Monday, July 27, 2009

Some Sketches

I'm getting ready to move - always a daunting task - so have not had anytime to blog.
Tonight was going through sketch books and decided to scan a few of my favorites. Sometimes when thrown all together they can make interesting juxtapositions and spark an idea.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Berlin's Reichstag: These Walls Talk

Reichstag exterior with Norman Foster's glass dome

Victorious Soviet graffiti on interior walls wow.

Close Up of Graffiti

"You have paid dearly for Lenigrad"

Another big highlight of Berlin for me was my tour of the Reichstag. Norman Foster's glass dome and Jenny Holzer's art work were both really striking but it was the graffiti on the walls that had the greatest impact on me. Here's the deal:
When Soviet troops took Berlin in 1945 they scrawled victorious graffiti all over the interior walls of the building. The words were then hidden for decades when the walls were covered up after the war. When Norman Foster and his team began work on the building in 1995 they were rediscovered. Foster then made the courageous decision to incorporate them into the new structure: in order to make the Reichstag a living museum of German history and show a brave determination not to forget the tragedies of the past. Methinks such a courageous decision!!

The photo above contains the graffiti I found the most striking: These 6 Russian words translate as
"You have paid dearly for Lenigrad".
Gave me chills.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Good Egg: Congrats and Thank you

Toronto Life cover - on stands now

Mika's sweet shop in Kensington Market Toronto

Congrats and thank you are due to my friend Mika Bareket. Her shop Good Egg made it onto the first page of Toronto Life magazine's 'Best of the city' issue complete with big colour photo. whoo hoo. Mika also recently included a link to my blog on her website naming me one of her favorite design bloggers. Thanks for the plug Mika and nice to know you find my remarks "pithy".

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Scandinavia wrap up: Top 10 Design ideas we ought to import to Canada

1.Outdoor squares. So civilized.

2.Cafés with couches in the street. So cozy.

3.More interesting and functional bikes (This one holds a family of 4!)

4.Dual Flush Toliets!!

5.Proper bike lanes (I know, painfully obvious)

6.Signs in Subway that let you know when the next train is coming!

7.Handsome clocks in train stations

8.Bike rack Advertising

9.Bike seat covers (If you are a cyclist you know how handy these would be).

10.Umlauts. Because everything looks so much better with an umlaut.
Right Brüno?

I'm back home. Still lots to post from Berlin, Copenhagen and Reykjavik.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Peggy Kurtin 1932- 2009

With sadness I announce that my wonderful landlady Peggy Kurtin passed away this past Monday. Peggy was incredibly active in the community: once described in the Globe and Mail as "the redoubtable force of Cabbagetown".
She served on the board of the Toronto Historical Association, the Cabbagetown Preservation Association and was a member of the Ontario Heritage Board. She received many awards for her heritage and community work including the Lieutenant Governor 's award and the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal.
She was a true inspiration and will be dearly missed.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

New work : Food quotes

Inspired by all the great signs, lettering and wall art in Stockholm and Berlin I set up a little painting station in my hotel and painted a page of food quotes using watercolour. I liked juxtaposing a funny quote by Woody Allen with the more serious of Brillat-Savarin. I plan to blow this up and turn into a mural.


One of many "Shop signs'

Another shop sign: this one for a book binder

One of so many great bikes

View of my balcony overlooking the hotel's courtyard

Tranquil canopy bed

Cozy courtyard at the hotel with Rent-a-bikes in background.
At night the staff brought out twinkling lanterns.
It was so damn cozy (Or as the Danes would say : Hygge was achieved! - see notes below)

Design highlights: from Copenhagen

1. Bikes, Bikes, Bikes.
So beautiful I want to photograph them all

2. The houses. Sigh.

3. The 'identification signs' which hang over shops.
An old tradition which adds a sense of whimsy to each place of business.

4. My hotel!

Bertrams Hotel Guldsmeden
5 stars. Highly recommended.
I found this hotel on the internet and was taken with the unusual Bali influenced decor including a canopy bed, lots of wood, and fabulous rugs.
In person it did not disappoint!
The hotel and rooms were incredibly beautiful + tranquil - i think the nicest I've ever seen -- and the staff were great too. Upon arrival we were offered a welcome drink in the lovely courtyard café which I think is a very nice touch. They also had several bikes on hand which could be rented for a day or week. (Without a doubt the best way to get around Copenhagen!)
If you go I recommend requesting a room with a balcony that overlooks the courtyard.
See photo. Sigh.

And now a cultural lesson:
Every detail in the hotel was focused to create hygge which is a very important concept for the Danes.
Hygge is hard to pronounce and impossible to define precisely. Roughly translated, the word means cozy, but it's far more nuanced than that. Incorporating all things warm, fuzzy, and comforting, hygge is a distinctly Danish thing that embodies the highest aspirations of the culture. It's a kind of super-gemütlich state of well-being, an internal feng shui. It's the happy glow you get sitting around a fireplace on a winter evening. Drinking schnapps. Snacking heavily. Lounging in a woolly sweater on a soft Arne Jacobsen "egg" chair and sensing that there is, in fact, nothing rotten in the state of Denmark.
(From Conde Nast traveller)

Berlin: Signs and lettering

As always when I travel, I am drawn to signs and lettering

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Berlin: Some images

Plaques indicating where the wall used to be are all over the city.
(Very handy if one gets lost!)
ps. Yes I always wear the same shoes.

Jewish museum by Daniel Libeskind - Intense.

Fantastic cafe in Prenzlauerberg
Loved the gigantic bunch of flowers on the communal table, the seat cushions, and the dark wood against a pure white interior. Very welcoming.

Norman Foster's eagle at the Reichstag

All the bikes at the U Bahnhof

Photograph from Holocaust Memorial
This is photograph of a protest along the Kurfurstendamm after the war. Protesters wore their uniforms from the camps. wow.

Holocaust Memorial designed by architect Peter Eisenman

One of so many beautiful courtyards

Sanssoucci beauty

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Berlin: Martin Haake and Olaf Hajek

Olaf shows me his portfolio while Martin works at his desk in background

Martin with one of his inspirational books (and mine): This is New York by Sasek

Olaf in the computer section of the studio

Olaf's paints and some paintings - beautiful!!

A rug created out of one of Olaf's paintings which hangs in the OLIV cafe in Mitte.

On Tuesday I interviewed the illustrators Olaf Hajek and Martin Haake in their wonderful shared studio in Mitte.
I will be posting my notes from our interview on Sunday but for now a few photos of their fantastic studio. ps. They are as nice as they are talented.