Neil Hugh Office

Brand Strategy & Marketing

Perspective is our worldview; a bureau for the worlds of design, art, culture and travel, as filed by director Neil Hugh Kenna.

Toward a Concrete Utopia, Monday 29.10.18

If you find yourself in New York between now and January, make a beeline to MOMA to see "Toward a Concrete Utopia, Architecture in Yugoslavia”. This fascinating exhibition explores life through architecture in the former Slavic state, with over 400 drawings, models, photographs, and film reels from an array of municipal archives, family-held collections, and museums across the region. Highlighting a significant yet understudied body of modernist architecture, the exhibition features work by architects including Bogdan Bogdanović, Juraj Neidhardt, Svetlana Kana Radević, Edvard Ravnikar, Vjenceslav Richter, and Milica Šterić. This is a part of the world I know little about, but alas New York is not on my upcoming itinerary, so if you do manage a visit, please be sure to report back. Photography via MOMA.

Diego Giacometti and Museé Picasso, Friday 14.09.18

Museé Picasso in Paris is one of my favourite museums, not just for the work of the master himself, but also for the majestic 17th century hôtel particulier in which it is housed. This past summer it was wonderful to learn more about the museum’s relatively short history and the Diego Giacometti commissions that form much of its interior. Opened in September of 1985, the historic interior was adapted by architect Roland Simounet who overcame a bid by Carlo Scarpa to win the project. For Giacometti, whose career is often overshadowed by his famous brother Alberto, Simounet provided an unparalleled platform for showcasing his work as both a sculptor and designer. Giacometti’s site-specific collection of chairs, benches, lights and tables, designed exclusively for the hôtel, was a career pinnacle. Tragically, he died just months before the museum opened, however millions have enjoyed his work since as a support act to one of the world’s largest Picasso collections.

La Biennale Architettura 2018, Friday 24.08.18

What a thrill it was to visit the Venice Architecture Biennale. A longstanding must for any architecture aficionado, I was inspired not merely by the incredible showing for this its 16th year, but more so by the backdrop of iconic global pavilions that have played host to biennale for decades. It’s always a thrill to see the work of Alvar Aalto up close (Finnish Pavilion, 1956), but I was also taken by the similarly restrained approach of Norwegian architect Sverre Fehn (Nordic Pavilion, 1962), pictured above. Other highlights included Carlo Scarpa’s famed courtyard, awash in a sea of green ivy (Italian Pavilion, 1951), and the newly restored Canada Pavilion by Italian architect Alberico Barbiano di Belgiojoso, heir to BBPR who designed the original structure in 1958. Venice is often criticised for its crush of tourists, however la biennale and the Giardini di Castello were a welcome reprieve, with not a gondolier in sight.

Vitsœ, Royal Leamington Spa, Thursday 05.07.18

On a recent visit to the UK I was thrilled to visit the acclaimed headquarters of Vitsœ, guardians of Dieter Rams’ 606 Universal Shelving System, 620 Chair Programme and 621 Table. As reported by Dezeen upon its opening, “The firm developed the new building as an extension of its "system-thinking" approach, which focuses on products that are flexible, modular, and can combine to form larger systems.” As I toured the site with CEO Mark EK Adams and later shared lunch with the team from their in-house kitchen, it was apparent that the values espoused through the brand’s touch points were being lived wholeheartedly and authentically. We’ve embraced the aforementioned shelving at Neil Hugh Office, so feel free to drop in and see this beautiful piece of design in person.

En Plein Air, Saturday 16.06.18

With design being both a profession and a passion, I’m fortunate to be exposed to a vast amount of inspired work. As such, it’s rare to be stopped in my tracks, even when attending Milan Design Week. However, that’s exactly what happened when I was introduced to En Plein Air, an exhibition of works by Italian architect and designer Vincenzo De Cotiis. En Plein Air, which literally translates to outdoors, is a reference to the late 19th century movement in which artists left their studios to paint outdoors. Featuring 20 furniture-sculptures handmade by Italian artisans, the collection of seating, lighting, tables, cabinets and bookshelves uniquely combines semiprecious stones, Murano glass, recycled resin and cast brass. Utterly individual; and unlike anything I’ve seen before or since. It must be said, amid the crush of design week events, the by-appointment approach and a ban on all photography, was both bold and refreshing. Photography via Carpenters Workshop Gallery.

Meeting Vincent Van Duysen in Antwerp, Tuesday 22.05.18

If you’ve been following along on Instagram, keen eyes may have noticed that on my recent trip to Antwerp I caught up with Vincent Van Duysen, arguably one of the greatest contemporary architects. It’s curious to note that leaders in their field tend to be the most generous with their time. Perhaps once you’ve achieved a certain acclaim you realise the reward of giving back, or perhaps this openness is more generally a trait that carries one to great success. Either way, spending a little time with Mr Van Duysen reaffirmed the need for courage of conviction – true self belief, clarity of vision, and a commitment to nothing but excellence. I look forward to my next visit to Antwerp, a city of surprises. Much thanks to Hotel Julien for a wonderfully relaxing stay. The perfect antidote to a rather manic week in Milan. Photography by Koen Van Damme.

Monet & Architecture, Tuesday 10.04.18

This week I was intrigued to read about the opening of ‘Monet & Architecture’ at London’s National Gallery. Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) is well known for his impressionist landscapes, but this notoriety has often overshadowed his appreciation for the built form. Drawing on a largely private collection, the exhibition comprises a lifetime’s work; from the artist's early exploration of the bridges of Paris, to some of his final works depicting the renowned architecture of Venice and London. Personally, Monet has always struck a chord, and I will never forget seeing Water Lillies at the incredible Chichu Art Museum in Naoshima, Japan. I can’t recall a more moving gallery experience, unmistakably enhanced by the superb Tadao Ando designed building. Despite being primarily subterranean, Ando’s design lets in an abundance of natural light that changes the appearance of the artworks and the space itself. A truly memorable experience. But back to Monsieur Monet. ‘Monet & Architecture’ runs from 09 April to 29 July. Sadly I’ll miss it by mere weeks, however please get in touch via Instagram if you manage a visit and let me know what you think.

Belgium Calling, Monday 26.03.18

Next month, following Milan Design Week, I’ve planned a quick detour to Beligum, namely Brussels and Antwerp. With a growing interest in Belgian architecture and design, I'm planning on absorbing past and present in equal measure. There’s no doubt the design world has turned its attention to this European design destination thanks to the likes of Axel Vervoordt, Vincent Van Duysen and Nicolas Schuybroek, however I’m also intrigued by the legacy of greats such as architect Victor Horta (1861 - 1947). You’ll find me at the Horta Museum (pictured) located in Horta's private house and studio. Built between 1898 and 1901 in Brussels, the two buildings are typical of Art Nouveau at its height. This decorative style is out of sync with my personal, more modernist leanings, however the sheer scale and detailing is undeniably absorbing. Photography by Frederik Vercruysee.

Against Obsolescence, Thursday 11.01.18

I am undoubtedly a brand loyalist. When I love a brand, I really love a brand. One such example is Vitsœ, the British manufacturer of furniture designed by the great Dieter Rams. Iconic furniture aside, what I love about Vitsœ are its brand values and how they are communicated across all levels of the business. Centred around Rams' “good design” ideology, the business promotes a living better with less philosophy that is counter-intuitive in the consumerism age. It takes a certain confidence to actively discourage rampant consumption, but that’s exactly what the business does. The ethos is explored in depth via the brand’s website and a recent essay on "an emotionally sustainable purchase". This visionary approach, coupled with Rams' superb designs and a one-to-one sales approach that is unmatched in the industry makes for a brand for the ages.

Irish Design Maverick Eileen Gray, Tuesday 28.11.17

Despite Ireland’s rich creative history in music, literature and craft, the concept of "Irish design" is yet to gain a foothold internationally. With no shortage of talent, traditional Irish craft and artisanal skills are enjoying a wave of renewed appreciation, however one truly revolutionary designer is often overlooked. The late Eileen Gray's notoriety unjustly pales in comparison to many of her male contemporaries, however her legacy tells the story of a maverick in her own right. Revered for both her architecture and furniture design, Gray’s body of work is slowly coming to the forefront of midcentury modern appreciation. Today she is honoured with a permanent exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland, and E-1027, her famed home on the south coast of France, is currently being restored by the state of France and the city of Roquebrune Cap Martin. With rare vintage pieces in high demand, thankfully a handful of Gray’s furniture designs are still in production. The Tube Lamp (pictured above) is next on my list. Photography courtesy of Classicon.

Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Thursday 09.11.17

Musée Yves Saint Laurent has recently opened in Marrakech. A stunning example of the design world’s recently rekindled love affair with brick, the 4,000 square metre space is dedicated to the late fashion designer’s life and work. This incredible homage was designed by French architectural duo Olivier Marty and Karl Fournier of studio kO. While studying the couturier’s archives, Marty and Fournier were intrigued by his approach to fabric - both curved and straight lines, and loose and precise cutting. This directly inspired the façade where an intersection of cubes acts as a lace–like covering to stunning effect. With both permanent and temporary exhibitions, an auditorium, bookstore and café, Musée YSL and Marrakech are firmly on my travel wish list. Photography courtesy of studio kO.

Accidentism By Design, Wednesday 27.09.17

Josef Frank (1885 - 1967) is best known as a designer for iconic Swedish interior design company Svensk Tenn – famed for his dynamic, colourful prints – however dig a little deeper and you'll discover that Frank was actually an Austrian architect by trade, and he didn’t arrive in Sweden until the age of 48. An astonishing fact considering he contributed over 2,000 furniture sketches and 160 textile prints to the Svenskt Tenn archives. On a recent visit to Stockholm I was thrilled to learn more about this enigmatic figure in the exhibition “Against Design”, staged at the superb ArkDes museum in Skeppsholmen. Villa Beer in Vienna (pictured) is heralded as one of Frank's landmark architectural projects. Built between 1929 and 1931, the magnificent modernist home is characterised by what could be described as an early interpretation of “open plan living” whereby each space is distinct, and yet integrated by a flowing central staircase across three levels. Frank famously remarked, “A well-laid house is comparable to one of those beautiful old cities which even a stranger immediately knows his way around.” This notion is further expressed in his philosophy of “accidentism”, essentially that every room in a home should feel as if it “originated by chance”. It’s a beautiful vision and a skill that many designers will spend their lives trying to master. Photography via BauNetz.

Confidence In Glass: Ichendorf Milano, Tuesday 19.09.17

It's refreshing to see the design world move beyond its recent fixation with metals and into the world of glass, currently being expressed in vivid colour. Glass, of course, has been around for millennia, but one contemporary example of note is the work of German/Italian manufacturer Ichendorf Milano. Having discovered their work last year via Irish design emporium Makers&Brothers, I'm not surprised to see the range now appearing in all the right places. Established in the early 1900s, this heritage business is no doubt currently riding the wave of renewed interest in glass, however Ichendorf Milano has evolved with trends and technology throughout its history. The Regulus collection circa 1959 is particularly noteworthy. As the brand recalls of that era, "Only a few pioneers [dared] to imagine a world made of shapes rather than decorations. Minimal art was not born yet, but at Ichendorf, some enlightened minds, saw beauty in perfect proportions.” Such confidence is rare, however it’s this leading approach that has contributed to the brand’s longevity, on trend or not.

Discovering Guy Bareff in Saint Raphäel, Friday 15.09.17

While in Europe over summer, I made a detour to Saint Raphäel on the French Riviera and Hôtel Les Roches Rouges. Attracted by its 1950s modernist origins and a recent reimagining by Parisian architecture firm Festen, I was not disappointed. Perched at the edge of the Mediterranean, endless blue from both sea and sky melts into polished concrete, aged oak and terracotta, hallmarks of the south of France and the modernist movement. With so many refined details, much custom-made for the project, I was particularly taken by the ceramic light fixtures (pictured) and “illuminated objects" by Guy Bareff. Founding his practice in the 1970s as ceramics enjoyed a renaissance, Bareff was influenced by the school of Vallauris where Picasso lived and worked. Bareff's work is characterised by the absence of glazing, allowing the full effect of the piece to be expressed through a single material in stunning simplicity. Having only recently returned to sculpture, Bareff is represented by Maison Gerard, New York and is now firmly on my wish list. Photography courtesy Design Hotels.

Good Design Is As Little As Possible, Friday 01.09.17

Dieter Rams famously said, “Good design is as little as possible". It's an ethos that we've grappled with in recent months with our friends at Studio Hi Ho. Appearing effortless it turns out is anything but, however we hope you agree that our new visual brand expression captures the values and personality we impart in our work and in our relationships. We are genuine about being genuine and passionate about being passionate, but ultimately we just want to achieve great things, so let’s get to work. Oh, but before then, let us quietly return to the purpose of Perspective - an addendum to the things we love that we’ve defined as “our worldview; a bureau for the worlds of design, art, culture and travel”. Be sure to return soon for anecdotes, musings and agenda notes that will be filed in the coming weeks, months and years.