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Magnificent Mosaics


Get to know David Dalichoux, the French creator of haute couture floor tiles

Magnificent Mosaics


Get to know David Dalichoux, the French creator of haute couture floor tiles

Culture > Design


 

Magnificent Mosaics

October 27, 2017 / by Louis-Marie Delmas

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France’s cement tile industry was born in 1850 in the southern village of Viviers-en-Ardèche. For more than a century, these tiles were the most commonly used floor-covering material in the French home. Castles, luxury townhouses, traditional detached houses and Haussmann-era apartment buildings all featured cement tiles in a range of patterns and colours, and numerous local factories attempted to satiate the growing demand.

Imports soon flooded in. As the French market was flooded with cheaper, plain-coloured porcelain stoneware tiles from Spain and Italy in the latter half of the 20th century, the local cement tile industry began to die out, with factories closing one after the other. Today, David Dalichoux, from the fourth generation of a family of craftsmen, represents the only company in France that still makes cement tiles. 

“My great-grandfather established his factory in 1910 in Pézenas, in the Occitanie region of southern France, and my grandfather and then my father took over from him,” explains Dalichoux. “I had studied to be a mosaicist, so it was my duty to continue making cement tiles, because no one in France was making them anymore. I had inherited 140 dividers, which are the moulds used to make the patterned tiles. And I couldn’t abandon this heritage, this treasure handed down by my ancestors.” 

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Dalichoux’s great-uncle, now 94, taught him the family’s secrets for combining the different raw materials and making the tiles. “The tile is made up of cement, marble powder, metal oxides and a few secret ingredients that are totally French… it’s a bit like the Coca-Cola recipe.” 

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In the Dalichoux workshop, cement tiles and mosaics are custom-created following similar rituals. For a mosaic, the process starts with a blank sheet of paper, on which the artist designs the pattern or image based on the customer’s wishes. “It’s the same basic principle as for creating a painting,” he says. “In fact, the Italians say that a mosaic is a painting for eternity. I use the indirect method, the same one used by the Romans. After completing the actual-size drawing, I cut marble sheets into tiny cubes – or tesserae – of two centimetres or less and stick them face down on the paper.” 

All of Dalichoux’s mosaics – murals, table tops, Venetian-style terrazzo floors and inlaid decorations for swimming pools – are created using a multitude of marble and Venetian enamel tesserae. The entire process is done by hand, so it can take a long time. “The Last Supper mosaic, for which I received the Best Craftsman award [in France in 1997], took me 450 hours,” he recalls. 

The process for making traditional cement floor tiles is equally time-consuming. It takes 10 minutes to make a 20-centimetre-square tile, not counting the hours spent creating the colours and mixing the oxides, marble powders and other essential ingredients. To cover a surface of one square metre, 25 tiles are needed; the workshop turns out around 100 tiles each day. 

“These are luxury tiles, because I use the finest raw materials,” concludes Dalichoux. “That’s what differentiates them from the tiles made in other countries – it’s haute couture.”

Images: David Dalichoux

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Rolling Easy


This tiny wheel-style ruler is practical and eye-catching

Rolling Easy


This tiny wheel-style ruler is practical and eye-catching

Culture > Design


 

Rolling Easy

October 27, 2017 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

The Rollbe measuring tool by Toronto-based company The Work of Mind crowdfunded about C$132,000 on online funding platform Kickstarter in a month (its original goal was C$8,000). Only about the size of a coin and claimed to be the most compact ruler on the market, the measurement tool can handle straight lines and curved surfaces – very handy for professionals in fields such as architecture, design or sewing.

Two versions of the Rollbe are available, using both the metric and imperial systems – a four-inch or 10cm, and an eight-inch or 20cm. The numbers refer to the length the wheel rolls in making a full circle. User-experience-wise, a clicking sound is made with every full turn. To determine the length of an object, users need to count the number of the rotations and add the fractions of an inch (or extra centimetres).

The design consists of a stainless steel ruler that’s laser engraved on both sides, with a brass handle. Each piece comes with a leather case with a key chain for easy portability, too. This modern tool definitely makes for a cool, stylish gadget in your arsenal. Initial deliveries from the Kickstarter campaign are expected to begin in November.

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Images: The Work of Mind Inc/Rollbe

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Hang on, Please


Want to transform your home into a cosy space you can sink into after a hard day’s work? Keep cool – and hang some gorgeous wallpaper

Hang on, Please


Want to transform your home into a cosy space you can sink into after a hard day’s work? Keep cool – and hang some gorgeous wallpaper

Culture > Design


 

Hang on, Please

September 29, 2017 / by Marine Orlova

“Whatever you have in your rooms, think first of the walls; for they are that which makes your house and home; and if you don’t make some sacrifice in their favour, you will find that your chambers have a kind of makeshift lodging appearance about them, however rich and handsome your movables may be,” wrote William Morris, the famed 19th-century English textile designer. Indeed, walls immediately set the tone of an interior. Just as foundation make-up can change someone’s face, colours and patterns can give a completely new dynamic to a space. Furthermore, wallpaper says a lot about the homeowner’s taste and character. Let’s take a whirlwind tour of its tumultuous history and choose the one that will reveal your inner beauty.

Carlbergs Träd Green from the Arkiv collection, Sandberg

Carlbergs Träd Green from the Arkiv collection, Sandberg

Palm Jungle from the Contemporary Restyled collection, Cole & Son

Palm Jungle from the Contemporary Restyled collection, Cole & Son

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Balinese Peacock wallcovering, Scalamandré

Balinese Peacock wallcovering, Scalamandré

The history of European wallpaper dates back in the 16th century, when the first domino papers – poster-size sheets of paper printed with wooden blocks and painted with stencils – were made. “They first represented religious images, such as biblical figures with the Latin invocation O domino written underneath,” explains Véronique de la Hougue, chief curator of the wallpaper department at the French museum for Decorative Arts. “They were hung on walls like paintings. Secular images such as a garland of flowers, a fruit or a leaf appeared later at the end of the 17th century. These patterns were printed over several sheets of paper that had to be joined together – and this was the beginning of wallpaper.”

These refined, fragile pieces of paper were used in small, intimate rooms such as a corridor, an alcove or a cabinet, while state rooms were still covered by large tapestries as they had been in the Middle Ages. Dominos also lined the insides of furniture, coffers, boxes and bound paperback books. In the 1750s, It girl Madame de Pompadour (Louis XV’s favourite), who was a huge fan of wallpaper, fully adorned her dressing room in Versailles with these colourful papers. “Let’s keep in mind that there was no electricity at that time, only natural light and candles,” says de la Hougue. “If one shed a modern halogen light in an 18th-century interior, one would be really surprised by the bold terracottas, vivid greens and azure blues applied on the walls.”

Wallpaper paternity is a European bone of contention. “If the French were very good at drawings and patterns, the Britons made the major technical breakthroughs,” says de la Hougue. “At the beginning of the 18th century, the English invented a machine that could join up to 24 sheets together, which made printing easier. They also set the trend of flocked wallpapers, whose texture imitated cut velvet – they are still a staple in wallcovering.” Can you imagine that the French even employed spies to uncover the secret of these trendy wallpapers?

Portobello (custom monochromatic design colours on Scarlet Lady dyed silk) from the Chinoiserie collection, De Gournay

Portobello (custom monochromatic design colours on Scarlet Lady dyed silk) from the Chinoiserie collection, De Gournay

Without a doubt, the 19th century was the golden age of wallpaper. The steam revolution, which allowed the printing of large quantities of paper faster and at a lower cost, made it affordable for working-class homes. “Wallpaper was then considered as a necessity, as vital as food and home,” says de La Hougue. It was an economical, clean and stylish alternative to painting and fabric; moreover, it was an easy way to bring fashion and art into one’s house. Indeed, wallpapers were infused by contemporary artistic movements: arts-and-crafts flower patterns, jazz-age and cubic-style designs, psychedelic swirls in the ’70s and so on.

Though wallpaper went out of style for a couple of decades, the world has seen an incredible revival over the last 10 years. Used as an ornament to create an accent wall or as a plain background to set a cosy atmosphere, wallpapers are truly everywhere. 

So what are the hottest trends? Nadine Tulloch-Osborne, a marketing executive for Cole & Son, answers: “Botanical patterns and textures of natural materials such as leather, wool and stone are desirable. African inspiration is also very strong nowadays. One wants their interior to bring a sense of reassuring warmth in the increasingly dominant age of the digital lifestyle.” 

De la Hougue also notes that digital printing allows the creation of extraordinary large-scale murals and ultimate sophisticated patterns: “Once again, a technological innovation makes wallpaper history move forward.”

Now let’s have fun and listen to William Morris’s advice: yes, a roll of paper can make the entire difference. Why not be inspired by the 18th-century fad for exoticism and travel in your living room with a panoramic landscape? Or how about covering your ceiling with cloud, star or plane wallpapers? To find the right one for you, have a look at the collections of Cole & Son, Sanderson, Sandberg or Scalamandré, which provide vintage revival patterns as well as more sober modern ones. And for those who want to stick to the traditional handmade wallpaper, the unique dominos of Antoinette Poisson and the impressive hand-painted wallpapers of De Gournay will realise your dream of a perfect interior.


Following traditional 18th-century techniques, the French workshop Antoinette Poisson (the name of the Marquise de Pompadour) brings new life to the cosy and rustic charm of dominos

Following traditional 18th-century techniques, the French workshop Antoinette Poisson (the name of the Marquise de Pompadour) brings new life to the cosy and rustic charm of dominos


Images: A Paris chez Antoinette Poisson; © TrésorParisien 2016; Cole & Son (Wallpapers) Limited; Sanderson; Sandberg; © 2000 – 2017 Scalamandré; © 2015 de Gournay

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Breathe Easy


An Italian architect brings his “vertical forest” concept to address the pollution in Nanjing

Breathe Easy


An Italian architect brings his “vertical forest” concept to address the pollution in Nanjing

Culture > Design


 

Breathe Easy

September 29, 2017 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

 

Italian architect and urban planner Stefano Boeri has come to global prominence for his high-rise towers that are engulfed by plants and trees. Reminiscent of the ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon, his famed project is termed the “vertical forest”. The sustainability-focused concept was initiated by a big-budget experiment in 2014 in Boeri’s hometown of Milan, where he built two residential towers completely covered with more than 700 trees and 20,000 plants. Boeri’s second “vertical forest” was created in Lausanne, Switzerland – a 117-metre residential tower of 100 cedar trees, covering an area of more than 32,000sqft. 

With an office in Shanghai, the Stefano Boeri Architetti studio has joined hands with a state-owned investment group financed by the Nanjing government for the third “vertical forest” in the world – and the first in Asia. Located in the metropolitan region of the critical Yangtze River Delta, about an hour from Shanghai, Nanjing is a historical and cultural hub that also suffers from severe air pollution.

With an announced completion date of 2018, the Nanjing project expects to see 1,100 trees (from 23 local species) as well as 2,500 cascading plants and shrubs, covering a capacious area of about 65,000sqft. That roughly translates to 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide absorption each year and 60kg of oxygen production per day.

According to Boeri, the extra trees and soil on the facades of the building only cost about 5% to 8% more than an ordinary structure, but the maintenance for the greenery is where the price really goes up. For the Milan prototype, he used “flying gardeners” as a relatively cheaper solution, rather than having them climb up the building to take care of the trees. Costly, yes – but being able to breathe is priceless.

Images: Stefano Boeri Architects

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Dasha’s Smasher: Garage Museum


Russian billionairess’s Rem Koolhaas-designed Garage Museum wows Moscow

Dasha’s Smasher: Garage Museum


Russian billionairess’s Rem Koolhaas-designed Garage Museum wows Moscow

Culture > Design



Dasha’s Smasher

July 10, 2015 / by Ben Windsor

Above image: Garage Museum in Gorky Park, Vestibule

Garage Museum in Gorky Park, overview

Garage Museum in Gorky Park, overview

The opening of Moscow’s striking new Rem Koolhaas-designed Garage Museum of Contemporary Art last month was a decisive moment for Russia’s global cultural ambitions. 

Founders Roman Abramovich and his wife Dasha Zhukova, along with director Anton Belov, and chief curator Kate Fowle, hosted over 500 international guests from the fields of art, entertainment and business, and representatives from many of the most prestigious global institutions.

Top American dealers Larry Gagosian, David Zwirner and Jeffrey Deitch all travelled to Moscow, as did Shanghai-based Xin Li, deputy chairman of Christie’s Asia. The museum’s patrons also include Hong Kong’s Silas Chou and Sir David Tang. 

Zhukova has grand plans for Garage, which she regards as a place for people, art and ideas to create history. “When I came up with the idea to create an art institution in Moscow, I could never have imagined that Garage would become what it is today,” she said at the opening. 

Founded in 2008 by businesswoman and gallerist, Zhukova, Garage is the first philanthropic institution in Russia to create a public mandate for contemporary art and culture. Originally housed in Moscow’s renowned Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage, designed by architect Konstantin Melnikov, from which the gallery took its name, in 2012 Garage relocated to a specially commissioned temporary pavilion in Gorky Park designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. 

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The new structure, designed by Pritzker-prize winning architect Rem Koolhaas and his OMA studio, has transformed the park’s famous Vremena Goda (Seasons of the Year) restaurant created in 1968, into an imposing, sci-fi art space. The building had been derelict for 20 years before Zhukova bought it. In this part-preservation project, some original Soviet mosaics were retained and decorative tiles and brickwork were also restored. 

The 5,400 square-metre structure features a state-of-the-art façade of a translucent double-layer of polycarbonate elevated two metres above ground that wraps around the retained concrete structure of the restaurant. 

There is a ground floor space that opens onto the surrounding park and two 11-metre wide vertical sliding panels that rise seven metres above the rooftop terrace when fully extended. 

There are five exhibition galleries, an auditorium, public library, children’s area, and bookshop - Garage’s much-patronized café has also been retained.

Koolhaas was excited by such a prestigious challenge: “Preservation is increasingly important in our approach to existing cities, so we were delighted to work on turning the virtual-ruin of Vremena Goda into the new home for Garage. 

We were able to explore the qualities of generosity, dimension, openness, and transparency of the Soviet wreckage and find new uses and interpretations for them; it also enabled us to avoid the exaggeration of standards and scale that is becoming an aspect of contemporary art spaces,” he says. Zhukova is similarly enthused: “I am certain that our collaboration will help us create a new vision for contemporary art in Russia.

Garage Museum in Gorky Park, Education platform

Garage Museum in Gorky Park, Education platform

It is quite a vision, too. Garage will have Russia’s first public library devoted to modern and contemporary art, including “unofficial” art from the Soviet era, providing a glimpse into the country’s alternative art history. There will also be an archive of documentary material relating to the development of contemporary art in Moscow, St Petersburg and other Russian cities since the ’50s. Several commercial galleries across the country have donated their archives.

If Garage is to succeed, it must function as a two-way street. While, as the first such contemporary museum in the city, it must focus on bringing international contemporary art to Moscow, it also has to “produce internationally important projects from Moscow,” says curator Kate Fowle. 

The exhibition programme is testament to Zhukova, and the country’s ambitions; interactive shows by Japan’s
Yayoi Kusama and Argentina’s
Rirkit Tiravanija with Slovakia’s
Julius Koller; a series of displays from the Garage Archive Collection, photographs of the Moscow underground art scene from the ’70s through ’80s by conceptualist George Kiesewalter of Moscow, and works by Taryn Simon from the US, as well as a site-specific installation by Germany’s Katharina Grosse, among a host of other offerings. 

Kusama, the world’s most expensive female artist at auction, is making her debut in Russia, immersing audiences in her sensory and psychological environments. Connecting Garage to the place, she has created a large-scale public artwork, Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees, to guide visitors through Gorky Park.

Outlandish, otherworldly, and fired through with artistic and national ambition, Zhukova’s Garage is a supreme statement of intent, a silver bullet that hits the artistic and aesthetic sweet spot.

Images x 3 courtesy of OMA

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The Visionary: Pazo Ho


How Pazo Ho’s foresight sharpened Hong Kong’s eyewear culture

The Visionary: Pazo Ho


How Pazo Ho’s foresight sharpened Hong Kong’s eyewear culture

Culture > Design



The Visionary

May 29, 2015 / by Natacha Riva

Most Hong Kong stores were selling licensed brands of optical wear, like Gucci, Prada, or Dior, but nobody was selling original optical brands,” says eyewear pioneer and Visual Culture owner Pazo Ho, on the city’s ocular offerings when he set up in 2008. 

But Hong Kong being one of the global cities with the highest per-capita glasses-wearing population, Ho saw room to cater to a different, more discerning market. “Many people appreciate the traditional handcrafting of frames and innovation in frame designs.  We wanted to introduce something completely different,” he says. 

And so he did.  Visual Culture, an iconic eyewear and lifestyle store for the chic and avant-garde - which counts film directors Peter Chan and Wilson Yip among its clientele - was the result.  Now with six stores in greater China, its cutting-edge artisanal eyewear collection, gallery-decor shop atmosphere, and experienced optical professionals, the brand provides a platform for eyewear lovers who share its passion and appreciation for arts, design, culture, and 500 years of optical history. 

With 25 years of merchandising experience, Ho, a registered optometrist who started as a trainee in an optical store in 1990, always wanted to push his career to a higher stage. He worked his way up, across a selection of the city’s optical shops, and became manger of an Optical 88 branch in Macau.  Optical 88 are the largest optical chain store in Hong Kong.  As a result, he knew the products and services customers needed and, just as importantly, appreciated what was lacking in the local optical market. 

“We searched the world looking for special eyeglass brands, but not the obvious names. We wanted those with limited production who were not seeking world renown, but who worked hard to make the best glasses in their respective cities.” 

That passion has seen the introduction of names like Japan’s Hakusan by Megane, America’s Moscot, and England’s Oliver Goldsmith, none of which had previously been available in the city, and all with a particular provenance. 

Hakusan, established in 1883, still makes all its frames by custom order. The Aoyama-based brand was a favourite of musician John Lennon, 

who, while on a trip to Tokyo with wife Yoko Ono, bought their ‘Mayfair’ model in 1979 and subsequently had nine pairs of bespoke frames made.  New York brand Moscot is an institution celebrating its 100th anniversary - five generations - this year. Its signature aesthetic - classic design mixed with downtown New York City culture - was the go-to brand for Hollywood films during much of the 20th century. 

Goldsmith is often credited as the man who invented ‘fashion eyewear’. He was the first to work with fashion houses to create one-off pieces for catwalks, the first to regard sunglasses as fashion accessories and his signature black spectacles were favoured by Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn among a host of 20th century icons.  “We want people who come to our stores to appreciate the history and culture of the brands,” says Ho. 

It would be easy for Ho to sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labours, but ever the game-changer, he’s making new moves again.  Ho’s latest venture is new concept store Cult, an extension of the Visual Culture brand with stores in both Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui. Targeting younger, more savvy customers, Cult drives the store concept in a more imaginative and energetic way, directly appealing to the next generation of art and fashion conscious eyewear devotees. Brands like Yohji Yamamoto, ill.i Optics by will.i.am, Anderne, Boston Club and Ush will be the pick of the bunch. He has also discussed opening stores in Japan and Taiwan. 

He likes to give back, too. An experience visiting Kunming in Yunnan Province and meeting local people who live at high altitude and have cataracts caused by exposure to the sun, inspired Ho to donate money for cataract operations in the province. Ho also photographed the experience to help raise awareness and inspire others to donate money for more operations. The visionary in action.

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Flight of Fancy: Aviation Furniture


Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it’s bespoke aviation furniture landing in Dalian

Flight of Fancy: Aviation Furniture


Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it’s bespoke aviation furniture landing in Dalian

Culture > Design



Flights of Fancy

April 24, 2015

Tired of the carbon footprint your Gulfstream private jet is leaving in its wake? Then think different and sacrifice speed for sustainability by transforming the parts of your aircraft into striking and functional furniture.

Call it ultra-high-net-worth upcycling, but that’s what MotoArt does by design, turning parts of decommissioned commercial and military aircraft - wings, fuselages and tires - into conference tables, room dividers and coffee tables. And now the California-based company has just opened an 8,000sq ft showroom in Dalian’s Xinghai Square on the mainland, which aside from serving as a traditional retail outlet, can also be hired for corporate events.

MotoArt’s client list reads like the Fortune 500, ranging from General Electric, Microsoft and Red Bull, to Leo Burnett, Universal Music and Saks Fifth Avenue. It’s little wonder given that the company takes bespoke design to such altitudes while offering clients a chance to own a piece of aviation history.

Chinese travellers, according to CEO David Hall, have been discovering MotoArt and wanting the same back in China. “China is a growing market for American design and there is an element of kid in a candy store with our designs,” he says. Aviation is also growing rapidly in China, with more than 80 airports being built across the country in the next decade.

Among MotoArt’s signature pieces – and its most expensive – is the 747 Cowling Conference Table, right, (US$75,000) featuring a polished Boeing 747 jet engine as its centrepiece. The table seats 12 and has optional data ports to allow users to charge their devices during meetings.

The rarest items are the World War II B-25 Bomber Desks, “some of which come with original bullet holes still in them,” says Hall. MotoArt’s most popular products are its personal 737 Cowling Desks, and the large 747 cowling for corporate reception desks. For good measure, there’s also a Jumbo 747 Sleeper bed.  Which exec worth their air miles wouldn’t want a Gulfstream 2 work desk?

In fact, the permutations for personalisation are almost endless, but MotoArt can’t say yes to everything; for now the sky is still the limit. The day we spoke with Hall, a client had emailed a picture of a Michelin tyre from a NASA Space Shuttle, asking if he could create a small coffee table from it. “We turned this one down,” says Hall, regretfully. “We represent series’ of limited-edition functional art. Any one of our products you see on our website, we must have at least a few of any one series. We don’t have an inventory of Space Shuttle parts,” he says, “Yet!”

MotoArt has showrooms in California, Australia, Malaysia and now Dalian. Has anyone got some Chang’e 3 moon rover parts? (motoart.com)