Villa Eugenie is an "events" company in the most impressive sense of the word. These are not people who organize bridal showers and baby parties for minor movie stars. For the Brussels-based team of Villa Eugenie, led by Etienne Russo, routine means orchestrating a major runway event for a major fashion house. And stunning everyone.
Best known for its catwalk extravaganzas, Villa Eugenie is now involved in not just creating spectacular fashion shows, but staging major events for luxury business in all of its forms - magazine launches, major celebrations, and jewellery, perfume, art and opera installations, corporate events and fairs around the world. The team also advises major fashion brands on store concepts, stores space searches, lighting and branding. Although based in Brussels, Villa Eugenie operates in all major fashion and luxury centers and has a permanent office also in Miami.
We do not envy their task of having to impress the time-hardened fashion buyer or editor, or the celebrities that line up the runways of the famous fashion emporiums. These events are critiqued like major concerts or art exhibitions, and the shows themselves are as much about drama and ever-bigger surprises as they are about the designers, or the fashions - most of which are unwearable by mere mortals anyway.
Villa Eugenie must be doing it right. Year after year, its client list reads like a Who is Who in the fashion world: Chanel, Dries Van Noten, Miu Miu, Maison Martin Margiela, Lanvin, Hermés, Hugo Bosss, Sonia Rykiel, Olivier Strelli, and the
These are all major brands with huge production budgets. But even when you know that sky is not the budget's limit, it is still astonishing that the same production company can be creating several shows in one season - all attended by the same posse of cynical seen-it-all viewers - and not start to appear stale or formulaic. Boundless creativity and ruthless attention to detail, both most likely still sparked for each project by Etienne Russo himself, are the cornerstones of such a feat.
Russo started humbly in the 1980s as an artistic and creative barman at Mirano, a fashionable nightclub in Brussels. He was soon creating major events there and drawing serious attention. His first real fashion client was Dries Van Noten for whom he worked as a model, salesman, lighting engineer, cook and extraordinary producer of Van Noten's first fashion show in Paris in 1991.
In 1995, Russo started his own production firm, naming it after the charming villa where it was located. Since 2004, the Villa Eugenie team has worked out of a former factory close to Brussels South station (Bruxelles-Midi, Brussel-Zuid). The space, covered by a vast glass canopy, was redesigned by the Ghent-based architect Glenn Sestig
This is the same man who this year opened his first luxury hotel Sestig Hotel. In the cubic Huis Van Waes building in Ghent that he reconstructed. By Tuija Seipell
Seen any other interesting events we should know about? e-mail [email protected]
It’s not only the destination that is important – the trip itself matters as well. Both literally and figuratively. So why are we left bored out of our heads, plus cold, wet, angry and hungry, as we wait (and wait and wait) in line ups?
It is because the operators of clubs, cinemas, theatres, restaurants, sports facilities and other entertainment venues fail to embrace — or take advantage of – the entire user experience. We are right there, waiting to be entertained and they ignore us and leave us out in the cold?
As we ponder this, we are delighted when something like this fun ski-lift shows up under our radar. It serves as a metaphor for the idea of doing more than the minimum with every aspect of the experience. What we see is ingenuity, creativity, and a sense of style and fun.
Sensory overload is unavoidable in Paris, and after a while you become a bit numb. But like a sorbet that clears your palate between courses, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac’s (JC/DC) store at 10 Rue Vauvilliers will work as a visual palate-refresher.
The store has an air of theatre without being theatrical, drama without being dramatic and history without being historical. A retro, semi-aggressive undertone, popped up by whimsy and surprise. Oh yes, they do sell fashion, too.
The store’s flair and ingenuity are not accidental. Cooperation between super-talents such as JC/DC and Christian Ghion is likely to produce something remarkable. In his 40-plus years in the business of high-impact eye candy, the Casablanca, Morocco-born Marquis de Castelbajac has enjoyed enormous successes designing fashion, movies, cars, sportswear and interiors. Celebrities from Elton John to Pope John Paul II have worn his creations and added to his fame.
The 49-year-old Christian Ghion is no less prolific or versatile. He is known as a designer of high-end furniture and accessories, exhibitions, and home, store and hotel interiors. His chicest furniture design is the 2002 Shadow chaise lounge for Cappellini. By Tuija Seipell
Poetry and storytelling help us understand the world that surrounds us. Visual imagery allows the mind to draw parallels between what we see and how we think. Dutch designer Jurgen Bey has created a classroom that will inspire young minds to think beyond the realm of what is traditionally asked of school children.
The classroom interior project is part of the ROC training school at Apeldoorn in the Netherlands. Practically every surface of the room is covered with images found in books used at the school. Centred around a palate of white and grey, Bey selected graphics then placed them around the space on walls, furniture and even the floor. Moveable screens allow the room to open completely or divide space depending on the activities taking place.
One key feature, the highly wear-resistant flooring system made with Senso Freeze, contains a transparent resin that allowed Bey to embed digital photographs onto the surface. Inspiration and creativity seeps from every surface - it's impossible to imagine what will be generated from the minds as they pass through this space. By Andrew J Wiener
Let's just all rewind the movie of our lives a bit and go back to school. We at Coolhunter are thinking of heading to University of London's Birkbeck College and finding our way to the classes at its Film & Visual Media Research Centre.
You cannot tell from the outside that the odd set of buildings at London's Gordon Square offers anything remarkable at all. The older building does have a pedigree - it is the former home of both Virginia Stephens (later Woolf) and economist John Maynard Keynes. The drab 1970s extension to the building does not even deserve another look. Except inside.
Award-winning London-based Surface Architects won the competition to create within the buildings the permanent home of the Film & Visual Media Research Centre. Surface transformed the basement, ground floor and the extension into a unique state-of-the-art 80-seat cinema auditorium, surrounded by a media study suite, seminar rooms and offices.
Ian Christie, Birkbeck's Professor of Film and Media History, describes the exciting new building “...the new cinema auditorium - already being referred to as 'The Screen on the Square' is as soberly dedicated to ideal screening conditions as the surrounding break-out spaces and stairway are an exuberant display of pure form and colour. In fact, Surface's extraordinary projection of intersecting cones has various filmic associations: the jagged angles recall the Expressionist set design of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, an influential German film of 1921; and the lurid colours evoke Andy Warhol's silkscreen portraits of film stars.”
Key players at Surface are Richard Scott, who formed it in 1996, and Andy MacFee, who joined Surface in 2001 as director. Both have worked with Will Alsop and other notables. Surface is also one of 47 practices worldwide selected to work on the Athlete's Village for the London 2012 Olympics. By Tuija Seipell
Forget about wandering through an art gallery and wondering if you’re the only one who has no idea what anything means. Acess Agency has brilliantly invited the cultural elite to grab a glass at an exhibition in Dresden, Germany, and drink away the art.
Regardless of what we do or do not understand about art, we can all agree, it stimulates our senses. Access has aroused our sense of taste (not to mention eliminated the need of elbowing our way to the bar) by hanging flat, glass containers with a variety of cocktails in the exhibition space. As the night progressed, the levels of the multi-coloured infusions diminished. By the end of the event, the art, itself, ran dry, and empty drinking glasses were returned to where they were originally placed. - Andrew J Wiener.
For some time, designers, architects and builders all over the world have tinkered with the idea of turning excess standard shipping containers into living quarters. Some of the incarnations of the lowly metal box are downright chic, including artist-architect Adam Kalkin's Quik House for which he apparently has more orders than he can handle.
But these metal containers have also drawn the attention of some leading brands that have started to use the eye-popping ideas to full advantage. Holiday shoppers milling about the Time Warner Center in New York will have a fabulous chance to experience one of these soon. Between November 28 and December 29, 2007, they can rest, relax and sip a perfect cup of illy espresso in one of Kalkin's creations, the temporary Push Button House cafe that the Trieste, Italy-based illycaffe will install there.
The European premier of this concept by Alan Kalkin and illy took place at the 52nd Venice Biennale where illy continues to partner with the Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia by providing the visitors each year a space to relax and enjoy their complimentary espresso. This was illy's fourth year of establishing the refreshment area at the Biennale but the Push Button House version created an unprecedented buzz.
With the push of a button, the house opens in 90 seconds like a flower and transforms from a compact container into a fully furnished and functional space with a kitchen, dining room, bathroom, bedroom, living room and library. All materials used in the Biennale house were recyclable or recycled. As Andrea Illy, chairman and CEO of illycaffe, has been quoted as saying, illy was initially interested in Kalkin's idea as an examination of 'home as one continuous mouldable surface, a relief against which human activity would pop out.';
Kalkin's concepts have proven to be adaptable to many circumstances. His company has developed container-unit projects for everything from disaster-relief housing to luxury dwellings (pictured below), and for promotional purposes such as the illy cafe. By Tuija Seipell.
They used to say "a light bulb goes on in your mind" when knowledge happens. The Danish architects at 3XN already realise the sun is the true source of knowledge - providing fuel for each global system. Imagine the power more sunlight can provide young minds hard at work in their schools.
Orestad College (upper school) opened this year just south of central Copenhagen in the development area of Orestad. The superstructure of the building is formed by four boomerang-shaped platforms that rotate over four floors and remain open to one another allowing for a seamless interconnection of space throughout the school. This open, high central hall, known as the X-zone is linked by a stairway that helps promote interdisciplinary communication and cooperation among the various teaching and study spaces.
Transparent glass louvres automatically rotate on the exterior of the building allowing light in and providing an array of colours to the interior environments. By manipulating the sunlight the entire student body becomes aware of the passing of time and the changing of the seasons as the school year progresses.
Sustainability for education can certainly begin with the design of the school itself, and 3XN has successfully integrated the traditional Scandinavian aspects of functionality with clarity and beauty in form. - Andrew J Wiener
The stark XXS Shop for Mobile Gadgets opened earlier this year in Hamburg’s Innenstadt, at Spitalen Hof 8. It is a minimalist showroom by Hamburg-based Spine Architects for Etronixx-Trading GmbH. The store is void of practically everything else but white surfaces and the merchandise itself. Mobile gizmos appear almost suspended in air, as they rest in small slots within the white expanse of built-in cabinetry that encircles the entire space. It is an excellent example of forcing the customer - in a pleasant way - to focus on the products, not on the props.
Spine is a German-English partnership that started between Boris Bähre, J'orn Hadzik, Jan Löhrs and Neil Winstanley in 2001 when they won one of the prizes awarded in the international design competition for Rabin Square in Tel-Aviv, Israel. They are known for their work in several areas, from housing to public places to TV shows, private homes and shops. In September, Spine Architects opened an office in Menlo Park, San Francisco. By Tuija Seipell
Walking past a series of drab estate agent windows doesn't really make you want to part with your hard earned cash. Even if you are looking to move out.
That's why estate agents Hotblack Desiato - depicted as a keyboard player in the cult sci-fi novel, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - decided to spruce up their Islington offices in London.
These little clusters of property were inspired by the revival of cubism within architecture. The 3-D squares created by designer Paul Crofts are set at varying depths to create an almost pixel like installation that spills over onto the adjacent wall inside. Which makes poking your nose round other people's houses that little bit sweeter. By Matt Hussey