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March 31, 2005

Sottsass and Poltronova

Superbox_1For Ettore Sottsass designing products that are well ahead of the curve, sometimes by decades, has been a lifelong practice. Design lovers the world over are flabbergasted by the breadth, ingenuity and endlessnes of Sottsass's work. Even the man himself seems surprised at his own success. In an interview with Francesca Balena Arista from Italian design giant Poltronova, Sottsass remarked "I mean, you say to yourself “What do I do now? I’ve done everything." For him, though, it seems just a momentary question, because he keeps inventing and with such a fresh urban aesthetic that even his old designs are new again.

In 1968, Sottsass created the Superbox, a linear stack of plastic laminate boxes in bright primary "road sign and gas pump" colors. They're sculptural storage with a robotic quality that makes some of the pieces look like they just walked into the room. The design was never realized, until now. Poltronova has introduced the Sottsass Superbox in a limited series. Sottsass cachet ensures they'll go fast and our guess is, they'll appreciate for many times the number of decades since they were first conceived.

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March 25, 2005

Cookie Cutter Designs? Not Quite

Tordboojte_1An odd fact has been represented again and again in the design world recently: negative space creates positive vibes. Just look at designs by Tord Boontje and Louise Campbell.

Boontje makes whismical flower, deer and rabbit filled cut outs in Tyvek, a super strong sythetic paper. His work becomes curtains, lamps, even note cards and brings a new fun, hidden garden of earthly delights feel to modern design.

It's a feeling Campbell captured in her 2002 creation for the Crown Prince of Denmark. A rubber chair with fanciful tulip and heart cut outs, the Prince chair has been put into production by Hay.Lcampbellhay

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March 22, 2005

Wood Floors Revamped

MaplewalnutbordergridBraziliancherrybentwoodWorried about how your maple kitchen cabinets or your wenge table will look with the wood you choose for your floor? The National Wood Flooring Association has a tip--don't worry. It's great to mix different woods in your home especially (now remember they're biased) when it comes to hard wood floors. Just look at the samples they sent Pure Contemporary. The first shows a modern grid like pattern in maple and walnut that stands out without standing apart from its stately modern surroundings. The second proves that bentwood has progressed far beyond furniture. The main floor in Brazilian cherry is offset with a maple and wenge bentwood border. A far cry from plain old planks.

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Bouroullec Brothers at Ligne Roset

LignerosetfacettLigne Roset has captured the cachet of the Breton-born Bouroullec brothers, Ronan and Erwan. With the Facett collection, the two modern design icons seem to have breathed life into the classic Jeff Bridges computer movie Tron [1982]. Although Ligne Roset likens the quilted, angular collection more to "an opened multi-hedron, a well-cut semiprecious stone, or the folded form of an origami creation" than a futuristic film. Anyway you look at it, Facett is 100% Bouroullec––classic quality craftsmanship, upscale upholstery and fun, unique lines you wont see elsewhere. The Facett collection includes two sofas (a two-seater and a three-seater), an armchair, two ottomans, and a rug.

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March 21, 2005

Sharp Drawer Design


According to Sharp, nuking food is the standard method for home food prep now, and to underscore that, Sharp put the microwave in the center of the cooking universe. As part of its foray into the range appliance market, Sharp introduced the Microwave Drawer. While it could sit alone under the counter, it was more fun to rest it atop a conventional cook oven and cover the whole ensemble with a ceramic cook top. The whole unit fits in a 30" cavity and lists at $1399. That door thing is cool; get the right version of the The Insight Range, and the drawer opens automatically like a CD player.


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Maverick Mayne Picks Up Prestigious Pritzker Prize

Americans gunning for the Pritzker Architecture Prize might take note: mavericks are in.

In 1979, the award’s inaugural year, the winner was the late Philip Johnson. Johnson, who died in January, is remembered as architecture’s enfant terrible, a maverick and iconoclast whose dedication to mentoring young architects endeared him to the architecture community at large.

Now, for the first time in 14 years, and only the eighth time in the 27-year history of the Prize, an American takes the helm as this year’s architect extraordinaire. It’s an unfamiliar title to Mayne, who commented in a New York Times article Sunday that he’s always felt like an outsider.
Image: Morphosis entry for Olympic Village 2012

Mayne, whose buildings stem from his own unique vision, without many clear lines of provenance or of influence from earlier periods, is the director of Morphosis, the Santa Monica CA. firm that's been steadily gaining influence across the world. The firm started by earning commissions from private homes and local restaurants and has grown in prominence to work for much larger outfits on large-scale U.S., European and Asian public, educational and commercial projects.

Morphosis recently won a competition to design the state capitol building in Juneau, Alaska as well as the Olympic Village, to be built in New York City for the 2012 Games (whether or not they’ll actually take place there).

Mayne will accept architecture’s highest honor at a ceremony May 31 in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park, a building designed by fellow Pritzker Prize winner and award juror Frank Gehry [won 1989]. The award carries a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion.

Other past winners of the Pritzker, sponsored by the family who developed Hyatt Hotels, include I. M. Pei, Hans Hollein, Renzo Piano and Rem Koolhaas.

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March 17, 2005

Lee Kline Goes Solo

We loved Lee Kline's Merge table that took top honors in Canada's design competition last year. We couldn't wait to see what Kline had in store in 2005. The big news is that what was one-of-kind and limited edition will now be mass produced. The Toronto native is licensing his occasional furniture designs to SkyPad Furniture and Oggi -- and dining and kids bedroom lines through Primo. Elements from all three collections will debut at ICFF this May in New York.

Green_soloKline, whose style has evolved from more organic shapes to clean geometric ones, loves playing with materials. Molded plastics, fiberglass -- and now resin are evident in his "curvy" pieces like the Solo. This 20" table for one with it's deep bowed out edges, features a 4" pocket -- perfect for holding your iPod or remotes. Available in fiberglass (opaque), and now translucent resin, it features a satin nickel base, and is light enough to carry to where ever you plunk yourself down. 

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Modern Window Solution: Glass Curtains

In their most recent Material Letter Architonic covered glass––sandwich glass, lighted flooring glass, curved fire resistant glass and more, but our favorite: glass curtains.

Glass curtains are a perfect solution for modern people who like privacy. Forget frou-frou drapes and common blinds. Glass curtains are made from tough as nails 6 mm thick safety glass, and can be done in limitless colors and finishes. The best part is, they don't collect the dust you see on textile treatments and blinds, just spray them with cleanser and you're done, no laundering necessary. A great boon to cleanliness and sufferers of allergies.

To find out where to get these gleaming glass beauties, go to the current Architonic Material Letter.

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March 16, 2005

Rem Koolhaas in the Red

When Rem Koolhaas's firm the Office for Metropolitan Architecture won the competition to design the new headquarters for the Central Chinese Television Network in December 2002, Koolhaas was used to the fits, stops and starts, and even the cancellation of projects that once had the green light. (He discusses this in his 2004 essay “Crib Death.”) He was used to justifying a project's validity, designs, costs and unorthodox choices to those writing the checks.

But when his company won the CCTV job, Koolhaas's job of convincing fell to a wider audience. There were the usual design issues. The building he proposed for CCTV was not a tall needle-like skyscraper, but two separate towers slanting toward each other and connected in steel and glass, like a giant linear knot, not yet pulled tight. People wondered, does this fit with the Chinese aesthetic? Will it be a giant gimmick and a failure? Can we afford it (the building is estimated to cost up to $800 million)?

Koolhaas can handle these questions, but he’s facing another sort of dilemma. The CCTV is a Communist Party controlled news service, which means they often take a creative and limiting approach to reporting. As early as the groundbreaking ceremony, complete with red shovels and an enormous image of the OMA design colored Communist red, it was clear that Koolhaas's masterpiece will always have a somewhat unsavory provenance.

Koolhaas contends that the building's transparency and layout, with all aspects of the entire network in one building, rather than scattered across Beijing, are themselves comments on the Communist controlled media and in some ways, subversive to it.

Architects strive to design buildings reflective of culture, of the people who use them and of their own aspirations for that culture––to advance the people who use the buildings. But can a building, however monumental in its design and emphatic in its quest to be anything but a skyscraper, really have a positive effect on the honesty of Communist news? And does Koolhaas have to defend his decision to work for such an outfit?

We'll see, the CCTV building is slated for completion in time for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

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Knoll Trumps TECTA in Laccio Battle

Kisofabordlaccio_lAccording to a March 9 ruling from the District Court of Duesseldorf, Federal Republic of Germany, the German furniture manufacturing company TECTA must stop its production and sales of Marcel Breuer's Laccio table. TECTA must account for their sales of the table since August 1 2003 and is liable for damages to Knoll International SpA, a division of Knoll, Inc, the modern environments giant associated not only with Breuer but Eames, Bertoia, Mies and many other masters of simply beautiful design. The court saw the Laccio table as being widely associated with Knoll since 1968 when the company acquired Gavino SpA, the Bologna, IT based manufacturing house for Breuer's table.

The issue is quality control. A table so widely believed to be Knoll's must be manufactured up to Knoll's strict quality standard. Anything less can injure Knoll's reputation as a high-end manufacturer.

Don't be fooled by imitation, learn the ins and outs of buying re-editions

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