tokyo: voyages

© diesel japan + coarse

mark landwehr and sven waschk make up acclaimed los angeles-based artistic duo coarse. known for their unique style of sculpting wood, resin and vinyl, they've created a vast variety of striking fantasy figures and objects, all made with such precision that they look like they're chiseled from stone. the two germans currently have an exhibition at diesel art gallery in tokyo where they show off their particular craft. entitled voyages, coarse display their special presentation footage, in addition to their representative art pieces noop world and souls gone mad, and a related series of pictures. through handcrafted original figures and limited vinyl editions, coarse’s three-dimensional visual storytelling captures provocative moments in which friendships wither, innocence shatters and vengeance lurks in the corners. each series challenges viewers to connect the links between these moments, rendering coarse’s this exhibition an immersive experience. as with most shows at diesel art gallery, special merchandise will be made available, and in this case it's a special japanese version of the mascot owl from souls gone mad [on through feb 13]. location: cocoti building, 1-23-16-1bf shibuya [shibuya].

© diesel japan + coarse

amsterdam: frame store opening

© i29

the gradual increase of leisure time and disposable income has had a profound impact on the infrastructure of many cities. in some cases it has transformed entire neighbourhoods, adding to the overall appeal of a city. with so many destinations to choose from, a city's hospitality and retail scene can even become part of its unique selling points. amsterdam traditionally has had quite a few, from the infamously sleazy to the prestigiously cultural, there truly is something to be had for everyone. a greatly improved hospitality scene now offers more quality options than ever before, and when it comes to noteworthy retail, an unprecedented and continuous influx of luxury and premium brands now have a local outpost here. but when it comes to defining quality-driven retail concepts, the dutch capital hardly makes an impression. 

interior design magazine frame has kickstarted a gutsy mission to change that by simply setting up shop themselves. the cult publication initially tested the water by setting up the frame pop-up store earlier this year, and has now just revealed a bolder project with an extended longevity, frame store. located a few blocks away from its first venue in the canal district, the new premises are similarly imposing. the concept store occupies two floors of a spacious 17th-century canalside mansion, featuring an interior design by dutch architecture practice i29, and one which will be tweaked by various guest artist and designers in the remaining months ahead. the store design is simple and clever, and by banking on the elongated shape of both floors, the variously sized partitions create a highly graphic and playful spatial perspective. 

the unusual setting is matched with unusual offerings as frame store makes an effort to bring something new to the table. headed by robert thiemann, the magazine's editor-in-chief, and shop manager zoe bar-pereg, it'll feature a tightly edited collection of brands and goods that can't be found elsewhere in town, ranging from apparel and shoes, to bags, scented candles and ceramics. the current brand list includes a slew of appealing names, while new introductions are already planned. scheduled for early next year is the arrival of noir, a label by japanese designer and comme des garçons protégé kei ninomiya, while cédric charlier and costume national's diffusion line costumecostume will also be making their dutch retail debut. frame store is very much intended as a showcase of innovative creativity, and not just by way of its merchandise. 

as said, the store interior in one that intentionally evolves. this transition will not only be facilitated by artists who'll each but their stamp on the setting, but also by a roster of happening manufacturers and designers and their respective installations. a concise inaugural exhibition by designer niek pulles, entitled future tribe, presents a collection of masks based on the notion of an ethnic clan that has yet to be discovered. in addition to the retail space, frame store offers an ornately decorated period room within the canal house that's suitable for private presentations or events, while it also maintains a satellite shop across town, and one retail unit in the hague. location: herengracht 178 [centrum]. 

© i29

superchat jakarta: emmelyn gunawan

© escalier 

indonesia is a country on the move, and nowhere else has the frantic pace of progress and growth been so evident as in jakarta, its behemoth capital city. along with the steadily increasing wealth of a large part of its inhabitants, the city's retail infrastructure has gone leaps and bounds, as boldly manifested by dozens of glittering malls along congested six-lane highways that meander through an ever-expanding metropolitan jungle. but while the size of retail offerings in general - and foreign brands in particular - has dramatically expanded, a growing demographic of savvy jakartans has become saturated with the usual offerings they come across and are more and more looking for niche labels that cater to their discerning taste level. superfuture talks to emmelyn gunawan, the passionate co-owner of escalier, an innovative new player in jakarta's dynamic retail arena. a fashion graduate from melbourne's rmit, gunawan shares how she keeps all the balls in the air with a clear creative vision and little backing of the renowned potato head hospitality group.

escalier is closely connected to the potato head hospitality chain. could you elaborate on this link, and how did you personally get involved in retail? when my brother jason gunawan and his business partner ronald akili decided to open the potato head beach club on bali they had always envisioned having a retail space on the premises, so it all happened quite naturally. they knew i had a fashion design background and i proposed myself to be included in running the retail outlet with two other partners. i was very lucky that they trusted me from the beginning to manage it and to do anything i wanted with it. i’ve always dreamed to have my own store where i could spill my ideas and I could travel to source and buy. the whole idea of curation is always an exciting adventure for me. i’ve been very blessed!

what made you decide to set up shop in the senayan area? jakarta is a whole different ball game compared to bali. on bali we get thousands of international travelers walking in and out of the store each day. but jakarta is a fast-growing mecca for business, lifestyle products, as well as top hospitality establishments on a par with leading global cities. we feel that our portfolio could expand and we could establish escalier as a solid retail business. especially regarding potato head's expansion, we feel it's also time to our business a notch up. we chose the south side of jakarta, which is the central business district, because of potato head garage. this venue was already established there, and they got offered that space. consequently, we then got offered to provide the retail side of it. our space in jakarta is half of bali's, but we feel it's somehow better for us as it shows a more curated store.

who designed the store and what's the concept behind it? the design of the jakarta store is the result of a mix of ideas by all the founders. we were given a space that had been abandoned for over ten years. it was in such dire condition, but we knew it had a great potential. so, we kept the flooring, which was basically used to play badminton flooring, featuring an army green hue with red paint all over it. my business partner resida was really into the marble look so we wanted to juxtapose that extreme elegance with the roughness that comes from the floor and also a side panel in the entrance which we kept and to which we added a clear glass. it does have that cold icy setting when you walk around, but for us i think the aesthetic mattered more.

© escalier

what is the profile of the escalier customer in jakarta? a lot of the brands that we carry are very niche and particular, so i would say it would be quite a segmented group. definitely those who appreciate the history and story of the product or brand, more so than someone who shops for the sake of looking for a jacket or t-shirt. in an overall business point of view, this is probably the hardest market to cater as we find even as buyers you've got to be on top of things in terms of looking at new brands and what you think will be the next big talent. as for our customers, we find that some are in the fashion industry themselves, or most probably in the creative industry.

which brands does escalier stock and what made you decide to pick them? we carry a good number of edgy women's designers, such as jacquemus, être cécile and simone rocha. all of them, if you read about the profiles, have very eccentric backgrounds and often they have a fun way of ridiculing themselves in social media. we like that they don't take themselves too seriously and yet they're successful in their industry. simone rocha has won a few awards and jacquemus has been picked up by very good retailers. we're one of the few retailers in the region to carry them, so the challenge itself to bring them here and introducing them to our customers is what makes us tick.

it's often super challenging, but as potato head expands its offerings internationally, also and with their expansions in hospitality, we feel we as a retail component need to pick up our game too. at the moment we have a few good japanese brands like cav empt, human made and soon also undercover. not many indonesians know about these brands, but again their branding and aesthetics are so strong in japan. they're all well-respected brands, and we like to introduce products that are not yet carried in indonesia, or even in southeast asia. 

jakarta’s retail scene has seen an accelerated boom this past decade. what’s your take on the city’s diversity and size of offerings, also in comparison with the more traditional shopping destinations in the region such as singapore, bangkok and hong kong? there definitely has been a new insurgence of new promising talents in the last five years or so, and especially from young adults who spent many years studying abroad and then came back to their hometown in indonesia, or specifically jakarta, creating and producing amazing products. i think many of us who were educated abroad during the suharto era definitely took something positive back home with us and used that knowledge for a better purpose for our country.

as a retail store owner i am very supportive of young talents that cross our paths, finding the ones that infuse the heritage and finding ways to make it modern and fresh are always things that appeal to me. in comparison with the other cities in southeast asia, i do feel we here in jakarta are still lacking in terms of the variety of premium international brands. however, if you compare those three cities, only bangkok seems to have a strong community of local talent creating unique apparel or jewellery that show strong influences from local heritage. i find shopping in singapore and hong kong pretty stale, coming across just rows and rows of branded products.  

along with indonesia’s economic rise many local fashion brands have popped up producing well-made products that have started to gain attention abroad. as a retailer who predominantly stocks foreign brands, how do you view their creative output and growing fashion relevance? when we started, we promised that we would support our local talents. a lot of them are our friends in the industry and word spread quickly that we were opening a store, so many were carried at escalier. however, after a few seasons we find that many designers stopped or took extended breaks from their careers for personal or other reasons and so we were left with hardly any local brands. from then on we decided we need to look elsewhere and so we began distributing international brands from overseas. at the same time, we find that there is a demand for some of the international brands we carry so we continued. i feel longevity and originality are vital components when a designer decides to create a product or brand, what separates your product from the masses or other brands out there, and to keep at it until it succeeds no matter what.

© escalier

surprisingly, the indonesian hipster seems to exclusively reside in the capital jakarta. large cities such as surabaya, bandung and medan are lagging far behind, each boasting rather underwhelming retail scenes. what’s your view on this? jakarta is a like a melting pot of international people from all over the world, they come here to find work or invest in the economy. of course being the capital city where its finance sector is strongest compare to the smaller cities also helps because you get influenced by the sizeable expat community residing here and the many travelers. work relationships formed and from there you share ideas and become inspired. it seems like the jakartans are like sponges, we just absorb and are eager for new opportunities, and because of our strong financial back-up we seem to get things done faster which i guess creates bigger impact.

e-commerce seems to be something few stores in indonesia embrace. why is that? i believe it all boils down to how far do you want to take your business to. do you want it to succeed locally or do you want it to be globally successful too? many are quite content with how their businesses are going. after all, the economy is pretty stable and the middle class segment is supportive, plus many indonesians are still quite precarious to using the e-commerce systems. however, a considerable number of people are slowly but steadily embracing e-commerce locally and internationally, and it’s really up to the businesses to take the risk to invest in this. many local wesites like have really taken a huge risk doing e-commerce but they are growing into a huge mecca platform supporting local talents and educating Indonesians that e-commerce is pretty user-friendly.

what’s coming up for escalier in the near future, are their any plans you can reveal? we are going back to how we started again, looking for local talents who are passionate and creating beautiful products made in indonesia. retail is a very competitive world, we believe that going back to our core and how we started is very important to keep ourselves grounded and sane, so there will definitely be more unique offerings from indonesia. at the same time we are launching our online store by the end of the year. it’s about time we expand our customer demographics and present escalier globally. you can also find escalier’s line of basic tees in store which just launched this month. 

what’s fun in jakarta these days, where do you like to hang out? you can always find me either at potato head brasserie on a friday night with a couple of virgin mojitos or at the recently opened three buns over the weekends with my family and friends. there's nothing like a good burger to wrap up a hectic week!

© escalier

auckland: the shelter opening

© the shelter / photography: sam lee

a graduate from melbourne's rmit, designer vicki taylor has worked in new zealand's fashion industry for the past 20 years, and as such she can rightfully be called a veteran. after an initial five-year stint elsewhere, taylor established her own namesake womenswear label taylor with her husband, and quite successfully turned it into a household name in the country's forward fashion circles. but all the while she was designing, taylor was brooding on a plan to present her creative vision, and the myriad of things that take her fancy, in a concept store all her own. well, that dream has now materialized. situated in ponsonby, a leafy and happening downtown area of auckland, the doors of the shelter have swung open to an enthusiastic crowd of savvy shoppers.

the store is taylor's personal take on the great concept stores she regularly frequents overseas - yes, exactly...those! - and fittingly occupies a spacious hangar built in the 1960s. the lofty space features large windows that allow in floods of natural light, and although it has been redesigned, most of the original industrial elements have been retained and add up to a setting that can be best described as contemporary chic. walls and ceiling are dipped in white and are paired with the original concrete floor, cleaned up and showing off a beautiful patina of wear and tear. as said, the shelter is a concept store and as such it features different sections where to discover its varied range of tightly edited goods, presented on tables, displays and shelving, all made from a variety of sturdy materials to comply with the industrial theme of the space.

as it's also very much a space where to meet like-minded spirits, the shelter facilitates that prerequisite bonding aspect of modern shopping by having added a cozy indoor café and a secluded outdoor patio in the back. needless to say, the shelter is home to beautifully designed merchandise, ranging from fashion to homeware and other stylish products that collectively make up the modern lifestyle of many discerning shoppers. as for the brand list, it features plenty of coveted names, including fashion by barabara gongini and mm6, mobi shoes, scented candles by mad et len, and beautiful bicycles by tokyobike. location: 78 mackelvie street [ponsonby].

© the shelter / photography: sam lee

global: tommy hilfiger solar jacket

© tommy hilfiger

wearable tech is hot and happening, and tommy hilfiger jumps on the bandwagon with a distinct apparel item of its own that blends in the brand's classic style elements. created for both men and women, the solar jacket features an exclusive plaid design by british wool manufacturer abraham moon & sons. but the garment's main appeal, and an innovative one at that, are the detachable solar panels on the back. a carefully hidden wire connects these panels to a removable battery that's situated in the front pocket. a double usb port allows simultanous charging of two cell phones, tablets or e-readers. mind you, the battery can additionally be charged by way of a laptop or by simply connecting it to the grid. the solar jacket is a limited edition item and is available at select tommy hilfiger stores across the planet, but can also be purchased online.

© tommy hilfiger

bangkok: le cabinet de curiosités de thomas erber

© le cabinet de curiosités de thomas erber

high-end shopping in bangkok, usually a rather generic indulgence with luxury brands in plush retail settings, just took a quirky and adventurous turn. we're talking the arrival of le cabinet de curiosités de thomas erber, a tightly curated art and retail extravaganza which, after editions in parislondonberlin and new york, has reached one of asia's most prominent shopping destinations. held on the swanky premises of central embassy, the thai capital's new nucleus of all things luxe and happening. a collab between thomas erber, a well-connected lifestyle professional and founder of the event, and concept store siwilai, it's a unique showcase that tickles all senses with an equally unique range of offerings.

the presence of le cabinet de curiosités de thomas erber is marked by stunning wooden installation at the very heart of the shopping mall, soaring several floors upwards within an atrium space. this fifth edition once again brings together outstanding and often niche designers and brands, both from thailand and from abroad, and many have never been available here before. the event's offerings straddle a wide range of areas, and include fashion, design, jewellery, art and photography. and as with previous editions, the list of invitees reflects thomas erber's keen eye for what's hot and what's next.

this year's guests have gained recognition in discerning circles across the planet, and lists names such as visvim, patcharavipa, alexandre de betak, maison takuya and astier de villatte. and to keep things edgy, a number of happening artists from the realms of film and photography have been added to the unique lifestyle equation. but that's not all, folks. as said, le cabinet de curiosités de thomas erber is a multi-sensory affair, and there's also a special calendar of gigs by international deejays and artists, while star chefs are flown in to indulge shoppers at culinary events with exquisite concoctions [on through dec 21]. location: central embassy, 1031 thanon ploenchit [ploenchit].

© le cabinet de curiosités de thomas erber

superchat melbourne: clinton murray

© clinton murray architects

clinton murray is a self-effacing and highly talented australian architect. he is currently the design director of jacobs, a global engineering and architecture firm – but previously had a background in residential architecture through his own private practice (clinton murray architects). this year he chaired the australian institute of architects' sustainability awards, a position most apt when considering his early architectural work won a number of such awards and heavily featured the use of reclaimed timber. clinton’s private practice work of the late 1990s and early 00s is more pertinent to us today – but his work within jacobs and private work of late is stunning and worthy of further investigation to anyone with an inquisitive eye for design and an appreciation of good architecture. clinton grew up in ballarat; studied at deakin university in geelong and claims the first football game he ever saw was a life-changing event at age five – not the typical background of an erudite architect.

from the early 1990s to mid 00s clinton, as a sole practitioner, designed a series of residential buildings predominantly on the east coast of australia. the majority of his early works feature reclaimed timber used as structure and cladding. this embrace of recycled and reclaimed materials permeated his work well before green architecture came into vogue. clinton’s work, through intelligent design, choice of materials and a sensibility that the surrounding landscape informs, creates a dialogue between the built and natural environment that resonates in a powerful manner.

© shannon mcgrath - mulbring

more recently clinton has moved from the private sector to become the design director of s2f. this practice was subsequently taken over by sinclair knight merz, a large multi-national strategic consulting, engineering, project delivery and architecture firm. then last year skm was purchased by jacobs engineering, an international engineering, architecture and construction firm. with his move into the private sector, clinton’s focus has shifted to larger scale public buildings and community projects.

clinton’s work, both private and public, has been widely acclaimed, awarded and published. his merimbula house in 1997 won the raia nsw state and national architecture award and was one of the first of its kind – being built almost entirely from reclaimed timber. house for pam won the raia awards for single and multiple housing as well as the ecologically sustainable design award in 2001. below is a complete listing of his awards. 

// raia – wilkinson award, commendation - architecture award, gunyah beach house [2007]

// raia – wilkinson award, interior architecture award, gunyah beach house [2007]

// raia – wilkinson award, commendation - single & multiple housing, overcliffe [2002]

// raia – award for architecture - single & multiple housing, house for pam [2001]

// raia – award for architecture - ecologically sustainable design, house for pam [2001]

// raia – wilkinson award, merit, merimbula house [1997]

// raia – national, robin boyd residential buildings award, [commendation] merimbula house [1997]

his work has been featured in 'nextwave: emerging talents in australian architecture', 'eight great houses' and 'houses for the 21st century'. some other highlights of his portfolio include 'overcliffe' whose frame was built from the client’s demolished warehouse buildings in blackwattle, glebe. his own house 'house for pam' was built entirely from salvaged oregon from a warehouse built in sydney in the 1940s and 'bungan' which was clad in timber salvaged from a wool store in fremantle.

© clinton murray architects - port fairy

superfuture found some time to sit down and talk brass tacks.

tell us a bit about yourself? i grew up in ballarat [east]. i claim battler status with my kids because there was nothing fancy about my primary, secondary education. the only real highlight of my secondary education was ac/dc playing at the school hall one lunch time. my family were ‘traditional’ local builders. i grew up on building sites but was always more intrigued by design. i didn’t get the grades to get into melbourne university and i wasn’t interesting enough for rmit so i ended up at deakin university in a city that i didn’t [and still don’t] have a lot of affection for. however geelong does hold a special place in my ‘development’ because i saw my first game of serious footy there when i was five-years-old. it was 1969; i was transfixed and would never be the same again!

why the move from your own private firm, designing residential property, to a multi-national firm with a focus on much larger scale buildings? one gets to a point when you question how much longer you can stay focused on the minutiae of residential architecture. how many discussions about towel rail locations can you have? the great thing about residential architecture is that you do become so involved with people. and if you’re clever you choose good people to work with. i have enduring friendships with all of my clients bar one! i was approached and provoked to consider a world outside residential architecture and to work on public buildings. it also meant i could return to melbourne with my family. we have four boys and were very conscious about their social and education needs. living in a coastal town like merimbula is paradise for raising children but limiting for teenagers! also building a career in architecture from a small coastal outpost is limiting! in the twelve years i lived in merimbula i was only once approached by a ‘local’ to discuss a project.

what is it about these two very distinct forms of architecture that appeals to you? the simple difference is that public architecture impacts on the lives of many people. in that sense the stakes are much higher. dealing with the complexities and nuance of residential architecture is a solid apprenticeship for designing public buildings.

talk us through how your personal aesthetic and style has evolved over your career? and how you adapt a sensibility honed in residential and small scale building into larger projects? i like to tell the story that as a child all I had to play with was a box of lego with only 2 types of ‘brick’ and one window type. all i could build was variations of simple boxes with flat roofs. my kids (and others!) tell me my architecture has varied little since those days! i’m stuck with what is ‘easy on the eye’ and for me that isn’t a calamity of form, color and materials. i appreciate the sculptural quality of architecture in the hands of genius (le corbusier’s chapel at ronchamp) but the ‘johnny come lately’s’ should take a ‘long hard look at themselves’. (you can see i have an affinity with sports (afl!) commentary)

what // who have been the greatest influences on your work? if i can get a little esoteric, i think your eyes and observations greatly influence your work. as a kid i was struck by the way things were and liked to question things, most times internally. why did the window in our ‘sun room’ in ballarat not go all the way to the floor? why did my father cover a beautiful jarrah floor with ‘great barrier reef’ carpet’? i had a great mentor in an older, nicely unhinged brother. he taught me that there is beauty [design!] in all things. i’m indebted to him.

© shannon mcgrath - house for pam

what does sustainability in architecture mean to you? and how do you approach the concept? it’s uncomplicated. be thorough. be strong with your ideas. avoid fashion. avoid the arbitrary.

how does this approach differ from the smaller scale residential projects to the larger scale public buildings and community projects? the one minor complication is that with small scale projects you can be one on one with a client and it’s much easier to gain their trust. on large scale projects you may never even get to meet the client or the main decision makers. the ‘trust’ card is taken away from you and what you end up with can be the mother of all compromise.

i get the sense from speaking with you and looking at your work that sustainability is an important element within a design but it isn’t necessarily one that drives design or aesthetic, how accurate a description do you think that is? and what role do you think it should play in modern architecture? it goes back to what i was discussing earlier. strong ideas free of fashion should stand the test of time and not face being rebuilt in ten years. your eyes and ears tell you you’re living in a time when we all have to be really honest about the resources we’re using. we all share the responsibility of treating the earth preciously.

what do you think of “green washing” and the trend of sustainability that permeates throughout almost all of modern society? apart from the potential green roof, green wall cliché, i’m glad that there’s a natural push in society to think ‘green’.

© shannon mcgrath - the barn

it would appear many traits of the more modern approaches to sustainable architecture [recycled // reclaimed materials etc] were already manifesting themselves in your work in the 90s. what was driving your use of those materials? i fell in love with a stockpile of old timber [image attached] and never looked back. beams cut out of the gippsland bush with ‘broad axes’ in the 1940s. the guy we bought the timber from for our first house said, ‘they should be in a fucking museum’, and he was right. you have to consider that largely up until the early 1990s timber from demolished buildings/structures around australia was either burnt or taken to the local tip.

when designing private residencies – how important is a relationship with the people who will eventually occupy the house for you? does a thorough understanding of your client aid or inhibit the creation of an original and beautiful space? you have to be so careful in ‘selecting’ a client. i have some basic ‘checks’. the first conversations are crucial. your skill as a communicator should enable you to extract crucial information about a client without them even realising it! i always think it’s best to meet clients in their homes, where they’re most comfortable and most likely to give an honest account of themselves. i’ve had a lot of fun over the years politely declining a commission and then suggesting appropriately pretentious alternatives!

what sort of role do the stories behind the 'reclaimed' materials play in the construction of a house? and how do these affect the day to day living in such an environment? the character and quality of reclaimed timber is underpinned by the story. can you imagine in 1940 camping in the bush in gippsland and cutting, by hand with a broad axe, a 500 mm by 215 mm x 6 m piece of timber. think of the incredible physical effort required. think of the heat (or cold!). think of the flies and mosquitoes. think of the campfires. i see tough men with beards smoking pipes telling stories. what do you see?

do clients appreciate this historical context (of the materials) or are they more interested in aesthetic appearance and functionality? all clients love to be part of the new story of the timber. they’re the custodians. when ‘overcliffe’ was sold some years back it was a very emotional moment for the client and me.

© clinton murray architects - port fairy

what informs your design patterns more generally? your work exhibits a clear symphony and understanding of the space it occupies and the areas that surround it - how big a role does this [the surrounding natural environment] play in the design of a building? I’m very committed to designing spaces for people that will enrich their lives. sounds simple enough doesn’t it? but it horrifies me to see architects designing for themselves. they will compromise the experience of the user for the sake of the ‘look of the building from a certain angle’. the test for me in residential design is to see where architects ‘place’ the people who pay the bills. i would have thought these people are placed carefully!? the main bedroom; position of the bed, aspect to sunlight, treatment of views, are crucial. it’s unforgivable to compromise on these. often it’s just laziness on the part of the architect.

what is appealing about working with recycled and reclaimed materials? how do these materials inform the design of the house itself? given the materials have a ‘life of their own’, they can force you to compromise. for example it’s hard to find ‘big gear’ that’s longer than six metres. timber sections greater than 300 x 300 are rare. you obviously can’t pick and choose species and exact dimensions. re-machining is often required and can be problematic.

reflecting upon earlier work – how do you see your aesthetic developing? and where to from here? i’m not sure you can teach an old dog new tricks so you surround yourself with people who provoke and challenge you and ultimately make you look much better than you actually are!

what sort of affinity do you feel with australia? how does the mood of the country inform your designs? i feel very australian. i love this country. it has a certain smell! don’t tell anyone but i cried once at the anzac day game when john williamson sang ‘true blue’. how ‘ozzie’ is that!?

“house for pam”

© shannon mcgrath - house for pam

how does 'house for pam' fit within the context of your other work? designing your own home is a frightening experience. being frozen in a moment in time! also, like a lot of ‘blokes’ i’ve always been fairly happy just living simply with my family around me. i’ve never had a desire for the whole ‘architectural experience’. my wife pam had other ideas and questioned why ‘everyone else’ got to benefit from my architecture while we lived in an uninspiring rented house. ‘house for pam’ revealed itself after about 30 designs. it was all about living simply. our boys sharing one room. only one bathroom in the house. one main living area. a retreat (tower). simple kitchen. ironically i kind of forgot about the laundry. an oversight i’ve never lived down. while my other residential projects at this time were relatively simple in form, house for pam really became brutally simple. one horizontal timber box juxtaposed by a vertical timber box.

how influential has it been in your career development? ultimately i think it’s a good thing for an architect to have designed [and built] their own home. it’s a [tiny!] bit like my wife, a midwife who’s delivered four children of her own. it helps to practice what you preach!

where are the materials sourced from? all the cladding and internal lining/floors were 140 x 40 cm tongue and groove oregon salvaged from the ceiling of a tyre factory built in the 1940s. the oregon was ‘ship building’ quality. we handpicked the ‘tighter grain’ timber for external cladding.

© shannon mcgrath - house for pam

how // why did you choose those materials? the timber was just extraordinary. magnificent! but when the trucks arrived my father questioned why i needed so much firewood! we had to clean [delouse] and sand all the boards.

was the design itself informed by its materiality? or did the design inform the materiality? some of my critics say they love my house but it would be so much better in concrete! the design needed a ‘one material’ solution. i chose timber because i love the texture, the story, the smell, the touch of timber.

what was it like living in a house you have built yourself? i underestimated just how fantastic it is to live in such a ‘personal’ house. while it’s pleasantly surprising to experience things you’d planned actually working, the real joy comes from the unknowns. the home has its own spirit. we sold the house last year to people who love it and have treated it so kindly. they still call the home ‘house for pam’ and have been so generous in involving me in any changes they’ve made.

any final remarks? it was somewhat ironic that this house was awarded the 2001 nsw institute of architects ‘sustainable architecture award’. i never actively pursued a ‘sustainable design’. there were what i consider very basic, common sense’ elements to the design. the tower acts as a great viewing platform up and down the coast and as a cooling device. the openable windows were positioned to attract the prevalent cooling ‘north east’ breeze. the thick timber cladding and floor assist in insulating the building. we had underslab heating in the kitchen and that’s all. on really cold nights we would ‘plug in a heater’. but the house stayed very comfortable all year round.

‘house for pam’ had lots of fans and some detractors too. there was the occasional drive by ‘flattery’. a favourite was, ‘that’s the ugliest house i’ve ever seen’. i would only ever smile and pause for a moment to reflect how beautiful their own homes might be!

© shannon mcgrath - house for pam

amsterdam: keuze van kiki store opening

© kiki niesten / photography: gerrit-jan van rooij

you could say kiki niesten is a bit of a hoarder, albeit one with excellent taste. the maastricht-based retailer started carrying high-end women's collections by the likes of prada, marni and lanvin far ahead of the current conglomerate of luxury multibrand stores, and she's rightlfully considered a pioneer of a-grade fashion in the low countries. niesten's innate sense of style turned out to be an uncontrollable force, and so much so, that when commuting between europe's fashion capitals on buying trips, she'd often spend extra on striking pieces that wouldn't end up in her store, but in her personal fashion archive instead. needless to say, one can only imagine the splendour of an archive of 35 years. and now at a turning point of sorts in her career as undisputed tastemaker, niesten sets up shop in amsterdam's scenic canal district to sell off her archival pieces.

aptly named keuze van kiki - or kiki's choice in english - the new store occupies a sereen, gallery-like space with pristine whitewashed walls and timber flooring. it carries items that have been hand-picked by fashion designer and good friend alexander van slobbe, whose label orson + bodil can also be found in niesten's store in maastricht. interestingly, brand labels have been carefully concealed or removed from each garment, shoe or trophy bag, as to urge shoppers to focus on the quality and craftsmanship rather than being instantly smitten by a brand name. the store carries an abundance of pristine, one-off pieces from different eras and at reduced prices, and will remain open as long as stock lasts. bring your gold card or sugar daddy! location: herenstraat 32 [centrum].

© kiki niesten / photography: gerrit-jan van rooij

hong kong: pradasphere

© prada

after a hyped edition earlier this year at harrod's in london, prada has launched its immersive pradasphere showcase in another leading fashion and shopping mecca, hong kong. the milanese fashion house has opted to construct a special pavilion for this exhibition, situated along the city's busy harbour on central ferry pier 4. similar to the inaugural edition in london, pradasphere elaborates on prada's history, craftsmanship and creative director miuccia prada's much-admired creative vision. the scenography is set-up as a natural history of the luxury brand, presenting visitors a rare peek into a rich collection of archival objects.

these are arranged to reveal the sophisticated references of miuccia prada and here team. the centrepiece of pradasphere comprises of six towering showcases, dedicated to the central themes that have distinguished the work of prada. the displays combine work from diverse collections to demonstrate the recurrent concepts present in the work. in addition, the exhibition features a prada history timeline, a screening room presenting short films, and last but not least, architectural projects and a library of publications [on through dec 5]. location: central ferry pier 4, man kwong street [central].

© prada

los angeles: shinola store opening

© shinola

shinola banks on the new momentum it has created with fancy new stores, adding yet another outlet in silverlake, a happening area of los angeles. situated in a low-rise structure, the retail space measures 1,100 sq.ft. [102 sqm.] and is the lifestyle brand's first store on the u.s. west coast. the setting is simple and functional, and allows shinola's varied range of offerings to pop. a mix of vintage and custom-made furnishings blends well with the rustic elements of the building, while a polished concrete floor adds a contemporary edge. the new shinola store carries an exemplary selection of the brand's merchandise, including watches, journals, leather goods, shoe polish, pet accessories, and last but not least, a range of bicycles. location: 3515 west sunset boulevard [silverlake].

© shinola