The Avant Garde Diaries

August 1 2011

In July, luminaries from the art, fashion, & music world descended upon Berlin to celebrate the launch of The Avant/Garde Diaries – the new digital lifestyle hub & event series from Mercedes-Benz.

The first event in a global series, Transmission 1 was curated by renowned fashion designer Raf Simons with the aim of showcasing emerging and innovative artists across the cultural spectrum.  Mercedes-Benz is collaborating with “cultural curaters” like Simons to create a connective tissue between the legendary carmaker and the next generation of tastemakers.


The centerpiece of the event was a showcase of the Mercedes-Benz Concept A Class screened by an Installation of glass, lighting and visual effects



British Art Director - Peter Seville, best known for his album covers for Joy Division and New Order, showcased his own 1998 Mercedes-Benz SL 500 at the event. Peter also attended the press workshop offering fascinating comments about avant-garde and pop culture. Other artists featured at the event included Germaine Kruip, These New Puritans, Fischerspooner, and Konstantin Grcic.

The tone and structure of the event allowed for guests to form their own opinions about the festival and what is indeed avant-garde.
 

As the inventor of the automobile, Mercedes Benz has long been an innovator in the automotive field. This festival and brand direction will also see them playing a similar role in the ongoing conversation of culture, expression, and innovation.
 

We look forward to seeing what comes next in this series of events.  Stayed tuned-in and look for Transmission 2 here The Avant/Garde Diaries.



Kids

July 29 2011

Youth Factory, Factoría Joven, in Mérida, Spain, is an example of what can be done if a regional government works with the community and local designers to meet the needs of youth that may otherwise be heading down the slippery path of street life.
 


The structure may not be a permanent monument to architecture, but it is definitely a better place than the back streets of Spanish cities. We are all for any attempt at all to provide children and youth a place to be kids, to be creative and just have some fun.


 
Factoría Joven was designed by Madrid-based Selgascano Architects, a partnership between husband and wife, José Selgas and Lucía Cano.
 
Using recycled furniture, inexpensive building materials and temporary solutions, the designers were definitely not looking to build a monument to architecture; they were much more interested in affordable ordinariness and practical possibilities.


 
Factoría Joven helps attract the restless, unemployed street youth off the streets and provides them with a place to skateboard, hip-hop dance, climb rocks, create graffiti — whatever they would otherwise do in much more sinister surroundings. There are also a computer lab and a dance studio, both 800-square-meters in size. Meeting rooms and spaces for theatre, video and music are all included.


 
This is one of several such “youth factories” in the area; recreational centers and places that are inclusive, open and safe. - Tuija Seipell

Photography by Roland Halbe.

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Architecture

July 25 2011

Susanne Nobis has the enviable privilege of living in this gorgeous, tranquil house in Berg by Lake Starnberg (Starnberger See), a popular southern Bavarian recreation area for the residents of the nearby city of Munich.

As both the client and the designer, engineer/architect Nobis designed the home and office for her own four-member family and for her architectural practice.

It is a beautifully minimalist, modern take on a traditional twin wooden boathouse, popular by the lake. While the boathouses are on stilts over the water, Nobis’s house is on 60-centimeter high illuminated legs.
This gives the house its wonderful, impermanent, hovering feel but it was in fact a necessity in this location where the ground water rises very high. This also meant that everything must fit in the space above ground — no basement or cellar possible.

The structure, mainly of wood and glass, includes two separate but connected houses. House one includes living, eating and cooking functions on the ground floor, and the “gallery” above it.

In the second house, two offices and guest room are on the ground floor, bedrooms and bathrooms above it.

Nobis’s goals were to provide ample views of the lake, to let as much natural light in as possible and to not interfere with the surrounding nature or old trees.



She also wanted to use materials sparingly and economically, and to reduce everything to its essential beauty, purpose and function. Shelving and stairs of metal and wood, open storage, minimal furniture — all give the house its clarity and lightness.



The structure is long and narrow, but thanks to the use of glass and wooden slats, it appears almost transparent.
Nobis says that in essence, the house is nothing more than a shelter from the climate, a space where one can move as freely as possible. We envyingly agree. - Tuija Seipell.

Photography by Roland Halbe.

Bars

July 24 2011

Brazilian architect Fred Mafra, no novice to night club design, was given the unusual opportunity to redesign his earlier work, the night club Josefine/Roxy.

Since 2007, the club has been a strong player in Savassi, the night life area of Belo Horizonte, the capital of and largest city in the state of Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil.

The 955m² space has two dance floors, three bars, plus four VIP areas that can be combined into one larger VIP space. In addition, it has two lounges and smoking areas with a retractable roof.
With his new design, Mafra went to town with the hexagon and triangle forms.. By using them in the honeycombed ceilings and black-and-white floors, by including padded-vinyl seating and walls, and by lighting the space with creative LED, he's created an angularly sinful madhouse effect that is destined to help guests forget the outside world.



Roxy Clubis open on Wednesdays and Fridays when the DJs play techno and e-music to a straight crowd. Josefine Club is open on Thursdays and Saturdays when the DJs play tribal and pop music to gay/hipster crowd.

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Food

July 18 2011

It seems we really like the work of Sydney's Dreamtime Australia Design as this is the third time we featured their work.

Dreamtime director Michael McCann and team are the designers of the Concrete Blonde restaurant recently launched in Potts Point at Kings Cross in Sydney.

Earlier, we've covered their Victor Churchill butcher and the Sydney Seafood School.



Concrete Blonde is a 100-seat restaurant presided over by chef Patrick Dang who has brought the many nuances of his international experience to the stylish tables of Concrete Blonde.

We love the stunning fireplace, the retro comic-book mural and the clever metal "tin-can" wall slots for firewood. The strong focus on metal evokes thoughts of industrial kitchens and huge dining halls, yet the atmosphere manages also to exude inviting warmth.



As it should be, the best feature of Concrete Blonde is the food. Our recent visit had us face the formidable problem of deciding what to eat. There are many options, plus the menu changes - the chefs here are capable of experimenting and improvising while focusing on freshness, local produce, Berkshire Pork, Murrylands Farm lamb.



We had the prawns popped with popcorn, then Himasa kingfish (coffee-cured with cranberry & burnt-scallion vinaigrette, pickled mustard seeds) and for the main event, we had the Meredith duck (passion fruit-glazed root vegetables with duck ravioli in pain d'épices consommé).



Being big fans of duck, we had high expectations and they were exceeded. By now we were stuffed, yet had to indulge in dessert, which turned out to be the best part of the already amazing dinner. The chocolate dessert with its pistachio wafers and olive oil jam was phenomenal in its perfect consistency, sweetness, and rich chocolate flavour. And don't get us started on the lychee and rosewater martinis, one of the many choices on the extensive martini menu. We will be going back for more. - Mark Cunial

Concrete Blonde
33 Bayswater Rd, Potts Point, NSW 2000 
Phone: 02 9380 8307
(Next to Hugo's Lounge)


Travel

July 17 2011

Our search for much-needed calm, relaxation and revitalization ended earlier this month in Bali, Indonesia, where we spent two blissful weeks.
 
If you, too, want to give your weary body and mind a complete vacation, head to Southeast Asia where they really know how to do luxury relaxation well. They understand design; they set the trends. Some of the most luxurious resorts we have experienced have been in this region.
 
We’d seen the huge amount of media coverage of two Alila Villas properties — Alila Villas Soori and Alila Villas Uluwatu — and we wanted to experience them first-hand. We were not disappointed.
 
This is how to really experience Bali: Start at Alila Villas Soori for three nights to rest off your jetlag and get used to being relaxed. Then head to Central Bali’s Ubud and stay three nights at Four Seasons Sayan - Ubud. A few days’ stay at Ubud is a must for the bike tours, monkey forest and rafting experiences. Then continue your blissful vegging for another three or four nights at Alila Villas Uluwatu.
 
The best time to visit this region is from July to September when the weather is absolutely perfect.
 
We recommend skipping South Bali’s Seminyak although that is where all the shops, restaurants and bars are located. We found it to have the atmosphere of an adult school spring break with a few too many drunken tourists in hair braids. If you do go, enjoy dinner or lunch at the Fire Restaurant at W Hotel Bali or Sarong Restaurant or Metis Restaurant and experience the incredible massage services at Jari Menari the home base of many of the massage therapists that work at the resorts as well.

Our first stop was Alila Villas Soori, located a 90-minute drive from the Ngurah Rai International Airport. When you book with Soori, they will email you a confirmation to personalize your stay.
 
This includes everything from what kind of foods you don't eat to what kind of music you would like in your room to what experiences you would like to include in your stay.


 
The bliss starts on your arrival at the airport where a Soori concierge will greet you, take your luggage off the carousel, zoom you through express customs and whisk you to a car with fresh cold face towels and nibbles on your way to Soori. You feel like a rock star minus the noisy fans.


 
The images in this post are exactly how Soori looks like. Designed by Soo Kian Chan of SCDA Architects, the hotel’s contemporary villas are designed in a way you’d like your home to be designed. Alila Villas Soori’s setting is breathtaking, yet the villas feel like beach homes.


 
The resort’s harmonious design combines cool, grey and black volcanic stone and polished teak. The interiors are dramatic but understated.


 
The 48 villas are spacious, all with perfect postcard views, private pools and a fabulous outdoor deck. The villas’ standard equipment includes an Apple TV, iPod and a Nespresso machine, dramatic bath for two, an indoor and outdoor shower and linen sheets. Each villa is assigned a butler/host who will look after everything. We recommend the Ocean pool Villas.


 
The beach is covered in glittering black sand that looks as if fairy dust had been sprinkled on it. The waves are extremely strong which makes it virtually impossible to swim in the ocean, plus at night it can be quite loud so ear plugs are necessary if you are a light sleeper.



The ten bedroom Residence (pictured above and below) offers a sense of tranquility in seclusion with its lavish indoor and outdoor spaces spread over two levels, surrounded by West Bali’s pristine coastal beauty showcasing uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean. Two master bedrooms and adjoining suites are on the upper level, each with its oversized Jacuzzi, in and outdoor shower and walk-in closet. Landscaped gardens within living spaces open onto the pool area creating generous living and dining spaces, which lead out to a private library, all interwoven with pavilions, and a 20-metre infinity pool, fronting an endless ocean beyond.


 
The massages and spa treatments are some of the best we experienced in Bali! Book one the moment you arrive to get you super relaxed.


 
We loved the breakfast menu that changed daily offering small servings of delicacies. The fresh juices are amazing as was the omnipresent Mangosteen fruit.

This is the kind of resort you don't leave or explore purely due to its location because everything is at least one hour away - (UBUD - Seminyak). You arrive, you sun bake, you read, you have spa-treatments, you eat, you switch off - you just enjoy it for what it has to offer. - Bill Tikos

Best time to visit Bali: July - Septemeber

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Travel

July 17 2011

Eco luxury does not get any better than this. The Singapore based Alila brand has a firm grasp of what it takes to do it right. It is a brand to watch in the coming years with 20 new properties launching in Asia as well as Portugal.


 
We are most excited about Alila’s Alila Villas properties. Having just spent time at their sister hotel Alila Villas Soori, we were expecting the same level of luxury and care at Alila Villas Uluwatu.


 
Uluwatu is only 30 minutes from the airport (depending on traffic) and does indeed have the same WOW effect as Soori.


 
Stunning views, cliff-top balconies overlooking the ocean, beautifully designed villas with their own pool and decking, indoor and outdoor showers and just space, so much lovely space!


 
This is one of the reasons why the Southeast Asian luxury is so incredible: They understand space. They design spaces that make you immediately feel you are not “in Kansas” any more. It is unlike anything we run into in our everyday lives, or even in our customary luxury moments.


 
They make you feel that you are somewhere special and the fact they use sustainable materials in their design makes you feel smugly happy about splurging a bit.


 
The service at Uluwatu is on a level you seldom see. You are greeted by name throughout the resort. The staff at the restaurants knows you preferences, dislikes and allergies but makes no big show of it. It is like a great host, a close friend would treat you.


 
Everyone was extremely well trained and that, we believe, comes from managing director, Sean Brennan, the Aussie who has spent the last 13 years in the hospitality industry in Asia and who is a force of nature on his own.


 
Over our years of staying at hundreds of hotels, we have seldom, if ever, met a hotel manager like him. Sean is the type of hotel manager you would pouch for your own hotel if you had one.

He is more hands-on with guests and staff than anyone we have observed. He greets guests personally on arrival, shows them around, offers drinks, and sits with them at lunch and dinner, literally moving from table to table making sure the guests are enjoying themselves. He is a pleasure to watch, as he clearly loves what he does.


 
Just like Soori - the images here show exactly what the resort looks like and these last three images were taken by my own camera.


 
And guests become quite giddy and silly about their dramatic surroundings and service. Guest with their $10,000 cameras with super zoom lenses took pictures constantly posing by the pool, by the cliff, in the villas, complete with costume changes every few hours. It was hilarious to watch.


 
We would like to help introduce you, too, to Alila Villas Uluwatu. Mention TCH and you will receive a 90-minute complimentary spa treatment per guest. - Bill Tikos

Best time to visit Bali: July - Septemeber

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Amazing Places

July 2 2011

Preachers Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

Blue Caves - Zakynthos Island, Greece

Skaftafeli - Iceland


Plitvice Lakes – Croatia

Crystalline Turquoise Lake, Jiuzhaigou National Park, China


Four Seasons Hotel - Bora Bora

Ice skating on Paterswoldse Meer, a lake just South of the city of Groningen in the Netherlands.


Marble Caves, Chile Chico, Chile

The Gardens at Marqueyssac http://www.frenchmoments.com/Marqueyssac.html


Ice Canyon - Greenland


Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, British Columbia

Valley of the Ten Peaks, Moraine Lake, Alberta, Canada

Multnomah Falls, Oregon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multnomah_Falls

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall on the South Coast of Iceland


Petra - Jordan (at night)

Verdon, Provence, France

Wineglass Bay, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania, Australia

Norway Alesund Birdseye of City

Benteng Chittorgarh, India

Riomaggiore, Italy


Keukenhof Gardens - Netherlands.


Sky Lantern Festival - Taiwan.

The Wave is on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes, which are in turn located in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, on the Colorado Plateau, Arizona.


Mount Roraima - Venezuela.

Seychelles


Restaurant near Sanyou Cave above the Chang Jiang river, Hubei , China.


East Iceland.

Lucca, Tuscany, Italy.


New York City.

More Amazing Places To Experience Around The Globe (Part 2 - click here)

More Amazing Places to Experience Around The Globe (Part 3 - click here )

More Amazing Places To Experience Around The Globe (Part 4 - click here)

Photographed a place we should include in Part 5 of Amazing Places? - get in contact

We'll be publishing Amazing Places as a book in late 2012

Food

July 1 2011

Retail interiors by Chikara Ohno of Tokyo-based architecture and interior firm Sinato are often characterized by elegant simplicity and smart use of light. A great example of this is organic store and restaurant, +green. It is located on the ground floor of a basic concrete-frame apartment building in a residential section of Tokyo`s Jiyu Street, close to one of the city’s largest parks, Komazawa.


 
The 111.5 square meter (1,200 sq.ft) space is exceptionally high (about 4.4 meters or 14.4 feet) and much of it is underground but customers — and light – can move freely between the three levels.

The take-out, popular by park picnickers, is on the ground floor. In +green, Ohno has used clever partitioning, neutral materials and subdued colours to create a space that appears both intimate and large, and despite its underground location, has a refreshing, airy feel. - Tuija Seipell.

Kids

June 18 2011

Most hotels are decidedly kid-unfriendly, and even more so are hotels such as Jerusalem’s David Citadel Hotel, known as the home-away-from-home for the world’s celebrities and political leaders.



So, it is doubly delightful that this citadel of grown-up matters of importance now has a wonderful new kids’ space, designed by Sarit Shani Hay whose work we have presented before here and here.


 
Hay is responsible for the interior and furniture design of the 100 square-meter (1076 square-foot) space that has activity areas for little kids and computer desks for bigger ones.



We love the inclusivity of the room that is divided by clear blocks of primary colours. It has both angular and rounded forms, open and intimate spaces, soft and hard surfaces, items to interest both boys and girls, activities to draw little and older kids, and low-tech items such as wooden toys mixed with higher-tech elements such as computer stations and flat screens.



In this decidedly modern playroom, Hay has incorporated also some traditional Jerusalem themes, including the lion – the emblem of Jerusalem – and a windmill, cave and the Mahane Yehuda.



The horseshoe-shaped, 384-room David Citadel Hotel, located  within walking distance from the Old City, was built in the mid-1990s by local real-estate and hotel magnate Alfred Akirov. The building architect is Moshe Safdie and the hotel designers Chhada Siembieda & Associates. - Tuija Seipell.

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