SHIGERU BAN

Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is a champion of disaster relief, pioneering the use of temporary paperchip and shipping container shelters, and balancing pro bono projects with commercial work. As an inspiring show at Sydney's Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF) explores his humanitarian structures, we met this maverick talent.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What's your design philosophy?
Problem-solving. Problems solved by design.

What inspired you to get involved with disaster relief?
I was tired of working for privileged people who had money and power. I like to design monuments, but I was quite disappointed that I was mainly working for privileged people, not the general public. Earthquakes don't kill people, but building materials do. I saw the very poor condition of temporary housing after natural and man-made disasters, and I thought I could improve the condition of these facilities. For me there is no difference between my pro bono and commercial work because I have the same interest and energy for both, and I get the same satisfaction. 

What materials intrigue you?
I use any materials available locally, such as paperchip – not paper by itself – which exists anywhere in the world, and is cheap, strong and lightweight. Even when I was working in Rwanda I found a paperchip factory in the capital Kigali. I'm especially interested in humble materials. If say I used steel, it's a wonderful material, you can do anything with it, but wood and paper have many more limitations. I'm interested in designing with the limitations of the material. Paper is interesting because it's lighter and weaker. I like to take advantage of the weakness of this material to make something different. 

TOP: Japanese architect Shigeru Ban
ABOVE: Ban's Cardboard Cathedral for Christchurch, New Zealand, was built as a community gathering space after the 2011 earthquake devastated the city's historic stone cathedral (see our earlier post). An interactive model of it forms part of Sydney exhibition 'The Inventive Work of Shigeru Ban, SCAF Projects 34 & 35'

What's next for you in terms of disaster relief?
I don't know, I hope I won't be busy! My goal is to make buildings that will be demolished. Shelters that will be dismantled after six months, with materials that can be recycled and reused after, with no waste. The problem is people don't want to move out of my temporary houses, so many of them are becoming permanent!

So is the line blurring between permanent and temporary buildings?
Concrete can be very temporary if developers get rid of it, whereas paper structures can be permanent as long as people love them, like my emergency cathedral for Christchurch. I would like to continue building monuments to be loved by people. Besides, beauty doesn’t come from the kind of material you use, it comes from the proportions. Creating light, shadow, natural ventilation and space between inside and outside are what make living conditions beautiful. 

ABOVE: Two original-scale reproductions of Ban's emergency structures occupy SCAF's Courtyard Garden. His paper log houses for Kobe, Japan (1995), and Ecuador (2016-ongoing) were designed in response to earthquakes and cost around US$2,000 a unit to build. Note the care taken to match the sandbag-filled, donated beer crate bases to the huts

After designing France's Centre Pompidou-Metz in 2010, your Paris concert hall La Scene Musicale was unveiled in April. Tell us more.
It was a former factory site on the Île Seguin. They wanted the design to be a symbol for the western gateway of Paris. I'm not the kind of person to develop unusual shapes. For me it's very challenging to design something iconic and monumental. I made a sail of solar panels, which rotates around a curved timber-clad auditorium, following the sun. Mosaic tiles inside the concert hall change colour from green to red.

What's currently exciting you in design or style?
Nothing new comes out anymore. Generally speaking, architects don't like inventing. People are afraid to be sued. If you do something innovative or experimental you can be sued very easily, especially in the United States. Now everyone's competing with different, funny shapes, which can be created by computer easily. They're interesting, but it's not innovative technology.

Any ideas for a solution to affordable urban housing?
I don't know why this is a problem because there are so many ideas to make affordable housing – as long as developers don't mind making less profit! It's not about creating tiny houses, it's about the construction method. Even with the same space we can make a comfortable house inexpensively. But cities are no longer being designed by urban planners or the government, now commercial developers are leading the way.

ABOVE: Installation details of SCAF's Kobe shelter, which features thick paper tubes for walls, lined with insulation and topped off with tent material; The Ecuador house teams paper tube walls with green-hued bamboo sheets, plus a thatched roof. Both eco-friendly units include toilets, and are easy to dismantle or recycle

Where or how do you find inspiration?
I don't suddenly get inspired by other things. I just continue developing my original ideas to the next stage, little by little. Rather than keeping an eye on cutting-edge trends or magazines, I'm just busy developing my own stuff, as I don't want to be influenced by others.

Who are your design heroes?
Buckminster Fuller and Frei Otto. I like architects who invent their own material or structural system, because I hate to be influenced by the fashionable styles of the day. They both invented their own systems to design things according to the material. I was lucky to collaborate with Otto on my Japan Pavilion for Hanover's Expo 2000 and I learned a lot from him. He always tried to use the minimum material and minimum energy to make maximum space. My favourite architect though is Alvar Aalto. I designed an Aalto exhibition in Tokyo in 1986, but didn't want to waste precious wood for a temporary space. That's when I discovered that paperchip, made of recycled paper which I turned into a tube, was much stronger that I'd expected and inexpensive.

ABOVE: Inside, the SCAF exhibition features scale models, videos, and examples of building joints and partition systems developed by Ban for his temporary shelters; A model details the interior of the emergency cathedral for Christchurch, New Zealand, including bespoke furniture; Another showcases the sinuous roof of Ban's Japan Pavilion for Hanover's Expo 2000, a collaboration with late German architect Frei Otto

Where's on your travel wish list?
I love travelling... to enjoy the local food and wine. That's why I love coming to Australia! I commute every week between Tokyo and Paris, where I have offices. Usually I travel at weekends, so as not to waste the week days.

What should a design fan see in Tokyo?
I would recommend going to Kyoto instead. In Tokyo most of the buildings are designed by big firms, who aren't usually very good architects, so they're boring. It's the same for most major cities, whereas Kyoto has many interesting innovations. It's a more traditional town, and making buildings was so difficult in the past that you needed great ideas and craftsmanship.

What's your social media of choice?
I don't do it at all. Does my office use Instagram? I don't know!
shigerubanarchitects.com  sherman-scaf.org.au

'The Inventive Work of Shigeru Ban' is at Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, 16-20 Goodhope Street, Paddington, Sydney until 1 July 2017 (open 11am-5pm, Wednesday to Saturday)

Pictures: Brett Boardman (SCAF)

CHRISTINA SCHMIDT Skandium

In the Eighties and Nineties Scandinavian furniture meant flat packs to most people in the UK but in 1998 a new destination store dedicated to modern and classic Scandi design arrived in London. The Fizz goes behind the scenes with Christina Schmidt, co-founder of Skandium, to see what floats her boat...

BY DEE IVA

How did Skandium come about?
The seed idea sparked when my partner Magnus Englund and I found a cooking pot in a provincial department store in Finland. It was the pot, we thought, what a ’looker’... so simple, like a child would draw a pot, yet perfect in proportion and execution. We learned that it was designed by typographer Björn Dahlström for a new kitchen range by Finnish company Iittala called Iittala Tools. Iitala had begun the journey of reinventing themselves for a contemporary market.

We thought the concept was smashing as all the objects were simple but divinely perfect, in a way the reinvention of modernism, celebrating timeless beauty. So we thought let’s put together Alvar Aalto from 1924 with these pieces because style never goes out of fashion. It is not about being fashionable. If it is beautiful and relevant, it is a long-term investment in the quality of your life. With this in mind, we headed to the little island of Hästö in the Finnish archipelago and sat by the water’s edge, contemplating what we should call this idea and how to go about it. That was summer 1998.

ABOVE: Christina Schmidt, co-founder and creative director of Skandium
ABOVE RIGHT: Casserole with lid by Björn Dahlström for Iittala, 1998
BELOW: Hästö island, where the idea for Skandium was born

Do you have a favourite classic Scandinavian design piece?
I do not have a favourite as such as there are so many superb pieces and the design chosen will have to work well in the space you are living in. But If I had to choose, I would always pick the 'PH Artichoke' pendant in copper, by Poul Henningsen, the 'Trolley 900' with basket by Alvar Aalto (great as a side table), a cooking pot by Björn Dahlström and the 'Lempi' glasses by Matti Klenell which serve water, wine and milk equally well.

ABOVE LEFT: 'PH Artichoke' pendant light by Poul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen, from £4,900
ABOVE: 'Trolley 900' by Alvar Aalto for Artek, £2,365
BELOW: 'Lempi' tumblers by Matti Klenell for Iittala, from £12.50

Describe your personal interiors style
I am not so fussed about ‘retro’ as such. I do like great design and love new ideas, no matter what time they are from. I love the craftsmanship and thought behind the classic pieces of Scandinavian design, hence my passion for it, but when executing a project I like to mix styles from different periods, to keep it simple and harmonious and throw in a bit of the unexpected.

You were once a fashion and lifestyle photographer, who did you shoot for?
That was 20 years ago! I worked for the local fashion magazines and advertising agencies in Stockholm. Among others I did a shoot with Izabella Scorupco (right) who had long dark hair at the time. We used an ice blonde bob wig on her for the campaign and she later cut her hair and changed its colour. Izabella went on to play Bond girl Natalya Simonova in GoldenEye. I had a brilliant assistant at the time, Elisabeth Toll, whom I am proud to say is now a stunning fashion photographer with international assignments. It all has to start somewhere.

Do you still take pictures and has this shaped or influenced your work at Skandium?
I always think and act from a visual point, it is innate. I do not take pictures for Skandium as there is simply not the time for it since the content of what we do is so very wide. My focus today is interior design which is my passion. For this I take pictures for Skandium to go online and for my Instagram account.

BELOW: 'At Ease' sofa by Daniel Schofield, £2,700. Exclusive to Skandium

What's next for Skandium?
There are so many companies out there and many offer the same or similar products as we have done for the last 16 years, so for us it is to enhance the focus on concept living and tighter editing on what we believe makes the Scandinavian aspect alluring. We don’t show everything just because it is on the market. For this year's London Design Festival we will showcase a new Skandium collection including a range of furniture by Swedish architect Jonas Lindvall and a Stig Lindberg retrospective with Swedish manufacturer Röstrand including our own range of bowls bearing Lindberg's distinctive illustrations from the children's book 'Daniel Tip Your Toe'.

ABOVE RIGHT: 'Stig Lindberg Bowls', £12.50 each. Exclusive to Skandium
BELOW: The first Skandium store touched down in Wigmore Street, London, in 1998

Who or what is currently exciting you in design?
I am actually more impressed with good craftsmanship and production than design as such. Without good craftsmanship there is never good design and in the ‘old’ days the craftsman was innately also the designer. I love seeing a mix of materials in an object where the combination enhances the experience, not just ‘entertains’. I will always love simple execution in both shape and material, such as the Collective Tools 'Serving Spoon' by Antonio Citterio for Iittala.

Is there anything you wish you had designed?
The 'Trolley 900' with basket by Alvar Aalto for Artek, as it is functional, stylish and very charming – the dream combination!

What's your social media of choice?
My personal one is Instagram without a doubt, I loooooove it!
skandium.com

Izabella Scorupco by Mark Mainz/ Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

ERWAN BOUROULLEC Bouroullec Brothers

French design duo Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec – aka the Bouroullec brothers – is best known for pared-down, cutting-edge furniture for brands including Artek, HAY, Iittala and Vitra. Their new I-shaped 'Serif' television for Samsung was a showstopper at this year’s London Design Festival and we predict this life-enhancing piece of tech is set to rock our world, recreating TVs as stylish furniture. Here, Erwan shares his ideas and interests.

BY CLAIRE BINGHAM

Tell us about your new 'Serif TV'. What inspired the design?
The motive was to make an object that sits properly in the world we live in today. We wanted to move away from a flat black screen, while designing something in which the case was as important as the screen inside. Unlike most TVs where the frame is meant to disappear, the serif-shaped surround frames the screen like a picture.

What are your favourite features?
The struggle was to make sure that the TV was good-looking from any angle and can be moved around like any other piece of furniture in the home. The television features a fabric panel on the back to hide all the ports and wires, so it can be moved away from the wall. 

ABOVE: Erwan Bouroullec (left) with brother Ronan
BELOW: The duo's first foray into electronics has resulted in the 'Serif TV', the world's first typographic television; Looks like puss knows a good thing when she sees it...

Sum up your style in three words.
Accessible, poetic, elegant. There is a rational approach to the way that Ronan and I work, so I would say our style is more connected with method. The shape follows from the way in which the product is built. 

What’s influencing your work right now?
More and more, we are striving for a radical approach, reworking things that affect everyday life. The 'Serif' is a good example of this. It is something that people are surprised by and want to discuss, yet they like it and want it too. 

ABOVE: Sketches, fabric samples and maquettes for the 'Serif TV'; A spot of serenity amid the organised chaos of the Bouroullecs' studio

Describe your workspace.
Incredibly messy, which even to me is surprising. I imagined that as I got older I would become more organised but, in fact, I quite like the studio to keep a degree of unprofessionalism. It keeps us off a predetermined track and preserves our creativity. 

JMorrison-Portrait_1.jpg

Who are your design heroes?
I don’t have a passionate view on design heroes as such. Of course, in the Fifties, the Americans were fundamental and also the Nordic countries with Jacobsen, Aalto and Wegner. On the dark side, a little later, the Italians were like what Punk was to the music scene. Mario Bellini was a really important figure but most recently I really respect Jasper Morrison (right). His designs from the Eighties have shaped what is happening in design right now. 

Where do you find inspiration?
In making things. I spend most of my time in the studio working on a project. 

Are you always thinking about design?
Always, except when I read each night to reset my mind for a while. I have a couple of science fiction books on the go, Code Source by William Gibson and Grande Jonction by Maurice G. Dantec.

Your biggest must-have in a home is…
A kitchen. It is the most social place of the home. For me, cooking is a time when you connect with the elements – fire, water, flesh, earth and scent. It has the same kind of energy as sculpting, where things are happening and you can’t think twice. 

ABOVE FROM LEFT: The 'Palissade' range of outdoor furniture for Danish brand HAY was a big hit at Maison & Objet in September; The 'Kaari' wall shelf from the Bouroullecs' first collection for Artek, which launched at the Stockholm Furniture Fair in February

Is there anything you wish you had designed? 
Since we designed the TV, I feel our design philosophy is suited to a more technical subject. I would be very happy to design a car. 

If you weren't a designer, what might you have been?
When I was a student I used to look after young kids at summer camp. We were always doing stuff like building kites. It was really amazing.

What’s your social media of choice? 
I don’t post anything myself but I like to go on Instagram, as does Ronan. People often upload shots of our products and it is always pleasing to see their comments on how they are enjoying them at home. If the cat loves it, then so do we.
bouroullec.com  samsung.com

'Serif TV x Samsung' is available in 24", 32" and 40" sizes from 2 November 2015.