For eons, walls of greenery have surrounded people and creatures living in jungles, rainforests and other lush places.
Ancient Asians and Europeans since Roman times have paid gardeners to create green art and sculpture for their gardens, from elaborate topiary sculptures and mazes to vine-covered walls.
And, of course, we’ve seen inventive uses of built outdoor space – including rooftops, patios and balconies – as places to bring more green into our overly concrete-covered lives. Smudging the line between indoors and outdoors, and playing with the illusion of greenery where it doesn’t really belong, are also the basis of some recent installations that we like.
Mass Studies, founded in 2003 by Minsuk Cho in Seoul, Korea, has produced some great examples of this. Among them is Ann Demelmeester’s store (pictured above) in Soul. It is one of only four concept stores showcasing the fashions of the Flemish designer.
Green walls are not just visually interesting and environmentally beneficial, they add a sense of calm and peace that is difficult to achieve by other means. The inclusion of real, living plants on a large scale in places where you don’t expect to see them, also adds other sensory elements – the scent of the greenery, the sound of water, perhaps the feeling of humidity around the installation. The organic texture invites touch and inspires conversation – how was this installed, how is it cared for, who did it?
We’ve found some interesting green installations, such as this school in the UK and a hair salon in Japan, but we’d love to see many, many more. We think there’s room for much more creativity and daring in this arena, so let us know if you spot remarkable and unusual examples. - Tuija Seipell. Send to [email protected]
Leo Burnett in Sao Paulo created this simple yet clever ad for Arcor bubble gum.
Inspired by the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, US$1.5 million Lamborghini Reventon was unveiled. If numbers mean anything to you — the new supercar is powered by a 650hp 6.5L V12 engine, accelerates from 0-100 km/h in just 3.4 seconds and has a maximum speed of over 340 km/h. The Lamborghini design team used the technical base of their Murcielago LP640, compressed it and then amped it up. As with other current models, the Reventon is defined through its sharp edges, smooth surfaces and aerodynamic lines. Tempted as you may be, put away your cheque books and credit cards, all twenty models that will be manufactured are taken as the Lamborghini brand reinforces its legendary status. By Andrew J Wiener
For many of us, taking our cars to the garage can be a daunting experience. Feeling anxious and uncertain over the price and duration over jobs, use of technical jargon and the like. This may soon be a thing of the past, thanks to the launch of the major rebranding programme for car care network HiQ, starting with their new concept centre opening in Nottingham, UK.
The aim was to revolutionise the way fast fit car care is delivered and to develop a fresh retail concept that would set new standards in this sector. And it looks like they have come up with the goods.
Designed by the London team at Fitch, the brand has been repositioned by using simple language, illustrations, and the centre itself has clever features like glass walls that allow customers to see onto the garage floor for themselves.
We have seen this uncomplicated, tell it like it is mentality popping up all over the place, especially as banks try to re-align themselves with their customers. It is now nice and refreshing to see this evolving into other touch points of consumers' lives. I wonder if this approach would make going to the dentist any better? By Brendan McKnight
We have found a candidate for the winner in the Coolest Home Theatre category. Just short of being a drive-in, this outdoor home theatre surpasses the stinky basement family 'media room' by close to a light year.
Glass walls, clean lines, uninterrupted space, uncluttered rooms, expensive detailing the hallmarks of a modern, upscale classic are all present in this stylish residence. Why anyone in possession of such an amazing home with such breathtaking views, would want to watch movies at home, is beyond us, but let's just say that we wouldn't mind being invited to a screening or two. The terraces, patios and the 65-foot infinity pool and spa will keep cinematically uninterested guests entertained as well. And we'll all stay at the separate guest house, of course.
But we must admit we are still lacking an invite to the 5,800-square-foot Skyline residence overlooking Hollywood and downtown LA. The visit is up to the owner of the home, architect Hagy Belzberg, a Harvard graduate (1991) who interned in Frank Gehry's office.
The opulent home was designed by the entire team of his Santa Monica-based, 13-member Belzberg Architects that the now 43-year-old Hagy Belzberg founded in 1997. - Tuija Seipell
The much awaited, fabulous, 6,000 square-foot M.A.C Pro space has just opened in New York. Occupying an entire floor at 7 West 22nd Street, the new facility is divided into two separate sections, each with its own entrance: A retail/studio and a training area. Unlike other M.A.C Pro stores around the world, this is a full-blown studio and experimentation facility for make-up artists and beauty professionals. With its dramatic open layout, the space is a true feast for the eyes.
M.A.C Pro's New York store is completely dedicated to serving the pros. At the mixing station, they can hone their skills, test samples and experiment with the product with all of the tools of the trade nearby. The reference library is stocked with books, magazines and other reference materials for those who want to learn more or do research. At the photography studio, they can record their processes and their results. A separate training area, a kitchenette and bathrooms with showers make this an ideal space for some serious learning.
Makeup Art Cosmetics (MAC) launched in 1984 when two Canadians, makeup artist and photographer Frank Toskan and beauty salon owner Frank Angelo, opened a single counter in the basement of the now-defunct Simpson's department store in Toronto. Staffed by professional make-up artists, determined to become the ultimate color authority in make-up, and blessed with an outrageous sense of drama and theatre, M.A.C gained huge popularity among professionals and consumers. The Estee Lauder Companies bought 51 per cent of M.A.C in 1995 and the rest of the shares in 1998. Sleek stores, a vast array of color options, and a sense of professionalism and artistry are still the hallmarks of M.A.C that now has more than 750 stores in 50 countries. By Tuija Seipell.
Many of the world’s automobile manufacturers use the North American International Auto Show as a platform from which to unveil new design and new concepts in car design. This year’s exhibition just came to an end in Detroit, Michigan and we are happy to report there were at least a few new designs that caught our eyes.
A series of concept cars comprise the Lexus LF, or “L-finesse” line — and this year the Toyota Motor Corporation introduced the LF-A Roadster — a topless version of the previously revealed LF-A coupe. The LF series represents a new direction in design for Lexus — centred around the philosophy of intriguing elegance, incisive simplicity and seamless anticipation.
The high performance topless roadster will be set to compete with some of the most desired vehicles on the roads today. At a glace, the low-profile aerodynamic form is built from lightweight carbon fibre and aluminium, and a rear wing ascends automatically as a trigger speed is reached. While there is no official word yet about which type of top the LF-A roadster will be fitted with, we’re expecting to see a fully automatic retractable hardtop as Lexus will want to keep its competitive edge. By Andrew J Wiener
The office of Zaha Hadid, the sometimes controversial and always bold Baghdad-born, London-based architect, has revealed design plans for a striking new building in the most traditional and affluent of places, Oxford.
The new composite-glass structure, to be named the Softbridge Building, is an extension to the Middle East Centre at St Anthony’s College. It will link the 66 and 68 Woodstock Road buildings, one a Victorian mock Tudor and the other Edwardian.
The new, concave, shiny structure looks like a modern sculpture that fell from the sky and wedged itself between the two sleepy oldies. The exuberant and dynamic Softbridge appears to have known that, against all odds, the old buildings will not buckle, the mature trees will not die and the limited space into which the newcomer must settle, will be just enough.
The Softbridge will house a lecture theatre and the library, taking pressure off the old, bursting-at-the-seams facilities. Other goals are to provide a better research environment for students and to connect the academic and public functions of the institute. The above-ground floors house the reception and exhibition areas, the main archive reading room, library storage and the main library. The lecture theatre and additional storage will be located in the basement.
The outspoken Hadid continues to produce bold design work, characterized by rounded shapes and unconventional approaches, in spite of the widely publicized controversies surrounding some of her buildings in Britain, including the Olympic Aquatic Centre. In an Oxford Times article, Hadid was quoted as saying, “As a woman, I’m expected to want everything to be nice and to be nice myself. A very English thing. I don’t design nice buildings. I don’t like them. I like architecture to have some raw, vital, earthy quality.”� By Tuija Seipell.
Since 1991, San Francisco-native Jeanie Fuji has acted as the traditional Japanese okami (land lady or female inn keeper) of the Fujiya Ryokan (traditional wooden inn) in the Ginzan Onsen (hot springs) area.
That year, she married Fuji Atsushi, the son and heir of the 350-year-old inn and started her rigorous training under her mother-in-law in the art of serving customers, true Japanese style. This included preparing all meals, washing the dishes and cleaning all rooms. The goal was to make sure every need of every customer was anticipated and met following the age-old inn tradition of providing the right amount of service at the right time.
Fuji describes the types of things she had to learn. ï¿½Sliding a fusuma door open and shut, greeting guests, bringing them meals on small o-zen tables... everything has to be done a certain way, following the old traditions. And I had to learn how to talk with the guests using polite, formal Japanese. I often wanted to give up and go home to the United States. But now I love my work here,ï¿½ she says in a Japanese publication.
By the time she had a good decade of experience behind her, Fuji had gained a celebrity okami status that she modestly and reluctantly dismisses. By 2004, she and her husband hired Tokyo-based celebrity architect Kengo Kuma to raise the personal service of the inn to even higher level. Kuma overtook a complete remodelling of the inn that reopened in July 2006. Kuma is behind many well-known buildings, including the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey headquarters in Tokyo.
The capacity of the thoroughly wooden, three-story Fujiya Inn was reduced to only eight rooms with full capacity at 16 persons. Considering the location of the inn, right in the middle of a relatively remote rural area known for its hot springs and natural beauty, the level of luxury in the inn is astonishing.
Kuma has been able to combine traditional Japanese simplicity with international tastes and needs, yet avoided the dumbed-down, westernized version of Japanese style. In fact, Fuji has written an autobiography on this subject Nipponjin ni wa, Nihon ga Tarinai (Japanese people are not Japanese enough), in which she emphasizes that it is important for modern Japanese to recognize and re-claim the value of their own millennia-old customs and history.
At Fujiya Inn, you feel that you are part of an ancient, authentic and almost organic history that seems to be seeping through every seam and screen here. Many aspects contribute to this effect. One is Kumaï¿½s brilliant use of layers, screens as thin as veils, to both hide and reveal space. The omnipresent samushiko bamboo screens by craft master Hideo Nakata (no, heï¿½s not the horror-movie director) and his son required 1.2 million four-millimetre-wide strips of bamboo. Green stained-glass panes by Masato Shida and the prolific use of the handmade, richly textured Echizen Japanese paper add to the feeling of lightness and transparency.
The organic, natural quotient of the inn is also boosted by the baths and the hand-prepared, fresh food. The inn has five beautiful private hot springs baths including an open-air bath on the top floor. The food is based on a regular washoku (Japanese cuisine) menu and features many edible plants and other local ingredients. Fujiï¿½s favourites include the sansai, mountain vegetables, including kogomi (ostrich fern fiddleheads) and urui (plantain lily petioles.) The only exception to this local-only rule is Cafe Wisteria (English for fuji), open only in the summer months, and offering international coffees and cakes.
To get to the Fujiya Inn, take the 3.5-hour trip on the Yamagata Bullet Train (Shinkansen) from Tokyo and then get a bus to the hot springs. Or fly from Tokyo to the Yamagata airport and arrange for a pick up by the inn. By Tuija Seipell