Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mention in Nisha magazine!

Athanassios Babalis

Back in early July, an e-mail came from the reporter of an Israeli design magazine called Nisha. It is a magazine for interiors and product design. She was writing an article about Greek Design and found my blog online, so decided to contact me and ask for information - which of course I immediately gave, providing links, names, websites. The article was published in early September, with lots of photos, and my blog was promptly mentioned! Of course it was in perfect Hebrew, so I tried to translate it with on-line translators, with great difficulty. Then an Israeli friend came to the rescue (Yoav you're the best!), so I can now proudly present it to you, along with photos from the magazine.

Kim Katinis

From classic to modernism

The beginning of the "production design" field at Greece is related to the ancient Greek's, who made ceramics for daily use. Most of the houses had plenty of pottery, which were designed to store food, wine and oil. The pottery used to be decorated with drawings or illustrations. Most of the Greeke pottery, which survived the old days, has been made for beverage, such as mixing wine and water bowls, water jugs, goblets and ash urns. All of them are decorated and coloured.
With the progress of the pottery technique and the beginning of the aesthetic doctrines, the geometric decorating was replaced by human images, which represent, most of the times, the gods or the mythology and historical Greek heroes.

Andreas Varotsos

Furthermore, the battles and the hunt scenes were very popular, especially the Centaur which was much admired by the ancient Greeks and appears in their scenes. The background behind the characters was usually bright and the characters were painted on it with black color. After a while , the background became black with red-like color. The ceramics preparation was considered as handicrafts, and the richly decorated pottery of ancient Greece, provides an abundance of information about the eating and drinking habits, war, games, sports and much more of the habits of the citizen at those times.

Konstantinos Rizopoulos

The ancient Greeks also left their own impression on the furniture field, at the fourth and the fifth century B.C. We have information on the first designs of the Greek furniture, from the paints which decorated their famous ceramics. One of the original and initial designs was a chair, which was called "klismos". It was a light-weight chair with a back rest. Also, the chair had four curved legs and the back rest was curved too, and appears in many drawings on the ancient ceramics. Together with the chairs they built little host tables with rectangular surface and three legs. Those were sometimes decorated with animal figures, and they remained light-weight which allowed for them to be transferred from place to place during symposiums.

Damianos Iatridis

More than that, the chest of drawers was also a popular product in ancient Greece. They were made in a multitude of sizes and with varied materials such as wood, bronze, ivory and were developed in time . Most of the consumer products in ancient Greece were produced by women or slaves in their own houses, but not in the workshops. Only cloth painting, metal work, pottery, and leather products, were produced by artists in specialty workshops, and always by men.

Constantinos Hoursoglou

It is possible to say that ancient Greece was a powerful country. However, it seems that Greece has a difficulty to keep this degree at the modern period. The tension between tradition and modernism has played a big part in the Greek history. The international identity discussion and the intent to keep and represent classic Greece was a major theme between artists and designers in Greece. However, design and art critics believe that actually the will to keep the classic Greek design and turn it into an international identity symbol, is the one which made the design world stay in prescribed formal limits. The researcher of Greek culture, Artemis Yaggo, believes that Greece still hasn't decided what she wants to be when she grows up.

Sotiris Lazou

In every part of Greece's historical periods, together with the desire to stay on the same line with the other Western European countries, there is a side anxious to keep and lean on the ancient culture. According to Yaggo, the first marks of adoption of an international identity, in which there was a bond to design, appeared as early as the middle of the nineteenth century, when the young country was struggling to survive and to keep her place within the progress of the Western European countries.

Panos Dramitinos

This issue was highlighted especially in 1851, when Greece participated in the global exhibition of London. At that time Greece was considered a young country, only 20 years old, late with its industrial progress, with most of its population living in rural areas, and an economy based on agriculture. Historical memories in the nineteen century were supportive in the continuation of the ancient civilization of Greece. The tendency of relying on the past and continue the ancient Greek culture came to fruition in the educational programs, in the institutes and the wider public. Already at the end of the nineteenth century the French writer Théophile Gautier, who used to travel a lot in Greece, mentioned that the past is so alive in the classic areas so much that there was no place left for the present.

Valentino Marengo

The latter half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century were important in the penetration of capitalism to the country, during a systematic destruction of the conditional lifestyle. And it started again with a new beginning of art and design organizations, which called for a move back to the roots. The members of the organizations saw the industrial products as
of lesser quality against the ancient arts, and the gap between the Greek tradition and the Western European progress was very acute, especially among the intellectual and artistic classes.

Yiannis Ghikas

According to this tendency, a new group was created in 1931 called "Company for protection of Greece products". Its president called the public to confiscate all the products which were not produced in Greece. Also, he announced that preferring the Greek products is a national act of the first degree. All of that took place while the Europe countries were dealing with developments in industrial design. That caused a process in which, even if the young country's aim was to take advantage of its resources and become a modern capitalist country, the attitude for the design field was still harking back to idealist pre- capitalists. These differences haunted the industrial development of Greece and in fact were the cause of essential distancing between the industry world and the worlds of art and culture.

Alexis Georgacopoulos

Historical sources prove that despite the establishment of many industries and a great number of products taken into production, the design issue was left unresolved. The 50's and the 60's were years of rebuilding the country after the Second World War, and in those times the first Design Centre was established in Athens, but did not manage to stay alive for long. At the last decade of the 20th century, many efforts were made for strengthening the Greek industry and directing her again into design. Also, a new centre was established, which was called "the Hellenic Centre for Production Design", but the general orientation of the country was anti – industrial, which made it to be considered as the weakest country among its European counterparts on that aspect. All of that caused by the fact that these institutions couldn’t last and closed at the end.

Greece Is For Lovers

A new generation of young designers in Greece is still grappling with the identity question and trying to create their own paths, whether adopting classic symbols, but in a humorous way (at least initially), like "Greece is for Lovers" , who are using classic motives from ancient art and culture, and give them a new twist, or whether attempting to build a unique independent course, which tend to be accepted as equals between West European countries.

Andreas Aggelidakis

Vassilis Mylonadis

Aris Stathis

Above you can see the page of Nisha that mentions my blog (list of links on top left)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Justizzentrum Leoben by Hohensinn Architektur, Steiermark, Austria

When one sees for the first time the Leoben Justice Centre in Austria, he can be forgiven to mistake it for an office building or even a museum. In fact, it is the latest modern prison/courts building, from Graz-based Austrian architects Hohensinn.

Surrounded by glass, filled with art and vintage furniture, this prison looks nothing like any other. You have to see - and see again - the barbed wire fence around the building to believe it. Austrian authorities decided that depriving the liberty of inmates leads to re-socialisation problems. This led Hohensinn to reconfiguring the prison as a place that mimics outside life without compromising security.

The inmates are housed in residential units of 15, their cells have all natural light, comfortable furniture and TV screens. Many items are from well known designers and brands: check the green Verner Panton chairs below. You can see vintage furniture and art in the lobbies and common spaces. This is no Alcatraz for sure.

Each unit's prisoners can move freely within their area, having access to all their communal spaces at all times. They each have an outdoor space as well. One has to wonder if this type of prison does not invite crime: troubled people with no money and resources could actually commit crime just to be sheltered within this seemingly wonderful prison. But this place is for white collar crime inmates and temporary stays, so it will probably not cause crime rise in Austria.

The glass towers that comprise the upper part of the building are connected with glass bridges. These also connect them to regional and county courts. The corridors of the complex have interesting pictograms on their ceilings (check the 2nd photograph) and can be seen from outside through the transparent glass walls.

Use of light coloured wood in combination with metal and glass, designed with minimal, sleek lines, contributes to a clean straightforward feeling. The natural light that enters through the vast glass walls travels inside the buildings as they use glass also for interior walls.

Concrete finishes are also used in communal areas. The colour is left to the furniture and kitchen cupboards, punctuating the rooms with vibrancy and design. The room above looks like a MOMA art installation.

View from above - a courtyard.

Central gates

This was first published at 2Modern Design Talk blog on October 9th.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Can green be the new black? Can Eco fashion become an expression? Can it be stylish and create a trend? ‘Eco Chic’ Fashion design exhibition aimed to answer these questions and address the preconceived link of Eco fashion as compromising, be it in style or quality. More so it emphasizes that it can be as glamorous, experimental and innovative as fashion must be. A pool of Designers from countries such as Greece, UK and many more set out to use Eco friendly, recycled and recyclable materials, vintage pieces and their unlimited imagination to create evening dresses and accessories in order to prove that Eco fashion can be chic and inspirational. Green Design Festival hosted the exhibition, which highlighted that Fashion and environmental awareness are two concerns that can sit comfortably together.

curator: Melita Skamnaki
associate curators: Μaro Panagiotakopoulou, Wilhelm Finger
collaborator: Angeliki Papahroni, Natasha Xidi
exhibition designer: Angeliki Athanasiadou


Photos taken by me at Green Design Festival in Athens in late September.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Va-va-voom: Christina Hendricks shashays down Mad Men

Since I discovered Mad Men earlier this year, I have been obsessively watching every single episode, waiting to see what happens each week in the Sterling Cooper ad agency. The series is amazingly well executed (writing, directing, acting) and the costumes and sets play a very important part in giving you the feel of the 60's.

Of course the actors have to look like they belong to the era too - so no skinny models or pumped up metrosexuals here either. Men look like men and women look like women (or at least how they are supposed to have looked way back then). So it is no surprise really that one name comes up more often than others when people talk about the series: Christina Hendricks.

Cristina plays Joan Holloway in the series, the "queen bee" of the secretary pool. She matches the part very well, playing a vampy and smart lady that knows what she wants and how to get it. She's Marilyn with brains: that makes her even more sexy. When she's on screen one can rarely pull his eyes away from her - she's all you see.

Always impeccably dressed and groomed, Christina has won accolades from peers and critics for her portrayal of Joan. She knows her assets and she totally commands the office, making all junior secretaries afraid of her. Her wardrobe contributes to that - always form fitting clothes, with fashionable silhouette, jewel colours and, oh those red hair!

Let's see what Christina says about Joan:
"Joan is a person I sometimes wish I could be," Christina, 30, admits. "She's a presentation—I don't think she ever lets anyone see who she really is. She's very confident and pulled together." And as for her trademark wiggle? "I've always had a bit of a walk—this girl's got hips—but on the show it's exaggerated. The first day, I put on those [retro] undergarments, and I was walking around the office like, boom, boom, boom! They called 'Cut,' and I turned to [creator] Matt Weiner and said, 'That was Joan.' And he said, 'That was Joan.' It all just dropped into place."

Good thnk is she is not afraid to show off her curves (all natural if you please) in real life too - her form hugging, cleavage exposing green gown at this year's EMMY awards was the talk of the town.

The styling of the clothes has already influenced designers across the world - you might be seeing these styles in your local shops sooner than you think.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Last Shadow Puppet girl on the cover

Apart from The Age Of The Understatement by The Last Shadow Puppets being a great album, we have been wondering about the girl on the cover a lot - is this one or two girls? Is she a 60s model or a 00s girl? Who is she? What did she do? So finally we got our answer from the amazing Sam Haskins' blog. The great photographer maintains both a website and a blog and posted this about his brilliant photograph seen on the cover of the album (and the one below on the single cover).

Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys and Miles Kane of The Rascals have put together a critically acclaimed new album called The Age of the Understatement with their 'side project' group The Last Shadow Puppets.

The cover is one of the shots from my book FIVE GIRlS (1962). Gill was an art student in Johannesburg in the early sixties. Not a professional model, she just walked into the studio one day and was a total natural in front of the camera.

There were stories of Vietnam soldiers taking copies of Five Girls (often gifted to them by their wives or girlfriends) to war, so Gill was also a Vietnam pinup. The fan mail generated by Five Girls in the 60s included letters from both men and women.

So there... now I wonder how she looks now...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

And the Sterling goes to.... Accordia!

The Stirling prize was announced, and yes, it was awarded to the Accordia housing project by Feilden Clegg Bradley ! Some people might be surprised that a housing project got the coveted award, instead of more flamboyant modern architecture (remember Zaha Hadid was nominated along with other venerable architects), but it seems that RIBA is following the times and gives the prize to something sensible, sustainable and much closer to every day life than space-age mono rail stations or glass towering courts.

Accordia is a major new housing scheme which demonstrates that it is possible for a volume house-builder to support high quality architecture, setting out to create a new relationship between private and public external space - a new model for outside-inside life with interior rooftop spaces, internal courtyards and large semi-public community gardens - ‘living in a large garden’. Accordia has set new standards for large-scale housing in the UK.

The development of 212 houses and 166 apartments is on a 9.5 hectare site adjacent to the Botanic Garden on the southern edge of Cambridge. This is a strategically important new residential quarter, sited between the city and open landscape.

Feilden Clegg Bradley were the master-plan architects and designers of approximately two thirds of the dwellings. To increase variety across the development, they appointed MacCreanor Lavington Architects and Alison Brooks Architects to design the remaining units - 25% and 10% respectively. Grant Associates were appointed as landscape architects.

The site is located within easy reach of the city centre and the train station, and the master-plan is designed for pedestrian and cycle demands, with landscaped pedestrian “streets” - mews streets with shared surfaces, discreet car parking and integrated cycle parking for all dwellings. The buildings and landscape have been designed with sustainability principles in mind.

The scheme includes a variety of innovative house and apartment types in the form of terraces and courts, along with ‘set-piece’ buildings, all composed within public landscaped gardens. The buildings are arranged in three dense groups of up to 65 dwellings per hectare, separated by mature landscape, with houses ranging from two to five bedrooms and apartments of one or two bedrooms. The development includes 30% affordable dwellings of mixed tenure, integrated in scale and materials with the private housing.