Posts by Author: n New News information at DesignCurialn

Cafe design – 10 of the best places to have a coffee

A café for booklovers...

D'espresso-Nemaworkshop-best-cafe-design-designcurial

D'espresso
Designer: Nemaworkshop
Location: New York

Photos: David Joseph

Designed to look like a library turned on its side, this café in New York's Madison Avenue has herringbone-pattern wooden 'flooring' on one wall, while pendent lights protrude horizontally from the opposite wall.

D'espresso-Nemaworkshop-best-cafe-design-designcurial

Inspired by the nearby Bryant Park Library, the designers used photographs of bookshelves printed onto custom tiles that line the floor, end wall and ceiling.

D'espresso-Nemaworkshop-best-cafe-design-designcurial

OK, so you can't actually read the books - because they're not real. But you can have fun saying 'I've read that!'.

 

Functional Sculpture: Coop Himmelb(l)au’s European Central Bank in Frankfurt

BLueprint

Words Herbert Wright

Photography Paul Raftery

See also: Deconstructivist architecture - eight iconic buildings

Out on the eastern edge of Frankfurt, where residential streets surrendered to rail, wharves and industry, the world's largest reinforced concrete structure of its time was completed in 1928. Designed by municipal architect Martin Elsaesser, the Grossmarkthalle was a market hall 220m long and 50m wide, bookended by eight-storey, solid, modernist, brick towers. Now, jagged not-quite-twin towers of not-quite-flat glass, linked through atria and stabilised by connecting steel, rise into the sky with glacial serenity beside the restored Weimar Republic behemoth. Through the market hall's northern facade, another angular form thrusts out horizontally.

The ECB has two elements — the 1928 Grossmarkthalle cut by a new entrance building volume (left), and the towers (right)
The ECB has two elements -- the 1928 Grossmarkthalle cut by a new entrance building volume (left), and the towers (right)

Cantilevering above the entrance, it presents a great warped window that simultaneously seems to observe your arrival, and swivel sideways, as if keeping an eye on other things. This is the new 184,000 sq m headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB), the institution charged with maintaining the stability of the world's number two currency, the euro. The design competition was launched in 2002, construction began then stopped in 2008, restarted in 2010, and the costs and the ECB's staff numbers outgrew the original plan. Nevertheless, they started moving in in November, and 2,900 people now work here in this showcase project, the latest by Vienna-based practice Coop Himmelb(l)au.

Wolf Prix’s sketches illustrate the concept of towers with special geometry above the box of the old market hall.
Wolf Prix's sketches illustrate the concept of towers with special geometry above the box of the old market hall

'It's a functional sculpture,' says its 72-year-old principal and co-founder Wolf Prix, of the €1.3bn building. 'It enlarges the meaning of function - it's not just value engineering, the function is also to make an emotional statement.' Wearing a grey suit and his trademark white scarf, Prix is sitting in the ECB's expansive cafeteria, eager to talk. His sunglasses come in handy as daylight streams directly through the vast concrete grid of the southern facade of the restored Grossmarkthalle, into a space bounded by the vaulted ceiling 23m above, and a great sidewall formed by brick and windows in the old western tower.

Frankfurt’s skyscrapers are the subject of the Skyward exhibition at Deutsches Architekturmuseum, reveiwed page 237
Frankfurt's skyscrapers are the subject of the Skyward exhibition at Deutsches Architekturmuseum

Prix's 'emotional statement' is about Europe. 'The European project is the most important of our century. Our democratic society is in danger,' he declares, continuing: 'We have a parliament building in Brussels, it's boring. This building has a special Gestalt.' He has chosen the word that means form, but also gives an instant idea of the form's entirety. 'It's an imprint on the retina.'

 The concave curvature of the southern facade, viewed from the east, behind a railway bridge over the river Main
The concave curvature of the southern facade, viewed from the east, behind a railway bridge over the river Main

In sound terms, Prix suggests Mozart's Jupiter Symphony, or the last movement of the previous Symphony No. 40, as the music that matches the whole building. Before we explore this gestalt or symphony of volumes, angles and some curves, we should ask: How did Prix come from being a playful iconoclast who once attracted attention walking barefoot through Basel inside a 4m-diameter balloon to demonstrate pneumatic structures (the Restless Sphere project, 1971), to being a global 'starchitect' (a word he uses) with offices from Los Angeles to Beijing, delivering billion-euro projects?

Stacked atria between the towers bring light in and reveal diagonal beams that provide structural stability
Stacked atria between the towers bring light in and reveal diagonal beams that provide structural stability

Prix studied at Vienna's Technical University, the Architectural Association, London, and LA's Southern California Institute of Architecture, and in 1968, he co-founded Coop Himmelb(l)au in Vienna. Himmel, bau and blau mean heaven, build and blue. Prix reveals that the name 'comes from Shakespeare, a dialogue in Hamlet' (the one that starts 'Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?'). 'It's the idea of architecture changing like clouds.'

The platform on level 38 is more than a sky lobby for changing lifts, it’s a hang-out with its own summer chairs and viewing platform
The platform on level 38 is more than a sky lobby for changing lifts, it's a hang-out with its own summer chairs and viewing platform

In a 1995 bulletin of his philosophy, Prix said, 'Clouds are symbols for rapidly changing states... Viewed in slow motion, the architecture of urban development could be compared with patches of clouds'. A 1968 project was even called The Cloud - an Archigram-ish concept for an elevated platform that could be moved into urban gaps and raised. Another early project, with practice co-founder Helmut Swiczinsky, underlines the drive to defy gravity: House with a Flying Roof (1973) was an art installation that suspended a domestic roof in the air. It has been his only London work.

The Grossmarkthalle’s ceiling vault, concrete grid facade and the old west tower’s brick define the café. The Restaurant is above, inside the new volume (left)
The Grossmarkthalle's ceiling vault, concrete grid facade and the old west tower's brick define the café. The Restaurant is above, inside the new volume (left)

The Cloud philosophy statement went on to say that 'the notions of centre, axis and spatial sequence will have to be replaced by tangents, vectors and sequences of images'. The language is strikingly similar to Zaha Hadid's, and it's no coincidence that they were both cast onto the international stage by an exhibition called Deconstructivist Architecture in 1988 at MoMA.

Money talks in the Council Chamber atop the South Tower. The ceiling reveals Europe from a certain angle, a window reveals a glimps of central skyscrapers
Money talks in the Council Chamber atop the South Tower. The ceiling reveals Europe from a certain angle, a window reveals a glimps of central skyscrapers

It was curated by Philip Johnson, who 56 years earlier had co-curated the seminal Modern Architecture show there, and coined the term International Style. Again, Johnson nailed a movement, presenting deconstructivism as an emerging style, with roots in constructivism but 'subverting' perfection for 'the pleasures of unease'. And again, Johnson brought forth the key players - the others being Eisenman, Gehry, Koolhaas, Libeskind and Tschumi.

Looking north in the Entrance Building lobby, to the welcome desk. The Press Centre cantilevers over the Entrance.
Looking north in the Entrance Building lobby, to the welcome desk. The Press Centre cantilevers over the Entrance

This elite group became the riposte against postmodernism, and Coop Himmelb(l)au's contributions were as striking as any. They include the vivid, red cubist part of the Groninger Museum (1994), the UFA Cinema Center, Dresden (1998), with its madly leaning glass element, and the apartment tower and intervention into old brick at Gasometer B, Vienna (2001).

In the eastern side of the Grossmarkthalle, the Conference Centre occupies a volume-within-a-volume, the top floors of which are seen within the truss
In the eastern side of the Grossmarkthalle, the Conference Centre occupies a volume-within-a-volume, the top floors of which are seen within the truss

The swirling, curvy BMW Welt, Munich, and the angled, cantilevering planes of the Akron Art Museum, Ohio, were both completed in 2007. The surprise and pace of output seems to be accelerating. In 2014, Lyons' Musée des Confluences, a spectacular 190m-long structure that links two elemental forms, Cloud and Crystal, opened just weeks before the ECB.

As in Lyon, the ECB has two connected principle parts, the office high-rise (itself two connected structures, 185m and 165m high) and the 80m-long Entrance Building (not to be confused with a small, outlying gateway building with a wide, flat wing roof) that cuts across the Grossmarkthalle. Three of Elsaesser's 15 concrete-shell, barrel-vault roof sections, all postwar rebuilds, and a section of north and south facade, have been demolished to make way for it.

The Entrance Building cuts through the Grossmarkthalle’s north facade, thrusting into a cantilever in which press conferences are held. The 1928 brick west tower (foreground) now includes the ECB library and fitness facilities.
The Entrance Building cuts through the Grossmarkthalle's north facade, thrusting into a cantilever in which press conferences are held. The 1928 brick west tower (foreground) now includes the ECB library and fitness facilities.

The section of new glass frontage facing north is where you enter the almost airport-terminal-sized lobby, into which an angled, translucent block, three storeys high, touches down behind the reception desk, like the hull of a spaceship. Above is the Press Centre, its main room occupying the cantilever. The panelled ceiling there looks like silvery water just gently disturbed by wind, and a wide slice of northern light falls through a full-wall-width curved window.

90 per cent of double-glazed glass panels in the tower facades are the same, each with blinds in the gap. Natural ventilation is enabled by integrated slats. Atrium facades absorb just a tenth of incoming solar gain.
90 per cent of double-glazed glass panels in the tower facades are the same, each with blinds in the gap. Natural ventilation is enabled by integrated slats. Atrium facades absorb just a tenth of incoming solar gain.

From the outside, it echoes the great forward-looking window of Coop Himmelb(l) au's House of Music in Aalborg (also finished in 2014), but here, the surface is three-dimensional, bending with double hyperbolic paraboloid curvature. The cantilever is supported by two concrete piloti which seem to nod to Le Corbusier, one recessed behind the entrance facade. (Prix confides that 'I like Corbusier more' than the 'cold' Mies.)

The Entrance Building's other, southern end opens into a four-storey atrium that is the hub connecting all the main building volumes. A semi-circular 'Loop' houses a bend of connecting passageways overhead. The towers are to the south.

West elevation

A diagonal support beam penetrates the glass in the screen through which we enter the main length of the Grossmarkthalle to the east. It supports a great raised and inclined steel truss, which articulates to run parallel to the concrete grid screen of the old southern facade. Behind the truss is the conference centre, a building within a building, reached by climbing grand stairs flanked by channels of water flowing down over another gently fluid, metallic surface. Further along, up more stairs, a wide, airy terrace beside the conference entrance looks out into a space ending at the brickwork of the eastern bookend tower, now offices. Overhead, ten of the original 15 concrete-shell roof vaults repeat westwards to vanish back above the truss.

Looking up from ground floor into the lowest atrium, we see the base of the lowest platform between the towers.
Looking up from ground floor into the lowest atrium, we see the base of the lowest platform between the towers.

Elsaesser's old building - its restored brick (bound with darker, vertical mortar to accentuate horizontality) and great stretches of grid facade and roof shell - and Prix's interventions - the thick, metal structure-work, leaning walls, terraces and steps - both play with materiality and a satisfying sense of sequence.

The old diagonal columns supporting the roof are even echoed in Prix's new angularity. The effect is serene and harmonious. The Grossmarkthalle has known darker days. The Nazis brought 10,000 Jews there, to be deported on trains to death camps. This will not be forgotten. A memorial will open in the basement, designed by KatzKaiser, with a minimal, solidly walled ramp descending to it from the grounds in the east.

View from the south across the river Main, revealing the interconnecting structure between Grossmarkthalle and towers
View from the south across the river Main, revealing the interconnecting structure between Grossmarkthalle and towers

The towers beckon. More than anything else, they define the ECB headquarters. Essentially, they are two irregular, rhomboid slabs with concrete frames, between which 14 angled, steel cross-beams and four steel platforms span. The platforms are at levels 3, 15, 27 and 38, and they define a stack of three atria, the largest 60m high. Dropped for cost reasons, the original plan was for hanging gardens in the atria, enclosed in gently twisting tubes. Passing some pot plants dotted around on the ground level, Prix suggests dryly that 'exploded pieces of it are there'.

Prismatic towers such as the Shard or One World Trade Center are becoming commonplace, but as Prix says, 'this is a building with special geometry', characterised by 'HP (hyperbolic paraboloid) deformed surfaces'. Unike the Press Centre's, window panels are flat, but the towers' north and south facades have overall curvature. They are gently concave and twisting, over an epic scale, with an overhang reaching 12m. Prix explains that they are 'rational', because as the surface 'bends, it supports the shaping. This is very Himmelb(l)au'. The effect is crucial to the gestalt - 'it's going to (the) subconscious.'

Prix says the atria create a 'vertical city', because 'the platforms are forums for little civic meetings', adding that 'it's very functional'. Stepping out at level 38, this is indeed more than just a sky lobby for changing between the express lifts in the atria and local ones in the towers. Garden chairs are grouped, a coffee point is to hand, and shallow steps with languid turns rise to the glazing, so people can linger and behold the view.

Although the south tower's 43 storeys are two less than the north tower's, the pinnacle of the ECB's power is situated here. From level 39 are three floors where the Executive Board has private offices, and above that is the Council Chamber. The seating is arranged circularly, and the view looks across to the skyscraper cluster of the Financial Quarter to the west, a kilometre separating the high command of the euro currency from the citadels of commercial banking, dominated by Foster's Commerzbank tower. Board or council rooms atop skyscrapers reinforce the god-like power of their occupants, and simultaneously place their heads in the clouds.

Wolf Prix, co-founder and principal of Coop Himmelb(l)au
Wolf Prix, co-founder and principal of Coop Himmelb(l)au

Here, the ceiling seems to do the latter -- across it, a field of parallel strips, each cut with a differently curved, lower edge, suggests another Himmelb(l)au cloud reference. But it holds a hidden image -- from a certain angle, you can see the shape of Europe in it. Prix still wants to draw your attention like he did on city streets when he was younger, but now he does so with shinier, stranger shapes demanding a bigger stage.

The latest Coop Himmelb(l)au buildings, especially those in China, are like structures on a sci-fi dreamscape, often silvery, organic forms like vast, alien beasts. The ECB headquarters is sober by comparison, even with its asymmetric, subversively curving towers. The project does play a more deconstructivist hand internally, but the biggest surprise is its interplay with Elsaesser's functionalist expressionism (old labels that are also apt for Coop Himmelb(l)au).

Prix warns young architects that, 'when you want to make free forms, you are forced to make constrained forms', but here are free forms within and around the constraint of the old market hall. Prix's visions are still outside of the box - and inside this one. The whole, the gestalt, works as a brilliantly precise and logical unified structure. Rather like Mozart's music.

 

At the ECB, Frankfurt, Coop Himmelb(l)au principal, Wolf Prix, sat down with Herbert Wright to talk about deconstructivism, China and fish, and also offered advice for young architects.

Blueprint: The architects in MoMA's 1988 Deconstructivist show (Gehry, Hadid, Koolhaas etc.) are now big international names. Do you all share anything else in common?
Prix:
Yes. We all depend in a similar way on our cultural background. Austrian architects are more dependent on baroque space sequences, lots of structure. They try to dissolve the structural constraints. If the architect is good, he tries to overcome gravity. Look at that LC4 (chair) by Le Corbusier -- if you lie there, you have the same position as astronauts taking off. This is not by chance. The Dutch guys like Rietveld are related to Calvinism, Jewish friends to Kabbalism.

Blueprint: In the UK, we had high-tech rather than deconstructivism - are they related?
Prix:
This is related to fish and chips, to farmers and sailors.

Who’s driving? The Restless Sphere, demonstrated in Basel, 1971, was a ‘transparent habitat’ and also a ‘means of transport’
Who's driving? The Restless Sphere, demonstrated in Basel, 1971, was a 'transparent habitat' and also a 'means of transport'

Blueprint: Your architecture was once described as 'punk'.
Prix:
It is not punk, it's rock-and-roll.

Blueprint: Were you ever a rebel?
Prix:
No, never.

Blueprint: But do you accept the label 'deconstructivist'?
Prix:
Deconstructivism has a misunderstanding. People say it's connected with destroying. But (the word) deconstructivism comes from (French philosopher) Jacques Derrida. He proved that in a text, one word can unconsciously rule the whole understanding... Maybe Libeskind understood it. The architects who are neurotic, depressed, sexually infantile, they do buildings that are that way.

Blueprint: That sounds Freudian.
Prix:
Freud could only come up with his ideas in Vienna. Look at the (pompous neo-classical) buildings on Ringstrasse in Vienna. You can tell this society was preparing for World War One. What I can read from buildings is not just the elements, I read the society that puts these buildings. The problem of architectural theory is we only discuss the visible part. That's the tip of the iceberg. The invisible is the dangerous part. The design process is more like a whale than an iceberg.

A rendered robot fine grinds a welding seam on the Dolphin, within the MOCAPE, currently under construction in Shenzhen
A rendered robot fine grinds a welding seam on the Dolphin, within the MOCAPE, currently under construction in Shenzhen

Blueprint: What shapes Coop Himmelb(l)au design?
Prix:
(The German word) 'entwerfen' is at the root of our design. Each part throws up possibilities. 'Ent' comes from the unconscious, 'werfen' means 'throw'. The moment when you change from unconscious to conscious is when 30 tonnes can fly! I like breaking ground because that's when your idea becomes reality.

Blueprint: What new Coop Himmelb(l)au project excites you most?
Prix:
We just finished (the Musée des Confluences at) Lyon, the most complex building until now. It has an elaborated sculpture of water turbulence (the Gravity Well), 15m high. We are working on (something) similar in China 60m high (in the Dawang Mountain Resort, Changsha).

Blueprint: President Xi Jinping called for 'no more weird architecture' in China. Is that bad news for your Beijing office?
Prix:
The architectural profession is going down. There are too many architects. We are sardines in an ocean of sharks. The difference is, we don't have a swarm intelligence.

The 220m-long, 60m-high Dalian Conference Center, with a fluid envelope of steel, contains a conference and opera theatre.
The 220m-long, 60m-high Dalian Conference Center, with a fluid envelope of steel, contains a conference and opera theatre

Blueprint: Are the sharks the clients?
Prix:
Clients always envy the starchitects because they have less pressure. They're wrong.

Blueprint: Perhaps Xi feels Western architects have used China as an experimental lab, for ever more digitised design.
Prix:
They have learnt a lot from these experiments. Xi is not trained in architecture. Digitisation itself is not a problem. Now, we are doing a project in China that is being built by robots (the Dolphin sculptured hub between MOCAPE's two museums, under construction in Shenzhen).

Blueprint: If you met your young self and said you were designing a headquarters for Europe's reserve bank, what do you think he would say?
Prix:
He'd say 'let's do it!' The difference is time, the attitude is the same.

Blueprint: And what advice would you give young architects?
Prix:
Don't fragment your power on stupid competitions or stupid buildings. You won't get results, (but) the client gets stronger. Go back to school and start a new wave of architectural thinking. Be independent from money and shark-like investors. Create a wave, learn to be patient.

Blueprint: But they need to pay the rent
Prix:
When we were young and refused a commission, we sold bananas, we drove trucks.

Blueprint: They may become just paper architects?
Prix:
It's not said that everyone should build. Sometimes a small sketch is more influential. If you only think in architectural terms, only architecture will come up. Architects now suffer from obedience before it's necessary.

 

The Art of Repetition – Chisel & Mouse

Blueprint

Sounding a little like a rap duo, Chisel & Mouse are two brothers, Robert and Gavin Paisley, who 'parked' their jointly owned software company to start doing what they really loved. A 'mind map' showed them that they loved technology, architecture and modelling and thus their business modelling famous buildings was born.

Highbury Stadium (Archibald Leitch); Baltic Flour Mills (Gelder & Kitchen); Battersea Power Station (Giles Gilbert Scott);
Highbury Stadium (Archibald Leitch); Baltic Flour Mills (Gelder & Kitchen); Battersea Power Station (Giles Gilbert Scott);

Battersea Power Station and the Hoover Building were two early projects, as was Arsenal's Highbury stadium - and that's despite them being lifelong Liverpool fans (they are the great nephews of the club's most famous manager, Bob Paisley).

Centre Point (R Seifert & Partners); Cincinnati Union Terminal (Alfred Fellheimer and Steward Wagner);  Fisher Apartments (Andrew N. Rebori);
Centre Point (R Seifert & Partners); Cincinnati Union Terminal (Alfred Fellheimer and Steward Wagner); Fisher Apartments (Andrew N. Rebori);

The latest additions to their selections are the original Bauhaus building by Walter Gropius and his Fagus Factory. Robert Paisley admits the pair share a love of modernism and art deco, and adds that the rectilinear nature of these, works well for their modelling process. Their starting point is plans or photographs, from which they create CAD drawings, used to print 3D models.

Glasgow School of Architecture (Charles Rennie Macintosh); Bilbao Guggenheim (Frank Gehry); New York Guggenheim (Frank Lloyd Wright);
Glasgow School of Architecture (Charles Rennie Macintosh); Bilbao Guggenheim (Frank Gehry); New York Guggenheim (Frank Lloyd Wright);

They found the nature of these models a little 'plasticky' though, so they now take silicon moulds of the print and then cast them in plaster. A lot of sanding later, a master model is created and a master mould taken from it. The final models are also created in plaster, giving them a pleasing heft.

Helsinki Central (Eliel Saarinen); Hepworth Gallery (David Chipperfield); VC Morris Gift Shop (Frank Lloyd Wright)
Helsinki Central (Eliel Saarinen); Hepworth Gallery (David Chipperfield); VC Morris Gift Shop (Frank Lloyd Wright)

Hoover Building (Wallis, Gilbert & Partners); Turbinenfabrik (Peter Behrens); Trellick Tower (Ernö Goldfinger)
Hoover Building (Wallis, Gilbert & Partners); Turbinenfabrik (Peter Behrens); Trellick Tower (Ernö Goldfinger)

Since they started, they've been approached by the likes of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and, recently, the London Eye, and are now picking up commissions for everything from offices to homes.

 

Profile: Carlos Virgile

Fx

Words by Emily Martin

You've most likely heard of Argentinean born Carlos Virgile and you might know that he qualified as an architect in Buenos Aires before moving to the UK in the late Seventies to work at Fitch and then establishing himself as one of the UK's top retail and hotel designers. But did you know he studied law for two years before transferring to an architecture course?

'I realised it wasn't quite what I wanted to do,' says Virgile as we sit in the London office of creative agency Imagination. Smiling, he adds: 'There were family pressures because my uncle was a lawyer.'

Retail interiors by Virgile + Partners at Imagination for Harrods’ Luxury Rooms
Retail interiors by Virgile + Partners at Imagination for Harrods' Luxury Rooms

He laughs as he reminisces, and I imagine that the scenario presented itself differently then, particularly as I see his enthusiasm when he talks about architecture and his decision to study it. 'All the wrong reasons inspired me, I'm sure!' he says. 'Doing architecture was something much closer to the things I like; South America is quite European in many ways and culture is an important part of our daily lives. So design, art, cinema and theatre were my forces and I was always well informed, even though geographically Argentina is quite out there.'

He doesn't tell me, but I have it on good account, that his Mastermind specialist subject would be neorealism in Italian cinema, so I am interested to know about his many cultural influences. He describes a particular turning point arriving after he saw a Bauhaus exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, in the Seventies. 'It was an amazing exhibition, and the move to architecture, in a way, was a natural thing for my way of seeing things,' says Virgile. 'What I wanted to be, it was something that developed into other interests.' And one of these developments was setting up and running a shop during his student days.

Retail interiors by Virgile + Partners at Imagination for Harrods’ Luxury Rooms
Retail interiors by Virgile + Partners at Imagination for Harrods' Luxury Rooms

Selling furniture, design, antiques and products, Virgile's shop in Buenos Aires included items from Biba and Habitat and did business for five years until he qualified as an architect.

'It was very successful actually,' he says. It was obviously influenced by his ultimate choice of career, yet it was his move to the UK that opened up a number of possibilities to combine architecture and his interest in shops and retail.

'Argentina was a complete political mess and it was difficult,' explains Virgile. 'I had a brain, I suppose, so a lot of my friends and people in my generation emigrated to Europe or to the USA.' Virgile left Fitch in 1990 to set up Virgile + Stone, then a subsidiary of The Imagination Group, with Nigel Stone as his then business partner. Working on hotel, leisure and luxury retail design projects, Virgile says London presented more design opportunities: 'It was the Eighties and there was a boom, and I ended up in a place where a lot was happening. I was doing a lot of commercial design - or design and marketing applied to retail - which was completely new then.'

For John Lewis Home Visions at Westfield Stratford, now rolled out to all other JLP stores
For John Lewis Home Visions at Westfield Stratford, now rolled out to all other JLP stores

At a time when many companies were experiencing economic growth in the UK, Virgile describes it as a 'learning curve', with designers having to visualise selling spaces and design retail spaces for the first time. 'It was linked to the financial boom of the Eighties, and only when there is a real explosion of activity and financial back-up that these things can happen,' he says.

Now Virgile + Partners, the business is an integrated offer within The Imagination Group with a number of top-end clients including Burberry, Patek Philippe and Yves St Laurent. With its core business in retail design, in particular the luxury end of the market, Virgile and Partners has expanded its portfolio to include overseas projects as clients explored markets in countries including India, Russia and the USA.

For John Lewis Home Visions at Westfield Stratford, now rolled out to all other JLP stores
For John Lewis Home Visions at Westfield Stratford, now rolled out to all other JLP stores

Working with department store Harvey Nichols at its Birmingham location (due to open next month), I ask Virgile how is retail design changing - and in particular the role of technology. 'Technology has created a huge amount of panic for retailers and designers. That panic had led to a lot of bad use of digital incorporation - or not really knowing how to incorporate it into a retail space,' he says.

Virgile's approach to integrating digital into a retail scheme is by examining the practical side of shopping. 'Is it really useful? Is there a purpose that will ultimately help make that purchase easier? I think there is a lot of visual noise in stores that is distracting and not conducive to shopping,' he says.

It's difficult to think of new ways to provide that service, and technology can easily introduce a gimmicky dimension to an experience, which can be seductive at first and then die quickly as a fading fad. Virgile believes the solution lies in a personal service. Well, with the luxury markets I suppose it always has been so, and as we approach the much-anticipated reopening of Harvey Nichols in Birmingham it'll be interesting to see how its design has achieved this. 'I can't say much, but there will be the test of many ideas,' he says. 'The concept of luxury is changing, as is the approach to the idea of luxury. There is a more cutting-edge and stylish approach, which many fashion brands are doing, but certainly not stores to the scale of Harvey Nichols.'

 

Springtime in Milan means Milan Furniture Week

fx

Salone del Mobile Milan 2015
14-19 April
Rho Milan Fairgrounds
salonemilano.it

Words by Emily Martin

The 54th edition of the Milan Furniture Fair opens this month - one of the year's biggest events, with more than 200,000 sq m of exhibition space for the 2,000-plus exhibitors attending this year's show. And with thousands of products making their market debut, the week-long event is further acknowledged as an international benchmark event, expecting to attract some 300,000 visitors from more than 160 countries.

Split into three style categories of Classic, Modern, and Design, the Furniture Fair and SaloneSatellite will be flanked by the biennial Euroluce/International Lighting Exhibition (in pavilions 9-11 and 13-15) and Workplace3.0/ SaloneUfficio, an exhibition dedicated to the workspace (in pavilions 22-24).

An exhibition devoted to excellence in lighting, Euroluce will showcase the latest in outdoor, indoor, industrial, special use and hospital lighting solutions among others.

To mark the 2015 International Year of Light proclaimed by UNESCO, an installation/event telling the story of and exploring the essence of light has been conceived. Created by architect Attilio Stocchi, it is called 'FAVILLA. To every light a voice'.

The Workplace3.0 show is devoted to design and technology for the planning of workspaces. It will bring together the top proponents in the furnishings world for general offices, banks, Post Offices and other public spaces, seating for offices and public spaces, acoustics, flooring and coverings, lighting and office accessories as well as audio-video technologies and communications.

A huge installation/exhibit called 'The Walk' within Workplace3.0 will feature pavilions, conceived by Italian architect Michele De Lucchi, as an area for showcasing ideas and design triggers for planning workspaces in many different contemporary interpretations. Another event - IN ITALY - has been created by the architecture practice Four in the Morning to a design by architect Dario Curatolo. It will feature 64 Italian manufacturers and a select group of designers, planners and architects, who together will address issue surrounding products, design and planning.

Seymour Powell will be presenting its research on this year's product design from Milan in London on 30 April to a VIP audience. If you'd like to be invited, email rsvp@ seymourpowell.com, with 'Milan Party' in the subject title line.

 

Space make not space plan: how the office is being radicalized

Fx

Words by Barry Jenkins

I am frequently advised that the office today is less about repetitive manual tasks and more about creative collaboration. This is widely accepted as the way that smart, attractive companies work, and that the spaces they occupy express creativity, their core values and their success.

The impact of information technology and mobile communications has enabled considerable change in the workplace. In addition socio-economic changes have altered workers' expectation of what an ideal workplace is. Practices such as agile and remote working has led to a recognition that a diverse range of settings works best, thereby challenging the traditional approach of standardisation. Today there are options, so that rows of identical desks are not always necessary, viable or productive.

One high-profile example of this trend is Google that, as a relatively new breed of company, represents a break with conventional ideas and as a result creates 'cool' workplaces. Clearly its offices with beach huts and telephone kiosks must contribute to its brand identity, and in turn may also resonate with potential employees and customers alike. But while employing theatrics in the design of a workspace creates a variety of distinctive 'settings', is it becoming as emblematic of tech companies as the walnut-panelled boardroom is of more traditional organisations? That said, thinking beyond conventional space planning, which is more like a functional head-count, does reflect a desire to nurture unique cultural values - no matter how formulaic the physical realisation may be.

Until about 20 years ago the aim of creating workplaces was about housing a task-specific workforce in a space-efficient way. The office was organised like a factory: in departments, with furniture designed to support process and hierarchal organisation. Corporate culture was reflected through exclusive corporate statements rather than inclusive social cultures. But thanks to recessions, social change and, of course, the advance of information technology and mobile communications, the office of today has the potential to be a very different place for those organisations that understand the value of culture.

To that end, I think it is entirely correct that the design of a workplace should be about how the workforce will use it and connect to it. It is also about how the environment will enable the workforce to work effectively and contribute to the inherent culture by merging environment and activity with purpose or meaning.

But this shift from the earlier one-size-fits-all approach has left some aspects of the office furniture industry displaced, evident at the most recent Orgatec in Cologne last October. Until recently desk systems used to be the dominant component in the workplace and would have been the star of any office trade fair.

The desk system used to drive the design of the office, the dynamics between co-workers, and integrate the IT of the day. But in the early Nineties an economic downturn saw the price of the typical workstation fall dramatically, leading to simplification that gave rise to the bench. This shift was aided by the emergence of the PC, and as workforces shrank part of the budget once spent on desks went towards IT. This increased productivity, while reducing labour costs, ushered in a new era of workplace development. This forms the basis of much of what we see now, leaving the desk system looking for a new direction and conspicuous by its absence at Orgatec 2014.

The financial collapse of 2008 triggered another period of change and was the wake-up-call corporations needed. It led to a reduction of waste by questioning the need to provide a workstation for each worker - that might in reality only be occupied for a fraction of the day. What has developed, amid the growth of 'agile working' and 'free address', is a new office landscape in which pods and high-back sofas have replaced or supplemented rows of fixed desks. So does this suggest desk-based office systems are dead?

And if they are, is it entirely appropriate to expect workers to be comfortable, content and productive without access to a safe and stable workstation?

While we may accept that workspaces today need to offer a diverse range of settings and that workers may be more nomadic, we must also acknowledge that at some point in the working week they will need to sit or increasingly stand and undertake process work. They will also require privacy in addition to using those convivial 'creative' spaces we see as emblems of new ways of working.

But I expect that behind the hammocks and pinball tables seen in 'cool' offices seeking to promote a unique sense of place, there are places where people work more conventionally.

But due to how, when and where we now work, I think the workspace is free to define an individual sense of place, which in urban design parlance brings together location or physical character, activity and meaning in a process known as 'place making'. This approach is entirely about expressing and nurturing culture. Apply this to the workplace and reflect the shift away from 'space planning', and the activity today for shaping a workplace based on change (that also reflects inherent and shared values) is no longer about space planning, but more about 'place making'.

 

School of thought

Fx
Words + Photography by Gareth Gardner


Designer Terence Woodgate ponders the minimalist lines of his Sax coffee table, designed for furniture retailer/manufacturer SCP. The glass and steel table was one of more than 70 pieces of furniture, machinery, photographs and other archive material that formed an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the London College of Furniture, held at LCF successor the Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design. Featured in the show were pieces by notable LCF alumni including Woodgate (who completed his diploma in furniture in 1984) as well as Michael Marriott and Ercol founder Lucian Ercolani.


 

One to watch: Michelle Henry

Fx

Words by Emily Martin

Who
Birmingham-based sign writer Michelle Henry graduated in law and business from Keele University in 2006 but, being a fourth-generation sign writer, decided to join her grandparents' former company, Hazlehurst Nameplates and Signs, where she managed a contract with Birmingham Children's Hospital. When she learned that the company was going into administration she decided to set up her own, as HNS Signs (a reference to her grandparents' former company). Henry's first commission was to complete hospital's contract.

The HNS Selfie - ‘We primarily sell to businesses, but a piece of wall art that we did for ourselves has got the domestic market excited,’ says Henry. Using traditional sign writing techniques combined with ‘Banksy’ style spraypainting to create a company ‘selfie’, led to orders to produce family portraits for customers after it was posted on the company’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
The HNS Selfie - 'We primarily sell to businesses, but a piece of wall art that we did for ourselves has got the domestic market excited,' says Henry. Using traditional sign writing techniques combined with 'Banksy' style spraypainting to create a company 'selfie', led to orders to produce family portraits for customers after it was posted on the company's Twitter and Facebook pages.

Why

Birmingham Children’s Hospital - HNS’s first project, working alongside interior design firm Newman Gauge, consisted of a traditionally sign-written wall with an aeroplane, clouds and typography. The design features balloons, laser-cut from 5mm red Perspex, that show the names of those who have donated to the cause. ‘We have since done many displays like this throughout the hospital,’ says Henry
Birmingham Children's Hospital - HNS's first project, working alongside interior design firm Newman Gauge, consisted of a traditionally sign-written wall with an aeroplane, clouds and typography. The design features balloons, laser-cut from 5mm red Perspex, that show the names of those who have donated to the cause. 'We have since done many displays like this throughout the hospital,' says Henry


With a business loan from the Prince's Trust, Henry set up within a month, employing two others in a 139 sq m unit in Sandpitts, Birmingham. In August 2013 they moved to a 465 sq m unit and went from three to 10. The company manufactures 95 per cent of signs and graphics in-house, to provide more control over quality and time management. 'You are only as good as your last job and we can offer manufacture warranties on materials,' says Henry. HNS buys its materials either locally or from UK suppliers.

Penny Blacks - Working once again with Newman Gauge HNS completed a project for Penny Blacks bar, located in the Mailbox development in Birmingham, in May 2014. ‘This project involved everything from sign to neon to wall art,’ says Henry. Several ‘distressed and Banks-style’ pieces were produced along with a one-off 4.5m x 1m neon illuminated sign containing 240 LEDs.
Penny Blacks - Working once again with Newman Gauge HNS completed a project for Penny Blacks bar, located in the Mailbox development in Birmingham, in May 2014. 'This project involved everything from sign to neon to wall art,' says Henry. Several 'distressed and Banks-style' pieces were produced along with a one-off 4.5m x 1m neon illuminated sign containing 240 LEDs.

Last year HNS won the Scoot Headline Awards for businesses and a National Business Leaders award. 'We have also been nominated for two categories for the Venus Awards (Small Business of the Year award and Customer Service Award) and we hope to pick up a few in the British Sign Association Awards later this year,' says Henry.

Where
hnssigns.co.uk

 

Statement brands: how designers create personality

Fx

Premium brands are investing in design to ensure that their physical stores encourage a deeper interaction with the brand by immersing the customer in the brand personality.

This is particularly the case at Victoria Beckham's new London flagship, designed by Farshid Moussavi Architecture, where the three-storey space is conceived as a gallery for the brand.

Smart premium brands are stressing the story and personality behind their products, as demonstrated at Hunter's lively new flagship. They also see the value in designing a store that showcases the staff's expert knowledge in an accessible manner.

At Berry Bros & Rudd, one of the country's longest established wine merchants, Urban Salon's new store demystifies wine terminology, while Dunhill's of London's new flagship. designed by Household, caters for the cigar aficianado's every needs.

Case Study

Victoria Beckham
Where: Dover Street, London
Designer: Farshid Moussavi Architecture

Victoria Beckham's new 560 sq m flagship store is conceived more like a gallery than a traditional retail space. According to the designer, Farshid Moussavi Architecture, with online shopping able to focus on providing choice the store can instead focus on display while conveying a sense of the transience and exploration that underpins fashion itself.

The store is arranged over three floors, and is dominated by a grand, wide concrete staircase conceived as a space of its own for use when the store hosts various events, talks and displays.

Mirrored stainless-steel ceilings on the ground and lower floors and the distinctive, concrete coffered ceiling on the upper floor (pictured above) convey the impression of expansion, the latter also serving to conceal services and house lighting systems.
Conventional hanging display solutions are eschewed for a system of tracks within the coffers, from which chains are suspended to hang the clothes. Flexibility was important. The chains can be repositioned, as can retractable, long shelving used to display handbags on the ground floor. The triangular bench seating can also be moved and reconfigured as necessary.

Case Study

Hunter
Where: Regent Street, London
Designer: Checkland Kindleysides

Hunter has long been known as the pre-eminent premium brand for wellies. Its first global flagship store - designed by Checkland Kindleysides in Regent Street, London - shows off not only its iconic footwear with aplomb but also its new ranges of outerwear and accessories developed under the auspices of new creative director Alasdhair Willis.

The brief was to celebrate the brand's long heritage in tandem with a fresh new attitude. While not alienating its traditional audience, the store needed to appeal to younger, more urban customers looking perhaps for something to wear to a muddy festival or around town in the rain. Checkland Kindleysides took inspiration from the brand's roots in the age of Victorian explorers and plant hunters, the British countryside and the weather.

'The weather is massively part of the product,' says Checkland Kindleysides' creative director Joe Evans, who conceived the store as a journey through the countryside and the elements, conveying a sense of the outdoors. In doing so, he adds, the store harks back to a youthful, contemporary spirit of adventure and innovation that doesn't take itself too seriously and isn't afraid to be slightly eccentric.

Inside the ground-floor ‘barn’ at the Hunter store in Regent Street, London
Inside the ground-floor 'barn' at the Hunter store in Regent Street, London

The 492 sq m store is arranged over three floors, each encompassing very different store experiences. The ground floor space is designed as a contemporary barn with Douglas fir rafters and rubberised barn doors. The floor is inset with a herringbone pattern that replicates the sole of a Hunter boot. Designers sought to convey a sense of sunlight after rain, with organic-shaped 'puddle' tables with a black-mirrored finish designed to evoke the quality of water. Above these, merchandise is displayed as if hung up to dry. At the rear is more product displayed against a gabion wall, and also in an 'infinity forest' display of fir trees.

The staircase uses materials familiar to agricultural buildings, with grey mesh and rubber treads. Customers pass a 5m-high media screen displaying brand events and weather updates with suitable soundscape throughout the store. On the first floor, Checkland Kindleysides created a surreal take on an enclosed English garden with product displayed against a background of fake topiary hedges inspired by the Hidcote Manor Garden in Gloucestershire. More puddle tables stand on a 'lawn' of green ceramic floor tiles.

A concrete cash desk incorporates the Hunter seal depicting a pair of scales and the date of its founding, 1856, which is used as a detail throughout the store. Both the ground and first floors feature 'boot room' seating areas and sound tracks relevant to the brand. A rural soundscape plays in the grass-lined lift. In the basement, the retail space has a colour scheme of Hunter red and white. Hunter boxes are stacked like a dry stone wall, making a visual feature of practical storage.

The Hunter company is currently looking at new sites worldwide for further flagship stores.

Case Study

Dunhill Tobacco of London Limited
Where St James's, London
Designer Household

Dunhill's long-established London store has been reinvented as an experiential space that celebrates the tradition and rituals of smoking in a contemporary and comfortable way.

Household's concept was to appeal to 'bon vivant, aficionado characters' who want to enjoy the product and learn about it as well, according to Household founder and customer experience director Michelle Du-Prât.

Previously the shop was purely used for displaying product. Now it has been expanded and has four key areas geared to creating sociable and immersive experience around the brand. Customers enter through the premium retail area, followed on by the sampling lounge: a comfortable, sociable space where customers can sample cigars brought to them on bespoke trays. This area is also doubles as an events space. Beyond is the humidor room, where 56 copper-fronted mini humidors keep cigars in optimum conditions. More can be found out about the products in the master blender's room.

The transformation of the Dunhill retail space has had a positive impact on sales
The transformation of the Dunhill retail space has had a positive impact on sales.Dunhill Photography: Gareth Gardner

The new approach encourages a deeper relationship between the customer and the premium brand. Customers now stay on twice as long as previously. As well as benefiting from the expert knowledge of staff, customers can hire their own humidor or even rent the whole space out for an event.

Household's design has been hugely successful at a time when marketing tobacco has become more and more challenging. Sales are up by more than 390 per cent since the store was transformed, with 82 per cent of visitors buying.

Case Study

Berry Bros & Rudd
Where Basingstoke
Designer Urban Salon

This wine merChant is something of an institution, having operated from the same central London premises in St James's since 1698, selling wine from £۵ to £۵,۰۰۰ a bottle.

Urban Salon worked on a light restoration of the original shop last year and have now completed a revamp of Berry Bros & Rudd's warehouse shop in Basingstoke.

The challenge was to present a premium brand with all its associated knowledge and service in a suitably highquality setting, but one that was nonetheless appropriate to the discounted nature of the merchandise and its setting on an industrial estate in Basingstoke.

Wine merchant Berry Bros & Rudd has had its warehouse store revamped.
Wine merchant Berry Bros & Rudd has had its warehouse store revamped.

The 325 sq m space consists of the main sales area and a semi-private space which can be used for tastings or as a waiting area. The design of the display components refers to warehouse language, with merchandise displayed on perimeter storage and in pine units incorporating wine boxes and set on pallets. This allows flexibility to reconfigure the space as necessary. Some of these units incorporate tabletops for wine glasses for tastings; others are used to store and display stock.

An array of 54 enamel lights run down the central spine of the shop, illuminating the tasting units where customers can try before they buy. Navigation was particularly important since the shop is at least triple the size of most supermarket wine departments. Urban Salon worked with Pentagram on the graphics to ensure that specialist terminology was properly demystified and that areas were appropriately signed.

'We didn't want it to feel like a supermarket so we used the columns and rhythm of the old warehouse to mark smaller sections dedicated to different types of wine,' says Urban Salon creative director Alex Mowat.

 

When ancient and imagination meet: the creative approach to exhibiting

Fx

Words by Pamela Buxton

Nick Sainton-Clark is head of design at the Natural History Museum. He joined the museum in 2009 and initially headed up the production services department before taking on the design role as well a year ago. Previously, he worked at the BBC for 16 years managing both the special and visual-effects departments including prop making, animation and digital effects for programmes such as Doctor Who, Alien Worlds and Robot Wars.

What does your role at Natural History Museum entail?
I oversee 40 people including a small design team of 3D, graphic and digital designers, as well as production services that encompass conservationists, mount makers, engineers, painters and joiners, AV and media specialists, and could be dealing with anything from exhibition sets to typography for print to organising a loan certificate.

We have nearly 25,000 sq m of gallery space and the aspiration is to get even more by re-jigging how the site works. We're currently setting out our permanent gallery development programme for the next 20-30 years. We're also looking at how we can get the most out of the grounds while being mindful of the listed Waterhouse building and consultation with our neighbours - there's huge potential there.

Nick Sainton-Clark. Portrait: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London 2014.
Nick Sainton-Clark. Portrait: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London 2014.

How many different design projects do you generally commission a year, and what sort of work is this?
We have 10 to12 major design projects a year, from architectural work in the grounds to our temporary exhibition programme. Most are commissioned externally but increasingly we are selecting temporary and permanent exhibits to design ourselves in-house. By 2016, we hope to stage a minimum of five temporary exhibitions (up from four) a year. Our key audience are 'Learned Liberals and Contemporary Cultured', and exhibition briefs are developed with this in mind.

Are you approached by design teams?
We do get some approaches made and I would like us to be better at identifying and engaging new and interesting designers.

Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story was designed by Nissen Richards. Human story image: Nick Rochowski.
Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story was designed by Nissen Richards. Image: Nick Rochowski.

How do you go about commissioning designers and architects?
We did have a framework of companies but recently we have just been tendering per job. We're currently looking at how we can be more agile in how we procure design. My view is that we need the right balance between external design companies and their fresh perspectives and the in-house design team, which has lots of experience of working with our collection. They feed off each other, and the museum gets the best of both worlds.

Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story was designed by Nissen Richards. Neanderthal model close up: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London 2014.
Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story was designed by Nissen Richards. Neanderthal model close up: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London 2014.

What qualities do you look for?
Flair and imagination, and a clear engagement with the collection - that's a deal breaker. Design companies should be receptive to feedback and input from us - the design does have to earn its keep so we do sometimes play devil's advocate. But we wouldn't want to crush their creative spirit. Hopefully everyone gains from the process.

What makes for a good gallery environment, and what roles can interactive and audiovisual design play within this?
We have to be really clear about what we want to convey. Our goal is to make exhibitions specimen-rich by putting our collections to the fore and creating strong narratives around them. The design should be imaginative and engaging without overpowering the exhibits.

We don't want to just jump on the bandwagon for current display fashions - whether augmented reality or touch-screen. It's about finding the best approach to interactives and design to make the exhibition work. I'm also a fan of mechanical exhibits and objects you can touch - people often respond well to a mechanical way of relating to the subject.

Often we take a black-box route to temporary shows. When we don't we're mindful of being sympathetic to the incredible architecture and detail of the building.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes was by DesignMap. Image: Designmap
Earthquakes and Volcanoes was by DesignMap. Image: Designmap

What aspects of exhibition design are the hardest to get right?
Making visitors feel it's a natural movement through the exhibition design. We've moved away from the strong narrative sausage factory route to providing an overall steer that gently guides people around without making it feel too prescriptive.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Plate-spinning! When you're working across such a wide remit it's very easy to get too sucked into one particular area. I am recruiting some design management staff, which will help. Another challenge is value engineering that isn't at the cost of the concept.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The fun bit is near the beginning when we have the concept and blue-sky scenario and are exploring how we can make it interesting and dynamic.

What projects do you feel have turned out particularly successfully?
The recent Volcanoes and Earthquakes galleries project, which moved from a light touch content improvement to practically a new gallery. The design for Britain One Million Years of the Human Story was also very successful.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes was by DesignMap. Image: Designmap
Earthquakes and Volcanoes was by DesignMap. Image: Designmap

What future design projects are in the pipeline?
We're rethinking the Hintze (formerly Central) Hall area to better showcase all the collections, including new displays on the balconies. The idea is to provide a striking glimpse of our specimens and science, as well as making the most of the amazing architecture. That will complete in 2017.

We've the Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea temporary exhibition opening this month. This has a really strong visual style and story and includes an aquarium with live coral. One of the challenges here is capturing the wonder and immersive feel of the ocean without becoming too theatrical. We've also got the 50th anniversary NHM Wildlife Photographer of the Year show (until 30 August) and an ambitious exhibition under development on whales, which will open in spring next year.

Do you have any favourite museums/ galleries that you take inspiration from?
I love the Victoria and Albert Museum. Its shows are very classy and manage to get some real wow factor. The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford is a lovely museum with an eclectic mix of display cases that you just roam around. I quite like that quirky character.

One of my goals is to get out and about more to look at other museums and get some international trips in - the last thing I need is to become too insular.

 



Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Architect Mahmood Fallahian

For Visit Our Website Please CLICK HERE

For Contact Us Please CLICK HERE