Category: Reviews/Reports

In the Atelier Brancusi

In Brancusi’s studio

Reviews/Reports 17.11.12

A sharp, low building at the north end of the Place Georges Pompidou is home to a reverently preserved example of an intriguing type of interior. The building in question was designed by Renzo Piano to house the unique atelier of  Modernist sculptor Constantin Brancusi.

In the words of the Pompidou’s free leaflet, Piano’s reconstuction ‘is not intended to be an ethnological recreation of the layout of the place down to the smallest detail, but to communicate the unity that Brancusi created between his sculptures inside that studio space.’

In the Atelier Brancusi

Apparently Brancusi had amassed a significant number of works within his studio towards the latter end of his career. In that singular space he had them arranged in ‘mobile groups’ – groups of objects in such perfect spatial arrangement that the groups became, to his mind, works in their own right.  He even refused to sell works toward the end of his life, that he might not disrupt the delicate equilibrium which he had created; when works were sold, they were replaced with plaster versions, keeping the spatial balance intact.

In the Atelier Brancusi

In the Atelier Brancusi

As a designer and maker myself, I can relate to the desire to understand a thing which one has made in a spatial context. The desire to put it in a space with other objects, and feel how it pushes and pulls on them.  Indeed, the dust covered groups of objects on our coffee table attest to the difficulty of moving on from a particularly good arrangement of things.

One of the objects on our coffee table at present is a bowl designed by Max Lamb, a contemporary designer who has more than a passing similarity with Brancusi in his approach to forming material. Lamb’s approach to working up forms often seems to involve an engagement in dialogue with material, a give and take in which the material’s response to the sculptor’s strokes is central to the form a piece takes. In the words of the leaflet again, Brancusi ‘considered the material to have a life of its own, a uniqueness that he had to seek out and understand in order to achieve unity with the form, believing that the sculpture was already contained within the material chosen and his task was to reveal it.’

In the Atelier Brancusi

Back in Brancusi’s Atelier, it is difficult not to buy in to his assertion that there is a right way to arrange these objects. There is an exquisite sense within the space that things are as they should be. Despite the absolute stasis of the works, hermetically sealed within Piano’s glass walled studio rooms, there is an exquisite sense of tension and slackness, between the objects, the groups, and the space between them. This is a feeling that was missing when, in June this year, Elizabeth and I saw his Bird in Space on its own at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. The Atelier Brancusi is beauty in arrangement, and a powerful argument for an understanding of space that goes far beyond the functional.

In the Atelier Brancusi

In the Atelier Brancusi

Studio Sudi Installation

Designersblock 15

Reviews/Reports 23.09.12

Studio Sudi Installation

Studio Sudi Installation

Studio Sudi Installation

Studio Sudi Installation

Coir & reclaimed timber hexagonal flooring tiles

Coir fibre and reclaimed timber floor tiles

Fauzy Prasetya Terracotta Ceramics

Fauzy Prasetya Ceramics

Esther Khang Tiles

Esther Khang

Mai Hirooka Ceramics

Mai Hirooka

Tortie Hoare boiled leather & wood desk

Tortie Hoare

Yi Ying Lin Stalactites

Kingston Graduate Yi Ying Lin

Bodging Milano 2 Installation

Bodging Milano 2

Koji Katsuragi greenwood chair

Koji Katsuragi

Cups at Saint Sulpice Ceramics Fair

Coffee & Ceramics

Reviews/Reports 05.08.12

A little bit of serendipitous wandering in Paris last month found me visiting the church of St. Sulpice on the same day as a ceramic fair had overtaken the adjoining square.  An overwhelming amount of  work from potters all over France was on show, and at the centre of the show, to my delight, was an ingenious impromptu cafe.  The premise of this construction was that each potter had contributed a number of vessels, sufficient in size to hold coffee or tea, which the passer-by (me) could choose  to drink their drink from. I duly obliged, ordering a coffee and selecting a small white slip-cast cup. Here lay the ingeniousness of the cafe. The inevitable consequence of drinking from this unique cup, was that I formed a sort of bond with it, and, upon finishing my coffee, I had to buy it from the potter who had made it, and take it with me.

Ceramic Fair Cafe at Saint Sulpice

Cups at Saint Sulpice Ceramics Fair

Cups at Saint Sulpice Ceramics Fair

My cup at Saint Sulpice Ceramics Fair

The Ceramiste who made my little cup is Aline Lafollie, who makes beautiful, minimal work out of her studio in Arras.

Her website:

Creative Multiversities

Reviews/Reports 03.08.12

Neri Oxman Object Detail

Currently on show at the Pompidou Center, Paris, is a remarkable exhibition curated by Valérie Guillaume intriguingly titled Creative Multiversities.  The exhibition catalogue unpacks the Multiversity part of the title as a portmanteau word, formed from the prefix ‘multi’ and the noun ‘diversity’, which ‘expresses the notion of creative universes that are both multiple and in transformation’.
So far, so murky, one might say, but as it happens this is a suitably complex label for a show which features designers, architects and researchers whose practice finds them reaching into the primordial soup of emerging technology and drawing out creative possibilities with unimaginably expansive potential.

Neri Oxman Mythical Beast Object

One of the key pieces in the show is a suite of objects created by a team from MIT, lead by Neri Oxman and Craig Carter. Their objects have been defined in three-dimensions using generative software, and are inspired by Jorge Luis Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings.

Neri Oxman Mythical Beast Object

They incorporate the prospective purpose of being prototypes for protective garments or accessories. This potential purpose though, in the context of the show, is entirely secondary to the manner in which they are developed and made. The objects are realised using multi-material 3d printing technology developed byObjet, allowing the specification of different material properties within different areas of a solid object.

u-Cube by EZCT Architecture

Another intriguing concept, by innovative architecture practice EZCT Architecture & Design Research, is based on the development of a system of polystyrene cubes with CNC cut voids which can be filled with fibre reinforced concrete to create architectural structures.

Francois Brument Laser Sintered Bowls

François Brument’s project for the show uses laser sintering technology to investigate the way in which recycling polyamide powder affects the form of objects.  His series of vases are made using polyamide powders recycled up to 6 times in the creation of organically inspired bowl shapes.

Andre Kudless_Matsys Chrysalis III

Creative Multiversities offers a fascinating glimpse into the not-too-distant future of making. The processing capabilities of computers are now being harnessed to realise the visualisation and modelling of objects with levels of complexity previously found only in the natural world. In conjunction with rapid prototyping technologies such as multi-material 3D printing and laser sintering, forms are being realised which a few short years ago were only imaginable.  Not only this, but the future of how objects and buildings are developed and defined is changing rapidly, to the point where buildings are now being largely defined using algorithms drawn from the natural world, rather than conventional dimensional parameters.

Modelling and manufacturing technologies are developing at an exponential rate and it is near-impossible to predict what the complexion of the manufacturing industry will be in a very few years time.  If this show is to be taken as evidence, though, it seems more and more likely that the industry is on the cusp of a paradigmatic change.

3rd May 2012 – 6th August 2012

Centre Pompidou
Place Georges Pompidou
75004 Paris

Review written for Maynard Design Consultancy under the title ‘The Future of Making’.

British Design

Reviews/Reports 27.05.12

1951 Festival of Britain Poster

As news breaks that the UK economy is now officially back in recession, and London continues to build towards the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee, the V&A’s new exhibition, ‘British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age’ seems all the more timely. The exhibition takes as its start the 1948 ‘Austerity Games’, an Olympics held in London under the shadow of the post-WWII reconstruction, closely followed by the 1951 Festival of Britain, and the 1953 Coronation. Indeed, designs from great events staged under difficult economic circumstances bookend the exhibition. An equally strong thread, though, is the ongoing tension between a relentless drive towards modernity, and a deeply embedded desire to celebrate British traditions.

The Font at Coventry Cathedral
The Font at Coventry Cathedral, Backed by a window by John Piper, a model of which features in the V&A Exhibition.

Channelling this drive towards modernity, embodying the reconstruction architect par excellence, and consequently featuring heavily in the first sections of the show, is Sir Basil Spence. Spence’s masterwork, which propelled him to international prominence, was his new design for the destroyed Coventry Cathedral, and the V&A show includes some beautiful pieces of work from the project, including several maquettes and drawings for stained glass, furniture, tapestries and objects. These serve, beautifully, to illustrate Spence’s success in assembling an incredible orchestra of contemporary artists, designers and craftspeople to fulfill his vision for a cathedral which would stand, beside a ruin symbolising the sacrifice, as a twin symbol of the resurrection.

Preliminary sketch of the Sea & Ships Pavilion, 1949
Preliminary Sketches for the Sea and Ships Pavilion, Sir Basil Spence, 1949.

Another featured project which benefited from Spence’s oversight was the 1951 Festival of Britain. A surviving scale model of his Sea and Ships Pavilion illustrates further his use of contemporary art and design in harmony with architecture to fully realise rich and multi-layered projects.

Trimphone, Martyn Rowlands, 1965 (one of which occupies pride of place in the Maynard studio).

While the explosion of modernity during the reconstruction provides an inspiring beginning to the show, it doesn’t drop off from there. The narrative winds through the decades, brilliantly illustrating the life and times of Britons through fashion, furniture, architecture, jewellery, products & media. On exiting the show I felt that I had not only been afforded a close-up view of an incredible amount of design eye-candy, but had also been given a greater understanding of the connecting tissue between the discrete styles under which design is so often categorised.

British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age
31 March – 12 August 2012
Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington


Review written for Maynard Design Consultancy under the title ‘British Design at the V&A’ in April 2012.


Reviews/Reports 10.05.10

Chuffed to be participating in this show, curated by Matt Blomeley for Objectspace.

From the press release:

“Quotidian (def: everyday, commonplace) invites 11 New Zealand designers to talk about examples of everyday design, uncovering how design ideas are recycled, leveraged, refined and can in turn inspire new design. Using the exhibition as a forum for designers to think globally while advancing local design discourse, each participant will showcase an everyday design object alongside an object of their own design and write about their understandings – and discoveries – brought about through considering the vices and virtues of “everyday” objects.”