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 while floors 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

dubai: declaration

© tashkeel / artist el seed at his exhibition

faouzi khlifi a.k.a. el seed [1981] is a talented french-tunisian street artist who has taken calligraphy, a highly sophisticated art form in the arab world, to a whole new level. celebrated for his bold murals and other artworks on outdoor surfaces - more aptly known as exercises of so-called calligraffiti - in various projects and exhibitions across the planet, el seed recently took up a residency in the boomtown of dubai, facilitated by contemporary art organization tashkeel and the related salama bint hamdan al nahyan foundation. during this time the urban artist has crafted a series of works which audaciously extrapolate his calligraffiti style to a series of monumental three-dimensional sculptures that rather spectacularly weave across the premises of tashkeel's exhibition gallery. entitled declaration, el seed's work is inspired by a poem of syrian poet nizar qabbani which describes the beauty of his lover despite her age. the artist not only uses the poem's lines to publicly declaring his love for the ancient art of calligraphy, but also pays homage to his earlier pieces by adding a new dimension [on through dec 27]. location: tashkeel, nad al sheba road 1 [nad al sheba].

© tashkeel

new york: feit store opening

© feit

they've had their store in sydney for quite some time, but now tull and josh price, the fraternal australian duo behind cult shoe brand feit, have expanded their retail operations with a sleek new store in new york city. behind a façade with large windows framed by slabs of shiny metal, a serene setting constructed from baltic birch, concrete and translucent panels unfolds. the imposing purity of this aesthetic, created by the price brothers and australian installation artist jordana maisie, not only reflects feit's well-known ethos and creative process, but also elevates the shopping experience to a level beyond the ordinary. upon entering the store, shoppers view cascading planes that emerge from the existing architecture and a split-level display showcases the coveted feit collection. the nifty layout is constructed as such that it a peek behind the scenes to where the showroom and repair sections are situated, while installation displays connect the customer to feit's meticulous shoemaking process. the new feit store carries the brand's full range of men's and women's shoes. location: 2 prince street [nolita].

© feit

amsterdam: i/o underflow

© de oude kerk

the oude kerk dates back to the early middle ages and is amsterdam's oldest structure, and as such it's the perfect backdrop for artist tony oursler's rather spooky video installations. entitled i/o underflow, the showcase opens there on wed - nov 26 and fills the premises of the church building with a number of projections that are visually very compatible with the venue's imposing historic setting. oursler's work explores the transition from mysticism to materialism and back again to a contemporary form of magical thinking. as said, the audio-visual installations have a spooky quality, and shows compelling performances by a number of artists. by projecting the images onto ornately decorated historic surfaces, the presentation gains a unique patina that sort of serves as a sub-narrative. location: oude kerk, oudekerksplein 23 [centrum].

© de oude kerk

london: the pop-up flea

© the pop-up flea

the pop-up flea has become a popular global event that draws savvy trophy seekers in each city it has set up base. after the inaugural tokyo edition it's once again london's turn, and on nov 21-23 the event will occupy an elaborate chunk of space within the old truman brewery in spitalfields. once again the pop-up flea will present shoppers a wide range of beautifully made goods, brought by a curated and unique mix of american and british brands. mind you, there there's hardly a store anywhere that can match the sheer size and quality of these combined offerings. for its second installment in the british capital, the pop-up flea hosts quite a number of leading brands, and this time includes tellason, billykirk, shinola, sunspel, and loft trading. location: old truman brewery, 91 brick lane [spitalfields].

© the pop-up flea

são paulo: prada store opening

© prada

it has only been three years since prada entered the brazilian market, and since then it has rapidly expanded with additional stores in major cities nationwide. but it's in são paulo where the italian luxury brand's biggest and most discerning fanbase resides, and thus a second boutique has recently been added there. contrary to the country's inaugural boutique at jk iguatemi mall, the new store at cidade jardim - the city's other upscale supermall - will also carry prada's coveted men's collections. situated in the ground floor, it features a signature interior design by house architect roberto baciocchi and is replete with all the usual hallmarks. there's the façade in black marble, framed by polished steel. once inside, shoppers first encounter two large spaces presenting the women’s bags and accessories collections and the men’s travel and leather goods collections, amidst a setting of black + white marble chequered flooring and walls covered in matching black marble. furnishings come slim steel and crystal, supplemented by display counters with coloured leather detailing. the women's apparel collections are showcased in various rooms, all decorated in a soft green fabric and dotted with elegant velvet sofas in a similar hue. obviously, the men's department boasts a masculine touch, evidently displayed by ebony floorboards and walls, metal display cases, bold display counters and matching leather sofas. location: shopping cidade jardim, avenida magalhães de castro 12000, ground floor [cidade jardim].

© prada