With rap mixtapes and DJ sets springing forth on blogs and Facebook accounts like an over-ripe harvest of late, it’s refreshing to find that someone isn’t sticking to the stock standard formula. With his new mixtape project Pianist Envy - yes, that really is the title -, Canadian piano genius Gonzales has flipped things, offering up a collection of quasi-covers in which Gonzales restrings populist jams from the likes of 50 Cent, Beyonce and Lil Wayne as ivory-thumping epics.
After past work with Feist and Jamie Lidell, cover work for Daft Punk and Boys Noize and turns as an MC and electro artist, Pianist Envy is Gonzales cementing his reputation as pop music’s artful chameleon, shifting from one idea to the next with not only swiftness but perfect execution. - Dave Ruby Howe
City of Utrecht in the Netherlands has developed a large complex, Cultuurcampus Vleuterweide, where half of the floor plan is taken up by a school and a sports facility, and the other half includes 55 residences, a church, cultural centre, theatre, and a library.
It is the internet “café” of the info centre/library that sparked our imagination with its bulky, woody mass and colourful, folkloric embellishments. Wouldn’t it be amazing if more internet cafes paid this much attention to design?
The architect of the complex is Vera Yanovshtchinsky Architecten based in The Hague. Interior design and furnishings are by Assen-based AEQUO BV Architects that is known for impressive school and library work.
Throughout the entire Vleuterweide facility, AEQUO has sprinkled fun embellishments, including lime-green, lemon-yellow and azure-blue walls, and pink carpets. Furnishings and lighting fixtures also draw attention: A prim, baroque chair covered in hot-pink fabric in one corner, a group of lumpy recliners upholstered in brown flour-sack material in another. - Tuija Seipell
Our new creative ideas agency ACCESS is helping brands and businesses see the world differently. We add substantial value by creating customized experiences that change the consumers’ thinking in some way. A simple idea for our McFancy project for McDonald's has already been viewed by over 3 million readers through this site. Millions more have interacted with it via hundreds of blogs that have featured it (google "McFancy Mcdonald's or McFancy by Access Agency"). And dozens of magazines internationally are featuring the concept in forthcoming issues. That's several million eyeballs before a single $ has been spent.
Enter our latest concept for Puma that we call SPINSTAR, which aligns perfectly with the brand image. It is a touring program that finds participants who can last the longest in a spin class, with Puma as the backdrop. Participants are offered a free pair of Puma sneakers and workout gear once they pass 2 hours (most spin classes run for 45 minutes). The winners of each session (which can last up to 8 hours) will receive the Puma bike and would then be invited to the final competition where the winner of the longest spin-class is crowned Puma SPINSTAR, receiving $25,000 cash along with $10,000 worth of Puma gear.
Puma renderings created by Dobson White
We have a hunch we will be seeing much more of the work by the young, London-based graphic designer and illustrator, Nikki Farquharson.
Her ongoing project, Mixed Media Girls, gives the viewer a lot to look at. The collages appear innocent and sweet but at the same time exude sharp, pent-up energy that does not feel altogether safe. The title of the work is also wonderfully suggestive – or not, depending on how the reader wishes to understand it.
Farquharson’s work extends from the one-dimensional world to book projects and 3D pieces in which she often ponders and twists the meaning of words and proverbs, spies on conversations, and questions established truths.
In 2007, she started the website Random Got Beautiful that is open for anyone to submit images focused on a specific colour. - Tuija Seipell
Casa no Geres, designed by Porto-based Correia/Ragazzi Aquitectos, has received its fair share of international awards and exposure, but we cannot help but show it off one more time. This is the first project by Gracia Correia and her new Italian partner, Roberto Ragazzi. It is a bold statement that hides nothing.
This is also a house that is easy to love from certain perspectives and from others; it looks quite unsuitable for its surroundings. From some angles, the house seems like an accident, some kind of a mishap with transportation containers and building materials. One part of the building is buried inside the hill while another sticks out over the river. It appears about to teeter off the hill at any moment, just waiting to land in its final resting place in the river.
The owners, Mica and Eduardo Pinto Ferreira, have been Correia's clients for more than a decade, and gave her carte blanche to create their dream house on the 5,000 square-meter site by the Cevado river - as long as no trees were cut and the 60 square-meter house (maximum allowed footprint for the site) was made of concrete. The house is located in Peneda-Geras National Park, along the Spanish border in northern Portugal, so the environment and its inviolability were crucial and the rules strict.
But looking out from the inside, the awesome beauty of the home becomes apparent. The simplicity of the structure, the openness of the views and the calm balance of the elements seems to speak the same language as the bleak surroundings. Nature has a way of being beautiful even when it is not, and this house knows that secret.
The warmth and proper scale of the building become even clearer when the illuminated house is viewed at night. It may look like it landed from some other planet, but it appears to be right at home now. - Tuija Seipell
Goldfrapp - Head First
Having pitched a seriously beguiling curveball with their fourth record, 2008's ambiguous Seventh Tree, UK electronic boffins Goldfrapp have seemingly stepped back onto the dancefloor for new LP, March's Head First. From the first taste of the album, coming in the form of new single Rocket, the band have rediscovered their love of electro, festooning the radio jam with neon-embossed hooks and Atari-aping synths. We like this a lot.
The Sound Of Arrows - TBA
Thus far Sweden's The Sound Of Arrows have given us just a handful of songs, released on labels like Labrador and Neon Gold, and whilst quantity is (unfortunately) not their thing, quality surely is. The Scandinavian duo have managed to breath life into whatever they touch, lacing their singles with widescreen pop sensibilities, buoyant synthesisers and un-ironic slices of Euro-pop. With a full length finally at hand it's time for The Sound Of Arrows to truly shine.
She & Him - Volume Two
Just like our album forecasts, good things come in twos, right? It's therefore fitting that the indie nerd's dream-come-true collaboration of Merge stalwart M Ward and Zooey Deschanel as She & Him would return for a second round of twee-pop loveliness. Set for a staggered March/April release, Volume Two will pick up where the duo left off, namely making boys and girls in cardigans swoon
The Drums - TBA
With every music sheet in the world teetering on the verge of delirium over The Drums and the surf-pop resurrection found on their debut EP, Summertime, from last year, the band were an easy shoe-in for this list. But beyond the deafening buzz that The Drums are stirring up as they march ahead to their first full length the group manage to back it all up, delivering lean and polished indie-rock tunes with style, accessibility and intelligence.
Vampire Weekend - Contra
Having brought afro-leaning indie sensibilities and boat shoes back into the mainstream with their irrepressible debut album way back in 2008, New York prepsters Vampire Weekend essentially set themselves up as the poster boys of the difficult second album. After all that hype and crossover success, how could they better themselves? From the first tastes of their follow up disc, Contra, due in January, not much has changed, with the band still rocking polos and summery hooks, but it's clear their charm hasn't faded in the slightest with the band now rocking more self-assured playfulness than ever.
Uffie - Sex, Dreams & Denim Jeans
Bursting onto the electro scene with over-sexed raps and over-dosed electro beats courtesy of the Ed Banger crew, Miami-via-Paris MC Uffie seemed poised to take a lofty position as the middle ground between Peaches and M.I.A., but, uh, she just never really released anything. That's going to change when she finally drops the delightfully titled Sex Dreams & Denim Jeans LP next year. With hook ups from Mr Oizo, SebastiAn and Mirwais she's definitely in good company, but time may've passed her by. Whatever the result, we'll definitely be listening.
Delphic - Acolyte
Sounding like the spiritual heirs to New Order's brand of immaculate electronic pop, young Machesterites Delphic have been making all the right moves in their short career. Already they've partnered up with the tastemakers behind labels like Modular and Kitsune, not to mention scoring the coup of having golden-touch producer Ewan Pearson helm their debut album Acolyte. Packing an arsenal of soaring vocals, champagne synthesizers and driving hooks, get ready to hear a hell of a lot about Delphic. - Dave Ruby Howe
When in Barcelona, you will want to check into one of the several new or refurbished and distinctively cool hotels that have opened there recently. Among them, W Barcelona, located on La Barceloneta and designed by architect Ricardo Bofill, and the swish apartment residences of El Palauet that we featured in October.
The latest hotel launch capturing design media attention is Mandarin Oriental Barcelona. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group operates in 25 countries, but this is its first entry into southern Europe. Mandarin Oriental Barcelona’s official opening was celebrated in November 2009 with a lavish gala attended by the city’s style leaders and elite.
The hotel’s cool factor is a lucky combination of three elements: The convenience of the central location on Passeig de Gràcia, the good bones of the refurbished 20th-century former bank building, and most significant, the tour de force of design by Spanish-born Milano-based architect, Patricia Urquiola, responsible for the interior decor of the 98-room hotel, including most of the furnishings.
Urquiola is best known for her prolific career in designing clean-lined furniture and accessories for brands such as Foscarini, B&B Italia, Alessi, Capellini, Cassina, Knoll and Moroso. At Mandarin Oriental Barcelona she has created a strong sense of timeless elegance by using white confidently and lavishly, and by applying a Scandinavian sense of scale and clean lines.
To soften the linear angularity, Urquiola added beautiful touches that reflect the weightlessness and precious fragility of origami or intricate lace. The overall effect is stunning. - Tuija Seipell
Today’s demanding consumers expect even their beloved, favourite brands to step up their game. Many run-away online successes of offline brand “stunts” attest that consumers expect, and get really excited about, experiences that are unusual, fun, thought-provoking and emotionally engaging. With the power and immediacy of social media, surprising offline events and stunts have now turned into truly powerful promotional tools.
In 2010, TCH will launch Access Agency. It is a dedicated entity that will continue our work of creating highly original, transformational, yet eminently practical and results-oriented strategies for companies to stage the kinds of offline brand experiences that will increase the economic value of their offering.
Access specializes in helping brands and businesses see the world differently. We add substantial value by creating customized experiences that change the consumers’ thinking in some way. The surprise element changes the thinking patterns, and the change makes the experience memorable. People want to talk about it, tell everybody about it. And that, in turn, translates into added brand awareness and ultimately sales.
Access is hard at work creating ideas and concepts for some high profile brands. For McDonald’s, we envision a cool, surprising and fun mix of concepts. First is McFancy, an upmarket temporary McDonald’s store that launches at Fashion Weeks around the globe — London, New York, Paris, Milan, Sydney, Hong Kong. McFancy is part art installation, gathering spot and, of course, a restaurant that offers a traditional McDonald’s menu but packaged in a way that makes a playful yet stylish nod to the lifestyle of the highly desirable, influential consumers that attend Fashion Weeks.
Waiters in tuxedos, silver service, private dining areas, and packaging co-created with the fashion brands that present at Fashion Week — Burberry burgers, Chanel fries on black packaging, Paul Smith Sundaes…A bit of fun among the serious business of fashion. A bite of comfort food among all the elaborate cocktail fare, Private dining rooms, a raised catwalk that winds around the perimeter of the space, and with a central bar area providing a dramatic focal point. The ceiling is constructed from stretched fabric, ribbed to provide articulation and define zones. The form of the ceiling is accentuated through the use of LED lighting.
We believe that McDonald’s can have major presence at events like NY Fashion Week, movie premiers and other high-profile events by creating a space to fit that environment.
This is just one of many concepts that Access Agency will be launching in 2010. Brands wanting to create something innovative and extraordinary should contact [email protected]
See also McMobile McDonald's (below)
If we were consultants to the two Canadian entertainment titans, Avatar director James Cameron (born Aug 16 1954 in Kapuskasing, Ontario) and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté (born Sep 2, 1959 in Quebec City, Quebec), we’d suggest they create a resident Cirque show in Las Vegas based on Avatar.
Those who have seen Cirque’s resident Vegas show O at Bellagio and Franco Dragone's Le Reve at Wynn know that this combination would work. These two shows are creative mind-blowers, original and fantastic, memorable experiences unlike any other theatre, circus, concert or play event you’ve ever seen.
On the other hand, Cirque’s other resident Vegas shows - The Beatles Love at MGM Mirage and Viva ELVIS at Aria and even the rumoured-to-be-in-the-works Michael Jackson show - do not have the innovation or inspiration Cirque is capable of. We don’t need another song-and-dance show.
Now that Laliberté has had his own Pandora experience, having just landed back on Earth from his $35 million working holiday to the International Space Station, we think he’d be perfectly poised to take this on. Wouldn’t you just love to step into a live 3D alien world of Pandora? We would. - Bill Tikos
In 1984, Vodafone was a tiny UK startup. Today, it is one of the world’s leading mobile telecommunications companies with activities around the globe. Vodafone’s well publicized Portuguese headquarters is located on Avenida da Boavista in Porto (Oporto), the namesake of Port wine and Portugal’s second global city after Lisbon.
The super modern building was designed by architects José António Barbosa and Pedro Guimarães of Barbosa Guimarães Arquitectos.
The architects’ wish to reflect Vodafone’s credo “Vodafone Life, Life in Motion” lead to the creation of a building that challenges the static and appears to be out of balance. Three of the angular building’s eight floors are underground. The cross-section reveals an uneven footprint almost as if the entire structure had fallen from sky at a great speed and crashed itself into the earth where it now sits, only partly exposed and slightly disheveled.
Indeed, the outer skin reminds us of a slightly unfinished origami project that will eventually become a scale model of a museum, the inside views bring to mind the many variations of angular, uneven and pleasantly unresolved spaces we’d seen at Hotel Silken Puerta América in Madrid, especially the rooms designed by Ron Arad, Zaha Hadid and Plasma Studio. - Tuija Seipell