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UnBeige Gift Guide: A is for Adjaye’s African Metropolitan Architecture

It’s that time of year again, when design lovers around the world seek out gifts that surprise, delight, and won’t be swiftly returned for store credit. In the coming days, we’ll offer an alphabet of suggestions in the UnBeige Gift Guide, which we hope will also supply some ideas on how to spend the seasonal smattering of gift certificates (and store credit) that will soon be burning a hole in your pocket. Our first pick: African Metropolitan Architecture (Rizzoli), the sublime new book by David Adjaye. The set of seven slipcased volumes is the culmination of the Tanzanian-born, London-based architect’s decade-long project to document the built environment of every major African city. It’s a fresh look at a continent that the world has come to know through exotic images from National Geographic.

“I just wanted ordinary pictures. Everyday life,” said Adjaye last week at Design Miami, where he was celebrated as Designer of the Year. “There’s a sense that Africa’s all a jungle, with savannahs, animals running around, and some nice natives.” In fact, with 54 countries and 1.5 billion people, Africa is on an urbanization streak. Growth of cities on the continent is now outpacing that of China. “But nobody’s talking about Africa. I couldn’t even talk to architects about it,” he added. In the course of visiting every African city, Adjaye looked beyond the political boundaries to examine the distinctive aspects of six regions: the maghreb, the sahel, savannah and grassland, mountain and gighveld, desert, and forest. A book of essays about African urban development rounds out the edition. “The landscape of Africa is one of the most primal and powerful environments that we have on this planet,” said Adjaye. “It’s nurtured a lot of artists and creative people, and even when architecture doesn’t realize what’s happening, it’s actually authoring architecture, and that’s what this book is about.”

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Suit Up! It’s Time for Art Basel Miami Beach and Design Miami

Hot Pursuit: Erwin Wurm’s “Big Hoody” (2010) at the Art Basel Miami Beach booth of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac and Nick Cave’s “Soundsuits” (2011) on offer at Jack Shainman Gallery. (Photos: UnBeige and Jack Shainman Gallery)

First the turkey, then the art and design. Today Art Basel Miami Beach opened its doors to the public. Now in its tenth year, the ever-expanding fair is showcasing works from a eye-watering 2,000 artists represented by approximately 260 galleries worldwide. Based on the champagne-swilling VIPs at yesterday’s preview (we spotted Morley Safer lounging with a cigarette and intially mistook him for a highly realistic sculpture), Erwin Wurm is gaining a lot of new fans, thanks in part to crowd-pleasing works on view at the booth of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Drawn in by the Vienna-based artist’s disembodied pink hoodie (above), few fairgoers can resist standing under the neighboring giant, wall-mounted police officer’s cap. Wurm was also feted last night at the Bass Museum of Art, where an exhibition of his genre-bending work opened today.

Right around the corner from the Convention Center, Design Miami got a headstart on things with its opening yesterday, complete with a Veuve Clicquot-sponsored food truck and champagne lounge. In addition to works from 23 galleries, this year’s fair features “Craft Alchemy,” a performance project in which designer Elisa Strozyk and artist Sebastian Neeb work their magic on Fendi’s leather scraps. Meanwhile, architect David Adjaye gets his close-up as designer of the year, while Bjarke Ingels has teamed up with Audi on a “digital street” environment. And what’s that floral aroma wafting through the tent? Belle-Ile, a fragrance created by olfactive branding company 12.29 especially for Design Miami.

David Adjaye Named Design Miami’s 2011 Designer of the Year

(Photo: Lyndon Douglas)

Design an awesome home for Adam Lindemann and the world will beat a path to your double-height, multipaneled bronze door, as will Design Miami, which will honor Tanzanian-born, London-based architect David Adjaye as Designer of the Year at this year’s fair (November 29-December 4 in Miami Beach). Awarded annually to an internationally renowned designer or studio “whose body of work demonstrates unmatched quality, innovation, and influence, while expanding the boundaries of design,” the honor has been bestowed in previous years on the likes of Zaha Hadid, Fernando and Humberto Campana, Maarten Baas, and Konstantin Grcic.

“Winning Designer of the Year is huge for me,” said Adjaye. “To win an award like this from the design community is really significant because so much of my work is about crossing platforms. Being recognized this year—which culminates in all of the work and research I’ve been doing in Africa—is extremely meaningful.” Of Ghanaian descent, Adjaye has spent ten years traveling to 53 cities throughout Africa to document the continent within an urban context. The resulting project, “Urban Africa: David Adjaye’s Photographic Survey,” includes more than 36,000 pictures, 3,000 of which were displayed at London’s Design Museum before traveling to other locations around the world.

Among the perks of winning Designer of the Year is the opportunity to whip up a site-specific installation for this year’s fair, and Adjaye has designed a triangular pavilion called “Genesis” (rendering at right) that will welcome visitors to Design Miami. The immersive environment will be constructed of hundreds of vertical wooden planks, with the interior formed by an oversized ovoid shape cut out from the center. Inside, Adjaye will provide seating (on a platform formed by cut-away timber frames) that affords views of the sky and surrounding environment. The Design Miami galleries will be visible through a curved window. According to Design Miami, “Genesis” represents the first time that Adjaye has combined structure, seating, window, and doors into a single gesture.

Asif Khan, Mischer’Traxler, and Studio Juju Win W Hotels ‘Designers of the Future’ Award

Asif Khan’s “Harvest” (2010), which used London’s flowering foliage as a raw material for furniture production.

With less than two months to go before the Swiss blitz of Art Basel, the organizers of Design Miami/ Basel have announced the winners of the 2011 W Hotels Designers of the Future Award: Asif Khan (London), mischer’traxler (Vienna), and Studio Juju (Singapore). The three up and coming design firms will each create a new object or series based upon this year’s designated theme of “Conversation Pieces.” Expect works that “encourage people to overcome social barriers while also sparking conversations between strangers.” After making their debut at Design Miami/ Basel, the commissioned projects will get people talking at W Hotels worldwide.

“With this year’s award, we wanted to highlight the young design vanguard while exploring works that are intentionally interactive,” said Design Miami/ director Marianne Goebl in a statement announcing the winners, who share an experimental and multi-disciplinary approach demonstrated in projects ranging from flowering furniture and laser-cut stationery to a Spirograph-like cake decorating machine and a cell phone with an undulating surface inspired by fruit trays. The 2011 Designers of the Future were selected by an international jury that included Aric Chen (Beijing Design Week), Li Edelkoort (Edelkoort Inc.), Konstantin Grcic (KGID), and Zoe Ryan (The Art Institute of Chicago). Qualifying candidates must have been practicing for less than 15 years and have produced a body of work—in the fields of furniture, lighting, craft, architecture and/or digital/electronic media—that demonstrates originality in the creative process, while also exhibiting an interest in working in experimental, nonindustrial, or limited-edition design.

Quote of Note | Anthony Haden-Guest

From left, an interior view of Miami’s new Taschen store, designed by Philippe Starck, and Moorhead & Moorhead’s temporary structure at Design Miami 2010

“The uplift that the mythos and business of contemporary art has brought to the life of [Miami] can be compared with the way that Frank Gehry‘s Bilbao Guggenheim has transformed the Basque capital. It used to be said that trade followed the flag. Nowadays, you are likely to find that an artist made the flag and a dealer sold it to a collector. Who flipped it.”

-Anthony Haden-Guest, writing in The New York Observer of his recent experience at Art Basel Miami Beach

Rahm Emanuel Vows to Take on Miami in Making Chicago an Art Market Staple

This weekend, following a much needed haircut, this writer accidentally happened to pass by the Coonley Elementary School here in Chicago at roughly the same time that former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was officially entering this city’s mayoral race. While there was some commotion, including dozens of broadcasting trucks and protesters outside yelling about something, it was a relatively subdued affair. But after weeks of travel and not paying any attention to much of anything outside of airplane schedules and what’s on our computer screens, it finally got us thinking about what Chicago would be like with Emanuel as our mayor. In how this relates to UnBeige (we’re trying desperately to make a smooth segue here), ArtNet was on hand to pull out some good details from a recent interview with Emanuel in the local edition of Time Out, wherein, among other arts-specific items, he says “…we should restore the Chicago Art Expo‘s rightful place next to the Basel Expo in Miami.” While we’re not sure when exactly we were ever able to compete with the annual mega-fest down in Florida, it’s positive to see some forward thinking about pushing Chicago’s place in the arts. Though the underlying tone of ArtNet’s synopsis, which is perhaps a better read than the interview itself, seems none too positive about the candidate himself.

Konstantin Grcic Named Design Miami’s 2010 Designer of the Year

At left, a rendering of Konstantin Grcic’s “Netscape” installation, which will be presented in the courtyard of Design Miami’s temporary structure (at right) designed by Moorhead & Moorhead.

It’s been a very good year for Konstantin Grcic. Having begun 2010 by clinching the “Furniture Designer of the Year” honor from Wallpaper* (and a panel of judges that ranged from Steven Holl and Kelly Wearstler to John Galliano and Carsten Höller), the Munich-based industrial design star has seen his 360° chair and 360° stool welcomed into the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Now comes word that Grcic will be feted in December as Design Miami‘s Designer of the Year, awarded annually to an internationally renowned designer or studio “whose body of work demonstrates unmatched quality, innovation, and influence, while expanding the boundaries of design.” Grcic was the unanimous selection of the Design Miami jury, according to Wava Carpenter, acting director of the fair. “Konstantin’s work in the last year has demonstrated his incredible range and prolific talent,” she says. “His ability to work in multiple contexts simultaneously is the hallmark of today’s most successful and enduring designers.” Past Designer of the Year winners include Maarten Baas, Fernando and Humberto Campana, Zaha Hadid, and Marc Newson.

Design Miami commissioned new work by Grcic that will presented at the fair (which this December will take place right in Art Basel’s backyard at the Miami Beach Convention Center), and Grcic came up with “Netscape,” an installation that will be presented in the courtyard of Design Miami’s temporary structure designed by Moorhead & Moorhead. The interactive work will consist of a six-point star-shaped structure from which seats made of netting will be suspended. The 24-seat web of hanging chairs will create a space for guests to engage with one another before entering or leaving the fair. “When I first looked at the design for this year’s temporary structure, there was this beautiful part of the tent, just before the entrance,” says Grcic. “I knew that I wanted to create something special for the fair—something functional,but also something that incorporated my ideas of what a place like Miami is like in December….It’s a space for people to enjoy.” Fairgoers will also be treated to a selection of Grcic’s greatest hits (three cheers for Chair One!) with an exhibition of career highlights curated by Grcic himself.

Designers of the Future Celebrated at Design Miami/Basel

Winners of the 2010 W Hotels Designers of the Future Award (Photo: Design Miami)

“Bees!!!” Such was the excited text message we received yesterday from a friend making the rounds in Basel, where the Messeplatz is buzzing about designer Tomas Libertiny‘s honeycomb Jesus at the Design Miami/Basel booth of London-based Carpenters Workshop Gallery. Director Julien Lombrail is stoking the hive mentality by presenting the work in progress—he trucked in thousands of live bees that are denuding the sculpture of residual honey over the course of the fair. The piece is enclosed inside a large glass tank, so no stings have been reported (yet).

While Libertiny’s work is surely Basel’s apiological apex, Design Miami has also been busy feting the winners of the Designers of the Future Award, sponsored by W Hotels: Beta Tank (Michele Gauler and Eyal Burstein), Graham Hudson, rAndom International (Stuart Wood, Flo Ortkrass, and Hannes Koch), and Zigelbaum + Coelho (Jamie Zigelbaum and Marcelo Coelho). The designers discussed their fresh approaches yesterday at a talk moderated by journalist and curator Cedric Morisset before unwinding at a celebratory cocktail reception. No word as to which, if any, of their commissioned projects will live on in W Hotels. Announced in April at the Milan Furniture Fair, the Designers of the Future winners were chosen by a selection committee that consisted of Ambra Medda and Wava Carpenter (Design Miami), Mike Tiedy (Starwood Hotels), and Marcus Fairs (Dezeen).

Previously on UnBeige:

  • Live Vicariously Through New Design Miami Blog
  • W Hotels Buys Branding Rights for Design Miami Award
  • Organic Innovation Bubbles Up at Design Miami
  • Not Basel Bound? Live Vicariously Through New Design Miami Blog

    DMB_logo.jpgBasel, Switzerland will be the place to be next week, when the middle-aged megafair Art Basel and its ten-year-old cousin, Design Miami/Basel, offer up the fresh work of thousands of artists and designers on the banks of the Rhine. While we were on the ground at last December’s elegantly Maarten Baas-ified incarnation of Design Miami, we’re still waiting to hear if anyone has room on their Boeing Business Jet for an UnBeige stowaway (we travel light!). Whether you’re bound for Basel or not, you’ll want to check in regularly with the newly launched Design Miami/Basel Blog, which promises
    a steady stream of quotes, photos, facts, and news from the show floor. And there’s lots to look forward to, with Design Miami co-founder Craig Robins promising “the most robust show we’ve produced in our history—in terms of scope, programming, and innovation.” We hear that architect Mia Hagg has collaborated with MadeThought, the design consultancy behind the fair’s consistently fantastic visual identity, to design the exhibition space, which this year will occupy two floors of Hall 5 in Basel’s Messeplatz. One not to be missed event? Tuesday’s kickoff session of the fair’s Design Talks, featuring the FT‘s Edwin Heathcote in conversation with none other than Zaha Hadid.

    Design Miami Makes Plans to Relocate to Miami Beach


    Who knew that this was going to be the year that Design Miami changed completely? First they signed a big sponsorship deal with W Hotels, then just a few days ago, the art fair’s co-founder, Ambra Medda, suddenly resigned. Now another big change with the news that the group has plans to leave Miami proper and move to Miami Beach, to run alongside the other big annual design/art event there, Art Basel Miami Beach. While not 100% solidified yet, according to the Miami Herald, it appears the city (who had been vying for Design Miami to make the move) will give its okay tomorrow, letting the show “rent a parking lot across from the Art Basel home inside the city convention center.” Given that the two groups both have hands in each others pockets, investing-wise, the move certainly makes sense:

    In 2007, [owner Craig Robins] sold a 10 percent stake in Design Miami to MCH Group, the owner of Art Basel. MCH also owns 50 percent of Design Miami’s annual Switzerland show, which coincides with the original Art Basel fair in MCH’s hometown of Basel, Switzerland.

    Design Miami is the lone authorized satellite fair for Art Basel Miami Beach, the country’s leading contemporary arts fair. MCH also is a partner in a joint venture with Global Spectrum that runs the convention center year-round. In winning that city contract, MCH pledged to bring another of its international shows to the expo.