Villa Moos by Lake Constance (Bodensee) at the northern foot of the Alps draws our attention with its building-block appearance and foreboding façade.
And yet, surprisingly, with these almost semi-brutalist intentions, the look of heaviness does not follow.
Instead, there’s a delightful mood of lightness, almost of semi-permanence. It seems as if the entire structure could be a fold-up affair made of exceptionally strong origami paper or very light sheets of card board, ready for packing up and carting elsewhere. But as we know metal and glass are the main components, we must admire the architects’ ability to balance the scales so that the end result is harmonious.
With a sparse set of key ideas, the German architecture firm Biehler Weith Associated has managed to create a rather classy and serene vacation home for the owner whose sleek speed boats and antique race cars fit right in with the cool residence. - Tuija Seipell.
Images by Brigida Gonzalez
Pen on Paper Artist CJ Hendry Debut Solo Show, Sydney
Light and the absence of distractions drew us to this great little project. Absolute is an elegant 42 square-metre (42 asg.t.) florist shop on a nicely treed stretch of a boutique-lined street in Shanghai, China.
Architects Kong Rui and Fan Beilei, who founded Genarchitects in 2012, have created a peaceful, airy space by combining a small rectangular room with an adjoining front courtyard.
The design team, that included Chen Xiaoyi, Xue Zhe and You Wei as well, removed the dividing wall and covered the courtyard with a glass roof whichadds not just more room but more light to the otherwise non-descript space.
By the repeating a delicate arch motif in the white, light-weight furnishings, the designers have achieved an ethereal and somehow gamine feel as if the counters and fixtures were standing Bambi-like, erect and alert
with minimal footprints.
We love the fact that the entire floor is visible – yet another smart way to make the area seem much larger than it is.
With light reflecting from glass surfaces and creating patterns through the glass ceiling, the colourful flowers remain the main attraction as they should. - Tuija Seipell.
Just before the Holiday shopping season last year, Greek Jewelry designer Ileana Makri opened an intriguing retail store on Patriarhou Ioakim Street in Athens’s posh fashion district of Kolonaki.
She hired Greek architect Stelios Kois to envision an environment for not just her own jewelry but also for fashionable creations of other designers. The Makri is not new to retail, as her first entry, Mageia, also in Athens, opened in 1987. Mageia was also the setting for the launch of her precious jewelry line in 1996. Steeped in symbols, nature, mystique and multicultural lore, her pieces featured snakes, evil eyes, insects and other nature-inspired themes created in gold, diamonds, rubies, sapphires and other precious materials. Barneys New York noticed, and from there on, Makri has been part of the jewelry scene, and not just in the up-market fine jewelry segment but also in costume jewelry .
Celebrities and stars, from Jennifer Lopez and Faith Hill to Uma Thurman, Heidi Klum and Rita Wilson, have walked the red carpets of the world wearing Makri’s pieces.
As one would expect, Kois and project manager Antriana Voutsina with team members Nikos Patsiaouras, Marielina Stavrou, Konstantinos Karanasos and Alexandros Economou, used Makri’s work and philosophy as inspiration for the new Athens store.
The quality of light, geometric patterns, exquisite workmanship and intricate detailing are all essential in Ileana Makri’s work in which she transforms “memories to jewelry”, as Kois expressed it in a brief.
In the “peculiar forest” that Kois’s team created, our eyes are drawn to the strong, angular lines of the glass-and-metal trees on which jewelry and other items are displayed. The trees allow 360-degree viewing of the items inside the branch-boxes. We like the scarcity and strength of materials: metal, glass, wood and stone that gives the items on display a minimalist backdrop.
However, our favourite aspect of the store is the exterior. The window opening that appears like a big picture frame, was divided into three segments: Two windows framed with black stone protrude from the façade and, in between them, a narrow door made of black-stained oak leads into the store.
The narrower of the windows is for exhibiting the latest collections. It also frames a display tree and shows off our other favourite feature: the narrow, stone-clad staircase that leads to the jeweller’s workshop. - Tuija Seipell.
For someone born in 1977, Mexico-born and educated architect Manuel Cervantes Céspedes has scooped up his fair share of accolades. With his team at CC Arquitectos, he has completed both residential and commercial project that deserve attention.
One residential project in particular, El Mirador, located in Valle de Bravo, Mexico, and completed in 2013, has remained in our minds as an impeccable example of how to create elegant balance.
In this mountaintop residence, the architect and interior designers – as well as the owners – have resisted bravely the temptation to add just that annoying bit of attention-demanding “interest” - a contrasting dash of colour or a contemporary piece of furniture or art in a completely unrelated genre.
We admit that when we first saw the images way back then, we fell in love with the free-ranging horses. Then we admired the use of reclaimed railway ties as logs for the walls and then we were intrigued by the mirror-like pond at the entrance that also functions as a drinking fountain for the horses.
In the end, all of these features are essential parts of the balanced whole: A natural theme that is not disrupted.
There isn’t a single material or colour, inside or out, that breaks the theme, yet the house does not look or feel over-themed or over-designed.
The structure is a combination of steel and wood, and local stone is used extensively throughout.
The residence itself is a one-bedroom plan and takes up only about 550 square meters (5,920 sq.ft) and includes a kitchen and a large family room that connects to the outside terrace.
In El Mirador, Manuel Cervantes Céspedes’s team included José Luis Heredia Alvarez, Rafael Rivera Sanchiz and Javier Claverie. - Tuija Seipell.
Photos © Rafael Gamo
More recently, Thürmer’s team completed the Kids’ Museum of Glass located in the same Shanghai-based complex and opened a few days ago.
Cool and edgy, quite literally, the Kids’ Museum has none of the typical cute and cuddly kiddie features found in spaces dedicated to children. Instead, the target audience, kids aged 4-10, enter an environment of glass, particle board and metal realized in a colour scheme of black and white sparsely livened up with lemon yellow, saturated pink and cool blue.
The museum is designed to teach kids the basics of glass in a playful and fun way. The museum mascots, Bobo and Lili, guide children in their glassy hometown through various features, including The Beach, The Circus and The Factory.
Everything is designed to be touched and interacted with. Simple actions and gestures allow children to learn how lightning can create glass, how a glass prism works or what smart glass is. Performances, films and glass demonstrations entertain them in the Fire Theater and Up-Cycling Theater.
Kids can also practice their sketching skills in one of the ‘Draw Me’ installations. There are also two cafes and a shop for souvenirs, as well as a separate party space for rent for school groups, birthday parties or events by family-oriented brands.
The 2000 square metre (21,530 sq.ft) Kids’ Museum of Glass is located in the industrial Baoshan District of Shanghai and it is part of the massive former glass manufacturing site that covers about 30,000 square meters (322,920 sq.ft) and includes thirty existing buildings. When the redevelopment of the site was first envisioned and a 20-year plan created, the site was renamed G+ Glass Theme Park (Glass, Art, Research and Technology Park). - Tuija Seipell.
For many years, Pelletier has been researching and experimenting with methods of creating multidimensional portraits. Using his research in thermal imaging and MRI scanners as a technological basis and as inspiration, he started using Microsoft’s motion-sensing Xbox device, Kinect, to create cool artwork with a strong, edgy look.
Pelletier’s 3D images made of a sitting subject appear to be pictures of a metallic sculpture, strangely alive yet scarily cold at the same time. An updated C-3PO with a beating heart, perhaps?
Pelletier has participated in exhibitions and festivals around the world including the Netherlands, Canada, Finland, Spain, UK, US and Australia.
He is originally from Saskatchewan, Canada, and works currently at Random Studio in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. - Tuija Seipell
These designs are printed on metallic paper and mounted behind perspex for a dazzling and bold look. They can be wall mounted or free standing.
Last fall, José Miguel Herrera and Nuria Morell closed their popular SushiHome restaurant in Valencia, Spain. Fans and patrons were surprised, but they did not have to wait long for the answer.
In December, the couple opened Nozomi Sushi Bar in the funky Ruzafa neighbourhood of the city.
For interior design and branding of their new venture, they employed Valencia-based creative consultancy Masquespacio established in 2010 by Ana Milena Hernández Palacios and Christophe Penasse.
The founders selected the name Nozomi, popular for restaurants and businesses, including the Japanese bullet train. It is a lovely word with dual connotations. The word itself means wish or hope in Japanese and with the bullet-train implications, it also signifies efficiency and modern lifestyle. The whole project was then envisioned around two concepts, ‘emotional classic’ and ‘rational contemporary.’
In the 233 square-metre (2508 sq.ft) space, Hernández Palacios, creative director for this project, managed to evoke the feel of a Japanese street. “We have been studying photography from the most authentic Japanese streets with the aim to create a reinterpretation on a metaphoric way of those streets,” she says. Nozomi Sushi reminds many people of a typical street in Kyoto where traditional Japanese houses are well preserved.
The best feature of the restaurant is the overall quiet balance. It does not appear to be trying too hard like so many concepts today. Instead, it feels natural and coherent with its light-weight wood slats, shelves and partitions contrasted with the strong and solid concrete features.
We love the entrance where the slanted-roof overhang creates a nice play with scale. The otherwise quite basic doorway now appears both inviting and intriguing.
Inside, the chefs ply the ancient trade of sushi – the original fast food – behind a neutral bar with a fantastic origami-inspired cherry-tree-blossom ceiling above them. - Tuija Seipell.
Photography: David Rodríguez y Carlos Huecas.
Mention caviar and champagne, and most of us will think of opulent, lavish environments, luxury bling and furs, high heels, tuxedoes.
But not so in Helsinki. Finland-born, Los Angeles-educated and now Helsinki-based designer Jonna Laajisto took the Finnish approach: She focused on creating an understated setting and fitted it to respond to the historical harbour environment. And left out everything else.
Laajisto was commissioned by the Finnish fish and seafood purveyor Savu-Kari to create a caviar (and roe and oyster) shop and restaurant in one of the most enviable locations in Helsinki, Eteläranta 20, overlooking the main harbour where the commuter ferries and sight-seeing boats dock and depart for the archipelago, and right across from the city’s famed open-air public market (Kauppatori) and the recently renovated and re-opened Old Market Hall (Kauppahalli).
She adorned the tiny 45 square-metre (485 sq.ft) space with only the essentials: a few tables, chairs, counter, shelves - all Finnish origin. We love the tiled floors, aged clip boards for menus, minimalist lighting and unpretentious chairs, as it all harkens back to the Old Market Hall feel yet with a lovely modern urban seaside café essence.
The only real touch of colour comes from the blue Rocket stools designed by Eero Aarnio and available at Artek.
Finlandia Caviar has only 11 seats plus four more outside (when the snow thaws) and it is also available for private events, such roe-tastings and parties.
Various types of caviar and roe are served straight from the tin, nestled in ice, accompanied by crackers and truffle cream. And of course champagne or vodka.
Jonna Laajisto is also responsible for the design of Minna Parikka Universum, the Helsinki (and only) retail boutique of our favourite Finnish ladies’ shoe brand. It is also an understated, minimalist white shell that offers up Minna’s fun, limited-edition shoes like pearls inside an oyster. - Tuija Seipell.