About space

Retail Experiments

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It’s been exciting to watch as many of our Soho neighbors experiment with new forms of retail, merging brick-and-mortar and digital experiences. Warby Parker recently opened a store on Greene Street, designed in collaboration with Partners & Spade as a throwback to traditional libraries, with walls of shelves and bookcases and rolling ladders. The shop allows customers to try on glasses and get inexpensive eye exams, and includes an internet-connected photobooth allowing users to take pics in preferred styles, printing them out or sending to friends for advice. Orders are taken in the shop, but then delivered via mail. Kate Spade also recently experimented with a digital storefront in Soho, in which shoppers could order items displayed in the window, which were then couriered to them in Manhattan or Brooklyn within the hour.

Fruit of Fashion

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For Kenzo’s launch of their Men’s Spring/Summer 2014 line, Brussels-based set designers Villa Eugénie rolled out a giant carpet made entirely of fruit. Oranges, apples, bananas, lemons, strawberries, limes, etc made up the colorful pattern of the rug centerpiece. Fruit stands serving fresh-made juice were also covered in edible goodies, and guests were allowed to snack on samples of the interactive piece, with the remainder being donated to the Red Cross at the end of the night.

Tiny House

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With so many star architects creating bigger and flashier buildings, it’s refreshing to see Renzo Piano’s new project with Vitra, Diogene, a self-sufficient, minimal house as tiny as can be. At 8.2 feet wide by 9.8 feet long by 11.5 feet high, Diogene’s small footprint makes a big impact. Light, airy with a wood-clad interior, two windows and a skylight, the house efficiently functions with just enough space for a bed, desk and chair, complimented and supported by photovoltaic cells and solar modules, a rainwater tank, natural ventilation, and triple glazing. Currently a prototype on the Vitra campus, the house will be available for purchase in a few years.

Emoji Architecture

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In June, Artist Jennifer Wen Ma and lighting designer Zheng Jianwei used clever data mining technology to transform Beijing’s former Olympic swimming venue, the Water Cube, into a lovely responsive installation. “Nature and Man in Rhapsody of Light at the Water Cube” was rigged to display the I Ching and mood of the city each day, displaying as the artist said, “how we are all cells in this society, but we are interconnected.” Each day was first assigned an element by an I Ching master (heaven, water, earth, fire, etc), with a corresponding color and pattern. Then, emoji was collected from what was posted to a Chinese microblogging site, which shifted and altered the patterns and intensity of color on the building based on what emotions were trending, showing a beautiful representation of resident’s moods.

Hiding Underground

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While it may seem that architecture only continues to grow above ground, in height and size, several new structures are taking advantage of the space beneath our feet. Marchesi Antonori’s sustainable winery outside Florence, the Chianti Classico Cellar (shown) is a masterfully large and gorgeous space that keeps the wine cool and regulated, and visitors happy with a wine shop, restaurant and museum. Those looking for a timeshare if things turn sour can purchase space for an RV in the underground bomb shelter / park Vivos. And Tokyo bicyclists can safely and securely park and store their bicycles in an underground bike elevator. Simply swipe a smartcard to pay upfront and later locate your bike, and load it up on the elevator where it is transported to an open storage spot.

Smarter Hide & Seek

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Get kids started on appreciating good design early. The faded, plastic playhouses of our youth are no longer the only option for children playing hide & seek and other games in the yard. SmartPlayhouses are a line of mini architectural gems, based on famed buildings, like van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Illinois. All are constructed of birch plywood, with acrylic windows and doors that open easily and shut with a magnetic latch. The little homes can be easily customized, ship flat-packed, and assemble easily. And playtime is better by design.

A Hideaway for Seeking Information

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With a talented group of architects and engineers, artist Stephen Turner planned, built, and recently launched the Exbury Egg, a self-sustaining and energy efficient wooden, floating pod on which Turner will live for the next year. Inside the beautiful but small interior, with only a hammock, desk, small stove, and wet room, Turner will study the effects of climate change by living within the 730 daily tides, in 365 days of weathering as the pod sits in the estuary of the River Beaulieu in the UK. Following Turner’s year-long stay in the egg, it will become a travelling exhibition space.

Seeking Smells

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Scent can be one of the most trickiest senses – often fleeting, and sometimes only noticeable when you are looking for it. Madeline, a new camera-like machine from London designers Amy Radcliffe and Helene Combal-Weiss, claims to “capture” smell, helping to identify and pinpoint the molecular makeup of scents, and making them last. Using perfuming technology termed “headspace capture,” the device extracts the odors from a source placed under a glass cone, sending them through a tube and into a resin trap of sorts that collects molecular data. The data can then be applied to oils to replicate the original scent.

Theme Week: Hide & Seek

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Mid-summer never fails to make us daydream of luxurious stretches of time spent with a good book in a chaise lounge, cookouts on the grill, and favorite childhood past-times. Whether catching lightning bugs or playing tag we fondly remember outdoor summer games. So, this week we decided to play a game of Hide & Seek with the blog, where we’ll be sharing our favorite examples of architecture, design, fashion, and creativity that masterfully HIDE (remote, protective, subtle), SEEK (visionary, curious, adventurous)  – or both. Hope you have fun playing with us!

(Image of Hide & Seek by Thinkk)

Home in Berlin

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With a concept of “More Home, Less Hotel,” the Linnen, a modern boutique bed & breakfast in Berlin provides a cozy, impeccably-designed retreat in the city. Design and service are at the heart of the six-room hotel, housed in a gorgeously renovated “Grunderzeit” building from the early 1900s. Pink backlit cabinets brighten the quirky cafe downstairs. Upstairs, room options include Industrial Chic, with tin ceilings and antique lamps; a Personal Log Cabin, complete with wood walls and fake birdhouses adorning the walls; and an elegant Royal Sleep room, with diamond-patterned walls and royal purple coloring.

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