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Junya Ishigama on the cover of the October 2019 issue of Azure Magazine. The Innovators Issue.

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Extreme Nature

With so many blockbuster exhibitions focused on the world’s threatened ecology – from Nature at New York’s Cooper Hewitt to Broken Nature at Milan’s Triennale to Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life at London’s Tate Modern – one thing is clear: The design world is fixated on the natural world. (Shown, Moooi Carpets’ Extinct Animal Series includes the resplendent Menagerie motif.)


To a one, these shows are inspired by the climate crisis and the role of humans in perpetuating it, a fraught relationship that is also sprouting new approaches to products, interior design and architecture – with nature, in many cases, being invited to retaliate. (Shown: With Kundalini’s Viceversa, presented in prototype at Euroluce, lighting and plants coexist.)


It has literally taken over, for instance, the verdant facades of edifices created by Stefano Boeri Architetti, MAD Architects and MVRDV. And at RAU’s Tij Observatory in the Netherlands (shown), it seems to be the very force shaping the ovoid bird’s nest of a building.


In interiors, meanwhile, plant motifs have gone from floral to formidable, massive banana leaves inspiring Pelle’s new lamps


… and mossy landscapes dotted with misty boulders populating Seesaw Coffee’s latest Beijing café, by Nota Architects. More potent than ever, nature is bursting through our curated realms – and we’d be wise to embrace it.


Seventies Redux

If the death this year of a number of 1970s style icons (Gloria Vanderbilt, Karl Lagerfeld, Lee Radziwill) suggested the ending of an era, someone forgot to tell the design community, which hasn’t adopted disco-age motifs to the current extent since the original Studio 54 was in business. At the Milan Furniture Fair in April, brands such as Cassina and Glas Italia released enough sumptuous sectional sofas and jewel-toned coffee tables to outfit a chic Manhattan penthouse circa 1977. (Shown: Cassina’s Dress-Up!)


Meanwhile Minotti, whose 2019 collection was overseen by Rodolfo Dordoni, specifically cited the louchest of recent decades as the line’s guiding influence. Think: benches bearing zebra patterns, gold-rimmed cocktail tables and quilted-back lounge chairs perched on sculptural chrome-finished legs. For the selfie generation, what could be more appropriate than the accoutrements of the Me Decade? (Shown: Minotti’s Bailly tables).


While it may have a somewhat hippie-ish name, Tord Boontje’s Sun – Light of Love for Foscarini, shown here in gold (it also comes in white), is all disco-era glam.


Could avocado green be making a comeback? Judging from the soft matte version adorning Philippe Nigro’s modular Stem bookcase/room divider for Manerba, the answer just might be yes.


Refined Craft

Perhaps it’s a rebuke to today’s digital world, in which AI and VR are infiltrating nearly every aspect of life. Maybe it’s a recognition that handmade and small-scale are qualities worth preserving and building on. Whatever the motivations, the resurgence of traditional craft techniques in new and contemporary ways is a welcome shift in pace. (Shown: Carl Hansen & Son recently reissued the Huntsman chair, designed in the 1950s by Børge Mogensen.)


Both independent studios and international design brands are embracing the past as inspiration for the future. In Brooklyn, the studio Fort Standard fosters an “obsessive approach to craft” through furniture lines such as Cooperage (shown), which references a barrel-making technique that pre-dates the Middle Ages.


The Italian fashion house Marni, meanwhile, continues to collaborate with a Colombian artisan collective on furniture collections such as Moon Walk (shown). Released this year, Moon Walk combines weaving techniques, colourful PVC and aluminum in an amalgam that epitomizes today’s refined approach to craft.


Taking inspiration from both 19th-century Germany military epaulets and the familiar teardrop motif, Zurich-based designer Sonnhild Kestler’s Amulet for Maharam is available in eight vibrant colourways.


The volcanic-ash-glazed tile series ExCinere is the product of a three-year R&D alliance between Dzek and Formafantasma. The tiles are suitable for indoor and outdoor uses.


Brazilian Boom

It has been quite a year for Brazil: While the country’s more progressive constituency struggles to make sense of its nativist new president, its far-flung designers – past and present – have been leading a global charm offensive. In the Bronx, the New York Botanical Garden just wrapped up a major exhibition on Brazil’s greatest-ever landscape architect, Roberto Burle Marx. (Shown: Guto Indio da Costa’s Machina & Manus chaise, in jequitiba wood, is made by San German).


At this spring’s Salone del Mobile, the English- and American-based gallery Espasso, which has long promoted Brazilian design, made its Milan Design Week debut with an homage to current bright lights, such as Claudia Moreira Salles. And at ICFF, Konsepta designer Claudia Issa marked her first appearance at that show with a well-received collection of glass and ceramic works (shown).


If there’s a common denominator to today’s design output, it’s a proud continuation yet contemporizing of Brazil’s renowned artisanship. Think wood furniture that has been twisted into sculptural forms, as in Sollos’s Aris dining table, shown …


… woven seating with distinctly contemporary profiles (like Filipe Ramos’s ELO chair, shown) and vases or vessels cum art pieces. And expect to see a lot more of them as fans and distributors multiply.