The Serpentine Pavilion


Every year, the Serpentine Galleries commissions an architect from different parts of the world to create a pavilion in their beautiful setting in Hyde Park. This year’s Pavilion is the 14th structure to be erected on the site, and like the ones before it, stands as an example of the avant-garde experimentalism current promoted by the Serpentine Galleries. Designed by the Chilean architect Smiljan Radic the pavilion is the first to be as much modern and physical as Neolithic and esoteric.


Smiljan Radic is relatively unknown by Serpentine standards, most of his work having been built in his home country. Most of his Neomodernist creations, best described as enigmatic, can be found in the Chilean countryside: houses with clean lines, enigmatic forms and tactile surfaces that have helped lead the way for Chilean architecture.

“I don’t create forms, I collect shapes.” - Smiljan Radic

As soon as we saw the shell-like structure appear through the trees the expression “papier-mâché” popped into our heads. To be honest, it is quite reassuring that in the digital age you can still meet with architects that are dedicated to model making. In reaching the pavilion we each started to touch and try guessing the material of the shell, which looks roughly unfinished as a regular size architectural model.


The interior space almost never is one, on account of the many openings towards the exterior landscape that Radic created. You start to wonder if you’re inside a giant egg or a shell that was recently left by its inhabitant. But the interior structure and the pavilion bar rudely remind you that you’re in a manmade structure and the enigmatic feeling fades away, only to revive a couple of minutes later when we explore the undercroft beneath the pavilion. The pavilion is supported by rune-like stones, weighing 120 tons, which seem to have been there long before any Serpentine Pavilion had ever been built. The undercroft communicates in the middle through an opening in the upper structure to the latter and the sky above; linking together on different levels, earth, structure and sky in a symbiotic way. We leave the pavilion wishing that we could have heard the rain while inside or seen the light coming out through its translucent skin during the night.


“when you look at a folly you have to stop rationalizing” - Smiljan Radic

Radic’s structure juxtaposes two concepts; Oscar Wilde’s story “The selfish giant” and 18th century follies.

On one hand, there is this image of a large, out of scale model with translucent walls that have a handmade feel about them and that look a little bit crude. The actual texture of the pavilion imitates the masking tape Radic originally used on the small model he created, and the fiberglass achieves just that, a rough, unfinished and translucent material. It seems like it just might have been built by a giant.

On the other hand, there are the large roughly cut stones that support the giant’s shell, reminding you of the ornamental look of follies and their sometimes artificially created ancient appearance. As Radic says, this is the joke of the follies, they are ephemeral structures made to look eternal.




George Spencer Design Decorex Stand

For the second year in a row, Boundary Space were asked to design George Spencer Design’s stand for the Decorex Exhibition. This year the location has moved to the stunning Kensington Palace. The brief was to celebrate the breadth of GSD’s fabric range and highlight the work of labels Zak + Fox and Katerina Tana. The bold design utilises crochet hoops paired with simple black graphics and industrial look furniture.

Initial comments have been fantastic and it has been a pleasure working with the GSD team to design and deliver another stand. We hope it succeeds in reminding the industry of the huge variety that is available from one of London’s great fabric houses.

George Spencer Decorex 2013

Decorex Stand Design

George Spencer Designs Decorex

Decorex Fabric Stand

Decorex Zak and Fox

Beer and the Branding of Buildings

red staircases

colour red

industrial interior design

red window


Branding, especially in the built environment, is often seen as something modern and something corporate, but don’t be fooled. I recently happened to be in Yorkshire with a free afternoon and fell upon the pretty village of Masham.  Masham has many delights, a chocolate box town square and enough vernacular buildings to delight any tourist. But beyond this it is known for being a centre of brewing. Both Theakston and the younger offshoot Black Sheep have breweries here.  The former, Theakston, has been brewed here since 1827.  Aside from what was a fascinating tour, aided by the odd pint of ‘Old Peculiar’, what became apparent was a subtle but persistent branding. Branding simply achieved by painting everything in sight Red.  What I liked about this was that it did not conflict with the architecture or surroundings but instead just struck a note of continuity between the various buildings. Subtle but effective – I think there is a good lesson to learn there!

Distressed Gardens – Petersham Nurseries

garden antiques

Petersham Nursaries

Country Garden Design

Country Garden Style

shabby chic garden

Spring has sprung (sort of!) and, with the RHS Chelsea flower show just around the corner, minds naturally turn to gardens and the landscape. One of the quirkiest places to get lunch in west London is the legendary Petersham Nurseries. This garden nursery-cum-eatery has something of the quality of a film set,  managing to be in a seemingly constant state of stylised distress. I suppose a few years ago people would have referred to the look as ‘shabby chic’  however this term has become tainted with that sort of faked distress which seemed to become available from every high street shop on every type of furniture and furnishing to the point of being trite. So rather than ‘shabby chic’ I would just say that Petersham Nurseries seems to celebrate texture and patina in an exceptionally harmonious and original way.  Definitely worth a trip to Richmond and the river Thames is just a short stroll away.

The Typography of Paris

parisian signage

french typography

parisian fonts

paris signs

There is not too much to say about this. At Boundary space we are pretty big Francophiles and we also love graphics and typography, especially on buildings, so from our recent trips here is a small collection.

Forgive them for they know not what they do (despite being told)


minute man house Rudolph

Destruction of modern architecture


There is a book I can’t bring myself to buy: England’s Lost Houses: From the Archives of Country Life .  Why?  Well because it is unfathomable that such beauty, so many man hours and the fruits of so many people’s invention, toil and ingenuity can have been ended so thoroughly and so totally.  However, one would hope that like many of history’s ills we have learned from this. Alas not.  Following my recent interest in American Architect Paul Rudolph I was genuinely shocked to find out that one of his most significant private houses had been destroyed as recently as 2007.  Americas’ collection of mid-century modern houses is an unrivalled body of work and is integral to the story of Modern Architecture, not to mention a continuing source of inspiration.  To me these buildings as a collection rank alongside the worlds other great sites of historic and cultural importance,  I only hope that America can find the legislation and protection for such a valuable national asset.  Contemporary accounts of the demolition and attempts to save the building can be found here:  Wesport Now   and New York Times.  There are also more photos on the Flickr pool here.

Ham House, Geometric Gardens, Beer and a German Sausage


Ham House Garden Design

Geometric Gardens

Making the most of spring (?) sun, we walked down the river path to Ham House. It is claimed by the National Trust to be one of the finest examples of 17th century fashion and taste.  Although too late to make it inside the house the gardens were delightful and seemed strikingly modern. Having ignored the centuries of fashion that pointed towards the ‘English Landscape Movement’ the gardens are instead a monument to man’s ability to overcome nature. The shunning of 300 years of garden fashion has paid off and I found the gardens as a result seemed fresh and in many ways very modern. – Worth a trip and, should you be in need of a little light refreshment to mull over your thoughts on 300 year old design, I would recommend a short stroll up the river bank to catch the sun at Steins which is an incongruously placed Bavarian riverside beer garden with a delicious menu of Wurst, Erdinger and other such offerings


Osterley Park and the Importance of Architectural Joinery

Period Door Details

period Architectural Detailing

Plain Cupboards

Original shutters

Period mahogany door

Adam Interior Details


Only 20 mins by car from Fulham is Osterley Park.  If you put aside the regular aircraft noise you just cannot believe how removed from London this National Trust property seems to be.  With the weather having been so bad for so long, walking through the gardens in the sun was a rare pleasure but so too was the actual house.  Whilst much could be said of the exterior, which is unusual and inventive to say the least, it was the interior which really struck me.  More so than many other houses I have visited recently, this house seems to celebrate interior design with both decoration and joinery taking a role above architecture in many of the rooms.  The names of the rooms depicted on the old bell pull signs hint at this with all of them derived from patterns or colours, such as the chintz room, the stripe room, the yellow room etc.

Whilst interior design as an industry is thriving and there is plenty of celebration of colour and wall papers etc, it does seem to me that both interior designers and Architects have lost their ability to use, and use well, architectural joinery such as cornices, architraves and skirtings all of which are integral to a cohesive design.  Architectural joinery, from the grandest of doors sets to the simplest of skirtings, is the punctuation which binds together the architecture and interior design.  If this critical link is not given both thought and skill the architecture and interiors all too often separate and the project becomes disjointed. Houses like Osterley demonstrate just how integral and beautiful architectural joinery can be.

I suppose it is something of a trade secret but the poorly executed architectural joinery which lets down so many ‘high end’ residential projects can be easily dealt with.  A while back I came across Michael Costello. Michael heads up Atkey and Co, a wonderful company producing all manner of door sets, architraves and skirtings all to the highest quality.  But what’s really special about Michael is his academic knowledge. His collection of salvaged original pieces is an invaluable reference library which together with his sensitivity for the fine detail allows joinery to be designed with an authenticity which is lacking amongst many modern projects. So next time you’re faced with a Georgian drawing room and stumped for what would suit the original skirtings and cornices of the rest of the property, make a call.

Art Nouveau in Brussels


Art Nouveau House

Art Nouveau Door Knocker

Art Nouveau Door

In the land of beer, chocolate and waffles, on a recent (purely cultural!) long weekend, I made a visit to the wonderful Musée Horta – the home and studio of prominent Art Nouveau designer and architect Victor Horta. The whole building is meticulously designed and crafted, inside and out, by Horta; from the centrepiece of the house – the stunning cantilever staircase with its intricate balustrade – right down to the smallest keyholes on cabinet doors. The whole décor plays off sinuous organic forms which arc and wind elegantly, integrating the design with the architecture and creating a harmonious, unified interior.  (Sadly no photos are allowed inside!)

Art Nouveau

Horta was a leading figure of the Art Nouveau movement and is credited with being the first to carry the style across from the decorative arts into architecture. His buildings are dotted around the city, including his earliest Art Nouveau building, the Hotel Tassel. In 2000 the museum, along with 3 other Horta-designed townhouses, was awarded UNESCO world heritage status. UNESCO recognises that “the Town Houses of Victor Horta in Brussels are works of human creative genius, representing the highest expression of the influential Art Nouveau style in art and architecture[...]brilliantly illustrating the transition from the 19th to the 20th century in art, thought, and society”.

Art Nouveau ironmongery

Another notable Art Nouveau building in the city is the Museum of Musical Instruments, built in 1899 by Paul Saintenoy. Formerly the ‘Old England’ department store until the museum’s installation there in 1978, the building stands prominently on top of the hill near the Palais Royal and the Musée des Beaux Arts. Its exterior is striking in girded steel and glass, decked out in snaking wrought iron which culminates in an ornamental bell tower, dominating the skyline.

Art Nouveau Museum

Museum musical instruments Brussels

Wrought iron bell tower

Other examples of the Art Nouveau style abound in Brussels, hidden in and amongst the traditional Flemish façades which exemplify the city’s most prominent architectural style. On closer inspection there are Art Nouveau buildings (many of them elegant Belle Epoque bars and cafés) scattered all around the city. The influence of the movement is widespread and Art Nouveau detailing can be found everywhere, particularly in the city’s extensive wrought ironwork. Thanks to Victor Horta, Brussels was at the epicentre of the Art Nouveau movement in architecture; and the legacy of this movement lives on in an architecturally diverse and interesting city full of contrasting styles and characters, which range from the grandiose opulence of the Grand Place’s Flemish façades to the flowing and organic exteriors of Horta’s world heritage houses.

Art Nouveau light

Art Nouveau window

Art Nouveau restaurant  Art Nouveau wrought iron


A Weekend in Milan






Written by our guest blogger Yidan Wang:

“‘Porta Genova,’ the woman said when I asked her where in Milan we might find furniture or lighting stores that would sell independent designs.  Sitting behind an elegant white desk at Meritalia, she wore a colourful African head wrap and spoke in a manner with just the right amount of friendliness.

We continued to walk along Via Durini, passing by some of the world-renowned furniture shops. There were B&B Italia’s contemporary cosmopolitan lifestyle in display, Barovier & Toso’s fragmentedly mirrored reality lit by white Murano chandeliers, and Fendi Casa’s enormous monogram door, opening into a fur-armoured living room. As high maintenance as a living room could be.

At the end of Via Durini we walked down Via della Signora. A crew was filming 1992 with the Italian actor Stefano Accorsi outside the University of Milan. The sunlight shining through the Milanese mist added a more romantic notion to the scene.

Hanging out in Milan, I have always favoured the small streets tucked minutes away from Duomo, mainly because of my young and urbane Milanese friends who led a busy city life. We would have aperitivo in the Art Nouveau Victoria Café, or sometimes stumble upon a book talk or live music in a hip cocktail bar. There the girls often look immaculate all in black, and the men definitely know how to dress well. When it comes to style, men in Milan and Florence are naturals.

Duomo during the day could not be more overwhelming and annoying, just like any other touristy and overpopulated place. But what is so brilliant about Milan is not only a designer bottle of water with a mere price tag of three hundred euros, it is the fact that even a policeman on the street can easily amuse you with a line such as, ‘you’re going window shopping Via Montenapoleone? The new spring and summer collection just came out’.  How quintessentially Milanese!

The next day before the flight back to London, we made a stop at Porta Genova, going south as suggested by the Meritalia woman. The part of Porta Genova near the metro was covered with Graffiti, making this side of Milan a bit like Barcelona or Berlin. Unfortunately for us, even though shops in Milan are closed on Monday mornings, this Sunday none of them appeared to be open either. The mission to speak with some quirky furniture and lighting stores failed miserably.

The day was sunny and warm. Turning on Via Savona, the neighbourhood became trendy, away from the city noises and chaos. Since a few years ago, a lot of big design houses have picked this area as the location of their warehouse showrooms. We were all very fond of the winter garden at Ermenegildo Zagna, where a vividly sculptured white dog laid lazily on a white bench and behind him, stood a white apple, as tall as the double height ground floor space.

We walked into Caffe Savona. The interior was contemporary with a raised kitchen behind its sleek bar. The clientele were artsy and glamorous. My gnocchi with spinach and blue cheese both smelled and tasted heavenly.

Having always cut it short, we had to run to catch the plane again. On the street, a man was playing violin. Incidentally, the melody was dramatic, echoing the panic mode we had just switched on. Whilst we realised we had misread our flight time, the violin also calmed down.  Whether it was the irony, or the quintessential Italian drama, we had a good laugh.”