Monthly reads: Nomadic Furniture

History has taught us that the most radical thoughts and gestures are rarely met with approval when they emerge. It is time that gives them value and common appreciation. It should come as no surprise then, that when Victor Papanek first wrote “there are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a few of them” in the introduction of his book Design for the real world, his ideas were not welcomed. He was, in fact, forced to resign from the Industrial Designers Society of America and his work was met with scepticism, if not publicly ridiculed. And yet, 15 years after he passed away, Victor Papanek is now celebrated as one of the most innovative, disruptive and radical design thinkers of all times, while his most celebrated books, Design for the Real World and Nomadic Furniture, still offer inspiration and thoughtful insight on design practice.

Nomadic Furniture was written together with James Henessey and first published in 1973. In the first edition the authors state “No book like this has ever been put together before”, apologizing, thus, for all that is missing. They also quote Gerturde Stein, quoting Picasso saying “when you make a thing, a thing that is new, it is so complicated making it that it is bound to be ugly. But those that make it after you, they don’t have to worry about making it. And they can make it pretty and so everybody can like it when the others make it after you…”, but we can now state that neither these two apologies seem necessary.

Nomadic Furniture appears as a simple book, containing a series of do-it-yourself designs for furniture which “folds, stacks, inflates or knocks down or else is disposable while being ecologically responsible”. It is structured in sections, each of which presents a series of solutions for different necessities: seating, eating and working, storage, sleeping, light, babies and children, together with two special sections on human measurements and hints for working. It is as simple as it is challenging when it teaches us the right proportions of a dining table, while also handing precious advice on how to reduce our possessions without cutting down anything we might actually need. It also gives us hints on how to make our own bean bag, while teaching us how to taste freedom. In fact, it is as much a practical design guidebook as it is a manifesto for a new way of life.

Rujana Rebernjak  
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Style Suggestions: Winter Accessories

Stay warm this season with our choice of winter accessories. Forget your boring black knits and opt for vibrant colours and rich textures.

Gap Gloves, Acne scarf, Pieces Egir ear muffs, Jcrew socks, Tak.Ori, Fresh lip balm, Vintage Chanel

Styling by Vanessa Cocchiaro 

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Haim Steinbach | The Window

The National Gallery of Denmark has just inaugurated The Window, a solo show dedicated to the international acclaimed artist Haim Steinbach (b. 1944, Rehovot, Israel, american citizen since 1962), well-known for his interest in creating new systems through the use of ordinary objects. Leading figure of an art developed during the ‘70s, based on pre-existing material, the artist selects both desirable items and everyday life things, getting them from different fields. Shelves, walls, display cases hosts linear installations made of plastic toys, knick-knacks, wood ledges, panels, steel pipes etc. characterized by methodical and almost obsessive sequences; a personal and unique order that Steinbach investigates to give objects other ways of existing, or other meanings related to their own intrinsic factors combined with diverse frames of references. As he says: “I am taking real objects out of our world — I don’t make them, I don’t have someone to fabricate them, I don’t put a little signature on them, I don’t paint them, I don’t place them upside down and I don’t lick these objects. They’re just objects — you can lift them off the shelf, throw them on the floor, re-arrange them, or even put other objects on the shelf.”

So, how the object is displayed takes on a fundamental role in the artist’s poetic, who prefers heterogeneous combinations connected to social and anthropological aspects, always influenced by emotional parts. Steinbach makes use of minimal art’s strategies where differences and repetitions, along with logical sequences, are highlighted in their aesthetic and structural value. For this exhibition, set up in the x-rummet, the danish museum’s experimental space for contemporary art, the artist gathers artworks from the SMK’s collections, such as a Degas’ dancer or a Matisse’s Interior with Violin, together with common goods, treating all of them as cultural artifacts connected through an unconventional visual and philosophical concept. Changing the common criteria, usually used by museums and art institutions, Steinbach introduces a radical re-think of set-ups, that goes beyond the chronological and thematic boundaries to advance a more spontaneous, but refined approach. The Window will run until 23rd February, 2014.

Monica Lombardi – Pictures courtesy of Jakob Fibiger Andreasen from the SMK press office, pictures © Anders Sune Berg. 
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Hello my name is Paul

Would you believe us if we told you that the very first Paul Smith’s shop was 3 squared metres? Recognized as one of the most successful UK designers, he built a career step-by-step, mostly thanks to both his unique fashion taste and the intuitive approach to the retailer role.

Until March 9th 2014, the Design Museum of London will celebrate his work-life with a special exhibition that aims to be a proper journey inside his original mind. Hello my name is Paul will feature a recreation of the first shop in Byard Lane, Nottingham, alongside a digital room displaying moving images, as well as Smith’s personal office, full of inspirational books, souvenirs from all his travels, bikes, and many other objects.

The show has been curated by Donna Loveday, who said she would like it to become more and more popular since: “He’s constantly doing something new and I think that’s why people are still so interested in him”, a valid reason to go and see the exhibit even for the ones who already know Mr. Smith. The creative path will also showcase some film clips and audio regarding special collaborations and fashion shows, together with the best behind-the-scene moments. A special space to the different and architectural shop structures has been given, too.

Francesca Crippa 
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Design Stores by Famous Designers

When online shopping has been taking the lion’s share of the markets, offline stores have started to change their concepts from the mere commercial destinations. Contemporary flagship stores do not only embody astonishing interiors as a proof of concept, neither they limit to provide an experience to the most demanding fashion victims. Instead, they have become the tangible horizon of our imaginary escapes, a parallel word that goes beyond products, and invests our eagerness in terms of extravagance, extraordinary, thrill. Designers do not miss the chance to give their contribution: one more time, they work as storytellers, providing a narrative plot that is capable to brand a space through inedited architectural solutions.

Peter Marino, the most revered among retail designers, has been working with the great majority of world renown luxury brands. As his most acclaimed project probably remains the “Louis Vuitton Maison” on London’s Bond Street (which is still the largest brand shop in town), a jubilation of golden chainmail and metal scaffoldings wrapping the entire surface of the walls. However, his latest, Chanel’s Avenue Montaigne, is not inferior to his most well-known precedent, combining a linear layout with astonishing, hyperbolic details – like Coco’s oversized pearls hung from the ceiling, or golden tweed wall coverings.

Most often, designers do not limit their collaborations to the world of luxury corporations. Jaime Hayon is a paradigmatic example of a more transversal, eclectic attitude. His versatility, in fact, allows him to respond to the need of exclusivity of niche luxury brands such as Octium Jewellery, while providing informal solutions for footwear giants such as Camper. Usually, the brands going for this strategy do not maintain an exclusivity policy with the designers they choose to work with: getting back to Camper, the Spanish company has demonstrated a special intuition to select the coolest designers around. Nendo, for example, was given carte blanche to redesign Camper’s New York store. While maintaining the white and grey palette, he succeed to give to a modular repetition a witty, yet decorative, effect.

Does great retail design remain a prerogative of luxury brands? Yes in most cases, even with a few notable exceptions confirming the rule. H&M’s flagship store in Barcelona is one of them: designed by Javier Mariscal in 2008, it combines a conscious architectural intervention – an hyper modern, essential steel structure inside the huge XIX century stairwell – with a cheerful, Spanish spirit. More recently, Normal Studio’s work for H&M Home‘s London store proves that also a DIY approach can contaminate the most established corporations retail rules.

Giulia Zappa 
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Style Suggestions: Late Autumn

We have reached that period of the year when we’re bothered by all the extra pieces of clothing we have to put on, in the same time as we’re enjoying that the layers and layers of clothes let us play with our styling creativity. Even though we can feel winter approaching, we are still revelling in the autumn collections: rich colours, heavy accessories and layers playing with light versus hefty fabrics.

All clothes from Roy Roger’s A/W 13-14 – sevenbell.com

Styling by Vanessa Cocchiaro 

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New Romantics

Let’s have a look back to the early 80s and the New Romantics, also known as the Blitz kids. Originally a pop culture movement in the UK, which emerged from night clubs such as The Blitz and Billy’s and other flamboyant fashion boutiques. The eccentric, eclectic fashion style of this time was centered around the “new wave” music scene. Certain bands and musicians, that epitomized the new romantics movement were Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Boy George of Culture Club and David Bowie with his “Ashes to Ashes” hit.

Typical early styling and trends of this movement included frilly fop shirts inspired by the English romantic period, Russian constructivism, clowns and puritans and 1930s cabaret. The New Romantics were a reaction and rejection to punk and the anti-fashion stance, they were a group of young people who wanted to escape the tough economic downturn and find a new way to have fun and create drama and theatre through synthesized pop music and costume.

As with most fashion trends, they come and go and re-emerge in a new way, often only years or decades later. We can see now the re-emergence of the New Romantic style appearing in current fashion trends, made more contemporary by colour and cut, but creating an interesting and more fluid silhouette. So, depending on your style, stepping out of your door Boy George style could be one option or alternatively if you’re less extrovert you could add a frill or draped knot or a pair of peg trousers to your outfit to add the new romantic twist to your day.

Tamsin Cook 
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Guest interview n°50: Giorgia Zanellato

Giorgia Zanellato is a storyteller. Her projects tell stories about our history, our relationship with objects that surround us, how they should be used, looked at and loved. Her projects teach us about beauty, honesty and diversity. Giorgia was born in Venice not so long ago, and this makes us appreciate her work even more. In a country that doesn’t offer much to younger generations, more so if they happen to be industrial designers, Giorgia has managed to find her spot under the sun through dedication, passion and unconditional love for her work.

Where did you study and how has this influenced your work?
I studied Industrial Design at IUAV University, in Venice, and later did a master in Product Design at ECAL, Lausanne. Both schools have taught me fundamentally different things: at IUAV I have learned more about design history, how design should be functional and formally ‘appropriate’, following the traditional notion of “form follows function”. On the other hand, ECAL was more about getting my hands dirty, making stuff and learning how to effectively communicate it. Combined, both approaches gave me the basis for developing my current design process.

If you hadn’t studied design, what do you think you’d be doing today?
I always say that if, for any reason, I should quit working as a designer, I would love to open a flower shop. That is, if I should ever be able to wake up that early in the morning.

What would you say is the most important characteristic of your work?
I am not sure what is the most important characteristic. I do know that I always try to give shape to a story, not only an object. I love to experiment with unconventional materials and finishings, with the idea of creating associations that can tell a story about the object itself, not only about how it should be used.

How would you describe your design process? Is there a ‘recipe’ you always follow?
My inspiration often changes – I can start from images, materials or stories which guide the creation of a narrative, further developed through extensive research. Only at this point I start working on the actual form, a process which could basically last forever, so I really have to find a compromise and learn when and where to stop. The material is a really important part of my process and I never choose it at the end. It is what guides the design process, but I wouldn’t say I always follow the same recipe.

Which one of your projects do you like the most and which one the least and why?
The project I like the most is Stock Collection, developed thanks to Luisa Delle Piane, who invited me to create a collection to exhibit in her gallery during Salone del Mobile 2013. I was totally free and I could experiment with unconventional colours and materials. Luisa gave me the freedom to try something risky and at the same time to be able to use precious materials (such as marble) that I have never used before. The first time I saw the collection was during the opening of the exhibition and I remember that was one of the happiest moments in my work so far. The one I like the least is a project I did before developing Narciso, my collection of mirror vases. It’s called Useful Ornaments and it has the same starting point as Narciso: creating a series of functional vases. I was trying to work with Murano glass blower without knowing exactly what I wanted to obtain so the result was a disaster. But without that project I could never have done Narciso.

You are currently working at Fabrica, could you tell us a bit more about the design studio there, what projects are you working on?
Fabrica Design studio, which is now called “Design Dialogues” is a team of around 12 young designers, coming from different countries, from Japan to Portugal, that work together under the art direction of French designer Sam Baron. I am working there as a consultant and the best part for my work is to constantly have the possibility to share ideas with so many different perspectives and cultures.

What would be your dream project that you haven’t yet had the chance to design?
More than creating a project for someone, it would be creating it with someone. My dream would have been to work with Ettore Sottsass. To work with a ‘master’ would surely be a dream come true, as I consider it the best way to continue learning. I strongly believe in confrontation between people as the best way to improve one’s work.

How do you envision the future development of design? What do you think is the role of design and designers in today’s society?
Design is much wider than only industrial design and design is currently being developed in so many different ways. Smaller companies are being born and designers are also working not only on creating objects, but also on developing new kinds of needs and new kinds of users. Design is becoming much more accessible. I wish there would be a more productive collaboration between companies and young designers where smaller companies would believe more in the role of a designer, especially in Italy.

What is your favourite and what is your least favourite book?
One of my favourite books is “Q” by Luther Blissett, but I also love “Little Prince“, I still like to read it a lot. I don’t actually have a least favourite book, cause if I don’t like a book, I am not able to read it until the end.

Rujana Rebernjak 
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Style Suggestions: Pattern Sweaters

As winter approaches, we see the return of the patterned sweater to keep us warm and fashionable. But there is no room for subtle: this season it’s all about the statement knit. We suggest you have a little fun during the cold months, we certainly did while choosing our favorite pieces.

APC (ORANGE), O’2nd, JW Anderson, Rag and bone, Stella McCartney, ERDEM, Miu Miu, Proenza Schouler

Styling by Vanessa Cocchiaro 

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Artissima 2013

Artissima, the most prominent italian art fair, has just closed its doors after three intense days full of activities impeccably orchestrated for the second time by Sarah Cosulich Canarutto. To celebrate its 20th birthday, the event focused on the importance of experimentation and internationalization, following and accentuating a path already taken in the previous editions.

The fair involved 190 galleries from 40 different countries arranged according to the five usual sections: the Main section, which hosted “big names” of contemporary art such as the hipsters’ art leader, Massimo De Carlo, but also Analix Forever with the unconventional skateboards by Mounir Fatmi, Chert, Gregor Podnar, Eleni Koroneou and her partner/artist Helmut Middendorf, Marie Laure Fleisch, Francesca and Massimo Minini, Lia Rumma, the always good Raffaella Cortese presenting a harmonious overview of her great roster and the discovery of the day, Leto gallery with a curious solo show by Honza Zamojski.

Among the New Entries, we cannot avoid mentioning M+B, Los Angeles – before we said leader, now we can say hipsters’ art king -, BWA Warszawa, Podbielski, On the Move; Present future, the curatorial section dedicated to emerging talents presented by their galleries, with artists such as Josh Faught at Lisa Cooley gallery, Nora Schultz at Isabella Bortolozzi, the french artist Caroline Achaintre (Arcade) and Fatma Bucak (Alberto Peola), who won “ex aequo” the illy Present Future award respectively displaying playful and sinister pot pieces and a humorous video inspired by the Beckett’s theatre; last but not least, Art editions and Back to the Future, the section committed to show artists active during the ‘60s, ‘70s and, from this year, ‘80s that seems to prove itself as one of the most interesting part of the whole fair.

As we started off, Artissima has just ended and in order to make a review, what we can say is that it was neither good nor bad. Yes, it was a clear, perfectly set up edition with a beautiful, super contemporary graphic design that has fully satisfied our aesthetic expectations, but honestly didn’t really thrill us and left a little disappointed. Before leaving Torino, we slipped down the GAM where, from the works by Renoir, to the Vitrine by the young and talented Driant Zeneli, passing through the Ideal Standard Forms curated by Anna Colin and the significant works of the permanent collection, we eventually felt saturated and fulfill; just the time for a glass of wine and then back to Milan. See you next year… maybe!

Monica Lombardi. Pictures courtesy of Piotr Niepsuj 
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