Superfutures

Superfutures è uno studio multidisciplinare di Londra che mi ha scritto poco tempo fa, e cui do volentieri visibilità perché il suo portfolio è molto interessante e attuale. Dire interessante è forse riduttivo, perché ammiro moltissimo tutto l’approccio progettuale di Superfutures, a partire dal felice connubio tra interior e graphic design che caratterizza i lavori dello studio. Superfutures è innanzitutto uno studio d’interior design, ma ha creato anche l’immagine coordinata di molti dei negozi e ristoranti progettati, raggiungendo alti livelli di qualità, originalità e armonia. 

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Lo stesso discorso vale per il web design del sito Superfutures: struttura semplice, niente fronzoli e lunghi tempi di attesa, navigazione facile, immagini di grande impatto e un buon uso del colore che valorizza i progetti.
Non sto parlando di progetti di altissimo profilo, e budget, ma di progetti ben fatti e onesti, e di uno studio che ha tutte le possibilità per un salto di scala e di qualità.

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Consiglio di vedere soprattutto i progetti più recenti, come i ristoranti Chotto Matte e Ping Pong Stratford nati da una contaminazione di elementi urbani occidentali con la cultura e la cucina orientale, l’elegante negozio di Richard James, e le panetterie Peyton and Byrne, buon esempio di reinterpretazione contemporanea dei tradizionali negozi alimentari inglesi.

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Prefabulous World: Sustainable architecture and green building solutions with style from around the world

Prefabulous World


As sustainability becomes a greater concern across all fields, advances in materials technology and design mean aesthetics are no longer sacrificed for a reduced carbon footprint. Just in time for Earth Day, “Prefabulous World”…

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True I.D. Stories #24: The Accidental Designer, Part 6 – Forget Hollywood, We’re Going Big Time!

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Editor: After going Hollywood in Part 5, here in Part 6 Accidental Designer finds a casual suggestion from his wife is about to change their lives. As one door closes, another door (this one on a shipping container) opens….


I was down in my basement workshop, failing.

I had been trying to produce a lightweight and affordable bamboo folding chair for Hollywood sets. After hundreds of hours and countless prototypes, this problem just had me beat—and I knew it. I mopped my brow and called up the stairs to ask my wife if we had any sandwiches left.

My wife is a mean cook and she goes through cutting boards like nobody’s business. It doesn’t matter what they’re made of, she just plain wears them out. “I need a new cutting board, this one’s through,” she called down the stairs. “Can you scrape up some of that bamboo and make me one?”

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I looked around at all of the bamboo scrap I had and thought, well, here’s a problem I can solve. I glued up a bunch of scrap pieces, more than I needed just for the sake of doing something, and by the next day I’d made her a cutting board and a few back-ups.

Following that, to clean up my shop area, use up a bunch of scrap and exercise my brain, I threw myself into gluing up cut-offs and began experimenting with different styles of cutting boards. After failing with chair prototype after prototype, it felt good to successfully make something—anything.

I had consistently-shaped scraps in several different sizes, and so I designed the cutting boards around the shape of the scraps. By the end of my clean-up project I had several dozen good-looking cutting boards. I felt like my table saw and router respected me again.

I didn’t think much of this until a few weeks later, when I was loading up my truck to hit a craft show in Arizona. I was bringing the $2,000 bamboo chair even though I knew it wouldn’t sell, and also bringing some consumer-grade chairs I knew I could sell, just because I needed the cash. The extra bamboo cutting boards I’d made were sitting in the corner. I figured they’d be Christmas presents for relatives, which would save my wife and I some cash since we were getting close to broke.

Still, I grabbed a bunch of the cutting boards and threw them in the truck. I didn’t think I’d sell any, but figured I’d use them to gauge interest.

Maybe you can guess what happened next.

(more…)

Maarten Baas’s surreal solo show created to “emphasise the circus that Milan is”

Milan 2014: Dutch designer Maarten Baas‘s circus-themed show at Milan design week, featuring a welded metal gum ball machine and modified arcade game, was created to “emphasise the circus that Milan is” (+ slideshow + interview).

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Baas‘s show was installed in an empty garage in the new 5 VIE design district during the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, which took place from 8 to 13 April.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Visitors followed a red carpet that led them through a presentation with fairground music and surreal objects created specifically for the event, as well as some of the designer’s latest work for clients and galleries.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

“The starting point was to emphasise the circus that Milan is,” Baas told Dezeen, adding that the event has become more about presenting photogenic objects for promotional purposes than retail-ready products.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

“It hardly makes sense to develop a piece from A to Z and then present it in Milan because in the end it’s nothing more than a snapshot for sharing on Facebook, and the product is never sold even though it’s widely published,” he said.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Baas and his team spent three weeks in Milan producing pieces for the exhibition, many of which were deliberately fabricated to look good in photographs, but were, in fact, very roughly finished.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

These pieces included a chair with a randomly shaped seat upholstered in a red fabric that was held together at the back with sticky tape.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

To enhance the idea of creative freedom and that “everything was possible”, Baas exhibited new limited edition works for London and Paris gallery Carpenters Workshop Gallery alongside pieces made from polystyrene that were thrown out after the fair.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

To tie in with the circus theme, Baas replaced the playful seats of rocking rides commonly found at fairgrounds or shopping malls with a range of adulterated alternatives including a welded metal box, an upholstered four-legged creature and a foil-covered blob embellished with coloured lights.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Inside two booths built against the walls of the exhibition space, actors dressed as clowns sat surrounded by everyday paraphernalia, representing Baas’s recent collaborations with Dutch theatre group De Kwekerij.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

A gumball machine in Baas’s cartoon-like style dispensed oversized pills instead of sweets, while chairs and lamp shades were presented on a carousel with a stripy tree at its centre.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Summarising his thoughts on the overwhelming volume of products launched by design brands in Milan and the reason for his own avant-garde presentation, Baas said: “for the visitor [to Milan], your whole critical system is kind of wobbling in the end – you kind of swallow everything and that’s what I wanted to break open.”

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

The exhibition was coproduced by Ventura Projects, the organisation behind the Ventura Lambrate design district. It was presented alongside a separate show dedicated to the work of designers and companies with whom Baas collaborates, including Den Herder Production, Bertjan Pot and Nightshop.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Photography is by Kazoe van den Dobbelsteen.

Here’s an edited version of Dezeen’s interview with Maarten Baas:


Marcus Fairs: Tell us about the show you’ve set up in Milan.

Maarten Baas: In the Circus there’s a lot that reflects my ideas. The starting point was to emphasise the circus that Milan is and also that things are very much about showing nice pictures. It hardly makes sense to develop a piece from A to Z and then present it in Milan because in the end it’s nothing more than a snapshot to share on Facebook or whatever. And then the product is never sold, even though it’s widely published. So I think it’s not needed to develop the product totally. So I made a lot of improvised pieces that look good from one side and are taped together from the back side in order to anticipate that way or working.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

That’s one thing and another thing that was important was that it was so crazy, I wanted to get rid of all the critical voices in your head saying “This is not done!” “You cannot do this!” All the things that in the creative process are blocking your creativity. I threw it all out, all the ideas, I put bronze next to polystyrene pieces, very expensive €40,000 pieces next to things that we are going to throw in the garbage after the fair. We cut a Bambi in half and made a trophy out of it, we made a rocket going through the sky, everything was possible and I wanted to explode all those ideas.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Also for the visitor, your whole critical system is wobbling in the end. You kind of swallow everything. That’s what I want to break open.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Marcus Fairs: Describe the show for people who haven’t seen it.

Maarten Baas: We’re here close to the Duomo, five minutes walk from the Duomo. I always like to be not in the popular zones. This is a new zone called 5VIE and it’s a kind of garage. Since I’ve put a circus in it you could say it’s a circus tent. It’s an open space where I put all my pieces around a red catwalk carpet. You walk in one direction and go around all the pieces in a certain order and then you go out having seen the entertaining show.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

Marcus Fairs: You have some kiosks with actors dressed as clowns in them.

Maarten Baas: I collaborated a lot this year with other artists, other designers but also theatre people. Also last year I designed a set for a theatre play in Holland. I see design in the widest sense of the word as anything that is creative in whatever way and where the creativity becomes reality or hits the market. I want to use design as a platform where everything like that can happen. So theatre and music and all kinds of things that are somehow connected.

Maarten Baas solo show Milan 2014

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“emphasise the circus that Milan is”
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Spring Gardening Gear: Our favorites across rare seeds and hydroponics to smart tools and watering cans

Spring Gardening Gear


Everyone can be a gardener with a little effort, proper scheduling and a dedicated plot of land. Whether or not you’re interested in toying with orach or purple tree collards, or having your plants tweet, maybe this is the year you dig…

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BMW unveils Vision Future Luxury car with augmented reality display

German car manufacturer BMW has unveiled Vision Future Luxury, a saloon concept car featuring augmented display technology (+ slideshow).

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The Vision Future Luxury concept comprises the latest iteration of BMW‘s Vision Head Up Display, which augments the driver’s view of the world by projecting real-time information including speed limits and road signs onto the windscreen directly in the line of sight.

Sensors located on the exterior of the car collect environmental data, which is deciphered and transferred to a light source located inside the instrument panel. Light shining through a translucent thin-film transistor (TFT) projects the relevant data on to the windscreen via specially shaped mirrors and allows the driver to view information without having to look away from the road.

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“Innovative technology and modern luxury have always been an important part of BMW’s brand DNA,” explained Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President of BMW Group Design at a preview of Vision Future Luxury in Munich. “Connectivity in a luxury vehicle has to be seamless and so well integrated that it doesn’t deter from the driving that you want to do, it actually enhances it.”

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The rear lighting is provided by organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) for the first time on a BMW, an efficient light source consisting of wafer-thin semi-conductive layers of organic material that can be cut into any shape to allow for a variety of patterned lighting designs.

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The luminescent layer is a film of carbon compound, which emits light in response to an electrical current. Each light-emitting polymer layer is roughly 400 nanometres thick, which is approximately 400 times thinner than a human hair.

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Car designers have previously relied on reflectors to enable the light produced by LEDs to be seen from different angles, but OLEDs do not need reflectors, allowing designers to create less bulky and more unusual shapes. OLEDs also require less power to operate.

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The roofline and sloping boot lid on the car have been designed to reduce drag, while carbon fibre openings positioned at the front and rear of the car help to channel airflow more efficiently.

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“Aerodynamics and lightweight materials are key elements of this car’s design,” explained Karim Habib, head of BMW design. “Visible carbon fibre on the exterior of a luxury car is something we believe BMW needs to do.”

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Carbon fibre, as a lightweight and strong composite, also allows for a minimised central B-pillar – the join between the front passenger and rear passenger doors. This allows the doors to use different hinge points to a standard car door.

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The doors open to reveal a layered interior with wood, leather and aluminium finishings on top of a carbon fibre base.

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“Lightweight construction is not going to go away,” says Adrian van Hooydonk. “All of our cars will have to get lighter and that means as a design team we are dealing with different types of materials, which can lead to different types of aesthetic.”

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Front passengers are equipped with a personal information display, which is connected to the driver display via a touch-sensitive panel. Rear passengers also have access to two displays mounted in the headrests of the seats in front and a detachable tablet between the individual seats. All three can be used to exchange information with the front passengers using swiping movements.

Embedded user interface components from which internet-based video and music streaming can be accessed also feature.

Read on for BMW’s press release:


Heralding a new approach – the design.

“The design of the BMW Vision Future Luxury is the messenger of our philosophy of modern luxury, one in which innovative technologies play a key and vital role. These innovations deliver a new, multifaceted luxury experience that spans intelligent lightweight engineering, innovative interior design and a radically new user interface design,” says Karim Habib, Head of BMW Design, summing up the design approach to the BMW Vision Future Luxury.

This approach is particularly tangible in the interior. Throughout, the design expresses both form and function of the innovative technologies. For example, the intelligent lightweight engineering concept of the BMW Vision Future Luxury is expressed in the design principle of subtractive modelling. That is to say, the specific geometry and functions of an individual component are created from one and the same layered composite structure, comprising many different levels and materials. An initial base layer of fine carbon fabric is followed by a functional level featuring user interface components, control and display interfaces and lighting functions, which in turn is followed by a further structural, load-bearing layer of aluminium for additional strength.

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Finally, the top layers comprise wood, then leather, to create a warm and comfortable ambience. In a given area of the interior, the multi-layer structure is “milled down” to the appropriate depth depending on what surface material and what function is required. Since the interior geometry is therefore always pared down to essentials, this cuts total weight substantially. This treatment also makes for virtually seamless transitions and very elegant, fluid surfaces.

The unrivalled characteristics of carbon as a material – both individually and in combination with its surrounding materials – are optimally utilised in this rigorous lightweight design concept. The carbon underlying layer is visible in the doors, under the seats and especially in the innovative, pared-down B-pillar. A full B- pillar as used in the past is dispensed with. The carbon construction allows the seat frames to be integrated into the load-bearing structure. There are also connections to the door sills and centre console, which means only a very small and unobtrusive B-pillar is required. The BMW Vision Future Luxury’s wide- opening coach doors would not have been possible without this new carbon B- pillar solution.

New-style user interface design and exclusive
BMW ConnectedDrive services.

In the driver’s and front passenger’s area, precisely defined lines and surfaces create a sense of exclusive dynamism. The design of the instrument panel closely complements the design of the displays themselves. The driver is surrounded by a wrap-around cluster of three intermeshing displays, creating the typical BMW driver-centric cockpit. The three-dimensional display technology means that at the visual level the instrument panel styling appears to carry over into the displays themselves. In other words, to the eye the interior space seems to continue into the solid structures of the instrument panel, generating an impression of unprecedented depth and spaciousness.

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The left-hand display mainly presents vehicle-related information, while in the centre a programmable cluster displays speedometer, rev counter and other information, as well as context-adaptive supplementary data, which is displayed as and when relevant. Meanwhile, the right-hand display – the Driver Information Display – provides additional infotainment information. The driver also has the option of controlling all these functions by voice command.

BMW Vision Head Up Display.

The primary driver display, however, is the “contact-analogue” BMW Vision Head Up Display. This display augments the driver’s view of the real world by projecting information directly in the driver’s line of sight onto the road. Buildings, traffic signs or hazards can be highlighted directly in the real-world environment, selectively directing the driver’s attention to specific information which is particularly important at any given time. This technology gives a new dimension to driver assistance functions such as Speed Limit Info, where road signs can be identified and highlighted in the driver’s field of view, or the Traffic Light Assistant, which provides real-time information about traffic light phasing.

In place of a central shared information display for driver and front passenger, the BMW Vision Future Luxury offers front passengers their own Passenger Information Display. This display is connected to the Driver Information Display via a touch-sensitive panel, where information can be exchanged between driver and front passenger using swiping movements. Applications like booking opera tickets online direct from the vehicle via the BMW ConnectedDrive Luxury Concierge service can be displayed in the Passenger Information Display, where they don’t risk distracting the driver. The relevant functions can be conveniently controlled by the front passenger using the iDrive Controller with touch-sensitive interface.

Rear Seat Touch Command Tablet.

In the back, two Rear Seat Displays set into carbon surrounds, and a detachable Rear Seat Touch Command Tablet, put the finishing touch to the integrated user interface concept of the BMW Vision Future Luxury. These displays can communicate with the front displays and also with the BMW ConnectedDrive services. Everything from trip-related information like speed and journey time to information relating to the Luxury Concierge Services can be displayed here in simple and customised form.

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It is also possible to use online entertainment content like internet-based video and music streaming as well as gaming. All content and functions can be controlled from the rear seats using the detachable Rear Seat Touch Command Tablet in the centre console.

Personal space at the rear.

For the occupants of the rear seats, the BMW Vision Future Luxury offers a luxurious haven of personal space. Two large, deeply contoured single seats add to the appeal, inviting passengers to retire into their own personal “comfort zone”. A retractable table, the angled Rear Seat Displays and the rigid backs of the front seats create a very private ambience, sectioning this area off from the rest of the interior. The sense of privacy is accentuated by modern, flowing geometry and the use of select materials, with lavish wood surfaces extending from the rear parcel shelf to enfold the rear seat occupants in a cosseting three- dimensional space.

Strategically placed lighting slats integrated into the wood echo the surrounding styling and, with their warm glow, accentuate the modern and cosy ambience. Finest-quality aniline leather in Batavia brown and a lighter Silk shade, Silk nubuk leather and the warm brown, layered lime wood all have a natural aura which offers unique visual appeal and quality. The division between darker materials in the upper areas and light materials in the lower areas creates a feeling of warmth and a luxurious sense of space. A deep-pile pure silk carpet rounds off the exclusive array of materials in the interior of the BMW Vision Future Luxury.

Exclusiveness and elegance – the exterior design.

In side view, perfect proportions – precise, uncluttered and elegant – convey the exclusiveness of the BMW Vision Future Luxury. The long wheelbase, short overhangs and low, set-back greenhouse lend the stretched silhouette a refined dynamism. In hallmark BMW style, a finely sculpted contour line creates a taut arc along the side of the vehicle, and the opulent surfaces underneath this line have, as always on a BMW, been shaped by seasoned modellers. This hand- sculpted design gives the surfaces a special emotional appeal that would be beyond the capabilities of a computer.

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The effect is further enhanced by the Liquid Platinum Bronze exterior paintwork, which generates a warm, shimmering effect. An exclusive flourish at the side of the vehicle is the side mirror, which appears to grow organically out of the chrome window trim. Designed as a visual continuation of the chrome trim, its slender stalk is attached to the mirror from below, giving it a graceful and effortless appearance, almost as if it were hovering in mid-air.

BMW EfficientDynamics: honed aerodynamics and intelligent lightweight engineering.

The exterior design perfectly showcases the advanced aerodynamics and innovative lightweight engineering of the BMW Vision Future Luxury. The coupé- style roofline and sloping boot lid, for example, significantly reduce drag. Underlying the tautly sculpted exterior surfaces, equally refined solutions provide optimal channelling of the airflow. They include the Air Breather system at the rear of the front wheel arch, a C-pillar with internal air channelling, and openings in the rear apron which vent air from the wheel arches. An elegant carbon strip in the door sill area alludes discreetly to the innovative lightweight engineering concept based on aluminium and carbon. Both these lightweight materials are used in the vehicle in exactly the right places to achieve maximum effect – both individually and in tandem.

BMW Laserlight at the front.

Clean and simple in design, the traditional iconic BMW front-end design cues – the twin kidney grille and twin headlights – instantly proclaim the brand identity of the BMW Vision Future Luxury. The lean contours of the headlights also hint at the innovative technology sheltering behind them: BMW Laserlight. This new technology not only paves the way for a very flat and dynamic interpretation of the typical BMW twin round headlamps, it also sets completely new standards in terms of brightness, range and intensity. The concentrated, parallel light beam is up to ten times more intense than that of an LED system. The reduced energy consumption and packaging requirements of laser lights make this technology a prime candidate for use in future vehicles.

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Underneath the headlights, the assertive multi-material front apron accentuates the elegant front-end styling. At the outboard ends of the apron, graceful carbon air deflectors conceal a range of BMW EfficientDynamics aerodynamics features. The thin-walled air deflectors are made of carbon, a further reminder of the intelligent lightweight engineering concept of the BMW Vision Future Luxury. A slender chrome strip on the air deflectors highlights the airflow system.

OLED lighting at the rear.

The horizontal lines of the side profile glide gently away at the rear in a final expansive flourish. As at the front, the body styling in this area is deliberately understated, allowing the innovative, narrow and slender lights to make a powerful statement. For the first time on a BMW the rear lighting is provided by organic LEDs, paving the way for a completely new treatment of the typical BMW L-shaped lights. The BMW Vision Future Luxury’s L-shaped rear lights comprise a large number of small, likewise L-shaped OLEDs.

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An organic LED consists of wafer-thin organic semiconductor layers positioned between two electrodes. The light-emitting polymer layer is only approx. 400 nanometres thick, making it roughly 400 times thinner than a human hair. Organic LEDs are not only extremely thin, as well as flexible, they also produce very uniform illumination over their entire surface. Due to their very thin dimensions, and since they do not require reflectors in order to produce the desired broad light dispersion, they open up completely new ways of using light in and around the vehicle.

The post BMW unveils Vision Future Luxury
car with augmented reality display
appeared first on Dezeen.

“Taste is not what a museum is about”

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Opinion: in choosing to stage a major exhibition of work by Marcel Wanders, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam has mistaken commercial success for cultural importance, says Louise Schouwenberg.


Pinned Up, the Marcel Wanders retrospective exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (SMA), elicits all clichés on design as a shallow field of expertise: devoid of deeper meanings, focussed on styling and the production of gadgets and kitsch items.

The presentation, which will last until mid-June 2014, contains plenty of gold and baroque decorations, a host of glamorous everyday items as well as objects devoid of practical use, blown up to enormous proportions. The opening event was a visual spectacle that closely resembled a millionaire’s fair, where the luxury items and pedestaled pieces of furniture were displayed in a nightclub ambiance with women of flesh and blood serving as lamp posts. For those who failed to grasp the significance of all this, snippets of seemingly philosophical insights on the walls tried to offer answers.

Why a prestigious art institute like the SMA chose to stage an exhibition that appears to serve the marketing strategy of a design brand, which is known for its commercial success but not for its cultural importance, is puzzling. Good reasons are needed to lift designs out of their natural, functional habitats, and expose them to a museum audience that searches for cultural value.

Those reasons can be found in many exemplary design exhibitions, which evidence the wider scope of design. To name a few, designer Martino Gamper recently guest-curated Design is a State of Mind for the Serpentine Gallery in London, presenting a wide variety of products in such a way that not only the underlying inspirations but also their inherent narrative meanings come to the fore.

Retrospective exhibitions that focus on a single designer’s oeuvre can likewise offer evidence of a larger significance, such as the recently opened exhibition Panorama in the Vitra Design Museum, in Weil am Rhein, which presents the work of Konstantin Grcic. Apart from the inherent value of the industrial objects themselves, the special scenography and composition cast new light on reality and offer visionary views on the future of living and working conditions, as new communication technologies will drastically change the notions of public and private spaces.

The flamboyant Wanders possesses a business instinct, some very strong marketing qualities and a flair for the sweeping gesture, which have brought him many lucrative commissions worldwide, helped him establish a solid business empire and turn his name into a highly successful brand. For these accomplishments the designer naturally deserves praise. The latest instalment in his series of successes – the much-coveted recognition from the cultural elite and serious media – has been well prepared and staged by Wanders. He has, for instance, been supporting the SMA with substantial donations since 2012.

But do his designs really mean so much to the world that they merit a retrospective at a cultural institute? Some of Wanders’ products may be comfortable and an incidental early design (Knotted Chair) at the time of its conception indicated an innovative take on technology. But he can hardly be called a pioneer who has offered new perspectives on the world of everyday functional objects or new views on the future of design. He’s not known for a critical take on the design profession, a sustainable approach, nor does he belong to the group of designers who are opening up new horizons by instigating multi-disciplinary collaborations. So does the strength of his work lie in breaking down the boundaries between visual art and design? What views on art do his items reveal? What views on design?

Obviously the glamorous products on display in Pinned Up can be viewed as witnesses to the taste of the nouveau riche of our times. What about the oversized items, devoid of practical use value. Should they be considered autonomous artworks?

For the sake of argument, one may compare Wanders’ exhibition with the show Ushering in Banality, which took place in 1988 at the very same SMA, headed by director Wim Beeren at the time. Artist Jeff Koons presented a number of dramatically magnified replicas of decorative porcelain figurines, which led to some heated and interesting debate within the art world. Pretty soon, however, indignation turned to admiration. Koons had had the genius to raise, within the context of a museum, some highly topical questions about the relationship between art and commercial objects, a novelty in those days.

Twenty five years on, Wanders has also blown-up trivial objects to huge proportions, and placed them on pedestals in an attempt to raise their stature to that of visual art. Aside from questioning if such a strategy can lead to any new insights so many years down the road, there’s one major contrast: Wanders did not create enlargements of existing objects, but of his own creations. Where Koons’ sculptures raised interesting questions as they carried numerous references to the unusual contexts from which they were taken and the context in which they landed, the images created by Wanders refer to nothing but themselves. When devoid of inherent meanings and references, we can hardly consider them artworks. At most they might be considered late specimens of the Design-Art phenomenon that suddenly bloomed up at the turn of the century.

What started with prototypes of iconic historical designs and experimental designs by contemporary designers, soon led to objects being designed on purpose as costly one-offs, crafted from special materials. These were widely exposed in the media because of their extravagant forms and the reputation of the designers, thus gaining the aura of rare valuables. They competed with artworks, claiming eternal value and thus economic profit, and eventually lost even a slightest link to functionality. Neither art, nor design, most of them were also devoid of higher cultural significance, only aiming at a gradually decreasing market of collectors. It proved to be a dead end path for design.

Like many other specimens of the Design-Art phenomenon Wanders’ theatrical settings, living lights and richly decorated products are just kitsch: objects without too much significance nor use, appreciated by the newly monied and thus supplied by the designer with the knack for business. The only question these objects raise is why they are being presented in this museum.

The opening of Pinned Up drew quite a crowd, and the show will probably continue to do so over the coming months when a larger audience is allowed in to gawk at the luxury goods and gadgets. And then, when 2014 comes to a close, the museum will be able to report that this was one of its most successful exhibitions.

In an era in which populism is on the up and up, and large visitor numbers are increasingly becoming the main driver in the way cultural institutions are run, the overwhelming interest in Wanders’ exhibition may be deemed a triumph. But it also painfully reveals something else; when the exhibition was initiated and prepared the SMA was in need of a director who could manage the collecting and curating policies of this key institution – a director with the wherewithal to pull a timely plug on any whimsical plans and point the curator to more suitable locations for this kind of design experience.

SMA’s collection of applied art and design was once among the best in the world, but for a number of decades it has lacked a clear concept. Most of the acquisitions and exhibitions betray personal whim and a tendency to be swayed by the issues of the day. It is this context that has allowed commercial success to be mistaken for cultural importance. Design is about taste, and taste can be disputed. But taste, which will always be transitory and personal, is not what a museum is about.

Apart from the surprise that the SMA chose to create this show, it was also surprising in the first weeks after the opening how many media let themselves be directed by Wanders, indiscriminately copied his press release and failed to badger him when he set aside critics of his work as cranky modernists, design fundamentalists, with no eye for innovation. Blown-up pretentions call for critical questions, but they were barely asked. Almost all Dutch media mentioned for instance that Wanders’ oeuvre is part of the prestigious design collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). A simple inquiry would have shown that only a single early piece, the Knotted Chair from 1996, is part of the collection and the museum has made no further purchases from the Wanders brand.

Many developments in design are worthy of exposure in a museum context, where their deeper layers of meaning don’t evaporate in thin air but are acknowledged for what they are. The MoMA has always well understood that design should only find a natural habitat in a museum when it represents those layers of meaning, challenging concepts, or visionary narratives that reach beyond luxurious comfort or commercial success.

The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam appointed a new director, Beatrice Ruf, in April 2014. Let’s hope that under her leadership, the museum remembers again how to discern commercial gadgets from designs that are valuable testimonies to our time, worthy of an exhibition in an institution of this stature.


Louise Schouwenberg is head of the masters programme in contextual design and co-head of the masters programme in design curating and writing at Design Academy Eindhoven. She is course director of the fine arts and design masters programme Material Utopias at the Sandberg Instituut / Gerrit Rietveld Academy Amsterdam.

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End of an Era for NYC Artists & Designers: Pearl Paint Closes

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And now for a bit of local news. Pearl Paint, NYC’s famed art supply superstore and one of the original supply sources on Core77 version 1.0, has closed after more than 80 years in business.

This signifies the demise, for industrial design students at Pratt Institute in particular, of Canal Street as a destination for supplies; in the ’90s we’d travel to Industrial Plastics on Canal & Greene, Space Surplus Metals around the corner on Church, and cap it off with a trip to Pearl for everything the prior two stores didn’t have. Now all three outfits are gone.

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Love Grain : A healthy, tasty gluten-free pancake and waffle mix based on the tiniest grain in the world, Ethiopian teff

Love Grain


There’s a new ancient grain in town, and it goes by the name of teff. The tiniest grain in the world is native to Ethiopia, where it’s mainly used to bake injera; the flatbread that’s a national dish and eaten daily in households….

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Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Mölle

This house in the Swedish seaside town of Mölle by Stockholm studio Elding Oscarson has an upper storey clad with roughly sawn Douglas fir and a lower section that is entirely transparent (+ slideshow).

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

When developing the design for the Mölle house, architects Jonas Elding and Johan Oscarson set out to reestablish the architectural experimentation they say dominated the town at the turn of the last century.

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

“Experimentation has been overpowered by conservation,” said the architects. “Our ambition has been to recover Mölle’s dormant architectural tradition, extrapolating it into the twenty-first century, while providing a house for generations to come.”

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

Referencing the nearby Villa Italienborg, which features a striking chequerboard facade, the designers chose oversized planks of Douglas fir to create a cladding unlike any other in the town.

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

These horizontal boards wrap all the way around the building, punctured at intervals by an assortment of square and rectangular windows.

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

To contrast, the ground floor level features floor-to-ceiling windows with slender frames, offering residents uninterrupted views towards the surrounding garden and coastline beyond.

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

“The building expresses both contrast and tenderness in relation to site and context,” said Elding and Oscarson.

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

The house has three storeys – two above ground and one below. Three wings make up the plan, framing a pair of garden terraces and a driveway at the building’s entrance.

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

Living, dining and kitchen spaces occupy the entire ground floor. All furniture is free-standing so as not to obstruct views through the glass walls, and includes a kitchen island. Heating is provided by a wood-burning stove in the middle of the space.

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

A spiral staircase leads to floors both above and below. Upstairs, three bedrooms are arranged around an extra lounge, while the basement accommodates a fourth bedroom and a sauna.

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

Photography is by Åke E:son Lindman.

Here’s a project description from Elding Oscarson:


Mölle by the Sea

Mölle is an extreme location with regards to topography and landscape, as well as history and aura. Around the turn of the century 1900, Northern Europeans were migrating to “Sinful Mölle” – where men and women were allowed to enjoy each other’s company at the same beach – leaving a trace of eccentric and experimental architecture from the first half of the 20th century.

However, from that point in time and onwards, experimentation has been overpowered by conservation. Our shared ambition with our client has been to recover Mölle’s dormant architectural tradition, extrapolating it into the 21st century, while providing a house for generations to come suited an open-minded family, presently with one child.

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

The building expresses both contrast and tenderness in relation to site and context. Its volume has been kept low, without any plinth or pitched roof. Facing Öresund, the terraced site has an ocean view, but the building questions the convention to turn all rooms towards that same view – the site has many qualities all around, with stone and brick walls, vegetation, and an old ice cellar semi-submerged into a hill.

The building’s shape divides the site into different exterior spaces and provides a softly divided sequence to the interior. Not immediately perceptible, the graphic form of the plan results in a building volume that rather reads as a fragmentised whole – from some angles striking, from other angles neat.

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

On the ground floor, a pilotis space wrapped in low iron glass, with sliding doors and undivided panes of up to almost 7 metres wide, the garden and its stone walls frame the interior space. The upper volume is resting on a slender steel structure in an abrupt collision between glass and saw finish douglas planks in jumbo format – a facade which is the first of its kind, just like Mölle’s most famous house “Villa Italienborg”, with its chess-board ethernite shingles facade, was back in the days.

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

Architect: Elding Oscarson
Project team: Jonas Elding, Johan Oscarson, Yuko Maki, Gustaf Karlsson
Textile: Akane Moriyama
Location: Mölle, Sweden
Client: Private
Area: 300 sqm

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

Site plan – click for larger image

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

Basement plan – click for larger image

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

Ground floor plan – click for larger image

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

First floor plan – click for larger image

Elding Oscarson completes Swedish seaside house in Molle

Section – click for larger image

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