May 28 2016

Lyndon Neri and Rosanna Hu, the husband-and-wife team behind the Shanghai-based “design and research office” Neri & Hu have had their bold work recognized in many ways over the 12 years their office has existed.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Neri explains how he grew up in the Philippines, studied at Berkeley and Harvard and worked with his wife for the American architect Michael Graves. Yet, they returned to China and have since created a remarkable body of work in residential, hospitality and retail projects.

As an architect, Neri strives to take control of the entire project, the way architects in the early history did, so that the components do not appear to be coming from different creative directions.

Many of Neri & Hu’s projects exude a confidence and bravery that is uncommon in the retail and hospitality design world where each new project seems to be a slightly embellished copy of the ones before.

In the first-ever dedicated retail store for the well-known Korean beauty brand Sulwhasoo, Neri & Hu’s team used a startling, dense grid of brass that according to the designers refers to the importance of lanterns in Asian culture as illuminators of travel and markers of beginnings and endings.

More specifically, the design concept seems to fly in the face of the “known facts of retail” especially the ideas that every square inch counts and merchandise should be the main focal point.
In Neri & Hu’s concept for Sulwhasoo, the dense lattice grid wastes space with abandon and overpowers the entire multi-level structure that is slightly softened by the wooden floors, round mirrors and suspended light fixtures. Merchandise takes a secondary position to the structure, yet the lattice leads the customers to each of the display section and spa in a determined fashion.

The first floor houses the main boutique, gift-wrapping and auditorium, while VIP rooms, lounges and spas are located above and below. The colour palette becomes lighter and lighter as the visitors move from the dark basement floor with the main spa toward the roof terrace with city views.

“The journey is a constant contradiction between two counterparts: enclosed to open, dark to light, delicate to massive,” the  architects wrote in their statement. - Tuija Seipell.


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May 27 2016

These images of the G House in Brussels, Belgium, have charmed us for some time. The impressive three-storey townhouse was designed in 1907 by the architects François Kielbaey and J. L'Anvre.

The building’s French limestone façade was restored by the Brussels-based architect Olivier Dwek as part of an extensive re-configuration.

The exceptionally lovely single-family residence has retained its majestic, classical elements: mouldings, fireplaces, wide archways and windows with curved contours.

We wrote about Dwek’s work last year - the T House on the Greek Island of Zakynthos – and noted the clarity and confidence with which the residence speaks the languages of both the past and the present; of local traditions and modern minimalism.

The same can be said of the Brussels residence. Although the building is traditional and exudes old-world charm, the renovation has also added an edge of current cool. Yet, the result is a timeless elegance that carries no specific label.

Original windows were restored where possible and some were replaced with exact replicas of the original. Light flows beautifully throughout the building, letting the garden in to add its green colour to the otherwise white interior.

One of our favourite elements is the central staircase that was extended up n additional floor. The imposing black wrought-iron balustrade of the new section is an identical reproduction of the original one below.

Olivier Dwek has designed some of the furniture for this residence, but the most distinctive pieces in these images come from two of his favourites Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand. The soft forms of the mouldings, doorways and windows contrast beautifully with the more angular, contemporary-yet-classic, visually imposing forms of their furniture.

Jeanneret was a Swiss architect who for more than 20 years worked with his more famous cousin Charles Edouard Jeanneret – better known by his pseudonym, Le Corbusier.

In the Brussels residence, Jeanneret’s High Court Down sofa from about 1955 with its solid teak frame and white foalskin upholstery is positioned right next to French architect and designer Charlotte Perriand’s daybed (from 1956-59) with its elegant neck roll in white leather.

Under the staircase, Perriand’s Ombre chair of black bent plywood (1958) creates an stark connection with the black iron baluster.

Another startling setting is created by Perriand’s six-leaf table (1949) of solid pine surrounded by tiny rustic stools also by Perriand. - Tuija Seipell.

Photographer: Serge Anton


May 19 2016

We admit. We are suffering from a mad case of barbershop envy. And that takes some doing, pampered as we females supposedly are with spas and salons and boutiques. 

But a true gentleman cave like this gorgeous barbershop, Barberia Royal in Mexico City, threatens to flatten our powdered noses as we peer into the brand-spanking new salon that manages to exude that annoyingly suave and hard-to-replicate old-world charm while seeming thoroughly modern.

Barberia Royal is located on the street level of a relatively unattractive building in a historically important neighbourhood. The corner is famous for the Reforma - the ceremonial boulevard created in the 19th century by Maximilian Habsburg as Emperor of Mexico -  the city’s best hotels and the Chapultepec – one of the world’s largest urban parks.

Mexico City-based ROW Studio with team members Álvaro Hernández Félix, Nadia Hernández Félix and Alfonso Maldonado Ochoa tackled the project with confident gusto, although it had some unusual and potentially unattractive components. Chief among them was the fact that the space had already been partially developed as a barbershop but that particular project was never completed.

Incorporating parts of the previous design, and recycling mouldings, wooden elements and other components has perhaps been the secret that made the new Barberia Royal appear so refreshingly and eclectically new, although the chief tone is decidedly traditional and old-world.

We love the tiled black-and-white hexagonal tiles of the beautiful floor; we love the dark-panted wood, the brass and the marble. But we especially like the rounded edges that are echoed in many pieces and elements: the windows, the mirrors, the chair backs; even some of the lighting fixtures speak this soft-edged language of timeless grace and elegance.

The insanely confusing ceiling is an attractively out-of-place eye-catcher with its reflective cut-outs of golden anodized aluminum.

The space is divided elegantly into two areas: The barbershop proper - with all its traditional accoutrements including original chairs from the 1950s upholstered in mustard-yellow leather, each facing a large beveled mirror with golden heads of a lion, a wolf, a stag, a zebra, an elephant and a moose as decorative accents,- and the waiting area with its leather seating and fully stocked courtesy bar and display cases showing the best grooming products.

And yes, what indeed would a manly enclosure of contemplative grooming be without a vintage motorcycle (a restored Triumph) or real buffalo head? - Tuija Seipell.



May 15 2016

Bookstores and libraries have long been on the endangered species list as many of us prefer to either not read ‘long-form’ text at all or read our books on our tablets, pads and e-readers.

But, against these odds, there are quite a few amazing exceptions all over the world. From old book emporiums with long histories and traditions to brand new enterprises willing to battle the odds.

One of the brightest stars of the latter category is the Zhonshuge bookstore whose Thames Town store in the Songjieang District about 30 km (19 miles) from Central Shanghai opened three years ago and quickly gained a reputation as the city’s most beautiful bookstore. With its nine reading, an egg-shaped white room with glass walls and ceiling designed by students from the China Academy of Art, the store attracted more than 1 million visitors in less than a year.

To continue its quest of proving that bookstores are by no means a business with no future, Zhongshuge opened another massive book emporium for what it calls a ‘trial operation’, on April 23rd, The World Book Day, in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province.

Designed by Shanghai-based XL MUSE Architectural Design (Shanghai) Co., the Hangchou store is, if possible, even more beautiful and breathtaking than the first store.

The designers refer to the British Novelist Somerset Maugham who has been quoted as saying that ‘to acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.’

Every specific and distinctive area of the 1,000 square-meter (10763 sq.ft) store has been created to respect books and knowledge and to offer a refuge, a peaceful place to read and ‘rest one’s soul’.

Perhaps the most stunning area of the store is the white forest of books, a sparkling and shimmering corridor that leads from the Star Avenue Commercial Centres Phase 1 to Phase 2.

Glass, mirrors, hard surfaces and bright lights seem lift the book pillar off ground and make everything appear to be somewhat otherworldly, space-agey and startling. Narrow counters or desks intersperse with the trees f books, forming little creek-like breaks and resting places.

From this area, opens the massive main reading room with wooden book shelves extending from floor to ceiling on both sides, in what seems like an endless hall of books.

Comfortable reading areas invite visitors to sit down and immerse themselves in the wisdom, knowledge, entertainment and fun available in books. What we love is the complete lack of cash registers and sales material in the general immediate area.

We also love the magnificently fun kids’ area that should make a reader out of every child. The bookshelves themselves are shaped like carousels, cars, windmills, pirate ships and airplanes, with hobby horses and pastel-coloured mini furniture providing the places to sit and play among the books.

The XL-MUSE’s design team director was Li Xiang and team members included Liu Huan, Fan Chen, Zhang Xiao nd Tong Ni-Na. -  Tuija Seipell.


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May 1 2016

German-born abstract artist Peter Zimmermann’s current exhibition is a fantastical mix of a traditional art exhibition and an experiential show.
The exhibition, open till June 19, 2016, at the Museum für Neue Kunst, is Zimmermann’s first solo show in his Black Forest home town of Freiburg, Germany.

Known for his colourful abstract ‘blob art’, the 60-year-old Zimmermann has created a unique, large walk-in art experience in the 1902 museum building that once housed a girls’ school.
The installation consists of several white-painted rooms where bright abstract artworks on the wall appear quite harmlessly traditional, but upon entering the spaces, the guest is confused by the highly reflective floors that not only seem to interact with the paintings, but also make the guests feel part of the art itself.

The entire installation takes up some 425 square meters (about 4,575 square feet) and each of the white-backgrounded paintings was newly created for this special exhibition.

According to the Museum, the artists is deploying digital filters and computer programs, and uses templates – such as photographs, film stills or diagrams – in unusual ways, transferring them onto canvas in several layers of transparent epoxy resin.

Peter Zimmermann has titled the installation ‘Freiburg School.’ This refers to the museum building’s past but it also reflects his musings on education and visual communication in today’s computerized and digitalized world. - Tuija Seipell.


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April 17 2016

Slender supporting pilotis and horizontal slivers of concrete characterize the cube-like residential project, White House by Marcio Kogan’s StudiMK27.

The 500 square-meter (5380 sq.ft) building is an elegant example of tropical minimalism. It is constructed of durable industrial materials – concrete and white aluminum – to withstand the harsh tropical elements by the sea, yet it is deceivingly airy and weightless.

These external hallmarks link the Brazilian architect’s work with that of Lina Bo Bardi whose famous Casa de Vidro (Glass House) was completed in 1951, a year before Kogan was born.

Kogan admires Oscar Niemeyer but he has called Bo Bardi “the very best of Brazilian modernists” and he has consistently employed the very best of Bo Bardi’s favourite architectural elements.

White House is a private residence in São Paulo in the São Sebastião region known for its 36 beaches on the southeast coast of Brazil.

The house itself is basically a flat box on stilts, with the ground floor dedicated to all social activity including cooking and dining. The first floor houses all of the bedrooms and on top of that is the terrace garden accessible via a round hatch door.

The surrounding nature is present everywhere thanks to the liberal use of glass. Several other features inside contribute to the sensation of weightlessness.

The industrial materials are softened by the use of native wood. We love the perforated partitions that evoke the muxarabi, Moorish-inspired latticework screens and one of the hallmarks of Brazilian modernism.

In this residence, the partitions allow the light to filter through while creating lovely reflection patterns on the floors and walls.

We also love the floating cantilevered staircases that support the idea of lightness with their understated presence.

Studio MK27 created the White House with co-architect Eduardo Chalabi. The interior design is by Studio MK27 architect Diana Radomysler.

Marcio Kogan founded his Studio the early 1980s. He has since made a significant mark in the world of architecture, not just as a modernist in Brazil but globally as well. - Tuija Seipell.

Photographer: Fernando Guerra.





April 14 2016

Off-hand, one might not think of an ancient Bulgarian town at the foot of the Pirin Mountains as the location of a night club whose design was inspired by the Disney science fiction movie TRON:Legacy.

Yet the Flash Club in Bansko fits right in with the smart set of this European ski resort that is also known for its jazz and pop music scene.

Sofia, Bulgaria-based Studio Mode with chief designer and founder Svetoslav Todorov at the helm created an eerie pulsating and swirling atmosphere through the use of reflecting surfaces and massive circular forms.

State-of-the art sound and lighting schemes complete the illusion of an otherworldly experience .
VIP podiums link up with the bar through beams of light while the reflections off the surfaces amplify the space and produce an impression of infinity.


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April 10 2016


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April 1 2016

The ‘Swiss chalet’ style brings to mind wooden buildings with high gabled roofs, decorative carvings, rows of balconies and exposed wood beams.

But it is also a style that has been more or less ruined by its hundreds of boring, cookie-cut re-iterations in ski resorts around the world.

Even in the Alps, the chalet has become shorthand for pretty much anything that resembles a chalet and can house lots of tourists.

The traditional chalet, however, was a ‘chahtelèt’ (a shepherd’s hut), a solid wooden house with a gabled roof and shuttered windows, built on a stone foundation.

With this in mind, when Amsterdam-based SeARCH (Stedenbouw en ARCHitectuur =Urban Planning & Architecture) was approached by a client who had bought a property in the Swiss ski resort of Anzère, the architects proposed to start from scratch.

The steep hillside building plot was not large, so the architect proposed an entirely new chalet that is both compact and spacious.

Inspired by one of the oldest chalets in Switzerland, the Grand Chalet Balthus in Rossinière, they fitted the entire villa under one solid, clear wrapper.

The wide white edges of the frame give a distinctive and modern look to the three-level building with the guest house downstairs, the main living areas in the middle and a private apartment on the top level.

The garage, accessible from the lower road, is connected to all levels through an elevator that was carved into the mountain.

All floors open to a three-meter wide terrace with views over the Dent Blanche Massif with 4,000-metre peaks of Matterhorn, Dent Blanche, Dufourspitze and Weisshorn. - Tuija Seipell.




March 6 2016

The designers of the Mascara nightclub in Sofia, Bulgaria, took their cues from the whimsical story of Alice in Wonderland and from the storied building of the National Opera and Ballet of Bulgaria.

Founded in 2003 by interior designer Svetoslav Todorov, Sofia-based Studio Mode has designed several night clubs, but Club Mascara is special as it is located on the underground level of the National Opera and Ballet, a building dating back to 1953.

All the drama, props and illusions of theatre and opera combined with the confusing yet amusing madness of Alice in Wonderland gave the designers a rich palette of ideas.

They chose a black-and-white colour scheme to serve as the backdrop for the juxtaposition of round and angular forms, transparent and solid walls, illusionary props and real.

Everything appears to be slightly confusing – vertical and horizontal, up and down, soft and hard, solid and pliable. The bar divides the scene into two parts – the main theater where everything is happening, and the VIP area that is hidden and secretive.

The lighting provides the moving colour at night when the club is full and adds to the baffling feel of things getting curiouser and curiouser by the hour. - Tuija Seipell.


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