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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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Spotlight

Ron Arad: Metal Maestro

The Forward-Thinking Designer Returns to the Israeli Museum He Built

Digitally deconstructed renderings of imploding Fiat 500s form the base of this short film, showing alongside lustrous steel chair frames, high-tech 3D printing and raw copper molds at Ron Arad’s latest show, In Reverse, hosted by the Design Museum Holon, Israel. Arad designed the museum in 2010 with the aim of turning the city into a design hub for the Middle East and triggering worldwide interest in the creative output of the area. One of the trailblazers of modern design, Arad has been working with metal for over three decades to create a comprehensive series of works that transcend art, architecture, design and installation. He first rose to fame in the 1980s and has since headed the Design Products Department at London’s prestigious Royal College of Art, as well as working with such big-name brands as Alessi, Vitra, Kenzo and Yohji Yamamoto. In Reverse takes Arad’s work a step further into the realm of digital, as he explores how the shape and form of the Italian automobile reacts under different strains. “I was in the middle of squashing a huge sculpture, and had this Fiat 500 gathering rust outside my studio.” explains the designer. “One day I said to myself ‘Let me squash that, too!’” I practiced with model cars, then graduated to real-size ones. It’s not a complex idea, but I talked about the car with the museums who got very excited by it, so there we are!”

How does it feel to be coming home, as it were?
Ron Arad: It took me until now to agree to do a show at the museum, mainly because I think of it as my piece, so I don’t want to use it for my own work as well! This show was so successful though—I’ve been at the Pompidou, MoMA, the Barbican, and so I was excited to end the journey here. I know the museum so well, so it made it easier to plan. And now it’s pretty thrilling to see people enjoying the show and the building

What interests you about working with metal?
RA: When I first started work, metal was a forgiving material: I could work with it without being a craftsman. I can cut it, weld it, sharpen it, polish it and make it an extension of sketching. There’s no blueprint. 

Is this your first venture into digital simulation?
RA: When I first bashed metal, I had people around me who were obviously much better then me—they were better at polishing or sculpting. But with digital technology, anything is possible and I can be as good at creating something as I like. I still draw everything in some way, but the digital in this case enhances it. 

And the squashing of cars?
RA: It’s funny, because out of the six cars, not one is the favorite: everyone chooses a different one so it’s a hung parliament, as it were. It’s interesting to see something so full of shape and recognizable instantly take on a new form.

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Spotlight

White Heat

The Unequivocal Geometry of Los Angeles is Captured in a New Monograph

The arresting lines and bright facades of Los Angeles’ architectural landscape are captured in these stark black-and-white images from photographer Nicholas Alan Cope. Taken from Whitewash—a monograph due for release by Powerhouse Books early next month—the images look to portray the dramatic contrasts created by the interplay of the city’s understated modernist structures and the bleaching effect of the severe California sunlight.  “My work as a photographer began by focusing on the essential components of Los Angeles architecture and I spent two years working to create a set of parameters for photographing the city,” explains Cope, whose work has featured in Vogue Japan, GOOD magazine and Interview, with commercial clients including Toms shoes, HBO, Virgin Atlantic and Free People. “This is Los Angeles as its most stripped down and raw.” Whitewash comes with a foreword from Californian fashion designer Rick Owens, included here.

I moved to Paris from Los Angeles 10 years ago and haven’t been back since. But this is exactly how I remember it. Bright hot incessant clear light, casting blackety-black shadows from Brutalist blocks that take the history of architecture and silently reduce and contain it like lunar tombs. Or Aztec temples morphed into foam-core cartoons. 

This kind of light makes decisions easier, more black and white. Good vs bad, pure vs impure, aspiration vs collapse. Determined grim optimism vs self indulgent despair. The suggestion of an old Hollywood monolithic black-and-white movie set encourages self invention and self consciousness as you make your way down an imaginary long white staircase. There’s not another living soul on the set and the spotlight is on you, wiping out any flaw or imperfection, hallucinating yourself into who you wanna be... 

Exactly how I remember it... 

Rick Owens, November 2012


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