Building Of The Week: The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MUCEM), Marseille

The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations designed by the Algerian-born French architect Rudy Ricciotti is the flagship project of Marseille’s on-going architectural and cultural renaissance. The museum is located on Marseille’s seafront next to a seventeenth century stronghold, Fort St Jean. Built upon the Greek and Roman vestiges of the antique city-state, the Fort is charged with history and includes a chapel which dates back the twelfth century.

Rudy Riciotti’s classic monolithic design is built around a perfect square; each side of the building is 72 metres. An inner square of 52 metres per side forms the heart of the museum and comprises the exhibition and conference halls. The inner structure, which is composed of steel and glass, has been covered with a delicate ornamental skin of filigreed concrete. The same innovative material has been used to create 308 tree-shaped pillars that stand at over 8 metres high and form the vertical structure of the building. This patterned concrete skin opens the building to natural light and views of the sea allowing the marine atmosphere to pervade entirely the inside of the building. Furthermore, the lace veil of concrete on the outside of the building creates intricate shadow patterns that can be seen as “a projection of the bumpy and irregular sea bed” comments Ricciotti. He goes on to say his Museum is, “open to the sea, to draw a horizon where the two shores of the Mediterranean can meet”.

The Museum is organised on three levels with an array of exhibitions, an auditorium and a bookstore. The rooftop is a particular feature and is set to become an iconic venue for the city with beautiful panoramic views of the sea and harbour. At night a lighting scheme designed by Yann Kersalé creates a magical atmosphere with shades of blue and turquoise.

The top floor roof decking, which spans a width of 24 metres covering an area of 1600m², is made from heat-treated American ash, supplied by Bingaman and Son Lumber Company in Pennsylvania, USA. The top deck sits along the pedestrian route running through the Museum and across Marseille’s historic seafront, so with a constant flow of pedestrians a heavy duty decking solution was essential. “We asked the general contractor to come up with a decking solution that could withstand an average load of 250 kg/m²” explains Tilman Reichert, the project architect. Eric Durand from Roofmart, the contractor in charge of supplying the heat-treated ash decking comments, “The architect was looking for solutions that would avoid him specifying tropical hardwoods; initially he wanted to try heat-treated pine but was not happy with the results of the initial trials. The quality of the heat-treated ash we were delivered was first class. When the architect saw the samples he was won over both by the aesthetic appeal of ash with its characteristic grain but also its dimensional stability and long lengths (20 x140).”

The thermal modification process uses a high temperature in a controlled environment permanently altering the wood’s chemical and physical properties. This limits the ability of the wood to absorb moisture, so products are more dimensionally stable and less prone to cup, warp and twist with changes in humidity. The thermal modification process also removes the nutrients in wood that would otherwise provide a food source for insects and wood-destroying fungi. This increase in dimensional stability and decay resistance significantly extends the service life and reduces maintenance needs of the decking. Given its marine environment, the deck is highly exposed to weathering from the sun, rain and sea spray so will be monitored to assess its performance over time. Tilman Reichert the project architect comments: “We believe that ash with its long wood fibre will offer greater resistance to wear than pinewood”.

he decking is laid on a traditional system of boarding joists to allow the insulation membrane directly under the wooden decking to be well ventilated. The boards were nailed not screwed which is visually more pleasing.

AHEC European Director David Venables says, “The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations is a superb example of the use of newer technologies of hardwood durability enhancement. There’s a developing market for thermally modified hardwoods in Europe and this project publically showcases their potential. By processing wood produced from America’s well-managed hardwood forests, thermally modified hardwood provides a quality, environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to imported tropical hardwood species.”

The weight of the 24 metre wide rooftop terrace contributes to stabilising the concrete pergola above it through a clever system of stainless steel cables. The vast veil surrounding the terrace is made up with the same intricate filigreed concrete that covers the sides of the building. It rests on 15 metre wide concrete cantilever beams that sit on top of the main vertical pillars of the building. On the outside of the building the cantilever beams carry the weight of the external ramps that lead up to the terrace through long stainless steel braces that span the whole height of the building. Stainless steel cables have also been fixed from the wooden deck to the cantilever beams which overhang above the terrace by 4 metres to stabilise the whole canopy structure above the terrace.

The roof terrace offers visitors an inclined walkway made up of 115 metres of bridges travelling out from the roof of the building and crossing the harbour basin. This links the Museum to Fort Saint-Jean which hosts the main restaurant managed by local cooking celebrity Gérald Passedat. In time the fort will house a further 15,000 m2 of museum exhibition space. Furthermore the open public spaces around the Fort have been redesigned to showcase a unique botanical collection of Mediterranean plants along a landscaped promenade. Another footbridge leads visitors to le Panier, the oldest and most traditional neighbourhood in Marseille with endearing narrow streets and steep steps.

Magister Canova at the Scuola Grande della Misericordia, Venice

From 16 June to 22 November 2018, the Scuola Grande della Misericordia in Venice hosts Magister Canova (Possagno, 1757 - Venice, 1822), the first major multimedia exhibition to be devoted to the greatest sculptor of Neoclassicism, created with a scientific committee with a high international profile and the collaboration of the Fondazione Canova Gypsotheca and Museo Antonio Canova di Possagno. An interweaving of music, words and images with the extraordinary participation of Fabrizio Plessi, the voice of actor Adriano Giannini and music by cellist Giovanni Sollima.

Moving from the micro to the macro, Magister Canova accompanies the public on a journey of discovery of an inimitable human and artistic itinerary.

The exhibition route of Magister Canova winds its way through environments of major perceptive impact, scenographic reconstructions, deceptive views. Technology - at the disposal of art - offers visitors an unprecedented experience, where details, episodes, intervals of the broadest scope, are showcased and highlighted, to enable them to grasp the meaning of one of the most exciting creative processes in the history of European sculpture.

Accompanying the visit, an emotional tale recounted by Adriano Giannini’s voice and Giovanni Sollima’s cello. The exhibition moves from the micro to the macro, from Cupid and Psyche’s butterfly to the giant Hercules’s frenzy and Lichas’ terror, from the study of the anatomical drawings from the Biblioteca dell’Istituto Superiore di Sanità to the representation of the revolutionary process of creation defined by Canova. The narration continues from the great myths, the heroes carved in white marble, to the multi-colour temperas on dark backgrounds devoted to dance, to conclude with an environment completely devoted to one of the great Canova masterpieces, Paolina Borghese, portrayed by Canova as Venus Victrix.

On Scuola Grande della Misericordia’s ground floor, a site-specific installation by Fabrizio Plessi, an ideal journey in the mind of Antonio Canova, introduces the visit to an exhibition where show and detailed study, emotion and knowledge, blend together perfectly.


Thomas Cole: Lost Arcadia and Destructive Hubris

Born in Bolton, Lancashire in 1801, Thomas Cole (1801–1848) travelled to America with his family at the age of 17 following the failure of his father’s business. Teaching himself painting from textbooks, he then showed America to the Americans, becoming over his short career both his adopted country’s first notable landscape artist and the founder of its first notable art movement, the Hudson River School.

A highly political painter, Cole’s five-part series “The Course of Empire” is only the most obvious polemic in a body of work infused with nostalgia and suspicious of development, be it industrial, commercial or agricultural.

His best known work, the 1836 View from Mount Holyoke, Northhampton, Massachusetts after a Thunderstorm, generally known as The Oxbow, perfectly highlights the transition between the rich and beautiful forested wilderness in the foreground and the colourless and anodyne transformation to dull and listless grid of fields in the centre.

Cole View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts after a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow.jpg

After his initial success in New York he returned to Europe in search of mastery, and to meet his heroes John Constable (1776–1837) and J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851).  With Constable he developed a strong friendship, but he found Turner disappointingly chaotic and informal.

Cole’s undoubted technical proficiency in a pre-photographic age allowed him to create immersive works which draw the viewer into the envisioned space, although he perhaps overused the trick beloved of John Martin (1759-1854) (whom he also admired), of filling the centre of the canvas with brightness and darkening the sides, creating a tunnel towards the light. However he lacked the courage of Turner to move from painting with defined forms to painting with light, and the grandeur of many of his works is diminished by fussy detail.

While early American pioneers and politics objectified the landscape as a resource to be claimed, colonised and exploited, Cole was at the forefront of a new philosophy that valued the natural world and rejected its destruction. Such disrespect of nature, Cole presciently alludes, will only lead to our doom.

Jack Coulter: Painting sound

London based artist Jack Coulter, 21, has a form of Synaesthesia, a rare neurological phenomenon that causes him to ‘hear’ colour, resulting in a sensory overload that he finds both draining and beautifully enriching.

Jack Coulter has spent his entire life surrounded by colour. But not the kind of colour you or I see; the spectral vortex that constantly surrounds him is the result of synesthesia - a rare neurological condition which makes staring at the sky a fluorescent experience, and turns the sound of his beating heart into a shade of ultra violet, even the greyest of objects shine like diamonds, so it's no wonder that Jack has also spent his entire life trying to recreate these hallucinations on canvas.

At just 21 years of age, he's already built up a large body of paintings, prints, and photography, featuring in the likes of GQ and on the cover of singer-songwriter SOAK's debut album, Before We Forgot How to Dream. Using the cheapest paint available, and applied with things like sticks, broken glass, knives, and even mixed with sand - Jack's paintings are like looking through a kaleidoscope, as each marbled spatter of florescent paint bleeds into the next, its tangibility alluding to the physical forms of colour that Jack has visualised his whole life.

Deconstructing the perception of colour in a world where we routinely experience life through the prism of an Instagram filter, his work appeals to the masses (he already has over 46,000 followers on the social platform). There's also a sense of alienation and isolation bound up within his work, how he operates as an artist, and the fact that he sees things that no one else can see, in other words a loneliness that people can identify with and take comfort in, which is probably why Jack receives so many messages from fans online.

The Scottish Colourists: Cadell, Fergusson, Hunter and Peploe

The term ‘Scottish Colourists’ refers to four painters, S. J. Peploe (1871—1935), J. D. Fergusson (1874—1961), G. L. Hunter (1877—1931) and F. C. B. Cadell (1871—1935).

This collective designation, however, was not coined until the late 1940s, by which time three of the principle artists – all except Fergusson – were dead, and has only recently achieved widespread currency. The designation ‘Scottish Colourist’ is also misleading, suggesting an artistic unity of purpose and collectivism, which does not accurately describe the tenuous relationship between the artists or the heterogeneity of their collective output.

The term in other words tends to obscure the wide variety of stylistic influences and approaches developed and employed by the artists. Regardless of what the collective appellation may suggest, the four artists were not a particularly close-knit group, neither did they work collaboratively towards a common goal. During their lifetimes the artists only exhibited together three times, and each of them developed individual methods, characteristic styles and divergent approaches to a wide variety of subject matter.

The Scottish Colourists combined their training in France and the work of French Impressionists and Fauvists, such as Monet, Matisse and Cézanne, with the painting traditions of Scotland. A forerunner of this movement was William McTaggart (1835–1910), a Scottish landscape painter who was influenced by Post-Impressionism. He is regarded as one of the great interpreters of the Scottish landscape and is often labelled the "Scottish Impressionist". They absorbed and reworked the strong and vibrant colours of contemporary French painting into a distinctive Scottish idiom during the 1920s and 1930s.

Although their subject matter is often considered conservative compared to their French counterparts, since much of it consisted of island landscapes, Edinburgh interiors and fashionable models; their style was confident and vibrant.

Their interpreations of Scottish interiors with their palettes of soft whites, pinks, greys and lilacs evoked the cool northern light and contrasted vividly with both the brighter, more extravagant works that all of the four produced in France, both in Paris and on the Mediterranean, and their outdoor scenes and seascapes of Scotland.  These Scottish interiors with their palettes of soft whites, pinks, greys and lilacs evoked the cool northern light and contrasted vividly with both the brighter, more extravagant works that all of the four produced in France, both in Paris and on the Mediterranean, and their outdoor scenes and seascapes of Scotland.

The Scottish Colourists were internationally known during their lifetimes but their work fell out of favour by World War II, until they were rediscovered in the 1980s and subsequently played an influential role on the development of Scottish art.

Their work is featured in the Aberdeen Art Gallery in Aberdeen, Scotland; the J. D. Fergusson Gallery in Perth, Scotland; the University of Stirling, Paisley Museum and Art Galleries and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. Some of Leslie Hunter's paintings can be seen in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. The Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery is said to house the largest collection of works by Peploe and McTaggart.


Car of the week: Bugatti Type 57S Atalante

The Bugatti Type 57 and later variants (including the famous Atlantic and Atalante) was an entirely new design created by Jean Bugatti, son of founder Ettore. Type 57s were built from 1934 through 1940, with a total of 710 examples produced.

Type 57s used a twin-cam 3,257cc engine based on that of the Type 49 but heavily modified by Jean Bugatti, unlike the single cam engines of the Type 49 and earlier models.  The engines of the Type 50, 51 used bevel gears at the front of the engine to transmit power from the crankshaft, whereas the Type 57 used a train of spur gears at the rear of the engine, with fiber gear wheels on the camshafts to achieve more silence in operation.

The Bugatti Type 57S Atalante number 57502, built in 1937 by Automobiles Ettore Bugatti, is one of 43 Bugatti Type 57S made and one of only 17 Type 57S produced with the in-house Atalante coupé coachwork. The car hit the headlines in 2009 when auctioned by Bonhams, after having been rediscovered in 2008, following 48 years of storage in a private owner's garage in Gosforth, England, with few people aware of its location.



Rodin and the Ancient Art of Greece at The British Museum

In 1881 the French sculptor Auguste Rodin visited London for the first time. On a trip to the British Museum, he saw the Parthenon sculptures and was instantly captivated by the beauty of these ancient Greek masterpieces.

Like many archaeological ruins, the Parthenon sculptures had been broken and weathered over centuries, but Rodin took inspiration from the powerful expression that they conveyed through the body alone. He even removed the heads and limbs from his own figures to make them closer to the broken relics of the past. By doing so, he created a new genre of contemporary art – the headless, limbless torso.

A hundred years after his death, the British Museum curates a selection of Rodin’s works – including his iconic sculptures The Thinker and The Kiss – in a new light. This major exhibition features original plaster, bronze and marble examples of many of Rodin’s sculptures on loan from the Musée Rodin in Paris. For the first time, they are shown alongside some of the Parthenon sculptures that the artist so admired, as well as selected objects from his own collection of antiquities.


Oscar Niemeyer: The Man Who Built Brasilia

Oscar Niemeyer was a Brazilian architect considered to be one of the key figures in the development of modern architecture. Niemeyer was best known for his design of civic buildings for Brasília, a planned city that became Brazil's capital in 1960, as well as his collaboration with other architects on the headquarters of the United Nations in New York. His exploration of the aesthetic possibilities of reinforced concrete was highly influential in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Both lauded and criticised for being a "sculptor of monuments", Niemeyer was hailed as a great artist and one of the greatest architects of his generation by his supportersHe said his architecture was strongly influenced by Le Corbusier, but in an interview, assured that this "didn't prevent [his] architecture from going in a different direction". Niemeyer was most famous for his use of abstract forms and curves and wrote in his memoirs:

I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire Universe, the curved Universe of Einstein.

Niemeyer was educated at the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and after graduating, he worked at his father's typography house and as a draftsman for local architectural firms. In the 1930s, he interned with Lúcio Costa, with the pair collaborating on the design for the Palácio Gustavo Capanema in Rio de Janeiro. Niemeyer's first major project was a series of buildings for Pampulha, a planned suburb north of Belo Horizonte. His work, especially on the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, received critical acclaim and drew international attention. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Niemeyer became one of Brazil's most prolific architects, working both domestically and overseas. This included the design of the Edifício Copan (a large residential building in São Paulo) and a collaboration with Le Corbusier (and others) on the United Nations Headquarters, which yielded invitations to teach at Yale University and the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

In 1956, Niemeyer was invited by Brazil's new president, Juscelino Kubitschek, to design the civic buildings for Brazil's new capital, which was to be built in the centre of the country, far from any existing cities. His designs for the National Congress of Brazil, the Cathedral of Brasília, the Palácio da Alvorada, the Palácio do Planalto, and the Supreme Federal Court, all designed by 1960, were experimental and linked by common design elements. This work led to his appointment as inaugural head of architecture at the University of Brasília, as well as honorary membership of the American Institute of Architects. Due to his largely leftist ideology, and involvement with the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), Niemeyer left the country after the 1964 military coup and opened an office in Paris. He returned to Brazil in 1985, and was awarded the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988. A socialist and atheist from an early age, Niemeyer had spent time in both Cuba and the Soviet Unionduring his exile, and on his return served as the PCB's president from 1992 to 1996. Niemeyer continued working at the end of the 20th and early 21st century, notably designing the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (1996) and the Oscar Niemeyer Museum (2002). Over a career of 78 years he designed approximately 600 projects.





Car of the Week: The Hispano-Suiza H6

Rolls-Royce must have been fuming by the buzz that surrounded the launch of the Hispano-Suiza H6 at the 1919 Paris Salon. For such a large luxury car, the new model – designed by the brilliant Swiss engineer Marc Birkigt – not only looked imposing, but also bristled with innovative features. The firm’s aero experience was clearly evident in this vintage exotic. Under the long bonnet, the all-alloy 6.6-litre straight-six, finished in signature gloss-black paint, was in effect one bank of Hispano’s magnificent V12 aero engine, with its overhead camshaft driven by a vertical shaft following aviation practice.

Just one twin-choke updraught Solex served the engine, mixing fuel with air warmed by the crankcase. Twin-plug ignition and Hispano’s patented threaded-cap valve stems both featured in this handsome, compact unit, which would have impressed even Ettore Bugatti. The auxiliaries were kept hidden, like servants in a grand château, and the crankcase was stretched wide to meet the chassis sides and make the engine bay even tidier. Peak power was 134bhp at 2750rpm, with maximum permitted revs at 3000, but some reports claimed that the factory was over-optimistic and 115bhp was closer to the truth. Whichever way, the power output was huge compared to rivals, with Rolls-Royce mustering around 70bhp and Isotta Fraschini about 80.

When most makers were still boasting of having four-wheel brakes, Hispano was far ahead of the game with its servo assistance integrated with the gearbox, a design patent that Rolls-Royce carried through to the 1965 Silver Cloud. The conventional deep-channel chassis was well braced by a finely cast aluminium bulkhead.

Sporting motorists at the Paris show may have scoffed at the three-speed ’box but Hispano, like many quality firms, regarded gearchanging as an operation unfit for gentlemen, and claimed that the engine’s torque would provide ‘smooth and flexible’ performance whatever the route. Frustratingly, pre-war road testers didn’t report torque figures but the H6B was reckoned to give 350lb ft at just 1600rpm. No wonder it could accelerate in top from single figures to 60mph in just 30 secs. The H6B’s pace clearly matched its impressive stopping power, which all underlined its bold claim to be ‘the best car in the world’.


Masterpiece 2018: The Unmissable Art Fair returns to Chelsea, London

It was exciting to attend this year's Masterpiece Art Fair for their preview afternoon.  The eclectic set-up of the fair presents collectors with the opportunity to admire works from diverse disciplines in tandem, and discover the joys of mixing and matching. With 160 international exhibitors gathered at the Royal Hospital Chelsea,  our highlights are below - from Greta Garbo's jewellery, to a selection of eye catching contemporary art and design amongst Old Masters and ancient art and artefacts.  We spotted an ancient Middle Eastern shield as well as some beautiful Italian mid century furniture design.


Building of the Week: blurring the lines between nature and the superficial construction in the Chaoyang Park Plaza - Beijing

MAD architects, the Chinese firm led by Ma Yansong, has completed ‘Chaoyang Park Plaza’ on the southern edge of the largest park in Beijing’s central business district. 

Having a similar position and function as Central Park in Manhattan, but unlike the modern box-like buildings that only create a separation between the park and the city, “Chaoyang Park Plaza” instead is an expansion of nature. It is an extension of the park into the city, naturalizing the CBD’s strong artificial skyline, borrowing scenery from a distant landscape ─ a classical approach to Chinese garden architecture, where nature and architecture blend into one another.

The development includes the 220,000 square meter ‘Armani apartment complex’, which comprises ten buildings that have been designed to ‘unfold as a classic Shanshui painting on an urban scale’. the project — which broke ground in 2014, before topping out the following year — has been conceived as extension of the park within the city. ‘we want to blur the boundary between nature and the artificial, and make it so that both are designed with the other in mind,’ explains Ma Yansong.

Inspired by traditional Chinese landscape paintings, MAD’s design introduces a range of natural forms and spaces.  Connected by a glazed atrium, the site’s asymmetrical twin tower office buildings sit at the base of the park’s lake and appear as two emerging mountain peaks. the small-scale, low-rise commercial buildings appear as eroded mountain rocks whose seemingly random positioning forms a secluded urban garden. finally, the two multi-story Armani apartments to the southwest feature staggered balconies that encourage outdoor living

The development’s overall environment is shaped by smooth, curved surfaces that seek to evoke the emotion and aesthetic resonance of a traditional Chinese ink painting. the landscape that weaves itself in between the buildings incorporates pine trees, bamboo, rocks, and ponds — all traditional eastern landscape elements that imply a deeper connection between the architecture and classical space. meanwhile, Japanese graphic artist and curator Kenya Haraled the design of the project’s signage system.

in modern cities, architecture as an artificial creation is seen more as a symbol of capital, power or technological development; while nature exists independently,’ says Ma Yansong, founder of MAD architects. ‘it is different from traditional eastern cities where architecture and nature are designed as a whole, creating an atmosphere that serves to fulfill one’s spiritual pursuits.’


Building of the week: Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Art Nouveau masterpiece - The Glasgow School of Art

Due to the sad news today we are posting about Charles Rennie Mackintosh's beautiful design for the Glasgow School of Art as our building of the week.

Glasgow School of Art, situated on a steep hill leading down to Sauchiehall Street, is one of the most distinctive Art Nouveau buildings in Glasgow, displaying a combination of decorative styles influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century. 

The opening ceremony of the completed Glasgow School of Art took place on 15th December 1909, performed by Sir James Fleming (left), chairman of the Board of Governors. Sir James had been a pupil of the school a few years after it had been founded in 1840.  At the ceremony Sir John Stirling Maxwell moved a vote of thanks to the architect, Mr Mackintosh, whom he said "had the real faculty of being able to adapt a building for the purpose for which it was really intended". He went on to say that the Glasgow School of Art "was a conspicuous success of that kind".  Mackintosh acknowledged the compliment and on behalf of the contractors presented Sir James Fleming with a jewelled silver casket containing a decorative signed scroll.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's silverware was influenced by the work of the 'Wiener Werkstätte', designers and artisans of the Vienna Secession of which he was an honorary member. 

Charles Rennie Mackintosh had submitted his designs for the competition in 1896 and was successful in becoming the winning entrant when the result was announced in early 1897. Funding limitatations meant that the building was erected in stages between 1897 and 1909. 
Glasgow School of Art still demonstrates a freshness of style and presents a fascinating insight into turn of the century modernism.

Founded in 1845 as the Glasgow Government School of Design, it changed its name to The Glasgow School of Art in 1853. It was first located at 12 Ingram Street and moved to the McLellan Galleries in 1869. In 1897, work began on a new building to house the school on Renfrew Street. The building was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, chosen for the commission by the school's director, Francis Newbery, who oversaw a period of expansion and fast-growing reputation. The first half of the building was completed in 1899 and the second half in 1909.

Mackintosh lived most of his life in the city of Glasgow. Located on the banks of the River Clyde, during the Industrial Revolution, the city had one of the greatest production centres of heavy engineering and shipbuilding in the world. As the city grew and prospered, a faster response to the high demand for consumer goods and arts was necessary. Industrialized, mass-produced items started to gain popularity. Along with the Industrial Revolution, Asian style and emerging modernist ideas also influenced Mackintosh's designs. When the Japanese isolationist regime softened, they opened themselves to globalisation resulting in notable Japanese influence around the world. Glasgow's link with the eastern country became particularly close with shipyards building at the River Clyde being exposed to Japanese navy and training engineers. Japanese design became more accessible and gained great popularity. In fact, it became so popular and so incessantly appropriated and reproduced by Western artists, that the Western World's fascination and preoccupation with Japanese art gave rise to the new term, Japonism or Japonisme.

The school has produced most of Scotland's leading contemporary artists including, since 2005, 30% of Turner Prize nominees and four recent Turner Prize winners: Simon Starling in 2005, Richard Wright in 2009, Martin Boyce in 2011 and Duncan Campbell in 2014. The School of Architecture is highly rated by the architecture profession[5] and the School of Design has been described by Design Week as "leaders in design education"



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building of the week: the military bunker site now transformed into a national museum in Denmark

The TIRPITZ museum– or also known as 'the invisible museum'- is a sanctuary in the sand that acts as a gentle counterbalance to the dramatic war history of the site in Blåvand on the west coast of Denmark.


The TIRPITZ transforms and expands a historic German WWII bunker into a groundbreaking cultural complex comprising four exhibitions within a single structure, seamlessly embedded into the protected shorelands of Blåvand in western Denmark. The construction of the 2,800 m2 “invisible museum” attracts around 100,000 visitors annually.

“The new TIRPITZ is planned, built and furnished as a portal to the Danish West Coast’s treasure trove of hidden stories. It has been our goal to create a humble, world-class attraction surprising its visitors with new perspectives on the majestic landscape. Our guests deserve the best; with BIG’s limitless and inviting architecture and with Tinker Imagineers’ wondrous and playful exhibitions, I feel we have achieved this. TIRPITZ is an incredible, one-of-a-kind experience – violent, astonishing, dramatic, hidden – almost invisible,” says, Claus Kjeld Jensen, Director of Varde Museum.

As an antithesis to the heavy volume of the WWII bunker, the museum appears subtly as the intersection between a series of precise cuts into the landscape. Contrary to the hefty and intrusive regelbau construction of the original artillery fortress – simply designed as an immense concrete block – the new TIRPITZ finely cuts into the dune and camouflages with the landscape.


“The architecture of the TIRPITZ is the antithesis to the WWII bunker. The heavy hermetic object is countered by the inviting lightness and openness of the new museum. The galleries are integrated into the dunes like an open oasis in the sand – a sharp contrast to the Nazi fortress’ concrete monolith. The surrounding heath-lined pathways cut into the dunes from all sides descending to meet in a central clearing, bringing daylight and air into the heart of the complex. The bunker remains the only landmark of a not so distant dark heritage that upon close inspection marks the entrance to a new cultural meeting place.”  – Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner, BIG.


Upon arrival, the visitors will first see the bunker and as they approach, see the fine cuts and paths leading towards the center of the museum complex. The central courtyard allows access into the four underground gallery spaces that have an abundance of daylight even though they are literally carved into the sand. The exhibitions, designed by Dutch agency Tinker Imagineers showcase permanent and temporary themed experiences. Every gallery has its own rhythm, beating in sync with its story line: high and low, night and day, good and bad, hot and cold, the passing of time.

Army of Concrete tells the human stories in the shadow of Hitler’s enormous defense project, the Atlantic Wall, such as Anna’s, the girl who had a child with a German soldier; Gold of the West Coast is Western Europe’s most comprehensive exhibition of amber, presented in an enchanting steel forest. Along with its changing colours and sounds, the atmosphere of the rooms alternates between warm and cold: references to the history of amber; and West Coast Stories tells 100,000 years of west coast history and is turned into a nighttime 4D theatre twice an hour. The audio-visual theater has visitors sit down in a lifeboat before taking them on a tempestuous journey through time.   

From the sunken galleries, visitors are able to walk into the historic bunker, which grounds the tale of an impressive war machine. In the dark visitors can play with light and activate shadow plays that reveal how the bunker should have functioned.

“TIRPITZ is a unique opportunity to combine nature and culture in a spectacular fashion. A visit to the museum is not a visit to an exhibition gallery, but a scenic journey through time and space of West Jutland. The idea is that the whole place itself comes to life following the rhythms of nature.”  – Erik Bär, Founding Partner, Tinker imagineers.


The building consists of four main materials and elements which are also found in the existing structures and natural landscape of the area – concrete, steel, glass and wood. The walls of the exhibition rooms are made of concrete cast onsite, supporting the landscape and carrying the fascinating roof decks that cantilever out 36 m. The largest roof deck weighs about 1.090 ton and the complex roof structure is engineered by Swiss Lüchinger+Meyer. The main interior materials utilized throughout the gallery spaces are wood and hot rolled steel which is applied to all the interior walls. 6m tall glass panels face the outdoor courtyard, allowing natural daylight into the four exhibition spaces.


art inspiration: Congolese contemporary painter Eddy Ilunga Kamuanga

Eddy Ilunga Kamuanga's paintings emerge out of a materially rich visual world of patterns and textures. Kamuanga’s persevering vision is characteristic of the vibrant intellectual community that continues to flourish in Central Africa. Often as bystanders to the political and social turmoil to which they are subjected, in a place where lives are too often derailed by urban delinquency and crime, Kinois artists are increasingly compelled to produce art that gives voice to their inner desires and hopes for the future.


Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1991, Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga studied painting at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Kinshasa. While the strict, almost 19th-century style of formal figuration that has been taught at the Académie since its colonial-era founding allowed the artist to develop sophisticated painterly skills, ultimately, he found its program conceptually stifling, and abandoned his studies there, in 2011. Though there was little in place supporting that decision, he quickly aligned himself with other artists to establish M’Pongo, a group studio where a diverse set of young artists shared ideas and exhibited together to generate their own vibrant scene, which tapped into the high-energy creativity of contemporary Kinshasa.

In his work, Kamuanga Ilunga explores the seismic shifts in the economic, political and social identity of the DRC that have taken place since colonialism. Increasingly globalised, yet still devoutly Christian, much of the country completely rejects its multi-ethnic indigenous heritage. The artist’s own mother, a modern woman who supported and raised her large family alone, didn’t want him undertake a research trip to visit people from her own ethnic grouping, considering them pagan, backwards and even dangerous! It is this loss of their traditional cultures that his listless figures seem to mourn, their bright fabrics hanging limply from their bodies, their hands clutching ritual objects whose functions seem less and less apparent. Today’s DRC is the world’s largest exporter of coltan, a raw material used in computer chips and mobile phones, and we see this ubiquitous marker of global modernity creeping across their skins. The monumental quality of the works makes the figures both heroic and elegiac. Yet, even as the Congolese fabrics painted as European drapery recount the developing story of the DR Congo of today the inter-dimensional ambiguity, between solidity and flatness, suggests an underlying anguish and emptiness.

For his latest project, Kamuanga uses the history of the Kongo Kingdom to reveal the legacy of its leaders and examines the impact this has had on contemporary Congolese society. These new works feature objects such as porcelain used by early Portuguese traders as well as pottery, such as Toby jugs, which later entered the trade routes in the Kongo Kingdom for the trade of slaves. In this body of works, Eddy pays tribute to the slaves and ancestors who resisted this human trafficking by presenting a vision of the socio-political landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kamuanga Ilunga’s work has been exhibited across Africa, notably at Dak’Art; Biennale OFF Senegal in 2014, and made its London debut at the Saatchi Gallery’s Panagaea II in 2015. 




Building of the week: Bosjes Chapel, South Africa

The new chapel, set within a vineyard in South Africa, is designed by South-African born Coetzee Steyn of London based Steyn Studio. Its serene sculptural form emulates the silhouette of surrounding mountain ranges, paying tribute to the historic Cape Dutch gables dotting the rural landscapes of the Western Cape. Constructed from a slim concrete cast shell, the roof supports itself as each undulation dramatically falls to meet the ground. Where each wave of the roof structure rises to a peak, expanses of glazing adjoined centrally by a crucifix adorn the façade.

Drawing poetic inspiration from Psalm 36:7 (How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.) the crisp white form is conceived as a lightweight, and dynamic structure which appears to float within the valley. A reflective pond emphasises the apparent weightlessness of the structure. Elevated upon a plinth, the chapel rises from the flat land its sits upon, providing a hierarchical focal point within its surroundings. New planting including a vineyard and pomegranate orchard create a lush green oasis on the otherwise exposed site.

Inside, a large and open assembly space is created within a simple rectangular plan. Highly polished terazzo floors reflect light internally. The undulating whitewashed ceiling casts an array of shadows which dance within the volume as light levels change throughout the day. This modest palette of materials creates a neutral background to the impressive framed views of the vineyard and mountains beyond. 

n order to keep the structural form of the roof and assembly space pure, other elements of the buildings functional programme are either hidden within the plinth, or discretely within the outer corners of the surrounding garden.

n open embrace which invites in, the chapel is also a space that extends outwards into the valley and mountains beyond, raising the awareness of God’s creation in the immediate environment.

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Juergen Teller’s West London photography studio

This week’s building of the week is Juergen Teller’s purpose built studio in West London.

German-born Teller, who is known for his fine art as well as fashion photography, commissioned London practice 6a Architects to design his new studio on a long and narrow plot.

Teller documented the construction process by taking a number of photographs including a nude self portrait and another of Japanese band Bo Ningen.

The studio is made up of individual concrete volumes separated by garden courtyards, which Teller uses as a set.

“The gardens are inspired by the urban gardens that spring naturally in ruinous or untouched corners of the city – especially those captured by R S R Fitter’s classic book, London’s Natural History,” explained the architects.

“In the first garden, a remnant of the concrete frame from a former building stands for plants to colonise.”

The building presents a solid concrete facade to the street, which is interrupted only by a wooden entrance and a large window offering glimpses of an office on the first floor.

From the entrance, a long corridor extends all the way to the back of the plot, through the two additional structures and the gardens in between.

The building includes a sauna and meditation room as well as an office, archive, studio, kitchen and library.

The central volume contains the main studio area, which is illuminated from above by roof lights and windows place at either end that face out into the gardens.

A pair of narrow staircases on each side of the space lead up to store rooms housed in suspended concrete blocks.

The furthest of the three structures accommodates a kitchen on its ground floor and an apartment above.

Concrete is used throughout the building in various forms; as cement blockwork walls, poured floors, and in the form of large beams that push against the party walls on either side.

The gaps between the monolithic concrete structures function as outdoor rooms featuring local plants chosen by garden designer Dan Pearson to evoke patches of the city where trees and shrubs have naturally sprouted from buildings.

Metal drainpipes direct rainwater into the gardens, and straight into a cylindrical fish pond in the corner of one of the outdoor spaces.

The prevalent use of concrete is softened by the natural light that infiltrates the building, as well as by the planted gardens. Brass hardware and grey timber joinery also introduce warm and tactile details.

6a Architects was founded by Tom Emerson and Stephanie Macdonald in 2001, who met at the Royal College of Art. The studio’s other notable projects include the renovation of a derelict house to form an extension for the South London Gallery.

BMW 328 Hommage

Unveiled at Villa d’Este, the 328 Hommage is constructed using carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) as used in the M3 and M6, which is lighter than aluminium but stronger. The shape is all wedge-shaped Teutonicness housing a 3.0-litre straight-six of unspecified vintage. BMW makes this in a variety of flavours, so we’d like to assume it’s the 340bhp turbo’d sixer from the 1M coupe…

Elsewhere there is leather, aluminium and even a couple of iPhones which double up as additional displays for driver and co-driver.

It was at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Italy three years ago that BMW unveiled the striking M1 Hommage Concept, and at the same event in 2011 the German automaker is paying tribute to another of its past greats, the legendary 328 sports car of the 1930s.

The concept is described as a modern interpretation of the 1930s-era 328, something–according to BMW, at least–that the designers of the original 328, Fritz Fiedler and Rudolf Schleicher, might have built in the present day using current technology.

Like the original, the design of the 328 Hommage pays special attention to lightweight construction and as such major parts of the concept are made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). Total curb weight is said to be just 1,720 pounds.

No powertrain details were revealed apart from there being a “powerful” 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine under the hood. We can imagine, however, that with the lightweight carbon fiber body and the same 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque twin-turbocharged mill from the 2011 BMW 1-Series M Coupe, this thing could be a rocket.

Inside, fine leather, matte and high-gloss black polished aluminum and even more carbon fiber delight the visual senses. A sparse instrument panel is dominated by the only round instrument–the prominently designed rev counter. Other useful info displayed are oil temperature, oil pressure and water temperature.

One nifty feature is the so-called tripmaster. The instrument panel of the 328 Hommage is a fitted with two Apple iPhones located in special holders and which assume additional display functions for the driver and co-driver. Firstly, the iPhones function as stopwatches for measuring lap times and secondly as GPS roadbooks. Using two iPhones the driver and front-seat passenger/co-driver respectively can use both functions at the same time. After a journey, the iPhones can also be taken away in their holders.

Ferrari: Under The Skin - exhibition at the Design Museum

In an Italy ravaged by the Second World War, Enzo Ferrari and a small team decided to create the perfect racing machine. The exhibition at The Design Museum, London explores Ferrari’s powerful personality, the design and manufacturing process, the famous clientele and the future of the luxury car brand.

From the very first Ferrari to Michael Schumacher’s winning Formula One car and the newest hybrid model, the exhibition features rare cars and memorabilia displayed in public for the first time. The Ferrari experience is described through original hand-drawn sketches, sculpture-like models and engines, alongside films and interviews telling one of the great design stories of all time.

‘Race cars are neither beautiful nor ugly. They become beautiful when they win.’ Enzo Ferrari

125S – 1947 Replica

The first Ferrari, the 125 S, was an extraordinary achievement to be created in 1947, in an Italian economy devastated by the recent war. This is the only existing official replica, built by Ferrari in 1987 following the original design.

#FerrariFact – Enzo Ferrari was 49 years old when he created this car.



166 MM Barchetta – 1950

‘Of all the cars I have driven, I can never forget my first Ferrari’ declared Gianni Agnelli, the head of Fiat. This is his car.

The 166 MM was named after the gruelling Mille Miglia race, spanning 1,000 miles across Italy. It was also the first Ferrari to win the famous Le Mans 24 hour race, driven by Enzo Ferrari’s American agent, Luigi Chinetti in 1949 – just two years after Ferrari’s very first car was built.

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Ferrari 500 F2 – 1952

Enzo Ferrari always intended to build both sports cars and also single-seat racing cars. In the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s he began to challenge the long-established manufacturers like Alfa Romeo and Maserati. Alberto Ascari won the Formula One championship in both 1952 and 1953 in the car and demonstrated that Ferrari had now reached the top flight of race engineering.

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250 GT chassis only – 1957

In a Ferrari everything is designed and made for its special purpose. Nothing is off the shelf. This chassis forms an important exhibit within the exhibition and demonstrates the detailed design and engineering.

250 GT Cabriolet – 1957

This open car, with bodywork designed by Pininfarina, belonged to the famous British racing driver Peter Collins. He also used it as his personal transport. This represents Ferrari’s move into road cars, as well as out and out racing cars. It was even the first Ferrari to have disc brakes, developed by the British Dunlop company and which Collins persuaded Enzo Ferrari to adopt.

250 GT Berlinetta passo corto (SWB) – 1960

This was a period when sports racing cars were less specialised than today and racing successes helped Ferrari become the quintessential sports car manufacturer. Stirling Moss, a famous British racer, never raced officially for the factory, but he had several wins in privately-owned Ferraris and won the 1960 Tourist Trophy in this car.



250 GT Berlinetta passo corto ‘Sperimentale’ – 1961

This car was used as a development model by Ferrari and represents a transition between the very successful 250 GT models and the Ferrari GTO – one of the factory’s most well-known cars. It ran at Le Mans in 1961 and in 1962, driven by Stirling Moss and won at Daytona.


250 GTO – 1962

This car was masterminded by the talented engineer Giotto Bizzarini, incorporating more power, better suspension, but particularly a more modern approach to aerodynamic design to deliver stability as well as speed - and the kicked-up tail is one visible sign of this.

The Ferrari GTO is considered by Ferrari admirers to be one of the company’s most significant and iconic models. Ferrari won three successive titles with the GTO, in 1962, ‘63 and ‘64.

#FerrariFact - The GTO tag stands for Grand Turismo Omologato


275 GTB4 – 1967

The 275 GTB4 is often called the most beautiful Ferrari of all time. This car illustrates the long-term creative partnership between Ferrari and the Turin design house of Pininfarina. Originally owned by the British agents Maranello Concessionaires – a company which was important to the commercial success of Ferrari.

365 GTB4 – 1973

The 365 GTB4 aka ‘The Ferrari Daytona’ is a highly significant car in that it was one of the first Ferraris to be built in substantial numbers - over 1,400 were made. This was another clear indication of Ferrari’s development into a major international brand.

#FerrariFact - It got its second name following Ferrari’s win with 1st, 2nd and 3rd places at the Daytona 24 hour race in 1967.


Testarossa Spider – 1986

The adoption of the mid/rear engine for high-performance cars gave automotive designers a new challenge. This car illustrates how Pininfarina responded to the challenge and created a new form for these cars which still resonates in design today. The car was commissioned by Fiat chief Gianni Agnelli as a personal car and was specially modified for him by Pininfarina to be an open ‘drophead’ car.

F40 – 1988

The F40 was conceived as a special car to commemorate 40 years since the very first Ferrari – the 125 S. Enzo Ferrari suggested that the company did something special ‘the way we used to do’. It was the fastest road car available at the time.

#FerrariFact – This was the last car that Enzo Ferrari oversaw himself, as he passed away in August 1988.

Ferrari F1-2000 – 2000

With this car, Michael Schumacher was able to win his third World Drivers’ Title and Ferrari first in 21 years when he won in 2000. Ferrari has always been a major attraction in Formula One. As a driver, Schumacher was superb but he also had the skills to analyse the car’s performance, feed back to the engineers, and help integrate the team for one of its most successful periods in racing.

This combination positioned Ferrari to dominate the F1 scene for nearly half a decade.


La Ferrari Aperta – 2016

The LaFerrari is a hybrid, incorporating battery-electric technology to give a striking performance boost as well as a reduction in fuel consumption. Strenuous R&D goes into Ferrari’s road cars, which also borrows from Formula One developments.

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Lamborghini creates a self healing sports car

Lamborghini has collaborated with a group of researchers from MIT to create a conceptual electric sports car, which has a carbon fibre shell that is able to repair any cracks or damages by itself.

Meaning “third millennium” in Italian, the Terzo Millennio concept is designed to offer a vision into the future of sports car design.

Composed of a carbon fibre structure, the car has the ability to “self-heal” and can conduct its own health checks using sensors to detect any cracks and damages in its substructure.

If a small crack is detected, a self-repairing process begins filling in the fissure with nanotubes – preventing the cracks from spreading any further into the car’s structure.

“Collaborating with MIT for our research and development department is an exceptional opportunity to do what Lamborghini has always been very good at – rewriting the rules on super sports cars,” said Stefano Domenicali, manager and CEO of Lamborghini.

In a bid to overcome the limits of today’s technology, the all-electric, driverless concept car is powered by supercapacitors rather than conventional batteries.

By incorporating this kind of energy storage system, the vehicle can be rapidly charged and is able to hold more power than a battery.

Mauricio Reggiani – Lamborghini’s head of research and development – said that even the highest quality regular batteries would not function in a supercar, due to their large size and weight.

But as the supercapacitors are made using carbon, they are malleable enough to be formed into the car’s body panels.

This makes the vehicle lighter in weight, while also enabling the whole car body to be used as an energy storage system.

“We are inspired by embracing what is impossible today to craft the realities of tomorrow; Lamborghini must always create the dreams of the next generation,” said Domenicali.

Each of the car’s wheels includes its own integrated electric engine, providing the full four-wheel-drive experience that the Italian luxury car manufacturer is known for.

Freed from a bulky standard engine, the designers and engineers were also given more freedom to use these futuristic technologies, whilst retaining Lamborghini’s signature visual identity.

“An example of a very strong statement is the evolution and further development of the Lamborghini typical Y-signature in the front and rear lights,” said the company.

“[The design is] based on an entirely new architecture, totally dedicated to perfecting airflow,” explained Lamborghini.


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