We began to worry: is this the end of cultural history?Well, I'm normally not one to back the naysayers, it's not a dumb question and I can't deny that they have a very strong point. Sometimes, the bizarre Groundhog Day approach of our industry feels like a never-ending concatenation of déjà vu. Nothing old, nothing new, been there, done that, continuing all the while to wear the t-shirt with neither compunction nor irony. It begs the question, then, whether it is possible to innovate without destroying tradition. Perhaps I'm being a little hyperbolic, but it really isn't too flippant a question. And it's a question which lies at the core of MUUTO's orientation to contemporary design. Having tired of the overabundance that ended up cheapening the Scandinavian design tradition, MUUTO engaged an impressive lineup of architects, designers and fine artists from the Nordic countries to disrupt and reimagine the accepted concepts of Scandinavian design history. Engaging this group of multi-disciplinary specialists, the brand has now ushered in, in their own words, "a great new era of Scandinavian design" that covers accessories, lighting and furniture now vaunted as the benchmark for quality and functionality. [gallery columns="4" ids="63889,63890,63891,63892,63893,63894,63895,63896,63897,63898,63899,63900,63901,63902,63903,63904,63905,63906,63907,63908,63909,63910,63911,63912"] Seeking to expand the heritage of design, MUUTO continues to innovate with unflagging aplomb. Forward-looking materials, techniques, creative thinking and specialist craftsmanship all combine with its ongoing commitment to a no-nonsense, fresh perspective on the history and future of Scandinavian design and aesthetics:
'To MUUTO good design starts with the person. MUUTO handpicks the brightest design talent in Scandinavia and gives them the freedom to express their individual story by encouraging experimentation. The result is a new and unique take on common everyday objects. Some want to alter the world, others find passion in colour and shape or draw deeply from personal experience. How do they see a chair, vase, lamp or any other everyday product?' – Kristian Byrge, MUUTO.Never, it would seem, has this come at a more timely point for the design community. After all, Christen Grosen, Design Director at MUUTO, wisely reminds me that "today, the boundary between private and professional lives is slowly dissolving – workplaces, restaurants and other public spaces are becoming less formal and we do not enjoy everything too sterile and rigid." His words remind us that, while the conditions of our daily lives continue to change, should not the design traditions that facilitate these changes change and evolve, too?
'I am very aware of how much power aesthetics has in a room. For example, the difference between a table being square versus round – it changes the dynamics of a meeting. You change your daily life by moving around and it shows what a huge influence your décor has. It creates renewed energy and, derived from that, a sense of happiness.' – Christen Grosen, MUUTO.Celebrating this keen understanding of the future of Scandiavian design, Living Edge – MUUTO's suppliers in Australia – hosted a private event at the Sydney Opera House's Utzon Room to welcome the brand's CEO, Anders Cleeman, and Sales Director, Christian Ernemann, to Australia where it seems that Scandinavian design has left an indelible mark on our national psyche. Showcasing an impressive host of designs by an equally impressive list of names, pieces from MUUTO's latest collections beautifully offset Sydney's harbour views. For the lucky and impressive punters on the guest list, they were treated to exclusive peeks at designs brought to life by an equally impressive litany of contemporary designers that include:
Anderssen and Voll, Andreas Bergsaker, Andreas Engesvik, Broberg and Ridderstrale, Cecile Manz, Claesson Koivisto Rune, David Geckeler, Form Us With Love, Hallgeir Homsvedt, Harri Koskinen, Iskos-Berlin, Jakob Wagner, Jens Fager, Johan Van Hengel, Jonas Wagnell, Julien De Smedt, Lars Tornoe, Louise Campbell, Margrethe Odgaard, Mattias Stahlbom, Mette Duedahl, Mika Tolvanen, MSDS, Norway Says, Ole Jensen, Simon Key Bertman, Staffan Holm, Soren Rose Studio, TAF Architects, Thomas Bentzen, Thomas Bernstrand, Tina Ratzer, Whatwshat.[gallery columns="4" ids="63913,63914,63915,63916,63917,63918,63919,63920,63921,63922,63923,63924,63925,63926,63927,63928,63929,63930,63931,63932,63933,63934,63935,63936,63937,63938,63939,63940,63941,63942,63943,63944,63945,63946,63947,63948,63949,63950,63951,63952,63953,63954,63955,63956,63957,63958,63959,63960,63961,63962,63963,63964,63965,63966,63967,63968,63969,63970,63971,63972,63973,63974,63975,63976,63977,63978,63979,63980,63981,63982,63983,63984,63985"]abc
For the most part, architect John Wardle is a forward thinker, a designer whose practices’ buildings – including the under-construction Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and the Melbourne School of Design – are shaped and crafted using the latest computer-aided design technologies and innovative construction techniques.
In some ways though, John looks backwards and forwards, subconsciously, to advance and compress time. As founder and principal of John Wardle Architects (JWA), John maintains that good architecture needs sufficient time to percolate and evolve.
At JWA, there is a constant endeavor to expand time: ideas are given space to emerge; the client’s needs might change or become more readily understood; spatial outcomes and minute details are refined. “The design development stage can only benefit from an extended period of deliberation and consideration,” he notes. His own house in Kew, in Melbourne’s inner east, is an extreme example of the transmutations that can occur in the architect’s mind and a building over a prolonged timeframe.
Home to John and his wife Susan for more than 25 years, the house was originally designed by Horace Tribe in 1951. Today, it’s almost unrecognisable as the building the Wardles purchased, having undergone two major renovations, most recently in 2000. At that time John was exploring “a fascination with a sense of enclosure”; a new wing was added to project the primary elevation outwards towards the street, partly to capture city views.
The resulting living room presents as a cross-section of the house. “All of the structure, internal finishes and furniture elements are capped by a single sheet of glass, which invites an understanding of the inner program,” says John.
Inside, the perimeter of this space is emphasised by articulated shelves and benches used for formal display, while a collection of contemporary furniture pieces – including a large sofa and iconic chairs such as the Fjord chair by Patricia Urquiola for Moroso and the Take a Line For a Walk armchair by Alfredo Häberli for Moroso – are arranged and rearranged to facilitate entertaining or relaxation modes. A grand piano takes centre stage: a house concert is being planned with an old friend, singer-songwriter Rebecca Barnard, who will be joined by Monique diMattina.
John explored the same preoccupation – with different results – on later JWA projects, including the City Hill House and Vineyard House. “To use your own projects as a test bed for the sorts of ideas that we often encourage our clients to consider gives validity to those concepts,” he says. “When you test your ideas with genuine enthusiasm and a degree of strategy on a project for your own family, it can draw those moments of individual endeavor into something that becomes part of a larger office discussion, such as a joinery element or ways of lighting a room.
“I enjoy that aspect of practice,” he adds, “where personal experience rolls into larger discussions with colleagues.”
Now that the couple’s children have grown up and recently moved out, the architect is developing plans for a third major reworking of their home. “The intention this time is to make it bigger by turning the kids’ playroom and elevated terrace into a place for drawing and study,” he says. “The original floor plan is still there, but it’s been slowly consumed as I’ve worked and reworked it over many years. The house is basically a constantly shifting experiment, and I think we will continue to stay there for many years.”
Despite this long-term preoccupation with one building, John and his family also enjoy visiting their farm on Bruny Island in Tasmania. The same location in which the JWA-designed Shearers Quarters won Australia’s highest award for residential architecture: the Robin Boyd Award in 2012. John has spent the past 18 months overseeing the renovation of the property’s historic Waterview cottage, originally constructed in the 1840’s by the ship’s carpenters, on the edge of a cliff overlooking Storm Bay. “I need to visit Waterview as an antidote to city life,” he says.
John grew up on the outskirts of Geelong, on the banks of the Barwon River; his father was an agricultural scientist turned science teacher and his mother was a school librarian. His childhood home was a place where accepted knowledge and conventional wisdom were endlessly challenged by constant questioning and new evidence. It was an environment that stimulated his ingrained sense of curiosity, one that was instrumental in setting the tone for JWA’s inclusive practice model, where the studio structure enables John to “lead from the middle”.
“Rather than just an understanding of architectural history, I bring a broad range of interests into the practice discussions,” he says. “I’m a very curious person and many of the methods of our practice are informed by that curiosity, as well as that of fellow Principal Stefan Mee, and by drawing craftspeople, artists and makers into our circle. I’m not an architect who works in isolation and we very much require many levels of input from a broad group of others within the practice.” John’s home and office are testament to his broad interests, with their substantial arrangements of unusual objects collected over time.
Over several weekends each year, members of the JWA team visit John’s Bruny Island property en masse, to undertake building projects. “Those trips are beneficial in so many ways: they remove us from the conventions of the space and the orthodoxies of an architecture office to somewhere that is completely other,” he says. “When we are there I try to not dictate, but rather to suggest and encourage, so those weekends are very playful. They are less about pure design and much more about the process of making, and sparking connections with the skilled tradespeople who craft our buildings.”
John also seeks respite from the pace of city life and his own restless energy by taking long walks through far-flung landscapes, including a recent overseas holiday where he and Susan walked along age-old tracks in three European countries. “It is such a pleasure to walk within ancient places,” he says.
Walking for pleasure is a simple way to return to a less demanding era. On foot, it’s possible to reconnect with nature and relish the present moment. Short of time travelling, it’s one of the best ways to return to the foreign country of the past, and to luxuriate in the pleasure of having enough time.
This story was originally published in Habitus #37, the Nostalgia issue – out now!
John Wardle Architects johnwardlearchitects.com
Photography by Marnie Hawson
In a rapidly developing metropolis, spaces that exist simply to provide a sense of space are exceedingly rare.
Metropolitan Manila, like so many other South East Asian cities is strewn with towering condominiums perpetually under construction. Life here can be claustrophobically congested.
The Manila House by actLAB sits at the other end of the spectrum – a notable example of considered spatial design against a backdrop of stifling density. Situated within an old pocket of Makati City and built for a young professional couple, the project was briefed as a nuanced interpretation of the traditional Filipino home.
“It was important to us to not be just one of those new houses following the same ‘modern’ trend,” say the residents.
“They are a contemporary Filipino couple, and wanted a modest, clean-lined house that will sit well in its context,” says Aya Maceda, founder of actLAB. “They knew of my modern interpretations on vernacular architecture and that I was starting my own practice, and they wanted to work with me.”
The inherited existing house had sustained water damage from the last typhoon in the area. For their forever home, the clients wanted to maximise what they could build on the property to include three bedrooms, three bathrooms and a home office, as well as an open plan arrangement to cater to the extended family gatherings customary in Filipino culture.
“There is a Sunday lunch legacy in this family where three generations get together weekly to share a meal. Siblings and parents catch up, children are running around in the background… you know, it’s big!” says Aya. “So I designed for that, with the idea that the many segments of the house would be visually connected.”
The expansion of the structural footprint towards the bounds of the site gave rise to the pivotal courtyard feature at the core of Manila House, which lends the home its uniquely inward-facing quality.
“It always rains in the Philippines, so we wanted a covered outdoor space – a lanai, which is an important space in the Filipino vernacular – our equivalent of a veranda. Traditionally, it is an open air living room that is covered, and facing a garden,” says Aya.
This green space at the heart of the home separates the dining room and double height living area, skilfully compartmentalising the ground floor while enhancing its spacious, sociable feel.
“The house is zoned in clusters. Visually, you feel you are all in one space, but at the same time, the spatial arrangement allows for different pockets of conversations to happen,” continues Aya.
In a culture so rich in celebration and family feasting, it follows that many Filipino households, even modest ones, are commonly served by two kitchens. The dry kitchen inside the house is kept for entertaining and the preparation of simple meals, while the serious culinary grunt work – frying whole fish over a dramatic industrial wok burner, for example – is reserved for the utilitarian wet, or ‘dirty’, kitchen outside. To this end, Aya included an adjoining outdoor service space. “Inside, they have somewhere nice to serve guests and eat breakfast, but it’s so important for them to have a place where they can cook traditional food.”
Natural air flow became another driver of the spatial plan. Bucking the nation-wide trend for maintaining artificial fridge-like temperatures indoors, the client preferred to reduce the need for air-conditioning. The actLAB team ensured lots of opportunity for cross-ventilation, with louvers specified on even the smallest openings.
“Air flow can be released upstairs, and they can purge air into the courtyard,” says Aya. “You can be inside the house and feel a breeze, even on very hot days.”
The furniture in Manila House is entirely produced by local craftsmen. The living room set was designed and created by local maker Milo Naval, a long-time collaborator of Aya’s with a background in architecture. “Besides supporting the local industry and having pieces that fit perfectly, we found the quality and craftsmanship of local artisans to be excellent and reasonably priced,” says the resident.
Milo’s wooden pieces sit well against the Manila House’s restrained material palette of porcelain tiles, compressed stone, masonry and local hardwood timbers. A native timber called Tanguile was used – a largely overlooked, inexpensive hardwood not frequently used in a fine house. The decision was made to use timber only in the places that you would touch, creating a sense of warmth and tactility as you move through the sequence of spaces.
While the Manila House provides a joyful respite for its human inhabitants, it is also a safe haven for its furry occupants. Though stray street dogs are endemic to the Philippines, many prized purebred pets are lamentably kept in cages to protect against escape, or theft. By contrast, the couple’s beagles sleep indoors and are free to roam the perimeter garden, which is screened with live bamboo for privacy.
“Much of the planning on the site was arranged to give the animals easy access to the outdoors, whilst keeping them away from the open front gate,” says Aya.
The house greets the street with an unassuming façade. Its exterior is clad in rendered masonry, with a first floor screened in white aluminium battens echoing the rhythmic timber slats within. This linear patterning is part of an overall strategy to lighten the visual mass of the project at street level, in reference to its context within a gated community.
Likewise, the gate blends in as part of the overall design. Greenery was designed into the façade to soften the frontage over time, with native foliage along the fence line, as well as over the garage canopy and behind the slatted screen.
“I worked for architect Alex Popov for seven years, and I always remember him telling me, ‘if you strip the house of its ornamentation, the design should be able to carry itself.’” Aya says. “This has been a guiding voice in my own practice, and I feel like that’s what this house achieves.” Or more simply put, and in the client’s words, the Manila House is a “happy house”.
This story was originally published in Habitus #37, the Nostalgia issue – out now!
Dissection Information Living room furniture OMO by Milo Naval. Other pieces custom made. Plaster and paint on concrete blocks for the interior and exterior wall. Concrete and porcelain tiles on floor. Glass louvre windows and powder coated aluminium windows. Custom made interior and exterior doors, interior louvres, stairs and handrails using local Tanguile timber. Custom made exterior louvres in powder-coated aluminum. Living in Style floor tiles by Cebu Oversea Hardware Company. Tanguile floorboards elsewhere. Custom made kitchen joinery, lacquered and timber veneer cabinetry. Countertops from Caesarstone. Refrigerator, cooktop and laundry from Whirlpool. Built-in oven from Franke. Sink from Creston. Kitchen taps from Franke. Bathroom fixtures from Grohe, Hansgrohe, Kholer and American Standard.