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April 21, 2014

In Residence: Italo Rota

The Uncompromising Milanese Architect Discusses His Designs For Living

“As an Italian, I have always found the Renaissance period an unbearable bottleneck,” says Milanese designer Italo Rota. “I think what blocked the modernity of the 20th century has been this kind of thinking." Renowned for his use of light and strong gestures—from the restoration of Milan’s Piazza del Duomo to Roberto Cavalli’s phosphorescent Florence residence—Rota is an advocate for the evolution of contemporary architecture over heritage conservation. “The danger that Italian design was in has been elegantly overcome with great intelligence, allowing people all over the planet to play the game,” he says. “Today, most Italian design is designed by non-Italians. It is an inclusive system.” His progressive attitude extends to the development of the next generation of designers in his role as the unconventional Scientific Director of NABA and the Domus Academy. “My advice to a young architect is that all buildings are just one of the many clothes worn by that particularly capricious emperor we love to call architecture,” says Rota. “The gap between the ages of teachers, students and mentors should be reduced. I think the future is all about finding an equilibrium.”

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Rolf Sachs: Cabinet of Curiosities

The German Designer Sifts Through His Collection as He Prepares to Move Studio

Photographer Leon Chew ventures into the treasure trove that is German designer Rolf Sachs' London headquarters to shoot the visionary’s favorite collectibles. Sachs has received industry accolades for his furniture and set design, architecture, and interiors projects such as the Ski Club, St Moritz extension. His London studio, Fun c'tion, which is moving just down the road, is filled with his output of chairs, bell jars, and pieces created from resin, stone and wax. Son of renowned playboy Gunter Sachs—famed for wooing Brigitte Bardot by dropping hundreds of roses into her garden from a helicopter—Rolf started out as an investment banker before making the move to design. Celebrating everyday objects by reinterpreting them as humoristic, surreal artifacts, Sachs’ work has been exhibited at Salone del Mobile, Design Miami Basel and the London Design Festival. Here he illuminates some standouts.

"Untitled" wax cast of newspaper stack
This piece is the result of continued experiments in wax casting objects and furniture in a specially formulated wax we developed. Wax is a material I consider to have soul, and its tactility and sculptural quality encourages you to go up-close and investigate the intricate detailing.

"Insepar-able" wooden sledge
The “Insepar-able” is close to my heart as it summarizes and represents my conceptual thinking, childhood memories and humorous approach when I take objects out of the everyday context and challenge people to view them from a new perspective. 

"Meeting Box"
Fortunately all my favorite pieces from the old studio went on the journey with us to our new home… apart from one. Our “Meeting Box” had to stay behind due to its vast size, and all the studio inhabitants, including myself, will miss it dearly. It was the box of many creations, decisions and laughter over the many years at the studio.

"Curiosities" dome lights (unnamed)
This is one of my favorite lights in the Curiosities collection, as the intricate and delicate structure of the guillemot skeleton, combined with the various light sources, creates fascinating and contorted reflections in the mirrored dome. Every time you look you’ll discover new, unexpected shapes.

"Sisyphus" garden spade
I’ve always loved the simple, functional shape of the spade and have an entire collection of garden tools that I don’t use but instead appreciate visually. Through the “addition” of the hole, this spade takes on a new and original aesthetic but is ironically rendered futile as a tool. It was intended as a playful re-interpretation of the “Sisyphean task” in the literal form of an object.

"A B C" Koln chair
My eternal love affair with the Horgenglarus chair, which I coined the “Koln” chair, dates back to my boarding school days. It has always inspired me to play with the simple shape and give it stature by subtlety changing its texture or by adding a twist.

Rolf Sachs' forthcoming exhibition, Herzschuss, opens at Villa Flor, S-chanf, Switzerland, on 2nd August 2012

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Bjarke Ingels: High Riser

The Danish Architect Provokes BIG Questions During the Venice Biennale Architectura 2012

Young starchitect Bjarke Ingels talks manifestation, midwifery and shamanism while riding down the Venice canals in this short by Kelly Loudenberg. Known for his impressive architectural endeavors like a state-of-the-art waste-to-energy power plant in Copenhagen that will be outfitted with an outdoor ski slope for use during Nordic winters, and the 8 House apartment complex just outside the Danish capital that allows residents to bike all the way up to their top floor apartments, Ingels is a vocal advocate for “hedonistic sustainability” and was recently profiled in The New Yorker. “Find a job you love and you won’t have to work another day in your life again,” advises the young creative. “If you let your desire guide you, if you take decisions with your heart and with a smile on your face, they are probably wiser decisions in the long run.” In Venice as a contributor to the Danish pavilion exploring future visions of Greenland, Ingels together with his firm BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) proposed Air + Port, a mixed-use air and sea hub on the island of Angisunnguaq. Now based in New York, Ingels is currently working on his first American project, a residential building in Hell’s Kitchen called W57 that will occupy an entire block and add a distinct, sloped pyramid-shaped silhouette to the Manhattan skyline. Here the dynamic Dane considers alternate career paths, architectural envy, and kittens.

Your firm is called BIG—list a few things that always are better big? 
Ideas, checks, balloons, brown eyes.

And a few that should always be small? 
Carbon footprint, energy bills––well, any bill––kittens. Sometimes the most interesting is when you can combine both. Just ask Biggie Smalls. 

Biking up a building to reach your apartment; skiing down a trash processing plant...what sporting activity is next to be included in one of your designs? 
We started construction on a 588-meter-tall tower in Tianjin, China, that would be pretty amazing for base-jumping in a squirrel suit. 

If you hadn’t become an architect, what would you have been? 

Biggest source of architectural envy (i.e. monument you wish you’d built)?
The Sydney Opera House by Danish architect Jørn Utzon.

We hear you've got a thing for fast cars. If you designed your own car, what would it feature? 
A Tesla with four seats and a convertible roof would be a pretty sweet deal—and automated driving when the traffic is too dense and static for human enjoyment.

Favorite music to work to? 
The Knife, Giana Factory, The William Blakes.

Best place for a late-night bite after leaving the office? 
[Arty TriBeCa barroom] Smith and Mills, NYC.

You’re adding a building to the New York skyline at the age of 38. What's one thing you want to do before you're 40? 
Well, we just broke ground, and with a little luck I’ll actually finish it! 

Three things the city of tomorrow should prioritize? 
Biodiversity, cultural diversity and architectural diversity.

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