Tag Archives: contemporary

serpentine summer.

One of the highlights of summer in London for me is the annual launch of the Serpentine pavilion. Every year, an internationally renowned architect is invited by the Serpentine galleries to create their first built structure in the UK. My personal favourite of the pavilions over the years was the pavilion of Oscar Niemeyer, not least because I managed to score an invitation to the opening night party that year.

Bjarke Ingels’ 2016 pavilion is a beautifully sculpted mass of slender, fibreglass boxes, stacked to form a twisting, tent-like structure. But also this year, four Summer Houses have been added to the program. These architectural follies offer a contemporary interpretation of an adjacent, 18th century Neoclassical summerhouse, Queen Caroline’s Temple. They are on show until October 9th, after which they will be sold off and disassembled. They are for sale, here, with prices ranging from £95,000 to £125,000.



The Summer House of Berlin studio Barkow Leibinger is designed ‘in the round’ and out of plywood, conceived as a series of structural bands. It’s fun to traverse and sit amongst, with its curving ribbon of wood hovering overhead and twisting back around forming places to rest.

Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi’s summer house is the most literal interpretation of the neo-classical summer house, offering an inverse replica of the original temple in form and proportion. Using prefabricated building blocks of rough sandstone, the composition takes the basic elements of architecture – a room, a doorway and a window – and forms a simple, elegant shelter.

The summer house of Yona Friedman comprises a series of metal rings of differing diameters that can be disassembled and re-assembled to form various compositions. Some of the voids are filled with transparent polycarbonate, most are open. It’s not so much a shelter as a backdrop for display.

Asif Khan has designed his Summer House as a series of undulating vertical posts, whose forms appear to enclose and open up to reveal the view beyond as one passes through. The ground is conceived as a continuous gravel landscape, punctuated by stepping stones. The sound of the gravel offers another dimension to this summer house, which has a wonderful fluidity and to me is the most successful of the four. Though don’t expect it to offer any shelter from this country’s inclement weather.

Serpentine Summer Houses, Hyde Park, until October 9th, 2016.

All images, Iwan Baan, via The Modern House; feature image, owl’s house london Instagram.


villa altona.

Villa Altona is located on a dramatically sloping site in Sweden, with villas on one side and forest on the other. These site characteristics have clearly generated the form, placement and tones of the building. It is a bold, modern structure, with a low pitch roof, covered in sedum. Designed by The Common Office, it is considered one of Sweden’s most interesting buildings by the Swedish Association of Architects. And it’s for sale.

The interior is almost one continuous room, rising up over several levels, connected by a thinly profiled metal stair. At the top, a large, central retractable skylight (providing access to a roof terrace, of course), fills the interior with light and adds transparency to the building. Light abounds, with window walls everywhere. Family and private zones are separated, or not, with large sliding walls.



Floor and roof slabs are concrete, cast in situ and left raw. Slender steel columns offer support.
A perforated metal floor gives an industrial feel, with the main floor of oak parquet. This is the least successful material to my mind: the sections of parquet too small for the scale of the building. Otherwise the materials are used boldly – stainless steel, mirror, brushed concrete.

What do you think?

Villa Altona, The Common Office, for sale here, via

a danish shelter in black.

We all seem to respond to the idea of living more simply and in closer proximity to nature. Like the cabins I wrote about in the NZ wilderness (here), these shelters offer a pared-back environment, but very little, if anything, is compromised.

Vipp Shelter is a 55m2 cabin comprising living, bathing and eating areas, and sleeping for 4. They are prefabricated in Denmark and brought to site – anywhere in the world you happen to own a piece of wilderness – where they are erected in a few days. The facade is sheet metal, fully insulated and painted black. And everything is included. There is a complete kitchen, in matt black, with Vipp fittings and all cutlery, kitchen utensils and plates. A fully functioning bathroom, with towels. The sleeping loft has an integrated bed with bedding. All lighting is included. A functioning fireplace, floor heating.

The interior aesthetic is contemporary Danish; like a Vipp bin the vibe is modern – not minimal, but clean and industrial. But unlike a Vipp bin, there is no choice of colour. As Henry Ford said, you can have any colour so long as it’s black.

vipp-shelter-morten-bo-jensen-ohl3vipp-shelter-morten-bo-jensen-ohl.vipp-shelter-morten-bo-jensen-ohl2vipp-shelter-morten-bo-jensen-ohl3Which cabin would you own?

More about Vipp Shelter, here. Photographs, via

more ampersand.

I first wrote about Ampersand House, a home and gallery featuring classic design pieces and objet d’art, here

The House has just reopened in a new premises within central Brussels, in another classical, light filled interior. Again the eclectic mix of 20th century furniture create a fascinating, constantly evolving, living museum. The mix is vintage, contemporary, prototype and commissioned work, and almost everything is available for sale.

Kho Liang Ie Artifort coffee table © Ampersand House 2014ampersand-house-mad_ohl.ampersand-house_ohl.Salon2 Brussels_ohl.Tenreiro © Ampersand House 2014

Ampersand House, 33 rue de Suisse, Brussels 1060, Belgium

Back in London, and we are looking forward to Modern Shows pop up in Fulham this weekend, and hoping to find that illusive armchair and console for the new abode… Modern Shows Fulham pop-up, details here

a contemporary classicist.

Originally built in1929, this Melbourne home has been meticulously restored and updated to create a cohesive series of beautifully proportioned, contemporary spaces.

Marking the transition between original and new, openings are lined with steel to become portals, frames are painted black allowing them to recede. A two storey glazed structure to the rear brings light to the centre of the home, defining a new circulation core to the building. A large, glazed skylight tracks the path of the sun, filling the interior with more light.

A blackest black, high gloss floor becomes a reflecting pool for the furniture pieces that sit upon it. White walls are a counterpoint for the contemporary art to reside. Kitchen and bathroom cupboards are white and elegantly minimal. The joinery is allowed to break through the external wall at the rear as the connection between indoor and outdoor living. Furniture is classic Scandinavian – Wishbone chairs, Tulip table, AJ floor lamp, as well as Italian, with simple and bold pieces by Antonio Citterio.



A perfect backdrop for a modern family, who will add the vibrance and colour to this masterfully restrained home.

South Yarra residence by Carr Design Group, via

More wonderful spaces, here

now house.

It is one of the biggest challenges facing designers – how to integrate traditional and contemporary and make it fit for now.  Pastiche doesn’t work, nor does simply ignoring the original. This house shows one way of mixing new with old, with an end result that is functional and fabulous.

The existing house is a typical, Eastern Australian 1920s bungalow, highly decorative to the street, or public, elevation. In stark contrast, the side elevations of the house were – originally – completely unadorned. The new addition to the rear takes its cue from this diminution in decoration and presents a flat elevation to the rear garden; a simple box form with playful, cut outs for windows. Within, the decorative elements lessen too; the walls become simple planes dressed in white, the free-standing kitchen units stand on a poured concrete floor. All that is left to add are lovely pieces of furniture and a family.

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Hence, ‘the public face of the house is decorative and frilly, while the private face is quiet, honest and unadorned. It is the unpretentious face of private family life’.

House Boone Murray by Tribe Studio Architects via

Photographs, Peter Bennetts

More wonderful spaces, here

old house, new house.

The wonderful, spare structure of the original house in rural Spain has been retained. A concrete floor is poured, a new staircase inserted, a simple tread and handrail detail added; old walls are kept raw, carefully considered niches are added. The house, old and new, is painted white. A sculpture placed here, a pop of colour there.


Can you feel the warmth? Contemporary house in Spain by Benjamin Caro via

Images by Belén Imaz

More wonderful spaces, here