The viewpoint that makes sense

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The first time I saw an artwork by  Felice Varini was a few years ago when he re-arranged the Fendi space in Milan, during the Fuori Salone, with an optical graphic that crossed the whole building. On May 16th, the Swiss artist, who has been working for years in Paris, repeats the operation with a series of geometrical-metallic forms set on the 542 meters of Granary Square in London by the Regent’s Canal. The installation is called “Across the Buildings” and it is part of the artistic programme Relay di King’s Cross, curated by Michael Pinsky and Stéphanie Delcroix.
The beauty of the installation? The visual confusion that governs all viewpoints and that makes you think that a mad graffiti artist has been at work all night. And the sudden surprise when you realize that there is one viewpoint that makes true sense, linking together the Fish and Coal Offices, the Midlands Goods Shed and the Granary Building. The installation will be visible until October 18th.  kingscross.co.uk

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Social housing with a twist

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A beautiful project of social architecture that provides also an intelligent use of collective spaces comes from Paris where, in the 18th arrondissement, architects Christophe Ouhayoun and Nicolas Ziesel (aka Koz) have given new life to an derelict building. Located in an area that required urgent cleaning, the house has been thermally isolated and enlarged with a new facade on the road side. Flats have thus become wider and more welcoming. But the real plus was the creation of the inner court, embraced within a prefab wooden shell. Which is definitely beautiful to look at and exquisitively contemporary but also low cost and effective: it took only 4 months to assemble it and finish it. Last, but not least, the garden has turned into the pulsing heart of the building with its collective clothes lines, its common rooms for kids’ and adult activities and the covered areas to use as shared office spaces. Who doesn’t love social housing now? koz.fr

Foto di Cécile Septet

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Vintage can be scary. Here’s why

After this Salone – that doubtlessly has been a great success – I feel a funny aftertaste. I have seen many beautiful things (and I will talk about them in the months to come). Yet I could not do without observing how so much of top production seemed to be guided by a main principle: that beauty stems mainly from the past.

From Flos’ beautiful lamps by Gino Sarfatti to Gastone Rinaldi’s bench and armchair for Poltrona Frau, most top brands have put their best bet on vintage pieces: risking in the sunstance (they all used new materials, technologies and production methods) but not in the surface: the forms were those of the past. Vitra, for instance, has reproduced the mythical Standard chair by Jean Prouvé in a plastic version: it looks (and feels) identical to the original but it costs almost half the price. All this to say that there was, indeed, a great deal of innovation in all these projects. Yet companies skillfully hid it behind the vintage looks. It is significant, in a way, to remark how Cassina, who had developed a series of visionary furniture pieces with high tech guru Carlo Ratti, decided to show them on the second floor of their showroom in Via Durini: at street level there was an exhibition of photographs by Karl Lagerfelf featuring Cassina’s classic pieces.

This is not a complaint. After all, being able to bring back to life the archives, especially when you can find it them pieces of astonishing beauty, is a priceless privilege. I am also astonished by the asymmetries of Alva Aalto’s lamps (re-proposed by Artek), by the immortal grace of Zanuso’s Lady (reinterpreted by Arflex), by the Danish wonders of the 50s that GamFratesi selected for their beautiful exhibition about Chromatism at the Triennale. It is beautiful, splendid, if all this can continue to live and be appreciated by younger generations.

Yet this year, for the first time (possibly due to the pessimism that engulfs us all when reading daily papers), vintage seemed to me more like an answer to the desider to reassure, by quoting known and timeless shapes than as a mere style option. And this, I admit, scared me a bit, insinuating the thought that the crisis has carved into the depth of the design system: and has pushed those who can afford it to (thanks to the greatness of their history) to prove how solid their ship is in view of a perfect storm that might be on the horizon… I hope I am mistaken.

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All you knit is love!

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There is no doubt that knitting is a passion for an ever increasing number of people. Men, women, childen: it seems that hardly anyone resists to the temptation of the creativity that can stem from a simple ball of wool. As from today, knitting lovers will be less alone, thanks to the dedicated social network, Crowdknitting. Its creators, leveraging on the high amount of creativity that will animate Milan next week during the Fuori Salone, have decided to be physically present: they will thus create a small workshop called Knitting for Yarn Bombing. It sounds threatening but it is only, just as guerrilla gardening, a creative, shared and collective way to turn urban spaces into something more beautifu. The workshop will take place in Milan, on April 10, from 5:30 to 8 pm at Capra e Cavoli in Via Sebenico. It is open to all, until spaces are available. For information: press@auberginefactory.com.  And for those who dream of turning their passion into a start-up, the date to make in the agenda is April 11th, at 5:30 pm: Ugo Mendez Donelli and Sergio Bonimi of Hugowitz will explain how to do it.

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Design in the garden (or on the balcony)

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The Milan Design Week starts in a few days and you will soon see my selection on events “not to miss” on  d.repubblica.it and on DCasa (on the newstands in Italy with Repubblica on April 6th).  But amongst chic showrooms and experimental designs, one is often left without any actual feasible solutions for their homes. So here is a news for those who wish (or need) to keep their feet well hooked on the ground without giving up on style.

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As from today, the new summer’s collection by Ikea is available in all stores. There are (as usual) lively and lovely fabrics this year coupled with small vases to hang on trees and to decorate with fresh flowers and with stripy beach seats (they are very “fashion”, just check out the latest Dolce&Gabbana collection!). There is, basically, something for everyone’s taste. And wallet.

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Ania and Maciej’s non performance

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If, during the Design Week in Milan, you happen to see Ania Rosinke and Maciej Chmara stay still and wait. Their presence means that you are about to assist to the transformation of a normal road into a piazza in which people stop to have a nibble and a drink and, above all, an informal chat with strangers.

Ania and Maciej are not chefs. Nor have any ambition to compete with the numerous events dedicated to showcooking that will fill up the whole of the Fuori Salone this year. Yet they probably the only ones who propose the coupling food+design with great spontaneity (which, in my opinion, is the key to a public event’s success). No bookings, no addresses. Basically, either you bump into them or nothing, sorry guys, next time lucky.

The two young designers of Polish origin will go around with a portable mini-kitchen that they invented. The menu? there isn’t one. «We will probably just offer appetizers, we are not sure yet», they say. «There are no invited guests, no exact location, we just like people to stop by chance. During the week, we will certainly organize an actual happening but we don’t want to say when or where otherwise we would spoil the fun».

I have no idea as to what Ania and Maciej’s «non performance» will be like. All I know is that in an environment in which everything is hyper organized (and, increasingly, dominated by invitations and bookings) I sincerely hope to meet them. chmararosinke.com

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Gardening in Rome

Hortus Urbis -  foto di Zappataromana

We have had enough with the winter! Still one month to go before the Spring but the good news for outdoor lovers already start coming in.

The guys behind the diffused gardening project Zappata Romana have just announced the re-start of the horticultural courses in the Hortus Urbis, the experimental area on bio-diversity that they look after together with the Appia Antica Park. In this previously abandoned area (that has been turned, since last year, in a series of communal vegetable gardens) on February 23rd there will be a new series of adults-focused gardening courses. The title of the lessons, given by green expert Enrico Lazzari is “Gardening and horticulture: from theory to practise”. Studens will learn to work the land, seed, do transpants, fight illnesses of plants, explant buds and reproduce them.

I simply adore this type of initiatives that give the possibility, also to those who live in big cities like Rome, to give rhein to their own green thumb. And I particularly appreciate the sensitivity of Zappata Romana who decided to have a baby sitting service for those who wish to attend with kids. After all, they will also certainly have a good time!

For info hortus.zappataromana@gmail.com or www.hortusurbis.it

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