Reading or listening to interviews are a great way of peering into the great minds of design and architecture. Some words and phrases have a habit of sticking around for years if not decades. I found this little gem in The Observer (2002) – an interview with Jan Kaplicky. The name first registered in my mind only upon his sudden passing in 2009. Upto a few years before that, he was a partner at his firm Future Systems – famous for the design of the Marni store, the Media Centre at Lords, the Selfridges Birmingham department store and much more.
In this piece, he speaks in a reassuring and inspiring tone, much like the old Milanese architects who saw no boundaries between buildings and objects – from spoons to cities as one of them said. Personally, I like to believe that categorisation within the creative profession is as fragile an idea as the boundaries of creativity itself. Given the first chance, it shall be broken.
We’re anatomically designed to stretch beyond our immediate footprint. The mind as head and processor stays at a relatively stable centre, but the arms reach out to touch and connect as the legs walk and run exploring new surfaces. Tim Brown of IDEO calls it ‘T-shaped’ skills. Paul Rand did contradict, though I doubt he will in a present day scenario. He said – “a student whose mind is cluttered with matters that have nothing directly to do with design… is a bewildered student.”
That said, here is the interview with Jan Kaplicky:
“The world is full of beautiful things, and you have to be observant as an architect – if not, you are in trouble. Creativity is everywhere. I don’t collect beautiful pieces of design, but I do collect airmail stickers, which I find fascinating: how they differ over the years and the energy that goes into them.
I come into the office every day. I like to arrive at 8am, as this is a very peaceful period when I can think about things before the usual routine starts and other people arrive. The weekends are even better, because there are no distractions.
The initial idea for a job comes to me literally just like that sometimes, and if that first idea is good then you are on the right track. It’s not a sign of creativity to have 65 ideas for one problem, that’s just a waste of energy.
I also don’t think you need to go anywhere particular to be creative; people just use that as an excuse. But I do think a lot of creativity depends on your relationships with other people, your personal relationships, your partner or whatever. Your personal happiness or unhappiness comes out in your work, it’s a reflection of your emotional state and you can’t separate the two.
Architecture is generally presented by one name, but it’s a fantasy and very 19th-century to claim it is a one-man product. A lot depends on the people you have around you and how good they are. There are the structural engineers, environmental engineers, modelmakers, photographers – as well as the guy in Italy who polished the steel for the tower we’re presenting at the Venice Biennale this year – if he doesn’t do a good job, then you have a badly polished piece of steel.
The biggest mistake is underestimating the small product. It doesn’t matter if you’re designing a coffee cup or a 25,000sqm building – the principles of design are the same, it’s just a matter of scale. I think perhaps my favourite creation is the Media Centre. It is something which was revolutionary in many areas – a real technical achievement – but above all, the people operating inside it have said: ‘We love it,’ and that’s great.”
September 22, 2002 / Kate Mikhail / The Observer
Photos: Selfridges Store, Tony Hisgett / Zlin Cutlery for Alessi, Dezeen / Detail from Ferrari Museum, Dezeen.
Came upon this beautiful piece at the Contemporary Japanese Posters exhibition in the city today. The designer of this poster Yusaku Kamekura with illustrator Akira Yokoyama have managed to very successfully capture a feeling of the moment that cannot be described in words alone. In that sense, it is a true poster and a magnificent piece of communication design.
Having visited Hiroshima alters the way you imagine the atomic bomb forever. It links you to the place and the incident that holds such importance in world history. The moment of destruction embeds itself in your memory, and August 6th is no ordinary date anymore. That we were to come upon this poster only a day after US president Obama visited Hiroshima is also interesting.
The exhibition Contemporary Japanese Posters is on at the Japan Foundation, New Delhi from May 13 to June 4, 2016. A second part of the same exhibit opens on June 10th to close on July 1st. Many thanks and wishes to the Japan Foundation for bringing this inspiring collection of posters to New Delhi. Poster Design: Yusaku Kamekura, Illustration by Akira Yokoyama
” Portofino in the sixties was magic. All the women were stunning figures in shockingly beautiful Pucci silk, each with a gardenia in her hand. I whiled the hours away in the company of my own gardenia, nursing its dying soul… This drove me to design something in which to carry the flower, in which to keep it alive.” – Elsa Peretti on her Flask Pendant for Tiffany & Co.
Picture from Elsa Peretti / Twenty years with Tiffany / ©Tiffany & Co.
One can read about the history of the National Book Trust on the website and several other government htmls. Like many other organisations and government bodies, the original and often genuine intention at the time of establishment has stayed constant. It’s time that has moved on. Whether this is a consequence of the usual government-body culture or a deliberate intention, it is by both perspectives a nice thing.
At Unlike, we have a special interest in the children’s titles – the ones that speak of an innocent India – where children wake up at the crack of dawn and don eager smiles as they get ready for a beautiful sunny day at school. The father drives a scooter and the mother packs everyone off before sitting down to knit or chop green mangoes for the yearly pickling. Parents seldom quarrel and old clothes can still be exchanged for steel vessels via loud travelling saleswomen.
As much as it is about an erstwhile era, it is also about an alternate India that still exists in majority and is a bit removed from the culture of her large cities. In a nostalgic few minutes that it takes to read a story, readers like us whose childhoods have been immersed in the modest and frugal eighties can look back and remember the good times.
In Japanese culture, there is a word that somehow encapsulates the subject, characters and nature of these children’s stories – Ninjô: translated roughly as “the heart or feelings common to man; human affections; humanity; kindness”.
It will be interesting to see how the National Book Trust manages to generate contemporary content while retaining this inherent goodness – which continues to be a relevant and craving need in these modern times.
National Book Trust publications can be ordered here.
Illustration by Shaival Chatterjee / Text on Ninjô reference: The Circle of On, Giri and Ninjo – Sociologist’s Point of View – Kiyohide SEKI, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan (Hokkaido University Library)
For the past few months, we have been working to develop a new design prototype with Godrej Design Lab and Elle Decor. The lab is an initiative by Navroze Godrej of Godrej & Boyce to promote and support Indian design and designers. Unlike Design Co. were amongst eight designers and studios selected to be part of the first edition of this very welcome initiative by a proudly Indian consumer product giant.
Our product proposal with the lab began with a wall utility unit designed for speedy urban lifestyles. Placed next to the main door of the apartment, the idea was to provide the functions of a mirror, shelf and hooks, all installed by the user without much effort. In close collaboration with the team at Godrej, this idea has now further developed into KVIKK – a versatile wall system offering further flexibility and enjoyment for the user.
This week, the prototype developed as a result of this process was presented at the India Design ID 2015 – an annual design event dedicated to interior and space design. The response has been more than enthusiastic from potential consumers, architects, interior designers and retailers.
More details to follow as the lab continues to gains momentum. In the meantime, stay updated at: www.godrejdesignlab.com
The TV series CNBC Young Turks recently covered the Godrej Design Lab as a unique initiative by Navroze Godrej. Watch the video here.
Our TOWITHFROM webshop has received a new stock of products – this above is a set of Toss soft cases, available in three vibrant colour combinations. Order at this link. It might also be a good idea to follow the TWF Instagram feed and Facebook page to be the first to know of the special stuff (you know what that means).
Photograph © Unlike Design Co. / TOWITHFROM
Four wednesdays ago, I jumped at the opportunity to attend Sebastian Bergne’s summer workshop ‘Gravity’ at the Domaine de Boisbuchet in France. Sebastian has been a favourite ever since we came across his work some years ago and the chance to attend his workshop and interact closely with him was too good to let go off. To add to that, Boisbuchet has existed on that hazy big list in the mind since 1998 when I first saw the poster at design school.
So here I am. The location of the workshop, Domaine de Boisbuchet, is a sprawling estate in the French countryside with mentions of its existence in documents from as early as the 16th century. Alexander von Vegesack, founding director of the Vitra Design Museum, purchased the site in 1986. For the past two decades, the estate has been host to summer workshop programmes attended by design students & professionals from across the world and tutored by acclaimed designers and architects. The chateau in the picture above is it’s visual ambassador, the symbolic heart of the Domaine de Boisbuchet.
Day 1 at the workshop begins with a tour of the estate. It’s called an architectural tour because the enormous landscape is dotted with structures, installations and buildings that have been designed and built by renowned architects, either on invitation, or as part of the workshops.
Shigeru Ban, this year’s Pritzker Prize winner, built his first permanent paper building in Europe on the gardens of the Domaine. This is the structure – the Paper Pavilion, made primarily of recycled paper tubes and constructed together with 24 students in 2001.
The Japanese Guesthouse cannot escape the eye, standing on the large sloping grounds leading to the river Vienne which runs through the campus. A gift from the Japanese people, the guesthouse dating back to 1860 was dismantled and brought to Boisbuchet to be reassembled on site by Japanese craftspeople.
I particularly like the joints and details of this domed structure by the architect and engineer Jörg Schlaich, who co-developed the Munich Olympic stadium back in the day. It does not take long to realise that we are witnessing some really great pieces of work by passionate and dedicated architects.
The tour ends with viewing an exhibition about the Domaine at the Chinese Pavilion, a bamboo structure by the German architect Markus Heinsdorff. We learn more of the estate’s history and of the thought and making process behind the various projects that we have seen across the site.
And then it’s down to business – meeting and discussing the workshop theme with the other participants and of course Sebastian, who has chosen ‘Gravity’ as the theme for the work that we shall do. We are five people in the Gravity workshop – Chris, Sam and Kenting from Taiwan, Nico from Italy and me, from India. There is another workshop being held simultaneously and the mentor is Andrea Trimarchi from the Netherlands studio Formafantasma. As the week begins, it’s exciting to anticipate the numerous upcoming interactions within and across groups. Work, people, ideas and a place to match.
Over the next few days, as a group and as individuals, we explore the workshop theme through models, experiments, trials and numerous errors. The process is fun and Sebastian is an equal and encouraging participant in the successes and failures. It is exciting – especially not knowing what shall happen when it is finally time for everyone to present their work at the end of the week.
At our disposal is a massive workshop space, equipped with raw material and basic machinery for metal and woodworking. It is managed by three very skilled and energetic guys who have probably never said no to making or trying out anything new. Coupled with the vast natural resources and found materials on location, the combination is magic.
The woods, the river and lake, the rolling grasslands, the rocks and the earth, the plants and trees, mosses and mushrooms – all offer as much a calming sanctuary for ideas as for the material they present, urging to be transformed into objects and experiments by eager minds and hands.
As much as the members of my group are exploring gravity, the other group participants are discovering and creating new natural materials and processes. By the time it is Thursday, the workshop area and surroundings are busy with activity. There is a mess of material and chaos of kinds, but the design process is very much like that, and to those that immerse themselves into it, it is a beautiful experience.
Despite the quantum of work, it’s nice to take some time off to count the clouds, canoe in the lake or sit by the bonfire.
On Friday, after the usual coffee break at half past four, the presentations begin. As the entire group moves from project to project, the participants speak about and present what they have been doing through the week. It is an enjoyable privilege for a designer to be introduced to the methods and processes of another designer. Consumers and end users do not often get to hear of the stories and design process behind the objects they desire to purchase, possess and use.
Sebastian speaks about our first group exercise together where we played with a can of paint left to the pendulous freedom of gravity. The artistic results of the process have been spectacular and surprising. Simple thoughts when pursued and coaxed often reciprocate with astonishing outcomes.
For my own project, the idea was to explore the otherwise usual effect of gravity and interrupt it with a secondary force, in this case the circular motion experienced by the rock due to its relationship with the pole and the cord connecting the two. The user/participant swings the rock freely into the air, setting forth a circular motion that makes the connector cord wind and unwind around the pole several times before coming to rest. The process usually lasts between two to three minutes, offering a kind of slow and calming form of entertainment for the participant. I call it ‘Two Masters’. Here is a video clip of it at work.
At dinner that evening, conversations turn into email exchanges and promises of staying in touch. Amidst it all, somebody turns on the music and a party begins. Tomorrow, it’s back to Paris and the flight back home. But that’s tomorrow.
A full calendar of workshops for the year can be seen at the Boisbuchet website. You can also register and pay online for a workshop. Domaine de Boisbuchet is easily accessible via train from Paris (to Poitiers station, where a paid bus picks up participants every Sunday evening). Accommodation and dining is included in the workshop fee. For any details not found on the website, feel free to write to me at harpreet (at) unlike (dot) in
All photographs © Unlike Design Co. and © Lucia Peluffo / Domaine de Boisbuchet
Last month at the Salone Satellite 2014 in Milan, we showcased our new furniture and accessories.
The Milan furniture fair is the largest of its kind in the world. Come April and the entire city celebrates its love for design through events, exhibitions, launches and shows. At the heart of this activity is the Salone Del Mobile trade fair that spreads across the Rho Fiera grounds, a complex designed by the Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas. Within this mega fairground, the Salone Satellite exhibition takes up a portion of Halls 13 and 15 in an area large enough to park two Boeings.
Founded and curated by Marva Griffin Wilshire (We think her interview here is a great introduction) since 1998, the Salone Satellite brings together almost 700 young designers below the age of 35 from proposals that are examined and evaluated by a prestigious Selection Committee drawn from a pool of international professionals from the world of design, architecture and media.
The focus of the Salone Satellite is to connect young designers with the big guns of manufacturing. Designers showcase their design prototypes with the objective of signing design contracts with a now almost global list of brands and manufacturers. Extensive press and media reports on these prototypes is only natural and an added benefit.
We received our letter of confirmation in November last year and designed and developed these product prototypes to be launched at the fair in April. Focusing more on furniture complements and accessories, our work looks at ‘functional decoration’ – a balance of utility coupled with the pleasure of its visual and emotional ownership.
As a holder of stationery or as an object of decoration, AMMO provides the freedom to decide how and where to use it. Handcrafted in hand rubbed leather, walnut wood and turned eucalyptus wood.
MARGIN is a colour reversible side table in two colored leather that can be flatpacked and assembled easily. Made of plywood and clad in leather.
KVIKK is a modular wall unit consisting of a mirror, shelf and hooks. Made of ash wood and aluminium, it allows for quick installation with the help of only two screws. The shelf, hooks and mirror slide and lock into the slotted wooden block. A handy assistant while entering or leaving the house.
The HOMETOWN lamp is inspired by the decorated cycle rickshaws from the old city of Banaras. Hand embossed by the same rickshaw craftsman in aluminium, the embossing creates an interesting visual texture even on the inside.
Using only wood and decoratively knotted natural fibre rope, the reversible TEJA frame uses a rope fastening method to do away with cold and un-emotional hardware. No hinges, clasps, wire or hooks. An attempt to return to a sense of functional romanticism.
Designed in accordance with our approach to decorative function, the SOMEWHAT mirror is handcrafted in leather and offers the additional function of an incorporated shelf.
Adding to the function of a mirror, the ALSO mirror is handmade in leather and includes an inbuilt anodised aluminium hook.
The SLOT shelf is cut from a single piece of MDF in a way that each piece slots into itself to form a wall shelf.
Delhi, though vast and very resourceful, is not an easy city for a designer to make prototypes to exact and intended specifications. Add a strict deadline, and you’re headed to almost certain disappointment. Within these situations, it is a pleasure to be able to work with Cuir Inde (the manufacturing arm of designer Parminder Pal Singh), BeeHive (the workshop and studio of designer Pankaj Narain) and The New Black Design Studio (by designer and dear friend Rohit Kumar). Them, we thank.
All Photographs © Unlike Design Co.
Boosting our much needed sense of national design pride this month, Indian design brand Rubberband expands its retail wings to Colette in Paris, The Lollipop Shop at London, the Cooper Hewitt Shop at New York and several locations in Switzerland. In focus is Rubberband’s collaboration with graphic artist Anthony Burrill – a set of notebooks in signature Rubberband style complemented with typographic messages by Anthony Burrill. If you haven’t switched to Rubberband yet, now would be a great time to start. #doeverythingyoulove
All photographs courtesy Rubberband and © Rubberband Products
A very welcome email in November last year announced our selection for the Salone Satellite 2014, a part of the Salone Del Mobile in Milan. The Satellite is now in its 17th year and brings together global designers and studios under the age of 35 to present their ideas and prototypes to the world’s best furniture manufacturers and brands, the visiting trade and of course consumers and the general public. So from April 08 to 13, we shall be at Hall 13/15 of the Milan Furniture Fair aka Salone Del Mobile presenting our new furniture and accessories at Stand C4.