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July 22, 2014

Fantasy Island: Tresco Abbey Garden

Journeying to a Sub-Tropical Hideaway in the Second Episode of Great Gardens

“Abbey is a bit Dr Seuss, it feels as though the plants have taken over,” says photographer and filmmaker Howard Sooley of the unlikely private oasis, situated on the island of Tresco, 28 miles off the coast of Land’s End in the Isles of Scilly, England. “It’s slightly shabby, and full of joyous colors and scents––but colors and scents you don’t encounter anywhere else.” Boasting a collection of 20,000 plants from over 80 countries, including Argentina, Burma and New Zealand, the 17-acre garden was created in the early 19th century by Augustus Smith within the grounds of the home he designed and built, and remains in the family. Today Abbey is owned by Robert Dorrien-Smith, landlord to Tresco’s 150 inhabitants, all of whom work for him. And because Augustus Smith took on the long lease for the Scilly Isles from the Duchy of Cornwall, Dorrien-Smith is himself technically Prince Charles’s tenant. “There are so many strange and beautiful plants,” Sooley adds. “You feel like your are exploring somewhere exotic, somewhere undiscovered.

Look out for the next episode of Great Gardens on Tuesday July 29.

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In Residence: Claudio Silvestrin

The Italian Architect and Designer Invites Us Into His Minimal-But-Commodious London Abode

Claudio Silvestrin lives as he preaches: his East London apartment, visited by filmmaker Matthew Donaldson for our In Residence series, is a minimalist masterpiece, free of any physical clutter but filled instead with light, shadow and sculptural forms. The architect’s reductive, contemplative, near-ecclesiastical spaces can be found across the globe. He has designed beautiful residences from Moscow to Majorca, and currently on his drawing board is a Miami home for Kanye West. Silvestrin’s signatures are employed in his own home to full effect: the vertical is emphasized in columns of material that lend the double height living space an air of classical structure; the horizontal is emphasized by a parapet that extends the length of the living space. Monolithic forms that reference the ageless minimalism of Stone Henge and The Parthenon are everywhere, while his use of materials such as stone and wood bring raw and harmonious results. Groceries and even an extensive library of philosophy are hidden behind paneled doors. Only the occasional Wegner chair or Calder mobile breaks through the interior’s clean planes. “This is a space to reflect in,” says Silvestrin—one where guests quickly shed the hubbub of the London streets below and in which, he confesses, they always seem to linger a little longer than intended.

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In Residence: Piero Lissoni

The Modernist Maestro Relaxes at His Sun-Soaked Tuscan Summer House

When building a Tuscan retreat for himself and his family, Piero Lissoni decided that simplicity was key. Visited by filmmaker Matthew Donaldson for today’s edition of In Residence, the Italian designer and architect created an elementary form that was neither part of the vernacular, nor classic Italian pastiche. Keeping faithful to the size and scale of the surrounding houses, he used a concrete that is mixed with the local earth, giving it a characteristic pinkish hue. The stunning landscape envelops the building, its cool, hard lines playing off against the undulating hills. “There is a huge connection between inside and out. I used windows like a super huge screen. I don’t need films here: the theatre is outside, the movies are outside.” The Milan-born innovator founded Lissoni Associati with Nicoletta Canesi in 1986 and has since created an extensive catalogue of designs for brands such as Kartell, Porro, Boffi, Cassina and Flos. His house is filled with a combination of found objects, antique and country furniture, and collected works from contemporaries like James Irvine and Jasper Morrison. By his own admission, today Lissoni is lucky enough to be able to pick and choose the projects he wants. The secret of his success? “I like every year to be better than the year before and to be very good at life, with friends, work, culture, books, food, wine,” he notes. “It is a good obsession.” 

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