Even the most dilettantish of architecture buffs will nod knowingly at any of mention of Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye outside of Paris, or of Mies van der Rohe’s Villa Tugendhat in the Czech Republic. But mention Arne Korsmo’s Villa Stenersen in Oslo, and you’re likely to elicit nothing but head scratching. Like those other modernist residences, Villa Stenersen is a white, flat-roofed, functionalist structure built from reinforced concrete at the behest of a rich client in the early part of the last century. But Villa Stenersen doesn’t have the international acclaim or immediate recognizability of those others — something we’re doing our small part to remedy today. For our money, Villa Stenersen is warmer, more interesting, more fun, and — dare we say? — more Sight Unseen than those other two icons of modern architecture.
We first came across Villa Stenersen on a trip to Norway in 2016 — pretty sure we plugged “iconic houses Oslo” into Google, and it was the first thing that popped up — and immediately fell in love with the corrugated wall, the glass bricks, the bright blue facade, the free-standing columnal fireplace, and, of course, the colors. Our visit there was so magical that when we heard one of our favorite photographers, Tekla Severin, was visiting Oslo, we implored her to photograph the house for us in all its waiting-to-be-refurbished glory. Read on to find out more about this under-the-radar Scandinavian gem.
When Adam Štěch goes on location for Okolo, the Prague-based design blog and magazine he founded with his brother Jakub and graphic designer Matěj Činčera three years ago, he likes to picture himself as a National Geographic reporter. Okolo’s recent Vienna Only issue, for example, became a kind of urban hunting expedition through the wilds of the Austrian capital, while legitimate business trips — like attending the Milan Furniture Fair as an editor for the Prague interiors magazine Dolce Vita — are rife with opportunities for fieldwork. After “cruising around crowded Zona Tortona in the center of design hell,” as the 25-year-old puts it, he’ll often spend a day or two searching out amazing examples of indigenous architecture to document. One such recent excursion to Lake Como entailed a curious encounter with the locals: “We were looking for an Ico Parisi house, for which I knew the district but not the exact address, and there was a single old man walking nearby,” recalls Štěch. “I approached him on a whim, explaining who Parisi was and asking if he knew the house. He picked us up with his car and dropped us off directly in front of it. I love those kinds of stories.” We love them too, which is why we asked Štěch to put together this slideshow sharing some of his favorite moments from his travels in the past few years.
A couple before they were partners in design, Nick Cope and Rachel Mosler founded Calico Wallpaper together two years ago in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Mosler was an art therapist on paid leave from NYU's temporarily shuttered hospital; Cope ran a design/build firm whose projects had all been put on hold. "We'd always wanted to do a project that touched on both of our backgrounds — something for the home that had an art-like quality," says Cope. "Rachel studied sculpture at RISD and has a Master's in art therapy, and I went to NYU for photo and digital design." On a lazy afternoon in the East Village, Cope found an image of obscure types of paper marbling in an antique shop and brought it home. Mosler loved it and immediately began delving into the history and process of the ancient technique. "We realized quickly we had something interesting on our hands," says Cope.
In the age of Instagram, does the most colorful architect win? We've seen a massive uptick lately in people posting — and designers citing as influences — architects such as Luis Barragan, Ricardo Bofill, and Ricardo Legorreta. Sometimes forgotten in all this, however, is the Maltese architect Richard England, who studied under Gio Ponti and designed much of the colorful, Postmodern architecture that dots the Mediterranean archipelago.