Barcelona Diagonal

Jun 23 - 2017

Day 2, breakfast and off to Plaça de les Glòries to meet architectural historian Mónica Cruz Guáqueta from Guiding Architects. Too much to relay (itinerary here) but we walked an area in the middle of an ambitious regeneration plan that is only one of many such plans successively traced over the same streets. Fascinating on urban fabric, how to progress, maintain the life of small scale business and family life, and the inevitable tensions between civic/social ambition and the might of the developer. We visited a modern market place, walked public routes through civic buildings, and saw other planned connections fenced off where the public and private realm find themselves at odds. Superblocs look good, turns out people don't like them much - Monica however is optimistic that the next version can learn and refine, yet another overlay perhaps finding the answer.

Two buildings en route, opposite each other and opposites also in both appearance and function.

The Media ICT is all about innovation, digitally designed for sustainability and close up looks like it has something to say in its graphic form and ETFE facade, but from a distance it evaporates. Opposite is the beautiful Can Framis, an 18th century textile factory renovated by BAAS almost invisible from the street with its screen of birch and grass, un-city-like paths drawing you in to have a better look at its white-washed facades and connecting concrete slabs and projecting planes. Different approaches side by side, part of the 22@Barcelona project. 

Time for one more meal, why not, at Barraca Barceloneta, buffalo salad, patatas bravas, rosé, and extraordinary cheese ice cream. Delicious.

Just over 24 hours during which we talked and saw design, making, architecture, urbanism, politics, food and wine; the last few weeks in London have somewhat marred the idea and the reality of city life, this visit reminded me that we can have wonderful cities that are good to and for those that live in them. We just need to think a bit about what we want and we cannot leave everything to market forces. Central, local government and we need to protect and encourage the everyday - housing, business, communications, retail. We will have pension funds and international investors making big moves, but we don't need to totally give in.

media ict Media Tic Cloud 9 Enric Ruiz Museo Can Framis bleached elevations Museo Can Framis entrance canopy

Barcelona Balconies & Brummel

Jun 22 - 2017

Back to the hotel, 15 mins on the balcony catching breath and looking at white fire escapes and green balconies.

Shower and out again, to dinner at Hotel Brummel. A compact building in a residential district five minutes from the Miró Foundation somehow packing in masses of milling chilling space, an airy double height volume, restaurant, bar, micro pool, herb garden, and the rooms. This and that, some international cool design and masses of proper oddities and Barcelona character in materials especially. Best bit of dinner? maybe cherry gazpacho, the colour of beetroot with pale salmon pink fishy mouse in the middle, looked & tasted gorgeous, confused eyes and taste buds. And this wine, Sexto Elemento, organic Bobal, hard but not impossible to track down in the UK.

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Hotel Brummel Barcelona white fire escape Barcelona green balcony

Stockholm Furniture Fair 2017

Feb 14 - 2017

Flying visit to Stockholm last week with Inform, see below, thank you, to visit the fair and see a bit of the city: clear, bright and very cold, pink skyline which was also the colour of the show - various shades from germolene to bubble gum. Recommended by several people as one of the best shows, I totally agree: great exhibition, lots too see but by no means overwhelming, well-curated and laid out, legible, a range of manufacturers from big brands to start-ups including the Greenhouse showing independent designers and design school work. I came away feeling appropriately informed, not exhausted which is my response to the sprawling multi-site mega shows.

As to the city it’s a model of civilised urban living with its distinct neighbourhoods and easy connections – partly the result of an integrated transport system but mostly due to amazingly helpful English-speakers everywhere. I know London is fabulous in so many ways but even getting to the airport en-route to Arlanda was a transport trial: London Bridge, what a mess; you trek miles through re-routed walkways with zero information and certainly no one to ask, nightmare for anyone and especially just-landed visitors, what must they think? Tempting to ask why we can’t do better but just checked the population of both cites and London is roughly times ten, which may have something to do with it.


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Stockholm skyline

RCA Battersea, Signs

Jan 28 - 2016

Building names and interior signs at the new site, designed by Cartlidge Levene, avoid the bland corporate with a flexible approach to how and where different levels of information are accommodated: the multilayered system comprises permanent painted lettering, quiet white on concrete, a brighter slotted rail system that holds both permanent screen-printed aluminium tabs and easily-updated A4 paper sheets, and a kind of pegboard for informal notes. Looks good now and suits the building, should wear well and be adaptable as the school and its users change.

Fonts: Calvert & new Calvert Brody, more in Dezeen.

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RCA Signs lettering RCA Sign system RCA Signs detail RCA Signs peg board

Michèle Oberdieck RCA Work in Progress

Jan 25 - 2016

Had an interesting couple of hours at the Haworth Tompkins RCA Dyson Building in Battersea where visitors had (very trusting) free rein to wander the studios and get a bird's eye view of the workshops from glazed galleries – a glimpse into a particular working world. 

Among the exhibitors Michèle Oberdieck showed her glass objects resting on their sides, open-mouthed, cut polished edges, smooth, stretched and pinched-in forms and stand-out use of dazzling yellow, brown and pink: a wake-up combination. Looking forward to the end of year show.

Michèle Oberdieck News

Royal College School of Material Ceramic & Glass



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Michlee Oberdieck Tall Yellow Michele Oberdieck Brown Yellow

London Light

Sep 27 - 2015

Picking through lighting at the London Design Festival, not at all methodically or comprehensively :

Michael Anastassiades occupied the shopfront at Aram with his own range and the Mobile Chandeliers for Flos; something I like about his work is that it's on the one hand utterly special - sculptural and made exquisitely with fine materials - and also completely useable, perhaps because it reminds you of other things? Upscaled jewellery or gorgeous toys. More about MA and a different way of thinking about the sofa here.

Had an interesting chat with Rubn whose products have a slightly mid-mod feel so not surprising to learn they hand-make from a factory in Sweden founded in the 50s. Added to a half a century of design history they have a super-flexible contemporary production set-up which means their neat families of fittings – practical and well-made, spanning glamorous to everyday – can be endlessly adapted and customised.

EOQ showed their Joseph lamps designed by Michael Young and made from solid blocks of alumunium; more on their site on how this is done but suffice to say it's clever and the result is something that almost looks like paper so delicate are the blades. Anodised or finished in metallic colours the fittings have an intriguing glow, marrying industrial with refined, aptly named after Jospeh Bramagh who patented the first extrusion process in 1797 for making lead pipe.

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Micahel Anastassiades lamps Micahel Anastassiades Mobile Chandelier 8 Rubn Vox pendant Rubn Lector lamp EOQ Joseph pendant

Robin & Lucienne Day

Jun 20 - 2015

Robin Day much in the press with centenary celebrations and a relaunch of the Reclining Chair 1952 chair by 2021. This joins the Case re-edition of the 675, a fantastically useful and lovely chair of its time and still perfectly good today, used at America Square. Rummaging about on the subject I came across the Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation which is not only packed with archive info on their life and work but is gorgeous itself – designed by Studio Fernando Gutiérrez, see below – with a spare graphic and careful, easy navigation it reads somehow more like a book than a website. 


Robin Day 675 chair Robin Day 1952 Reclining Chair Robin Lucienne Day

Innovation Design Engineering

Jul 01 - 2014

Last of the 4 and back to Innovation Design Engineering, a really well presented show: complex ideas involving overlapping disciplines clearly and engagingly presented physically, digitally and in person.

The Ion by Peter Spence is a small box containing a wirelessly connected intelligent motor designed specifically for kids to use in playing and making. Tapping into their natural creativity, un-censored imagination and technological ease the Ion makes an idea mobile: attach one or several to something, anything, and you instantly have endless possibilities for a mad hatters’ tea party of invention, and maybe the start of a lifetime’s problem solving.

Peter Spence Ion
Innovation Design Engineering / RCA London 2014

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Innovation Design Engineering

Jun 30 - 2014

I went to see architecture and Interiors at the RCA but got waylaid in Innovation Design Engineering: a brilliant MA course putting makers, thinkers, engineers, and entrepreneurs together to see what happens.

Paul Stawenow showed his Project Phoenix, a neat idea to make the recycling of small electronic components a no-choice part of the life-cycle of gadgets: in-built from inception valuable bits are easily ejected in a ready-to-post pack, you and I don’t have to think about it, industry assists in a real application of environmental standards, and precious resources are saved from landfill. Genius.

Paul Stawenow Phoenix
Innovation Design Engineering / RCA London 2014

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Good fit

Jan 01 - 2014

Ideas for a new gym project – more dancing in the street, oxygen, rushing down a hill or up a mountain, less crop tops, impossibly white teeth and men with no necks.

Cyd Charisse in bathing suit, here she is in Band Wagon


Cyd image image