Combine the skill of a perfectly crafted dovetail joint with the whimsy of fifty plastic soldiers battling it out under glass and you get the latest installation at Manchester’s CUBE Gallery.
Glasgow-based cabinetmaker and artisan, John Galvin, chose several of his most popular pieces to be included in this year’s DESIGNLab, an annual celebration of innovation and excellence in design.
Among the collection is the award-winning Manolo lounger, an exceptional piece that took home the 2011 British Trada Wood Award for outstanding craftmanship. Inspired by the work of chair designers, Hans J. Wenger and Finn Juhl, and also by the intriguing sketch of a high-heel shoe by Manolo Blahnik, the lounger blends its wonderfully light and feminine design with a timelessness inherent of its material and the quality of its craft. The Manolo incorporates five different joining techniques, hand carved twisted details, intricate seat bevelling, and all this without a single 90-degree angle in the entire piece. Says Galvin: “The Manolo lounger is without doubt the most challenging but satisfying piece I have ever attempted to produce.”
The John Galvin exhibition will be at the CUBE Gallery until 4 February 2012.
Manolo Lounger with Cygnet Floor Lamp
Mahogony Slab Bench
Neapolitan Sideboard with Holly Table Lamp
the right angle?
I recently visited two gallery spaces designed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind: Manchester’s Imperial War Museum North (left) and the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal in Toronto (right). From the exterior, both are eye-catching and thought-provoking - the first, through its variation on a common form and the second, through contrasts in material and geometry between old and new. And while the interior spaces of both galleries are also a visual treat exhibiting Libeskind’s characteristic angularity, one gallery is far more successful in terms of functionality.
The Crystal opened in 2007, creating a new entrance for the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and significantly expanding it’s exhibition space. I was living in Vancouver at the time, so my first introduction to the interiors were through glossy magazines photos the likes of Azure and Canadian Architect. When I finally walked through those imposing doors four years later, I was actually giddy. That feeling quickly evaporated - after about ten minutes of wandering through the dinosaur exhibit, my head wanted to explode.
I ducked into the safe haven of the old ROM to gather my thoughts. All of the magazine photos had been so amazing! Why was my head spinning now? The pictures had described the space on its own - the irregular angles, the chaotic connections, and how light and shadow enhanced the interiors’ unpredictability, had all worked to stunning effect. But when you added the irregular angles, chaotic connections and unpredictability of gigantic dinosaur skeletons prowling, attacking and soaring through this glass and steel kaleidoscope, my eyes simply couldn’t focus - visually, there was just too much going on. The bizarre pathway inside the “crystalline” structure and the lack of wayfinding aids didn’t help matters. Granted, I was having trouble seeing the dinosaurs - it’s no wonder I missed the signs.
The angled walls inside the Imperial War Museum North, on the other hand, did not detract, but rather, enhanced my experience. I found myself on a journey that involved following a wall that offered multiple corners and surprise turns. While the path was seemingly irregular and random, it also felt completely logical - even when you went off to visit one of the many side-trip exhibits, you could easily find your way back to the path and continue where you left off.
It’s easy for me to say the walls inside the War Museum were angled, but it’s difficult to quantify the effect they had on the space in the same way I can describe the mind-bending effects of the walls inside the Crystal. That’s because the interior architecture of the War Museum was easy to ignore, and that wasn’t a bad thing! Rather than analysing the pitch of the museum’s walls, I read letters from soldiers in Afghanistan, I watched WWII newsreels projected in three-storey wonderment, I even tried a “scent sampler” for an olfactory glimpse of life-in-the-trenches. The interiors played a secondary role to what was on display and as a result, I had one of the most engaging and sensory gallery-experiences I’ve ever had. Isn’t being an appropriate and supportive backdrop the ultimate goal for this type of space?
The War Museum is a more successful gallery space simply because the interiors do not complete with what they are trying to exhibit. The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal is an incredible interior space on its own, but it’s success as a gallery space relies upon that-which-is-being-displayed overcoming its dominant and, consequently, distracting surroundings. I will be interested to hear readers’ impressions of Libeskind’s bold Military History Museum in Dresden (opened 15 Oct, 2011, pictured below) to learn what similarities or differences you find compared to those I have discussed. [link: ArchRecord - bit.ly/z5HKd7]
On a final note, I should say that there was one gallery space in the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal that I found to be 100% successful. The 4th floor was the last one I visited and featured a photographic exhibition by Edward Burtynsky. You might be thinking the complex scenes characteristic of Burtynsky’s work would have much the same effect on my stomach as the lunging dinosaurs bones had previously. Happily, the over-stimulation effect was absent here. Even though the photos were tremendously chaotic, and the walls and ceilings of the gallery were no more regular than before, the difference was that the objects on display were framed inside a black rectangle - the grounding geometry of the frame was enough to anchor my eye within the angled context the photos floated in, thereby allowing me time to focus and appreciate what I was viewing. Such a relief! I suppose sometimes a right angle is just right.
This past May, RIBA, on behalf of the National Grid and the Department of Energy and Climate Change, launched a competition to re-design a structure that is so common, we probably don’t “see” them anymore: the ubiquitous electricity-transmission tower.
The competition was in response to the UK government’s commitment to upgrade its power supply, in part to replace their rapidly aging facilities with more efficient ones, to decrease the country’s annual carbon emissions, as well as to meet the rising demand for electricity. The look of today’s pylons is said not to have changed much since the 1920’s - with more than 88,000 pylons in the UK, this initiative to transform the country’s power infrastructure will have an effect on the landscape for generations to come. What a perfect time for a design charrette!
The competition was looking for “highly innovative and imaginative solutions that respond to exacting technical requirements and offer the potential for development into deliverable projects. Proposals should be both grounded in reality and be beautiful.”
The judges narrowed down 250 entries to six finalists on Sept 14, and then after much public anticipation, revealed the winner on Oct 14. I won’t ruin the surprise. (see www.ribapylondesign.com). Do you agree with their choice?
Plexus by Amanda Levete Architects & Arup
T-Pylon by Bystrup
Y-Pylon by Knight Architects, Roughan & O’Donovan, ESB International & MEGA
Flower Tower by Gustafson Porter, Atelier One & Pfisterer
Totem by New Town Studio Structure Workshop
Silhouetteby Ian Ritchie Architects & Jane Wernick Associates