July 8 2015

‘We eat with our eyes’….

Let’s take a minute and really consider what this means. Traditionally we have associated this statement with the freshness of our food; the moment you can see all the amazing components of a dish in their individual state and the vast array of colors they collectively offer.

The truth is though, that freshness is in everything around us, it’s in our food, our fashion, our music, our art, our ideas, our attitudes and of course our architecture. What becomes particularly exciting is when there is a distinct and clear connection of freshness between two or more of these aspects at any one given time and the ability it has to excite our multitude of senses.

Bar Nou is exactly this, a clash of freshness; fresh food, fresh design and fresh architecture. Located in a city known well for its unorthodox and unique architecture, this Barcelona statement piece is ‘light and fresh’ in every sense of the term. A product of emerging architectural design quartet Maio, this small but eloquent tapas bar pays homage to the traditional Catalonian dish of ‘pa amb tomàquet’. Which for those who are unfamiliar is the amazing combination of toast, diced tomatoes, and top-shelf olive oil with garlic and salt; simple yet highly appealing, much like the design.

Whilst the team from Maio have managed to achieve a design which is blissfully simple, the more you break it down it’s actually full of complexities. For example the timber clad ceiling which has been arranged like a vault gives the bar an interesting sense of proportion and provides an air of ‘domesticity’, which comes back to the idea of tomatoes on toast at home. The complexity of the construction becomes even more evident through in the way the ceiling intersects with the front façade, making it an interesting feature rather than hidden, which opposes the usual way in which roofing structure is treated.

Maio have been very careful in exploring the scenographic qualities of the bar and have done this through the use of warping timber, mirrors and that unique ceiling design. By doing this they have been able to achieve a somewhat endless space within a small hole in the wall; which challenges the notion of compact European design and in particular Barcelona which has small sized city blocks to operate within and usually presents many design challenges.

The menu mimics the design and vice versa which always creates an interesting concept when two creative entities communicate directly with each other. The pa amb tomàquet is the hero and is served in a contemporary manner. This is a strong and consistent theme as it was a request of the owner that Bar Nou would be architected in such a way that it combined contemporary design with traditional approaches.

Honouring the old in a new way is what makes this project particularly exciting. How the pa amb tomàquet is prepared in itself is more like an act of ritual, as it’s done at what is best described as a dj-booth-looking-alter placed within the core of the space. An interesting concept which becomes more evident through the overwhelming use of marble which is most widely used in churches within Spain.

The furnishings are modern and sleek with hints of traditional Spanish domestic tradition. The lighting is purposeful and well thought out, from the down lighting over each table to the vibrant neon pictographs on the front façade which depict pictures of wineglasses, a carafe, a tomato, a loaf of bread and so cleverly draws the eyes of passers-by.  

‘We eat with our eyes’, a concept that Bar Nou and the design team from Maio have now forced us to consider in a whole new light. - David Mousa.


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June 24 2015

Glasgow-born, Berlin-based architect and designer Leigh Sachwitz’s Studio for Design flora&faunavisions GmbH has created a mesmerizing interactive experience called “Insideout” for the Triennale der Photographie in Hamburg.
The Triennale has occurred every three years since 1999 and this year’s event is held from June 18 to June 28.

Leigh Sachwitz’s installation is both chilling and soothing at the same time. It is a 360° multimedia installation that explores the house as a sanctuary and as a safe haven from nature’s many forces.

Inside the greenhouse-like illuminated installation, the viewer, or more specifically the participant, experiences nature’s many forces by hearing the rain and watching the dark clouds gather above, and when the protective walls disappear, the participant will feel exposed and vulnerable in the eye of the storm. But then, once the storm has passed, there is a feeling of purity and freshness, and an overall sense of calm envelopes the participant.

The visual installation is accompanied by sound design by the Berlin-based award-winning composer, musician and producer Andi Toma, one of the founding members of the electronic music collaboration Mouse on Mars. - Tuija Seipell.


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June 14 2015

Synonymous with classical beauty and timeless style, marble has been the epitome of luxurious sophistication for millennia. Reinventing this ancient material for the modern lifestyle, the world’s first real marble smartphone case.

Available in Black Marquina or White Carrara, and featuring a slice of marble as thin as a credit card, the CLIC Marble iPhone case offers the perfect balance between elegance, strength and durability.

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June 4 2015

At some point in time within the space of your existence you’ve imagined escaping, not to any place in particular, just merely escaping from everything you know. Winding down the windows and setting yourself loose with reckless abandonment. It’s that moment where the thrill of the moment far outweighs the thought of the final destination, a feeling that’s so unnatural within the day to day psyche

Commissioned by The Cool Hunter, this stunning and unique photo by LA based photographer Jared Chambers is reminiscent of that exact feeling. Art is intended to evoke an emotion and this piece does exactly that sitting on your wall reminding you to take a walk on the wild side every now and again.

Limited Edition of 50 - Purchase here

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June 2 2015

The work of the Finland-born, Los Angeles –educated Joanna Laajisto is drawing our attention for the second time this year. In January, we wrote about her Finlandia Caviar restaurant in Helsinki.

This time, we are fascinated by the classy drama she’s created in the Le Roy nightclub and ball room/party space located on the second floor at the König corner (the corner named after the well-established, storied restaurant König) in Helsinki.

Much of the corner in downtown Helsinki’s main restaurant area has been under renovation and several restaurants have now re-opened. Among them is not just the second-floor Le Roy but also Michel downstairs, also designed by Laajisto and owned by the Center-Inn group that operates over a dozen restaurants in Helsinki.

Le Roy opened just in time for the serious party-time kick-off of First of May this year. Laajisto has retained the character of the original building, designed in 1982 by architect Karl August Wrede. Wrede was the architect of the entire passage located between the North Esplanade and Aleksanterinkatu streets and known as the Old Trade Passage, and in more recent years as the “Granny Tunnel” referring to the ladies of certain age spending time sipping bubbly in the many restaurants.

Laajisto has allowed the large windows of the building to dictate much of the feel of the space. There is more natural light than in a typical night club and her lighting choices add to the dramatic play of dark and light.
The dark wood flooring, wood paneling, dark-hued furnishings and original fittings, such as mirrors and sconces, are beautifully enhanced by the natural light with the overall effect suggesting a space that has known many stories and parties in the past of the capital city.

Laajisto selected the additional lighting from the collections of the Swedish Rubn and London-based (and Germany and Sweden manufactured) Atelier Areti. Some lighting fixtures were custom-created for Le Roy.

The round marble tables come from Frankfurt-based e15 and the lounge chairs and sofas are by B&B Italia. - Tuija Seipell.



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June 1 2015

What kind of society would we live in if architecture and design were merely just jobs instead of expressive art forms that articulated the beliefs and values of people, organizations and cultures? This is an age old question which faces designers every single day.

In conjunction with Australian health care provider Medibank, a creative collaboration of designers set out to express the values of health and wellbeing established by the company and in doing so have done far more than just their jobs.

Perhaps to the average person it’s a very cool set of stairs yet when you consider it from a design point of view it’s a successful and impressive feat of creativity.

Traditionally we place so much emphasis on the places and spaces we are going to and we forget to acknowledge the importance of the transitional points which get us there.

In this particular case the stairs are the focal point and they certainly don’t disappoint. They are not as much as a distraction to the eye yet more of a piece of art the eye can’t stop looking at. They are levels upon levels of curvilinear vibrancy, acting in an abstract way to shape the boundary of a light filled void space which sets the scene for this beautiful building.

They truly serve an important purpose.  

Located in Melbourne’s Docklands, Medibank Place is a statement piece promoting the companies beliefs of ‘better health for everyone’, from customers to the people who come to work there every day.

The design of the new workplace was a further extension of a major cultural change from Medibank who have taken a particular focus on preventative health and wellbeing.

The aspiration of Medibank is to create one of the healthiest workplaces in the world. With this in mind the design teams of Chris Connell Design, Kerry Phelan Design Office, Russell and George and HASSELL Architects collectively set out to make this vision a reality.   

It’s a workplace which is emphatic of movement, flexibility, freedom, creativity, interaction and engagement; all points which we associate with positive physical and mental health. It’s amazing to think the endless possibilities good design can have and in this case it now sets the benchmark for healthier workplaces and hopefully in turn a healthier society.

The buildings form has been established so that employees are able to roam freely and work in any of the 26 different work settings at their disposal. These spaces range from indoor quiet zones and collaborative hubs to wifi-enabled balconies and the buildings public park.

The stairs act as the heart of this operation and are a key piece of design in achieving successful movement from zone to zone. The intention behind this being that staff feel both empowered whilst encouraged to move around during the day which is crucial to staying healthy.

In essence these stairs are Medibank ‘walking the talk’ when it comes to promoting better health and equally important are an example of careful, considerate and socially conscious design.  On any given day they can take you on a new and unique journey to being a better person and this is what good design is all about; changing lives and inspiring minds. - David Mousa. (Photography Earl Carter)


May 31 2015

When Eileen and Jerry Ford established Ford Models Agency in their New York City home in 1946, they created a new kind of global beauty agency concept, and an entirely new business category. Since then, the agency has been the benchmark establishment for all others in the business of beauty.

Opulence and grand scale have always been key features of the agency’s offices around the world from New York City to Paris, Sao Paulo, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles.

It is not surprising, that this culture of global luxury, plus the heritage of the Art Deco style Warren and Wetmore building on New York’s 57th Street, formed the foundation for the stunning design for Ford Models Women’s Division’s 5000 square-foot (464.5 square metre) penthouse headquarters at number 57 on 57th Street.

Rafael de Gardenas’ Architecture at Large juxtaposed the Art Deco features of the space with Gothic and Parisian elements and established an elegant environment with an imaginative feel of history and efficiency.

For example, the mixing of semi-industrial looking lighting with fantastic murals of flora and fauna by Leon Benn produces a dramatic effect, as does the no-nonsense, factory-like row of work stations positioned at a long desk in a former living room with a prominent fireplace.

Executive offices are located in a three-sided solarium with open terraces and spectacular views as special features.

The harmonious balance of old and modern is always difficult to achieve, but Rafael de Gardenas Architecture at Large has managed to do it graciously and confidently on many occasions. So far, their work in Ford Models Agency remains our favorite. - Tuija Seipell.





May 30 2015
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May 29 2015

May we just move in, please? This super-sleek, one-storey residence is rather close to a perfect minimalist house.

It fits in its surroundings and manages to appear like a real home for real people although it also reveals its cool, sophisticated character that reflects the tastes of the owners.

Located in residential suburb, about a 15-minute drive away from Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, the 264 square-metre (2841 sq.ft.), three- bedroom house centers around an inner courtyard that also has a swimming pool.

The car port merges seamlessly with the overall scheme and does not appear like an add-on. As a clean concrete cell, the car port not just shelters the owner’s retro sports car, but it also creates a display case for it. The shelter works just like a perfect box for the perfect gift; it enhances it but does not compete with it or take anything away from it.

The minimalist general approach, and the low profile and scale, make the structure seem unpretentious and sleek and much smaller than it actually is.

Our eyes are drawn to the elegant use of white as the colour of floors, and even the concrete and gravel outside.

This same educated minimalism is in view also inside the residence, where minimalism is not taken to a painful degree, neither is the harmony broken by arbitrary, and so often meaningless, splashes of colour. Much of the furniture is by Poliform and B&B Italia

Glass, wood and concrete are the main materials used in this house, affectionately called the Piano House. This name comes from the display-like open space around the grand piano. Because the piano is on display in a minimalist setting, it becomes the main character. Or, conversely, one might say that the piano as the main character has dictated the fact that open space is needed around it. The key point here is balance, and knowing what to leave out.

We believe that it is very easy to be complicated, not just in architecture and design in general, but in all creative endeavours. Minimalism is not easy, as we have said on so many occasions, but when it IS executed well, it creates an elegant sense of ease and lightness.

Everything belongs, everything fits together, everything speaks the same, language. Tuija Seipell


May 26 2015

Build a massive house made of concrete in the middle of a grove of 130 beautiful protected old oak trees and you have an ugly disaster in your hands.
This scenario sounds likely but it was elegantly avoided in the Oak Pass Main House that Walker Workshop designed for a private client in Beverly Hills, California.

The house sits on a 3.5-acre site at the rim of a canyon, which is why the fantastic views were the main consideration of the house plan.
The ornate oak trees provide a contrast for the hard edges of the low-lying house - a delicate balance not easily achieved.

The use of glass allows for views and vistas over and through the house and makes the mass of the house seem much smaller than it is.

Structural concrete is the main building material as it lets large spans of space to flow into each other without columns or supports.

All of this leads to a calm harmony between the site and the elegant minimalist house.

The 8,000 square-foot (743 sq.m.) single-family residence includes four bedrooms on the lower level beneath the green grassy roof, two kitchens, a dining room, a living room, an office, a 900-bottle wine room, an exercise room, a media room, four bathrooms and a powder room, a foyer and an art gallery courtyard plus a garage.

A 75-foot lap pool with infinity edges on three of four sides, bisects the house.

This large residence is on the same property with the much written-about Oak Pass Guest House that Walker Workshop completed in 2013. - Tuija Seipell.