Thursday, 14 January 2010

Edinburgh Culture

Back in Edinburgh to see in the New Year with friends. Once all the snow had fallen I decided to start 2010 with some culture. My favourite gallery ‘The Gallery of Morden Art’ was covered in snow, making Charles Jencks Landform look other worldly. I have never seen it like this before, it was beautiful.

‘Everything is going to be alright’ is in fluorescent lights on the front of the building. This is to promote the current exhibition, ‘ What you see is where you’re at.’ This is a celebration of 50 years of the gallery.

The display will reveal the richness and range of the Collection in a series of rooms which aim to delight and surprise.’

I have seen some of these exhibits before but re-hung they took on a new meaning for me. ‘ Nightscape’ by Louise Nevelson is a 3 dimensional piece made up of wooden boxes assembled to reflect the New York nightscape. At first glance if looked a bit random but on reading the description it all made sense and when viewed from a distance I was drawn into it, wanting to touch it. The imagery of a city developing randomly with new and old buildings side by side and the evolutionary nature of a city, old building coming down and new building being built.

Hamish Fulton’s framed poster type text ‘ No talking for Seven Days’ had a big impact on me. It was hung in a prominent place; although very simple it told a story of a journey that a photograph or painting of the remoteness of the Cairngorms could not have told.

The Dean Gallery is exhibiting the BP portrait award 2009. These are the work of amateur artists from all over the world. This is a highly reknowned portrait competition. There were 1900 entries and 56 were selected. The quality is outstanding and some are very realistic and have a photographic quality, but also capturing the essence of the subject perhaps in youth or old age.

A cultural trip is never complete without a trip to Harvey Nichols not for shopping but to look at their window displays. They are in the process of changing their displays. Spiraling wood structure from floor to ceiling of the 4th floor but as yet unfinished made quite an impact. I think the power tools on the floor were not part of the display but you never know! I will revisit to see the finished outcome.

The Portal eco- shop, St Mary’s Street was closed but I had a nice browse in the design shop in Jeffery Street. Here they had great designs – cool chairs, hot lights, quirky dishes and funky cushions. When I am rich I’ll shop here.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

My Designs on Sweden- Christmas Holidays 2009

I was fortunate this year to spend Christmas in Sweden. In the beautiful Arctic town in Åre in Northern Sweden, 630 km from Stockholm. The mountain air has attracted visitors to Åre since the end of the 19th century. At that time the village was primarily a health resort that also attracted people for hunting and fishing. Eventually, hotels were built and the first lift was opened in 1910. The downhill race, “Årebragden”, was held for the first time in 1921, but it was another ten years until alpine skiing was regarded as a leisure activity, after some enthusiasts visited the Alps and imported the concept to Sweden.

Today, Åre is famous as a world-class ski resort with an extensive slope system However, it has also preserved its authentic charm which, along with its mountain location, gives the village an atmosphere that few other places possess. The beautiful mountains, a rich cultural history and a great variety of activities and events, winter and summer, make Åre a living village – all year round.

It was beautiful to see such an unspoilt part of the world. In fact, the local church dates from the 12th century. I now know what its feels like when the innkeeper said ‘there is no room at the inn’ We tried to go the midnight Christmas service only to be told that the small church with capacity for 120 was full – we managed to squeeze in the back to listen to the service – all in Swedish.

However, it was the design and the care for the environment that really struck me. Sweden is the home to many interesting designs – none more so that the new Copperhill Mountain Lodge at Åre. ( Copperhill was a copper mine in the 18th century with the last mining taking place in 1919.

The Copperhill Mountain Lodge was designed by a renowned American architect Peter Bohlin. Bohlin has Swedish ancestry and is today regarded as one of the best in his profession. The architecture firm of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson was founded in 1965 and now has offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Seattle and Berkeley. It has received more than 290 awards. ( The villa owned by Microsoft’s founder, Bill Gates, is one of their most notable projects in the last few years, where twenty other firms competed for the job. Copperhill is Bohlin’s first project in Scandinavia.

For me, the intuitive is as important as the intellectual,” says Peter Bohlin. “However different the jobs may be, the challenge is always the same – to succeed in sensing what is unique and suitable for each specific place, and understanding how people want to live or work there. Then you have to realise those needs in a way that fascinates and inspires and works.”

The care for the environment really struck me as well. Sweden does not import oil and is self sufficient in energy with extensive hydro-electric, wind and cogeneration plants which as 99 percent fuelled by pure bio energy from forests as well as nuclear power stations. Even the Swedish approach to airports is impressive with a ‘green approach’ – this means that an aircraft descends towards the airport in a so-called continuous descent approach (CDA) with minimal use of the engine throttle, in order to reduce fuel consumption, emissions and noise.

Sweden has held eco-driving courses with fuel consumption dropping by as much as 20 per cent.

We have a lot to learn in both caring for and using the environment sensitively.