Unboxed Homes unveils "London's first custom-build homes"

Blenheim Grove by Poulsom Middlehurst

Developer Unboxed Homes has created a terrace of customisable homes in Peckham, south London, which were designed by architecture studio Poulsom Middlehurst.

Described by the developer as “London’s first custom-build homes”, the houses on Blenheim Grove were designed to be sold as structural shells so that people buying the properties could customise the interior layouts and finishes.

Blenheim Grove housing
Poulsom Middlehurst has designed a terrace of custom-build homes in south London for developer Unboxed Homes

“We believe that we are the first to offer ‘new build shells’ to Londoners,” said Unboxed Homes founder Gus Zogolovitch.

“We are not trying to maximise our returns at Blenheim Grove, we are trying to make something new,” he told Dezeen.

“Building an airtight, watertight, structurally sound shell which has the flexibility for customers to design a space that works for them.”

Houses alongside train track in Peckham
The three-storey houses were built alongside a railway track

Each of the three-storey houses was designed by Poulsom Middlehurst so that a variety of layouts could be created within the split-level buildings.

Unboxed Homes could then sell them either as raw weathertight structures or as finished homes.

The developer believes that the partially finished homes give buyers the flexibility of a self-build home, but without much of the associated hassle.

Custom-build homes in Peckham
The homes can be sold as structural shells

“There are literally millions of people who would like to self-build their own home,” said Zogolovitch. “However, this remains really hard.”

“The idea of Blenheim Grove was to make it easier for people to self-build by having us do a lot of the work for them,” he continued.

Shell of London home
The houses were designed to have flexible interiors

The homes are an example of a slowly emerging trend for customisable homes, said Zogolovitch.

“Custom build is when a developer gets involved in the process of a self-commissioned home,” he said.

“In our case at Blenheim Grove, we have built the shell, in other cases in other parts of the country, customers buy serviced plots and then build their own homes,” he continued.

“Custom build has the opportunity and chance to make self-build a reality for many hundreds of thousands if not millions more people.”

Custom-build homes
Buyers can choose layouts and fixtures

The five houses, two of which have now been split into apartments, stand alongside a railway track near Peckham Rye Station.

As the site narrows, the smallest house is nearest the station with the largest at the other end of the terrace.

The homes were built in light brick and each have a sunken outdoor space alongside the road and a large terrace between the second and third floors.

“We wanted to create a terrace of shells, which we felt struck the right balance between leaving the owner with enough scope to be creative and to fit it out themselves and yet to remove a lot of the headaches of self-building,” said Zogolovitch.

Interior of custom-built home
Unboxed Homes founder Gus Zogolovitch believes custom-build homes could help solve the housing crisis

Although Zogolovitch is extremely positive about the benefits of custom-build housing, building the terrace at Blenheim Grove was delayed by several years.

“The development has taken far longer than expected,” said Zogolovitch.

“The complexity of what we are doing, while simple to explain, is completely new in the development landscape,” he said.

“This means that every single person on the project had to operate at the top of their game – sadly our industry is rife with people who take little pride in what they do and we had to deal with lots of problems on site. This led to delays which led to customers dropping out of the project.”

Brick housing in Peckham
The delayed development is now complete

To date, Unboxed Homes has sold four of the houses, including the two that were split into apartments.

“We have now finished the shells and have sold four – with just one home remaining, which we will be fitting out to a basic specification – the idea being that people want space not specification – it’s another experiment!”

Terrace of houses next to Peckham Rye Station
Four of the five terraced houses have sold

Despite the issues on the project, Zogolovitch believes that custom build could be one solution to supply the houses needed in the UK.

“We are unquestionably in a housing crisis – not only do we build poor quality poorly designed homes, but they are also environmentally damaging and very poor value for money,” he said

“If we want to change the hegemony of the volume house-builders we need to create houses that are fit for 21st-century living,” he continued.

“It is by putting the power of choice into the hands of the occupier that we will break the crisis.”


Project credits

Developer: Unboxed Homes
Architect: Poulsom Middlehurst
QS: Measur
Engineering: Michael Barclay Partnership

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This electric screwdriver can be used manually too, making it the perfect addition to your toolkit



The Hybro H400’s “unsleek” design isn’t without reason. It comes with an ergonomic body that you wouldn’t associate with “sleek slim metallic” electric screwdrivers, although that ergonomically designed grip actually makes it easy to use manually too. The screwdriver comes with an easy-to-grip design, interchangeable heads, a simplified interface, and can be used both manually or electrically to tighten/loosen screws.

Designers: Park Ji Won, Tylor Lee & Yang Tae Jun

Click Here to Buy Now: $39 $69 (43% off). Hurry, exclusive deal for YD readers only!

Just hold the smart screwdriver and it will do all the hard work for you.

A perfect addition to any toolkit, the H400 lets you easily transition from manual tooling to electrically powered tooling. A small but powerful 350 RPM motor (that’s twice as fast as other electric screwdrivers) on the inside lets you rotate the screw’s head in any direction, while even being able to adjust torque on the fly. The variable torque covers a wide range of uses, offering lower torque for small delicate electronics, and much higher torque for things like assembling your IKEA furniture.

Two LED lights on the front help you see while you’re working too, and a 1,000 mAh battery that lasts for weeks – and if it does run out, you can either charge the H400 via MicroUSB, or just keep using it as an analog screwdriver, letting you get the work done either which way.

Easily switch between manual use and electric use.

Digitally control the torque setting to fit your needs.

The H400 comes with an entire kit, with 17 interchangeable heads including Phillips, Flat, Hex, and Torx heads, and even two extension heads for reaching into hard-to-reach spots. The heads/bits are all crafted from high-quality steel, offering better durability over time. The Hybro H400 sports a rubberized grip, making it easy to use manually, and its simple 2-button interface allows you to trigger the electric motor to run either clockwise or anticlockwise. Under the hood, H400’s gearbox is built to be incredibly robust, allowing it to work electrically but also enabling it to take on the stress of manual analog use.

The base of the H400 comes with a loop that you can use to hook your screwdriver onto your toolshed’s wall, and the kit even supplies a coiled lanyard with a carabiner clip, so you can secure your screwdriver to your belt loop while working, making it easy to access when you need. Conversely, the H400 comes with a nifty foam-lined tool-case that you can store in your workshop, home, office, or even your car.

Click Here to Buy Now: $39 $69 (43% off). Hurry, exclusive deal for YD readers only!

How an engineering detail from 1892 became this fidget pen’s most exciting feature


You probably don’t need me to remind you of the phrase “Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey”. Chances are, it automatically plays in your head whenever you’re turning a faucet, screwing a bolt, or just about working with pretty much anything that has threading on it… but there is a marvel of engineering that defies this notion – it’s called the dual-threaded screw. Discovered and popularized in 1892, the dual-threaded screw is famous for the fact that it supports both clockwise and anti-clockwise nuts.

Designer: MetMo Design

Click Here to Buy Now: $99. Hurry, less than 72 hours left!

Challenging the notion of ‘righty tighty lefty loosey’, dual-threaded screws let you use nuts that tighten in either direction. You could ask an engineer what the practical application of such a screw is, although from my own personal experience of watching mechanical videos on YouTube, it’s definitely interesting and baffling to see how you can tighten this unique screw in practically any direction you want. If you’re having trouble visualizing it, the MetMo pen brings that unique engineering detail to your office stationery set.

The MetMo Pen (short for Metal in Motion) is a metal pen with a machined outer body, featuring the unique dual-thread design. Created for the fidget-enthusiast and the curious-at-heart, the pen comes with two nuts that screw onto it, and lets you experience the quirky joy of watching how this crazy little concept works.

With its machined metal body (featuring the diamond-shaped dual thread design), the MetMo pen is as visually beautiful as it’s tactile. Equipped with a Parker-style refill on the inside, the pen is a sheer pleasure to write with, but its highlight is definitely its unique fidget-feature.

Each MetMo comes with two nuts (that rotate in reverse directions). Made entirely from metal with carefully considered tolerances, these nuts turn the MetMo into the ultimate fidget toy, allowing you to slide them around, move them up and down, flick them with your thumb, and watch them as they rotate in opposite directions, but travel up or down the pen in the same direction.

The MetMo even comes with its own threaded case that lets you easily rotate to either conceal or reveal the entire pen. I’m realizing more and more that words don’t do justice to exactly how bonkers fun the MetMo is, so just go ahead and look at the pictures below or the video above!

The pen comes in two variants – machined either from solid aluminum or solid brass. Both are equally well-balanced (and are a pleasure to hold and write with) although the aluminum weighs a mere 31.5g (1.1 ounces) while the brass variant is much heavier at 92.7g (3.2 ounces) for a more premium, weighted writing experience.

The pen measures 150mm in length and fits all standard parker-type refills. The tip of the pen retracts in too (by rotating the base), and paired along with the two nuts, makes for an incredibly addictive tactile experience that’ll keep you occupied for hours! The aluminum Metmo pen costs $104 while the brass pen has a price tag of $142 – they ARE made from solid metal, after all, with no glue or plastic parts (which means they’re designed to last longer too). For an additional $34, you can even get yourself the add-on brass case for the MetMo!

Click Here to Buy Now: $99. Hurry, less than 72 hours left! Raised over $200,000.

Apple TV with built-in power plug features MagSafe charger to wireless power its iPhone-style remote

An Apple TV concept that reimagines the set-top box with a wall socket and MagSafe charger integrated. It is paired with an iPhone-inspired remote which is more ergonomic and convenient to use.

Apple this year revealed the second-generation Apple TV 4K, which on appearance itself was an ordinary setup like the previous generations, without any change in design. The biggest highlight, therefore, was not the Apple TV itself, but the remote provided with it. With differences in design, layout and color from the predecessor, the Apple TV remote complemented the refined set of features provided by the Apple TV 4K. Now a designer feels that the refreshed remote, the set-top box’s high refresh rate and Dolby Vision inclusion in the Apple TV were not enough; a more integrated unit is desired!

In this vein, designer, Iván Antón has come up with an Apple TV 2021 concept, which comes with a wall plug built-in. Now that’s full marks for the compact build, but the practicality is debatable until we have something like this to use. Taking nothing away from the vision, I’m impressed with the concept of Apple TV’s ability to interact with Siri without the need of a remote. Furthermore, the new concept also integrates the MagSafe charger into the Apple TV unit, so the compatible remote can now be charged conveniently by sticking it to the back of the set-top box.

Apple TV is a nice-looking device, but despite its neat appearance, it is still subject to wire clutter. With a built-in wall plug, the Apple TV concept removes the need of a power cable, and thus the power cable slot from the bottom of the device has also vanished. Now you only have an Ethernet and an HDMI port. On the front is the MagSafe charger with the Apple logo in the bang center.

Other than the reimagined Apple TV, the designer has also rethought the remote. The Apple TV 2021 concept comes with an iPhone 13-esque remote control. It is divided into two halves – the top featuring a trackpad (to scroll through the menu) and the bottom section featuring two sizable Menu and Home buttons. The volume rocker and the Siri buttons are moved to the sides, while the back of the device features MagSafe. The remote can cling onto the Apple TV box and recharge effortlessly.

This conceptual Apple TV is nothing remarkable from the word go, but I really like it for the integrated wall socket, which makes the set-top box look a little ordinary, but will go a long way in minimizing wires around the TV set. Additionally, the iPhone-style remote with the ability to wireless charge from the Apple TV unit itself is something Apple can take note of!

Designer: Iván Antón

Scalloped parapet tops Byben & Skeens' whimsical studio in Los Angeles

Stiff Peaks by Byben and Skeens

A scalloped roofline defines this playful backyard studio that Los Angeles architects Byben & Skeens completed for a writer and filmmaker to have a “solitary space for creation”.

The compact project replaces a derelict shack in the steeply terraced back yard of a new homeowner’s property in LA’s Echo Park neighbourhood.

A small garden outside
White stucco walls wrap the small writing studio

“The previous owner decorated the backyard in a lyrical antique style, with circuitous crumbling stairs winding up the hill and a hand-made shack on the brink of collapse,” explained architects Byben & Skeens.

“Inspired by the whimsical setting, the client wanted to replace it with a writing studio and guest house that evoked the past but was firmly contemporary.”

The building has arched openings
The interiors are neutral, with touches of colour added through textiles

The 480-square-foot (45-square-metre) building is rendered in white stucco, with arched openings that recall the Art Deco style that can be found all over LA.

It contains a single room that the client uses as a writing studio or occasional guest house, with a toilet at the back.

“To the west a full-length skylight illuminates the room, the light modulated and diffused by a curved wall sweeping into the space below,” said Byben & Skeens.

Stiff Peaks
The wood-framed windows and doors have arched tops

Two separate entrances lead into the building: one from the back yard, where large double doors allow the interior to be open to the elements; the other from the street.

This allows the owner to invite clients or collaborators over without needing to go through the main house.

The project makes the most of its steep site, which offers it a degree of separation from the owner’s home below.

“The arched windows and doors avoid views into the house to focus on the surrounding trees and sky, creating a sense of escape and immersion in nature,” the architects explained

The slope also facilitated building in theatre-like seating outside the building’s double, doors, allowing the owner to put on small plays in the yard, or to sit and work with rehearsing actors.

A wooden raised deck
A deck with bleacher-style seating is installed on the roof

Towards the back of the property, an exterior staircase leads to the roof, which overlooks the home below and enjoys views of the LA skyline beyond.

“A sun deck is bound by the peaks and arches of the crown-like parapet of the building,” said the architects. “Facing East, the deck has an intimate interior feeling produced by the dappled light of a closely overhanging tree canopy while to the South and West, it provides clear views of downtown LA.”

Still Peaks by Byben & Skeens
The studio sits between the main house and the street, and can be accessed from both sides

Small buildings like this, which are sometimes known as accessory dwelling units (ADUs) when they contain a bathroom and kitchenette, have long been prevalent in Los Angeles, where the relatively large land parcels and high cost of living have driven up demand for accommodation.

In recent years, the trend has accelerated, as the city has offered incentives to homeowners to build these structures in an effort to make more housing available.

Arched openings on the studio
A scalloped parapet tops the accessory dwelling unit, also known as an ADU

Those working on replicable ADUs for LA include a startup called Cover, which uses proprietary software to create a design suited to a specific site, and architects SO-IL, which unveiled a prefabricated, flower-shaped design earlier this year.

The photography is by Taiyo Watanabe.

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Listen Up

From a languid love song to an exhilarating electro-pop collaboration and more, new music this week

Hyd: Skin 2 Skin

“Skin 2 Skin” is a song “for the ponies of the world,” says Hayden Dunham in a statement about her electric new single, released under the moniker Hyd. The song, the interdisciplinary artist continues, “asserts that you get to be in your body on your own terms.” Produced and co-written by Caroline Polachek, the track’s breathy ASMR, electro-pop melodies and evocative lyrical imagery amount to an anthem of radical self-empowerment, promising that Hyd’s forthcoming EP (out 5 November) about cultivating queer relationships will be just as thrilling and tectonic.

Cruza: Groove Therapy

Orlando-based three-piece Cruza (Adam Kain, Charity Joy Brown and AJ Roth) combines R&B, psych and rock on the chopped and screwed “Groove Therapy.” The tune features soulful, slightly raspy vocals by Kain that work perfectly with the languid, woozy beat.

Silas Short: ROOMS

From soulful Chicago-based singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Silas Short, the track “ROOMS” infuses an undercurrent of classic R&B with beautiful contemporary nuance and gentle alt-music influence. It’s the third single released from his forthcoming debut EP, Drawing, out 1 October on Stones Throw Records. In the official music video, director Ross Harris captures Short in his creative element.

Jus + Georgia Anne Muldrow: Ease

Musician and producer Jus teamed up with singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Georgia Anne Muldrow for the lovely, slow-burning track, “Else.” Released on Melbourne-based Inner Tribe Records, the jazzy, languid jam feels free-styled, but the arrangement and production are polished.

Else (feat. Georgia Anne Muldrow) by Jus.

Dijon: Many Times

“Many Times” by Dijon “recreates the intense energy of the recording process,” the LA-based artist says in a statement. Sonically, this translates to a single reminiscent of a jam session, from converging guitar tracks to Dijon’s urgent vocals and a jazzy piano bridge. The action-packed nature of the song is manifested through the music video’s experimental point of view, which puts viewers over the shoulder of a passionate and jerky Dijon as he records with friends. The video, directed by Jack Karaszewski, flashes the lyrics haphazardly across the scene, capturing the dichotomy of Dijon’s newest release: chaotic yet harmonious.

Rosa Linn + Kiiara: KING

The compelling debut track from 21-year-old Vanadzor, Armenia-based recording artist Rosa Linn, “KING,” finds the pop talent collaborating with renowned singer-songwriter Kiiara. “I want my music to have a message and as soon as I wrote ‘KING,’ I knew it had to be my first release,” Linn says in a statement. “It addresses the political undertones between Russia and America and I’m thankful to have Kiiara share her/the American perspective of what fame is like.” The release, which includes parts sung in Russian and English, is the first from the new music label Nvak Collective—which focuses on underrepresented voices globally.

Listen Up is published every Sunday and rounds up the new music we found throughout the week. Hear the year so far on our Spotify channel. Hero image courtesy of Cruza

Bring your yard to life with these products designed to transform your backyard into the ultimate fun space!

In these pandemic-stricken times, we find ourselves spending more and more time at home. However, sitting in the same old four walls of our bedroom can become quite boring, and sometimes the only fresh air we really get is when we step out into our yards. Although we shouldn’t underestimate our backyards, they can be locations of major fun, recreation, and relaxation…depending on how we do them up! How about turning your backyard into an ideal date spot for you and your partner, or hosting a barbecue party with the best grill in the market? We’ve curated a collection of product designs to help you transform these exciting ideas into a reality! These products will turn your yard into the ultimate relaxation destination. We bet you won’t want to step out of your yard, once you introduce these products to it! From single-use shipping containers repurposed into swimming pools to a tiny backyard home/office – these designs will majorly transform your humble backyard!

Dubbing them “the world’s cardboard boxes,” Rathnam felt inspired to build the pools as a means of giving the discarded shipping containers new purpose and new life to backyards. The shipping containers are purchased by Rathnam after goods are shipped to North America from China since they would otherwise just be discarded and not reused for shipping purposes. Depending on your backyard and its building parameters, Modpools can be customized to fit.

You don’t have to be an architect to want to build a bamboo structure of your own thank to the ‘Zome building kit’ by Giant Grass! The studio has made a DIY kit that is basically a larger-than-life LEGO project which can live in your backyard or be scaled up to create a community space. The ‘zome’ is a flexible space that can be used by children to hang out in the backyard, like a gazebo for you to entertain guests in, a greenhouse for seedlings, a creative space in the office, a quiet space for yoga at home, or a glamping tent – it can be anything you want it to be. This DIY kit is perfect for those who want to live sustainability and enjoy working on projects which result in a productive reward.

Boasting an enameled steel construction, the Noori V02 AIRY is a multifunctional outdoor grill, pizza oven, rocket stove, and a fire pit – all in one! Not to mention, it’s probably one of the best-looking grills I’ve seen in a long time, it’ll be the perfect visual accessory to your backyard. The grill consists of six refractory concrete internal plates. These plates + an AIRY cylinder make up the grill’s innovative AIRY system (which also gives the product its name). This basically means that to set up an open fire, you simply need to remove a few refractory plates from within the AIRY cylinder, which instantly exposes the flames, creating the mesmerizing flame dance we all love to watch in an open fire!

Wool has a pretty good reputation as an insulating material, but you don’t instantly think of wool being used to keep something cool. Sure, woolen sweaters, mitts, socks, caps, they’re all used to trap your body heat and keep you warm, but with insulation, the inverse is true too! Meet the Wooly Eco-Friendly Cooler, an outdoor cooler that uses eco-friendly wool (as opposed to chemical insulants) to keep your cool drinks cool… and as an added bonus, it comes with a lid that doubles up as a charcuterie board so you can pair your wine with a few cold cuts of meat and some eclectic cheeses, or your beers with some chips and dip and a couple of cocktail nuts too!

The main appeal of a tiny home remains privacy and mobility, both of which are answered by the DROP office. While most tiny homes focus on setting up the place for a single owner, DROP provides two comfortable and fully equipped home offices. The dimensions of the cabin match that of a shipping container, the design is built and ‘dropped’ onto the site of your choice, reducing the environmental impact of construction! Need a break from work? The outdoor deck and fully openable windows allow you to immerse in your surroundings. With one fair-sized panoramic bedroom, three-piece bathroom, and fully-equipped kitchen – the cabin is yours for rest as well as work.

Adam Cornish’s Wooden Hammock challenges the notion that Hammocks need to be built from flexible materials like cloth or rope. It instead, comes with a series of wooden strips, suspended together by rope, with rubber members between the wooden pieces to spread them out and prevent them from rubbing against one another. Ultimately, designed to be a rest for your spine, the Wooden Hammock takes inspiration from it, using a series of wooden vertebrae to achieve flexibility! The hammock comes manufactured from plantation-grown Accoya plywood, letting it have the same strength as regular wood but with lesser ecological impact.

As things are beginning to ease down a bit and everyone is seeking a way to detox in the greenery all around, UENOA architects have designed GREEN BASE, a minimal structure ideal for socializing, work remotely, and other exciting activities. The design of see-through structure was headed by architects Yoshinori Hasegawa and Fumei Horikoshi who on request of the farmer wanted to design on the green land something that reciprocates with the pandemic lifestyle and lets people enjoy farmland activities. The likes of cooking the harvested vegetables from the farmland itself or having a warm evening gathering after a day’s hard work. The farmer had one strict requirement for the building structure, for it to be “technically reproducible and inexpensive to make’. Thus the architects used vinyl cladding material which also doubled as a way to keep the building transparent for people sitting inside to have a clear view of nature outside.

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QubeStove’s new rotating pizza oven dons a heavy gauge stainless steel coat that shines with all the possibilities of different pizza pies. The heavy gauge stainless steel looks clean and packs a punch, but it also establishes the oven’s long-lasting durability and ability to retain a lot of heat (that’s upwards of 1,000℉). A high-temperature, ceramic glass door both allows users to check on their food without opening the oven and covers the woodfire, inner mechanics. Once the oven’s hot enough and after you’ve decided on your pizza toppings, garlic marinara, cheddar cheese, seared pineapple (maybe), some fresh basil, you can slide it right onto the oven’s rotating pizza stone and watch the magic happen.

I want this Hanging Lounger by KODAMA in my own backyard ASAP. It’s a comfy nook to snuggle in with your favorite book or to simply take a power nap in the afternoon. You can also spend some quality time with your friends, family, and pets in the lounger.

Parsonson Architects created the Herald Garden Studio – a functional, flexible, freestanding 183-square-foot structure that sits in your backyard to accommodate all those growing pains! The studio includes office space, a bathroom, storage space at the rear, a play area , and a guest bed in the loft up the ladder. The loft is a cozy private corner and has a net panel in front for safety for children/pets. The studio has a number of windows on the upper level to let in natural light. Wooden beams set in a triangular arrangement make the structural framework and to keep the costs low the walls are clad with zero-formaldehyde oriented strand board (OSB).

Curving roof incorporates seating at Yang Liping Performing Arts Center

The ceiling was covered in wood

Architecture office Studio Zhu-Pei has completed a performing arts centre in the Chinese city of Dali featuring an undulating roof that incorporates viewing areas and seating.

The arts facility was commissioned by local professional dancer Yang Liping for a site to the northeast of the city’s historic centre, where Beijing-based Studio Zhu-Pei has also designed a museum of contemporary art.

Aerial image of Yang Liping Performing Arts Center
Above: Studio Zhu-Pei built the Yang Liping Performing Arts Center below an undulating roof. Top: the roof incorporates seating

The design of the Yang Liping Performing Arts Center was directly informed by Dali’s surrounding landscape, which includes the Cang mountain chain and Lake Erhai.

The building has a rectangular roof that spans a landscape of free-flowing indoor and outdoor spaces, including performance areas that blur the boundary between landscape and stage.

Yang Liping Performing Arts Center has an organic form informed by the mountains
The roof is covered in slate tiles and fitted with walkways

The slate-covered roof has an organic profile informed by the outline of the surrounding mountains. The structure merges with the partly sunken garden spaces, creating a sense of connection between the ground and the roof.

“As with mountains and valleys, the strong shape of the roof reflects the more organic landscape below and points to the old Chinese principle of yin and yang, where two opposites combine together to form a whole,” the studio explained.

A plaza is located beneath the Yang Liping Performing Arts Center's slate roof
The underside of the roof is covered in timber battens

A plaza that weaves through the Yang Liping Performing Arts Center intersects with a concrete volume containing the main theatre, allowing its stage to be opened up to the outside.

Outside the main auditorium, a set of steps that ascend onto the roof provides casual seating for viewing performances taking place on the indoor stage or in the plaza.

The roof structure is covered on its underside by wooden battens arranged in a nest-like composition. Skylights incorporated into the canopy allow daylight to filter through the wooden structure.

A cluster of treehouse-like towers extends through the canopy, connecting the ground level with a viewing area on the roof. These contain a cafe and a private teahouse.

Steps lead from the plaza to a basement rehearsal level
Grassy mounds feature throughout the centre

The gently undulating landscape surrounding Yang Liping Performing Arts Center includes grassy areas that extend out towards the surroundings.

Beneath some of the turf-covered mounds is a basement level containing a rehearsal space and service areas.

Grassy mounds extend around the surrounding area of the Yang Liping Performing Arts Center
A trio of treehouse-like structures pierce through the roof

Studio Zhu-Pei was founded by architect Zhu Pei in 2005. Its previous works include a contemporary art museum in a former Beijing factory and a museum dedicated to ceramics production that features vaulted structures made from red brick.

Photography is by Jin Weiqi.

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JG Phoenix references Tang dynasty architecture in minimalist Shantou restaurant

Sui Han San You restaurant by JG Phoenix

Walnut columns and blackened timber screens nod to the architecture of China‘s golden age in this atmospheric restaurant in Shantou by local interiors studio JG Phoenix.

Founded by three friends, the eatery is named Sui Han San You or Three Friends of Winter after a Chinese phrase, which refers to pine, bamboo and plum blossom.

Mirrored desk in wood-clad reception of Sui Han San You restaurant
Wood panelling features throughout the interior of Sui Han San You

The dimly lit, 1,200-square-metre restaurant was designed around this motif, often used in traditional art to signify resilience based on the plants’ ability to thrive even in the colder months.

Wood features liberally throughout the space, forming slatted walls, screens and furniture reminiscent of Tang dynasty architecture – a period at the end of the first millennium that is considered a golden era for Chinese art and culture.

Lounge with wooden chairs and grey couch by JG Phoenix
Light grey bricks are contrasted against dark wood panelling

“Architecture in the Tang dynasty was characterised by the perfect integration of strength and beauty, as well as a balance between rigour and magnificence,” JG Phoenix explained.

“Such features were incorporated into the design of passages, where walnut columns were orderly arranged at the sides and linked to the ceiling.”

Entrance to Sui Han San You restaurant with slatted wooden screens
A pool runs along the entrance corridor

The dark timber is paired with “austere materials” such as light grey stone bricks and brass to create a sense of balance within the space.

Diners enter the restaurant through a sloping corridor with a pool of water running along its length, which leads to the reception.

This is intended to evoke a traditional Chinese garden and create “a sense of ritual and mystery”.

A walnut column rises out of the water, stretching up through a geometric reception desk to the ceiling. Large wooden screens wrap the space, separating the entrance, lobby and stairwell.

Interior by JG Phoenix with translucent screens and wooden furniture
Slatted screens feature throughout the interior

A Tang-style writing desk and bookcase furnish the lobby while a dropped wooden ceiling helps to create a more intimate space.

The VIP rooms feature walnut columns with brass trims and walls finished in walnut panelling, light grey stone bricks and floor-to-ceiling murals.

Sui Han San You restaurant interior with wooden screens
The restaurant was informed by Tang dynasty architecture

“Such designs produce a tranquil, peaceful and superior dining atmosphere, which exactly interprets the essence of Tang style,” JG Phoenix explained.

Founded in 2008, the studio has completed various other projects in Shantou including a paint showroom informed by the ancient concept of yin and yang and a fish bladder museum featuring glossy floors, rough-sawn wood and diffused natural light.

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Matteo Guarnaccia designs chairs around seating habits of world's most populous countries

Cross Cultural Chairs project by Matteo Guarnaccia

Sicilian designer Matteo Guarnaccia has visited the most populous countries in the world and collaborated with local makers to create a seating design in each country as part of his Cross Cultural Chairs project.

The results, which were unveiled alongside a dedicated book as part of the BASE exhibition at Milan design week, include a chair for cross-legged sitting and an uncomfortable seat inspired by the politics of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro.

Cross Cultural Chairs exhibition by Matteo Guarnaccia at Milan design week
The Cross Cultural Chairs project was exhibited at Milan design week

Guarnaccia‘s “freestyle research” project saw him spend a month in each country – visiting Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Indonesia, China, India, Russia and Nigeria – and asking the first people he encountered what they thought of as the “local chair”.

Aware of his limited perspective as “a white man raised in Europe”, he collaborated with a local designer in each location to produce a one-off design, incorporating the aesthetics and culture of that place and analysing how context can shape our concept of sitting.

Wide black wooden lounge chair with metal wire seat
The Brazilian chair is intentionally uncomfortable to reflect the country’s political situation

“My generation wears the same shoes, listens to the same playlists and watches the same movies but do we use the same chairs,” Guarnaccia questioned.

“Do we sit the same way? I was driven to understand and see in the first person the impact of globalisation on design among young generations of designers, makers and architects.”

Colourful pink and green chair on a street in Mexico
The Mexican chair plays with stereotypes by embracing bright colours

The chair made in Japan is legless and designed for use on tatami mats. Working with local designer Mikiya Kobayashi, Guarnaccia wanted to capture his interpretation of Japanese minimalism, which is translated into elegantly joined wood and a smoothly upholstered leather seat.

“Actually, I don’t think Japanese style is minimal,” he told Dezeen. “There’s always this style or this intention to tell a story.”

Wooden chair without legs with wood backrest and leather upholstered seat
The chair Guarnaccia created in Japan is intended for sitting on tatami mats

The relevance of chairs in eastern societies, where floor-sitting is traditional, was also questioned in India.

Here, chairs were only introduced during British colonial rule and the majority of people still cook, eat and work sitting on the floor. This has resulted in a “hybrid” way of sitting, Guarnaccia observed, in which people remove their shoes and sit on chairs cross-legged, even in formal settings.

Chair photographed against a yellow sheet held by two cricketers on a cricket field in India
The chair he created in India has curved “leg rests” intended to support cross-legged sitting

To honour this, his Indian chair made with Sameep Padora and Ajay Shah features indented “leg rests” instead of armrests for people to rest their splayed knees.

The chair’s shape is derived from a modernist German chair common in India while its seat employs a weaving technique normally used for beds.

Guarnaccia presented his work at a local art or design museum at the end of every month to receive feedback from locals, and in the case of Nigeria even altered the final design based on the public’s response.

The chair he designed in collaboration with Nifemi Marcus-Bello initially featured an all-wood frame, informed by the DIY furniture he observed on the streets of Lagos and the city’s wood market, which is the largest in Africa. But Guarnaccia added metal panelling to the chair’s exterior after locals deemed it as too simplistic.

Metal-covered wood plank chair in the Cross Cultural Chairs project
He incorporated metal into the Nigerian chair after feedback from residents

“They were like: ‘you’re one of those white, heterosexual Europeans that come to Nigeria and you present this wood chair but Africa is much more’,” he told Dezeen. “So it also triggered this conversation about colonisation and globalisation.”

In Brazil, his collaborator Brunno Jahara felt that the country had become an uncomfortable place under the leadership of Jair Bolsonaro, so the duo made an uncomfortable chair with metal wire for a seat.

Rattan chair with modernist armchair shape
In Indonesia, Guarnaccia made a chair from local rattan

Others show a more light-hearted approach, with the Russian chair borrowing its aesthetic from the country’s affection for plastic flowers, capable of surviving the winter, while the Mexican chair plays with stereotypes by embracing bright colours.

The Indonesian and Chinese chairs reflect on the country’s production methods. Indonesia is the world’s largest rattan producer and tends to replicate Scandinavian design in local materials, as does Guarnaccia’s chair.

Chair photographed against a red sheet held by two locals on a Chinese street
In China he made a chair wrapped in an expensive fabric

In China, reflecting on knock-off practices and his own perception of what “made in China” means, he upholstered a chair in an expensive, recycled plastic fabric by Kvadrat, striving to give it value.

“You can literally trace the evolution of humanity in terms of techniques and materials through chairs,” said Guarnaccia.

Cross Cultural Chairs exhibition by Matteo Guarnaccia at Milan design week
The project was showcased at the BASE Milano exhibition

The chairs were exhibited alongside the Cross Cultural Chairs book, which includes an introductory interview by FormaFantasma and Aldo Cibic.

Milan design week returned in a more low-key format this year, with exhibitions including a showcase of candleholders by the likes of Marcel Wanders to Patricia Urquiola, as well as a Lost Graduation Show from student designers who weren’t been able to exhibit last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cross Cultural Chairs was exhibited as part of the BASE Milano exhibition at Milan design week 2021, which ran from 4 to 10 September. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.

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