Via The Irish Times : From Zaha Hadid’s London curves to the secret serenity of Eileen Gray’s Riviera home, visit these style centres while on holiday
Queen of the curves
The death last year of architect Zaha Hadid was sorely felt by admirers of her sweeping designs, not least the one – sadly unrealised – for the mooted taoiseach’s residence in the Phoenix Park. For lovers of the “queen of the curve” there is nothing for it but to check out nearby examples of projects that did make it off the drawing board. These include the London Aquatics Centre at Stratford, one of the main venues for the 2012 Olympics and looking, from the air at least, like a swimmer doing the butterfly stroke. Or make a pilgrimage to the new mathematics gallery at London’s Science Museum in South Kensington, whose undulating structure models the airflows around an aircraft in flight.
Gray house in the sun
Inspirational Irish furniture designer Eileen Gray’s first architectural creation, Villa E-1027 – along with Le Corbusier’s Cabanon and Holiday Cottages and the bar-restaurant Etoile de Mar – form a design destination collectively known as Cap Moderne, at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera. A place of pilgrimage for design lovers, part of the appeal is the fixed and mobile furniture, lamps and decorations of Gray’s villa, and the murals painted by Le Corbusier. The full site reopens for the summer on May 2nd by prior appointment.
The only way is Essex
The only sometimes philosophical Alain de Botton’s Living Architecture project is based around the idea of getting world-class architects to design and build houses that the rest of us can holiday in. The most recent addition to the stable is “A House for Essex”, designed by Grayson Perry and FAT Architecture. Inspired by follies and designed to evoke a tradition of wayside chapels, the result is a tile-clad, two-bedroom confection featuring brightly coloured tapestries, pots, decorative timberwork, mosaic floors and a motorcycle hanging from the ceiling. It’s all inspired by a fictional Essex woman called Julie Cope – or Jools, as her friends would have it.
City of joy in Valencia
Calatrava’s City of Arts and Sciences may still give rise to grumbles about budgetary overruns and maintenance issues among some locals, but there’s no denying that the giant and gleaming white complex put Valencia on the tourist map. Built at the coastal end of the city’s re-routed riverbed, and housing visitor attractions including a science museum, opera house, botanic gardens and aquarium, it’s a feast for the senses – and the family – to enjoy.
Designs on Milan
With nearly 1,500 events taking place over six days, Milan’s Design Week is hardcore. For a week in April the entire city is transformed into a mega design installation serving up music, exhibitions, cocktails, DJ sets, artists and designers. At heart, of course, it’s a giant trade show that opens its doors, briefly, to the public. Just make sure to book your accommodation well in advance – the Salone del Mobile international furniture fair alone attracts more than 300,000 visitors each year.
English gardens in Kent
Garden design lovers make a beeline for Sissinghurst, Vita Sackville-West’s castle and garden in Kent. Begun when the writer moved there in 1932, today it is world famous and lovingly tended by the National Trust. The garden is built around a series of “rooms”, each with very different planting schemes, colours and scents. There is loads to see inside as well, including the library and Sackville-West’s study, but the garden is the thing, the work of a true “artist gardener”. It includes several buildings dating from the Tudor period; one, the Priest’s House, is available to rent.
State architecture in Iceland
No one thinks of going to Iceland for its built environment because there is so much going on in the natural one. But in Hallgrímskirkja Church, the country’s capital has a landmark that can be seen from almost every point in the city. The church was designed in 1937 by state architect Guðjón Samuel, much of whose work was inspired by the way lava cools into basalt rock. By contrast, the church appears to rise up from it, like a geyser. Samuel is reputedly the first Icelandic architect and, it appears, for a long time was the only one because he also designed the university, the national theatre and the cathedral; he designed the tourist hostel at Laugarvatn, which can still be stayed in and is best contemplated from the geothermal bath next door.
Throw a piece of mosaic tile in any direction in the Catalan capital and you’ll hit one of Gaudí’s curvy confections. Inspired by the forms of nature but resulting in what a cheap candle looks like when it melts, the Gaudí signature is stamped on every corner of the city, from the skull and bone balconies of the Casa Battlo on Passeig de Gràcia to the twisted magnificence of the Sagrada Familia church. Best of all is Park Guell, a magical garden that includes Gaudí’s old home.
In Vitra we visit
So dedicated to design is the Swiss family-owned furniture company Vitra that it has developed not just a factory but an entire campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany, designed by leading international architects such as Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid and Tadao Ando. The result is a factory outlet like no other, providing a great architectural tour plus a design museum featuring 400 furniture exhibits, from 1800 to the present, and the mandatory gift shop and cafe.
Prize winners in Spain
This year’s Pritzker Prize winners, Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta from RCR Architects in Olot, Spain, are the first joint recipients of the profession’s premier gong. It makes sense, given the totally collaborative approach taken by the low-key three, who set up the practice in 1988. It has also been seen as a stepping away from the hideous notion of the starchitect. If you plan on taking a gander at their velvety-rusted work, it’s unfortunate that one of the best examples is a crematorium in Holsbeek, Belgium. Hardly a cheery day out but, on the plus side, there is also a winery, Bell-lloc, in Palamós on the Costa Brava.
Fascinating pharma in Basel
A pharmaceutical company might seem an unlikely patron of the arts. But when it comes to architecture, Swiss drugs maker Novartis has earned a name for itself as just that, with its Basel campus. The futuristic development includes a riot of glass cubes designed by Frank Gehry, as well as buildings by Diener & Diener and Sejima & Nishizawa (SANAA) and Tadao Ando. While the campus is not open to the public generally, it’s open to tours on a fortnightly basis through Basel Tourism.
Squeaky clean lines in Liverpool
Big business has long used nice buildings as a way to recruit and retain staff. For an earlier example, visit Port Sunlight near Liverpool. It’s the model village dreamed up by Lord Leverhulme – a one-time soap king who lives on today through Unilever – and was built as a home for workers at the nearby Lever factory. Port Sunlight is the work of more than 30 architects, and at its centre is the Lady Lever Art Gallery, which includes the finest collection of Wedgwood jasperware in the UK and the Port Sunlight Museum and Garden Village. It’s home to a brand new boutique hotel, the Leverhulme, so you can stay over.
Top of the ops in Oslo
Oslo has spent the past decade rebuilding itself as a design destination with the gusto that only a country with a sovereign wealth fund can muster. Check out the results with a wander around the Bjørvika Barcode, a row of multipurpose high-rises designed by different architects. All of the buildings are long and narrow to resemble a barcode. The building that captures most attention, however, is the city’s Opera House, and rightly so. Located on the waterfront, it is a beautiful performance venue that allows you something of a performance yourself: an external path takes you right up from the street to the top of the roof, so be sure to bring your fiddle.