Wood is both universal and unique. No other material is as deeply embedded in the history, culture and life of humans worldwide as wood, yet every single piece of wood is unique.
The color tone, texture, durability, flexibility and even sound qualities of different tree species have puzzled and challenged artists, architects, designers, builders and artisans for thousands of years.
Still today, nothing matches wood in versatility or beauty, so it is great to see how today’s designers and architects continue to face the challenge of wood, and use it creatively to interpret sleek, modern designs.
They use wood to meet their current needs and desires for which wood is ideally suited. People seek calm surroundings, simplicity and minimalism to soothe their frayed nerves and to counter the constant visual overload they face. Wood’s warmth and natural beauty works wonders for creating a sense of balance and calm.
People also look for sustainable alternatives, eco-friendly options, greener solutions. When harvested, managed and used sustainably, forests are still the source of the greatest material on earth.
We especially love the influence of Scandinavian and Japanese traditions that we can detect in today’s wood architecture and design. Minimalist, functional, beautiful, and light in both color and weight.
Scandinavian building and design traditions are based solidly on the use of wood. Finnish modernist master, architect Alvar Aalto, stunned the world with Living Wood, his design for the Finnish Pavilion for the Paris World Exposition in 1937. In the pavilion, he combined both traditional and modern architecture and showcased his functionalist design sensibilities. It was considered one of the boldest and most innovative pavilions of the Expo.
Earlier, Aalto’s exploration of the limits of bent wood and mass production had resulted in the Paimio chair (1931) and other furniture classics, and had a permanent impact on how furniture looks even today. Aalto’s work influenced many other modernist masters including Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen.
The use of wood in Japanese architecture and design is characterized by austere construction methods, the lightness of materials, the connectedness between indoors and outdoors, and the way in which buildings merge with their surroundings.
With hardly any furniture used inside, Japanese master craftsmen were able to focus their skills on the buildings themselves, on skilful joining of sections without nails, and on revealing, rather than covering or adorning, the original texture and tone of the wood.
Wood as a material has held a charmed place in architecture and design for both its simplicity and complexity. It lends itself to imposing, bulky structures, yet also yields to delicate, undulating forms that seem lacy and transparent.
We love this lightness and elegance, the play of light and shadow, the countless tones of color that can be achieved with skilful use of wood both structurally and decoratively.
In more and more residential projects, both big and small, architects and designers are finding new, creative ways to reveal and highlight the beauty and versatility of wood. They manage to create structures that appear current and cool, yet also exude a classic, timeless elegance.
Every day, we come across images of fantastic single-use residences, recreational cottages, furniture, decks and patios, where the qualities of wood are perfectly matched with the users’ needs and the requirements of the surroundings as well.
In retail and hospitality, wood is also making an impact. We love the blocky, clean look of the Aesop stores. At the other end of the spectrum a good example is the lightness and playfulness achieved in RDAI Architects’ use of wood-slat “huts” as departments in the Paris Hermès store built inside an old hotel swimming pool.
In not just eco-lodges, but also in luxury resorts, spas and hotels, wood is becoming the material of choice. As guests are looking for a retreat, a sense of being back in nature, a quilt-free, tranquil vacation, resorts are responding with wood-frame structures, wood interiors and sustainable solutions that also look fabulous.
Wood is not trendy yet it is incredibly cool. It is a demanding, noble, ancient, living material that we have the privilege to use and enjoy. In wood, the architect, designer and builder face the exhilarating challenge of the sculptor — to reveal the character of the specific species, the individual tree. And we, the viewers and users of their work, have the opportunity to discover it for ourselves. We are looking forward to more. - Tuija Seipell.
At TCH, we are so obsessed with wood that we even created Treelife, an event to showcase the most innovate work using wood in the design of Treehouses.
Even those who are afraid of flying might enjoy the experience of piloting a Boeing 737 at the simmINN Flight Simulation Center in Stuttgart, Germany.
The reason for our confidence is two-fold. One: The aircraft does not leave the ground as the full-size replica of Boeing 737 with its Learjet 45x cockpit are firmly indoors. Two: The outside of the plane looks so cool that you will forget your phobias and just want to hop in and fly!
Frankfurt-based architect Boris Banozic is responsible for the concept, interior and graphic design of this center that is open to the general public. Yes, you, too can book a two-hour flight, piloted by Captain You and no crew! Now, if only an airline company picked up this concept as their head-office design, then we would be really impressed. - Tuija Seipell
FieldCandy tents do not give you camouflage protection in the natural setting, nor do they help you blend in with the rest of the crowd at the campsite. FieldCandy tents are designed to stand out.
When we saw the first images of these limited-edition designer tents with their cool flysheets, we had to really stop and think. Is it true that no-one else has manufactured these types of tents for sale before? We have seen individual pieces displayed as art, but we had not seen anything quite like this.
It was one of those moments when you think: Why have all tents always looked pretty much the same? We customise everything else, why not tents? And even more remarkably: Why have we been satisfied with those boring, standard tent colours for so long?
So, through a two-year development process, Jersey, UK-based FieldCandy has created what we did not know we needed. Until now. They selected a group of 20 or so artists and designers – photographers, graphic designers, illustrators, branding and advertising designers – to create designs that were then transferred to the ultra-light, waterproof flysheet that covers the two-person tent.
They now offer more than 40 different designs by 18 artists. The designs are grouped in several collections. In The Legend Collection, for example, includes Terry Pastor’s black design with psychedelic guns and Philip Gatward’s blue and yellow parrots on a grey hued background.
On the FieldCandy website, a counter next to each design indicates how many of that design are still left. Each tent comes with a label that shows the edition number and the design name. Prices range from $430 for the black FieldCandy signature tent to over $1,000. FieldCandy ships around the world The tents are available exclusively through the website. - Tuija Seipell
Those in the market for a megayacht are already familiar with the 70-meter (229-foot) Numptia. There isn’t a luxury yachting magazine on the planet that hasn’t noticed it. Some at the upper end allocated as much as 25 pages of opulence-oozing imagery and painstaking scrutiny of every minute fact to this steel-hulled, aluminum-structured floating residence.
And those who didn’t get enough of Numptia in the printed media, had an opportunity to view it at the 21st Monaco Yacht Show in September, where it was hailed as one of the highlights among the 100 top meagayachts from around the globe.
The vessel launched in April in Genoa, after a three-year building process. It was completely custom-built for an unnamed Italian-born American businessman who wanted it for his multi-generational family.
Two specific things about Numptia have attracted the interest of the yachting world. Every aspect of Numptia was custom-created with the highest, most exquisite quality of design, materials, craftsmanship and functional performance. Even in the megayacht circles, this kind of grandeur and obsessive attention to quality and detail are rare.
The other unusual aspect is the fact that the owner selected a relatively unknown shipyard, Rossinavi Yachts of Viareggio to build it, and a little-known designer Salvagni Architetti of Rome to design the interiors.
Working closely with the owner, Achille Salvagni combined modern sensibilities with touches of traditional luxury to achieve a timeless feel of well-being. Every piece of furniture, every surface treatment, every doorknob and hinge was custom-designed for Numptia. Silk carpets woven in Tibet, solid marble in the steam bath, quartz floors in the galley, and an oval dining table covered in riveted alpaca nickel silver are just a few examples.
Exterior design of the vessel was completed by Design Studio Spadolini of Florence.
Numptia features lavish rooms for up to 12 guests and includes an impressive master suite, a VIP suite, three queen-size double cabins and one twin stateroom. The owner’s suite includes a bedroom, TV area, reading room, his and hers dressing rooms and a bathroom with the solid-marble bath. Numerous common areas, sundecks, a spa deck plus crew accommodations and all behind-the-scenes space complete the spacious picture.
Numptia is available for charter through Burgess for about $646,000 per week, and for sale for an undisclosed price, rumored to be around $85 million. - Tuija Seipell
Korean architect Eun Young Yi’s proposal was selected in 1999 from 235 competition entries as the plan for the new central library of the City of Stuttgart.
The building of the 80-million Euro (about $108 mil. US) Stadtbibliothek am Mailänder Platz began three years ago and the opening ceremonies took place last month.
Yi has created a monolithic cube with two floors underground and nine above. Essentially all of the building, both inside and out is white. The main library floors circle an open-plan with the levels connected by open staircases. Books line the outer walls of each floor.
As a cool nod to the fact that the building is a storehouse of words, the word “library” is installed in four languages on the outside walls. On the North wall in German (the local language), West in English (lingua franca), South in Arabic (the language of ancient knowledge and of Stuttgart’s sister city, Cairo) and East in Korean (Yi’s native language).
Yi’s company, Yi Architects is based in Cologne and Seoul. Its work includes public projects ranging from museums and universities to offices and city plans. - Tuija Seipell
Here at TCH, we started ACCESS agency for the sole reason of giving brands the opportunity to be BOLD, to do something more than what is safe, more than what is easy, more than what is comfortable, accepted, standard, just good enough.
We are excited to work with brands around the globe who seek us out for that reason. They ask us to shake them up a bit, create something unboring, something truly DIFFERENT
Those in the creative and even in the marketing fields will recognize the syndrome we are fighting against: Everyone wants a great idea. A great idea is found. Everyone is ecstatic. The idea goes through the system, though the layers of approvals, discussions and hesitations, and comes out unrecognizable, ordinary, safe and boring. We see this happen over and over.
Companies that do not have a Steve Jobs-like creative visionary at or near the top, have extreme trouble getting innovation of any kind approved or produced. Bold ideas just do not survive the system.
Recently, we were approached by Sephora’s great team because they had seen our work with MINI car wraps.
Sephora wanted to launch a same-day delivery service for online cosmetics sales in New York. We designed a series of six different head-turning MINI Cooper wraps for their fleet of six vehicles. We were going for bold designs that will really stand out in the busy New York street scene, among the taxis and delivery vehicles. We were gunning for big impact and quick recognition, immediate attention, a bold and cool vibe, something that would generate on-street buzz, even with only six vehicles.
They loved the ideas but in the end asked us to design a black-and-white style that was on-brand. We were sad to see the boldness gone. The black-and-white MINIs have been on the streets since July. - Bill Tikos
Shanghai’s shiny new Museum of Glass opened last week as part of Shanghai’s campaign of becoming a globally important cultural and creative centre by launching 100 museums in a decade.
Shanghai-based German architectural firm Logon handled the architecture and exterior of the museum. Germany’s Glashütte Lambets supplied the enameled glass used for the museum’s façade inscribed with glass-industry terms in ten languages.
COORDINATION ASIA, also based in Shanghai, was in charge of the overall museum concept, art direction, design and supervision of the museum interior. It was also the chief consultant for curation, marketing and operation, as well as coordination of an international team of architects, artists, designers, filmmakers and multimedia specialists.
COORDINATION’s Tilman Thürmer tells TCH that they used black lacquered glass for the interior (cases, floor, furniture, walls), but left the existing structure untouched. The museum building is a former glassmaking workshop, one of 30 former bottling-plant structures that the Shanghai Glass Co. still owns.
The black, sleek glass of the interior reflects the LED lights and screens positioned throughout the space, creating a shiny and glittering multi-dimensional feel. This emphasizes the interaction, interdependence and influences of periods, continents, materials and peoples involved in the art, craft and industry of glass.
The design of the space and exhibits and the use of various media help create an interactive and participatory museum experience where the visitor is directed through the story of glass.
“Designwise, we wanted to create a piece of black crystal glass. Sparkling, reflecting, sleek and deep,” Thürmer says. - Tuija Seipell.
Black and white are the safe choices in the design world. The color of luxury is elegant and subdued. Yet, at the same time, even top-tier designers, artists and luxury brands have always used bright colors as well. It is not about either or. It is not black-and-white or color.
Just try telling those who love Dale Chihuly’s art, Versace interiors, Karim Rashid’s Corian eco-house or Renzo Piano’s Central St Giles facades in London that the “designer look” is always predominantly black and white.
And although bright color is often associated with being a sort of primitive, wild, folk-art aesthetic, and therefore black and white would seem the serious and civilized alternative, color is not just wild, frivolous, and primitive.
Just think of your favorite brand’s logo and you will most likely visualize some color. Imagine a weekly market at a Peruvian mountain town, an Indian wedding party, a Norwegian fishing town, Marimekko fabrics, a Cirque du Soleil show or Avatar, and you cannot avoid feeling uplifted and happy because of the colors.
In fact, we are seeing a clear increase in the use of color in the broad design world.
We see more color in commercial and residential architecture, interior design, art and installations, events, retail and hospitality. We also see more color in products — from aircraft to fashion to everyday items — and in marketing and communications as well.
The recent super-enthusiastic online reaction to the redesign of the logo of the City of Melbourne in Australia is a good example of this. People are interested and they do see the difference. When did people last get that excited about a city logo? Disneyland’s soon-to-open World of Color and the Dubai Fountain are also great examples of what technology and color are bringing to entertainment experiences.
We are hard-wired to notice and react to color, and marketers (and Pantone and the Color Marketing Group) and psychologists have long known this. Children generally love bright colors. Fast-food restaurants use bright colors because they want us to notice, grab and go. Red is stop, green is go. Colors affect and express our everyday lives, even when we don’t notice it.
Throughout history, color has expressed and represented status, religion, origin, feelings and many other things, and its use has been dependent on resources. To be able to afford clothing or other possessions in certain colors meant you were wealthier than most, as some ingredients to produce specific colors were not available everywhere.
As we have seen so vividly in the widely circulated “color wheel” by David McCandless and Always with Honor, different colors mean different things in various cultures. And apparently, people from warm climates respond favorably to warm colors while northerners like cooler colors.
Perhaps it was the recessionary economy that enticed designers to use more color, and attracted the rest of us to it. Whatever the underlying reasons, we see more color and we love it. - Tuija Seipell
Brands wanting to see ideas and concepts about how to use colour effectively, contact our marketing agency, ACCESS AGENCY.
Financial institutions once occupied the most prestigious and opulent buildings and locations in every city and town. They oozed intimidation, grandeur and wealth. Then banks became nameless and faceless boxes, one or more in every block, just like franchised fast-food chains. And then it seemed we’d soon have no physical banks at all, only banking machines and online banking.
But now we are starting to see banks that seem to want to talk to us again. It seems that they want to make us feel welcome, actually wanting to appeal to customers again.
The new financial spaces are designer banks that look more like five-star hotel lounges, bars or nightclubs than the boring boxes banks have become.
Our recent examples of cool banking environments — from retail spaces to offices — have come from Paris, Milan, Moscow, Melbourne, Sydney and Amsterdam.
The latest of these designer banks is the Raiffeisen Bank’s flagship in Zurich designed by design co-operative NAU with associate team of DGJ (Zurich.)
The goal of this white space-agey environment is to break down the physical and emotional barriers between customers and staff. Stern tellers and three-piece-suited bankers behind high counters and glass walls, and accessible only through little windows like jailbirds — these are things of the past.
In this new world of banking, customers are invited to learn more about the bank’s services and products though interactive touch screen tables, while surrounded by digitally produced massive portraits of prominent past residents of the area.
We assume the staff members are equally stylish in attire and grooming as it is tough to imagine bespectacled tellers or portly pin-striped bankers in this environment. - Tuija Seipell
Perhaps we have died and gone to heaven, or just seeing visions, but this not the kind of bank that we do business with. Unfortunately.
This far-reaching concept bank is located in the historical building of 2, Place de l’Opéra. The space is chock-full of completely wacky un-bank features, yet it also has a nice retro touch — the honeycombed ceiling, lovely mirrors — that gives it the elegance and respectability that the building’s history warrants and the bank’s business must convey.
Other than that, it is an almost 1,000 square-meter funhouse of colors, shapes, textures and forms with the goal to entice the customer to discover, interact, experiment and (gasp!) enjoy.
In ten specific zones, all regular banking functions from daily banking to stock-market info, private meetings, staff training can take place with the emphasis on breaking the age-old banking set-up where the client and the adviser (the teller, the banker) are on opposite sides.
All of this plus a temporary exhibition area dedicated to kids, a coffee bar, a 25 square-meter green, living wall set the tone for the unusual banking experience. Of course, such aspects as ergonomics, sustainability, proper lighting and the latest technology, are givens.
In addition to custom furniture and furnishings, Zoevox used furniture by Christophe Delcourt, Philippe Hurel, Paola Lenti, Christian Liaigre, India Mahdavi, Antonio Lupi (lavabo), Pierre Paulin and Philippe Starck, and lighting by Sylvie Coquet, Adrien Gardère, Poul Henningsen, Marco Merendi, Karim Rashid and Patricia Urquiola. Now, can we all expect our neighbourhood banks to change? Tuija Seipell