One of the most beautiful things about a beautifully designed object is that it can make you feel unique. You look at it, at its colour and its shape, and immediately its functional and emotional attributes transfer onto you.
You feel current, in the know, and modern. You feel you have good taste in the world around you and you feel that it is only the beautiful and meaningful things that seduce your senses. You look at a beautifully designed object and you feel like you are looking at a work of art.
This is the feeling I got while I was looking at all the objects that were displayed at the D-Pod Store, close to the Blackfriars Station.
The place is a space where independent designers can hire a small pod to display their creations. The overall shop is smaller than 5-7 square meters, but it manages to host creations from over thirty designers. “Most of them are from around London; some are from outside of the UK and they work in London, while others work from Europe altogether”, said James, a former advertising photographer who now supports the D-Pod Store and who was looking after it on the Saturday that I visited.
“The D-Pod is a place where these designers can display their work. We sell it for them in exchange for a monthly rental cost. Because they are independent designers and everything is made by hand, their output is relatively small and fits nicely into the space that is available in each of the pods”, said James as I was marvelling at some of the soy candles on display.
Their manufacturer is a designer who travels regularly to the South of France to pick the flowers and the scents he uses in his work. It is this level of attention and care that goes into the making of these candles – and of the jewellery and handbags on display, among other things – that wins you over. You hear the story of the designer who travels to France to pick his flowers; of the Italian girl who spends a lot of time in Tuscany to create the handsomely crafted Bucklesbury bags; you are transported to the place and time the products are created, identify them as unique and immediately have to have one of them.
There is no doubt that a lot of attention, care, and craft go into the products that are sold as part of mass-production and large, traditional retail shops and I am often their customer. But on this particular Saturday afternoon, as I was strolling down the Southbank and taking things in slowly, I appreciated the opportunity of “getting to know” a couple of designers and their work at a slightly milder pace.
More on the D-Pod at dpod.co.uk.
“When it’s safe to talk about mistakes, people are more likely to report errors and less likely to make them. Yet typical work cultures showcase successes and hide failures. Just look at any resume; I have never seen one with a section called Things I Do Poorly. Scientist Melanie Stefan wrote an article challenging her peers to be more honest in their CVs. Princeton Professor Johannes Haushofer took her up on it and posted his failure resume – a list that went on for two pages of rejections from degree programmes, job openings, academic journals, fellowships, and scholarships. He later noted, “This darn CV of failures has received way more attention than my entire body of academic work.”
Convincing people to be more open about failures is not easy. Kim Malone Scott, who worked with me at Google, used to bring a stuffed monkey named Whoops to her team’s weekly meetings. She would ask colleagues to share mistakes from the week and then they’d all vote for the biggest screw-up. The “winner” got to keep the stuffed monkey on their desk where everyone could see it until the next week, when someone else earned the honour. Nothing could have been a better reminder to try hard things and discuss failures openly. Probably the only member of the team who didn’t feel good about this exercise was Whoops, who never got a week off from being the symbol of imperfection.”
I have found Vocal Media, a publishing platform where you can post your stories for the wider world to read. I feel the benefit is that the platform already has traction, bespoke communities with bespoke interests and followers.
I have decided to post there every now and then as a way of channelling the energy I seem to have at the moment for writing.
My first story is related to my recent trip to Florence and to all the thoughts that were going through my head. Those who know me already know that would be a lot of thoughts.
Design flows with the purpose it meets and changes colour, material and shape to become a part of its environment every time it is created. It flows with the age it is created in and progresses with time. It renews for existing circumstances, though its past forms are regarded as important milestones on the timeline of aesthetic and creative evolution. Many times we find them in museums.
Design never holds on to its past on the way where it is going. It peels off unneeded layers to stay true to itself, to its core and to move forward. It is birthed at the confluence of creation, inspiration and time and emerges at the pressure point between creative drive and current needs. Sometimes the purest forms of design are born from the fire of internal creative tension and external challenges faced by their creators.
Design changes across landscape, season and time to fulfill its purpose and sometimes create a new role for itself. Some designs have not even been birthed yet, because their time has not yet come.
Sometimes design itself acts as the grand master. We can all learn something from it.
Except for me.
I’m a real piece of work.
Or work of art.
The Tenement Museum, 97 Orchard Street
I ‘spoke’ to a Greek immigrant who moved to New York in 1913 at the weekend. Her name was Victoria Confino and I ‘met’ her on one of the tours organized at the Tenement Museum at 97 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side.
This was one of the first tenement settlements established in New York at the start of the 20th century, allowing immigrant families who had just arrived in the city the residential stepping stone they needed to get on their feet before moving on or moving up into their new American lives.
97 Orchard Street currently serves the city of New York as a museum, where visitors curious about the history of the city, immigration, the Lower East Site and the role it played in the American melting pot of the 19th and 20th centuries can uncover some of the families who lived there; the businesses that flourished in the area; the standard of life and the amenities; the cultural differences between immigrants’ home countries and the New World; the conflict between their perception of the American Dream as perceived from afar and the everyday harsh realities and anxieties of actually immigrating and living in the US, in particular New York.
In the tour I attended, an actress impersonated 20th century immigrant Victoria Confino and welcomed visitors inside her family’s apartment. Her whole attire, demeanor and talk was tuned to that of the real-life character, a 14-year-old Jewish girl who had moved from Greece with her family to escape her brother being enlisted in the Great War (World War I, at the time).
She now lived in the tenement at 97 Orchard Street; worked as a seamstress in her father’s business sowing aprons; slept on the kitchen floor in her family’s apartment; went to kindergarten as she arrived in the US at the age of 11 to pick up English; said her father would allow her not to marry at 15 and wait a little more before he chose a husband for her, although she still didn’t know what to make of ‘the modern women’ of New York who were choosing their boyfriends and husbands ‘on romantic love’; thought Orchard Street was safe, although Allen Street, one block West, was dangerous at night because of the women who worked there.
Between two worlds
I learned the above from the actress playing ‘Victoria’, listening to her perched on a chair in ‘her family’s apartment’, asking the actress / real-life immigrant question after question about her life.
I had signed up for a museum tour and stepped back in time, my heart leaping and warming at the thought that I had the opportunity of ‘speaking’ to someone from another time, culture, and country, who had all of a sudden become ‘available’ for an interaction and so many things to reveal and stories to tell.
For twenty minutes, I existed in a world between reality, alternative reality and a precursor of virtual reality; a 2D and a 3D set altogether; past and present in the same picture, no longer separated by the boundaries of time and space.
While this wasn’t a Virtual Reality (VR) experience and there was no Oculus Rift to immerse me in a new dimension, the visit got me thinking again about the potential of actual VR to bring different and distant cultures, realms, times, and worlds to life. Educate, foster empathy and understanding towards that which is not directly connected or related to us; preserve the past; support knowledge and learning, so that we don’t forget who we are and where we come from.
In the realm of branding, VR is a way of enhancing the brand experience and immersing consumers in an extension of it. In the realm of culture and history, VR is a way of bringing the past to life as if it happened only yesterday and create a memorable, mind-blowing and powerful experience. It is an opportunity for every institution in the world that deals with culture, heritage and history (e.g. museums, world-heritage sites, etc.) to multi-dimensionalize their impact, interactivity, span, and work and for consumers to be blown away.
To experience something of the sort, visit Petra through Google Cardboard.
“A Japanese Constellation: Toyo Ito, SANAA, and Beyond” is an exhibition on contemporary architecture recently hosted by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
It provided an interesting perspective on what architecture could look like in the future and the role it could play to answer the urban development needs of our generation (reduced space availability, higher demographics, increased demands on functionality, and imperative environmental awareness).
The creative response is minimalist and simple, inspired by the Japanese origins of the group of architects behind it. It is defined by the versatility and beautiful integration of man-built constructs with their wider environment, a feature best expressed through their modular form. Architectural parameters flex in order to best respond to the functionality that spaces need to meet. This is a departure from existing built environments, where space is very often designed for a unique, fragmented and very specific purpose leading to compartmentalisation, a flurry of constructs and waste.
The design is airy, fluid and transitional. It lives harmoniously with its surroundings, incorporates them or becomes a part of them further suggesting ideas of symbiosis. Architecture is the sum of its parts, which can exist independently or as an extension of one another.
The concept advocates communities while acknowledging individual needs. This may be suggestive of the fact we each have a part to play to make it work.
Installation views at the following link.