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September 22, 2014

In Residence: Ricardo Bofill

How the Spanish Architect Built An Empire Out of a Disused Factory

There are houses, and then there’s Ricardo Bofill’s house: a brutalist former cement factory of epic proportions on the outskirts of Barcelona, Spain. A grandiose monument to industrial architecture in the Catalonian town of Sant Just Desvern, La Fabrica is a poetic and personal space that redefines the notion of the conventional home. “Nowadays we want everyone who comes through our door to feel comfortable, but that's not Bofill’s idea here,” says filmmaker Albert Moya, who directed latest installment of In Residence. “It goes much further, you connect with the space in a more spiritual way.” Rising above lush gardens that mask the grounds’ unglamorous roots, the eight remaining silos that once hosted an endless stream of workmen and heavy machinery now house both Bofill’s private life, and his award-winning architecture and urban design practice. Founded in 1963, Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura (RBTA) is one of Spain’s most prolific firms, with a long list of work that spans the globe: from Les Halles and the Christian Dior headquarters in Paris, to the JP Morgan’s skyscraper in Chicago and the Shangri-La Hotel in Beijing. But it is Bofill’s monolithic conversion showcased here that is undoubtedly his most personal work: a successful, and beautiful experiment in repurposing space, which has become a landmark of alternative living. “My entire crew was under the age of 30, and we all listened to Bofill wide-eyed,” says Moya. “To see someone who is approaching 80 with such a modern and young mentality gave hope to all of us.”

STATS FROM THE SET:

Square footage of the house:  5,000 square meters.

Bedrooms and baths:
Eight bedrooms, 12 baths.

Main building materials:
Concrete, ceramic, wood, glass.

Year house built:
1975.

Oldest item: The furnace, from 1920.

Newest addition: A bedroom and a bathroom, in 2010.

Ceiling Height (at highest point): 10 meters (The Cathedral)

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Spotlight

E.V. Day: SNAP!

The New York Artist Straps Down Da Monsta at the Philip Johnson Glass House

E.V. Day envelops Philip Johnson’s jagged Neo-Expressionist building Da Monsta in kinky red rope for new work, “SNAP!” The first site-specific exhibition to be held at the acclaimed spot is captured by the New York-based photographer Vincent Dilio, revealing pop-savvy concepts that punch a striking metaphysical hole in the bucolic Connecticut landscape. It had already been Johnson’s take that “the building is alive,” and with the exterior evocative of a spider’s web and the interior’s ambient purring chambers filled with a feline-inspired tension, it seems to be living up to its billing. NOWNESS spoke to the prolific sculptor, whose work is housed in permanent collections at The Whitney and the Smithsonian Collection, about her creative processes and her muse, the city of Los Angeles. 

What was your key inspiration for this work? 
E.V. Day: It began with the building itself, whose very name implies a narrative—a monster! I wanted to address it as a living creature, a wild one that swallows you through its entrance and induces vertigo because there are no right angles in the structure. I wanted to play with that energy using taut lines, fishnet stockings, and suspension.

Tell us about the purring chambers. 
EVD:
Philip Johnson would reportedly pat Da Monsta on its right side like a horse each morning. After spending several weeks with the building, I began to feel an affection for it as a character, as opposed to it simply being a building with character. I wanted the sound and the vibration of the purring under its floor to enhance its ‘creature-ness.’ When you sit in the installation and feel the purr, the beast is sleeping and you feel safe. At least for a moment.

As a New Yorker, how have you developed such an affinity with Los Angeles?
EVD:
The compression of NYC grips you like Spanx—it definitely feels spring-loaded here. However, I have pined for LA since I lived there for two years in the early 90s. LA, as the manufacturing center of pop culture and its inherent bounty of problematic social, political, and environmental issues works as an eruption of active content for my art. 

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Spotlight

In Residence: Jean Pigozzi

A Day at the Bon Vivant’s Ettore Sottsass-Designed Pop Paradise

Entrepreneur, art collector, snapshot photographer, and streetwear designer Jean Pigozzi lives large, as filmmaker Matthew Donaldson discovered at Villa Dorane, Pigozzi’s residence-slash-playground in the jetset Cap d’Antibes. The villa is a monumental testament to his long-term collaboration with late Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass, who played a significant role in the design of Pigozzi's seven homes. He inherited the house, built in 1953 by neo-classical architect Tomaso Buzzi, from his father Henri–who founded Simca cars–but it was postmodernist Sottsass who “pimped it out.” A member of the Memphis Group, Sottsass’ playful provocations are evident in the clash of off-kilter geometric furnishings and flamboyant colors, accessorized by Baluchi carpets, kitschy ceramics, and giddy light fixtures. “Ettore would say it was boring to have a normal house, you have to change things around all the time. He was not scared of funny colors and funny things,” says Pigozzi. The jubilant décor is enhanced by pieces from Pigozzi’s extensive African art collection, including photographs by Malick Sidibé and an entrance hall hand-painted in bold motifs by Esther Mahlangu with her trademark chicken-feather brush. Around the hall’s perimeter stand four life-size sculptures of notable R&B singers, including Aretha Franklin, by Ivory Coast artist Nicolas Damas—Pigozzi jokingly calls them his “cousins.” Sottsass makes his biggest impact here with the guest quarters, a blocky architectural feat in multiple shades of green paint and even greener balustrades, the interior kitted out with boxy sofas, chairs and beds in hues reminiscent of 80s-era Esprit fashion. Though the pair would collaborate on every aspect of the design, shapes and colors were strictly down to Sottsass. “He was a complete genius [at those],” says Pigozzi. Villa Dorane attracts a steady stream of “friends, venture capitalists and pretty girls” and Pigozzi’s annual Festival de Cannes party is the stuff of legend. “My main idol in life is Howard Hughes,” he says. “I like how he lived all alone with airplanes and girls, but on the other hand I’m a social animal.”

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