘What’s the bit that the architect doesn’t propose?’” he continues. “How to disassemble. How to recycle the material after the building has been used. My goal is always when the building is taken down.” In half an hour, Ban is due to go on stage in the new Camper store across the road, for which he has designed a pitched roof made from paper tubes. They are the same tubes, made of recycled cardboard, that he uses in many of his temporary structures across the world. They appear in commercial commissions as well as in Ban’s pro bono work for disaster areas. It’s a certain Ban vernacular that seems to find a natural place in any corner of the world, whether a dense metropolis such as New York or a harbour in Galway. But Ban doesn’t see any difference between these projects, or, rather, “The only difference is if I’m paid or not.” The travelling pavilion for Camper’s team in the Volvo Ocean Race (the round-theworld sailing competition) uses 48 paper tubes of four different diameters so that they can be nestled inside each other for transport, while Ban’s temporary pavilion for the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, in Moscow’s Gorky Park, is a 2,300 sq/m structure with a 6m-high oval wall made of paper tubes. Ban’s soon-toopen cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, is made up of 64 cardboard tubes, ranging in length from 17m to 22m. The Christchurch cathedral project broke ground in May this year, and Ban was there to oversee it. “This is actually one of the worst moments for Christchurch,” he says. “The people are very depressed, as one by one buildings are
being demolished because they are not safe enough to stay up. So they’re happy to see the cardboard cathedral project – something’s coming up.” The opening is planned for December, 20 months after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake shook the city and claimed 185 lives in one of the worst natural disasters New Zealand has seen. Ban’s cathedral was proposed as a place of worship for the many mourners directly after the disaster. Christchurch’s Gothic Revival cathedral, designed by George Gilbert Scott in the 1860s, was badly damaged and what is left is
When I started out as an architect I was disappointed by the profession,” says Ban. “Because when we work, it’s not for the public. We only work for those with money and power. slowly being dismantled. Ban’s cathedral is being erected around 300 metres from Scott’s building, at the site of the demolished St John’s Church. The cathedral’s 64 paper tubes are assembled on an A-frame of timber beams and structural steel on top of a concrete base. It measures 25m high and will have a seating capacity of 700. The altar end of the church will have a closed facade, while the entrance is crowned by a triangular stained glass window set within a wooden frame. The cardboard cathedral is planned to have a lifespan of at least 20 years, but Ban believes that even if natural forces don’t take a structure down, often commercial forces will. “Even if a building is made in concrete, it is also temporary – because other
people could buy the land and destroy the building easily. That’s why even a temporary building has to be beautiful.” Despite their transient nature, the visual quality of Ban’s paper-tube structures is that of permanence – even the Camper pavilion, which is built in four days and takes even fewer days to dismantle and pack up, doesn’t give away any signs of not being installed for posterity. What started out as an experiment in 1989 – Ban’s Paper Arbor in Nagoya, Japan, a circular structure made out of paper tubes treated with paraffin waterproofing and fitted onto a precast concrete base – has developed into a Ban brand. But Ban doesn’t see himself as a brand – he seems distinctly uncomfortable with acquiring any kind of iconic status within his line of work. “When I started out as an architect I was disappointed by the profession,” he says. “Because when we work, it’s not for the public. We only work for happy people, we only work for those with money and power. Money and power are invisible, so that’s why they hire us, to visualise their money and power as architecture.” He brings the subject back to his current venture. “I used to think that I want to create a balance, working for privileged and unprivileged people, but now, both ends are getting closer – this Christchurch project, this pro bono project, will still be aimed at privileged people, and it’s a monumental building.”
Ban’s Cardboard cathedral is due to open in Christchurch, New Zealand in December 2012. Johanna Agerman Ross (see p. 10)
illustration Shigeru Ban architects
“Normally, an architect’s goal is the completion of a building, but mine is usually when the building is dismantled,”
A model Intended by Shigeru as a space Banfor of the contemplation pitched roofrather of thethan Cardboard worship,Cathedral K2S Architectsâ€™ in Christchurch, Chapel of Silence New Zealand. opens in the Finnish capital this spring as part of World Design Capital Helsinki.
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Trying to get to talk to Olafur Eliasson at the Tate is hard. In 2003, the DanishIcelandic artist exhibited The Weather Project in the London gallery’s Turbine Hall. The installation, a vast artificial sun shrouded in machine-generated mist, was a huge success and Eliasson’s fame within the art world means his time is much sought after. “Of course, if he’s not with Alan, he’s probably chatting to Nick,” says Eliasson’s assistant. Alan Yentob is the BBC journalist famous for his idolatry interviews; “Nick” is Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota. It is 11 o’clock at night and the gallery is open late for the launch of Little Sun, a solar-powered portable lamp that Eliasson has designed with Danish engineer Frederik Ottesen, for use in the developing world. Over its three-year lifespan, the lamp makes savings that means it is 90 per cent cheaper than the paraffin lamps currently used throughout Africa. Little Sun can be held in your hand, weighs just 120g and has the appearance of a sunflower. Made from yellow plastic, the lamp stores five hours of energy from five hours of sunlight and its solar-charged LED is as bright as a 40W incandescent light bulb. Although it is sold for €20 in the developed world, Little Sun will sell for just $10 in the developing world. It is design geared towards social good. In celebration of the torch’s release, the Tate Modern has organised a series of blackout nights in its Surrealist galleries. Guests are invited to explore the museum using just the light cast by Little Suns. It is an eerie experience. A macabre installation by Jannis Kounellis – a stuffed jackdaw speared with arrows – grows more unpleasant in the gloom. The shadows cast by the arrows reach out across the gallery’s walls like fingers in an Egon Schiele drawing,
wrapping themselves around the figure stood in the doorway, which turns out to be Eliasson. “I’m confident that light is life and life is light,” he says. It is the maxim that has guided the Little Sun project since its inception. In the developing world, somewhere between 1.3 and 1.6 billion people have no access to mains electricity and millions of children’s educations are entirely dependent upon sunlight. When the sun sets, they have no light to read by. Eliasson begins to play with the Little Sun hanging around his neck. “Once you have light, you have a lot,” he says. Eliasson is well known for his work with light, but his previous designs have tended towards large-scale, conceptual pieces. The Light Setup, a 2005 installation in which he filled Sweden’s Lunds Konsthall with lights, lamps and mirrors, was typical of Eliasson; by contrast, the small and functional Little Sun is not. Of all Eliasson’s previous work, the only piece it truly resembles is Eye See You, an editioned lamp he produced in 2007 for Louis Vuitton. Like Little Sun, Eye See You was a charitable project, the proceeds from its sale going towards 121Ethiopia, the
Initially, I thought it was about making a lamp for poor people... But poor people want a lamp for rich people. African charity that Eliasson founded in 2005. But, whereas Eye See You aided Africa through its visibility in western design markets, Little Sun is aimed at succeeding in Africa itself. The distinction between the two projects is commercial and ideological, but not, Eliasson says, creative. “Initially, I thought the project was about making a lamp for poor people,” he explains. “But poor people don’t want a lamp for poor people; they want a lamp for rich people.” Little Sun’s thick-cut casing takes into account the environment it was designed for. The plastic is durable enough to survive wear and the projecting sunbursts
disguise vents cut into the body of the lamp to prevent overheating as it charges in the sun. But the project aspires to more than sheer functionality. Early on in the development of Little Sun, Eliasson trialled a less stylised version of the lamp in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “Before I went over there, I was advised to make it very functional,” he says. “I was told that people don’t care about design.” Pausing next to a Marcel Duchamp sculpture, Eliasson describes the reaction to it in Ethiopia. “They said they liked the string it was hung on,” he says. “Oh, and they liked my iPhone. They thought that was very beautiful.” And so the design of Little Sun developed into its current incarnation. Little Sun, Eliasson says, should not be viewed as design for the developing world. Instead, it is simply design. Countries such as Ethiopia are largely virgin territory for designers, but that does not mean that they differ fundamentally from their European and American equivalents in terms of their appreciation for design. “A work of art is a work of art anywhere,” says Eliasson. “Little Sun is not a work of art in London and a functional object in Africa. It’s a project focused on what we have in common with everyone in the world.” In this sense, the project parallels One Laptop Per Child, an initiative to create inexpensive custom laptops for children in the developing world. The laptops produced are robust and blocky, but nonetheless take design sensibilities into account; since 2006, styling has been overseen by Fuseproject’s Yves Béhar. Emerging from the gallery, Eliasson switches off his lamp. “A typical mistake made by westerners is to feel that we in the developed north need to design things especially for the undeveloped south,” he says. “At the start, I thought that only we in the north care about design and that people in the developing world weren’t interested. How naive was I?”
Olafur Eliasson: Tate Blackouts ran from 28 July to 8 September. Little Sun is also on show at the Venice Architecture Biennale until 25 November. It can be purchased through Littlesun.com. Oli Stratford (see p. 10)
Photo colin christie
“I don’t know where Olafur is. He’s probably with Alan Yentob.”
The solar-powered Little Sun lamps store enough energy to work for five hours.
188 Disegno. Forecast
“I hate seam allowance – it’s messy and it’s horrible,” says Throup. So he invented a new way of stitching two panels of fabric together edge-to-edge. The flat stitch is then treated with a substance (still a secret) that makes it strong and durable. The pink outline is the result of oxidisation, but it’s also an attractive detail. Throup calls it “branding through construction”; it’s one of the many mantras that he likes to bring up in conversation, “justified design philosophy” is another. Throup studied fashion design at the Royal College of Art in London and, despite his fashion background, he is uncomfortable about the label “fashion designer”; instead, he brands himself as a product designer, taking plenty of time to develop a product and sticking with it. Last June, he launched New Object Research, a project that he has refined over a six-year period. The first object to come out of this is an anatomically correct skull made in British worsted wool, traditionally used for suiting. The wool is bonded onto layers of melton (a felt-like wool, which is used on the back of jacket collars). And each layer is then stiffened in order to allow it to be moulded into the desired shape. Again, there is no seam allowance and the panels of wool are stitched edge-toedge. Across the top of the skull and in place of its mouth are zippers, as, rather surprisingly, the function of this skull is as a bag. “The form is that of a generic British military bag,” says Throup, “but the shape has transformed into an anatomically correct human skull.” The starting point for this object is Throup’s graduation collection from the Royal College of Art in 2006, called When Football Hooligans Become Hindu Gods. For that collection Throup constructed a story about a group of young football supporters who, after attacking and killing
a British Hindu boy, attempt to transform themselves into better beings by converting to Hinduism and taking on the guises of Hindu Gods. This is represented in a collection of clothing that marries classic military garments, such as the M-65 American fishtail parka with symbols representing Hindu gods – the hood of the parka is sculpted into a lion’s head to represent Vishnu. (Throup’s first foray into creating skulls was the outfit that referenced Shiva). And the progress of this search for anatomical correctness was displayed in Throup’s presentation back in June, the skulls’ shape slowly growing into perfection, or “as anatomically correct as I was able to make it in six years of development. In that material and with that function,” says Throup. Military garments are a big influence on Throup and it’s easy to see why. The design
The skull is as anatomically correct as I was able to make it in six years of development. In that material and with that function. details of a military parka have practical implications for how it’s used in the field, and it’s this kind of design that Throup aspires to with his justified design philosophy. In practice, that means he dedicates much time to getting the details right: the way a trouser leg sits just so on top of a shoe, or how an elbow on a sleeve fits the best when the arms is slightly bent, like they normally are, rather than straight, as most sleeves tend to be. The beauty of Throup’s “justified design philosophy” is that he allows himself creative flourishes, although he wouldn’t like to call them that. When Throup looks at function, it’s not just the utilitarian process he is
interested in – he also has an innate understanding of the psychology of clothing and how they make the wearer feel. That function can also be built into a garment through the right shoulder construction, or by creating a bag in the shape of a skull. Throup casually straps it around himself to demonstrate how it functions, and there, on his right hip, the skull transforms into a bag, a bag that is one with its wearer. “I knew I wanted to launch the project with one singular product, and the reason for that is to prove that I am not a fashion designer. I’m a product designer and the following season you will see the skull bag again – it’s not about thematic seasons and newness, it’s the antithesis of that.” Aitor Throup’s design philosophy has already afforded him incredible opportunities, such as designing the England football kit for Umbro, and a collaboration with Italian brand Stone Island. He also has an ongoing collaboration with the band Kasabian and musician and producer Damon Albarn. His bustling studio in east London is a growing enterprise spread over three floors, with New Object Research currently Throup’s main concern. “In January, there is going to be 20 archetypes, including that one,” says Throup, pointing to the skull that rests on the table between us. His shirt with pink oxidised seams is probably going to be another.
Aitor Throup’s Skull bag will be available from January 2013 in select retailers worldwide and see aitorthroup.com. Johanna Agerman Ross (see p. 10) Photo matthew booth
The seams of Aitor Throup’s crisp, white shirt have no seam allowance. In its place is a light pink outline.
Born out of product rather than fashion design, the Skull bag is anatomically correct.
190 Disegno. Forecast
“I can’t quite decide what it looks like,” says Matt Webb, co-founder of design practice Berg. Sat on the chair is Little Printer, the new product from the London studio. A miniature thermal printer, Little Printer connects to the internet and prints out receipt-sized newspapers based on the information it finds online. “It looks like a little dog staring up at you,” says Webb. Propped up on spindly orange legs, Little Printer tilts forwards, a happy little face gazing out from its front surface. The newspapers that Little Printer creates are customisable and content is determined through a mobile app, where users select what to subscribe to from a list of publications and feeds. Each potential newspaper is a mixture of the practical – Guardian headlines, Foursquare restaurant recommendations and weather reports – and the playful – a Victoriana field guide to British butterflies and a pixellated cartoon series of dead American presidents have already been announced. Only the end of each Little Printer printout is the same: the device prints its own face as a logo. That face is at the heart of Little Printer, so much so that Berg has created four different versions for users to choose from. The studio says that the face is more than whimsy; it is a calculated design decision to make Little Printer accessible. “A lot of technology is very complicated, and that’s alienating,” says Webb. “One of the ways you can deal with that is to wrap products up in character. We created Little Printer to be a companion – to be more of a pet than anything – rather than an austere tool.” It is an approach typical of Berg, whose projects Availabot (2006) – a little figurine attached to a USB that stands to attention when friends come online – and Suwappu
(2011) – toy animal characters that live in a digital world as well as a physical one – also saw the studio disguise high technology inside cartoonish toy casings. “We don’t think you need to make a distinction between the handy and the delightful,” says Webb. “It’s absurd, but we had 30 years of using horrendous internet programs like Windows and Outlook. Then there was Web 2.0 and things like Facebook, which were nice to use and fun. At what point did the light bulb go on over someone’s head that just because something is used for a serious thing, it doesn’t mean that it has to have a serious interface and be boring?” Although Little Printer fits into this aspect of Berg’s design ethos, it remains in some senses an atypical project for the studio. Berg is known for high-technology, software-driven projects, such as 2010’s Making Future Magic, a stop-motion animation based on the light produced by iPad screens. The studio stands at the forefront of digital design, but Little Printer is a project geared towards creating low-fi print newspapers, a product increasingly marginalised by the rise of digital media. Berg, however, insists that newspapers still have a future. “When people talk about the
We created Little Printer to be a companion – to be more of a pet – rather than an austere tool. collapse of print, they forget about everything that comes after page 20 of a newspaper,” says Webb. “Sandwiched between the business section and sport there are puzzles, letters, cheap adverts and random cartoons. Newspapers are all those things, to think of them as just journalism misses what make them special. Reading them, you are part of something. They were the first virtual community.” Little Printer expands on the idea of newspapers as a social medium. The printers can connect to one another and users are able to send each other short messages that print out like low-fi tweets.
The device is driven by the Berg Cloud, an online network that houses the printer’s software. “Our big belief is that all products are one day going to be connected to the network,” says Webb. “It’s like electrification. Once upon a time there was one thing connected to the electric system, then six, then a thousand, then quarter of a million, until everything used electricity. The network is the same thing. You can no longer really make a distinction between software design and product design.” By connecting to the Cloud, Little Printer is able to search its subscription list intelligently, cherry-picking the information that appears in its printouts. Instead of providing users with countless options, Little Printer simplifies matters by using software stored in the Cloud to make decisions over what is to be featured from the printer’s subscription list. Rather than print out the entirety of a Facebook news feed for instance, the Cloud picks out only the birthday reminders and discards the rest. “We don’t think we’re going to get artificial intelligence in the future like HAL 9000 out of 2001 A Space Odyssey, or tools where every function has its own button,” says Webb. “We’re going to get it in the form of things that are slightly smart in a tiny way. We’re going to get things which are tipped away from being like tools and towards being companion species like dogs or cats.” Little Printer may define Berg’s future design work – further products are already planned for the Berg Cloud – but it also harks back to the studio’s foundation in 2005. “Recently, I was looking back through my old notebooks to see when we first began to think about Little Printer,” says Webb. “I found an entry from 15 August 2004, imagining what it would be like if my mum could just print stuff to my home printer.” Webb pauses and smiles. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be good?’”
Little Printer is available from mid-October, £199, Bergcloud.com. Oli Stratford (see p. 10)
Photo Colin Christie
A black cloth covers a chair in the corner of the room, and when the sheet is pulled back a smiling face peers out from underneath it.
Little Printer by Berg connects to the internet and prints out receipt-sized newspapers.
MYB TEXTILES mybtextiles.com
FREDRIKSON STALLARD fredriksonstallard.com
132 5 (ISSEY MIYAKE) isseymiyake.com
A. F. VANDEVORST shop.afvandevorst.be
AA PUBLICATIONS aaschool.ac.uk/publications
N&R FOLDINGS nandrfoldings.com
NITZAN COHEN nitzan-cohen.com PHAIDON phaidon.com
AITOR THROUP aitorthroup.com
Galerie kreo galeriekreo.com
ALEXANDER MCQUEEN alexandermcqueen.co.uk
GIAMBATTISTA VALLI giambattistavalli.com
SAINT LAURENT ysl.com
HERMAN MILLER www.hermanmiller.com
B&B ITALIA bebitalia.it
JEAN BAPTISTE FASTREZ jeanbaptiste.com
V&A PUBLISHING vandashop.com
BERNHARDT DESIGN bernhardtdesign.com
STUDIO WIEKI SOMERS www.wiekisomers.com
THE ARAM GALLERY thearamgallery.org
authentics authentics.de BERG bergstudio.co.uk
BERTILLE & MATHIEU bertille-mathieu.ch BERTJAN POT bertjanpot.nl
GESTALTEN gestalten.com HAY hayshop.dk
INDUSTRIAL FACILITY industrialfacility.co.uk
JULIE RICHOZ julierichoz.com KNOLL knoll.com
KONSTANTIN GRCIC konstantin-grcic.com
LEON RANSMEIER ransmeier.com
LITTLE PRINTER bergcloud.com/littleprinter/
COMME DES GARCONS doverstreetmarket.com
LIGNE ROSET ligne-roset.com LITTLE SUN littlesun.com
David gill galleries davidgillgalleries.com
MACLEAN INTERIORS macleaninteriors.com
MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA maisonmartinmargiela.com
DOMAINE DE BOIBUCHET boisbuchet.org
ELEY KISHIMOTO eleykishimoto.com
ESTABLISHED & SONS establishedandsons.com ERWAN AND RONAN BOUROULLEC bouroullec.com
192 Disegno. index
FLORIAN LAMBL lamblhomburger.com
MOORCROFT POTTERY moorcroft.com MOooi moooi.com
TOM DIXON tomdixon.net
yoox.com yoox.com ZANOTTA zanotta.it
The emergence of Julie Richoz • Digital reading with Strelka Press • Online fashion archives • Selected reading • The return of Charles Poll...