Radical Essex: A complex county of raw beauty and modernism

‘Essex is neither part of East Anglia, nor one of the Home Counties; it contains both radical and conservative elements, and is therefore open to all possibilities,’ writes architectural critic Ken Worpole in Radical Essex. Sitting on the edge of east London, a rural refuge for much of the cockney diaspora, it certainly gets its fair share of crude stereotyping, and mockery – think The Only Way is Essex, spray tans and excessive... Read More

Serpentine Pavilion 2018 by Frida Escobedo

This is the 18th Serpentine Pavilion, the temporary installation appearing each summer in London’s Kensington Gardens. It is the work of Frida Escobedo, a complex and fascinating architect with a small studio in Mexico concerned with reactivating urban spaces. In Hyde Park, her practice imagines a courtyard of light, water and geometry. It takes the form of an enclosed courtyard, with two rectangular volumes positioned at an angle. The... Read More

Designed in the USSR: 1950-1989

Soviet design at its peak between 1950 to 1989 was dynamic, different and complex. On the one side were consumer and domestic products for daily use. Then there was a rather more controlled side to design directed by the state which impacted on advertising, film posters and educational literature. The Soviet Union’s isolation helped create a bit of a design bubble, yet there was a certain image of the USSR created largely for the international... Read More

Marvin Rand captures south California’s unique modernism

Los Angeles was a kind of utopian dream in the mid-twentieth century. The sunny southern Californian city had attracted an open-minded set – experimental filmmakers, independent artists, writers and patrons of design came here for it offered freedom of expression. This coupled with urban growth and industrial expansion led to a period of exceptional architectural innovation. Marvin Rand was there to capture this spirit. Throughout the post-war... Read More

V&A review: Ocean Liners: Speed & Style

In the 1942 movie Now, Voyager, Bette Davis takes a lengthy cruise that transforms her life. In the 1953 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell sing and dance their way to Europe. Then (in my favourite of all), Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr fall madly in love drifting quietly to Europe in 1957’s An Affair to Remember. And, of course, there is James Cameron’s Titanic. Hollywood has long sought to capture the charm of ocean... Read More

Ferrari: Under The Skin opens at Design Museum

‘If you can dream it, you can do it,’ said Enzo Ferrari famously. His is a fascinating story and a brand built entirely on passion and determination. Enzo, in the midst of post-war austerity in Italy, and against all odds, set out to conceive a company that creates pure and efficient sports and race cars, incredible examples of industrial design and objects of great beauty. According to Sir Terence Conran: ‘We have all at some... Read More

Futura: The Typeface placed type in the context of design history

The Nazis hated Futura. They deemed the typeface as too radical – subversive even. Members of Bauhaus embraced it for its radicalism, and it came to be associated with the movement from 1919 through to 1933, when the school was forced to close and its members dispersed around the world. Futura: the Typeface examines the fascinating story of this popular type. Published this month by Laurence King, the book taps into a new movement in exploring... Read More

Exhibition – Opera: Passion, Power and Politics

Opera requires gauze to be wrapped around the imagination. It is hoped that the power of music and that most versatile of all instruments, the human voice, helped along by the magic of lighting and design could help penetrate that gauze. So, it was with some trepidation that I went along to the preview of ‘Opera: Passion, Power and Politics’ at the Victoria and Albert museum in London. How do they convey that artful magic, which depends on... Read More

La Vita Campari tells the story of Campari

Davide Campari was a fascinating character. In the early years of the 20th century the company heir set out to explore the potentials of art and ideas in creating a strong, global brand. Eschewing conventions, he joined Milan’s artistic circles, becoming intimately linked with the avant-garde who helped create product design such as the brilliant Campari Soda bottle, daring poster art and advertising – design that were hugely radical... Read More

Highlights of London Design Festival 2017

The creative industries are worth close to £90bn a year to the economy, offering some three million jobs here. It is a ‘serious, big, wealth-earning and reputation-enhancing’ sector, Sir John Sorrell told the Financial Times this weekend. These numbers came back to me as the London Design Festival (16-24 September) kicked off bringing colour and creativity to pockets of this dynamic city. In its fifteenth year, LDF is expecting some 350,000... Read More

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