Objects

The Futuro House

Matti Suuronen (June 14, 1933 – April 16, 2013) was a Finnish architect who is probably now best known for making the Futuro and the Venturo ‘space-age’ style houses or modular pods.

The original design saw the structure embrace a ‘space travel’ feel, and was composed from fiberglass-reinforced polyester plastic, polyester-polyurethane, and poly (methylmethacrylate), measuring 13 feet (4 metres) high and 26 feet (8 metres) in diameter.

Suuronen made novel and intelligent use of the newer emerging crop of materials such as polyester resin, fiberglass, and acrylic windows for use in several civil structures. A key factor in his design ethos was creating pre-fabricated elements that would or could, later be assembled into more complete structures, with an often modular theme.

To make the Futuro easy to transport, each unit consisted of 16 main elements that were bolted together to form the floor and the main roof. It could be quickly be constructed on site, or dismantled and reassembled elsewhere, in just a few days, or even airlifted in one piece by helicopter to a chosen location. Four robust concrete sittings were all that were required as ground-works, so the project be placed almost anywhere. Due to the integrated polyurethane insulation and electric heating system, the house could be heated to a comfortable temperature in only thirty minutes.

It was therefore ideal as a proto-modern cutting edge ski lodge and or holiday chalet with an eye-catching difference and a cutting-edge style.

One of the sadder facets to this great design story, is that actually less than 100 were originally made and it is estimated that today around 50-60 of the original Futuro homes now survive, owned mostly by private individuals. The early 70s saw a huge hike in Petroleum and Oil based products and thus once cheap materials of this nature were suddenly vastly more prohibitive. This lead to the end of production by 1976. There are also alternative theories however that several other factors conspired against their success. Watch this video to see this line of thought!

Suuronen also designed petrol stations, kiosks, detached and terraced houses as well as public buildings during his long career.

Matti

Suuronen was married to pianist Sirkku Suuronen and the couple had three children. Suuronen died peacefully in his homeland in Espoo, Finland on 16 April 2013. He was 79 years old. He lived to see his rule-breaking designs installed in several leading key Museums around the world. They still draw gasps of amazement and provide continued inspiration today all these years later. Despite attempts to create a viable on-going Business based around the concept of Futuro Housing in places even such as the USA, the project has to be seen as somewhat of a failure, in that it was seen as slightly ‘kitsch and freakish’ and out of step with what people actually would be prepared to purchase in sufficient numbers to make it all work out effectively. With todays demand for style and ergonomic well thought out design, there are plenty of designers attempting to develop space-saving, affordable, low-cost housing pods based on this original idea. That is a something of a victory of sorts. Time will tell, no doubt how this plays out.

As part of the  Le Beat Bespoké 11 event this Easter in London, the New Untouchables invited Darren Russell (a much respected photographer) to form a shoot with some great models and clothes supplied by Atilla and the folks at www.dandylifeclothing.com along to London’s very own Futuro house (which you can visit as part of the LBB Weekend) being a freshly restored 1972 Futuro House project in London which displays a stunning new vision for futuristic living and still looks wonderfully futuristic today. Our video shows a Time-lapse shot during installation of Futuro House at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, London 16-19th August 2015

See the finished Futuro inside and outside at www.futurohouse.co.uk and discover how you can visit this historic piece of architecture and design during its current landing.

Film Shot and edited by Edward Fox www.edarthurfox.com.


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Pip! Pip! Are the Creative Business Engine behind various music based organisations of the cool underground variety. Providing angst, confusion, bewilderment and annoyance in equal amounts. We design/host/manage great sites like this one! Why not hire us one day soon?

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February 11, 2016 By : Category : Articles Design Front Page Inspiration Objects Tags:, , ,
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Catherine Croft Interview

This entry is part of 8 in the series Movers and Shakers

Catherine Croft, Director Twentieth Century Society

Thanks for chatting to us Catherine, how long have you been involved in the society and what is your background: planning, law, architecture or enthusiast?

I’ve been involved since about 1990, shortly after I finished my architecture degree. Initially just as a member, then as a Trustee, then running the Casework Committee and becoming Vice Chair—finally I ended up as Director in 2002. But I have also done other things at the same time. I studied Material Culture and Historic Building Conservation, after the architecture, so I’ve got a pretty varied background. Anyone who is interested in C20 Architecture is welcome to belong. Some members are incredibly knowledgeable, some join because they want to know more, we pitch our events and publications so that you don’t need to be an expert, you just need to be keen.

When did what we call ’20th-Century’ design begin in your view?

That’s a difficult question (and I also get asked “when does Modern Architecture start”). The pragmatic answer is that we cover everything from 1914 onwards, as the Victorian Society covers the Edwardian period. We certainly don’t stop at 2000, and expect to be seeing a C21st building listed soon.

In your opinion how long do we have at present to list and conserve the best of 20th Century Britain, it feels like this is a critical time? Buildings are getting to an age when they require attention?

It certainly does feel like a critical time, and it’s for all the reasons you suggest. Also some building types of which there are lots of great C20 examples are disproportionately threatened because of specific social and economic pressures. For instance, the smoking ban and rise of coffee shops means that pubs are going bust, and spending cuts mean libraries are closing (Local councils in London are heading for a 70% budget cut between 2010 and 2020).

How do you prioritise your objectives, there is a great deal of 20th Century architecture, how do you ‘pick your battles’?

We look at the quality of the building, and just how damaging and imminent the threat is. We also consider what broader arguments highlighting a specific case will enable us to support, and we make sure that we don’t duplicate anyone else’s efforts, but back local campaigns and work with others whenever possible.

What steps does the Society take to ensure that there is equality and regional balance in the projects it undertakes?

We get cases from all over the country referred to us by local planning departments (that’s a requirement of planning law, and very helpful), but we also rely on local members and supporters. Our network of Regional Groups helps.

It feels like London is at risk due to ravenous developers, but in other parts of Britain there may be less awareness of the value and appeal of older-modern buildings, whereas London is very ‘on trend’ with the mid-century kick. How do you manage regional activity and raise awareness in other parts of the UK?

There are details of the Regional Groups here: www.c20society.org.uk/regional-groups and we also try to make sure that we get both National press coverage and keep in contact with local press and radio. Projects like the 100 Buildings book and website www.c20society.org.uk/100-buildings also have a good range of buildings, and it’s been great to see it in bookshops all over the UK. We’d like to get our Magazine distributed more widely.

Many of those who read our blogs and follow the New Untouchables are, literally, obsessed with mid-century architecture and design. We’re also (relatively!) young ranging from 16-50, and from a wide range of backgrounds. What is the main benefit for the society by engaging with this group?

We want you to join us and increase our numbers! More C20 members means we have more leverage with local and national government, and is the best way to demonstrate that this is not just a niche interest, but a growing cultural phenomenon. We know that converts to more listings and more buildings saved.

Does the society have a view on some of the iconic music venues around the UK that are increasingly facing closure under pressure from development? This goes beyond structural integrity and into ‘use’ or ‘change of use’. Is this an area of concern that the Society would consider supporting, either directly or indirectly, now or in the future?

I guess our main focus is on the physical preservation of the buildings themselves, but particularly where there are complex interiors, change of use can be very damaging, and so we do sometimes get involved in supporting an existing use.

What countries in the world have similar organisations campaigning for 20th Century buildings and landscapes, and what nation has the most impressive 20th Century architecture, apart from the UK of course?

I don’t think anywhere has an organisation like us which campaigns for the whole breath of C20 building styles, but there are lots of branches of DoCoMoMo, specialising in Modern Movement buildings, and many flourishing Art Deco societies.

Many of the people who read the New Untouchables blogs and website describe themselves as ‘modernists’. An apparent contradiction in using this term is our fascination with the attention to detail and experimental optimism in music, clothes and architecture of the recent past. However, our salvation is, arguably, a determination to apply and adapt the exciting and stylish approach of the mid-century to the present day to make life more colourful and less predictable. What motivates you?

I like to think that we aim to make the future “more colourful and less predictable” (I like your choice of words there), by making sure that the best, and most interesting buildings of each decade do survive. We are motivated by that, and by our shared enjoyment of the imagination, diversity and attention to detail of the buildings themselves, and the complex stories they bear witness to.

What’s the best way for people to get involved if they want to help and support your work?

To join us, and come on our trips and get in involved in a Regional Group. If you’re not ready to commit quite yet, by signing up to our e-newsletter on the website.

 

*Scotch Martin is DJing in Germany on Saturday 14 Nov 2015 for Maik, who runs Skaturday Night, Am Förderturm 27, 46049 Oberhausen, Germany. He will be playing sets in both rooms, reggae and northern. INFO HERE

Then also at: Cello’s Coast to Coast on Saturday 17 Oct 2015 – with a full reggae/ska set.

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Scotch Martin

Since the local youth club in the early-eighties Martin’s been Djing with records of one sort or another. Spots at the CCI National Mod Rallies across Britain in the 80s were followed in 1990 by the first in a line of successful northern soul and mod clubs in Glasgow. With four others he started Goodfoot in 91, with Acid Jazz-influenced playlists of Blow Up in London, and Brighton Beach in Leeds. Goodfoot arguably paved the way for a new generation of mod-influenced clubs in Glasgow over the past 20 years. Living in London in the late 90s Martin DJ’d at neuvo-modernist clubs including Where’s Jude and Lordy Lord, as well as regularly spinning at Duffer of St. George parties and other happenings. A career highlight was supporting legendary organist, Jimmy Smith, as well as pulling off 10 consecutive club nights during the 1995 Glasgow Jazz Festival. By 2001, back in Glasgow, Caledoniasoul launched. A definitive milestone in the Scottish soul scene, the club ran for six years and brought Butch, Mick Smith, Mick H, Arthur Fenn, Mike Ritson, Dave Rimmer and Ady Croasdell to Scotland for the first time to experience the sweaty, full-on atmosphere for themselves. As a journalist Martin has always written about music. In 2004 he tracked down singer and organist, Bill Bush, whose soulful, jazzy rarity, I’m Waiting on Ronn, was hitting on the northern soul scene. After visiting Bill in the USA and interviewing him for Manifesto he brought the band over to perform in the UK, complete with Hammond B3, and has helped Bill profit for the first time from the 1968 b-side. Martin is married to Caroline, has two children, lives in the London suburbs. Still collecting after 30 years!

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September 23, 2015 By : Category : Design Front Page Inspiration Interviews Objects Style Tags:, , , ,
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The Who 1960’s UK releases

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Collectors Corner 1

‘Out in the streets’ – Collecting The Who 1960’s UK releases

If you’d have told the four teenagers from Acton calling themselves The Detours back in 1964 that 51 years later the surviving members would be headlining a massive concert in Hyde Park they’d have probably laughed in your face, then Roger would have punched you. But as testament to the lasting power and magnificence of The Who that is exactly what they are doing next month. With this in mind I’ve decided to have a trawl through their original golden age from 1964 to 1969 and shed light on a run of records that are equal of any of their fellow bands of the time.

WHO1

Our story starts in 1964 when, after changing their original name from The Detours to The Who then, along with another name change to the High Numbers, the band secure an audition with Fontana arranged by manager Pete Meaden. This led to a debut release on 3rd July 1964, ‘Zoot suit’/‘I’m the face’ on Fontana TF 480. Basically rewrites of r‘n’b hits by The Dynamics and Slim Harpo the record sank without trace and is now the jewel in any Who collectors crown, with nice copies usually hitting £1000+. In late 1964 under guidance from new management team (Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp) the band were recorded by Shel Talmy who leased the resulting tapes to Brunswick records in the UK. And so on 15th January 1965 ‘I can’t explain’ (Brunswick 05926) was unleashed upon the public and eventually became a smash single hitting No.8 in the charts. This was followed in May with the perfect mix of pop-art and mod, ‘Anyway, anyhow, anywhere’ (05935) which hit No.10 in the chart. October saw the release of their early masterpiece ‘My generation’ (05944) which surely is one record which needs no introduction and is a must in any collection. The single reached the heady heights of No.2 in the chart just before Christmas, being kept off the top spot by ‘The Carnival is over’ by The Seekers! Soon after this release came one of the most iconic 1960’s albums ‘My generation’ (LAT 8616), chock full of high octane mod, pop-art and r‘n’b tunes and wrapped in a superb eye catching cover. The album was a strong seller but copies still sell for over £100, and nearer to £500 for truly mint copies.

WHO2

Come 1966 and The Who’s management were in wrangles with Fowley and the band found themselves signed to Robert Stigwood’s Reaction label. Fowley countered this by releasing spoiler releases on Brunswick every time a new single was released. This makes for a confusing catalogue, especially with the debut on their new label, ‘Substitute’ (591001) which had no less than three B sides. ‘Circles’ was the original B side and is the hardest version to find, copies can fetch over £50. This was swiftly replaced by ‘Instant party’ and finally ‘Waltz for a pig’ which although credited to The Who Orchestra was actually Graham Bond Organisation. The single reached No.5, and was followed by ‘The kids are alright’ (05965),  then ‘I’m a boy’ (591004) which reached No.2,  then ‘La-la-la lies’ (05968), and finally in December, the number 3 smash ‘Happy Jack’ (591010). Reaction records also found time to release an EP ‘Ready steady Who’ (592001) with a beautiful picture sleeve which is hard to find in mint condition and can reach £100 in top condition. The second LP was also released this very same year, ‘A quick one’ which was also a good seller. The Reaction singles all sold very well and are easy to pick up quite cheap but the 1966 Brunswick 45’s didn’t sell so well and can fetch between £30-£50. All The Who Brunswick 45’s were also originally pressed as red label ‘demo’ discs which are highly prized artifacts and regularly reach way over £100 each.

WHO3

From 1967 onwards the band found their new home on Track records where they would stay for the next ten years or so and release most of their most celebrated records.  Singles wise the band started the year with another top ten smash, ‘Pictures of Lily’ (604002), a Jagger/Richards support flop single ‘The last time/Under my thumb’ (604006) which fetches between £20-£40 and then another top tenner in ‘I can see for miles’ (604011) and a third album, the ridiculously underrated ‘The Who sell out’ which was released in mono and stereo. The album originally came with a stickered sleeve and beautiful psychedelic poster which is ridiculously rare and can turn a £80 album into a £500 album! By 1968 The Who were drifting towards albums rather than singles and all their releases were pretty poor sellers by the bands standards. ‘Dogs’ (604023) and ‘Magic Bus’ (604024) both missed the top ten and the makeshift compilation LP ‘Direct hits’ also sold poorly despite it’s great colour cover.

WHO4

Townshend was now hard at work on his forthcoming rock opera ‘Tommy’ which would catapult them into the major league forever. The first fruits of his labour in 1969 was the 45 ‘Pinball wizard’ (604027) which became their last 45 of the decade and also hit No.4 in the chart. Released in May 1969 the album ‘Tommy’ originally came with a laminated gatefold sleeve, and a numbered booklet. These are the pressings that get collectors dribbling with excitement, but condition is very important regarding prices. A standard copy with an un-numbered booklet can be picked up for as little as £15 as the record sold untold copies, but numbered copies can easily fetch £100+. There were also four promo only 45’s released to promote the album to radio stations and these are much sought after (PRO 1, 2, 3 and 4) though the first one ‘The Acid queen’ is rumoured not to actually exist as a copy has yet to be found! So there you have it, one of the most amazing, original runs of music ever released, and a great collection which can be gathered at a quite reasonable price… what you waiting for?, go out and complete the set!


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James Clark

Loves collecting records. My main loves are 50's rock'n'roll, 60's soul and r'n'b, beat, mod and psych and hopefully will be sharing some nuggets with you over the next few months. Apart from being a vinyl junkie I'm a Arsenal obsessive and a hopelessly romantic drunkard, but don't let put you off, we all have our faults.

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April 24, 2015 By : Category : Articles Bands Beat DJs Front Page Objects UK Tags:, , ,
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20th Century Buy

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Movers and Shakers

Scotch Martin speaks to editor of MidCentury Magazine, Tabitha Teuma, to find out what makes MidCentury work, who buys it and how one lucky reader can win some goodies.

It’s a brave individual who launches a magazine these days, with circulation falling across the board as tablets and mobile technology change the way we access information and content. But this luxurious magazine is as suited to print as British R&B is to vinyl – and like a vintage 45, it even smells wonderful.

I’m amazed that I wasn’t aware of it until brought to my attention by a former work colleague and keen furniture collector. This is no flea-market guide book or junk shop Lonely Planet guide to old furniture. This is high-end, uber-design with exquisite taste but firmly rooted in genuine vintage designs.

The highlight of issue five, my review copy, is the feature on Fernley Hey, architect Peter Womersley’s amazing 1950s modernist house in Yorkshire. It looks so beautiful that it takes your breath away, filled as it is with original furniture, crockery and design of the highest quality. To borrow a MidCentury phrase, it’s ‘too much’.

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Interview

Tabitha, how long has MidCentury magazine been operating and what was the motivation for setting it up originally?

MidCentury was first published in May 2011. It came about through my interest in 1950s and ’60s furniture and architecture. Having edited an arts journal for a couple of years, I was looking to start my own magazine and I could see that, despite several US titles, there was no UK publication covering the subject. I’d go to furniture fairs in London and see an array of magazines from the States, with advertisements for New York dealers (that I certainly couldn’t get to) and articles on homes in California or Cincinnati, but with little mention of Modernist architecture in Britain or even Europe.

Since when has MidCentury design and architecture been taken seriously by the professionals and art dealers as opposed to the vintage collectors?

An increase in appreciation and popularity of MidCentury design means that ‘MidCentury’ has become a valued genre in its own right, earning itself a permanent place in the design canon of furniture and architecture. High-end auction houses have held 20th-Century furniture sales for many years now and MidCentury pieces are now far more prominent in the mid-range market, with antique dealers and antique fairs increasingly swapping their previously fashionable Georgian or Victorian pieces for 20th century items.

Many of the Untouchables readers have been collecting 50s, 60s and 70s furniture and ceramics since the 1980s, what type of items are the most sought after by high-end collectors today?

The rarer Scandinavian classics, by designers like Finn Juhl and Tapio Wirkkala for instance, never fail to achieve high prices in the auction house market. However, even within the lifetime of MidCentury magazine, some British manufacturers, like Robin Day furniture for Hille, Merrow Associates, Gordon Russell and Robert Heritage for Archie Shine, have become popular with collectors and prices have increased to reflect this. Furniture by French designer Jean Prouvé was never manufactured on the scale of some of the American and Scandinavian pieces, and now fetches top dollar as a combined result of rarity and desirability. Pieces by Italian designer Gio Ponti are increasingly rare and very sought after by high-end collectors.

What town or conurbation in the UK has the best 1960s and 70s houses in your opinion in terms of design and durability? And what’s the greatest surviving MidCentury home in the UK, in your opinion?

There are plenty of interesting MidCentury estates dotted around the country, but for me it’s the Dulwich Estate in South-east London that I’m most fond of. Designed by Architects Austin Vernon and Partners and built by Wates between 1957 and 1970, the estate displays an extraordinary range of property ‘types’, many of them experiments at the time: from flat-roofed ranch-style bungalows and copper-roofed ‘pepperpot’ homes to tile-clad townhouses and high-rise apartments. I am probably a bit biased, as I once lived there myself.

In terms of the best surviving example of a British MidCentury home, a few places spring to mind. There’s Farnley Hey, the 1954 house designed by Peter Womersley in Yorkshire, the David Shelley House from 1970 near Nottingham (both of which we’ve been lucky enough to photograph for features in MidCentury), plus of course The Homewood in Surrey, which is open to the public. Designed by Patrick Gwynne in 1937 it is owned by the National Trust – I’d recommend booking a visit.

What do you think are the overlooked items from the period 1950 – 1980 that will become collectable in the future, for those without large budgets to but designer vintage items?

A couple of years ago, I would have advised anyone wanting to make a canny investment to buy Dutch. The designs were far more pared down and utilitarian than even the Scandinavian counterparts, with more metal utilised than timber – in fact, I used to hear people liken the pieces to the sort of thing they’d come across in the school common room. Tastes have moved on however and the price of Dutch furniture has soared, so it may now be necessary to look further afield. Increasingly though, as the MidCentury aesthetic establishes itself as a distinct genre, people are coming to appreciate good quality pieces form the period, regardless of whether they have a name attached to them.  As prices increase, it’s noticeable that names and brands are becoming less important to buyers at a lower price-point – I think that in the future, the quality and aesthetic of a piece will be key and these factors should be considered when collecting today.

Finally, what makes a collectable piece and how important is condition?

I’d say that as long as a piece displays skilled workmanship and is constructed from quality materials, it can make for a savvy collectable. It’s difficult to articulate what it is that sets apart the furniture of the most celebrated designers – it may be a subtle curve to a chair leg, a tapered back rest or the sensitive juxtaposition of caning and teak.

Always try to seek an item in the best condition possible. Severe structural damage can be detrimental to value, but these are not new pieces: as with vintage fashion, vinyl records or classic cars, they have a history, and this should be celebrated.

nm_sept14_mcm4

Nutsmag readers can enter a draw to win a copy of the current issue and a three-month subscription to the digital back catalogue (seven issues available currently via iTunes and Exact Editions) – these can be read on any tablet, smart phone or computer.

Using the subject line: ‘Sign me up to the MidCentury mailing list’ email editor@midcenturymagazine.com. This offer closes on Friday 31 October 2014 and the winner will be notified via the email supplied.

In joining the mailing list, you’ll be notified when new articles are posted on their website. There is no obligation and you can cancel your email alerts at any time using the same email with the subject line ‘Remove me from mailing list’.

Rules available on request. 

Photography ©Brotherton/Lock: www.brothertonlock.com &
Bruce Hemming Photography: www.bhphoto.biz


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Scotch Martin

Since the local youth club in the early-eighties Martin’s been Djing with records of one sort or another. Spots at the CCI National Mod Rallies across Britain in the 80s were followed in 1990 by the first in a line of successful northern soul and mod clubs in Glasgow. With four others he started Goodfoot in 91, with Acid Jazz-influenced playlists of Blow Up in London, and Brighton Beach in Leeds. Goodfoot arguably paved the way for a new generation of mod-influenced clubs in Glasgow over the past 20 years. Living in London in the late 90s Martin DJ’d at neuvo-modernist clubs including Where’s Jude and Lordy Lord, as well as regularly spinning at Duffer of St. George parties and other happenings. A career highlight was supporting legendary organist, Jimmy Smith, as well as pulling off 10 consecutive club nights during the 1995 Glasgow Jazz Festival. By 2001, back in Glasgow, Caledoniasoul launched. A definitive milestone in the Scottish soul scene, the club ran for six years and brought Butch, Mick Smith, Mick H, Arthur Fenn, Mike Ritson, Dave Rimmer and Ady Croasdell to Scotland for the first time to experience the sweaty, full-on atmosphere for themselves. As a journalist Martin has always written about music. In 2004 he tracked down singer and organist, Bill Bush, whose soulful, jazzy rarity, I’m Waiting on Ronn, was hitting on the northern soul scene. After visiting Bill in the USA and interviewing him for Manifesto he brought the band over to perform in the UK, complete with Hammond B3, and has helped Bill profit for the first time from the 1968 b-side. Martin is married to Caroline, has two children, lives in the London suburbs. Still collecting after 30 years!

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September 18, 2014 By : Category : Articles Design Front Page Inspiration Interviews Objects Style Tags:, , , ,
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Shades Of Colour – Via Uppers

Should wearers of sunglasses after dark immediately be put out of their misery? Or should it be deemed a lesser offence those times when you´re doing a fair impression of ol’ Mr Redeye? This information is for your eyes only. It’s a stylistic hot potato!! (catch) No, I’m not mad, simply talking about shades…..should they be worn at night? Is this the ultimate fashion crime ? What style of frame is suitable for the average modernist clubber? (if there is such a thing as an “average” mod).

Well it of course would be fair to say that it is entirely up to the individual. I know my fellow fashion scribe Richard H believes that it is indeed a heinious crime to sport shades after dark, and I would have to agree, unless you are either a celeb (which means you can commit all sorts of bizarre and wonderful fashion blunders and escape unscathed) or you just don’t give two hoots what anyone else thinks. However, let us admit that we have all wanted to don a smooth pair of sunglasses for an evening (let alone during a summer’s day) in order to achieve that sophisticated “rock star” kudos just for one night. Or could this just be me? Yes, I admit, I’ve done it! So, if you insist on covering your eyes on a soul drenched evening, at least do it with your “mince pies” encased in a decent set of shades.

Modernists have always been fond of eyewear, mainly because it was the fashion staple of all their early blues/r’n’b heroes, such as Sonny Boy Williamson and Champion Jack Dupree . On the soul scene it was also a predominant look, the obvious pioneer being Little Stevie Wonder (although he had other “issues” related to his eyewear…). It is from this early era that the Ray Ban Wayfarer became the first choice of sun deflecting lens for well groomed kids in and around London, and is still widely worn by those favouring the early look. When purchasing go for the original style, black all over (avoid mottled sunglasses, they are for Jaguar driving bank managers with pot bellies,) and make sure they are quite wide. They should almost look a little too big, as they stick out slightly at the corner of each lens. If in doubt, just ask for the classic “Jack Nicholson” shape. Of course, nowadays Ray Ban follow the “logo is everything” trend, and theirs will probably be emblazoned on the arm. Nevertheless, the look is timeless and instant modernist cred will be all yours!


And of course, onto the infamous “Liam” shades…. the Lennon style tinted thin silver framed style of sunglasses that dominated the scene throughout the mid to late sixties. These were sported by both savvy modernists and then simultaneously by “smelly” hippies, probably due to the fact that they were both reminicent of the Victorian Dandy era (think the Moody Blues or Procol Harum) and so fitted with all that poetry/bohemian stuff and that they just look plain stylish. The varying list of fans is a mish mash of sixties luminaries. Marriott oft wore the very thin rectangular style, in blue tint as did the lead singer of the Byrds in the US, Lennon of course either the octagon frames or the complete circle, in differing shades. Take a walk down Oxford Street and a pair can be yours for about a fiver, but as honest quality is everything, pop along to Kirk Originals in Covent Garden, off Neal Street and get a pair made for you by specialists. Pricey, but not that bad: I had a nice pair of Marriott style shades made there for seventy quid. (Their “ready-to-wear” range is actually more expensive). These are also a good choice as they compliment both casual and evening wear, and CAN be worn at night on the odd occasion, as they are tints as opposed to out and out sunglasses. If you’ve the right shaped face, bascially thin and long with a sizable hooter, they look quite good perched at the end of the nose. Very rebellious. Best if you decide that though.

Another style of sunglasses that became quite popular during the late sixties are the Aviators . Again, produced by Ray Ban, the style became somewhat over worked and oversized lens wise by the mid seventies; but by then everything was oversized and overworked, such as collars: but thats another road down which I’m not about to travel. The sixties aviators were sported not just by our mates over the pond but by bands such as the Smoke , and Clem Curtis of the Foundations. Go for the smaller style with more compact lens, in either blue or bronze tint. High fashion labels such as Gucci andPrada have been knocking their own versions out for a while, but the original makers are always the best, so stick with the Bausch & Lombs . These are best teamed with leather jackets or psychedelic print shirts (ensuring that the collar is authentic late sixties slightly wide and sharp…..careful or you’ll end up looking like a heavy from Hawaii Five-O).

Lastly, another slightly rarer style of sunglasses are the scooter frames, worn funnily enough, not just by scooter boys but by Soho stylists for a brief period too. The big, squared off Gucci and Prada (again) frames that seem to be superglued to every tanktop wearing spikey haired trendy this side of Timbucktoo, are a complete ripoff of the look first worn by modernists in sixties London. Unfortunatley as I have discussed with my editor Jules, these labels seem unable to produce accessories devoid of ridiculous branding. My search for these style of frames continues. If you are unsure of the look, it was worn most famously by Pete Townshend circa ’65-’66, and worn with the racing look predominantly, although he also wore it with a nice checked three button blazer, but that’s slightly risky if you ask me. Large frames, gold rimmed and tinted in greens, light blues and amber, they were soon taken on by the moddy boys and flashed on Brighton pier accordingly. Interestingly, they made a serious resurgence during the slightly questionable “revival” of the late seventies. If anyone knows where to purchase a clean pair please mail me!!

There are plenty of variations on these styles, and others altogether, and yet again, rely on your own stylistic preferences when it comes to colour, shape and clothing accompaniments. As for wearing them at night at your nearest soul den… well I’ll leave that up to you.

© Joel Maslin 2001 – 2012 Uppers [Published 13 February 2001]


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Pip! Pip! Are the Creative Business Engine behind various music based organisations of the cool underground variety. Providing angst, confusion, bewilderment and annoyance in equal amounts. We design/host/manage great sites like this one! Why not hire us one day soon?

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February 6, 2012 By : Category : Articles Fashion Front Page Objects Style Tags:, , , ,
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Wristwatches – Via Uppers

Absolute Beginnerism – Wristwatches

Is the wristwatch just something that upsets the line of your cuff? Or one of those indispensable details that are necessary for a perfect ensemble?

A wristwatch is one of those small details that can be a nuisance but also a great pleasure. One might argue that the wristwatch is the only acceptable piece of jewelry and embellishment a man can wear without raising any eyebrows. Of course if you go terribly wrong in choosing a suitable watch eyebrows might end up being raised anyways. Que a long sermon on the evils of heavily ornamented goldwatches. You´ve heard all the arguments before. When I´m at it here comes another overused cliché: Less, in this case at least, is More. It is very comforting to feel the weight of a nice quality watch. But if you find yourself developing arm muscles previously unknown to you and you start causing traffic disturbances because of your big shiny timepiece then maybe, just maybe you should reconsider your investment. Upon considering what sort of watch to purchase, an acquaintance of mine when shown a watch with all the wrong qualities, once said: “yes, but what´s all the salad about?“ The world will always be full of people who would fancy not removing the pricetags on their clothes, accesories etc. Hence there will always be a market for timepieces that do their best to have your eye out. Let´s not run with this thought as it is such an ugly one.

The wristwatch also carries quite a lot of symbolism: the modern technocrat should have a proper chronograph that tells the right time more often than twice a day (it should in fact tell the right time at all times). Imagine James Bond without his trusty Walther PPK. Imagine James Bond without a good wristwatch (especially the magnetic Rolex because we all know what that one can do…)
Disconcerting image isn´t it? The beauty of the mechanical wristwatch resides in the compression of advanced functions in a small aesthetically pleasing form. Consider the beauty and engineering involved in a mechanical device that not only accurately tells what time of day it is, but can also measure an interval of time down to a fraction of a second. All those little spokes and wheels turning just to ensure that you keep up the right adrenaline high when late for work.

Other qualities that one usually take for granted are pressure, shock andwater-resistance. A watch being waterproof has it´s obvious reasons, but this is actually quite a good measure of the quality of the watch as most less expensive timepieces claim water resistance but quite often are not. This is a feature you might not want to test… Pressure resistance is a de rigeuer feature not only with watches specifically made for diving. The specifications usually don´t tell the whole truth. Waterproof and pressure resistance to the depth of X most often means that the case has been tested to the specified level of pressure without application of any separate external trauma. In other words: when at the maximum level of pressure (or even before) tap the glass and the watch is likely to implode. Of course very few sane individuals test the specifications of their watches but this might be good to keep in mind if you are somewhat excited by the thought of, for instance, having a whisky on the floor of the ocean.

A Glossary (of Sorts)

There is quite a lot of terminology surrounding watches. You might have heard the term chronograph. This is a watch with two independent time systems: two separate mechanisms (or movements as the professionals call it) for telling time and interval of time. Chronometer is a name that can only be used if a watch has been tested and approved of by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (or “Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres“) situated in Geneva, Le Locle and Biel. The dial or, more commonly, the face of the watch is where the digits are and on some models you can choose what color the dial will be in but more often a certain colour (or two) are specific for the model (much like Vespas and Lambrettas original colour shemes). On some more expensive watches the digits and details of the dial/face are handpainted. The horns are the part of the “endpiece“ of the watch connecting the case to the bracelet. The horns are fastened with metal rods/pins or as they are also called: “lugs“.

Chronographs come with several alternatives for glass depending on brand and model. Sapphire glass is probably the more common these days and is made of glass “bombarded“ with sapphire powder to obtain a less glossy finish than normal glass. Mineral glass is less common and plexiglass was most widely used during the 60.s and 70.s and is one of the nice details implemented in several ranges of “retro-modern“ watches. Sappire glass is supposed to be scratch resistant but a good point is that if you do scratch it you can actually have it polished to once again attain a satisfying finish.

The crown is the knob (also known as “the knob“) located on the side of the case with which you can adjust the time and calendar. On a quality watch this detail is often engraved with logo, as will often the clasp be. A so-called mechanical movement derives its energy from a spring whereas a quartz movement gets its kinetic energy from a piece of quartz vibrating with a specific frequency when in contact with an electric field. Quite recently a new range of watches was marketed (by Seiko if I remember accurately) that works through ambient kinetic energy- which means that the watches movement is powered by your own body movements.

The Heidi Factor

The Swiss tradition of making timepieces started with the first garden gnome who produced one of those silly clocks with things jumping out of it and startling you. Nowadays though Swiss Made is a mark of premium quality. There are several criteria that must be met for a manufacturer to be able to call a wristwatch Swiss Made. Firstly the movement (the components making up the “motor“ of the watch) must be assembled and tested in Switzerland. 50% of the value of the movements parts must be of Swiss origin. Secondly the watch must be assembled and final control made in Switzerland.

Time To Buy?

If we’ve firmly grasped the thesis of less is more we start looking at the aesthetic concerns when buying watches. Should the watch be stainless steel, titanium, gold etc? Obviously stainless steel has the most simple look. Brushed or polished to a high sheen almost all watch makers use stainless steel as a standard. If you are buying a gold watch there are several levels of quality depending on what brand and range you are buying. Ask the retailer. Gold has quite a steady market value but always remember that when incorporated in a watch for ornamental reasons it somewhat loses its value. Usually the value of a watch depends on the equation: production run (and vintage), brand,design and quality of the technical parts. Titanium can be a good alternative to matte/brushed stainless steel. The downside to titanium is that it feels so brittle and light.

Now we can move to what brand to choose. If you have no specific wish as to what brand you want just go into a shop and look for the nicest looking watch for the best price. You might like to enquire about the quality of the movement but not much else is needed. If you want something more you´ll have to do some research (that is if you´re not an expert already). Quite a few brands have a very specific profile and are associated with certain lifestyles. The Breitling is the classic pilot brand, Jaeger leCoultre’s Reverso range were designed with polo in mind and Rolex is the oyster divers watch etc. Most prestigious watchmakers are associated with high profile activities and sports. Foolish one might think but so it has been and so it shall be. Meeting a watch afficionado is a bit like being a freemason. Quite a few people can distinguish a quality watch from a cheaper one but if you´re interested in the subject you can even discern what sort of lifestyle the wearer would want to be associated with. Tag Heuer? Well judging by that, the mac and the rollneck the man obviously fancies himself to be of the Frank Bullit persuasion… Empty consumer culture at it´s best.

Now for the bracelet. Leather or metal is the question. An expensive watch will come with crocodile, calf or even ostrich skin. A practical feature on the metal bracelet style is if it features a safety extension bracelet. This enables you to fit the bracelet over a diving suit. There are several variations on bracelets depending on what you are going to use it for. Then comes the question of how to choose the cufflinks when wearing the watch. Preferably you will buy cufflinks of the same material as the watch which in some cases can be quite tricky. It might be a good idea to use the links which have been removed when fitting the watch. A good jewelers should with all certainty be able work these into a pair of perfectly matching cufflinks.

When buying a wristwatch you can actually justify the purchase by claiming that it is an investment. Several ranges with limited production runs are quite sought after nowadays and with the know-how and capital you might in fact (if it so amuses you) make a small profit after a while. Another thing to consider is the factor of designer watch vs. “professional“ watch. Be advised: almost all designer watches have their important parts made by a manufacturer who produces it´s own brand of watches. And usually you´ll pay the same price for a designer watch because of the “name“ as you might pay for a “non“-designer watch (obviously these are also designed but maybe not by for instance Tom Ford) of superior quality. Once again the conclusion is somewhat PC: stick with the classics, in this case they are considered classics for of a good reason.

© Jules Olivier 2001 – 2012 Uppers [Published 24 September 2001]


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Pip! Pip! Are the Creative Business Engine behind various music based organisations of the cool underground variety. Providing angst, confusion, bewilderment and annoyance in equal amounts. We design/host/manage great sites like this one! Why not hire us one day soon?

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February 6, 2012 By : Category : Fashion Front Page Objects Style Tags:, ,
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Scooter Choice – Nicky Bubbles

Being a lover of classic scooters for such a long period of my life, I had always aspired to one day own what I perceived to be the best scooter of all. The Vespa GS160. Having worked my way along the Vespa chain for a good few years to end up with a fantastic professionally restored burgundy VBB with 10 inch wheel conversion (thanks to a certain reputable North London dealership), I decided that, with my 30’s fast approaching, it was perhaps time to bite the bullet and trade up to that dream scooter. As luck would have it, I managed to tick the box in a short period of time. However, as it was effectively found propped up in a mate’s garage, it raised a question in my mind that I know is pondered by so many fellow/potential scooter riders on the scene: what sort of condition should/would you opt for when owning a classic scooter?

Let’s look at the options here. The first one, and to be fair the most popular through the years, is to fully restore the scooter to it’s ‘original glory’. This means (hopefully) finding someone, if not yourself, skilled enough to strip and rebuild an engine, as well as someone to paint the bike. Now, here’s where us peacocks will tend to deviate from the standard and opt for ‘off spec’ colours which can look fantastic and will certainly gain the attention it deserves as it parades, rider in charge, along the promenade. This is great and is wonderful to see people’s imaginations dictate the final aesthetic. Queue the Brighton Rideout trophy judges….

The next option, and perhaps not sitting so well with a few I’m sure, is the ‘original condition’ scooter. This is where my aforementioned comes into the picture. Finding something that is either a ‘barn find’ or ‘daily rider never touched’ is becoming more and more of a rarity these days. Especially when you bring into the equation the provenance (original log book and number plate). Yes, I will admit the above paragraph fits neatly into reason but there are also people realising that these hairdryers we adore are in fact worth more with the scratches, paint flaking and hand painted names/numbers on the panels from the 60’s. A condition that, once restored, will never be present on the scooter again.

I found that the ‘patina’ on my scooter immediately set it apart from other GS’s and, while not perhaps the most eye-catching in a parade, did certainly gain a few nods or comments of recognition along the way. Most citing a certain book published by Richard Barnes…

Still, using the machine on a daily basis with an original engine (10000 miles in total) meant not being too precious about the overall condition as, after all, they were designed to be ridden!

Another option that is again increasing in popularity is the ‘Rusteration’. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it does what it says on the tin. Find a scooter, no matter the condition (usually fairly well preserved original condition scooters). Then degenerately restore it, if that makes sense. Add your own patina to it. Rub the paint off and leave to oxidise until some rust appears. Hand paint the panels with a brush really badly… effectively knacker the scooter. Usually most decide to then add a racing type engine which in my mind only adds to the comedy value when you decide to ‘race for pink slips’ with that chap on one at the lights…

As you can see, I am slightly biased with my comments here. Having owned scooters from the first two categories, I can say that I have immensely enjoyed them regardless of the condition.  However, with prices quite high against the current climate, it is perhaps a question more people will ponder when it comes to the winter scooter purchase. Concours restoration is time and wonga in a big way but ultimately your personalised scooter to cherish for many years. Ride the original find and you can, if you’re not careful, end up spending a lot of money just keeping it on the road but the benefit of having an unmolested machine straight out of a time warp can have its advantages.  Rusteration: Spending money to make it look like an original condition scooter? Hmmm..


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Nicky Bubbles

Nicky Bubbles was bitten by the bug as a young lad in Australia. With the sounds of Otis, Diana and Marvin in the background of his youth, it was a deep seeded passion for Tamla that helped propel him towards the Mod scene in his mid twenties. The love of scooters was also apparent from a relative obsessed with Vespas. This led to Nicky joining and subsequently taking over the reigns at Central London’s only dedicated geared scooter club as ‘El Presidente’- Bar Italia SC. Based in Soho, the spiritual home of the Mod/ern/ist, the club meet on sundays at the iconic all night coffee bar, drink some of London’s best ground blend, and plan/ride through Central London throughout the year, as well as collaborate with fellow clubs in the South East region. The club, now approaching it’s tenth year anniversary as an official club, has a heavy influence by the scene and represents the more sussed part of the scootering fraternity. All other clubs are welcome, as well as any solo riders, Mod or otherwise.

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January 27, 2012 By : Category : Articles Essays Front Page Objects Style Tags:, , ,
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Alessi is More – design Italian style.

 

 

Does your attention to detail extend beyond your wardrobe, bookshelf and record collection? Then there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with Alessi. If not, read on and perhaps you´ll be persuaded to change your evil ways.

Being of a partially Mediterranean descent Alessi household goods have always been present in my life. Years of therapy have led me to believe that the Alessi octagonal coffee service could, sadly though indirectly, be named the chief instigator of one of my very bad habits: the Rewinding of Films whenever I see something clever and beautiful of design in them. And should you be partial to films from the 40.s to the 60.s there is quite a lot of rewinding to subject your poor friends and relations to. Not to mention the video of course, though this is really no excuse as that is the exact reason why some kind soul invented the Digitally Versatile Disc-system. You see now how everything falls into place don’t you?

History
The Alessi family hails from the Strona valley in Italy. During the 1700s, Italians from this region migrated as far as Germany to learn the pewter trade. Sometime during the turn of the century focus shifted from manufacturing household goods in pewter to brass, nickel, silver and soon stainless steel. The Strona valley collected several of these manufacturers with their workshops and factories around the Lake Orta. The region became the bustling centre of these activities and the evolution of the trade is, apparently, quite visible as most of the factories and workshops in the area remain intact.

The long history of Alessi is not only visible in the region that is the birthplace of the company, but also apparent in the long collaborations with many of their designers. Alessi design as we know it spans 8 decades and has incorporated design luminaries such as: Marco Zanuso (who anyone interested in Italian design will be familiar with), Michael GravesEttore SottsassAldo Rossi… the list could be made endless and one could not safely mention a few without embarrassingly omitting others (like all the in-house designers connected to the Alessi family).

One of the benchmark events in Alessi history was the war. With the demand for household goods in decline, the company shifted its down-to-earth traditional trade for the mass production of metal uniform details and aeronautical parts. In effect this change introduced a new material to the designers of Alessi: stainless steel. Alessi, led by the design vision ofCarlos Alessi (who was the first “real“ designer of the company and who would replace his father Giovanni Alessi as the head of the company in the fifties) realised the potential of this material and accurately predicted that it would soon replace silver, brass and chromed metals. With the investments made in the infrastructure for mass production the future had arrived in the shape of stainless steel products which where easier to mass produce and would soon bring Alessi design to a wider market.

With Carlo Alessi at the helm of the company and Ettore Alessi (Giovannis younger brother) supervising the technical aspects of production Alessi now began to open up to external designers. The concept of design was relatively new to the household goods market and Alessi was really the perfect example designing several projects where actual design was only tempered by the confines of technical considerations. This open minded attitude was also apparent in the company’s choice of designers as quite a few of these had gained their expertise in other fields of design and construction. Good examples are Ettore Sottsass and Aldo Rossi who are (or sadly, were in Aldo Rossis case) primarily architects. The company claims that working with designers with a background in architecture is easier than working with industrial designers, as the architects are more willing to delegate the technical execution to engineers and technical specialists, a sentiment that seems quite logical. This relaxed approach is beautifully apparent when you see one of the finished products.

Designers and Designs
Alessis output remains stupendously varied: some designs functional and with that air of familiarity that good design often has and some whimsical when functionalism has had to take second place to aesthetics. Coffee and tea-sets, several ranges of cutlery, ornamental ceramics, plastic containers, ashtrays and wine coolers… Alessi has tried its hands at so many areas of design and most often with success. A most obvious sign of success is of course that quite a few Alessi designs have been plagiarised.
A good starting point for someone unfamiliar with Alessi design is their coffee makers: functionality and design in a product that makes the mundane task of making espresso a pleasure to the eye as well as the palate.

My own personal favourite is Aldo Rossi’s “La Conica“, a tall espresso maker with a brass base: this product makes Rossi’s background in architecture obvious (On a more silly note: see the British film “Shopping“ where a Rossi-designed coffee maker is put to hilarious use over an open fire to make tea providing the only enjoyable moment in an otherwise dreary production) and was an evolution of his involvement in the Tea & Coffee Piazza (overseen by Alessandro Mendini), an Alessi project inviting architects to design their own takes on the tea and coffee set.

A few of Rossi’s great designs for Alessi are: the democratic aluminium “La Cupola coffee maker”, the “Il Conico” kettle and all the other products surrounding coffee drinking. In fact Rossi’s extensive research in the field has resulted in the “La Conica e alter caffettiere” book (1984).

And should you be one of those cretins who, much like I do, takes a cigarette with espresso, then why not rest your nasty cigarette butt on an Achilles Castiglione designed ashtray? The late Mr Castiglione may be known to you for various products such as for instance the “Rochchetto table” or the “Arco lamp”. No? Well then you should lend his Alessi smoking utensil an eye: great design and the dastardly clever spring construction allows for your guilty pleasure to never fall off the side and thus setting fire to someone important. And who knows, your display of taste might make the mother-in-law (or someone else you need to woe to your side) more tolerant to your nasty habit (mind you just your nicotine habit, not your habit of being mouthy and arrogant). Should this clever ruse for achieving “immediate son-in-law appreciation” or just plain appreciation fail, hastily replace the ashtray with some stainless steel wire baskets. Fill them with some biscotti or just something edible like fruit or bread and sit back and enjoy. In the case of this not working I am afraid setting fire to the person you’re trying to impress might be the only stratagem left to you as he/she won’t like the “Firenze”- clock (design by Mr Castiglione and older brother Pier) on the wall either. Nor your playful Stefano Pirovano designed watch.

So let’s not ponder the unpleasant things but rather just focus on what could best constitute your personal Alessi experience. A product you will probably have seen is the “Juicy salif” juicer by Philippe Starck (are you getting a certain War of the Worlds vibe from this one or have I had a drink too many?) To be honest I’ve only ever seen this product used as an ornament and never actually used in a kitchen. The container set series somewhat reminiscent of traditional Japanese containers are much more to my tastes and I am still fascinated by the cake server perhaps because of the fact that I am still not certain if it should be used for culinary delights, manly masonry or homicidal heroics… If you are a Philippe Starck fan already there are quite a few objects that might suit your fancy. Maybe even his prototype design for an Apriliascooter.

Whereas some of the Alessi output is clever but still restrained there are several ranges and products that are more, shall we say playful? You might have seen the anthropomorphic output largely popularised during the 80’s?

Tastes will vary but many of these objects still show the wide spectra of Alessi design. Philippe Starcks’ various works in plastic range from astonishing to unsettling. The “Dr Kiss” toothbrush, Mister MeuMeu cheese grater, “Les Ministres tray” and “Bertaa” kettle are all good examples of design that everyone might not like but will certainly have an opinion on.

Even if you are a fanatical follower of Krups or Gaggia it might be worth your while to have a look at Richard Sapper’s expert output for Alessi. His designs for automatic coffee makers boast functionality stemming from one of industrial design’s greats paired with the playful and sleek aesthetics fitting Alessi. The “9091” tea kettle stands in sharp contrast to the above mentioned techno-artifact with its simple and beautiful design and the costly detail of the whistle. It also makes for a great gift as most people boil water at some point in their lives.

Alessandro Mendini, another architect and former editor of architectural and design publications “Casabella, Modo and Domus” has been working with Alessi for a long time. The collaborative effort between Philips and Alessi to make kitchen appliances was based on his designs and would probably suit even the hardiest space cadet. The Anna G range of products is one of Alessi’s bestsellers and Mendini has also designed several extensions to the Alessi plant situated in Crusinallo. Mendini not only supplies design vision but also a lot of marketing clout as he is internationally employed as a consultant to give advice on brand and design identity strategies.

To get a different twist on Alessi products take a look at Michael Gravesdesigns. Not hugely different but certainly leaning more towards an American design flavour rather than the continental Graves first started working for Alessi in conjuncture with the “Tea & Coffee Piazza” and has worked on several projects since then. Graves items seem destined to land in the bosom of the nuclear family. Playful but down-to-earth design for objects you are going to use every day. The vibe from the fifties might just be in my head but this paired with excellent details and a no-nonsense approach to design strikes a very pleasing balance. The round stainless steel of “the Kettle with bird” paired with the polyamide handle makes it strict but still humane. The range developed from this item all feature the same riveting and style of handles. The breadbox and cheese board further promotes the style while still remaining playful and detailed.
Another interesting area, assuming you like a drink now and then, is the selection of products for the bar. The shaker and ice bucket designed during the late 50’s by (Luigi) Massoni and (Carlo) Mazzeri are prime examples of Alessi design at its best and are once again much used favourites of mine.

The shaker, with its neatness of design and discrete finish, is perfect for anything up to four cocktails (with a bit of effort and some goodwill) and lends itself perfectly for late night vulgar acrobatics courtesy of and inspired by Tom Cruise and that older chap with the wrinkles and accent. It has all the features one could expect of a shaker and is very easy to use. The ice bucket complements the shaker perfectly and it, if you are not an all-glass ice bucket person, makes a perfect centre piece on a stainless steel Alessi tray of your choice.
Complement these two items with the Boston range “Shaker” and Wine cooler designed by luminary Ettore Sottsass (with a bit of help from Alberto Gozzi, the Alessi “gastronomic” advisor) and you will be almost completely covered in matters of drinking.

And even though these items originate from different minds and have their obvious differences in design they go surprisingly well together.

The great Mr Sottsass, who quite probably has the most designs in the Alessi catalogue, has also designed an item anyone who has frequented some Italian restaurants, or any other restaurant for that matter, will at least be vaguely familiar with: the classic Alessi condiment set. Personally I find the larger set to be scaled for restaurants and such. It collects facilities for salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. This product is quite handy and something very much approaching an industrial standard. The smaller condiment set is slightly more discrete (but lacks the solution for the fluids) and would suit most any table and in addition the sugar bowl is an excellent design should you for some reason take sugar in your espresso.

There are also several products aimed towards the catering market. Functionalism and modular stainless steel designs are understandably key in these product ranges. But with a bit of effort and a lavishly expansive kitchen some of these might actually fit into a regular persons daily habits. In fact the pared down and trim designs necessary for this pragmatic market makes many of these products a restful and effective addition to the even the amateur kitchen.

Il Bagno
Should you not be satisfied with transforming just the kitchen and dining spaces into Alessi cityscapes you can further indulge yourself with the bathroom range: Il Bagno Alessi. Not to be confused with the various accessories for the bathroom (like toothbrushes, cups and floss dispensers) Alessi has produced, Il Bagno Alessi deals with the hardware. Things like bathtubs, faucets and wash basins. Things that really should look good and have pleasing forms as we inevitably use them each and every day.

The scope of the Alessi design vision will on paper at times seem daunting. The various products and designs might even seem erratic to the casual observer. Depending on which design era one might focus on a closer look will yield the most different results. Somewhere in there you will notice some sort of coherency. The fact that Alessi are reproducing a few Bauhaus designs and the various Alessi forums for young designers seems indicative of a larger view on industrial design. Or maybe it’s just respect for great design? Who knows?

© Jules Olivier 2003 – 2011
[Published 2 April 2003]

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Pip! Pip! Are the Creative Business Engine behind various music based organisations of the cool underground variety. Providing angst, confusion, bewilderment and annoyance in equal amounts. We design/host/manage great sites like this one! Why not hire us one day soon?

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January 26, 2012 By : Category : Articles Design Europe Front Page Objects Style Tags:, , , , ,
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