UNFOLD THE HISTORY OF PAPER (ELLE DECORATION)

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People have been folding paper for as long as there has been paper to fold. In China, where the practice is known as ‘zhe zhi’, it emerged alongside the invention of paper around 105 AD. It arrived in Japan 400 years later, brought across the sea by Buddhist monks, and gradually made its way to Europe through silk-trading routes, bearing a name from the Japanese words ‘ori’ (‘to fold’) and ‘kami’ (‘paper’).

The high price of paper meant that origami was initially reserved for religious and ceremonial purposes, but even as it became more widespread as the cost of paper fell, belief in its mystical properties remained. The writer Akisato Ritowas the first to create written instructions for paper folding in his 1797 book of origami designs, woodcuts and poetry ‘Hiden Senbazuru Orikata’ (‘The Secret to Folding 1,000 Cranes’),’ which described how to make the archetypal origami crane – and Japanese legend holds that anyone who can fold 1,000of these auspicious birds will have whatever their heart desires.

Contemporary artists still connect to this sense of ritual, often referring to the power of repetitive paper folding. ‘My dad died while I was researching my first paper project and origami became my therapy,’ says paper artist Angela Fung. ‘I folded metres and metres of paper without really realising what I was doing.’ Scottish designer Kyla McCallum echoes this notion. ‘I like the fact that you have to make everything by hand with paper – it is a very meditative material,’ she says. ‘You are doing something with your hands that you don’t have to actively think about, but it is just enough to stop your mind from racing.’

Although that might explain why designers are increasingly working in this ancient material, it doesn’t quite explain why we want it in our homes, but it comes close. In living memory, we touched paper all day long from the diary or calendar that told us our plans for the day to the book we curled up with in bed at night. Now that so many of our daily interactions are digital, perhaps we are craving the tactility of paper once again, and so it is finding its way into our interiors. ‘Paper has been with us for aeons,’ explains visual artist Kubo Novak. ‘There is a natural affinity between humans and paper. I love it for its delicacy, its fragility and its almost infinite creative possibilities.’ As our surroundings become increasingly slick, shiny and screen-based, we yearn for the imperfections of natural materials. ‘People are drawn to the colour, the finish, and the warmth of paper,’ adds Liam Hopkins. ‘We are more and more conscious of the natural environment and we feel a connection to that through paper.’ You might not have the time to fold 1,000 paper cranes, but perhaps a little more paper in your life is all your heart desires.

Photography: Foldability / Kubonovak / Tedzukuri Atelier /Foldability

Exploring Eden with Nature Squared (Bethan Gray)

CEO of Bethan Gray Design, Massimo Gray, approached Katie Treggiden shortly before the launch of Exploring Eden at Milan Design Week in April 2019 seeking a copy platform that could be quickly repurposed for a number of different copy requirements. She reviewed all the pre-existing collateral, interviewed Bethan and Massimo, and wrote a ‘vision document’ that covered the ‘who, what, why, where and when’ of the launch. The copy for the press release, website, brochures, postcards and social media was all adapted from this one piece of writing, with Katie offering editing and proof-reading support as needed. All copy as submitted to the client.

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When Paul Hoeve and Lay Koon Tan founded Nature Squared in 2001, it was with the express purpose of re-imagining sustainable natural materials – waste, by-products of other industries and fast-growing natural materials – and transforming them into beautiful surfaces fit for the pinnacle of the luxury market using master-craftsmanship and cutting-edge technologies. Exploring Eden is the first collection to come out of a new partnership between Nature Squared and award-winning British designer Bethan Gray. It brings Bethan’s passion for telling stories with craft and design together with almost two decades of living and breathing sustainability and social responsibility in natural materials.

‘Creating objects of outstanding beauty and quality is absolutely at the core of ensuring that the materials we work with are recognised and cherished,’ says Lay Koon Tan. ‘There is a groundswell of desire for change, and we hope that such recognition translates into greater acceptance of holistic sustainability and the importance of balancing the needs of the environment with social and economic health.’ 

Nature Squared’s 200 craftsmen have pioneered applications such as banana bark ceilings, eggshell bathtubs and feather dashboards and their surfaces appear in 92% of the world’s superyachts – yet they are virtually unknown. The Exploring Eden collection of furniture and accessories brings previously unseen materials, skills and techniques to the attention of a wider audience, enabling further stewardship of craftspeople in the Philippines and beyond.

‘The more we find a market for what we produce, the more we create a virtuous circle of jobs, appreciation for materials that are currently seen as waste, acceptance of sustainable practices, and self-belief in our people. In Bethan, we have found a like-minded partner and we are delighted to be working with her on this collection,’ says Lay Koon Tan.

The collaboration resonates with Bethan’s love of natural materials and her nurturing approach to craft, which involves enduring partnerships with master craftsmen and women based on mutual trust and respect.

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‘I met co-founders Paul Hoeve and Lay Koon Tan by chance because we are both based at Great Western Studios in West London – it was a genuine water-cooler moment,’ says Bethan Gray. ‘I knew we were kindred spirits as soon as I heard their story and realised how passionate they were about nurturing craft. The opportunity to work with these incredible materials, and apply them to furniture for the first time, has been really exciting, especially as it will expand their reach and expand their stewardship of Filipino craftspeople.’ 

Bethan Gray and Nature Squared share a passion for exploration, experimentation and pushing the boundaries of possibility within natural materials and craft. Bethan immediately saw the potential in the skills and techniques of Nature Squared’s artisans, and spent time working alongside them to develop the Exploring Eden collection.

‘They know their materials so well that it has been a real joy to join them in their explorations and push the boundaries of what the materials can do in the context of a contemporary design,’ she says. ‘We were able to use the pen shells for this collection because of the hundreds of samples Nature Squared’s craftspeople had made in a bid to find a use for the black iridescent part of the shell that usually gets left behind.’

Bethan’s fresh perspective on these captivating materials coupled with her instinct for colour and texture, has resulted in a profusion of ideas, only the very beginning of which is represented in this first collection.

The Exploring Eden collection comprises ten key pieces including furniture such as armchairs, tables and shelving, perfectly complemented by accessories such as paperweights, bookends and bell jars – each one the outcome of Bethan’s explorations into the possibilities of these exciting materials.

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Nature Squared was founded to create new value for sustainable natural materials that are currently either waste- or by-products of other industries or simply fast-growing enough to be entirely self-replenishing; transforming them with master-craftsmanship and cutting-edge technology. In keeping with Bethan’s love of seashells and feathers, she has chosen pearl, abalone, capiz, pen and scallop shells for her first collection – along with goose and pheasant feathers.

‘The iridescence found in nature is absolutely unique. My colour palette has always been inspired by natural materials, so this is a really exciting opportunity to work with something completely new and yet absolutely aligned with my practice,’ says Bethan.

The exotic but plentiful shells used across the collection are sourced from Filipino fishing communities with on-going conservation projects while the British goose and pheasant feathers come from birds that have been sustainably processed for food. These are perfect examples of Nature Squared’s commitment to traceability throughout the supply chain.

Known for pushing the boundaries of craft techniques, Bethan Gray has the expertise to deftly combine materials, resulting in products and spaces that are tactile and engaging. Her work has always been characterised by bold, confident patterns inspired by the shapes she sees in the natural world – the graphic patterns in this collection are not just inspired by, but also created by, natural materials.

‘The scallop shells are graphic in themselves. When they are laid flat and infilled with black [eco-resin?], the natural pink pattern they create is really beautiful,’ says Bethan. ‘The capiz shell is usually used in circles, but by arranging it in a grid, not only is it a more efficient use of the material, but you get this striking modern pattern made from a side of the shell you don’t usually see.’

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Bethan’s refined colour palette, developed over a number of years, is inspired by her love of travel, photography and culture and informed by the natural materials she works with.

‘In every piece in the collection, we’ve tried to keep things as simple as possible so the naturally occurring patterns and colours can really shine,’ says Bethan. ‘Putting matte black next to shiny, iridescent pearl really highlights it – and the black iridescence found in the base of the pen shells was a revelation. It is like a black rainbow and comes from the part of the shells that is usually discarded. I’ve never worked with iridescence before, so to find it in natural materials is really exciting. It’s added a whole new dimension to my colour palette.’

Each material comes with its own story – of its environment and its community. Bethan’s instinct for creating combinations that work has resulted in a distinctive colour palette that weaves a continuous narrative across the collection.

Bethan Gray’s ancestors went on an incredible journey across continents – Bethan has since visited many of the places they passed through, inspired by a love of art, travel and culture. Today, Bethan’s expertise lies in bringing contemporary relevance to the traditional techniques from these regions – keeping both cultural narratives and craft skills alive.  Established in 2008, Bethan Gray Designs creates best-selling collections of hand-crafted furniture and home accessories for global retailers and brands, such as Lane Crawford, EJ Victor, Living Edge, The Odd Piece, Liberty and Harrods. The studio’s work features extensively in global media; has been recognised with four Elle Decoration British Design Awards; and is regularly exhibited in London, Milan, Paris and New York. Working within equal partnerships built on mutual trust and respect is at the heart of Bethan’s creative practice. By collaborating with master craftspeople and bringing contemporary relevance to their work, she is able to connect them to new commercial markets all over the world, celebrating and preserving their skills in her furniture and home accessories.

Nature Squared transforms sustainable and abundant natural materials, such as eggshell, seeds, bark, seashells, precious stones, exotic leathers and feathers, into unique surfaces and luxury objects using centuries-old craft techniques enhanced with today’s ingenuity and technical innovation. Employing 200 master craftsmen, Nature Squared has elevated heritage craft to heirloom quality and today, their surfaces can be found in 92% of the world’s super yachts. With almost 20 years’ experience in sustainability and social responsibility, they are now expanding from their bespoke roots into furniture and accessories, to make their work accessible to a wider audience and promote the compatibility of such skills and quality with environmental, cultural and social stewardship.

Bethan Gray and Nature Squared share a common commitment to natural materials, nurturing craft and sustainability and this is just the beginning of a long-term collaboration.

Photography: Bethan Gray and Nature Squared.

Tomorrow’s World Today (Simple Things)

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In the early 20th century, the future felt imminent. The aftermath of the First World War left people wanting to forget the past and look forward, and increasing industrialisation meant leaving behind old ways of life for new urban jobs and suburban homes. After World War Two, mid-century homes became testing grounds for new ideas about how we might live in a future that seemed just around the corner. As the Design Museum’s Home Futures exhibition explores ‘today’s home through the prism of yesterday’s imagination,’ Katie Treggiden investigates whether its big ideas have stood the test of time.

1 . The fitted kitchen

Designed in 1926 by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky for a social housing project in Germany, the ‘Frankfurt kitchen’ was such a hit that it became the blueprint for apartment kitchens across Europe. ‘Firstly, life is work, and secondly, it is relaxing, company, pleasures,’ said Schütte-Lihotzky, dividing the home accordingly, with the kitchen reserved for the former. As women who had worked during wartime were encouraged back into the home, scientific management pioneers Christine Frederick and Lillian M Gilbreth’s sought to professionalise the role of the housewife, reimagining the kitchen as her workplace. Inspired by this idea, Schütte-Lihotzky carried out time and motion studies to create a kitchen that optimised efficiency, workflow and hygiene. For the first time, kitchens came complete with stoves and built-in storage – and even fold-down ironing boards. Aluminium drawers provided space for dried goods and pulled out for easy pouring. Kitchens might have changed – they are now family spaces for ‘relaxing, company and pleasures’ too, but we still take many of Schütte-Lihotzky’s ideas for granted. Our fitted kitchens are ergonomically designed around the tasks we use them for – and who doesn’t dream of labelled containers for everything from rice to sugar?

2 . The automated house

‘Welcome to this wonderful new world of push-button cooking, cleaning and homemaking… In this kitchen you can bake a cake in three minutes … the dishes are scraped, washed and dried electronically, [and] even put themselves away,’ so claimed a 1957 promotional film for the RCA-Whirlpool Miracle Kitchen – promising to liberate women from domestic chores ‘with a mere wave of her hand’. Of course, this was a Heath Robinson-esque fantasy – the appliances in the film were operated by remote control from behind a two-way mirror. Today, we might still have to put our dishes away ourselves, but we can outsource many of our chores to a series of interconnected digital devices that use data they collect on our behaviour to predict our every need, from ‘smart fridges’ that order more milk when we run low to systems that adjust the heating and lighting in anticipation of our return home. However, for all our technological advances, housework still seems to be gendered – Amazon’s Alexa might be able to order our groceries online, but ‘she’ does so with a biddable female persona.

3 . Small space living

The kitchen was not the only room expected to shrink. With the urbanisation of populations and the post-war housing crisis, 20th-century designers became obsessed with clever ways to fit life into ever decreasing spaces. None more so than Joe Colombo, whose 1969 Total Furnishing Unit compressed the entire home into a single mobile box measuring just 28 square metres. The yellow and white ‘pod’ contained kitchen appliances, bookshelves, a television, a bathroom, a wardrobe and fold-down twin beds – all you had to do was plug it in. Commissioned by New York’s Museum of Modern Art, it still sounds pretty crazy until you consider that MINI Living, the architecture arm of the automotive firm, showcased a similar prototype at Milan Design Week in 2018 and plans to open its first apartment block in Shanghai this year. Given that the United Nations predicts that two thirds of us will be living in cities by 2050 and ‘megacities’ such as London, New York and Tokyo already house more than 10 million people, Colombo’s far-fetched idea might not be as improbable as it once seemed.

4 . Living on the move

Home Futures explores notions of nomadic living from Archigram’s 1970s Walking City – the vision of an entire metropolis contained within a giant, four-legged, walking robot that could move to find resources and other communities – to the story of a Danish man who sold his house to buy Airbnb rental apartments and now sleeps in a different hotel every night. Although we are not living in walking robotic cities and few of us actively relish the idea of moving every day, we are increasingly nomadic. Empowered by digital technology, and temporary co-working and co-living spaces that are starting to make ownership seem outdated, we can increasingly move from place to place with (almost) everything we need in a smart-phone and a carry-on suitcase. Perhaps the house of tomorrow is no house at all.

The Future of Architecture (RAJA / Greenlight Digital)

Working on behalf of eco-friendly packaging brand RAJA, Greenlight Digital were looking for expert opinions on the future of architecture and sustainability. They interviewed Katie Treggiden and put together an article for the RAJA blog from her answers. They also used key quotes within press releases which were then picked up by industry press such as International Investment. All copy as provided to the client.

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ARCHITECTURE IN 2020

Trends move quite slowly in architecture, so 2020 is likely to see a continuation of the current shifts and movements: Innovation around small-space living and the ‘tiny house movement’ as more people move to cities where space is at a premium and young people find innovative ways to own their own homes – and the continued growth in the importance of sustainability and wellbeing in both new builds and adaptations of existing buildings. The UK Green Building Council is focused on: ‘mitigating and adapting to climate change, elimination waste and maximising resource efficiency, embracing and restoring nature and promoting biodiversity, optimising the health and wellbeing of people, and creating long-term value for society and improving quality of life’ and I think and hope we’ll see positive shifts in all those areas.

ARCHITECTURE IN 2070

The United Nations predicts that two thirds of us will be living in cities by 2050, and so-called ‘megacities’ such as London, New York and Tokyo already house more than 10 million people, so by 2070 we can assume the population will have urbanised further putting extreme pressure on space; and we can anticipate more single-dwelling premises too. MINI Living – the architecture arm of the automotive brand – has come up with creative solutions such as tiny two-story ‘totems’ that operate as live-work pods for single people within communal spaces that offer shared kitchens, dining rooms, gyms and entertainment zones. This sense of sharing space chimes with mid-century ideas for how we might live in cities and might finally come to fruition.

I would also like to see the notion of ‘universal design’ (also known as ‘design for all’ or ‘inclusive design’) that is already popular in Norway, America and Japan gain traction worldwide. Universal design brings the people usually at the peripheries of design into the process very early on, resulting in solutions that might only be needed by some, but are better for everybody – it avoids the stigma and mis-steps associated with the ‘special solutions for special needs’ that typify accessible design, and ensures everyone’s needs are considered – Oslo School of Architecture and Design professor Tom Vavik defines it as ‘a framework that accepts diversity of ability and age as the most ordinary reality of being human’. The Norwegian government has committed ensuring their entire infrastructure is created according to the principles of ‘inclusive design’ by 2025 – so another 25 years for the rest of the world to catch up doesn’t seem unreasonable.

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ARCHITECTURE IN 2120

Trying to predict the future is always dangerous and tends towards either utopian or dystopian thinking, but let’s be optimistic. I would like to predict that in 100 years’ time the most significant change in architecture will be a shift in focus away from skyward gestures of ego, towards a more inclusive practice that finds lasting solutions for the 1 in 200 people who are currently homeless or living in inadequate homes, for the people in the 617 UK buildings still thought to be fitted with combustible cladding and insulation, despite the 72 lives claimed by the Grenfell Fire in 2017, and for the 46% of 25- to 34-year-olds currently unable to get onto the housing ladder and therefore living with the instability of renting. Just like inclusive design, this sort of architecture would start with building solutions that might only be needed by some, but create better world for all of us.

FUTURE CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS

=There is a lot of material innovation at the moment – largely driven by sustainability and that will continue. Fast-growing, mouldable and entirely compostable, fungal mycelium is a really exciting material to watch for its use in cladding, temporary structures and insulation. Green & Blue’s bee bricks are another interesting innovation – they provide habitats for solitary bees – currently in decline due to loss of habitat and yet responsible for a third of what we eat due to their pollination activities.

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FUTURE CARDBOARD

We’ve been experimenting with cardboard as a sustainable building material since Buckminster Fuller prototyped a house in 1944 – attracted to cardboard’s low cost, flexibility, strength, sustainability, and recyclability. Japanese architect Shigeru Ban returned to the material in the 1990s and built emergency shelters for Rwandan refugees and dwellings in Turkey and India from cardboard tubes and tarpaulin. He built a schoolhouse in China, a concert hall in Italy, and a cathedral in New Zealand, all out of cardboard, promising a life expectancy of 50 years for the latter. Most recently Dutch collective Fiction Factory created cardboard ‘Wikkelhouses’ made from made of 24 layers of corrugated cardboard, which is glued together and then wrapped up foil. It’s clearly a material that architects will keep returning to, and with the need for sustainable, flexible and temporary dwellings only looking set to increase, it seems cardboard might indeed become an increasingly a viable option as a sustainable material.

FUTURE BUILDING SHAPES

When Louis Sullivan coined the term ‘form follows function’ he was actually referring to forms found in nature. It has become a somewhat of a mantra for architects the world over ever since, but many are now coming back to its original meaning and embracing more organic shapes, especially as we understand more about their role in sparking joy and supporting wellbeing.

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Immerse Yourself in Design (Oryx Magazine)

Milan might be famous for fashion, but it’s also the heart of Italy’s furniture industry and home to the most significant fair in the design calendar – think Paris Fashion Week, but for product and furniture design and with the Gothic drama of the Duomo di Milano as its backdrop. Milan Design Week runs from 08 – 14 April and although many exhibitions are aimed at the trade, most are open to the public for at least part of the week.

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Start your explorations at Salone del Mobile to see the latest trends and newest collections from some of the biggest brands in design, as well as the show’s biannual focus on lighting and workspaces. Salone Satellite features work from universities and emerging designers to give you a sense of what’s to come. Don’t miss ‘The art of Italian design before and after Leonardo’, a special installation created by DE-SIGNO in celebration of the city’s adopted son, Leonardo da Vinci, on the 100th anniversary of his death. salonemilano.it/en

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Next, get into the city and discover the design districts that comprise the fringe festival known as ‘Fuorisalone’, such as Brera, Zona Tortona, Zona Centrale, Sant’Ambrogio, 5vie, Loreto, Isola and Porta Venezia. Look out for signs outside participating shops and showrooms don’t miss the ‘3D-printed pathway’ designed by London-based architect Arthur Mamou-Mani for Cos. The bioplastic walkway will transport you through the 16th-century courtyard of Palazzo Isimbardi and into the surrounding gardens. cosstores.com/Salone

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Exhibitions not to be missed

ZONA TORTONA
JOIN by Norwegian Presence
Design and Architecture Norway (DOGA), Klubben and Norwegian Crafts present an exhibition championing collaboration and connection for a sustainable future. norwegianpresence.no

LORETO & ISOLA
Alcova
Taking over a former panettone factory and a cashmere mill frozen in time since the 1930s, Alcova hosts performances, exhibitions, talks, screenings and installations. alcova.xyz 

ZONA TORTONA
Ventura Future 
Positioning designers as story-tellers, Ventura Future takes on some of world’s biggest challenges from migration to bio-design with a series of multi-sensory experiences. venturaprojects.com

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