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]
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
A house attic does not evoke images of style and chic design. Rather, we find ourselves thinking of dark, cobweb-infested, damp and dreary crawl spaces. We think of attics as leftover space under the roof where we abandon unwanted stuff - outdated clothing, old books, grandma's hat boxes, grandpa's hunting gear, coin collections and bags of seashells from that long-ago beach holiday.
But as space in our urban areas is at a premium - not a square metre can go to waste. Architects and designers are starting to see the potential of this extra space, and offer solutions that meet the needs of the most demanding style freaks. Sunlight, additional rooms, extra bathrooms - it is all possible in the attic. Starchitects around the world have made dramatic rooflines trendy, so we can all give up on our visions of the embarrassing drywalled and pine-paneled disasters that attics tended to morph into, every time we tried to make them livable.
Within very few square metres, designers are finding space for sleeping, cooking and eating, and using the sloping rooflines to create impressive skylight windows.
We can all see the delightful benefits of maximising the amount of livable and usable space ï¿½ even if it involves clearing away the precious collections of bric-a-brac we've spent generations accumulating. Ample sunlight penetrating the attic apartment means than even nocturnal arachnids are sent packing. By Andrew J Wiener and Tuija Seipell
We're looking for more attic renovations, if you spot one, send to [email protected]
Whoever said that reading was a religious experience was right, especially when taking a visit to Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht, Netherlands.
Having just won the Lensvelt de Architect Interior Prize 2007, this newest addition to the Selexyz book chain is well worth the visit to this medieval city if you are ever in the area.
Erected inside a former 800 year old Dominican church, this bookstore is said to hold the largest stock of books in English in Maastricht, one of the oldest cities in the country.
It was always going to be a challenging task for Amsterdam based architects Merkx + Girod who designed the space, to stay true to the original character and charm of the church, whilst also achieving a desirable amount of commercial space (there was only an available floor area of 750 m2, with a proposed retail space of 1200 m2). Taking advantage of the massive ceiling, both have been achieved through the construction of a multi-storey steel structure which houses the majority of the books. This is one giant bookshelf, with stairs and elevators taking shoppers and visitors alike, up to the heavens (mind the pun), to roof of the church.
To maintain a sense of symmetrical balance in the space, lower tables of best sellers and latest releases have been added to either side, and of course a small cafe at the back for readers to relax and enjoy a hot drink.
Overall a great example of how with clever thinking, spatial solutions can both achieve a suitable retail presence, whilst still respecting and remaining true to the original structure. By Brendan Mc Knight
See also Pontificial Lateral University Library
LIBRARIES - CANDIDA-HOFFER
Kids Republic Bookstore
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.
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