alessi announces the recognition of four key projects designed by as many prominent figures of the international design scene in the 2021 good design® awards: with twergi by ettore sottsass, 100% make-up proust by alessandro mendini, plissé by michele de lucchi and sweetheart by jim hannon-tan
above> designed by michele de lucchiplissé collection features an electric kettle, a blender, a hand blender, a toaster, and a citrus juicer. the refined design of these small kitchen appliances perfectly embodies the alessi essence of objects conveying art and poetry, functionality paired to sophisticated aesthetical research that heightens them to domestic sculptures. echoing the fifties and sixties fashion, plissé collection covers with pleats and folds domestic objects, transforming them into contemporary objects to exhibit in all kitchen environments as modern sculptures.
above> designed by jim hannon-tansweetheart is a nutcracker inspired by the tale of the australian crocodile carrying the same name. at nearly 6 meters in length, sweetheart had a curious penchant for attacking outboard motor propellers. in 1979 he accidentally drowned by getting tangled in a net; his stuffed remains are preserved in a museum. inspired by a late-victorian model, this nutcracker is a tribute to australian wildlife. made of cast aluminum, it is a resistant and practical object to use, suitable for opening all types of dried fruit.
above> part of the alessi 100 values collection too, 100% make-up proust designed by alessandro mendini celebrates art as a crucial component in making design, and as an intrinsic and signifying value of alessi products. an extraordinary object originally crafted in two pieces for a show in bonn in 2000 whose title was “italy-germany 4:3. fifty years of italian and german design”, now re-edited in a numbered edition of 999 pieces. the vase ideally joins the collection coordinated by alessandro mendini in 1992, titled “100% make up”, which saw 100 authors, hailing from diverse creative fields, imagine a personal decoration for the same vase designed by the designer himself. this charming object provides a new interpretation of a pattern dear to mendini, born during a trip to france in the places where the writer marcel proust lived.
above> created in 1989 with the hope of revitalizing the ancient tradition of wood turning, at the beginning of 2021 the collection twergi by ettore sottsass has been relaunched with a new color palette as part of the 100 values collection that celebrates alessi anniversary. the collection includes jars, a corkscrew, a table centerpiece and salt, pepper, and spice grinders. these are must-have objects interpreted by sottsass with his distinctive signature juxtaposition of colorful overlapping shapes, typical of his poetic vision. all the pieces are made in italy with a semi-artisanal wood turning process in compliance with strict environmental, social, and economic standards.
now in its 71st edition, [ good design ] is one of the most prestigious and recognized design awards in the world, conferred annually by the chicago athenaeum museum of architecture and design in collaboration with the european center for architecture, art, design and urban studies and metropolitan arts press, ltd. founded in chicago in 1950 by architects eero saarinen, charles and ray eames and edgar kaufmann jr., the good design® prize is awarded evaluating over 900 design, graphics, and packaging projects from more than 48 countries, based on criteria such as innovation, sustainability, creativity, branding, shape, functionality, materials used, usefulness and aesthetics.
for those who’s only option in a lockdown world is to close their eyes and find that happy place london design firm child studio and sustainable british skincare brand plenaire have created a lockdown project alternative: a virtual world imaginary hideaway casa plenaire.
meaning ‘in the open air’, plenaire puts an emphasis on emotional wellbeing and self-care. ‘casa plenaire is designed to evoke the memories of a perfect holiday’ – commented che huang and alexy kos, the founders of child studio. “we were interested to explore how architects and designers can collaborate with like-minded brands beyond the limits of the physical world. casa plenaire is an attempt to present our shared inspiration, values, and vision.”
the design brief — using 3D rendering software, the collage-like environment balances a sense of realism and playful illusion. the undulating architecture flows freely from indoor to outdoor, taking cues from the archetypal villas of balearic islands and santorini houses, as well as the experimental modernist architecture of eero saarinen. sculptural interiors follow the daily rituals of a ‘plenaire girl’, within the subtly defined zones of the lounge, terrace, bedroom and the sculptural circular pool.
the house is furnished with iconic mid-century pieces by pierre paulin, eero aarnio, and greta von nessen, complemented with a quirky mix of nostalgic memorabilia, such as pottery, exotic seashells, books, and flowers. the meditative atmosphere is reflected in the muted sandy palette, set against the dazzling blue sky.
studio child and plenaire were working on the brand’s forthcoming london showroom interiors before everything went into lockdown. as the real world began to shutdown they conceived a fanciful world which would be shared on instagram. brilliant and appreciative of a virtual recess.
this post was originally written on 10 november 2009 / we’ve updated the photo gallery
today, except for a few projects like the moribund twa terminal at jfk, eero saarinen is better known for his furniture than his buildings.
his “womb” chairs and pedestal tables (designed, he said, to “clear up the slum of legs” in the american home) are still big sellers for knoll. but does anyone remember that he designed the beautifully soaring dulles airport? or cbs’s “black rock” headquarters? saarinen might find it oddly familiar that his chairs have eclipsed his architectural achievements: early in his career, he’d struggled against the long shadow cast by his father, eliel, the revered finnish architect who’d founded their bloomfield hills firm, just outside detroit.
two years before eliel’s death in 1950, eero had rushed to pop a champagne cork and toast his papa after a telegram arrived congratulating saarinen on his winning design for a memorial to commemorate the louisiana purchase in st. louis. but the cable was a mistake: eero had submitted his own idea—he was the winner, not his father.
his scheme for the epic steel arch in st. louis was a prelude to his future designs for corporate offices, embassies, and airports, veering away from his father’s sensibility and embodying instead the triumphal spirit and swaggering power of postwar america. saarinen gets his due in a fascinating exhibit at the museum of the city of new york, “eero saarinen: shaping the future,” that explores his impact on the 1950s and ’60s. what you don’t expect is to discover the impact of a woman whom saarinen himself has come to overshadow, though she was a cultural force in her own right. the woman was his wife.
aline louchheim, an art critic for the new york times, understood how eero had wrestled with his father’s ghost. she arrived in michigan on a wintry day in 1953 to write a story on saarinen the son. after two days of interviews and a tour of the construction of his latest project—a massive and innovative 25-building complex for general motors—she declared in her article that the architect, then 42, had freed himself from his father to follow his own direction. his designs, she wrote, were giving imaginative form to contemporary industrial civilization and becoming “an expression of our way of life.”
but there was a secret behind those glowing words, one that, surprisingly, didn’t prevent her from writing them: aline and eero had had an instant attraction. she was an accomplished, socially connected, attractive blonde divorcée; after she’d flown back to new york, he wrote her polite letters, typed by his secretary—as well as handwritten love notes that his secretary surely never saw. the next year, after eero divorced his wife, the couple married, and she continued to promote his work to a wide circle of media friends. at one point, she even confessed in a letter to her mentor bernard berenson, the art connoisseur, “now i observe myself ardently promulgating the eero-myth.” not that she didn’t believe passionately in her husband’s talent—she did.
what’s surprising is that she didn’t sublimate her own ego or her work for her husband’s career. instead, she exemplified a select species of ambitious, intellectual american women who managed to thrive in the 1940s and ’50s, while most of their sex were carpooling the kids in the new postwar suburbs. aline not only continued to work as a journalist during her marriage to saarinen, she also won a guggenheim fellowship and published a book about art collectors, the proud possessors, that became a bestseller. after saarinen’s untimely death, she reinvented herself as a television news correspondent and became the first woman network bureau chief when nbc sent her to paris. if his optimistic designs for gm, ibm, and twa seemed rooted in the historical moment of eisenhower’s america, so, too, did her achievements. in the pre–betty friedan era, aline succeeded by using all the tools at her disposal—including her femininity and her mystique.
a new yorker born into an artistic family of ample means, aline took her first tour of european art and architecture at the age of 9. she graduated with honors from vassar, then quickly married and had two sons, but she also pursued graduate school. after a stint editing an art magazine, she was hired by the times. she was 38 when she interviewed saarinen. by then, she had cultivated a quality in herself she called “intelluptuous”—a combination of intelligence and voluptuousness that he clearly found irresistible. they married, she moved into his remodeled victorian farmhouse in bloomfield hills, and they had a baby named eames, for eero’s best friend, designer charles eames.
but domestic life didn’t curb the energetic aline from fulfilling her husband’s agenda, or her own. like a one-woman p.r. firm, she wrote eloquent letters and notes to writers and editors who were positioning saarinen at the forefront of contemporary culture throughout the ’50s—he was on a 1956 cover of time magazine. with her vivacious charm, she helped captivate the corporate chieftains, ambassadors, and university presidents who became saarinen’s clients, and traveled with him as far as australia (where he was the key jury member in selecting the design for the sydney opera house, which is very saarinen-esque, if you think about it). at home, aline hosted a parade of visitors—the eameses from california, alexander calder, buckminster fuller. when alone, the couple retired after dinner to a shared workroom, where she would critique his designs, while he pushed her to write, even making a chart to keep her on track with the manuscript for the proud possessors.
saarinen once told aline that she lived on “rabbit time” rather than the “elephant time” that architects lived on. but his life span, sadly, wasn’t elephantine: in 1961 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died a day after surgery. he was 51, an age when most architects are just reaching their prime. though she was shattered—and inundated by condolences from a who’s who of mourners—she turned quickly to burnishing his legacy. she helped consult on a half-hour cbs-tv special on saarinen, broadcast only two months after his death, and supplied material for a flood of articles and tributes. within a year, she’d produced the definitive book on his work. most important was her role in holding on to saarinen’s patrons.
most of the major buildings he designed were not finished at the time of his death, but she drew on her close relationships to reassure his clients that the other architects in his office could complete the work. “i think cbs would probably have dropped the ball and gone to another architect if aline hadn’t convinced bill paley and frank stanton [the company president] that we were ok,” recalls kevin roche, who worked with eero on design. “after all, we were completely unknown.” aline weighed in on the final selection of dark stone for cbs’s headquarters in new york and smoothed the firm’s way with najeeb halaby, head of the federal aviation agency, on the completion of dulles international airport. on the day of the dedication in 1962, she stood on the dais with halaby and president kennedy.
when the twa building—saarinen’s most romantic, exuberant design—opened the same year, the today show broadcast live from inside the terminal, with john chancellor and aline sitting side by side. she was beginning to become a familiar face; her easy eloquence made her a natural on the morning program. (her colleague barbara walters said of aline: “she was an intellectual without being pretentious.”)
later, president johnson, whom she counted as a friend, wanted to appoint her u.s. ambassador to finland. but she stayed in tv, at first covering art and culture, then reporting more broadly; she was at the tumultuous 1968 chicago democratic convention, in vietnam, and, ultimately, she headed the nbc bureau in paris. she was there only a year when she was diagnosed with cancer and died, in 1972, at 58. the fact that she’s little-known today is a shame. standing next to one of the giants of midcentury american culture, aline saarinen cast quite a shadow, too.
above> sculpture class in school of design / 610 fairbanks chicago / c 1940
serendipity: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for…
this article intends to provoke an ongoing conversation re chicago’s design history. let’s begin with a philosophy of “one must look back to move forward” and with elements necessary to this narrative — in chronological order… bauhaus movement, lászló moholy-nagy, new bauhaus in chicago, the chicago design archive, and chicago designer steve liska. an aside, this year, iit institute of design is celebrating the 80th anniversary of its founding as the new bauhaus.
[ bauhaus movement /// weimar/dessau germany ] the historical bauhaus is the most influential educational establishment in the fields of architecture, art and design. founded 1919 in weimar germany by architect walter gropius as a school that combined crafts and the fine arts, it was famous for an approach to design which it publicized and taught. the school closed in 1933 when the nazis came to power in germany.
the bauhaus can still be felt today, essentially characterizing the image of german design abroad. architects, designers and artists associated with the bauhaus include: alvar aalto, josef albers, herbert bayer, charles and ray eames, eileen gray, johannes itten, walter jacobsen, wassily kandinsky, paul klee, le corbusier, laszlo moholy-nagy, george nelson, isamu noguchi, eero saarinen, frank lloyd wright and mies van der rohe.
above> in 1907 belgian architect henry van de velde founded the school of arts and crafts in weimar germany / 1919 he invites walter gropius to move in who starts the state bauhaus
[ lászló moholy-nagy, a new bauhaus school /// chicago usa ] also known as moholy – a hungarian experimental artist, modernist, and former faculty at the parent bauhaus in dessau comes to chicago. in 1937, at the invitation of walter paepcke, the chairman of the container corporation of america, moholy-nagy, moved to chicago to become the director of the new bauhaus. the philosophy of the school was basically unchanged from that of the original.
unfortunately, the school lost its financial backing and it closed in 1938. paepcke continued his own support and in 1939, moholy-nagy opened the school of design. in 1944, the school became the institute of design. earlier in 1939, the institute of design became a part of illinois institute of technology and became the first institution in the united states to offer a phd in design.
below> moholy-nagy on the balcony of the prellerhaus in dessau / 1927 / courtesy of the metropolitan museum of art
[ the chicago design archive and chicago designer steve liska ] liska shares his thoughts with DesignApplause upon discovering his new office was once the home of moholy’s school…
[designapplause] for the past 30 years you have managed to create wonderful office spaces for yourself. your current space may be your best. how did you arrive at this location?
[steve liska] our lease was up, was grumbling about it to a client that just developed the 600 north fairbanks helmut jahn building. he said he had a tenant (the pritzker military library) moving out of his building and i should take a look. it was slightly scary.
[DA] what is your vision of your office spaces? what is your office supposed to do?
[SL] as brand designers- communication is critical. so have always appreciated an open, flexible, collaborative office. our office supports us and gives us a neutral environment to share ideas. and has good coffee.
[DA] what was involved / how did you arrive at the finished presentation of your space?
[SL] the building is almost 100 years old, very solid and concrete loft-like. my friends at gary lee partners helped us plan for all the previous tenant demo- we removed walls, office and lots of strange old equipment. then they helped configure the space, basically made it happen.
[DA] tell us about some back stories to this building.
[SL] it was built almost a 100 years ago as a bakery (the horn and hardart automat company). it has been a us post office, housed hugh hefner’s first playboy office, the chez paree nightclub in the 50s, home to joe sedelmaier, shel silverstein, dingbat’s disco (mr. t!) and of course the school of design. lots of history, stories and a few cool ghosts.
[DA] what did you know and what did you learn about moholy?
[SL] it took a while to learn about the school and moholy-nagy from our new landlord, but once we did- we were fanatics. he actually taught in what is now our space. we have a great old photo of a sculpture class in our office from the late 40s. i have always been a fan of everyone from the bauhaus, but the more i researched moholy-nagy – the more obsessed i became. such a renaissance man.
[DA] tell us about the facade presentation.
[SL] many years ago the building’s owners hired an artist to decorate the front of the building with a huge mural of moses. not sure why moses, but it was quirky and interesting. the building was undergoing surface repair- so moses was going to be painted over. we talked to our landlord about replacing it with something related to moholy-nagy and the school of design. we eventually found a little 2 1/4 inch square photo at moma that we thought was a good evolution from moses. our landlord agreed- they ended up hiring the same artist to paint the mural based on that photo. a year later- the traveling moholy-nagy show was announced.
the best part is watching all the tourists who take photos from across the street. they don’t exactly know what the mural is all about- and that is good.
[DA] is this your final location in a perfect world?
[SL] no that would be costa rica or paris. but for now- this is pretty good.
[DA] as long as we have you, what kind of things are you working on?
[SL] a lot of real estate work, some educational institution branding, and ongoing work for a lot of existing clients. (liska.com)
[DA] i’ve been to your offices many times and we have run into each other pitching work. i don’t recall you wearing anything but a white shirt and tie. and now that you’ve aged a bit you remind me of the design community in the late 60s early 70s. very serious looking. thoughts?
[SL] i’m glad you think i am serious looking. like most things in fashion- it comes back over and over again. i count on that. i do own 2 blue shirts. seriously.
[DA] want to say something we haven’t talked about?
[SL] no, done for now. have to go pick out tomorrow’s tie.
above> liska’s office on 610 north fairbanks today / a mural of moholy over the entrance
the chicago design archive (2002-present), is a permanent and exclusive online record of chicago-related experiential, graphic and product design. the mission statement is simple – to share the best of chicago design. originally hosting only graphic design, experiential and product design work is now being collected. the cda founding board recently added a graphic design advisory and a curatorial board. it goes without saying that this dedicated team feels the burden of preserving and growing the cda, afterall, it’s only chicago’s design heritage. we asked advisor, steve liska, if we could meet at his office. entering his office building we all notice the plaque below. we didn’t know…
The newly renovated Queens museum offers up the legacy of two worlds fairs, in 1939-40 and 1964-5, that placed design and designers central. In 1939 it was Norman Bel Geddes, Henry Dreyfuss, Raymond Loewy and others. In 1964 it was Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, and George Nelson. The Museums’ worlds fair collection is held in open storage—an excellent mode of display for design fans, best known to me through a Luce Foundation program that has set up open storage at the Met, the Smithsonian Art Museum and the Brooklyn Museum. [ nytimes 2001 archive ]
The [ Queens Museum ] has received many visitors this week, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the 1964 fair. Another legacy of the fair in the museum is the great Panorama of the City of New York: a huge scale model of the city, exact to every building. The museum has been renovated. In 1939, it served as the New York state pavilion. The work of the U.S. branch of Grimshaw, the new design adds a glass façade to the original Doric fluting unrolled to become ornamental. The architects have opened the building with glass and brought in the park beyond. The central space features an elaborate light reflector system.
Inside, the design includes small, thoughtful details. Tiny windows at child height offer secret views into the New York City Panorama. A play area with toys is set up by the stairs for harried parents dealing with multiple ages and multiple distractions of their children. The base of the stairs—a big of a structural show-off–echoes the base of the Unisphere, the giant globe theme structure of the fair, seen through glass wall.
entranceway to alessi store in miami design destrict | click > enlarge
Last Spring Alessi introduced ‘Metal Workshop Cranbrook for Alessi’ at ICFF 2012, and to also celebrate the of reopening of their remodeled Soho storefront. That same exhibit was moved to Alessi’s year-old Miami Design District store for Design Miami 2012. Tomorrow the design fair opens. We’re here to check out ‘Workshop’. Paolo Cravedi, Alessi’s Managing Director North America is there to greet us.
[ DesignApplause ] Paolo, please tell us about Metal Workshop. [ Paolo Cravedi ] Our collaboration with Cranbrook started back in 2009 when Alberto Alessi was invited to Cranbrook for a lecture. And of course you probably know that Cranbrook has an incredibly important modern American design history which gave us people like Charles Eames, Harry Bertoia and Florence Knoll.
Alberto was really fascinated by the beautiful campus which was designed by Eero Saarinen, and Saarinen directed the school for many years. It was magical and Alberto felt like Cranbrook was the last link to this chain of Arts & Crafts movement that’s been going on and on, for centuries really. These things really hit Alberto to the point where there was this spark between Cranbrook and him. Cranbrook was interested in collaborating with an Italian design factory and experimenting with Alessi. For Alberto the interest was working with an institution with a powerful design heritage like Cranbrook.
The workshop was quite open. The only condition that Alberto gave to Cranbrook was that the alumni and students selected had to be metal experts at the hands-on level. That’s one thing that’s very important, if there was one thing that was very visible during this vist to Cranbrook was the knowledge that Cranbrook indeed was hands-on. The school also has state-of-the-art equipment, 3D rendering.
The selected team worked in very different typologies. Some typologies are very familiar in the Alessi catalog and some were very new and experimental. All through the workshop the contact between Cranbrook and Alessi was kept using a blog. With the distance and time difference the blog proved to be an amazing long-distance collaboration tool. The students posted all of their ideas and sketches, and pictures of the prototypes and Alberto and his team would look at the presentations and they could then give direction to the students.
Off all the projects that were presented, four were produced in 2012. They are hitting the stores as we speak. One is called them is called ‘Trellis’ designed by Scott Klinker. It’s a basket in steel colored with white epoxy resin. Scott also was the director of this particular workshop. It’s a perforated sheet of metal then bent on the four corners. The inspiration for ‘Trellis’ came from elements found around the campus.
trellis | scott klinker | 2012
Another project is called the ‘V Tray’ by Adam Shirley. It comes in two versions: black metal and polished stainless steel. This is a concept born from the idea of what a folded piece of metal can do. He experimented with many shapes but liked the simple accordion fold. ‘V Tray’ can be used both for the desk or the kitchen.
v tray | adam shirley | 2012
Yet another project is call ‘Pinch’ also by Adam Shirley. His goal was to take a very raw steel industrial pipe and give it a very simple manipulation, in this case, a pinch at one end. This solution created a flower vase. There are some nice details in this shape like making it easier to display flowers.
pinch | adam shirley | 2012
The last of the four pieces that’s in production is from John Truex and he calls it ‘Dear Charlie’ which is a banana tree. In the words of the designer ‘this is just a tree waiting for its fruit’. The tree can also be used to hang jewelry, keys, and of course definitely perfect for grapes and bananas. The bottom of the base is rubber and the base is heavy. No wobble in ‘Dear Charlie’.
dear charlie | john truex | 2012
[DA] Paolo, what have we learned to date from this workshop? [PC] The workshop model is important to Alessi and offers many advantages. One is to experiment and try this and that and obviously also to be introduced to new talent. We have learned that the Cranbrook workshop was very fertile, it produced four very very nice products. And as of today, ‘Dear Charlie’ is one of our best sellers during this period. And Alessi has a new typology: the banana holder. Unbelievably successful.
[DA] A new product is like shooting an arrow in the air, you don’t know exactly where it’s going to land, meaning which ideas are grasped by the public. [PC] That’s exactly right. Although we believe everything we place into production has been carefully selected you don’t know really. Yet we have been pleasantly surprised by the success of many projects through the years. Like ‘Dear Charlie.’
[DA] Alessi opened this space a year ago at last year’s Design Miami. This building is filling up and I can’t help but notice your neighbors in this courtyard. I see Arclinia, Driade, Flos, Maxalto, Moroso, Zanotta… [CD] That’s right, we’ve been here one year. The retail consultant who leased space for our neighbors and us too likes to call this little Milan. There’s also a new and excellent Italian restaurant right over there, MC Kitchen.
[DA] What a wonderful story behind each of these new products. It should inspire the design students for sure. Grazie e ciao Paolo. [PC] Ciao Ron, and thank you for the visit.
Eero Saarinen, born in Finland, Eero Saarinen (1910 – 1961) is recognized today as one of America’s most influential architects of the 20th Century. The exhibition at A+D Architecture and Design Museum in Los Angeles will highlight his short but brilliant career bookended with two iconic buildings: the unbuilt Smithsonian Gallery of Art which was to be Washington, DC’s first museum of modern art and Dulles International Airport which was designed as the nation’s first jet airport. He built numerous corporate, educational, cultural, public and private buildings along with such recognizable icons as the St. Louis Gateway Arch and the TWA terminal at JFK.
[ Eero Saarinen: A Reputation for Innovation ] promotes the rediscovery of the man, his deep connections to Finland, his American idealism, his passion for design, and his still very valid principles which he promoted throughout his life and career. The exhibition will present his contribution to California Case Study houses and shed light on his influence on design in mid-Century America. Of interest was Eero Saarinen’s secret professional life during the WWII when he served in the OSS, the precursor of the CIA. His wartime experience influenced and helped Saarinen establish himself as one of the most creative designers with products that broke technological and aesthetic boundaries including the Tulip chair and the Womb chair, both still in production by Knoll.
dulles airport | photo: design research & balthazar
design research, smithsonian institution archives
photo: mina marefat | saarinen photo: yale university archives
[ about a+d museum ] The mission of A+D Museum is to celebrate and promote an awareness of progressive architecture and design in everyday life through exhibits, educational programs, and public outreach. Since 2001, A+D Architecture and Design Museum >Los Angeles is the only museum in Southern California focused exclusively on progressive architecture, design, and urbanism.