Monday 30 March 2015

Antwerp and Dries van Noten

I posted about lovely Antwerp last summer (here). Going back there on an utterly miserable, rainy winter's day a couple of weeks ago I wondered if I could sustain my enthusiasm for the city.

This square in the shopping and restaurant area of Graanmarkt that was filled with outdoor diners under leafy trees in the summer was deserted in the rain, but still elegant.

Cafés and bookshops offered warm, friendly interior spaces to dry out

and at Bourla restaurant behind the Toneelhuis lunch fully lived up to Belgium's dizzying reputation for good food.

And then there was fashion: at Momu (Museum of Fashion) the Dries van Noten exhibition has recently relocated from its run in Paris, back to van Noten's hometown.

Leading into the exhibition is a passage way filled with posters - references to music, films and fashion of the 70s and 80s when van Noten emerged as one of the Antwerp Six young designers ...

... a hint that the exhibition beyond is not so much a retrospective as an glimpse into his rich and prolific creative process.

Damien Hirst's butterfly collage, Proust, Cecil Beaton, Rothko, Francis Bacon, Jimi Hendrix, military uniforms, Rajasthan and Bollywood, Cindy Wright's skull art are just some of the elements that inspired his creativity. 

Antwerp March 2015. Yes, still one of my favourite European cities.

Sunday 8 March 2015

Design dreams: Vitra Haus

In Weil am Rhein, Germany - in the triangle where Germany, Switzerland and France meet -
 is a place that is a magnet for anyone interested in modern design and architecture. It's VitraHaus, the flagship store of furniture design company Vitra. 

Vitra Haus itself is in this building - a haphazard-looking stack of classic pitched-roof houses designed by Herzog & de Meuron (currently designing the new extension to London's Tate Modern) and contains Vitra's Home Collection.

But the Vitra 'campus' includes a whole collection of contemporary buildings designed by an amazing line up of some of the world's best known contemporary architects, including Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid and Alvaro Siza. 

The Design Museum above is designed by Frank Gehry and the geodesic dome used for events is based on Buckminster Fuller designs. Below, an original Airstream Kiosk selling ice creams and Balancing Tools sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.  Even the bus stop outside the campus is a design classic - by Jasper Morrison,with wire Eames chairs for seating!

Inside Vitra Haus, everything from the café and reception area is a visual treat. 

Spread across ascending floors are icons of 20th century design; here a collection of Isamu Noguchi's lamps, Alvar Aalto's Stool 60 and Table 90 and Charles & Ray Eames' rocker.

I loved how the green surroundings of Weil am Rhein are visible everywhere in these light- filled interior spaces. Here a desk by Jean Prouvé and Alvar Aalto's Paimio armchair are positioned for the view.

There are office spaces to inspire ...

and even the kids get designer furniture and toys: Eames elephants and a Hang it All, and junior Panton chairs. 

A collection of chairs is stacked framed against a glass window where mirrors reflect the car park below.

Vitra Haus, Weil am Rhein, Germany, 2014

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