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Kumbh Mela Donald Judd Mary Katrantzou Erik Madigan Heck UN North Delegates Lounge Paul Smith Marloes ten Böhmer Cohen and Van Balen Industrial Facility Richard Siegal Claesson Koivisto Rune Wieki Somers Gareth Pugh

UK £15 EU €18 US $28

On spectacles



A programme of our upcoming events



Industrial Facility’s new collection of desk accessories



Constance Cartable by Hermès



The counter to the European Capital of Culture



Dresses made from bin bags



The 2013 edition of the Smartgeometry conference



Masks by Nitzan Cohen



The changing terrain of design and architecture education



Wieki Somers on travel and return



The Diogene House by Renzo Piano



Paul Smith selects his favourite everyday objects accompanied by a quiz on their unusual uses



Cohen and Van Balen’s new project in China








Vitamin’s Lego calendar



Key reads on fashion designer Dries Van Noten



Tom Dixon for Adidas




The recently restored former home and studio of American artist Donald Judd





A conversation between architect and urbanist Rahul Mehrotra and photographer Giles Price on the potential of the Indian mass bathing ritual



Leading figures in the lighting industry predict how it will evolve in years to come



Mary Katrantzou and photographer Erik Maddigan Heck on appropriation in the digital age



Hella Jongerius leads a team of Dutch designers in the renovation of part of the United Nations in New York



Choreographer Richard Siegal on the importance of collaboration in dance

Claesson Koivisto Rune moves into prefab architecture PREVIEW 2

Wrong for Hay



Marloes ten Bhömer on engineering the shoe



Perfume, Sir? by DesignMarketo


People and brands in this issue

BROOM by PHILIPPE STARCK Made in America from 90% industrial waste. www.emeco.net


PHOTO arthur arkin, retouching stuart beatty

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PHOTO arthur arkin, retouching stuart beatty

Subscribe to Disegno. and receive a free set of two Kartio glasses,* designed for Iittala by Kaj Franck in 1958.

disegnodaily.com/subscribenow *The first 100 subscribers that sign up to our 3 for 2 deal (from ÂŁ24), will receive a set of two 400ml, sea blue Kartio glasses (value ÂŁ15).



“We are all dancers in a masked ball,” the artist Cindy Sherman once said. Sherman is right. There is certainly an aspect of performance and artifice to human interaction, and I don’t mean that cynically. But it still comes as a surprise that without any preplanned intention, many features in this issue of Disegno deal with spectacles, where designers and architects play a key role in their realisation. We start in a factory in the Pearl River Delta in south east China, where 15 factory workers perform a swan song for the second industrial revolution to the tune of designers Tuur Van Balen and Revital Cohen, who went there to produce their new piece 75 Watt. A little further west, the largest public gathering in the world, the Kumbh Mela in India, is investigated as a template for temporary megacities. The South Asian Institute at Harvard went there to document and analyse the infrastructure behind its highly formalised cleansing rituals in the Ganges. Then, at the Opera in Gothenburg, the working methods and design collaborations of choreographer Richard Siegal are investigated as he trains backstage with 40 dancers from the opera’s ballet. Meanwhile, photographer Erik Madigan Heck and fashion designer Mary Katrantzou discuss the theatrical aspects of their collaborative image-making over email. But this is just a small fraction of the places and people in this issue. With Disegno No.5, we celebrate two years in print. Although a small milestone, we nevertheless thought we should mark the occasion with some sort of spectacle of our own. This led to the decision to redesign our space on Kingsland Road in London. Leading the process is designer Felix de Pass and the finished result will be revealed to the public at an open house during the London Design Festival. It feels good to finally have a space that embodies Disegno and provides a base for our interaction with the world. EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Johanna Agerman Ross


Disegno. 9







Johanna Agerman Ross johanna@disegnomagazine.com Daren Ellis, See Studio daren@disegnomagazine.com DESIGN DIRECTOR

Colin Christie colin@disegnomagazine.com ASSISTANT EDITOR ONLINE EDITOR

Oli Stratford oliver@disegnomagazine.com EDITORIAL ASSISTANT

Kristina Rapacki kristina@disegnomagazine.com RESEARCH EDITOR SALON CO-ORDINATOR

Manijeh Verghese manijeh@disegnomagazine.com SUB EDITORS

Nick Jones, Andrew Lindesay DESIGN ASSISTANT

Anna Holden


Adam Taylor-Smith


Andrew Chidgey-Nakazono andrew@tack-press.com SALES TEAM

RA Enterprises Royal Academy of Arts Jane Grylls, Kim Jenner, Paolo Russo, Emily Knowles PAPER AND PRINT

This issue of Disegno is printed on Symbol Tatami 115gsm with a cover on cast-coated Splendorlux 250gsm, from Fedrigoni UK. CONTACT US

Disegno Tack Press Limited 283 Kingsland Road London E2 8AS +44 20 7739 8188 disegnodaily.com

10 Disegno.

Photograph by Giles Price of a sadhu encircled by his ritual offering at Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, February 2013.

Peter Ballantine, Sebastian Bergne, Zowie Broach, Sarah Frater, Lori Marie Gibbs, Edwin Heathcote, Erik Madigan Heck, Kasia Jezowska, Ayesha Kapila, Mary Katrantzou, Magnus Larsson, Pete Maxwell, Rahul Mehrotra, Jacob Moss, Giles Price, Marcus Agerman Ross, Zoë Ryan. IMAGES BY

Michael Bodiam, Elspeth Diederix, Christopher Patrick Ernst, Erik Madigan Heck, Anthony Gerace, Hillary Goidell, Alexander Kent, Ben Murphy, Giles Price, Frank Oudeman, Linus Ricard, Kalle Sanner, Paul Smith, Chris Tang, Sonny Vandevelde. THANK YOU

To all the residents of 283 Kingsland Road for your patience during the office refurbishment, Felix de Pass for the beautiful office design and your hard work, everyone at Dinesen for your kind support, James and his team at Roger Hyde, Robert Culverhouse, Wästberg, and Amorim Cork. In order to put this issue together we are very grateful for the help of Adam Taylor-Smith and Anna Holden, Michael Maharam, Madeleine Hoffmann, Siska Diddens, Jolanthe Kugler, Neil Conley, Hazel Cross and the Hackney Wick Hound. And finally, to all the people that made the Design Picnics possible: Richard Haughton, Jerome and Alexandre from DesignMarketo, Jacopo Sarzi, Martí Guixé, Claire Catterall, Karishma Rafferty, Iris Long and One Leicester Street. 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 has joined forces with men’s fashion magazine, Jocks&Nerds to form the publishing company Tack Press.


Disegno’s Upcoming Events

Disegno has an extensive programme of salons lined up for the next few months, ranging from designer talks to film screenings and walking tours. CAMPER WALKS IN ASSOCIATION WITH DISEGNO 17 & 21 SEPTEMBER 2013 A walk through east London taking in a range of creative studios, as well as the new Disegno offices designed by Felix de Pass. The walks culminate in drinks at Camper’s new store in Spitalfields by Doshi Levien. disegnodaily.com/walks

FILM NIGHTS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH RIBA LONDON AND DISEGNO SEPTEMBER – NOVEMBER 2013 A series of five film screenings focusing on mid-century modernism in America. Films include Marfa Voices (2010), International Space Orchestra (2013), Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman (2008), Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2011) and Eames: The Architect and The Painter (2011). disegnodaily.com/filmnights

DESIGNER TALK AT LIGNE ROSET 15 OCTOBER 2013 Singaporean designer Nathan Yong works between the fields of product design, interiors and exhibition design. In conversation at the Ligne Roset West End showroom he will discuss his recent projects. disegnodaily.com/nathanyong

12 Disegno. SALONS

THE COMPETITION NOVEMBER 2013 This 2013 film by Angel Borrego Cubero, from the architecture practice Office for Strategic Spaces, will be publicly screened for the first time in the UK at the RIBA London in association with Disegno. The film focuses on five world-renowned architects competing to build a new National Museum of Art in Andorra in 2008. more information to follow

2013 REVIEW DECEMBER 2013 Gathering experts in the professions of architecture, fashion and design, Disegno’s annual review discusses the highlights of 2013 and looks to the future with what to expect in 2014. disegnodaily.com/2013review


The Shape of Things “Why design these containers, and why now?” asks Kim Colin, co-founder of London-based design studio Industrial Facility. Colin is reflecting on Formwork, Industrial Facility’s new collection of desk accessories. A set of cantilevered pots and trays, Formwork’s shapes nestle together to accommodate items ranging from tape to mugs, pens and USB drives. “I think part of the reason we did this is that desk accessories are often too expressive, or too cheap or overly precious,” says Colin. “Desk accessories are generally bereft of good design.” >


The Formwork trays and pots are of different depths and sizes to accommodate items ranging from mugs to USB drives. PHOTOS Alexander Kent


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The interconnecting trays are designed so that they also work as standalone items.

> Formwork is a remedy to this. Like bento boxes for objects, its containers are shaped to accommodate a range of utensils and tools, with indentations in the surface acting as holders for keys and coffee cups. The designs are manufactured in neutral tones of durable plastic and rubber, with a high finish that belies their office accessory origins. “One thing I dislike,” says Colin, “is a kind of pseudowork aesthetic – the idea that people should look as though they are working because of what surrounds them. Life is not like that.” The series was designed by Colin and her Industrial Facility partner Sam Hecht for Herman Miller, the American office furniture brand that they have worked with since 2008. Like Herman Miller designers George Nelsen and Charles and Ray Eames before them, their task is to create designs that react to the evolving ways in which offices work. Formwork was unveiled in June at Chicago’s NeoCon trade fair, where it was shown alongside the studio’s Locale, an office system that promotes customisation through movable components. Just as Locale is designed around flexibility, so is the flexible interaction of Formwork’s pots and trays essential to the project. Slotting inside one another, the pieces create trays of varying depths and sizes, while nonetheless retaining their status as standalone designs. “With a storage system like Tupperware, each item looks as though it should stack and connect, so the system itself is constantly displayed,” says Hecht. “With Formwork we wanted to create a system whereby a pencil cup, a paper tray or a tissue box maintained a singular dignity, while also being able to connect to each other.” As the name suggests, Industrial Facility’s approach to design is no-nonsense. Despite the diverse projects the practice has taken on, an Industrial Facility product is always intuitive and always practical. Working with their 16 Disegno. THE SHAPE OF THINGS

in-house design team of Ippei Matsumoto and Philipp Von Lintel, Hecht and Colin have created designs ranging from the Branca chair for Mattiazzi, a wooden toy City in a Bag for Muji, and the multipurpose Jetlag clock for IDEA. Uniting all the projects is the thoroughness of the studio’s research. Throughout the design process, each object is debated by the team, its function and place in the world continually placed under the spotlight. Formwork was no exception

throughout the process of designing. Handcrafted models are generated at every stage, resulting in objects that, although industrially produced, are indelibly marked by the hand of the designer. But arriving at a design that combines the appropriate materials with the appropriate method of making is not a laborious search for something new. For Hecht and Colin, it is instead a consequence of striving to create in the most logical way possible. Their

“One thing I dislike is a kind of pseudowork aesthetic – the idea that people should look as though they are working because of what surrounds them.” to this, with the containers developed through study of the objects typically kept on desks. The penholder for instance, has a circumference exactly measured to hold a roll of tape as well. “We figured that if we built for those objects,” says Colin, “the rest would sit happily next to each other.” Hecht and Colin hold firm to a belief in industrial production, yet also value traditional craftsmanship. Industrial Facility relies on the manual skills of the studio

expertise lies in being able to adroitly reinvigorate something as banal as a desk accessory, an object whose demise would otherwise have surely been imminent.

Zoë Ryan is the chair of architecture and design at the Art Institute Chicago. She has also been appointed curator of the second Istanbul Design Biennial, to be held in October 2014. Formwork for Herman Miller is on display in Industrial Facility’s pop-up shop at 20 Britton Street during the London Design Festival from 17-20 September 2013.



Constance Cartable by Hermès The Constance handbag has been in continuous production by Hermès since its launch in 1968. It has a small, boxy shape and an adjustable shoulder strap. But it’s the large H-shaped clasp that is the Constance’s main identifying feature. So it comes as no surprise that its creator, Catherine Chaillet, is a prolific graphic designer and illustrator. Creator of several of the identities for France’s largest television network, TF1, during the 1970s and 1980s, she once said that “a logo is a kind of visual acrostic. It’s like a Japanese Haiku in its conciseness and must express the whole story.”

Chaillet proposed the design for the Constance to Hermès many years before, but the process of realising it dragged on until the same year as Chaillet’s daughter Constance was born, hence its name. Over the years, the Constance has been altered in size and shape, with larger and more oblong versions now available. The latest incarnation, the Cartable, measures 29cm and is a revival of an older style but with the new addition of a shorter strap.

Johanna Agerman Ross (see p. 10) The Constance Cartable is part of the Hermès autumn/winter 2013-14 collection.

PHOTO Alexander Kent



Letter from Marseilles Pasted to an old stone wall in the tightly packed Panier quarter of Marseilles, a life-size paper cut-out of a man points along the street. A sign beneath him indicates that a jazz bar is somewhere in that direction. Another figure on an adjacent street shows the way to a library. They are not the only ones. Throughout this shabby, picturesque district, similar black-and-white print-outs point with their arms outstretched. >


The facade and footbridge of the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations by Rudy Ricciotti, part of Marseilles’ waterfront redevelopment as the European Capital of Culture 2013. PHOTO Lisa Ricciotti


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This page: various papered graffiti in the Panier quarter of Marseilles. PHOTOS Colin Christie

> Marseilles is a city full of graffiti and the pointing figures aren’t unusual. It would be easy to assume they were merely part of the street culture, but the uninterrupted pages of paper people hint that their maker – or at least their source of funding – is a body more official than an individual. After all, a paste-up artist’s output would be restricted by the machines at the local printshop, or use of the office copier. They would likely compose work in a puzzle of segments, glued quickly, awkwardly, in the dark of an early-morning graffiti session. There’s plenty of this about in Marseilles. Graffeurs are part of the culture. In 2013, culture is Marseilles’ main industry. Together with Košice in Slovakia, Marseilles is this year’s European Capital of Culture. Officials have planned the event for almost a decade, assembling a year-long programme called Sharing the South and the brand identity MP2013, Marseilles-Provence 2013. Alongside the spray paint and tags that populate the old port and the claustrophobic Cours Julien, and the yellowed magazine pages decorating the walls of the Panier, MP2013-branded pink posters and signage are visible throughout the city. The excitement is evident, yet alongside this there is tension, all played out in the work of the graffeurs. While it is nominally about culture, MP2013 is also designed to revitalise the infrastructure and long-term economic outlook of one of the poorest cities in France. Over the past few years, significant parts of Marseilles became one large work site, as it worked towards its status as a European Capital of Culture. As well as infrastructure improvements throughout the region, three new museums were built on the Marseilles waterfront — two from the ground up, one as a complete refurbishment of an existing heritage building. The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations by Algerian-born French architect Rudy Ricciotti, in collaboration with Roland Carta, is a dark grey metal filligree-clad box, while its next-door neighbour, the Villa Méditerranée by Milanese architect Stefano Boeri, juts out over a public terrace toward the sea. Nearby, the Regards de Provence Museum is housed in the former health terminal for newly arrived immigrants, a structure designed by French architect Fernand Pouillon in 1948. All three opened in 2013 as confirmation of Marseilles’ status as a cultural centre for the region and further projects were unveiled in


the city’s old port. The M Pavilion houses tourist information, Norman Foster’s mirrored Vieux Port Pavilion provides shade from the Mediterranean sun, and the old city hall has been recast in the solid pink with white dots that forms MP2013’s graphic identity. But throughout its planning, there was concern that MP2013 was not so much a project for the people of Marseilles as a redevelopment project run from corporate offices and a bureaucratic Paris. For many Marseillais, MP2013 views them less as residents and more as obstacles in its path towards revitalising the city. This

ownership of the Capital of Culture label and mocking the programme’s intentions. A small paste-up mimicking the MP2013 branding is plastered around town. Spinning its happy-friendly pink identity back on itself, the logo claims Marseilles to be the Capital of Rupture, accompanied by snarling slogans such as “The Panier is not for sale!” A similar protest is sold by a local design and graphics bookshop. A pink screen-printed poster that riffs on the official MP2013 posters, it glories in a childishly meaningless slogan: “Marseilles Provence Poo Pee Ass 2013.” Typographically, it looks just like the real posters

If an official body is copying local graffiti artists, it is a clever and cynical tactic. divide between local culture and the imposed official Culture is evident throughout the city, with its walls used liberally as a forum for voicing these tensions. Angry phrases and political rallying cries are spray-painted across the inner city, disavowing

and, together with the official livery, it is hidden in plain sight around town. Yet the cut-out figures of the Panier are the most intriguing. If an official body is copying the local graffiti artists, it is a clever and cynical tactic. But even official graffiti is open to public participation. Many figures have been defaced and one has been decapitated, its head torn from its gesturing body. Headless, it looks slightly grotesque, its pointing somehow threatening. The sign accompanying it indicates the place to which it is pointing is the city hall, the building at the symbolic centre of the MP2013 tourist hype. Go there, it seems to suggest, at your own risk.

Colin Christie (see p. 10)


Gareth Pugh on Artifice A rustle of jet-black feathers. Boxy headpieces in dense astroturf. Tightly woven leather bodices with bristling fringes. The last 10 looks from London-based fashion designer Gareth Pugh’s autumn/winter 2013 collection are an exercise in variegating darkness. But they are not quite what they seem: what looks like leather, plumage, fur, and astroturf is recyclable black plastic. “I’m fascinated with that feeling of something looking real but being plastic, being fake,” says Pugh. Last February, the 19th-century rooms of the Hôtel de Salomon de Rothschild in Paris were temporarily transformed into a haunted mansion for the presentation of Pugh’s collection. Staging a metamorphosis from white robes to black silhouettes, the show closed with the triumphant ruffle of the bin-bag pieces. Shortly afterwards, a number of them were duplicated in Pugh’s London studio and shipped to New York, where they featured in Punk: Chaos to Couture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But how did Pugh turn this ubiquitous material into such finely tuned garments? The black bin bags hark back to one of Pugh’s earliest collections. “I first used them for the spring/summer 2007 collection,” he says, sitting down in his east London studio. The former warehouse that it’s based in used to be derelict and unheated, but it has been renovated into an efficient studio that today buzzes with 15 members of staff. “People really expected me to use bin bags at that time,” says Pugh. He is referring to his early career in London, when he quickly established himself as the youngest


representative of a particularly British brand of eccentric conceptualism, established by the likes of fashion designers Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen. Pugh’s credentials were certainly in place: wunderkind costume designer for the National Youth Theatre at 14, Central Saint Martins graduate in 2003, and instant enfant terrible upon the presentation of his balloon-based graduate collection. Shape-warping protrusions, aggressive exoskeletal structures, and materials that evoke BDSM or London’s underground club scene came to characterise Pugh’s aesthetic. Bin bags were part of this mix. The 2007 bin-bag piece was emphatically true to its material. It didn’t pretend to be anything else, says Pugh, summing up the look as “bin-bag cardigan, bin-bag hat and bin-bag bag.” With his most recent use of black plastic however, the material plays tricks on the eye.

1996, you’re talking about a different thing.” Rather than postmodern bricolage, Pugh seems more interested in illusion and trompe l’oeil, making familiar things strange by artificially recreating them in an unexpected material. “Basically, the bin-bag pieces are supposed to look a bit like fur,” he says, “so I didn’t think it would be punk enough for the exhibition.” And the material choice itself wasn’t down to coincidence. Much effort was put into locating the type of plastic bag that would best lend itself to deceptive effects, in itself at odds with the makeshift tactics of the punk movement. “We did a lot of bin-bag research,” says Pugh. “We bought lots of rolls to find the right one, but it so happened that the Poundland on Ridley Road, around the corner, was the place we got them from. They were matte, very deep black, and had a tissue paper-like feel to them. They were also very thin and sinewy, with

“I’m fascinated with that feeling of something looking real but being plastic, being fake.” As garments, the bin-bag looks retain the spectacular qualities of Pugh’s earlier collections, but they are infinitely more wearable. “I like the fact that we could recycle that idea and take it a whole lot further this time.” Pugh’s inclusion in the Punk show, his second display at the Met (the first was in the 2008 exhibition Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy), marks the designer’s entry into the fashion establishment, much as the exhibition itself turns the rebelliousness of the punk movement into a sanitised high-fashion format. Pugh’s pieces are shown in the DIY: Bricolage section, representing a typically postmodern form of tinkering that collapses “high” and “low” design. Yet the punk movement itself, along with the era it symptomised, is a closed chapter for Pugh’s generation. “I was born in 1981 and it was a bit over by then, really,” he says. “I was really disappointed when I first heard the Sex Pistols. I was expecting this incredible new sound, but when I was 15 in

a movement unlike plastic. That’s why they sometimes look like feathers en masse.” As if to underline his penchant for contrast, Pugh reveals two very different future projects. “I’m kind of dabbling my feet into the world of fine jewellery,” he says. “We’ve gone to visit a huge diamond mine in South Africa to see the process of how they’re dug out of the earth, how they’re sorted, and then polished.” On the other end of the fashion spectrum, Pugh is also working on three designs for Melissa, the Brazilian plastic shoe company. “They’ll be quite outrageous, quite full-on for Melissa,” he laughs. “You’ll see.” Pugh has evidently not exhausted the possibilities of plastic quite yet.

Kristina Rapacki (see p. 10) Punk: Chaos to Couture was shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 9 May – 14 August 2013. Pieces from Gareth Pugh’s autumn/winter 2013-14 collection are available from yoox.com and selfridges.com.

page: bin bags palette TheThis New Medieval range TheThe collection’s a feather-like quality. for have cosmetics brand Make is inspired by the page: The hasOpposite a tactile, primal quality. natural landscape. material features inof the Here is a study in clay 10 looks in Pugh’s autumn/ colours for the collection winter 2013-14 collection. PHOTOS Sonny Vandevelde


Disegno. 25


Constructing for Uncertainty This year’s Smartgeometry conference focused on physical making rather than virtual modelling, so it’s fitting that the first 10 years of the conference is celebrated with a (printed) book. Flying over London, you’re exposed to a mesmerising spread of architecture history, an urban quilt made up of the Georgian, the Victorian, the Edwardian, the postwar and the contemporary. At the most recent end of this spectrum, there is the digital, with buildings such as the Gherkin, the Crystal and the stadiums of the Olympic Park, which, at its best, turns experimental designs into showcases of computational geometry, and, at its worst, becomes reduced to pointless exercises in information-based problem solving. The 2013 edition of the conference Smartgeometry (SG), titled Constructing for Uncertainty, oscillated, as SG regularly does, between these two extremes. While the annual event can threaten to implode under the weight of its own self-absorption in the technicalities of script-based modelling, SG is still one of the most exciting colloquiums one can hope to attend – an unparalleled gathering of some of the best minds of our generation among the world’s most inspired and inspiring architects, engineers, planners, programmers and academics. “People ask me if we can meet up at the Smartgeometry office,” says Xavier De Kestelier, one of SG’s directors. “And I never know what to answer. At my kitchen table? We have nothing. The entire organisation is on this.” He waves his iPad in the air. “It’s a super-lean framework – cluster submissions get peer reviewed, and so the best people on the planet become cluster leaders. This is something we do in our spare time.” When not working on SG, De Kestelier co-heads the Specialist Modelling Group at Foster�+�Partners and teaches at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London. The clusters De Kestelier mentions are at the core of SG. As explained on Smartgeometry’s website, clusters are “hubs of expertise” that provide “a forum for the exchange of ideas, processes and techniques, and act as catalysts for design resolution.” The 10 clusters this year responded in different ways to this year’s conference’s challenge – in its own words, “discovering robust and tolerant design systems to meet the demands of a malleable present and uncertain future”. All of them were fascinating but of particular interest were Adaptive Structural Skins, featuring the trailblazing


Daniel Piker, the creator of the modelling software Kangaroo, and his study for a material system; Computer Vision and Freeform Construction with a Spanish team that used “off-the-shelf hardware and robust computer vision algorithms” to explore the idea of free-form masonry in the construction of vaults; and the Robotic FOAMing cluster run by Marjan Colletti and Georg Grasser, both of whom teach at the Institute for Experimental Architecture at the University of Innsbruck, who use computer-controlled robots to stretch expandable foam into filaments to make strangely beautiful sculptures that could be read as fullscale prototypes of building components or even scale

decade is celebrated through a selection of texts and projects that have marked this journey. From a retrospective look at CAD systems, going back to Sketchpad (developed by Ivan Sutherland in 1963),

At its best, SG is one of the most exciting colloquiums one can hope to attend. models of strangely abstract, futuristic buildings. It is a fitting illustration of the road towards this experimental future along which this highly specialised part of the architectural community is travelling, that many of the best projects to come out of 2013’s conference are focused on physical fabrication rather than virtual modelling, the what rather than the how. SG was founded in 2001 but the first workshop was organised in 2003, and in the recent book, Inside Smartgeometry, the first

by Robert Aish (Director of Software Development at Autodesk Research), to the radically feminist “Matrix Architecture” by Jenny E. Sabin (Assistant Professor in Architecture at Cornell University), it is a timely and readable salute to these yearly investigations at the intersection of architecture and digital technologies.

Magnus Larsson is a writer based in London and Stockholm and a founder of the architecture and design studio Ordinary Ltd. The Smartgeometry 2013 conference took place at the Bartlett from 15–20 April 2013.



Masks by Nitzan Cohen Nitzan Cohen’s designs are both masks and fans. Made from reflective laser-cut metal, they have fan-like shapes but with cut-outs for peeking. Perhaps nowhere more than Japan have fans transcended their utilitarian origins. Two types of Japanese fan provided Cohen with inspiration: fixed and folding varieties. Fixed fans, uchiwa, arrived in Japan as early as the sixth century and play a ceremonial role within the nation’s culture. As such, they are not woven into the fabric of daily life in the same way as folding fans – ōgi or sensu. Cohen’s masks allude to the performative potential that lies dormant in each piece. In traditional Japanese Noh and Kabuki


theatre, fans become figurative extensions of the body, expertly manipulated by the dancer to signify narratives, emotions and character traits. This same energy exists in Cohen’s designs. While in Europe fans have long been consigned to the annals of costume history, in the Far East they remain relevant to both genders and to all sections of society; their popularity, thankfully, shows little sign of diminishing.

Jacob Moss is a curator at London’s Fan Museum, thefanmuseum.org.uk. Nitzan Cohen’s masks were made in an edition of 100 pieces for Charlie Club in Munich, where they were given to patrons on 1 June 2013, bar.charl.ie.

PHOTOS Alexander Kent


Disegno. 29


Design in an Age of Not Knowing “I never let my schooling interfere with my education,” so the American writer and humourist Mark Twain once said. Though delivered with a half-smile, Twain’s aphorisms were never entirely frivolous – they were an efficient method of expressing social truths. In 2013 there is a need to reconnect with this particular truth, that schooling (a system for delivering knowledge) and education (the acquisition of knowledge) are far from synonymous. The role of the designer is now based on exploring the unknown as much as it is defined by a predetermined set of abilities. The pace of technological change, increasingly mutable working conditions and an emphasis away from specialisation and towards cross-disciplinary and collaborative production processes mean that the task of reskilling is a growing part of the designer’s working life. It would seem that last decade’s T-shaped practitioners (those whose depth of expertise – the vertical bar of the letter T


– can also work with those in other disciplines and apply that expertise to a broader field, represented by the horizontal bar) aren’t just defunct, they’ve been superseded by a more dynamic form. Current design pedagogy, with its rigid hierarchies, prohibitive costs and fixed periods of operation, is ill-equipped to respond to these circumstances – this at a time when rising fees, a depressed jobs market and increased access to information have made students sceptical of the value of university programmes. In some cases they are taking matters into their own hands, with extracurricular study increasingly prioritised over mandatory parts of the course. We may now be entering an era where designers are perceived less as experts in a specific field and more as professionalised pupils, privileged for their adaptability.

This reversal points towards profound structural consequences, with higher education reformatted to serve those at all stages of their career. As the distinction between student, professional and educator blurs, so too must the gap between those two polarised establishments, the office and academia, close. Though radical, this opinion is gaining support. For instance, over the course of the past year a number of European initiatives have taken the concept to its logical conclusion by testing how these polarities can begin to exist in a single space. The first of these occurred in May this year at the Stanley Picker Gallery at Kingston University, London. This hybrid event and exhibition, titled Pilots, consisted of a series of one-day workshops during which participants, a mix of leading designers, tutors and critics, gathered to discuss alternative models for design education.

Pilots was conceived by El Ultimo Grito, a Londonbased design studio with over 20 years’ teaching experience. Over this time they have regularly tried to subvert ingrained structures, aware that, like the outcome of any other project, students have to be delivered into an evolving context. “We approach it in the same way that we approach any design”, says Roberto Feo, one half of the El Ultimo Grito team alongside his partner Rosario Hurtado. “University should be a place where you challenge the status quo and try and find alternatives, not a place where you do things because of some sort of ideological inertia.” For those attending the workshops, El Ultimo Grito had created a classroom that sat halfway between the digital and the physical. While the party was confined to the gallery space for most of the day, the addition of microphones, cameras, screens and projectors meant that the room was virtually porous, their discussion drawing from and spilling out into the webscape. In one wall was a two-way mirror, through which visitors could watch the unfolding debate unobserved. This mirror not only allowed the spectacle to be watched without interrupting it, but also stood as a metaphor for the detachment of our screenbased culture. When sliding between digital and physical environments, access does not equate engagement. Pilots didn’t seek to arrive at any definitive predictions, though a book with the participants’ responses will be published later this year.

Instead it sought to ascertain what remained important in the institutional experience once one substantial component, namely raw data, was outsourced. Consequently, what Pilots fashioned was an effective mechanism for asking difficult questions without authorities or prescriptions, just a temporary community and the open landscape of the web. Shortly after Pilots concluded, across London another project launched that sought to test a similar set of concerns, but this time by recalibrating the format of an existing establishment. Night School, hosted at the Architectural Association, occurred after the day’s sanctioned educational activity had been completed. Consisting of a rolling programme of three events – Book Club, Crit Club and How to Build an Office – Night School aimed to undermine academia by offering some of its content and mechanisms to the public for a fee. By mixing students, professionals and interested amateurs, the goal was to create a model that was more responsive to external conditions and as much one of integration as education. Night School co-founders Sam Jacob, a director of the London-based architecture firm FAT, and Meneesha Kellay, Special Projects Coordinator at the Architectural Association, were provoked by what they saw as the inflexibility of current educational systems, especially in regards to the need for life-long learning. “You’ll most likely not have a steady job for the rest of your career, and the nature of architecture is now very far from static. After seven years’ training, what’s actually happening is likely to be very different from the point at which you started”, says Jacob. This not only creates a need for continuous education, it also alters the expected hierarchies between student and professional. Night School’s convivial atmosphere allows intergenerational learning to pass in both directions. As Jacob explains, “If we take certain kinds of technology, for example, students often know far more than the people who are teaching them, who have often been stuck in the same place for 30 years and still just about know how to use a clutch pencil”. Of the three events at Night School, Crit Club was the one that best fulfilled this ideal of an equitable conversation. In the case of the inaugural event, four British architecture firms – Studio Egret West (SEW), David Kohn Architects, We Made That and 5th Studio – made presentations on the theme of the post-retail town centre to a jury of peers and critics, and a public audience. In fact, given that the crit forms such a central pillar of architecture training, it was clear from the forthright debate that ensued that there are few protocols for feedback in the commercial realm (print criticism, of course, has inherent biases and comes after the fact). Crit Club demonstrated that bringing professional work back into an academic setting allows discourse stripped of extraneous agendas. While Night School draws private practice into the classroom, others, such as the nascent London collective ADA (a name originally derived from the abbreviation of Art Design Architecture) are pulling in the opposite direction, > DESIGN IN AN AGE OF NOT KNOWING

Disegno. 31


> transforming the commercial studio into a way of combining work with a programme of education. ADA is constructed from a loose group of recent graduates and practitioners early in their careers, whose specialisms range across design, architecture, fine art and the humanities. While it is a design practice that accepts commissions, it is also an educational initiative in that the people working on those commissions would consider themselves students to varying degrees. ADA founding members Freddy Tuppen and Kevin Green met while studying architecture (although, tellingly, they left architectural education after part one of the three-stage and seven-year process required to become fully qualified). They and a group of colleagues established ADA in London in 2012 in order to share ideas and pursue external projects, but also as a means of self-instruction, a reaction against deficiencies they saw in their formalised design training. “A lot of our practice and the way we work foregrounds the importance of our own learning process”, says Green. An example he gives is a frustration at the lack of emphasis on practical material knowledge: “As a designer or an architect, to understand the properties and tolerances of certain materials, instead of just picking them out of a book, is vital.” For instance, in one of their most substantial early commissions, the reappointment of the Store Street Espresso in Bloomsbury, London, in 2010, many of the processes were new to the team, but a lack of knowledge of pouring concrete, for instance, didn’t prevent them from tackling the job. They simply learnt by doing. On completion, the interior of the coffee shop stood not just as a finished project but also as an index of their newly acquired abilities. ADA now intends to extend this model of practiceembedded tuition to others. They have run trials over the past two years via a series of summer schools in Warsaw comprising short courses covering both personal and collaborative work aimed at pre-university students. By the end of this year they hope to offer a full foundation course at a permanent space in Clerkenwell, London, and, in the longer term, something equivalent to an undergraduate degree, although the latter is a double bluff – preferably they’d like students to circumnavigate the degree system altogether. What ADA expects to offer students is immersion in the realities of a contemporary practice, not as observers but as contributors, working at scale, responding to briefs, even contributing to the tendering process and liaising with clients. Ideally students will work on “live projects” as the studio wins them. “We present the studio as a body of professionals with an integrated educational element”, says Green. From the studio’s point of view, the turnover of new personalities will be highly beneficial, ensuring that ADA remains dynamic and, more importantly, maintains a changing rostrum of interests and abilities. It is more difficult for long-standing firms to alter their operations, but as ambitious offices realise they now have to work across multiple borders and competing sectors, adaptability becomes an imperative. Global architecture firm UNStudio have been experimenting for the past two years with what they term “knowledge platforms”. These self-organised research groups are an integral part of practice life, not tied to specific projects but pursuing associated topics to generate new approaches to architecture. “If you come into our office you’re no longer categorised as a draughtsman or a designer but as an authority in an area of knowledge you choose to

cultivate”, says co-founder Ben van Berkel. In May 2013, UNStudio announced that they would be taking this theory a stage further, relaunching the organisation as an “opensource knowledge-based practice”. In essence this allows UNStudio to share its research with an online audience of co-creators who can in return feed back into documents that ultimately dictate the intellectual bearing of the business. The studio’s website is akin to a social network for design researchers, with profiles, peer-to-peer interaction and even a smartphone app. Van Berkel’s inspiration was the culture of online startups, something he has been researching at the Harvard Graduate School of Design where he has been the Kenzo Tange Design Critic in Architecture. The practice already holds a diverse portfolio, from civil engineering projects to exhibition and product design, and the opportunities are becoming ever more diverse. Van Berkel explains: “The expansion of the profession into new areas is so fast, it means that you have to be conversant across an ever-growing range of subjects. Culturally the profession has changed so that architecture can now refer to everything from fashion to art.” He believes that such undertakings are now key to driving the discipline forward. “You have to be prepared to deal with the possibilities of your profession. Design is a conversation, the more you talk about it the better the outcome. The way you improve design comes only through the way you keep critically looking at knowledge.”

Pete Maxwell is a freelance design and architecture critic based in London.

“University is a place where you challenge the status quo, not where you do things out of ideological inertia.” 32 Disegno. DESIGN IN AN AGE OF NOT KNOWING

“I love returning to Rotterdam after Paris or Milan,” says Dutch designer Wieki Somers. “It’s a very unpretentious city and whilst the design fairs are incredibly important, working here in the studio always feels like the real work.


The Importance of Home

“It’s rough, raw and nobody seems to take care of it. Rotterdam gives me the time and space to reflect on my ideas and inspirations.” >

Wieki Somers in the port of Rotterdam. PHOTOS Elspeth Diederix


Disegno. 35

Exposé A model of the Chuugi lamp from Mitate, 2013.

> Studio Wieki Somers was founded in 2003 by Wieki Somers and fellow designer Dylan van den Berg, who met while studying at Design Academy Eindhoven in the late 1990s. The studio is based in a 1960s concrete office block on the outskirts of Rotterdam, where, from the large windows in Somers’ office, you can see the city’s commercial port affording a backdrop of shipping containers, cranes and cargo ships. But despite this industrial landscape, it is quiet in the studio. The small team, which can vary between five and seven members, is working in silence. Somers, sitting at her desk, has just returned from another trip, this time to the opening of an exhibition, at Galerie Kreo in Paris, of the studio’s latest collection of lamps, called Mitate. Inspired by 16th-century Japanese flagpoles, each of Mitate’s lamps are named after one of the seven principles of the Samurai: Gi, the right decision; Yuu, bravery; Jin, compassion; Rei, the right action; Makoto, truth; Meiyo, honour; and Chuugi, devotion. The Mitate lamps, which are between 207 and 261 cm tall, are totems with large bulbous heads and shades made from materials designed to allow the light to fall playfully around them. Gi, for example, comprises a circular Perspex tube covered by a cord fringe, that diffuses the light when switched on. By contrast, a piece of metallic Nuno fabric draped over a fibreglass shell containing custom LED components causes Jin to appear opaque when switched off, but becomes transparent when the lamp is lit and illuminates the feathered pull switch. “Products should celebrate their production processes,” says Somers, reflecting on their unusual structures. “That’s what makes a product valuable.” Mitate was developed during a two-part traditional crafts residency in Japan that Somers and van den Berg undertook in 2011 and 2012. The pair toured the country, visiting Wajima on the west coast where they saw Wajima-nuri lacquerware and the making of cedar-wood bento boxes. “We’d visited Japan a few times before the residency and were


fascinated by its attention to craft,” says Somers. “Japan values detail and craft; its craftsmen understand how materials work and how to master using them. In the Netherlands, and the Western world as a whole, that has really been lost.” This perception steered the Mitate project towards unusual materials. The lamps are technically innovative, combining materials such as fibreglass gilded with white gold, oxidised copperplated mesh, and power-conducting carbon fibre with traditional Japanese materials such as lacquered wood, woven fabrics and Kozo paper. The experimental combinations required painstaking development during which the studio struggled to master the techniques. “Developing is a big part of the design process,” says Somers, “and that’s something that was missing in Eindhoven when I was studying there in the 1990s. At that time, Droog design was very popular and everybody was translating ideas into products without giving shape to them, because the initial concept was considered more important. But one half of design is the idea and the other is the development.

The 2010 Frozen in Time editioned series for Galerie Kreo shows a similar play on form and function. Frozen in Time, a collection of lamps, stools and vases, was inspired by an ice storm in 1987, when 30mm of rain fell in a single day in the northeast of the Netherlands before freezing to create an icy film on tree branches and street furniture. Each of the collection’s pieces was dipped in a clear ultraviolet-sensitive resin, mimicking a thick layer of ice. Somers, however, is careful not to over-conceptualise her work. “I don’t like the term ‘design art’, because design is really about function,” she says. “Our motivation is how we can help people experience daily life in a new, more intense way and if you use our designs, you really experience them. Of course, sometimes I think, ‘What a pity. These are expensive pieces and not everybody can buy them,’ but I see it as a big experiment and hopefully later these concepts will be translated into bigger productions. But industrial, mass produced products take quite some time.” The studio, Somers says, is better suited to a more methodical pace. “If a client comes to us and asks for a new chair in two months, that’s a no.” Instead, the studio’s

“Our motivation is how we can help people experience daily life in a new, more intense way.” How you translate your idea into materials is essential.” Yet this preoccupation with production belies the conceptual edge that permeates Somers’ work. Just as Mitate envisaged lounge lighting as Japanese totems, so too have previous projects transformed the commonplace into something rare and surprising. The studio’s 2009 Merry-Go-Round Coat Rack, designed for Rotterdam’s Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, is part-installation and part-functional object. Made from red and white plastic pulley blocks, fire hoses, and metal weights, the mechanism lets visitors hang their coats and then hoist them up to the ceiling. The result is a floating carousel of outerwear, indicating the number of visitors to the museum on any given day.

work is slow-burning. Ideas are conceived and then stowed away to develop gradually. The Mitate lamps are just one result of Somers’ and van den Berg’s experiences in Japan. “There is much more – ideas for textiles, ideas for furniture – and if we get the opportunity, these ideas might pop up again. We’ll wait for the right moment and we always want to come back here and reflect,” says Somers, gesturing to the space around her. “I like to travel a lot, but this is really the place that is our homeport, our harbour.”

Ayesha Kapila is a design historian and has spent the past year working in the communication team of OMA in Rotterdam. Mitate is on display at Galerie Kreo, Paris, until 21 September 2013. A book on Studio Wieki Somers is due in 2014.




Disegno. 1



Diogene House by Renzo Piano There’s something unsettling about architects designing minimal houses. Even before the Bauhaus’ obsessions with the Existenzminimum, architects had looked for inspiration to library carrels and old engravings of St Jerome in his self-contained space – a seat, a desk, a window and books. Novelist Henry David Thoreau’s Walden was always the model, a rustic hut in the woods. Architect Le Corbusier built his Cabanon, a miniscule, ascetic beach hut and the only house he ever designed for himself. These tiny dwellings addressed social or spiritual needs, but what exactly is Renzo Piano’s 7.5sqm Diogene house for? Diogene is a factory-produced, high-tech piece of kit, but surely the point of a cabin or a hut of one’s own is its rusticity: either it is something self-built in the timber or stone


of the local landscape, or it is something modest and self-effacing, an escape from the over-sophistication of the city. Or, perhaps, it is something bodged up and cheap, whether for diversion or for disaster relief. Piano’s £17,000 Diogene seems to satisfy none of these. It doesn’t have the intellectual depth to address the retreat, which demands a certain individuality that the Diogene’s factory-produced nature denies, and it doesn’t have the elegance to appeal to a market of yacht buyers or the super-rich. It is, instead, a shed for the moderately wealthy.

Edwin Heathcote is the architecture critic at the Financial Times. Diogene is on display at the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany. It will be available from Vitra as of 2014.

It starts with an image.

Studio & Location

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The Old Schoolhouse 66 Leonard Street London EC2A 4LW completeltd.com

NINE MUNDANE BUT AMAZING ITEMS OF DESIGN BY SIR PAUL SMITH “I think I developed my love of collecting when I was about 18 years old, when I discovered a fantastic street market in my home town of Nottingham,” says the fashion designer Sir Paul Smith.

It is a statement typical of Smith, a selfconfessed collector and hoarder. Alongside the eponymous fashion brand he has led since 1970, Smith has spent a lifetime accumulating ornaments, objects and bagatelles, developing collections of silkscreens, cycling shirts, speedometers and Mr. Machine robot toys. “That market in Nottingham was mostly full of Victoriana and Art Deco objects,” he says. “I remember being attracted to things and I used to buy them for a very small amount, which meant my collections grew quite quickly. Now I have many, many collections, from the beautiful to the kitsch, from the expensive to the very inexpensive.” Smith was born in Nottinghamshire in 1946. His early ambition to become a cyclist was curtailed by a road accident at 17. He subsequently began experimenting with design, and in 1970 he opened his �irst clothing shop in Byard Lane, Nottingham. In the intervening 43 years, Smith has forged an identity in menswear through his innovative use of colour and pattern, contrasting classic tailoring with a playful treatment of detailing such as buttons, lining fabrics, collars and cuffs. This fashion legacy will be celebrated in November with Hello, My Name is Paul Smith, a major retrospective of Smith’s work at London’s Design Museum.

In the pages that follow, dispersed throughout this issue of Disegno, Smith shares his enthusiasm for everyday objects in a series of watercolours, painted for Disegno. The objects pictured are commonplace, yet they have been curated by Smith to re�lect his design ethos. “People can get a bit muddled thinking that design should be quite complicated or detailed,” he says. “The idea with these items is that they are so simple, but so perfect. In design you need to learn to know when to stop. Keep it simple and then people can understand the point you are trying to make.”

Accompanying the watercolours is a quiz. Developed by Smith in collaboration with Disegno, the questions probe the history and usage of the objects depicted in the paintings. The questions provide an introduction to the objects, variously teasing out the origins of their design, or expressing the ways in which their functions have been extended and reimagined throughout their lifespans. Smith’s quiz is a celebration of the mundane, highlighting the intricacy and purpose that frequently lie behind ordinariness. “I am fascinated by why and how people come up with ideas; a toy, a useful object, a useless object, a picture and the way people think about things,” says Smith. “These objects are so everyday you would not really think of them as pieces of design, but they are examples of some of the best.”

The exhibition Hello, My Name is Paul Smith is at the Design Museum, London, 15 November 2013 – 9 March 2014. A new Paul Smith store will open on Albemarle Street, London in autumn 2013. Its facade is designed in conjunction with 6A Architects and incorporates a selection of Sir Paul Smith’s drawings.

All details relating to this quiz, including answers can be found on disegnodaily.com/paulsmithquiz


Disegno. 41

1. PAPER CLIPS “For me, this is one of the most genius pieces of design, ever. Simple but perfect.” – Sir Paul Smith The modern paperclip is based upon a version developed by England’s Gem Manufacturing Company around 1890. An exercise in functional mechanics, the clip is formed from a double oval of elastic steel wire, with the two ovals working together to contain paper sheets slipped between them. As the ovals are forced apart by the paper, torsion in the wire’s bend causes them to grip together, while the elasticity of the steel allows the clip to later spring back into shape. Yet alongside this functionality, the paperclip has also served a symbolic purpose at one moment in history. When and where was this? A They were worn by Pittsburgh’s steel workers as a symbol of resistance during protests against the closure of the city’s steel mills during Pittsburgh’s deindustrialisation during the 1980s. B They were worn by Norwegians as a symbol of resistance to the Nazi occupation of the nation during the Second World War to denote solidarity and unity. The Norwegian word for paper clips closely resembles “binder”.


C They were worn by German rocketeers at the beginning of the Cold War to communicate to one another whether they had been targeted by the USA’s Operation Paperclip in 1945, a plan to recruit Germany’s leading scientists.


2. WALKING STICKS “Simple, functional and very practical, and these walking sticks look less like a piece of hospital equipment than the more traditional versions.” – Sir Paul Smith Walking sticks exist in almost all cultures, varying in shape and design – certain primates are even known to use them as a balancing point. Walking sticks provide additional stability, and may be employed to test uneven ground or clear foliage and obstacles along a path. In Europe, the walking stick or cane began to replace the sword as the standard balancing point in the 17th century. Walking sticks vary in materials, form, and degrees of decoration, and can be used as formal accessories, medical aids, or as ofϐicial religious emblems (such as the Papal ferula) or regalia (staffs or rods). Some walking sticks are collapsible, and others can fold out into chairs, adapted for hunting and shooting. But which of the following is another activity that has appropriated the walking stick? A The walking stick is the central weapon of Bartitsu, a gentleman’s martial art and self-defence method developed in Victorian England and immortalised by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in one of his Sherlock Holmes detective stories. B Strengthened walking sticks are prescribed equipment for rangers working in Australia’s saltwater crocodiletrapping schemes. The sticks are used to defend against attacking animals and can also be used to temporarily block a crocodile’s jaws.


C Crook-handed walking sticks are sometimes used as balance poles during a tightrope walker’s training. The additional weight created by the crook on one side helps to correct the posture of walkers who lean too far in one direction.


Workers perform the 75Â Watt dance in the Zhongshan City White Horse Factory against a backdrop of their usual products, electric kettles.

Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen travelled to the White Horse Factory in Zhongshan, China to stage a last dance for factory workers on the eve of the Third Industrial Revolution. WORDS Oli Stratford and Lori Marie Gibbs PHOTOS Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen



75 Watt in the Pearl River Delta


Disegno. 47

Z 1 Zhongshan City White Horse Electric Co., Ltd. is a large-scale electric kettle manufacturer established in 1996 in the Guangdong province in southeast China. Employing up to about 1000 people, it exports its products globally.

The South China Sea is in the western Pacific Ocean and borders the Southeast Asian mainland. One third of global shipping passes through its waters.


Revital Cohen (b. 1981) is an Israeli-born designer. She graduated with a Masters from the Design Interactions programme at the Royal College of Art in 2008, after completing a BA in Contemporary Furniture Design from Buckinghamshire New University.


Tuur Van Balen (b. 1981) is a Belgian designer who graduated with a Masters from the Design Interactions programme at the Royal College of Art in 2008, with previous BSc and MSc degrees in Industrial Design Engineering from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.


The Royal College of Art (RCA) in London is a university specialising in postgraduate courses in art and design. It was founded in 1837 and has had university status since 1967.


Anthony Dunne (b. 1964) is a British designer and


hongshan City White Horse Electric Company’s factory in southeast China makes kettles.1 Set near the coast of the South China Sea,2 the factory turns its raw materials into mass-manufactured electrical goods, shipping the results worldwide. Production at the White Horse is relentlessly efficient and embodies the industrial drive that has forged China’s reputation as the world’s factory. Yet, in March 2013, the factory hosted a dance.

For three days, the facility was transformed into a ballroom for 75 Watt, a performance piece by the London-based designers Revital Cohen3 and Tuur Van Balen.4 The project re-envisions the production process as an art piece, in which the White Horse’s workers create 40 copies of an electrical object through a choreographed dance. The workers’ movements are filmed by Cohen and Van Balen for posterity, yet the objects they create are functionless, their only reason for existence being to create the choreography of their own assembly. A study of mass manufacturing, 75 Watt questions the relationship between worker and object, and between automation and hand-craft. “At its root,” says Van Balen, “it is an examination of the tensions between biology and technology at the scale of the human body.”

Cohen and Van Balen met when both were studying on the Design Interactions MA at the Royal College of Art5 in 2006. Working under the tutelage of Anthony Dunne6 and Fiona Raby,7 the pair came to prominence as practitioners of critical design, their respective graduation projects demonstrating their potential. Cohen’s Artificial Biological Clock was a poignant glass and brass representation of the menstrual cycle, while Van Balen’s My City = My Body studied what the chemical composition of a urine sample might reveal about the area in which its provider lives. Further collaborations continued the biological slant of these early works. Pigeon d’Or (2011) created genetically-modified bacteria to make pigeons defecate soap to disinfect cities, while The Immortal (2012) linked a series of life-support machines together in a mimicry of an animal organism. By the time the pair formed their joint practice in 2012, their reputations were well established.

In the catalogue for the 2011 exhibition Talk to Me,8 curator Paola Antonelli defined critical designers as experts in “What if?” who create hypothetical objects that comment on the social, political and cultural ramifiations of new technologies and behaviours. While critical design’s history can be traced to the work of the Italian Radical Designers9 in the 1970s, it was only popularised and codified in the late 1990s by Dunne & Raby, the studio from which Cohen and Van Balen learned. Yet, while Dunne & Raby’s legacy was built on objects that speculate on nuclear war, biotechnology and food shortages, Cohen and Van Balen’s 75 Watt represents a departure for the discipline. “We’re going through an excruciating process of actually making real objects using the techniques of mass manufacture,” says Van Balen. Instead of probing >


Thespine project In-Ei, foldable textile The central runs the explored the with lampof shades designed by length the building tensions Issey Miyake forbetween Artemide. the galleries flanking it. workers and mechanisation in mass manufacture. Here, a worker helps to create the 75Â Watt object.


Disegno. 49

This page: A diagram of the 75 Watt object, designed by Cohen and Van Balen. Opposite page: The design of the object was developed through choreography sessions with ballet dancers and students, led by Alexander Whitely, a Royal Ballet Choreographic Affiliate at the Royal Opera House in London.


The gallery spaces are lit by skylights and strip lighting. Konstantin Grcic has designed the seating made in reclaimed heart pine. Oppsite page: Outside the cafĂŠ there is an outdoor function space, covered by one of the pitched roofs.


Disegno. 51

co-founder of the design studio Dunne & Raby. After studying Industrial Design at the RCA, he worked at Sony Design in Tokyo. He later completed a PhD in computer-related design at the RCA. He is head of the Design Interactions department at the Royal College of Art. 7 Fiona Raby (b. 1963) is a British designer and co-founder of the design studio Dunne & Raby. She is professor of Industrial Design at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and reader in Design Interactions at the RCA. She was a founding member of the CRD Research Studio where she worked as a Senior Research Fellow.

The exhibition Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects was held at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in 2011. It was curated by Paola Antonelli (b. 1963), Senior Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design.


The Radical movement in design and architecture originated in Italy and spanned the period from 1966 to 1980. It arose as a critique of prevailing social values and design ideologies. Taking mundane objects or spaces and exaggerating their scale, colour and form to subvert their meaning was typical of the movement, which included designers such as Ettore Sottsass (1917-2007), Vico Magistretti (1920-2006) and Livio Castiglioni (1911-79) as well as architecture groups including Archigram (1961-74) and Superstudio (1966-78).


10 Google Maps is an online mapping service application provided by web platform and search engine Google. Introduced in 2005, it provides street maps, a route planner and locates landmarks and business globally. It also allows you to mark particular places and destinations by dropping a digital pin as a placemark.

The Pearl River or Zhu Jiang is the third longest river in China (after the Yangtze and the Yellow River). It has an extensive system in southern China covering 2,400 kilometres.


The Gongbei Port is an immigration and customs checkpoint operated by the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security at the border of Macau, in the Chinese city of Zhuhai. It was established in 1887.


Guangzhou is the capital of the Guangdong province in China. It is 120 kilometres from Hong Kong and located on the Pearl River. The city is a key national transportation and trading hub and is both the largest city in the south with a population of 12.7 million


> the future, 75 Watt examines the present realities of manufacture and industry. Rather than speculate, 75 Watt ruminates.

A visit to the set of 75 Watt is difficult for a foreign visitor. A single Google Maps pin-drop10 highlights the location of the White Horse Factory, while Mandarin phrase cards and an online train schedule are the only tools for mapping the route. Travelling from Hong Kong, a visitor crosses the Pearl River11 to reach Macau, an administrative region where arrivals are processed at the Gongbei crossing point.12 The interior of the immigration building is a seemingly endless space, where metal livestock fences organise thousands of people and, outside, a high-speed train station hums with purple neon signage.

To the north of Gongbei are Guangzhou,13 a nascent Chinese megacity, and Zhongshan,14 the site of the White Horse factory. Nearby is Shenzhen,15 a city whose population of 10 million is larger than that of London, yet which as recently as 1979 only existed as a fishing village of 20,000 people. This is the Pearl River Delta,16 a collection of industrial cities in southeast China where, paradoxically, capitalism enters the communist state. Despite forming just 0.6 per cent of China’s land area, the delta accounts for one tenth of the nation’s GDP and a quarter of all its trade, serving as the heartlands of China’s industry. For a project examining the state of global manufacturing, 75 Watt is aptly located.

But the vastness of this context drifts away when, inside the White Horse factory, the workers begin to move. Dressed in neat blue shirts, they swivel at bottle green workstations and jerk their arms to grasp tools and materials. The 75 Watt dance is underway.

The workers’ movements are mechanical and abrupt. Passing equipment from one to another, they rotate at the pelvis, lurch as they twist metal instruments, and methodically tease out loops of wiring. The 15 dancers comprise permanent employees of the factory and five volunteers recruited for the project because the White Horse could not spare the labour in the period following Chinese New Year.17 Rather than flamboyant dance steps, each motion is included because it moves the object produced by 75 Watt closer to completion.

This 75 Watt object is functionless, yet suggestive of its industrial origins. The exterior is white plastic, resembling something between a mini vac and one of the White Horse’s own kettles. Three internal fans disperse air from vents cut into the casing and bundles of electroluminescent wire are crammed inside the mechanism, glowing blue to suggest that the object is working; although what “working” might mean for such an object is left ambiguous. By the end of its production, the product looks slick and polished, adopting just enough of the tropes of an industrial product to seem familiar in spite of its overriding strangeness. Rather than a coherent >


This page: Tuur Van Balen demonstrates the electroluminiscent wire inside the 75 Watt object. Opposite page: Workers from the White The gallery spaces Horse Factory produce are lit by skylights and the 75Â Watt object. strip lighting. Konstantin Grcic has designed the seating made in reclaimed heart pine. Oppsite page: Outside the cafĂŠ there is an outdoor function space, covered by one of the pitched roofs.


Disegno. 53

people, as estimated in 2010, and the third largest city in China. Guangzhou was historically known as Canton. Zhongshan is a city in the south of the Pearl River Delta in the Guangdong province. It was named after Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who was also known as Sun Zhongshan, the founder of the Republic of China. As of 2010, it has a population of over 3 million.


15 Shenzhen is a major city in the province of Guangdong within the Pearl River Delta. It was China’s first and most successful Special Economic Zone (given special economic flexibility to allow trade with the rest of the world) and is southern mainland China’s financial centre. It contains one of the busiest container ports in China. It has a population estimated at 10.4 milllion in 2010.

The Pearl River Delta is the low-lying area where the Pearl River flows into the South China Sea. Measuring 39,380 square kilometres, it is one of the most densely urbanised areas around the globe and is a major hub responsible for China’s economic growth. Spanning 10 cities, the region can be considered as an emerging megacity.


17 Chinese New Year is a traditional Chinese holiday also known as the Spring Festival. Based on the lunisolar calendar, the holiday falls on a different day in the traditional Gregorian calendar each year, the date being determined by the second new moon after the winter solstice.

Henry Ford (1863–1947) was an American industrialist who, in 1903, founded the Ford Motor Company which was to become the multinational automobile manufacturer. Famous for developing the assembly line as an efficient model for mass production, Ford introduced the Model T motor car in 1908, which as a result of this form of mass production, became the first affordable motor car for middle-class Americans.


The Second Industrial Revolution was a phase within the larger Industrial Revolution from the end of the 19th century until the First World War. Also known as the Technical Revolution, it began with the Bessemer process of massproducing steel in 1855 and culminated in Henry Ford’s introduction of the assembly line in 1913.


Sigfried Giedion (1888–1968) was a Swiss architecture historian, critic and author. He taught at several globally renowned institutions including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich.


“It’s an important distinction that the object dictates the movement. Then you can question who is in control – the person or the object?” > object, it is a symbol of industry itself. “It speaks of the manufacturing process it went through,” says Cohen. “It’s very ‘Made in China’.”

Such a concern with industry lies at the heart of 75 Watt. When the American industrialist Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903, the assembly line he created to facilitate production of his Model T motor car18 defined the Second Industrial Revolution,19 establishing the concept of mass production and setting the template for a century of manufacture. Ford’s assembly line was based around convenience and efficiency. Components travelled the shortest distance possible as they moved down a line of workers, each of whom performed a single, repetitive task ad infinitum. It was a rationalisation of the hand-crafting process, with Model Ts rolling off the line at three-minute intervals. The dance 75 Watt evokes this with the studied movements and strict production roles of Cohen and Van Balen’s workers operating to strict Fordist ideals.

Yet even within Ford’s vision, the seeds for a Third Industrial Revolution were sewn. In 1948 the Swiss historian and architecture critic Sigfried Giedion20 published Mechanization Takes Command,21 a book examining the rise of mechanisation in design, in which he described the 19th century as a time when “faith in production penetrated every class and ramification of life, thrusting all other considerations into the background.” But in 1844, Karl Marx22 took a more pessimistic view in his Paris Manuscripts23 in which he lamented mechanisation’s capacity to render a worker “depressed spiritually and physically to the condition of a machine”. The point was clear: if mass production succeeds through repetition, its processes are better suited to automata than people. Marx’s idea proved prescient. Mechanisation is now industry standard, with Ford’s automotive empire, the zenith of the Second Industrial Revolution, squeezing out workers in favour of precise machinery. This is also present in 75 Watt. As Cohen and Van Balen’s workers dance, they ape the instruments that will replace them, their jerky movements lifted from the language of machinery. If 75 Watt is a dance, it is a swan song; one last waltz for the factory worker as the Second Industrial Revolution gives way to the Third.

The project is the result of two years’ planning. Research began in London where Cohen and Van Balen experimented with small consumer electronics: “Things from Argos,24 hairdryers,” says Van Balen. “We disassembled them and then put them together again to see what the constituent movements were.” As the project progressed, Alexander Whitley,25 a Royal Ballet Choreographic Affiliate at the Royal Opera House,26 formally choreographed the dance, leading movement sessions with ballet dancers and dance students. “It’s quite challenging to design something that doesn’t have any other function besides the movement of the worker during assembly,” says Van Balen. “So we brought in and made strange objects, and Alex and other ballet dancers would experiment and see what sort of movements could be enhanced with those objects. Alex would add his movements and then we would have to fill in that movement with the design of the object.” The motions resulting from these early choreography sessions were dramatic, becoming subtler as Whitley scaled back. “We didn’t want too much movement that the object doesn’t dictate,” says Van Balen. “It’s an important distinction that the object dictates the movement. Then you can question who is in control – the person or the object?”

Location was also considered. In 2011, Cohen and Van Balen were invited to participate in What if..., an exhibition of critical design curated by Dunne & Raby in Beijing’s National Museum of China.27 During the trip Van Balen visited packaging facilities and tripod factories around China, searching for a facility that matched the aims of 75 Watt. “Our object is a small electronic object, so we really wanted an assembly line of electronic products,” says Cohen. “Many of the factories Tuur saw were amazing, but they were packaging and moulding sites, which just weren’t right, and it was hard to find a facility that would accommodate us, as they didn’t see the point of what we were doing.” When the White Horse Factory agreed to accommodate 75 Watt, it was largely thanks to the efforts of Siya Chen,28 the producer of the 75 Watt film and a Chinese national. “She used her connections,” says Cohen.


His lectures and books had a significant influence on the members of the Independent Group at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London in the 1950s. Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History by Sigfried Giedion was published in 1948. The text examines the phenomenon of mechanisation, its development over the course of western history and its impact on everyday life.


Chen’s relationship with the White Horse Factory was vital. While 75 Watt is a piece of critical design, it also provides an opportunity for Cohen and Van Balen to experience the world of industry, an environment well-known to product and furniture designers, but which remains off limits to those working in design’s more speculative regions. While the output of 75 Watt is different to that of traditional manufacture, its negotiations over factory access, timings and cost mimic those of any other interaction with an industrialist in China. While 75 Watt is undoubtly a conceptual project, it is nonetheless grounded in the realities of manufacture. “It’s amazing to see a factory do everything from scratch, which is something we’ve never seen anywhere before,” says Cohen. “We have an unusual connection with mass manufacture because we’re not commercial designers,” adds Van Balen. “Our practice is more art-based, but we still use industrial methods. The opportunity to use those methods to raise questions about global mass manufacturing struck us as an interesting one.”

Yet beyond this global scale, a sense of the personal flows through 75 Watt. While the Pearl River Delta is the centrepiece of China’s industrial renaissance, it remains a world in which projects are made or broken by the human prescence; a place where mistakes slip into product batches and rush orders are delivered overnight by a vast network of trucks, bikes and cars. “‘Made in China,’” Cohen says, “is fast, adventurous and rough around the edges.” During production for the project, the designers visited the Guangzhou electronics market, where they observed a worker adding detailing to industrial dials and nodes with a red pencil. “Mostly in our practice we make one-offs, where we use quite expensive materials and everything is hand-finished. But this time we made a serious batch of objects that required mass manufacturing techniques,” says Van Balen. “Half of the final objects were broken, but that’s part of ‘Made in China’ of course. The labour force is still heavily relied upon. Who would have thought the red marks on a dial are made by a human hand for instance?” For a world gradually giving way to the steadying and standardising hand of mechanisation, the Pearl River Delta remains a place in which the human influence resonates.

It is a theme that is coded into the fabric of the project, even down to the performance’s title. 75 Watt is industrial and scientific, a measure of the expense of energy, yet is also infused with a tenderness that reveals the designers’ concern with the humanity behind manufacture: 75w29 is the average energy output that a labourer can sustain over the course of an eight-hour day. “This style of manufacture asks a person to go against their natural instincts,” says Cohen. “You repeat a certain high precision movement again and again and again. We wanted to question what it does to you when you are asked to behave mechanically.”

The relationship between technology and biology is the thread that runs through all Cohen and Van Balen’s work. Pigeon d’Or looked at the impact of technology at the level of bacterial life, while Life Support (2008), a study of animals bred to serve as respirators and dialysis machines, enlarged the scale to mammals. Now, 75 Watt elevates the discussion to the human scale. “We’re not interested in technology per se, but rather the political, ethical and cultural context in which technology sits,” says Van Balen. “For 75 Watt we wanted to look at this idea of characterising the human body as a mechanical component; standardising it as nothing more than a machine that generates 75w.”

This mismatch between man and machine underlies the project; what is sustainable for an automaton may not be possible for a person. Working conditions in China are notoriously controversial, and efforts to understand their impact on workers remain hazy and little understood. In 2010, the New York-based non-governmental organisation China Labor Watch30 published a survey of worker suicides in the Pearl River Delta, with workers in the area reporting at least 76 such deaths in the preceding decade. Likewise, in 2012 in Wuhan,31 a city to the north of the delta, around 150 workers threatened to jump to their deaths from the roof of the Foxconn electronics factory32 in protest over their working conditions. Two years previously, 14 workers had killed themselves jumping from the roofs of Foxconn’s factory >

22 Karl Heinrich Marx (1818-83) was a German historian, economist, philosopher and revolutionary socialist. Publishing numerous books in his lifetime, including The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Das Kapital (1867–94), his economic, political and socialist theories, known collectively as Marxism, are the basis upon which current concepts of labour and capital are founded. 23 In 1844, Karl Marx published a series of economic and philosophic manuscripts that are commonly referred to as the Paris Manuscripts. They are a series of notes that Marx wrote between April and August of 1844 that were released posthumously in 1927 by researchers in the Soviet Union. They are an early expression of the Marxian argument that modern industrial conditions are responsible for the alienation of wage-workers from their own life.

Argos is a catalogue-based merchant based in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Founded in 1973, it has 737 stores, making it the largest generalgoods retailer in the UK.


Alexander Whitley (b. 1981) is a London-based dancer and choreographer. He trained at the Royal Ballet School before joining the Rambert Dance Company in 2004. He joined Wayne McGregor Random Dance from 2010 to 2013. His has choreographed dances for various clients including the Discovery Channel, the digital studio Marshmallow Laser Feast and design studio Cohen and Van Balen.


26 The Royal Opera House is a major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, London. It is home to the Royal Opera, the Royal Ballet and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. 27 The National Museum of China is situated on the eastern side of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Established in 2003, it merged the Museum of the Chinese Revolution with the National Museum of Chinese History, both of which had occupied the building since 1959. Directed by the Ministry of Culture, its mission is to educate the public about Chinese arts and history.


Disegno. 55

Button clips by castWorkers perform This workers’ page: The The Studio Swine the 75 Watt dance movements are carefully concrete bench runs alongside choreographed that the length the of thesobuilding. assembly linebrings forThe the each motion Opposite page: car the 75 object. 75 Watt object closer park is Watt designed to to completion. reflect the land’s former use as a tree nursery and utilises telegraph poles to hold the street lights.



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28 Siya Chen is an independent curator, facilitator and creative consultant. She divides her time between Canada and China. 29 A watt is a unit of power, especially electric, equal to 1 joule per second. Named after the Scottish engineer James Watt (1736–1819), the watt is used to specify the rate at which electrical energy is dissipated.

China Labor Watch is a New York-based, non-governmental organisation that was established in 2000 by labour activist Li Qiang. Its mission is to defend the rights of workers in China and make workers more aware of their rights through a process of research, advocacy and legal assistance.

If 75 Watt is a dance, it is a swan song; one last waltz for the factory worker as the Second Industrial Revolution gives way to the Third.


Wuhan is the capital of the Hubei province in China. It is the most populous city in Central China with over 10 million inhabitants. It is an important economic centre in China for trade, finance, transportation, information technology and education.


32 Foxconn Technology Group is the trading name of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd., and is the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer in terms of revenue. Established in 1974, it has its headquarters in Tucheng, New Taipei. Notable products produced by Foxconn include the iPhone, iPad, iPod, Kindle, PlayStation 3 and Wii U.

United Micro Kingdoms (UMK): A Design Fiction was an exhibition at the Design Museum, London, of the work of design studio, Dunne & Raby. It ran from 1 May–26 August 2013.


34 Quote published on Disegno Daily.com on 29 May 2013, from interview with author.

READING LIST Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History by Siegfried Giedion, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA PRESS, 2013 (orig. 1948). Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, THE MIT PRESS, 2013. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, WILDER PUBLICATIONS, 2011 (orig. 1927).

> buildings, facilities in which products are made for Apple, Sony, Nintendo and Hewlett Packard. Life in the delta is not easy.

The treatment of workers is a spectre that influences any discussion of Chinese industry, yet critical design is characterised by a non-judgmental approach, a template set by the discipline’s propagators Dunne and Raby. Their 2013 United Micro Kingdoms33 proposes a future in which the United Kingdom is split into four areas, creating a world variously governed by totalitarianism, market forces and bioengineering. The possibilities are monstrous, yet the studio remains neutral in its presentation of them, simply showing models of the transport systems that each kingdom might adopt. “We have our views and people ask why we don’t explicitly translate them into design, but that isn’t the point for us,” says Dunne. “We want to explore how design can offer conversations that include views we strongly disagree with.”34

Something of this view has filtered down to Cohen and Van Balen. The studio’s film Kingyo Kingdom (2012) documented Japan’s trade in Ranchu, a type of goldfish where selective breeding has led to tumescent bodies, the absence of a dorsal fin, and a rounded, protuberant head. The fish conform to the exaggerated aesthetic and cultural ideals of Ranchu, but at the cost of their health, their life expectancy falling far below that of a normal goldfish. The studio shows both Japan’s Ranchu markets and the breeder competitions in which the animals are manhandled as part of the judging process. The film prompts ethical concerns over the Ranchus’ welfare, yet Cohen and Van Balen purposefully avoid confronting the animal rights issues that the project raises. If Kingyo Kingdom opens up the world of Ranchu to critique, its creators are careful to conceal their views; Ranchu culture may be ripe for censure, but not at the hands of Cohen and Van Balen. The viewer is left to form their own opinions.

A similar trick is at play in 75 Watt. “This isn’t a documentary about lives of workers in China,” says Cohen, and it is in keeping with the studio’s ethos that the project is not so simple. “Society is disconnected from the social, ethical and cultural dimensions of how things are made. We know the technical specifications of our products – how many megapixels we have on our camera, the speed of our Macbook – yet we are disconnected from the realities of manufacture,” says Van Balen. “But who am I to pass judgment on these things? Westerners coming in with cameras and Macbooks that are manufactured in these places, and making a documentary with those same devices to critique the situation? We are inherently part of that system.” Like all of Cohen and Van Balen’s work, 75 Watt relishes complexity. It is a celebration of the worker’s role in the production line, yet an acknowledgement of their decline at the advent of automation. It is an exploration of the human qualities that permeate China’s industry, yet hosted in a region notorious for the dehumanising effect its industry can have on those who work in it. Rather than a creator shaping the form of an object, Cohen and Van Balen’s electronic device instead shapes the movement of its creators, setting up a relationship between subject and object that collapses in on it itself. Whatever it is, 75 Watt does not give up its secrets easily. As a day’s filming of 75 Watt draws to an end, the workers of the White Horse factory retire to an open-air convenience store that lies just outside of its gates. Dressed in unbuttoned shirts, the workers drink beer and play snooker at outdoor tables, and as dusk settles into darkness, an old man with a child strapped to his back stops to join a game.

So is this the infamous southeastern China you hear about? The world’s factory, where workers are like machines, and industry never sleeps? As an area undergoing social and economic change, any experience of the Pearl River Delta is filled with contradiction. China may be the world’s factory, but this region is too complex to fit neatly into such a trite description. And this, you sense, is exactly how Cohen and Van Balen would have it. 

Oli Stratford (see p. 10). With original reporting by Lori Marie Gibbs.


A White Horse Factory worker tests the three fans located inside of the 75Â Watt object.


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3. COFFEE PERCOLATORS “The Bialetti is a perfect piece of design and function and even though many new designs exist, nothing seems to beat this one!” – Sir Paul Smith The octagonal Bialetti Moka Express or Moka was designed by Alfonso Bialetti in 1933. It was one of the ϐirst stove-top coffee makers designed for domestic use, introducing coffee culture into homes around the world when it had previously been the domain of cafés. Inspired by Futurism and Art Deco, it was a product of the 1930s, but did not break through internationally until the postwar period, when it was skilfully marketed by Bialetti’s son Renato during the decades known as the “economic miracle” in Italy. Available in several sizes, from single-cup to 18-cup models, it is produced in aluminium with a Bakelite handle. The Bialetti Moka is estimated to have sold approximately 330 million units to date. The Bialetti is characterised by the drawing of l’omino con i bafϐi (the little mustachioed man) who appears on its side. But how was l’omino con i bafϐi created? A He was modelled on Alfonso Bialetti at the advice of his wife Ada, who believed that he could promote sales by creating a strong brand around himself. B He was drawn to resemble Bialetti’s son Renato, who was more commercially savvy than his father and eventually ousted him from the company.


C He was styled after Hergé’s popular Dupont et Dupond Tintin characters, who had ϐirst featured in the cartoonist’s 1932 Cigars of the Pharaoh comic.



The fifth floor, or Five as Donald Judd referred to it, contains the sleeping quarters and the artwork Untitled, 1970 by Dan Flavin (far right). Other art works from left to right: Donald Judd, untitled, 1962; Claes Oldenburg, Soft Ceiling Lights at La Coupole, 1964-1972; Lucas Samaras, Box #48, 1966.

62 Disegno. 101 SPRING STREET

101 Spring Street Donald Judd’s cast-iron building in lower Manhattan opened to the public this summer following an extensive three-year exterior and interior restoration. Here, Peter Ballantine, one of Judd’s art fabricators, who earlier helped build parts of 101 Spring Street, reflects on the transformed space. WORDS Peter Ballantine PHOTOS Christopher Patrick Ernst


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D 1 Donald Judd (1928-1994) was an American artist whose body of work ranged from paintings, to furniture, to large scale installations in the landscape. He worked between his home and studio in New York at 101 Spring Street and Marfa, Texas, his respite from hectic Manhattan. His work is known for its clarity of the constructed object and the space created by it.

The Whitney Museum of American Art was founded by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875-1942) in 1929. Originally housed in three converted houses in Greenwich Village, New York, the museum today is housed in a 1966 building designed by Marcel Breuer. With over 18,000 artworks in its permanent collection, the museum has been beset by space problems, leading to the construction of a new main building in the Meat Packing District designed by Renzo Piano that is expected to be completed in 2015.


The Leo Castelli Gallery was the eponymous art gallery founded by Leo Castelli (1907-1999) in Manhattan in 1957. It was the most prominent commercial art gallery globally from the late 1960s to the 1970s, showcasing artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Dan Flavin and Judd.


64 Disegno. 101 SPRING STREET

onald Judd1 bought 101 Spring Street in late 1968, when the building was 98 years old and he was 40. He moved there in early 1969, from 53 East 19th Street, a rented combined apartment and studio less than one-quarter as large. 

Spring Street has five stories above ground and two basements, making a total area of 1,220sqm across the floors. In 1968 it cost $68,000, which was a lot of money then, especially for an artist. But Judd was boosted by the strength of positive critical reaction to his first career retrospective eight months earlier at the Whitney Museum2 in New York and, with support from his gallerist Leo Castelli,3 was able to complete the purchase. It was the first building Judd ever owned and buying it changed everything for him.

101 is a corner building set at the junction of Mercer Street to the west and Spring Street to the south. It has two plastered brick back walls, wooden floors supported by heavy timber beams, and two cast-iron facades that frame 65 windows. It was built in 1870 and designed by the architect Nicholas Whyte4 to house a ground floor showroom, with workshops and offices positioned below and above. Whyte built the structure in an area of the city razed and redeveloped following the Civil War5 and, as with many New York commercial buildings from the time, crafted the facades from cast-iron. The material could be used both structurally and decoratively. Iron’s  strength in both tension and compression meant that wider horizontal spans and narrower vertical supports were possible than in stone or masonry, while the material could also be shaped into decorative elements such as acanthus leaves.6

The two most famous cast-iron buildings at the time were London’s Crystal Palace,7 first erected in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851, and an 1853 New York version of the structure that was built in Reservoir Square as the centerpiece of another industrial exhibition.8 But without the 1848 development of cast plate glass, stronger and available in larger sizes than earlier forms of glass, neither of these structures would have been possible. Nor would Spring Street. Whyte exploited cast-iron close to the material’s limits, but his heavy use of plate glass, with sheets as wide as 1.95m on the ground floor, defined it. No other castiron building in New York compares to its high percentage of glass-to-iron-structure. Although its large windows were heavy, drafty and expensive, the amount of light they admitted, even in winter, felt modern.

Spring Street’s huge ground-floor display windows, separated by pencil-like columns, are combined with decreasing floor heights in the upper stories. But because of an attempt to maintain consistent window proportions, the windows higher up in the building become shorter and narrower, while the separating columns become wider. In this sense, Whyte’s building is upside-down – light supports heavy, and its masonry rises impossibly from thin >

A vintage children’s desk and chair by Alvar Aalto from the 1930s on the third floor of Spring Street.


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The Platform Bed in walnut wood was built by the author for Judd in 1970.

66 Disegno. 101 SPRING STREET


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Nicholas Whyte (birth and death unknown) was the architect of the cast-iron building at 101 Spring Street that became the home and studio of Judd. It was built it 1870 and originally intended to house stores and offices. Whyte’s only other cast-iron building was built in Brazil.


The American Civil War was fought between 1861 and 1865 between the northern Union states and the southern Confederate states. The war was fought over the issue of slavery without foreign intervention and was one of the earliest industrial wars, using the railroad, steamships and mass-produced weaponry extensively, it ended in 1865 with the surrender of the Confederates and the abolishment of slavery.


Whyte exploited cast-iron close to the material’s limits, but his heavy use of plate glass, with sheets as wide as 1.95m on the ground floor, defined the structure.

The acanthus leaf was a common motif used in ornamenting capitals of the corinthian and composite orders, and other decorative surfaces. Its deeply cut and often curling leaves provide contrast to the linearity of the surrounding architectural elements.


7 The Crystal Palace was originally built in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851. It was designed by Joseph Paxton and constructed out of cast-iron and plate-glass. It was dismantled after the exhibition and rebuilt at a larger scale on Penge Common in the south London suburb of Sydenham Hill in 1854 until it was destroyed by fire in 1936.

The New York Crystal Palace was constructed for the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations in 1853 in New York City. Designed by Georg Carstensen and German architect Charles Gildemeister, it was inspired by the Crystal Palace in London. Situated in Reservoir Square, where Bryant Park is now located, it was also destroyed by fire in 1856.


The Whitney Independent Studies Program (ISP) was established by Ron Clark in 1968. It includes studio, curatorial and critical studies course options over a year-long programme, exposing a select group of students to influential artists, theorists and historians. It has helped launch the careers of artists, critics and curators including Kathryn Bigelow, Julian Schnabel and Jenny Holzer.


68 Disegno. 101 SPRING STREET

> to thick. Try turning a photograph of the western facade of the building upside down and cover the sidewalk and sky; the building reads correctly either way up.

Whyte’s architecture is important, but how Judd adapted Spring Street’s interior to his own purposes, and how he lived in it, is even more significant. Judd frequently said, “The outside of the building belongs to Nicholas Whyte, the inside belongs to me,” and when he arrived at the building in 1968, the interior was in ruins. “The building had been treated badly, as most in the area had been, as most are. The entire Cast-Iron District had been doomed for decades by the possibility of the Broome Street Expressway cutting through it,” wrote the artist in a 1989 essay on the space.

My connection with Judd and Spring Street is a long one. I first met Judd at a Whitney Independent Studies Program9 seminar that he gave in New York in February 1968, where I was a post-graduate sculpture fellow. In March 1969 I started working part-time for Judd in Spring Street. The building was messy when I first saw it. There were factory-type toilets, with the kind of graffiti you might expect, and most of the wooden floors had been heavily used. My first work was repairing, sanding and sealing the ground floor floor, and I helped to remove the mezzanine at the north end of the same floor, replacing it with a new end-wall. I also built the walnut bed (1970), and the structure containing the sleeping loft, cradle room, and dressing rooms. Then, during the second half of 1971, I became one of Judd’s art fabricators and for the rest of his lifetime I built his artworks. But Spring Street remained central to our work together. Bar one discussion on a train from Leningrad (now St Petersburg) to Helsinki, all of our meetings about new pieces took place at Spring Street. Judd loved Spring Street, or 101 as he delighted in calling it, giving each floor a separate function. “One” (ground floor) is the most impressive space and served variously as a studio (1969-72), store room (1973), installation space (1974-80), and area for viewing new work (1981-present). “Two” is a kitchen and dining area. “Three” is a kind of fortress studiolo,10 a workspace established in reaction to a loss of privacy on One; by the late 1960s, SoHo was an established artists’ area and Judd was too well-known to work undisturbed on the ground floor. “Four” in theory is a formal dining room, but in practice it is a piece of pure architecture plus furniture. Finally, “Five” was sleeping quarters for Judd and his family, also housing artworks such as Dan Flavin’s To Flavin Starbuck Judd11 (Untitled, 1970). Access between the floors is through a set of tall, wide stairs and a hand-operated elevator. Getting from one floor to another is not easy and the stairway is strenuous and slow. Judd generally locked the door to Three, meaning that access to the space was restricted to the elevator in the building’s northwest corner. The elevator could only be controlled from inside, >

The aim of the restoration is for visitors to feel like they have entered the artist’s home, not a gallery or museum space.


Disegno. 69

The ground floor, or One, was first used as Judd’s studio but later became an area for displaying art works. Here, four-unit galvanized work, Untitled, by Judd, 1988.

70 Disegno. 101 SPRING STREET


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10 A studiolo was a private room, often referred to as a cabinet, in domestic architecture or palaces during the Italian Renaissance. The room was furnished with works of art, books and personal objects; situated adjacent to the owner’s bedroom from where it was accessed. It was considered to be the most private and personal space of the house or palace’s chief inhabitant. 11 To Flavin Starbuck Judd was an artwork created by minimalist artist Dan Flavin in 1968. The artificial barrier of what Flavin described as “blue, red, and blue” fluorescent lights was originally constructed at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag in The Hague, Netherlands. The dedication in the title of Donald Judd’s son Flavin reflects the close friendship between the two artists. In 1970, a larger version of the piece was installed on the top floor of Judd’s studio at 101 Spring Street.

In 1971, Donald Judd moved to Marfa, Texas from New York City. This move allowed Judd to start creating installations at a larger scale and embedding them in the indigenous desert landscape. Judd is credited with transforming Marfa into a destination on the international artists’ circuit. Following his death, the Chinati Foundation was set up to maintain his legacy, holding an open house to draw visitors to Marfa.

When Judd moved in, three of the five floors had electric lights, but he rarely used these. The ground floor has a line of bare bulb ceiling lights, which are intentionally ill-suited for viewing art by.


The Judd Foundation was conceived in 1977 and created in 1996 as per the last will and testament of Donald Judd following his death in 1994. It is set up as a public charity whose mission is to preserve the work and legacy of the artist Donald Judd, headquartered at 101 Spring Street and Marfa, Texas.


The Chinati Foundation is a contemporary art museum founded by Judd in Marfa, Texas. It opened to the public in 1986 and is based on the idea of preserving and presenting permanent large-scale installations by a limited number of artists.


72 Disegno. 101 SPRING STREET

> meaning that once it arrived on Three, the studio was completely sealed off. It was a situation that suited Judd. The elevator shaft had large windows and, because it was visible from the street, you knew where he was in the building. More than 40 people worked for Judd in the 1980s and everybody knew that if you could see the elevator on Three or Five, you didn’t ring for it. Judd liked to work uninterrupted.

In other ways however, the space was more open. Judd disliked electric light and he loved the natural light that Spring Street’s windows admitted. Electricity only reached this part of Manhattan 12 to 15 years after 101 was built. Before then, the building had been lit by gas, which was expensive and poor to work by. Yet the building’s tall ceilings and enormous windows mean that daylight had always flooded the interiors. Even the basement and the subbasement are lit naturally by sidewalk lights and glass floor panels respectively. When Judd moved in, three of the five floors had electric lights, but he rarely used these. The ground floor has a line of bare bulb ceiling lights, which are, quite intentionally, ill-suited for viewing art by, the floor’s main function after 1980. Whenever I have led tours through Spring Street, I turn on these lights to illustrate Judd’s objection to viewing three-dimensional objects through multiple-source electric light.

Buying 101 Spring Street changed everything for Judd and ownership of a property suddenly opened up what had previously been impossible for him. For the first time, Judd could properly explore architecture; furniture, which he considered a branch of architecture; the separation of spaces by function; and permanent installation work.  In this sense, Judd’s more celebrated work in Marfa, Texas12 owes its form and content to the template set by 101. In fact it’s hard to imagine Judd without Spring Street. Judd believed himself to be the father of the modern idea of Permanent Installation – or at least the first person to practice it rather than simply write about it – and Spring Street was the stage for this. The re-invention of his failed studio on One as an installation space is the source of both the permanent installations Judd later created in Marfa, as well as the rationale behind the Judd Foundation13 and the Chinati Foundation14 that are based in the city. The idea is a museological one and the opposite of that adopted by actively curated museums that host changing shows. In the same way that great buildings have a sense of permanence, you can trust that the same work will be on display in Marfa next month, next year and even in the next decade. This connection between art and architecture is an important one. As far as his own work was concerned, Judd considered the disciplines to be closely related, with their main and most important concern being the creation of space. Both are therefore functional, albeit architecture in a more obvious way, and 101 Spring Street proved crucial to this way of thinking. >

The kitchen area on the second floor with a Scandinavian table and Italian pottery. Furniture by Judd can be seen in the background.


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The fourth floor is a formal dining room, but is also considered “a piece of pure architecture�. On the wall is an art work by Frank Stella, Gur ll, 1967, and on the table an Etruscan salter. The furniture in the foreground is by Judd.

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A corner of the library on Three.

15 Architecture Research Office or ARO is a New York-based firm led by Stephen Cassell, Adam Yarinsky and Kim Yao, that was founded in 1993. The practice’s portfolio spans strategic planning, architecture and urban design.

Dan Flavin (1933-1996) was an American minimalist artist known for his sculptures and installations made from arrangements of commercially available fluorescent tube lights. He usually created his sculptures in editions of three or five, keeping them as drawings on paper until he was commissioned to build them. At the time of his death he had over 1,000 unrealised sculptures.


17 Frank Stella (b.1936) is an American minimalist painter and printmaker known for his post-painterly abstraction. He creates abstract paintings that bear no resemblance to any physical form, illusion or psychological reference. Living in New York, he is one of the most well-regarded post-war American painters still working today.

Claes Oldenburg (b.1929) is an American sculptor known for his large scale public art installations of oversized everyday objects. He often collaborated with his wife, Coosje van Bruggen (19422009) to create these artworks until her death in 2009.


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101 Spring Street preserves all the individual features that Judd invented there, yet as important a consideration is the authenticity with which the building is experienced.

> In 2005 the Judd Foundation decided to restore Spring Street in order to officially open it to the public for the first time. Working with New York-based firm Architecture Research Office,15 the refurbishment started in 2010 and was completed in the summer of 2013. The scope of the project encompassed major work on both the building’s exterior and interiors, bringing Spring Street in line with current health and safety standards, as well as, the Foundation argues, making it suitable for the preservation of the some 500 art works that Judd had amassed there. The collection encompasses both Judd’s own work and that of his contemporaries, such as Dan Flavin,16 Frank Stella17 and Claes Oldenburg.18 The Foundation reconditioned the plaster walls and timber floors, as well as inserting an air-conditioning system to control the interior climate. 101 Spring Street preserves all the individual features that Judd invented there, yet as important a consideration as this must be the authenticity with which the building is experienced – not as a museum, or a period house, but as Judd’s home as he lived in it. An old, ragged loft building where everything was exposed; the kitchen, bathrooms and closets – the medicine cabinets, as it were. All the things visitors want to see in any house but rarely can.

For the first 10 years after Judd died, 1994 to 2004, I was Art Supervisor of the Judd Estate and one of my responsibilities was running Spring Street. As such, my thoughts about the success of the restoration are filtered through the lens of my experiences there and an appreciation of how the building can provide a unique opportunity for visitors to experience Judd’s way of living and working. The everything-exposed loft floors mean that there is no place to hide in the building and, as such, a successful renovation must show everything, leaving the space as it was, unimproved. Careful maintenance and repair, certainly, but anything added or removed after Judd died is a subtraction to the experience of the space. If ever there was a historic house with a rationale for leaving it like it was, Spring Street is it. To me, successful restoration of the building’s exterior has always meant returning the facade, sidewalk lights, and granite paving stones to a condition as if they had been well maintained all these years – as if nothing had needed doing at all. And the exterior restoration of 101 Spring Street is quite wonderful. The Foundation and its architects correctly resisted the temptation to repaint the building in an archeologically-unearthed earlier cream color, or to remove the 1930s fire escape – as pure 1870 as that might have been. Success inside the building should similarly consist in doing almost nothing, although things such as exit signs and railings in public stairways are unavoidable. Most of the individual interior landmarks remain on view, yet there are aspects of it that I question. A minor criticism is one of priorities. Windows and glass are so important to 101 that their repair should be >


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The windows are a key feature of 101 Spring Street, designed by Nicholas Whyte in 1870. Many of the building’s window frames needed rebuilding or replacing at the time of refurbishment. By the window is Judd’s work desk from ML Stearns Desk Co.

78 Disegno. 101 SPRING STREET


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Aalto stools and an Ethiopian head-rest from the late 19th Century on Three.

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101 Spring Street stands as a defence of a particular time and place, an evocation of a period that has been lost as the neighbourhood has developed around it .

READING LIST Chinati: The Vision of Donald Judd by Marianne Stockebrand, Rudi Fuchs, Donald Judd and Nicholas Serota, CHIANTI FOUNDATION, 2010. Donald Judd by David Raskin and Donald Judd, YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2010. From the Vault, an online resource to access The Donald Judd Archives, juddfoundation. org/FromTheVault.htm. Guided tours of 101 Spring Street can be booked through juddfoundation.org

> approached conservatively. Many of the building’s window frames needed rebuilding or replacing, but the glass panes that they held should have been replaced with plain plate glass, not, as was in fact done, with insulated double-pane glass manufactured to resemble old panes. Prioritising environmental concerns in a historic building is a mistake. It values modern ideas of energy-saving over historic preservation principles, including the principle of replacing likewith-like. But it also disregards the deep aversion to imitation, or as Judd called it – illusion – that runs through all of his philosophy on art and architecture. My major criticism pertains to the decision to air-condition the building, something that Judd had never done, although he could easily have afforded to. Air-conditioning creates a disconnect between the constant, institutional, twenty-first century climate that it produces, and the glassy nineteenth-century building in which it is housed. Judd kept Spring Street largely unlit by electric light and without air-conditioning. Yet while it remains unlit, it is now air-conditioned and that is an inconsistency. Furthermore, because there are no secondary rooms or unimportant spaces in the building to hide the air-conditioning machinery and ductwork in, bulky new structures have had to be built into spaces on Three and Five, closing off sections of those floors. Rectangular air-return grills cut into the walls would be a problem in any Judd space. There might seem to be a certain idealism to both of these criticisms. Modern museum thinking might argue that the air conditioning and the insulated glass are preferable, but Spring Street and Judd’s many buildings in Marfa, Switzerland and Cologne were always his personal spaces, never the latest, heavily-climatised environments one might expect.

Visitors who never saw the building before, or who have never seen any of the old photographs of it, won’t notice that elements of the experience at Spring Street have been sacrificed. And perhaps more important to them will be that 101 Spring Street stands as a defence of a particular time and place, an evocation of a period that has been lost as the neighbourhood has developed around it. What in 1968 was a run-down part of lower Manhattan has, since Judd’s death in 1994, become a popular shopping district full of the carefully designed stores of luxury conglomerates. The rawness has been lost.

Those who experienced Spring Street before the restoration should consider themselves lucky to have seen it in the rough state in which Judd lived in it, but any assessment of the building must begin and end with a sigh of relief that it is still here at all.

Peter Ballantine now curates Judd exhibitions internationally, lectures, and restores Judd works for museums, galleries and private collectors. He is currently organising a Judd studies program in Scotland. Christopher Patrick Ernst is a New Jersey-based photographer. A recent graduate from New York’s School of Visual Arts, Ernst’s work has been published by Rolling Stone, Esquire Russia and Spin Magazine.

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Judd’s daughter Rainer Judd’s bedroom as a baby and toddler. The chair (left) is by Judd.


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4. CATSEYES “These reϐlective ‘eyes’ in the centre of the roads must have saved hundreds of lives as they guide people around winding country roads.” – Sir Paul Smith One of several types of reϐlective road studs, the Catseye reϐlective road marker was invented by Percy Shaw and patented in 1934. Marking road margins, lane boundaries, and the centre of roads, they comprise a set of reϐlective glass spheres (retroreϐlectors) encased in white rubber held in place by a cast iron housing. Reportedly, Shaw’s invention was inspired when, driving from Clayton Heights to Halifax in the UK at night, a cat on a fence turned to look at his car, reϐlecting the headlights in its eyes. Retroreϐlectors are mainly used on roads. But in what unusual setting might you also ϐind or have found them? A In 2012 scientists left retroreϐlectors in Amazon rainforest clearings. When light was shone onto them from above, they provided accurate readings of the rate of deforestation. B Retroreϐlectors were left on the moon by astronauts during the Apollo 11, 14 and 15 missions to help measure the satellite’s distance from earth.


C Theodore Maiman used retroreϐlectors in his design for the ϐirst laser in Malibu, California in 1960. Maiman used the reϐlectors to focus the beam produced by a synthetic ruby crystal.



Pilgrims flock to the Kumbh Mela to bathe in the Ganges river. Here is the Sangam main bathing area on the morning of 10 Feburary 2013, the main bathing day of the Kumbh Mela.

Learning from Kumbh Mela In January 2013 millions of pilgrims gathered in Allahabad, India for the Kumbh Mela. It is one of the world’s most spectacular events, yet out of what could be chaos emerges a highly organised and functioning temporary city. WORDS Rahul Mehrotra and Giles Price PHOTOS Giles Price


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uch of the popular literature on the Kumbh Mela treats the festival as a spectacle of huge crowds and religious fervour, documented by familiar images of exotic sadhus rushing to bathe. It is an image fostered by the event’s scale. The Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage and the largest public gathering in the world, seeing millions of people congregate once every three years to bathe in India’s sacred rivers.

Yet beyond this literature, what is even more fascinating about the event is the mechanism of the city that supports this incredible spectacle. The Kumbh Mela is a massive human undertaking that involves the government at all levels, as well as civil society and religious organisations. To support the influx of pilgrims, a temporary megacity is constructed, complete with all the necessary infrastructure. It is a huge undertaking, and one that is yet to be mapped and analysed in a systematic way. With this objective in mind, in 2012 the South Asia Institute at Harvard University assembled an interdisciplinary team from various schools at the University, with the intention of sending students and faculty members to Allahabad to camp at the 2013 Kumbh Mela site for eight days. While there, they observed and mapped the phenomenon. To support itself, the Kumbh Mela deploys what is in effect a pop-up city. It consists of roads, bridges, tents of many different sizes, and an array of other temporary buildings constructed from bamboo and cloth that house social infrastructure such as clinics, hospitals and social centres, all of which replicate the functions of an actual city. The megacity seamlessly integrates layers of infrastructure and urban flows to serve the approximately 6 million people who gather for 55 days (the duration of the 2013 festival) as well as an additional influx of 10 to 20Â million who come for cycles of 24 hours on the main bathing dates. This settlement is laid out on a grid, constructed and then taken down again within a matter of weeks, after which the ground on which the temporary city sits reverts to agricultural use. Within this grid, multiple aspects of contemporary urbanism come into play, including spatial zoning, an electricity system, food and water distribution, public health programmes, public spaces, and night-time social events. Pontoon bridges connecting opposite banks of the rivers, iron plates forming streets, and cotton tents serving as residences or venues for spiritual meetings are just some of the ephemeral components that help to create this spectacular temporary city.

The goal of the pilgrims is to bathe at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, but even this act is organised into a larger procession, where pilgrims are given specific times and opportunities to bathe, determined by the sect and community group to which they belong, so as to facilitate crowd management. >


The Kumbh Mela is a Hindu mass pilgrimage where sadhus play a key role. Here is an unknown sadhu pilgrim.


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One of several temporary akhara religious centres, tented areas in which sadhus and their disciples gather to meditate and perform rituals.



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Opposite page: Pilgrims at the Kumbh Mela including Kalavati Devi, from Bihar (top left), Karunesh Kumar Shukla, from Kaushambi (top right), Balram Das, from Ayodhya (bottom left), and Ramji Pandaji, from Allahabad (bottom right).

Pontoon bridges connecting opposite banks of the rivers, iron plates forming streets, and cotton tents are just some of the ephemeral components that help to create this spectacular temporary city.

> The South Asia Institute assembled its research project from a number of complementary fields: public health, pilgrimage and religious studies, design and planning, business, governance, and technology. It was recognised by the participating schools that the temporary megacity was a focus for all these disciplines, which together would define and analyse the intelligence that goes into its production, as well as eventually making their study available to a wider audience interested in urban design for large and evolving populations. Cartography, the chosen method of analysis for this study, is a valuable and flexible tool that can accommodate many types of data. It is ideal for analysing the processes identified at the Kumbh Mela and for suggesting their potential usage in similar sites in the future. The fieldwork trip to the 2013 Kumbh Mela collected the key information necessary to understand how the formation of a temporary city as mature as the Kumbh Mela might inform sites and circumstances aside from religious pilgrimage. Understanding the Kumbh Mela city allows us to replicate its systems in a variety of places and situations of temporary urbanism, such as refugee camps, military settlements and other forms of impermanent occupation. One particular benefit of the study could be to ask how the construction of such a city might facilitate disaster relief: could the various systems established at the Kumbh Mela be used to help populations urgently in need of a rapidly deployed infrastructure? From the Kumbh Mela we believe we can learn about planning and design, but also about cultural identity and urban adjustment. Issues of social inclusion, diversity and even democracy emerge from its framework of roads and services. The subdivisions of the city form clusters of individual groups, which create spaces in which people can enact their individual and group identities, and which challenge our usual conception of cities as permanent and stable entities. The Kumbh Mela is a case study in which we can see a process that has already mastered certain systems; how can these now be used for low-impact and economical urban design, educating large populations on sustainable living strategies or disaster response?   Rahul Mehrotra is an architect with his practice RMA Architects based in Mumbai and Boston. He is also Professor and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design at the Graduate School of Design and on the Steering Committee of the South Asia Institute at Harvard University. Professor Mehrotra together with Professor Diana Eck co-led the South Asia Institute team for the Kumbh Mela. The findings of the team will be published under the title of Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral City – An interdisciplinary research project by the South Asia Institute at Harvard University. Over the following pages Mehrotra is in conversation with the British photographer Giles Price who documented Kumbh Mela during 12 days in February 2013.



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This page: Officer Brahmanand Dube. Opposite page: Bhagwatsharan, a pilgrim from Ayodhya (top left), a naga (naked) sadhu performing a puja ritual (top right), pilgrims receiving food inside an akhara (centre left), Mamta Dubey and her infant child, pilgrims from Uttar Pradesh (centre right), Ramaldoo Das, a sadhu pilgrim from Bihar (bottom left), and one of several temporary akhara religious centres (bottom right).


1 The Kumbh Mela is a Hindu religious pilgrimage where masses gather every three years to bathe at different sacred sites along the Ganges, Yamuna, Godawari and Shipra rivers, as well as the mythical Saraswati river. The Kumbh Mela comes from the Sanskrit words kumbha meaning pitcher and mela meaning fair, and is located at sites believed to have been where nectar from the gods fell from a kumbha.

A sadhu is a Hindu holy man or wandering monk. They typically wear saffron robes that symbolise their renunciation of all material possessions. A female sadhu is known as a sadhvi.

“In this next decade, if sadhus become more savvy with other forms of social media, the need to meet, deliberate and network might lessen.”


The Kumbh Mela occurs every third year in one of the following four places: Haridwar, Allahabad (Prayaga), Nashik and Ujjain, which correspond to sacred sites along the Ganges, the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati, the Godawari and Shipra respectively. It therefore occurs in each place every 12 years.


The terminology used to collectively refer to groups that aim to introduce regeneration and reform to the Hindu religion. They usually advocate a return to earlier or ancient forms of Hinduism.


The Dalai Lama is the high priest who preaches the Tibetan teachings of Dharma. The Dalai Lama is believed to be constantly reincarnated as manifestations of the Buddhist enlightenment being, Avalokiteśvara.


In Hinduism, the Ganges river is known as the Ganga. Believed to be sacred, it is personified as a goddess and bathing in its waters is believed to liberate you from sin as well as the cycle of life and death.


7 Varanasi or Benares is the holiest of the seven Hindu and Jain sacred cities. It was founded on the banks of the Ganges river in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

The Maha Kumbh Mela occurs every 144 years at Prayag in Allahabad, at the site of the confluence or Sangam of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati river. The most recent Mela was a Maha Kumbh Mela in early 2013.


E20 12 Under Construction was a photography series by Giles Price that combined detailed aerial overviews with portraits of the workforce involved in the construction of the London 2012 Olympics.


Rahul Mehrotra The Kumbh1 means different things to different people. I see it as the world’s largest Hindu congress and, in my opinion, its purpose has evolved. I’m sure it will continue to evolve in 12 years’ time with new technologies, which now even the sadhus2 are beginning to embrace. It is based on a legend and a belief about sacred time, sacred space, and notions of rebirth that you are freed from if you bathe there. But it is a time every 12 years3 when sadhus who essentially wander, meditate, and detach themselves from the world, meet together to deliberate about their faith. That’s why it’s a gathering where all denominations of Hinduism, including the reformed movements,4 come together. Even the Buddhists are there, the Dalai Lama5 comes – these are all reformed movements of Hinduism historically. Essentially, it’s a religious congress with a singular purpose. Giles Price You say even the sadhus are embracing technology; in what way have you seen that?

RM One way is through the presence of cell phones – that clichéd image that appears everywhere. Twelve years ago at the Kumbh not many Indians had cell phones. Now they have, if not one, sometimes two or three cell phones. They are beginning to embrace technology. In this next decade, if sadhus become more savvy with other forms of social media, the need to meet, deliberate and network might lessen, privileging some other primary function in order for the sadhus to gather.

GP I’ve been travelling to India on and off for the last 15 years. At first, approaching people to take their photograph was a negotiation with the individual. Now, with the spread of mobile phone technology, everybody in India is taking pictures of themselves and equally wants their picture to be taken. That is very interesting from a photographer’s perspective, the transition in the past few years as a result of technology. My reason to go to the Kumbh was partly founded on a visit to India in September last year. My mother passed away about 18 months ago and she wanted her ashes sprinkled into the Ganga6 at Varanasi.7


While I was there, although the Kumbh had always been on the periphery of my knowledge, I suddenly became aware of the magnitude of the Maha Kumbh Mela8 that was coming up. Initially, I was very interested in trying to document it from the air because I had done a large project last summer where I documented the construction of the London Olympics9 from the air. The temporary nature of the Kumbh interested me, so I tried to document it in that capacity. I made enquiries with the Indian government to try and make this happen, but in the end they didn’t allow it. My interest to go was not solely based on trying to get the aerials, but rather to document the event itself. That was my interest in going to the Kumbh, but you were there for more academic reasons?

RM My interest in the Kumbh emanates from my own work on urbanism in India. One of the things that has fascinated me about the urban condition in India is its temporal dimension. The parts of the city that exist temporally, that make and remake themselves and shift. I refer to the urbanism in Indian cities as the “kinetic city” because it’s not only the static architecture that makes the city, but also the kinetic quality. The hawkers on the streets, the religious processions, the big temporary structures that are set up for 24 hours for weddings and then come down again. Space becomes elastic and reconfigurable; it gets configured again and again. The same space or even the same buildings in the city don’t have the same meaning at any given time. This shifting landscape has interested me a great deal. I would often, in my lectures or in my reading of the kinetic landscape, reference the Kumbh as the ultimate kinetic city. Being at Harvard10 affords me the luxury of being able to do this type of research. I divide my time between my practice in India and the university, but I thought this was the kind of thing Harvard would be interested in. I began floating the idea around and professors from Harvard Divinity School, like Diana Eck,11 got very excited about it. Finally, we had about five schools that were interested: public health, engineering,

religion, business and design. I put together a group of students from a preparatory seminar that we had done the previous semester. We chose the students who would go from this seminar, because they had begun to do their research projects before we went to India in January. But I wouldn’t say it was purely from an academic perspective. For me, there were three dimensions that were important about the project. One was the extension of my own interest and understanding of what temporality could mean in the concept of planning in a context such as India. The second was the notion of interdisciplinary work and what that meant. I felt that we could blur disciplinary boundaries and therefore, as a pedagogical tool and as an academic project, I thought it had great potential. A lot of interdisciplinary projects are hard to pull off as people often come with their disciplinary preconceptions. But this was so outside of the box that the different disciplinary boundaries just dissolved and it was really successful. The third thing that interested me was what one can learn from the Kumbh, not only for cities in India but also for any temporal city. What fascinates me is the correlation between what we are beginning to learn from the Kumbh Mela and the refugee camps or emergency housing that the UN12 organises, which often become camps, and when I use the word “camp” I mean repetitive units that have no life. These camps are about segregating the individual and the unit, not aggregating it, and often stay that way for 20 years. I thought the Kumbh was wonderful because it wasn’t about disaggregation as much as aggregation and the way those communities worked. GP So how long were you actually on the ground? Were you there for its construction?

RM Someone from our team was on the ground every month for a year before the Kumbh and for three months after the Kumbh, so we also documented the deconstruction. I went on a recce prep trip in June or July 2012 before the January Kumbh. I went earlier to meet with officials, explain the project, work out the logistics, understand the terrain and also document

the river level. How long did you spend there, Giles? GP I was there for 12 days, from 8–20 February so I got there mid-way through the Kumbh.

RM Our group lived there for about seven or eight days, the public health people stayed longer. They also trained volunteers to map the Kumbh for the whole 55 days, so they have data on the entire Kumbh. We went early, on 18 or 19 January, five days after it started, and left before the first bathing day13 because we were not interested so much in the crowds as we were in trying to see how the systems operate.

GP For me, I found the visual side of it thoroughly, I wouldn’t say overawing, but it was awesome, to actually arrive in time for the build up of supposedly the largest gathering of humans ever. What struck me was actually how calm it was, how ordered everything was. There was this classic Indian organised chaos in a very calm and collected way, which I put down to an aspect of devoutness, of people making a pilgrimage and also a collective understanding that you are so exposed in a crowd that big. If there’s a stampede, that’s it, you’re dead. But over the top of it, on the loudspeakers, there was this constant repetition of lost and found; people calling out for their relatives who they had lost that evening. It became a very interesting juxtaposition of this calm sea of humanity and this quite erratic and emotional soundtrack on top of it. That will stay with me, the sheer size and scale of it. Then, standing away from that, was actually just the control and management of a crowd that size. I know there was a stampede at the railway station that, sadly, caused some fatalities on 10 February,14 but the actual management of the crowds was very impressive. RM The lost and found is one of the most interesting organisations. You use the words “lost and found”, and that is, I suppose, the closest English equivalent. >

10 Harvard is an American Ivy League University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States, established in 1636. It is considered to be one of the most prestigious universities in the world. 11 Diana Eck (b. 1945) is Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University’s Divinity School. She received her PhD in the Comparative Study of Religion in 1976 from Harvard University.

The United Nations was founded in 1945 as a peace-keeping body following the Second World War. In the aftermath of natural disasters, various UN organisations supply food, medicines and logistical support, in addition to building emergency shelters to aid victims.


The first bathing day of the Kumbh Mela, Paush Purnima, took place on 27 January 2013. Bathing on this day is thought to release believers from the cycle of life and death. While there is also a bathing day, Makar Sankranti, on 14 January, it is a regular bathing day and not one of the official auspicious bathing days during the Kumbh.


On 10 February 2013, a stampede broke out in Allahabad train station after a railing on a footbridge collapsed. This caused mass panic amongst crowds that were gathering to partake in the bathing rituals at the Kumbh Mela, resulting in the death of 36 people, with 39 injured.



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Several akhara encampments at the 2013 Kumbh Mela, with Coca-Cola advertisements on the railway bridge in the distance.



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Opposite page: a Vodafone kiosk at the main marketplace (top left), Suresh Venkat, a pilgrim from Mumbai (top right), Ashish Antia-Mody, a pilgrim from Mumbai (centre left), a branch of the Reserve Bank of India in the main marketplace (centre right), a Ramayana play being performed in one of the akhara theatres (bottom left), Victoria Havercroft, a traveller from the UK (bottom right).

15 Bhule Bhatke, or Bhoole Bhatke, is an organisation set up during each Kumbh Mela that helps reunite individuals separated from their families during the mass religious pilgrimage. The words Bhule Bhatke are communicated by loudspeakers throughout the Mela site. It is run by experienced volunteers who can communicate in multiple languages and with the deaf and mute.

“What struck me was actually how calm it was and how ordered everything was. There was this classic Indian organised chaos.”

> But when you say that, there is optimism because you have “found.” The name of the organisation is Bhule Bhatke.15 Bhule means “lost” and bhatke means “abandoned.” There is no “found” in it, which is interesting. For many pilgrims, they see the Kumbh as a place to bring elderly or sick members of their family, and abandon them. They feel that for them to die there would be some kind of sacred moment. We interviewed the organisers of Bhule Bhatke and this is the fourth or fifth Kumbh they have been at. They have been at it for half a century approximately. There are around 250,000 streetlights at the Kumbh and the speakers for this organisation are also on that grid. They occur every 100 metres, so there must be 1,000 or 2,000 speakers. The lost and found, or the bhule bhatke, is like a layer in the soundscape of the Kumbh that maps onto the grid and is omnipresent. GP When I began to document the Kumbh, I took portraits of all the civil workers, from the chief of police down to policemen, postmen, and cleaners. On the infrastructure side, they felt it was a social and civic duty that they were doing. They felt very honoured to be in that position to offer this service to the pilgrims, which came across from all of them actually. The other thing that became apparent to me, and I sort of rendered this into my picture essay, was this influx of brands: the Coca-Colas, the Vodafones and so on. That juxtaposition of the modernity of global culture with these much older established cultural events like the Kumbh. On the flip side, the sheer size and management of these events means that you need to have levels of civil infrastructure in place for these things to happen. Equally, someone has to finance this. I was wondering what your position was on that? You mentioned the increase in technology over the next 12 years, but it would be interesting to know where the corporatisation will lead as well. RM But if you think about it, except for the presence of Coke, which the railways gave space to, there wasn’t that much more advertising. Yes, you saw smaller Vodafone


ads and some other sponsorship, but Coke was the only kind of large scale presence. I would have to find out more about this as one of the research questions, but I think the railways had autonomy on the bridge so they could use that for advertising. The road bridge doesn’t have a provision for advertising because there is no surface you can put things on. But on the railway bridge, because of those big deep structures, it fits quite well. There might have been reasons why just Coke had that much presence, but there could have been much more advertising there.

GP Of course with the population growth, by default, these gatherings are getting bigger and bigger. Where there is a need for managing the size of crowds and pilgrims, in the future, do you see that becoming more of an issue?  RM It could. But then technology may have improved so you could manage it more easily. The entrances and exits can be controlled; the location of the bus terminals and points of ingress this time were managed more efficiently so that they didn’t have a problem. Because of technology, fewer people might come because the sadhus may not need to meet so often. There are many variables, so it’s hard to predict the future.

GP While your team was there in the lead up to the Kumbh, what was the actual process of building it, the time frame and the cost? RM The cost I don’t know. What’s interesting is that until October they don’t know where the site of the Kumbh will be, because the river shifts every year. It’s a very volatile river. The plan for the Kumbh is made official only in late October because that’s when the monsoon’s over; the water recedes and you know where you’re going to get firm land. What’s remarkable is that in basically two-and-a-half months they have the city ready to go. That’s why they use the grid pattern because it’s a very easy layout to employ for something like this. In terms of infrastructure and the investment, this is something we haven’t >

The subdivisions of the Kumbh Mela city break into temporary clusters of individual groups, which challenge our conceptions of cities as permanent and fixed entities. Here, pilgrims at the Kumbh Mela are resting and eating.



Disegno. 103

This page: N&R Foldings’ Orishiki glasses case. Opposite: A shirt from Ann-Sofie Back’s autumn/ winter 2012/13 collection.

This page: Ram Katori Bhai from Gwalior, at the Bhule Bhatke centre (for the lost and abandoned). Opposite page: the Central Fire Station (top left), Bharat Rai, a fireman (top right), C.S. Rathore, Head of Supply Depot and Chief Pharmacist (centre left), new toilet bowls at the main supply depot (centre right), the Bhule Bhatke centre and Sant Prsad Panday, the Chief Secretary of Bhule Bhatke (bottom).


Disegno. 105

“The reason why it’s such a successful megacity, even though it’s temporary, is its purpose. Our cities today have become so contested because there are multiple aspirations at play.”

Uttar Pradesh is a state in India that means Northern State. It was formed in 1950 after the United Provinces was broken up into Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Its capital is Lucknow and, as of 2011, it has a population of around 200 million people.


17 A crore is a unit of monetary measurement prevalent in South Asia. One crore is equivalent to 10 million and is denoted as 1,00,00,000. It is made up of 100 lakhs, where a lakh is equivalent to 1,00,000. One thousand crores would be equivalent to 10 billion rupees.

Allahabad is a city in the Northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is also known as Prayag, which means place of offerings, alluding to it being a sacred site for bathing rituals. It has an estimated population of 1.74 million and is known as the City of Prime Ministers, with seven out of the 13 post-independence prime ministers coming from there.


An ashram is an Indian place of retreat or hermitage. It relates to activities such as religious instruction, yoga or the study of music. It can also be used to refer to a group that belongs to a particular yogic practice or religion headed by a guru.


A ramlila is a dramatic re-enactment of the different stories from the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. It follows the life of Lord Rama, culminating in the ten-day battle between Lord Rama and Ravana, the ten-headed King of Lanka.


> yet finished studying. At least on paper, a lot of it gets reused. For example, they store a few of those pontoon bridges, while others often get used in smaller towns to connect villages that don’t have a bridge. The metal plates for the roads can also be easily recycled for various things because they are raw material in a very simple form. Then the wires and light posts, the infrastructure for sewage, water supply pipes – at least from what we understand on paper – get distributed, and this becomes a political decision, through smaller towns and villages in the area and in the state. The state of Uttar Pradesh16 pays for the whole Kumbh Mela and the figure that everyone works with is about 1,000 crores.17 Corporations provide not even 2 per cent of the funding. The amount of advertising that was seen there can’t even cover a minuscule fraction of the funding. This is a huge state budget. And it’s an allocated part of the state budget – this is something of great pride to the country and it’s very deep in the imagination of Indians. GP Do you have figures for the number of people who went through the site over the whole period?

RM No. I’ve interviewed the commissioners and my guestimate, based on many conversations, is about 5 to 7 million people live there. I would guess about 7 million people live there for 55 days. This includes the 10,000 sweepers, it includes administration, police, people whose presence is continuous at the Mela site. I don’t know how many people visit it, and that number could be between 30 and 50 million. Having said that I don’t think they have ever had a way of knowing. I say 5 to 7 million because 5 million live at the Kumbh site, and the other 2 million get absorbed within the fabric of Allahabad.18 Although how you would calculate that statistically I’m not sure. GP If this was a Hindu conference, we would have both been there as observers. How


apparent was the presence of observers when you were doing your research?

RM One of the interesting things is that identities get subverted. In a sense you can’t tell who is rich or poor, who has come from the city or from a village. People dress more frugally, some of them are part of ashrams,19 some of them not. The voyeurs, those who come just to observe, who might be photographers, might be people like us, try to stay as inconspicuous as possible. But that’s a very small proportion of the total number of visitors to the Kumbh. There might be some bathing days when a few more city-ites would come. But I would say confidently, of the 80–100 million people who have gone in and out, and the 7 million who live there, and the 20 million who come in just for each of those bathing days, 95 per cent, if not 98 per cent, are there for the purpose that the Kumbh exists. They are not just there as observers. Then there are social dimensions that spin off that. At night, there are what they call ramlilas,20 which are these plays and theatre that are entertainment like going to the movies. They also have religious flavours to them in terms of the messages, the format and all of that. The reason why it’s such a successful megacity, even though it’s temporary, is its purpose. Our cities today have become so contested because there are multiple aspirations at play. Politicians are now the leaders that try to negotiate between these aspirations to make cities function and stay beautiful and clean and pleasurable. I think the Kumbh is successful in terms of its planning because it has a single purpose that brings people together.

GP Ironically, it’s probably the cleanest place I’ve ever been to in India. I went and shot some of the medical health department and they showed me this mosquito disinfectant. Every morning they would send people out with sieves and there were these white dots that they would put systematically every >

General views of the Kumbh Mela with anti-dust spraying of roads in the morning (top) and pontoon bridges traversing the River Ganga (below).

A general view of the Kumbh Mela at the main bathing area at Sangam. Pilgrims are given specific times to bathe according to the sect and social group to which they belong.



Disegno. 109

An akhara or akhada is both an organisation of different sects of Hindu holy men or sadhus, as well as a tented area where they gather along with their disciples to meditate and perform rituals. A group of five members are elected to govern a specific akhara during each Kumbh Mela for a period of four years.


“The same space or even the same buildings in the city don’t have the same meaning at any given time.”

READING LIST Pilgrimage and Power: The Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, 1765–1954 by Kama Maclean OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS USA, 2008. Ephemera, Temporary Urbanism, and Imaging by J. Mark Schuster from Imaging the City — Continuing Struggles and New Directions (eds. Lawrence J. Vale & Sam Bass Warner) CUPR BOOKS, 2001. The Exigent City by Jim Lewis THE NEW YORK TIMES, 2008.

Giles Price’s image of Mamta Dubey and Infant pilgrims, from his project 21st Century Kumbh, has been selected as a finalist for this year’s Taylor Wessing Prize and will be on show at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from 14 November 2013 to 9 February 2014. The full body of work from this project will be exhibited in India and the UK in 2014. Price is also launching a Kickstarter campaign to help publish 21st Century Kumbh, a book of the project, in September 2013. www.gilesprice.com

> 5m over the entire site. That was to suppress mosquitoes, and other bugs and insects. The sheer footfall going over these spots distributed this disinfectant all over the site – an ingenious but simple method. But can the Kumbh really be learned from and applied elsewhere? Here everyone came together for a single purpose, but elsewhere this might not be the case. How successful do you think an application of this kind or even a study of this kind would be?

RM It can be successful for temporary city settlements, which often, compared to real cities, have a very clear sense of purpose. You get a whole ethnic group that gets displaced, so they have reason to band together. If people get displaced because of an earthquake that suddenly becomes a common denominator. For emergency refugees, this kind of application can occur. We are in the process of analysing and learning from it, but let me just give you one or two examples that might give you a sense of what we are trying to get from it. One is to look at how quickly infrastructure gets deployed, because from the end of October to 14 January they make a city ready for 5 million people. If you had 200,000 people you could do it in half that time and if you had just 100,000 or 50,000 you could do it in two weeks. There is a huge lesson to learn from the way the components of infrastructure for the city are instituted. The second thing is that it’s truly a case of private/public partnership. The government does the infrastructure and each sect builds up their private sectors, which often doesn’t happen in refugee camps or emergency shelters. They sometimes get a famous


architect to design a unit and then repeat it until it becomes a camp. You can learn about site planning from this and I think as an extension of that you find every akhara21 has its own norms. The layout within the akharas are different because they have their own cultural norms – how to subdivide hierarchy, who lives there, what happens there. So why don’t we do that in emergency shelters? For some reason in emergency shelters we repeat everything and completely neutralise any sense of community. In extreme conditions, these things surface more clearly than otherwise. GP What about the most immediate outcome of our visits to the Kumbh Mela? Personally, outside of the body of images that I’ve made, the thing which will stay with me forever is the humanity of it. The humanity of the 95 per cent that are there for a deliberate act of faith and equally the humility paid to me, I felt no bad energy there at all.

RM I feel exactly the same way and would almost use the same words to describe my own emotions. I would just add the word “detachment”. What I mean by that is, when I visited the camp, I saw these disciples from Bombay who where living there. They had made the most beautifully manicured gardens, lawns and flowerbeds in the camp. It’s a lot of effort – they bloom after 30 days and then you leave in 15 days. I asked them, “Why do you do it?” They said that being there is also an exercise in detachment, to put your heart and soul into making something and then letting it go.

Akhara encampments in sector four (top) and pilgrim encampments under the Grand Trunk Road bridge (below).

5. POST-IT NOTES “Such a great idea. It is very low cost and used by millions of people every day. A perfect example of lateral thinking.” – Sir Paul Smith The creation of the Post-it was a two-step process. Developed by the American corporation 3M, the ϐirst stage of the Post-it’s existence came in 1968, when a 3M research scientist, Dr. Spence Silver, developed a removable adhesive, a substance that is composed of tiny spheres that, although sticky, maintain their shape so as to prevent the paper from sticking permanently. Yet Silver’s work went unused until 1974, when Art Fry, a 3M product development researcher, reimagined the adhesive as the basis for a new kind of bookmark. Soon after the project was adapted into its familiar memo pad form. The Post-it was a success thanks to the temporariness of its adhesive, yet it is also capable of surprising acts of permanence. Which of the following feats of endurance is true? A In 1989 Hurricane Hugo caused an estimated 107 fatalities as it moved across the Atlantic and southeast United States. A family in South Carolina left a Post-it on their front door as they were evacuated to escape the storm and, three days later, the note was still in place. B The USCGC Tamaroa boat led the rescue of a helicopter downed in the Atlantic during the Halloween Nor’easter of 1991. The boat was subjected to 12m-high waves and winds of 75 mph, yet a Post-it attached to a life preserver on its deck remained attached.


C In 1986 the Libyan military compound Bab al-Azizia was bombed by the United States in response to an attack on American soldiers in Berlin. A collection of 16 Post-it notes were found clinging to the remnants of one of Bab al-Azizia’s shelled walls.


The Vanishing Point The LED and OLED are set to become the dominant artificial light sources of the 21st century. Unlike the traditional light bulb, they can be integrated into architecture, furniture, even window panes. So what does this mean for the future of the lamp? WORDS Kristina Rapacki PHOTOS Ben Murphy ART DIRECTION Michael Anastassiades


For this photoshoot, Disegno invited leading figures from the lighting world to choose designs they feel represent the future of the industry. Carlotta de Bevilacqua nominated the Copernico lamp, which she designed for Artemide. “I designed this suspension lamp entirely in recycled aluminium. When it’s closed, it is totally flat. But you have nine rings fixed by a joint that is a patented invention. You can move all the rings wherever you want as they are very light – the shape is not fixed. Without the cutting-edge LED technology developed by Artemide, Copernico would not be possible.”


Disegno. 115

L 1 Flos is an Italian lighting company founded by Dino Gavina and Cesare Cassina in 1962. Sergio Gandini joined the company in 1964, when it moved from Merano in South Tyrol to Bovezzo in Brescia. Piero Gandini, his son, became company president in 1999.

A light-emitting diode, or LED, is an electroluminescent light source made from a semiconductor material.


Artemide is an Italian design lighting manufacturer based in Milan. It was founded by Ernesto Gismondi and Sergio Mazza in 1960.


The Vitra Design Museum is a privately owned design museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany. It was established as a private foundation in 1989.


Lightopia is on from 28 September 2013.


Jolanthe Kugler (b. 1977) is a German architect, editor and curator.


7 Compact fluorescent lamps are energy-saving light sources comprised of curved fluorescent tubes.

Organic LEDS , or OLEDs, are LEDs in which the electroluminescent, or light-emitting, layer is a film of organic semiconductor.



ighting manufacturers are in a maddening predicament. “We can’t print a catalogue,” says Piero Gandini, president of the Italian lighting company Flos,1 “without it being out-of-date after three months.” This situation, he explains, is due to a technological development that is in continual flux: “The specs for LEDs are changing so dramatically and so fast.”

No field of design is undergoing a technological revolution equal to that of the lighting industry. The mainstream adaptation of LEDs, or light-emitting diodes,2 has established new ecological standards and prompted international legislation. In 2009, the phase-out of the incandescent light bulb began in the European Union, prohibiting the production, importation and sale of this 19th-century invention in favour of more energy-efficient solutions. Brazil and Venezuela were the forerunners, initiating the phase-out in the mid-2000s, while Canada and the United States will start switching off in 2014.

This change is tectonic. “It’s a total paradigm shift,” says Carlotta de Bevilacqua, a consultant at Italian lighting company Artemide.3 It not only affects the stock in the local hardware shop, but also raises retrofitting challenges for manufacturers, and opens up novel possibilities for designers. When the light bulb, so long the nucleus of the luminaire, no longer needs to take centre stage, artificial light is given new forms and functions. On the one hand, the physical support of the lamp is beginning to vanish, with light being integrated into furniture and architecture with ever-increasing technological sophistication. On the other hand, an opposing tendency has designers and manufacturers emphasising the sculptural qualities of the luminaire as an independent designed object, or even reverting to the shape of the classical incandescent light bulb.

Exploring this crux is the large-scale exhibition Lightopia, being held at the Vitra Design Museum4 this autumn.5 “The Vitra Design Museum has a lamp collection of more than 1,200 pieces that is hardly ever shown,” says Jolanthe Kugler, the curator of the exhibition.6 “We’ve wanted to present these pieces for years, and now we’ve decided to do it. But very quickly we also came to the conclusion that so much is changing in the lighting field that we had to do a bigger exhibition,” she says. Consequently, the last section of the exhibition is devoted to the light of tomorrow and addresses the impact of the latest technology on the forms and uses of artificial light.

Bulbs have been updated in the past. Halogen bulbs, a type of incandescent, are still available on the market. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)7 solve many efficiency issues found in the incandescent, but have poor light stability and a hazardous mercury content. LEDs and OLEDs,8 we are led to believe, are the future of light. But wherein lies their revolutionary potential? >

Lighting designer Michael Anastassiades nominated String Lights, which he designed for Flos. “As technology has not completely freed light sources from wires, one is often faced with the problem of moving a light from A to B: electricity points are always where you least want them. I selected the string lights for how to solve a practical issue in a poetic way and for how the thin cables mark space by drawing in three dimensions.” Piero Gandini, president of Flos nominated James Turell’s oeuvre. “I would chose James Turell’s work in general. He does incredible things with new technologies, but always with a poetic approach to light.”


Disegno. 117

“You can integrate OLEDs into the glass of a window, so that during the day it’s normal glass and when it goes dark it begins to shine like a lamp.”

Foscarini is an Italian lighting manufacturer founded in 1981 in Venice, Italy. It was acquired by Carlo Urbinati and Alessandro Vecchiato in 1988.


10 Euroluce is a biennial exhibition devoted to lighting held at the Salone internazionale del Mobile in Milan. The first Euroluce exhibition was held in 1976. 11 One of Italy’s foremost modern lighting designers, Gino Sarfatti (1912-1984) was an aeronautical engineer who founded the company Arteluce in 1936. In 1973, Arteluce was bought by Flos. Sarfatti’s Modello 1095 consists of a long, slim tube, originally fitted with a halogen bulb on top.

Philips is a Dutch multinational electronics and engineering company founded in Eindhoven in 1891.


Samsung is a South Korean conglomerate, founded as a trading company in 1938. It entered the electronics industry in the late 1960s, and the shipbuilding industry in the 1970s.


> What sets LEDs apart from earlier light sources is their use of electroluminescence rather than incandescence; in other words, they produce light by means of electron excitation instead of simply heating a filament until it glows. Commercial LED technology has existed since the 1960s, employed in indication lamps on computers, radios and other electronic equipment where stable, long-lasting light sources are necessary. Today, most users are familiar with LEDs from the backlighting for television, computer and mobile phone screens, for which the technology has been used since the 1990s.

Over the last decade or so, lighting companies have begun to adapt LEDs for luminaires, a process rendered more urgent by the recent legislation. LED adaptation is now newsworthy. The lighting company Foscarini9 chiefly presented LED conversions of its bestselling lamps on its stand at Euroluce10 this year, while Flos focused on presenting the company’s latest research into LED heat-sinking and OLED technology. A challenge addressed by both companies was creating the 360-degree scope of an incandescent bulb with LEDs, which presently have a maximum range of 120 degrees. “You have to treat LEDs not as a single light source, but as a system, to create the same effect as the light bulb,” explains Carlo Urbinati, the creative director of Foscarini. Meanwhile, the issue of heat-sinking (overheating remains a critical issue for high-power LEDs) has been solved most creatively by Flos with a water-cooling system for the retrofitted Modello 1095 lamp, originally designed by Gino Sarfatti11 in 1968.

But it is the OLED that represents the next major development within LED technology. OLEDs are plastic-based coats that can be applied to a variety of surfaces, lighting up when a current is passed through them. While the LED created new possibilities by seamlessly integrating light into interiors by virtue of its compact size, the OLED is set to revolutionise this field of lighting design; an entire wall could easily be made to emit an imitation of daylight, for example. Or, as Kugler points out, “You can make OLEDs as thin and flexible as paper. You can integrate them into the glass of a window so that during the day it’s normal glass and when it goes dark it begins to shine like a lamp.” Although OLEDs are currently expensive to produce – they are made under laboratory-like conditions – they are predicted to mark a definitive challenge to the light bulb and its aesthetics once commercially viable. The paradigm shift, summarises Flos’ Gandini, is “a jump from electricity to electronics”. This has had unexpected consequences for traditional manufacturers of light bulbs, such as Philips.12 “There are new companies that normally produce computer screens, but which are now producing lights because they have the technology to do so,” says Kugler. Where Philips formerly dominated the light-bulb market, companies specialising in the semiconductor technology used for LEDs are now finding it easier to adapt to the new circumstances. “It’s easier and faster for a company like Samsung13 to produce LEDs than for Philips to convert their company from bulbs to semiconductors,” says Gandini. “So today the scenario is that you have big Japanese, Chinese and Korean companies that can really play the game. They were not known for lighting originally, but today they’re coming up extremely fast and coping well with their LEDs.”


Tracing changes in technology, legislation and manufacturing is a relatively simple task; it serves to stake out the terrain in which lighting designers currently find themselves. The ecological benefits of LEDs are evident, their standardisation inevitable. But what impact will they have on the shaping, framing and staging of artificial light? >

Massimiliano Messina, creative director of Natevo, a sister company of Flou, nominated CCLight by Carlo Colombo for Natevo. “Design incorporates light. That is substantially the idea at the base of the CCLight bookshelf. The LED lights give rise to unusual shapes that dance on the wall the bookshelf rests against.�


Disegno. 119

Kristina Rapacki, of Disegno magazine, nominated Surface Tension by Front for Booo. “LED and OLED technology has liberated the luminaire from some of its earlier functions, as the support no longer needs to play an integral part in the design. This opens up for new aesthetic possibilities of play and subversion, exemplified by Front’s Surface Tension lamp.”



Disegno. 121

“Sometimes you get the feeling that technology itself, not the light, is the driving factor. Almost all OLED lamps or concepts I’ve seen have been about the OLED.”

Ingo Maurer (b. 1932) is a German designer renowned for his lamp design and lighting installations. His eponymous design studio is based in Munich, Germany.


15 Fiona Bate and Rebecca Silus in Lux: Lamps & Lights, Gestalten 2011, pp. 5-6.

Sofie Refer (b. 1974) is a Danish lighting designer based in Copenhagen.


17 Peter Keene (b. 1953) is a British artist and designer based in Paris.

Michael Anastassiades (b. 1967) is a Cypriot lighting designer based in London. In 2007, he founded his own company, which sources skilled craftsmanship from workshops around the world, and specialises in small-scale manufacturing.


Daniel Rybakken (b. 1984) is a Norwegian lighting designer based in Gothenburg, Sweden. He is known for his projects exploring daylight and its psychological effects.


Philippe Starck (b. 1949) is a French product and interior designer who lives and works in Paris. Light Photon, one of several lamps he has designed for Flos, is an adjustable table lamp that dates from 2012.


Artek is a Finnish furniture company founded by Alvar and Aino a Alto in 1935. The Finnish designer Ville Kokkonen (b. 1975) was appointed design director of Artek in 2009.



> One predictable reaction to this rapid technological change is a nostalgic reclamation of the incandescent bulb, or at least its form. As design writers Fiona Bate and Rebecca Silus have observed, the poetic meditation on the bulb as an emblem of innovative thought was heralded by Ingo Maurer14 in the early 1980s, when his Bulb Bulb responded to the highly functional lighting ideals of the time.15 But the appeal of the incandescent bulb, its golden glow and classic form, is evident in recent manifestations in works by designers such as Sofie Refer16 and Peter Keene.17 Refer’s Mega Bulb offers a bare bulb encased by a clear glass lampshade that fondly mimics the shape it envelops. Keene, whose work heavily references Maurer, provided a playful take on the classic bulb earlier this year with Electrical Plant. In this piece, 13 naked bulbs terminate the branches of a metal tree-like structure, like luminous fruit waiting to be plucked. But it is Maurer himself, still at the forefront of technological change, who has provided the luminaire most prescient of the situation. His Holonzki from 2000, a hologram depicting a glowing incandescent bulb, seems to map our current passage from electricity to electronics. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there is a tendency towards technomania, where form is subordinated to technological sophistication. “Many pieces now seem to be statements about technology,” says the London-based lighting designer Michael Anastassiades.18 “For example, there is this new technology for cooling LEDs, so suddenly we have a problem of LEDs being too hot. It’s important to understand that in a year’s time, this problem will be non-existent. Why design a light around the idea of cooling the light source? What will we do with such a lamp when the problem of cooling is resolved?”

The Norwegian designer Daniel Rybakken,19 who lives and works in Gothenburg, Sweden, feels a similar frustration at the tech-obsessed approach of the lighting industry. “Sometimes you get the feeling that technology itself, not the light, is the driving factor,” he says. “Almost all OLED lamps or concepts I’ve seen have been about the OLED.” This certainly applies to Flos’ most recent OLED lamp, the Light Photon by Philippe Starck.20 Although elegantly executed, the most newsworthy characteristic of the Light Photon was not its form or its innovative application of the technology, but rather the fact that it was the largest OLED lamp yet to have been manufactured. Anastassiades and Rybakken agree that rapid technological advancement requires a necessary gestation period before poetry, form and light will be prioritised again. “When a technology like OLED becomes more accessible, I will certainly approach it as a designer,” says Rybakken. “But at the moment, it seems that technological innovation is not necessarily tied to innovation within form.”

Rybakken represents a generation of lighting designers who strive to disembody artificial light from its source, mimicking daylight and exploring its psychological effects. “Making the light source invisible is something I’ve consciously worked with in almost all of my projects,” he says. “I’ve tried to distance myself from just designing lampshades.” This process is, of course, made easier with LED and OLED technology, which can be incorporated into planes, furniture and interiors in new ways. Ville Kokkonen, design director of Artek,21 is another designer who has explored similar approaches to light. In his 2011 White collection, he presented five minimalist fittings that foregrounded white light and its therapeutic qualities rather than the support. Kokkonen’s message to the press when launching the collection was that, “for too long, light has been overshadowed by the fitting”. In White, light itself is the spectacle, not the >

Jolanthe Kugler, curator of the Lightopia exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum, nominated Surface Daylight prototype by Daniel Rybakken. “Surface Daylight creates the impression of sunlight falling in through a window and projecting a bright area on a wall. It is a perfect illustration of the possibilities offered by new technologies. The creation of light rather than the designing of lamps takes centre stage and leads to a solution that ideally illustrates how light – be it artificial, natural or an illusion of natural light – affects our perception of space, as well as the quality of space itself.” Ball vase in brass by Michael Anastassiades.


Disegno. 123

“I think that in a few years, certain things will be miniaturised, as we’ve seen with televisions. The bodies will disappear,” he says, before checking himself: “Disappear is a big word but… be less there.”

22 Flou is an Italian furniture brand specialising in bedroom furnishings founded in 1978. 23 Studio Thesia Progetti is an Italian design studio in Padova, Italy. It developed out of a collaboration between designers Mino Bressan and Donatella Santangelo.

Carlo Colombo (b. 1967) is an Italian architect and designer with studios in Como and Milan.


Luceplan is an Italian lighting company founded in 1978 by the Italian architects Riccardo Sarfatti, Paolo Rizzatto and Sandra Severi. In 2010 Luceplan became part of Philips Lighting.



> apparatus. Gandini confirms a tendency towards the “miniaturisation” of the visible apparatus of the lamp: “I think that in a few years, certain things will be miniaturised, as we’ve seen with televisions. The bodies will disappear,” he says, before checking himself: “Disappear is a big word but… be less there.”

A more extreme take on this tendency can be seen in the design vision of Natevo, a branch of the Italian furniture company Flou22 that specialises in incorporated lighting solutions, and which launched at Salone 2013. “Flou made a bed called Essentia in 2012 that incorporated light into the bed frame. It became one of last year’s bestsellers,” explains Massimiliano Messina, the creative director of Natevo. “So when we started Natevo in 2013, we said that the apartment of the future will not need to have lamps.” Instead, lighting will be incorporated into chairs, bookshelves and fittings, as can be seen in a number of pieces by Studio Thesia Progetti23 and Carlo Colombo24 that Natevo is already producing. In October 2013, Natevo will present the first of three model flats – without lamps – in Milan’s CityLife residential complex. It is ecology rather than formal innovation that serves to shape Natevo’s business: “I wanted to create Natevo because of the ecological aspect of it,” says Messina. “By incorporating the light into furniture you are creating a way of reducing pollution. You are saving the transportation pollution of the lamp, and also saving the pollution of the packaging of the lamp, because you’re already shipping and packaging furniture and lamp in one.” The logical conclusion of this ecofriendly, hyper-functional approach would be to declare the death of the lamp.

But is the consumer ready for such a radical change to the way interiors are ordered? After all, the electric luminaire has been a staple of the domestic space for over a century. Messina believes that the market is ready: “At the moment it’s all going faster than I thought it would. Just think about what happened in the heating industry,” he says, by way of analogy. “Nowadays, whenever you build in Italy, the heating is incorporated into the floor. This started about 25 years ago, and now we’ve arrived at a time where nearly 80% of what is built uses heat in that way. Sooner or later, it will happen with lighting.” But Rybakken, whose most conceptual work uses similar strategies to those favoured by Natevo, has a different impression: “I see the lighting industry as very conservative,” he says. While Rybakken’s conceptual work continues to receive critical acclaim, the two pieces picked up for production by Luceplan25 >

Carlo Urbinati, creative director of Foscarini, nomitated Twiggy by Marc Sadler for Foscarini. “At Foscarini, we try to bend the new technology to what we like to deliver with our products, which is the poetry and emotion of light. With a lot of research, we were able to convert our bestselling classics to LED versions, creating exactly the same effects as with the original light sources.” Wall-mounted secretaire from Dansk Møbelkunst.


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Lighting designer Daniel Rybakken nominated Yang by Carlotta de Bevilacqua for Artemide. “I’ve always admired Yang from 2003. With its emphasis on technology, which I believe will become less important with time, it has something old-fashioned about it. But there is also something very honest about it. The user can regulate the atmosphere created by the lamp.” Mirror by Michael Anastassiades.


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“We’ll never eliminate the physicality of light. To have the light source in front of you is important. It’s like lighting up a fire.”

26 Counterbalance is an award-winning, wall-mounted luminaire designed by Rybakken for Luceplan in 2011. See Disegno No. 1, pp. 26-27. 27 Ascent is a table lamp by Rybakken for Luceplan. It was presented at Euroluce this year.

READING LIST LED Lighting by Sal Cangeloso, O’REILLY MEDIA 2012. Lux: Lamps & Lights by Robert Klanten, Kitty Bolhöfer, and Sven Ehmann (eds.), GESTALTEN 2011. Lichtkunst aus Kunstlicht (Light Art from Artificial Light) by Peter Weibel and Gregor Jansen (eds.), HATJE CANTZ 2006.

> – Counterbalance26 and Ascent27 – are more traditional-looking lamps, albeit with ingenious functional tweaks. “I’m a bit split there,” says Rybakken. “I have my more conceptual work, which does not have much to do with the body of the lamp. It’s about light itself. And then there’s Counterbalance, which is not so much about light but almost all about the body. I was afraid I would get a lot of criticism for it, but instead Luceplan put it into production.” Rybakken’s impression of the cautious nature of the industry is supported by figures for Soft Architecture, the branch of Flos that produces incorporated lighting fixtures. Having launched in 2008, it only accounts for about 5% of the company’s total turnover, according to Gandini.

But the reluctance to embrace a lamp-less future may not only have to do with market conservatism. According to Anastassiades, whose sculptural work often contains light rather than disembodying it, “We’ll never eliminate objects, the presence of objects, the physicality of light.” It is a natural instinct of sorts, he explains: “To have the light source there in front of you is important to retain, even in the future. It’s like lighting up a fire, it has a completely different effect.” Gandini echoes this sentiment, stressing the importance of keeping “a certain poetry and the affectionate relationship you form with an object.” Another view might also point to the hidden functions of luminaires as designed objects, as Rybakken is quick to point out: “I think the lamp will live on. It fulfills other purposes than simply emitting light. What is the function of a chandelier, for example? Not necessarily shedding light, but establishing status or class.” Whether we like to admit it or not, the social differentiation provided by designed objects applies to chandeliers and hi-tech OLEDs alike.

The future of light is most likely a synthesis and even Natevo’s Messina accepts the unique place of the luminaire in lighting design: “You buy a lamp not because you need the light, you buy it because you want to see the beauty of it,” he says. “So you will keep having the lamps you want because they’re wonderful, but you will not need to buy a lamp because you need the light.” Functional lighting – in homes, offices, public buildings and exteriors – may very well undergo a minimalisation, as integrated ambient lighting becomes both commercially viable and ecologically superior. “But we don’t want to move towards a too technical, cold and rational lighting,” warns Foscarini’s Urbinati. One might predict that, liberated from the constraints of functionality, the luminaire will become more sculptural, more of an artwork. “When you make lamps now,” says Kugler, “it’s because you want to have a nice object in your house or in your office. Something eye-catching, a small installation. Something which has to give light, but also interacts with you, communicates with you.” Rather than rendering the luminaire redundant, new technology has set higher artistic standards for it. Ultimately, says Anastassiades, poetry will be the driving factor: “It’s about bringing out an idea in the most beautiful and poetic way, rather than having to solve problems that technology has imposed on you.”

Kristina Rapacki (see p. 10)

Ben Murphy is a London-based photographer and a regular contributor to Wallpaper, Nowness and Italian Vogue. His photographic project of the United Nations building in New York is published by Thames and Hudson. Thank you to Michael Anastassiades who art-directed and consulted for this feature. The shoot took place at Anastassiades’ studio and showroom in London.


CCLight by Carlo Colombo for Natevo.


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6. SUGAR CUBES “A simple functional design (yes design!). People forget design is not just about fashionable things but everyday things. The wrappers are a great way of promoting something like coffee, or a café for instance.” – Sir Paul Smith The mechanised sugar cube press was invented and patented by the Czech entrepreneur Jakub Kryštof Rad in 1843. Allegedly, Rad was inspired to develop the press after his wife hurt herself cutting a sugar loaf. A standard sugar cube contains approximately 1 teaspoon of sugar. Since the second half of the 19th century, sugar cube wrappers have been used by cafés, restaurants, and manufacturers for advertising. What did some of the earliest extant sugar cube wrappers advertise? A They come from the tea rooms at the Midland Hotel in Manchester, and date from 1904. They advertised the Midland Railway connection from Manchester Central railway station to London St. Pancras. B They were printed in 1882 for the famous coffee house Caffè Florian on the Piazza San Marco in Venice, and feature the emblem of the café.


C They advertise “Great Reduction in Prices!” at Partridge’s Dining Rooms in Philadelphia, and date from 1878.


The first series of photographs that Erik Madigan Heck created of Mary Katrantzou’s work was in 2010 and was called Surrealist Planes.


Visual Play, Electronic Exchange Fashion designer Mary Katrantzou and photographer Erik Madigan Heck discuss appropriation in the digital age and sexualisation in fashion. WORDS Mary Katrantzou and Erik Madigan Heck PHOTOS Erik Madigan Heck


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hen photographer Erik Madigan Heck asked to shoot the collection of fashion designer Mary Katrantzou in 2010, he had no idea where it might lead. “There was no expectation,” he says. Because Madigan Heck was based in New York, and Katrantzou in London, the pair talked over email. Three years in and four collaborations later, they are still emailing.

“It’s really casual,” says Madigan Heck of the exchange. “We don’t necessarily set out to have meetings about specific collections.” The first photography series they created together is Surreal Planes (2011). The images portray a woman in a Technicolor setting and, with almost no depth of field, the photographs have a painterly quality. “I didn’t shoot in colour before that. I had dabbled, but I wanted to start experimenting with photography in the realm of illustration,” says Madigan Heck. Katrantzou’s vividly patterned garments were the perfect starting point and Madigan Heck’s photographs of her work carefully marry both their ideas.

Katrantzou came to prominence in 2009 with a collection of dresses featuring images of perfume bottles, where sinuous bottles enhanced the curves of the wearer. With each new collection she has developed her digital print concepts, and typewriters, stamps, Ming vases and Fabergé eggs have all featured in her designs. “I often like to turn an idea on its head and subvert reality into hyperreality,” says Katrantzou. “A typewriter is, for example, relevant to the body when it’s placed to decorate the wearer’s collarbone and its properties are changed through appropriation.” Such appropriation runs throughout Katrantzou and Madigan Heck’s collaborations. In their second series of images – The Surrealist Ideal – Parisian surrealism and Catholic iconography were the starting point, while their third collaboration, Florals, referenced 19th-century French painters such as Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard. In an age of countless digitally enhanced images, Madigan Heck takes a more analogue route. “All the backgrounds are actually built and painted by hand,” says Madigan Heck, who created 25m-tall surrealist sets in an airplane hangar for the shoots. In contrast to these grand productions, their latest collaboration for Katrantzou’s autumn/winter 2013-14 collection Cathedrals is muted, the images shot in black and white. “It was a total reversal. Like going back to the origins of photography,” says Madigan Heck. The geographical divide between the two means that Katrantzou and Heck are rarely together on set. “Mary is so free in letting me do what I want, which is not typically the case in fashion. It’s great for me to be able to get the collection and experiment,” says Heck. On the following pages Disegno gets an insight into the exchanges that take place between the two, all through the medium that they use the most – email. >


Madigan Heck and Katrantzou’s first collaboration drew on fine art portraiture.


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This page and opposite: The second series, Surrealist Ideals, was shot in an airplane hangar with hand-printed backdrops.

1 Arvo Pärt (b. 1935) is an Estonian composer of religious classical music. Inspired by Gregorian chant, his work since the late 1970s has adopted a minimalist style. Adam’s Lament (2012) is the latest release in his extensive discography.

Sunday, 19 May 2013 Erik Madigan Heck I’ve been listening to Arvo Pärt’s last album Adam’s Lament1 a lot recently, especially the piece L’Abbé Agathon. His approach really fascinates me because unlike any other contemporary composer he’s able to use minimalism in such a grandiose manner. Minimalism is something that I’ve always strived for in my own work, by using one colour, or a specific form, to carry an entire image – although in many of the works that I’ve made for you, the elements in the composition actually become maximised instead of reduced. But this particular piece by Pärt has become of great interest to me because of the narration rather than the music itself. The storyline follows Abbot Agathon, a man whose favourite saying was, “Never take possession of anything if it can’t later be given to someone else.” It’s such an elegantly simple idea, and so applicable to being a creator today. Your dresses, once created, go out into the world and they’re no longer yours, even though you drew them and shaped them. In the same way, when I create a photograph, I no longer retain possession of it; it belongs to the world. With our world becoming increasingly digitised, the photograph itself has become a totally abstracted thing. It doesn’t take shape or form. It isn’t dictated by a set size and shape as photographic prints were, or your dresses are. It’s essentially only an idea that appears on people’s monitors, a sort of apparition. Because of this, visual arts have begun to function in the non-physical way that music


always has, as a thing that you cannot possess, but rather have to experience in the absence of an object.

Mary Katrantzou I’ve always been intrigued by fashion photography because the viewer’s attention is focused on the interplay between the animate and inanimate. The garment, when worn, is an object of beauty and function, giving the photographer the possibility to choreograph movement, to bring form and function together and capture it in a way that can go beyond the physical entity. When the photograph is distributed through digital platforms, or in the physical world, it opens up the possibility of shared possession, but in my opinion, it is also the most effective way of building your identity as a creator and carving a signature that is unique to you. Arguably, we can now identify a creator’s work with a lot more conviction than we did in the past, where artists did not address such an “open” world. I also believe that the access to images that we have today refines and trains the eye, ultimately leading to an evolution of the visual arts. The printed image is a strong instrument of communication that can open up different avenues for discussion and further creation. I think about the scale of the printed image because of the limitations I have to work with, which are imposed by the physical form of a dress. It provides a canvas for me to create on, but what I have discovered is that print as a means of applied design is transferable beyond the constraints of the shape and scale of the dress. A textile print in

the past was small in scale to satisfy the needs of pattern and motif creation. A paisley or a floral motif was created to beautify a dress and to decorate it with colour and pattern. But what happens when you take that idea and enlarge it? Through my designs, a woman can adorn herself with inanimate objects that aren’t wearable in the real world, but can exist through a textile print and which can communicate more about the taste and design affinities of its wearer. Once a print is created, you can transfer it to any other discipline to explore its properties, and that’s what excites me – to build a world where a print can travel anywhere through a designer’s expert eye. I am fascinated by the idea of possession, as you mention, of any such image. There is a fine balance between creating something that is your own and the role that we have as curators, appropriating elements and refining their properties to give birth to a new existence. In my work, I look at still-life photography to create an assemblage of images, sometimes found, sometimes created from scratch, and collage them to create a fictitious world and allow for that world to live on a dress. In my first collection2 I took the idea of a woman wearing her perfume and turned it on its head, using the perfume bottle to emphasise a woman’s hourglass silhouette through print. Its properties were changed through this process of appropriation. It was a new way of looking at textile print, which I feel set it apart from being a trend or mere decoration. My prints may be decorative but I also see myself as a minimalist at heart because of the

simplicity of the shape of the clothes I design and their relation to print. I want my work to live on and be appreciated by others and used as a vehicle for discussion – to be explored and expressed through different scales and media and further creation.

EMH Appropriation is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. It’s something all artists deal with when creating a work of art, and I suppose we always have. You’re always inspired by something, a flower in a field, or someone else’s photograph or painting – appropriation is merely spinning off an already existing thing or idea, and that has been the course of art making throughout history. Only now, we have access to so many more works of art, so our inspirations are vaster. I suppose the question has become, what is the line between creating something original and copying? In the United States, courts have tried to answer this question for us recently. In the case of Richard Prince3 versus Patrick Cariou, the courts ultimately sided with Prince.4 From an artist’s point of view, I was extremely happy that Prince won, for the safety of my own ideas in the future. However, I think there is a responsibility to articulate what you’re appropriating – Prince did not give credit to the photographs he used – and to be able to distinguish definitively the value added by your hand. In Prince’s case, speaking subjectively, I don’t think he added much, nor has he added much in his career to the works he has appropriated. In trying to define the line, >

Mary Katrantzou first showed at London Fashion Week in February 2009. The collection was inspired by perfume bottles which were transformed into bold jewel-toned prints.


Richard Prince (b. 1949) is an American painter and photographer. His work includes rephotographing or manipulating existing photographs as part of the appropriation art movement that was active in the 1970s.


Patrick Cariou (b. 1963) is a French photographer who took Richard Prince to court in 2008 in a widely reported case. Prince, in his Canal Zone exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in London, had appropriated 40 photographs from Cariou’s series, Yes Rasta. Cariou filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement against Prince, Lawrence Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery and Rizzoli International Publications. The judge ruled against Prince and his associated parties, granting Cariou’s issue of liability for copyright infringement in full. This ruling was overturned five years later by the US Court of Appeals stating that Prince’s use of most of Cariou’s photographs was transformative and therefore fair use. Five remaining photographs, which were less transformative, were sent back to the lower court for review.


Both quotes can be found in the article, “Court Rules in



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Artist’s Favor”, by Randy Kennedy, published in the New York Times on 25 April 2013. Glenn Brown (b. 1966) is a British artist and part of the appropriation art movement. Known for the use of historical references in his work, he starts with existing artworks and changes their colour, position and size using a swirling brushstroke technique that creates a flat surface similar to a photograph. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2000.


“Sometimes I admire graffiti, other times it really pisses me off, and I just want the building to be left alone. It makes me think I’m more conservative than I admit to.”

7 Diego Velázquez (1599–1660) was one of the most important Spanish painters during the Spanish Golden Age. Known for his portraiture, he painted numerous portraits of the royal family including the celebrated Las Meninas (1656) where Vélazquez appears as himself, painting the portrait.

Anthony Van Dyck (1599– 1641) was a Flemish Baroque artist who made significant contributions to the development of watercolour painting and etchings. He became a leading court painter in England. His most famous paintings are those of Charles I with his family in court.


Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606–69) was one of the greatest Dutch etchers and painters. Known for his portraiture, his greatest works were self-portraits, portraits of his contemporaries and bibical scenes, all of which were popular during his lifetime.


10 Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806) was a French, late Rococo painter. During his lifetime he produced over 550 paintings, of which only 5 are dated. He is known for depicting scenes of hedonism, natural landscapes and intimate eroticism, all themes associated with the court of Louis XV. 11 Gagosian Gallery, owned by Lawrence (Larry) Gagosian, is a gallery of contemporary and modern art with 11 locations around the world: four in New York; two each in London and Paris; and one each in Athens, Beverley Hills, Geneva, Hong Kong, Paris and Rome. The first gallery opened in Los Angeles in 1979, before moving to New York in 1985.

Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) was a French artist whose


> Judge Batts, who ruled on the original case, wrote that an appropriated work must “in some way comment on, relate to the historical context of, or critically refer back to the original work”. In the appeals court they reversed the decision, and stated that “the law does not require that a secondary use comment on the original artist or work, or popular culture”,5 but only that a reasonable observer find the work to be transformative. This notion of a work being transformative misses the point. Obviously in your work, Mary, you completely transform the original image you’ve taken in print form, and alter its physical state to become threedimensional as a dress or shirt, and obscure its original state by way of collage. In my own work, an idea borrowed from an impressionist painter is appropriated and reworked in a contemporary context through a totally new medium – where the likeness is only a fragment of memory. There is no question about the transformative qualities in our work, and simultaneously there is no question about who we appropriate from. What is interesting to me is the desire and need to push beyond a medium’s inherent structural system. To Prince, the photographs taken by Cariou weren’t enough – he had to take them, tear them, put them on a canvas, and paint on top of them for the subject to become of interest. That raises a lot of questions about the times we live in. How far must we push a medium before we’ve simply torn it up into scraps that are meaningless? That distinction in quality is what interests me, because it’s a totally abstract barometer


that can’t necessarily be articulated verbally, as our judicial system would like. Sometimes I admire graffiti, other times it really pisses me off, and I just want the building to be left alone. Which makes me think I’m actually more conservative in my work than I admit to. Wednesday, 22 May 2013

MK I was unaware there is a movement in art, or rather a group of artists, defined as appropriation artists, until I came across the work of Glenn Brown,6 a British artist and Turner Prize nominee. Brown appropriates images from artists such Diego Velázquez,6 Anthony Van Dyck,6 Rembrandt,9 and Jean-Honoré Fragonard.10 I came across his work because the paintings of these same artists were the inspiration for my autumn/ winter 2010-11 collection where I looked at society paintings to capture the excessive way that women dressed in the 18th century in order to reveal their social status. I researched Brown’s work and approached Gagosian Gallery12 to propose a collaboration. Little did I know that his works take a year or more to come to completion – far removed from the seasonality of fashion. I was intrigued though by the commentary around his work that I had read online and, as I was in the early stages of my formation as a designer, I wondered whether there was a common thread between the way I approach print and the thought processes behind the work of appropriation artists. By definition, appropriation art is the use of borrowed elements in the creation of a >

Surrealist Ideal features garments from Katrantzou’s autumn/ winter 2012-13 collection.


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This page and opposite: Photographs by Erik Madigan Heck of Mary Katrantzou’s 2012 collection Florals, inspired by the French 19th-century painters Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard.


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work is associated with Dadaism. His readymades, such as Fountain (1917), took everyday objects and turned them into artworks. His influence on the art of the 20th century has been significant. The photographer Desiree Dolron (b. 1963) was born in the Netherlands. She is best known for her Xteriors series comprising photographs taken in the style of paintings by the Old Masters. Inspired by the Flemish school of portraiture in their composition, her images are actually seamlessly constructed photographic composites of several different faces.


Sally Mann (b. 1951) is an American photographer known for her black-and-white photography of her young children as well as decaying landscapes. Deep South, published in 2005, is her sixth book and contains 65 dream-like images, taken from 1992 to 2004, of what Newsweek described as “the haunted landscapes of the South”.


15 William Eggleston (b. 1939) is an American photographer known for his images that find complexity and beauty in the mundane. He is credited as being responsible for colour photography being recognised as a legitimate medium to be exhibited in art galleries and museums in the 1970s.

Nan Goldin (b. 1953) is an American photographer known for her photographic series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, which contains images taken between 1979 and 1986. The snapshot aesthetic of the series documents the excessive drug-use and violence in the subculture of the Bowery area in New York, alongside autobiographical moments.


17 Asger Carlsen (b. 1973) is a Danish photographer whose work has been published extensively in periodicals such as Interview magazine, Dazed and Confused, Wired and Vice. He began his career as a crime photographer before shooting advertisements for magazines. He later became known for his distorted images that contort, abstract and question the human form.

Berlinde de Bruyckere (b. 1964) is a Belgian artist who works in sculpture in a


> new work with little or no transformation applied. An early example would be the readymades of Marcel Duchamp,12 which used utilitarian objects as art, an idea that has been explored by many artists since – including Richard Prince, as you mentioned. Duchamp argued that whether he created the work itself was irrelevant, as it was his point of view and the new positioning that mattered, “creating a new thought around the object”. I think there is a fundamental difference in appropriating man-made culture through the use of objects and appropriating art itself. In my opinion, when what is appropriated is another artist’s work, not only should the work be transformative, but it should also provide new insight referencing the original. There cannot be an accurate commentary on a work if the source remains obscure to the viewer. What I find interesting is the way in which the art being appropriated travels forward in time with its “new artist”. For me, the question is whether this is actually achieved and whether the work is transformative enough to initiate a new dialogue that is relevant to our times. When the process of creation connects, in an open way, past and future generations of artists who are inspired by the same piece, it can gain validity. In my work I don’t appropriate art, instead I look at objects of design – often of a bygone era – and address their properties on a human figure, stripping the designs of their functional nature and highlighting how their lines can embrace the female figure and inspire surface design. I have looked at vintage stamps, typewriters, whole interiors, and used them to inform my understanding of design, painting them from scratch on Photoshop and creating an assemblage that is fictitious. I use found imagery as a dictionary to a visual language that is not commonly found in our times. People are interested in past eras but what creates an aesthetic that lives beyond our times? How far back can we look, while still having the power to make something modern and in sync with our times? Why do women, for example, buy 1960s vintage fashion but not 19th-century garments to wear today? Is it the ease with which we dress nowadays that renders a century-old costume outdated, while one that is half-a-century old still appears modern in the right context? What defines newness in your medium, Erik, and what is considered merely historical documentation of a method that is no longer applicable today? Sunday, 26 May 2013

EMH The defining line between what’s deemed costume and what’s deemed vintage is directly mirrored in photography, and it’s a question that I confront all the time with my own work. When photographers reference


pre-19th century artworks in their photographs – as I frequently do – the resulting imagery is often thought of as being heavily nostalgic and acting as a lacquer devoid of contemporary relevance (as some might describe costume in relation to contemporary fashion). Beyond my own work, I think of the Dutch photographer Desiree Dolron’s Xteriors series,13 or some of Sally Mann’s daguerreotypes of American Civil War landscapes in her book Deep South.14 I find both equally compelling and beautiful, yet they were attacked by art critics for being too sentimental. By way of contrast, take the many young photographers working now who heavily reference 1960s and 1970s documentary photographers such as William Eggleston,15 and Nan Goldin.16 In many cases their work is celebrated by the same critics for being at the forefront of defining what is contemporary. It’s an illustration of the question you just posed, where the 1960s are still just as popular, and the 19th century is still as irrelevant. Ironically both the costume and the vintage appropriate ideas and aesthetics from art history and regurgitate them in new ways. Neither grouping can claim originality, it’s just that one can profess to be more relevant to now by proximity in actual time, which is completely arbitrary. However, the answer to your question is actually quite simple, I believe. There exists an overt sexuality in the works created during the 1960s and 1970s, both in fashion and photography, that is much more desirable to consumers today than a classical canon of beauty as found in pre-19th century works. I would argue that as a culture we have moved away from traditional values and morals, and have essentially inverted our social and aesthetic compasses alike. Beauty has been replaced by irony. I find a conscious aversion to sexuality in both of our work. It’s something that’s taken me a long time to understand about how I want to posture my photographs. When I’m asked about the defining aspect of my work, after focusing on the most elemental components of texture, colour, and composition, there lies a deliberate desexualisation of the subject with an aim towards a higher beauty, although this is very subjective. This has become the defining characteristic of my practice, which separates my imagery from most other fashion photography today. After all, we may agree that traditional approaches towards sexuality are no longer shocking, or revelatory, and that we’ve reached a plateau where it’s more confrontational simply not to show the body at all. This is with the exception of a few artists who approach the human form in a perverse and unique way, such as the Danish photographer Asgar Carlsen18, who I believe confronts sexuality in the same manner as I do, just with a drastically different skin. >

An image from the collaboration Florals, in which the boundary between fashion and fine art becomes evermore blurred.


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This page and opposite: Photographs from the fourth collaboration show garments from Katrantzou’s spring/ summer 2013.

variety of media, ranging from wax to wood, wool, horse skin and hair. Her works often use blankets to suggest vulnerability and the need for shelter. Her wax sculptures use colour and tone to suggest living or dead flesh with eerie realism. Rei Kawakubo (b. 1942) is a Japanese designer who founded the label Comme des Garçons in 1973. She studied fine arts and literature at Keio University. After graduating, she worked for a textile company and in 1967 she began working as a freelance stylist. Comme des Garçons specialises in deconstructed, austere, anti-fashion garments.


> And a three-dimensional likeness of Asgar’s deformed bodies is found in the Belgian artist Berlinde de Bruyckere’s wax sculptures.19 I also often think back to the 1980s and the introduction of Comme des Garçons, when Rei Kawakubo20 reshaped the female body on the runway. How do you see your work as an extension of this argument? Does sexuality, or the absence of it, even come into your mode of thinking when you create? Tuesday, 28 May 2013

MK In fashion, sexuality and a heightened femininity anchor our work as designers. Women want to adorn themselves with clothing that makes them feel either vulnerable or empowered. In both cases, being a sexual being is still very central to the way we present ourselves to the world. The pragmatic nature of fashion is to dress up our bodies to go to work, to a party, to stay at home. And in doing so, it is the most direct


way of communicating and expressing ourselves to the rest of the world. I don’t have an aversion to sexuality in my work but there is no overt display of it; there are no plunging necklines, no super-short hems. At the same time I have been asked why I want to objectify woman: showcase her as a perfume bottle, or an object of art, or a room for that matter. The confusion, I guess, originates from the thematic nature of my collections. So I have to be clear here: I do not see woman as a teacup. What I hope my use of hyper-real imagery has done is to find pattern and beauty in unexpected compositions, creating a visual language that is new and liberates a woman to wear the things that surround her. Women are indulging in fashion to define their taste and aesthetic, and they increasingly want to show more about their design affinities through what they wear. Sometimes it is about looking at crafts of the past and interpreting old techniques in a new way. There is something nostalgic >


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Katrantzou’s autumn/ winter 2013-14 collectionis captured in black and white.


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“I have been asked why I want to objectify women. The confusion originates from the thematic nature of my collections so I have to be clear here: I do not see woman as a teacup.”

> about that and it allows the emphasis to be on reinventing a certain discipline and making it relevant and modern. That’s part of my role as a designer. Some of these crafts are decorative in nature and I often wonder how much of your imprint you can leave on an inspiration that has already defined itself in time. Do you feel that your work takes on the elements of your subject matter, or that you change its nature by the way you shoot and redefine it? You said you consider yourself a minimalist, but how is that challenged when you are photographing something decorative? EMH I want to believe my work begins by considering the subject matter and then bringing it beyond an abstracted destination; in this way, it does not redefine it, but expands upon it, giving it a new context in which to be seen. I consider minimalism to be a valid approach even when dealing with decorative subjects. When I first photographed your work, I was dealing with very decorative garments – items that were surreal and based more in costume than in contemporary fashion – but my approach became about reducing the elements of colour, texture, and form rather than simply making the imagery as bombastic as possible – even though sometimes they were. It was a study in how to focus upon the most important elements within a subject. My approach has always been about reducing things to colour and form, and seeing the resulting texture combining and reducing into this new and flattened space.


In the immediate future, I see my work becoming even more abstracted than before – showing less of the reality of the subject and blurring the lines between the background and foreground. I see my work evolving to a place of pure colour and texture, with less form. I’ve been looking at a lot of ancient Indian textiles recently, and I’ve been interested in drawing fashion away from the constraints of a model wearing it and into a place of pure abstraction – because that’s what clothing is. It’s not made for a specific person, but rather it begins as a sculpture. It’s also hard not to have a conscious desire to reject our culture’s obsession with celebrity. The face has become too politicised now, and it’s something I want to erase – the face is a distraction from the elements that first drew me to the garment. Would you agree?

MK As a designer I am serving a functional discipline and there is something pragmatic about that. Clothes are designed to be worn. In that sense I am always aware of the wearer and how they move and feel when wearing my clothes. But when I’m asked about my muse, I never have one in mind. It’s not about a specific woman, a face, a celebrity. It’s about putting your work out there to evoke an emotion, a reaction. It’s there to build a new persona for its wearer. This, I feel, is my role – to create something beautiful and equally desirable that can live on as a piece, a sculpture of colour and form brought to life by its wearer, and captured in images where the focus is on “pure abstraction”.

The lightbox technique used to make these images replicates x-ray photography.


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7. RHODIA NOTEBOOKS “Not a piece of design ‘genius’ but simple, robust, and school-like in appearance. They have perfect creases to fold back the pages and also come in very practical sizes.” – Sir Paul Smith Rhodia was founded in 1932 in Lyon, France, by Henri and Robert Verilhac, two brothers from a paper–making family. In 1934, the ϐirst notepad appeared, quickly becoming one of the company’s best-selling products. Sturdy and functional, the pad featured a stapled, scored, and foldable cover ϐlap. Its orange cover and black logo (designed, allegedly, by the brothers’ mother, Marie Verilhac) date from the 1930s, and have not changed signiϐicantly since then. A wide variety of Rhodia pads have since been put into production, including versions with stapled and wired spines, hard- and softback covers, with blank, lined, and gridded rulings. Rhodia’s brand identity is deϐined by the two trees that stand on the cover of the notebooks. But what do these trees symbolise? A They represent the spruces that are native to the Rhône-Alpes region of France in which Lyon is based, and which are the trees from which Rhodia’s original paper stock was made. B They represent the founding brothers Henri and Robert Verilhac, with each tree drawn slightly differently to emphasise the differences between the two.


C They represent Lyon and Grenoble, the city in which Rhodia was founded and the city to which it moved in 1934. The cities are neighbours and both based in the heavily forested Rhône-Alpes.


OMA’s layout design trisects the central section of the UN North Delegates Lounge, with private seating along the edges and communal furniture in the middle.


UN North Delegates Lounge Hella Jongerius assembled a force of the Netherlands’ top designers including Irma Boom and Rem Koolhaas for the prestigious renovation of the North Delegates Lounge in the UN Building in New York. WORDS Oli Stratford PHOTOS Frank Oudeman


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D 1 Hella Jongerius (b. 1963) is a Dutch product and furniture designer whose Jongeriuslab studio is based in Berlin. She is known for furniture and accessory design that combines industrial manufacture with craft sensibilities and techniques.

Design Academy Eindhoven is a Dutch university founded in 1947. It is world renowned for its art, architecture and design programmes.


The United Nations was founded in 1945 as a peacekeeping body. It is composed of 193 member states and two observer states.


Vitra was founded in Weil am Rhein in Germany by Willi Fehlbaum in 1950. The company is now based in Switzerland, manufacturing the works of designers including Charles and Ray Eames, Philippe Starck and Ron Arad.


Droog is a conceptual design company founded by Gijs Bakker and design historian Renny Ramakers in Amsterdam in 1993. The company works with a wide range of designers, from Marcel Wanders to Jurgen Bey and Piet Hein Eek.


Wallace Harrison (1895-1981) co-founded Harrison & Abramovitz in 1941. He is seen as one of the United States’ premiere corporate architects of the mid-20th century.


uring the summer of 1986, Hella Jongerius1 was backpacking across America. She was 23 years old, two years shy of enrolling at Design Academy Eindhoven,2 and picking her way from state to state. Three months in, she reached New York.

She had a week in the city, but her money had run out. So, broke, Jongerius went to Turtle Bay, a Manhattan neighbourhood on the bank of the East River and the home of the UN Building, a steel and glass compound built in the 1950s to house the United Nations.3 “I’d gone down there to see the building and I was impressed of course,” says Jongerius. “It’s a beautiful building. But I couldn’t go in, because I couldn’t afford the tour. So I could only look at it from the outside.” Twenty-five years later, Jongerius was telephoned by the Dutch foreign ministry. The ministry was refurbishing one of the rooms in the UN Building and asked Jongerius whether she would lead the design. It was an unusual commission. Jongerius had made her name in the 1990s designing furniture and accessories for Vitra4 and Droog.5 The pieces established her sensitive treatment of colour and pattern, but she had limited experience in interior design. “But I’m easily bored and I love something that really puzzles me,” she says. “So I thought why not?” The room was the North Delegates Lounge, a lofty meeting space built on the east edge of the UN’s Conference Building. It had been designed in the 1950s as a semi-informal gathering spot for UN delegates and, built in the international style, lent itself to hushed meetings. “It’s the place where all the real issues of the UN play out,” says Jongerius. Yet over time, the space had declined and small changes made throughout its lifespan had robbed it of its character. Jongerius’ brief was simple: drag the lounge into the 21st century, tailoring its interior, furniture and floorplan to meet the demands of modern diplomacy. “The Dutch government delivered me a steak,” says Jongerius. “My job was to grill it.”

It was a prestigious commission. The UN Building had been completed in 1952 after a design process overseen by the American architect Wallace Harrison.6 Harrison led a fractious design team that was dominated by Le Corbusier7 and Oscar Niemeyer,8 the architects dividing the site into three main buildings and using contemporary geometric forms to reflect the UN’s modernising edict of transforming the world from warring states into a global network. Its famous Secretariat Building is the quintessence of a skyscraper, a marble-edged oblong that shines green thanks to the Thermapane glass on its facade, while its General Assembly is a stone bow tie that flips up to face a central plaza. To the east is the Conference Building, a three-storey structure that houses the Security Council Chamber and meeting rooms, as well as the North Delegates Lounge. “The UN project had about it something of the scope and generosity of the New Deal,” wrote Christopher Hitchens9 in 1994 and, at its unveiling, the complex was met with praise. The >


The east window is veiled by the Knots & Beads curtain by Hella Jongerius and Dutch ceramics company Royal Tichelaar Makkum. In front is the UN Lounge chair by Jongerius for Vitra.


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7 Le Corbusier (1887-1965), born Charles-Édouard JeanneretGris, was a Swiss French architect and one of the fathers of modern architecture and architecture theory. He was responsible for seminal buildings such as Villa Savoye (1928), Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles (1952), and multiple buildings in Chandigarh, India (1952-1959).

Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012) was a Brazilian architect, whose work favoured monumental curving forms cast in reinforced concrete. Highly influential in the development of modern architecture, Niemeyer was the chief architect for the creation of the Brazilian city of Brasília (1956-1960).


Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a BritishAmerican author, journalist and public speaker, known for his leftist politics, social criticism and strong advocacy of atheism.


10 Philip Johnson (1906-2005) was an influential American architect who worked primarily with glass. Through his writings, Johnson was also an important architectural tastemaker and, in 1930, he founded the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 11 Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) was an American writer, sociologist and literary critic. He was also the foremost architecture writer in the US, serving as The New Yorker’s architecture critic throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

The League of Nations was a forerunner to the UN. Founded in 1919 as an assemblage of nations devoted to promoting peace, the League was undermined by indecision and the absence of key nations such as the US. It collapsed in 1946 following its failure to prevent the Second World War.


Richard Nixon (1913-1994) was the 37th President of the US. He was in office between 1969 and 1974, ultimately resigning to avoid impeachment following the Watergate Scandal.


Louise Schouwenberg (b. 1954) is a Dutch design theorist who studied psychology at Radboud University Nijmegen, before seeking further education in sculpture and philosophy. She has worked as a visual artist and was appointed head of the masters programme in contextual design at Design Academy Eindhoven in 2010.


15 Irma Boom (b. 1960) is a Dutch graphic designer who trained at AKI Art Academy in Enschede, the Netherlands. She

Textile samples of the carpet by Desso. PHOTO Jongeriuslab

> architect Philip Johnson10 described it as “by far the best example of modern planning I have seen”, while even its fierce critic the writer Lewis Mumford11 exalted its “green, moonlight splendour”. Such hyperbole seemed apt. After the Second World War and the failure of the League of Nations,12 the UN was a new broom: a promise for a united world, with its modernist headquarters standing as its keenest symbol. Yet the promise would not last. As early as 1967, the US presidential candidate Richard Nixon13 dismissed the organisation as “obsolete and inadequate”, and by the millennium, decades of perceived inaction had robbed it of its sheen. What had originally been a symbol of modernity was now seen as creaky and blustering. Such decline was echoed by the architecture. The complex had been designed to house delegates for 57 member states, yet by 2011 UN membership had swollen to 193 states, with maintenance costs of its ageing headquarters ballooning to $19 million per year. Faced with this deterioration, the UN established the Office of the Capital Master Plan (CMP), a division charged with overseeing a $1.9 billion renovation of the building. Expected to complete in 2014, the scheme is paid for by member states, with 10 nations also funding overhauls of select spaces within the complex. It is within this context that Jongerius came to be responsible for the North Delegates Lounge. Her task was a physical renovation, yet it also spread through to the symbolic: could design restore something of the UN and its headquarters’ original moonlight splendour?

Jongerius’ first move was to select collaborators, whom the foreign ministry specified had to be Dutch. Louise Schouwenberg,14 a design professor at Design Academy Eindhoven and a longterm collaborator of Jongerius, was brought on board. The graphic designer Irma Boom15 and visual artist Gabriel Lester16 followed shortly afterwards. “Finally we knew that we needed an architect,” says Jongerius. “So we thought, ‘Why not ask the best one?’ We approached Rem Koolhaas.”17 Koolhaas, a Pritzker Prize18 winner whose 1978 book Delirious New York detailed his admiration for the UN Building, joined the team together with OMA. Having divided responsibilities according to expertise, the designers formed a proposal.

Early meetings were held in Boom’s studio in Amsterdam, where the bones of the renovation were agreed. The Dutch ministry wanted a showcase for Dutch design and this aim was translated into furniture choices for the room. Dutch classics such as Gerrit Rietveld’s Utrecht chair,19 Jongerius’ Polder sofa20 and Joep van Lieshout’s AVL Workbench table21 were brought in, while seats were reupholstered in Jongerius’ take on Daphne, a green and blue multi-tone fabric woven by the Dutch brand De Ploeg22 in 1962. Non-Dutch pieces were also introduced. Jasper Morrison’s Trash bin23 was joined by the Eames’ swivelling Aluminium Group side chair24 and Jean Prouvé’s Fauteuil Direction café chair.25 Similarly, pieces original to the lounge – Hans Wegner’s Peacock chair,26 Wallace Harrison and Max Abramovitz’s triptych floor lamps,27 and leather Barcelona-style chairs designed by Knoll28 – were retained. “We didn’t want it to look like you’d just opened up a magazine of Dutch design,” says Schouwenberg. “There’s a fairly large number of Dutch designers who do well in the world, which is strange for


opened her Irma Boom Office in Amsterdam in 1991, where she specialises in book design, having previously produced books in conjunction with Hella Jongerius and Rem Koolhaas. Gabriel Lester (b. 1972) is a Dutch visual artist and film director whose practice is split between Amsterdam and Shanghai. Lester is known for his spatial installations, video art and sculpture, with his work forming part of the collections of museums such as the Stedelijk in Amsterdam and the Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.


17 Rem Koolhaas (b. 1944) is a Dutch architect, theorist and urbanist. He studied at the Architectural Association in London and Cornell University in New York before founding his OMA studio in 1975. He is known for projects such as the Seattle Central Library (2004) and Porto’s Casa da Música (2005).

The seating combines existing chairs, Dutch and international classics and new designs. Here, cards with images of the chairs are placed on a foam board. PHOTO Jongeriuslab

The Pritzker Prize is an annual architecture award that is funded by the US’ wealthy Pritzker family. Awarded since 1979, the Pritzker is given to an architect for their entire body of work and is considered one of the most prestigious awards in the field.


a very small country, and I think that’s because they look beyond our borders and adopt a very international, self-reflective approach. We wanted to embody that self-reflection, rather than necessarily any notion of ‘Dutchness’.”

With this in mind, the team focused on how delegates might use the lounge. Discussions with politicians, historical photography and a research trip undertaken by Boom to visit the building – “I was told I had five minutes, but stayed for an hour; I’m a hard person to send away” – began to shape their understanding of how the UN works. Primarily, Koolhaas altered the room’s floorplan. Whereas previously the layout had been haphazard, Koolhaas and OMA imposed order. At the room’s entrance to the west, the team added a reception area and a bank of 231 e-paper29 screens displaying meeting times from around the building. Café seating and a black, resin bar populate the lounge’s rear, while the room’s mid-section is trisected into private seating at the edges and communal furniture in the centre. The segregation of space is strengthened by carpeting developed by Jongerius and the Dutch brand Desso.30 Shaded from brown to grey, the carpet changes colour as it moves through from reception to lounge to bar. It is a layout informed by the peculiarities of the UN. “How that place works is not normal,” says Jongerius. “You can’t just come in and sit wherever you would like to. There are agendas everywhere and, if two people are sitting together, it’s a meeting arranged by lobbyists. If you enter the space as a delegate, in one second you need to be able to see who is in there and who’s talking with who.” To address this, Jongerius devised flexible seating that could adapt to the delegates’ needs. Working with Vitra, she created two new pieces for the lounge. The UN Lounge chair is a stitched fabric scoop seat with wheels on its legs, while the Sphere table is an oak table with a milky hood on one corner to shield a computer from view. “It goes without saying that in the UN you’re not allowed to look at anybody’s computer,” notes Jongerius.

The elements of the redesign are attributable to specific team members, yet everyone was consulted on the overall design. “We all had our own egos and characters, but during our design meetings we had one nose, one goal,” says Jongerius. It is a position supported by Lester. “Everyone tried to get to a point that would help the process advance other people’s ideas,” he says. “Unlike a team sport like football where everyone plays the same game, this was comparable to filmmaking. You have a director, a cameraman, a lighting man and actors, and all these disciplines have to find a certain harmony in one particular piece.”

Such an approach contrasted with the original design of the UN Building, where conflicts between the conceptual leanings of Le Corbusier – who wanted to use the structure as a testing ground for his Radiant City concept31 – and the pragmatism of Harrison made for an illtempered and tortured process. While the original process had been defined by the disparate aims of its protagonists, the Dutch team was allied behind a notion of restoration. Rather than radically alter the space, the team retained existing furniture pieces, and preserved and enhanced the blues, greens and browns of its original colour palette. “Very early on, we agreed >

Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964) was a Dutch furniture designer and architect who was one of the founders of De Stijl. His Utrecht armchair was designed in 1935 and is now made by Cassina I Maestri.


The Polder is a low-slung sofa that was designed by Hella Jongerius for Vitra in 2005.


Joep van Lieshout (b. 1963) is a Dutch designer and artist. Working predominantly with brightly coloured polyester, he founded his studio, Atelier Van Lieshout, in 1995. The studio produced its AVL Workbench series for Lensvelt in 2006.


22 De Ploeg is a Dutch upholstery and curtain fabric manufacturer that was founded as a cooperative weaving mill in 1923. 23 Jasper Morrison (b. 1959) is a British designer active in London, Paris, and Tokyo, known for his minimalism. His Trash bin was designed for Italian brand Magis in 2005.

Charles (1907–1978) and Ray (1912–1988) Eames were American furniture designers and architects. Highly influential in the development of mid-century design, they were known for their long-term collaboration with the American office furniture brand Herman Miller. Their Aluminium Group furniture series was designed for the brand in 1958.



Disegno. 157

The chairs are (left to right) Hans Wegner’s Peacock chair, the UN Lounge chair, Gerrit Rietveld’s Utrecht chair and leather Barcelona-style chair designed by Knoll. The carpet is designed by Jongerius and manufactured by Dutch brand Desso.



Disegno. 159

Jean Prouvé (1901-1984) was a French metalworker and a self-taught designer and architect. He founded his Atelier Jean Prouvé in 1931 and collaborated with architects and designers such as Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand. His Fauteuil Direction chair was designed in 1951 and is now manufactured by Vitra.


26 Hans Wegner (1914-2007) was a Danish furniture designer known for his functional, modernist and highly hand-crafted furniture. His 1947 Peacock chair was based on a traditional Windsor chair and was produced by the Danish manufacturer Johannes Hansen.

The brief was simple: drag the lounge into the 21st century, tailoring it to meet the demands of modern diplomacy. “The Dutch government delivered me a steak,” says Jongerius. “My job was to grill it.”

27 Max Abramovitz (1908-2004) was an American architect and the co-founder of Harrison & Abramovitz. The studio’s floor lamps were designed specially for the UN Building. 28 Knoll is an American furniture manufacturer that was founded in New York in 1938 by the German American manufacturer Hans G. Knoll. It produces designs by Eero Saarinen, Rem Koolhaas and Marcel Breuer, and holds the exclusive manufacturing rights for Mies van der Rohe’s 1929 Barcelona chair. 29 E-paper is a display technology that mimics the appearance of ink on paper. It is used in devices such as e-book readers and wristwatches and is intended to promote legibility.

Desso is a producer of woven carpet. It was founded in Oss in the Netherlands in 1930.


The Radiant City was an unrealised architectural project, envisaged by Le Corbusier in 1924, that presented a utopian city. Favouring abundant green spaces, the scheme proposed identical high-density skyscrapers arranged in a Cartesian grid.


32 Jurgen Bey (b. 1965) is a Dutch designer. Bey, along with architect Rianne Makkink, founded Studio Makkink & Bey in 2002. His 2009 Ear chair was designed for the Dutch brand Prooff.

Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol.


> that we should respect what was already there and respect the original design,” says Schouwenberg. “In many instances, this space is a tribute to the past.” Yet the harmony that marked the early stages of the project was disrupted when the team presented the scheme to the CMP in New York. “You have to understand that the commissioning for this project was not straightforward,” says Saskia Simon, a senior architect at Koolhaas’ OMA studio and the project architect for the lounge. “We were commissioned by the Dutch government, who chose and judged the design, but only afterwards did we take it to New York to show the CMP.” Immediately, plans unravelled, with multiple aspects of the design questioned by the CMP. Screens designed by Lester to break up the space were removed, while furniture pieces such as Jurgen Bey’s Ear chair32 were also vetoed as it was felt that the seat’s wraparound headrest might obscure delegates’ view of the room. “In Holland it was all OK, then we went to New York and they said, ‘You can’t have this and you can’t have this,’” says Jongerius. “We were told that the delegates needed to be able to scan the whole room quickly, so we weren’t allowed to have things rising over a certain horizon.” OMA’s plan for the bar was also amended. “We had created a bottle display and modelled the whole thing,” says Simon. “Then we came to New York and were told, ‘You can’t show bottles – that would promote alcohol.’ There were always reasons for the changes – the alcohol would be unsuitable for delegates from Muslim countries33 – but we never knew about them during the design process.”

Amid the hyperbole of the UN Building’s unveiling in 1952, Mumford had sounded a note of caution. “Functionally,” he wrote, “this building is an old-fashioned engine covered by a streamlined hood embellished with chromium,” and as the North Delegates Lounge progressed, something of this past inefficiency bled through to the present. Difficulties with the brief were compounded by the project’s €3 million budget, which dwindled in the face of labour costs and security concerns. In the early plans, Lester and OMA had developed a brushed aluminium covering for the south wall. The wall would act as a gallery space for the UN’s artwork, with individual pieces thrust forward on metal supports to reveal the backsides of the canvas, while the aluminium behind would shift to a highly polished finish. Yet the budget would not allow for multiple finishes and the CMP balked at the idea of a reflective surface. “They were afraid that the mirror would let you see what someone was looking at,” says Simon. “We proved that that was impossible, but they just said, ‘No reflective surfaces inside the UN Building.’”

While the projecting artworks and aluminium wall still went ahead, they were diluted from the original vision. The team were based in Europe and had limited scope to visit the construction site, so they hosted redesign meetings at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. Even email communication with the CMP became difficult. “In the beginning we weren’t allowed to contact the CMP directly with questions,” says Simon. “Everything had to go through the Dutch ministry, which was very inefficient. Eventually it changed, but it remained very formal. It was a very wobbly ride.” As construction dragged into 2012 and 2013, the team had few opportunities to engage with the design, which was now in the hands of the contractor in New York. “We would >


The semi-glazed porcelain beads for the east window’s curtain, made by Royal Tichelaar Makkum. PHOTO Jongeriuslab


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Polder sofa by Jongerius for Vitra, with her UN Lounge chairs for the same manufacturer. Behind is the e-paper wall by OMA and the reception desk. The entrance to the North Delegates Lounge is to the left.

34 Royal Tichelaar Makkum was founded in 1572 and is based in the village of Makkum. The company is renowned for its work with Dutch designers such as Studio Job, Jurgen Bey and Marcel Wanders.

Sefar is a Swiss manufacturer of precision fabrics that was formed in 1995 by the merger of three existing companies.


36 The Dutch West Indian Company was a chartered company active between the 17th and 18th centuries in West Africa and the Americas. Its merchants were influential in the establishment of New Amsterdam, a 17th-century Dutch colonial settlement in Manhattan that was renamed New York City in 1665 following the Second Anglo-Dutch War.

> hand drawings over to the CMP, who would take over and that is what would be built,” says Simon. “There were a lot of factors we could not influence.”

Similar problems to those faced with the aluminium wall also began to impact upon other members of the team. Jongerius had worked with the Dutch ceramicist Royal Tichelaar Makkum34 to create a curtain for the space’s east window that was made from semi-glazed porcelain beads hung on knotted yarn. The beads’ layout was random – albeit denser at the bottom, and thinning out as the yarn ascended – producing an anarchic filter to contrast against the rigidity of the New York grid system. Yet the design proved controversial. “The CMP would sit with safety guys in the design meeting and when I presented the bead curtain, the safety agent said, ‘If a bomb hits this window, those ceramic balls will explode into thousands of bullets,’” says Jongerius, who was asked to submit the design for safety testing. Yet the bead curtain, unlike the aluminium wall, made it into the lounge unscathed. “The management really liked the idea,” says Jongerius, “and that can make strict rules, even ones about safety, fluid.”

The idea of a curtain had itself been a safety concession. “They don’t want people to be able to look in at the delegates; you don’t want a sniper on the bridge to see who is in the space,” says Jongerius. But it was another curtain that provided Boom with a creative inlet to the project. “Originally I had proposed engraving text on the aluminium wall as a chance to work with Dutch-designed typefaces,” she says. “But the UN didn’t want text so I thought, ‘Well hey, what can I do now?’ So I took on the curtain.” Boom’s Knots & Grid curtain, developed with Knoll and Sefar,35 stretches to around 7m high and 35m long, hanging at an angle to cover the slanted glazed north wall of the lounge. An icy blue lino weave, the threads of the curtain conjoin in bright blue fisherman’s knots that build en masse to form a regimented grid. It is a frugal design, its fishing net lines referencing the maritime history of the merchants of the Dutch West Indian Company36 who helped to establish New York. “At first there was a big sailing boat painted on it, but it became too decorative,” says Boom. “I decided we only needed this very minimalist grid. From that north facade you see the sky, and all the clouds just slip into the grid.”

The simplicity of Boom’s grid is also evident in the most drastic change the team made to the space: the removal of the mezzanine above the east window. When the lounge opened in 1952, the window had been left clear, masked only by a world map that hung a few feet in front of it. Yet renovations to the lounge in 1979 had removed the map, replacing it with a mezzanine level that obliterated the window’s view over the East River. “When we began, we really questioned that mezzanine, but it’s a huge honour to contribute to a space like this and we didn’t feel like we could remove it,” says Simon. Throughout the competition phase, the mezzanine remained in OMA’s plans, growing more awkward as the design advanced. “Our first idea was to add >


The Sphere tables by Jongerius for Vitra are designed to shield delegates’ computer screens. The tapestry on the wall is a gift to the UN from the People’s Republic of China.


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Knots & Grid curtains by Irma Boom hang along the north wall windows. Fauteuil Direction chairs by Jean Prouvé and AVL Workbench tables by Joep van Lieshout are used in the lounge’s central section. The floor lamps were designed by Harris & Abramovitz especially for the UN Building.



Disegno. 165

Opposite page: Knots & Grid curtain by Irma Boom, developed with Knoll and Sefar.

READING LIST International Territory: Official Utopia and the United Nations by Adam Bartos and Christopher Hitchens, VERSO, 1994. The UN Building by Ben Murphy, Aaron Betsky and Kofi Annan, THAMES & HUDSON, 2005. A Workshop for Peace: Designing the United Nations Headquarters by George Dudley, THE MIT PRESS, 1994. Hella Jongerius: Misfit by Louise Schouwenberg, Hella Jongerius, Alice Rawsthorne and Paola Antonelli, PHAIDON, 2011.

“The curtain became too decorative. I decided we only needed this very minimalist grid. From that north facade you see the sky, and all the clouds just slip into the grid.”

> a mezzanine over the entrance area and connect the two with a bridge, but that was fairly invasive,” says Simon. “So then we decided to take out the old one and say that we had moved it to the entrance area, but CMP said that we couldn’t add anything to the structure of the building. As this went on, we began to reflect on how good the space would look if we left it out all together.” The removal of the mezzanine opened up the lounge, restoring its views onto the East River and over to the neon 1930s Pepsi-Cola sign that sits atop a converted bottling plant in neighbouring Long Island City. “That was a real breakthrough. The light, the power, the view, even that old sign became visible again,” says Jongerius, whose Knots & Beads curtain is porous enough not to obscure the view. “It’s a cliché, but it’s a window onto the world.” The mezzanine removal was another deviation from the original plan, yet it proved to be vital to the design. It is indicative of the project as a whole, one in which good ideas ran aground against the needs of the CMP, while others were elevated and transformed by the constraints of the project. Equally, it is reminiscent of the original creation of the UN Building, where the idealism of Le Corbusier was met by the realism of Harrison, resulting in a structure that Koolhaas once described as “a building that an American could never have thought and a European could never have built”. Yet as much as anything, it is emblematic of the UN itself, a peace-keeping organisation that fosters international cooperation, yet does so through a structure of competing nations, where interests are aggressively played off against each other, all in the name of the greater good.

“Right at the beginning I was reading about the UN and in the design meetings I focused on the discrepancies of what it stands for and all the compromises it has to make,” says Schouwenberg. “You quickly learn that everything is about compromising and working with the pride of governments. You look at something like the current situation in Syria and wonder why they don’t take action there. I think the UN might make a person very cynical, because all the ideals are perfect, but if you dive into the real projects you see it’s only compromises. I don’t know if those discussions influenced us, but I do believe that creative minds are affected by brainstorming, and thinking in that way is necessary to go beyond the usual clichés. The cliché would be that the UN is all about peace keeping. But in reality there is a lot of opposition. Frankly, if I worked for the UN I couldn’t keep up.” The project completes in September; in spite of the tribulations, the lounge that looks out over the East River has been restored. “We had such a strict briefing and it’s such a complex project that you can’t measure it by your knowledge of anything else. It was a difficult project and of course when you’re in the shit, you can’t be creative with those issues on your plate the whole time,” says Jongerius. “But I was finally able to go back to the UN Building.”

Oli Stratford (see p. 10)

Frank Oudeman is a Dutch photographer working in New York. He has shot the work of SANAA, OMA and Issey Miyake.



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8. SELLOTAPE “It doesn’t seem as amazing as when it was ϐirst created (because these days there are many more methods used to ‘attach’ things) but the idea of making something adhesive but also transparent is really very clever.” – Sir Paul Smith Its name has become synonymous with all brands of adhesive tape, yet the British brand Sellotape was only invented in 1937, predated by seven years by the American invention Scotch tape. The two tapes were based on an identical principle: the application of adhesive to a roll of cellulose ϐilm, a material derived from wood pulp. Transparent, easily torn and biodegradable, it is the same material as is used in cellophane, the product from which Sellotape derives its name. Sellotape was developed for its simple properties: transparency and adhesion. Yet the material also has at least one surprising quality. What is this? A Pieces of sticky tape are rendered invisible when placed in water, as light passes through cellulose at exactly the same angle as it does through water. B Peeling sticky tape in a vacuum emits X-rays strong enough to scan a human ϐinger, the effect resulting from opposite charges given off when the material is rubbed.


C Sticky tape can, when sterilised, be used to treat cuts, as the cellulose in its structure acts as a minor coagulant that causes the blood to clot.


Choreographer Richard Siegal backstage at the Gรถteborg Opera House. PHOTO Kalle Sanner

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Joint Efforts

For Richard Siegal choreography is not an isolated process, but the result of distributed authorship among dancers, architects, designers, and even the audience. WORDS Sarah Frater PHOTOS Kalle Sanner and Linus Ricard


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T 1 The proscenium arch is the frame around the stage that marks the boundary between stage and auditorium. Meaning “in front of the scenery”, it regulates many theatrical conventions, from the blocking of theatre technology to the separation of performers and spectators. It is sometimes known as the fourth wall.

Erving Goffman (1922-1982) was a Canadian-born sociologist, best known for his dramaturgical model of sociological behaviour outlined in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959). Quote from Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, p. 18.


Alfred Gell (1945-1977) was a British social anthropologist who examined how art acted on the viewer, in particular its ability to charm via its technical virtuosity.


The Frankfurt Ballet was a low-profile regional troupe until the appointment of William Forsythe (see note 31) as resident choreographer in 1984. He renamed it the Ballett Frankfurt and turned it into a world-renowned showcase for his distinctive choreography. In 2002, funding issues resulted in a scaled-back troupe, now named The Forsythe Company.


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he backstage report is a much-used journalistic trope. It aims to slip the proscenium arch1 and allow readers to glimpse the preparatory phase of performance – the usually hidden realm of rehearsals and collaborations and deadlines, of performers as they really are, not groomed for the stage or poised for applause. It promises both insight and authenticity, with dancers not presenting themselves “in a light that is favourable”, as Erving Goffman observed.2 Rehearsals really are exhausting and the backstage scruffy. The contrast between the backstage effort and the on-stage polish beguiles in the way Alfred Gell’s3 sense of enchantment beguiles, with audiences both marvelling at the skill in a dancer’s performance and charmed by the transformation. However, the backstage report only partly describes the process of contemporary dance-making. It certainly underplays ideas of authorship and interpretation, and the multiplicity of collaborations at play, be they between choreographer and dancer, dancer and designer, or dancer and audience. Backstage at the Göteborg Opera House in Gothenburg, Sweden, Richard Siegal is rehearsing all 40 dancers of the theatre’s resident GöteborgsOperans Danskompani. He has just two days to get to know the dancers and choose those to work with for the new piece Out of Mind. The American-born, Paris- and Berlin-based dance-maker, with a roster of intriguing design collaborations to his name, stands at the front of the studio and demonstrates a move. Still nimble and precise after a 20-year performing career – almost 10 of which at the renowned Ballett Frankfurt4 – he shows the dancers another move, then another, linking the steps to form a dance phrase that grows into a sequence, with the authorship his and the interpretation theirs. The two hours of watch-and-follow produce barely two minutes of dance. After a break, Siegal reverses the process. Instead of demonstrating a move and the dancers interpreting it, he asks them to improvise five hand gestures. They have 10 minutes, after which they present their ideas, all 40-times-five-equals-200 of them. Some are abstract, others imply narrative, but all testify to the dancers’ innate corporeal authority. The diversity and quantity expands with each of Siegal’s improvisational tasks, the dancers first working on their own, then in pairs, where the first dancer’s gesture is met with the other’s gestural response. By the end of the second two-hour session the quantity of choreographic material is immense.

“I don’t always work this way,” explains Siegal. He set up The Bakery in 2005, a platform for him to explore cross-media choreography with artists, designers, and architects, and whose philosophy shares much of design history’s concern with production and consumption – that is, the context in which things are made and received. “But for this commission I’m following a choreographic line of thought that I call If/Then.” This, he says, is a process for systematising >

Dancers from the Bayerisches Staatsballett preparing to perform Unitxt by Siegal at Prinzregententheater in Munich, 16 July 2013. PHOTO Linus Ricard


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The costumes for Richard Siegal’s Unitxt were designed by Konstantin Grcic and include integrated handles. Opposite page: The dancers rehearse for the evening’s performance (top right), using the specially designed corset (bottom). PHOTOS Linus Ricard

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The corset is made from non-stretch nylon fabric and nylon webbing for the handles, while the rest of the outfit comprises a sheer nylon body and black leotard. PHOTO Linus Ricard

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Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was a Japanese-American sculptor and set designer who collaborated with Martha Graham.


Martha Graham (1894-1991), was an American dancer, choreographer and company director, whose innovative choreographic style has been hugely influential.


7 Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) was an American painter and designer who collaborated with Merce Cunningham, sharing his interest in assemblage and multi-media.

Merce Cunningham (19192009) was an American dancer, choreographer and company director, whose avant-garde approach to the separation of music and dance (they came together for the first time at the first performance) ran counter to the usual collaborative approach.

Collaboration is a revered idea in dance. It draws on the notion of the total work of art – the Gesamtkunstwerk – that unites artistic endeavour in an integrated whole.


Sarah Lucas (b. 1962) is an artist who was part of the generation of Young British Artists that emerged during the 1990s.


Michael Clark (b. 1962) is a Scottish dancer and choreographer whose collaborators include fashion company Bodymap, artist Leigh Bowery, and film director Peter Greenaway. 10

11 Alain Platel (b. 1956) is a Belgian choreographer and director who formed Les Ballets C de la B in Ghent in 1984. The company creates collaborative work that mixes dance, opera, music, circus, and speech in the Tanztheater tradition, which holds that dance isn’t only about choreography and cannot be separated from real life.

Gesamtkunstwerk, usually translated as total work of art, is the German term popularised by the composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883) to describe the coming together of all the theatrical arts – music, design, drama, and dance – into a dramatic synthesis.


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, (1840-1893) was a Russian composer best known in the dance world for Swan Lake (1877), The Sleeping Beauty (1890), and The Nutcracker (1892). Maris Petipa (1818-1910) was a French-Russian dancer and ballet master, and perhaps the most influential and accomplished dance-maker in history. Among many others, he choreographed Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty.


Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929) was a Russian impresario, arts administrator, and magazine publisher, best known for founding the Ballets Russes.


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> dancers’ gestures and responses – if you do x, then I do y; if you do y, then I do z. It also gives form to the role of dancers in the creation of a work and addresses the issue of authorship and inter-dependency in collaborations. “If/Then is an artistic attitude,” explains Siegal. “It’s about ideas of autonomy for the performer and distributed authorship.”

In the contemporary parlance of computing and social media, it could be described as a kind of open-sourcing that acknowledges the complexities and contributions of all those collaborating – be they dancer, dance-maker or designer. Despite scrutiny of big-name art-dance link-ups – Isamu Noguchi5 and Martha Graham,6 Robert Rauschenberg7 and Merce Cunningham,8 and Sarah Lucas9 and Michael Clark,10 to cite just three – the contribution of the dancer is much less examined. This is curious given choreography can’t happen without them. Unlike painting or sculpture, the dancer is the art form, the dance only existing at the moment of performance. Recent dance-makers have been quicker to acknowledge the input of their dancers with, for example, the Ghent-based Alain Platel11 almost always crediting his productions as being “danced and created by” the company. Siegal himself addressed the issue in his piece ©oPirates (2010), which involved professional and amateur performers questioning how culture is created and who owns it. “It evoked different ideas about co-operation and pirating, corporations and intellectual property, of private versus public,” he explains.

Collaboration is a revered idea in dance. It draws on the notion of the total work of art – the Gesamtkunstwerk12 – that unites artistic endeavour in an integrated whole. It implies a meeting of artistic minds, a synergy of collaborators who together create something greater than the sum of their parts. Although there are earlier examples, including the Tchaikovsky/Petipa13 The Sleeping Beauty (1890), the mother of all dance collaborations is the early 20th-century productions of Sergei Diaghilev.14 His commissions for the Ballets Russes corralled the creative talents of revered composers, designers and choreographers including, among others, Vaslav Nijinsky,15 Igor Stravinsky,16 Sergei Prokofiev,17 Pablo Picasso18 and Coco Chanel.19 The Diaghilev model has become the holy grail for dance-makers’ with notable present-day success. For example, Antony Gormley’s20 contribution to Akram Khan21 and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s22 Zero Degrees (2006) involved Gormley casting their bodies to create dummy doubles. The inert, silent forms were an integral element of the production. Part sentinel, part surrogate, they not only conveyed the ideas of the duet, but were instrumental in its meaning. Gormley was clear about his contribution. “I’m not a set dresser,” he said at the time. “I don’t do off-the-peg designs. I’m interested to work directly on life itself, to make the unmediated imaginative. [To] metaphorically reach out a hand and say, ‘Be with me a while and live more intensely’.”23

The traditional role of design in the theatre is to locate the action in place and period. This it does phenomenally well, with even so-so scenography effectively transporting the audience through linear time and space. Siegal is not alone in slipping design’s conventional time-space continuum, but he is one of relatively few to incorporate it into the broader theatrical process. Shortly before Siegal arrived in Gothenburg, Munich’s Bayerische Staatsballett premiered his dance piece Unitxt. The costumes for this were created by the Munich-based industrial designer Konstantin Grcic,24 and a key feature of those worn by the women was a corset-like garment, in nylon, with intergrated handles. These enabled the men to lift them in ways that would have otherwise been impossible, and both accentuated and flexed ballet’s male-female partnering. Here, the costumes were about function and had a direct effect on the choreography, with >

Grcic’s Unitxt costumes have a direct effect on Siegal and the dancers’ movements. PHOTOS Linus Ricard


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The set design for Siegal’s Civic Mimic (2011) was by experimental architect François Roche. PHOTO Hillary Goidell


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15 Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950) was a Russian dancer and choreographer, generally regarded as the greatest dancer of the 20th century, although his choreographic innovations are as significant.

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was a Russian-American composer, whose rhythmic innovations transformed ballet music in the early 20th century.


17 Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was a Russian composer, best known for his ballet music for Romeo and Juliet (1938). His work for Diaghilev included The Prodigal Son (1929).

Faustino asked Siegal to perform with an object he had designed for an exhibition in Madrid. “It was an enormous skull made of a single piece of heavy carpet.”

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was a Spanish artist whose set designs for Diaghilev included Parade (1917) and Le Tricorne (1919). The Diaghilev ballerina Olga Kokhlova (1891-1955) was his first wife.


Coco Chanel (1883-1971) was a French fashion designer who created the costumes for Le Train Bleu (1924), the modernist ballet that Bronislava Nijinska (Nijinsky’s sister) choreographed for Diaghilev.


Antony Gormley (b. 1950) is a British sculptor whose set designs include Babel (Words) (2010) for Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.


Akram Khan (b. 1974) is a British-Bangladeshi dancer and choreographer celebrated for his innovative synthesis of the Asian kathak and Western contemporary dance.


22 Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (b. 1976) is a Belgian-Moroccan dancer and choreographer who synthesises contemporary street dance with Middle Eastern forms. 23 Quote published in The Liberal, Autumn 2007, from interview with author.

Konstantin Grcic (b. 1965) studied at the Royal College of Art and John Makepeace's School for Craftsmen in Wood. His many commissions include product design for Herman Miller, Magis, Vitra, and Muji. His work is in the collections of MoMA and the Centre Pompidou.


Didier Faustino (b. 1968) is a Paris-based artist-architect. Recent solo shows include The Wild Things at Galerie Michel Rein in Paris (2011) and Balance of Emptiness at the Center for Contemporary Art in Kitakyushu, Japan (2010).


26 Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) was a French composer and music theorist of the Baroque period. 27 Paco Rabanne (b. 1934) is a Spanish fashion designer who also created the costumes for

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> the two developed in conjunction, rather than the costume being an afterthought. Grcic’s rigorous thinking, Siegal explains, was part of the appeal of working with him. “The acute analysis, the stripping away, the iterative process. His flexibility and willingness to consider everything as a step toward a final product, even if that meant radically changing the design at the last minute, which was the case,” says Siegal.

And now in Gothenburg, Siegal is working with a new design collaborator, the artist-architect Didier Faustino.25 “The notion of If/Then is not confined to dance,” says Siegal, explaining that Faustino’s design for Out of Mind is the “material co-respondent” of the If/Then methodology. It is also of a size that matches the huge Göteborg Opera House stage. “The scale of the designer has to be appropriate for the space,” says Siegal, adding that Faustino’s ability to think theatrically was one of the reasons he asked him to join the project. The collaboration started when Siegal asked Faustino to contribute to a book that The Bakery published last year called Idea In Action. In exchange, Faustino asked Siegal to perform an encounter with an object he had designed for an exhibition in Madrid. “It was an enormous skull made of a single piece of heavy carpet,” says Siegal. “I wrestled with it to music by Rameau26 and later incorporated it into an evening-length solo called Black Swan. Didier understands obstacles as opportunities. He seems indefatigably optimistic.” Faustino’s stage design for the upcoming performance in Gothenburg features two components. The first is five giant latex inflatable pillows some 2.5m long; the second a 12sqm “carpet”, as Siegal calls it, that compresses and decompresses the performance space. Its surface is covered with flat metal pieces, which Siegal compares to the flexible metal plates on a 1960s Paco Rabanne dress.27 The carpet can be manipulated like a giant marionette via cables attaching it to the theatre’s fly system. “We were considering having the audience on stage with the dancers to start the piece,” says Siegal, who concedes that this poses potential health and safety issues. If practicable, it might be a way of extending the If/Then relationship between the dancer and designer to the designer and audience.

While most dance productions observe the theatrical convention of the audience sitting in the auditorium and the performers on stage – with a red plush curtain between them – it is not uncommon for dance-makers to flex these norms. This usually takes the form of manipulating the theatrical space and transgressing theatrical boundaries. For example, in Reverse Effect (1996), Lea Anderson28 put the audience on the stage and the performers in the stalls, while in Live (1979), Hans Van Manen29 ended his ballet with the dancer walking off the stage, into the foyer and out of the theatre. Choreographers also bring the performers and audience together – William Forsythe30 put them both on the stage in You Made Me A Monster (2005), and Protein Dance31 abandoned the theatre altogether in Publife (2002), moving both audience and performers into a pub without clear boundaries about who was who.

What this bending of the theatrical space prompts is an explicit collaboration between both the performers and audience, and the audience and designs. The dancers and audience modify their behaviour to accommodate the other, and both have to interact with (or avoid) the set. The result is a partly unrehearsed production. It also provides an unexpected patch chord back to ballet’s origins in the promenade performances of 17th-century court masques, in particular those of Charles I (1600-1649) in England – often directed and designed by the architect >

Didier Faustino's stage design for Out of Mind involves inflatable latex pillows and a carpet covered in flat metal pieces. IMAGE Didier Faustino


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the film Barbarella, directed by Roger Vadim (1968). 28 Lea Anderson (b. 1959) is a British dancer and choreographer whose creations for the all-female Cholmondeleys and the all-male Featherstonehaughs reveal her background in both dance and fine art. 29 Hans van Manen (b. 1932) is a Dutch dancer, choreographer and company director.

William Forsythe (b. 1949) is an American dancer, choreographer and the director of Ballett Frankfurt, who radically reworked classical ballet’s formal elegance in the 1980s. His more recent work features hybrid installations and performances.


Protein Dance is an independent dance-theatre company formed in 1997 by Luca Silvestrini and Bettina Strickler who met as students at the Laban Centre in London.

“The affinity between architecture and dance are evident: the preoccupation with the body in space, and the programming of the spectators’ experience over time.”


32 Inigo Jones (1573-1652) was a British architect who was responsible for buildings such as Banqueting House on Whitehall, London, and the Queen’s House in Greenwich.

François Roche (b. 1961) is an experimental French architect who studied at the National School of Architecture of Versailles. He is associated with R&Sie(n) and [eIf/b t/c] – the “institute of contingents scenario”. R&Sie(n) has exhibited at Tate Modern, Columbia University and the Centre Pompidou.


Bolshoi Ballet is a large Russian ballet company based in Moscow, formed in the late 18th century. It has a significant domestic and international profile. 34

Pas de deux is a dance for two, a duet, from the French “steps for two”. A key element of dance vocabulary, it is often romantic, with the clinches symbolising promises of love and the virtuoso leaps and spins a kind of mating call. 35

READING LIST The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman, PENGUIN, 1990 (orig. 1959). The Technology of Enchantment and the Enchantment of Technology by Alfred Gell in Anthropology, Art and Aesthetics, CLARENDON PRESS, 1992. The Bakery: Idea In Action by Christine Peters, Richard Siegal and Dieta Sixt (editors), SPECTOR BOOKS, 2012.

> Inigo Jones32 – and Louis XIV (1638-1715) in France. These involved talented amateur performers in a large chamber rather than a proscenium arch. A so-called “grand ball” could follow the main show, which was a kind of after-party in which members of the audience joined the performers, albeit under well-understood social and physical rules. This antecedent can be seen in Siegal’s Civic Mimic (2011), a performance-installation with the set, the dancers, and the audience all together in a hangar-sized space. Siegal describes the “dance” as being the result of the body’s encounter with both the set and the audience, who wander freely around the event. In this way, the dancer becomes “a choreographer of the spectator,” he says, as does the design. This was the work of French R&Sie(n) architect François Roche,33 who created a snow drift of an installation, an unstable-looking asymmetrical raised platform on spindly legs that snakes through the space – part ski jump, part catwalk – with which the six dancers and audience interact. The presence of the audience means the dancers modify their moves, which creates a kind of work in progress while the work is in progress. “François brought tremendous energy to the project,” recalls Siegal. “Being more accustomed to working in the art world, there was an interesting tension as he tried to negotiate the rigid safety codes of theatre.” Back in Gothenburg, Siegal concedes that an opera house is a highly prescribed space that resists attempts to reconfigure it or to use it in non-conventional ways. Alarm bells and sprinklers seem to go off when the threshold between front- and backstage is crossed. Audiences get visibly twitchy if lights aren’t dimmed to cue the start of the performance. This resistance – both cultural and architectural – begs the question if it is actually possible to break the fourth wall. Most audiences, even those attending experimental productions, are deeply conservative in their mode of theatrical consumption. Almost everyone sits facing the stage. They expect the lights to dim and the curtain to sweep open. At the end of the performance, they want a curtain call to applaud the dancers. Does this mean there is an unbridgeable gulf between audience and performer, however radical the choreography and however innovative the design? Instead of slipping the proscenium arch, does it not move with you?

“There is an asymmetry,” smiles Siegal. “I’ve spent my life obsessing about dance. I’ve spent weeks, months preparing, so yes, I have more information than the audience.” But he says his aim is not to destroy everything that is “wonderful” about spectatorship and performance, or to politicise hierarchical theatrical relationships by disrupting the status quo. It is rather about examining the nature of collaboration. “Even the most traditional performances are collaborative,” he explains. “At the Bolshoi Ballet34 the performance stops after each variation and each pas de deux35 so the audience can applaud. There are degrees of involvement. I’m exploring distributed authorship and how the audience is fed into the performance – either as spectators or participants.” Siegal sees design as part of the process. “I’ve always had a great interest in architecture. The affinity between [it] and dance are evident. The preoccupation with the body in space, and the programming of the spectators’ experience over time seem common ground. As Didier said to me recently, ‘We are all designers’.”

Sarah Frater was the dance critic at the London Evening Standard, and the editor of the ballet magazine Dance Gazette. She recently completed an MA in History of Design at the Royal College of Art. Linus Ricard is a Swedish photographer based in Paris. He has previously contributed to Disegno No. 1, 2 and 3. Kalle Sanner is a photographer based in Gothenburg where he works with designers such as Daniel Rybakken.

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Siegal rehearses all 40 dancers of GรถteborgsOperans Danskompani ahead of the premiere performance Out of Mind. PHOTOS Kalle Sanner


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9. CARAN D’ACHE PENS “These pens are everyday items, but they always �ind a way to make them special and different, like the �luorescent ones, which I love and use every day.” – Sir Paul Smith Caran d’Ache was founded in 1915 by Arnold Schweitzer in Geneva, Switzerland, and opened of�icially in 1924. The company specialises in art materials and luxury writing instruments, and their products carry the famous Swiss Made quality label. From coloured crayons and acrylic paint to propelling pencils and luxury fountain pens, Caran d’Ache is renowned for high quality materials and manufacturing excellence. The company name, Caran d’Ache, sounds French but has its origins elsewhere. What, or who, was Caran d’Ache named after? A The �irm took its name from the illustrator Emmanuel Poiré who used the pseudonym Caran d’Ache, which he created from the Russian word for pencil, карандаш. B Caran d’Ache took its name from the Turkish word karatash, meaning “black slate”, a material used for writing and mark-making.


C The name is a corruption of the English word haberdash, which Schweitzer took to embody his company’s dealing in small, luxury wares.



What Time Looks Like Time for Vitamins is not continuous. It’s split into blocks of Lego. Or so it appears from the calendar hanging on the wall of their East London studio. A new project from Vitamins, the calendar lets users envisage their schedule by plugging different coloured Lego bricks into a grey backboard to represent their daily activities. >


A calendar made from Lego on the wall of Vitamins’ studio. PHOTOS Anthony Gerace


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Forecast > It’s a chunky, child-like arrangement, but one that belies its potential. When a photo of the calendar is taken on a smartphone, the layout of the bricks is digitised into information on a Google calendar. It’s scheduling reimagined as play. Founded in 2007, Vitamins, Design and Invention Studio is a collaboration between the Royal College of Arts graduates Duncan Fitzsimons, Clara Gaggero and Adrian Westaway. The three met on the school’s Industrial Design Engineering MA, but their backgrounds were disparate. Fitzsimons studied mechanical engineering; Gaggero ran a fashion label in Berlin; and Westaway, a professional magician, had trained in electronics. “We joke sometimes that Vitamins almost started out as a self-help group,” says Fitzsimons, yet such eclecticism has bled into the studio’s practice. While other designers start a project with a specific form or function in mind, Vitamins begins with an experience. In the case of the Lego Calendar, this experience was a personal one. “Whenever we start a project, we never manage to sit in front of a screen and map out three months of work,” says Westaway. “We lack the sense of scale to understand what that much time looks like.” The studio’s solution was to create a product where time becomes a finite entity quantifiable through Lego bricks. Each block represents half a day of time, with different coloured plastics representing different tasks. Mapped out on a board that displays three months at a time and which allows for multiple users, the pieces reduce a person’s activities into easily digestible segments. Such simplification is a theme within Vitamins’ work. Rather than designing entirely new products, the studio frequently tweaks existing designs, its changes based upon 190 Disegno. WHAT TIME LOOKS LIKE

studying the way in which users interact with everyday objects. In Out of the Box for Samsung, Vitamins created a user manual to help older people access technology – a design now included in

meetings, without bringing your phone onto the table. Vitamins’ adjustments typically result from extensive focus groups, the practice specialising in projects that are reactive rather than

“We lack the sense of scale to understand what that much time looks like.” MoMA’s permanent collection – while SkinDisplay for Blackberry reimagined text messages as raised lettering that leaves an indent on your skin, allowing you to surreptitiously check messages throughout

prescriptive. Push Snowboarding is a clip-on, button-sized telemetry system for snowboarders that grew out of consultation with the community who would use it, while a similar strategy was employed for Folding

Wheel, a collapsible wheelchair wheel that won the transport category of the Design Museum’s Designs of the Year award 2013. Simple and understated, the project extended the principles of the folding wheelchair, elegantly subjecting wheels to the same demands for compactness as that of the frame. In the case of the Lego Calendar, Vitamins analysed existing organisational systems, looking at reminders scribbled on Post-its, Google calendars and notes scrawled on the back of a hand. The studio found that while such systems worked well for individuals, they were ineffective at allocating time across larger groups. With this understanding, the studio turned to Lego. The analogue bricks make for a tangible presence in an office to help to coordinate multiple diaries at once, while the capacity for digitisation means that the calendar can also function as a portable, personalised schedule.

Users assemble the calendar from their own bricks, while digitisation is achieved through an open-source technology developed by Vitamins that utilises software already present in smartphones. The technology behind the Lego

calendar is ingenious, yet it is obscured by the rudimentary quality of its construction. “This is just Lego on a wall; there is nothing behind it,” says Westaway. “You’ve bought the tech already, it’s in your phones.” It is a sleight of hand typical of Vitamins, and one appropriated from Westaway’s background in magic. “To do magic you have to fully understand what the person’s going to perceive,” he says. “It’s the ultimate user research experience because you have to map out everything as to how they are going to perceive it.” Gaggero adds, “We don’t want to just throw technology at an object to solve a problem.” Instead, the studio develops projects where technology fades into the background. Two new projects for the health brand Qardio – the QardioCore and QardioArm – are wearable medical devices. Adaptations of an ECG device and blood pressure monitor respectively, the QardioCore and QardioArm reduce the devices to their most essential forms: a belt that straps around the chest and a buckram-bound monitor camouflaged as a pocket-sized journal. Both pieces are minimal and accessible, their technology disguised by the familiarity of their forms. “If the technology that enables this experience to happen is hidden away, the experience that the person has is going to be more natural, richer and more enjoyable,” says Fitzsimons. “That’s what we are really striving for.” Like any good magician, Vitamins never fully reveals its tricks. The Lego Calendar, like much of the studio’s work, is a simple twist on an existing product – its concept derived from an understanding of how we interact with the objects around us; its success owed to technology hidden just below the surface. “There’s the beautiful restraint of doing something behind the scenes that no one ever really gets to see,” says Westaway. “Instead, they just see an amazing effect.”

This page: The QardioArm developed by Vitamins for health brand Qardio looks like a pocketsize journal when not in use (above). Each block of Lego represents half a day (left). Opposite page: Different coloured blocks represent different projects (top); Clara Gaggero, Adrian Westaway and Duncan Fitzsimons of Vitamins (bottom).

Manijeh Verghese (see p. 10) The instructions for how to build your own calendar will be available on vitaminsdesign.com by 20 September.


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Selected Reading As the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris prepares for its upcoming exhibition on Dries Van Noten, Disegno delves into some of the books that relate to the career and interests of the Antwerp-based fashion designer. An alumnus of the Antwerp Fashion Academy and original member of the group commonly referred to as “the Antwerp Six”, Dries Van Noten is perhaps the most internationally prominent of the generation of avant-garde fashion designers who emerged from the Flemish capital in the 1980s. Tracing the trajectory of the Antwerp Six provides a rich context in which to view Van Noten’s work. Two titles on our list are devoted to the group and the place of study that its members had in common: the Fashion Academy Antwerp. Another two explore the work of specific Antwerp-trained designers, Raf Simons and Walter van Beirendonck. Van Noten’s references are diverse to the point of virtuosity. Recent seasons have nodded to grunge, 1950s showbiz glamour, and significantly, in 2011, to the various personae of David Bowie. The exhibition catalogue from the recent Bowie exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, is therefore included in our selected reading. Van Noten comes from a family of textile traders and dressmakers, a heritage that seeps into his practice. For the upcoming exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the designer will select a number of the museum’s 19th-century prints and incorporate them into garments in his menswear spring/summer 2014 collection.

6+ Antwerp Fashion by Cathy Horyn et al. LUDION €29.90 Tracing the careers of the original Antwerp Six – Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Bikkembergs, Dirk Van Saene, and Marina Yee – this catalogue accompanied an eponymous exhibition at the Mode Museum in Antwerp. The book details the journey of the designers from their modest beginnings at the Antwerp Fashion Academy in the 1980s to their breakthrough on the international fashion scene with shows in Paris and international retail outlets. Beyond Desire by Philippe Pirotte et al. LUDION €19.90 Exploring the connection between the cultural worlds of Africa and Europe, this book presents work by fashion designers such as Van Noten, Christian Dior and John Galliano alongside African photography, art, and documentary stills. European fashion designers show how they have combined elements from Western design with influential colours, shapes and textiles from tribes such as the Masai. The compilation is underpinned by unspoken aspects of seduction, eroticism and desire. David Bowie Is by Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh V&A PUBLISHING £35 With a career spanning nearly 50 years, achieving international acclaim and selling more than 140 million albums, David Bowie has influenced contemporary artists and designers from across the board, Van Noten included. Drawing from an archive of costumes, memorabilia and original artwork by the artist, this exhibition catalogue presents an entirely new perspective on Bowie’s career. Fashion Antwerp Academy 50 by Suzy Menkes, Hettie Judah and Kaat Debo LANNOO €49.99 This year, the Antwerp Fashion Academy’s 50th anniversary has occasioned a comprehensive title offering an international perspective on its history, the worldwide influence of Antwerp fashion, and the trajectory of the Antwerp Six’s careers.


Japanese Fashion Designers: The Work and Influence of Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo by Bonnie English BERG £17.99 Japanese Fashion Designers provides in-depth insight into the work of Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo. Outlining their contributions and discussing their influence on the next generation of designers, including Van Noten, this book demonstrates how they achieved commercial success while refusing to compromise creative ideas. Raf Simons edited by Terry Jones TASCHEN €29.99 Fashion magazine i-D delves into its archive to collate a portfolio of beautiful imagery from photographers including Alasdair McLellan and Willy Vanderperre, tracing the career of Raf Simons, fashion designer for his own label and artistic director of Christian Dior. The Sustainable Fashion Handbook by Sandy Black THAMES & HUDSON £35 This book is a diverse collection of essays and illustrated articles by leading writers; interviews and statements from designers such as Van Noten, Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood; and listings of organisations involved in supporting sustainability in fashion. Perhaps the most intricately detailed and authoritative publication on all aspects of eco-fashion to date, the book aims to become the definitive reference on the subject. Walter Van Beirendonck: Dream The World Awake by Walter Van Beirendonck and Christian Lacroix LANNOO €60 This elaborate volume, complete with interchangeable covers, showcases the work of Van Beirendonck, one of the original Antwerp Six. The volume presents the unrestrained nature of his work through striking photography by Anton Corbijn, Nick Knight, Juergen Teller and David Bailey.


The exhibition Dries Van Noten runs from 28 February to 31 August 2014 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

David Bowie Is, Walter Van Beirendonck: Dream The World Awake and Fashion Antwerp Academy 50 are among the selected reading for Dries Van Noten. PHOTO Michael Bodiam SET DESIGN Sarah Parker



Tom Dixon for Adidas Large sportswear brands offer unrivalled access to cutting-edge technology in both fabric developments and apparel construction. Adidas, which has been collaborating with designers such as Yohji Yamamoto and Stella McCartney for over a decade now, are able to utilise the technologies and infrastructure it has in place to create unique, lifestyle-driven products. Tom Dixon, who rose to prominence in the 1980s with designs that utilised found materials and is now one of Britain’s most widely recognised product designers, has created a capsule collection for Adidas that reflects his design philosophies and is inspired by his nomadic work/leisure schedule.

The collection is inspired in part by traditional workwear and historic manufacturing techniques. Buckles and straps also give it a utilitarian aesthetic. This is mirrored in the manufacturing process as well – some hems are laser-cut rather than stitched, for example. Dixon has incorporated a number of functional features too – such as light fabrics that will also keep the wearer dry in wet weather; and multifunctional uses such as the reversible jacket or a coat that quickly comes apart to make a smart jacket. The whole collection is designed to fit into its own neat travel bag for use on the road.

Marcus Agerman Ross is the founder and editor-inchief of men’s fashion magazine Jocks&Nerds. The Tom Dixon for Adidas collection will be in select stores from November 2013.

PHOTO Michael Bodiam SET DESIGN Sarah Parker



Disegno. 195


Tind Prefab House In 1920, elastic slapsticker Buster Keaton took prefab architecture to a new level. In his 19-minute silent movie classic One Week a newly-wed couple attempt to erect a build-it-by-the-numbers kit home, unaware that a rejected suitor has secretly renumbered the parts. The structure they end up with >


The Tind prefabricated house by Claesson Koivisto Rune is named for Scandinavia’s truncated mountain tops. PHOTORENDER Peter Guthrie


Disegno. 197

Forecast Interior views of the Tind prefabricated house, which utilises stock off-the-shelf elements.

> could easily have been a left-over maquette from the desk of American postmodernist architect Robert Venturi, the “Less is a bore” master of complexity and contradiction. A prescient work of architecture, Keaton’s mismatched house stands as a progenitor for the colliding styles and expressive asymmetries of postmodernism, the very genre that turned famed Swedish architects and design studio Claesson Koivisto Rune into arch-minimalists in the 1990s. We reacted against a highly questionable Swedish postmodernism that was prevalent then. At the same time, pared-down designers such as John Pawson started making a name for themselves,” says Eero Koivisto over a cup of coffee with partner Mårten Claesson in their studio in Stockholm. “We felt that they were a fresh alternative, but we never called ourselves minimalists,” adds Claesson. “We never used that word about ourselves.” Everyone else did though, and Koivisto, Claesson and their co-partner Ola Rune, who together founded the firm in 1995, spent the next decade as poster boys for a generation that could never get enough of clean lines, white walls, pale woods, and sophisticated lighting schemes. That the trio always dressed in black only added to the mystique. Their latest design, a system of prefabricated houses for the Swedish prefab specialist Fiskarhedenvillan, which they call Tind after the Norwegian word for Scandinavia’s peculiarly truncated mountain tops, clearly follows that same trajectory of tightly controlled geometries and beautifully lit spaces, although the result is perhaps not as doggedly pure as before. “The client assumed we would want the drainpipes visually erased and built into the walls, which would be a complicated feat to pull off, says Claesson. “They were quite relieved when we told them this wasn’t necessary and that the graphic expression of the scheme is strong enough to stand firm against such minor distractions.” Fiskarhedenvillan limited the cost of producing Tind, but kept the figure a secret throughout the process, while the architects worked extensively with standardised, off-the-shelf elements. “Making an expensive house is easy,” Koivisto points out. “Making it good but affordable is not.” This is where the social aspect of the project lies: that an architect can make a building for people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to


commission a one-off house. Yet in spite of the inexpensive build, Tind, with its distinctive rhythms playing across a delicately contrasted material palette, stands out from a prefab market otherwise dominated by bland historicism. The brief contained a rare challenge for an architect – to design a building for an unknown site. The architects’ response was a series of principles that dictate the basic vision of these precut kit homes, together with a set of rules for how that vision can be translated to any context. Dimensions and proportions might change with the site, but the characteristic features remain in place. “The challenge was to create a flexible typology,” says Koivisto. “The buildings have

as the Crystal Palace in 1851; the Baukasten (building blocks) developed between 1922 and 1923 by Bauhaus architects Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer; all the way up to contemporary projects such as American architect Tom Kundig’s 2011 Sol Duc Cabin. “Historically, designing prefab buildings has been seen as not worthy of an architect,” says Claesson. “And somehow I find that attractive.” Naturally, architects spend much time analysing and thinking about the spirit of the place when they design a bespoke house for a client. “But,” Claesson asks, “does the fact that you can’t control the site disqualify architects from working with prefab structures? I don’t think so. Life isn’t long enough. I’ve

“One per cent of the world’s buildings are designed by architects. If prefab houses could increase that number a bit, I’m all for it.” a waist, a break between the lower and upper floors, and the roof is cut off so the walls turn into it, creating a volume reminiscent of a prism.” Prefabrication has been called the oldest new idea in

heard that only one per cent of buildings are designed by architects. If prefab houses could increase that number a bit, I’m all for it.” Claesson Koivisto Rune is proud of Tind. And who

architecture, and not without reason. For one thing, it’s been around for thousands of years. Buster Keaton’s radical architecture comes late in a long narrative that perhaps started with the giant prefabricated structures erected in ancient Sri Lanka under Sinhalese kings two millennia ago, and continued through a wide range of architectural projects such

knows, perhaps the studio will have finally done something to change the stigma around prefab architecture.

Magnus Larsson is a writer based in London and Stockholm and a founder of the architecture and design studio Ordinary Ltd. Tind Prefab House can be ordered from the manufacturers Fiskarhedenvillan.


Disegno. 199



Wrong for Hay Details about Wrong for Hay are sketchy. All that is certain is that Sebastian Wrong, formerly of Established & Sons, is creating a new brand for Danish company Hay that will be unveiled at the London Design Festival in September. So let’s look at what we do know. Hay is a well-connected brand with good manufacturing and distribution; Sebastian Wrong an art director with a proven track record; and the London Design Festival a world class design event at which to launch a collection. So far so good. What we don’t know is what will make the collection stand out – the choice of designers perhaps, the products hopefully.

Salt and pepper grinders by Anderssen & Voll. PHOTO Michael Bodiam SET DESIGN Sarah Parker

200 Disegno. WRONG FOR HAY

But a design is not complete until in the hands of its user. The key moment for a product is when it connects with its audience and each of us can influence that. We have a role to play in getting off the fence and expressing our opinions, applauding loudly or rejecting wholeheartedly. I for one will be there at the launch of Wrong for Hay, not looking for objects to buy, but looking for objects that I’d like to live with. I expect to find them.

Sebastian Bergne is a product designer based in London. He has designed for brands such as Vitra, Authentics and O-Luce. Wrong for Hay is a new brand by Danish company Hay. It launches 14 September 2013 in London.


Reinventing the High Heel The world of cinema is populated by female heroines who live their lives in high heels, no matter what the circumstances. In Duel in the Sun, La Dolce Vita, countless Bond films and episodes of Dynasty and Red Desert, women in stilettos wallow in mud, stumble through suburban wasteland, shamble through the desert and spontaneously collapse to lend the action suspense. >


White Prototypes (2013) by Marloes ten Bhรถmer, on display at the Stanley Picker Gallery, London. The short film Material Compulsion (2013) is projected in the background. PHOTOS Ellie Laycock


Disegno. 203


> Similarly, in the short film Material Compulsion, created by the footwear designer Marloes ten Bhömer, a woman wearing generic court shoes steps into piles of flour, baked beans, lumps of coal, and a jelly cube. The project is part of ten Bhömer’s research fellowship at the Stanley Picker Gallery at London’s Kingston University, in which she is attempting to create a new high-heeled footwear collection informed by the principles of engineering. “When I started defining the parameters of making a shoe, it became apparent to me that everything was up for questioning,” says ten Bhömer. “The form of walking, the substrate you step upon, the way it impacts upon the movement, and, as a result, the final shoe design.” By considering “the woman in motion” as a puzzle for engineering, ten Bhömer’s project proposes possibilities for a shoe’s configuration that extend beyond mere style. Trained as a product designer at the Higher School of Arts Arnhem in the Netherlands and then, between 2001 and 2003, in designer Ron Arad’s Design Products masters programme at the Royal College of Art

the sports science department at Kingston University, ten Bhömer examined the anatomy and movement of the foot, forming 17 hypotheses about different ways in which a shoe can make contact with the foot and floor. Taking these hypotheses as a starting point, she is now studying the structural parameters required to support the foot in a high-heel position while in motion.

“When I started defining the parameters of making a shoe, it became apparent that everything was up for questioning.”

Still from Material Compulsion, directed by Per Tingleff.

in London, ten Bhömer is an unconventional footwear designer. Her first footwear project, a pair of tarpaulin shoes made from single pieces of industrial fabric folded over a wooden sole (2001), was the beginning of her research into reinventing the silhouette of the shoe through a process of obscurement and abstraction. “In those days, I approached the design of a shoe as an architectural problem; I was interested in how the aesthetics of footwear could be reconsidered,” she says. But her research at Kingston is concerned with construction and methodology, rather than aesthetics. “In my new project I want to re-imagine the typology of women’s shoes, and in order to do that I have to reinvent the process by which footwear is made,” she explains. Working with


Her research to date was displayed in the exhibition A Measurable Factor Sets the Conditions of its Operation at the Stanley Picker Gallery earlier this year, but it will receive a second showing at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London in September. Displayed alongside Material Compulsion were ten Bhömer’s White Prototypes, a series of 3D-printed nylon shoe forms that map out combinations of foot and ground contact points. “When the heel of the foot hits the floor when walking barefoot or in flat shoes, it does so on the outside of the foot rather than in the middle,” says ten Bhömer. “So I made a part that creates a contact point for one of the White Prototypes that also hits the floor on the outside of the foot.” Using pressure-mapping techniques, the White Prototypes allow

ten Bhömer to scrutinise the act of walking, serving as early tests for her 17 hypotheses. “The White Prototypes provide me with the contact points and, when you connect those, you create a shoe,” she says. The prototypes seem far from structurally sound, but as with ten Bhömer’s previous designs, what something seems is not necessarily what it is. Her Blackfoldedshoe and Beigefoldedshoe, which are still sold through her online boutique, are high-heeled shoes made from cut-and-folded stiffened leather. The shoes seem precarious, yet are strengthened by a metal heel and shank embedded between their sheets of leather. While the metal holds the foot from below, the leather folds around the foot to create a similar level of support as any normal shoe. Like the Blackfoldedshoe and Beigefoldedshoe, many of the White Prototypes are capable of holding body weight, even if they seem as if they might collapse when worn. They also represent the future of ten Bhömer’s research. “I’m now working on a new version of the test shoes,” she says. “There are so many things that can change the outcome of the tests, such as a lack of abrasion of the plastic parts on the floor, or the inherent strength of the plastic and its connections. What I am planning to do next is go back to the 17 hypotheses and produce test pieces that are more specific to my hypotheses, rather than create an overall uniform system.” Ten Bhömer’s Stanley Picker fellowship came to a close in February 2013, but Kingston University has now appointed her as a research fellow, a position that runs until 2015. While the results of the research may materialise even later than this, it was the start of this process that signalled the real change. The high-heeled shoe has long been due an overhaul.

Kasia Jeżowska is a curator and writer. She is currently researching the history of design exhibitions for her PhD at the Royal College of Art. A Measurable Factor Sets the Conditions of its Operation is at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, from 14-22 September 2013.

The studio includes custom-made furniture by interior and design consultancies Oblong and Design Project, shelves full of project samples, drawers of stock, and paper stack tables designed for comfortable viewing. Open by appointment to anyone with a professional interest in paper, the Imaginative Papers Studio can be accessed from 9.30-17.00 Monday-Friday. There is an exclusive opening of the Fedrigoni Imaginitive Papers Studio on 26 September, 67 Clerkenwell House, Clerkenwell Road, London EC1R 5BL.

PHOTO Chris Tang

In your hands you are holding a publication made from Symbol Tatami 115gsm paper, with a cast-coated Splendorlux 250gsm cover. This exclusive paper is provided by the Italian paper manufacturer Fedrigoni, established in 1888. Symbol Tatami and Splendorlux are only two examples of Fedrigoni’s extensive stock, which can now be experienced in the company’s new Imaginative Papers Studio. Opened in June this year to coincide with Fedrigoni’s 125th anniversary, the Imaginative Papers Studio is located in Clerkenwell, London.


Fedrigoni Imaginative Papers Studio


Disegno. 205



Perfume, Sir? by DesignMarketo “Possession of the odour is the password to the nest,” wrote Paul Shepheard in Artificial Love – A Story of Machines and Architecture (2003). The nest, our unique world, is filled with memory and emotion, and with recent research revealing that cells in the human heart have receptors for smell, Shepheard’s observation feels particularly pertinent. Yet the olfactory world is one still to be fully explored and reconnected with. We quote Proust and yet forget to remember our olfactory power. Perfume, Sir? is set to explore and question how we remember, best use and recalibrate the most powerful sense we have.

Glass vessels by Pia Wüstenberg that let the Poivre 23 evaporate slowly. PHOTO Michael Bodiam SET DESIGN Sarah Parker


And this morning, I clean the studio, I smell the air, the dust. Am I in touch with the past through this sense? Do I literally breathe in the atomisation of the past? I think of the smell of an old book, the chemicals released in those foxed pages and the reaction they start within us. A union of science, memory and time.

Zowie Broach is one of the founders of fashion label Boudicca. Perfume, Sir? is an exhibition by DesignMarketo of specially commissioned objects inspired by the scent Le Labo Poivre 23. It is at Londonewcastle from 17-21 September 2013 as part of the London Design Festival.




Disegno. 1


ADIDAS adidas.com

ALLY CAPELLINO allycapellino.com


ARTEMIDE artemide.com

BERG bergpublishers.com BOOO booo.nl

BOUDICCA boudiccacouture.com

CAMPER camper.com


COHEN AND VAN BALEN cohenvanbalen.com DANIEL RYBAKKEN danielrybakken.com DE PLOEG deploeg.com

DESIGNMARKETO designmarketo.com DESIGN MIAMI designmiami.com DESSO desso.com

DINESEN dinesen.com DURAVIT duravit.com

EMECO emeco.net

FEDRIGONI fedrigoni.com

FISKARHEDENVILLAN fiskarhedenvillan.se FLOS flos.com FLOU flou.it 208 Disegno. INDEX

FOSCARINI foscarini.com

MICHAEL ANASTASSIADES michaelanastassiades.com

GARETH PUGH garethpugh.net

NATEVO natevo.com

GALERIE KREO galeriekreo.com HAY hay.dk

MUJI muji.eu

NITZAN COHEN nitzan-cohen.com

HERMAN MILLER hermanmiller.com

OMA oma.eu

INDUSTRIAL FACILITY industrialfacility.co.uk

PROEF proefdesigns.com

HERMÈS hermes.com

INGO MAURER ingo-maurer.com IRMA BOOM irmaboom.nl

JOCKS&NERDS jocksandnerds.com JONGERIUSLAB jongeriuslab.com

JUDD FOUNDATION juddfoundation.org KNOLL knoll.com

KONSTANTIN GRCIC konstantin-grcic.com LANNOO lannoo.be

LE BOOK lebook.com

LIGNE ROSET ligne-roset.com LUCEPLAN luceplan.com LUDION ludion.be

MAHARAM maharam.com

MARLOES TEN BHÖMER marloestenbhomer. squarespace.com MARY KATRANTZOU marykatrantzou.com

PAUL SMITH paulsmith.co.uk

RIBA architecture.com



SEBASTIAN BERGNE sebastianbergne.com SELFRIDGES selfridges.com

TASCHEN taschen.com

THAMES & HUDSON thamesandhudson.com TOM DIXON tomdixon.net

VITAMINS vitaminsdesign.com VITRA vitra.com

WIEKI SOMERS wiekisomers.com

WRONG FOR HAY wrongforhay.com

YOOX yoox.com

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Disegno #5  

Industrial Facility’s bento boxes for objects • Hermès' Constance Cartable • An alternative take on Marseille’s architecture • The artifice...

Disegno #5  

Industrial Facility’s bento boxes for objects • Hermès' Constance Cartable • An alternative take on Marseille’s architecture • The artifice...