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A Turner Prize–Winning Architecture Collective Sets Up Shop in Brooklyn

U.K. architecture collective Assemble has created an installation — dubbed “A Factory As It Might Be” — in the courtyard of A/D/O, the brand-new, forward-looking design space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The temporary factory features an industrial clay extruder, which Assemble — and their Liverpool-based social enterprise the Granby Workshop, along with fellow collaborators — used to make the factory’s cladding as well as a host of products from dinnerware to planters. The effort is the debut US project for the team, who famously became the first architects to win the Turner Prize in 2015.
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Ravenhill also cites the work of midcentury designers like Jean Prouvé, Charles and Ray Eames, and Friso Kramer: "They had such an amazing sensitivity about how things are made," he says. Ravenhill's Cord Lamp, shown above, improved upon the original wooden iteration while also reinterpreting Prouve’s classic Swing Jib design for a modern, cost-conscious consumer. "It has a simple construction, where the cloth-covered cord acts as both the power source and the tension element that holds the arm straight and prevents it from swinging too freely," Ravenhill says.

Brendan Ravenhill, Furniture and Product Designer

Believe it or not, Los Angeles–based designer Brendan Ravenhill owes the success of his Cord Lamp, at least in part, to Etsy. It’s not that the designer spends his days hawking the spare, Prouvé-inspired insta-classic on the online crafters’ marketplace. But a few years ago, Ravenhill was coerced by his wife to participate in something she’d created on the site called Mail Order Pals. “It was basically a penpal for purchase," Ravenhill told me when I visited his Echo Park home and studio earlier this summer. "People could buy you in order to receive a letter or a surprise package in the mail.” After someone “bought” Ravenhill, he went to the hardware store and whipped up an elegantly simple wooden swing-arm lamp in one night. Upon seeing his creation, the designer’s wife convinced him it was just too nice to send. The penpal ended up getting a wire sculpture of a penguin, and the couple began living with the lamp. In the months that followed, Ravenhill became obsessed with the design, refining and tweaking it in his head to the point that by the time he was approached to create a piece to show with the American Design Club at a trade fair in New York, he was able to fashion a prototype in just one week. The final lamp — composed primarily of porcelain, cast aluminum, a cloth cord, and a bare bulb — packs and ships flat and sells for less than $200 at places like The Future Perfect, cementing the young designer’s status as a rising talent to watch.
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Hecht and Colin divide their collected objects into five distinct categories: those that exhibit an unusual degree of Care in their manufacture or materials; existing products that have been Modified slightly in their function; objects that share a down-to-earth, Straightforward simplicity; Situation, for objects that meet the needs of a specific locality; and Duality (shown above) for single objects that share two functions.

Usefulness in Small Things

Yesterday on Sight Unseen, we featured a London design couple whose work seems to flourish under the very weight of their creative differences. Today, we turn our attentions to a London design couple whose outlooks are so similar, and whose work so beautifully streamlined, that it can often be difficult to tell where the mind of one ends and the other begins. We’ve been fans of the work of Industrial Facility’s Kim Colin and Sam Hecht since the very earliest days of our design journalism, but while the book they released earlier this year doesn’t include a single image from that output, it speaks volumes about the way the two begin to design together. Usefulness in Small Things: Items from the Under a Fiver Collection brings together the couple’s collection of mass-produced, locally sourced, everyday objects that Hecht has been amassing for nearly 20 years — cheese knives from Japan, plastering tools from Greece, vomit bags from the UK, wine bottle sponges from France, and the like, all chosen for low cost — under five pounds — and for their ability to tell Hecht when he traveled something about where he was. “Each of the objects I found appealed to me for a specific reason: the ability to address and identify a small and localized need, even when some were hopelessly flawed in their execution,” he writes in the introduction.
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Zieta may be a designer, but he’s first and foremost a researcher: He’s spent the past eight years working on his PhD while refining the industrial processes behind his FiDU technology, the fact that he ended up with a hit furniture line on his hands being merely a bonus. At least part of that focus can be credited to his geneology: “My grandpa was a metalsmith, in a very, very old way," he says. "He made horseshoes, and we make this very innovative and modern art.”

Oskar Zieta’s Metal-inflating Facility

When Oskar Zieta was given the honor of creating a site-specific installation in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s sprawling central garden during this year’s London Design Festival, he had a fairly significant advantage. With his own high-tech metalworking factory in Poland capable of producing large-scale inflated-steel structures, he had the means to fabricate whatever flight of fancy he and his team might possibly dream up, no matter how ambitious. And yet standing in his way was an obstacle far more prosaic in nature, one it would take ingenuity moreso than technological muscle to surmount: teeny tiny doorways. “The doors were really small, and all the ideas of getting to the garden by a helicopter or by a crane had to be rejected because of the risk of destroying the museum’s façade,” he told the fair’s bloggers at the time. But for someone like Zieta — who’s spent the past eight years monomaniacally experimenting with the proportions of the metal sheets he welds at the edges and then blasts full of air — it read like an intellectual call to arms.
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Gin is made all over the world these days, from New Zealand to France. But Hendrick’s, owned by William Grant & Sons, is the only gin distillery in Scotland. Located an hour’s drive outside of Glasgow, the Hendrick’s headquarters stand on 380 acres overlooking Ailsa Bay, the body of water that’s home to Ailsa Craig — the island where blue hone granite is harvested to make curling stones.

Hendrick’s Gin Distillery in Girvan, Scotland

The word most often associated with Hendrick’s gin is “unusual,” and there’s good reason for it. Consider the brand’s peculiar visual identity, created by adman Steven Grasse, which collages together semi-Surrealist, mock-Victorian illustrations of naked women in martini glasses, men in dunce caps, butterflies, knights, monocles, trombones, scales, strange machines, roses, and cucumbers. Or the collaborations, most notably with the London-based gelatin artists Bompas & Parr, who in addition to creating a gin-flavored jelly, recently concocted a chewing gum that tastes just like a G&T. And then there are the events: Hendrick’s doesn’t much do the usual cocktail competitions, choosing instead to host croquet matches in the summer and curling duels in the winter. It would all seem like a gimmick, except that for Hendrick’s, which launched a little more than a decade ago, there’s truth in advertising: The gin really is manufactured differently than any other spirit on the market, as we found out when we were invited to the factory in Girvan, Scotland, earlier this month.
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The colors themselves also change as the pieces are fired. “I can now manage to calculate the right temperature for each color, but the patterns and the way the paint flows and drips is always different from what I expect,” Lee says. “But that’s what I enjoy about it.”

Kwangho Lee’s Enamel-Skinned Copper Series

Kwangho Lee fancies himself a simple man. The 29-year-old grew up on a farm in South Korea watching his mother knit clothes and his grandfather make tools with his bare hands, which ultimately became the inspirations behind his work. He values nostalgia and rejects greed, and more like a craftsman than a designer, he prefers sculpting and manipulating ordinary materials to engineering the precise outcome of an object. “I dream of producing my works like a farmer patiently waiting to harvest the rice in autumn after planting the seed in spring,” he muses on his website. It all starts to sound a bit trite, but then you see the outcome: hot-pink shelves knitted from slick PVC tubing, lights suspended inside a mess of electrical wire, towering Impressionist thrones carved from blocks of black sponge. Lee may have old-fashioned ideals, but he designs for the modern world, and that’s the kind of transformative alchemy that draws people to an artist.
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Our tour began on the third floor of Lobmeyr’s Kartnerstrasse showroom, which acts as a museum of sorts for the company’s extensive back catalogue. Glass cases filled with tumblers, drinking sets, and dishes line the perimeter of a narrow circular walkway, and in the middle is this copper-wheel engraving lathe — the first to be used by the company in the early 19th century. It’s almost exactly like the one that’s used today. “It hasn’t really changed in the last 300 years,” Rath laughs. Its variously sized spindles and discs are used to create a variety of textures and line effects on the surface of glass.

J. & L. Lobmeyr

Since its founding six generations ago, Lobmeyr has tended to follow its own compass rather than listening to the whims of the market — in other words, it’s never been afraid to be a little bit different. It’s why the company moved from its original role as glass merchants to manufacturers; what inspired a relationship with the radical designers of the Wiener Werkstätte; and why the company today collaborates with designers like Polka, whose 2008 beer glasses boast an engraving based on the goals scored during a 1978 soccer match between Austria and Germany.
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