October 29, 2012

Camper Culture

30 years after opening their first store in 1981 in Barcelona, Camper now boasts 300 stores and 4,000 points of sale in over 50 countries.
The difference between Camper and other major brands though, is that instead of designing a store identity that made all their shops recognizably the same around the world, they hired different designers to make each shop completely different and unique.
From opulent to minimalistic, stark tiles to flowery upholstered walls, each Camper store becomes its own little jewel of design and experimentation.
The following are a few of our favorites..

The New York Camper store in Soho designed by Shigeru Ban and Dean Maltz is a diagonal design in a rectangular space, featuring one of the best uses of Artek’s 10-unit system we've seen and a saavy hidden way of showing the shoes.

A different approach is used in one of the London Camper stores, designed by Tomas Alonso, where the shoes are laid directly into view, and highlighted by the tile trompe-l’oeil in the background.
In addition to the tiles, the use of metal tubing throughout the furniture and fixtures in the store give this design a certain quirkiness, reminiscent of the 2D cube-based video games of our youth.

A completely different use of tiles is shown here in Alfredo Haberli’s Barcelona shop, where red mosaic takes over the bottom half of the front of the store (a cross between a metro station and a Gaudi building?), only to lead the weary customer to an elevator-like lounge where one can sit on a ‘Take-a-line-for-a-walk’ armchair designed by the same Haberli for Moroso and try on shoes at their leisure.

Another Barcelona store, this one designed by Spanish designer Jaime Hayon, takes the same color red in a very different direction, with furniture that looks like it most certainly would have been adopted by a French monarch named Louis, had there been any in the 21st century.

Another opulent proposition is Tokujin Yoshioka’s design for a London Camper store, which utilizes the same folded fabric technique on a large wall panel, as in the Bouquet chair he designed for Moroso, also present in the space.

In contrast, Nendo’s minimalist design for the Osaka store focuses on nothing but the shoes themselves, by making the completely white background (including wall, ceiling and floor) disappear and giving the shoes the appearance of floating.
By Claire Toussaint 

October 10, 2012

The Island of Misfit Furniture

A far cry from Lissoni’s or Citterio’s sleek archetypes of modern design, Rudolf’s got nothing on Moroso’s sculptural seating propositions.

Now celebrating 60 years of prototype making, Moroso looks back with Domus on their creations of plywood and foam, and the craftsmanship that made them great.
Be sure to check out Domus' interview of Marino Mansutti.

Anne Fougeron in the NY times


After  Lisa Koshkarian and Tom Di Francesco had chidren, they realized their 3,600 sq ft home at the top of  Potrero hill presented a major  acoustic challenge. The location of the living room, sandwiched between the children’s bedrooms, made it impossible to entertain after Rex and Zia went to bed.

Disappointed in what the housing market had to offer, Tom and Lisa turned to modern architectural guru Anne Fougeron to marry their love of sleek minimalist design and family-friendly spaces. Taking issue with what she calls the ‘Dwell Light Disease’ signifying modern houses that all end up looking the same, Fougeron made some bold decisions in the design of the Koshkarian and Di Francesco home.

She started by switching the ‘quiet rooms’ to the street side of the house, and moved the entertaining areas to the back towards the garden.

In order to take full advantage of the gorgeous views of downtown San Francisco, Fougeron created a wall of glass, exposing the back rooms of the house. The ‘dollhouse’ effect of this slightly (but unashamedly) exhibitionist design is alleviated by the faceted shape of the glass wall, which give the back of the house its character, and steers clear of the ‘unintentional uniform’ Fougeron decries.

Lisa Koshkarian and her children, Rex and Zia
by Claire Toussaint

September 26, 2012

Furniture Dynasties

Wallpaper’s September issue features family portraits of some of Italy’s most prominent fashion and furniture dynasties; a good opportunity to see the faces behind some of our favorite furniture lines.

De Padova

In the fifties, Fernando and Maddalena De Padova began by importing Scandinavian furniture to sell in their store in Milan, introducing it to the Italian market. After starting a factory in the sixties to produce licensed Herman Miller furnishings, the De Padovas graduated to producing their own pieces, collaborating with some of the tenors of European design (Achille Castiglioni, Vico Magistretti, Dieter Rams..) as well as acting as a platform for up and coming designers.

Today, Maddalena has given up the reins of the company to her son, Luca De Padova (Both are pictured above), who is determined to keep expanding the company and follow in his mother’s visionary footsteps.



Originally started by the four brothers Galimberti, Flexform is now run by four Galimberti cousins of the third generation (Luca, Giuliano and Matteo pictured above). 

With the collaboration of renowned designers, namely Antonio Citterio, Flexform has developed a sophisticated and unmistakable aesthetic. 



Flos was founded in the late fifties by Dino Gavina on the idea of using Arturo Eisenkeil’s ‘cocoon technique’ to create a line of lights. With the Castiglioni brothers and Tobia Scarpa in tow, Flos became synonymous with forward thinking designs and the use of beautiful and innovative manufacturing techniques, a departure from Italy’s interior design landscape of the time.
In the early sixties, the company was taken over by Sergio Gandini, a more entrepreneurial minded manager, and started making headlines around the world. Piero Gandini later succeeded his father and brought in new designers, including Philippe Starck who has been creative director since the nineties, setting a new standard of innovation for the company.
Today, Flos boasts a growing stable of some of the world’s most talented designers and expanding product lines in not only decorative, but also architectural and in soft architecture (Flos’ most recent venture, at the cross-section of lighting and architecture).



Kartell was founded in 1949 by Giulio Castelli, a chemical engineer with the endeavor to replace traditional glassware with plastic. With three pieces in the New York MoMa by the seventies and extensive research on the properties of plastic during the eighties, Kartell was already a well-established company by the time it was taken over by Claudio Luti, Castelli’s son-in-law, in the late 1980’s.

The company hit their stride in the beginning of the 21st century with the recruitment of some of the world’s most famous design talent; namely Philippe Starck, Ron Arad, Patricia Urquiola… creating some of Kartell’s most iconic products. Coupled with massive innovation in the technical department, especially in the way of environmental friendliness, Kartell has become an international benchmark for plastic furniture and design objects.

Today, Claudio Luti is accompanied by his children, Lorenza and Federico, in running the family business.

by Claire Toussaint

September 11, 2012

Home Office, Office Home

With evolving needs in the technology department, the boundaries between home and office are blurring. Beyond putting a sofa in an office and a task chair in a home, designers are taking cues from one environment to use in the other, with very interesting results.

The ambiance in the office has been warming up in the last few years. Lounge areas have been moving outside of the break room and into the business side of the workplace.

At Pixar for example, you might sit on the same armchair during a meeting you sit on by the fire in your living room. (Artek, armchair 400)   

Task chairs are also taking on a softer look, closer to that of a fauteuil. The Softshell and Skape chairs (by Vitra) are good examples of this trend.

Vitra, Soft Shell chairs

Vitra, Skape chairs

In an effort to create a lighter but no less comfortable armchair, some designers have been trading in traditional upholstery for materials more commonly found in an office environment.
Slow Chair by the Bouroullec Brothers for Vitra 
Waver, by Konstantin Grcic for Vitra
A new trend of cross-over furniture has also been developing, smoothing out the seams between office and home life.
The Alcove Highback Work sofa by the Bouroullec brothers for Vitra includes a table and cubby built right in to the sofa to accommodate working on a laptop. The high sides of the sofa provide a shield against noisy environments and create a small haven in which to get down to business.
Vitra, Alcove Highback Work
The SW 1 lounge, by Scott Wilson and Minimal for Coalesse, is designed for both meeting rooms and living rooms.
A little lower than traditional conference room seating, the SW 1 lounge sits in a more relaxed position but keeps the swivel base and mesh back of a conventional task chair, making it easy to prop up a tablet on one’s lap while keeping the conversation flowing in different directions.
Paired with an ottoman, the SW 1 is the perfect place the read the newspaper from and check emails from the comfort of your own home.

Coalesse SW_1 Lounge

by Claire Toussaint

September 4, 2012

Back to the Office

Summer vacation is over, and it’s time to head back to the office; which for a lucky few means it’s time for the grown-ups to do all the fun stuff the kids got to do all summer.


If part of your job description is to get in touch with your inner child, you might work in the development department at LEGO. Designed by Rosan Bosch and Rune Fjord, the space is more of a playground than an office, including a slide from the top to the bottom floor and a plethora of toys to play with.
Space camp:
For those more likely to have gone to space camp as children, the Google engineering headquarters in London has a techy space-craft feel in greys and bright blues and oranges. The cool lighting and integrated furniture give the impression of wondering the halls of the Death Star.

Building a fort:
To counteract rainy-day boredom, there is always the option to build a fort. Although blankets and the backs of chairs are traditionally used as building materials, a large scale office version requires a cardboard structure, like this tessellated cave by Liam Hopkins of Lazarian. Recycled cardboard is pulped and reconstituted into hollow triangular blocks which fit together to create the shelter’s organic shape.

Secret club-house:
The faceted red object in the middle of an office in Shanghai has the mystique and draw of a secret club house. Its size indicates that only a small number of people are able to fit inside, and its unusual shape heightens one’s natural curiosity. A fortress within an office, it is a perfect place to hold secret meetings and spy on others through the small windows.

Other offices to check out:  
Fun house gallery of mirrors
Coloring in the lines
by Claire Toussaint

August 20, 2012

Failed First

by Fougeron Architecture on August 7, 2012

Ingleside Branch Public Library, San Francisco, CA 

I learned the hard way that buildings, especially the ones you don't like, don't go away.

The good news is, you can bury the incriminating evidence. Before starting my firm in 1986, I worked for and with other architects. And while my name and signature are somewhere on those drawings, drafts and contracts, I've been assured that they are deeply hidden in a storage area of pre-electronic files.

One of my very first moonlight projects was with my good friend Kent Macdonald and it was a remodel. The project included a revamped facade. I'd like to think that the project's final appearance was a result of naivete (I was paralyzed by excitement and fear) and some stubborn clients.

Octavia Court, San Francisco, CA

It has an unfortunate composition that includes two different materials that step, something we would never do today. A clumsy balcony hovers overhead. It has been repainted in the ugliest cold color that emphasize the clumsy composition.

Luckily, for a period of time, the evidence was located on a sleepy San Francisco street. Unfortunately, a popular store opened half a block away and now my abomination is passed by thousands. Worse yet, by the time I opened my own firm five years later, I was living within walking distance to the project. 

When your early work is so close to home, on a now desirable street, you have to reconcile yourself to the idea that you'll be seeing the project far too often.

J F R, Carmel, CA

There are some methods of coping:
1. Ignore the problem and wear dark sunglasses
2. And when it's too overcast, you can move to the other side of the street.
3. Or take a very inefficient shortcut.
4. Then, in a moment of maturity, you decide you can stand to walk by it buy only when you regard the project with cold-blooded cynicism.
5. Or with revelrous wisdom that you are now a better architect.

Nowadays, rather than wallowing in the existence of this design...mishap, I use it as a reminder of the kind of architect I have become, rather than the kind of architecture I design.

It was in the time during and after this building that I learned to stand firm. And every time I am ready to cave in, to acquiesce modern design, I think of that little building on-well, the location isn't important.

Parkview Terrace, San Francisco, CA

The thing about buildings (other then their interminable lifespan) is that it takes a long time to get good at making them. You have to learn to communicate and compromise with a client without letting them steamroll over good design. You have to learn to utilize your space rather than just plop down your design. Oh and, not all your ideas are good ones.

p.s. If you want to know where the building is, send me a $50 bill and a self addresses envelop and I will mail you back the address.

August 6, 2012

Piero Lissoni at La Biennale di Venezia

Piero Lissoni and his architectural designs, distinguished for minimalist style, high-quality materials, and perfect execution, will be presented as part of the official selection of the 13th Architecture Exhibition at Biennale di Venezia 2012. The exhibitions will open with a press preview August 27-28 and will run until November 25th.

Piero Lissoni is at Palazzo Bembo in the exhibition "Traces of centuries & future steps" with the following project: Maranello Tower.

The project for the city of Maranello makes radical choices with the aim of creating an iconic building with a well-defined geometry. The use of innovative material such a polycarbonate emphasizes the communication function of the building: variously sized cladding panels make up the translucent skin which is interrupted only by windows opening onto the surrounding countryside, while restrained back lighting transforms the building into a luminescent body which at night illuminates the square in front. The quadrangular tower houses the staircase and lift, while the covered panoramic terrace extends perpendicularly along Via Dino Ferrari. This alignment allows visitors to enjoy impressive views which take in the Centro Produttivo Ferrari, the Circuito di Fiorano, the historic centre of Maranello and the distant foothills.

And is at the Giardini della Biennale, inside Padiglione Italia, in the section Made in Italy, with the following projects: the headquarters of Boffi, Living Divani, GlasItalia, and Matteograssi.

Boffi headquarters, photo by Giovanni Gastel

Living Divani headquarters, photo by Giovanni Gastel

GlasItalia headquarters, photo by Giovanni Gastel

Matteograssi headquarters, photo by Giovanni Gastel