The controversial and much anticipated Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg opened its doors this January to the praise of critics and design buffs across the globe. The project, which cost the city of Hamburg an astronomical 789-million euros ($1.13-billion Canadian)—about 10 times the original budget—and took over a decade to build, has been at the centre of major public protest and political debate in Germany, and has left many wondering whether it was all worth the wait, and the price tag.
Designed by Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, the ambitious new building has reportedly received more than one million visitors since it opened. Located in Hamburg’s ultra-modern HafenCity waterfront district (known also as Harbour City), the concert hall has brought a surge of tourists and design enthusiasts to the city’s otherwise tranquil shores. The day I visit in mid-March, there are scores of people crowding the entrance, patiently waiting to get in. I’m told that tickets for the Elbphilharmonie’s first musical season have been sold out for weeks, totalling 500,000 tickets in all. The inauguration concerts held on January 11 and 12 welcomed more than 4,500 guests to its halls. Among those in attendance were Joachim Gauck, the former president of Germany, Hamburg’s mayor Olaf Scholz, and Chancellor Angela Merkel, who, due to heavy traffic, arrived 30 minutes late, delaying the festivities.
Set atop a historic brick warehouse facing the Elbe River, Hamburg’s Elphilharmonie has become something of a design destination overnight. Some have gone so far as to compare it to the likes of Sydney’s Opera House and Frank Ghery’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao—modern-day icons that, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, have come to symbolize the cities in which they inhabit.
Measuring 110 meters in height, the Elbphilharmonie, with its striking scintillating glass façade, stands out against a backdrop of modern and industrial low-rise buildings. The concert hall’s dazzling crested rooftop catches the sunlight like a rippled wave, sending shimmering rays across the river, and beyond. Inside, a set of escalators enclosed in a sequenced white tube lead guests to the main lobby and observation deck. The slow-moving escalators are slightly curved, so as to hide the end from sight. Designed to feel like the inside of a grotto, the lobby area features low, curved ceilings and dramatic beams set at gravity-defying angles. A wavy glass wall separates the interior and exterior areas, and gives the impression of a fluid curtain of flowing water. The plaza, an open public space set in between where the original brick warehouse walls and the shining new glass structure meet, offers spectacular views of the city and the docks below.
A series of curved staircases and criss-crossing passageways leads to a recital hall and the show-stopping grand hall. Clad in a thick layer of undulating oak wood panels, the recital hall is intimate and somewhat understated. The main hall by contrast is as grand as it gets. Designed in collaboration with Japanese acoustics specialist Yasuhisa Toyota, the intricate, coral-like interior recalls the strangeness and splendour of Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família in Barcelona. Cratered acoustic tiles CNC-milled from gypsum fibreboard cover nearly every inch of the room, doubling as a decorative, tactile skin. Sculpted balconies circle the stage, providing clear views to the orchestra below. An enormous mushroom-shaped acoustic reflector and chandelier plunges from the ceiling, adding a theatrical punch to the ethereal landscape.
The building’s striking aesthetics are the consummation of a conceptual mélange, a mishmash of complementing, and at times contradicting, visual themes. Inspired by the vision of a wave, a sail at sea, a tent, and a cave, the Elbphilharmonie exhibits traces of each. It’s almost as if the architects couldn’t settle on a single idea. Despite being long overdue and tremendously over budget, the new concert hall did get one thing right at least: whether for or against, visitors to the Elbphilharmonie can’t help but feel the slightest bit impressed.
Photos by Iwan Baan and Maxim Schulz
NANAN, WROCLAW, POLAND
Pretty in millennial pink.
The plush interior of Nanan Patisserie by Polish design firm Buck Studio is as sweet as it gets. To the delight of foodies and design enthusiasts worldwide, the 96-square-metre, 14-seat café opened its doors in Wroclaw, Poland, last year, serving traditional French pralines and pastries (the éclair in particular).
While their desserts are alluring, however, it’s Nanan’s lovely decor that’s won the hearts of many patrons. Sitting pretty in the tint du moment, rose quartz (also known as millennial pink), Nanan puts the trendy colour to work, with mouth-watering results. The versatile peachy-salmon hue, co-appointed Colour of the Year 2016 by colour authority Pantone, has taken the fashion and furniture industries by storm with its soft, understated charm and neutrality; it’s pretty without being girly, subtle yet not boring. A stylistic nod to the rise of unisex fashion, the shade has perhaps paradoxically become an emblem of both inclusivity and definitive good taste.
At Nanan, about 50 slightly distinct tones of pink pair with voluptuous architectural curves, delicate brass details, and lush surfaces in velvet and marble; the patisserie feels at once retro and modern, timeless yet very much now. Informed by the éclair’s oblong shape, the space is marked by an oval motif, which can be spotted in the arched windows, doorways, tables, and most notably, in the bespoke display counter and light fixtures. Minimalist restraint meets sultry flair for an overall design that’s equal parts dapper and dainty.
Every aspect of the Nanan project, from signage, to packaging, to staff attire, was created in collaboration with Buck Studio, making for a totally holistic and harmonious atmosphere that’s as refined as its menu.
Photos courtesy of Buck Studio
Overlooking a busy intersection and railway crossing in Amsterdam’s vibrant Oost district, the recently opened Bar Botanique Cafe Tropique stands in stark contrast to its urban surroundings. Designed by Dutch collective Studio Modijefsky, the charming corner café, which opened in June of last year, brings a jolt of jungle to the Dutch capital.
Bar Botanique flaunts a fresh, leafy aesthetic. Inspired by Mother Nature, the refurbished two-storey restaurant has been filled with ferns and philodendrons, snake plants and birds of paradise, some dangling from ceiling-mounted pots and others clustering between tables and rimming the building’s floor-to-ceiling windows (which offer clear views of cyclists breezing through the cobbled streets beyond). Coral-pink flooring and wallpaper add a splash of colour to an otherwise all-green interior; tables with slender steel legs and contrasting marble tops sprout from the floor like blossoming tulips; the bar is bedecked in petal-patterned tile. The atmospheric effect is that of walking into a lush greenhouse. Above all this foliage, custom-designed mirrored mobiles reflect and refract the bar’s signature leafy brightness, creating a layering of perspectives and a sense of dizzying depth in which patrons may find their niches, ordering appropriately tropical frozen strawberry margaritas or any of Bar Botanique’s eight signature gin and tonics.
In addition to supplying the venue’s striking design, Studio Modijefsky developed an eye-catching typography for custom menus and signage. Characters in the whimsical font wrap across the building’s glazed façade to spell out “Bar Botanique” in large capital letters. At night, the letter “I” doubles as a slender neon sign, welcoming passersby to the jungle.
Photo by Maarten Willemstein
Transforming New Zealander Nigel Stanford’s track from the album Solar Echoes into a visual experience, Shahir Daud’s mesmerizing video for ‘Cymatics’ is not the only creative project in the collaboration centred on giving sound a visual form: the aptly titled single was itself inspired by the effects of sound frequencies moving through matter. Stanford based the musical notes for the track on patterns generated by instruments in the video and, in so doing, placed form before sound. Blending science with art, the project blurs the lines that separate space, music and matter to reveal that the most rudimentary of elements possesses a life and an aesthetic of its own.
Designed in 2016 for the Serpentine Galleries’ annual Serpentine Pavilion exhibition in London, the extremely photogenic “unzipped wall” pavilion by international architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group is on its way to Vancouver. Before arriving to its permanent new seaside home near Vancouver’s 2010 Olympic Cauldron in 2019, the unzipped pavilion—which was arguably one of the Serpentine’s most successful installations to date—will travel across North America (with stops projected for Toronto and New York).
Some background: each year, the Serpentine Galleries commission a temporary summer pavilion in Kensington Gardens, crafted by an international architect who has yet to build on British soil. Announced annually in February, the winning architect has a mere six months to fully finance and deliver their design in time for the annual June opening.
The inaugural 2000 Serpentine Pavilion was designed by the late Zaha Hadid as a favour to the Serpentine Galleries, which at the time, had only one location (the second Serpentine Sackler Gallery, also designed by Hadid, opened a few years later in 2013). The visionary Iraqi-British architect created an all-white marquee tent-inspired structure. Marked by a dramatic triangulated roof, folds in the pavilion’s angular architecture dipped down to the ground, organically dividing up the spaces inside.
Commissioned as a provisional space in which to hold the original Serpentine Galleries’s 30th anniversary festivities, the first Serpentine Pavilion was designed to stand for one day only. On the night of the event, however, the pavilion was deemed impressive enough to remain throughout the summer. And thus, somewhat by chance, a new design exhibition was born.
For the 2016 pavilion, Bjarke Ingels took the most basic architectural structure—the humble brick wall—and aesthetically “unzipped” it, turning it into a tent-like structure shaped almost fluidly, like a blob of whipped cream rendered in 8-bit animation. Compiled of a stack of fibreglass bricks, the 541-square-metre structure is a testament to the power of simplicity. Unfurling from the bottom up, the semitransparent wall pulls apart, creating an atmospheric passageway. Totaling 1,802 bricks in all, the pavilion’s modular structure was in fact designed by BIG to ultimately be sold and transported. Vancouver-based developer Westbank, a major sponsor of Ingels’s Serpentine Pavilion and BIG’s development partner for the upcoming Vancouver House residential tower, jumped on the opportunity. The BIG pavilion will be located at the foot of Westbank’s Shaw Tower headquarters in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour neighbourhood, where it will become another example of the corporation’s dedication to diversifying Vancouver’s contemporary architectural features.
This year, Berlin-based Diébédo Francis Kéré of Burkina Faso will take the stage in London with a contemplative, tree-like pavilion design. Whether or not it will stack up to BIG’s unzipped pavilion, time can only tell.
Frame's glass cube pavilion by i29 reflects wall and floor trends
Together with Frame, i29 breaks the mould with its experiential IMM LivingInteriors pavilion. The installation plays with concepts of immateriality and illusion, while showcasing the latest from leading manufacturers of flooring and wallcoverings.
Confusion flips flooring on its head. Together with Amsterdam-based architects i29, styling company Kamer 465’s whimsical installation features Zurich-based Studio Hannes Wettstein’s Formpark for Bauwek Parkett. Illustrating the trend ‘Anything, Anywhere’, the Formpark system features easy installation and countless customizable patterns. Two formats, both 260 mm wide yet varying in length, connect to form more than 26 compositions. Roused by the subtle play of texture and light, configurations can be mixed and matched to suit any space or style. Inside i29’s glazed interior, a herringbone pattern transforms the system’s seemingly simple components into a compelling landscape. Above, foliage curiously suspended from the ceiling drips with Sikkens K5.61.45, a leafy tint of AkzoNobel’s acrylic paint. The woody fragrance of @aroma’s Message Aroma heightens the space’s overall allure.
Hi-Macs and TheSize’s Neolith step into the limelight with Luminous, Kamer 465’s vision for the brands’ innovative product lines. Inspired by a starry night sky, the installation features Neolith’s Basalt Black from the Fusion range and Hi-Macs’ speckled Black Sand from the Classic collection. Inside i29’s delicate glass cube, a juxtaposition of darkness and light sets the scene for the ‘Smart Materials’ trend. Developed using Neolith’s Full Body pigmentation process, the colour of each Fusion slab runs through the material, making the line exceptionally resilient to scratches and daily wear-and-tear. Suitable for both commercial and residential applications, Hi-Macs has got interiors covered. Emerging from the shadows, an assortment of objects by Dutch designers – Diederik Schneemann’s 3D Printing vs Copyright chair and Dirk van der Kooij’s Chubby chair, Flow dining chair and Changing vase – glow under a colourful light installation envisioned by visual artist Heleen Blanken.
Florim’s Casa Dolce Casa and Casalis join forces in Hiding, an installation realized by i29 and Kamer 465. Casalis’s textured Cello, an acoustic 3D fabric from the Architextiles series, meets Casa Dolce Casa’s sleek nature-inspired porcelain Stones & More range. Modelling the ‘Smart Materials’ trend, the collections marry technology with aesthetics. Available in nine hues, Stones & More uses the latest in digital printing to imitate the look and feel of natural stone. The brainchild of Aleksandra Gaca, Casalis’s woven Architextiles subtly absorbs sound with effortless style. Glimpses of iconic pieces including Menu’s Afteroom chair, Vitra’s Panton chair and House Bird – provided by Smow – as well as &Tradition’s In Between chair and Palette table slip in and out of view between fluttering state-of-the-art fabrics by Swiss textile manufacturer Jakob Schlaepfer and international textile producers Creation Baumann.
A lively landscape of 15 x 15-cm wall tiles from Mosa’s vibrant Colors series adorn Kamer 465’s surreal Perspective installation to underline the trend ‘Anything, Anywhere’. With a collection of 50 contrasting hues on offer, Mosa’s modular ceramic range encourages creative freedom through the exploration of colour. A made-to-order option lets users customize each tile for the perfect tint. Projected in partnership with i29, Kamer 465’s dreamy display showcases a curious constellation of iconic furnishings from brands including Linteloo’s Mark and Tulipani chairs, Spectrum’s Steltman chair, Vitra’s Standard chair and Occasional table – provided by Smow – and Menu’s WM string lounge and FUWL cage table.
Inside i29’s glass compound, Kamer 465 exhibits Ege’s Fields of Flow carpet collection in Lost, an ethereal installation that pays tribute to the timeless yet forever refreshing ‘Inspired by Nature’ trend. Featuring the line’s Watercolour Grey, a mirrored partition reflects and multiplies the moss-like surface into infinity, expanding the viewer’s horizons. Influenced by Asian culture and Feng Shui tradition, patterns mimicking bamboo, clouds and the lotus flower echo the natural world. An intricate web of yarn composed by visual artist and interior architect Robbert de Goede adds an additional layer of perspective.
Sushi, sake, and sci-fi.
Cherry blossoms are famously ephemeral, but Montrealers can enjoy them year-round at Le Blossom, a stylish new sushi and sakébar in the Village neighbourhood. Designed by local firm Atelier Mainor, Le Blossom boasts an unusual and trendy atmosphere that feels like an upscale cocktail lounge, space capsule, and garden hybrid.
Guillaume Ménard, Atelier Mainor’s principal designer, anchors the dining room around an impressive European beech wood central bar, which occupies most of the 1,500-square-foot space and seats 32 of the venue’s 50 possible patrons. The bar forms a giant zigzag that stretches across the dining area, creating, explains Ménard, unique vistas for everyone to enjoy as they dine. “Even though the space is small, it might take a few visits before you feel like you really get to know it,” he says. The combination of mirrors and glossy porcelain and steel finishes add to a sense of variety and depth.
While the bar is certainly an impressive feature, the real centerpiece at Le Blossom is the custom-made cherry tree that jets out from the restaurant’s smaller secondary bar, wowing visitors as they walk through the door. Designed by Ménard but fabricated in China by a company that specializes in faux foliage, the tree flaunts a voluptuous crown of candy-pink silk petals. “It took a lot of work to get right, but the end result is just perfect,” says Ménard.
Inspiration for Le Blossom’s slick interiors came from an unlikely source: 1980s sci-fi thrillers. An aficionado of film, the 35-year-old designer confesses that he often turns to cinema, in this case Blade Runner designer Syd Mead, for aesthetic and conceptual clues. “What I love about design in film, especially in sci-fi film, is that it’s so free… set designers can really play and run with their imaginations,” he explains. Futuristic elements are subtly woven into every inch of Le Blossom’s design, from the sleek aluminum blinds that clad the windows, to the flying saucer-shaped pendant lights that hang from the ceiling. One can see the influence of the sci-fi master’s past, and how retro conceptions of futuristic design manifest in the restaurant’s decor. “It’s subtle,” Ménard says, “but there’s definitely some Syd Mead there.”
Winter just got a little warmer in downtown Montreal. With the arrival of Kamehameha Snack Bar on Rue Sainte-Catherine in the city’s Village district, locals can now enjoy a taste of summer all year round.
Designed by local outfit Atelier Mainor, the modern snack bar, which opened its doors in June, has become an instant hit, attracting Montrealers and international travellers alike with its sunny interiors and delicious Hawaiian cuisine—a rarity throughout the country. Named after Hawaii’s first king, the island-inspired restaurant’s laid-back atmosphere evokes that of a 1970s tropical resort.
“From a conceptual standpoint, I tried to imagine how the restaurant would look if it were in, say, Hawaii or Japan. I wanted something that would look tropical…” says the studio’s principal designer and founder Guillaume Ménard. Keen to avoid stale, tiki clichés, Ménard looked to iconic American film director Wes Anderson for inspiration. “I’m really drawn to his work, his use of colour and patterns. He really knows how to create a mood,” says Ménard. “I want to create an experience, I want people to feel something when they walk into a room. In the case of Kamehameha, they needed to be mind-blown not just by food, but also by the experience of being in the space.”
Though unquestionably kitsch, Kamehameha’s retro-chic interior is not cheesy. Instead, Ménard artfully balances nostalgia with novelty, making the old feel fun, cool, and contemporary. Measuring 1,000 square feet with seating for 25, the interior is set against a monochromatic palette of peachy pinks. Vintage rattan furniture, revamped with a new coat of pink paint and upholstery, offers patrons a cozy place to perch, while custom-made art deco–inspired brass lighting give the bistro a modernist edge. Two bars made entirely of solid rose marble supply additional seating options and an extra boost of colour, while foliage fills every corner, adding to the restaurant’s tropical vivacity.
And then, there is the menu. Choose from a selection of healthy poke bowls and açai and fruit smoothies, or homemade Japanese soft ice cream—it’s made in-house daily, and served in fish-shaped waffles, a classic and very photogenic Japanese snack. Presented on traditional sometsuke porcelain ware, poke bowls emerge from the kitchen like miniature works of art, while rows of Spam musubi, a Hawaiian snack consisting of a block of rice topped with seasoned, grilled Spam and wrapped in nori, appear elegantly displayed on silver platters. Order in or take it to-go—though, with interiors like these, you should probably sit and stay a while.
Designed by Cino Zucchi, Pedrali’s new automated warehouse marries nature with the machine.
Italian furniture brand Pedrali has opened the doors to a revamped automated warehouse and production facility in Mornico al Serio, a commune of Bergamo, Italy. The facility, which spans across an area of 7,000 sq. meters and houses over 16,500 pallets of high-end contract products stacked along a 29-meter high storage infrastructure, was designed by Milanese architect and academic, Cino Zucchi.
Dubbed Fili d’Erba – which in English translates to ‘blades of grass’ – the exterior façade of the new facility features striking aluminium profiles painted in varying shades of green. Extruding from the building’s smooth oyster grey skin, the ‘blades’ cast graphic shadows along the structure’s otherwise harmonious surface.
Depending on the angle, the extrusions appear either to blend in with the achromatic cladding or jut out in a burst of vivid colour. In the words of the architect: ‘The dull and uniform volume of the new warehouse is thus transformed into a visual phenomenon rich in variations, a kind of natural "amplifier" of the time of the day and the seasons. In certain moments it dissolves into the misty sky, reflecting its grey-blue tones, and in others it becomes imbued with the bright green of the agricultural fields in spring.’
Mirroring the aesthetics of the neighbouring agriculture, the design has received favourable recognition from Mornico al Serio’s Commissione per la Qualità Urbana (Committee for Urban Quality) for its modern interpretation of the surrounding landscape. Despite its pastoral references, Fili d’Erba does not disguise itself in nature or shy away from its industrial vocation. Rather than trying to conceal the machine, Zucchi exposes it, giving it an architectural identity that at once contrasts and compliments its rural context.
The building’s smart looks are equalled by a state-of-the-art interior architecture – the ‘brains’ of the operation, as it were. A dramatic lime green staircase and walkway leads visitors to the core of the facility, offering a birds-eye view of the mechanisms involved, which include a ‘skytrain’ and eight self-steering shuttles that run day in and day out at maximum speeds of 18 km/hour, transporting volumes of up to 2,000 kg to and from production and packaging departments.
‘With this important investment we gain more space for stock products and also achieve a higher efficiency in the manufacturing times of job orders’, explains Pedrali CEO Giuseppe Pedrali. ‘The new warehouse will furthermore open up new spaces within the production site where we are going to install new machines and consequently create new jobs’, he adds. The facility, which was officially inaugurated on the 22nd of September, is the first phase of the company’s plans for a future-proof design and manufacturing operation, one that proudly remains 100% ‘Made in Italy’.
Photos courtesy of Pedrali