Lamps by Moooi Amsterdam
Chest of drawers by Tajo Remy
When I think of Dutch culture, I think of art and design.
On my last visit to the Netherlands, I had the chance to go beyond Amsterdam and to see the lovely little cities surrounding the capital. What unites the seven cities and towns I visited is the function that the architecture and design that is inherent in everyday living. Everything makes sense.
The porcelains of Delft, the houseboats on the canals and giant bay windows are indicative of the pursuit of purpose without sacrificing aesthetics. And why not? The stereotypical coldness associated with the geography is broken when you step back to realize the romance of the whole picture.
For those who are on Pinterest, Urban Peanut: A Gallery has a board! Come and check it out here.
Dress by Thakoon, from gorunway.cm
Design by Nuno Grande and Pedro Gadanho, Portugal
Confusing Pantone for a baked good is a mistake that can easily be forgiven, if not by your waistline. Indulging in colour is a paralyzing fear that can easily be overcome with effort and patience. After all, not everyone is going to look good in 2012′s Pantone of the year: 17-1463 Tangerine Tango.
Orange coaxes feelings of happy mornings and as well as a ride through Spain in late summer when the orange trees are in bloom from Valencia to Madrid. It’s a particular colour — only the bold dare to wear an orange angora sweater or invest in an orange Lamborghini. It is a difficult hue but leave it to the experienced to teach us mere mortals a lesson. Is it the new red?
Around this time of the year, a design-hungry hog would be salivating about the thought of going to Salone internazionale del mobile where designers, manufacturers and consumers congregate to see what is in store in the very near future. The thought of being in the same room as the jewels of some of our time’s brilliant minds could induce short bursts of euphoria akin to Beatle-mania, if only those hyperventilating were full-grown adults, with refined tastes that are only be appeased by limited edition Eames chairs made from recycled bamboo chopsticks. I must confess I took the liberty in inventing this particular collector’s piece.
Not even an unpronounceable Icelandic volcano could keep the design-obsessed away. Last year, patrons and enthusiasts risked being grounded in Europe just to behold innovative products in design. What heaven does one live in where being stuck in Europe is the worst thing that could happen? Sign me up. Please.
As a Torontonian, one thinks of his hometown romantically. A younger city, Toronto hosts architectural gems that the world marvels at; Mies Van Der Rohe’s Toronto Dominion Building in the International Style is a romantic encapsulation of Toronto’s history as a continuously growing global city in one structure.
The International Style aggravated critics because of its seeming lack in architectural lineage with its buildings now dotting urban centres throughout the world. Herr Van Der Rohe’s contribution mirrors Toronto’s story of growth and development.
As Toronto grew exponentially in population and in area, the International Style became, well, international. The city still continues its development towards the suburbs. Did people come to make the city the way it is? Or was the city already here for the people enrich further? One thing is for sure: Toronto, like the Toronto Dominion Building, is in the International Style.
Cité de la mode et du design, Paris
A couple of weeks ago, tired from a full week of completing projects both at work and at home, I decided to do a little indoor gardening. The tropical plants, lucky bamboos of birthdays past and and whatever is left of an orchid plant after the bloom is gone were the subjects of the Friday night impromptu botany experiment.
Fifteen years ago, my grandmother gave me a plant that has not been repotted since. Imagine a 4 foot tall plant in a 6-inch plastic planter. It was an odd thing to behold.
“Why don’t I cut stalks from this plant and put them in water? I know roots will shoot. Let’s just see,” I thought to myself. the success story involves the first plant, roots and all, being potted the day before yesterday.
I never fancied myself a greenthumb but here I was, little plant in my hands, dirty with soil. I started thinking: “What’s an interesting plant to grow?”
I started thinking about my lithops when I was living in Montréal. Lithops are also known as living pebbles because they are the perfect example of biomimicry. Their camouflaged appearance has helped these succulent plants (ex. cacti) escape predation and getting eaten by the thirstiest of animals for the water stored in their leaves. They are ‘designed’ by nature to withstand the dry summers in Southern Africa, their native habitat.
I know I am geeking out, dear readers, but they are such strange plants and lithops just made me read more about them and other succulent plants. The best design inspirations definitely come from nature. Have you read Darwin’s “Origin of Species”? Go ahead. You’ll see how Alexander McQueen‘s Spring 2010 collection makes sense.
Spotted by Michael Sharkey
Personal space is a big concern for most people, especially among those of us who have access to some and want more of it. It’s a privilege that we often take for granted. We sometimes can’t even be bothered to clean up after ourselves (hint: that space under your bed is not pizza delivery box storage, mon ami) and sometimes such collegial habits do not end.
Imagine whatever space you have right now, no matter the size, is taken away from you. How would you feel? Unfortunately for a lot, everything happens so quickly there is no time to think about one’s feelings like after earthquakes, landslides or tsunamis. The adrenaline is just enough for you and your family out of harm’s way, if that.
My passion for design is not fleeting nor frivolous; I really believe that design can help affect change in the way we see the world, the way we communicate and also the way we relate to each other by keeping form and function synchronized.
Creativity and vision can help affect change. There is an organization called Containers to Clinics which definitely has changed the way overseas medical work is conducted and delivered. In the last year, after a couple of logistics courses, I learned that the metal containers in which goods are shipped are usually discarded/abandoned at delivery points after they have served their purpose. These containers required handiwork, time and energy to be made. Is it ethical to have these giant pieces of ‘garbage’ lying around? No.
The abandoned containers are repurposed and redesigned to serve as clinics which take up less raw materials, less time to build and less capital investment than their conventional brick and mortar counterparts. Please have a look at the C2C website to see how you can help. See design do good..
In time for the G20 summit in Toronto, Canada, I thought that I would explore walls and fence manufacturing. I found no names in connection with the fence that now surrounds the central part of the city, where world leaders and their contingencies will congregate, starting today. Think of all the publicity that the manufacturers would garner, being the official fence material supplier for an important event.
It is all about the material in construction and building. Great raw materials result in great finished products. Are the fences usable for housing applications? Then, I thought of how much fencing would be put into place for the summit. And then I thought of what would happen afterwards, when the fences are no longer needed.
The Berlin Wall continues to be a symbol of segregation and isolation. Its destruction in 1989 opened a new era of freedom and mobility for those living on both sides of the wall dividing East and West Berlin. Photos and alleged pieces of the wall plague souvenir shops in the German capital but, hey, I do not think that such a scheme would work out for the Toronto’s weekend eyesore.
May I suggest keychains and can openers, iPhone cases and bookmarks, along with souvenir rings to the entrepreneurs?
I am not so sure about the plans for the morning-after the G20 but sustainability has to be considered. Are the fences recycled? I have not found the answer to the question. Isn’t environmental policy one of the items on the agenda? Carbon-offsetting is also a viable option.
In Millenium Park
A sculpture by Henry Moore
Pylon installation by the Merchandise Mart
An untitled sculpture by Picasso, a gift to the city
My delayed update is totally unreasonable. In internet years, the two weeks that I have not etched a mark on cyberspace would call for fireworks reminiscent of the Fourth of July during America’s bicentennial. Speaking of America, I was away for a couple of days, partaking in NeoCon, the interior design and architecture trade show, in Chicago.
Chicago is the urban planner’s wet dream, knowing that the city was built with the people in mind. Unlike Toronto, Chicago’s development was based on the nature of its surroundings; with a river running through its core, the L train system zigzags across the city on an elevated rail system, connecting both north and south Chicago areas.
Civic conversations with Chicagoans always involve the word of ‘architecture.’ With landmark structures always at a stone’s throw, residents are always keen to impart little known facts about the history of a given intersection. Newly transplanted Chicagoans from other parts of the US are eager to help because finding healthier food choices is difficult, if not defeating at times.
Design enthusiasts should make the pilgrimage to the birth place of modern architecture. Artists like Van Der Rohe, Gehry and Lloyd Wright have influenced the way people live in ways that can easily be overlooked. Going unnoticed is a good indication of smart design. Judging by the way people get around the city, either by bike, bus or foot, Chicago is a city built for living. If life is a performance art, one should be honoured to have Chicago as a stage, even for three days. Bravo. Encore.
Just in time for the Toronto Open Doors event this weekend, Mies Van Der Rohe’s contribution to the city’s architecture and landscape should be pointed out. His design for the TD Centre in the financial district goes beyond the obvious external structure of majestic edifice.
Complimentary to the simplicity and clarity Van Der Rohe’s’ work on the exterior, and much to the delight of graphic designers and typography geeks all around, signage used in the TD Centre’s concourse has the font that the German-born American architect designed. The signage consists of white backlit letters encased in black aluminum panels and was mandatory for all the businesses until 2007.
The TD Centre is one architectural gem that Toronto has and I bet that there will not be three-hour lineups for it, like the Don Jail. It is a public space for everyone to enjoy all-year round. No reservations necessary.
For now, please enjoy the documentary above. Parts 2-7 are up on YouTube for your perusal.