Set up by Benetton in Treviso, Italy in 1994 as a communication research center, Fabrica describes itself as "an applied creativity laboratory [and] talent incubator." If you were at Salone de Mobile earlier this year, you may have seen their impressive presentation for which they asked designers to create 25 objects inspired by the 1930s-era Villa Necchi in Milan. Fabrica is consistently generating good work. Most recently they staged a live performance by Sam Baron in the windows of the Sisley store in Piazza san Babila and created a line of seven outdoor furniture products for an event at the Milano Scala Hotel.
Fabrica has a proven eye not only for remarkably beautiful and minimal design, but also for color. Take "Objet Colore," a system of store display fittings for Benetton's retail locations. All the pieces are modular and customizable so they can be used in any store around the world. And like the company's full title ("United Colors of...") suggests, the items are bright, bold and lively blocks of green, red, yellow and blue.
Another collection exhibited as part of their presentation at Salone del Mobile that's worth calling attention to is their limited edition collection of glassware for Secondome gallery. Eight pieces by seven designers include vases, vessels and more unusual pieces like Catarina Carreiras' "Necklaces," a set of two to three vases strung together like gem stones on a gold chain. The pieces can be hung on a wall or set on a table. The most successful pieces in the collection—in my opinion—are by Scottish designer Dean Brown. His "Uplifting" series of carafes for chianti, prosecco, balsamic vinegar and olive oil (his specifications, not mine) create the illusion of suspended animation. The larger carafes operate as normal, with a handle, while the oil and vinegar vessels are set into a larger glass stand and lifted with a smaller, looped handle.
Keep tabs on the other exciting projects coming out of Fabrica, including two short films and a calendar/yearbook. You can also apply to be part of their creative design incubator.
Z Step, the latest project by Amsterdam-based designer Michael Schoner, is an ingenious retail display system based on measures of 33cm (about 13 inches). Each powder coated sheet metal unit is comprised of different 'steps,' each measuring 33 cm. The units can be combined in a surprisingly large variety of ways, and because they're magnetic they can be customized with hooks, knobs, pins, brackets (or anything stuck to a magnet) to hold and display books, clothing, food or literally any object. I love that it's a minimal, unobtrusive design that allows the user to personalize it to fit their space and suit their taste.
Schoner just completed the manufacturing in March and so far I've only seen the unit in white, but hopefully he'll come out with colored versions soon. Z step is currently on exhibition at Depot Basel until this Wednesday, July 11, 2012.
The design of subway stations generally sucks, with a few global exceptions. The Line 11 platform at the Arts et Metier metro stop, in Paris, is the most beautiful subway station I've ever been in. These are two shots I took of it in 2005.
The steampunk-style station had been redesigned that way in 1994 by Francois Schuiten, and though the photos may not convey it well, the copper lining the walls gives the space a warm glow you don't often find underground.
It's that warm unearthly light that makes Arts et Metier beautiful, at least to me. But I'd settle for earthly light, or anything besides fluorescent bulbs, to pretty up a station. The winning entry in a recent design competition in Tel Aviv, for instance, shows us what a subway could look like if lit by the sun.
Los Angeles' Staples Center had an unusual situation over the weekend: Both of L.A.'s basketball teams made the playoffs, as did their hockey team, requiring six playoff games in four days, all on the same floor. Staffers transformed the Center from Kings-branded ice hockey rink to Lakers-branded basketball court to Clippers-branded basketball court and back again over the course of four days:
That process is not unique; virtually every city with a stadium and teams from different leagues performs this routine, with transformation times (depending on crew size and efficiency) ranging from a blistering 90 minutes to a full day. The question is, how do they go from ice to parquet and back again? This video of the Verizon Center in Washington, DC being transformed provides a better view:
While not as intricate as floors done by Benjamin Lai (see some here and here) and without the found-object quality of Piet Hein Eek's furniture, interior design brand Jamie Beckwith has still managed to breath some new life into wood. Specifically through tiles.
The Jamie Beckwith Enigma Collection of floor tiles throws geometry at the problem of boring floors, providing over a dozen different shapes that add a visual effect trumping conventional parquet. They also just about guarantee the contractor will hate you.
Danish architectural practice 3XN launched their internal "Innovation Unit" called GXN in 2007 with the goal "to develop a building culture that positively affects the world in which we live both architecturally and environmentally" (the 'G,' of course, stands for 'green'). Their latest project fits nicely with our March editorial theme of Food Design, the increasingly fertile intersection of the two creative pursuits: Copenhagen's NOMA—which (if you don't know by now) was voted the Best Restaurant in the World for the second year in a row—invited them to design the interior of the new NOMA Food Lab.
In fact, we had the opportunity to meet the brilliant René Redzepi, founder and executive chef of NOMA at the Design Indaba Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. Of the collaboration with 3XN/GXN, he said, "We have been happy to work with GXN on the transformation of our former meeting rooms. The result is great and has contributed to not only the space, but also organizational life and inspiration."
NOMA Lab's interior fixtures (no connection to Noma Bar's Wallpaper covers) presented a challenge from the outset: the facilities are housed in "a former warehouse on the national registry of protected buildings. The tight restrictions meant that GXN was required to design the interior without using so much as one single nail in the walls or flooring." Thus, the design team had to literally work around the existing space:
The approach was to design four central multi-functional storage units; each composed from over five hundred uniquely formed wooden cubes. Curving playfully throughout the space, these units divide the 200m2 room into smaller areas accommodating the Food Lab, the herb garden, staff areas and office. Raw and simple, through colours and forms, it captures a unique Nordic aesthetic. True to the restaurant's philosophy, the NOMA Lab is developed exclusively using Nordic materials.
Just because you work from home doesn't mean you should be lying on the couch in your pj's til noon. Sure, it can also mean that—no judging—for some professions fuzzy slippers just don't count as proper work attire, whether you commute to an office or to your dining room table. In fact, the latest project from Synthesis Design + Architecture proves that even small home spaces can be snazzy, at least if you have $11,000. That's what it cost to turn a London investment advisor's home office, a modest 8' x 11' room, into a sleek, CNC-milled birch work space.
At last year's Interior Design Show in Toronto, Ikea pulled the sheets off of their bold country kitchen look, an aesthetic departure from the blonde-wood kitchens with which their showrooms had become associated. The kitchen won the show's Gold Booth Award and our entry on it quickly caught Facebook fire.
At this year's IDS, the design pendulum has swung the other way: Ikea's display kitchen features a distinctly sleek and modern look, one reportedly inspired by "the classic fashion combination of a black dress and pearls." In sharp contrast to last year's kitchen, where pots, pans, and kitchen storage objects were all made visible, this year's kitchen design renders most objects invisible, tucking them away behind glossy surfaces. In a second nod to the fashion world the backsplash tiles are meant to evoke patent leather quilted handbags and the island has received special focus.
The original philosophy was to extend the life of the beautiful oak barrels, that would other wise have ended up as landfill, and manufacture solid wood parquet flooring from the staves and lids. Having achieved this to much acclaim we were still left with plenty of usable prime oak from the many staves that were unsuitable for converting into the thin flat strip flooring. We have now introduced Whisky Barrel Cobbles to the Whisky Barrel Flooring range.
Taking inspiration from the gentle curve of the contours of a whisky barrel we noticed the likeness to traditional granite cobble sets that once paved the streets or our native Glasgow. By cutting the staves down to hand sized blocks and applying some finishing and staining we've replicated the cobble look for use indoors utilising the authentic the casks cast off by the Scottish Whisky Industry.
Glasgow's Bruadar bar is among the first watering holes to boast a rustic oaky interior courtesy of McKay's.
This Friday Apple opens its new retail space in New York City's Grand Central Terminal and it is huge. This morning Core77 got a sneak peek of the place, and while we initially thought it would only occupy the area above the stairs on the East Balcony, we were wrong. The 23,000-square-foot space wraps around the north end of the Main Concourse, going all the way to the escalators for those of you familiar with the terminal, and extends into rooms on the south end.
I'd wondered how Apple was going to deal with the lighting issues in the cavern-like Main Concourse, where the terminal's lighting is many stories above the floor; what they've done is outfit the tables with slender LED bars which, whether by design or coincidence, resemble smaller versions of the overhead lighting.
Since the store is located within a bustling train station, it will open at 7am for the convenience of commuters; other train-station-specific touches feature an Express Shopping counter facing the store's entrance, so harried train-takers who don't need to browse can quickly grab exactly what they came for, and special 15-minute Express Classes in using Apple gear are being scheduled around rush hour times.
Then there's Apple's recent push to create an experience where you needn't interact with a store employee if you don't want to, or are simply in a rush. An army of clerks were on hand to give EasyPay demos; I went to video one but it was literally over before I got the camera set up. You pick up an item, scan it with your iPhone/iPod Touch, punch in your iTunes password, then walk out with the thing. That's it. I asked the clerk how they'd prevent theft, and he said someone would check a receipt (presumably a digital one on your device) as you left the store.
With 750,000 people traipsing through Grand Central daily, the Apple Store is expected to draw huge revenue and boost traffic through surrounding businesses. It opens this Friday at (an uncharacteristically late) 10am.
For their latest project, the Mexico City-based strategic design firm was invited, along with eight other designers, to develop a kitchen concept—another topic that we've seenlately—to showcase the appliance offerings of Mabe. Villarreal and his partner Michel Rojkind arrived at "Rehilite," Spanish for pinwheel, a culinary workstation with four 'wings,' each with its own dedicated function: compost/harvest, preparing, cooking, eating.
As opposed to a regular kitchen that uses the walls to allocate all the storage and working space, AGENT's concept concentrates all the action in a central island with the 4 wings. As an experimental yet visionary proposal, the concept presents new opportunities to generate architectural spaces from the inside-out, where eating, cooking and farming happen at the same central space of a house. Aesthetically, the concept was inspired by the dynamism and cyclic movement of the Pin Wheel.
The team at AGENT underscored the differences between the purpose of each station with their choice of materials: Corian for the preparation & compost/harvest stations, stainless steel for the cooking station, and wood for the dining area. "The stations also include storage space and units for the elements required on each phase."
The premise, is that beyond looking at the actions of preparing, cooking, eating and waste management as separated events (sometimes even happening at different zones of the house), these have to be understood as interdependent stages of a larger cycle. The idea is also to shorten the gap between food and its origin, bringing a compost/harvest station to the same room where food is prepared, cooked and eaten.
The cycle includes 5 phases: 1) growing and harvesting vegetables and herbs, 2) preparing, 3) Cooking, 4) Eating, and finally 5) reintegrating organic residuals to the compost bin (which later becomes fertilized dirt to seed again). The sinks, having the most recurrent function in all stages, are located at the center of the island.
Designing with white is not for the faint of heart. In addition to the sheer maintenance required of a white environment, the absence of color brings form sharply to the forefront, meaning you can think of, love or criticize nothing else.
Linda O'Keeffe, the former Creative Director of Metropolitan Home magazine, has assembled a photo-heavy tome called BRILLIANT: White in Design that "explores the full spectrum of colors and characteristics inherent in white, exploring how it is used and viewed in art, design, architecture and nature."
Containing more than 250 photographs showcasing a wide range of residences, retail stores, hotels, spas and offices worldwide, Brilliant: White in Design considers the different aspects of white, a color with unmatched versatility, in a collage of text and imagery. The angelic sister of beige, white is at once stark and glamorous, marrying design styles from different eras and sensibilities flawlessly....
Brilliant is a testament to a color that has retained vibrant appeal throughout the centuries, yet remains prominent in the architecture and design of the present. The book contains projects from across the globe, including France, Japan, Spain, England, Mexico, Canada, South Africa, and the United States. Featured architects and designers include Orlando Diaz-Azcuy, Barbara Barry, Tony Duquette, Anouska Hempel, Zaha Hadid, Syrie Maugham, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Richard Meier, Juan Montoya, Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, Hugh Newell Jacobsen, Jean Nouvel, Oscar Niemeyer, John Pawson, Andree Putman, David Rockwell, Philippe Starck, Kelly Wearstler, Marcel Wanders and Vicente Wolf. Brilliant also celebrates both up-and-coming and established artists such as Lynn Davis, Andy Goldsworthy, Ann Hamilton, Robert Ryman, Martha Schwartz, John Waters and Rachel Whiteread.
The book is being released today, and should be available at the link above.
IkeaMalaysia has started posting a series of videos featuring their interior designers giving tips on how to squeeze every last inch—sorry, centimeter—out of a living space. It's no surprise the videos come from an Asian branch of Ikea and not the U.S. one, as your average spoiled-for-space Yank would find the sizes of the rooms pretty alien: A 40-square-meter (430 sq. ft.) apartment; an 11-square-meter (118 sq. ft.) combo bedroom/living room (not shown below, but viewable at the link at bottom); and most impressively, a 2.7-square-meter (29 sq. ft.) bathroom that still has room for laundry facilities, including an overhead drying rack that lifts up to the ceiling when not in use.
We dig the videos because they go beyond traditional advertising, espousing principles that are simple and sensible independent of whether you buy from Ikea. In a nutshell, they are: When you don't have space to go outwards, go upwards; find objects that can do double-duty; repurpose pieces to your needs.
I love the forced perspective of the multilevel fluorescent bulbs and their contrast against the blackness of the space. And while I can't speak with authority on what the exact design inspiration was, the room will undoubtedly remind Star Wars fans of something....
The Prouvé RAW collection by G-Star for Vitra made it's US debut during New York Fashion Week at Vitra's showroom in the Meatpacking District. Looking something like a designer skate park, the pieces are presented museum-style mounted to angled surfaces which elevate the furniture to eye height allowing visitors to get up close and appreciate construction details that would otherwise easily be missed.
G-Star's contemporary update to seventeen Jean Prouvé classics launched earlier this year at Art Basel and while we're the first to be skeptical when a fashion company takes on furniture, this collection plays to the strengths of both brands and is an extremely well executed tribute the French designer's legacy. Nine pieces from the collection are available for pre-order in the States, and will go on sale late October.