• 01
  • The Future Memory Pavilion project, com- missioned
    by the British council in singapore
Raised in Stockholm, 32-year-old architect Pernilla Ohrstedt first moved to London to take a foundation course at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Despite being raised in an “architecture-saturated environment” — both her parents work in the trade — Ohrstedt had yet to decide on her future vocation when she arrived but soon knew that her interests lay in the built environment. “But I wanted to do it in a different way, and I realized schools here let you do that,” she explains. “Possibly you can see that in the way I work; I’m a sort of reluctant architect.”
As she admits, it is perhaps no surprise that one of the projects that she has been most noticed for is not actually architecture at all. Last year, Ohrstedt worked with the London-based fashion company Antipodium, creating a refracting “skin” fabric that blurred the lines between fashion, product design and the built environment.

She says that it investigated “how fashion deals with the body, and how architecture deals with the body.” Her multifaceted interests in art, installation, performance and fashion have helped define her unique approach to architecture. So far, she has used foam, sand, ice and even sound to create structures. “I really enjoy architecture when it’s interdisciplinary, as I feel it gives you a much richer language,” she says. This concern is represented by one of her most interesting assignments, a project for the British Council and the Royal Academy of Arts in Singapore in 2011. Designed with fellow Bartlett School of Architecture alumni Asif Khan, the Future Memory Pavilion was a two-coned structure made predominantly of rope.
“These thin black ropes almost created a drawing against the sky,” Ohrstedt explains. Sand would fall every 10 minutes from one cone, gradually building a sand dune beneath it, symbolic of the landfill that Singapore is built on. Under the other cone, a block of ice would slowly melt throughout the day, emblematic of the temperate spring climate that the hot, humid island continually mimics with air-conditioning.

“In the UK, a pavilion is somewhere you go in summer and have a picnic, but in Singapore, you don’t hang out outside,” Ohrstedt says. She and Khan set out to change this with the shrewd use of raw materials in their well-received architectural structure. “We began to think, how do we get people to want to go there, without making another big air-conditioned space? How do we resensitize people to their climate?” Materials such as ice and sand, which change form over time, have been a recurrent element in Ohrstedt’s work. In 2011, Ohrstedt and Khan produced Cloud, a project that used foam made of helium, water and soap to create a floating roof. The pair also worked together designing the Coca-Cola Beatbox pavilion at the London 2012 Olympic Park, a structure that used sound as a building material. It was the last project the pair worked on before disbanding later last year: Ohrstedt quickly went on to form her own studio. One of her first solo projects is for a Swedish summerhouse maker, helping design a new type of “additional home” in the UK. It’s a significant achievement for a Swede who arrived in London a decade ago, not knowing where it would take her. Going solo was a wise move: last year, Ohrstedt was short-listed as Emerging Woman Architect of the Year by The Architects’ Journal. “I always wanted to be more than the average; I wanted to do it my own way,” she says. “I think I’ve found a way to do it like that, and hopefully that uniqueness will be my strength.”

  • The anti-P skin by ohrstedt for antipodium

  • 02
Craftsmanship might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “electronics” and “made in Taiwan,” but 45-year-old Alain Lee hopes to change that. Lee is the design director of Pegacasa, a Taipei-based company that takes an artisanal approach to IT and stationery products. It is attached to Taiwanese electronics giant Pegatron Corporation, and Lee has designed everything from bamboo flashlights to the world’s first leather laptop, trying to bring a sense of craft to the nuts and bolts of the IT industry.
“We didn’t choose to use bamboo because it was an Eastern element,” Lee says. “It was because the ancient, traditional craft of Taiwanese bamboo weaving is slowly vanishing.
  • A selection of well-used work tools in the studio

  • Pegacasa has quickly become known for taking a unique approach to the design of household electronics
Lee and his young team of 22 designers create everything from staplers to pencil cases, mouse pads to key rings, produced in a rich range of materials. He is keen for his team to be obsessive about its craft, explaining, “When we use bamboo in our products, I ask our designers to become experts on the plant, learning about pests, diseases, suitable soil and water environment design.”
It is this attitude that has helped Lee set the record straight about the design prowess of his homeland. “The important thing is not ‘made in Taiwan,’” he says, “but how to inspire the world.”


  • 03
Earlier this year, the world’s largest light sculpture was lit up on one of the world’s most iconic pieces of engineering. To commemorate its 75th anniversary, San Francisco’s Bay Bridge was covered in 25,000 twinkling white LED nodes, creating New York–based artist Leo Villareal’s “The Bay Lights.” Villareal is one of the most established artists producing site-specific illuminated works of this nature. For Villareal, who has installed groundbreaking projects at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music and MoMA PS1 in New York, this project, located just an hour’s drive or so from Silicon Valley, was hugely symbolic.
“The Bay Area is incredibly inspirational to me,” he says. “I lived in San Francisco in the early 1990s and worked at a research lab in Palo Alto. There is such a wonderful spirit of innovation and creativity that opened my mind and helped me to integrate art and technology in a deep way.”
  • Leo Villareal in his studio in new york

  • “The Bay Lights” in San Francisco

  • “Multiverse” (2008) at the national gallery of art in Washington, DC
Although the installation makes a significant visual impact, Villareal’s pioneering use of innovative, environmentally minded LED technology consumes minimal energy — even on this grand scale. “This project would not be possible without LED technology,” he says. “Of primary concern to me is that we are using energy-efficient technology. It has very small impact.
It is custom-made for its environment and takes its inspiration from the systems that surround it. The traffic, weather and organic systems all factor into the abstracted movements of the lights.”


  • 04
The design store D&Department revolves around the “long life design” concept, coined by owner Kenmei Nagaoka, which puts faith in built-for-life design. The store began when Nagaoka, a trained graphic designer, started showcasing well-made pieces of design, which he’d find at thrift stores, in his Tokyo apartment. The range quickly grew to include the classics (including Tendo Mokko and Karimoku furniture) as well as standard, everyday items made by craftspeople throughout Japan, soon occupying a 16,000-square-foot retail space just outside Tokyo. “Our responsibility is to connect artisanal manufacturers with end users,” Nagaoka says. “We wanted our shop to be a place where they can interact through truly excellent design products.”
Last year, D&Department opened a location in Tokyo’s Hikarie mall, showcasing food and design from each of Japan’s 47 prefectures. Nagaoka’s big-picture thinking on a local scale has spurred a whole new appreciation for quality design that stands the test of time.


  • Treasured design finds for sale at the D&Department retail space in Tokyo
  • 05
  • A series of Coco Pendants in the making
  • “Too many things are rushed in life nowadays; there seems to be this urgency about getting the new thing out there, but I’m determined not to buy into that,” explains Melbourne-based Kate Stokes, owner of the design studio Coco Flip. She started the company in 2010 with the help of an Australia Council for the Arts grant, focusing on making well-considered furniture and lighting locally and to the highest specs.

  • Coco Flip first received attention in 2010 for its ash and spun-aluminum Coco Pendant lamps. As the Melbourne studio becomes more globally popular, Stokes is keen to stay nimble and, crucially, ethical: for example, she works closely with a UK company to produce the Coco Pendant in Europe using local lumber. “I don’t want to design solely for the Australian market; it’s about reaching out to an international market whilst maintaining integrity,” she says. “In terms of manufacturing, if it doesn’t feel good, then you probably shouldn’t be making it. That’s my philosophy.”


    • The modeling process
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