Year: 2011

Michele Varian’s wonderful architecting

Cabinet of curiosities was my first “ahaa”-reaction when I entered Michele’s home in New York City three years ago. Her take on the interior design impressed me as a combination of cultural romanticism, folklore and local and international history, which is seemingly inspired by old European palaces and by American colonial style. Among my first impressions were careful details, which were adding an extra feel into the objects and furniture. Playing with light she emphasizes smaller and bigger objects against their background, adding dimension to wallpaper and painted walls. The candles together with the wooden surfaces create an atmosphere of light and shadow; this play is making beautiful things look even more attractive. Michele Varian’s name and style has become famous deserving a new bigger flagship store on Soho’s 27 Howard Street (the former store used to be on Crosby Street). First Michele Varian’s name is attached to her own designs, which are amazing silk, velvet, linen and suede pillows with so much imaginary. The designs show patterns with inventive names too, such as Versailles. The …

Feeling good about my environment

I was tuning into Björk’s Joga, looking at videos of Icelandic landscape and thinking about the affective aspects of our environments. Where we grow up, the landscapes that we get used to, has an impact on us. I strongly believe that landscapes shape our emotions and our approaches to different environments. When I think about some of Björk’s own comments about the environment she grew up in, I feel the same way as she does about the North. We should reconsider the Arctic resources and the Northern environment, and take climate change more seriously. Rapid climate change would be huge threat to our landscapes, and even change our feelings about them. I recently learned about a new book, which speaks about the unspoken sites of the climate change process. “To Cook a Continent. Destructive Extraction and Climate Crisis in Africa” is a book by Nnimmo Bassey. Bassey writes about Africa, where nature and natural resources have been traditionally considered a blessing. His insight is that by using the nature in a wrong way can turn …

Fashioning ‘eco’ concepts

If fashion is now promoted with both ecological values and celebrity cultures, a question of who is wearing what and whose designs, includes a new kind of conceptual thinking.  Historically, fashion is the clothes that we are wearing. Then, a questions of social class plays an important role, since we are making the clothes our own by wearing them. Traditionally, women have been thought to be the ideal consumers of fashion, so fashion magazines have also created platforms where to discuss and make fashion as part of the women’s lives. In the circulation of fashion, clothes become fashionable again when the trends come back as new combination, and also next to new concepts and ideas. The historical, futuristic, and the near-past fashion are re-produced together with popular cultural icons. The cultural references of fashion keep also changing so that they are able to maintain the ‘hype’ status attached to classical designs. New technologies used in the fabrics, as well as green values are  important factors, which also reflect the moment. More importantly, ecological aspects that promote global …

I found this architecture book from St. Mark’s Bookshop

What a nice thing to find out that St. Mark’s Bookshop can celebrate its upcoming 34th anniversary with victory.  Cooper Union agreed to a new one-year lease to reduce the bookshop’s monthly rent, this was necessary so that the bookshop can continue serving the Lower East Side community (and other visitors as well).  Every signature did count, I was one among the 44,128 on the online petition. The organization behind the action is the Cooper Square Committee, and for over 52 years it has ensured that the diverse community of Lower East Side may continue to bloom. The bookshop has become my favorite, it is a smaller scale, and yet, the books that the store carries makes it really a big bookstore. Among subjects of philosophy, arts, religion, psychology, social sciences and so forth, St. Mark’s Bookshop carries great books about architecture and design. I found one of my favorite architecture books from their selection. ‘The Architecture of Deconstruction: Derrida’s Haunt‘, is a book written by architecture professor Mark Wigley (1993, paperback 1995, The MIT press).  The following theme of ‘the image of the house, and the visitors in the house’ offers a good puzzle for reading architecture from more deconstructionist …

‘New Nordic Oddity”?…and other design definitions

What I find very intriguing in the current design-discussion, is the questions of how we signify the things, and how we see the world-object -relations from different points of view. What now seems timely, is to define and differentiate ourselves as consumers with more softer values. We are ‘humans’ after all, meaning that we are responsible of the planet, therefore, what kinds of significations we give to the things and objects in the era of mass-production is crucial. How we consume, how we define what we consume, how we differentiate things, adds value to the objects. The meaning-systems behind the branding of products are referential, but they are also truthful from the point of view that they engage our participation in the entire definition-game. As it is also true that what kinds of nouns and adjectives we give to the objects, puts them on the market more. Where comes a need to define the objects, which we use, which surround us, and so on? A question is relevant in relation to design, since we incorporate …

Finnish design pop-up store in the Museum of Arts and Design (NY)

Starting end of this week, we can scan bits of Finnish design in a pop-up store in the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) foyer. The event is taking place soon, in 21-28 of October… Another great chance to get a glimpse to the 2012 World Design Capital…Helsinki and the surroundings. New York is promoting the uniqueness of Finnish design, as 2012 promises to be creating something extraordinary out of the concept thinking that is so true to contemporary design. The materials and products are connecting to the sustainable values, which global north now represents. ‘Arctic design’ is a concept, which will add dimension to Scandinavian design parameters and tradition. Finland’s architectural roots will be visible in Helsinki, so looking back in history is important. What is creating the contemporary presence, yet, is the remaking of the tradition. When looking back in the history of Finnish design, Alvar Aalto (among others) was not only an architect. His Aalto-vases have become well-known products around the world. His glasswork and furniture appear still in North American museums (MoMA, Philadelphia Museum of Art)… The conceptual thinking of adding different ingredients in the pot and then …

Eero Saarinen’s TWA in Open House New York

(TWA-terminal) I am proud to be Finnish appreciating our architectural roots. Finnish-American Eero Saarinen’s father Eliel Saarinen was an architect visioning Finland’s future together with the architect partners Herman Gesellius and Armas Lindgren (the firm was established 1896). Architect-trio designed Finnish Pavilion for the World Expo in Paris is 1900s (Exposition Universelle). Finland, The Grand Duchy of Russia at that time, was first time exhibiting its designs in the own pavillion, so appearance in the expo was creating a strong sense of new future (Finland gained independence from Russia in 1917). Architects Gesellius, Lindgren and Eliel Saarinen designed Hvitträsk in Kirkkonummi (near Helsinki). Constructed in 1902, It was first the firm’s studio and became then Saarinen’s private home. The house was named after Lake Vitträsk, [H]vitträsk meaning White Lake. The striving National Romanticism and Jugend/Art Nouveau of the late 19th and early 20th century opened up the way to the modernism and futuristic agendas in the arts and design.  Finland’s national epic The Kalevala (Finland’s poems), which had been published in 1849, inspired the designers and architects with mythologies and epic …

Forest echoes

I have recently been thinking the forest in the aesthetics. Patterns and wood structures are back in current interior design. The recent trends have been bringing the nature into our living spaces. This updated, seemingly nostalgic approach can be retrieved into decades of design innovation where arts and crafts were not that far from the  ideas of industrialism and mass-production. Nature, fall colors, flowing trees in the wind, curved themselves into airy designs. This chair tro is by Finnish Interior architect Ilmari Tapiovaara (1914-1999), exhibited as part of his chair collection in R GALLERY, in New York’s Franklin street in the Spring of 2011. I loved to see the chairs which were so familiar from my own childhood.  Did that red chair ever get to ‘mass-production’, or how do we define ‘mass-production’? The individual craft is still speaking to us its simple organic language. The R GALLERY’s approach to research and innovation behind their design curating (for 10 years now) is an achievement. They have been picking trends, which have value for the future developments in the industry, giving priority …

Arctic sensing/design senses

It is almost twenty years now when Danish author Peter Høeg published his novel (1992) Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne, in English Smilla’s Sense of Snow (1996 in English). I could not at that time understand all the possible turns and meanings that the novel encompassed but was still very thrilled by the beauty of the snow. In the book, the character Smilla has an extraordinary ability to understand all types of snow, and name them. What was so thrilling for me was the idea of snow being so central to one’s experiences and consciousness. In Finland (Norway, Sweden, Russia), the indigenous circumpolar Sami People, had hundreds of words for snow in their language defining the qualities of snow. Their traditional way of life included reindeer herding, and nomadic lifestyle was dependent on the snow conditions in pastures especially in winter. People knew how to define the snow. In the arctic, the sensing of nature is important. I was growing up in a close relation to the nature. The aesthetics of snow come to my sensing of art and design. Shaping …

Asian art markets

Does copycatting rule the Asian markets, where much of the world’s small technological innovation is located? Mobile-phone industries, small pieces in massive volume are centrally part of the future of the east.  What I find problematic in America is that the ‘westerner’ thinks we have invented it all. Today’s Asia is very creative, the arts are sensationally inventive, international, and not hostile at all in terms of who gets to participate. But, is there still a question of freedom of speech (what one is allowed to say and where) stirring in the air? Perhaps societal problems can build a frame for creation, meaning that when one comes from the ‘margins’ the experiences enhance new creativity? Artists and designers have to make it work and gain new presence in the world? All good signs. This reminds me of Finland too. A small nation started striving to get visibility with its original designs approximately hundred years ago. Design and fashion have become visible in almost every corner of the bigger cities in Asia, then the performing arts are moving forward. The traditions are remarkably present …