Skip navigation

Category Archives: design

This museum is the most unexpected place I visited in the Museumpark area. See earlier posts here and here about this area of Rotterdam.

This is not a destination museum for me as I (Chris) have not heard of it before.

The entrance courtyard is stunning  – boldly marked by zebra stripes producing an optical effect.

The stripes and how they curve around objects reminded me a little bit of the zen gardens of Kyoto in Japan … the patterns formed by raked sand.

Apparently, the museum closes at 5pm and the last 30 minutes is free. And I happened to arrive at 4:20pm and they told me if I waited for a few minutes, I could see the exhibits for free.

Thank you very much !

The museum’s official web site is here – it is well organized and inviting. Quite a bit of its collection are online – I think they publish a book catalog with similar content. Some of the writings below came from it. See also the video below to learn more the musuem.

A guard told me I could enter the metal cage in the courtyard. I found two soccer balls inside. Are the zebra stripes a part of the work ? It was certainly amusing and it is enigmatic. It worked as a piece of art for me.

“Parallel lines” seems to be their graphic language – it is consistently deployed in their logos, publications, etc.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is one of the oldest museums in the Netherlands. In 1849 the lawyer Boijmans left his art collection to the city of Rotterdam. With the acquisition of the Van Beuningen collection in 1958 the museum got the second part of its name. This is the back of the museum as seen from Museumpark.

As the museum was about to close, I did not try the “cloakroom” service – if I am not mistaken – it seems that your coat is stored (and on display) hanging in a space hovering above the lobby. I stuffed my things in one of the small wired cages on the back wall (just visible below).

The museum houses a unique collection of paintings, sculptures, installations and everyday objects. The collection of prints and drawings is apparently one of the best in the world.

There is another courtyard, more traditional, surrounded by galleries.

The museum is built with unique, intimate spaces, some of which are connected, where pieces of the collection can be viewed together in a thematic context and at an appropriate scale.

I was surprised by how much household objects that are on display – “from medieval pitchers and glass from the Golden Age to furniture by Rietveld and contemporary Dutch design”, they have them all.

The museum proudly declares that it has been shaped by private collectors. The scope and diversity are the results of 1700 private collectors who have gifted no fewer than 50,000 objects in 170 years of the museum’s history. As a result, the collection spans centuries of human creation.

I never saw this Dali before, not even in print.

Keith Haring ?

An unexpected benefit for arriving just before closing was the freedom I enjoyed with the Yayoi Kusuma installation. There were no lines. I had it practically to myself.

‘Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field (Floor Show)’ was the first of a series of mirrored rooms that Kusama began in 1965. The work was included in Kusama’s solo exhibition ‘Mirrored Years’ at the Museum in the autumn of 2008.

The brick building that houses the original collection was completed in 1935, and a modern extension was added in the 70’s.  They have just started constructing a new building –  the Depot – right next to the museum which will store the entire collection but also allows it to be viewed by the public – a concept similar to that of the Schaulager (see our earlier post) in Basel. Apparently, only 8% of the collection is currently on view.

Construction started in 2017 and the Depot is expected to open in 2020. I am looking forward to its opening and seeing more of the collection.




We spent only two days in Glasgow – clearly not enough. But we nevertheless managed to visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It has been one of Scotland’s most popular visitor attractions since it reopened in 2006 after a three-year refurbishment.

The gallery first opened in 1901. The scope of its collection is wide ranging, divided into two sections: the Life galleries represent natural history, human history and prehistory.

The Expression galleries include the fine art collections.

Since we had limited time, we focused on its small collection of artifacts by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868 – 1928) and a special exhibition on comics.

Mackintosh (1868 – 1928) was a Scottish architect, designer, and artist which was influential on design movements such as Art Nouveau and Secessionism.

Much more can be written about him and his works but we could not see as much as we want in the gallery … and overall around Glasgow.

The special exhibition in the lower level of the gallery required a paid ticket (unlike the rest of the museum). Frank Quitely: The Art of Comics has been running for 6 months until October 1, 2017.

It was small but a surprise find for us. The above drawing must have been commissioned for this exhibit as the building behind Superman is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

Frank Quitely is a local, award-winning comic book artist born Vincent Deighan (1968- ).

His critically acclaimed work includes Batman, All-Star Superman, Captain America, Daredevil, The Invisibles, New X-Men, and the Sandman.

Can you see what is written in his beard ?

He has assisted superstar writer Grant Morrison in reimagining Superman and the X-Men.

More characters that I don’t recognize.

He worked with author Mark Millar on The Authority …

… and currently he is working on an American superhero comic, Jupiter’s Legacy, which will soon be made into a movie.

“We3” – published in 2004 was a collaboration with Grant Morrison. It tells the story of 3 pets – a dog, a cat and a rabbit – trying to escape from the army which has turned them into weapon prototypes.

He also drew for the graphic novel – The Sandman: Endless Nights – by Neil Gaiman. The book is divided into seven chapters, each devoted to a member of the family of brothers and sisters who are physical manifestations of the metaphysical concepts of Dream, Death, Desire, Destruction, Delirium, Despair and Destiny.

It was published by DC Comics in 2003. Each chapter is drawn by a different artist with a different style. Frank Quietly drew the last chapter. Definitely worth looking it up.

Almost forgot this post which we wrote earlier in the year.

We visited The former Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters, now renamed PMQ 元創方 in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong earlier this year. The buildings and grounds have been turned into a landmark for the creative industries. It is truly a great place to wander and shop as well as to soak up some local history and creative culture.

The history and preservation efforts of the site are well researched and documented here officially. Much of the writings below have been taken from various Hong Kong government sources.

In 1951, the site started as the Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters — the first dormitory for Chinese rank and file police officers. The site included 140 single rooms and 28 double rooms, with a semi-open design that allowed greater interaction between the residents. The site had been vacant since 2000.

The two buildings have been refurbished and upgraded for new uses. Residential units have been converted into design studios and shops, offices for creative enterprises and lodging for visiting designers. The buildings of PMQ are of modern style, feature a simple and clean appearance with a more utility approach for the design of space and form. This style emerged in the early 1950s when there was a great increase in population, resulting in great demand in buildings which required fast and efficient construction.

In order to cope with this, the design of building aimed at meeting the minimum requirement and standard which resulted in a simple and functional design. Buildings of this style are mainly built of strictly utilitarian reinforced concrete with flat roofs with minimal decoration.

This place turns out to be the childhood homes of both Hong Kong ex-Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his predecessor Donald Tsang.

When the government was going to auction the land, conservationists launched a campaign, citing social historical values embedded in the buildings and the fact it was once the site of Hong Kong’s first government school offering Western-style education.

Given that nearly HK$600 million of public funds has been spent on its renovation, PMQ is seen as a major test case on how Hong Kong conserves and revitalises historic buildings.

We thought about Common Ground in Seoul (see post here) – which is also a cool place for locals and tourists to socialize and shop.  Common Ground is more commercial while PMQ is more artsy – perhaps it can afford to be so as some of the tenants are sponsored.

PMQ’s mission statement says it wants to nurture the best design entrepreneurs in town, put them on the path to commercial success and become a popular destination for tourists and locals in its own right.

On the ground and first floors, there are fancy eateries and established designers and retailers like Vivienne Tam and G.O.D. Having known designer names on the premises is vital to the sustainability of the whole project, not just because of the higher rent that they pay, but also their crowd-pulling power.

We rested our feet with a few drinks at the Tai Lung Fung which adopts a certain vintage Hong Kong eatery designs.

The style is before our time and we cannot tell if it is accurate but it looks authentic.


Highly recommended.

This is the third post on what we saw at the Vitra Campus.

The Vitra Design Museum is one of the publicly accessible building on the Campus. A major retrospective – “Alexander Girard – A Designer’s Universe” was installed when we visited. Much of what is written below came from their web site which is very informative.


The Vitra Design Museum was founded in 1989 by the company Vitra.


It is housed in a building by Frank Gehry (who else ?). Next to it is a gallery also by Gehry, where we saw an exhibition about the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong (see that post here).


The work of the Vitra Design Museum is based on its collection, which encompasses not only key objects of design history, but also the estates of several important figures (including Charles & Ray Eames, George Nelson, and Verner Panton).


It is dedicated to the research and presentation of design, past and present, and examines design’s relationship to architecture, art and everyday culture.


Originally envisioned as a private collector’s museum, major internationally acclaimed exhibitions were presented later, including retrospectives on Charles and Ray Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright and Luis Barragán.


It developed its own product lines to finance its activities and an independent publishing house was established.


Alexander Girard (1907-1993) is renowned for its fabric designs and collection of folk art.


In 1951, he was appointed as the director of Herman Miller’s textile department.


He recognized an impulse in folk art, based on a universal human heritage of patterns, motifs and design techniques that transcends the limits of  time and place.


Girard donated over a 100,000 pieces of folk art to the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A new wing was built at the museum—which Girard designed—to house the collection.


Vitra is licensed to make a range of products bearing his graphic designs as well as a series of collectible wooden dolls.


Check out the web site of the Girard Studio to see more of his works.

VitraHaus is Vitra’s flagship store on the Campus. One can see, touch, compare, test, and buy all of Vitra’s home and office furniture offerings here. We visited the Campus last year and this is the second of four posts. See the Campus overview here. Most of what is written below came from their web site which is very informative.


Designed to display the furniture brand’s Home Collection, the five-storey building consists of stacked volumes with pitched roofs covered in charcoal stucco.


The company commissioned Basel-based architects Herzog & de Meuron in 2006 to design the VitraHaus.


Each gabled end is glazed and cantilevers outwards up to five metres, creating the impression of a pile of houses.


A lift takes visitors to the fourth storey, where we started the circular tour. On that day, it was a space completed in different degrees of pink.


Internally, spiral staircases connect the intersecting interiors.


The furniture showrooms are seamless as one moves from one area to the next.


The lower floor is dedicated to office furniture.


In addition to the display area for the company’s products, there is an exhibition space for the chair collection of the Vitra Design Museum.



These collectible miniatures are everywhere in this building.


Technicolor Eames.



One can order a custom-made Eames chair at the Lounge Chair Atelier. The choice of every component can be made by the customer.


There is also the Vitra Design Museum Shop and a café with an outdoor terrace.






There was so much to see and buy in this building.


According to their website, the VitraHaus has a daytime view and a reversed night time view. During the day, one looks out onto the green landscape, but when darkness falls, the illuminated interior of the building glows from within, while its physical structure fades out. The glazed gable ends turn into display cases that shine across the Vitra Campus.

We did not stay late enough to see it.

IT and I visited the Vitra Design Museum at Weil am Rhein in April 2016. It is a beautiful, well-designed (duh), starchitect-built campus – more about this place in future posts. From 26.02 – 29.05.2016, in a free-standing gallery next to the museum,  the exhibition titled “Objection! Protest by Design” was held.

vitra HK-16

The exhibition presented a number of objects that was spawned by the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement 雨傘運動 in Hong Kong that took place between 26 September 2014 and 15 December 2014. Much of what I wrote below came from the Vitra-distributed exhibition guide.

vitra HK-1

In a reaction to proposed changes in the electoral process in Hong Kong, spontaneous student protests erupted in Hong Kong. The protesters created numerous informal and improvised physical structures, graphic images, digital art, and online networks; protesters used the umbrella that gave the movement its name to protect themselves from the police.

vitra HK-9

“Broken” by Jonathan Mak. Notice the fractured leg and an off-balance star and the tiny umbrella beneath it.

vitra HK-14

There were two large “tables” which were overlaid with a large scale birds-eye view of the streets in Hong Kong.

vitra HK-8

Protesters were highly organized in their occupation of three main heavily trafficked protest sites: Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay.

Do click on the map below here to see in details the Admiralty site.

vitra hk admiratly-1

vitra HK-4

A large number of installations (barricades, means to cross the expressway median), first aid stations, study areas, press stands and camp sites appeared in the 8-lane expressway and two shopping districts to become voices and means of protests.

vitra HK-7

The appearance of these installations were recorded and mapped, and shown on these two tables.

vitra HK-5Mong Kok

vitra HK-6

A number of barricades were set up to create a safety zone in order to make a defined space for resting. They were recreated here by 3D printing.

vitra HK-15

The Lennon Wall was created by students and social workers with Post-Its on a wall of a stair leading from a street up to a pedestrian footbridge in Admiralty.

vitra HK-13

They invited people to write down their hopes and reasons for staying in Admiralty after the police tried to disperse the protestors with tear gas.

vitra HK-11

At the end of the occupation, the Wall was taken down and parts of it were preserved.

vitra HK-12

The exhibition wanted to show how design not only shapes and define products, but can also function as an agent of change in politics, communications and social innovations.

vitra HK-2

I hope the people of Hong Kong all voted and voted wisely today.

We spent almost half a day in Daikanyama 代官山, most of the time in the Tsutaya bookstore蔦屋書店. For Chris who has been photographing bookstores (for example, Livraria Cultura in Sao Paulo, Alexandra in Budapest etc.), this Tsutaya branch is a temple for worshipping.


In a perfect world, all bookshops near me would be like this. Opened in 2011 after three years of development, the whole site is created by the owner of Tsutaya Books with the concept of “A Library in the Woods”. We would love to live in the midst of it.


The company, Culture Convenience Club (CCC), founded in 1983, owns a chain of bookstores and video rental outlets. It brands itself as being a culture infrastructure company in the lifestyle navigator business providing comprehensive entertainment.


If CCC is building a real estate business on top of entertainment, it may very well be a winning business formula for the 21st century. With all this talk of creating a virtual ecosystem (think Amazon) where your customers do all their shopping and content consumption, this could be an equivalent, a real-world ecosystem where your customer lingers and even chooses to live around the site.


Most of what we have written below here is taken from the official web site of T-site at Daikanyama. The site consists of three buildings connected by a walkway which splits the buildings into six different departments.


The letter “T” is used as a motif which forms a laced façade on the white exteriors, echoing “T-site”. The exterior also forms a big “T” (see below). This design was the winning submission from among 80 firms in a competitive architectural request for proposals.


Books and magazines (Japanese and Western), current and vintage are placed together in six specialty categories: Cuisine, Travel, Cars and Motorcycles, Architecture and Design, Art, and Humanities and Literature.


Starbucks is served on the ground floor.


We headed upstairs to Anjin-  a salon accented by rare collections of books and magazine from around the world – 30,000 vintage magazines from the 1960’s-70’s.


There is a skylight in the salon bringing in natural light and a footbridge that connects to the other buildings.


A short line was formed of people waiting for a table. We were gently told by the waitperson that there is a 45-minute seating limit. They needed that time limit because the place is so comfortable and people simply do not move.


The customer is surrounded by artworks, books, old and new magazines, all for your browsing, with a cappuccino (or alcoholic drinks) and delicious cakes and snacks.


As the line of waiting customers disappeared, we were left to stay as long as we liked (at least nobody came to ask).


Past issues of Studio Voice (click here) – a Japanese music magazine Chris had browsed in the past (might still have them), definitely collectible (if we have the space).


The music department is installed with hi-end vacuum tube McIntosh amplifiers and fancy speakers (cannot imagine them being allowed to operate properly in a bookstore).


The video department is intent on offering a complete selection of everything that can be bought in Japan. For classic titles previously unavailable as DVDs, they can be burned right at the store as disks to take home. While Netflix is ubiquitous and quite comprehensive, it cannot match this place for choices.


Outside the bookstore are a selection of retail stores, including Kitamura Camera Specialty store (where we bought an iphone accessory that adds a choice of macro and telephoto lens).


The T-site offers multiple eateries and even a pet grooming service and a bicycle shop in the pedestrian zone which blend into the other specialty and fashion stores in Daikanyama.


Daikanyama is a bit more grown up than Harajuku.


According to the T-site website, “The young adults who came to us for lifestyle navigation 28 years ago are now 50-something and 60-something years old. So we decided to re-invent lifestyle navigation for these adults.”

Great concept.






This is likely our last post on our visit to Copenhagen.

Scandinavian design is very well respected, especially furniture, think Swedish Ikea – and at the high end, see our post on Illums Boligus.


Designmuseum Danmark is Denmark’s largest museum for Danish and international design and a central exhibition forum for industrial design and applied arts in Scandinavia.


The museum was founded in 1890 and since 1926, it has been housed in one of Copenhagen’s finest rococo buildings, the former King Frederik’s Hospital.


The museum garden, the Grønnegård, serves as a performance space in the summer.


According to the museum’s pamphlet, “Danish designers have always been more engaged in finding practical shapes that can enhance the utility and aesthetics of existing objects for everyday use, than in revolutionizing society with utopian ideas and theoretic artistic manifests.”


Grete Jalk (1920-2006) Sløjfestolen, the Bow Chair – 1963


Not much of a real chair but at least recognizable as one.


The library at Designmuseum Danmark is the largest in Scandinavia in the field of design and the applied arts.


In addition to books, the library acquires numerous periodicals and its use is free and open for everyone. It was a very comfortable and nice place to read.


“Users of the library include craftsmen and women, designers, students and researchers from design schools, universities and museums, pupils from technical schools, set-designers, private collectors and dealers, conservators as well as people with a general interest in the field.”


Piano by Danish design legend – Poul Henningsen


We had lunch at the museum café –  ‘Klint’.


The exhibitions are organized by periods.

designmuseum-15Danish modern and Pop


There was a special section dedicated to one of their best known designer – Arne Jacobsen.


His designs are very much in daily use all over Copenhagen.


There was a temporary exhibition about toys and games as well as clothings for children …


…, furniture for the nursery and graphics for education.

All in all, it was a very nice museum. And about the right size for roaming in one afternoon.


Continuing with our trip to Siracusa, Sicily … the apartment we rented is situated on the island of Ortigia and overlooks one of the newer and straighter main street on the island – Corso Giacomo Matteotti.ortigia apartment-15

The apartment is located on the top floor of a relatively new, mixed-use building. There is a Zara on the street level, government offices on the second floor, and several residential apartments on the higher floors.

Entrance hallway inside the apartment
ortigia apartment-1Notice the horizontal stripes, there are vertical stripes in the apartment too. The style of the decoration is bold to say the least.

ortigia apartment-2There was a bedroom opposite these chairs that were not opened to us (the place could officially sleep at least six people).

ortigia apartment-3

Kitchen – dining area

ortigia apartment-5

A bottle of local wine awaited us on the dining table. Nice touch by the owner.

ortigia apartment-6

The dining area is connected to the sitting area.

ortigia apartment-4

One wall of the sitting area is covered by a giant poster, advertising the re-presentation of the classical greek tragedy – Oresteia  (Orestiade di Eschillo; written in 458 BC) by Aeschylus  – one of the few complete plays that had survived.

ortigia apartment-8

Aeschylus is recognized as the father of greek tragedy and pioneered the concept of a “trilogy” – each play serves as a chapter in a continuous dramatic narrative.

ortigia apartment-7

The sitting area faces southwest and has a wrap-around terrace. The french doors fills the room with sunlight every day (particularly in the afternoon).

ortigia apartment-9

The terrace overlooks Corso Giacomo Matteotti and the Palazzo Greco across the street. The National Institute of Ancient Drama (L’Istituto Nazionale del Dramma Antico, INDA) which celebrates their 100th year in 2015 is situated in the palazzo (photo below). Given the poster concerning a greek tragedy faces the palazzo, someone who lived in this apartment must have something to do with INDA, we think.

ortigia apartment-16

The layout of the apartment resembles that of a loft, even though there are hallways and corridors. The walls of the corridors and rooms are not structural.

ortigia apartment-10

This psychedelic corridor leads to our bedrooms and the bathroom.

The rather dramatic crimson red and inky blue master bedroom.

ortigia apartment-11

The boring second bedroom with three long empty bookshelves. Perhaps, it was used as a study.

ortigia apartment-14

The bathroom consists of two sets of sinks and toilets at opposite ends of a space joined in the middle by a tiled shower and sunken “tub”.

ortigia apartment-13

Ethnic vs modern ends of the bathroom.

ortigia apartment-12

Sue found the apartment really relaxing, with the doors opened and sunlight streaming into the living room.

ortigia apartment-17

The manager, Alessandra, was also very hospitable and helpful with information, and we had a very nice stay.

We are caught a bit off guard when the admin page of WordPress indicated that our next post will be the six hundredth (600th) that we published. As previously said several times, we are surprised that the interest in keeping up this blog has not fizzled out over the last 5 years. True it is, that we are still living in Europe and away from our friends and families, the primary reason for starting the blog. But we also find that this blog is a convenient medium to capture and frame memories of our time in Switzerland and our travels, and it became a habit and a hobby (at least for Chris).


The blog was launched on November 4, 2009. The first trip ever reported here was our visit of Playa de Carmen, Mexico in November 2009 (click here to see). We had not yet left the US at that time but were starting to pack our belongings and worried about the move.


Fast forward to now, posts on our quick tour of three cities – Taormina, Siracusa (Ortigia) and Catania – on the east coast of Sicily, taken during Easter, are under preparation now. Our most recent visit to Berlin and Copenhagen earlier this month has not yet been written up. Most of the photos are still in Raw format.


Since March 2013, we have been posting a series of photos on Facebook, one a day except Sunday and Thursday when the blog is updated. There is no theme – just something random and per se visually interesting. They are essentially pictures that did not make the blog for some reasons. We gave each a serial number, a minimally-worded title and a mention of where it was taken (to the extent we could remember the location). But we wanted to share them with the readers here too – so we started showing 5 of them in a post – somewhat irregularly. This is the first of the series – #1 – “the history of cool” –  Munich.


So far we have shown about 150 of them here, but on Facebook, we are at #444 – there is a backlog of almost 300 random photos! On days when we are not writing the blog, these photos could keep the blog going for a while. This is #443 – “dark 3” – Taormina.


The readership of this blog has stabilized at around 50-70 views per day. Apart from posting a link in Facebook, Twitter and Google+ each time a post goes public, we made little attempts to drive up the statistics. We also signed up Pinterest but have not seen much changes (perhaps we are not leveraging the site properly). But other people have pinned our photos on pinterest.  So if you do not feel like writing a comment, pin a photo.


Recently, we noticed that the page view of one of our posts in April on eating durian on the street of Petaling Jaya (click here to see) has gone through the roof (more than 120 views last week alone and maintaining the momentum). It must have caught the attention of certain netizens in Malaysia (as reflected in WordPress statistics), and got linked to an index or a popular site.


The reigning champion of page views is still our first post on HSBC’s poster ads as seen around major airports in 2010 (click here). Its two siblings are receiving decent traffic too.

This blog has changed its theme (a WordPress term for the overall look and feel of the blog) only once which happened within the first month of its launch. So the appearance remains constant for the last few years and it is getting a bit aged. But we are hesitant to change to a more modern theme as it could affect somewhat unpredictably the old posts. More experimenting is needed (if we have more time).


One day we might want to make a book (or several books) using these photos, like the ones we did for Yellowstone National Park and Iceland back in 2007.

We have been buying books showing photos of a city “then and now” or aerial views of an area.


Before signing off, we want to thank our readers for their interest and support, and Susie who has been responding to our posts consistently and ranks No. 1 with the highest number of comments.


Your feedback is important as it is the only way we know someone is reading the blog. So please comment, like, retweet, follow, clip, subscribe, pin, bookmark, repost or do some good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. In the meantime, we will continue to share words and images of our adventures.



My (Chris’s) eyesight is not getting better and as a result, I have to change the prescription on my lens – it is getting thicker but not quite coke-bottle thick. I changed my glasses about six months ago.


I wrote about my loyalty to the ic! berlin brand of eyeglass here – click to see the other models I wore in the last 8 or so years.


I am sticking with this German, handmade-in-Berlin (handgefertigt in eigener herstellung, berlin) brand a third time around. In retrospect, the shape and curvature of my first pair were quite special; the second and now third are quite similar to each other and somewhat conventional.


It was a bit of a decision since they are well known for their light-weight frames made with sheet metal, as were my two earlier purchases. Now I am trying one of their plastic model.


The plastic model still uses their unique screw-less hinge that works by the springiness of the metal. Having a white middle layer seems very popular at the moment as many brands are coming out with it.


The frame is made with a three-layer sandwich of acetate resins – the one closest to the face is translucent light grey-ish blue, the middle layer is white and the outermost is imitation turtle shell. It is a big, size 56 frame.


The frame did not come with a nose bridge but the store ordered one from the factory specially for me.


The model is named Harmonic Oscillator and there is even a little diagram etched on the inner side of the frame to illustrate the concept. I have no idea how this concept is connected with the design of this frame. My first pair was named “roman” and the second pair was named “hotel neutor”.


The limbs of the frame are partially metallic and are finished with a matt brown coating (it says black although it is really dark dark brown to me). On closer inspection, the coating on the metallic part reflects multi-color light. Look at the spots of colors on the edges.


I am quite happy with it and hopefully my eyesight does not deteriorate too quickly.


The brand’s website is here. It appears that they now offer a factory tour, I will definitely check the place out when I am next in Berlin (hopefully in May 2015).

I visited two very different bookstores in Cologne. Located in the Belgian Quarter (Belgisches Viertel), see our earlier post about the area here.

Siebter Himmel means Seventh Heaven.


It was quite a surprising discovery since I had no idea of what it was supposed to be when I first walked in.


Is it a bookstore, a gift shop or … ? Well, a bookstore and lifestyle/design store.



According to their web site here :

 Our book and Design Shop “Seventh Heaven” was born from the belief that book and design can be connected to a special shopping experience. In a total of seven themed worlds, we satisfy your curiosity about unusual products, your right to quality and your desire for personal recommendations. … Expect the unexpected. Let yourself be inspired. Welcome to the “Seventh Heaven”.



It is a small shop with a deep and narrow footprint but they have managed to create several distinctive spaces within it. Quite a feat.

7heaven-9Mannequin on a swing !



Most of the books are in German.


They further subdivided into thrillers into political, nordic and regional.


Siebter Himmel is one of the best lifestyle-themed bookstore I have seen.


Glad that they did not have a coffee bar inside, just because every other bookstore already has one.


They sell clothings and music as well as design objects.


Every city should at least have one such bookstore !  See my earlier posts on some bookstores in Sao Paulo here  and here.


My next post is on a more traditional bookstore, also in Köln.


This is my last post on the Salone. I am sure many of you had seen enough of my furniture pictures on this blog. Just in case you want to start from the beginning, click here.

salone hilights -19

Before I put up pictures of my trip in Kòln, Germany, here are some more stuff that I saw in Milano.

salone hilights -13

This room caught my eye especially the chandeliers.

salone hilights -10

Designer pieces.

salone hilights -9

Molteni & C

salone hilights -11

Zaha Hadid’s home at the “Where Architects Live” (Dove vivono gli architetti) exhibition

salone hilights -15

Roche Bobois

salone hilights -17

Clever wallpaper (including fake fireplace)

salone hilights -21

Graphic wallpaper

salone hilights -18

Minimal kitchen – so much so that it looks like the bedroom.

salone hilights -20

Furniture for a nightclub

salone hilights -12

“Kitchen, Soul, Design” (L’Italia che Vive)  360 degree view + surround sound media

salone hilights -14


It was an eye-opening, feet-killing, exhaustive day but it was worth it. Ciao.

This is the penultimate blog post on the Salone. The exhibition halls at the Salone that show furniture were divided into 3 sections: design, moderno and classico. The classico section occupied Hall 1 to 4.

classic salone-3

The distinction between the designer and moderno sections were less clear cut, although the latter only occupied Hall 14 and 18. But the classic section was very clearly different.

classic salone-8

One big difference was the lack of crowds. The aisles were quiet that one really feels like being inside a giant warehouse.

classic salone-9

The exhibitors have names that I have never heard of. I guess many of them create custom pieces for private clients and not the mass market.

classic salone-2

These exhibitors do not show their products to the passing public as they hide everything behind paneled walls. Viewable by invitation only ?!

classic salone-7

Looked like the exhibitors in the classic section cater mostly to the oligarchs, sheiks, princelings, and  techbillionaires.

classic salone-6

These exhibitors definitely did not like visitors to take photos. This saleswoman wearing a ball gown was staring to discourage me from photographing their white fake goddess columns.

classic salone-5

It is a whole different world of tastes in Hall 1 to 4 !

classic salone-1

Continuing with my posts on the stuff I saw at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan … here is a mix bag of brands – avant garde (driade), then mainstream modern housewares (Alessi) and plastic furniture (Kartell) …

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 11.04.47 PM

driade, founded in Italy in 1968, like to define itself as an aesthetics laboratory. See their web site here (also where I took the above screenshot).



On driade’s website, about its history, it says:

… the multiplicity of languages that make it difficult to identify trends or relationships. A variety of authors, not always easily assessable and not all entirely acceptable, is building this century, which is characterized, in art and design, by pluralism, multiplicity of signs, and “idiolects” – as Roland Barthes called the use of language specific of a single author. 

Compared to some of the modern classics I saw (Vitra, Cassina – see earlier posts here and here), this statement about Driade’s pieces does make some sense.


The last time I was in Milano, I went to their showroom and wrote a blog post – here.


Norma by Borek Sipek.


Apollonia (the lights) also by Borek Sipek.


Alessi – needs no introduction.


They have a store on the main raised pedestrian walkway.


As well as a store selling pots and pans inside one of the exhibition halls.


They were probably one of the very few companies that were not just showing but were actually selling something.


I had no idea that Alessi makes so many different models of watches.


Since I posted about Kartell in Paris (click here), here are a couple of photos of their exhibition space surrounded by bright yellow gold curved walls.


I did not like their space, too cluttered and it barely showed off their products. I honestly do not remember what I saw, especially after I have already been exposed to hundreds of chairs …





Continuing with my posts on the stuff I saw at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan … earlier posts on Poliform, Vitra and Knoll are here, here and here.

I know nothing about this company until the exhibition. And I liked some of their pieces.


Wood is their strong suit. A high level of craftsmanship exercised in the design and manufacture is visible.


The pieces are not exactly modern with all straight lines and right angles. Yet there is something modern about their designs.


The shapes are organic and relies on carpentry to achieve the desired look.


Some minimal decorations are included.



According to their web site here,

Beauty is a stratification of elements that dialogue with one another, but it is also a constant quest for contents and values.


All the pieces projected a non-industrial, warm ambiance. I think their pieces work best in a domestic setting.


Some pieces on display are for the office, however and I definitely can see them in the lobby / reception area of a law office.


Some of the interiors use Asian accessories and accents. Their web site even has an option for Chinese (the others are English and Italian). So they must be attracting quite a bit of business from that country.




Hong Kong participated in the Salone d’Onore at La Triennale di Milano. The exhibition is called Constant Change – a theme that is very Hong Kong-esque given its historical and demographics background.




I was genuinely, pleasantly surprised. The red lamp shades were used in the street market by butchers to make the meat looks redder and fresher. Have not seen them for years  – I really did not expect to see them in a museum in Italy.




The exhibition has a decent web site, go here and explore. Try the app too.



The curator said this about the show:

Hong Kong is a disjointed city. The parts of the city are not coherent, … Hong Kong appears disjointed but when you look at it street by street, it is actually harmonious in its own way. It is just totally different from any city in Europe. Hong Kong is always changing and it changes so fast. That’s why you get inspired. It looks to the future rather than the past, …


… When you walk the streets of Hong Kong, you can see what happened twenty years ago and what may happen in the next twenty years. It appears a very modern city, but at same time it’s full of contradictions: it’s crafty and digital, traditional and breaking tradition – all at the same time.


The center piece is an immersive multimedia show playback-ed on six giant screens.




Six synchronized sequences of images ran concurrently in a loop, accompanied by a soundtrack whose propulsive, almost droning rhythm and melody really matched the images and held the piece together. I do not know who made the soundtrack. It was good. I am a Philip Glass fan and generally liked this style of music. I was really glad that the soundtrack sounded new and fresh.




From time to time, a QR code appears and the viewers are encouraged to scan it with a smartphone which opens an app and provides more content and interactions. I did not try it but it sounded like a good idea (very 21st century !).




They served visitors instant coffee in little cups. They had a reason for doing it but I forgot …  White letters and words on the floor reproduce those signages found on Hong Kong’s streets.




The multimedia show is bookended by poster art by local artists and examples of work created by local design craftsman – zinc metal boxes for letters, mahjong tiles, etc.




It says “Not, Perfect”.




The audiovisual sequences featured the famous Star Ferry which shuttles between Hong Kong Island and the tip of the Kowloon peninsula. The ships are bi-directional – they do not have to make a U-turn after docking.




Growing up in Hong Kong, I travelled on those ships thousands of times and remember those chairs really well. The wooden back support, hinged in the middle between the front and back legs, can be tilted to a different position. Depending on the direction of the sailing, the seated passengers can all face forward and do not have to travel backwards.




“Change is the only constant. That is perhaps the most forthright statement – trite as it may seem – to describe Hong Kong.”


The Triannale Design Museum of Milano held a series of free special exhibitions to coincide with the Salone Internazionale del Mobile and Milan Design week. After seeing hundreds of chairs, tables and bedroom sets at the Salone, it was a welcomed change to see something different.


According to the museum’s own website  >>here:

Opened in 2007 as the first museum of Italian design. Located in the Triennale of Milan offers the visitor the chance to discover the excellence of Italian design through unedited points of view. No chronological order or by author, each year the Triennale Design Museum is renewed, transformed, changing the topics covered and composition.


A decent bookstore with a small collection of design objects.


Floor mosaics in the main lobby.



The regular exhibition (“Italian Design Beyond Its Crisis”) and its permanent collection required a ticket. As all the special exhibitions were free, I started with the freebies first. See later posts.


I had lunch at their cafeteria –  it was a communal table (hence, the 6 bottles of mineral water) and I sat on the most uncomfortable stool in my life. The design effectively kept people from sitting around taking up space.


But the cafe also had some interesting antiques in a corner for patrons to use. While they might be design classics, they do not exactly look comfortable.


The museum is located in Parco Sempione and it has a nice small garden in the back.


Looking back at the museum from the park. The white boxes were exhibition spaces temporarily erected during the week.


A dry pond can be found at the back of the garden. I wondered what it looks like when filled.


There were a podium, a lighthouse and several items in the pond – indeed a very strange or surreal set – a “swan” and two guys (from torso up only), both situated inside something that can only be described as a ring of yellow triangular wavelets – one guy waving or pointing at something and the other blonde one staring (with a frown) at the first guy. There must be some subtext here.


The rest of sculptures in the garden was nice but unremarkable.


Since I had a train to catch in the afternoon, I could not see the rest of the museum with its permanent collection. What I saw in that half-day, however, was very viewable and enjoyable – they will be covered by a post or two in here.


Continuing with photos from the Salone Internazionale del Mobile 2014 …

Guess which fashion designers were milking more revenue from its famous brand name by selling furniture ?


Here’s Versace. Well, he left the planet. So why not ?

designers-12Can’t miss the signature panthers.


Fendi. They have separate entrances for architects (on the left), Club Prestige (!) members (in the middle) and (mere) visitors (see the signs below the Fendi sign). The doorman-velvet rope phenomenon lives on …


Bentley managed to attract a crowd outside its door with a convertible, and they were doing the doorman thing too … look at him dancing …


Ungaro was there with proper wall treatment up front  (… unlike Bentley’s white walls )


Diesel has a large pavilion …


… and a pop/age reference ?


Missoni was there looking so Brazilian …


… and so very casual


These two rooms are by Blumarine. There was hardly any design in the furniture, except textile design.


A Chinese gentleman was showing great interest in this set of communist red-big flower print sofa.

designers-18Last but not least, Pierre Cardin was evidently still around.


No. I did not see Casa Armani in the Salone. Well, they have a whole building in downtown Milano. See the post on Manzoni 31 from our last trip.

Lots more photos to come …


Continuing with my posts on the stuff I saw at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan …


Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 10.45.02 PM

Knoll’s exhibition space is right next to Vitra’s space (see previous post here). These two companies have a lot in common – from their business scope to their historical origins. Knoll was founded in 1938 in New York City.


According to Knoll’s site:

Our founders, Hans and Florence Knoll, embraced the creative genius at the Bauhaus School and the Cranbrook Academy of Art to create new types of furniture and environments for the workplace. Their approach, where craftsmanship joined with technology through the use of design, anchors our perspective and shapes the values we endeavor to live by today.


It was at Cranbrook that Eero Saarinen met Charles Eames. The two young men, both committed to the exploration of potential new materials and processes, quickly became great friends, pushing each other creatively while collaborating on several projects. The most notable outcome of their partnership was the groundbreaking collection of molded plywood chairs for the MoMA-sponsored 1940 Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition. Their collection was awarded first prize in all categories.


Saarinen’s Pedestal Collection debuted in 1958. I like this kind of tables where there are few things underneath the table for you to kick or bump your knee – an annoying problem frequently encountered by tall people (like me).


David Adjaye’s Washington Collection


04 Counter by OMA and Knoll


Cassina was founded in 1927 in the region of Brianza, Italy (same region as Poliform, see earlier post here).


Cassina’s space was created by architect Sou Fujimoto – named Floating Forest. He created the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London’s Kensington Gardens in 2013.


According to Cassina’s web site:

On entering Cassina’s stand at the Salone del Mobile in Rho Fiera, a sense of wellbeing immediately overcomes the visitor creating an intrinsic balance between man, nature, comfort and the home.


Numerous mirrors suspended from above reflect and multiply this natural forest setting to infinity, creating volume and at the same time space, with endless possibilities. 


While the effect was dramatic and fun, it was also quite confusing. With so many people milling about, I was too busy trying to watch where I was going rather than admiring the furniture.


Cassina’s 2014 Collection boasts new designs by Jaime Hayon, Piero Lissoni, Luca Nichetto, Patrick Norguet and Jean Nouvel.

knoll-cassini-11Cassina is also releasing re-editions from Le Corbusier (LC1, LC2, LC3 or LC4?), Pierre Jeanneret, Charlotte Perriand and Marcel Breuer. Cassina is the worldwide exclusive licensee of Le Corbusier’s designs.


Cassina is part of the Poltrona Frau group which also owns Capellini and has its original luxury leather collection.


Scattered around Cassina’s Floating Forest are these cute “sculpture” of model car pileups.


Fun stuff !  More to come …