Tag Archives: london

Techs-Mechs – Steampunk time?

Ulysse Nardin Chairman Mechanical Smartphone

Ulysse Nardin Chairman Mechanical Smartphone

I’ve been following the Steampunk phenomenon with fascination. It’s a stylistical branching out that makes perfect sense to me, bringing as it does the formal exuberance of 19th century excitement at the technological wonders of the industrial revolution, its heavy mechanical seduction, its steam and coaldust manliness, onto the flat, bland and opaque physicality of our own turn of the century electronics: Steampunk is hard at work trying to turn Bill Gates into Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Until now, Steampunk has been a somewhat tribal affair, developed by cyberpunk geeks intent on beautifying their gear, a labour of love and tinkering. Well, Steampunk is finally crossing over into mainstream consumer electronics – I was wondering when – and with the support of The Long Now Foundation no less… It makes perfect sense. The Ulysse Nardin Chairman hybrid smartphone’s unique selling point? It’s powered by a mechanical thingy that charges its battery through the users’ movements, just like self-winding wristwatches do. And it looks pure Steampunk.

I leave you with a couple of Steampunk beauties, in the hope that I will get a few of you hooked onto the trend.

Laptop by Datamancer

Laptop by Datamancer

Brass USB stick

Brass USB stick

Steampunk'd desktop computer

Steampunk'd desktop computer

And of course the most spectacular of them all, Paul St George’s Telectroscope that linked London and New York, the twin capitals of Steam and Punk, in the summer of 2008.

The Telectroscope, London end.

The Telectroscope, London end.


Mariscal whirlwind

While in London I visited the Mariscal retrospective (see technical details here) and found it wonderful. The energy of Mariscal’s design reverberates through the exhibition, a dizzying display that builds on the very qualities it seeks to showcase.

It’s a fine tribute to Mariscal’s extraordinary creative zest, his enduring playfulness, and the sheer power of a vision that has created a very consistent personal world, both laid-back and vibrant.

Mariscal Drawing Life at the Design Museum London

01 July – 01 November 2009

The first UK retrospective of Spanish designer and artist Javier Mariscal will open on July 1 at the Design Museum, London. Regarded as one of the world’s most innovative and original designers of our time, Mariscal’s rich and diverse body of work spans kooky cartoon characters to stunning interiors, from furniture to graphic design and corporate identities.

Mariscal’s intense relationship with drawing and illustration is central to his career and is the basis for his designs over the last 30 years. He gave Barcelona its graphic identity as it emerged from the Franco era and in 1992 he introduced the world to Cobi, the official Olympic mascot of the Barcelona games. Sketches, designs, films and photographs will be on display alongside furniture and textiles. Mariscal will also design and paint an elaborate mural for the exterior of the museum showcasing his unique vision and signature design style.

TICKETS: Adults £8.50; Concessions £6.50;
Students £5.00; Under 12s free
OPENING: 10.00 -17.45 Daily. Last Admission: 17.15
W: designmuseum.org ADVANCE BOOKING T: 020 7940
W: ticketweb.co.uk

Back to the joys of a packed sandwich

I’m heading back to London town later today, for a few welcome weeks of intensive Anglo culture top-up and a good healthy dose of miserable British winter weather. I’ve missed watching multi-tasking Londonerettes gracefully catching a bus on their stilleto heels while drinking a cappuccino, listening to their iPod, chatting on the mobile, paying the bus fare and wiggling their family-size handbags through the packed doors. I’ve missed marvelling at the Northern fortitude of young London men walking down the street in near-sub-zero temperatures in a t-shirt and saggy jeans. And I’ve missed packed sandwiches. Seriously. There’s nothing much to miss generally in British non-ethnic food, but as far as packed sandwiches go, the Brits are way ahead of the game.

So I’m excitedly looking forward to hitting the nearest ASDA shop and getting hold of the above gorgeous boxes, designed by Emma Smart. I can’t work out if they’re on the shelves already or only at the development stage – but I’m up for a bit of fieldwork.

Much more than a book for Christmas

To celebrate both its 25th anniversary and the festive season, 4th estate publishers (a division of HarperCollins) has commisioned a short stop-motion animation film produced by Apt, a London-based design and marketing consultancy.

This Is Where We Live, is the wonderful combination of a love for books, a love for urban life, and the work of  ‘an insane bunch of animators’ – their words, not mine. Created entirely with actual, physical books published by 4thEstate, the film projects a charming, somewhat romantic vision of the city, and a great sense of humour in its linking of the titles, and sometimes the narratives, to London. The Greenwich Observatory, for instance, is made out of Dava Sobel’s Longitude, while the West End Cinema is made of books that have been turned into films.

This Is Where We Live from 4th Estate on Vimeo.

Barcelona, third most attractive European city

Only London and Paris beat Barcelona in the tourist seduction game, according to a recent report by Saffron, branding guru Wally Olin’s and Jacon Benbunan’s consultancy. The three cities are also ahead of the pack in constructing and maintaining a strong and attractive ‘brand’ in the minds of tourists, visitors and investors.

Paris emerges as Europe’s number one city brand, followed by London, Barcelona, Berlin and Amsterdam. The study, entitled ‘The City Brand Barometer’ and created by London-based Saffron Consultants, ranks 72 of Europe’s largest cities based on a comparison of their assets and attractions against the strength of their brands.

The study highlights

the contrasting fortunes of Barcelona and Naples – two potentially comparable cities in terms of regional significance, yet the Catalan capital has trounced its Italian rival in projecting a distinctive idea of what it stands for and who it’s appealing to. The southern Italian city is rich in good climate, history, culture and gastronomy but it has devoted little time to creating a reputation among Europe’s cities.

To rate the cities, Saffron established a series of pointers that measure what they call ‘City Assets strength’, based on the most desirable attributes. These are:

● Pride and personality
● Distinctive environment – landmark buildings, facilities, public transport
● Ambitious vision, with good leadership and buoyant economy
● Worth going out of the way to see
● Easy access and good public transport
● Conversational value – it is fun to talk about Paris but not Bradford
● Location – it is somewhere special or a centre for an interesting area

One of the most interesting aspects of the study, however, is the distinction between ‘real’ assets and brand strength. Some cities have a brand visibility that is greater than their real assets would suggest. Berlin comes out as a strong example of that, but it is also the case with Barcelona:

Berlin has a 137% Brand Utilisation rate; Stockholm 118%; Prague, Liverpool and Amsterdam 115%; Barcelona 112%; andParis 111%. For all of these cities, their brand is better than their assets would predict (even if the Assets are strong), meaning they are selling a story above and beyond an urban experience.  What does this mean? If you are a city with an over 100% Utilisation rate, it means you are successfully selling your image as well as a reality. It means that through your history and culture you have fostered an aura about you.

Hector Serrano at 100% Design, London

Hector Serrano‘s project Waterdrop, developed in collaboration with Javier Esteban for Spanish bathroom company Roca, is currently on show at 100% design in London. The installation is presented as a tribute to water, and aims to capture its movement and beauty. Watch the animation here.

Serrano, originally from Valencia, studied Design Products at the Royal College of Art and is now based in London. His studio works on commercial designs with Spanish and international companies, but has also developed a strong experimental side with projects such as their Reduced Carbon Footprint Souvenirs, that can be sent by e-mail and then manufactured on demand using stereolithography rapid prototyping.