E Floor

Jan 09 - 2020

Sustainable materials and products – masses of them out there apparently, but how do we properly assess exactly how sustainable anything is? There are various schemes, labels and means of accreditation, great variation between and within countries, huge scope for monetising the sustainability industry and the larger the organisation the more obscure the details.

One way of negotiating this minefield is to seek out smaller businesses who produce one or only a few things. For example Foresso who have a single product, a timber terrazzo sheet material made from timber and plaster waste and 0% VOC resin cast onto an 18mm birch plywood substrate. Locally sourced, using 85% recycled material and aiming for 100% asap by developing a resin-free binder, the finished product is inherently durable and can be returned and ground down to start again at the end of its use.

Perhaps because this is a relatively small business, or maybe because they are highly skilled and totally committed, Foresso have clear sight over their whole operation and make all decisions based on environmental consideration.

A beautiful material, with clearly described sustainable credentials.


Foresso timber terrazzo

Dalston kitchen flooring

Azure Mono / British Oak in a pale blue binder

Ivory Duo / British Walnut and Cedar of Lebanon



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Foresso kitchen floor Foresso Ivory Foresso Azure

Simple Luxe

Sep 29 - 2019

Grand Parc: Cheap is more

Employing their trademark luxury in simplicity, or cheap-is-more, Lacaton & Vassal have revived an unloved block in Bordeaux by changing its face and restoring interiors: a fast, low budget scheme with no displacement and minimal waste or environmental impact.

Original facades have been replaced with a new layer of winter garden providing an impressive public front, more internal space, improved energy efficiency and glorious views across the city from each apartment. In total 530 flats were refurbished in 12 to 16 days, at around €50,000 per unit, roughly half as much as a new-build scheme.

Compare and contrast with the typical approach in London where unfashionable blocks on large areas of green space are seen not as homes to be improved, but opportunities for private profit. Elephant and Castle is a case in point with the Heygate and Aylesbury estates razed, communities split and residents ‘relocated’ for dense blocks with minimum so-called affordable rents.

Travelling in Europe I am struck by the difference in attitude to building and managing urban communities. In France and Spain there is a positive commitment to making the city liveable, with open spaces, modern markets, small scale industry, trams and cycleways fully integrated with commerce and civic activity. In the UK profit rules, with no widely-heard public debate on the value or relevance of the developer-led built environment, and little room for the kind of clear design-thinking exhibited at Grand Parc.

UK, could do better, 



Grand Parc before, after, winter gardens

Aylesbury Estate SE17 demolition



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Grand Parc before Grand Parc after Grand Parc winter gardens Heygate SE17

Seaside Seatrac

Jul 06 - 2019

Solar powered Seatrac consists of cross-beach decking, a transition platform and an elegant track-fixed Marcel Breuer-inspired chair to make getting into and out of the sea possible for anyone who would normally find this a trial.

Great example of something simple, useful, beautiful - there could surely be one on every beach.

The result of a research project at the Applied Mechanics Laboratory, University of Patras, Greece, now manufactured by Tobea which exists to make this and related designs and services commercially available.




Seatrac access Seatrac seaside

24 hours in Milan

Mar 27 - 2019

Broken Nature Design Takes on Human Survival

Alice Rawsthorn wrote about Paola Antonelli and this exhibition in Wallpaper and in her series of Instagram posts on women in design, which led me to visit this vast, staggeringly beautiful, revealing and even hopeful exhibition.

Humans and the natural world: what have we done, what are we doing, and is there such a things as restorative design? Too much to see and take in in one visit, I'm working through the catalogue.

One example, a housing project by Chilean architects Elemental where limited resources are used to design and build half a good house, for completion as and when by the resident. Incremental design, shifting prejudices and addressing social inequality.

XXII International Exhibition of La Triennale di MilanoMarch–September 2019 

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Elemental Chile Broken Nature Broken Nature poster

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