Our parents paid for our education, they don't know what we do. The clients pay for our services, they don't really know what we do. Do they need us? Maybe. The press know what we do, bu they don't tell anyone. People guess, people speculate, but people never ask. We wish we had a job with a one word answer. Nurse. Butcher. Spaceman. That would be easier. Would it? The walls will be white and the lines will be straight, but still it is not simple. We draw buildings. No. We design buildings. No. We do both. Do we? They think we do but they are not sure. Neither am I. Mostly.
Walls are everywhere - some you should notice, others not so. Not all walls should shout gayly from the rooftops.
Happily skewiff. Not a bad shadow gap either.
Graduated. Top of it's class.
Rock of asymmetry. Perfectly framed and punctuated.
Palette of perforated pixels. Perfect (from a distance.)
I like my walls simple, honest, hard-faced and with personality. Just beautiful.
The kitchen might well be heart of the home for many of us, but for centuries the 'bath house' was the hub of society. Born out of a mass requirement for cleanliness, these were the places where one-and-all got naked, chatted, washed and steamed - the place where business deals were done and affairs were conducted. As a result these buildings were lavishly adorned and eloquently expressed. As society has changed and bathing facilities are now private the products are more subtle in size and distinction, but as a nation, us Brits still like to 'show off' our wares just as much as the Romans did. Our baths may be smaller and detailing less fussy but the design intent and quality of craftsmanship is still second to none from many of the premium retailers, such as V and A baths.
There is one US institution who is doing a lot of work to enure the quality of designers and design education is the National Kitchen and Bathroom Association, NKBA - who in 1987 established standards to provide consistent, quality education for students who wish to become kitchen and bathroom professionals. The NKBA developed its certification programs as a way for kitchen and bath professionals to enhance their careers and market themselves as experts in their field.
So whether you are working on a unisex nightclub powder room or a decadent washroom in a luxury spa make sure you choose the right products and a qualified designer.
V + A Baths and NKBA were both sponsors of the Modenus BlogtourNYC in March 2013 which I was honoured to attend.
It is no great revelation that architects tend to look up when exploring a city. It’s the best way to guage size, scale, placement, composition and detail - all the information required to process the qualities of a space or place. I have spent the last few days looking up and considering the architectural impact of the New York City grid-plan layout, taking a particular interest in the domestic scale elements that help to service the city and punctuate the rigidity.
Today I have been an urban explorer or ‘flâneur’ if you will – I have followed my nose, wandered the streets, taken cover from the weather, mooched the galleries, sipped the coffee and tried the locally brewed beer. This is the tasty fodder of all design-loving travelers and has provided the cultural side order to my analytical experience. I want to share with you the way my brain decodes a new city into a language that is both legible and translatable – my ‘thought-soundtrack’.
The term flâneur comes from the French, to stroll or saunter. It is said to refer to those who are indirectly or unintentionally affected by designs that they experience in passing. Social critic Walter Benjamin was an avid connoisseur of the street and actively participated in the ‘flâneur’ lifestyle. My architecture training as well as my teaching background has helped form my analytical approach to life and the built environment. I am drawn to the adaptations people (and their existence) make to what we consider at the time of completion to be the ‘perfect’ built form. The very requirement for adaptation suggests it was not the ‘perfect’ built form but more likely the ‘sufficient for now’ built form. These adaptations, when considered with respect to their placement in the NYC grid begin to generate some interesting findings that I will explore with the aid of diagrams. But before I do, here’s a personal insight into the 202-year-old gridiron planning system that distinctly characterizes New York City and it’s 17-mile stretch of 200ft blocks.
Having never experienced a system like this I have been very aware of its presence and potential impact on other areas of design as well as societal interaction. The Manhattan grid is clearly 3-dimensional - the rectangular ‘blocks’ in the horizontal plane and the building elevations routinely punctuated with window modules in the vertical plane. Their varying scale and articulation make for a rich and all encompassing experience for a girl who grew up in an idyllic West Yorkshire village, where the closest thing we had to this regularity was the terraced street. The predictability of this regimented approach is extremely useful when navigating a new city but I did find myself questioning the amount of ‘discovery’ available to me. Being very aware of how the regularity of a city may limit the element of surprise desired by any traveler, I began to search out small details representative of human adaptation, and these take the form of more familiar and domestic scaled items such as air con units, water towers and taxis. Let me explain.
I look for patterns, I respond to patterns, other people search for quirky fonts, unique graffiti or rare materials – but my brain processes contents through diagrams and patterns, or personalities, and with this information I can attain certain conclusions. The addition of a ‘personal’ element here is the key, because cities are all about people, our buildings and streets are the perfect canvas for expressing our personalities, and for once, I don’t just mean that of the architects.
At first the brain identifies the rhythm of the brick formation and the window layouts, it is this assumption of regularity that leaves many with this very valid conclusion based on the verticality of the grid. But in identifying this pattern – the eye becomes more accustomed, searching for further geometries or perhaps more importantly, exceptions to the rule.
It is these exceptions that become of interest and create uniquities* amongst the ‘normal’. In the diagram above the air con units become the exception, even though the majority of the population in NYC have these units, their existence begins to form a powerful narrative about the life behind the services. It tells of the age of the building, pre air con ducts, hence these units are retro fitted. It can also begin to tell where the apartment boundaries lie inside the envelope of the building - bathroom, bedroom or kitchen? But in respect of the formal qualities it adds so much value and personality to an otherwise monotonous, flat-faced façade that would disappear into a puddle of normality.
Amanda M. Burden, the director of city planning says “The 200-foot-long block is short enough to provide continuous diversity for the pedestrian, and the tradition of framing out the grid by building to the street-wall makes New York streets walkable and vibrant.” Straight-sided, right-angled dwellings are superbly efficient and economical, relatively speaking, as well as proportionally favorable to the eye. Sometimes the exception to the rule is an event, something hat is bright yellow, and moving – which helps to spot them.
The NYC cabs repeatedly traverse the 17mile long island every single day of the week. The grid system itself was executed prior to mass transit, so the commissioners mapped more crosstown streets (East to West) than avenues (North to South) as they assumed the majority of traffic would be traveling between the rivers – hence the rectangular nature of the blocks arrangement.
The cabs, as well as the cabbies have extreme personalities. The way they awkwardly duck in and out of the traffic and rescue damsels in distress from falling water and respond to a whistle in a whippet-like fashion is just wonderful to see. It livens up the street for all the senses. Whilst their position is not permanent in the grid (unless caught in traffic) their 24/7 presence is most reassuring. I took a 7am stroll to Central Park one morning, seeing the roads quiet was perfect, but there is always a cabbie on your heels if you halt on the sidewalk for long enough. The experience of the yellow cab is very different once you are inside one, the banter from the driver, the jerky acceleration (and breaking), the local information not to mention the feeling of being propelled through a giant mass of activity and excitement. The cab becomes the point of reference, and the blocks themselves rise and subside like industrial waves generating a completely new pattern.
This is thanks to the skyline, the sheer variation in the composition of the roof scapes; advertising boards, chimneys, lift shafts, streetlamps and escape stairs, but most prominent in this list is the water tower, as they too have a story to tell - the little characterful souls that perch on top of the buildings supplying them with the water pressure that they demand.
Even Rachel Whiteread saw the do-gooders fit for memorialising in resin. This domestic icon happily blends into the haphazard roof scape but it is the repetition of their form that is so quaint, no matter the size or function of the building they service, they stand tall like a guardsman on patrol, purposefully punctuating every block of Manhattan.
Just as the air con units and the yellow cabs, these prolific urban icons communicate to us the anatomy of New York City, as long as we listen.
uniquities* - due to a lack of appropriate words, I made this one up.
Research Source: New York Times article: 200th Birthday for the Map That Made New York.
All images + graphics by Gem Barton unless otherwise stated.
What with BRILLIANT WHITE OVENS from Miele and BLACK SINKS from Blanco [see 3 degrees of perfection post] one could be forgiven for thinking that Chefs have chromophobic* tendencies.
chromophobia* chro·mo·pho·bi·a (krm-fb-) - An abnormal fear of color(s)
But really is this such a bad thing - I'm no kitchen designer - but I never did understand the 80s trend towards 'brown' kitchen ware. So it's a big thumbs up from me to the design team at Miele who are restoring the 'white goods' mentality!
There is something quite sweet about these colourful kitchen escapades tho....
My favourite finds from the architectural Digest Home Show in NYC.
Michael Dickey uses stunning layers of acrylic and resin on canvas and wood. Contact Mike for details and purchase info. - Images copyright of Michael Dickey
Dagmara Weinberg creates falsified geometries using inspiration from nature, such as the images below which capture her nieces hair on holiday. Contact Dagmara for details and purchase info. - Images copyright of Dagmara Weinberg
Ben Joyce - Abstract Topophilia
Ben's approach to city expression really appeals to my architectural admiration for the complexities of our Urban environments. Please contact Ben for more details and purchase info. - Images copyright of Ben Joyce Art
Just as philosophers and designers of centuries past inspire the architects of today, so traditional architectural and construction methods inform the design of modern luxury items. If I said I had stumbled across a black sink and drainer that uses the same basic technology as a flat-roof you would probably say the same thing as I did “Why on earth has it taken this long to make this simple design connection!”
The Blanco 'Modex' sink and drainer uses a 3 degree double direction fall to channel the water away from the dishes and into the sink - just as in flat roof construction where the 1:80 fall draws rain water towards the down pipe avoiding puddling and water damage.
This simple translatable technology, the work of Head Designer Brigitte Ziemann has deservedly won BLANCO a red dot award for product design. Appropriately Modex is being sold through high end retailer Poggenpohl who's forward thinking brand representative said to me "If we do the same thing today as we did yesterday - there will be no progress" - this is a mantra I wholeheartedly agree with and often refer to.
Red Dot describe Modex - "With its extraordinary form and generous, flowing surfaces, the Blancomodex-M 60 sink module embodies a high design standard. The cubic style, the raised edge with a large tap ledge as well as the generous drainer, which slopes in two directions, are distinctive characteristics."
There is no colour with more architectural prowess than black. We have seen black ovens for decades - it hides the dirt - and in fact more recently white is becoming the trend (see Miele) but traditionally sinks have been stainless steel for cleanliness purposes. The style and dignity of black now has an official foothold in the kitchen thanks to BLANCO and also Silestone with their range of grey and black quartz worktops.
BLANCO, Silestone and Poggenpohl were all sponsors of the Modenus BlogtourNYC in March 2013 which I was honoured to attend.
Excerpt from www.red-dot-21.com
Red Dot stands for belonging to the best in design and business. Our international design competition, the “red dot design award”, is aimed at all those who would like to distinguish their business activities through design. The award, which dates back as far the 1950’s, is held in three disciplines: the “red dot award: product design”, the “red dot award: communication design” as well as the “red dot award: design concept”. In 2012 alone, the award received more than 15.000 applications from more than 70 countries. The “red dot” is established internationally as one of the most sought-after quality seals for good design.
If you follow me on twitter (@gem_shandy) you will no doubt remember me shamelessly canvasing for votes for my entry (below) to the Modenus photo competition back in December in order to win a place on the famed Modenus Blog Tour to NYC. Well the time has (almost) come for me to board the plane at Heathrow and embark upon 5 days of design indulgence!
Scroll down to meet my #blogtourNYC buddies and the very kind sponsors!
Kate Watson-Smyth has been a journalist for more than 20 years, the last ten of them specializing in property, interiors and design. She writes mainly for the Financial Times, often about international styles, including a recent piece on Denmark asking whether good design makes people happy. The answer was an emphatic yes. Prior to that, she spent many years at The Independent, has written for Living Etc and contributes regularly to Houzz.com. She set up madaboutthehouse.com last year. Follow Kate on Twitter at @katewatsonsmyth
Zoe Brewer is creative director of her own successful London based interior design company, My Interior Stylist Ltd. As well as keeping her clients’ homes looking stylish and pretty, Zoe’s work extends to TV design shows, interior styling for print, event styling, the odd bit of journalism, consultation and guest speaking plus her recent foray into retail with My Pop Up Design Shop. Zoe’s blog, My Interior Stylist gives us a view into her personal thoughts on the world of design, particularly reflecting Zoe’s keen support of new designers and love of color. She does quite like pink. Follow Zoe on twitter @interiorstylist
Ricarda Nieswandt lives and works in Cologne. In her blog “23qm Stil”, which is German for 207 square feet of style, she writes about Life and living, style, design, spaces, rooms, special shops, cool places and everything that makes your home nicer. She is also Social Media Manager and the founder of BLOGST, a workshop and event series for bloggers in Germany. You can find her on Twitter at @23qmStil.
Mike Welton is the the man behind the Architects + Artisans blog, documenting the development of of architecture, artisanship and sustainability for the 21st century. As Mike says, ” It’s not just about designers – but about the people and products that make a well-designed place ring true.” Mike has also written on architecture, art and design for The Washington Post, Dwell, The New York Times and Metropolis Magazine. You can find Mike on Twitter as @mikewelton
Lisa Goulet of Lisa Goulet Design moved around a lot as a young girl. That’s because her father was in the armed forces. Every time she moved she found herself looking forward to planning and decorating her new room. Her career path progressed through gutting and rebuilding her own cottage and building and finishing her family’s new home before becoming a certified interior designer and a member of The Canadian Decorator’s Association. Lisa’s personal style, which involves natural elements and soothing colors is reflected in her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter at @gouletdesign
Irene Turner of Irene Turner Litle Bits of Beauty has also moved around a lot counting no less than 33 places she has called home. After fifteen years as a trend director and product developer in the international fashion business, she founded her own interior design and renovation firm which she has now been running for 19 years. It was the need to create a feeling of home where ever she found herself that led her to develop the skills which she now shares with her clients. Irene can be found on Twitter as @IreneTurner
Michael Ryan describes himself as ‘a Chicago beach bum who loves design, great friends and good food’. His his work and his blog, Michael Ryan, reflects the inspiration he gets from coastal and mountain influences as well as from the texture and colors of pieces that have a history. Michael is an award winning product developer, trend forecaster and has managed large corporate design teams. In thinking about design, Michael says: “Design manifests into something greater than one item; it creates a lifestyle.” You can find Michael on Twitter as @dempsterbeach
Lori Gilder Allied ASID, is the CEO and Founder of Interior Makeovers Inc., a full service interior design firm based in Beverly Hills CA. An award-winning interior designer to Hollywood’s elite, her work has appeared in various shelter magazines, blogs and HGTV design shows. More recently Lori was named as an on-air Interior Design Expert for eHow, where she shares her tips and expertise through a series of home design videos. Lori’s blog Diary of a Renovation began following the progress of one project and now celebrates all aspects of the home renovation and design process. On Twitter she is @LoriGilder
Louisa Blackmore is the founder of West Egg Interiors, an award-winning online interiors store specializing in original and quirky restored furniture and decorative home accessories. Louisa also writes the West Egg blog incorporating behind the scenes features, interiors inspiration and restoration projects. She is also on the expert panel for Period Homes & Interiors magazine, and regularly contributes to interiors magazines in the UK. Louisa also runs workshops at West Egg’s studio and workshop in Blunham, Bedfordshire and at The Decor Cafe in Putney, London. Follow Louisa on Twitter @westeggUK
Emily Blunden is the Finch of the popular Atticus and Finch blog. She is a London-based interiors and props stylist and writer with over nine years of experience in the styling industry. She has extensive experience in styling and propping for editorial, advertorial and commercial clients, both in stills photography and video. As she says, sourcing props, locations, and working to tight schedules and budgets are all in a day’s work. Emily also regularly contributes to nationwide editorial publications, as well as styling and writing for commercial clients. On Twitter, Emily is @atticusandfinch.
Heather Jenkinson, author of Living in a Pretty How Town, is a London based interior designer & color consultant. She also describes herself as a lover of bicycles; sweet ginger tea; modernist architecture; quiet moments; mindful chatter and sunny days. She is about to launch her first boutique range of furniture – all handmade, in London, using 200 year upholstery techniques. Heather can also be found on Twitter as @heatherdesign
Marie-Louise Munter is responsible for the Miss Design Says blog which she describes as “your daily dose of all good things Danish – design, architecture, urban spaces and cool brands, people and places in Denmark and around the world”. Helpfully, Marie-Louise adds that the blog is in English, which is good for those of us struggling shamefully with our Danish. Marie also describes herself as a brand strategist, design blogger and social media addict. You can share in the addiction by following her on @missdesignsays.
Desiree Groenendal is the author of interior and lifestyle blog Vosgesparis. A consistently fresh source for ideas on decorating with minimal color and maximum style. She has been writing, for the past five years, about the transformation of her own home, interior design, decorating and finding beauty in imperfection. Living in Amsterdam she tells us that she often jumps on a train to Paris to find new inspiration. Her goal is to inspire her readers on how to trust their feeling, finding their own style and interpret this in their homes as a reflection of who they are. You can find her on Twitter as @Vosgesparis
As a freelance writer I am in a unique position - if something inspires me - I get to write about it! Here are just some of things I have most enjoyed writing about over the last 12 months. Enjoy - and click on the blue links to be taken to the original online articles.
Feel free to leave your comments at the bottom!
"First shown at Dock en Seine City of Fashion and Design back in June, Flying Houses, a series of ‘digital composites’ by French photographer Laurent Chehere, has raised a few roofs. Driven by his interest in architecture and expressed as a metaphor for traveling, the Flying Houses give us a new perspective on the idea of site-specificity. Remove an everyday object [the house] from its everyday environment [the street] and the metaphor of ‘travel’ becomes elevated and begins to tap into notions of safety. "
Anon - “When I saw it mid-build, I was more impressed with the crane. I think it's an embarrassment to all concerned.”
What do I think? I believe in this case Kapoor has been driven by the materiality, one with which he doesn’t have a huge history. The nature of the competition stipulated steel as the main construction material due to the relationship with AccelorMittal. This condition, along with the necessity for habitation, pushed Kapoor’s boundary between art and architecture.
30 years after this Italian Palazzo was burnt down it was resurrected via 190 sheets of corten steel laser cut with 15,000 letters - 3ndy studio
MVMNT CAFE by Studio Myerscough.
This is the House. This is the Path. This is the Gate. This is the Opening. This is the Morning. This is a Person Passing. This is Eye Contact. Lemn Sissay, June 27th 2012
Thanks for reading - Click here to more articles I have written.
As the world gets more complicated, and we focus on detail [perhaps too much] I wanted to share with you some of my favourite walls!
Solid symmetrical perfection. It just sits well on the mind.
Inquiring and cocky. By blocking the view it frames itself, forcing it's importance.
Cheeky sensibility. Ignores some rules, follows some other, like me.
Clearly doesn't give a toss. Massive, legend.
Oddly eccentric. The uncle.
I like my walls simple, honest, hard-faced and with personality. Just beautiful.