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)

LAVA

Chris Bosse is one third of architecture firm LAVA, an innovative practice based in Sydney, Berlin and Stuttgart. The trio’s global, multi-disciplinary portfolio ranges from a sports hostel in Germany to a UAE eco city and a sinuous exhibition space for 2016’s Sydney Design Festival.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What inspired your Sydney Design Festival exhibition design?
We designed the Powerhouse Museum exhibition ‘Out of Hand: Materialising the Digital’ (on until 25 June 2017), which was a digital dream come true. As a practice deeply entrenched in digital fabrication technologies, it was exciting to create an immersive space that provides room for storytelling and objects while being part of the story itself. Inspired by the exhibition content, our design explores the idea of a continuous line as a means to create a spatial continuum in a digital world, and to express the infinite possibilities of emerging digital data collection and manufacture. We used the latest technologies and CNC for fabrication, which were both time- and cost-effective.

ABOVE RIGHT: LAVA's Asia Pacific Director Chris Bosse
ABOVE: Futuristic exhibition design for 'Out of Hand: Materialising the Digital', part of the Sydney Design Festival at the Powerhouse Museum

ABOVE: LAVA co-founders Chris Bosse (Sydney), Alexander Rieck (Stuttgart) and Tobias Wallisser (Berlin)

What do the three of you bring to the party?
When LAVA was founded in 2007 the goal was to learn from the expertise of the three directors. Stuttgart-based Alexander Rieck brings knowledge of the working environments and building processes of the future, while Berlin-based Tobias Wallisser researches and teaches cutting-edge, digital planning technologies at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart. I moved to Sydney in 2002 and my work is based on the computerised study of organic structure and resulting spatial conceptions. We offer a mobile, highly flexible network of specialist designers and collaborators across continents.

What's LAVA's design philosophy?
LAVA stands for Laboratory for Visionary Architecture, a laboratory for ideas tested and approved. The common thread is sustainable design – beautiful, efficient and contemporary, whether for an exhibition, a hotel or a whole city.

Our creative process incorporates mankind, nature and technology. Humans are at the centre, and we merge future technologies with the patterns of organisation found in nature to build a smarter, friendlier, more socially and environmentally responsible future. We use naturally evolving structural systems, such as snowflakes, spider’s webs and soap bubbles, for new building typologies – the geometries in nature generate both efficiency and beauty. By combining digital workflow, nature’s structural principles and the latest digital fabrication technologies we build more (architecture) with less (material/energy/time/cost).

ABOVE: Bosse contributed to PTW Architects' startling Beijing Olympics Watercube; LAVA's winning design for the UAE's future eco-friendly Masdar city centre; KACST Headquarters in Riyadh, and verdant Berlin mixed-used development THE:SQUARE, are both under construction; A 2012 bid to build the Secretariat of the Green Climate Fund in Bonn

Which projects are you most proud of? And what's up next? 
The National Swimming Centre in Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games. I was a key design member at PTW for the Watercube, which won the Atmosphere Award at the 9th Venice Architecture Biennale. Another was winning the international competition to design the centre of the world’s first eco city Masdar in the UAE.

LAVA designs currently under construction include a new university master plan and headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; a youth sports hostel in Bayreuth, Germany; mixed-use developments in Berlin and Hangzhou, China; and a residential tower in Hanoi, plus 88 houses in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

ABOVE: LAVA's design for the new Philips Lighting Headquarters in Eindhoven, The Netherlands; Sydney International Airport's sandstone-influenced regional duty free area, another 2016-completed project

We’ve also just completed a company headquarters and lighting showroom for Philips in The Netherlands, a regional duty free zone at Sydney International Airport inspired by the sandstone rock caves of Sydney Harbour, and a Japanese restaurant fit-out.

BELOW: Chris Bosse renovated his own sleekly organic Tivoli Terrace home in Sydney's inner-city Paddington in 2015

What drove the design of your own Sydney home?
Bringing the outside in was the priority in the 2015 renovation of Tivoli Terrace, a four-metre-wide terrace house, which links Victorian Sydney with the future of modern architecture. Every surface is a design element making a statement, and has more than one function like containing storage. New timber floors streamline the living areas, while sliding windows and timber screens open up to a courtyard and extend the space. Materiality was kept pale with natural wood and neutral colours, juxtaposed with iconic mid-century furniture and contemporary designer lighting which add 21st century cool.

ABOVE: A feasibility study for a Bionic Tower in Abu Dhabi, with an intelligent skin that responds to its environment; Featuring a shimmering façade of fins, Hangzhou's Zhejiang Gate Towers are under construction

Where do you get inspiration?
I start by going for a walk or swimming in the morning or at sunset – not only is it relaxing but that's also where I find ideas. You need oxygen running through your veins and you are completely enlightened. Going to work and sitting in front of a white sheet of paper is still the best moment, even if the sheet is a screen. A lot can get lost from idea to project and then realisation, and we try to diminish the gap.

What's currently exciting you in design or style?
‘Intelligent’ architecture. It is not about the shape but about the intelligence of the system. The intelligence of the smallest unit results in the intelligence of the overall system. I envision a world where buildings are responsive to external influences such as air pressure, temperature, humidity, and solar radiation; of networked building systems, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In the architecture of the future new materials and technologies enable an adaptability, responsiveness, environmental awareness and strength not seen in conventional architecture. I practice these principles in projects from exhibition design in Sydney to villas in Vietnam.

ABOVE: Also under way is the Y-shaped Bayreuth Youth Hostel in Germany, sporting innovative forms and sustainable credentials

Who are your design heroes?
German architect Frei Otto’s soap bubble experiments for the Munich Olympic Stadium in the early Seventies are a great inspiration. Verner Panton’s iconic 'Panton Chair' anticipated the digital revolution by decades. And Antoni Gaudi, who designed buildings of unspeakable beauty and innovation, inspired by nature.

Where's on your travel wish list?
Snorkelling – being underwater – anywhere, from the Great Barrier Reef to Vanuatu and Malaysia. The coral reefs are the cities of the future where species coexist and thrive together. The light refractions of the sunlight create endless patterns and artwork together with the sand. I would love to see Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands too, although not for work!

What's your social media of choice?
Anything visual, Facebook or Instagram.
www.l-a-v-a.net

Pictures: Jayne Ion and Marinco Kojdanovski (Out of Hand exhibition)

BRODIE NEILL Made in Ratio

Born in Australia, Brodie Neill's designs have proved a global hit. His eponymous London-based label crafts limited editions and public commissions, while his brand Made in Ratio produces eye-catching furniture and lighting. A furniture design graduate from Tasmania, he has created work for Italian firms Kundalini and Riva 1920, as well as one-off projects for Austrian crystal company Swarovski and British fashion guru Alexander McQueen.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What inspired you to start Made in Ratio?
I set up Made in Ratio in 2013 to create a more accessible furniture collection to sit alongside the limited edition and commission pieces produced by my studio, but one that still maintained my trademark high quality of form, originality and innovation. 

What’s the brand’s design vision?
To bring thoughtful and progressive ideas to life that are in perfect proportion: of form and function, time-honoured and new materials, traditional hand craftsmanship and boundary-pushing digital process. 

ABOVE: Brodie Neill with his sculptural 2015 'Wishbone' seats, three-way organic benches commissioned by Hobart's Brooke Street Pier
ABOVE RIGHT: The stackable 'Alpha' chair with A-shaped back

ABOVE: The head-turning 'Supernova' table and 'Alpha' chair helped put Neill's London-based brand Made in Ratio on the map, combining traditional craftsmanship with digital technology

Your ‘Supernova’ table and ‘Alpha’ chair have helped make your name. Tell us more.
Both ‘Supernova’ and ‘Alpha’ are the result of organic engineering, inspired by nature and refined through technology. The ‘Supernova’ trestle is formed by pouring 100 per cent recycled molten aluminium into a sand casted mould. We combined an ancient manufacturing process with environmental sustainability to produce a modern product with a long lifespan. A toughened glass top rests on the star-shaped trestles, which can be positioned in various multiples and orientations to create a dining table, desk or coffee table.

Our ‘Alpha’ chair is inspired by whale vertebrae that wash up on the shores of Tasmania’s coast. The name is derived from the A-shaped structure of the back legs and backrest, which give the chair its strength. ‘Alpha’ is formed from six components individually CNC-shaped and assembled into the single seamless form using traditional and contemporary woodworking techniques.

What projects do you have coming up?
2016 kicked off with Made in Ratio presenting our collection at January's Maison&Objet design fair in Paris, including reiterations of some of our most recognised pieces. We are planning events at this year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan and the London Design Festival. In Australia, I was delighted to be shortlisted for the recent Rigg Design Prize exhibition at Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria. Made in Ratio also has exciting projects coming up in 2016 through its commercial partner Living Edge design store in Australia. In Hobart, we have designed the ‘Wishbone’ sculptural seating for the Brooke Street Pier, which is now open to the public.

BELOW: Made in Ratio's 2013 'Cowrie Rocker' rocking lounger takes its cue from the concave curves of seashells. The sweeping all-in-one structure is formed from plywood with a veneer of natural ash, ebonised ash, walnut or oak.

photo: brooke holm

photo: brooke holm

Do you still work independently as Brodie Neill on design-art and limited edition commissions? Or does Made in Ratio dominate your time?
The two studios work hand-in-hand and our research and experimentation for projects in one studio informs our work in the other. I established Made in Ratio as a small, self-produced collection to complement my complete creative output. Currently, under the Brodie Neill arm, we are working on private commissions in Asia and the USA, new furniture products for Italian brand Riva 1920, and ‘Portal’, an eight-metre sculpture for Brooke Street Pier on the waterfront of Tasmania's capital Hobart, a landmark meeting point that will be installed mid-2016.

Where do you get inspiration?
The beauty and complexity found in nature continues to be my biggest source of inspiration; over millennia, through evolution, nature has already resolved many of the design challenges we face today. This inspiration manifests itself in the overall form as well as the details in my designs.

ABOVE: Moulded from a single piece of Corian, Made in Ratio's 2014 'Pleat' indoor/outdoor bench effortlessly overlaps at each end to create an elegant silhouette

How do the UK and Australian design scenes differ?
With the help of modern communication, the two countries are now closer than ever before and through recent projects, I’ve been lucky to be part of both. London is nearer to other established design capitals such as Milan, Paris and Stockholm as well as burgeoning design scenes in cities including Berlin, Lodz and Ljubljana, which all influence the vibrancy of the creative scene and diversity of work across Europe. 

In Australia it’s great to see local design getting the chance to shine, thanks to some fantastic recent projects, with more currently underway all over the country. Through Made in Ratio’s partnership with Living Edge we are fortunate to be part of these exciting schemes.

Globally, we’re seeing a shift away from the bigger brands of Europe and North America – these guys still control the market share don’t get me wrong! – but we’re seeing a scope for smaller operations as alternatives and this suits locally designed and produced pieces in Australia and throughout the world. 

What’s currently exciting you in design, architecture or art?
I find it inspiring to see materials being used in original ways and innovation in processes where new life is breathed into forgotten crafts through the aid of digital design. It’s also at the crossroads of previously defined design fields that the real magic happens, where science meets art, nature meets technology and the old meets the new. Preconceived design disciplines are discarded allowing contemporary creatives to roam free across uncharted territory.

ABOVE: The 'Supernova' table in a fresh incarnation, supported by a trio of trestles in spaceage shapes and tempting turquoise

Which design era has influenced you the most?
The pioneering period of the 1950s and 60s has been particularly influential in my designs. It was a very potent time of experimenting with new materials and technologies. The era also saw an emergence of playfulness in designers and their sculptural ideas for the home.

Where’s on your travel wishlist?
I have just returned from the IMM Cologne design show and Paris. Over the next few months, I have some trips planned in Europe to meet the craftspeople we work with and visit factories. I am also keen to build on our success in the Far East and will be travelling to China and Japan towards the middle of the year and then Australia. 

What’s your social media of choice?
Design is inherently a visual industry so Instagram and Twitter lend themselves really well as platforms where we can tell stories through images and also seek inspiration and keep in touch with wider industry trends. Follow us on @madeinratio and @brodieneill.
madeinratio.com   brodieneill.com

AMANDA TALBOT

Sydney-based Australian stylist, design consultant and author Amanda Talbot cut her teeth on Livingetc and ELLE Decoration magazines in the UK, before collaborating with industry names from Ilse Crawford to IKEA. Her new book Happy aims to create 'joyous living spaces though design.'

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What inspired you to write Happy?
After I wrote my first book Rethink: The Way You Live I realised that all those I featured may be going about life differently but they all just wanted to be happy. It got me thinking about how design can help people to be happier. 

What is happy design?
Happy design is emotional. It speaks to our hearts as well as our heads. It displays optimism, self-confidence and empathy. Historically words like ‘happy’ and ‘design’ have not been used together; pragmatism won out. People thought happy design was bold, childlike colours and houses filled with novelty ideas – places where you don’t want to spend a lot of time. Today, more architects and designers want to create objects and spaces we can enjoy. 

What key design lessons did you learn?
What makes one person happy can be another person’s nightmare – such as paint colours – but there are key elements we can all draw on. Tap into nature, lighting, colour, humour and flow, and create spaces that encourage more spontaneous, playful experiences in your home.

TOP PICTURE: Architect Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen's bear duvet, from By Nord, adds a cheery touch
BELOW: Unexpected colour brings fun touches to the homes of Paris creative director Jean-Christophe Aumas and Sydney design label Kawaiian Lion. Art and quirky ornaments up the feelgood factor

What was the most feelgood home you visited?
Each place I visited had its own inspiring feelgood factor. I loved designer Lee Broom’s London cinema room with a popcorn machine. Jo Wood’s Camden home was full of smiles and surprises, such as her skull wallpaper. I adored the giant Anish Kapoor-like silver slide in a New York apartment. The huge feasting table in an Amsterdam house showed me the importance of where we sit and eat. Tenka Gammelgaard’s Copenhagen home proved that a happy space is all about attitude.

Any little tips that can make a big wellbeing impact?
Stop following fast-fashion trends and ask yourself what makes you happy. Stepping away from the happy clichés is very liberating. It’s rare that we simply savour the moment, make the most of what we have, or put energy and love into our homes. When choosing colour for a space I now consider first what mood and activity I want to encourage. I also learned the power of editing. We need an intervention in how much we shop! 

What are the worst offenders when it comes to unhappy interiors?
I asked that question in my Happy Poll. The common answers were lack of storage, space, daylight and gardens, too much clutter, not enough room for alone time, outdated interiors, and excess noise.

ABOVE: Smile style: an owl figurine at artist Tenka Gammelgaard's monochrome home

Tell us about your work on Sydney's Coogee Pavilion (above).
I helped design this 'happy' bar/restaurant at Coogee Beach, alongside Justin and Bettina Hemmes, from owner’s Merivale, and Kelvin Ho from Akin Creative. For the ground floor, launched in July, I created a giant magnetic scrabble game with a library ladder to reach the top, customised ping pong tables with colourful geometric patterns, and introduced outsize Connect Four, Jenga, and Noughts and Crosses. We wanted adults and children to feel part of the space. I also commissioned a giant whale light. We opened the rooftop on 30 December, with four bars in a beautiful conservatory, styled as if it belonged to an eccentric botanist. 

Any other current projects?
I mentor young talents at The Design Residency, which I co-founded in Sydney. It’s an incubator for fledgling fashion and homewares designers to turn their products into viable, commercial brands.

Which residents should we be watching?
Shilo Engelbrecht has enjoyed incredible success during her time with us (table linen, above left). She had her gorgeous textiles included in Kit Kemp’s Ham Yard Hotel in London, an art exhibition with UK lifestyle boutique Anthropologie, visited Italian homewares label Missoni, and attracted top global buyers. Varina Krook from Stash Textiles is also a brilliant illustrator whose new range explores Australian historical houses and botanical motifs. British store Liberty helped with her production. Sophia Pearce from Flotsam/Jetsam has designed the marvellous ‘Buoy’ light (above right), ideal for the urban nomad. Grace Wood uses wool from her family farm to craft beautiful felt cushions, throws, over-scaled objects and wall installations. 

What's exciting you in design?
People like Dutch-born, Melbourne-based designer Joost Bakker, with his pioneering approach to sustainable living, plants and zero-waste.

Where’s on your travel wish list?
Western Australia. It’s the home of cute marsupial the quokka, my mascot while writing Happy

What’s your social media of choice?
I love Instagram. It’s so instant, image-focused and most small businesses say it has had huge impact in growing their brands. 

'Happy' by Amanda Talbot (Murdoch Books, AU$69.99) available now