For many of us, the pandemic that has gripped the planet over the past year and a half has not only upended our lives and threatened our physical well-being — it has also sparked an existential crisis. How should we live? That is the question. By focusing inward, we’ve reappraised the values that give life meaning. Over the next year, more than ever, we’ll be seeking out joy, togetherness and serenity, both at home and in the world.
Public parks have always been important, but global lockdowns have made them downright essential. The need for play — for aimless discovery, blissful distraction and re-energizing recreation — is especially strong now. These bold visions for outdoor spaces show us how to embed more whimsy into the urban fabric, while the latest furniture and lighting designs seek to bring a smile to our faces. We’ve earned it.
Now, imagine if all underused buildings could emulate Waa’s intervention in Beijing. The local architecture firm took over 2,657 square metres of an industrial complex and draped them in an undulating pavement. Huge slides and gigantic holes that lead down to bright yellow walkways, trampolines and splash pads make it an immersive playscape.
Next to the Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, ecoLogicStudio has built a cylindrical timber jungle gym, wrapped in ETFE, that encourages participation in an educational experiment. AirBubble, as the London firm calls it, features 52 borosilicate glass reactors filled with algae that filter the air.
By jumping off ropes and bouncy mounds and onto foot pumps, kids can help power the “artificial greenhouse.” Tests have shown that this biotechnology can reduce interior pollution by 83 per cent. For a science-y funhouse, it provides a refreshing lesson in good, clean design.
Haute couture and furniture design come together in the exuberant Nila by DeMuro Das, produced in collaboration with accessory designer Olivia Dar, who cut her teeth at Christian Lacroix. It’s embroidered with patterns inspired by Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh buildings, including Neelam Cinema and its intense blue accents.
Two lovers of irony — Italian manufacturer Seletti and Dutch design house Studio Job — burn as one in their latest collection. The Grimm lamp, part of the new Blow brand, winks at Nordic fairy tales and the candlesticks of yore. But this supersized version is made of resin, not wax, and has a rechargeable flame.
Covered in 30,000 petals — laser-cut from polyester and soft as silk — the Hortensia chair aims to delight. First conceived by Andrés Reisinger as an impossible-to-realize, Instagram-only design and later released as a limited edition with a textile by Júlia Esqué, it was recently put into production by the mavericks at Moooi.
So simple that it’s a wonder you never thought of it, La Linea is a flexible tube light. Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group for Artemide, the silicone fixture can be twisted and turned to create vibrant outlines or squiggles, indoors and out (only the outdoor version is currently available in North America). It comes in lengths of 2.5 and 5.0 metres.
The trompe l’oeil effect of Alain Gilles’ new Hole rug for YO2 Rugs might make you feel like Roadrunner, right after he’s zoomed past the cliff’s edge. Made of tufted polyamide, the printed design comes in three shapes and sizes and numerous colour combinations.
Hydro chair, made in aluminum by a company called (fittingly) Hydro, is completely recyclable. But you’ll want to keep this ultralight, balloon-like chair intact for as long as can be – it’s a Tom Dixon classic in a fun new form.
In 2008, the global recession spawned a new term fit for an age of depleting resources and increased precarity: the sharing economy. Over a decade later, the pandemic has made the fragile networks that connect us more abundantly clear and highlighted the urgent need to re-address them. Whether celebrating inclusive practices or approaching the housing crisis anew, these designers reveal emergent strategies for shaping a communal future together.
Between 1981 and 1994, London’s Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative functioned as a multiracial women-led architectural practice that championed collaborative approaches, egalitarian methods and inclusivity in addressing communities often left at the margins of the built environment. Curated by founding member Jos Boys, the exhibition “How We Live Now” at the Barbican delves into the organization’s archive, illuminating its collective work on state-funded refugee centres, lesbian and gay housing, and many more issues that profoundly resonate today. Fittingly, the showcase is designed by another local feminist architecture collective: Edit.
A host of wood-fired kitchens that are independent from their main houses feature prominently in the vernacular structures that dot Thesprotia, a region in northwestern Greece. These “satellite kitchens” continue to define the area’s architectural and social landscape, providing room for groups of primarily women to gather and organize. “They are spaces for storytelling, socializing and, at the same time, intimate cooking,” says experimental studio TiriLab, whose exploration into this unique typology was included in the fifth Istanbul Design Biennial, entitled “Empathy Revisited: Designs for more than one.”
Vivid documentation of the women who use these kitchens highlights the intergenerational and familial bonds forged during the act of cooking.
Los Angeles’s housing crisis is one of the most severe in the world. In response, Lehrer Architects and the city’s Bureau of Engineering have developed a series of communities (three so far) on undeveloped, underused sites, consisting of one- or two-person “pallet shelters” designed to provide immediate accommodations for those in need.
In the 39-unit Chandler Boulevard Bridge Home Village, electric hues demarcate the various residences and highlight internal corridors and shared public areas.
Living together means addressing all inhabitants — both human and non-human — within the context of the built environment. Rotterdam-based Studio Ossidiana’s prototype for a new public space is a circular garden of sorts, which facilitates and celebrates encounters between humans, animals, architecture and even the minerals that compose it.
Commissioned by ArkDes for its annual Utomhusverket outdoor program, the installation comprises a central pool surrounded by slender poles with ledges for migratory birds to land. On the grounds, residents of Stockholm are provided room to convene amid a terrain of low-slung concrete walls and playful terrazzo elements in pastel greens and pinks.
Both at home and beyond, there is an immediate and profound desire for safety and sanctuary. Our loci of warmth and respite will continue to evolve as we introduce zones of wellness and healing into our living quarters — ones that always provide refuge, come what may. And we will seek out the places and experiences that return us to rituals — from tea ceremonies to communal dining — that are finding new expressions in design.
Resolutely modern on the outside, this teahouse by Neri&Hu in Fuzhou, China, was built over the relocated relic of a Qing-dynasty residence replete with ornamental carvings and intricate joinery. Melding past and present, the architecture provides a good dose of perspective to go along with that pot of aromatic tea. The zigzag copper roof is elevated half a metre above the base, creating a band of light around the periphery that offers a glimpse into the juxtaposition of eras.
No distracting devices allowed at this table. The Aayutha series by Indian brand Magari draws on tradition to present a contemporary take on low-seated dining. Inspired by the geometric forms of the ancient Tamil script, the line is beautifully crafted, with table bases carved from granite and leather or cotton cord chairbacks woven by artisans. It will definitely make you stay a while.
By bringing nature indoors, we benefit from the salubrious power of plants. This home in Mexico turns over the entire entrance area to landscaping, complete with foliage and water features. The project, by architecture firm Palma, involved the expansion of an existing residence with a rustic addition — one that features a roof of woven palm leaves.
To bridge the two volumes, the designers inserted a stone fountain front and centre; a ceiling void allows fronds to dangle from the planters above, creating a veritable hanging garden.
Returning to ritual could also go hand-in-hand with technology. And who better to show us how than Yves Béhar. The designer’s Opus is billed as an “emotional fitness platform.” It blends vibration and ambient sound to personalize a healing experience. When you’re ready to return to real life, you can just roll it up into a compact hexagonal form.