unliked – the UNLIKE DESIGN CO. blog

remembering kaplicky

Posted in Web by unliked on August 22, 2016

selfridges

 

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.

 

zlin for alessi

 

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.

 

ferrari museum detail

 

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.

a design workshop at boisbuchet

Posted in 1, Been by unliked on August 9, 2014

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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

 

 

the center of corbusier’s chandigarh

Posted in 1 by unliked on November 30, 2013

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For a country that’s still grappling with the appropriate behavioral protocol towards design and architecture (art can wait), its a pleasure to know of the well preserved existence of the Le Corbusier Centre in Chandigarh. This shy, almost introvert structure served as the office of Corbusier and his team as they conceived the rest of the city. It is the studio, the brain, the center.

 

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This is a picture of a picture of early Chandigarh. Corbusier mentioned sunlight, space and greenery as three important human rights that architecture must grant to its inhabitants. This is a beautiful thought in itself, for it speaks of what architecture does and not of what it is.

 

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The old fireplace, the brick flooring, the vast collection of chair and desk prototypes all exude an aura of exciting times in Chandigarh’s history, maybe the best days of all. Over the fireplace is a picture of one of Chandigarh’s most interesting structures. Corbusier called it the Tower of Shadows – a building he constructed to study the sunlight and from it, the height of windows, the width of rooms and the orientation of the city itself.

 

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Corbusier’s writings mention ideas that are seemingly outrageous at times, yet having spent time with them, one realises that they are the disciples of a thought process that promised a solution to the chaos we now inhabit. And of course there have been many dreamers and many ideas and such is the world.

 

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“The city of Chandigarh is planned to human scale. It puts in touch with the infinite cosmos and nature. It provides us with places and buildings for all human activities in which the citizens can live a full and harmonious life. Here the radiance of nature and heart are within our reach.” – Extract from the Edict of Chandigarh (Le Corbusier)

All Photographs © Unlike Design Co.

The Le Corbusier Centre is open weekdays 10.00am to 06.00pm. The address is: Le Corbusier Centre, Old Architects Office Building, Sector 19B, Chandigarh 160019, India | Telephone: +91 172 2777077