JANUARY 2014 - The General Aesthete

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Blub Clock by Duncan Hellmers

Australian designer Duncan Hellmers has created a new way of telling time that blurs the lines of time itself. His Blub clock’s modernist but retro-evocative design consists of a solid anodized aluminum base that houses four glass Nixie (neon gas) bulbs displaying the time in a comforting, old-school fashion. An indicator at the front can be configured to flash with the seconds, glow continuously, or only during p.m. hours. In addition to the time, the device can also be shifted to modes that present the date or temperature.

More at: Blub Kickstarter

Black Atlass – Paris

Directed by Paul Labonté.

Kenzō Tange: Architecture for the World

Inspired by Le Corbusier, a young student named Kenzō Tange studied architecture at University of Tokyo in the 1930s; he proceeded to become one of the preeminent architects of the twentieth-century, designing major buildings on five continents. Tange’s unique approach to interpreting traditional Japanese styles through modernism resulted in him being considered the first non-Western architect whose works would be embraced as universal in their value.

Assembled and edited by Seng Kuan and Yukio Lippit, in cooperation with Harvard University Graduate School of Design, this book, Kenzō Tange: Architecture for the World, is a comprehensive study of Tange’s philosophy and contributions to the history of architecture. Archival drawings, period photographs, essays, and case studies explore the diversity and influence of Tange’s work. The book chronicles his most celebrated projects, as well as his collaborations that extended to allied fields such as engineering, furniture design, and photography. In addition to illustrating the great diversity of Tange’s career, the book paints a picture of the progression of architecture and urbanism that took place in postwar Japan.

There is no question that Tange, who continued to work into his later years, and died in 2005, helped define Japan’s post-WWII emergence into modernism. The architect gained international attention as an urban planner in 1949 when his design for the Hiroshima Peace Center and Memorial Park was selected as part of the country’s plan to rebuild Hiroshima. Throughout the 1950s, Tange worked in the field of urban planning, his Plan for Tokyo 1960 reconsidered urban structures as Japan knew them, and was hugely influential to the Metabolist movement. For the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Tange designed the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, for which he won a Pritzker Prize; the citation describing the gymnasium as “among the most beautiful buildings of the twentieth century.”

Available at: Lars Müller

Design Classic: Nikon 28TI

With the trend of premium compact film cameras in the early 1990s, makers such as Contax, Minolta, and Ricoh were at the top of the movement with sturdily built models that featured prime lenses and more advanced features for photography enthusiasts. Nikon entered this market in 1993 with the 135 film autofocus 35Ti model, followed by the all-black 28Ti, a year later.

The name referring to its 28 mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens, and titanium body, the camera not only employed advanced Nikon technology and a premium lens, but a unique design that far exceeded the aesthetics of its competitors.

The 28Ti’s elegant, aerospace-quality titanium casing lends to the camera’s utilitarian appearance, in addition to being very strong and lightweight. The 28Ti’s most iconic and unique feature is the top plate that features an analog, watch-style series of gauges that inform the user of such details as focus distance, exposure compensation, and aperture. At a time when much cheaper to produce, LCD displays were the standard, these analog meters were a new way of employing classic mechanics to offer an intuitive, one-glance experience, not to mention the ability to operate the camera at waist level.

Often overlooked, but still regarded as one of the best compact cameras in both design and technology history, the 28Ti set standards for future models not only by Nikon, but other manufacturers. Unfortunately, its high price and slower operation speeds resulted in poor sales, leading to the camera’s discontinuation in 1998.

The 28Ti model is not entirely rare, and can still be found on the secondhand market, many still “new-in-box” condition; however, because of its design qualities, novelty features, and enduring strength as a relevant, exceptional camera, high prices are to be expected.

A good place to start: Nikon 28Ti on eBay

Ion Hotel

Outside of Reykjavik, very close to the Unesco World Heritage Site Thingvellir National Park, sits Iceland’s Ion Hotel. Billing itself as an “adventure hotel” the Ion’s location makes it perfect for exploring Iceland’s otherworldly geography, with access to hot springs, glaciers, and a perfect vantage to view the Northern Lights.

Designed by Minarc, the hotel is built with a prefabricated panel system, that not only incorporates recycled materials, but is designed to maximize energy efficiency. The architecture is perfectly suited the the lava fields and stark surroundings, and its suspended-by-pillar construction is an homage to Iceland’s first settler, Ingólfr Arnarson, who, according to legend, en route to Iceland in the year 847, threw his pillars overboard and sailed to where the gods took him ashore.

Hot springs provide geothermal heating, and extensive use of natural light minimizes the need for artificial. With just 46 rooms, a restaurant, and a spa, the hotel is full-service, but with a disconnected, aligned-with-nature approach. In addition to its subdued external appearance, Minarc has thoughtfully incorporated natural materials throughout the hotel, such as recycled wood furniture, lamps made from lava and found-wood, and indigenous birch wood details; in the rooms, images of Icelandic animals stylishly and minimally serve as wall art.

An immersive position in Iceland’s visually arresting wilderness, paired with the luxuries of excellent design, local food, and hotel comforts work together to create an experience that is not only sure to encourage relaxation and health, but an exploratory admiration of nature’s wonders.

More at: Ion Hotel

“Luxury is not a necessity to me, but beautiful and good things are.”

— Anaïs Nin