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?
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.
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.
All photos courtesy of Allard Architecture
Imagine a workspace. Elements like light, room, comfort, and productivity come into mind. The concrete boxes that we now call offices do not foster the creativity and the sanity of employees. A lot of times, these spaces can barely invoke anything but sleepiness and shorter attention spans.
Allard Architecture has designed an office building, with the matchbox as the inspiration, or I should say, a tower of matchboxes. The uneven façade of the Amsterdam project makes the structure stand out from its neighbours. The implementation of floor to ceiling windows maximize natural lighting, which is beneficial for the mental being of any employee.
Amsterdam’s houses are some of the most beautiful, most livable spaces that I have seen. With the giant windows and the huge spaces, Dutch houses shame our lofts on this side of the Atlantic. Being one of the tallest nations in the world, along with my being under two meters, the spaces that would be designed in the Netherlands would provide me with more ample space than a regular house in Canada.
Lesson learned: Lighting and space inspires and fosters creativity. If at work, you do not have either, go for a walk outside but for productivity’s sake, go back to your desk sometime soon.
(from the top: Karl Lagerfeld with his bear, Nouvelle chaise longue, a slab of granite, and Sam Mogelonsky’s The Archipelago. Visit her site here.)
Environmental awareness has everyone thinking: ‘What can I contribute to the cause?’
The green movement is revolutionizing the way we conceive and realize things especially structures. In architecture and environmental design, black is the colour of the new eco-awareness.
If used properly, a black interior in a southfacing room (or unit for condos) can keep down one’s heating costs. Why? Any black surface absorbs the heat during daylight hours and then, depending on the material, heat is released slowly for the rest of the night.
Why do you think you get hot when you are wearing that black t-shirt in July? Black pigment absorbs all rays of the light spectrum whereas white absorbs none! The light just bounces off! This is physics in action and my high school teacher would be very proud. I might not be able to explain quantum mechanics but I know that black is the new green. And it goes with everything.