On of my biggest challenges is to see things early enough, so that when I write about them, you can still check them out yourself. Alas, it is a race against time and sometimes time wins. My students at the Exhibition Design Master in Graz put on a great exhibition, which I saw last week, on its last day.
Aptly called JakOH!mini it tried to describe an area of town, which despite renewed investments, and concerted efforts, remains undervalued and sadly, unappealing. With statistics and observation, the 17 students captured, through as many installations, different aspects of the Jakomini street. We get noise charts, sun and shadow schemes, paths and colour maps. Clearly I love all my students and consider them all exceedingly bright. But without being partial, the exhibition was clear, well thought out and – most rare – betrayed a sense of humour. What I enjoyed most, was how I was reminded of the importance of observing, analysing and counting data. I tend to be too deductive but deep knowledge is empirical. Long live statistics!
You know I have a weakness for ceramics and in Amalfi I have recently discovered a most amazing artist I had not heard of before. Ernestine Virden Cannon was american and came to Italy soon after the war. She discovered the Costiera Amalfitana, met the architect Matteo D’Agostino and decided to stay. He had a ceramic factory and she painted watercolours. Together they started making incredibly modern ceramics with new delicate and transparent colours. The patterns varied from two tone graphics to delicate flowers.
Ernestine was not just an artist, she embodied the figure of the modern designer. Together with the german ceramic engineer Horst Simonis, Ernestine brought about important innovations also on the technical side of the manufacture, discovering the procedure for making mew colours and successfully removing asbestos. The production lasted less than twenty years but the sheer variety of designs and patterns is astounding. They were a huge success, especially abroad. If you bump into an Ernestine piece anywhere in the world, you have a gem in your hands so don’t let it go!
I alwyas make time when in Vienna for a visit at the MAK, which few know to be the oldest Design museum. The building in itself has the reassuring grandeur of the museum and yet it so inequivovably austrian that you feel like in a Wiener Kaffee. And since in Viennese caffees you mainly sit to read and entertain yourself with your own thoughts (ordering a melange is totally a secondary occupation), in the foyer of the MAK they have plenty of sofas. And they are none the less than Franz West sofas! Made in his signature steel wire, and covered with African fabrics, they always feel unexpected, even after so many visits.
Do you remember the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz? He was always my favourite in the story, because he had such a great look. Someone else in the design world must have felt the same way.
Nino Ciminna is very very old, but still works in his workshop in Palermo. He has hand-cut, curved and bent twelve pendant lamps designed by Vittorio Venezia. More than lamps, these shiny steel objects – called 4decimi – look like mysterious kitchen utensils and containers. When hanging all together, the effect is of a theatre scenography. Sculptural and beautifully executed with tin welding (the old way!), they are both futuristic and rural. Now I just need to wear my red shoes, click the heels and take them with me back home.
Among all the tragedies we hear about daily, there is one piece of news we should all be really excited about. A solar plane trying to circumnavigate the globe. The Solar Impulse looks a little like an insect with the longest wings ever: 72 meters to carry just 2,300 Kg (the weight of a car) and just one passenger. On the wings 17,000 solar cells supply four electric motors with renewable energy, day and night. The driving force (and pilots!) of this amazing Leonardesque machine are Swiss explorers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg.
The aim is of course to demonstrate that clean technologies and renewable energies are sustainable and realistic solutions for this century, but for me this incredible project demonstrates much more. It shows the very best of human nature: pioneering spirit, courage, curiosity, and the constant desire to push the limits in order to find better ways of living on our planet.
The Round-The-World flight started from Abu Dhabi, on March 9. The Solar Impulse is currently waiting better weather conditions in Nagoya, Japan. You can follow the trip here.
Image (c) Solar Impulse/Jean Revillard
I have introduced you to Dossofiorito already (read about them here), and once again the duo’s love of nature has been the starting point to an extraordinary design.
We have all at least once, receivedan orchid in a vase. Most don’t survive long, because of too much water and not enough moisture. In the wild orchids – and many other plants called epiphytes – grow clinging on branches or trunks of other plants. They are no parasites: in this way they capture enough moisture while keeping the roots dry.
To mimic nature, Dossofirito have designed a beautiful collection of suspended containers in ceramic. They are in fact pots for epiphytic houseplants, excepts the plants are meant to grow outside the pot. On the inside you pour water, that will be absorbed by the plant through the porous ceramic. Slowly the roots will cover the pot. I am dreaming of dozens of pots hanging from the ceiling and my study turning into some crazy urban jungle. Gardener wanted!
Dimore Gallery is no hidden address. Being welcomed by Emiliano Salci himself and shown around by his über competent staff however, is a very special treat. The appartment were Emiliano and partner Britt Moran used to live is now full time showroom, but it has not lost the dimore feeling.
Constantly rearranged, the spaces show old and new skilfully mixed (which is what most people dream of). Their interiors are consistent and yet always fresh and unexpected and on my last visit I was intrigued by the fabrics shown and the new luxurious tables. Everywhere at first the colours appear all wrong, and yet they are instinctively juxtaposed: they vibrate. If there ever was a Muse of colour, she has undeniably kissed Dimore Studio!