If you’re a fan of the W Hotels chain, which at the moment comprises nearly 50 properties in more than 25 countries, you probably fall in to one (or both) of the following categories: you’re young, wealthy, extroverted, and appreciate things like fire-juggling bartenders, or you really, really love design. It’s not that the W’s interiors are suited to every taste — especially since half the fun of them is that they’re mostly designed by different firms, from Patricia Urquiola (Vieques) to Yabu Pushelberg (Guangzhou) — but you do have to tip your hat to any corporate entity that puts this much investment into our little corner of culture, including the annual W Hotels Designers of the Future awards.
The latest W to take cutting-edge design to a novel locale is the new W Verbier by the Amsterdam firm Concrete, which Sight Unseen had the good fortune to visit last month, Verbier being a town in the Swiss Alps known for its brutal slopes and the W Verbier being the hotel brand’s first ski resort. Ironically, I don’t ski, thanks to a traumatizing introduction to the sport in middle school, but I still found plenty to explore — and photograph — during my visit. It was nice to see how Concrete married its normally hyper-slick style to the area’s outdoorsy vernacular architecture, and even nicer to see something even more beautiful than skyscrapers on the horizon all day long.
This post is sponsored by the W Hotels group. Click here to book your own stay at their newest property in Verbier — hopefully you’re a much better skier than the author.
And now for some ridiculously old news: At Design Miami/Basel this past June, the three W Hotels Designers of the Future awardees included Tom Foulsham, Markus Kayser, and Philippe Malouin, each of whom were handed a commission with a very meta, very Sight Unseen-style brief — to devise a project that would somehow illuminate their creative process, like Foulsham's merry-go-round propelled by balloons and hair-dryers, or Malouin and Kayser's differing takes on daylight-mimicking lamps. Even if you weren't in Basel yourself, you probably read all about it earlier this summer, whoop-de-doo. But what you might not have seen is the hefty catalog Design Miami's organizers produce for every show, which was handed to us belatedly last week during a pow-wow with head curator Marianne Goebl, and which contained an article that was so up our alley we were surpised no one had shown it to us sooner: a photo essay wherein Kayser, Foulsham, and Malouin were asked to respond to questions like "A sketch" and "An object you find useful" by handing over the sketches and objects themselves.
Someone like JP Williams has enjoyed plenty of validating moments in his 20-year career as a graphic designer: Getting to study under one of his design heros, Paul Rand, at Yale; winning more than 100 awards for projects like his kraft-paper tea packages for Takashimaya; discovering that his collection of baseball cards from 1909 was worth enough to buy his wife and business partner Allison an engagement ring. All well and good, however none of it really compared, he admits, to the feeling of being validated by Martha Stewart.
On occasion, the editors of Sight Unseen spot a story about creativity told from a viewpoint that’s not unlike our own. This one, posted yesterday on the design blog Yatzer, peeks in on the studio of Québec-born, London-based designer Philippe Malouin. Malouin is known for taking his time with a project — after painstaking research, his recent chainmail-like Yachiyo rug for Beirut’s Carwan Gallery famously took 3,000 hours to produce — and in the article, writer Stefania Vourazeri probes the young designer about his thoughts on permanence as well as the influence of art on his designs. "Production for the sake of production is not that interesting to me,” he explains.