ART, DESIGN AND CULTURAL REPORTAGE: NEW YORK — LONDON
4 July 2010

For the Architecture Festival in London the  V&A hosted seven buildings amongst  some of the most impressive collection rooms in the museum. Nineteen architects were originally invited to submit proposals for the project, curated by Abraham Thomas, to create spaces that examined refuge and retreat. All of the buildings are accessible to the surprise of visitors- The Fujimori Beetle House rocks every time one of the allocated six spaces is climbed into. The buildings are both secretive and bold in presence. Studio Mumbai Architects built ‘In Between Architecture’ in the Casts Court, a space full of enormous figures and replicas. The building camouflages itself with a divoted plaster treatment, distinguished only stylistically yet remaining unobstrusive and affectionate towards the looming study replicas of David and company.

Studio Mumbai Architects in the Cast Courts

Cast Courts with SMA

David

From the inside

Interior with plaster cast tree

SMA Cast Courts

Terunobu Fujimori’s Beetle House was hosted in the Medieval & Rennaissance Room. The structure, in keeping with Fujimori’s style, possesses many dreamlike and spiritual sensitivities. This one in particular is a close replica of another Beetle House that he created in Japan, spanning two tree’s in the forrest. He built the structure from pine trees, and the exterior was charred onsite in the museum. The interior is grained with smaller bits of the charred wood, adorned with sparse belongings, a small bicycle to represent transport to the home, and a teaset designed by the Danish artist Malene Hartmann Rasmussen. Fujimori, since the opening, has hosted several tea ceremonies ( for six) in the miniscule structure. The whimsical nature of the structure is further enhanced by the wooden medieval spiral-staircase-to-nowhere, and the menacing  grid of clay heads mounted onto the nearby brick wall.

Terunobu Fujimori's Beetle's House

Beetle's House in the Medieval & Renaissance Galleries

Descent

Malene Hartmann Rasmussen with her teaset designed for the Beetle House

Charred Walls

Foot Traffic

In the John Madejski Garden lived a literal treehouse designed by Helen & Hard Architects from Stavanger, Norway. The house, titled ‘Ratatosk’ was built from splayed trees, becoming more basket-like and woven as the structure developed in height.

Ratatosk in the John Madejski Garden

Ratatosk

Ratatosk Proposal Model

At the bottom of the National Art Library stairs lived the “Ark” built by Rintala Eggertsson Architects from Oslo and Bodo, Norway. The building allowed three people in at a time to browse books at leisure. The books themselves acted as the interior walls, spine-in, and also as the exterior shell of the building, striating the structure with faded pages.

Ark designed by Helen & Hard

Reader

Ark Detail

Interior

From the entrance to the National Art Library

Top Floor

The gooooorgeous National Art Library

On the second floor entering the main architecture galleries lived the Inside/ Outside Tree designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects from Tokyo. This was a large faceted structure of plexi-glass which created a semi-enclosed looking glass for one viewer.

Inside Outside Tree

Inside/ Outside

Sou Fujimoto Architects

16 February 2010

This past week I took some work and travelled for the first time to Stockholm for the furniture fair. I was fortunate and thrilled to hear that Jasper Morrison was exhibiting his specimen collection of jugs, jars and pitchers, having missed it at London Design Week last September. Tucked away in the century-old, basement kitchen of  art collector Wilhelmina von Hallwyls’ antique-laden residence, the show was a great relief to the peripheral week of modern scandinavian furniture.

The kitchen seemed to be the only room in the house that wasn’t surfaced in decorative collections, appropriately so for Morrison’s ideology of “super normal”, purely function-based design.  The collection is a hand-picked group, plucked from thrift stores, flea markets and Morrison’s own home. Representing everyday life, which is the circumstance of pure function, the collection has a wonderful lack of pretention about its proposition of what makes vessels function as they do. The presentation is made without added context,  the purpose is to simply observe typologies of jugs, jars & pitchers.

As I am studying ceramic design, I found this collection to be a pop-up text book of function. An imperative question for design is why a new form should exist to serve the same purpose as millions of existing specimens are floating around in the  object stratosphere. Morrison is a designer who observes his predessesors, and offers new proposals, combining functional success and removing hindering qualities of form and material.  In the end his objects are equal in their visual anonymity, adding to the progressive timeline of industrial function. This could not be done without this level of observation.

Hallwyl Museum Kitchen

Detail

Watering Can

Teapot Specimen

To see this exhibition which is essentially pure research, without the glamour and pretention of a gallery was an interesting contrast to another show in London curated by designer Konstantin Grcic, titled ”Design Real” at the Serpentine Gallery. The work of both designers is exclusively function-based, although Grcic perhaps implies more biographical form to his work than Morrison.  The show at the Serpentine presents functional design as sterilized gallery work, by having plinths, white walls and minimal description; It proposes function by the standard of art, removing the observers inclination to get extremely close or touch. Morrison’s show on the other hand eliminates the gallery logic entirely, and uses a functional space to display functional objects- it could potentially be mistaken for the work of a neurotic house-keeper. The designer/curator is something that is being seen more and more as disciplines aggressively and publicly use one other in collaborations. Based on these two shows, what the designer, or maker, presents is seemingly more valuable in the aspect of proven observation, of what designers are competing with and what they deem successful.

Stove Detail

Specimens

Detail

Detail

Hallwyl Kitchen

Hallwyl Museum: Hamngatan 4, 111 47 Stockholm

The exhibition “Jugs, Jars & Pitchers”  is presented by Forum magazine and Henrik Nygren Design.

Forum is the Magazine for Scandinavian Architecture, Interiors and Design. Issue no.1 for 2010 includes an excellent article based on discussion with Morrison in regards to his new show.