Latest Articles in Travel Reports

Touring Basel Switzerland part 1

Touring Basel, Switzerland, Part 1

At the end of September, I hopped across the pond to visit Basel, Switzerland, and the nearby Laufen bathrooms factory and showroom. Basel is bisected by the Rhine and sits just south of the intersection of Switzerland, France, and Germany. In the ancient city, first settled during the days of the Roman Empire, you find a mix of soaring neo-Gothic cathedrals, Serra sculptures, knit graffiti, and more.
October 10, 2011
Amirah Shahid biking Cycle China

Cycle China: Week 5

In this special five-part series, we're riding along with SWA Group landscape designer Amirah Shahid as she cycles nearly 800 miles from Beijing to Shanghai (find the previous posts here). Join us as she tells about her journey and files exclusive photos from the road in an attempt to better understand China's urban and rural biking culture. Week Five: Back in the USA...   After three weeks of cycling from Beijing to Shanghai, landscape designer Amirah Shahid is back on U.S. soil. She traveled on dirt roads and newly paved national highways, around cows and drying bark on the road, on a ferry to cross the Yangtze River, and more. We caught up with Shahid over a cup of coffee, her first in weeks, to recount the 800-mile journey.
October 5, 2011
Vitra Campus part two

Touring Vitra Campus, Part 2

Vitra's Weil-am-Rhein, Germany, campus boasts not only the production facilities of the famous furniture manufacturer but also numerous iconic buildings by world-renowned architects. In Touring Vitra Campus, Part 1, we explored Jasper Morrison's bus shelters, Frank Gehry's Vitra Design Museum and factory building, Herzog & de Meuron's VitraHaus, Buckminster Fuller's dome, Jean Prouvé's petrol station, and SANAA's soon-to-be-completed factory. Here, we continue the tour with a look at Álvaro Siza's factory building and peeks inside Zaha Hadid's Fire Station (her first building in Europe) as well as Tadao Ando's Conference Pavilion.
October 4, 2011
London greenhouse

LEGO Greenhouse in London

By now its bricks have been pulled apart, its sunflowers taken from Covent Garden's North Piazza, but from September 15 to 25, the Lego Greenhouse designed by Sebastian Bergne was one of the hits of the London Design Festival. I happened to catch it a bit by chance at the very end of my London design wanderings, and I'm ever so happy I did. And happier still that in going through my photos from my time in the Big Smoke that I've come across these.
October 4, 2011
Visitor tour the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 in Washington, D.C., Friday, Sept. 30, 2011, with Arlington, VA, left, and the Lincoln Memorial, right, in the background. (Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Solar Decathlon Highlights

From September 23rd to October 2nd, Washington D.C.'s monuments to presidential greats and civic leaders, museums of art and history, and houses of government were juxtaposed with houses of another breed: the green and technologically-advanced. Once every two years since 2002, teams of students from all across the United States (and now all across the globe) congregate on the National Mall in a Department of Energy-sponsored competition to design and build energy-efficient, solar-powered homes. This year, in the Solar Decathlon's 5th competition, 20 teams from five countries presented their designs, which ranged from SCI-Arc and Caltech's highly conceptual "outsulated" CHIP house, to Appalachian State's Solar Homestead influenced by vernacular typologies, to the University of Maryland's WaterShed whose micro-wetland helps reduce water pollution. I toured the homes this weekend and share a few of my favorite designs.
October 3, 2011
Cycle China Week 4

Cycle China: Week 4

In this special five-part series, we're riding along with SWA Group landscape designer Amirah Shahid as she cycles nearly 800 miles from Beijing to Shanghai (find the previous posts here). Join us as she tells about her journey and files exclusive photos from the road in an attempt to better understand China's urban and rural biking culture. Week Three: Arriving in Shanghai...   Landscape designer Amirah Shahid has dodged cows and poplar bark drying along roadsides on her nearly 800-mile cycling journey from Beijing to Shanghai. In this update, she makes it to her final destination—but not without a ferry trip to cross the Yangtze River (where bikes are not allowed on the bridge)—and contends with smog and rain along the way. Her SWA Group colleagues from the Shanghai office, however, were ready to toast her success upon arrival with glasses held high at an Oktoberfest Festival organized by a local Chinese development group. Read on!
September 29, 2011
Vitra Campus part one

Touring Vitra Campus, Part 1

The Vitra Campus in Weil-am-Rhein, Germany, is design-heaven on Earth. Since the 1950s, it has been home to Vitra's furniture production (the company headquarters are located across the border in Switzerland), and it's grown to include the renowned Vitra Design Museum and a handful of the world's best-known buildings by the world's the best-known architects and designers. I hopped the bus from Basel, Switzerland, to take a tour of the campus.
September 29, 2011
LDF Overview Brick Lane Street Art 1

London Design Festival Recap

As with most trade fairs, it was difficult to find dense clumps of strong design at the London Design Festival; instead gems were dispersed throughout. When an object did stand out, the work was clever, as exemplified by a flat-pack boat made by two recent RCA grads; gracefully technical as in Jake Dyson’s handsome and super-long-lasting (will-it-to-your-grandchildren) task lamp; or adorned with traces of the maker’s hands as was Johannes Nagel’s pottery. Creativity was found, and hailed from, everywhere: The Australians made a fine showing at Designjunction while the streets of London, itself, provided wall space for those who didn’t want to hire an exhibition booth at Earls Court.
September 28, 2011
london design festival aram gallery thumb

Geenen + Hoon at Aram Gallery

Curated by Héloise Park at the Aram Gallery, the Geenen & Hoon exhibition brings together two young furniture makers who approach design through structure—but from opposite ends of the nature-nurture spectrum. It is a good-looking show filled with the artifacts capable of depicting the design process succinctly: sketches, models, maquettes, prototypes and even machine-like molds. “I’m not just making up shapes. I’m letting the shapes be defined by natural forces,” explains Bram Geenen, a graduate of Utrecht’s HKU who is now based in Amsterdam. Geenen often works in collaboration with tech companies and begins by repurposing their cutting-edge production techniques or materials, but winds up with organic forms derived from physics and the properties of his materials and “better, stronger, lighter, more sustainable products,” he says. “Today any shape you can imagine, you can build. It forces me to be very careful and honest in choosing my forms.” London-based Il Hoon Roh, trained at the Architectural Association and as a product designer at the Royal College of Art, works from the point-of-view of nature and ends up with extraordinary machines that produce elastically oozing forms. His table on show has aesthetic qualities but its form actually illustrates how forces flow from the table top to the ground, he says. “The forms of nature are not accidental at all. The organic beauty is there for a reason.”
September 26, 2011