The July/August issue of Italian design magazine ICON design features my profile of French designer Victoria Wilmotte, who spoke to me from her Paris workshop/office. This was my first piece for ICON design and a wonderful opportunity to learn about the bold and sculptural projects of this young designer. An excerpt below.
A Parisian at heart, Wilmotte nonetheless points out that she derived her style from the London experience. Her strong, muscular shapes and almost reverential attention to materials and their properties indicate a devoted professional, and Wilmotte admits to a constant quest for “the balance between shape and function,” seeking to create “functional sculptures.” She points to Jean Prouvé, Gino Sarfatti, Angelo Mangiarotti and Konstantin Grcic as references. The latter’s Chair One for Magis is a visible presence in the studio, and Wilmotte admits she tries to emulate Gric’s process. “I always try to make the object as a sculpture, like [Konstantin] Grcic when he made his Chair One. He created a sculpture – you can do a mass-produced object with a sculptural look, you just have to find the technique. It doesn’t make it more difficult to produce.”
I contributed to the latest issue ofThe Avery Review with an essay on the inevitable densification of Basel. As a resident of the city since 2013, I was keen in telling this story for a long time. I have to thank Jacob Moore at The Avery Review for the invitation to contribute; writing this piece was an exercise in telling a complex story in a compelling way, and I hope everyone that reads it gets a little bit more acquainted with the architectural reality of this small city tucked in a corner of Switzerland. For the full piece head on to the Review‘s excellent website.
“Strategies for the relevance of Portuguese design in the 21st century”, in Camões magazine no. 21
The latest issue of Camões magazine, a magazine of the Portuguese institute for language and cooperation, is fully dedicated to design in Portugal, and co-edited by designer Fernando Brízio and Maria Helena Souto. I was delighted to contribute an essay to the “Critical Voices” section of the magazine, outlining a series of strategies I believe are important for contemporary Portuguese design. It was an honor to be included among the finest voices in contemporary Portuguese design discourse, and contribute to a publication which I believe will have a strong impact in the country’s design scene. The essay is only available in Portuguese, and it can be read after the jump.
Avinash Rajagopal and I, as part of Superscript, contributed an analysis of contemporary digital design in Africa to the accompanying catalogue of Making Africa. The natural culmination of our role as Consultants for New Media and Technology, and members of the Advisory Board, the essay was a pleasure to write and research, and wouldn’t have been possible without the invaluable assistance of Dalia Ohtman, a Research Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Center for Civic Media. An excerpt of the essay can be read after the jump.
Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design, published by the Vitra Design Museum accompanying the exhibition of the same name. Photo by Double Standards
As part of Superscript, Avinash Rajagopal and I served as Consultants for New Media and Technology and members of the Advisory Board of the most recent exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum, Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design. Curated by Amelie Klein and born out of three years of research, this ambitious exhibition seeks to change perceptions on what the continent is and can be, presenting Africa as a hub of experimentation generating new approaches and solutions of worldwide relevance — and as a driving force for a new discussion of the potential of design in the 21st century. The exhibition focuses on a new generation of entrepreneurs, thinkers and designers from and within Africa, who – as “digital natives” – address a global audience and provide the world with a new vantage point on their continent.
Avinash and I further contributed an essay to the catalogue and assisted the editing of the English edition of the Making Africa catalogue. It was a pleasure to work with Amelie and the Vitra Design Museum team in this fantastic project.
One of the diagrams drawn by Juan Palencia for Cartha #0 — Worth Sharing
Juan Palencia and I contributed an essay to Cartha, a new architectural magazine that doubles as an experimental editorial project. Living online during an initial run of six issues, the magazine privileges long-form, analytical writing. Each issue focuses on one single topic: appropriately open-ended, the themes allow for many different kinds of approaches. Cartha’s issue #0 combines striking imagery and thoughtful reflections; our essay draws from one year of TEOK and what we’ve learned from the experiment. The full essay can be read here.
A profile of Jader Almeida in Metropolis, February 2015
Early in the year, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brazilian designer Jader Almeida, a 33-year-old industrial designer with an impressive career, and write a profile on him for Metropolis magazine.The promising young designer is one of the country’s top talents, with a singular approach and a remarkable, tenacious commitment to his craft. The full profile can be read over at the Metropolis website.
Following the tenth edition of TEOK, I wrote an essay for the DISPLAY publication launched by Depot Basel following its exploration of the theme in a series of spacial interventions, lectures and events at their Basel location. My contribution focused on the mechanics and structure of the TEOK held at Depot Basel, and reflected on the things learned following that evening. A big thank you to Matylda Krzykowski for the invitation to contribute to the publication.
An excerpt of Yona Friedman’s “A Map to the Future”, as seen in Designing Everyday Life, MAO and Park Books, Zurich 2014
As part of BIO 50 accompanying publication Designing Everyday Life, Tamar Shafrir and I wrote an essay on the evolution of design events in the last 50 years, and how contemporary design events can inform and shape the future of the design discipline. The full essay can be read below.
A Good Virus
Vera Sacchetti, Tamar Shafrir
When in November 2011 Italian architecture and design magazine Domus charted what it coined as the “Biennialozoic Era”, a foldout spread displayed a world map with a comprehensive overview of architecture, art and design events throughout the world. In a methodical manner, the mock atlas illustrated 150 events of the kind, from the Biennial of Design in Ljubljana, founded in 1964, to the 2012 inaugural edition of the Istanbul Design Biennial. Of these, 65% have been founded in the last fifteen years, the most recent being the newly announced Biennial of Architecture in Chicago, which will hold its first edition in 2015. Continue reading A Good Virus
A detail of one of the modular appliances developed by the Hacking Households group. Photo Hacking Households
I was happy to write about the Internet of Things and the future of smart home appliances in Disegno no. 7, with a piece focusing on the work of designers Thibault Brevet, Jesse Howard and their combined efforts alongside the Hacking Households group at BIO 50. The project was one of my favorites within the biennial, and can be fully explored here.
A view of the Z33 debate last 10 April in the Tiepolo Room, Palazzo Clerici, Milan. Photo by Z33
For the 2014 edition of Salone del Mobile, I’ve been invited to contribute to the Z33 Debates – Designing Futures, writing a small text on the future of design education and mentorship. The text informed the debate that happened last 10 April between Aldo Bakker, Rianne Makkink and Jan Boelen, at the Palazzo Clerici, in Milan, and was included in a small publication distributed during the event. Reflecting on the experiences of the kick-off event of BIO 50, I jotted down some notes for the future of design education, which can be read after the jump. Following the debate, I made a small roundup of the event for Z33– watch the video below as well!
ateliermob’s Open-Air Theatre in Rio de Moinhos. Photo by Zoraima de Figueiredo
Following the invitation of Gonzalo Herrero Delicado, I had the opportunity to further delve on my research on contemporary architecture in crisis contexts. This time, focusing on the south of Europe, for Blueprint magazine’s “Post-World’s End Architecture” Series. Together, we researched and analyzed the context in Portugal and Italy, while Gonzalo devoted himself to a full-on immersion in Spain and Greece. The result is a four-part series of articles that saw the light during 2013, and offer a comprehensive analysis of the contemporary architecture scene — in its many layers — in the crisis-ridden European south.
“Post-World’s End Architecture: Portugal” can be read in its entirety at Design Curial — and an excerpt can be found after the jump.
The July/August 2013 issue of Domus features a story which I was thrilled to research and write, on small-scale interventions by emerging Portuguese architecture practices. For me, it was a bit like coming home – and simultaneously, it was one of the biggest challenges I’ve had in the year. It was a pleasure to speak to the people behind ateliermob, Polígono, Arrebita!Porto, Artéria, Casa do Vapor and LIKEArchitects, and understand what drives and moves them.
This issue of Domus is a special one, too. It is the last under editor-in-chief Joseph Grima, and brilliantly combines all the themes that marked his period in the magazine – a period that suceeded to truly capture the contemporary. The volume marks his departure from the magazine – and mine –, and heralds the beginning of new projects and adventures.
Unfold’s Stratigraphic Manufactury, part of Adhocracy. Photo by Benoit Palley
In order to celebrate the opening of Adhocracy at the New Museum, in New York, below is the essay Avinash Rajagopal and I wrote for the exhibition’s catalog, introducing the volume’s intentions and structure. The catalog is available at the New Museum store. Make sure to visit the show, which will be on through 7 July at Studio 231 at 231 Bowery.
The Collective Story
Avinash Rajagopal, Vera Sacchetti
At first glance, what does a film about superannuated gardeners in Barcelona have to do with 3-D printed ceramics from Antwerp, or an open-source tractor built on a farm in Missouri? The many manifestations of adhocracy—the conviction that societal change can come out of small interventions, little subversions, and closely-knit communities working without the aid of the powers-that-be—can be surprisingly, and affirmingly, diverse. If only all these local agents who create tirelessly within their own online and offline communities could speak to each other, then a powerful new mode of creativity could take over the world—or at least that is the dream.
A view of DUS architects’ studio. Photo by Hans Vermeulen
The April 2013 issue of Domus features my story on DUS architects’ KamerMaker — a large-scale, mobile 3D printer — and their project to built the world’s first 3D printed canal house, room by room, in the north of Amsterdam. The project seeks to revitalize a run-down area in the north of the city, and I was fortunate to visit DUS’ studio on a grey March morning to see the KamerMaker for myself. The full feature is available to read online over at Domusweb, and an excerpt can be seen after the jump.
The open-air gallery of Mangiabarche. Photo Beyond Entropy
The March 2013 issue of Domus features my piece on the open-air gallery of Mangiabarche, in Calasetta, Sardinia. This was a truly special place that I was lucky enough to visit late in 2012, which defies the conventional notions of what a gallery space is and can be. This feature also marks the first time I write about contemporary art and politics of territorial occupation. The full piece can be read over at Domusweb, and an excerpt can be found after the jump.
Moveable Playground Structure by Victor Papanek. Image courtesy Victor J Papanek Foundation
The 3rd issue of Disegno magazine features my story on the Victor J Papanel Foundation and its making, and tries to shed some new light on this controversial figure that has become the symbol of an entire movement in the early 2000s. I was privileged to have interviewed both Thomas Geisler and Martina Fineder, who were responsible for tracking and putting together the Papanek Archive in Vienna. The full piece is available online over at Disegno Daily, and an excerpt can be read after the jump.
Marcelo Rosenbaum and Pedrita in Piauì, during AGT #2. Photo courtesy A Gente Transforma
For the September/October 2012 issue of Frame magazine, I wrote a feature article on the current state of social design, and focused on a few projects that I believe are shaping the future of the field. One of them is A Gente Transforma [“We Transform”], a project by Brazilian designer Marcelo Rosenbaum (pictured above). The text dovetails with the research I have developed for my masters thesis, and continues my investigation into a direction which I hope to further explore in the future. An excerpt of the piece can be read after the jump.
Sketches for the Tip Ton chair, by Barber Osgerby. Photo by Felix Friedmann, courtesy Disegno
The first issue of design, architecture and fashion magazine Disegno includes my 3,000-word essay on Barber Osgerby’s Tip Ton chair for Vitra and the process behind its making. It was a challenge and an honour to write this piece, and I was very pleased with the result. The magazine can (and should!) be bought here, and the full feature article can be read online over at Disegno Daily. An excerpt after the jump.
The entrance of Fernando Brízio: Inhabited Designs, at EXD’11/LISBOA. Photo: Luís Rocha.
I recently contributed to the companion brochure of EXD’11/LISBOA’s retrospective exhibition of the work of the contemporary Portuguese industrial designer Fernando Brízio. Titled Legerdemain, my essay sought to understand Brízio’s posture and design production, placing him in context among other international designers of his generation. I originally wrote in Portuguese, and the text was translated to English by the lovely Rute Paredes. Thanks to Frederico Duarte for valuable insight!
Fernando Brízio belongs to that generation of Portuguese product designers who, upon finishing college in the mid 90s, found themselves in a difficult and paradoxically privileged position. This is a generation of pioneers. Pioneers because, for the first time, they are free from the outdated moulds of the profession, which until then had been mostly limited to consultancy work for the industry and market. And pioneers because when, in 1996, Brízio finished his course in the Faculty of Fine Arts of Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal was a country coming to terms with the reality of its first decade after joining the EU. The influx of European investment was taking a long time to bear fruit, industry and competitiveness were weakened by the open markets policy and design was still unable to find its place in industry. As such, the most recent generation of designers would have to carve out a place for themselves.
Fernando Brízio would therefore become a designer the way you were a designer in the 90s: by being an author.
Image: Zwelethu Mthethwa, Untitled (from the series Interiors) (detail), courtesy of the MAD blog.
Disegno is a new design magazine that seeks to bring back long form critical writing and reflection to the design field; it appears in the form of a website, a biannual print magazine, and a series of events. I wrote my first essay for the Disegno website on how contemporary designers seek to emulate the figure and spirit of the bricoleur. As one of the magazine website’s Lessons, I traced back the origin of this term and its current implications, as seen in examples as the Museum of Arts and Design’s recent exhibition “Are You a Hybrid?” curated by North-American designer Stephen Burks, which I also critique. An excerpt is below:
Fascinated by the craftsmanship behind these creations,Are You A Hybrid? is trapped within the boundaries of formalism. Burks’ simplistic presentation of a powerful creative force is representative of the limited Western perception of the figure of the bricoleur. It also implies that this creative impulse can be appropriated and emulated by Western designers, reducing it to a formal trend. But what escapes Burks and much of the Western design world is the true essence of the bricoleur, which cannot be copied or crystallised. Because this creative impulse lives in a state of permanent flux, the stillness of the museum pedestal will only extinguish it. Because this maker only exists in the periphery of society, bringing him to the centre will thwart him.
The Western design world’s selfish fascination with the bricoleur seeks to tame and incorporate this elusive spirit within the discipline’s moulds. But it should instead observe and learn from a creative process that, unlike design, is unskilled and indifferent to conventions and standards. This tenacious, resistant spirit, intrinsic to emerging design scenarios, is already helping the discipline grow and reshape in developing nations. It is now up to the West to catch up.
The complete piece can be seen over at Disegno, as well as some reading suggestions if you’re interested in the topic.
Braga Municipal Stadium, Souto de Moura Arquitectos. Photo: Luis Ferreira Alves
More on the Souto the Moura front: my commentary on the Portuguese Pritzker, as well as an exclusive interview, are now up on The Architect’s Newspaper. It was a pleasure writing a bit more about this Portuguese architect, whose work I like so much. It was great to interview him, too. A small excerpt here,
Your work is full of quotations of work you admire: the Corbusier-type window in your House in Maia, the Xenakis-imposed rhythm in the House in Barrocal, and Mies in the Burgo Office tower, this last one an homage…
The Burgo Tower is not an homage. I quote, because those who cannot write quote. What I don’t want is to start from scratch, which is a waste of time and a sign of little intelligence. If there is a set of circumstances to which architects have answered in a way I admire, I would like to use it, because this is part of the continuity that architecture needs. Architecture is a continuous story. I’m not going to invent a brick angle if Mies already did it in the Dominion Center, but what I can do is to re-think or re-draw it. But I always start from a concrete thing. To start from scratch leads to two things: either it’s stupid, or it leads to an excessive creativity that architecture doesn’t need.
Próximo Futuro/Next Future is the Gulbenkian Foundation‘s programme of contemporary culture dedicated in particular, but not exclusively, to research and creation in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa. Issue number 6 of their newspaper is now available online, and within it the essay I contributed exploring contemporary African design, titled “It’s African Time” in homage to Heath Nash’s fabulous piece. Here is a small excerpt of the Portuguese original—English translation after the jump:
Caracterizar o momento actual do design em África pode parecer, à partida, um esforço fútil. Este é ainda o continente onde a maioria da população continua a ter como preocupação maior arranjar uma refeição ao final do dia e onde 53 países — em breve 54 — diversos em população, tradições e cultura continuam a ser demasiadas vezes rotulados sob uma designação genérica. Mas o design contemporâneo existe, de maneira mais ou menos visível, e está em todo o lado, partilhando traços comuns em nações africanas distintas. O fascínio recente que os círculos de design ocidentais têm por África é apenas mais um capítulo numa relação com altos e baixos. Esse fascínio desdobra-se hoje em duas narrativas distintas, que encarnam duas maneiras essencialmente diferentes de olhar para a criação e produção de design em África. A primeira é a mais linear e glamorosa, e ocorre sobretudo no mundo exclusivo e limitado do design de luxo. A segunda é fragmentada e menos óbvia, mas infinitamente mais promissora.
On the first day of class in September 2003, Antonio Queirós sat down in front of thirty students at the University of Porto, Portugal, and asked: “What are the words that define each of you?” He proceeded to enumerate this first exercise. Write a list of fifty words that you believe define you. Then reduce it down to three. And then to the one word. You have a week.
Hardly a graphic design exercise, I remember thinking, leaning against a window and trying to evaluate this redheaded forty-something teacher. But then I started my list.
The word I chose was beyond. It sounds pretentious when I say it now, but when I first presented it to class I had the brilliant idea of saying it in Spanish—mas allá. Much better than the Portuguese version of the word, I thought. More accurate, I believed. It reminded me of a folk tale I had heard in my teenage years, in which a firstborn son digs in vain through the hills of the Iberian Peninsula, searching for his dead father’s buried treasure chest. He keeps encountering paper scrolls, every one of them bearing the same message—mas allá, go beyond. Continue reading Beyond