Anthony Gill – Hospitality Design and Detail

Young partitioning architect Anthony Gill, presented the last talk for the Interior Spatial Design Lecture Series. Gill’s Sydney-based firm, Anthony Gill Architects, was established in 2007 and consists of himself and two others. The firm works on residential, hospitality, retail and commercial projects with careful attention to functionality and materiality. He spoke about three of their projects, which were fit-outs of two restaurant/bars ‘Vini’ and ‘Berta’ as well as his old apartment in Potts Point.

Vini is located in Surry Hills and started off as a small restaurant, but gradually expanded by utilising the loading dock space and then extended into the shop space next to it. For Vini, the focus of the design is the product of wine, which was achieved through the insertion of the ‘working wall.’ Constructed from form-ply joinery, this wall of shelving solves many of the design issues for this space. Firstly, it provides a level of separation, creating a clearly defined kitchen area. The small kitchen extends out on one side of the wall, while the bar is positioned in front. The working wall provides ample storage for food and wine, which is easily accessed by staff, as there are no cupboard doors to open. It also displays the wine, so that customers can view the range of products. “The concept was to create a working wall of wine and food that would be active throughout service.” The result is an interactive and functional experience with wine.

The small budget was a major constraint that Gill and his team had to consider. For this reason, the space was mainly made from form-ply, which is a relatively cheap material. Sheets of form-ply were stacked to create the bar, then continued through to the shelving. The matte black surface of this material complements the blackboard in the restaurant, which is an integral feature to the client’s concept for the space. The menu on the blackboard is constantly changing, adding to the theatre of the space. In contrast to the matte black, the wood edge of the form ply brings warmth back into the space.

The loading dock area of the restaurant contained exposed services that couldn’t be easily moved or disguised, so Gill created a room within a room by inserting a shipping container into the loading dock. The container was then fully lined in birch plywood, inverting the materiality of the main restaurant space. This overcame the issue by allowing all the existing services to remain and creating a different atmosphere to the rest of the space.

The next project described by Gill was another restaurant/bar named Berta, located off a small laneway in Surry Hills. This was by the same client as Vini and followed a similar concept. This space also dealt with issues of limited space and budget, and so the idea of the “working wall” was employed once again. Gill believes “Its not about the surfaces, its about the space,” meaning a generosity of space and focus on function is more important than using expensive materials. He carefully chooses materials according to the budget and the materiality and in this case, used woven metal mesh to construct the working wall. The shelves begin just inside the entrance, leading customers through to the main area and connect with the kitchen. The kitchen is open and set back behind the marble-topped bar and its counter seating. Bar tables to seat two to three people form the divider between this space and the main dining area. The externally framed windows open up the small space, looking out onto the back laneway, which also forms a connection with the context of the restaurant.

The final project that Gill showed us was his old apartment in Potts Point. Once again, he used the concept of the working wall to combat constraints of budget and a small amount of space. The space was a 38 square metre, one bedroom apartment in a Harry Siedler building which required to be redesigned to be suitable for Gills wife and young daughter. The wall running parallel through the centre of the apartment was removed, leaving only the masonry walls to the bathroom. A working wall was then inserted along the length of the apartment, which acted as a room divider between the living space and the kitchen/bathroom/child’s room. This joinery addition re-configured the space by creating privacy for each area as well as providing much needed storage space. The shelving is used to store pots and pans required near the kitchen area, books, games and documents. A wardrobe and slide out bed was custom built into the unit to maximize the living space. Gill used form ply and birch ply to save costs and achieve a clean, modern look. He noted that the most important criteria for this project was that it is a lived in space and therefore a generosity of space and storage was required.

Overall, Anthony Gill was one of my favourite lectures because I was impressed how he used such simple, logical solutions to the constraints of budget and limited space through the effective use of joinery and materiality. He was able to come up with the concept of a working wall which can be used for division, privacy, storage and for display and apply this to three different projects with varying programs. Gill also showed that he had the ability to expand and adapt the spaces as required. For such a young practitioner to be creating these spaces with such rigor, I was very inspired.

Anthony Gill, 2004, ‘Anthony Gill Architects,‘ viewed 23 May 2011 <http://www.gillarchitects.com.au/&gt;

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Dust Reversals– dusting, vacuum cleaners, (war) machines and the disappearance of the interior.

In the seventh week of the Interior and Spatial Design Lecture Series, Teresa Stoppani presented a lecture on the idea of Dust as a medium. Stoppani is the senior lecturer at the School of Architecture and Construction of the University of Greenwich. In her talk, she looked at the relationship between architecture theory and the design process in the urban environment, examining its influence on architectural and spatial practices.

At first, Stoppani introduced dust in its literal sense as a particle in which you can touch but explains that in a metaphorical sense, it can has a relationship with the space in which it is found, and that is worth looking at. Dust is made up of particles of former matter, but Stoppani looks at it in more depth, describing it as having the ability to expose an “indisputable linear history,” by embedding itself on and around items to record the past. She studied the work of Walter Benjamin deconstructed the nature of dust. He reveals the power that dust has to ‘uncover’ and ‘unearth’. Dust uncovers “objects and spaces, reactivating them in new relations of tensions between fragments.”

UTS Design Architecture and Building, Dr Teresa Stoppani, Design Architecture and Building, viewed , <www.dab.uts.edu.au/walterbenjamin/program/teresa_stoppani.pdf>

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The Ecology of Occupation

Michael Trudgeon is an industrial designer, media designer, architect and lecturer at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), presented the sixth Interior and Spatial Design lecture. Trudgeon is the co-founder and principal designer of Crowd Productions, a trans-disciplinary network of designers and consultants who research and explore the potential of new ideas, materials and technology. His lecture was about the Ecology of Occupation, looking at the history of occupation, the concept of the envelope of occupation and provided examples to explain these ideas. He discussed how house design has changed in the way that spaces within homes are considered. His concept that “Form is a verb” was used to argue that form should be considered as an action rather than a noun, that is an object.

Houses and buildings were originally designed from the outside-in, meaning that the exterior was the most important and the interior had little consideration, merely contained by the external form. However, during the Renaissance period in France, this was reversed, with buildings starting to be designed from the inside-out.  This created a change in thinking from the ‘figure ground’ concept to the ‘ground figure,’ that is, the interior (ground) became the focus over the exterior (figure). The “form is derived because it is active.” This allowed for the program to dictate the space in terms of what is required of the space to enable certain activities to occur (for example the size of the space and the relationship of a room to the rest of the building). Trudgeon described this process as “Designing as a series of volumes that articulate a program.” This was important to the French, as social forms and relationships were a vital part of society during this time.

In Paris, hotels (coming from the French word ‘otel’) were city chateaus built around a courtyard on three sides. This created what is known as ‘poche’ or pocket space. These spaces acted like social stabilisers, as they were places where people would meet. This is very different to our perception of hotels these days.

The concept of buildings being designed from the inside out can also be seen in the modernist period, particularly in Le Corbusier’s “Villa Shodhan”. Corbusier aimed to use a series of concrete slabs to “wrap space in activity.” The result was an energetic form with a free façade. This design is a clear example of program being the sole informer of the structure. Therefore, “Form is a verb.”

Le Corbusier’s “Villa Shodhan” http://www.panoramio.com/photo/10541700

Trudgeon also used the example of The Blur Pavilion by Diller and Scofidio, an installation for the Swiss Expo in 2002, which was about the experience (of walking through ‘clouds’), not the appearance of the structure.

The Blur Pavilion by Diller and Scofidio http://dmueller.deviantart.com/art/Swiss-EXPO-02-490867

As interior designers we are also set designers, we identify and shape roles. Because of this, it is vital to speak to the people who are going to be in, live in or work in the space. Trudgeon simply describes, “It is important as designers to know what you’re designing for.” This is included in the design brief that we work from today.

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Hyperart

The fifth Interior Spatial Design Lecture again by design journalist Adam Jasper. In this lecture Jasper looked into the topic of ‘hyperart’ phenomenon of Thomassons.

In the 1970s, Japanese artist Akasegawa Genpei discovered strange occurrences in the city of Tokyo which he and his collaborators labelled “hyperart.” These were aestheic objects created by removing a structure’s function, while carefully maintaining the structure itself. They began to call these objects “Thomassons,” after an American baseballer recruited by a Japanese team, whose bat never made contact with a ball. The criteria for an object to be correctly named a Thomasson is that the object found must be a find of ruin (i.e. once functional, now useless), the object must be sealed off (you cannot reach it) and the object must also be maintained.

Book: 'Hyperart: Thomasson by Genpei Akasegawa' http://www.kaya.com/books/25

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The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

The fourth Interior and Spatial Lectures was held by a panel of tutors, guests and students who discussed a number of different media including videos, art and student projects. The first video shown was a TED talk by Texas-based designer and builder, Dan Phillips, who builds extraordinary low budget homes out of salvaged, recycled materials. He is a self-taught plumber, electrician, and carpenter. Phillips founded Phoenix Commotion with his wife, Marsha, which is an inventive construction company who aim to reclaim landfill waste and transform it into one-of-a-kind houses that are affordable, energy efficient and sustainable. They also run an apprenticeship program, teaching local youth and volunteers sustainable building skills and creative construction.

In his passionate, yet amusing talk, he presented a range of his design creations, which focus on problem solving and function. The materiality of each and every of his buildings is unique due to the found materials he has available at the time. Through the quirky mixture of colours and textures of the material he aims to create houses that are whimsical, thought provoking and warm. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a complete set of anything because repetition creates pattern, repetition creates pattern, repetition creates pattern,” he stated. Most of his “finds” come from the side of the road, the trash, or salvaged from other construction sites.  Some of these include mismatched bricks, shards of ceramic tiles, shattered mirrors, corks and old DVDs. One of his houses has a roof made out of license plates and another has a ceiling made out of samples of photo frames, repeated in a pattern. By working in this way, Phillips feels he is freed from restrictions of standardized building materials, like the common sizes for studs and sheets of plywood, which he calls the “tyranny of the two-by-four and four-by-eight.” Phillips makes use of end cuts discarded by other builders, which he nails together into sturdy and visually interesting grids. This video was effective in getting us to rethink the way we choose and use materials and our perception of what is an aesthetically pleasing design. It also provoked the use of our imagination. His philosophy, as stated in the Houston Heroes’ article is that “We are slowly denuding the planet [and] can’t continue to live this way. We throw away and buy new rather than repair and re-use,” he adds. “We need to use renewable resources and use non-renewables carefully.” A point raised about this video by the design panel was that “Everyone can design.” Everyone is a designer in their own right; everyone is an interior designer in the sense they can organise and layout.

Another video shown at this session was a short segment from William H Whyte’s film ‘The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces’ which traced the activity of people in the Seagram Plaza in New York City. Whyte is an American sociologist who was examining the popularity of this public space, in contrast to the lack of activity of other plazas in the area. This research was to work out what makes an effective and usable public space. New York City was offering bonus floor space to developers if they provided plazas as public spaces within the property. However, these plazas were just empty spaces scattered throughout the city and were underused. The Seagram Plaza designed by Miles van de Rohe was different to these as it was alive with activity. The New York Zoning Commission wanted to know what was making this space so popular so that they could draw up a new zoning resolution for open spaces. This film presents Whyte’s discoveries made through a variety of research techniques, including the use of time-lapse film and direct observation, which he recorded in the form of maps and graphs clearly showing the correlation between the data.

At first, Whyte presumed that the factor of sunlight was the most important feature drawing people to this space. He studied sun patterns and social movement to test this hypothesis, and discovered that although sunlight did have an impact on users, there were other underlying factors that were worth considering. He began by recording the types of activities occurring like reading, talking, eating and watching. Then he documented and made connections between these activities and the type of people found in the space, from business people to tradesmen, young and old, people sitting alone or in groups.

An intriguing finding was that the most common activity was “people looking at other people.” The construction, layout and design of Seagram made it easy for people to do this. The steps and ledges provided seating from which people could watch others in the plaza as well as on the street. Inevitably, this became the most significant factor contributing to the success of the plaza. However this was not what the space was designed for. When the architect, Miles van de Rohe, saw people sitting on the ledges, he was quite surprised. He had never predicted that people would do this. Without knowing it, he had designed the seats and ledges as perfect seating. There were no railings, shrubbery or ornamentation cluttering the space as the architects’ valued simplicity. Whyte therefore proposed that for a successful plaza, it is these features that should be planned with people’s sitting tendencies in mind (rather than simply placing park benches in the space). This gives people more freedom people to sit up front, in the back, to the side, in the sun, or out of it as they please. The flat surfaces can also be used as tables and a form of shelves.

Whyte’s conclusions were presented to New York City and were added into the new zoning code. They included, the provision of sitting space, presence of trees, access for the disabled and having a close linkage with the street. Other factors that weren’t included but Whyte still deemed necessary for a successful plaza were the absence of sun (as a both a form of light and heat) and availability of food.

This session of the lecture series was an interesting discussion between the variety of guests and featured some great projects and inspiring designers.

Anna, 2009, ‘Builder Dan Phillips’ Philosophy: One Mans Trash is Anothers Home,’ Green Talk, weblog, viewed 12 April 2011,  <http://www.green-talk.com/2009/12/02/builder-dan-phillips-philosophy-one-mans-trash-is-anothers-home/&gt;

TEDX 2009, ‘Dan Phillips: Creative Houses from Reclaimed Stuff’, video, viewed 12 April 2011,<http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_phillips_creative_houses_from_reclaimed_stuff.html&gt;

Murphy, K. 2009, ‘One Mans Trash…,‘ New York Times, viewed 12 April 2011,  <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/03/garden/03recycle.html?_r=1&gt;

Wolf, V. 2004, ‘Houston Heroes- Dan Phillips: weaving dreams from discarded things ,‘ viewed 12 April 2011, <http://www.cleanhouston.org/heros/phillips.htm&gt;

Project for Public Spaces, 2010, ‘Sitwalls, Ledges and Steps,’ viewed 12 April 2011, <http://www.pps.org/articles/sitwalls/&gt;

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The Century of the Self

For the third week of the Interior and Spatial Design Lecture series, we watched a British documentary film by Adam Curtis, ‘The Century of the Self.’  We viewed part one of four, ‘Happiness Machines.’ This documentary looked at Sigmund Freud and his nephew Edward Bernays, who influenced the way that the government and corporations presented themselves to the people of society in the 20th century. The first episode looked at how Bernays used Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis to control the masses.

Sigmund Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis, that is, the theory of personality that focuses on repression and unconscious forces and includes the concepts of infantile sexuality, resistance, transference, and division of the psyche into the identity, ego, and superego. He was a former propagandist for America but started to explore ways in which to use propaganda outside of the context of war, “if you can use it for war, you can certainly use it for peace.” Freud’s nephew put his theories of human behaviour into practise in the attempt to manipulate people, having a great impact on society. The main idea was to play to people’s irrational emotions, making people of society believe that they are able to create their own happiness though fulfilling their material wants.

To test Freud’s theories of persuasion, Bernays experimented with the minds of the working class by attempting to persuade women to smoke. During this time, there was a taboo against women smoking in public, but Bernays managed to make them socially acceptable with a simple act. He did this by using his technique of ‘symbol and phrase.’ He persuaded women that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom and labelled them “tortures of freedom.” This appealed to women as it gave them their desired appearance of independence and gained power. Bernays held a mass demonstration, where a group of women lit up cigarettes (simultaneously after a given cue) at a parade. He cleverly notified the media that these particular women were to be lighting up ‘torches of freedom’ during the parade. By communicating this to the masses, Bernays was able to convince the public that smoking was a symbol of “how you wanted to be seen by others”, and therefore shifted the perceived power balance from male to female. After this experimentation, cigarette sales went up, proving that this act was effective in changing the public’s perception of what is acceptable as well as satisfying the female envy for male power.

Bernays realised that by linking products to emotional desires and feelings could make people act irrationally. His findings fascinated American cooperation’s who were beginning to worry that after the war there was such a large amount of products available that soon people would have bought everything they needed, as products during this period were sold for necessity. The cooperation’s knew they had to change the way the consumer thought about products changing from needs to desire culture. Curtis describes, “[Bernays] showed American corporations for the first time how to make people want things they didn’t need by linking mass produced goods to their unconscious desires. Out of this would come a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying people’s inner, selfish desires, one made them happy, and thus, docile. It was the start of the all consuming self which has come to dominate our world today.”

He persuaded members of society to buy things not for needs but to express their character to others, making people believe they will feel better with the [new] piece of clothing,’ one of his methods for this was to host fashion shows. Bernays also pioneered celebrity endorsement. By featuring famous people in advertisements, people were encouraged to buy products under the illusion that it increased their social status. He also introduced the advertising technique of product placement in movies, film premieres and events where he dressed the stars in products he represented.

In the 1920s, products were solely designed for the purpose of usability and function. Advertising focused on enhancing the product’s virtues and its usefulness in helping enrich everyday life, for example, car advertising simply showed the image of the car and it’s selling price. Bernays shaped a new mentality from “you should buy an automobile” to “you should buy this automobile, because you will feel better about yourself.” Bernays created an emotional connection to a product or service in the attempt to make the consumer happy. This strategy formed the foundation of many advertising strategies. Curtis explains, “Bernays was determined to find a way to manage and alter the way these new crowds thought and felt”. He was also know as ‘The man who understood the mind of the crowd.’

We now “design for redundancy,” meaning products will be made for temporary use or be improved and superseded so that consumers will continue to replace products and therefore, keep buying.

Although Bernays isn’t very well known these days, he had great importance in the founding of the idea of public relations and advertising. His advertising techniques are still used and are equally as effective. Bernays has successfully changed the average American from the title of citizen to consumer.

BBC UK, 2005, BBC UK, ‘Century of the Self’, viewed 6 April 2011 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/features/century_of_the_self.shtml&gt;

The Century of Self: Happiness Machines,‘ video recording, viewed 6 April 2011 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcYBSXgtmKQ&>

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The Limits of Beauty

The second presentation of the Interior and Spatial Design Lecture Series was by Adam Jasper, a design journalist with articles published in Cabinet Magazine, Vice and Art & Australia and Frieze. He discussed the limits of beauty in art and art history and in the form and function of design. To explore these ideas, Jasper focused on varying versions of the Anatomical Venus.

To open the lecture, an image of Venus de Milo (150BC) was shown. Venus de Milo is an ancient Greek sculpture and is one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture. The statue is a visual depiction of Greek goddess, Aphrodite, who represents love and beauty. In its original state, this sculpture was a realistic depiction, with the skin and facial features accurately coloured, and the surface ornamented with jewellery. In contrast to this image of perfection, the sculpture has eroded overtime and is now a fragment of its initial form and appearance. This damaged artefact “speaks to the fate of all art” as we are reminded of the time of its origin. A change in the portrayal of Aphrodite in art can be seen in throughout art history and therefore reflects the context of which each piece was created. As Aphrodite was a symbol of beauty, this suggests that there is a constant shift in what is considered beautiful and ideal. This can be seen in Giorgione’s ‘Sleeping Venus’, Titian’s ‘Venus of Urbino’ (which was inspired by Giorgione’s painting with similarities in theme and the pose of the model) as well as the ‘Venus of Willendorf.’

The following image was of one of the most famous Anatomical Venuses from the La Specola Collection in Florence. ‘Anatomical Venuses’ are models of idealised women, extremely realistically constructed. These figures were originally designed for education purposes, but due to the detail and precision used in their creation, they were also considered works of art. The model consists of removable parts that can be removed and replaced like a puzzle. To ‘dissect’ the Venus, a breastplate is taken off to reveal the internal organs, often with a foetus in the womb (which Jasper pointed out, a foetus that developed is very disproportional to the rest of the body in this example). In the 19th century, the anatomical Venus intrigued members of society, and so, it was commonly the centrepiece of museums and exhibitions.

Anatomical Venuses are beautiful but also educational. This fusion between art and science is rarely seen as these fields are usually opposed. The Anatomical Venus  (also known as the medical Venus) shares similarities with the representations of Classical Venus in art, both expressing innocence and naivety in the way that the model is posed. However the Anatomical Venus was designed for medical and educational purposes in contrast to the Classical Venus that focused on Aphrodite’s beauty and the idealised image of women.

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