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The value of free movement Words Johanna Agerman Ross
At the time of going to press, Britain is gearing up for a referendum to decide whether it should remain in the European Union. It’s a huge decision that – regardless of the outcome – will affect millions of people’s lives for years to come. As a Swede who has lived in London for almost 20 years, I’m one of the first of my generation to enjoy the benefits of free movement in Europe. Sweden joined the EU relatively late, in 1995, and I was too young to have a say in the Swedish referendum. I don’t have a say now either, as I’m not a British citizen. It’s a peculiar feeling to have been left out of two such life-changing decisions, especially knowing the effect that one of them has had on me. But I’m not unique. Working in the culture sector, I have daily interactions with people from different national backgrounds whose identities and career paths have been shaped by the fact that they are citizens of the EU. This has given many the opportunity to work and study somewhere other than the place they were born, but without looking at these regions as “other”. That we can now take this freedom of movement for granted has untold Introduction
positive effects on how we consider the world and our role within it. Perhaps naively, I always thought that the EU was just the beginning. I looked at the idea of a continent without borders as an initial experiment for a future world without borders. In 2011, Michael Clemens at The Center for Global Development published a research paper to that effect, showing that blocking international migration impoverishes the world economy more than any other kind of international policy (‘Economics and Emigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Volume 25, Issue 03). This is why this referendum in my adopted country is so bizarre. It seems to run counter to everything we have come to accept as normal in our high-speed, google-everything, easy-jetting world. How I wish I could have a say this time around. Read our roundtable on the referendum on pp. 165– 173 and contemplate its contradition for yourself.
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Contents 09 Introduction The value of free movement 14 Contributors 16
Masthead The people behind Disegno
19 Timeline March to May 2016 in review 22 Interview Trans-Curation MoMA’s Martino Stierli on curating the interdisciplinary 31 Observation Coat from Outside by Junya Watanabe Man Outerwear built around solar panels 32 Observation Ring Soap by Sebastian Bergne A resurrected, self-produced bathroom accessory 34 Photoessay Routine Rituals: Found Objects from India Parsons & Charlesworth examine Hindu ceremonies
58 Observation Shit Mug by Luca Cipelletti for the Museo della Merde Tableware made from cow dung
136 Advertorial Mini Living – Do Disturb Mini presents a new schemata for modular living
61 Review Rêveries Urbaines Public space reimagined by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec
140 History Eames and Film
65 Project Advanced Ordnance Cambodia’s next generation of bomb-disposal equipment 75 Observation Fixpencil by Mario Botta for Caran d’ache An architect’s take on a classic tool 77 Review Slow Burn City Rowan Moore’s book about London’s unchecked growth 81 Travelogue Return to Sarajevo Furniture as an escape from social stasis in Bosnia and Herzegovina
47 Comment Brutalist Greenhorns The latter-day revival of brutalism
97 Gallery An Experiment in Sitting Dancer Adrien Dantou in dialogue with Konstantin Grcic’s Hieronymus collection
48 Comment So Long, Farewell The shortening lifespan of fashion’s creative directors
113 Report Under the Hammer The importance of auctions to contemporary design
50 Profile Spectacular Tales of Adventure and Yearning LA Film noir with the architect Liam Young
127 Comment Cutting Their Teeth Redesigning the toothbrush
57 Observation The Lucky, Plucky Chairs by Rolf Fehlbaum for the Vitra Design Museum A fairytale about furniture
128 Comment Gender Bias No Sir’s women-first attitude towards design 129 Project Reidentifying the Victoria Line Artist Giles Round designs tiles
Movie Sets (141) Charles Eames captures Hollywood scenography Understanding Schrader (146) Unravelling director Paul Schrader’s relationship to the Eameses
oetry of Ideas: The Films P of Charles Eames (148) Paul Schrader on Charles Eames as the saviour of Hollywood
161 Review Manus x Machina Haute couture and prêt-à-porter blur at the Met in New York 165 Roundtable Identity Politics The impact of the EU referendum on culture 174 Reflection Haptic Feedback HaaT’s Makiko Minagawa on the importance of touch 179 Review 2016/ Arita An international scheme to promote Japanese ceramics 183 Reflection Developing Systems Industrial Facility breaks down its Run table for Emeco 188 Index Short stories from the creation of this issue
Contributors Jessica Charlesworth will open her first major solo exhibition Parsons & Charlesworth: Spectacular Vernacular at the Chicago Cultural Center in September 2016. Adrien Dantou is a contemporary dancer and filmmaker. He has made art films for the Paris Opera’s 2015– 2016 season, and recently shown work at La Cinémathèque Française, Paris. Phil Dunlop’s photography may be seen in GQ, Wallpaper, Kinfolk and Rollacoaster. Mario Ermoli is a Milan-based photographer and musician. His most recent album, Stereoscape, was released in 2015. Ramak Fazel lives in California where he is a visiting faculty member in the photography department at the San Francisco Art Institute. Fabian Frinzel recently photographed 14 pages of product stills in collaboration with the designer Ayzit Bostan for Sleek magazine. Martin Holtkamp studied in Berlin and Bournemouth before moving to London in the early 1990s to cut his teeth shooting for the likes of i-D magazine and Ninja Tunes records.
Pat Kirkham is currently writing a book on Charles and Ray Eames’s many personal and professional connections with Hollywood.
Catharine Rossi is a design historian and educator whose current research includes nightclubs, China’s maker movement and Robinson Crusoe.
Tiffany Lambert is researching the Japanese designer Sori Yanagi and is supported by grants from the Graham Foundation and by the Design History Society.
Leonhard Rothmoser is part of the artist duo Leo and Björn, which recently hosted an exhibition at Heitsch Galerie in Munich.
Alexandra Lange is the author of Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. Poppy McPherson is a journalist living in Yangon, Myanmar. Her work is published by the Guardian, Vice, Buzzfeed, the Independent and others. Makiko Minagawa visited London in April to give a talk about 15 years of HaaT at the Issey Miyake store on Brook Street. Douglas Murphy is becoming slightly concerned that the book he’s now writing on Boris Johnson will one day get him killed. Tim Parsons is an associate professor in Designed Objects at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and one half of Parsons & Charlesworth (see Jessica Charlesworth).
Catherine Ince curated The World of Charles and Ray Eames (2015) at the Barbican. She is now developing the curatorial programme of the V&A East.
Charlotte Pert will be leading an expedition in Cambodia later this year that will look at indigenous minorities. The project is funded by the National Geographic Society.
Dean Kaufman’s recent photographic portrait commissions have included Daniel Libeskind, Annabelle Selldorf, Ryue Nishizawa and Oki Sato.
Nina Power teaches Philosophy at the University of Roehampton and Critical Writing in Art & Design at the Royal College of Art.
Camilla Sterne has recently graduated from City University’s MA Magazine Journalism programme. Will Wiles is working on his third novel, Plume, which will be published by Fourth Estate. Mimi Zeiger’s latest book Tiny Houses in the City was published by Rizzoli in March 2016.
The Quarterly Journal of Design #11 Editor-in-chief, Publisher Johanna Agerman Ross firstname.lastname@example.org Deputy editor Oli Stratford email@example.com Online editor Anya Lawrence firstname.lastname@example.org Staff writer Joe Lloyd email@example.com Editorial interns Ashabi Ayibiowu Rhiannon McGregor Camilla Sterne Subeditor Ann Morgan Creative directors Florian Böhm Annahita Kamali akfb.com Designer Anna Holden firstname.lastname@example.org Commercial director Chris Jones email@example.com Junior sales executive Farnaz Ari firstname.lastname@example.org Project coordinator Elizabeth Jones email@example.com Circulation manager Stuart White firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover Adrien Dantou on Konstantin Grcic’s Hieronymus 3D Printed Sand in Galerie Kreo. Photographed by Florian Böhm. Full credits p. 97, 102. Distribution Comag Specialist comagspecialist.co.uk Words by Johanna Agerman Ross, Jessica Charlesworth, Kim Colin, Sam Hecht, Catherine Ince, Pat Kirkham, Tiffany Lambert, Alexandra Lange, Joe Lloyd, Siska Lyssens, Poppy McPherson, Makiko Minagawa, Douglas Murphy, Tim Parsons, Nina Power, Catharine Rossi, Paul Schrader, Camilla Sterne, Oli Stratford, Will Wiles, Amber Winick and Mimi Zeiger. Images by AKFB, Florian Böhm, Jessica Charlesworth, Phil Dunlop, Mario Ermoli, Ramak Fazel, Fabian Frinzel, Martin Holtkamp, Dean Kaufman, Charlotte Pert, Tim Parsons and Leonhard Rothmoser. Colour management Terry Smith Complete Creative Services completeltd.com Paper and print This issue of Disegno is printed by Park Communications on Arcoprint Extra White 110gsm and Symbol Freelife Gloss 115gsm. The cover is printed on Symbol Freelife Gloss 300gsm. Fonts Disegno uses Tiempos and National from Klim Type Foundry, and Aperçu from Colophon Type Foundry. klim.co.nz colophon-foundry.org Contact us Disegno, Tack Press Limited 7 Ability Plaza, Arbutus Street London E8 4DT +44 20 7249 1155 disegnodaily.com
Thanks Thank you to Clémence and Didier Krzentowski for opening up Galerie Kreo on a rare day off; David Hertsgaard at the Eames Office for his generous help; Piera Berardi for her support; Jaime Israni for her diligence; Izabela Radwanska Zhang for her speedy transcriptions; Jessie Colin for her help with timeline; all of our wonderful guides in Bosnia, with particular thanks to Zlatko Tanovic, Emir Salkić and the incomparable Orhan Nikšić; and to Hansgrohe and Sebastian Bergne for a wonderful launch event. We are very grateful to all our contributors, and for the help of everybody who has supported us and helped make Disegno #11 possible. Not least the baby pug who trots past our office each day and boggles through the window. Finally, we are sad to say goodbye to Nina Akbari, Tack Studio’s commercial manager. We miss her, thank her for her input to Disegno, and wish her luck with her new beauty and wellness app Dashle. Correction In Reflections on Transparency, Disegno #10, we incorrectly stated that members of Grace Community Church fundraised for Grace Farms. It was several individuals connected to the church that bought 48 acres of land in 2007. It was later donated to the Grace Farms Foundation who then acquired an additional 80 acres for Grace Farms. Content copyright The content of this magazine belongs to Tack Press Limited and to the authors and artists. If you are tempted to reproduce any of it, please ask first. Tack Press Limited Disegno is part of Tack Press, along with men’s fashion magazine Jocks&Nerds and creative agency Tack Studio. tack-press.com tack-studio.com
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last arguments trotted out in defence
revealing. Great architects the
of the fur industry. Animal-rights
modernists may have been, but there
Vitra premieres its permanent collection
groups could scarcely contain their
is plenty insalubrious about them
Please welcome the first image of
delight, with several announcing
that poring over the past is liable
the Schaudepot. Herzog & de Meuron’s
the news before Armani did.
to dredge up.
new addition to the Vitra Campus
Vitra Schaudepot, courtesy of Vitra Design Museum; The Peak painting by Zaha Hadid Architects; Le Corbusier tapestry, photograph by Dan Boud; housing photograph courtesy of Elemental.
in Weil am Rhein, Germany, is less striking than its earlier contribution
Farewell to Zaha Hadid
– the stacked-barn VitraHaus – but it
Zaha Hadid’s influence on architecture
is likely to have the greater effect
was already vast, but it is still
when it opens in June. It is the
tempting to wonder what might have
first gallery dedicated to displaying
been had it not been for her death
Vitra’s 7,000-strong industrial
in March. Hadid’s practice lists 41
furniture-design and lighting
finished projects, with a further four
collection, a treasure trove of rare
due for completion this year, yet
Eames, Panton and Girard pieces that
the stylistic breadth of these – from
have sat in obscurity in underground
the jagged deconstructivism of her
vaults. The Schaudepot’s architecture
early Vitra Fire Station, through
doesn’t need to be flashy: it’s
to the full-blown parametricism
Elemental releases its housing designs free online
what’s inside that counts.
of the latter-day Heydar Aliyev Centre
When Elemental’s Alejandro Aravena
in Baku – suggest a talent that was
was announced as the 2016 Pritzker
still growing and subject to change.
Prize laureate, Patrik Schumacher of
Her death in March is a great loss
Zaha Hadid Architects took exception
to her field.
to the news: “The PC takeover of
architecture is complete,” he wrote on Dezeen, “the Pritzker Prize has mutated into a prize for humanitarian work.” Deliciously, Aravena seemed in no mood to argue. The day after receiving the award, he released a number of his housing designs online as an open-source resource to help
Gillis Lundgren (1929-2016)
address the global affordable-housing
To think he was hired to manage Ikea’s
crisis. Aravena’s architecture,
catalogue. Gillis Lundgren may not be
the message ran, is unashamedly
a household name, but his design work
humanitarian. So what?
has impacted the contemporary domestic sphere more than most. Lundgren joined Ikea as its fourth employee in 1953 and his most celebrated design for the brand, the Billy bookcase, has become the furniture equivalent of the staple white T-shirt. Elsewhere, his idea to take the legs off a table
The fall of the modernists
prompted Ikea’s flat-pack system,
In March, and to great fanfare, the
with Lundgren’s understanding of
Sydney Opera House unveiled a 1960
quotidian needs coming to define Ikea
Le Corbusier tapestry commissioned for
as a company. To add to his legacy,
the building by Jørn Utzon, confirming
he even designed its logo.
what everybody already knew: the modernists remain major box-office draws. Yet the continued attention
The end of fur?
on their work throws light on darker
Fur is synonymous with luxury,
aspects too. In 2015, the media
so Giorgio Armani’s citation of
broke into detailed discussion of
“technological progress” as his reason
Corbusier’s fascist sympathies, while
for abandoning it in his design work
a book released in April 2016 detailed
Hedi Slimane departs Saint Laurent
was significant. It established
how Philip Johnson had found a "new
Hedi Slimane’s exit from Saint Laurent
synthetic fur as a new hallmark of
international ideal” in Nazism. The
was not unexpected, his departure as
luxury and so brought down one of the
allegations are not new, but they are
creative director having been trailed
in the press for months. Nor was
ArcelorMittal Orbit tower came from
favouring city planning that was
the appointment of Anthony Vaccarello
Johnson’s demand that the slide
sensitive to the life and needs
as Slimane’s successor a surprise:
become a self-funding tourist
of individual neighbourhoods.
the Belgian had long been touted
attraction, it conceptually completes
To see her legacy opened up
as the man to execute a sympathetic
a project that has long been seen
to millions of internet users is
continuation of the successful
as a folly by many. In 2015, the
a delight; that Google attempted
Slimane aesthetic. What was striking,
tower was found to be losing £10,000
to sum up the life of a firebrand
however, was the decision to erase
a week; embracing this sense of
activist with a cuddly cartoon
all photographs from the Slimane era
carnival ridiculousness may prove
only adds to the appeal.
from the company’s Instagram account
to be no bad thing.
and replace them with a single portrait of Vaccarello. A blank
Philips sells share of its lighting business
slate for a new creative director
The surprise is not so much that
or a needless erasure of the maison’s
Philips is selling 25 per cent of
its lighting division, but rather the sums involved. Philips Lighting which seems healthy, but the business
argues that pressure on the price
After Peyton-Jones there came
of LEDs means that the cost of an
Peel. London’s Serpentine Galleries
average LED lamp is likely to fall
appointed from within when it named
by 50 per cent by 2020. What does
Yana Peel, one of its trustees,
it say about the LED business if
as its new co-director following
Philips, one of the biggest players,
the departure of Julia Peyton-Jones
is trying to get out while it can?
from the role. Peel undoubtedly lacks the curatorial heft of Peyton-Jones, but her “outstanding business
Chanel’s Cuban cruise
experience” – cited by Serpentine
It was perhaps too much to expect
chair Michael Bloomberg – seems to
progressivism, but Chanel’s decision
be what won the day. With co-director
The V&A bans sketching?
to present its 2016/2017 cruise
Hans Ulrich Obrist still on board
“V&A signs betray everything the
collection in Cuba plumbed surprising
to steer artistic direction, Peel’s
museum stands for.” Strong words
depths of tastelessness. International
remit seems likely to focus on
for a Guardian article reporting on
guests arrived in classic American
continuing the dramatic growth that
the V&A’s seemingly minor decision
cars, while Havana residents watched
the gallery has experienced during
not to allow visitors to sketch
from behind police lines a block away.
the past 25 years.
objects in its Undressed: A Brief
It seemed a return to pre‑revolutionary
History of Underwear exhibition.
notions of the island as a playground
The argument raised a fine point
for the international jetset and flew
– sketching is an important part
in the face of Obama’s recent efforts
of the V&A’s identity. But it
to inculcate a mutually respectful
failed to acknowledge the reason
Western relationship with the island.
for the decision: objects loaned
“Up until now,” Alberto O'Reilly, a
from other collections often come
Havana resident ejected from a street
with this restriction as a proviso
corner by police as he tried to watch
of the loan.
the show, told the Associated Press, “I don’t see that it’s really bringing real, concrete benefits.”
MAY A slide for Kapoor
Jane Jacobs’s 100th birthday marked by Google
“The mayor foisted this on the
A hipster choice perhaps, but Google’s
project” – thus, in a single verb,
decision to dedicate one of its
the artist Anish Kapoor inadvertently
day-long Doodles to the urban-planning
summed up much of Boris Johnson’s
activist Jane Jacobs should be
architectural impact on London
celebrated. Relatively unknown outside
during his tenure as mayor. Yet
of architecture circles, Jacobs was
while the decision to add a Carsten
a heavyweight mid-century campaigner
Höller‑designed slide to Kapoor’s
against unthinking urban regeneration,
Hans Ulrich Obrist and Yana Peel, photograph by Kate Berry; ArcelorMittal Orbit tower, photograph courtesy of Anish Kapoor Studio; Chanel cruise collection, photograph by Olivier Saillant.
had group sales of €7.5bn in 2015,
Yana Peel appointed co-director of the
Trans-Curation Introduction Alexandra Lange Photographs Dean Kaufman
In mid-April, The Architect’s Newspaper reported that MoMA was closing its galleries dedicated to architecture and design, prompting a game of telephone as the news bounced from blog to blog, tweet to tweet. That Martino Stierli, the museum’s Philip Johnson chief curator of architecture and design, quickly moved to assuage fears mattered little. It was all very apocalyptic, implying that architecture and design would now be homeless at MoMA, forced to fight for space against the stronger, better-fed disciplines of painting and sculpture.
Now, if you had been to the museum recently, you might have noticed that the permanent collection galleries have already made way for the temporary exhibit on contemporary Japanese architecture, A Japanese Constellation. MoMA is in the process of a three-year renovation and expansion, masterminded by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, that is attempting to reorganise MoMA’s multiple buildings from within. If you’re thinking, “Wasn’t that what Yoshio Taniguchi’s 2004 expansion was supposed to do?” you would not be wrong, because that is where the deep suspicion of MoMA’s motives and taste, vis-à-vis architecture and design, began. That is when, for many, the museum began to seem less like a friend and more like a corporation – a perception heightened by the decision, in 2014, to demolish Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects’ 12-year-old American Folk Art Museum. “MoMA wants more gallery space, and the expansion that drives the planned demolition is just more MoMA madness,” wrote Michael Kimmelman in The New York Times. Barry Bergdoll, MoMA’s erstwhile chief curator of architecture and design, called the decision “painful”, but didn’t question the drive for flexibility. The credibility MoMA once had with the architecture and design community – built upon founding director Alfred Barr’s embracement of the fields – had been blown. Stierli, who joined MoMA in March 2015, was perhaps never going to quell the storm. Having studied the work of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in his earlier academic post at the University of Zurich, and by defining his curatorial strategy as “both/and”, Stierli appears to refrain from choosing between approaches. When I met with him to discuss the museum’s curation strategy, I asked about the decision to offer minimal labels for the architecture and design included in the museum’s new multi‑disciplinary hang of 1960s works. In response, he called himself a postmodernist, saying objects “should be able to stand for themselves”. By his account, all the museum’s curators are in the same boat, rethinking the classic MoMA approach to its walls as chronological strings of superstars and displays of strength alone. I think it would be a shame if, in the end, MoMA were to have no quiet display space for design treasures unlikely to fit into any curatorial agenda, but I’m willing to wait and see. Our houses usually look different when we move back in after a renovation, especially when things had gotten a little stale.
Alexandra Lange Since you took up the post as MoMA’s
chronology because we thought it would be fascinating to see things that have a totally different temporality but which happened in the same year. In 1962, for example, you have a photomontage by Mies van der Rohe showing one of his late museum projects for Munich, which then gets built as the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. So it’s a master of modernism at the end of his career next to somebody like Claes Oldenburg, who is a totally different generation and has completely different interests. We didn’t want to just present what we already knew about art history or the history of architecture, but rather to try to establish new connections and juxtapositions between objects. You could say it’s a formalist approach, although we’re not saying this is necessarily the way we want to continue. It was for us as much about starting a conversation between the objects of the different media as it was to start a conversation between the different curators and the different departments in an institution that has traditionally been very segregated. We wanted to bring people into a conversation and I think it was a great success.
chief curator of architecture and design you’ve travelled a lot for research. Where have you been? Martino Stierli I made two trips in the fall to the Balkans: to Kosovo and Macedonia. Those trips were actually in preparation for a large exhibition project which is going to deal with architecture in Yugoslavia from 1945 to 1991. That is going to be my first big research undertaking here, for the summer of 2018. I have always been interested in doing something on brutalism and specifically about the cultural meaning of concrete. Rather than doing something obvious – like Paul Rudolph for example, which would have also been great – I wanted to do something a little more strategically directed towards what I think we as a department and museum ought to be doing. It’s a more inclusive and revisionist approach to how we have understood modernism, which has been very eurocentric and North American-focused. There’s a lot of interesting research going on about Eastern Europe and in particular Yugoslavia. It’s a really under-studied field – especially in the United States, but also in Western Europe – and it’s interesting as a pre-history to globalisation, because Yugoslavia has a unique position between the Eastern Bloc and the Western world, capitalism and communism. It’s sort of a third way, right? So I was interested in exploring how these specific socio-political and economic conditions shape design culture. I’m doing this with Vladimir Kulić as a co-curator and we have a team of about 10, so it’s a big project.
Alexandra Did you feel like you had to choose a certain
kind of object to work in that context? Things that were by famous people? Things that were iconic? Martino There is always the problem of the canon and the need to represent it. So it was clear to me that we needed to have some Mies van der Rohe in there, we needed have some Andy Warhol, but we also deliberately tried to open the horizon and push artists and designers who are not part of the canon. That’s easier in other departments than it is in architecture and design, because design is a completely singular story. Very often designers are not even famous: there are great objects that were collaborative efforts between people. For example, look at 1967 and the radical Italian landscape — many of these people aren’t terribly famous, but their objects are iconic.
Alexandra The recently reinstalled galleries
dedicated to the 1960s incorporate architecture and design along with painting, sculpture and other disciplines. How did you approach that and how do you see architecture and design speaking within it? Martino That exhibition is an experiment rather than a model for future undertakings. The idea was to form an interdisciplinary team and test out how far we could go in bringing together all the media represented in our collection. This was not an easy task because it’s actually difficult to find a common language that applies to painting as it does to design. We thought about thematic issues and about art-historical categories, none of which worked. So we eventually decided on a straight
Alexandra Are there things in the show that haven’t
been exhibited before? Things that were kept in the vault because they didn’t fit into the story? Martino Many things. There is a film by Kenneth Anger from 1965 that is very colourful, in which you see a young man in a light-yellow suit polishing a car. It’s very sexually charged. Anger is a West Coast artist who we’ve had in the collection but has never been shown. Strangely, even something like the model
Stierli photographed in MoMAâ€™s fourth-floor galleries devoted to displaying works from the 1960s. The exhibits are drawn from across the museumâ€™s archives and curatorial departments.
Above: The courtyard of MoMAâ€™s midtown building, which reopened in 2004 following a reconfiguration and expansion by Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi.
of the Neue Nationalgalerie by Mies van der Rohe has not been shown in decades. That’s really astonishing. Then there’s Louis Kahn’s cardboard model for the National Assembly in Dhaka that was done for the Kahn show in 1966 here at MoMA, but I’m not sure it’s been shown since. The treasures we have in the vaults are actually really surprising. We just don’t have the space to show them. Alexandra Do you feel like you should explain the
architecture in multidisciplinary shows a bit more, assuming that people will be less familiar with it? Martino Do you feel that? Alexandra There were some moments in the display.
I’m thinking of the 1963 room, where you have a drawing of Paul Rudolph’s architecture between an Albers and a Stanczak painting. I know that all three of those people are connected to Yale, but there wasn’t any text to say so. That’s a very nerdy, art-history thing to know, but shouldn’t it have been pointed out? Martino I’m a postmodernist so I believe in bubble coding. This exhibition was not about prescribing things, but letting the audience make its own connections. So what you did with Yale is exactly what we were hoping somebody with a historical background would understand and appreciate. Whereas a tourist – somebody who comes once in a lifetime to MoMA and just wants to see great works – can do that too. That person probably wouldn’t profit from the information that they’re all related to Yale; maybe they wouldn’t even be terribly interested. I believe that objects can and should be able to stand for themselves. At the same time in architecture you always have to work with representations of objects as opposed to objects themselves, and in that case a little context is usually helpful. But we wanted to do away with old narratives and allow the audience to build its own stories around the objects. Alexandra Some of these issues came up in the recent
controversy about getting rid of MoMA’s architecture and design galleries. I read your statement and you said that the galleries are in flux right now because of the renovation project. But let’s talk a bit more about your understanding of where things are going to end up. I feel like you’re already addressing the idea of having architecture as part of a multidisciplinary show as opposed to having architecture on its own.
Martino I’ve called this a “both ends” approach.
We are a group of relatively young chief curators and we’re really interested in pushing a bit further into interdisciplinary projects. We feel that’s how architects and artists work today and we also feel that’s how scholarship works today: it’s on the boundaries of established disciplines. At the same time, we are very aware that some of these disciplines have very peculiar and idiosyncratic discourses and histories that have been part of this institution for decades. Those should and will continue to be part of this institution. So we’re committed to having media-designated spaces in the new building. Three of the floors will be basically collection-based, but we haven’t decided if we are going to have media‑designated spaces on all three floors or just a large expanse on one floor. All these ideas have their pros and cons, but there are many shades of grey between a model of total integration and a model of total separation. These are the areas that remain to be explored. Alexandra Your previous research has often focused on
photography and architecture, or film and architecture. Does that inform the way you’re treating these projects? Martino Yes and no. I don’t think it’s avant-garde to represent architecture through these mediums because it’s been done since the International Style. But I think film is a very attractive way to address an audience. Moving through a space with a camera immediately gives a better understanding of how it works than having to study a plan. I feel that modern architecture has been so invested with cinematic thinking, with the notion of moving through space, that this is something we can profit from in our exhibitions too. There’s so much research going on that shows how important photography has been in the definition and dissemination of modernism that we want to pay tribute to. So of course it informs my thinking, but not in the sense that I think more traditional media such as plans and models become unnecessary. Quite the contrary. There is nothing more exciting or thrilling than seeing an architectural drawing. But one problem with collecting architecture is that there’s not really a market; we can’t just go to the galleries as our colleagues in other departments do. We have no Lina Bo Bardi, for instance. That’s an archive that exists somewhere, but we can’t just go to it and say we want five drawings. It’s much more
difficult than retrospectively buying a painting by Rauschenberg, for instance, which is going to cost a fortune, but at least there is a market. For historical stuff, the opportunities are not very great.
“It was as much about starting a conversation between different
Alexandra There have been a lot of recent articles
objects as it was to start
about whether museums should start buying famous houses. What do you think about that, given that you’ve done a lot of work on Robert Venturi and one of the houses that particularly gets mentioned in this context is the Vanna Venturi House? Martino There are two answers. My personal answer is that I would be thrilled if we had houses in the collection; a place like MoMA has a historic responsibility towards preserving. John Lautner’s Sheats-Goldstein house in Los Angeles was just given to LACMA, so I’m a bit jealous. At the same time, the idea is very problematic. Firstly, by putting houses in this context you’re taking away their original function as a home for a family or whatever and transforming them into a mere display space. They lose something. Another problem is that if a museum enforces collecting something like this, then you create a market. That’s problematic. At the same time, there are a lot of pragmatic reasons to speak against it. It costs a fortune to maintain a house and it’s obviously going to be off-site. Of course, Philip Johnson’s Glass House would have been the perfect building for us to get if we were going to. But I totally understand and support the institution in finding that difficult, even if I would personally be very tempted to think in that direction.
a conversation between different departments.” Alexandra When MoMA was founded, it seemed that
part of the rationale of exhibiting architecture and design was to elevate them to a museum context because they hadn’t been seen in the context of art. But it feels as though that battle has largely been won. Now people are arguing about whether video games should be in the museum. Do you feel that MoMA still needs to make that argument? Or should you instead be talking about how architecture relates to art or culture or society or politics, rather than relating to the museum-ness of it all. Martino It’s a difficult question, but I think it’s still a contested field. Obviously historical modernism doesn’t need to be justified in the museum, but much of what is going on in contemporary design is very much contested. What do we think is going to be relevant historically? That is a very complicated question and continues to preoccupy us. One would hope to have a seminal exhibition announcing a new style, but at the same time that’s not the most relevant thing these days. With an increasingly diverse and globalised world – and the diverse audiences who visit us – this is a wonderful opportunity to show how architecture can contribute in different societies and environments, and how it can add through formal resolution to something larger. It’s very boring to think of architecture as iconic buildings by superstars. I’m not saying that there is not great art in architecture because that’s something I’m very excited by. I’m just saying that it usually happens in unexpected moments and it’s not usually done by the great names. E N D
Alexandra In recent years there have been a lot of
preservation controversies over modernism and now postmodernism, even just in New York. But I don’t think MoMA has necessarily taken a stand in a lot of those. Martino That’s true, but to what degree can we? Nothing in preservation theory is sacrosanct. A contemporary, enlightened preservation approach is aware that cities change over time and appreciates that cities aren’t museums.1 They’re places where people live. You always have to balance transforming a city into a museum and allowing its development. You want to allow it to flourish as a place that is inhabited. 1 See ‘Preseve, Erase, Destruct’, Disegno #10, pp. 189–202.
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Coat from Outside A/W 16/17 Junya Watanabe Man
Why do we think that a life led digitally is in some way unreal? What makes interaction through a screen less complete, less wholesome and less meaningful than interaction in person? It would seem to be a matter of priority. Face-to-face communication, we are assured, is contact without a filter – and much the better for it. Exchanges over Messenger or WhatsApp, by contrast, stand at one remove: conversation hemmed in and stymied by the ones and zeroes of binary code. Impersonal roboto-speak for impersonal roboto-people. But speaking digitally can be wonderful. The tunnel-like effect of the screen focuses your attention, while the conversation unfurls at a pace to suit you. It may be different to interaction in person, but difference does not equal inferiority. Digital life is no less valid than the analogue equivalent. The two are complements, not competitors. Which is why Junya Watanabe’s Outside coat is so compelling. Embedded within the trench coat are six solar panels and a concealed battery pack, the purpose of which is to charge a smartphone. It’s a small gesture, but one that embeds digital communication in the physical world. By planting the technology within something as physically intimate as a garment, Watanabe acknowledges screens as a facet of our personal identities – something important, something worth cultivating and designing around. That the collection is called Outside (as in: “Put down that screen and go outside”) only adds to the delight. Words Oli Stratford
Sebastian Bergne Ring Soap is fairly self-explanatory as a title, but the product has a long backstory. I originally designed it in 1993 for the German brand Authentics, after they had asked me to design a soap dish. But as a dish of soggy soap is unpleasant, I decided to redesign the soap instead – by hanging it on a peg you make sure that it’s always dry. Why revisit it as a self-production now? You see a lot of designs coming and going, and the lifespan of really good work is often relatively short. The kind of turnover in products is a bit unfortunate, so I want to give a second chance to an idea that still has legs. How did the soap sell the first time around? It sold pretty well, but I don’t think it reached its full potential, which is why I’m having another go. It went out of production when Authentics was sold some years ago, but as the design was only licensed the rights came back to me automatically. It’s been hanging around in the back of my mind since then. You’ve been involved in self-production for a long time. What’s the appeal of working that way? In the past, it was mainly for my own pleasure and it gave me a chance to do things the way I wanted to. But today more and more people are setting up their own brands with a lot of PR clout and investment behind them, so perhaps I can see a broader commercial potential with the model.
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Routine Rituals: Found Objects from India Words and photographs Jessica Charlesworth and Tim Parsons
“Once you accept that India is full of contradictions, it starts to make sense!” The wise words of Navneet Raman, the director of India’s Kriti Gallery, proved apposite indeed. Drawn to the extreme otherness of India’s culture and hoping to comprehend some of its contradictions, we took up residence for one month at Kriti, a contemporary art gallery with live-in studio spaces in the nation’s spiritual capital, Varanasi. The city became the first destination on a two-and-a-halfmonth research trip around Asia – thanks to a sabbatical offered by our employer, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The underlying motive of the journey was to enrich our design practice by broadening our horizons. In each
country, we met design professionals and sought out contemporary and traditional object-making. Uttar Pradesh, wherein Varanasi lies, is the world’s most populous country subdivision and India’s second-richest state. Yet that wealth is spread among 200 million people – more than the population of Brazil – making it the second poorest Indian state in terms of GDP per capita. Despite the relative poverty of many of Varanasi’s inhabitants, it is easy to get swept up in the romance of the place, with its colourful and bustling streetscapes, richly spiced food and ornate architecture. But our aim was to see beyond the tourist images and understand India’s unique relationship to objects. What value does the shaping
of material have, in its various forms, in a culture like this? Where does the designer fit into a system still largely influenced by the inheritance of artisan skills? And how do people living in one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world treat objects compared to those in the Western capitalist urban centres we are used to? What we found was a culture in which objects are frequently imbued with spiritual meaning through daily rituals and yet which simultaneously exercises a stark pragmatism towards anything that has served its purpose. Ceramic cups and garlands made from fresh flowers, which we would have the urge to preserve, are cast aside without a second thought. There is
Bicycle Saddle and Delivery Tricycle
This saddle is typical of the kind used on cycle rickshaws and delivery tricycles. Made by the Ashoka company, its seat has been cut and formed from an old tyre. The tread is visible on the underside and the seat is held in tension by hooks that connect it to the adjustable sprung frame. I purchased the saddle from a gentleman with a cycle-repair business in Varanasi that he ran out of a cart-mounted box, in which he kept all his tools and spare parts. Although the pervasive repair infrastructure keeps many cycles on the road, it has restricted the introduction of advances such as cotterless cranks or caliper brakes. It is obviously more economical to own a bicycle that can be repaired with common – rather than specialist – components and by a mechanic who is a seasoned metalworker, able to hand-make any part in minutes. TP
an unsentimental attitude towards matter that is refreshing; rather than resulting in excessive waste, it actually gives rise to a rich tradition of repair and re-use. A quick glance at the vehicles on the street reveals that every typology has been whittled down to a single model: the one that has proved itself most fit for purpose. There is one pervasive marque of auto-rickshaw (Bajaj), cycle rickshaw (Neelam), saloon car (Hindustan Ambassador) and motorcycle (Royal Enfield) and myriad workshops in which to have them repaired. Vehicles are stripped to the bone so others may live. Built-in obsolescence is yet to arrive and while this may make the streetscape look 40 years old, there is something deeply
satisfying about being surrounded by these durable survivors. The sense of frugality and expediency with which people choose and look after their vehicles contrasts with the elaborate and flamboyant objects used for worship. Our interest in combining speculative designed objects with fictional narratives as part of our practice as Parsons & Charlesworth found a real-life parallel in the Hindu rituals known as puja. “Puja” is the Sanskrit word used to describe a daily prayer ritual performed by Hindus at home or in a temple to present, host, honour and worship one or more deities. Objects created for this purpose are many and varied, and some feature in the following pages. Most do not conform to known
archetypes – they are hard to place – and all become props in either personal or shared performances. How people treat objects in India seems to be determined less by economic necessity than by the Hindu belief in the cyclical nature of life. Hinduism remains by far the predominant religion in India and Uttar Pradesh, with approximately 80 per cent of the population identifying as such. Objects, like people, serve until they are no longer able to, at which point they are respectfully retired and reincarnated. Daily rituals, whether utilitarian or religious, focus people’s relationship with objects and have the potential to enrich lives in ways that have perhaps been forgotten in the West. We would do well to re-learn them.
Chai and Nimish Cups and Nimish Stand
Masala chai â€“ sweet milky tea infused with spices including ginger and cardamom â€“ is hugely popular in India and street vendors known as chai wallahs typically serve it in unglazed terracotta cups. These cups are made from local river clay and are half-fired, meaning they remain brittle. After use, they are intended to be discarded so their bodies can be crushed into the dirt of the street, but we saved ours as souvenirs. The larger cup was used to serve nimish, a delicious, ethereal delicacy of sweet milk foam flavoured with saffron and rose water and sprinkled with chopped pistachio nuts. The owner of a colourful nimish stall in Varanasi had set up shop in front of a picture of the Hindu god Shiva and applied some nimish to his mouth as if he were eating it. TP
Ganesh and Parvati Decorations and Shrine
As a merchant sat cross-legged and hunched over in his cramped premises, these hand-painted brass deities caught my eye. They hung inside a dusty hole in the wall. Representing Parvati, the wife of Shiva, and her son Lord Ganesh, they are among the more popular deities worshiped by Hindus. The Hindu gods are represented by a complexity of images and idols symbolising a diverse range of divine powers. Many of these idols are housed in ornate temples but are also represented in more modest shrines in communal spaces. Such shrines can be found throughout Varanasi in wall niches, above doors, between narrow passages and under roof shelters. These communal shrines act as a focal point for worship and are often decorated with marigold garlands, rose petals, saris, and food offerings known as prasad. JC
Shringi and Chawar
At the Ramakrishna Mission, the local sadhu shared his knowledge of the spiritual provenance of puja and the instruments used during the prayer ritual. This brass funnel-like object, known as a shringi, is held at arm’s length. Water is poured into the top and, as it reaches the tapered point, it sprays out in a single stream through the mouth of the cow at its base. The shringi is used in Shiva puja – a particular form of worship for the sacred god of destruction (Varanasi is often said to be the home of this revered deity). The chawar, the long-haired brush hanging from the temple wall, is made from the hair of the Tibetan yak. Waved across the chest and above the head by a seated priest, the chawar is treated as a purifier and represents air (vayu), one of the five elements of the universe, the other four being water (jal), space (akash), earth (prithvi) and fire (agni). JC
Lac-turnery and Vermilion Pot
India has a well-established wooden-toy industry, but what is less well-known is that the colours applied to many of these toys come from a process called lac turning. We discovered this centuries-old skill at a toymakerâ€™s workshop on the outskirts of Varanasi, although it is practiced in other parts of the country too. Lac consists of the secretions of the lac insect, which are processed to remove impurities and formed into pencil-sized sticks. Lac is commonly dissolved in ethanol for use as a varnish (shellac) but in stick form it can be applied directly to wood being turned on a lathe. The friction melts the lac, which flows over the surface. The process is also used to coat pots that contain the vermilion pigment that married Hindu women apply to their hairline. We worked with the toymaker to produce a series of lac-coated wooden vessels that reference stacks of upturned chai cups and stackable tiffin tins. TP
Kalava Thread Roll and Market Stall
Wandering through the lanes of the old spice market, among the sacks of turmeric and peppercorns, I saw the red and yellow thread known as kalava hanging in large bundles surrounded by other heady and vibrant puja merchandise such as sandalwood and coloured pigment. The kalava thread is used by ascetic priests who devote their life to teaching. They traditionally tie the thread on the right hand of males and unmarried females, and the left of married women to invoke the blessings of the Hindu deities to whom the puja is dedicated. JC
A R E VO LU T I O N A RY C E R A M I C M AT E R I A L .
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Brutalist Greenhorns Words Douglas Murphy Illustration Leonhard Rothmoser
One of the unpleasant aspects of fandom is the jealousy that accompanies a beloved subject becoming popular. You’ve all seen (or been) the kid who resents all the newbies jumping aboard after “their” band’s new album goes stratospheric: “They don’t get it!” If I’m honest, this feeling has been creeping up on me recently and it’s all because of brutalism. It’s not as if nobody had heard of brutalism before, but until very recently it was a niche kind of architecture. The public despised it, the establishment wanted rid of it, and only a few cranks and loons had any interest in it whatsoever. Now, however, it’s everywhere. Films, coffee-table books, merchandise, walking tours, not to mention websites with hundreds of thousands of fans. Brutalism is so hot right now: it’s the concrete connoisseur’s style of choice. So what’s the problem? The attention is welcome. Brutalist buildings are often still at risk, so hopefully from now on they’ll be easier to preserve. And if you’ve been arguing for years for the greatness of something, it’s excellent to see people coming round to it. But like anything that rapidly becomes fashionable, there’s a shallowness of engagement that often dangerously misses the point. Many of the new fans of brutalism love the very things that discredited the buildings in the first place – “Wow, another dark underpass!” “Rotten concrete, amazing!” “Another pissy lift, wonderful!” A more serious point is that it’s wrong to engage with brutalism uncritically as just a look, rather than a particular way of building cities. When the new interest in brutalist living has seen whole estates cleared of their tenants, it’s basically lost its original purpose. But then, who really wants to be that disgruntled fan? In a few months everyone will be into postmodernism anyway...
So Long, Farewell Words Oli Stratford Illustration Leonhard Rothmoser
Slimane, Giornetti, Simons, Facchinetti, Wang, Elbaz… all gone; all lost to the firmament; all departing their houses before their time was up. But what does the shortening lifespan of fashion’s creative directors really mean? Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times, a pillar of good sense, provided one of the more understated assessments: “limbo… a voyeuristic atmosphere more akin to the rubbernecking that accompanies disasters”. When even Friedman sounds the alarm? End of days… Of the aforementioned designers, Slimane, Simons, Wang and Facchinetti were all in post for around three or four years, suggesting that this timescale is now the norm for a creative director at a major fashion brand. It’s certainly not out of keeping with national averages of time spent in a job (4.6 years in the US). The only real point of consternation seems to be how the situation compares to the past. Yves Saint Laurent, you are urged to remember, managed 40 years at the helm of his namesake house. He had time to build a legacy. By contrast, his successors Tom Ford and Stefano Pilati lasted five and eight years respectively – figures roughly comparable to Slimane’s four. Slimane’s tenure only seems unduly short if you consider Saint Laurent’s. But then Yves is very much the outlier. The secret of Saint Laurent’s staying power, unsurprisingly, was that he founded the brand. Cristóbal Balenciaga managed similar longevity at 31 years; Azzedine Alaïa is at 36 years and counting; and Miuccia Prada, working for the family company, has been designing for 38. These designers built dynasties because they were their brands and their success established their brands as the brands. Today’s designers, by contrast, are mere employees. The best assessment of the situation, oddly, came from the architect Rem Koolhaas when he spoke about the future of Zaha Hadid Architects following the death of its founder in March: “I think there is a model these days where fashion houses survive by working on the DNA of their founders.” The designer may leave, but the brand abides.
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Spectacular Tales of Adventure and Yearning Words Mimi Zeigerâ€‚Photographs Ramak Fazel
Liam Young is a protagonist of his own making: an architect, an educator, a storyteller, and a foot soldier of the visionary present. Born in Brisbane, Australia, based in London and now moving to Los Angeles, Young creates films about cities â€“ complex cities in China or India on the verge of emergence or collapse (likely both), cities that illustrate something unsettling about our now and our future. Like all heroes, he needs an origin story.
Origin Story 1: Global Noir It’s late afternoon when I meet Young at a bar in Culver City, California. The Mandrake caters to Los Angeles’ nomadic art set, the kind of people that drift in Uber packs from opening to opening. It’s also, importantly, not too far from the airport. Young is either coming or going and has a bit of time before his international flight. He’s wearing a uniform just shy of fatigues: high-laced boots and a shirt buttoned to the neck made out of what appears to be wool flannel. It makes me itchy just looking at it. Amber Southern Californian rays slip through a lone window picking out stylish touches in an otherwise dark and nearly empty room: posters for art-rock happenings, the sweat beading on my negroni. Here, in this half light, we’ve dropped out of the reality of La Cienega Boulevard and its conflation of galleries, strip malls and traffic, and into something way more cinematic. We’re discussing a possible essay about unreality and speculation that Young’s working on. In our gloom, it glimmers with the stuff of legend: myths woven by professionals; CIA whistle-blowers; US military black-op storytelling divisions; classified desert compounds; weaponised folklore. He tells me lawyers are batting around the interview content, each vying for a piece of the pie rather than facilitating clearance. Young would later write in an email: “I feel like I’m in a Kafka novel.”
Coal is trucked to fuel the world’s largest rare earth refinery plant located in Inner Mongolia. (Toby Smith/Unknown Fields)
Toxic waste spilling into a
Origin Story 2: Swimming with Sharks
radioactive tailings lake next to the rare earth refinery in Inner Mongolia.
“Oh shit. We’re doing that?” Young says when I ask him about where he grew up in Australia. He bridles for a moment at the possibility of revealing his backstory before conceding, “OK, outside of Brisbane, which is the sunny bit.” He paints a picture of an idyllic Australian childhood on the Sunshine Coast and a surfer kid with bleached-blond locks down to his shoulders. (Currently, he wears his light-brown hair combed back with a ragged beard.) “[Brisbane is] like a country town punching above its weight,” he says with a laugh. “It’s the third-largest city in Australia. It doesn’t have the cultural panache that Melbourne does, it doesn’t have the business acumen that Sydney does, but it’s got better waves.” Sitting in LA in an office at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), where Young teaches and where he will be launching a post-professional Master’s programme in the autumn, it’s difficult to connect the image of a towhead beach bum with the man across the table; a man whose fixations include drones and technological infrastructures such as server farms that house all the world’s selfies. But Young’s path to this point covers continents. It’s oft cited that he began his career at Zaha Hadid Architects in London at a time when the office was working on the Phaeno Science Centre at Wolfsburg and the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati. Then, after designing one too many trophy apartments for rich oligarchs, he ventured out on his own in an attempt to find some meaning in his work. “I felt like I was a designer of a luxury handbag,” he recalls. “The world wants and needs luxury handbags to a certain extent, but they’re 52
(Liam Young/Unknown Fields)
Drone flight above the ALMA Radio Telescope Array, at 5,000m altitude in the Andes mountains, Chile. (Liam Young/Unknown Fields)
“Young is leery of calling what he does sci-fi, however. His is a near future.”
totally irrelevant in the way that most people live their lives and tend to the forces that shape the city. They’re so marginalised and privileged. So, I looked for forms of architectural practice that would actually have more scope to effect change at a larger scale, more engagement with an audience outside of the discipline, more engagement with a clientele that wasn’t just the rich cultural elite.” Leaving Hadid’s office was a big leap of faith, but then again, Young had already left Australia for the UK, and in so doing had steered his path away from local projects and into the global network. Still, his early gigs in Australia reveal certain tendencies. Young’s first job, undertaken while he was still studying for his architecture degree at the University of Queensland, was designing beach houses for Australian architect John Mainwaring. Renowned for his climate-friendly residences, Mainwaring’s designs are part eco, part techno, and it could be argued that this work contained hints of Young’s later critical interest in ecological futures and the dystopian lessons of climate change. “You know, it’s still my favourite place on Earth,” he says, recalling a spot on the central coast in New South Wales, a national park where the forest meets the sea. “It’s pretty magical – you swim with dolphins and all that sort of stuff, but it’s not a Sea World experience. They just pop up and scare you to death because you think they’re sharks. They enjoy that… you just sit there and let them ride the waves.”
Driving a robotic camera through an abandoned apartment block in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine. (Neil Berret/Unknown Fields)
Origin Story 3: Ballard’s Children Like all designers of a certain generation, Young can reel off references to J.G. Ballard, William Gibson, Lebbeus Woods, and Archigram easily. The new Tom Hiddleston movie notwithstanding, Ballard’s High-Rise is a model of architectural speculation. Published in 1975, it suggests that a structure – the very shelter on which we depend to live – is complicit in a dramatic narrative of social tension, political crisis and even violence. The building is not simply setting, but also subject. Young discovered the novel while living in London as he was trying to find a new way to practice. “The book is a treatise on the town block,” he says. “Reading it revealed a way that you could still operate as an architect, but use the currency of storytelling and fiction to enable a way of rethinking the building.” Young is leery of calling what he does sci-fi, however. His is a near future. In 2008, one of the darker moments of the global economic recession, Young founded Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today (TTT) with his colleague Darryl Chen, describing it as thinktank that “exaggerates and extrapolates” contemporary conditions into speculative critical landscapes and imaginary urban realms. The same year, he also began teaching at London’s Architectural Association (AA) as part of the Unknown Fields Division, which he led in conjunction with the architect and artist Kate Davies. Each term, the AA research studio journeys to remote sites for weeks at a time. “If the near future is this very kind of dark, unilluminated landscape in front of us that we can’t see into because it’s so uncertain, the speculative Profile
To capture the origins of modern batteries, a drone flies over the Lithium mines of the Atacama Desert in Chile. (Liam Young/Unknown Fields)
project is like a torchlight that just illuminates certain tracks,” Young notes. “You know, the more projects we do, the more light is shone on what’s in front of us and we can start to then choose the path of going forward to a more preferable future.” Over the past few years, the Division has traced technologies back to their source: server farms in the Pacific northwest, iPhone factories in China, Chernobyl wastelands and lithium mines under salt flats in Bolivia (the source of much of the battery-power material for drones, phones and Tesla electric cars). Both the Division and TTT take the edict “make visible” as a guiding principle for documenting these far-flung sites, places that are integral to our daily lives but largely removed from our physical existence. Both projects operate between fiction and documentary in an arena that Ballard once called the “visionary present”. “Right now there are so many balls in the air,” says Young. “I mean, economic collapse, radical climate change, advances in technology, biotechnology, all these things… any one of them could drop in the next five years and totally change the landscape.” Clearly, now is what is at stake, not some fantasy future.
Concept art sketch by Hovig Alahaidoyan for Under Tomorrow’s Sky, a proposal for a speculative future city developed with a thinktank of scientists and technologists.
Ext. Early Evening Young paces in front of a large screen set up in SCI-Arc’s parking lot in downtown Los Angeles. We are within walking distance of the concrete channel of the LA River where films like Terminator, Drive, and Grease 2 were famously shot. It’s a landscape that’s as much infrastructure as it is entertainment. A crowd gathers for what seems like movie night, but we are assembled for the final reviews for Fear and Wonder, the spring architecture studio taught by Young with filmmaker Alexey Marfin. Cinematically, the lurid pink dome over the LA basin turns from violet to black. The carnival smell of caramel popcorn wafts in the air and Young hands out beers to the invited guest jurors in the front row: futurists, visual-effects specialists and journalists outnumber the architects. Young’s students, organised in earnest groups, screen their semester’s efforts: short films that explore the flip side of Los Angeles entertainment production – the outsourced technological support, visual effects and rendering industries based in India. The research brief extends from themes found in Young’s multi-media lecture/performance City Everywhere, a three-screen, live-mixed journey into contemporary culture’s pixilated underworld – guided, of course, by Kim Kardashian. It’s a deep dive into our technological nadir that looks at the workers and landscapes exploited in the making of every fleeting spectacle. The work is a mash up of Young’s collaborations as part of TTT and student projects from his Unknown Fields Division excursions. Immersive and thick with Gif-like visuals and hyperbolic Wired lingua franca, it also stands in collaboration with the internet itself. One vignette zooms in on the island of Aditnálta, a “ghost geography” that only exists online and which is the digital construct of a past AA Visiting School workshop. The SCI-Arc studio had travelled to India to research and film both narrative and documentary footage earlier in the semester. The results 54
Concept art sketch by Daniel Dociu for Under Tomorrow’s Sky.
Portrait of the Migrating Forests, a biotech taxidermy specimen from the imaginary robot catalogue
Specimens of Unnatural History.
vary and include a reflection on its creative labourers in a section that combines live footage with an animated character, and an ironic short about the price of Instagram fame and the cost of hiring Indian contractors to pad out numbers of social-media likes and follows. In all cases, there’s a pedagogical expectation for the students to use storytelling to bridge the cognitive gap between systems of production abroad and the implications of that outsourced labour at home. For Young, this is an architectural project – an undertaking that draws on a history of speculative design. “It’s one of the few ways that architects can stay critical and relevant,” he says. It’s also a prelude to his upcoming role as coordinator of SCI-Arc’s new Fiction and Entertainment Master’s degree, a three-semester programme geared to prepare architects to work within the world of Hollywood, virtual reality and gaming. Hernán Díaz Alonso, SCI-Arc’s director, recruited Young to the school and is excited by the possibilities of using “the tools of fiction and multiple realities to understand architectural language”. For Díaz Alonso, bringing film to SCI-Arc is not radical: it’s simply a natural evolution. What’s new in this context is the agenda. The Fiction and Entertainment programme is strategically poised to build connections with the entertainment industry, with Hollywood’s commercial and technical players. It will likely include workshops with screenwriters, composers and video-game producers, as well as architects, theorists and documentarians. Young has a couple of other schemes for which the Fiction and Entertainment Master’s is a kind of Trojan horse. First, he’s dedicated to rethinking architecture as a discipline, to opening it up to other fields, to engaging broader audiences and exploring different ways of making. “The studios I run here aren’t just film studios that happen to be sited in an architecture school,” says Young emphatically. “The work that we’re doing is architectural practice, but I just think that we often define practice so traditionally, so narrowly, it’s shocking. No one else gives a shit, you know? I’m interested in the way the architect parasitically operates and occupies all these other different disciplines. And I don’t think that’s disillusionment with the profession or somehow a weakening of it. I actually think it’s just radical strengthening of it, in that we have much more scope to have consequence in a whole lot of different fields.” His second agenda is even more grandiose, but not out of keeping with a desire to impact the real – not fictional – world. “The work is trying to have the scope to effect change in the city, but to do that not necessarily by putting it in front of a politician, but by putting it in front of as many eyes as possible,” he says. “That’s why the entertainment industry is powerful. So many people can engage [with] this kind of media, and that’s a pretty powerful voice to have. The more architects that are part of the discourse, the better. What sits below all the work is this idea to try and somehow effect some sort of productive change.” While Young is a master of cautionary tales, our protagonist is utopian not dystopian at heart. E N D
“I just think that we often define architecture so traditionally, so narrowly, it’s shocking.”
The Lucky, Plucky Chairs
Rolf Fehlbaum, with illustrations by Maira Kalman, or the Vitra Design Museum The Lucky, Plucky Chairs is a fairytale about chairs. Why pick that subject for a children’s book? Through my work with Vitra, I’ve had an unusual life. More than anything else, I'm thinking about chairs, so it was natural to let one crawl into my story. I actually think of them as personalities or characters. They are more like people than anything else – they have legs, they have arms, they have a back. There is no other object that is closer to people, both in intimacy of use and portraiture. The book stars a group of Thonet No. 14 chairs. Why did you pick that particular design? The Thonet is ordinary, but not in a negative way. It’s been around for so long and we all have memories of seeing one in a café or restaurant. So they’re common, but are still technically and culturally interesting. If I see a Thonet it always gives me pleasure. It is a beautiful chair. How did you develop the book’s story – the Thonets escaping from being burned as kindling and going on to find fame and fortune? When my daughter was smaller, I used to tell her this story. So when she turned 16, she asked if I could write it down for her. But I thought that I could perhaps make something more out of it. I asked my illustrator friend Maira Kalman to help and one thing came after another. How did your daughter react to it when you first told her the story as a child? She was unimpressed. Much to my disappointment.
Luca Cipelletti for the Museo della Merda The Shit Mug is made from mierdacotta, a material produced from cow dung. How did that project begin? Our philosophy at the Museo della Merda is to get back to the basic elements of nature, so mierdacotta is made from cow dung mixed with Tuscan clay. It looks like terracotta, but performs far better. It’s lighter and it looks a lot more natural because it’s all handmade in artisanal moulds. By contrast, most terracotta is produced in a very industrial manner. Why create a mug as one of the first demonstrations of the material? It’s a very simple product. I didn’t want to over-design anything and we really wanted to talk about substance rather than form. Our approach could be defined as an anti-design, but we felt a need to get back to basics. Nowadays, there is an excess of designing everything. Tableware is not something you would expect to communicate a strong design philosophy. We could have made so many things with mierdacotta, but the project as a whole is about the food cycle. You go from food to digestion and then to faeces, but we all eat vegetables and grains that are fed by manure. Tableware really let us get at that idea of the cycle.
Is there a provocation in creating tableware made from dung? It didn’t start from a desire to provoke, although I can easily understand if someone feels a barrier. But mierdacotta is totally safe. First of all it’s sanitised – the smell, methane and urea are removed – and then it’s put in the oven at 1,000°C, so all the bacteria are killed. There’s no reason to be scared of this product. Eating with manure tableware can be a shock, but that just strengthens the message.
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ENGINEERING THE WORLD OVE ARUP AND THE PHILOSOPHY OF TOTAL DESIGN
18 June â€“ 6 November 2016 Part of the V&A Engineering Season #EngineeringTheWorld #vamEngineeringSeason This exhibition is made possible with the cooperation of Arup BOOK NOW | V&A MEMBERS GO FREE vam.ac.uk | Victoria and Albert Museum with additional support from
Sydney Opera House under construction, 1966. Courtesy of Max Dupain & Associates Archives/ Eric Sierins
RĂŞveries Urbaines Words Johanna Agerman Ross
All photographs courtesy of Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec Design.
An exhibition in Rennes by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec raises important questions about public space, but does it attempt an answer?
This spring has seen a public uprising in France. Throughout the Nuit Debout movement, thousands of people have gathered in town squares as night falls, protesting against a lack of affordable housing, tax evasion and new labour laws. It’s been likened to the 2011 Occupy campaign, but its targets of discontent are more diverse and it seems to lack the overt politicisation of its predecessor. Unlike Occupy, Nuit Debout breaks up at dawn, only to reconvene the following night. “The concept behind the movement is ‘a convergence of struggles’ with no one leader. There are no union banners or flags of specific groups decorating the protest in the square – a rarity in France,” declared the Guardian in April about the gatherings in Place de la République, Paris. France has a rich history of public protest, just as it has a rich history of controlling it. Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s famous restructuring of Paris commissioned by Emperor Napoleon III commenced five years after the bloody June Days Uprising in 1848. Haussmann’s plan to build wide, straight boulevards ending in large, paved squares and plazas, such as Place de la République, has been widely regarded as militarisation of public space. “Their [boulevards’] proliferation in the Second Empire was considered strategic, designed to permit free lines of fire and to by-pass the hard to assail barricades erected in narrow, tortuous streets that had made the military suppression of 1848 so difficult,” writes the anthropologist David Harvey in his essay ‘The Political Economy of Public Space’. But while the leafy thoroughfares of Paris are hard to read as militarised space now, the secondary outcome of Haussmann’s town planning has had a more lasting effect on how we experience cities – the commercialisation of public space. With Haussmann’s boulevards came wide pavements complete with street-side cafés, and with the demolition of old residential blocks arrived large department stores and fashionable arcades. Because of these dual powers of control and commerce, there has been a long-standing ambivalence, even suspicion, towards public space – who controls it exactly and who benefits from it? It’s a discussion that has come to the
fore in recent writing by architecture theorists such as Anna Minton in Ground Control and Owen Hatherley in Militant Modernism. The Nuit Debout movement has brought this debate into the open – literally – which is why designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s Rêveries Urbaines exhibition is so timely. As an exploration of the public domain and its possibilities as a designed space, it comes at an apposite moment. When you enter the cavernous hall that hosts the exhibition at Les Champs Libres in Rennes, northwest France, it takes a while for the eye to adjust. Instead of visual cues, you pick out the exhibition’s soundtrack – quaint noises of trickling water, children’s laughter, the friendly honks of a car horn and
The Bouroullecs created more than 50 miniatures for Rêveries Urbaines.
the nostalgic tinniness of a barrel organ. It’s like stepping into the studio of a Foley artist working on the soundscape of a Jacques Tati film. As you acclimatise, a multitude of small urban landscapes appear. The exhibition is the result of a year-long research project by the Bouroullecs, presented as more than 50 case studies or miniatures of different urban situations – “rêveries” as the designers call them. The specially created display system is made up of anodised aluminium shelves suspended from steel cables, and the spotlights
trained on the exhibits help to create the illusion that the display is floating, adding to the impression of entering a dreamscape. So what is actually here? A multitude of propositions for how to sit and walk in public space and how to engage with our cities. The proposals are largely focused on bringing nature into the city in playful ways: streams instead of fountains; rocks and creepers instead of paving and pruned flower beds; canopies of light instead of lamp posts. There are circular platforms that serve as roofs to shade people from the sun or protect them from rain, and anodised-aluminium panels that form troughs for water to trickle into. There are cows grazing on urban farms, open-air heaters and metal canopies covered in vegetation, as well as carousels, and seating for reclining and resting. These are relaxed propositions in which the suggestion of enjoying public space without the need for any prescribed activity is pre-eminent. Take, for example, the rêverie depicting open fireplaces: four circular hearths with slender metal chimneys that direct the smoke upward. Each is surrounded by a circular roof, creating a defined and protected space that becomes homelike in its intimacy. The set-up is generous and welcoming, the hearths an invitation to loll and loiter. A pile of wood sits next to each chimney, emphasising that this is a space for participation: why not put another log on the fire? Indeed, the whole scenario bespeaks a sense of collective care. Implicit in the designs is the idea that public spaces are environments that we ought to take responsibility for and tend to as a society. Everything is executed with exactitude, with even the smallest details made specially for the exhibition. Although such precision model-making is a trademark of the Bouroullecs’, Rêveries Urbaines is a curious proposition for a design studio that made its name creating products for the home. As a retrospective exhibition in the nearby Frac Bretagne museum reveals, the careers of Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec have been dedicated to the domestic rather than the urban landscape, with televisions, sofas, curtains, ceramics, chairs, armchairs and shelving all featuring in the display. Even when the
Bouroullecs’ designs have ended up in public environments such as schools and restaurants, they have always communicated a domestic approach. The studio’s work has traditionally been at the scale of the individual rather than the public. Yet in recent years, other interests have begun to feature more strongly
The city is a far broader canvas than the Bouroullecs are used to working on, as well as a less controlled environment. in the studio’s work. During the London Design Festival in 2011, the Bouroullecs presented their large-scale (240m2) Textile Field in collaboration with Kvadrat in the Raphael Cartoon galleries at the V&A – a landscape of upholstered panels that was best enjoyed shoeless and reclined, so as to offer a new perspective on the venue’s 16th-century art, as well as providing a moment of contemplation and peace. Then, in 2013, their Lustre Gabriel was installed at Versailles. A Swarovski crystal chandelier measuring 12m in length, it gently loops from the ceiling of the chateau’s Ange-Jacques Gabriel staircase. Last autumn, the studio presented 17 Screens at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, an experimental take on the division of space that used large-scale screens made
from ceramics, metal beads, guipure lace, ribbon and rope to partition the vast gallery. Connecting all of these projects is a keen interest in material exploration and a wish to challenge archetypal solutions for the creation of space. The studio’s two modular room dividers, Algue for Vitra and Clouds for Kvadrat, are organic approaches to reconfiguring areas in the home, emblematic of the Bouroullecs’ fascination with looking at environments and people’s interaction with place. Yet to take this thesis from the secure confines of palaces and museums, and to suggest that it has an application in an urban environment is daring and risky: the city is a far broader canvas than the Bouroullecs are used to working on, as well as a less controlled environment. Many of the studio’s previous projects are hinted at in Rêveries Urbaines: the Textile Field is reimagined as a gently angled outdoor floor; the strands of the Gabriel chandelier are draped like garlands between poles; the Tel Aviv screens are reconceived as trellises for vegetation. But everything is experienced as miniature, tabletop landscapes, with only the Tatiesque soundtrack suggesting where exactly you might encounter these propositions in real life. The Nuit Debout protests had their own architecture. Temporary shelters appeared as makeshift wooden structures with tarpaulin stretched across, portable sound systems were
All exhibits are accompanied by an urban soundtrack.
The exhibition took one year to research and build.
used to disseminate messages, and movable heaters kept protesters warm on chilly nights. Despite the lack of a considered aesthetic, these night-time interventions find common ground with Rêveries Urbaines in that they treat public space as something other than fundamentally commercial. Both propose spaces where people might come together in ways reminiscent of an idealised Greek agora – a place to share thoughts and ideas, and to express one’s identity as a citizen. To formalise the temporary structures of the Nuit Debout into an active architecture of the city – and to do so in a way that lets citizens partake in shaping public space beyond consumption and protest – is an important project. The Bouroullecs are not alone in turning their attention to our use of the city. Running parallel to the growing body of scholarship focused on the whys and wherefores of public areas, is an increase in practices that address these questions in reality. Muf Architecture in London has made public interventions on its home turf since the 1990s, with many of its projects having come to fruition through active consultation with citizens and local councils in England. The art and architecture collective Assemble won the Turner Prize in 2015 for its Granby Four Streets project, which involved reinvigorating a run-down
area in Liverpool through collaboration with its inhabitants; Jasper Morrison worked on a bus garage in Graz, Austria, with Andreas Brandolini, rethinking the layout and use of a “dead” urban area through speaking to commuters; and architects Caruso St John worked with artist Eva Löfdahl in reshaping the main square of the Swedish town of Kalmar using light and sound effects to make the severe granite space come to life. However, what’s refreshing – and what seems new – about Rêveries Urbaines is the plurality of its displays and the fact that these are branded as reflections rather than proposals. These miniature solutions are not considered absolute,
Rêveries Urbaines introduces a human scale to the urban environment and in doing so brings playfulness to the city. but rather are presented as sketches and works-in-progress. The Bouroullecs have initiated a series of debates about how we can treat public space, with each of the rêveries united by their essential domestication of these areas – their questioning of the stark monumentality of Haussmann and his followers, and their insistence on communicating the power of the state rather than the people. Rêveries Urbaines introduces a human scale to the urban environment and in doing so brings playfulness to the city. These are places where you can simply do nothing, an engagement that requires neither consumption nor protest. Imagine reclining on a bench specifically designed to allow for this, or warming yourself in front of an open fire, or watching a cow grazing in an urban environment. Each of these are small gestures, but even the theoretical prospect of treating our cities as places where these activities might be possible changes our perceptions of what we should demand from our public spaces. The essential hopefulness for change that lies behind the Nuit Debout movement is present in Rêveries Urbaines too. It is a show that encourages us to challenge the public spaces now on offer. Rêveries Urbaines is on show at Les Champs Libres, Rennes, from 25 March to 28 August 2016.
Advanced Ordnance Words Poppy McPherson Photographs Charlotte Pert
The night I flew into Phnom Penh, it rained. The short shower heralded the start of Cambodia’s overdue monsoon season after a long drought and would be welcome news for farmers. But a heavy downpour can bring other things to the surface in this country: buried remnants of a long history of war.
In the mud and underneath the green paddy fields are scores of unexploded bombs and landmines – a legacy of decades of conflict. During the Vietnam War, the countryside was pummelled by B-52 bombers as part of America’s secret Cambodian operations. The communist Khmer Rouge forces, who turned the country into an open-air prison without walls, laid thousands of mines in 1975, as did the Vietnamese who eventually ousted them in 1979. When it rains, the mines slip and slide. A farmer, having identified one on his land, can wake up to find it outside his front door. Or next to his children’s school. Unexploded ordnance has injured or killed more than 60,000 Cambodians since 1979 and created 25,000 amputees – the highest per capita ratio in the world. They’re facts that Kim Bush, a 26-year-old Cambodian engineer from Takeo province in the southwest of the country, knows well. “When I was a child I always heard about guys who exploded mines under the ground,” he says, looking up from his computer. “But now I never hear that. I’m not saying the country’s 100 per cent clear, but it should be 80 per cent cleared. The most dangerous provinces are Pursat and Battambang [in the northwest]. A lot of land mines.” On the screen is the 3D image of a bomb fuse. Bush is part of the prize-winning team at the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, a US non‑profit that has been developing technologies to aid the clearance of unexploded ordnance since 1998 and which has been working in Cambodia from 2004 onwards. Less than a metre away from his desk, on the top floor of the Golden West office in Phnom Penh, a cluster of whirring 3D printers are at work 24 hours a day producing models of munitions for use in training ordnance-disposal experts in all corners of the globe. These Advanced Ordnance Teaching Materials (AOTM) are the brainchild of Allen Tan, the director of applied technology at Golden West. “Here’s an example of one,” says Tan, holding a replica of an aircraft bomb fuse in his fist. “This bomb fuse screws into the nose of an aircraft bomb like the ones that were dropped on Cambodia.” The fuse in Tan’s hand – coloured red, white and blue to signify the firing, arming and safe components respectively – is one of two sets made from ABS plastic, the material used in Lego. The toy-like appearance of the device belies its complex mechanics. Unless a fuse is armed
– achieved by a series of intricate movements – the munition will not go off, even when it hits the earth. Tan mimics the motion of a bomb dropping off the wing of an airplane. He turns the plastic propellers at the top of the fuse, kicking off a rotating motion that ricochets through the parts beneath. “It’s turning. It’s turning. It’s falling right now,” he says. “It’s getting close to the ground. It’s coming out then it’s turning enough and that” – he says, pointing to the firing pin – “clicks over.” If it were real, the bomb would now be armed, ready to explode on impact. When someone finds an unexploded bomb, models like those developed by Tan and his team can help them decide how to deal with it. “The person who’s going to do this is in explosive-ordnance disposal. Like in The Hurt Locker,” says Tan, whose background in the US military included tours in Iraq
in January. The devices have begun to gain new clients rapidly, as well as attracting critical acclaim from the design and technology industries. This raises the question: how did a new lab in a corner of the developing world come up with the technology needed by the world’s biggest humanitarian and military organisations? In his office, Tan keeps a photo of the meeting that started it all. In the picture, a group of engineers are gathered around a table. Alongside Tan – a tall American with some Cambodian heritage – is an older man, J. Kim Vandiver, a longtime Massachusetts Institute of Technology mechanical engineering professor who was working with Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) in 2012 to build an innovation centre. On a trip to Phnom Penh, Vandiver was introduced to Tan through a mutual friend and they began talking about the problems in their sectors. Tan brought up something that had been bothering him at Golden West. For years, the people dealing with unexploded ordnance – from Afghanistan to Mali – have been taught with textbooks, PowerPoint presentations and wooden or rubber replicas of munitions. Injection moulding is an option, but expensive. If the designer makes a small mistake with a mould, they have to create a new one, costing thousands of dollars. Inert devices, which have been disabled so they are no longer dangerous, are another alternative. “It’s beautiful,” says Tan, picking up a real fuse. “There’s no machine or book that just does this. That’s, like, a craft. They’re craftsmen. Every one is different. They just decided where to cut and how to cut it.” There’s a flaw, however: “It’s beautiful, but I can’t move those parts.” Rendering the device inert also destroys the possibility of motion in its inner workings. There are other problems with training ordnance‑disposal technicians using real mines. Many countries don’t have a ready supply, and they are not easily shipped across borders. In many places, a deactivated bomb is still considered a weapon. “What happens is, right after a war, you get a lot of aid coming in and rebuilding starts, so you’ve got a population moving back into areas that were in conflict, and have this stuff all over the place,” says Tan, pointing to an inert landmine. “INGOs [international non-governmental organisations] go in and start training large groups of police, military, and civilians to put on a uniform and start taking care
“The design hours that have gone into this are in the thousands, which would be impossible for a commercial company.” —Allen Tan and Afghanistan carrying out bomb disposal. “When they find this, first they’re going to have to decide on the condition that it’s in. Has it gone through the arming sequence or not? Because sometimes when they drop it from the airplane, instead of pulling the pin it rips it off but it’s still stuck in there… Then they decide what to do from there. If it’s armed, there are certain ways they can disable it, if they can recognise how it works.” Tan’s designs have proven so useful for teaching bomb disposal that, in the four years since they were created, the AOTM have been purchased by the United Nations and the Red Cross. At the end of 2015, the US military began using the devices in its training facility in Niceville, Florida. “I went and delivered it to them personally and showed their instructors through it,” says Tan with a grin. Not only has the project been endorsed by the biggest players in the sector, but it was one of the honourees in the Tech for a Better World category of the CES 2016 Innovation Awards
Allen Tan, product manager, designer and co-creator of the AOTM programme.
John Wright, AOTMâ€™s chief design engineer and co-creator. The AOTM devices are 3D-printed on site in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
of this stuff. When you’re dealing with a workforce in a post-conflict zone like Cambodia, where people didn’t get to go to school and didn’t learn in the Western style of learning, where books, PowerPoint and making these kind of abstractions work – even though it turns out that it doesn’t actually work well – you still have to get hands on. I could hand you a book about an engine, how an engine works, and I could leave you with that book for a year and you’re probably going to have trouble when you go to disassemble an engine. Or we could disassemble one this week and do it again next week and in a month you’d be able to disassemble the engine yourself.” In 2012, when the meeting with Vandiver took place, enthusiasm for 3D printing and its potential applications within design and technology was at its height. “That was all the talk – everything’s going to be printed, everyone’s going to have one in their house,” says Tan, who together with Vandiver decided to test the printers as a way of producing model munitions. “Kim said to me, ‘Let’s try this, and let’s use SUTD’s resources to do it because they have a bunch of 3D printers that no one’s using because it’s a brand-new university,’” says Tan. To trial the new technology, they enlisted John Wright, Golden West’s chief engineer, to mock up a design for a Bouncing Betty mine. “One of the ones where the trip wire explodes off the ground – really nasty stuff,” says Tan. “You see it in movies.” The design was sent to Singapore, where it was printed, but something wasn’t right with the end result. It was a direct copy of the mine, with fixed parts. “We said, ‘Wait a minute, we’re not thinking about this the right way,’” says Wright, a British engineer who spent years working on submarines. “‘Let’s think about what we’re actually trying to do… Can’t we do better than those models? Can’t we make something that actually functions?’” After decades in the classroom, Vandiver was astrong proponent of hands-on learning and stressed the importance of students being able to fiddle around with the fuses. “We could make these models and we could stand up front and take them apart and talk about it – which would be a failure,” says Vandiver, speaking over a shaky line from Massachusetts. “Or, we could stand up front and say, ‘This is a fuse for a mortar shell and it has an arming device in it and I want you to figure out what it is.’”
Yet engineering a fuse that rewinds itself proved a difficult task. Normally, they’re not designed to do that – either the bomb blows up or it doesn’t. Wright, however, needed to make one that could be rewound by students, over and over again. “Go on the internet and say ‘resetting ordnance’,” he challenges me. Zero results. “Who would do that except for us?” “Each fuse is different and when we design a training aid we have reset in mind,” he explains later in an email. “The two criteria are: it must be easy to reset and the fuse is not easily broken if [trainees] get the reset process wrong.” The result was a set of 10 3D-printed fuses and mines packed with the components ordnance‑disposal technicians need to learn to deal with: from arming veins to plungers, gear trains and shutters. They’re scaled up – so each fuse is about double the size of the real thing – which Tan says makes teaching easier. In a corner of his lab, hunched over his computer, Bush puts the final touches on a landmine. “In this particular case we had the real one, which we copied,” says Wright, standing over his shoulder. Yet, while some of the fuses exactly mimic real ordnance, others are a mixture of parts created for training purposes. AOTM’s first customer was the United Nations, which bought 10 sets before Tan had even finished making the first, a deal secured after Tan presented at a UN conference in South Africa in 2014. He had been expecting the worst. “Our community is notoriously difficult,” he says. “It’s a bunch of guys who defuse bombs for a living and they – just like you’d expect – are quite a tough audience. I watched the whole conference, people getting ripped to shreds.” But when he got up to show the AOTM kits, the audience reacted surprisingly well: “People were like, ‘This is awesome!’” Pre-conference, the US state department had put in $100,000 seed funding. “They paid for this to happen,” says Tan. “The design hours that have gone into this are probably in the thousands, which would be impossible for a commercial company.” These days, the project pays for itself with sales. When Tan began working on it, someone asked how many sets would need to be sold for the endeavour to be successful: “I thought about it and said that success in the lifetime of this product, means selling 50 units. If we sell 50 units it will have been a raging success.” After the first year, AOTM hit 35. Now, they’re on the verge of 50. Each kit retails at $7,000, or $5,000 for NGOs, with all profits ploughed back into production.
Since 1979, unexploded ordnance has killed more than 60,000 Cambodians. Kim Bush (right), an AOTM designer, believes that the country is now around 80 per cent cleared of landmines and unexploded bombs.
How did a new lab in
The schedules for shipments are written in black marker on a whiteboard in one corner of the lab and all production is handled in-house. The computer issues instructions to the printers, which set to work with the plastic filament. “The best way to describe it – because I love to cook – is [that it’s] like icing a cake,” says Tan. “Building up layer by layer.” Each part takes about 17 hours to produce, and a whole fuse can take 36. A group of young Cambodians then polishes the parts and assembles the fuses. “This is important for Cambodian design and manufacturing,” adds Tan. “We have Cambodian engineers working on our teams and they’re the future engineers of this country. The CES 2016 Innovation Award is the first tech product prize ever awarded to Cambodia on an international scale.” One of the benefits of 3D printing is that corrections can be made immediately if a design is imperfect – and at zero cost. It’s part of what makes the technique appealing to the donor-dependent humanitarian sector, where organisations have previously put 3D printers to use in producing medical equipment on site. As part of the NGO Field Ready’s pilot project in Haiti, for instance, objects as varied as prosthetic hands, screwdrivers and butterfly-needle holders were printed in situ. Other groups are discussing the possibility of having spare car parts 3D-printed so that 4x4s could be mended in remote areas. Like many aspects of design, however, 3D printing has a sinister side. In the introduction to their book Design and Violence, Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, and Jamer Hunt of the Parsons the New School for Design wrote, “Design’s history of violence, unless linked overtly to political and social suppression… often goes unexplored. How is it possible, for example, that Mikhail Kalashnikov, designer of the AK-47 assault rifle, could naively reflect in his later years, ‘My spiritual pain is unbearable… If my rifle claimed people’s lives, then can it be that I… a Christian and an orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?’ Turning a blind eye to the depth of design’s complicity in destroying as much as (or more than) it creates, our profession has been institutionally incapable of gauging the full extent of its impact.” While Golden West is manufacturing 3D-printed model weapons for humanitarian purposes, others are findings ways to use the technology to make real ones.
a corner of the developing world come up with the technology needed by the world’s biggest humanitarian and military organisations? A Wired magazine article from 2014 detailed a burgeoning subculture of 3D-gun enthusiasts. Among them was Yoshitomo Imura, arrested that year. Police seized half a dozen plastic guns from his home, including a revolver called the ZigZag which could fire six 38-calibre bullets. In a description published alongside a video showing how to assemble one, he wrote: “Freedom of armaments to all people!! A gun makes power equal!!” A year earlier Cody Wilson, a Texas law student, had released plans for his version of a 3D-printed handgun, The Liberator. Wilson’s handgun was subsequently acquired by the V&A in London, and exhibited as a way of exploring what 3D printing’s dissemination of the means of production might signify for society. Late last year, Wilson launched the Ghost Gunner, a CNC machine designed to quickly mill parts of assault rifles: “Legally manufacture unserialized AR rifles in the comfort and privacy of your home.” Like Golden West’s 3D-printed mines, Imura and Wilson’s handguns look toy-like – a far cry from the steel of the real products – but the tweaked design means they can do more damage: the ZigZag can hold more ammunition than the gun it was modelled on. Tan dismisses the idea that a would-be bomb‑maker could make use of Golden West’s designs. It’s far cheaper to create landmines the regular way, he argues, suggesting that the industry is a long way from the point at which someone could easily copy and print designs: “At this point, it’s not really practical. You can get a highly variable result in the product, depending on the process you use. Just because somebody has the file, doesn’t mean they can make that.” It’s an argument that
AOTMâ€™s innovation is in developing training devices that accurately reproduce the internal motion of bomb fuses and which can be reset for repeated use.
ties to wider reassessment of the potential uses of 3D-printing. Early ambitions for the technology to be used by people to regularly print their own consumer goods – food, clothing, shoes – have been scaled back. Tan suggests that the age of same‑day delivery from companies such as Amazon means there’s little market for widespread self-production: “In the US, in most countries in the developed world, our post and courier system is so good that we don’t really have a need to manufacture something like that.” What Tan can imagine, however, is a world where manufacturing on demand in remote regions, like Cambodia’s provincial areas, is commonplace.
talking about and then you show them hands-on, so they can see it and pick it up really quickly.” In future, Lasley says, he could do with not only functioning fuses, but models of different types of projectiles, including high-explosive plastic. “Having videos of a projectile showing how it functions would be great,” he adds. Tan and Wright already have such projects under way, with a plan to meet a demand for interactive digital learning. “We’re taking advantage of the fact that a lot of things are now done in 3D,” says Wright. “So you can actually walk into it and walk through it, and all that kind of stuff.” They are also working on a long-range Wi-Fi system designed to help ordnance-disposal technicians remove parts of a bomb without getting blown up. “One way to get rid of the dangerous parts is to hoist it up with a giant saw,” he says. “You don’t want people there when you’re doing that. You want to control the saw remotely.” The proposed design solution is an intelligent switch that turns the saw on and off using long-range Wi-Fi. The switch, tucked inside a waterproof briefcase, contains an onboard computer and custom electronics, all 3D-printed. “We’d like to think that we’re in the new generation of product-development labs,” says Tan. “Think about the US military and all the resources they have: bomb-disposal training is obviously a very big thing for them in Afghanistan. And their training devices are made in a small lab in Cambodia by a handful of Cambodians. I love that. It testament to the point that we are at in technology that this is possible.” E N D
While Golden West is manufacturing model weapons for humanitarian purposes, others are findings ways to use the technology to make real ones. “I could see a global marketplace whereby somebody in the provinces could look for what they want and then order it to the local print shop to print, which is really disruptive to the idea of product ownership,” he says. “How do you compensate people for product ownership and all these things? Right now, the power of the consumer is whatever is in the local market.” It’s a point with which Wright concurs: “Customers don’t want choice, they want what they want – it moves more towards that. Car components, for example, will be 3D-printed rather than bought.” For ordnance-disposal training technicians, the AOTM sets are a step closer to getting what they want. Mark Lasley, Golden West’s project manager, leads training programmes using the devices worldwide, and says that de-miners have responded well to the sets. “You can see in their reactions,” he says, in a thick Southern drawl. “Before, they’re kind of dumbfounded. They don’t know what you’re
Mario Botta for Caran d’Ache As a child, I believed my mother’s desk drawer to be filled with the secrets of adulthood. It was always a thrill when I could peak inside, poring over packets of Dextrosol lozenges and cigarette filters. But there were two things in there that I remember more vividly than the rest: a black Caran d’Ache Fixpencil with a retractable graphite nib and an oxblood-coloured Fixpencil sharpener. Nothing in my world quite matched these precise instruments – “architect’s instruments”, as I was told at the time. The sharpener looked nothing like any sharpener I had ever seen. It was bell-shaped with a globular top that pivoted around a central point. If you stuck a pencil into it and swirled it around (even with imprecise, childish movements), it always come out piercingly sharp. I was never allowed to use either instrument very much – maybe that’s why they stuck with me. It wasn’t until I was shown these two new versions of the Fixpencil, designed as a limited edition by Swiss architect Mario Botta for Caran d’Ache, that the memory of holding my mother’s Fixpencil came flooding back to me. Words Johanna Agerman Ross
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Cover of Slow Burn City, courtesy of Macmillan Publishers.
Slow Burn City: London in the Twenty-First Century Words Will Wiles Rowan Moore turns his hand to the unenviable task of plotting Londonâ€™s present-day problem with growth and the siren call of architecture.
expected population of the city by 2030, against the 8.5 million of today. Former mayor Boris Johnson was fond of it, as both a brag and a cudgel to use against anyone concerned about the pace and manner of development. The architecture critic Rowan Moore also uses it in his new book Slow Burn City as a warning, supporting his plea for shrewder planning of the capital. From his position at The Observer, Moore dispenses some of the best architecture writing available today. He is timely, angry and funny. In recent
The crash of 2008 was barely a pothole for London – the city carried on building and continues to build. In 2015, more than 250 towers of 20 storeys or more were planned or under construction in the city. years he has been among the sharpest and most persistent critics of the new London emerging under all those cranes: its homogenised towers, its privatised public realm, its fits of hideous oligarchitecture. A hefty book on the subject of London by Rowan Moore was a pleasing prospect indeed. Here, for
30 St Mary Axe, “the Gherkin” by Foster + Partners, in the City.
The Tate Modern, by Herzog & de Meuron, on the South Bank.
instance, on the subject of Boris Johnson’s ludicrous parting gift to the city, the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Garden Bridge: “It was Potemkin infrastructure, pantomime planning, costume-drama problem solving. It was a weapon of mass distraction: the same mayor who did little to stop the ratissage of London’s airspace with mipimist towers could cast himself as one casting flowers on the Thames, the bestower of what [Joanna] Lumley called ‘a tiara on the head of our fabulous city’.” That’s Moore on form: flair, quick-fire wordplay, acid wit, apt neologism and a trip to the (French, in this case) dictionary – ratisser: to rake or scrape. Liberated from the confines of his newspaper column, Moore might have been expected to drill down, to dig towards the story behind the story, to finally get into the context and underpinnings that journalists can usually only admire as they trim it from their copy, a wistful look in their eyes. Instead, Moore wanders. Literally, in the case of the book’s introduction: a scenic stroll through London Zoo, then up to Primrose Hill. When he does get drilling, he overshoots and ends up in Joseph Bazalgette’s 19th-century sewers – a fascinating story, and well-told here, but well-told elsewhere too. Slow Burn City begins as a slow burn indeed. But Bazalgette is there to serve Moore’s thesis: that London, forever wrestling with progress, has been the venue for remarkable structural and spatial creativity, and recapturing that spirit can help us address the city’s present conundrum. “London’s genius is to be a City of the Present, too pragmatic to be a utopian ideal of the future, too messed-up to be a model from history, but able to give
All photographs courtesy of Rowan Moore.
London is in the grip of a fascinating paradox. Outwardly, by every conventional indicator, the city is experiencing screaming success. Never has it been home to so many people, never has it been so prosperous – an astonishing feat, given that as recently as 25 years ago it was widely regarded as an ungovernable, unsolvable basket case. The city that once looked certain to forfeit its global eminence and drift into seedy provincialism, or even terminal decline, is now (once again) pre-eminent: London can convincingly claim to be the greatest city in the world. On the architecture side, the transformation is every bit as dramatic. Looking back a quarter of a century, we see an inert city, trapped in sterile style wars, in which tiny projects – such as a flower stall by CZWG in Westbourne Grove – were clung to as comforting splinters of a possible civility amid a sea of dross. As for today, it’s easy to lose sight of how many signature buildings London has acquired since the turn of the millennium. If you want a one-second establishing shot that sets your movie in the capital, you could use Renzo Piano’s Shard, Norman Foster’s Gherkin, Marks Barfield’s London Eye, or the ensemble of Herzog & de Meuron’s Tate Modern and Arup and Foster’s Millennium Bridge. Or the Dome. Or the Olympic Stadium. The crash of 2008 was barely a pothole for London – the city carried on building and continues to build. In 2015, more than 250 towers of 20 storeys or more were planned or under construction in the city. Here’s the paradox. London, in its triumph, also feels stricken, failing, in trouble. This is sensed most acutely in the capital’s housing crisis – the inability of many to find an affordable and comfortable place to live, the generation excluded from home ownership, the poor and vulnerable people driven out of the city by callous government policy and the wrecking ball, the resurgent pockets of overcrowding and squalor. Other problems spiral from that: choking air, crammed tubes and buses, much-loved independent businesses and venues disappearing, social housing and public space in retreat, and an advancing tide of slickness and priciness. In recent years the figure “10 million” has slunk into discourse about London – it’s the
shape to whatever forces are running through the world.[...] To be optimistic, [London] also has in its present state – as it has in the past – the potential to generate responses to the social and economic forces that belong in the present. Such responses would be provisional, as they always have been, but they would also have the ability to create new models for cities almost everywhere.” The places where Slow Burn City catches alight are when Moore addresses the follies of our present situation: the calculated social vandalism of the Heygate estate redevelopment, for instance, or the cavernous basements of iceberg homes, or the Alice-in-Wonderland logic of house-price inflation. There, Moore the rapier critic is free to slash and jab, and does fine work. But then it’s back to the origin of the Underground railway, or onto fog. Naturally, there is much about housing, the city’s master-problem and obsession. But some of this takes the form of long lists: of housing estates, of London typologies. This is very entertaining in Moore’s hands, but it’s almost as if he were torn between two very different kinds of book: the scathing modern-day denunciation he clearly wants to write and we want to read; and the softerfocus London-enthusiast book, which is lovely but already plentiful elsewhere. Was this the result of an editor trying to sweeten the polemical pill, or an understandable effort to get London out of the system in a single book? This conflict leads to odd choices. Very recent history gets skated over in favour of enticing byways from the past. Steen Eiler Rasmussen, a Danish architect who in the 1930s wrote London: The Unique City, a perceptive study of London’s distinctiveness, is given bizarre prominence – his index entry is twice as long as that of Boris Johnson, who is an oddly fleeting presence given his substantial responsibility for the city’s present malaise. Also barely in evidence is Terry Farrell, almost certainly the most influential architect in the city today (whether we like the fact or not). Moore is a naturally witty writer, in particular when delivering a sting to a deserving target, but he also has a penchant for the publishing equivalent of dad-jokes. Discussing the phenomenon of “buy to
leave” homes, purchased as investments and kept untenanted, he runs a picture of “a luxury development in Knightsbridge, at 8 o’clock last night”: a black rectangle. Later, the same joke is repeated, this time with a grey box, about fogs. Slow Burn City sketches London’s present problems well – and goes further than most in suggesting remedies. But it fails to get under the skin of the causes of those problems – ideology, economy, politics, the intentions of the individuals responsible. It does not move very far beyond the first draft of history offered by journalism. A more pronounced argumentative framework might have
especially that of residential property”. This runs counter to the city’s natural tempo, he argues: “London, with its adaptability, its variegation and its areas of slackness and redundancy, has long been an outstanding example of a slow-burning city, but its phases of growth and crisis have also had their drastic aspect.” This isn’t hugely convincing. In Moore’s own description, the rhythm of the city’s history comes across as more drastic than slow-burning. Phases of unchecked growth lead to crisis and then to large-scale public intervention. London has long been a laboratory for many
Arnold Circus in Shoreditch is one of the first social housing projects in Britain.
helped and Moore’s “workshop of solutions” approach doesn’t quite rise to the task. The concept that gives the book its title, that London is a “slow burn city”, demonstrates the uncertain effect of the enterprise. “Burning” is the process by which cities change: “They renew through consuming themselves. Districts are remade and repurposed, populations churn, buildings are adapted or demolished or rebuilt.” Ideally, Moore says, cities should “burn” slowly, but London is “consuming itself with accelerating voracity”, ferociously pursuing “the conversion of all qualities into investment value,
of modernity’s most extreme ailments and prescriptions. The present day is no exception: as Moore observes, we are watching the turbo-charged financialisation of the urban fabric and its contents, to a degree hitherto unknown anywhere in the world. Boldly, and to his credit, Moore ends with a list of proposals aimed at easing the housing crisis and preserving what’s best about the city. This is bold because it presents a handy way for cynical critics to attack the book without addressing what it has to say about the present situation. There are grounds for quibbling, certainly. Broadly, however,
Moore’s ideas are solid and sensible – in particular the need to intensify London’s low-density suburbs and build up dreary arterial roads lined with 1930s semis. A searching eye should be cast over green-belt land. Rubber-stamp planning departments require new hands and a new mission. He concludes on a hopeful note: “There are reasons to think that London can direct itself better. The campaigns by Richard Rogers and others for better
To put it more crudely: yes, architects can make the city nicer and better. In doing so, they will make it more desirable, attract more people, drive up investment returns and make everything worse. design and public realm have left the importance of such things written into policy, into the behaviour of property companies and into the job descriptions of public officials.” Here, however, the wheels of the modern London paradox start to turn – the horrible contradiction within any architectural prescriptions for the city. This haunts Slow Burn City – possibly explaining the constant qualifying and hedging in the prose, the subject-changing – but never really comes into view. The runaway investment boom in London has, in part, been driven by architecture and design. It’s not just because of the tired old “creative cities” idea that investors and wealthy people are attracted to places with vibrant art and design scenes, although that plays a part. It’s in that line about the behaviour of the property companies: they, and the agents of property, and the politicians and newspapers that smile upon their work, have become immensely skilled at harnessing architecture and design for the purposes of ramping up value. To put it more crudely: yes, architects can make the city nicer and better. In doing so, they will make it more desirable, attract more people, drive up investment returns and make everything worse. No one
is doing anything wrong, but everything continues to go wrong. When Moore points to recent London architecture he likes, such as Eric Parry’s Aldermanbury Square building at London Wall (a genteel, Stirling-nominated office block completed in 2007), he has not found a solution, but merely a place where the problem is less offensive. And I think he might see that, because he havers and mutters around what has actually been achieved by Parry: “This is a building with little desire to challenge the status quo, but to make the most of it. Which, often, is the role architecture plays: it serves the power and money that created it and cannot without hypocrisy pretend otherwise, but can work on, negotiate and expand the interactions with the people who use and experience it.” The problem is the logic of growth itself. Ten million by 2030 – OK, let’s work to address that. But what comes next? Twelve million? Twenty? Is there an upper limit? What is the alternative? Make the city a nastier place to live, in the hope of blowing off some of the froth? In bleak moments it’s tempting to play with the idea – Berlin has some hardcore anti-gentrification and anti-tourism movements. But a good city is also a welcoming city, one that says, come. Pulling up the drawbridge just creates sharp new divisions of have
and have not. One thing is made painfully clear by this brave and entertaining, albeit muddled, book: architecture doesn’t have the solution. It might even be part of the problem. Slow Burn City: London in the Twenty-First Century by Rowan Moore is published by Picador, £20.
Eric Parry’s Aldermanbury Square building at London Wall.
Return to Sarajevo Words Oli Stratford Photographs Fabian Frinzel
It has been more than 20 years since the breakup of Yugoslavia, yet Bosnia and Herzegovina remains locked in the devastation caused by the resultant war. Now, however, a design-led resurrection of the nation’s former furniture industry is beginning to serve as a mechanism for social change.
Bijela Tabija, the rumoured birthplace of Sarajevo, sits in the foothills of the Dinaric Alps. It was built in the medieval period as a fortress, a bastion for the forested valley out of which the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina grew in the 15th century. Today, Bijela Tabija is a ruin, the surrounding scrubland given over to goats, but from its foundations Sarajevo remains visible in its entirety, advancing east to west along the brown Miljacka river. Below the fortress is the old town, the site of the Baščaršija marketplace. It’s a labyrinthine blend of the authentic and touristic – the stone mosque courtyards are old, the shisha bars new – and woven throughout are coppersmiths and souvenir stalls that muster enough sense of the souk to bespeak the region’s 15th- through 19th-century existence under the Ottomans. As Baščaršija opens onto Ferhadija Street, the 19th and early-20th centuries appear, bringing with them the dominion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A compass motif in the pavement reads “East/West: Sarajevo Meeting of Cultures” and the bazaar backs away, ceding ground to the Viennese townhouses that make up the midtown. Spot the neo-orientalist Vijećnica city hall, replete with its facade of Moorish mille-feuille, or the grand secessionist residences stately in soft pastels. Yet the Austro-Hungarians don’t have it their own way for long. Continue west and up rises socialism, the townhouses thinning out for the great, grey sleeper blocks that line the avenue to the airport. These are the remnants of Yugoslavia, the now-dissolved state that Bosnia served as a constituent republic of for much of the 20th century. Seen from Bijela Tabija, the architecture reads as a timeline. Sarajevo is a self‑excavating city, carving itself into sedimentary layers that reveal an urbanist’s syncretic history of Bosnia. It’s a settlement whose architecture flows in tandem with its past. Further blurring of time and space occurs up close in Sarajevo’s built environment. Near to the sleeper blocks is the History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a monolith designed by Boris Magaš, Edo Šmidihen and Radovan Horvat that opened in 1963. The structure is a feat of modernism, its two rectangular stone volumes kept apart by a glazed central atrium, above which the building cantilevers precariously. The architecture is beautiful, but damaged. The roof has decayed and the concrete is pockmarked, shot through with bullets and shell damage from the
A view down one of the narrow sidestreets in Sarajevo’s Ottoman old town.
heavy fighting that occurred more than 20 years ago during the Siege of Sarajevo. Between April 1992 and February 1996, the city was held hostage to sniper fire and prolonged shelling in one of the chief military operations of the war that arose between the region’s Bosniak, Serb and Croat ethnic groups. It is a war that left 100,000 dead and which saw genocide committed on European soil for the first time since the Holocaust. Its effects are still visible everywhere in the city. “I remember how this building once looked,” says Amar Karapuš, one of the History Museum’s curators. “So its present state is hard to take.” The effect of the war has been well-documented, yet the difficulty Karapuš describes is not so much the destruction it wrought, but rather the sense of stasis it continues to represent. “What you’ve got to understand about Bosnia is that there was a war 82
“We used to have really big industrial systems. Now we’re starting again. In the last few years it’s started to come alive.” —Salih Teskeredžić
The Festina Lente bridge over the Miljacka River. The bridge is in front of Sarajevo’s Academy of Fine Arts.
Sarajevoâ€™s architecture is a blend of styles: Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Yugoslavian. Mixed in amongst these are occassional outliers, like the green and orange, postmodernist Papagajka building (right).
Much of the old town is given over to tourist shops selling souvenirs and copper trinkets. Elsehwere, the city reveals a darker side: bulletholes left over from the war remain common.
and they stopped the war, but the war wasn’t finished,” says Irfan Redzovic, a Sarajevo-based photographer and design entrepreneur. “What was left was so fucked up.” The Dayton Agreement of 1995 brought an end to the fighting, dividing the country along broad ethnic lines into the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Republika Srpska. Since then it has served as a patched-up constitution, albeit one that has largely failed. Its inefficiency and indulgence of “widespread corruption” was cited by the European Commission as a continued barrier to Bosnia’s entry into the EU, yet efforts to reform it consistently stall, lost among political malaise and inactivity. GDP is relatively low – $18.52bn for a nation of 3.8 million people – while unemployment is high. At present, 27.6 per cent of Bosnians are out of work, rising to 62.7 per cent among the young. Emigration is endemic, particularly among the educated, of whom around 10,000 leave each year. The quality and sustainability of public finances has also deteriorated, with essential services left underfunded. Even a national resource like the History Museum receives little state support. “We have to do everything on our own and the government does nothing,” says Karapuš. “People think that Yugoslavia represented the best years of their lives because they’re disappointed with what followed.” There are contemporary buildings in Sarajevo, but the view from Bijela Tabija seems to end with Yugoslavia. The violence of the war may have finished, but the brake it represented on Bosnian society has yet to be fully released. “This city,” says Redzovic, “is a monument to the war.” There is a desire to move beyond this stasis. Prior to the collapse of Yugoslavia, one of the region’s major industries was furniture manufacture. Mass-produced wooden pieces, made chiefly in Bosnia and Slovenia, were shipped in vast quantities to the US, Middle East and Western European markets. Liberated by the 1950s policy of socialist self-management, the Yugoslavian furniture industry began to blossom,the country functioning as a proto-China of the late-20th century. In 1982, the Bosnian lumber conglomerate Šipad reported sales of $1.5bn and by 1992 the Bosnian wood industry accounted for 10 per cent of gross national income. It was a figure that collapsed when half of Bosnia’s industrial capacity was lost in the war, yet the remaining infrastructure is now being used by a series of private initiatives to provide a basis for rejuvenating the furniture industry. “In the pre-war
Kenny van Halderen, Salih Teskeredžic and Zlatko Tanovic, the founders of Gazzda.
time we used to have really big industrial systems, but that faded away,” says Salih Teskeredžić, a Bosnian designer and the co-founder of the Sarajevo-based furniture brand Gazzda. “Now we’re starting again. In the last few years it’s started to come alive.” Since 2010, a trio of design-led Bosnian furniture brands – Gazzda, Artisan and Zanat – have broken into the international market, with smaller companies springing up around them. “In 2009 there were no Bosnian manufacturers at the IMM trade fair in Cologne,” says Zlatko Tanovic, one of Teskeredžić’s partners in Gazzda. “This year there were 15. That’s remarkable.” It’s an increase that is significant not only for present-day Bosnian furniture design and manufacture, but also for what it suggests might happen next. Monica Förster is a Swedish designer 86
“In 2009 there were no Bosnian manufacturers at the IMM trade fair in Cologne. This year there were 15.” —Zlatko Tanovic
Gazzda develops its products in Sarajevo. Production is then outsourced to factories around Bosnia.
and the creative director of Zanat. “Bosnia is not a very big country,” she says, “so let’s say that we were able to create a design hub here. It’s a huge goal, but maybe in such a small place it could be possible to change a country’s GDP through design and manufacture. Let’s see.” There are historical reasons for Bosnia’s role as a centre for furniture manufacture. The first is an abundance of raw material, as well as a pool of skilled and semi-skilled labour. The woods that line the Sarajevo valley are not unusual. Around half of the country is forested, prompting a tradition of localised woodcraft that underwent industrialisation from the Austro-Hungarian period onwards. “That history of woodworking and know-how gives us an advantage,” says Orhan Nikšić, the CEO of Zanat and a former economist with the World Bank. “Labour costs are low in Bosnia compared to the rest of Europe and we can add things to products in terms of woodwork which would be prohibitively expensive elsewhere.” While the nation’s domestic market may be small – the result of both its limited population and the fact that low labour costs go hand in hand with low spending power – the infrastructure is in place for a robust export market. It always has been. In 1983, Resad Hasandedic, Šipad’s furniture export manager, set out the conglomerate’s plans in an interview with The New York Times: “Ten years ago 90 per cent of our exports were sawed timber and boards. Last year, 50 per cent were finished products.” The allure of creating furniture rather than selling timber was straightforward: finished objects have far greater value than raw materials. In addition, Yugoslavia was further boosted by its geographical position, something that contemporary Bosnian brands are beginning to exploit again. “We’re in Europe, which is a big selling point for a furniture manufacturer,” says Redzovic, who is currently working to launch Šuma, a design-led children’s furniture brand. “More and more often people are refusing to buy what’s made in China, so Bosnia is well-placed to capitalise.” Yet in spite of these virtues, there is an essential paradox around Bosnian furniture production. Tanovic sums it up well: “The will and means of production are there. The raw material is there,” he says from an empty attic room in Sarajevo’s Academy of Fine Arts. “The hardest part is the design.” Even in the Yugoslavian furniture industry’s heyday, the country’s success was principally based
Monica Förster’s Unna chair for Zanat (top), and Gert Wingårdh and Sara Helder’s Tattoo stool.
on quantity rather than quality. Designers such as the Slovenian Niko Kralj – whose 1952 moulded plywood Rex chair has enjoyed a production run of 2m pieces – were active, yet large parts of the industry remained sceptical about their impact. “Convincing someone to make an investment in design was difficult because it’s quite an uncertain return,” says Nikšić. “If you bought a physical asset, at least it always had some value, whereas design was seen as risky.” It still is. Nina Mršnik is one of the co-founders of Kobeiagi Kilims, a young design brand producing traditional woven rugs in Bosnia. “The factories in Bosnia have always just made things from when they last had a designer, which was in the 1950s,” she says. “To move things forward they really need to embrace creative people who can make new designs.” Mršnik’s concern is shared by Sandin Međedović, a graphic designer who originally trained as a product designer at Sarajevo’s Academy. “When I finished studying 10 years ago I just couldn’t see the prospective of product design work in Bosnia, because nothing was happening back then,” he says. “The industry didn’t see the value. I think we’ve always had good people here, but to be a designer in Bosnia you’ve had to have a do-it-yourself mentality. There’s been a distrust of design from the industry.” Međedović’s observation captures the key asset of the Bosnian ventures now emerging: these brands have grounded themselves in design, and in so doing proposed a model for Bosnian manufacture based upon value added rather than quantity shipped. Zanat works with international designers such as Förster, Ilse Crawford and Harri Koskinen, while Artisan manufactures pieces from the Croatian design collective Grupa and the New York-based Karim Rashid, among others. Both brands also work with Teskeredžić, who currently creates nearly all of Gazzda’s products.1 “The difference to Yugoslavia is that you have brands feeding in high‑end design, whereas before you didn’t have any,” says Nikšić. “In spite of the production here, Bosnia has never been a design brand in the way that Scandinavia 1 A small number of Gazzda’s pieces are executed by Mustafa Čohadžić, Teskeredžić’s former student from Sarajevo’s Academy of Fine Arts. 2 A fine example of this is the fact that until recently, Zanat went by the name of Rukotvorine. “‘Rukotvorine’ means handicraft, and ‘Zanat’ means craft, so they’re more or less the same thing,” says Nikšić. “But Zanat is much easier for an international audience to say than Rukotvorine.”
Orhan Nikšic in the Zanat showroom in Konjic. The showroom includes a mixture of contemporary pieces and traditional carved furniture.
and Italy are. There’s never been a clear identity or strategy to push that.”2 Yet curiously it is Nikšić who represents an avenue that Bosnian design might look to for a lineage. Orhan and his brother Adem, Zanat’s director, are thirdgeneration furniture makers. Since 1927, the Nikšić family has run a series of wood workshops in Konjic, a town 60km south of Sarajevo on the Neretva river. Konjic is quaint and beautiful – the Neretva is teal in the rain; the surrounding mountains Tolkienian; and the town positively Mediterranean with its white facades and terracotta roofs – yet its major employer is Igman, a munitions factory whose output declined sharply in the aftermath of the Bosnian war. Only recently has it recovered – “Thanks to the unfortunate situation in Syria,” adds Nikšić. Yet Konjic would prefer you not to think that its identity lies in munitions; Konjic, as the sign on the mountainside road in tells you, is a woodworking town.
“It’s a huge goal, but maybe in such a small place it could be possible to change a country’s GDP through design and manufacture.” —Monica Förster
Ornate hand carvings are a hallmark of the Bosnian Konjic style, developed in Konjic during the interwar years.
It flourished between the First and Second World Wars as the progenitor of the Bosnian Konjic Style, a type of ornate wooden furniture covered in intricate hand carvings featuring delicate flora and Arabesque geometries. There are hexagon peškun tables, replete with minaret-style arches; heavy sečija cupboard wall benches; and tronožacs, three-legged stools, all covered in geometrical rose and grapevine motifs built up from careful, handmade chisel marks.3 It’s a good embodiment of the country’s history as a hybrid of eastern Ottoman and western Austro-Hungarian; an aesthetic and approach that feels authentically Bosnian. “It’s a style that’s very popular with the diaspora,” says Armin Nikšić, Orhan’s cousin and the proprietor of the Braća Nikšić (“Nikšić Brothers”) workshop in Konjic. “It gives people an emotional connection to the past. If there’s a traditional Bosnian design style, this is it.” What sells within the diaspora is not necessarily popular elsewhere. “The market for it is mainly domestic,” says Nikšić. “To give you an idea of who is buying it, I think every ambassador who comes to this country has visited our showroom.” Aiming to expand their furniture’s appeal, Orhan and Ardem devised Zanat’s central idea: pairing traditional Konjic woodworking with contemporary design to create solid wood furniture suitable for the international market. The resultant designs are minimal and Nordic, enlivened by hand carvings that serve as either decoration or texture. Förster’s Unna dining chair features a loop of chisel marks on its backrest that recall fish scales; Gert Wingårdh and Sara Helder’s Tattoo stool is carved with complex stained iconography across its legs and seat; and Teskeredžić’s Daisy side table has a constellation of rosettes across its centre. “The idea is the carvings become an essential part of the design,” says Nikšić. “We liked the shape and design behind modern products, but thought it could be combined with carving to add an extra layer to the design.” Ermin ‘Céra’ Ljevo, a senior carpenter at Zanat, makes the same point in more poetic fashion: 3 Konjic woodworking has been nominated for inclusion on the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage List. “We’re very optimistic,” says Nikšić. “We applied before and didn’t get it because of the lack of a good government strategy for the protection and promotion of the craft, but we’ve moved forward a lot now. I think we’ll get it.”
“I see the carvings as a nice decoration for the product,” he says. “When a beautiful bride is getting married, she still puts on a beautiful dress.” The fact that the bulk of Zanat’s designers are Scandinavian results from Nikšić’s assessment of the region as a design brand in and of itself. Since the Design in Scandinavia touring exhibition of 1954‑1957, the region has been a byword on the international market for “design”, such that Nordic minimalism established itself not so much as a school of contemporary design, but rather the school – a template that the discipline has returned to again and again throughout the 20th and 21st century. When it started, Zanat had Bosnia’s history of woodcarving, but lacked a contemporary sensibility. By turning to Scandinavia and its designers, the company secured this input as a matter of practical consideration and a symbol of the company’s intent. Zanat, the message ran, was in step with the wider industry; Bosnian brands were now design brands. “The main idea behind the Zanat project is to move it away from being a craft company towards being design-led,” acknowledges Förster. “Our approach has been to simplify and modernise the company, but to still use the essential way in which they were already working. The appeal of working in Bosnia for a designer is that it feels non‑explored; it’s a place with in-between shapes and in-between spaces that represent a real opportunity for design.” Zanat’s products are largely produced by hand at a workshop just outside Konjic: there are no CNC machines, and automation is limited, something with considerable ramifications given the society in which Zanat operates. In 1892, the art historian John Ruskin used his essay ‘The Nature of Gothic’ to set out the ur-argument against the dehumanising effect of unchecked industrialisation (and by implication automation) on society, an idea later taken on by William Morris, Martin Heidegger, and Richard Sennett, among others. “It is not, truly speaking, the labour that is divided; but the men,” Ruskin wrote. “Divided into mere segments of men - broken into small fragments and crumbs of life[…] It can be met only by a right understanding[…] of what kinds of labour are good for men, raising them, and making them happy.” Once the Victorian melodrama is pared back, Ruskin’s basic notion that some forms of production are bad for society and that, by implication, some
The countryside surrounding Konjic is typical of Bosnia. Around half of the country is forested, providing an abundant supply of wood as a raw material for the furniture industry.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire was a driving force in pairing Konjicâ€™s history of carved folk art with the countryâ€™s furniture industry. The town is now celebrated for its production of carved wood furniture.
good, still resonates. At Zanat, a number of Ruskin’s ideas are being played out in a contemporary economic context. In January 2016, the World Economic Forum in Davos predicted that automation will contribute to a net destruction of 5.1m jobs over the next five years. Yet if jobs are being destroyed faster than they are being created, what impact does this have on a country like Bosnia where employment is already low? The Italian designer and artist Bruno Munari observed in 1966 that industrial design was simple “planning done without preconceived notions of style, attempting only to give each thing its logical structure and proper material, and in consequence its logical form[…] It is therefore a question of coherence.” Fifty years on, that definition is worth adding to – a topic that brings the economist in Nikšić to the fore. “We all like minimal modern design, but nobody really asks why it became minimalist,” he says. “I don’t believe it was because of any such thing as an aesthetic force. Rather, it was the result of socio-economic trends. You needed simpler designs that were conducive to mass-scale industrial production, which was democratic because it was done at a time when you could create many jobs in factories. So it was an approach that worked for that society. But now when everything is produced by robot, does it still make sense to think of production and design in the same way? I think it doesn’t. Technology and labour are often competing inputs in production because where labour is more expensive, it makes sense to be technologically advanced. But it doesn’t make sense for Zanat to be as technologically advanced as, say, a Finnish company, because objects cost the same to make labour-intensively in Bosnia as making them elsewhere by machine. So it makes sense to make production more labour-intensive in Bosnia, because that creates jobs. It’s good for the society.”5 In other words, Munari’s argument for coherence can be broadened out beyond a product itself to cover all aspects of its production and the resultant social implications. Design ought to be as interested in the logical form of processes as it is in the
logical form of objects. “Universal sustainability,” paraphrases Nikšić. Zanat’s social edge is pronounced, but not unique among the new Bosnian furniture brands, all of which conceive of design and manufacture as a potential force in shaping society. It was a trend initiated back in 2007 with the foundation of the first contemporary Bosnian design brand. “Everything about design in Bosnia started with Artisan,” says Redzovic. “They paved the way by proving that design in the Balkans could be done. Before Artisan, there was nothing.” Artisan was founded by Fadil Custovic, a Bosnian entrepreneur who had cut his teeth in design through a relationship with Pilat&Pilat, a Dutch brand that outsourced its production to Bosnia in the 2000s. “Furniture production in Bosnia at that time was generally for large clients like Ikea,” says Custovic. “We executed their designs, often producing semi‑finished products that were not technologically demanding and which had a questionable profit. But I wanted to develop my own furniture collection because I realised that we had the skills and the know-how. At first, we received negative comments from people in the industry – ‘Since when was Bosnia a design country?’ – but over time we managed to break those prejudices.” Producing contemporary, Nordic-inflected furniture – with production operating out of a former Yugoslavian production facility in Tešanj in the north of the country – Artisan set the pattern that other Bosnian companies now follow. Despite its early links to Pilat&Pilat, the key external input came from international development agencies such as USAID, bodies which provided funding to support the purchase of new technologies like CNC, as well as wider investment in design. USAID’s reasons for investing in design in Bosnia were predominantly social. The EU had previously emphasised Bosnia’s need for a bolstered private sector (“stronger and sustainable economic growth will require the development of a more dynamic private sector”) and a 2012 USAID strategy report makes clear that design was to be a key factor in this, citing constraints to growth such as low productivity and poor-quality products and recommending the use of computerbased design techniques to improve consistency and enable more complex product designs. “[Bosnia’s] wood processing industry could capture a larger size
5 A 1998 report from the International Crisis Group titled The Konjic Conundrum made the following recommendation for improving postwar life in the town: “donors should shift their assistance from housing projects to job creation and training programmes.” It is tempting to see Zanat as enacting this recommendation.
of the EU market by improving the quality of products,” it stated. Salih Teskeredžić, who USAID employed as a consultant to help develop its design strategy for Bosnia, puts the idea more plainly. “The goal was just to create a few companies that had their own products,” he says. “If you give an example of a British, Dutch or German brand, people think of them as from a civilised, western country. By contrast, Bosnia seemed something imaginary. We wanted to show that design was possible here, because it creates a path. Now every factory is hiring designers. When your neighbour has any kind of success, it makes people see that they can do it themselves.” Statistics seem to back Teskeredžić up. In 1991, Bosnia’s furniture industry had 46,000 employees; in 2009, that figure stood at 7,900. “By now,” Nikšić suggests, “we can assume that the figure has grown to somewhere under 20,000.” A number of the new brands that have launched in Bosnia exploit this renaissance. Teskeredžić and Tanovic founded Gazzda in 2013 in conjunction with the Dutch entrepreneur Kenny van Halderen. The brand develops prototypes in-house at its Sarajevo studio before working with factories across Bosnia to produce them. “Worldwide, the idea of local industry is getting more and more interesting,” says Tanovic. “If you walk through Brooklyn there are a bunch of brands operating out of garages and consumers are getting used to that. They’re interested in buying from a smaller brand that gives some story, perspective or view on the world.” It’s an arena that Bosnia is in a positon to capitalise on. “The nice thing about working here is that our producers can grow with us,” he says. “We want people to know where we are and where we’re from and where we make things because that matters. People used to think that Bosnian furniture must be shit because it’s Bosnian, but that’s not true. Now, in the past five years, people have started to say ‘Oh, Bosnia: Bosnia has great furniture.’” Challenges still remain however. While Gazzda, Zanat and Artisan have flourished as private ventures, the lack of state support continues to stymie. Italy and Scandinavia’s design industries both arose out of dedicated, state-backed policies and professional groups: the Svenska Slodforinengen was an early champion of design as an economic asset, just as Italy’s golden age of industrial design grew out of the postwar Italian economic miracle. Travelogue
Zanat’s business model relies upon making furniture production labourintensive as a mechanism for job creation in Bosnia.
In both cases, the private sphere relied upon the backing of the public. Not so in Bosnia. “The greatest obstacle so far – and I think this will be the same in the future – has been the state institutions,” says Custovic. “We still have not received any support from the Ministry of Industry and Entrepreneurship and institutions such as the Foreign Trade Chamber do not respond to our letters. With this inaction and lack of understanding for my and similar business models, they could keep Bosnia and Herzegovina at the bottom of any scale that indicates a state’s success.” So where does this leave design in the country? One answer lies back in the hills of Sarajevo, in the Koševo neighbourhood close to Bijela Tabija. It’s here in the north of the city that you find Asim Ferhatović Hase Stadium, a devil’s punchbowl of an arena that is sunk into the hillside. Next door is Parents’ House, a new facility opened in April to provide accommodation for the families of children being treated for cancer at the Sarajevo children’s hospital. It’s a simple, white-clad building, whose four floors jut over and under one another at jolly angles, with coloured panels glinting in the bedroom windows. “Its a place where parents and kids who are not from the city can come and live for however long the treatment lasts,” says Emir Salkić, the founder of the Sarajevo-based practice Normal Arhitektura and the architect behind Parents’ House. “In the past, if the families were from another city, then on top of their child being sick they had to pay for accommodation in Sarajevo. We needed something for them.” Salkić leads a tour of the house. Each room is bright and friendly, each designed by a different local designer or artist. In some rooms the beds become vast moveable forts, whereas in others the space is themed around animals or the sea. An open-plan communal area fills the ground floor, while the roof houses a small community garden. “How easy is it to be a designer or an architect in Bosnia?” asks Salkić. “I would like to rephrase that question: ‘How hard is it to be a designer or an architect in Bosnia?’ We received some state funding to create Parents’ House, but not as much as there should have been. In fact, funding only started when we began to build it – not before – and we still don’t have sufficient funding to be self-sustaining. There is no governmental organisation in Bosnia that covers architects or designers, so the problem is political. To change that is a long process.”
Yet Parents’ House still exists; its presence in Sarajevo is a reminder that design is growing in the country, as well as a symbol of the positive social effects that it might have here. “You have to be a self-starter in Bosnia, but that doesn’t mean that things can’t happen,” says Salkić. “In 2001, a Bosnian film, No Man’s Land, won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Before that, there was no funding for cinema in Bosnia – and now there is. When somebody makes something good, the politicians start to see the potential. And that’s true of all aspects of society. It’s true of sport, it’s true of film. And it can be true of design.” E N D
Sarajevo, May 2016.
An Experiment in Sitting Five structures by Konstantin Grcic for Galerie Kreo
Photographs Florian Böhm Art Direction Annahita Kamali Styling Nicholas Galletti Dancer Adrien Dantou Photography Assistant Vanni Bassetti Location Galerie Kreo, Paris Gallery
The act of sitting has been berated of late, with several reports suggesting that sedentary lifestyles have a far worse effect on our health than previously thought. It was perhaps no surprise to Konstantin Grcic, a designer who has never been a fan of comfort for comfort’s sake. Through projects such as the 360° chair for Magis, Grcic has tried to dispel the myth of the comfortable chair form. Instead, he pushes for an alternative form of more active sitting. In Hieronymus, an exhibition at Galerie Kreo in Paris, Grcic has further explored the process of sitting through a series of five structures that straddle furniture design and miniature architecture. The starting point of this experimentation was an Antonello da Messina painting from the late 15th century that Grcic has long admired. It shows Saint Jerome in his study, an enclosed space conceived for the purpose of reflection that shields him from the external world. Similarly Grcic’s designs – executed in five different materials and techniques – support, embrace, and distrupt the body in equal measure. Here, the dancer Adrien Dantou was invited to reflect, Munari-esque, on Grcic’s structures through physical engagement. 98
Antonello da Messina, Saint Jerome in his Study ÂŠ The National Gallery, London.
The angled seat and footrest of Hieronymus Minero is made from a composite material of concrete and resin developed specially for this piece. Limited edition of eight pieces. Jumper dress by Maison Margiela, trousers by Missoni, trainers by Tommy Hilfiger.
The capsule-like Hieronymus 3D Printed Sand is manufactured in sand and resin in a limited edition of three pieces. Polo shirt by Paul Smith, turtle neck by Boss, trousers by Timberland, trainers are the stylistâ€™s own.
The tubular booth construction of Hieronymus Metal is made from anodised aluminium and comes in a limited edition of eight. T-shirt Intimissimi, trousers by John Galliano.
The seat and shelf that make up the structure of Hieronymus Marble are executed in Carrara marble in a limited edition of eight. Jumper by Drumohr, trousers by Sacai.
The cantilevered Hieronymus Wood is made from walnut in a limited edition of eight. Previous page: Jumper by Timberland, trousers by The Elder Statesman, socks by Intimissimi.
Under the Hammer â€œEveryone in this room has the chance to take part in something special.â€? Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic addresses the salesroom of Phillips auction house. Words Catharine Rossi Report
up in 2012 by three designers who conceive of the auction as a direct-sales platform for experimental work by emerging practitioners. Despite the market’s strength, headline-grabbing sales and emerging innovations, auctions remain something of an oddity in design culture. They are largely absent in critical writing, appearing only in texts focused on equally unfashionable ideas of canons and connoisseurship. In some senses, this is understandable: the elevated prices, editioned exclusivity and borderline functionality of the objects that populate such events appear to be far removed from the everyday concerns and low-cost, large-volume production of the mainstream design industry. Yet design auctions are nevertheless worth talking about. For one thing, they are a relatively new phenomenon. While decorative-arts sales have been held for centuries, auctions dedicated to 20th- and 21st-century design – a shift in terminology and temporal and typological focus – have only been around for a few decades. Together with galleries, fairs and showrooms, they now constitute a broader collectible-design infrastructure born in the art-market explosion of the early-21st century. Auctions stand out in this network for exposing the amount a buyer is willing to pay for design, an indicator of worth that carries weight in the collectible-design market. “The fact that the price is in the public domain serves as an important, if not the only, public record of that designer’s or object’s market value,” notes consultant and curator Libby Sellers, writing in Why, What, How: Collecting Design in a Contemporary Market. “As a result, many dealers and gallerists watch auction prices in order to respond accordingly, gathering information about who is bidding, on what, and for how much.” This information shapes the fortunes of individual designers and also has wider value; it lays bare design’s commodity status, a property often overlooked in design discourse. As such, it foregrounds more general issues, chiefly the role of the market in shaping practice. With its range of objects, its location at Phillips, and its hybrid physical and online sale, Time for Design displayed many of the characteristics of design auctions today. It oﬀers an entry point for understanding what these sales are and how they came about, the changing status of the historic and
Photographs courtesy of Phillips Auction House and Viktor Sjödin for Örnsbergsauktionen.
Sudjic is opening Time for Design, a fundraiser held in London this April to raise £1m towards the £55m target for the museum’s move across the city from Shad Thames to the former Commonwealth Building in Kensington later this year. The event consists of 78 art and design objects donated by collectors, practitioners, galleries and manufacturers. Divided between an evening sale and an online auction that finishes a few days later, the lots range from a Frank Gehry chair estimated at £400 to £600, to an Antony Gormley sculpture expected to reach between £100,000 and £150,000. Those with deep pockets have a chance for their generosity to be immortalised: successful bids over £10,000 will see the buyer’s name carved into a panel that will be displayed in the new museum foyer. “Don’t be shy,” Sudjic proclaims. “Go nuclear with your bids!” Although a one-oﬀ event, Time for Design is no aberration. In fact, it exemplifies a recent growth in the number and prominence of design auctions. In 2015, several sales made the headlines. A limited-edition Marc Newson Lockheed Lounge (c.1990) sold at Phillips for £2.4m, making the daybed the most expensive piece of furniture by a living designer ever sold at auction. Phillips also broke the record for Nordic design, selling Peder Moos’s 1952 one-oﬀ dining table for £602,500. Meanwhile, at Sotheby’s, one of Shiro Kuramata’s 1989 editioned Miss Blanche chairs went for its highest ever price of £269,000. These record breakers highlight broader growth in the sector. The design thinktank DeTnk’s 2015 Collectible Design Market Report revealed a 23 per cent rise in the value and 16 per cent increase in the volume of global sales of design at auction in 2014. These findings are based on results from five of the largest design-dealing auction houses: global heavyweights Christie’s and Sotheby’s, for whom design is a fraction of their art-dominated sales; Phillips, the world leader in 20th- and 21st-century design; Dorotheum in Vienna, one of the world’s oldest auction houses, which has been selling design since 1996; and Chicago design specialist Wright, set up in 2000. These big firms aren’t alone, they’re joined by several smaller initiatives testing the conventions of an overridingly traditional industry. They include Paddle8, a rapidly growing high-value online art and design auction platform established in 2011, and Stockholm’s Örnsbergsauktionen, set
1 Antony Gormley, Small Spall III, 2013, cast iron. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £100,000–150,000 SOLD FOR £158,500
2 Hannah Waldron, Islands, 2012, silk, cotton, linen and wool. Örnsbergsauktionen 2016 Estimate 4,200 SEK SOLD FOR 3,500 SEK
3 Frank Gehry, Cross Check armchair made by Knoll, 1990, maple-veneered wood. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £400–600 SOLD FOR £1,125
4 Simon Klenell, Nattlampa, 2016, brown glass. Örnsbergsauktionen 2016 Estimate 2,500 SEK SOLD FOR 8,400 SEK
5 Herzog & de Meuron, Bird’s Nest chandelier, 2014, fibreglass and reinforced polyester. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £10,000–15,000 SOLD FOR £13,750
6 Mario Bellini, Camaleonda sofa, B&B Italia, 1971, PUR foam and wool-polyamide-cashmere fabric. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £5,000–7,000 SOLD FOR £5,000
7 India Mahdavi, Bishop stool, 2 of 15, 2016, enamelled ceramic. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £500–700 SOLD FOR £875
8 Finn Juhl, dining table FJ44, 1944, Cuban mahogany, Oregon pine and brass. Modern Masters, Phillips Estimate £100,000–150,000 SOLD FOR £98,500
9 Nendo, Cabbage Chair, from a production of 40, 2008, pleated paper. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £10,000–15,000 SOLD FOR £20,000
10 Ron Arad, London Papardelle, 1 of 5, 1992, woven polished stainless steel. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £70,000–90,000 SOLD FOR £89,500
11 Marc Newson, tea and coﬀee service by Georg Jensen, 2016, precious metal, rattan and maple. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £70,000–90,000 SOLD FOR £80,500
12 Thomas Heatherwick, Spun chair, 19 of 35, 2015, polished copper and leather. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £20,000–30,000 SOLD FOR £60,000
13 Stuart Haygarth, Millennium chandelier, 3 of 10, 2006, party poppers, mono line and split shot. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £10,000–15,000 SOLD FOR £23,750
14 Tord Boontje, Petit Jardin chair, 3 of 5, 2006, powder-coated, laser-cut steel and zinc. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £10,000–15,000 SOLD FOR £21,250
15 Ingrid Donat, Bibliothèque Quatre Saisons, 1 of 8, 2015, patinated bronze. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £100,000–150,000 SOLD FOR £117,700
16 Gio Ponti, three modular coﬀee tables, c.1948, marble, brass and tubular brass. Modern Masters, Phillips Estimate £30,000–50,000 SOLD FOR £88,900
17 Paola Petrobelli, Contenitore 1A, 2 of 5, 2016, hand-blown malambra and acquamareglass. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £3,000–4,000 SOLD FOR £3,750
18 Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby, Bodleian chair by Isokon, prototype, 2014, oak and leather. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £2,000 - 3,000 SOLD FOR £1,250
“You turn mass production into an edition, which in some ways is paradoxical, but that is how it works.” —Deyan Sudjic
contemporary designs they feature, and the opportunities and challenges they represent for designers. Chiefly, there are three categories of objects that appear at design auctions: 20th-century pieces; items designed between 2000 and the present; and “wet paint” works, an art-world term to describe artefacts that go straight from studio to auction. The authors of the wet-paint works tend to belong to a fairly small cast of designers who regularly appear in auction. All three were present in Time for Design. Many of the lots were by stalwarts such as Ron Arad, Marc Newson and Thomas Heatherwick, all of whom gained prominence in the 1980s and 1990s as self-production designers, complementing the sale’s focus on limitededition, handmade objects. Also present were Ingrid Donat and Maria Pergay, two French practitioners who concentrate on small-scale pieces; they are little-known in the mainstream industry but are key fixtures in collectible design. These regulars were joined by younger designers such as Paul Cocksedge, Sebastian Cox and Paola Petrobelli, who are well-known in the design press, but less established in an auction context. While Time for Design therefore emphasised the latter two categories of what is sold in a design auction, it was unusual in this respect. Most auctions prioritise earlier 20th-century works, as was the case with Design and Modern Masters, two seasonal sales held at Phillips London in the same week as the Design Museum benefit. Both of these focused on modernist and mid-century works by popular design auctionees such as Eileen Gray, Gio Ponti and Jean Prouvé. All three of these auctions were characteristic in their prioritisation of one-oﬀs, limited editions and prototypes. These typologies prize rarity and genesis in an object’s creation and ownership, as well as enforcing collectible design’s removal from an
industrial ethos. They included a limited-edition bronze shelving unit by Donat, one of several works specially commissioned for the auction by Carpenters Workshop Gallery. Even the mass-produced objects featured in the auction had been customised out of their standardised identity: Michael Anastassiades, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Konstantin Grcic and Jasper Morrison created one-oﬀ versions of lamps they had designed a few years earlier for the Italian lighting firm Flos, while Jonathan Ive and his team at Apple donated an iPad Pro, cover and stylus designed in a bespoke colourway. Sudjic concedes this strategy as part of the auction house’s mercantile logic: “You turn mass production into an edition, which in some ways is paradoxical, but that’s how it works.” Any discomfort caused by this exclusivist strategy is heightened by the presence of modernist design at auction. Several modernist designers, including Le Corbusier and Gray, designed one-oﬀ and editioned luxuries for private patrons. Yet any defence of some of these designers’ inclusion in the auction world rings hollow given that much of their work was intended for egalitarian mass production.1 This particularly clashes with Prouvé, who designed for schools, hospital and barracks, not the private environs of the elite. “It’s kind of depressing,” says Judd Tully, a New York-based art critic. “He made works for the masses, for the public, for poor people, and now they’ve become toys for the rich.” Yet the auction is often a rare public moment for these collectible-design objects, whose lives are mostly spent in the private spheres of the wealthy. Recent innovations, however, indicate that attempts are under way to overcome the exclusivity of auctions and make them more accessible – even if this is more about opening up the market to new buyers, than making the market itself more egalitarian. Again, Time for Design seemed a testbed for these changes: its emphasis on the contemporary; its use of digital tools to market and sell design; and, lastly, its appropriation of some of the fashionability of curating. This last point is worth more detailed consideration, particularly given that promotional material made a point of describing the auction as having been “carefully curated” by both Sudjic 1
While it has some validity, this argument still asserts the elitist values of the auction house over the egalitarian ideology of modernist design.
and Alexander Payne, Phillips’s worldwide director of design. The idea of a curated sale is a new one, yet it’s a strategy that seems to be becoming increasingly popular. This year has seen Sotheby’s London launch its Curated Contemporary series with a contemporaryart auction marketed as “guest curated” by fashion designer Erdem Moralıoğlu, as well as design expert Janice Blackburn’s curation of the International Contemporary Design sale for Paddle8, which featured works by the likes of Anastassiades, Heatherwick and Gareth Neal. As hinted at by its widespread contemporary use, the term “curated sale” is largely a piece of marketing jargon, one that simply describes the objects on display as having been selected by an influential industry figure, rather than signifying any meaningful activity of critically engaged narrative creation. This embracement of curating also speaks of auction houses’ encroachment into new territories. The Design, Modern Masters and Time for Design lots were spread across Phillips’s luxurious multi-storey Mayfair headquarters. With its white walls and wooden floors, the building feels more like a modern art space than a 200-year-old auction house. Lis Darby, an academic at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, agrees: pre-sale shows are “arranged much more like an art gallery, the catalogues [are] bigger and glossier,” she says, as auction houses are “trying to project more of an image of being like an art gallery, much more hip and not the weight of tradition on their shoulders”. They also add cultural gravitas to an ultimately commercial endeavour. The entry of auction houses into digital terrain is also worth unpacking. The Time for Design catalogue could be perused and bid for through its “digital saleroom” website and app, an innovation being rolled out at multiple auction houses. The digital is also transforming the physical auction experience. Many of the Time for Design bidders were not “in the room”, but anonymously located oﬀsite and participating through telephone, internet and commission bids (when an absentee bidder leaves a bid with the auctioneer “on the book”). And while online auctions are not aﬀecting overall sales at higher value auction houses such as Phillips, the growth of the online art market – estimates put its value in 2014 at between $2bn and $4bn – is likely to impact smaller firms. Also worth considering is
the eﬀect of digital in drawing people away from the physical salesrooms in which Phillips and others have so heavily invested. Perhaps curating could have an even bigger role in the future as auction houses seek to find ways to entice people back to their physical sites. Despite these cultural and technological innovations, auctions remain unpredictable aﬀairs. Fortunately, Time for Design surpassed its target and raised more than £1.1m. Many designs met or exceeded their estimates: the top lot was Gormley’s sculpture, which went for £158,500; the iPad sold for £50,000; and Donat’s shelving unit reached £117,700. Yet 12 lots did not reach their reserves and so were unsold (“passes”), including a Tord Boontje lamp and Maria Pergay stool. The same unevenness was true of the online auction. A third of the lots were passes, including the Cocksedge and Cox objects, and many went for below their estimates. Gehry’s 1990 Cross-Check chair was one of only three online lots to surpass its estimate, selling at £1,125. Such surprises are part of the draw of the auction, a piece of theatre the tension of which is diﬀused only by the auctioneer’s repartee and outbreaks of applause following excitable bidding. Nevertheless, Phillips’s results show that contemporary-design auctions tend to produce uneven outcomes in comparison to those focused on 20th-century works. Modern Masters, by contrast, made nearly £5m, breaking several records along the way. Notably it achieved the highest-ever auction price for an Eileen Gray folding brick screen, which sold for £1.48m. The greater stability and prices for 20th-century pieces at Phillips reflects this era’s larger presence at auctions more generally. It’s a tendency rooted in the short but rich history of design auctions. The first significant examples took place in the first half of the 1970s and their focus was firmly on earlier 20th-century design.2 In 1972, Christie’s organised an art-deco auction that helped establish the market for designers such as Le Corbusier and Gray, whose Le Destin screen sold for $36,000, then a record for the Irish designer. Yet by the 1990s the market had grown and expanded its chronological remit. 2
Publications on the history of design auctions are rare. The two key sources, which have provided much of the information for this article, are: Adam Lindemann’s Collecting Design and Libby Sellers's Why, What, How: Collecting Design in a Contemporary Market, edited by Robert Violette.
19 Eileen Gray, folding Brick screen, c.1925, black lacquered wood, steel and brass. Modern Masters, Phillips Estimate £1,200,000–1,800,000 SOLD FOR £1,482,500
20 Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Piani Big lamp, Flos, 2016, aluminium and PMMA plastic diﬀuser. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £8,000–12,000 SOLD FOR £11,250
21 Gio Ponti, coﬀee table, c.1937, burr walnut-veneered wood, walnut and glass. Modern Masters, Phillips Estimate £30,000–50,000 SOLD FOR £50,000
22 Michael Anastassiades, String Light lamp, Flos, 2016, composite fibre, aluminium and steel. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £7,000–9,000 SOLD FOR £16,250
23 Apple iPad Pro, cover, pencil, holder, 1 of 1, 2016, anodised aluminium and aluminosilicate glass. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £10,000–15,000 SOLD FOR £50,000
24 Konstantin Grcic, OK lamp, Flos, 2016, extruded aluminium, PMMA plastic and steel. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £5,000–7,000 SOLD FOR £6,000
25 Jasper Morrison, Superloon lamp, Flos, 2016 gold gilt-plated aluminium and PMMA plastic. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £7,000–9,000 SOLD FOR £11,875
26 Gio Ponti, bench for the Antica Quadreria, Bonacossi Palace, 1930, walnut and brass. Modern Masters, Phillips Estimate £35,000–45,000 SOLD FOR £158,500
27 Marcel Wanders, Bon Bon gold chair, 16 of 20, 2010, crocheted rope, resin and precious metal. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £12,000–18,000 SOLD FOR £30,000
28 Geraldine Prieur, Up To You side table, 1 of 12, 2015, lacquered and natural walnut and brass. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £2,000–3,000 SOLD FOR £2,750
29 Mario Bellini, Opera table by Meritalia, 2014, ebonised wood and glass. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £5,000–7,000 SOLD FOR £3,250
30 Arik Levy, WireFlow Green Random light, 2007, electric cable, brass, aluminium and carbon. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £5,000–7,000 SOLD FOR £6,250
31 Ross Lovegrove, Muon speakers by KEF, edition of 100, 2016, super-formed aluminium. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £80,000–120,000 SOLD FOR £98,500
32 Charles Zana, Nomad stools, edition of 6, 2014, carrara marble and brass. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £2,000–4,000 SOLD FOR £5,000
33 Åsa Jungelius, Baby Blue Sky sconce, 2016, glass, acrylic paint, rabbit fur and pink wig. Örnsbergsauktionen, 2016 Starting price 4,000 SEK SOLD FOR 5,040 SEK
34 Fernando & Humberto Campana, Sushi III chair, edition of 35, 2002. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £4,000–6,000 SOLD FOR £15,000
35 Simon Klenell, Fredrik Paulsen & Kristoﬀer Sundin, Öa hammer, 2016, pear wood and glass. Örnsbergsauktionen, 2016 Starting price 1 SEK SOLD FOR 6,120 SEK
36 Frida Fjellman, Ghost, 2015, mould-blown glass. Örnsbergsauktionen, 2016 Starting price 6,000 SEK SOLD FOR 20,400 SEK
37 Kristoﬀer Sundin / Museum Studio, Fungi, 2016, cast aluminium, acrylic glass and LED. Örnsbergsauktionen, 2016 Starting price 2,400 SEK SOLD FOR 4,920 SEK
38 Thomas Heatherwick, Keep oﬀ the Glass chair, 5 of 12, 2004, hand-blown clear glass. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £3,000–5,000 SOLD FOR £3,250
39 Sylvain Willenz, Shift side table, 10 of 10, 2012, coloured glass. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £1,000–1,500 SOLD FOR £438
40 Martino Gamper, Metamorfosi armchair by Moroso, 2012, plywood, poly foam and fabric. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £6,000–8,000 SOLD FOR £3,750
41 Angelo Lelii, ceiling light no. 12712, c.1960, opaque glass, nickel-plated and painted metal. Modern Masters, Phillips Estimate £10,000–15,000 SOLD FOR £21,250
42 Jorge Penadés, Detournementseries chair, 2016, metal and ash. Örnsbergsauktionen, 2016 Starting price 1,500 SEK SOLD FOR 5,040 SEK
43 Fabien Cappello, Muralpot mural vase, 2014, stoneware and magnet. Örnsbergsauktionen, 2016 Starting price 1,800 SEK SOLD FOR 2,160 SEK
44 Marcel Coard, Canapé Gondole, c.1925, Indian rosewood wood, brass and linen velvet. Modern Masters, Phillips Estimate £200,000–300,000 SOLD FOR £974,500
45 Zaha Hadid, Serif 2 shelf by Established & Sons, 1 of 12, 2006, PUR-lacquered polyester resin. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £7,000–9,000 SOLD FOR £11,250
46 Ivan Da Silva Bruhns, carpet for the Maharaja of Indore’s Manik Bagh Palace, c.1930, wool. Modern Masters, Phillips Estimate £400,000–500,000 SOLD FOR £434,500
47 Wendell Castle, Sirocco chair, 2009, ebonised mahogany. Modern Masters, Phillips Estimate £60,000–80,000 SOLD FOR £64,900
48 Ilaria Bianchi, Duo-Shelf, 2015, Brazilian marble, imperial marble and labrador marble. Örnsbergsauktionen, 2016 Starting price 4,000 SEK SOLD FOR 8,280 SEK
49 Charlotte Perriand, Tunisie bookcase, 1952, oak, pine, mahogany and painted metal. Modern Masters, Phillips Estimate £70,000–90,000 SOLD FOR £98,500
50 Lotta Lampa, Ghost Mirror, 2015, metal and mirror glass. Örnsbergsauktionen, 2016 Starting price 3,000 SEK SOLD FOR 4,680 SEK
51 Michele De Lucchi, Pantographe desk lamp by Hermès, 2014, leather-covered aluminium. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £3,000–5,000 SOLD FOR £5,000
52 Joris Laarman, Bone chair, 4 of 12, 2006, aluminium. Modern Masters, Phillips Estimate £200,000–300,000 SOLD FOR £344,500
53 Wendell Castle, Ulysses table, 2007, nickel-plated steel. Time for Design, Phillips Estimate £7,000–9,000 SOLD FOR £32,500
54 Mia E Göransson, Next to Nature II shelf, 2016, cast porcelain and aluminium. Örnsbergsauktionen, 2016 Starting price 7,000 SEK SOLD FOR 12,000 SEK
Los Angeles Modern Auctions was launched in 1992, prioritising West Coast mid-century designers such as Charles and Ray Eames. Then, in 1999, Christie’s East in New York organised Important Design, featuring works by Marcel Breuer, Mies van der Rohe, Ponti, the Eameses and Arad. Libby Sellers is unequivocal about the significance of the success of this auction: “a real watershed moment…”; the $1.8m it raised in sales was “unprecedented”. The 1990s also saw the development of the contemporary-design market. Galleries such as Moss in New York, which opened in 1994, and Galerie Kreo, established in Paris in 1999, dedicated themselves to exhibiting and commissioning one-oﬀs and limited-edition works, fuelling an appetite for design that gained traction in the growing art market. This was exploited at Phillips by Payne and Simon de Pury, its then chairman, who encouraged the company’s art clientele to develop a crossover taste for design through auctions that deliberately blurred disciplinary boundaries. Significantly, it was Payne who coined the term “design art” in 1999 to describe designs that met art-world criteria in their exclusivity and concept-led craftsmanship. By the millennium, contemporary design art had found its poster boy in an object that continues to epitomise the excesses of design auctions: Marc Newson’s Lockheed Lounge. First produced in 1988, this handmade riveted-aluminium and fibreglass chair exists as an edition of ten, plus four artist-proofs and one prototype. In 1999, a Lockheed Lounge entered auction for the first time, in Christie’s The Chair sale. Although unsold, it found a buyer immediately afterwards. A year later it had better success, selling for a record $105,000 at Christie’s. Its inclusion in the Contemporary Art Evening Sale “caused consternation in the design department” according to Tully. Twentieth-century design continued to dominate the field in the 2000s. In 2009, Gray’s Fauteuil aux Dragons (1917-1919) armchair sold for £19.4m at Christie’s, making it the most expensive work of 20th-century design ever sold at auction. Sales of the Lockheed Lounge and other contemporary designs also grew. In June 2006, the Lockheed prototype sold at Sotheby’s New York for $1.5m, but by now it wasn’t just Newson enjoying the spoils of a booming contemporary-design market. A prototype of Zaha Hadid’s Aqua table, designed for Established
“Every time another Marc Newson or Eileen Gray piece goes up for sale it is front-page news. Young designers see this kind of thing and think they can achieve that overnight.” —Libby Sellers & Sons’ first collection in 2005, went that year for $296,000 at Phillips New York. In 2006, the auctioneer and manufacturer collaborated on a selling exhibition of new work by Hadid, an early example of auction houses’ expansion into the world of galleries and direct sales. This extension also included Phillips’s establishment in 2010 of a retail operation in London, overseen by Brent Dzekciorius, previously of Johnson Trading Gallery and Moss. More sales, higher figures, an explosion of galleries and fairs – no wonder many practitioners embraced the collectible-design market. Dzekciorius recalls designers asking him for advice on how to target their work at collectors. “That was very frustrating to see,” he says. “Make the work: let the work dictate where it will be.” Sellers also remains concerned about the eﬀect of inflated prices on designers. “Every time another Marc Newson or Eileen Gray piece goes up for sale it is front-page news, but all of those pieces have a worthy provenance,” she observes. “Young designers see this kind of thing and think they can achieve that overnight.” Such caution seems wise. “I got a bit seduced,” says one designer, who prefers to remain unnamed. “I sold something, but not for much more than the reserve, and then another failed to sell. Then I realised that you could do yourself quite a lot of harm to be seen to not sell.” The exposure of the auction is a double-edged sword: if designers’ works don’t sell in a gallery no one will know, but at auction their financial worth is laid bare.
If designers’ works don’t
These concerns seem justified in light of the 2008 financial crash. Auctions grabbed headlines then too. On the same day that financial-services firm Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, Damien Hirst launched a wet-paint sale with Sotheby’s. Its £111m total remains the record for a single-artist auction and while the contemporary-art market suﬀered in the ensuing economic crisis, it rebounded quicker and emerged stronger than the smaller, fledgling design market. This fallout has not been suﬃciently scrutinised, but it clearly aﬀected the bigger auction houses and collectible-design infrastructure: Payne abandoned design art in 2008; Sotheby’s stopped its London design sales in 2011; Moss closed in 2012; and in 2013, Phillips stopped its retail operation. This is the situation today’s design auctions are bouncing back from. In November 2015, Sotheby’s reinstated its London design auction. Several international galleries have opened in the city since 2014, including Galerie Kreo and Patrick Seguin. Nevertheless it is still the older works that guarantee sales. DeTnk’s 2015 report finds that while prices for art-deco, modernist and mid-century designs have been rising in the 21st century, post-2000 works experienced a decline in value in 2014. Although the number of sales of contemporary works rose in that year, their average price of £10,126 per lot was the lowest of the design periods. Perhaps the way for contemporary design to excel at auction is not through the big houses, but through smaller initiatives such as Örnsbergsauktionen. This auction, named after the Stockholm suburb it calls home, is distinctive for being organised by three designers: Kristoﬀer Sundin, Fredrik Paulsen and Simon Klenell. “There wasn’t really a community to get together and meet colleagues,” Paulsen says, explaining the thinking behind it. “Also, no one was showing self-produced or experimental design. We really felt the need to show how diverse and interesting the design scene actually is.” In the first year, the auction had 48 lots produced by designers including Anton Alvarez, Folkform and Markus Kayser, ranging from tables and chairs to prints and vases. Even the auction hammer was for sale – a glass and ash confection designed by the organisers and listed at 1 Swedish krona. Örnsberg corresponds with the renewed emphasis on self-production and manual making common among designers today. It’s an approach that presents
sell in a gallery no one will know, but at auction their financial worth is laid bare. a challenge for those entering the system, as their works are often too costly or diﬃcult to produce commercially. Örnsberg is therefore a welcome platform for income generation and experimentation, and it is becoming something of a phenomenon. Now existing online and as a live event, the auction celebrated its fifth year this February, with lots created by designers such as Fabien Cappello, Hilda Hellström and Studio Swine. Just four of the 45 lots went unsold. Örnsberg has gone so well that there is now talk of staging it outside Sweden. Reactions to Örnsberg are mixed: while some of those interviewed for this article are concerned about the auction as a sustainable model for income and career development, others are optimistic, recognising its attractiveness to a younger collecting crowd. Regardless, Örnsberg is certainly an inspiration. In September 2015, Stéphane Arriubergé and Massimiliano Iorio, co-founders of French design firm Moustache, launched Favoris#01, their own version of Örnsbergsauktionen, complete with its design-conscious identity and party atmosphere. Organised in conjunction with Parisian auction house Doré & Giraud, Favoris#01 comprised 100 lots by designers including Jean-Baptiste Fastrez, Mischer’traxler, Studio Swine and Studio Makkink & Bey. Similar to Örnsberg, the emphasis was on aﬀordable pieces too complex to put into production. As Arriubergé and Iorio describe in the catalogue: “released from our customary constraints, we only have to make a list of the designers with whom we dream of working but with whom it is complicated to organise as their productions are technically futuristic or brilliantly handcrafted”. Currently framed as a side project, it will be interesting to see how Moustache positions these experimental works alongside its main product catalogue. Both Örnsbergsauktionen and Moustache's Favoris#01 are small initiatives, and are still defined by the exclusivity that editioned works imply. Yet they
are notable for repurposing the auction as a platform to encourage experimentation seemingly impossible in commercial mass production. What such developments mean for contemporary-design auctions as a whole is unclear. DeTnk reports that the largest growth value currently is in postmodern design, reflecting the general trend for postmodernism among designers today and hinting at an interaction between design auctions and practice that requires more investigation. It is also another warning sign for makers seeking immediate gains in the collecting world through wet-paint pieces: it is clear that there needs to be a time lag for design to gain suﬃcient credibility to attain collectible status. There was no postmodern design in Time for Design. In addition, the poorer success rate of the young designers it featured reaﬃrms that the bigger, more established auctions represent too much of a gamble to oﬀer a stable income stream. Self-initiated sales, by contrast, suggest a promising model for designers and manufacturers to explore, appealing to the desire for one-oﬀ and individual objects among practitioners and consumers, as well as the rise of experiential retail: something that the excited bidding of the live auction, even in its online form, oﬀers. While big auction houses such as Phillips will remain important for the elevated sums they attract – clearly significant for fundraisers such as Time for Design – it will be interesting to see if smaller auctions, and a more diversified sales model, will have a place in the collections and activities of the new Design Museum in the future. E N D
Design Auctions: Selected Key Dates
December!A rare George Nelson Marshmallow
sofa, 1959, sells for $36,000 at Phillips in the Design
September!A second Joy of Living charity auction
November!Christie’s auctions Jacques Doucet’s
& Design Art auction. The inaugural Design Miami/
is held as part of London Design Festival.
art-deco collection. Robert Walker buys Eileen Gray’s
Basel takes place.
February!Örnsbergsauktionen launches. Moss
Le Destin screen for $36,000, a record at the time.
November-December!Established & Sons and
Phillips de Pury New York organise Seamless, an 1975
exhibition and sale of Zaha Hadid’s work in Chelsea.
Philippe Garner holds his first auction in Monaco,
June!A prototype of the Lockheed Lounge sells
Phillips stops its design retail activity.
selling French art-deco and art-nouveau works.
at Sotheby’s New York’s 20th-century Design sale 2014
for $968,000. 1992
December!At Phillips’s The Collector: Icons of 2007
Design, Isamu Noguchi’s the Goodyear Table, 1939,
December!Maria Pergay’s rare one-arm Banquet
sells for $4.5m and the auction earns $14.2m overall.
daybed, c.1967, sells at Phillips New York for
November!Galerie Kreo opens in London.
Moss Gallery opens.
$421,000, far exceeding the estimate of
October!The Ron Arad: Masterworks auction
takes place in Paris, curated by Artcurial – the
October!The LC-1 version of the Lockheed Lounge
first sale of this kind dedicated to a single
Dorotheum in Vienna starts holding bi-annual
sells at Double Vision at Christies, making a then
December!Marc Newson’s Lockheed Lounge
October!An edition of Shiro Kuramata’s Miss
Mallett founds Meta. Payne abandons the term
appears at Christie’s New York’s Masterworks of
Blanche chair sells at Christie’s for £46,000.
Design sale. The work does not sell at auction but
September!Damien Hirst’s two-day Sotheby’s
is sold afterwards to a private buyer. The 51 Wire
sale, Beautiful Inside my Head Forever, breaks the
Chairs auction is organised for La Source charity.
Galerie Kreo is founded.
world record for an auction dedicated to a single
November!Sotheby’s holds its 20th-century Design
May!A Lockheed Lounge appears at Christie’s
artist. Lehman Brothers files for bankruptcy.
auction, its first sale in London since 2011.
London in the one-oﬀ The Chair sale, estimated
May!Wright in Chicago invites Martino Gamper
October!Phillips holds its Design and Nordic Design
at £35,000-50,000; it doesn’t sell but finds a buyer
to create unique and functional furniture made
auctions, realising total sales of £5.2 million. Peder
immediately afterwards. Christie’s East’s sale,
out of shipping crates and other discarded objects
Moos’ 1952 dining table sells for £602,500, making
Important Design, achieves $1.8m with 105 lots.
in the firm’s warehouse for its auction room.
it the most expensive piece of Nordic design ever
June!Sotheby’s and Amazon partner.
April!Phillips de Pury & Company holds its first
sold at auction.
London auction of mid-century and contemporary
September!Moustache hosts its Favoris#01 sale
design, including works by Martino Gamper,
during the Maison&Objet fair and Paris Design Week.
Wright Auctions is founded in Chicago.
Ron Arad, Marc Newson and the Campana brothers.
Paddle8 auctions Murray Moss’s collection. The
Los Angeles Modern Auctions is established.
May!Marc Newson’s Lockheed Lounge sells at
Elephants Never Forget sale takes place during
auction for the first time, at Christie’s Contemporary
London Design Festival.
Art Evening Sale, achieving a record $105,000.
April!A Lockheed Lounge sells for £1.11m.
April 2015!Phillips sets a new auction record for
February!Eileen Gray’s Fauteuil aux Dragons
Newson’s Lockheed Lounge as the most expensive
armchair, once owned by Yves Saint Laurent,
piece of furniture sold by a living designer, realising
Art Basel Miami Beach throws its Art Loves
sells for £19.4m at Christie’s, making it the most
£2.4m from an anonymous bidder.
expensive work of 20th-century design ever
March!Sotheby’s and eBay launch their site
January!Sotheby’s and eBay partner.
sold at auction.
May!Sotheby’s shuts down sothebys.ebay.com.
Phillips launches its design retail operation led
April!Phillips holds its Time for Design (the Design
by Brent Dzekciorius.
Museum fundraiser auction), Design and Modern
May!A 1988 prototype of the Lockheed Lounge
December!A prototype of Zaha Hadid’s Aqua
achieves $2.1m at a Phillips de Pury auction, then
February!Janice Blackburn curates the
table, designed for Established & Sons’ first
a world record.
International Contemporary Design sale for Paddle8.
collection, sells for $296,000. A Noguchi marble, birch and aluminium table sells for a record $630,000.
June!A unique Carlo Mollino oak and glass
Paddle8 and Artspace launch.
table designed for Casa Orengo in 1949 sells
December!An Isamu Noguchi pine sculpture
for $3.8m, then a record for a single piece of
estimated at $3,000-$5,000 sells for $320,500
20th-century furniture design at auction.
at a Wright auction.
Design Miami launches.
September!The Joy of Living charity auction is held
April!Established & Sons is founded.
as part of London Design Festival.
Gender Bias Words Nina Power Illustration Leonhard Rothmoser
I once knew a designer about whom his brother said, “He treats objects like women.” Tickled by this witty remark, I realised that it also revealed something about the gendering of design. Like most industries, design is male-dominated. And we can also say that our image of design is male-dominated – it’s not for nothing that the original “designer” is usually imagined as a giant sky-patriarch. Objects, if they are marketed to women (pink!), were recently revealed to be, on average, 37 per cent more expensive than the same objects marketed to men. So we basically live in a world in which objects are designed by men, women are (still) objectified by men, men pay less for objects and design as such is “male”. Plus, if you’re a woman in Japan and design a kayak that looks like your vagina, you get found guilty of obscenity, as artist Megumi Igarashi recently discovered. Objects 1, Women 0. All this makes the entry of No Sir (no-sir.com), an “independent online shop and design brand showcasing Kickass Female Designers in the field of interior design” founded by Terese Alstin, an intriguing proposition (although why women must always be “kickass”, “feisty” and so on is a little wearing: can’t we just be shit and tired?). As No Sir rightly notes, “Women designers are shockingly under-represented in product and furniture design, either as designers or voices in the discussion about the field.” Featuring more than 50 female designers, and items that range from plates and buckets to tables and the deliriously beautiful rugs of Marlène Huissoud, No Sir is a great move. The pointless gendering of objects should give way instead to the design of objects by women. Long live female objectification!
Cutting Their Teeth Words Johanna Agerman Ross Illustration Leonhard Rothmoser
Since Dieter Rams left Braun in 1995, it’s been difficult to find a toothbrush that doesn’t offend. Rams’s 34-year tenure as director of design for Braun didn’t only involve creating desirably minimalist electrical goods. When Oral-B became part of Braun’s parent company the Gillette Group in the 198os, his duties came to include overseeing the new brand’s design team. For die-hard fans dasprogramm.org, dedicated to all things Rams, has provided a lifeline in the shape of its stock of the discontinued Oral-B Advantage, designed by Peter Schneider and Jürgen Greubel in 1991. The white and orange toothbrush comes in an unopened £5 blister pack, and its description reads: “Out of production because it makes the rest of the Oral-B toothbrush range look bad.” The supermarket and pharmacy aisles dedicated to dental hygiene always give me pause. Where do you begin to look for a decent toothbrush in that sea of cheap duo-tones (which make any bathroom look horrendous), rubber fin grips (perfect for amassing dried toothpaste) and empty promises of white and tartar-free teeth? The toothbrush hasn’t developed significantly since its early mass production by William Addis in London in the 1780s. It’s still a handle with bristles at one end. The material has changed, of course, and some have made the transition to electric, but otherwise development has been limited to nasty branding rather than good design. As such, it was a relief to see Future Facility, a new venture from Industrial Facility, take on the challenge of designing a new electric toothbrush for Braun and Oral-B as part of the Wallpaper Handmade exhibition in Milan during the Salone del Mobile in April. Its tapered handle, shaped a little like a tube of toothpaste, incorporates a smart-order app that connects to your phone to order new bristles. But the delicate and non-showy physical design is its most attractive aspect. Simultaneously, Andreas Engesvik launched a toothbrush for Jordan at HAY’s pop-up shop in Milan in April. Engesvik’s brush has a pared-back design and soft block colours. There isn’t a bendy head or overtly ergonomic grip in site. It was the shop’s best-selling item, suggesting there is a need for change.
Reidentifying the Victoria Line Words Joe Lloyd Photographs Phil Dunlop
“Is it possible to improve the machine?” Last summer, this question was emblazoned above the entrance to Brixton Underground station in London. Posed by the artist Giles Round, it was the symbolic starting point for Design Work Leisure (DWL), a project that aspires to use art and design to enhance the city’s transport network.
DWL is a temporary design studio (“part research facility, part lobby for change”) created for the Underline festival, an ongoing Transport for London (TFL) arts programme that invites artists and designers to develop projects for the Underground’s Victoria line. Led by Round in conjunction with an advisory panel of technical experts, DWL aims to use design to positively intervene in the fabric of the tube, drawing on the Victoria line’s history and pre-existing design in order to improve user experiences. What sort of improvement could DWL implement? The Underline festival is part of Art on the Underground, the arts-sponsorship wing of TFL. “We didn’t want to parachute art in,” says Kiera Blakey, the programme’s curator. “Instead, we wanted to do something that’s really caring and comes from knowing about the environment.” The tube is a functional space whose operation keeps the metropolis running, yet also a historical site with its own distinct aesthetics. With this in mind, DWL’s original question at Brixton could be extended: “Is it possible to improve the machine while respecting past improvements and without disrupting its function?” Round’s answer to this led him to tiling – a quotidian response, but a medium that has played a key formative role in the architectural landscape of the London Underground. When the Central line opened in 1900, it boasted clean white tiles designed to reflect light and alleviate the claustrophobia inherent to suburban spaces. A few years later, the architect Leslie Green clad the exteriors of his numerous station designs across the Piccadilly, Bakerloo and Northern lines in oxblood terracotta tiles. On the platform walls, Green identified each stop with tiles that spelt out the station’s names between colour-coded abstract patterns on an off‑white base. A fusion of the Central line’s functionality with a new decorative dimension, this was the first formal example of art on the Underground. As with Green’s work, the new tiles that Round has developed for the Victoria line make use of abstract patterns. They display chevrons, which evoke motion, as well as striped lines that embody the tube’s linear nature. Taken individually, the tiles are minimal; yet when they are placed in a mural, the tessellations become hypnotic in their patterning, without being overbearing. “The specific goal from the outset was to produce objects that move beyond their function and integrate art with industry,” says Round. The tiles have already been installed on the exterior facade and
the ticket hall at Blackhorse Road, as well as on the walls connecting the escalator landing to the platforms at Victoria – the first time an artwork has been installed at platform level since the 1980s. Vauxhall and Seven Sisters are planned to follow, with the eventual intention of spreading the tiles across the line as each station undergoes routine maintenance. It is a slow, piecemeal approach to improving the space, yet one that stands in dialogue with the Victoria line’s last great experiment in employing tiling and design to improve the user experience. When the Victoria line was built between 1962 and1972, the visual consultancy Design Research Unit (DRU) was hired to develop the new line’s identity. DRU had been founded in 1943 by the advertiser Marcus Brumwell, the poet Herbert Read, and designers Misha Black and Milner Gray, making it Britain’s first multidisciplinary design studio. Active across architecture, graphics and product design, DRU created the British Rail logo, the City of Westminster street signs and seating covers for the District line, thereby establishing design as a powerful tool in shaping postwar British public services. Aesthetically, the practice’s work centred around simple, unified schemes that provided a coherent identity without imposing, as embodied in its founding manifesto: “Like every aspect of modern industry, design should be a co-operative activity.” For the Victoria line, DRU proposed a scheme that featured rounded, white-panelled platform roofs that would be illuminated by slender strips of lighting. It was the kind of light-touch proposal that the practice was known for, and one in keeping with its principle of developing design projects that were “contemporary in spirit and progressive in outlook”. Significantly, the design promoted a distinct identity for the Victoria line – an achievement that is unsurprising given that Gray is often credited with coining the term “corporate identity”. Because of budget and time constraints, DRU’s proposed architectural features were never installed across all the Victoria-line stations, yet the agency was able to complete its plans to introduce platform wall tiles. These were largely restrained and off‑white – labelled “lavatorial” by some critics – but enlivened by bench recesses at each station that were adorned with a distinct, artist-designed pattern. A dense labyrinth for Warren Street; two crossed rifles over a single tree for Finsbury Park; and at Brixton, a literal tonne of bricks. 130
DWL’s graphic tiles installed at Blackhorse Road Underground station.
As the originator of the Victoria line’s identity, DRU was Round’s immediate forerunner, but also his intellectual forebear. Round’s artistic practice has often centred around the same co-operative ideas that DRU espoused. In 2011, he transformed the Serpentine Gallery’s Sackler Education Centre into an open studio, with public workshops spread across six weeks. His collaborative project with fellow artist Phil Root, the Grantchester Pottery, produces decorative functional objects such as coffee services and vases. Inspired by the Omega Workshop, the design collective founded by the art critic Roger Fry in 1913, Grantchester Pottery posits that people should be able to produce and sell their own design items, and as with DRU a common thread of Round’s work has been the democratisation of design and art. His adoption of the acronym DWL is a conscious echo of DRU, as was the decision to work under a collective name. A single artist, the idea ran, would not suffice to improve a collectively experienced machine.
This notion of the collective was vital to the DWL project, with research focused on the people who use the line’s structures more than anyone else – the staff. “They are underground all day,” says Blakey, “and that changes your perception of space and time.” Round set a survey for station staff, identifying how they experienced different aspects of the line. There were suggestions for crafting branded cutlery for staff canteens, or creating new station clocks, but the results of the survey put the spotlight firmly on tiling. “There was a great affection for the tiles,” recalls Round, “which the staff thought could be enhanced with more colour. The aim was to make works that could integrate into the fabric of the Victoria line; works that could be both functional and decorative.” Yet the exact format of the tiles proved more difficult to resolve – “more colour” is far from a comprehensive design brief. The nature of the environment, fortunately, provided some guidance. Deep lines like the Victoria are generally cramped, with narrow corridors and platforms that quickly become congested. 132
In a crowded carriage, the train never seems to travel fast enough. “If one wants to compare life to anything,” wrote Virginia Woolf in 1919, “one must liken it to being blown through the Tube at fifty miles an hour.” Yet the gloss has faded from Woolf’s early vision. The Victoria line’s 87.2km/h maximum speed now feels humdrum, while rush hour can seem like the upper levels of an updated Dante’s Inferno, a world in which people used to constant stimulation are forced to stare silently into the fabric of one another’s clothes. Round’s design had to soothe rather than exacerbate such stresses, as well as responding to the fact that complex installations run the risk of muddling the clarity of station signage. DRU understood this, hence the elegant simplicity of its designs, yet subsequent works have been less successful. When some of Eduardo Paolozzi’s 1984 tile mosaics at Tottenham Court Road were removed last year, the reaction was split between outcry and relief. Although colourful and inventive – a melange of many-coloured moths, saxophones, electronics, gears and faces – Paolozzi’s works were uncompromisingly, and overwhelmingly, the vision of a single artist. In part, Round’s reliance upon abstract geometries is an effort to cleave closer to the clarity of DRU’s designs, yet he was also influenced by William Morris, the Victorian writer and designer who became the presiding spirit of the arts and crafts movement. Morris believed that functional design should in itself be treated with the care and privilege ascribed to art. In an 1883 essay, he asked his readers “to extend the work of art beyond those matters which are consciously works of art[…] but the shapes and colours of all household goods[…] to extend it to the aspect of all the externals of our life”. Morris’s subsequent wallpaper and tile designs were a bold, single-layered simplification of the relief-prone tiles that had preceded him – a sensibility that carries through to DWL. Just as Morris used botanic imagery to symbolise growth and regeneration, so too was Round concerned with using hues from nature. “The less like nature the tiles are, the more you’ll find problems,” he says. The consequent colour choices for the DWL tiles are purposefully everyday, blending in rather than popping out. Dominant in the palette are an oceanic blue, which was originally considered as an identifying colour for the Victoria line, and a dusky black. The pattern components and tessellations at Blackhorse Road, meanwhile, were
derived from Morris’s tile designs and ceiling wallpaper at his Red House in Bexleyheath, one of the most significant arts and crafts residences. Further parallels to Morris abound in the project. Fired by the idea of a semi-mythical medieval society focused around craftsmanship, Morris was a fervent critic of mass production. For Round, it was important that the DWL tiles be made somewhere that embodied these precepts. Hidden away in Jackfield, Shropshire, is Craven Dunnill, one of Britain’s foremost manufacturers of handmade tiles. Much of its
“If one wants to compare life to anything,” wrote Virginia Woolf in 1919, “one must liken it to being blown through the Tube at fifty miles an hour.” work is heritage-based, yet since 2002 its partner company Johnson Tiles has provided replacement tiles for much of the tube network. “Before then,” explains Blakey, “the London Underground never had an official supplier. When it came to maintaining stations, you just couldn’t do it. Now there’s repeatability and sustainability.” The multiplicity of techniques available at Craven Dunnill allowed the DWL tiles to be screen-printed, the same process used for DRU’s tiles in the Victoria line’s seat recesses. “Making something stylistically Victorian, or from laser-cut parts, would be incongruous with the tiles already in the stations,” says Round. Craven Dunnill’s devotion to handmade craft allowed the tiles to be designed by a process of trial and error, homing in on what worked. It also allowed for a sense of craft. “The beauty in having the tiles produced by hand is that they include variance,” says Round, “no matter how perfect the production.” Round’s fidelity to Morris’s ideas would likely have found favour with Frank Pick, an early-20th-century administrator whose work defined the early aesthetic of the Underground. Along with a bevy of collaborators, Pick created a cohesive identity for the tube that
was based on ease of comprehension. He stripped away the stations’ clutter, cultivating a network centred around tidy convenience. Pick commissioned Edward Johnston’s Underground typeface and roundel; invited Harry Beck to turn a vermicelli of squiggles into the modern tube map; and oversaw the airy, welcoming stations designed by Charles Holden, many of which – notably on the northern section of the Piccadilly line – rank among the highlights of modernist architecture in Britain. Pick’s core aesthetic criterion was “fitness for purpose”, an idea that Round sought to recapture with DWL. “The DWL tiles should serve to augment the line’s aesthetic rather than transform it,” says Round. “It felt important to work with the shared ethos of these different individuals from different periods.” One similarity between Pick and Round seems particularly pertinent. A notable innovation of Pick’s was to remove the willy-nilly flyposting that had been endemic in stations – a decision that, over time, has been partially reversed. The contemporary traveller on the Underground is bombarded with advertisements
and models – whereas the DWL tiles are resolute in their presentation of abstract pattern alone. It is an approach that divorces the tiles from the visual noise of the ubiquitous advertising, distinguishing them by their lack of marketing message. The DWL cannot echo the total design ethos that its predecessors Pick and DRU attempted to practice, as evidenced by the drip-fed adoption of the tiling by the Victoria-line stations. The same financial constraints that curtailed DRU’s scheme continue to hold. Sixty-five per cent of the tube’s budget goes into sustaining the network. The bulk of the remainder, much of which comes from public grants and borrowing, is used for infrastructural improvements, leaving art and design low on the list of TFL’s priorities. Yet in this straitened situation, DWL represents a thoughtful approach to improving the experience of the Victoria line, one that is sensitively attuned to its identity and the tube’s historical precedents. When you approach Blackhorse Road station, Round’s tiles leap out from their drab surroundings. Within Victoria station, they provide a momentary respite from the advertising on the escalators and platforms. It is gratifying to find a space, however small, that is not devoted to commercial concerns. E N D
It is an approach that divorces the tiles from the visual noise of the ubiquitous advertising, distinguishing them by their lack of marketing. – in the ticket hall, on the escalators, along corridors and platforms, and in carriages. For six months last year, the French financial services company Société Générale even turned the seats and exteriors of Waterloo & City-line trains into promotions for itself and the Rugby World Cup that it had partnered. “The adverts are owned and maintained by an external business, so this wasn’t an avenue that presented itself for us to work on,” acknowledges Round, yet his tiling nonetheless militates against the proliferation of marketing, even if only symbolically. By and large, Underground adverts are photographic in nature – depicting theatre casts, sportspeople 134
Made for Mini
Made for Mini
Mini Living – Do Disturb The world is undergoing the largest wave of urbanisation in its history. In 2014, the urban population accounted for 54 per cent of the total global population, up from 34 per cent in 1960. Estimates say that by 2017, the majority of the earth’s nearly 7.5 billion inhabitants will live in urban areas. As people flock to metropolises, city populations soar – and space dwindles. Personal and communal spaces have become increasingly commodified, changing from inalienable rights into hard-fought luxuries. Yet the recent emergence of co-living startups such as WeLive, Common, and Purehouse demonstrates an ever-growing trend toward the
sharing economy within housing: communal space as a solution to limited space. Mini Living – Do Disturb, an installation presented during Milan’s Salone del Mobile in April, is an effort to discuss such ideas within the context of architecture. Conceived by the car brand Mini, the installation examines how the company’s core value of “creative use of space” might be applied to the problem of diminishing urban living space. Mini Living addressed one of the most urgent consequences of rapid urbanisation – a shortage of liveable, affordable housing – through a speculative shared-living concept. The installation centred around a mock-up 30m2 apartment that formed part of a micro-neighbourhood
Made for Mini
The Mini Living installation displayed during Milanâ€™s Salone del Mobile in April 2016.
Made for Mini built within a large warehouse. Further apartments were suggested by white, metal-grid forms, which added up to create a compound of private spaces within a collective setting. “Mini Living is about understanding the city as an entity consisting of architecture, mobility and – most importantly – people and the way they live,” says Oke Hauser, creative lead architect of Mini Living. “Right now we see a big challenge within inner-cities because we’re missing housing solutions that fit our contemporary flexible lifestyle. There’s a big trend towards the sharing culture, as well as making urban space both collaborative and private: this installation combines the two aspects by providing a housing solution based on a small personal footprint embedded in a vibrant community.” Designed in collaboration with the Japanese architecture studio ON Design with the technical support of Arup, the international engineering consultants, the concept apartment is an extension of Mini’s investigation into ways of improving the quality of urban life and squeezing the maximum potential out of the smallest possible physical space. “In Tokyo there’s a trend towards smaller urban footprints and the focus on sharing is very relevant, so we thought a Japanese studio could contribute a lot to the project in terms of culture and approach,” says Hauser. “And we teamed up with Arup because they’re really concentrated on improving inner-city life through engineering and innovative solutions in a holistic way.” The installation’s main wood-clad apartment featured fold-out shelving modules contained within the thick, highly insulated walls of the unit. These shelves can be closed to ensure privacy, or opened like windows to transform the apartment into a communal, participatory space. “If you take a look at each shelf, you see they have their own characteristic and lifestyle they’re expressing,” says Osamu Nishida, the founder of ON Design. “The lifestyle of a single person can be very complex and diverse. Each shelf can be regarded as a small house with their own characteristics. So there’s one for a desk, one for the kitchen, and so on. Each shelf is a small world in itself.” By opening out each of the different shelves, the apartment’s interior space can be quickly reconfigured to suit its inhabitant’s idiosyncrasies, providing the appropriate backdrop for both solitary and communal activities. As a closed space, the apartment maintains
the familiar typology of a living space with four enclosed walls, but given that those walls are flexible the installation nevertheless blurs traditional boundaries between the private and the public. The result is a version of open-plan living, albeit one that adapts its level of openness to its residents’ changing needs. When and to what extent occupants share their space with the community around them is up to them. In a further departure from tradition, breaking from the way shipping container-style units have often emerged as space-saving solutions for urban living in the past, Mini’s modular apartment subverts formal hierarchies: it has neither a clear front nor back, and a slight twist in its otherwise rectangular framework creates a more organic interior layout. “These concepts have been built before, but in a different way,” says Jan Wurm, the project director from Arup. “Modular housing has been done, right? Open-plan living has been done. But to reconsider every single square metre and every detail to make those ideas even better is the starting point of a larger discussion. Society has just been following the beaten tracks of effective living, rather than finding new ways of living in a space. I hope that this will start a new discussion.” As the “Do Disturb” tagline for the installation implies, this discussion is planned to be one that centres on interaction and attempts to find housing solutions that provide an alternative to urban anonymity and isolation. When opened to the public space, the apartment’s shelves – lined with personal ephemera like books, plants, cooking utensils, sporting equipment and stationery – become representatives of individuality and a catalyst for human connection. The flexibility of the installation’s elements serves to highlight the many permutations achievable in the spectrum between an “open” and “closed” home. At its core, the Mini Living concept challenges the idea that shared space in some way reduces what is available to the individual. Rather, it appeals to an old truism – one long taught in primary schools the world over – that shared resources mean more for everyone. In the midst of a ongoing housing crisis that fractures communities, Mini Living hopes to be a catalyst for a debate that centres around collective space, shared human experience and collaborative design. Words Camilla Sterne Photographs Mario Ermoli
Eames and Film Ray and Charles Eames were intrigued by Hollywood and Hollywood was in turn intrigued by the Eameses. Here, texts by Catherine Ince, Pat Kirkham and Paul Schrader explore why. Photographs the Eames Office 140
Director Billy Wilder and designers Charles Eames and Ray Eames, 1972.
Movie Sets Words Catherine Ince
“You don’t go to watch Billy shoot to learn how to make a picture… but to learn how to write an editorial, how to make a chair, how to make a piece of architecture,” Charles Eames said in 1966. Movie Sets is a three-screen slideshow composed of 240 photographs that document the production of some of Billy Wilder’s best-known films, such as Ace in the Hole, Irma la Douce and Sabrina, to name just a few. The images are selected from a larger body of photography built by Charles Eames over many years and taken when his friend Wilder was shooting on Hollywood studio lots or filming on location. Charles was a visitor to this world, an observer of the minutiae of life on set. He captured Wilder and his team at work or intimate moments between actors from a respectful distance. Eames worked for Wilder once, on The Spirit of St Louis (1957), the director’s epic biography of aviator Charles Lindbergh and his historic 1927 flight across the Atlantic, producing location photographs as well as a six-minute montage
of the titular plane under construction. Like their modular card game House of Cards, Charles and Ray Eames’s slideshows – montages of still images presented on a single screen or in pairs and trios – could be arranged in a seemingly infinite array of sequences and configurations and were only edited together when needed for a formal lecture or a presentation at the Eames Office. Eames & Hollywood, an exhibition currently on display at the Art and Design Atomium Museum (ADAM) in Brussels, presents a version of Movie Sets originally assembled in 1971 and delivered as part of Charles’s final lecture as the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University. The soundtrack that accompanied the Harvard presentation of Movie Sets mixed recordings of the hubbub of life on set and voices of film crew with an excerpt from Burt Bacharach’s ‘Not Goin’ Home Anymore’, part of the composer’s score for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The beauty
of Charles’s images, which reveal the inner workings of a distant world, combined with the elegiac quality of the soundtrack, produces a potent emotional experience that transcends the subject on display and invites a new way of looking at the world, one rich in meaning and feeling. Eames & Hollywood isn’t really about Hollywood at all; it is about what the exhibition’s curator Alexandra Midal calls “thinking in chorus”; it explores the power of the visual essay and the “poetry of ideas”. Lessons learned on Billy Wilder’s sets emerged not from the task of shooting a picture, but from perceiving the world of filmmaking as an expansive horizon from which ideas of structure and form, craft and discipline, the individual and the collective, could be imaginatively applied to any endeavour. Watching an Eames film or multi-channel slideshow provokes the same sense of wonder and possibility. For Charles and Ray Eames, film was the most powerful medium with which to express their ideas and throughout their lifelong partnership the couple made more than 100 short films on a huge variety of subjects: they tackled the natural world, architecture and the built environment, art, science, play, ritual and festivity, history, and new technologies. In Polyorchis Haplus (1970) a tiny sea creature floats around its aquarium in the Eames Office to the accompaniment of Bach’s Prelude from Fuge in F Minor. The routine washing of a tarmac playground becomes abstract poetry-in-motion in Blacktop (1952), one of their earliest film experiments, made in a schoolyard near the Eames Office with Don Albinson, the Eameses’ right-hand man, on yard-brush duty. A Communications Primer (1953) took a radical pedagogical experiment as its starting point, and compresses Claude Shannon’s complex information theories into a 22-minute lesson on the art and science of communication. Charles’s passion for the photographic image underpins Image of the City (1969), a rarely seen treatise on the history of photography and image-making in relation to the ever-changing conditions of the urban environment. This handful of examples conveys the diversity of the topics that the Eameses presented through film, but barely scratches the surface of an immense body of work that, surprisingly, remains the least-known aspect of the designers’ prolific output. During their lifetimes, the Eames films did not always circulate widely. Some titles appeared
periodically at international film festivals or in exhibitions at national and international fairs. Many were commissioned by IBM and Herman Miller, and used as promotional tools for company staff or distributed by the companies to schools and colleges around America. Others remained exclusively for private viewing or were shown publicly within a specific context, perhaps only once. Kaleidoscope Shop (1959), for example, was an abstracted portrait of the Eames Office made especially for a lecture at the Royal College of Art in London. The Eameses’ most influential and pioneering cinematic experiments, the multi-screen presentations Glimpses of the USA (1959) and Think (1964-65), were temporary installations. As such, they can never be experienced in their true form again. Today, the Eameses’ film work is still in the process of being discovered: approximately a third of their films are gathered together in a six-volume DVD boxset, and a few titles (usually poor-quality copies) can be found online. But to view their entire oeuvre would require a pre-arranged visit to the Library of Congress in Washington DC, which preserves the Eames archive. Despite such limited access, Eames films continue to be immensely popular with broad audiences. They delight and inform; they tell us something about the world in which the Eameses lived and worked, and chart a provocative trajectory from the postwar consumer age to our contemporary networked and digital world. The universal concepts at the heart of their films – culture, civil society, beauty, pleasure, progress and change – are values that never fail to resonate across time and place. Charles and Ray Eames were curious about the world and their desire to communicate their observations and ideas to as many people as possible was a driving force behind their films. The hope was that viewers might share something of their passion, find inspiration in the ideas presented and, in turn, become productive agents capable of generating their own creative and resourceful paths within society. The legacy of Charles and Ray Eames’ films resides, most persuasively, in the invitation they extend to the viewer to learn how to see and how to think differently about one’s place in the world. E N D Eames & Hollywood is on display at the Art & Design Atomium Museum in Brussles from 10 March to 4 September.
Director Billy Wilder (on the ladder) captured by Charles Eames on the film set of The Spirit of Saint-Louis, 1957.
Filmset from The Spirit of Saint-Louis, 1957, photographed by Charles Eames. Next page: Filmset from Ace in the Hole/
The Big Carnival, 1951, photographed by Charles Eames.
Film still from House: After Five Years of Living, 1955.
Understanding Schrader Words Pat Kirkham
are you working on?” they would ask. “Charles and Ray Eames,” I’d reply, only to be met with blank looks. So I began adding “Paul Schrader really rates their films.” At a time when the British Film Institute had only three or four Eames films in its archive, Schrader’s article gave me something to test my ideas against, as well as new ones to engage with. I had discussed the “information overload” approach with people from the Eames Office in relation to the exhibitions, but here was someone considering it in terms of motion pictures. Moreover, Schrader’s phrase “poetry of ideas” described what the films achieve perfectly. I had a few quibbles, especially with his overly rigid categorisation of the works as “Toy Films” and “Idea Films”, as well as his privileging of the later ones and multimedia presentations. Re-reading it recently, I was struck by its rather old-fashioned, pro-intellectual, anti-emotive and affective approach to film appreciation. I also realised just how much the essay tells us about Schrader’s early obsession with European
I first came across Paul Schrader’s 1970 article on the Eames films in the late 1980s, a time when I was conducting research for my book on Charles and Ray Eames. Written in 1969, when the 23-year-old Schrader – a self-avowed intellectual fascinated by contemporary European avant-garde cinema – was a film critic, the article aroused little interest in film circles. For me, reading it nearly 20 years later, it was like manna from heaven. Ray had screened three Eames films for me at the Eames Office in 1983, but at that time their films and multimedia presentations, like their interiors and collecting, were still neglected in comparison to their furniture and architecture – particularly the Eames House. It was such a relief to find that someone, let alone Schrader, had intellectualised Eames films. By the late 1980s, I was teaching film studies as well as design history. None of the people I knew through film had heard of the Eameses, but they had heard of Schrader; the young critic had become famous for writing the brilliant script for Taxi Driver. “What
“intellectual” cinema of the 1960s. This was also evident in conversation with Schrader in 1991, when he expressed his hopes that the Eames films would do what he felt Godard, Rohmer and Resnais (the filmmakers who most interested him) had failed to, namely successfully bring about a cinema of ideas. The thing that stayed with me most was how Schrader talked about Charles, whom he described as an ever-patient mentor. Scores of people had told me Charles was charismatic, but rather like saying he was a “genius” – as Schrader, Buckminster Fuller and many others did – it did not get you very far. Great scriptwriter that he is, Schrader made Charles’s effect upon him real for me, stating, “He was one of those men – Rossellini is another – whose presence in a room makes it feel bigger. You walk in and because he is there, the room gets bigger. He goes and opens the shutters and says, ‘Look, the world could be like this’ and then moves to some other window and says, ‘But it could also be this way.’ You walk out of the room and think ‘Yes, my God, it could really be like that.’” He also told me that Charles (aged about 60 when they met) was the most sexually attractive person he had ever met. “Did you note that I said person – man and woman?” he asked. I assured him I did. By contrast, the tone of Schrader’s article is that of the detached intellectual film critic who reveres European cinema of the 1960s over popular American films. If anything, Ray’s taste for avant-garde art and film, as well as her interest in foreign films, came closer to Schrader’s interests than Charles’s did. Schrader seems not to have grasped how much the Eameses, particularly Charles, bristled when faced with what they regarded as elitist views of films and filmmaking. Schrader met Charles when the latter gave a talk at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the late 1960s. They struck up a friendship and Schrader wrote this piece soon afterwards. He gave me to understand that he had not met Ray at that time and certainly his main focus in the article is Charles. He appears clueless as to Ray’s talents or her contribution to what he calls the “Eames aesthetic” or to the Eames films and multimedia presentations. In his defence, the article was written before the considerable impact of the women’s movement on Schrader’s opinions, but plenty of others had given Ray recognition by then. Charles always corrected texts that did not acknowledge the full partnership between
him and Ray, and the few token references Schrader makes to her were probably the result of this. For the remainder, she is truly “hidden from history”, to borrow the title of Sheila Rowbotham’s seminal 1973 feminist text. Music, so central to the Eameses’ conceptions of what they wanted to achieve, also gets short shrift. Schrader sees in Charles the great (male) hope of intellectualising cinema. Although the Eameses always argued against innovation except as a last resort, Schrader continually categorises the Eames films as innovative. When you read the piece, look out for that and also for the moments when he comes close to wanting the Eameses to be something they were not and do things they were not interested in doing. Schrader makes much of Charles coming from another discipline to film, but seems not to understand much about design, at one point referring to it as a discipline with “an established aesthetic”. Whatever does that mean? Does he think the “Eames aesthetic” was an established style, rather than, as they did, one appropriate to what they sought to express? And, if design were a discipline with an established aesthetic, how exactly did the Eameses achieve what I think is Schrader’s most perceptive insight about their films – namely a poetry of ideas – while other designers involved in filmmaking did not? Because of the value Schrader placed upon ideas, he put greater emphasis on the Eames films that more overtly deal with them. I have always championed the early films as being of equal worth, as Charles and Ray did. Schrader’s two categories of toy and idea films actually overlap, and films in each of his groups create dynamic dialectic interchanges between objects and ideas. I recommend you seek out what Schrader calls the toy films and consider them as both object and idea films, while also reflecting on what it means for Schrader to label them “primitive”. Think also about how Charles and Ray convey, among other things, pleasure, joy in objects and their details, unusual juxtapositions, and a general jouissance, as well as viscerally conveying movement in space and ideas. As Schrader pointed out, the toy films were seen as rather old-fashioned in 1969, but in our postmodern/ post-postmodern/late capitalist days (or whatever we want to call them) they deserve a better reception, not least in terms of how they connect to that slippery space and place we call nostalgia in ways as complex as they are both subtle and boldly celebratory. E N D
Poetry of Ideas: The Films of Charles Eames Paul Schrader – reprinted from the spring 1970 issue of Film Quarterly.
Although many important artists have used film outside the usual theatrical-feature conventions, critics have too seldom found ways of discussing their work. Considering the great amount of creative energy going into short films of all kinds at present, this neglect needs to be remedied. The study below is an attempt to come to terms with the output of an immensely talented man whose films – which are only a part of his creative work – represent a peculiarly contemporary synthesis of film with science and technology.
“They’re not experimental films, they’re not really films. They’re just attempts to get across an idea.” –Charles Eames
film-makers, young and old, are trying to graft on to movies the cerebral sensibility they have so long resisted. Eames personifies this sensibility, a sensibility so synonymous with his life and work that he cannot conceive of himself as only a “film-maker.” There are many ways one can think about Charles Eames. He defies categorization; he is architect, inventor, designer, craftsman, scientist, film-maker, professor. Yet in all his diversity Eames is one creator, and his creation is not a series of separate achievements, but a unified aesthetic with many branch-like manifestations. Eames’s films do not function independently, but like branches; they do not derive from film history or tradition, but from a culminant culture with roots in many fields. A capsulized biography can give, in the most vulgar way, the scope of his career; but, as always, Eames remains greater than the sum of his avocations. Born in St Louis in 1907, Eames studied architecture at Washington University, in 1930
Charles Eames was baffled by the fact that anyone would want to write an article about his films. “When asked a question like that, about ‘my approach to film,’” Eames said, “I would almost reply, ‘Who me, film?’ I don’t think of it that way. I view film a little bit as a cheat; I’m sort of using a tool someone else has developed.” Because of his casual attitude toward “Film” – his debunking of the romantic myth of the “artist personality” and his concept of film as a primarily informational medium – Charles Eames has been able, in his recent films, to give “Film” what it needs most: a new way of perceiving ideas. As films move away from a period in which they were content to only show what they felt, and attempt little by little to also tell what they think, many of the most talented
Glimpses of the U.S.A. showing in the theatre at the American National Exhibition, Moscow, 1959; bottom right: model for a screen configuration for Glimpses of the U.S.A., 1958.
started his own practice, and in 1940 married Ray Kaiser, a painter with whom he subsequently shared credit for all his work. In 1940 Eames and Eero Saarinen collaborated on designs for the museum of Modern Art’s Organic Furniture Competition. From these designs came a generation of Eames chairs: from the luxurious black leather Eames lounge chair to the omnipresent molded fibreglass stacking chairs, which, within twenty years, had received such mass acceptance that Eames’s way of sitting was, in a fundamental sense, everybody’s way of sitting. In 1941, to encourage the wartime production of their first chair prototypes, Charles and Ray perfected an inexpensive lamination process for wood veneers, and in the same year Charles went to work, temporarily, for the art department of MGM. In between chairs, the Charles Eames Workshop produced toys, furniture, gliders, leg splints, and magazine covers. In 1949 Eames designed the Santa Monica House (where he still lives), which, like the chairs, was a model of
simplicity and variety, and soon became a standard textbook illustration. The Eames films commenced in 1950 and over the next fifteen years they won awards at the Edinburgh, Melbourne, San Francisco, American, Manheim, Montreal and London film festivals. “A Rough Sketch for a Sample Lesson for a Hypothetical Course,” presented by Charles and Ray (with George Nelson and Alexander Girard) in 1953 at the University of Georgia and UCLA, was the first public presentation of multi-media techniques. In 1960 Eames’s rapid cutting experiments in the CBS Fabulous Fifties special won him an Emmy for graphic design. During this period Eames designed a series of World’s Fair presentations: in 1959 the multi-screen presentation for the US exhibition at Moscow, in 1962 a multi-screen introduction to the US Science Exhibit at Seattle (where it is still shown), in 1964 the IBM Ovoid Pavilion and the film presentations in it, at the New York fair. Over the years Eames has prepared courses and lectured
Sketch for Think in the Information Machine,
View of Think performance, 1964.
IBM Pavilion, New York World’s Fair, 1964.
across the world, and will this fall hold the Charles Eliot Norton Chair of Poetry at Harvard. Charles Eames can weave in and out of these diverse occupations because he is not committed to any of them. He is, in the final account, committed to a way of life which encompasses them all. The toys, chairs, films are the available tools through which Eames can actualize his life-style. The common denominator of Eames’s occupations is that he is, elementally, one thing: a problem-solver, with aesthetic and social considerations. He approaches life as a set of problems, each of which must be defined, delineated, abstracted, and solved. His architect’s mind visualizes complex social patterns twisting and folding like a three-dimensional blueprint. He respects the “problem” not only as a means to an end, but as an aesthetic pleasure in itself. Although Eames rarely rhapsodizes about anything, his most “emotional” prose is saved for a description of the problem-solving process: “The ability to make is a proper function of problem solving. Computer problems, philosophical problems, homely ones: the steps in solving each are essentially the same, some methods being elaborate variations of others. But homely or complex, the specific answers we get are not the only rewards or even the greatest. It is in preparing the problem for solution, in the necessary steps of simplification, that we often gain the richest rewards. It is in this process that we are apt to get a true insight into the nature of the problem. Such insight is of great and lasting value to us as individuals and to us as society.” – from Think, the IBM New York Fair presentation.
For Eames, problem solving is one of the answers to the problem of contemporary civilization. Not only does his problem-solving process provide beauty and order, but it constitutes the only optimistic approach to the future. He is currently working for the Head Start program, a task he feels vital because “you have to teach children to have a genuine respect for a large number of events and objects which are not of immediate gain to them. It is the only thing which puts a human being in a situation where he can promptly assess the next step. Whether it is in the ghetto or Appalachia, kids get their beginning having respect only for things which have an immediate payoff, and this is no way to run a railroad, particularly when you don’t know what the next problem will be.” Eames will not indulge in the despair of a complete overview, not because it is illegitimate, but because it can’t solve the problems. “You can’t take too broad a perspective,” he says, quoting Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman; “you have to find a corner and pick away at it.” Charles Eames is, in the broadest sense of the word, a scientist. In his film introduction to the US Science Exhibit at the Seattle Fair, Eames prescribed what that rare creature, the true scientist, should be, and it is a description of Charles Eames: “Science is essentially an artistic or philosophical enterprise carried on for its own sake. In this it is more akin to play than to work. But it is quite a sophisticated play in which the scientist views nature as a system of interlocking puzzles. He assumes that the puzzles have a solution, that they will be fair. He holds to a faith in the underlying order of the universe. His motivation is his fascination with the puzzle itself
– his method a curious interplay between idea and experiment. His pleasures are those of any artist. High on the list of prerequisites for being a scientist is a quality that defines the rich human being as much as it does the man of science, that is, his ability and his desire to reach out with his mind and his imagination to something outside himself.” —from House of Science. To counter that the puzzles don’t have a solution and are not fair is to beg the question, because the scientist does not admit these possibilities into his working definition. Because his pleasures “are those of any artist” the scientist sustains his world not necessarily by empirical proof, but by his “faith in the underlying order of the universe.” In this way Eames’s scientist may seem similar to the scientists of the Enlightenment who constructed elaborate fictions of order, only to have them collapse with the next wave of data. But unlike the Newtonian cosmologist Eames does not state that the solvable problem is necessarily a microcosm for the universe, which may have no solution. Eames is describing a Weltanschauung, not the universe. A corollary argument leveled (often by artists) against Eames’s scientist accuses him of being shallowly optimistic, unaware of man’s condition. C.P. Snow defended scientists against this charge in his “Two Cultures” lecture: “Nearly all of them [the scientists] – and this is where the color of hope genuinely comes in – would see no reason why, just because the individual condition is tragic, so must the social condition be.” It is a fallacy of men of letters to equate contemporaneity with pessimism – as if Beckett’s “it” crawling in the mud was unavoidably the man of the future. One of the exciting things about Eames’s film-maker, like his scientist, is that he challenges the hegemony of pessimism in the contemporary arts. Although Eames’s structuring of the problem may seem antiquated (and this is debatable), his solutions are undeniably modern. His statement about the designing of a chair is not only a remarkable account of the creative process, but also a pioneering approach to art in a society in which the individual has become progressively functionalized and collectivized: “How do you design a chair for acceptance by another person? By not thinking of what the other guy wants, but by coming to terms with the fact that while we may think we are different from other people in
some ways at some moments, the fact of the matter is that we’re a hell of a lot more like each other than we’re different, and that we’re certainly more like each other than we’re like a tree or a stone. So then you relax back into the position of trying to satisfy yourself – except for a real trap, that is, what part of yourself do you try to satisfy? The trap is that if you try to satisfy your idiosyncrasies, those little things on the surface, you’re dead, because it is in those idiosyncrasies that you’re different from other people. And in a sense what gives a work of craft its personal style is usually where it failed to solve the problem rather than where it solved it. That’s what gives it the Noguchi touch, or whatever. What you try to do is satisfy your real gut instincts and work your way through your idiosyncrasies, as we have tried in the stuff we’ve done, the furniture or the ideas. You know it’s tough enough just to make the first step of understanding without trying to introduce our personality or trying to outguess what the other guy’s thinking.” The Eameses have constructed structures – a house, chair, film – in which people can define themselves not by their idiosyncrasies but by their similarities. These structures permit problem-solving – and therefore give the scientist hope. To some these structures will seem artificial and solipsistic, but in an age which has so ruthlessly degraded man’s individuality any attempt to restructure the concept of humanism will necessarily seem artificial. From Eames’s sensibility have come two contributions: one pertaining primarily to architecture and design, which has already been incorporated into the international cultural main stream, and another most applicable to film, which is being developed and exists only as potential for mass audiences. Eames’s first contribution concerns what British critic Peter Smithson calls “object-integrity.” The Eames aesthetic respects an object for what it is, whether machine-made or hand-crafted, and is based on “careful selection with extra-cultural surprise, rather than harmony of profile, as its criteria – a kind of wide-eyed wonder of seeing the culturally disparate together and so happy with each other.” Smithson goes on, “This sounds like whimsy, but the vehicles are ordinary to culture.” Eames’s vehicles, his “structures,” make it possible for an object to have integrity. The Eames aesthetic brought art into the marketplace through the assembly line. There was
Film stills from Blacktop: a story of the washing
of a school play yard, 1952.
neither fear of nor blind obedience toward the machine. The machine, like its heir the computer, are tools which must be used by the artist as well as the entrepreneur. It is proletarian art: “We want to get the most of the best to the most for the least,” Eames has said; “in the final analysis I want to try to reach the greatest number of people.” The Eames chair stands as a tribute to the universality of his aesthetic; at the same time beautiful and functional, it is being manufactured in every continent except Africa. “By the late 50’s,” writes Smithson, “the Eames way of seeing things had in a sense become everybody’s style.” Eames’s aesthetic is in opposition to one of the older canons of art criticism, Ruskin’s theory of “invention.” In “The Nature of the Gothic” Ruskin instructed customers to purchase only goods which showed the hand of the inventor, rejecting anything copied or undistinctive, even to the point of preferring the rough to the smooth. The Eames aesthetic contends that the customer, who organizes the life context in which objects exist, is as much a creative agent as the artist, and that it is his creative imperative to organize and respect the “inventive” as well as the commonplace objects. “If people would only realize,” Eames said, “that they have the real stuff in their hand, in their back yards, their lives could be richer. They are afraid to get involved.” The second Eames contribution results when the Eames aesthetic of object-integrity is carried into the electronic age. There are two reasons: first of all, a computer cannot have object-integrity the way a chair or a toy train does. A chair is essentially shape, color, and movement, but a computer is much more. To respect a computer one must understand how it thinks, must appreciate Boolean Logic. As Eames’s objects became more complex, his approach necessarily became more cerebral.
Secondly, the object-integrity aesthetic is now confronted by an objectless society. “The conscious covetors are growing tremendously,” Eames has said, “and the covetables in our society are shrinking tremendously. There’s not much worth coveting. I feel that a lot of this vacuum is going to be beautifully filled by certain mastery of concepts, mastery of, say, the French or Russian language. And the beauty of this is that the coin of the realm is real. It means involvement on the part of the guy that’s getting it. He’s got it, all he has to do is give of himself. A lot of this is going to have to come through film.” Eames’s second contribution, then, concerns the presentation of ideas through film. His method is information-overload. Eames’s films give the viewer more data than he can possibly process. The host at the IBM, Pavilion succinctly forwarned his audience: “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the IBM information machine. And the information machine is just that – a machine designed to help me give you a lot of information in a very short time.” —from Think. Eames’s information machine dispenses a lot of data, but only one idea. All the data must pertain directly to the fundamental idea; the data are not superfluous, simply superabundant. Eames’s innovation, it seems to me, is a hypothesis about audience perception which, so far, is only proved by the effectiveness of his films. His films pursue an Idea (Time, Space, Symmetry, Topology) which in the final accounting must stand alone, apart from any psychological, social, or moral implications. The viewer must rapidly sort out and prune the superabundant data if he is to follow the swift progression of thought. This process of elimination continues until the viewer has pruned away everything but the disembodied Idea. By giving the viewer more information than he can assimilate,
Film stills from Parade, or Here They Come Down
Our Street, 1952.
information-overload short-circuits the normal conduits of inductive reasoning. The classic movie staple is the chase, and Eames’s films present a new kind of chase, a chase through a set of information in search of an Idea. To be most effective the information cannot be random, as in a multi-media light show, or simply “astounding,” as in the multi-media displays at Expo ’67 which Ray described as “rather frivolous.” The Idea conveyed by the information must have integrity, as evidenced by its problem-solving potential, intellectual stimulation, and beauty of form. The multi-media “experience” is a corruption of information-overload in the same way that the Barbara Jones and Peter Blake “found-art” collages are corruptions of object-integrity – they present the innovation without the aesthetic. Through information-overload, the Idea becomes the new covetable, the object which has integrity in an objectless society. To paraphrase Eames, it is in the quest of the Idea that we often gain the richest reward. The films of Charles and Ray Eames fall into two categories. The first, the “Toy Films,” primarily use the first Eames contribution, object-integrity; the second, the “Idea Films,” use the second Eames contribution, information-overload. Through precise, visual, non-narrative examination the toy films reveal the definitive characteristics of commonplace objects. The toy films were the natural place for the Eameses to begin in film, for they found in simple, photographed objects – soap-water running over blacktop, toy towns and soldiers, bread – the characteristics they were trying to bring out in the furniture design: “In a good old toy there is apt to be nothing self-conscious about the use of materials – what is wood is wood; what is tin is tin; and what is cast is beautifully cast.” —from Toccata for Toy Trains.
Eames’s film career is often equated with his toy films. Because of this mistaken assumption, the Eames films have already seen a critical rise and fall. Eames’s films received their initial recognition during the heyday of the Norman McLaren pixillation, the early fifties, when the Museum of Modern Art and the Edinburgh Film Festival acclaimed the early toy films, Bread, Blacktop, Parade. Eames’s reputation rose with McLaren’s, and fell with it. The Eameses became typed as the toy film-makers, and critical interest died off. The Eameses continued to make films, toy films as well as idea films. The toy films have progressed throughout the intervening years, using “toys” of varied complexity, the Santa Monica House, baroque churches, toy trains, the Schuetz calculating machine, the Lick Observatory. Each toy film presents a structure in which objects can “be themselves,” can act like “toys” in the same way that humans, given a certain structure, can act like children. The object need not be only functional; it can assume a number of positions. The Lick telescope is at one time practical, cumbersome, odd, and beautiful. One feels the same respect for the telescope that the Lick astronomer must feel after years of collaboration with the instrument. It cohabits the same structure, has meaning, both functional and aesthetic, and, in brief, has integrity. The latest toy film, and the best, is Tops, a sevenminute study of just what the title says, tops. Tops is a refinement of the toy film technique. The structures are simplified: there is no narration, scantier backdrops, less plot; and the object assumes a greater importance within the structure. Tops of every variety are presented. The viewer studies the ethnic impulses, the form variation, the coloration, and the spinning methods of tops. The first half of Tops presents tops in all their diversity, gradually narrowing the scope of its
A section of a promotional brochure for
A Communications Primer, 1953.
Film stills from Tops, 1968.
investigation to simpler and simpler forms: a jack, a carrom, and, finally, a spinning tack. This is a moment of object-integrity: all the complexity and variation of tops have resolved into the basic form of two planes, one of them suspended by the balanced forces of gravity and gyroscopic momentum. The unaware viewer realizes that he has never really understood even an insignificant creation like a top, never accepted it on its own terms, never enjoyed it. The second half of Tops, which depicts the “fall” of the tops, moves back to more complex tops, against blank backgrounds, giving the viewer a chance to see the same tops again, but with the new eyes of insight and sensitivity. Eames feels that the toy films are as essential as the idea films. “I don’t think it’s an overstatement,” he remarked “to say that without a film like Tops there would be no idea films. It’s all part of the same process, and I think I could convince IBM of that, if necessary.” From the outset of their film-making, the Eameses were also making films which dealt with objects with cerebral integrity. Eames’s first idea film, A Communication Primer, resulted from a problem Eames realized he had to state before he could solve. He says, “I had the feeling that in the world of architecture they were going to get nowhere unless the process of information was going to come and enter city planning in general. You could not really anticipate a strategy that would solve the increase in population or the social changes which were going on unless you had some way of handling this information. And so help me, this was the reason for making the first film, because we looked for some material on communications. We went to Bell Labs and they showed us pictures of a man with a beard and somebody says, ‘You will invent the telephone,’ or something. And this is about all you get. So we
made a film called Communications Primer, essentially for architects.” Innovation is often a by-product of Eames’s problem solving, as when Charles and Ray developed a lamination process for wood veneers to permit mass manufacture of their chairs. Similarly, Eames, in his desire to solve the complex, non-immediate problems of the city, and in his desire to bring integrity to the computer, developed a revolutionary method of information presentation. In 1953 Charles and Ray presented “A Rough Sketch for a Sample Lesson for a Hypothetical Course,” the first multi‑media demonstration. “A Rough Sketch” not only featured three concurrent images, but also a live narrator, a long board of printed visual information, and complimentary smells piped through the ventilation system. Eames’s technique of information-overload has progressed just as his toy film technique has, and some of the first “revolutionary” films look rather primitive compared to his recent work. Eames has developed several methods of information overload. The most basic, of course, is fast cutting (Two Baroque Churches has 296 still shots, roughly one every two seconds). He often has several screens (the most being twenty-two at the N.Y. Fair, although not all the images were projected simultaneously), but has realized that a multiplicity of action on one screen can often have more impact than a single action on several separate screens. He has often used animation to simplify data, so that it can be delivered faster with clarity. One of Eames’s most successful techniques is to split the screen between live action and animation, each of which affects the mental process differently. Eames also counterpoints narration, sound effects, music, and images to present several related bits of data simultaneously. These techniques will certainly fade, just as did the McLaren aspects of his earlier films. Multi-media
Film stills from Powers of Ten: A Film Dealing with the Relative Size of Things
in the Universe, and the Effect of Adding Another Zero, 1977.
projections are a bit passé just now, and Eames isn’t designing any at the moment. But, nonetheless, Eames’s films hold up phenomenally well, because they are based on an aesthetic, not just an innovation. (Eames’s specific techniques have several competent practitioners: Wheaton Galentine’s 1954 Treadle and Bobbin corresponds to Eames’s toy films, Don Levy’s Time Is corresponds to Eames’s idea films.) Even though the specific techniques and in some cases the very ideas of his earlier films may become antiquated, Eames’s way of living seems as immediate today as ever. The solutions may no longer seem pressing, but his problem-solving process still offers beauty and intellectual stimulation. Two of Eames’s recent films, Powers of Ten and National Aquarium Presentation, are refinements of the idea-film technique just as Tops is a refinement of the toy films. These two films represent the two sorts of ideas Eames designs, the single or the environmental concept, and are more universal than Eames’s earlier computer ideas. Because of the richness of the aesthetic Eames brings to these films, the ideas they portray inevitably strike deeper than originally intended. Powers of Ten was a “sketch film” to be presented at an assembly of one thousand of America’s top physicists. The sketch should, Eames decided, appeal to a ten-year-old as well as a physicist; it should contain a “gut feeling” about dimensions in time and space as well as a sound theoretical approach to those dimensions. The solution was a continuous zoom from the farthest known point in space to the nucleus of a carbon atom resting in a man’s wrist lying on Miami Beach. The camera zooms from the man’s wrist to a hypothetical point in space and zooms back again, going through the man’s wrist to the frontier of the inner atom. Going out, the seed of the trip was 10t/10 meters per second1 – that is, in each 10 seconds of travel the
imaginary voyager covered 10 times the distance he had traveled in the previous 10 seconds. In this schema a trip from the nucleus of the carbon atom to the farthest known reaches of the universe takes 350 seconds. This information is presented in several ways: the right central section of the screen pictures the actual zoom, at the left of the screen a dashboard with several clocks shows the total distance traveled, the power of ten achieved, the traveler’s time, the earth time, and the percentage of the speed of light. A dispassionate female voice – a robot stewardess – describes every second of the journey in full, rapid detail. The narrator also supplies extraneous, unexpected information. “We have now reached the point where we can see the distance light travels in one minute,” she says, and a short burst of light, one minute long, passes before our eyes. In addition, there is an eerie score supplied by Elmer Bernstein on a miniature Japanese organ. Handling information in such a way, Powers of Ten is able to give more data more densely than a multi-screen presentation. The pictorial area of the screen in itself has more visual information than the mind can assimilate. Every spot on the image is a continuous transformation: skin becomes a wrist, wrist a man, man a beach, beach a peninsula, and so on, each change the square of the previous change, and each faster than the viewer can adjust his equilibrium. The zooming image, in itself, is only an “experience” and could easily be used in a light show (as it has been at the Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles). But the irony of Powers of Ten is that the narration and the dashboard demand exactly what the viewer is unable to do: make cerebral sense of the fantastic voyage. The monotone narration 1 Time divided by 10 is the “power” – in other words, after 40 seconds, you are 10-to-the-fourth meters away, or one followed by four zeros (10, - 000).
Lucia Eames and her children watching Mathematical Peepshows, at the exhibition
Mathematica: A World of Numbers… and Beyond, Los Angeles, 1961.
and animated dashboard affect the other side of perception; they use the conventional methods of appealing to reason. From the first frame of this eight-minute film the spectator is at a perceptual fail-safe point; both his mental and emotional facilities are over-taxed. As the viewer backs off from such a fail-safe point, as he has to, he takes with him certain souvenirs – individual data which in each case will be different, but mostly an Idea which in this case is about the dimensions of time and space. The interstellar roller-coaster ride of Powers of Ten does what the analogous sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey should have: it gives the full impact – instinctual as well as cerebral – of contemporary scientific theories. (In comparison 2001, like Expo ’67 seems “astounding.”) It popularizes (in the best sense of the word) post-Einsteinian thought the way the
telescope popularized Copernicus; and the effect is almost as upsetting. The spectator is in perspectiveless space; there is no one place where he can objectively judge another place. Just as the vacationing hayseed begins to think of himself as a citizen of the country rather than of just Sioux Center, and the jet-setter begins to think of himself as a citizen of the world rather than of just the United States, so the time-space traveler of the Powers of Ten thinks of himself as a citizen of the universe, an unbounded territory. Eames approached the problem in universal terms (to please the ten-year-old as well as the nuclear physicist) and, as in designing a chair, sought to find what was most common to their experience. Sophisticated scientific data was not the denominator (although the film had to handle such matters with complete accuracy to maintain credibility), but it was that inchoate “gut feeling” of new physics which
Model of National Fisheries Center and Aquarium, 1967, at the Eames Office, Venice, California.
Tanks, 1971. One sequence of images from the three-screen slide show.
even the most jaded scientist, as Eames says, “had never quite seen in this way before.” Just as it took a more complex and intellectual structure to give a computer integrity than a toy train, so it took a more complex and intellectual structure to give the powers-of-ten-extended-through-space-and time-idea integrity than Boolean Logic. Powers of Ten goes beyond a simple explanation of the powers of ten (which Eames had done in his IBM Mathematics Peep Show by using the parable of the chess-board and sacks of grain), and concretizes a concept of the universe true to contemporary experience. And that Idea is covetable. National Aquarium Presentation resulted from a more earthly problem. Aquarium is, simply enough, a report to the Department of Interior on a proposed National Aquarium. After two years of research and design, the Eames office presented the Department of the Interior not a voluminous sheath of blueprints, but a ten-minute color film and an illustrative booklet. The problem was not only to develop the design and rationale for the Aquarium, but also to persuade an economy-minded Congress to lay out the cash for such a project. When dealing with the government, film is the petitioner’s ideal medium: “I’ve discovered,” says Eames, “that not even a senator dares to stand up and interrupt a film.” Again Eames had to state the problem before he could solve it: “Aquarium wasn’t a selling job, it was a report. Mike Kerwin, a venerable member of Congress, was interested in this and this was to be Mike Kerwin’s monument. But Mike Kerwin didn’t have any idea really of what an aquarium should be. As he or someone else said, ‘Anything to keep those little children from peeing in the Capitol.’ This is about the level these projects get started. The only thing you can do is try to create a level someone else would be embarrassed to fall below.”
National Aquarium Presentation constructs the Aquarium in ten minutes, from overall conception to minute detail. Step by rapid step the film discusses the rationale, decides on a location, landscapes the environment, constructs the building, details the departments, and takes the viewer on a guided tour of the finished institution. Diverse methods of information presentation are used: graphs, animation, models, live-action, narration, music. The guiding principles of the Aquarium are not simply aquatic curiosity or research. Like all of Eames’s creations, the Aquarium is founded on organization, practicality, intelligence, and enjoyment. Aquarium makes sure that the viewer doesn’t mistake those fish for something inessential to man. One who wishes to attack the Aquarium must attack the principals it is based on. The true function of the aquarium is stated in the concluding lines of narration: “Still the greatest souvenirs of the Aquarium may be the beauty and intellectual stimulation it holds. The principal goal is much the same as science, to give the visitor some understanding of the natural world. If the National Aquarium is as good as it can be, it will do just that.” —from National Aquarium Presentation. Even though Congress has yet to give final approval, the National Aquarium exists. It exists not only to the architects, to whom it always exists, but also to those who have seen Eames’s film. After seeing the film, viewers speak of the Aquarium in the present; the fact that they cannot go to Washington and experience the Aquarium tactilely is only a chronological misfortune. The viewer has already experienced the full delights of the Aquarium, its beauty and intellectual stimulation. When the Aquarium is finally built, it seems to me, it will not be because the government really felt that it was needed, but because the Aquarium has already existed in so many
minds – Congressmen, scientists, bureaucrats – that a physical structure was necessary to concretize the cinematic experience. And, if the Aquarium is built, it will be a rare demonstration of the Realpolitik power of an idea. The irony and power of National Aquarium is that it is greater than the Aquarium ever can be. In its finest form the Aquarium exists in the mind, and the physical structure can only be a pale imitation of the dream. Eames calls National Aquarium a “fiction of reality,” and like the best fictions it is more meaningful than its reality. Eames has constructed the Aquarium like Borges constructed the Library of Babel, in his short story of that title. Like the Aquarium the Library is real because it is definitive, it can encompass all reality. Just as the writer of “Library of Babel” was able to define himself as a member of the Library, it is possible to define oneself as a member of the Aquarium. The Aquarium has all the virtues of a meaningful existence; it offers a way of perceiving the outside world, one’s neighbor, and one’s self. And even if one is only a visitor to the Aquarium, as we all must be, the Aquarium presents the virtues of beauty and intellectual stimulation that one would be embarrassed to fall below. The radical, wonderful thing about Eames’s Aquarium is that you can live there. One of the pleasures and limitations of Traditional cinema is that it is idiosyncratic: only Fellini can fully live in Fellini’s world, Godard in Godard’s, Hawks in Hawks’s (great films transcend these limitations to varying degrees). Like an architect, Charles Eames builds film-structures in which many people can live, solve their problems, and respect their environment. The three films discussed, Tops, Powers of Ten and National Aquarium Presentation, total less than twenty-five minutes of screen time. To extrapolate an environmental aesthetic from a ten-minute sponsored film like National Aquarium may seem like the height of critical mannerism to some, and it is certainly possible that Eames’s first films are not as important as I think they are. But in examining his films in detail, one finds the essential qualities of contemporary art. The Eames aesthetic personalizes assembly-line art, gives creator power to the consumer, permits individual integrity within a dehumanized collective, and allows the field to have as much value as the items within it.
“They’re not experimental films, they’re not really films. They’re just attempts to get across an idea.” —Charles Eames
In film, the Eames aesthetic introduces a new way of perceiving ideas into a medium which has been surprisingly anti-intellectual. Cinema threw every other art into the twentieth century, Wylie Sypher contends in Rococo to Cubism, and remained woefully in the nineteenth itself. Much of the upheaval in contemporary films has been the protest of the romantic-idiosyncratic tradition against itself. Even the best of recent films, like Persona, Belle du Jour, The Wild Bunch, are too inherently a part of the tradition they protest to posit an alternative cinema. The few film-makers handling ideas today, Robbe-Grillet, Rohmer, Godard, Resnais, seem to fail because they cannot escape the romantic perspective. The French intellectual cinema (the only intellectual cinema) verges on bankruptcy; its failures are as disastrous as Godard’s One Plus One, its successes as minimal as Robbe-Grillet’s Trans-Europe Express. Because Eames comes from another discipline with a pre-existing aesthetic he is able to bring innovation to an art which in the area of ideas is only spinning its wheels. It is Eames’s aesthetic which is ultimately the innovation. Eames returns to film in a limited and exploratory manner what Cubism took from it in the early 1900’s. What Sypher wrote of the cubist art of Cézanne, Eliot, Pirandello, and Gide is now true of Eames’s films. “Have we not been misled by the nineteenthcentury romantic belief that the imagination means either emotional power or the concrete image, the metaphor alone. We have not supposed there is a poetry of ideas.” E N D This excerpt is part of a longer essay published in Film Quarterly, vol. 23, no.3. Spring 1970, pp. 2-16 (pp. 2-13 republished here) with permission of University of California Press – Journals; permission through Rightslink.
Wedding ensemble by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, autumn/winter 2014/15 haute couture, courtesy of Chanel Patrimoine Collection. All photographs © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology Words Amber Winick Traditional barriers between haute couture and prêt-à-porter collapse in the face of technology as part of Andrew Bolton’s new exhibition at the Met.
Fashion, especially at the top end, almost always signifies exclusivity, individuality and traditional forms of craftsmanship that involve the hand. Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, the latest exhibition from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York, challenges these ideas about craftsmanship and the values we associate with the hand and the machine in haute couture and prêt-à-porter fashion. The exhibition opens with a single Renaissance-style wedding dress designed by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel’s autumn/winter 2014-15 haute couture collection. The train in particular is an awe-inspiring illustration of what designers can do when they combine traditional craft with technological innovation. Sketched by hand and then manipulated on the computer to give the appearance of a randomised, pixilated “baroque” pattern, the train was hand-painted with gold metallic pigment, then transfer-printed with rhinestones, and finally hand-embroidered with pearls and gemstones. (Altogether, Lagerfeld counted 450 hours of labour to complete it.) Made from synthetic material, neoprene, the dress is described by Lagerfeld as “haute couture without the couture” because the fabric was principally moulded, with miminal use of seams. Drawing on the Lagerfeld wedding dress along with around 170 other ensembles – many of which edge into fantastical, sculptural territory – Andrew Bolton, the exhibition’s curator, questions how the relationship between the hand (manus) and technology (machina) has been portrayed in the making of haute couture and prêt-à-porter. He argues that hand and machine should be seen on a spectrum or continuum rather than in discordant opposition; that they are equal and mutual tools for solving design problems, enhancing methods, and stimulating innovation and expression. In showing us how the technical separation between the two is now blurring, the exhibition even prompts a reassessment of what constitutes haute couture and prêt-à-porter. Bolton, who became curator in charge of the Costume Institute in January after the retirement of the much-admired Harold Koda, has earned a reputation
for sumptuous, if peacocky, exhibitions. Although best-known for his 2011 exhibition Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, the most-visited Costume Institute show in the Met’s history, he also organised Anglomania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy, and Punk: Chaos to Couture. Manus x Machina is every bit as glittering as Bolton’s earlier work, albeit striking in a statelier, more contemplative way. The exhibition is structured around dressmaking trades as outlined in Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers
Bolton argues that hand and machine should be seen on a spectrum or continuum rather than in discordant opposition. (Encyclopedia, or Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts and Crafts). Published in France between 1751 and 1772, the Encyclopédie was one of the most important, controversial and provocative publications of the French Enlightenment. (As Diderot states in his introduction, its aim was “to change the way people think”.) Documenting the mechanical arts – a medieval concept of ordered practices or skills – it placed métiers, including the trades associated with dressmaking, at the same level as the arts and sciences. Diderot and d’Alembert’s elevation of these pursuits was a challenge to established prejudices against manual labour, biases that the authors contested by showing the dexterity, creativity and complexity involved in the mechanical arts. Diderot and d’Alembert’s métiers lend an organising principle to Bolton’s exhibition. Corresponding pages from the Encyclopédie accompany traditional divisions of a maison de couture, with a special area dedicated to ‘Tailleur & Flou’, or tailoring and dressmaking. The exhibition also examines the various métiers in service to haute couture, which are known as the petit mains (little hands) workshops. Sections exploring embroidery, featherwork, artificial flowers, pleating, lacework and leatherwork unfold like miniature shows in their own right.
Shohei Shigematsu, who leads the New York office of Rem Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture, created separate spaces for exploring the métiers within the Robert Lehman Wing galleries. These rooms within a room make spare, elegant backdrops to show off the artistry of the clothes; the crisp, white scrims sharpen the garments’ silhouettes and colours. The space overhead is completed with a series of arched domes and niches, some of which have subtle patterns from the clothing projected on cathedral-like ceilings. Taken with its soundtrack – Brian Eno’s contemplative if ecclesiastical ‘An Ending (Ascent)’ – the space lends the ensembles on view an almost religious reverence. The garments in each of the métier sections span the decades, are colourcoordinated, and feature intricate details to relish and cross-reference. The blackand-white lace section, for example, shows off a Paul Poiret coat from 1919 (machine-sewn, hand-appliquéd) alongside an Alexander McQueen ensemble from 2013 (laser-cut, bonded, machine-sewn and hand-finished). The pleating section opens in an explosion of colour with an example of Mariano Fortuny’s delicate work from the 1920s; Issey Miyake’s famous pleats from the 1990s are well-represented by bright polyester origami-inspired dresses displayed in various folded states. Further on, two ivory evening dresses created decades apart (1968 and c.1935) from designer Madame Grès are shown next to Iris van Herpen’s 2010 fossil-like orbs. In the special tailoring and dressmaking section, one finds toiles, or muslins – prototypes used in early stages of the design process. Included are both actual muslins and a few transgressive contemporary garments inspired by them, from designers like Alber Elbaz for Lanvin, John Galliano for Dior and Martin Margiela. The embroidery section, meanwhile, takes a turn toward the aquatic. A 1983 couture Yves Saint Laurent dress is a blue-grey sequined “sardine”, while a 2012 Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen dress is a reef-like fantasy adorned with tiny branches of coral and delicate, dyed‑pink shells. By making each section a compelling visual composition, Bolton
The different sections of the exhibition looks at specific craft techniques such as embroidery and the art of articial flowers.
draws us into the more cerebral perspectives of the show. Each part tells the story of how designers use mechanical technology of the moment – pleating machines, laser cutters, 3D printing, and even the sewing machine – along with hand techniques to push craft boundaries. A few simple videos provide a captivating tutorial on the mechanics of the designs. Just as compelling, however, is the inclusion of quotations from designers next to their creations, describing bits and pieces of their processes. Often, the difference between handmade and machine-made is indistinguishable. In the featherwork section, for example, the plastic drinking straws that form Gareth Pugh’s 2016 prêt-à-porter dresses – one black and another clear – suggest machine processes, but we learn that every straw was hand-cut and individually attached.
“The machine has been understood to signify not only progress, democracy and mass production but also inferiority, dehumanization, and homogenization.” Throughout the show, couture garments hang alongside ready-to-wear ones, and this lack of separation gets at one of its more subtle revelations. In part owing to the interchangeability of hand and machine craftsmanship, Bolton sees the distinction between haute couture and prêt-à-porter becoming increasingly blurred; yet, in truth, these divisions have been imprecise since the birth of haute couture in the mid-19th century. Although handwork has been officially regarded as belonging to haute couture since France’s Chambre Syndicale decreed it to be so in 1945, the sewing machine transformed fashion. Charles Frederick Worth, the father of haute couture, relied heavily on the sewing machine to make and popularise his creations. Worth mass-produced hundreds of suits, day dresses and ball gowns each month – a feat that would not have been possible without technological assistance. The sewing machine also enabled him to create standard patterns that he could then
diverge from, adding or subtracting sleeves, skirts or bodices as he saw fit. At its core, the exhibition is an attempt to cast off associations that have long lingered. “Traditionally,” Bolton writes, “the hand has been identified with exclusivity, spontaneity and individuality, yet alternately as representative of elitism, the cult of personality and a detrimental nostalgia for past craftsmanship. Similarly, the machine has been understood to signify not only progress, democracy and mass production but also inferiority, dehumanization, and homogenization.” Yet, since the late-19th century, makers of haute couture and prêt-à-porter have regularly embraced one another’s tools and practices. Bolton argues for freeing the categories of their detrimental binary vestiges. Certainly, there is great creative potential in this in-between space. The subtitle of the exhibition, Fashion in an Age of Technology, is a conscious nod to Walter Benjamin’s 1936 essay ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’. In it, Benjamin famously discusses the shift in perception that occurred in the 20th century with the invention of new technologies, notably film and photography, writing of the loss of the “aura” of works of art through mechanical reproduction. Accordingly, a handmade couture garment would have aura, whereas a machine-made prêt-à-porter one would not. But the garments in Manus x Machina make clear that there are more complex processes at play—specifically, the issue of craft, and how technology is and isn’t changing it. The Dutch designer Iris van Herpen’s garments are some of the most artful and strikingly original featured in the exhibition. Her 2011 Skeleton dress, a sculptural mash-up of human and animal pelvises, ribs and spinal columns, was 3D-printed after a complex exchange of hand drawings and computer-aided collaborations with the Belgian architect Isaïe Bloch. Just below the dress, Van Herpen is quoted as saying: “People often think that when you create something by machine it is perfect. But this dress is a good example of the opposite. While the dress was printing, many small ‘faults’ happened because of the intense heating of the
material. This makes the bones irregular, and makes it look even more real.” In an interview with Bolton featured in the exhibition catalogue, Van Herpen further explains that “70 to 90 percent of my work is done by hand – hand cutting, hand stitching. Even when I use machines, the hand is never absent – a machine needs human hands to operate it.” Van Herpen is known for her collaborations with other designers, technicians and artists, all of whom are indispensable in achieving her visions. Despite her obvious reliance on technology, Van Herpen’s hand, and certainly her “aura”, are unquestionably present in her creations. Discussions about automation and the loss of traditional hand-skills or our comfortable perceptions about what makes fashion art are not within the purview of this show, but works like Van Herpen’s remind us of such questions and hint at reassuring answers. Just as Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie once elevated craftsmanship, Manus x Machina is an attempt to release hands and machines, and couture and prêt-à-porter from their oppositional stances, opening these categories to more artistic fluidity and potential. Drawing us toward the new frontiers of craft possibilities, Bolton traces the emergence of an electrifying new aesthetic. Regardless of the kinds of tools a designer employs, high fashion will always be defined by artistic vision. Fashion will also always be about the cutting edge and, now more than ever, technology bears us to that edge and beyond it. Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology is on show at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from 5 May to 14 August.
Identity Politics A roundtable about the creative value of the EU and the impact of the UK’s membership referendum on the design industries.
A conversation between Kathrin Böhm, Oscar Diaz, Roberto Feo, Julia Lohmann, Tetsuo Mukai, Ab Rogers, Jana Scholze and Sarah van Gameren Roundtable
In 1975 the UK embraced Europe in a referendum, with more than 67 per cent of voters supporting the Labour government’s campaign to stay in the Common Market. The result was hailed by the Prime Minister Harold Wilson as a “historic decision”. Why are we revisiting this decision 40 years on, and what are your feelings around it as practitioners in a field that has benefitted enormously from the free movement of people and ideas that the EU has led to? Julia Lohmann I think people across Europe are unhappy and scared. They feel they’ve lost their voice and are not being heard, but to look at the EU as the reason for that is silly. In the last few years, communities have been weakened a lot, which has led people to put the blame on all kinds of things, whether that’s asylum seekers or a remote EU government running the show. But all these are substitutes for what we actually have to change. The real reason for the situation is that we are being treated as consumers rather than citizens, which affects our voice and impact. Being addressed as a consumer means that we don’t feel much of a connection, other than that of people wanting to sell us things. The referendum is ridiculous. It says, “We’re giving you a voice”, but points at the wrong issues. Ab Rogers Do you think that’s a European scenario or an international scenario? Julia It’s an international scenario. We see it at the moment in the US with this absurd presidential campaign that has split the country. We had it recently in the Austrian elections, where Alexander Van der Bellen won by the thinnest margin over the far right. The middle ground is being deserted because people feel like there is no voice there.
Ab People feel vulnerable, but I wonder if that’s paranoia rather than a reality. The idea of a lack of voice is ironic, because art and design have never been more powerful and relevant than they are today. More people are involved in art and design, and the relevance of these disciplines is being taught right across the board, from social programmes to commercial programmes. We’re thinking about objects all the time, whether in terms of cars, aeroplanes, computers, or tools. Design is absolutely epidemic; it’s spreading; it’s viral. Julia But I see the same attempt to escape this hedonic treadmill in design as I just described in politics. You now have designers saying that they don’t want to be in service to consumerism and want to practice social design instead. They’re wanting to create a system in which you can tackle problems that can’t be solved through creating another object. Roberto Feo But people interested in social design still need to find out how they can implement their ideas. A place like Goldsmiths, where I teach, has seen that become a mainstream area of interest for students. How do you take your ideas further than just something on paper or a photograph? That’s something that’s quite frustrating for designers and is yet to be resolved. I really believe in Europe, but I’m
not sure if I believe in the EU as it is now. There was the idea of the political union, which never happened, so we were sold a project that was never implemented. We still stand in our own individual states. Sarah van Gameren But if you graduate and start a business as a designer, then the EU is your back garden. I’m not talking about leisure or family, but work-wise. In our practice, for example, 20 or 30 years ago you would find the manufacturers you needed closer to home, but now you have the freedom to find a glassblower in the Czech Republic or a wood workshop in Italy. That freedom is important for us. Kathrin Böhm I think it’s good to establish that this referendum has been forced on us. There was no need to have a referendum. For many of us, it feels like a gamble from the Conservative government. It didn’t start as a genuine discussion about giving people a voice, which has set a tone that has made the whole referendum discussion quite painful because it’s so black and white. It is played out between rhetorics. I want to bring a certain generosity and openness back to the discussion because I think that’s necessary within Europe: to have a culture, to overcome certain stereotypes, to take the piss out of each other. We need that openness to be able to talk about what we all need from Europe. Roberto It is always interesting how much people point out what they give to Europe. It’s always, “We give so much money!” But we never count the things that we get in return. There is no accountancy in that area. Again, people talk about it as a consumer thing: “What is my benefit?” Well, the moment you look at the problem like that, then you want to get out. I would want to be independent myself! Kathrin We hardly ever talk about how people feel about Europe. Of course there are rational reasons and business reasons in the discussion, but what about how we feel about it in terms of identity. The culture difference is massive. I feel extremely European and I think that’s one of the benefits – if we have these discussions, then that’s something we should stimulate. Jana Scholze When the referendum was announced, I experienced a mixture of feeling how silly and arrogant it was, as well as being extremely annoyed that it wasn’t something demanded by anyone – there was no need for it. I found it unbelievable that it would gain any ground, yet knowing the political situation that we are now in perhaps I was naive. But
I think one positive outcome of it is that we have become more sensitive and aware of many aspects relating to the EU, most of which we take for granted now. Speaking to European students, you realise how they never think of needing a visa to travel, for instance. That was a European goal and we feel so much closer to everyone because of that. Ab That sense of being an international citizen is the reason why London is interesting. The creative industry in the UK is incredibly successful and actually the equal of the financial sector. But that success is down to the breadth of places that we can pull from – both in terms of design intellect and also finding people from different contexts with different ideas. People come together, things change, and progress happens in a complex and interesting way. And society grows out of those creative decisions. As soon as that situation stops and we go back into our little castles again, we’re going to move backwards. Europe can compete with the rest of the world, but Britain can’t. Alone, we’re a very small, isolated island. It seems crazy that we have these nationalistic paranoias that we all retreat to. Tetsuo Mukai My movement in Europe is tied to my Japanese passport, so I don’t necessarily benefit from the EU. My perspective is more from feeling close to my friends and knowing the possibility of movement and how easy it is in terms of both British people coming to mainland Europe and other Europeans going to Britain. What I’ve found is that there’s not a lot of substance in either campaign in the referendum – it’s all fluffy stuff. So the thing I’ve talked about the most is the campaigns themselves and how they’re designed. They’re just a facade of statistics with nothing behind them, which I find really ironic: it’s just design without any meaning. Roberto It feels more like a campaign among the Tory party – just guys playing politics. A lot of the time the arguments seem like Life of Brian. Tetsuo “What have the Romans ever done for us!?” Oscar Diaz The problems are so big but the answers are just too simplistic. Any solution will be better in certain points, and worse in others, so this referendum feels surreal because the problems are not the sort of thing you can answer with a yes or a no. You cannot repeat this referendum in 10 years’ time if the vote goes against the EU and it’s just incredible that we can be in this situation. I actually wonder if people really want to separate,
“The EU doesn’t need to re-enforce its borders and we can’t be against one thing and in so doing critically re-establish another.”
“I really believe in Europe, but I’m not sure if I believe in the EU as it is now. There was the idea of the political union, which never happened, so we were sold a project that was never implemented. We still stand in our own individual states.” ROBERTO FEO
“There’s not a lot of substance in either campaign in the
“I have been really surprised by how quiet this debate has been in design and architecture circles. The issues around the EU seem too conceptual. But if we’re talking about design thinking, speculation and systems that we want to invent, then why is no designer taking that on?” JANA SCHOLZE
“The EU is about perception. It’s almost an abstract concept.”
a facade of statistics with nothing behind them. It’s just design without any meaning.” TETSUO MUKAI
“It feels more like a campaign among the Tory party – just guys playing politics. A lot of the time the arguments seem like The Life of Brian.” ROBERTO FEO
“This referendum has been forced on us. It didn’t start as a genuine discussion about giving people a voice.” KATHRIN BÖHM
“Although I live in Germany now, I still consider myself a British designer.” JULIA LOHMANN
“People across Europe feel they’ve lost their voice and are not being heard, but to look at the EU as the reason for that is completely silly. The real reason is that we are being treated as consumers rather than citizens.” JULIA LOHMANN
“We’re all used to having multiple identities. We ought to nurture that rather than narrowing it
“The idea of a lack of voice is ironic, because art and design have never been more powerful.” AB ROGERS
down with a referendum.” JANA SCHOLZE
“As a designer, the EU is your back garden. Twenty or thirty years ago you would find the manufacturers you needed closer to home, but now you have the freedom to find a glassblower in the Czech Republic or a wood workshop in Italy. That freedom is important for us.” SARAH VAN GAMEREN
or if they just say they do as a strategy to get more power from the EU. Julia If you think about London as the creative capital of Europe, then you have to accept that that is in part thanks to people who are not British. When I graduated in 2004, my career was started by the Great Brit show hosted at the Design Museum. There were six designers in it, and we were billed as “Great Brits”, but only one of us was actually British. That’s what I love about Britain – that it’s not “Show me your passport and I’ll tell you whether you’re British or not.” If you were educated here, your voice counts. I live in Germany now, but I still consider myself a British designer, because Britain is where my practice and professional identity were shaped. But I should be clear that it wasn’t Britain – as in Great Britain and Northern Ireland outside of the EU – that did this, but rather experiences exactly like the one we’re having in this roundtable, where there is a majority of non-British Europeans. That’s what makes London so great. I came to the UK as a German in 1998 and I became a European. Jana I think there’s a certain confusion, which is played out in this idea of a referendum being there to simplify everything in order to make things easier. One of the weird things about the discussion is this idea of multiple identities and identity politics, which have actually been managed quite pragmatically for a long time but which are completely missing in this debate. We’re all used to the idea that we have multiple identities – some are national, some are regional, then there’s gender and whatever – so we ought to nurture that further, rather than trying to narrow it down with a referendum. Kathrin I’ve worked across the UK and have had the same experience everywhere – extreme openness and politeness. Britain has a culture of openness that we should all enjoy and which Britain should be extremely proud of. Again, that’s something that doesn’t get talked about. There is already a way of dealing with each other that’s appreciated, successful and productive. It’s not just some left-wing idea. Roberto Maybe the EU had an ideology at one point in time, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to have any idea right now. There is no will to have a political union beyond the economic. Following the crisis everyone just takes care of their own, whatever country they’re from – which is why nobody cares. But you’re only as good as your collaborators.
Opportunities don’t happen by just staying within Britain, they happen by working with the outside to create contrast. Julia We want to politicise the same way we practice as designers, which for a long time has been about networks that are open-source and focused on collaboration. But that approach has become so mainstream in design that a lot of people forgot that it’s actually a choice to work that way. It’s a way of working that articulates and defends the idea of collaboration in Europe; a way that suggests that everybody has a voice and that everyone can participate in a way that goes beyond just being a consumer. Oscar I was a part of the Erasmus Programme in 1999, which let me leave Spain to go to France. I was going to come back to Spain six months later, but I never did. For me, Erasmus was life-changing. As a designer, you need to be exposed to many different cultures to keep your mind open to things and opportunities that appear. If you close yourself off, you reduce your possibilities in any area. Historically, the UK and Europe have had people coming in and out, so it seems illogical to try to close that system now. Tetsuo For me, the EU is about perception. It’s almost an abstract concept – it’s my feelings towards my friends and how I can work with somebody in France or wherever else in Europe very easily. Of course, that wouldn’t be impossible if Britain weren’t in the EU, but the EU does still represent a certain potential in thinking about what’s possible. Kathrin The EU as a fortress has been heavily criticised, because just as Britain shouldn’t be an island, nor should the EU. The EU doesn’t need to re-enforce its borders and we can’t be against one thing and in so doing critically re-establish another – closing the borders to the EU. In reacting to this referendum, we need to display more generosity towards and awareness of massive global migration. Sarah But I think the EU can start to create mechanisms to think about what to do with these problems, rather than just shoving the border further. It might be very complex, but the system of Europe being united and finding a solution is better than no system at all. Kathrin The value of the EU is immeasurable, which is a big issue. When I meet Brexit supporters, it’s usually hard to convince them that the cultural sector – its identity and everyday reality – is heavily shaped by
“The referendum is ridiculous. It says, ‘We’re giving you a voice’, but points at the wrong issues.” JULIA LOHMANN
“If we go back into our little castles again, we’re going to move backwards. Europe can compete with the rest of the world, but Britain can’t. Alone, we’re a very small, isolated island.” AB ROGERS
“This referendum feels surreal because the problems are not the sort of thing you can answer with a yes or a no.” OSCAR DIAZ
“We hardly ever talk about how people feel about Europe. There are rational reasons and business reasons in the discussion, but what about how we feel about it in terms of identity?” KATHRIN BÖHM
and reliant on the mobility of ideas and artists across the EU. It’s hard to measure what the benefits of that openness are for us as cultural practitioners. Roberto We’re the people who don’t need convincing. I think it’s about making people understand how much of their identity is the culture we all share. We need to really understand who we are, because it’s no longer just a case of being a Brit or being a Spaniard. I’m a Spaniard, but that means that I am also a European. I’m also half American because of my television culture! Your culture is no longer this thing that is just there, ready-formed. Ab If there’s anything that we have to learn, it’s to take things seriously. With Donald Trump, everyone said, “It’s not serious, don’t worry.” With Berlusconi, everyone told us “Don’t worry, he’s not serious; he’ll be gone in six months.” We’re so slow to react because we take everything for granted. We work in a little paradise in London, hanging out having interesting conversations about how design is going to make the world better, how art and culture make the world better. But beyond that there are a lot of really scary stances that are all about closing borders. Jana I have been really surprised by how quiet this debate has been in design and architecture circles. I think that no one took it seriously at the beginning. It’s only now that engagement is increasing since the polls show results of 50/50. At the Salone in Milan this year most non-British people said, “Oh come on, that won’t happen.” But the design world is tiny in relation to the whole population and despite recognising the danger of the current situation, engagement within design practice seems limited compared with the involvement in the migration crisis, which saw a huge variety of mainly solution-driven projects. The issues around the EU seem tricky and somehow too conceptual. But if we’re talking about design thinking, speculation and systems that we want to invent, then why is no designer taking that on? Roberto If you look at universities right now, the only funding is EU funding. Britain contributes to that, but British government funding is practically nothing. The other day a guy was arguing with me about this. He said, “Well, you don’t need to be in the EU to access those grants.” OK, fine, but there still needs to be an EU in order to create those grants, so again you return to this idea of solidarity: it shouldn’t be a case of getting out while there’s trouble, but still benefitting from everything that remains. E N D
Kathrin Böhm, artist and co-founder of Public Works, Myvillages and the remain campaign EU-UK.info. Böhm is European and has lived in the UK since 1997. Oscar Diaz, designer and founder of Oscar Diaz Studio. Diaz is Spanish and has lived in the UK since 2004. Roberto Feo, designer and co-founder of El Ultimo Grito, and professor of design at Goldsmiths, University of London. Feo was born in London but moved to Spain as a child, before returning to the UK in 1989. Julia Lohmann, professor in design at the University of Fine Arts, Hamburg. Lohmann is German and came to the UK in 1998. She has lived between the UK and Germany since 2011. Tetsuo Mukai, designer and co-founder of Study O Portable. Mukai is Japanese and has lived in the UK since 2008. Ab Rogers, architect and founder of Ab Rogers Design, and a visiting professor at the Royal College of Art. Rogers is British and lives in the UK. Jana Scholze, curator and associate professor at Kingston University. Scholze is German and has lived in the UK since 2002. Sarah van Gameren, designer and co-founder of Glithero. Van Gameren is Dutch and has lived in the UK since 2005. This roundtable was chaired by Johanna Agerman Ross and took place in Disegno’s offices. in London in May 2016.
Haptic Feedback Words Makiko Minagawa Portrait Martin Holtkamp Makiko Minagawa has created experimental textiles for 45 years, both in collaboration with Issey Miyake and for the fashion brand she founded, HaaT. Here, she discusses the holistic philosophy of sensation that lies behind her garments. Where I come from in Kyoto, people don’t describe good food in terms of flavour, but rather by saying it’s soft on the tongue. It’s the most superlative way of expressing appreciation. This concept of feeling quality has always intrigued me. In my fabrics, it’s as if you can feel the warmth of the people making them. The word “haptic” reflects my philosophy on design and making, something “relating to the sense of touch”. Design should appeal to all the senses. Of course, the way a garment looks – its design – is very important. But it has to be soft and comfortable to wear too. It used to be that clothes could be heavy, bulky and difficult – as long as the visual was good, that was fine. But I believe that people seek out more comfort now. They consider the tactility and feel of the fabric. I worked for Issey Miyake for 30 years and then started HaaT under the Miyake umbrella 15 years ago. Although the HaaT collection has always looked very handmade, it actually only includes one or two very craft-based products. Twenty per cent of the collection is produced in India, whereas the rest is made using the latest technologies in Japan – computers and the most state-of-the-art machines available. It’s important to explain the meaning of HaaT. For the items made in Japan, HaaT is derived from the English word “Heart”. Yet for the items made in India, it comes from the Hindi word meaning hand and handicraft: “haath”. A haat in India is a market – a place where everyone gathers. The India-made items are created simply and luxuriously by craftsmen, whereas the core of the Japan-made items is woven textiles made by machine. The result, however, is an expression with just as much craft and warmth. Our pieces are almost always created using natural fibres and this is the heart of HaaT. Japan actually owes much to India and China when it comes to weaving. For 2,000 years,
1 Shirt made from Khadi fabric.
2 An Indian craftsman handling recycled fabric turned into paper.
3, 4 Carved wooden blocks are used for printing on fabric and can be re-used again and again.
Top left: Yasuaki Yoshinaga; bottom left and top right: Masaya Yoshimura.
Makiko Minagawa in her Tokyo studio.
Feeling quality has always intrigued me. In my fabrics, it’s as if you can feel the warmth of the people making them.
Twenty per cent of the collection is produced in India, whereas the rest isÂ made using the latest technologies in Japan.
All photographs Masaya Yoshimura
techniques were imported to and adopted in Japan. We learned from them and every time I visit India I realise that the origins of weaving lie there. One of the simplest yet most beautiful techniques of Indian craftsmanship is the kabira. For many years, Indian women did not throw away the traditional sari once it had become old and worn. Instead they overlapped it in many layers and added hand stitching. Then they wore it as a cardigan or used it as a floor mat. It has a soft feel and is an ecological clothing item. At HaaT we have always created it using a variety of materials. All of the textiles and the clothes we produce at HaaT are born from collaborative interaction on techniques with the factories we work with. When our collaboration goes well, something new always appears, which makes us very happy. I think it is this continuation of a number of small innovations that excites us. The Arrange Winder, for example, is a machine that we use in Japan. For the first time in history, it makes small-run textile production possible. This new system allows for automatic warp‑yarn replacement, which is normally a time‑consuming task. It is a dream machine that allows computer calculation of the fabric width and the pitch of the patterns connecting the yarns. It enables smooth transitioning of colours and patterns. HaaT purposely exposed the “knots” of these transition seams on the surface, and made the yarn look as if it has been tied by hand, playing with the craft of the hand and the machine. I’m always thinking of luxury, but it’s not the surface of things or even the visual that interests me. It’s the actual material: how it feels and how it’s made. Of course, the way a garment looks and its design are very important, but I’m also interested in the finished design being received well by the wearer – that it is soft and comfortable to wear. It always gives me great pleasure to see our creations being worn by people.” E N D
6, 7 Khadi is an iconic cloth in India made from hand-woven cotton yarn.
8 A spinning wheel used for making Khadi yarn called Charkha.
9 Block printing by hand requires years of training in order to create precise and non-overlapping patterns.
10 A machine for shredding fabrics that will be turned into paper.
Based on an interview by Siska Lyssens.
Photograph by Albrecht Fuchs, Disegno #10.
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2016/ Arita Words Tiffany Lambert
Top: 2016/ ceramic collections by Stefan Diez, Pauline Deltour and Big-Game; bottom: ceramics by Kueng Caputo; photographs by Takumi Ota.
A new porcelain project serves as a testing ground for reflections on the boundaries between traditional technique and progressive production.
of industry to add to the duration and intensity of the pleasures of the table,” the epicure Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote in The Physiology of Taste in 1825. “When it was found impossible to transgress the limits set by nature, he turned to the accessories, which offered wide scope for his ingenuity.” Tableware was symbolic of social and aesthetic histories (and how they connect) long before Le Corbusier asserted that a house was a machine for living. Since prehistoric times, people all over the planet have created cups, ewers, jars, bowls, serving dishes, and other pots and vessels out of clay, a material that is as popular as it is ubiquitous. Ceramics is a medium on which the sun never sets. 2016/, an ambitious new porcelain brand and cultural project from Japan, enthusiastically encourages understanding and appreciation of this. It launched in April 2016 with a set of 16 porcelain collections that play with pottery traditions and reinterpretation – encompassing the handcrafted and the high-tech, local and global – in a bid to show how this ancient material provides a locus for experimentation and cultural accretion. The collections have been created by an international roster of contemporary designers (Ingegerd Råman, Stefan and Saskia Diez, Big-Game, Tomás Alonso, Studio Wieki Somers and Christien Meindertsma among them) who worked directly with master ceramicists from 10 potteries
Arita has been a centre for ceramics in Japan for 400 years.
in Arita, a town in Saga Prefecture, southern Japan. For exactly four centuries (the anniversary is being celebrated this year) Arita’s kilns have produced ceramics prized for their milky-white
The implements with which we eat help to enact the dining rituals that they are designed to address and which they reciprocally prescribe. base and blue brushwork. The 2016/ project was conceived to celebrate and shed new light on the town’s rich history of ceramics. Contemporary Japanese pottery and porcelain production have their roots in the kilns of the island on which Arita sits, Kyushu, the third-largest of Japan’s four main landmasses and the region that once served as the route of entry for Asian art and culture into the country. The kilns were established when two military expeditions to Korea in 1592 and 1597 brought highly skilled Korean potters back to Japan. The arrival of these potters brought methodologies that would be used to establish ceramics production on the island and over time Arita built on these techniques to become the epicentre of the nation’s porcelain industry. Led by its co-creative directors, Dutch designers Scholten & Baijings and Kyoto-based designer Teruhiro Yanagihara, 2016/ reflects this history, as well as reinforcing a bond formed between the Netherlands and Japan (and much of the rest of the world) in the 17th century, when the two countries regularly traded through the Dutch East India Company. Some of the 2016/ pieces glow, others glitter. Tomás Alonso’s simple containers mix coloured pigment with the clay in place of traditional glazing, while Big-Game’s coffee set uses porous ceramic as a filter for the coffee grounds. Together, the collections push the medium in diverse directions to expand the possibilities of ceramic tableware, revealing a longevity and vitality of tradition that is common in Japanese culture. The evolution of ceramics in Arita does not simply attest to a move
Photographs by Kenta Hasegawa.
Food unites us. Every human society conforms to some standard etiquette of dining and although there are eccentricities unique to individual cultures, the basic act of eating is almost always social. As such, it brings with it a vast array of objects that facilitate or enhance the experience, and in so doing reveal our attitudes to consumption and our place in the world. It’s a truth that was pointed out by the Italian curator Germano Celant in Arts & Foods: Rituals since 1851 at the Triennale di Milano in 2015, an exhibition which zigzagged between 2,000-plus artworks and artefacts. “It is through these objects that we can observe the transformation of our kitchens, of our way of cooking and eating, of our relationship with food, time, and space,” reads the catalogue. Or take the excellent 2010 Counter-Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen at MoMA in New York. The show, curated by Juliet Kinchin and Aidan O’Connor, demonstrated how the domestic kitchen brims with cultural significance. “A barometer of changing technologies, aesthetics, and ideologies,” wrote Kinchin. The tools of the table are crucial to fully articulating these experiences. The implements with which we eat are just as intertwined with culinary practice as the food we consume, helping to enact the dining rituals that they are designed to address and which they reciprocally prescribe. “It is not to be wondered at, that man made use of all the resources
Moulds in Arita. 2016/ pairs the townâ€™s existing infrastructure with international designers.
Arita is based in Saga Prefecture on Kyushu, the second largest of Japanâ€™s four main islands.
shaped and this freedom has allowed potters almost limitless creativity in the variety of forms, textures and colours they have produced to meet varying lifestyles and customs. Designers are sometimes inhibited by constraints
Each designer, informed by their own approach as well as the time spent working at Arita’s potteries, has simultaneously perpetuated and deviated from traditional techniques.
with handles that reference the typology of tools.
from craft to mass industrialisation – something that transformed tableware in the 20th century into a species of disposable products by reducing quality for the sake of quantity. Rather, it reveals a form of progressive production enabled by techniques employed with the sensitivity and skill of authentic craft. Ceramics shares with many design media an increasing reliance on intricate digital processes. Manus x Machina at the Met in New York (see pp. 161-164), for example, demonstrates how blurred the distinctions between the methods for manufacturing haute couture and ready-to-wear can be, and the same could be said for architecture, furniture and product design. New tools such as 3D printing and five-axis CNC milling have expanded porcelain making’s capacity for precision, control and variation, thereby complementing the deep expertise on handcraft techniques for which Arita is renowned. In so doing, a link between the natural and industrial realms has been formed, blending art and production to achieve artistic and technical excellence. The 2016/ project time-travels through several layers of Arita’s past dealings with pottery and the traces of these are evident in the new collections. The effect is particularly visible in Studio Wieki Somers’s abstracted reinterpretation
of the metal stencils traditionally used to apply decorative motifs to porcelain. The team has replaced these stencils with functional elements, using the curves of handles and lids to create the patterns in the tableware’s deep-blue glaze rather than employing templates. Each designer, informed by their own approach as well as the time spent working at Arita’s potteries, has simultaneously perpetuated and deviated from traditional techniques. Complex moulds were 3D-printed at the Saga Ceramics Research Laboratory for some of the collections, including those designed by Scholten & Baijings (who also incorporated intricate hand painting into their pieces) and Kirstie van Noort. In some instances, new techniques were developed to achieve the designers’ intentions. French designer Pauline Deltour’s vessels were fired upside down to allow for a smooth, continuous glaze on the objects’ bases. Elsewhere, New York-based designer Leon Ransmeier created a collection of tableware whose volumetric “stuck” handles borrow from the language of tools such as saws and wood planes – a celebration of the comfort of these workaday items. The result is an unusually thoughtful project. Featuring some 300 objects in total, it is stimulating in its breadth, innovation and expression. Clay is easily
Arita / Table of Contents: Studies in Japanese Porcelain by Anniina Koivu is published by Phaidon, £49.95. It will be available from September.
Photograph by Scheltens & Abbenes.
Leon Ransmeier designed tableware
– the need to meet a client’s particular demands; to ensure that work fulfils a certain function or satisfies a perceived requirement in the marketplace – yet clay promotes experimentation. 2016/ reaffirms trust in the designer’s creativity, as well as reasserting the importance of a close working relationship between manufacturer and designer. Through this intimate arrangement, designers have more scope to exercise self-expression and articulate their ideas while still meeting commercial demands. Japan, because of its geographic position and aesthetic temperament, has historically exhibited an extraordinary talent for learning and adapting from outside sources without sacrificing its own traditions and beliefs. With equal enthusiasm for encouraging the preservation and renewal of manual traditions and local craftsmanship, 2016/ does not style itself as the definitive word on a vast subject, but rather as the beginning of an exploration. “Arita’s porcelain production is exemplary of this interplay between old and new, between native and foreign, between established and experimental,” notes Anniina Koivu in the book developed to accompany the project. The 2016/ venture attests to both the enduring and changing nature of design; the discipline that shapes and transforms our lives. It argues that the world is fit for (and better understood through) design thinking.
Anatomy of a Table Words Kim Colin and Sam Hecht Industrial Facility’s Run collection of tables, benches and shelves for Emeco was a quiet presence at this year’s annual Salone del Mobile in Milan. The series was inspired by simple picnic tables, yet there is more to it than meets the eye. Here, Kim Colin and Sam Hecht of Industrial Facility discuss Run’s conception. We’re quite lucky to be a small office in that we’ve managed to maintain quality, while searching for a deeper language of thought, craft and execution with every project. So we were naturally thrilled when Emeco approached us, since we have always enjoyed their work. There is a certain charm in the projects Emeco make, in particular the Navy chair. It’s born from that American period of industrialised utility and you know it’s built with a particular view to resilience. The factory is in Pennsylvania, close to Gettysburg, the site of one of the decisive battles of the Civil War. It’s this flat landscape and as you get closer, you start to see hundreds of grass mounds that stretch out towards the horizon, each of which is a monument to a particular regiment. Then you finally arrive at the Emeco factory, which is a little anonymous. Here is a company that in one respect could so easily have become consigned to history, but its owner Gregg Buchbinder has managed to reinvent it. They believe that design can lead the company to new places. Gregg sees the designer as a giver not just of form, but of culture, context and quality. The discussion with Emeco originally centred around wanting a table – a café table specifically. Gregg kept talking about a table that would work with all the Emeco collection and support the idea of people coming together. So while speaking to Emeco, we realised eventually that we shouldn’t really do a café table. Partly manufacturers come to us for a vocabulary to communicate what they want to do, and often when they are needing to examine a new type of object. With the Run tables, there were two big things that we were responding to. First, public space is being eroded in city centres; second, kids now have a social world that happens almost entirely online. We wanted to make a collection that brings people together in a socially relevant and comfortable way. We started by looking at the traditional outdoor Reflection
1 Sam Hecht’s sketchbook showing the development of the Run series for Emeco.
picnic table, the one made up of several planks. When you share a table like that, there is not really a hierarchy to it. With a table that has one continuous surface, it’s easier to treat the whole thing as “your” table, whereas something made up of several planks has a more democratic dynamic. You still get the feeling that someone can sit on one side of the table and have a coffee, while someone else can sit on the other side on a laptop without having the pressure of interacting – yet you are still close. It becomes a table where you can perform different tasks simultaneously. Of course that’s true of all tables, but do they read that way? The aluminium extrusion is in essence continuous, so it gave us the idea of doing a series instead of just a single table. With Run, we could create a collection of tables, benches and shelves using the same materiality and tooling, which is economically and aesthetically satisfying. But without realising it we had fallen into this trap of creating a system. That was not our intention – particularly as now many people think that every project we do is its own system. It’s not in any way deliberate, it’s just that if you spend all of this energy creating something new, why wouldn’t you try and capitalise on it? Once you’ve figured out the dimensions of the die, extruding aluminium is like squeezing out dough. The trickier part is the connections and the finishing of it. We decided to anodise the aluminium, but if you just do that and then put some keys on the tabletop, you end up damaging it quite quickly. So we added a very fine brush finish prior to its anodisation – it’s just enough to mask any light scratches. But this process is very different from other ones that Emeco uses. The Navy chair, for example, is made from a very soft recycled aluminium, which is annealed through a series of ovens that bring it to a very high temperature before cooling it, the result being an extremely hard and durable material. The extrusion for Run is a completely different process, but it’s the same base of materials. Looking at it, the collection is ridiculously simple, but it takes a lot of guts to do a collection which might appear boring or have little character. There’s no big invention with Run, which was deliberate. This placidness would allow all of the Emeco chairs to be brought together and look good.
2 2 The felt seat pad has a seam to help line it up with the gap between planks.
3 Industrial Facility developed a series of posters for the launch of the Emeco Run collection in Milan.
4 The Run series adapts the same parts for different purposes: shelves, table tops, seats and legs.
5 Wooden accessories slot into the gaps between planks.
If you spend all of this energy creating something new, why wouldnâ€™t you try and capitalise on it? 5
A table, bench and shelf are surfaces where life is played out â€“ thatâ€™s their design. Nothing should get in the way of this simple concept.
Whether it’s the Parrish chair by Konstantin Grcic, the Lancaster by Michael Young, or the Alfi by Jasper Morrison – they are like characters and its important they remain so. But there are some small inventions in the details of Run. We developed a new type of leveller where you just turn the foot to find its stable position without creating ugly gaps between the leg and leveller. Another interesting detail is that the gap between the planks gave us an opportunity to support cords and wires, which was driven by an LED light solution we designed for Wästberg that provides tabletop power. One development with the new generation of laptops is that they don’t need a very thick cable with a large plug anymore, so we made sure that a USB cable plug could feed through this gap. A table, bench and shelf are really surfaces where life is played out – nothing should get in the way of that. But the gap between planks fulfils another function too. Even with a shared space, you still have the need to work privately or feel some ownership of the space. So we developed a series of accessories to help territorialise the space, while keeping the feeling of openness. These accessories live in the gaps – they just slip in and are held in place by tension. The accessories become part of the piece and so we made them in wood to give some warmth. When we saw the whole series together we looked at the bench and thought “Wouldn’t it be interesting if we took the low or high legs off the tables and put them on the bench?” It created this slightly odd but very relevant archetype in terms of the spatial conditions it will inhabit and how it will be used – it’s a perfect depth for breakfast or working on a laptop. It’s testament to the flexibility of the series that this actually worked. The reception in Milan was very positive and we were both a little shocked, because achieving that kind of impact with a piece of furniture that is not a chair is very unusual. It’s tough to get excited by a table. We were allowed to design the Emeco stand and we kept it deliberately bare – just a table, bench and shelf. This way you see the potential more than the product. The nicest comment was from Gregg who said that after 70 years, the Navy chair finally has an Emeco table to sit at. E N D Based on an interview by Johanna Agerman Ross.
7 6 A visit to the Emeco factory in Pennsylvania gave insight into production of the Navy chair.
7 A die-casting braces the planks and lets the legs screw into either side.
8 The alumnium used for the extruded planks is 100 per cent recycled.
9 A new type of leveller was developed for the leg of the table and bench.
Dover Street Market – doverstreetmarket.com
Brand’s note: The solar panels in the coat have the ability to generate and store enough electricity to charge a smartphone, given five hours on a sunny day. They are also removable and washable. —Junya Watanabe Man
OBSERVATION: COAT FROM OUTSIDE BY JUNYA WATANABE MAN p. 31
MoMA – moma.org
Interviewee’s note: MoMA has recently acquired a group of furniture by Eileen Gray, which was strategic in the sense that we are aware we have a gender issue, especially in architecture and design. We’re really looking to fill the gaps of our modernist collection through female designers who have been underrepresented. It’s not just that MoMA as an institution has a gender issue, it’s that the whole discipline has this problem. —Martino Stierli
INTERVIEW: TRANS-CURATION pp. 22-28
Writer’s note: Years ago, as a young adolescent, I switched on my parents’ television and was horrified to see Take That performing a live cover version of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ – the torment of the mainstream grabbing what I naively thought was my precious thing. It’s shameful, but the shallower end of the brutalism revival inspires similar feelings in the much older, clearly not much wiser me. —Douglas Murphy
Chanel – chanel.com Elemental – elementalchile.cl Giorgio Armani – armani.com Google – google.com Ikea – ikea.com Philips Lighting – lighting.philips.co.uk Saint Laurent – ysl.com Serpentine Galleries – serpentinegalleries.org Sydney Opera House – sydneyoperahouse.com Vitra Design Museum – design-museum.de V&A – vam.ac.uk Zaha Hadid – zaha-hadid.com
Interviewer’s note: I really didn’t know what to make of a children’s story about sentient 19th-century chairs.
OBSERVATION: THE LUCKY, PLUCKY CHAIRS BY ROLF FEHLBAUM FOR THE VITRA DESIGN MUSEUM p. 57
SCI-Arc – sciarc.edu Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today – tomorrowsthoughtstoday.com Unknown Fields Division – unknownfieldsdivision.com
OBSERVATION: FIXPENCIL BY MARIO BOTTA FOR CARAN D’ACHE p. 75
Writer’s note: At least one drone circled overhead as we gathered for final reviews in the SCI-Arc parking lot. A quad of glowing green dots and the pervasive sense of being watched: this is the new normal. —Mimi Zeiger
Writer’s note: Slow Burn City is kind of spunky. One of its
REVIEW: SLOW BURN CITY pp. 77–80
Mario Botta – botta.ch Caran d’ache – carandache.com
Manufacturer’s note: The Fixpencil was invented in 1929 by Carl Schmid. It was developed because of low cedar wood supplies. Hence the idea to create a very precise writing instrument with a mechanical clutch mechanism holding the graphite. —Caran d’Ache
Advanced Ordnance Teaching Materials – eodtrainingaids.com
Writer’s note: After living in Phnom Penh for several years and writing innumerable stories about its dark history and troubled politics, it was refreshing to come back to write something more cheerful. —Poppy McPherson
PROJECT: ADVANCED ORDNANCE pp. 65–74
Les Champs Libres – leschampslibres.fr Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec Design – bouroullec.com
PROFILE: SPECTACULAR TALES OF ADVENTURE AND YEARNING pp. 50-55
Writer’s note: I wonder whether fashion might salve its fixation on the shortening lifespan of the creative director by looking at the role of the professional sports manager: a person hired and fired in as short‑termist and scattergun a way as possible. Managers now exist in the realm of project management. Fashion doesn’t seem far behind. —Oli Stratford
COMMENT: SO LONG, FAREWELL p. 48
COMMENT: BRUTALIST GREENHORNS p. 47
TIMELINE pp. 19–20
Parsons & Charlesworth – parsonscharlesworth.com
Writer’s note: As we wandered towards the Ganges the lane narrowed and a throng of men jostled and clamoured for someone’s attention. Perched on a waist-high ledge behind a three-foot-diameter bowl of yellow foam, another man calmly served up teacup‑sized portions to the assembled mass in return for a few rupees. Kate, a friend with local knowledge, braved the crush and returned with terracotta cups of the sweet milk froth called nimish. As we took a spoonful, it became clear what the fuss was about. With the consistency of sweetened air, the saffron and rose-water bubbles collapsed into an addictive aftertaste. At our feet a street dog wearing a flower garland around its neck lapped the dregs of the broken, discarded cups with equal enthusiasm. —Jessica Charlesworth and Tim Parsons
PHOTOESSAY: ROUTINE RITUALS: FOUND OBJECTS FROM INDIA pp. 34-45
Sebastian Bergne – sebastianbergne.com
Designer’s note: There’s lot of potential for future development with Ring Soap. There could be an opaque soap or soaps with different perfumes, and we may well go into colours. —Sebastian Bergne
OBSERVATION: RING SOAP BY SEBASTIAN BERGNE p. 32
Writer’s note: At the opening of Rêveries Urbaines in Rennes I was told that one of the miniatures will be developed for a street in Miami’s Design District at the end of the year. I think it’s a shame that the first real-life application of Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s considerate and thoughtful project will end up in a private development, a place where the installation will be done more for the profile of its developers than for the benefits it could bring to the community. —Johanna Agerman Ross
REVIEW: RÊVERIES URBAINES pp. 61-64
Luca Cipelletti – ar.ch.it Museo della Merde – museodellamerda.org
Designer’s note: The choice of Mierdacotta as the name of the material was very easy. “Mierda” means “shit”, “cotta” means “baked”. In the end, this product is baked manure. —Luca Cipelletti
OBSERVATION: SHIT MUG BY LUCA CIPELLETTI FOR THE MUSEO DELLA MERDE p. 58
Vitra Design Museum – design-museum.de
But Rolf Fehlbaum is so overwhelmingly enthusiastic about furniture, that it’s hard not to be won over. After speaking to Fehlbaum, you will believe a chair can walk. —Oli Stratford
Artisan – artisan.ba Gazzda – gazzda.com Kobeiagi Kilims – kobeiagikilims.com Sandin Međedović – sandin.ba Normal Arhitektura – normal.ba Zanat – zanat.org
Writer’s note: A concise evocation of the Bosnian war comes from an exhibit in the History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The wish list of Amra, Jamina and Emina Kujundžić, 1993 is a series of children’s artworks from Dobrinja in Sarajevo that show a selection of bright drawings of bread, cakes, sweets and flowers. Immediately above them is another exhibit. Its title is Destroyed elementary school at Dobrinja. —Oli Stratford
TRAVELOGUE: RETURN TO SARAJEVO pp. 81–96
Picador – picador.com
most entertaining sections shares the erotic reminisces of Peter Rees, chief planner of the City of London for almost 30 years and an aficionado of the leather bars of the East End. This is expanded into an “erotoeconomic theory of town planning”, which states that hedonism is an important part of a city’s ecosystem. Moore also lingers on the “skyscraper as phallus” metaphor while ascending in one of the Heron Tower’s lifts: “Where am I now... surging towards the urethral opening? And what am I, hurtling upwards, with others? It doesn’t bear thinking about.” What would Steen Eiler Rasmussen make of that? I wonder. —Will Wiles
Drumohr – drumohr.it The Elder Statesman – elder-statesman.com Galerie Kreo – galeriekreo.com John Galliano – johngalliano.com Konstantin Grcic Industrial Design – konstantin-grcic.com Hugo Boss – hugoboss.com Intimissimi – intimissimi.com Maison Margiela – maisonmargiela.com Missoni – missoni.com Oliver Spencer – oliverspencer.co.uk Sacai – sacai.jp Paul Smith – paulsmith.co.uk
Dancer’s note: Bending over in those pieces of architecture makes you discover all the possibilities the object is offering you. —Adrien Dantou
GALLERY: AN EXPERIMENT IN SITTING pp. 97-112
REIDENTIFYING THE VICTORIA LINE pp. 129–135
Chairperson’s note: In the crossfire of voices for and against the EU, it’s difficult to get any clarity over the
ROUNTABLE: IDENTITY POLITICS pp. 165-173
The Met – metmuseum.org
Writer’s note: Just days before the opening of Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, Andrew Bolton watched as celebrities paraded down the Met Gala’s red carpet sporting cyborg-inspired dresses, LED assisted gowns and suits, and, yes, even robotic arms. Each year, the Met Gala celebrates the theme of that year’s Costume Institute exhibition, and the exhibition sets the tone for the formal dress of the night. “I think people are expecting the exhibition to be about robots and Daleks,” said Bolton, “and it really isn’t about that at all.” —Amber Winick
REVIEW: MANUS X MACHINA pp. 161-164
Art & Design Atomium Museum – adamuseum.be Eames Office – eamesoffice.com Paul Schrader – paulschrader.org
in the best possible place. Schrader remains the most quotable person I have talked to about the Eameses, with the possible exception of Billy Wilder, another great screenwriter. But that is another story! —Pat Kirkham
No Sir – no-sir.com
Writer’s note: Reflecting on women and design made me think about the way in which we gender the figure of the designer. What, then, does it mean to be a woman in design? What would it mean for design to become more egalitarian? Is there an image of the woman as designer we could resurrect from history or do women always need to break new ground? —Nina Power
COMMENT: GENDER BIAS p. 128
Andreas Engesvik – andreasengesvik.no Future Facility – futurefacility.co.uk Jordan – jordan.no
Writer’s note: Soon after I began speaking to Paul Schrader I realised that my notes were taking on the form of beautifully complete sentences. Here was someone who seemed not to need an intermediate process to form sentences; every word appeared
HISTORY: EAMES AND FILM pp. 140-160
Arup – arup.com Mini – mini.co.uk ON Design – ondesign.co.jp
COMMENT: CUTTING THEIR TEETH p. 127
Writer’s note: After my genuine despair looking for toothbrushes on the high street, I have found two: MUJI’s round toothbrush in clear plastic and the Swissdent Profi with coloured bristles. Both are hard to come by. —Johanna Agerman Ross
Architect’s note: Up until now in houses you’ve had security and privacy in a very shutdown way, but in this case everything can be open. You have a standpoint that encourages collaboration and lets you play with that. —Osama Nishida
ADVERTORIAL: MINI LIVING – DO DISTURB pp. 136-139
Art on the Underground – art.tfl.gov.uk Giles Round – gilesround.co.uk
Writer’s note: Sixteen years after comparing the London Underground to the speed of life, Virginia Woolf described the network rather differently. In The Waves, published in 1933, tube carriages are said to have a propensity to “explode in the flanks of the city like a shell in the side of some ponderous, maternal, majestic animal”. —Joe Lloyd
Bonhams – bonhams.com Christie’s – christies.com Örnsbergsauktionen – ornsbergsauktionen.se Phillips – phillips.com
Writer’s note: Going to Phillips is an edifying experience. On the one hand the auction house is a very egalitarian space: anyone can enter, walk around, touch and sit on the furnishings (although probably not as much as I did), and even go and see them be auctioned off. On the other, I’ve never felt poorer, scruffier, or more like an outsider. —Catherine Rossi
REPORT: UNDER THE HAMMER pp. 113-126
Timberland – timberland.com Tommy Hilfiger – tommy.com
HaaT – isseymiyake.com/en/brands/haat
Photographer’s note: I had just been to see the Issey Miyake retrospective in The National Art Center when I received a commission to shoot Makiko Minagawa. Getting access to the design studio proved to be difficult, so instead I was let into a vast space in the basement that consisted mostly of white walls flooded with natural light. Minagawa-san seemed at odds that anyone would want to take a picture of her, let alone in her actual studio. It’s an attitude which I actually thought made her the more attractive. —Martin Holtkamp
REFLECTION: HAPTIC FEEDBACK pp. 174–177
Ab Rogers Design – abrogers.com El Ultimo Grito – eugstudio.com EU Referendum – eureferendum.gov.uk EU-UK – eu-uk.info The Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture, Kingston University – fada.kingston.ac.uk Goldsmith Department of Design – gold.ac.uk/design Glithero – glithero.com Julia Lohmann – julialohmann.co.uk Kathrin Böhm – andmillionsandmillions.net Review of the Balance of Competences – gov.uk/guidance/review-of-the-balance-of-competences Oscar Diaz Design – oscar-diaz.net Study O Portable – studyoportable.com
EU’s actual impact on the UK. However, what is never mentioned is a report commissioned by the current UK government that provides just that. The 2012–2014 Review of the Balance of Competences looks in detail at every single aspect of Britain’s EU membership, from agriculture to migration to culture. And, drumroll... the assessment is largely a positive one. Why on earth it isn’t more prominent in the debate beats me. Instead the campaigns for and against are full of empty statistics that seem able to be reappropriated by either side. It’s a shame that we haven’t taken this opportunity to engage in a deeper discussion on identity and belonging. —Johanna Agerman Ross
REFLECTION: DEVELOPING SYSTEMS pp. 183–187
2016/ – 2016arita.com
Writer’s note: 2016/ is a highly complex endeavour, but quite central to the discussion is the theory of mingei, the folk crafts movement conceptualised in the 1910–20s and prominently led by critic and philosopher Soetsu Yanagi as well as his son Sori. Although Sori died in 2011, his approach continues to be reinterpreted by artists and designers globally. —Tiffany Lambert
REVIEW: 2016/ ARITA pp. 179-182
Artemide artemide.com back cover Biennale Interieur interieur.be inside back cover Blå Station blastation.com p. 33 Bordbord bordbord.se p. 30 Crafts Council craftscouncil.org.uk p. 76 De La Espada delaespada.com p. 15 Dornbracht dornbracht.com p. 29 Duravit duravit.co.uk p. 17 Elmo Leather elmoleather.com p. 12 Emeco emeco.net pp. 4-5 Hansgrohe hansgrohe.com p. 8 Hitch Mylius hitchmylius.co.uk p. 56 James Burleigh jamesburleigh.co.uk p. 49 Kvadrat kvadrat.dk pp. 2-3 Laufen laufen.co.uk p. 47 Ligne Roset ligne-roset.com p. 1, inside front cover Maison & Objet maison-objet.com p. 18 Modus modusfurniture.co.uk pp. 6-7 USM usm.com p. 11 Vola vola.com p. 59 V&A vam.ac.uk p. 60 Wrong London wrong.london p. 21
Emeco – emeco.net Industrial Facility – industrialfacility.co.uk
Designer’s note: My colleague Philipp and I were invited to visit a chip factory that was next door to the Emeco factory. It was a bit surreal seeing the process from potato to crisp, but our love of production and factories means that as a designer you can never say no to a visit. You never know when the knowledge might come in handy. —Sam Hecht
The must-see design event since â€™68 with a hybrid mix of commerce and culture
Biennale INTERIEUR 2016 interieur.be 25th Silver Edition 14-23 October Kortrijk, Belgium
A discussion about the impact of Brexit on design with Ab Rogers, El Ultimo Grito and Julia Lohmann among others; a meeting with Martino Sti...