OKORehbergerShelves

Okolo Visits Tobias Rehberger’s Studio

For the team behind the Czech curatorial studio and blog Okolo — Adam Štěch, Jakub Štěch, and Matěj Činčera — their work is informed as much by the fact that they're based in Prague, with a front-seat view of all things fascinating in Eastern European design, as it is by the fact that they love to travel. Adam Štěch has toured the region documenting amazing modernist homes, one of which he covered for Wallpaper this fall and more of which you'll see on Sight Unseen in 2012, and the trio recently produced a print magazine devoted entirely to the city of Vienna. They also traveled to Frankfurt in November, visiting a succession of designers' studios and photographing them for the Okolo website, slotting them in between posts about new work by Tomáš Král and the deconstruction of a Phillips auction catalog. One of our favorites was the studio of artist Tobias Rehberger, known for his striking graphical sensibility and his affinity for design and architecture, recently witnessed in the award-winning series of spaces he created in partnership with Artek; we've reposted it here with additional images and text that Adam prepared exclusively for Sight Unseen. Meanwhile, look out for a more extensive collaboration we're preparing with Okolo for later this winter.
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The magic of Uglycute lies in its members’ ability to turn ordinary, low-cost materials like plywood, particle board, cage mesh, or crappy carpeting into striking installations and covetable furniture, like this tessellated shelving unit. It was developed for Alisa Grifo and Marco Romeny of the New York store Kiosk, who use it as display for shop-in-shops they’ve installed in places like Melbourne and London. The couple, who keep an apartment in Romeny’s native Stockholm, have a longstanding friendship and ongoing collaboration with Uglycute — they were the ones who first introduced Sight Unseen to the group’s work.

Uglycute, Furniture and Interior Designers

For Uglycute, it all began with a Bruno Matthson knockoff. It was 1999 and Swedish design was having a moment, but not, it seemed to the group’s four fledgling members, for the kinds of edgy experimental crafts and artistic hybrids being made by the emerging scene at the time — Wallpaper magazine and its ilk were still peering into the long shadows of Sweden’s old modernist icons. And so architecture grad Fredrik Stenberg and artists Jonas Nobel, Andreas Nobel, and Markus Degerman vented their frustration in the only way they knew how: by mounting a show around a sarcastic simulacrum of Matthson’s Eva chair made from a clunky particle-board box and cheap nylon straps. Complemented by a set of primitive clay pinch pots and a crude plywood table, the installation served as a launch pad for the group, and its subject matter — elevating cheap materials in order to question traditional norms of beauty and value — lent their firm its distinctive name. “It was meant as a new take on formalistic values,” says Nobel, who with the other three partners has since built a thriving practice known for its work with museums and clients like Cheap Monday.
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Chinese tea services: The studio tiled the walls of the restaurant in custom blue-and-white ceramic, using a story they found in an old Chinese book. Instead of using Chinese porcelain from the nearby mainland for dinner service, however, Autoban used the renowned blue çini porcelain that’s handcrafted in the Turkish city of Iznik.

Autoban, Furniture and Interior Designers

The Beyoğlu district is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Istanbul, but for centuries, it’s been the Turkish cultural capital's most modern quarter as well. So it's fitting that the creative firm helping to spearhead the growth of modern design in Turkey has all but grown up on Beyoğlu’s cobbled streets. Autoban is housed in a half-baroque, mid-19th-century Italianate building, but inside, the studio is almost seamlessly modern.
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Point Supreme Architects, Athens: "'We generally create collages to illustrate our ideas and physical models to test their application in space,' says partner Konstantinos Pantazis. 'But each project demands work in different techniques and each type of illustration communicates differently. The simultaneous use of collage, model, sketch, painting and render for each of our projects offers the ultimate result.'"

Architects’ Sketchbooks

In the context of the hysteria currently surrounding all things old-fashioned and handmade, it makes a certain sense to mount an examination of architecture's low-tech roots: those hand-rendered sketches and schematics that still tend to quietly precede even the most digitally advanced structures. It's debatable whether the practice as a whole is consciously returning to those roots, as the new book Architects' Sketchbooks argues, but when the architects who find joy in committing their thoughts to paper open their notepads for all to see, the appeal runs deeper than any cultural trend. "For me, the process is often more fascinating than the end result, and at the heart of architecture, which is part of the process of building worlds, lies the language of drawing," writes Narinder Sagoo of Foster + Partners in the book's foreword.
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Another friend of Thomas’s, Kevin Beer, created this assemblage of found Italian pipes in briarwood. “He’s like an artist/picker/interior decorator, and he does a lot of collections of things like this. For years he’s been doing weird little bell jar dioramas, like dolls with birds heads. He’ll take things he found and sell them as they are, or he’ll do something like this, where he puts it on a wire armature. I like the texture, it looks like faux bois,” Thomas laughs.

Brooks Hudson Thomas of Specific Merchandise

I’d known about the Los Angeles design shop Specific Merchandise for nearly a year before I figured out that its name was a play on the idea of the general store. “I wanted to have a huge range of things, but when I started thinking about it, I liked the idea of flipping that and being specific rather than general,” says Brooks Hudson Thomas, the former Blackman Cruz manager who set out his own shingle at the beginning of last year on a stretch of Beverly Boulevard that includes Lawson-Fenning, L.A. Eyeworks, and the former digs of TenOverSix. “One model I had in mind was a museum shop, but sort of trying to kick its ass. The other was stores like Moss, Matter, and The Future Perfect, which also have that blurry store/gallery vibe.”
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Vernacular architecture: In a small way, Jaklitsch practices his own sort of vernacular architecture with the Marc Jacobs shops, most of which have been inserted into existing structures. He takes pains to make each store location-specific and to honor the site's original intent, whether it's an old tobacco warehouse in Savannah, Georgia, a shop in strip-mall-happy Los Angeles, or a renovation inside Paris's Palais de Royale.

Stephan Jaklitsch, architect

In the world of retail, there is a tendency towards sameness, a familiarity designed to lull shoppers into a complacent state in which they might begin to feel it’s okay to spend a lot of money. A Zara, anywhere in the world, is immediately identifiable by its gold-toned lighting and rows of shoes lined up haphazardly underneath the clothes; a Marni boutique leaves its mark with swooping stainless-steel rails and elliptical cutouts in the ceilings. As a brand, Marc Jacobs has never been about uniformity, though — this is a fashion designer, after all, who’s gone from the most infamous collection of grunge in history to the luxurious heights of Louis Vuitton — so why should his stores? “There are certain iconic elements that are repeated,” admits Stephan Jaklitsch, the New York–based architect who’s been responsible for Jacobs's bricks-and-mortar for more than 10 years, “but in general, each store relates to its own specific building type, to the city’s specific urban condition, and to the architecture of the individual space. Although they’re identifiably connected, every one of them has a particular feel.”
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house

To Live in a Schindler House, by Pin-Up Editor Felix Burrichter

In March, Pin-Up magazine editor Felix Burrichter packed his bags and left New York for an extended stay in Los Angeles, where he met up with the Vienna artist Sarah Ortmeyer. Chosen for one of four annual residencies with Vienna's Museum for Applied Arts (MAK) — whose L.A. branch is based in architect Rudolph Schindler's 1922 Kings Road House — the pair have spent the intervening months shacked up in a two-bedroom apartment at the museum's Mackey building, working on a joint project they'll present on September 10. Called "XXX BURRICHTER ORTMEYER," its main element is a publication focused on the mercurial relationship between Schindler and his wife; Burrichter has also taken advantage of the proximity to give the fall issue of Pin-Up an L.A. theme. Architecture buff that he is, we got to wondering how else he'd been inspired by his surroundings, so we invited him to share with us the experience of living in the recently renovated Mackey building, whose five apartments Schindler built in his trademark style in 1939. "It’s like living in a little museum," he says. "At first we were like, this is crazy, but it’s really the perfect apartment, even though it’s so basic. We’ve been here for four and a half months now, and the longer we stay, the more we realize how well thought-out it is."
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"I have always been interested in fashion," Verschueren says. "My parents were both linguists, and they organized congresses all over the world — Mexico, China, South Africa, Australia. My brother and sister and I would go with them, and it was fascinating to see different ethnicities through the lens of fashion."

Alexandra Verschueren, Fashion Designer

At 22, Alexandra Verschueren has interned for Preen, Proenza Schouler, and Derek Lam. She’s been honored by a jury that included former Rochas creative director Olivier Theyskens and the International Herald Tribune’s fashion critic Suzy Menkes. And in the last six months, her graduate collection Medium has been fêted by Wallpaper magazine and the Mode Museum in her hometown of Antwerp. So why, when she applied to that city’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts straight out of high school, did no one expect she’d get in?
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Archipelago House by Tham and Videgard Hansson Arkitekter (Husarö, Sweden) "Conceived as a lightweight construction in wood and glass, this summerhouse is built on Stockholm’s outer archipelago. The robust horizontal character of the black stained exterior corresponds to reflections of the Baltic Sea."

Arcadia

When Henry David Thoreau took to the woods in 1845 to begin his Walden experiment, it was more of an exercise in social deprivation than an outright attempt to recharge his creative batteries. But his flight from civilization does prove that he — and all the generations of writers and makers who have flocked to sylvan retreats for productivity’s sake — felt every bit as besieged by the distractions of modern life as we do nearly two centuries later. Paging through Arcadia (Gestalten, 2009), a catalog of contemporary architectural hideaways built among trees and mountains, all I could think about was how powerful a tool nature has always been in creative life: We need to be immersed in culture to inform the things we create, but we also desperately need escape to give our minds the space to process it.
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