Friday, 27 February 2009

Design Indaba 09 : Day 2

While the talks I saw on day 1 of the Design Indaba were all engaging with the ethics of design in the real world, the talks I saw on Thursday were all situated right on the needlesharp tip of the high end, where fantasy, imagination, excellence and large budgets meet.

The people I heard speak are so ridiculously famous that it would be silly of me to do a rundown of their work here. However, each one impressed me with one or other thing, possibly worth relating here:

Barber Osgerby - Excellence in process and product
First, I caught the tail end of design duo Barber Osgerby speaking. They were describing the incredibly process-intensive process of making a prototype of this table, involving milling and anodizing hundreds of individual aluminium units that eventually bolt together, partially using magnets. It really was amazing to hear designers talking about the nitty gritty of the process, illustrating how much very hard, hard work goes into realising a high-end product such as this.

Patricia Urquiola - Where flamboyance and simplicity meet
It's something that also arose in Patricia Urquiola's incredibly jam-packed talk, delivered with breathtaking speed and charm: these high-end products often are years in production. The impression, especially with someone as prolific as Urquiola, could be that her designs are churned out, while in fact there's an extensive behind-the-scenes process that takes a lot of time, passion and hard work.

Talking of passion, I liked the way Urquiola paused in her breakneck delivery to tell us how this or that piece carried a lot of emotion for her. And talking of emotion, I'm passionately in love with her Flo Easy Chair (above) and the Tropicalia chair (below).

Ferran Adria - Rigour and honesty
Another Spaniard was up after this - the very charismatic Ferran Adria - the genius behind ElBulli. His committment to exploration in his innovation in a design field as ephemeral as food is quite astonishing, particularly for a non-foodie like me. I couldn't help feeling some sympathy for whoever the Design Indaba had appointed to find lunch for Ferran Adria. What a frightening job description!
Black sesame sponge cake with miso (image from Chubby Hubby)

Marcel Wanders - Fabulous and fun
Lastl up was Marcel Wanders, who says "fabulous" and "fun" a lot. He's clearly a flamboyant and playful personality, and this comes across in his work. There's a sense that, perched as he is on the tip top of the high end, he feels the freedom to do pretty much whatever he likes. And sometimes he does just that, as with his Airborne Snotty vase series, based on high tech analysis of the flying droplets of a sneeze.

But also, he uses his freedom to makes sublimely lovely and rare things, like the Fishnet Chair, only available in a limited edition of 20.

So that's my impressions of the high end so far at the Design Indaba this year. I'll be back again with Expo news soon.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Design Indaba 09 - impressions

I was only able to make some of the afternoon sessions of the Design Indaba conference yesterday, but even just a few talks left me brimming with inspiration.

15:30 - Stephen Burks
Firstly, I saw industrial designer Stephen Burks of readymade projects inc. While his talk wasn't particularly well-presented, it was great to hear about his collaborative projects, linking real unknowns with massive companies like Artecnica, Cappellini, B&B Italia. The project we're most familiar with in South Africa is his collaboration with wireworker Willard Musarurwa on the TaTu series (below) for Artecnica.

Another of Burks' local collaborations is with Kunye African Trends, who came up with the handmade Love Seat for Cappellini, 16:15 - 5.5
The exuberant Parisian design team, 5.5 was up next. The four young industrial designers regaled us with images of their amusing projects that aim to play with the position and function of design within the lifecycle of an object. The project I'm most familiar with is their recent Sponge House for ScotchBrite.

One of their earliest projects, Réanim, really tickled me. In order to inject Design right at the end of the cycle, they set up a furniture "hospital", where people could queue with furniture on its last legs, get a diagnosis and a prescription for cure. Here, for instance, what's clearly needed for this chair is a crutch.

Et voila! Take two tablets and call me in the morning. Check out the 5.5 website to see more of their fun projects.

17:00 - Bruce Mau
Bruce Mau's talk was practically a call to arms, taking the view that the momentous events of the last year, including Obama's election and the global economic crisis, are all events to view with energy and optimism, as they're reasons to wake up and engage with the world and ourselves.

Mau's Massive Change and Institute without Boundaries projects look at the possibilites of Design to be a force that can change the way we operate on this planet. I came away from the talk infected with Mau's optimism and willingness to DO something. Below this post you'll see the YouTube video for Mau's 2010 Denver Biennale that's currently in planning. "In Good We Trust" is something I can get excited about.

So, a common theme amongst all the speakers I saw yesterday was the need for sustainability, cooperation and an insertion of human relationships into the world of design and production. Let's see what comes up in today's talks. See you at the Design Indaba!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Polyhedra by Haldane Martin

Anyone who follows this blog will remember our September interview and studio visit with designer Haldane Martin (read the interview here). At the time, I took a couple of snaps around his studio, including this beautiful paper model he was working on.

Now we're very excited to let you know that at Design Indaba 2009, Haldane will be releasing the outcome of all that model-making: it's his Polyhedra Modular Coffee Table system, and it really is something quite extraordinary.

The intriguing structure of this table is derived from the three-dimensional structures seen by electron microscopes inside human hip bones, as well as on the Weaire-Phelan foam bubble technology as used in the Beijing Olympic Watercube building.

The amazing thing about how Haldane Martin has used these five interlocking dodecahedron and tetrakaidecahedron shapes, is that they are completely reconfigurable, thanks to ingenious inbuilt magnets that hold them together. Haldane puts it well when he says "you could describe it at post-rational Lego for grownups"!

I can't wait to see this in real life, and will be doing exactly that when I visit Haldane Martin's stand at the Design Indaba Expo, opening on Friday 27 February at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Design Indaba

At last, the week of the Design Indaba has rolled around, and from Wednesday to the weekend, this is the event that's filling up my diary.
Highlights for me include Ferran Adrià of elBulli, the world's best restaurant. Then, of course, there's Dai Fujiwara - creative director of Issey Miyake. He's someone I know of because of his intriguing A-Poc series of designs, and I'm interested to learn more.

Other highlights include locally born car designer, Keith Helfet, furniture designers Patricia Urquiola (that's her Tropicalia chair above) and Barber Osgerby, and also designer Marian Bantjes.(that's one of her designs below).

There's lots, lots more, and I'll be keeping you filled in on just what's happening at Design Indaba 2009. See you there!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Design Indaba 09 : MBOISA

One of the events at every year's Design Indaba is the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa (MBOISA) Award. This year, objects are being judged "according to a variety of criteria resonant with the 21st century, including aesthetic appeal, social significance, sustainability, economic impact, lifestyle appeal, entertainment and cultural flavour."

We've been sent a couple of pics of some the Beautiful Objects that are in the running.

The Crysanthemum centrepiece by artist and electrical engineer, Michaella Janse van Vuuren of Nomili looks extremely beautiful.

I'm looking forward to seeing the delicate Ribbon Plate by Kendell Warren Ceramics in the flesh at the Expo.

The Pretty Filly bench by Richard Stretton of Koop Design, is part of his rather yummy Pretty Filly range of furniture.

To see them all, and to cast your vote, visit the Design Indaba Expo, opening on 27 February.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Nguni Chair

Cape Town design company Vogel Living Design produces the exquisite Nguni Chair, in both zebrano and kiaat.

Ngunis are the traditional cattle of the Zulu people, and have very distinctively shaped forward-curving horns (see pics here), which is what has been referenced in this design. The woven seat also references traditional riempie seats that were used by the early European settlers in South Africa.

See more work by Vogel Living Design at their website.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Giveaway - India

The latest of our monthly giveaways from Putumayo World Music showcases India’s rich musical variety, from traditional and acoustic music to Bollywood and electronica, on an album called India.

To be entered into the draw for this evocative album (listen to a preview here), send us an email with your name and address, and the answer to this question:

What is the name of the book Putumayo has published in conjunction with this album?

Click here to email your entry. Good luck!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Report from NYC: SVA Subway Posters

Anyone who has ridden the NYC subway has probably noticed the eye-catching posters advertising the School of Visual Arts.

I went searching for one online recently after I fell in love with a poster designed by Gail Anderson that had the words "If someone says you shouldn't, ask them who should" in bold, free-hand lettering. I couldn't find it anywhere but I did discover that you can buy previous subway posters directly from the SVA.

Here are a few by graphic design guru Milton Glaser:

Thomas Woodruff's posters sprinkled a bit of fairy dust on the grimy subway platforms. I think they would make beautiful pictures in a child's bedroom:

Different designers have interpreted the "Art is..." theme in interesting ways:

Frank Young

I'm hoping that the Gail Anderson poster joins these others on the SVA website soon. Did any other New Yorkers have fantasies about stealing that poster?

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Li Edelkoort seminar

In the leadup to the Design Indaba conference at the end of the month, there are some exciting things happening in the city. One of these is a trends seminar with world-renowned and respected trend forecaster Li Edelkoort, hosted by hot design crew The President.

Edelkoort, whose sphere of influence ranges from cars to cosmetics, fashion to flowers, the food we buy at the market stall and the plates we serve it on, says she has never been more optimistic about the future. Good news indeed from the style guru who has been predicting trends with surprising accuracy for the past 20 years.

See more details about the seminar, including booking information, in the sidebar ad on this blog.

IKEA PS collection

I've been known to bang on a bit about wishing we had IKEA here in South Africa, and I think these pieces from the PS Collection illustrate exactly why I feel we are so awfully deprived:

The wonderfully wonky PS Svarva lamp is designed by Swedish wunderkids Front - a delightful bit of craziness.
Swedish speakers, I'd be most grateful if you could fill us in on what the IKEA PS Sprakka is for? I think it's a spice grinder. Whatever its practical purpose, it would make a wonderful sculptural piece.
And my favourite, the nifty little PS Karjohan sidetable . It's so darn cute, I'd be tempted to paste eyes on it and take it for a trot in the park.

Oh, and South African readers, you may feel a little better knowing that we're not the only ones without access to these amazing pieces - the PS Collection is only available in Sweden (for a while, anyway)!

Monday, 16 February 2009

Sanna Annukka for Marimekko

I'm so excited to see that illustrator Sanna Annukka has created fabric designs for Finnish design legend, Marimekko. Her inspiration for this range comes from the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala.

The Kanteleen kutsu design shows forest animals listening to folklore hero Väinämöinen playing a string instrument, made from the jawbone of a giant pike.

This print ranges over other highly covetable household items, like this tray,mugs and tea towels too.

The Taikamylly fabric (below) shows the Sampo, a wealth grinding magic mill, doing its work. I love the closeup version on a porcelain plate too.

Lastly, the Ihmemaa art print shows the landscape of Kaleva, the Land of Heroes, and Lake Alue, in whose depths a whitefish has swallowed fire fallen from the heavens.

See more of this collection, and other designers' work at the Marimekko website.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Cat house

We've all probably experienced the kind of unholy combination of cats and apartments that results in an unstylish concoction of shredded furniture, and more than a hint of ammonia stink.

However, cat lovers will be pleased to know that their love of felines doesn't necessarily sentence them to a domestic landscape of sisal-carpeted scratchposts, and Japanese architect Asahi Kasei’s Plus-Nyan house is more than enough evidence of this.

Everything in this house has been designed from the start with the integration of cats' and humans' needs in mind, resulting in an extraordinarily good looking home-slash-cathouse!

Sorry, dog owners, I don't think this would catch on with your canine companions. Somehow, I can't imagine a Sharpei galumphing around in the rafters!

Via Modern Cat