A 17-minute film by Marcel Meili and Christoph Schaub unviels the story of ‘Il Girasole’ the rotating modernist house built into the Po Valley hillside in northern Italy. Affectionately termed ‘The Sunflower’, the house was built in the 1930s by architects Angelo Invernizzi and Ettore Fagiuoli, with the help of their artist, sculptor, furniture-maker and architect friends. Powered by an electric motor, Il Girasole is able to rotate a full 360 degrees on its circular base, highly radical in the way that all the components of the house (including its courtyard) are part of the structure’s rotational sphere. The film is simple and direct, juxtaposing the unveiling of the imposing house’s engineering detail and history with intimate re-enactments of the architect and his wife interacting with the space, narrated throughout by the architect’s daughter.
Il Girasole House, by Angelo Invernizzi and Ettore Fagiuoli, via: Wallpaper
Like other pieces of furniture which are now regarded as modern classics, Oxchair was ahead of its time when it was launched in 1960. Making use of superior craftsmanship skills Hans J. Wegner had created a sophisticated and demanding construction. Among the jobs it does, and one that lies close to Wegner’s heart, is to make it possible to sit comfortably in many different ways so that one can change position continously. Only then can one sit really comfortably. It is Wegner’s own favourite chair at home.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the Oxchair, an exclusive limited edition of Oxchair is offered in select premium quality vegetable tanned leather. The leather is called Alpha and comes in three colors black, natural and burgundy red. The seats are numbered and marked with a special anniversary tag. In addition, anyone who buys an anniversary Oxchair will receive an exclusive anniversary book. This anniversary book is in the same limited edition as chair and can not be obtained otherwise. The purchaser of commemorative chair is invited to visit the Erik Jorgensen factory in Svendborg, Denmark.
50th Anniversary Edition by Special Request: Erik Jørgensen Oxchair by Hans J. Wegner
Oxchair, by Hans J. Wegner (1914-2007) 50th Anniversary Edition, by Erik Jørgensen
Over the last year we’ve seen continued economic stagnancy. Many architects have been hard hit. How has your residential practice dealt with the downturn?
When the recession hit we were affected like everyone else. But starting this year work has been picking up and most of the projects we had in the pipeline are back on track. We’ve also acquired a few new residential projects on both coasts with more in the development stage. I guess we’ve been lucky. We just hope things continue to get better for everyone, not worse.
Are you seeing a turnaround?
We have seen a few hospitality projects pick back up as well as some luxury developments, which we see as a good sign of the global economy. Somehow Israel seems to have weathered the global recession quite well. We have a 37-story residential tower in the heart of Tel Aviv that is finally underway. It is right in the heart of the city and we hope it becomes a landmark and a new standard for design in Tel Aviv.
The biggest buzzword in the industry now is sustainability. How does today’s call for an ecologically sensitive architecture differ from that of the 1970s?
We were always making sustainable buildings, even in the 70s and 80s, they just weren’t calling it that back then. Not many people realize that the Getty was the first LEED Certified building, awarded after the fact. It comes back to our design philosophy. Daylight and energy consumption have informed our design for years. Today we are taking it to new levels, incorporating new technologies like double skin facades for heating and cooling buildings, self-cleaning, pollution-eating concrete and vertical light-reflecting louvers that rotate with the sun.
You design houses for some of the world’s most connected individuals. Is “environmental impact” a topic that generally comes up in your discussions with clients?
It depends on the client. Some clients want a “green” building and are willing to spend the money. We always try to suggest sustainable materials and propose sustainable ideas, but these are sometimes costly. Luckily we have a client base that tends to be very educated on these issues and often see it as a worthwhile investment.
Is the building industry ready to absorb the kind of environmentally focused change people are talking about?
Yes, they have to be. Legislation will soon require environmental codes and energy conservation. A handful of states and cities already require new public buildings to meet sustainable design benchmarks, such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED. We estimate that in the next 25 years, three quarters of US buildings will be new or substantially renovated. The cutting edge of this effort will be to design buildings that generate their own energy through new technologies and reuse rain water to lesson the depletion of natural resources.
What do you think of prefab as a building alternative?
In general, it’s an interesting concept when tight schedules are critical as it can drastically reduce construction timeframes. Some other apparent advantages include assurance of quality control and very efficient coordination efforts due to the use of programs like Revit from the beginning of design to fabrication. It can also eventually help reduce costs over traditional construction methods. In terms of sustainability, it reduces construction waste in a controlled environment. There are however still a lot of limitations and caveats mainly related to transport and guaranties. But the concept has existed for many years, and actually most curtain walls we design are prefabricated in shops and shipped to construction sites ready for installation.
As a building alternative, it could potentially lend itself to our approach, as it is becoming more customizable especially with new technologies and applications currently available and continuously evolving. It has gained more popularity recently, especially after MoMa’s Home Delivery exhibition, with more new firms and young architects exploring concepts that deal with economical and modern solutions.
Name one building type that you’ve always wanted to do but has thus far eluded you.
What was the design lesson you’ve learned since building your first house?
There is no such thing as “natural” materials.
What are the most challenging demands that a residential client has made of you?
Lastly, what current project on your boards, residential or otherwise, most excites you and why?
We have a lot of interesting projects on at the moment. I’m very excited about the apartment tower in Tel Aviv. Apparently there is a giant billboard with my face on it right now in place of the actual building. I hope they can take that down soon.
We are also building a new 30,000 SF home in Tianjin which is on a private island surrounded by an 18-hole Phil Mickelson Golf Course. It is a beautiful home. It has a tea room, a party room, a dining room that seats 60. It is quite a house.
And there is a new 10,000 SF private home in Long Island we are working on. It’s in a beautiful location, with a beach pavilion on the water, and has a lot of the curves and light in our signature work. I love doing houses. I feel it’s a bit indulgent, so then I take on a cultural or civic project to balance it out. I’ve always been a proponent of building beautiful public spaces, but creating a personal sanctuary is also satisfying.
Richard Meier has been awarded with the highest international honors in architecture including the AIA Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects (1997), Praemium Imperiale from the Japanese Government for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts (1997), a Fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1995), Deutscher Architekturpreis (1993), Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French Government (1992), Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (1989) and the Pritzker Prize for Architecture (1984). Richard Meier is celebrated for his acclaimed designs including The Getty Center and the Museum of Television & Radio in Los Angeles, California; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia; the Charles Street and Perry Street residential towers in New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona, Spain; the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome, Italy; and the Arp Museum in Rolandseck, Germany. His current projects include an 8-star hotel in China (2011), Rothschild Tower in Tel Aviv (2013), an urban master plan for Newark, NJ (2012) and a residential tower in San Francisco (2012).
Read more about Richard Meier
If there is one set of cookware which fits all the requirements of a well-appointed kitchen, then the Tools collection from Iittala is the one to have. Designer Björn Dahlström worked in collaboration with world-class chefs and materials specialists to create attractive yet highly functional cookware whose features and construction lend themselves to a variety of cooking techniques. The in-depth research and attention to ergonomics has given us a set of cookware that is now seen in three star restaurants as well as the modern home.
Tools are built to scale, they are well suited for large dinner parties as well as for everyday use. The line consists of saucepans, sauteuses, and casseroles in various sizes, as well as rectangular oven roasting pans in two sizes. The saucepans and casseroles feature tight-fitting lids and have measuring marks etched on their interiors. The lid is designed with a little notch to allow steam to escape while cooking—a real advantage over the more common pots with lids that tend to rattle and boil over.
The Tools collection is made of fine stainless steel which is remarkably easy to clean. Iittala has decided to go with quality all the way, their philosophy “Against Throwawayism” is evident as the Tools collection will last a lifetime and you will be able to pass it on to your grandchildren.
(photos above) Alvar Aalto portrait and original design collages for the Savoy vase in cardboard and paper
For 70 years now the Iittala factory in Finland has diligently produced Alvar Aalto’s sinuous Savoy vase. Originally part of a housewares collection that Aalto submitted to the Karhula-Iittala design competition in 1936, the vase was first presented at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris, where the theme was “Art and Technology in Modern Life.” At the time of its conception, the vase’s graceful enigmatic form challenged the glassblowers who pioneered the making of it. Inspired by nature, Alvar Aalto simplified design elements and used a craftsman’s knowledge of the material to create design that allows for various combination’s of use. The mysterious form made a strong statement against industrial production that failed to meet human needs. Today it has become an icon of a design movement.
One of the few furniture design icons from Norway, the Scandia Series chairs were designed in 1957 by Hans Brattrud. Popularity peaked in the 1960s and the chairs fell out of production in the 1970s when the original factory burned down. Enter Fjordfiesta, a Norwegian company that has since revived the range. The Company worked closely with Brattrud to bring these appealing chairs back into production, keeping careful attention to the original detailing and design.
Scandia Series Chair, by Hans Brattrud for Fjordfiesta
The Vitra Design Museum collections evolved from modest beginnings in the 1980s to become one of the world’s most important collections of modern furniture. It was founded on two furniture collections – one compiled by Rolf Fehlbaum and the other by Alexander von Vegesack.
Surveying the collections as a whole, the following areas emerge as focal points: the period from the 1850s to the turn of the century shows a focus on bentwood furniture, the designs of Viennese architects and pieces by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Frank Lloyd Wright. The first three decades of the twentieth century are most prominently represented by the work of Gerrit Rietveld, Marcel Breuer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and the Bauhaus, as well as Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret. Along with the sizeable holdings from American sources, particularly Charles & Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen and Harry Bertoia, the period up to the Second World War is also defined by the French ‘constructeur’ Jean Prouvé, whose work is superbly documented with his most significant furniture designs, as well as many of his facade elements. From Scandinavia, there are designs by such figures as Alvar Aalto, Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, Poul Kjaerholm and Verner Panton and, from Italy, pieces by Gio Ponti, Carlo Mollino, Achille Castiglioni, Studio Memphis and Alchimia. Furnishings from the Arts and Crafts movement along with Art Deco and Art Nouveau are represented, albeit with relatively few examples. Taking the position that subsequent developments in modern furniture can only be fully understood as the ideological and stylistic heirs of these late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century movements, the earlier periods would presumably be the mostly likely candidates for expansion within the collections.
Design Museum Collections, Vitra Design Museum, Read more: Vitra Magazine
The Mid-Century Modernist has unearthed a close relative of the Executive Chair, the ES 102 Intermediate Swivel Arm Chair is made of a bright polished Eames aluminum Eames Universal base, frame and arms; black painted tube. Black leather upholstery on the seat, back and arm rests. Introduced in 1968, discontinued in 1973 due to high production costs.
Legendary Brazilian modernist Oscar Niemeyer, architect of the capital city Brasília, has built only one residential structure in the United States, where he was long banned because of his leftist political associations. Despite his global fame, the Santa Monica house he designed in 1963 was hardly known even to Southern California’s Nikon-strapped aficionados of midcentury modernism.
Now owned by Michael and Gabrielle Boyd, the Strick House (built for film director Joseph Strick and his wife) is T-shaped in plan. The one-story dwelling is capped by a flat roof and is sheathed in glass, brick, and stucco. One of the most prominent features is the row of tall, narrow exposed rafters that cover the entire roof in a serrated pattern and project beyond the overhangs of the front and rear of the home.
Strick House, Santa Monica, California, USA, by Oscar Niemeyer
via: Architectural Digest