This project by Penda, an architectural studio based between Vienna and Beijing, is one I have had to spend some time with. What at first looks like a huge copper box, is in fact a fold–out space used by a Hong Kong storage facility to contain artwork and showcase it to potential clients in compact comfort and style. Kind of like Transformers, but on a much smaller scale, with more style and none of the robots or silly fighting. So not like Transformers at all…More like some kind of gadget for the James Bonds of the art world.
The monolithic copper object expands out to reveal a large display case, a hefty desk, plush seating and even a bar. The cold concrete-clad room quickly becomes a hospitable, sophisticated space. The room is not as empty as it first looked—we notice other hidden compartments: a pull-out chair perfectly moulded into the bench, copper light-fittings break up the vast concrete ceiling, a projector screen, also set in copper, is ready to descend. Though the copper container is the central focus here, the floor plans indicate a carefully planned out space with strategically spread out storage and seating spaces along the perimeter. I really love the combination of grey, utilitarian concrete and the warm, reddish copper. This provides a sufficiently blank backdrop, with the large, bare floor area giving a suitable platform to large sculptural objects, while the copper ties the space together and helps the client feel at ease.
Penda have worked on several other art spaces and were first runners up in the competition to design the Austrian Pavilion for the Expo 2015 in Milan. They conceived a large grid-like, wooden structural framework that would be covered in local plants, selected by the visitors. You can check out this projects, and others on their website.
Last week Anna brought us her review on Art Basel. As an art fair, it’s easy to forget about the business side of things, however that is indeed what the event is really about. So much so that luxury brands go to great lengths to design exhibits and displays to lure the wealthy patrons of the fair.
Such an exhibit was constructed for watch company Audemars Piguet and was housed at Art Basel and Art Basel Hong Kong in The Collectors’ Lounge. Designed by Mathieu Lehanneur, the showroom consisted of clean lines and illuminated, laboratory white workspaces. This was then boldly obstructed by giant papier-mâché boulders referencing the violent nature of the Vallée de Joux, the location where Audemars Piguet watches are fabricated. The idea of this rough, brutal nature paired against the precise, clean and expensive pieces of Audemars Piquet is a nice one, a contrast that is echoed by the rich blacks and the crisp whites within the display.
I really enjoyed watching the video of Lehanneur explaining his design process, and especially, how the rocks were constructed. Going out into Vallée de Joux to paint giant boulders with silicon sounds and looks like a one big design adventure, but how funny to see that take shape and resolve as an end product for designer, boutique timepieces. There’s something quite odd about it, and a little scary. From a process point of view I love it, and there’s no doubt that end result is gorgeous, but there’s something about a ‘collectors lounge’ and designer goods surrounded by art, that somehow puts a damper on what would otherwise be a beautiful designed showroom. Maybe Lehanneur’s crashing meteorites are actually a secret artistic attack on the designer, money driven world we live in. I’d like to think so, and for me would make the whole display just that little bit more successful!
You can see more from Mathieu Lehanneur by clicking here.
Put your hand up if you are in the mood for a getaway! I know I would quite happily hide away in some remote wilderness for a while! Well, if you have a few thousand euro to spare, then a week in the Portuguese countryside might just do the trick. Casa no Tempo, based in Alentejo, the South-Central part of Portugal, is looking mighty tempting. Peacefully rooted in vast grassy plains, dotted with oak and olive trees, it’s only an hour south of Lisbon. The house has been in the family for generations, and the current keepers of the home have been tasked to take good care of it by the will of their late grandfather. They have done so beautifully, with the help of Manuel Aires Mateus from renowned architecture studio Aires Matues, which is run by him and his brother Francisco.
The house is a starkly white, unassuming figure in the landscape. A swimming pool sits nearby—probably my favourite feature. Its brilliantly ingenious design comprises of a concrete block, the top angled in such as way as to give the pool depth on one end and create an irregular pseudo-shore line on the other. I think that pools can often look terrible and forcibly imposed upon their surroundings, but here is blends in perfectly. The interior of the house is just as simple, with clean white walls and sparse furnishings. Thick slabs of wood, locally made clay floor tiles and a few well-placed ceramics and books achieve the perfect balance between spaciousness and coziness. I love the receding fireplace in the lounge—another clever, minimalist feature.
Casa no Tempo is the perfect place to come to with a few books and sketchpads, leaving the suite of Apple products behind and focusing on being present. And if you get bored, you can go horse riding, fishing in the nearby lakes, or make trips out to local wildlife sanctuaries or restaurants suggested on their website. Be sure to check out a couple of stunning earlier collaborations with Manuel Aires Mateus, Cabanas no Rio and Casas na Areia. I’ll be here, dreaming on!
Korea deservedly won the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Biennale of Architecture. Their ambitious research project aimed at understanding and surveying the field of architecture in both South and North Korea over the last Century. The Silver Lion went to Chile, who have been gaining prominence in the the international architectural scene of late. Their sombre installation, bravely singular in focus, takes the prefabricated concrete wall as a point of departure.
The theme, set by curator Rem Koolhaas, was Absorbing Modernity, 1914-2014. The responses vary, from literal timeline-based overviews of architecture during these years, to more experimental explorations and approaches that look at particular aspects of modernist influence not only at a national, but a global scale. The British Pavilion Clockwork Jerusalem, particularly, has captured my attention. Their showcase adds a very welcome element of playful wit to the Biennale.
The exhibition looks at the appearance of the New Towns in the United Kingdom—conglomerated townships created in the post-war decades to mitigate an overflowing population. Presented amongst models of buildings and posters of plans are manifestations of British culture over the years, from pop music to literature, art and prominent architects. The title, Clockwork Jerusalem, references Anthony Burgess’ novel, A Clockwork Orange (and Kubrick’s film of the same name) and the poem Jerusalem by England’s beloved poet William Blake. This mash-up gives the pavilion an ominous air, despite the colourful panoramic mural inside the main room, the blobby orange typography and the quirky cows guarding the entrance. It speaks to the failed utopias of the past and the possibilities of the future. The curious mound of dirt with fluorescent pink stairs is a nod to similar monuments erected as part of housing projects. From the top the viewer can observe the mural upon the walls—like a king from the top of his stronghold, admiring the lay of his land.
The exhibit is curated by Sam Jacob from the architectural studio FAT and Wouter Vanstiphout from Crimson Architectural Historians. Each element in the show has references to British history and culture that I’ve had fun decoding, and I would encourage you to spend some time with it too.
Let’s escape into the jungle to this! Casa na Mata designed by Nitsche Arquitetos sits in the middle of the Atlantic coast rainforest in the state of Sao Paulo and looks like the perfect retreat for some serious environmental solitude.
The shelter is simple but clever with Nitsche Arquitetos taking into account all the needs of a home like this, in a place like this, during the design process. I’ve stayed in my fair share of jungles and I can attest that although idyllic, there are certain natural elements that can make the experience less so. Those things are usually the creepy crawlies that lie on the jungle floor and fly through the jungle air. Nitsche Arquitetos have solved this issue cleverly in two ways. Firstly they lifted the structure off the earth which not only allows for an area of separation, but also adds nicely to the design. Secondly, Casa na Mata is clad in a near transparent mesh shell that surrounds the building, essentially giving it a second skin ontop of the louvered glass panelling. The glass allows for light and airflow, while the mesh offers a layer of protection much needed in this environment.
Aesthetically I am completely on board with this build. I remember once receiving a handmade cardboard box to house some paintbrushes. Although simple in make and material, that simplicity was what gave me so much pleasure when I used the gift. This structure has a similar vibe for me. Simple, honest and without too much fuss. But the beauty of that simplicity, of it’s function, shines through remarkably well. And let’s be honest, surely there’s no point competing aesthetically with an environment like that anyway.
The architecture world is really getting it’s day in the spotlight at the moment with the London Festival of Architecture and the Venice Biennale of Architecture either happening or about to happen. It’s an exciting time and you can see our articles on those events coming up next week.