Thursday, 24 December 2009


...biennale that is!

The very first Hong Kong / Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism & Architecture, the theme of which is “City Mobilization: BYOB” (Bring Your Own Biennale), started at the beginning of this month and runs until the end of Feb next year (which is not that far away now, yikes!). The Biennale will be the first international event to be held on the site of the new West Kowloon Cultural Precint - over 46000 m2 of exhibitions and installations with some pretty exciting events and performances planned. Amongst others, Rem Koolhaas is in town for a few events as well as (I presume) the opening of the new Hong Kong office for his architectural practise - Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA).

So make sure you get down to Kowloon or up to Shenzhen for some great art installations in between all the festivities and merry-making!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Just in time for the silly season...

...not that I have ever needed an excuse to drink!

Totally loving these beautifully crafted bottle openers by Japanese company Oji - they're practical and sculptural!

Friday, 11 December 2009

La Folie

At the risk of boring you all to death with yet another post about David Collins and Spanish Architectural Digest....I'll put a slightly different spin on this one. Suffice to say though, I got my fix of both this month. My heart almost stopped when I saw the spread on the latest incarnation of Collins' London abode. Okay, so back to the spin. The apartment, as expected, has a fabulous assortment of art. One piece in particular seemed quite familiar and then I realised that the same piece is in another of my all time favorite apartments, the Boston residence of designer Frank Roop. The piece I'm referring to is "La Folie" by photographer Didier Massard. There is something a little romantic, and also a little eerie about it - like most of his work. A quick browse through his website and I'm in love!

David Collins' home photographed by Ricardo Labougle for AD España December 2009.

Frank Roop's Boston apartment photographed by Eric Roth for Elle Decor November 2007.

Didier Massard's latest book was released late last year and is available on Amazon. It's definitely going on my wish list - along with a few of his photographs!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Business of Design Week - Day 3

Charles Landry is probably not a name many of my readers would be familiar with - he is not a designer, rather an advocate of great cities. I myself had not heard of him until I stumbled upon his latest book at the BoDW bookstore and found that he was a keynote speaker the next day. Getting up early on a Saturday morning to listen to someone speak about urban development and "city making" may not sound exciting to some but I thought it was well worth the effort.

Landry's work with the company Comedia that he founded in Britain in 1978 has spanned the globe and while you may not have been familiar with his name before today, I'm sure that many of us around the world have benefited from his experience.

Landry is championing the idea of the cultural city - the creative city. He put forth the question: "Rather than ask what is the value in thinking culturally, ask instead what is the cost of not thinking culturally".

Coming from Melbourne, a city which is widely regarded as the cultural capital of Australia, and now living in Hong Kong, regarded by some as a cultural wasteland, this is a subject that is of particular interest to me. It is particularly pertinent now as Hong Kong embarks on the planning and development of the new West Kowloon Cultural District which some hope will be the panacea of Hong Kong's issues. Personally, I think more needs to change here in people's attitudes about education, public spaces and preserving local historical relics before a project of this size and cost will actually work in this city. But of course, that is just my humble opinion.

Landry's latest publication, The Art of City Making. I picked up a copy at the forum and am finding it a fascinating read so far. If you are interested in urban development click the link above and get yourself a copy. More articles are available for download for a small fee from his website. If anyone out there has read any of Landry's other books I'd love to hear what you thought of them.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Business of Design Week - Day 2, part 2

A quick glance at Patrick Blanc and you could be forgiven for wondering who the crazy looking little green-haired man was...a leprechaun?

In actual fact, Blanc is the botanist and designer who pioneered the use of vertical gardens in urban settings...and his presentation at BoDW was riveting.

The history of cities and modern urban development is a subject that is of great interest to me...I love cities and the built environment, which is definitely where my love of Architecture and Interior Design stems from. So Blanc's discussion of the use of botanicals in cities to help purify the air is a subject also close to my heart, as well as many many others - a staggering 50% of the worlds population are now city dwellers!

Blanc has developed a system in which plants can be attached to a vertical structure without soil. Since the structure is so light they can be used for interior or exterior features of almost any size. Irrigation and fertilization is built in with the system and requires infrequent maintenance, the only catch is interior walls need artificial lighting.

The benefits of these lush and beautiful walls for everyone that inhabits or visits the city they are in are numerous. Not only do they look lovely (and often incorporate native species of the location) they, and the microorganisms that inhabit them, help improve the air quality by absorbing Carbon Dioxide and Volatile Organic Compounds. The system has been taken one step further and can even be setup for the plants to be irrigated by the recycled water waste from air-conditioners within the building.

Green was already my favorite colour, and while I'm not sure I'll take Blanc's lead and change my hair colour, I would absolutely love to see more of this colour in the form of vegetation in cities around the world - especially the concrete jungle that I currently call home.

An exterior facade - or "vegetal wall" on a Jean Nouvel building in Paris. Incidentally, Nouvel was the first architect to approach Blanc to use his vertical gardens on exterior building facades.

Another example of Blanc's work, an interior vertical garden in the Sydney Qantas Lounge designed by Marc Newson.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Business of Design Week - Day 2, part 1

In my humble opinion, there were several very interesting speakers on Day 2 of BoDW - one standout in my mind was definitely Tony Chambers, Editor in Chief of Wallpaper* magazine.

Chambers presentation was entitled "Brand Spanking" and posited that magazines and newspapers are not dead, print media is just no longer enough. This is a subject close to my heart, and I'm guessing quite a few of you out there, as it seems that bloggers and blog readers are also magazine junkies. Chambers spoke at length about the work that has been done to revive Wallpaper since founder Tyler Brûlé left the helm, and how they are dealing with not only the financial crisis, but avoiding ending up in the ever growing magazine graveyard. Making Wallpaper a brand is the strategy that Chambers feels will differentiate it from other printed "products". With the development of its online presence, and the Wallpaper city guides, it seems they have been quite successful so far.

But to me, the most innovative ideas they have shown are the one-off designer covers on special editions that will really make each issue a "product" worth keeping, rather than just a piece of information. Some of the most interesting covers of late use special technology that he admitted "costs a bomb". He also divulged that they have a contingency fund, which I think he referred to as the bankruptcy account, that allows them to invest in special covers every now and then. Some of my favorites were:

In the same month readers were given a choice between a strip tease cover by Karl Lagerfeld - peel away cover to reveal Karls' favorite model a la natural - or a flip animation by Philippe Starck.

Lenticular technology was used on this cover featuring a dress design by Hussein Chalayan that moved as you turned the cover.

Zaha Hadid's cover involved die cutting may pages of the magazine to form a 3D sculpture inside the magazine.

Some of my other favorite ideas were the glow in the dark cover, and the use of invisible ink (some of the type on the cover was only visible when the ink was exposed to the light). Pure genius.

Chambers touched lightly on the subject of online media, and said he felt it would not be the death of magazines, that instead it needs to enhance the readers experience. I really wanted to ask him about whether he felt blogs, twitter and facebook would play any role in their online presence, but they were running out of time. What would you have asked him given the chance?

Monday, 7 December 2009

Books and a little house keeping...

You may have noticed I have done a little house-keeping on the old blogerino...I felt it was getting a bit busy with stuff all over the have decided to simplify my list of favorite books with a new Amazon bookstore. Whilst doing so, I stumbled upon this little jewel, due for release in Feb 2010. With photography by Reed Krakoff (Creative Director of Coach, and noted design collector) and Jacques Grange as a contributor, this new monograph on the work of Mattia Bonetti is set to become a collectors piece. Of course, I have pre-ordered my copy already...

Business of Design Week - Day 1

What a week it has been in Hong Kong! Business of Design Week, the 5th year that I've had the pleasure of attending, was fantastic with so many interesting speakers this year. Its been a bit of a whirlwind with so many product launches (everyone was taking advantage of the fact so many designers were in town), showroom openings and Xmas parties. I took a few notes from the presentations that I thought were most interesting, and will endeavour to share those with you over the next few days. Here goes...

For me the highlight of Day 1 was multi-disciplinary French designer Jean-Marie Massaud. Sometimes the designers that are most interesting to me are not necessarily the ones whose work I already admired, but who are the most adept at entertaining and engaging the audience. And Massaud did just that, making me laugh out loud several times, and grin from ear to ear just listening to his French accent - he was utterly charming.

For anyone who is not already familiar with his work, Massaud has designed products as diverse as vases, tap ware (for Axor), furniture (for Poltrona Frau & B&B Italia), and a massive futuristic Zeppelin in the shape of a giant whale!

Daybed for B&B Italia

Bathware collection for Axor

However, it was not his work that Massaud enthralled the audience with, rather it was his philosophies and his vision for the future of design. Massaud espoused a utopian vision of the future where our current over-consumption of goods will end and quantity will become quality - through sheer necessity. He foresees a major shift occurring in the market and therefore our ideals, where "to have" will become "to be". A world where more becomes better, status becomes value, appearance becomes meaning and matter becomes energy. Like I said, utopian, but this value shift does need to happen, and soon, because as we all know the world and lifestyle we are all living is simply not sustainable. Particularly important for us designers as we need to remember that we simply cannot just design products for the sake of it. I think this particular piece of advice is valid for all of us though, don't you think?

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Upper House

Last week I had the pleasure of checking out the fairly recently opened The Upper House establishment in Hong Kong- the second installment by Swire hotels (they opened The Opposite House in Beijing late last year). Designed by local rising star Andre Fu of AFSO (who will be speaking at BoDW later this week), the spaces are done in a modern Asian style that is simple, elegant and luxurious. I haven't seen the guest rooms yet, but the public spaces are lovely. When I checked out Cafe Gray for both mid-afternoon coffee and a late night cocktail it was jam packed. News travels fast in this city. I have to say though I especially loved the Living Room....complete with an open fireplace (a bit of a rarity in this city) that might just have to be added to my favorites list, see previous post on fireplaces here. What you can't see in this photo is during the day when the drapes are drawn there is an enviable view of green mountain side. What a great place to curl up with a book - any time of the day!

Photo taken by a fabulous photographer, and friend, Haf Saba (click to enlarge).