What a wonderful world. Lavender’s Blue were delighted to be invited to cover the exclusive launch of the Pininfarina Tribute Rally 2013 at the glorious Hurtwood Park Polo Club in Surrey. It got off to a flying start on a gorgeous sunny June weekend. The forthcoming September rally is in honour of the late great creative genius Sergio Pininfarina. It was an outing of the bold and beautiful, and that was just starting with the cars. Sergio’s dashing son Paolo, who has taken over as chairman of the company that carries his family’s name, unveiled for the first time in the UK the concept car made in honour of his father. A helicopter ride over the woodland, a quick spin across the grassland, and Paolo pulled up beside us. The view from the VIP marquee never looked so good.
“I’m sure my father is happy today,” he proudly announced. “This car expresses his spirit. It also represents the past, the present and the future of Pininfarina. History continues forth in the present tradition of excellence in designing, manufacturing and engineering. For the future, it shows the potential for securing new business for Pininfarina. So it is fitting that my father who created so many motoring masterpieces is honoured by this concept car named in his memory. I know he would like it.”
In polo, as we all know, players are rated on a handicap scale of -2 to 10, the higher the better. Talent shines through horsemanship, range of strokes and speed of play. A goal is a goal, whether by pony or rider. The Sergio is an equine athlete in crimson metal and grey leather. Ferrari’s pioneering wind tunnels were exploited to the max during the design process. The low front spoiler, the leading edge of the roll bar behind the cockpit and the passenger compartment are all shaped to enhance air flow. Instead of a windshield, driver and passenger wear helmets. The headrests appear to float as they are attached to the roll bar, not the seats. Holes atop the rear engine recall Pininfarina’s Ferrari 512S Modulo.
To the Georgian Restaurant at Harrods. 8.01pm. Escalators crisscrossing silent marble halls in noble ascent and descent, unencumbered by shoppers. Animals sleeping in the pet store; ghostly dummies casting unmoving shadows in the clothes department; mirrors in the furniture showroom reflecting nobody. But something is aflutter on the top floor.
His Excellency, Monsieur Bernard Emié, French Ambassador to the UK, addresses everyone. “We are here to celebrate the best of French craftsmanship in this flagship of London, this world famous store. This pop up for a month in Harrods shows the very best of the French way of life. ‘Soft power’, that’s what we like to call it. Even if we are paying high taxes in France! Who could imagine a finer setting?”
In between nibbling on Ladureé’s macaroon tree, we talk to our favourite two exhibitors. Grey Tahiti mother of pearl, veined horn, ostrich or pheasant feathers, satin or silk plummets, Duvelleroy couture hand fans combine materiality of worth with craftsmanship of note. Embroiderers, engravers, pleaters, it’s a team effort. The house’s emblem, a daisy stamped on the rivet, provides provenance for prosperity. Fashion designers such as Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Lovisa Burfitt have worked with Duvelleroy. Katy Perry is a fan. So are we.
“Were thrilled to see our fans at Harrods, the kingdom of fashion and retail,” enthuse co owners Eloïse Gilles and Raphaëlle de Panafieu tell us. “It’s a beautiful recognition of the revival of Duvelleroy and one of the best places on earth to meet new clients for modern hand fans. It’s important for us to explain the savoir faire that’s behind each one of these creations and wonderful to be identified as a signature of French style. The Grand Atelier event and Living Heritage Company label offer such an opportunity.”
We’re also fans of La Maison Dissidi. It represents three generations of cabinetmakers from the Rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine furniture district of Paris. Staffed by a team of highly qualified craftsmen, chief exec Dominique Roitel tells us: “La Maison Dissidi is a depository of ancestral savoir faire creating pieces of unsurpassed quality.” The company specialises in the reproduction of traditional furniture and wainscoting but also has the wherewithal to create contemporary items.
“The little desk presented in the ground floor shop window of Harrods,” Dominique points out, “is a copy of a piece of French furniture circa 1740. It is entirely handmade in our Parisian workshop and finished in French varnish with contrasting bronze gilded gold and black leather.” Perfect for the Countess to write letters from her home in Mayfair.
The sun waxes hot, shining forth on a cloudless afternoon. There’s only one place to see and be seen. ME London’s rooftop terrace bar, Radio. The terrace is chocca full of people with corner offices. People in pastel hued trousers. People like us. Dance music is already upping the tempo – this party starts early and ends late. 3am to be precise. The glamorous and amorous laze around on linen shrouded daybeds or dine under curtained canopies next to glass balustrades. At the eastern end of the terrace, the ornate gable of neighbouring Marconi House rises like a curling and swirling treble clef carved of stone. The western end reaches a crescendo with Suite ME, a bass clef in glass, yours for £3,816 a night.
On the corner where the Strand meets Aldwych, Foster + Partners have designed this 10 storey five star three sided hotel from plinth to parapet, taps to tiles, oriels to aerials. Nothing is left to chance, no detail overlooked. In reverse Larkin, the terrace is shaped to the first to come. Cocktails are full of punch and puns: On Top of ME, Radio Active, Waterloo Sunset. Self indulgence continues abreast with grilled Spanish octopus, pickled onion and olives followed by marinated grilled sea bass with almond aioli. Piquant and pitch perfect. Then Manchego, fig bread and poached quince. Pudding, like revenge, is best served cold. The taste of summer. Sometimes glamour is medicinal. It peps and lifts the spirit. It makes up for everything that’s ever gone wrong in life. It’s a tonic.
Panoramic views embrace the skyscrapers defining and redefining our capital’s skyline, each with a sobriquet to honour its outline. The Cheese Grater, the Helter Skelter, the Shard, the Walkie Talkie, the Pepper Pot. Ok we made up the last one but you get the picture. Closer by, across the Strand, is a picturesque jumble of chimneypots and skylights and greenhouses hidden in the valleys between the double pitched roofs. Intimate domestic activity of homes shaped to the last to go. Whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. A day of small things. And we said, oh that we had wings like a dove! For then would we fly away, and be at rest. There’s nothing new under the sun, but there’s plenty to wax lyrical about ME London’s rooftop terrace bar, Radio.
Decisions, decisions. There may not be as many approaches to architectural criticism as there are to architectural style but there are still plenty around for sure. The formal approach championed by Huxtable. Historical by the likes of Goldberger. Experiential by Muschamp. Activist by Sorkin. So on and so forth. This essay relies on a combination of formal and historical as befits its subject. The Mumford (not & Sons) walkthrough is adopted with its emphasis on the visual. A sprinkling of the sustainable approach is added to the mix. It’s a tale of two architects two centuries apart anchored by continuing moments of beauty. Dr Roderick O’Donnell, one of London’s leading architectural historians, is on standby for sound bites.
But this essay isn’t about No.10. Although the neighbouring building may be significantly lower in scale, its dignified presence holds its own. Welcome to Trinity House, Trinity Square. Samuel Wyatt’s masterpiece, an authoritative assimilation of Greco Roman style. Over to Rory: “His younger and better known brother James is more flash. Samuel is a much more controlled architect – he’s not headline. He is best known for designing a series of sold satisfying small country houses.” Isabella Blow’s family seat Doddington is one example. Built in the 1790s, Trinity House displays the Wyatt dynasty’s love of the lateral. “Horizontal emphasis is a Wyatt trait,” confirms Rory.
The ground floor is presented as a channelled stone rusticated podium with the order raised above framing the principal floor. The central segmental arched doorway is set in a three bay reticent recess flanked on either side by single bay projections with segmental arched tripartite windows. These deferential round headed apertures act as a counterpoint to overall elevational orthogonality. Upstairs, paired unfluted Greek Ionic pilasters distinguish the outer bays. Just as François Mansart gave his name to a certain type of roof, James Wyatt popularised a window type. The Wyatt window is a tripartite arrangement resembling a Palladian window (another eponymous architectural term) with the arch omitted and the entablature carried over the wider central window. Samuel places Wyatt windows over the doorway and on the first floor of the outer bays. Matching unfluted Greek Ionic columns frame the central bay with single windows on either side. Balustraded aprons fill the space below the five windows. Above, relief panels display nautical emblems and together with a couple of busty mermen hint at the building’s use. A dentilled cornice over a plain entablature surmounts the façade.
The side elevation to the left is five bays wide but squeezes in an extra floor at entablature level, resulting in a more domestic scale and character. Wyatt continues the rustication of the ground floor. A string course is the only decoration on the upper two floors. There is no rear elevation. The building abuts others behind. To the right of Wyatt’s façade is a 1950s extension by Albert Richardson. Yikes! The era that taste forgot. Fear not. Richardson’s addition is a lesson in architectural good manners. Rory pronounces, “Richardson’s work prolongs the lines of the original but is kept subordinate by setting back the two bay link and differentiating the appearance through the very subtle use of light brick on the upper storey.” A three sided canted bay terminates the Tower Hill frontage. A full stop. Richardson repeats the ground floor rustication and introduces another Wyatt window in the middle of the canted projection. Look now: the two angled walls are slightly recessed. Look up: this seemingly minor detail magnifies to create an almost pagoda effect when the cornice is viewed from the forecourt.
“The roof usually isn’t visible in classical architecture,” explains Rory, “so Richardson correctly treats it as a separate architectural entity. He clad it in copper. Richardson enjoyed and was adept at working with metals. His Financial Times building near St Paul’s, the first post war building in England to be listed, incorporates bronze framed casements and cornices trimmed with copper.” The wrought iron weathervane of a 16th century ship jauntily perched on a copper ball provides the finial. An exclamation mark! The side elevation to the right of the frontage appears as one large canted bay with three central openings. A flying first floor wing links this elevation to the building behind. Again Richardson uses metal: an expanse of glass on either side is framed in bronze with rosettes crowning the joins.
Back to Rory: “Richardson was a very competent Georgian revival architect. He was a neo Georgian in every sense – he lit his house with candles and wore 18th century costume. Richardson wasn’t interested in Soane – he would have considered him too radical, not Georgian enough. He wanted to revive Georgian architecture and wasn’t interested in developing a big commercial practice. Unlike the boring hackneyed neo Palladian architects of today, Richardson was his own man. “
Ding-a-ling-ling. Time to go indoors. What’s the relationship of container to contents? That’s a question for the Nazis to answer. A World War II bomb landed on the, er, landing on a Saturday evening in 1940. The ensuing fire gutted the building. Although the furniture was destroyed, the paintings, silver and records were fortuitously in storage. Richardson reconstituted a slightly streamlined version of Wyatt’s interiors relying on 1919 Country Life photographs. “Most of the rooms, certainly in the original block, look like convincing 18th century interiors,” Rory reckons. Richardson excels at imbuing space with meaning. A sense of scale and proportion is achieved through carefully controlled containment, boundaries and direction. The low ceiling of the entrance hall accentuates the dramatic sequence of what lies beyond – and above. Applied decoration in the entrance hall takes the form of incised panels and niches holding lighthouses. A further clue to the building’s use. Walking past the ground floor timber panelled cloakroom, Rory observes, “So much of Richardson’s detailing is implied, reticent, recessed rather than extruded.”
A pair of Roman Doric columns with gilded capitals, sea green scagliola shafts and black bases heralds the approach to the staircase hall. This tripartite opening is an unglazed variation of the Wyatt window and is a recurring motif throughout the building. Just as the stairway is one of the great architectural problems, so Wyatt’s is one of the great solutions. On axis of the entrance door the staircase is both complexly configured and perfectly, restfully modulated. The upper two treads of the first flight bow inwards as if in anticipation of the bowed flights to come. Such rhythm of compression and vertical expansion of space stretching heavenward to a clerestory and trompe l’oeil ceiling. The stone treads cantilevering out from the great semicircular apse. The fine wrought iron balustrade with anthemion panels. Sometimes they do it right. Wyatt and Richardson making waves. A tongue shaped secondary staircase slips in behind the main event. Entablatures of Ionic columns facing the landing carry mini galleries with balustrades and pairs of caryatids. Rory spots a sea change in design direction. “The introduction of the Ionic order gives a different flavour to this floor. It suggests thinking, something more intellectual.”
Off the landing is the Court Room. It’s the same size as the three bay entrance hall below but has a high ceiling above a deep cove. A trompe l’oeil sky by Glyn Jones adds to the feeling of latitude. “Jones was a very ambitious figurative painter of the mid 20th century,” notes Rory. This room has the character of a country house saloon. A gilt framed mirror stands over the while marble with ormolu detail fireplace. Six full length majestic regal portraits grace the walls: George III and Queen Charlotte by Gainsborough Dupont; William IV and Queen Adelaide by Wills Beechey; Edward VII by Frank Holl and George V by John Collier. A hemicycle shaped wine table sits on the Killybegs woollen carpet. Tall double mahogany doors with ormolu escutcheons open into the Luncheon Room. Oyster sea shell pink wallpaper awaits.
The first floor of Richardson’s wing contains three main interconnecting rooms. The intimate Reading Room, the large Library and an annex called the Pepys Room which is lit by the metal framed windows. At first the Library’s function is not apparent as the books are concealed behind doors in the panelling. The two ends are treated as ellipses with the south end accommodated in the projecting canted bay. Stained glass dating from the 16th century is placed in the sashes. “I think one would know this is a 20th century room. It’s very pretty with beautiful detailing based in the vernacular,” observes Rory. “In using the term ‘vernacular’ I am of course referring to domestic Georgian architecture. ‘High street Georgian’ to coin a phrase.” He’s on a roll. “There are extensive drawings in his seminal publication Regional Architecture of the West of England. For example, Richardson meticulously studies traditional shop fronts. The inventiveness and attention to detail – look again at the Library panelling, the Pepys Room fenestration – are clearly derived from his studies.”
Complements, compliments. Time to reflect on the architecture once more. This is a building by two designers or engineers or engineer designers working at the height of their powers, a complete work of substance. Future proofing, to use the latest dire planning jargon, was probably not top of Wyatt’s agenda. But his architecture remains aesthetically pleasing to the modern eye and with Richardson’s help has adapted well to contemporary requirements. That’s what’s called… eek more planningease… sustainable development. Stop. In a final Huxtablesque moment, the scale of the building, the subtlety and seriousness of the architectural style and material, of sculpted stone and smooth brick; the visible and tangible continuity of London’s Georgian tradition; the accent and nuance – colour, size, style, massing, space, light, dark, solids, voids, highs and lows – all are just right.
There was even more than usual to celebrate at this year’s Inchbald School of Design Spring Lunch. Over 80 percent employment success rate for last year’s crop of graduates (the post boom national average hovers below 30 percent) would be enough for most schools to uncork the champers. But there’s more. The trailblazing founder and Principal, Jacqueline Duncan, has ensured the school has now remained top of its game for more than half a century. There’s more still. The icing on the baked vanilla cheesecake with berry compote is Jacqueline has been awarded the Order of the British Empire. Her husband, Colonel Duncan, raised the toast to her accomplishments at the Cavalry and Guards Club on Piccadilly.
Looking immaculate as ever, in between courses of home cured gravadlax, asparagus, charred artichoke and quails egg salad followed by poached salmon and fennel carpaccio, Jacqueline revealed the origins of Inchbald. “My first husband (who died recently) Michael Inchbald and I had a big house in Chelsea. We’d a 40 foot long drawing room. Upstairs was a big apartment on the first floor. We had dances there but otherwise it was an empty space.” Jacqueline soon had plans for putting it to good use.
“I’d no managerial experience. Before getting married I worked as a secretary and then I became an antiques dealer.” This didn’t hinder her deciding to launch the first interior design school in Europe. The year was 1960. “It was terrifying! I needed seven students to cover costs for the first term. The Monday before it opened I had my first applicant. That was all. But by the following Monday I had eight. It did become less terrifying as time went on. The following September I had 40 students.” Inchbald was the first of its kind to offer interior designers qualifications leading to professional status.
So what is the secret of her success – and longevity? Turns out to be a mixture of things. “I employed very good lecturers from the outset. Most of them were practising designers themselves. We ran a very successful PR campaign. It was fantastic! I didn’t lose a night’s sleep. It was a lot of hard work though.” The hard work has paid off. Inchbald’s syllabus now ranges from postgraduate and masters courses to introductory online courses. The internationally renowned school embraces interior design, interior decoration and garden design. It’s long outgrown Jacqueline’s former first floor apartment. “We now have six directors at our school at Eaton Gate and Eccleston Square,” she confirms.
An OBE for services to design is the latest and greatest accolade to be bestowed upon the debonair doyenne of design. “I stick with quality! It’s terribly important to me. Other people don’t. I’m so particular about quality,” Jacqueline emphasises. This is the lady who told Mrs Thatcher to go get her hair sorted and gave the then prime minister the name of her own hairdressers. Mrs T was spotted in the salon the following week. “Extending the perception of quality is Inchbald’s underlying philosophy. It’s been a lifetime’s work.”
Jacqueline Duncan still carries out her Monday and Friday morning walkabouts of Inchbald. She’s a lot to be proud of as the school continues to go from strength to strength. Alumni set up their own practices like Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill and Nina Campbell or go to work for high end companies such as Candy & Candy. But instead she is incredibly modest. And great fun. “Is your grandmother still working?” she asks with a twinkle in her eye.
There are the golden postcodes of Belgravia, Chelsea, Kensington, Knightsbridge and Mayfair. Then there is the platinum Knightsbridge address of Basil Street, sandwiched between Harrods and Harvey Nics. Bronze torches light the winter’s night. Silver railings cordon off a red carpet. Welcome to The Lansbury. Beware, the bling ends at the front door (except perhaps for beetroot macaroons at the launch party).
Developer Finchatton’s latest offering is a slender sliver of a corner apartment block rising six (visible) storeys. Walls hewn from sandstone form a deeply incised but relatively unadorned skin. What a welcome relief (no pun) from the brick Accordia-lite which has come to dominate domestic architecture in the capital. Shallow rectangular projecting bays provide a nod to nearby mansion blocks. The Lansbury’s architecture has a restrained permanence, the antithesis of pop up culture. It doesn’t compete for attention with its chunkier period neighbours. Period. Instead it commands material consideration (stop the puns!) through quality and subtlety.
“Our style is very considered,” says Andrew Dunn, one half of Finchatton’s founders. “It’s not blingy and bright and flashy. The Lansbury embodies our core values: utmost quality and attention to detail, contemporary design with reference to heritage and longevity, and exceptional servicing.” Co founder Alex Michelin adds, “Everything’s custom made and bespoke. We designed every single piece.” As it turns out, even the napkins.
The look is art deco influenced. The ethic is arts and crafts inspired. The art is intrinsic to the whole. “It’s a slightly different organic sensibility,” says Jiin Kim-Inoue, Finchatton’s Head of Design. “Harmonious, inviting, an almost lived in look… The rooms shouldn’t be loud, not with such an incredible view.” Across the road, golden illuminated letters shout “Harrods!” “We’ve used fibres such as wool, cashmere and horsehair, combining them with metals and other natural materials to create cleverly textured surroundings. Walnut and polished sycamore work with bronze, brass and steel. Nero Argento marble and crystal sit alongside buffalo horn and shagreen.”
Monochromatic Mondrianic mirror mouldings, television surrounds and bookcases complemented by infusions of jewel tones: amethyst, garnet, sapphire. Book matched black marble bathrooms and vein matched white marble bathrooms. Herringbone, hessian, pinstripe, check. Check. Soft calf leather banister rails sewn on site. Stingray leather covered desks. The haves and the have lots are demanding.
The upper level of the 280 square metre duplex penthouse opens onto a roof terrace, an airy eyrie. Seating is arranged round a glass floor which doubles as the kitchen ceiling below. Spying on the chef has never been so easy. Later in the evening, a purchaser will pay a cool £1 million over the asking price for the penthouse. The communal elevator descends past three 170 square metre lateral apartments and a 130 square metre duplex apartment before reaching the ground floor triplex. This apartment dramatically drops two storeys below ground. Only in London would subterranean living be a high. One lower ground floor bedroom overlooks a three storey void; the other, a living wall in a light well. A cinema, gym and temperature controlled wine cellar – must haves – occupy the lowest level.
The Lansbury is timeless yet capable of registering the passage of time. The concise correlation between outer order and inner sanctum is a deeply felt subliminal recognition. Finchatton establishes a layered yet cohesive language through an association of material and space, a sense of balance, an understanding of the uplifting effects that space and light have on the human spirit.
As John Bennett wrote, “Wherever men have lived and moved and their being, hoped, feared, succeeded, failed, loved, laughed, been happy, lost, mourned, died, were beloved or detested, there remains forever a something, intangible and tenuous as thought, a sentience very like a soul, which abides forever in the speechless walls.”
New year, new article, new collaboration. In a world exclusive, you heard it here first. Chivas Regal 18 Year Old and Pininfarina have come together for the first time to create a limited edition. Under wraps until now, we are delighted to reveal – breaking with Scotch whisky tradition – the three expressions of the Chivas 18 by Pininfarina limited edition.
Paolo Pininfarina himself provides the headline: “Italian style means a sense of proportion, simplicity and harmony of line and we applied this sensibility to the designs we developed for Chivas 18.” Both companies share a rich heritage in crafting stimulating experiences in luxury. Pininfarina has been trailblazing Italian design and engineering since 1930. Established in 1909, master brand Chivas Regal is the original luxury whisky blend. Pininfarina’s Creative Director, Paolo Trevisan, also recognises the spirit (no pun) of the partnership. “We both have passion and strong knowledge. Pininfarina design is about aerodynamics, how air affects shape. Chivas 18, naturally, is symbolised by liquid. I was fascinated to learn that each drop of Chivas 18 captures 85 flavours. Multisensory complexity yet delivered with such precision. The partnership was a perfect marriage of values and mutual respect. It’s been inspiring.” That inspiration takes the form of a streamlined drop. It unites both houses in their ongoing quest for beauty, harmony and, ultimately, pleasure.
And now for Limited Edition 1. A blue metallic finished outer case is reminiscent of prestigious car metalwork. The rich wood veneer interior represents the oak barrels intrinsic to the ageing process of Chivas 18. Paolo Pininfarina calls this “the cold and warm effect”. All three expressions include a specially designed bottle of Chivas 18 with Pininfarina’s design notes visible on the metalised crest. The Italian company’s logo is proudly emblazoned on the capsule and neck wrap. A mere snip at £90 (that’s the Duty Free price so pick it up on your return from Rosa Alpina).
Limited Edition 2 features the same design cues while taking the expression of the partnership further. It features a solid wood inlay and is even more aerodynamic. Proudly presenting the limited edition bottle, it also includes two glasses designed by Pininfarina which reflect the drop design. Each unit is individually numbered to highlight its limited edition status. Perfect for opening in the limo back home from the airport. Yours for £360.
Colin Scott is Master Blender of Chivas Regal. He developed an early passion for Scotch whisky growing up near an Orkney distillery. Colin is the third generation of his family to dedicate their lives to the whisky industry. As guardian of the renowned Chivas Regal signature style, he says, “Chivas 18 is smooth, flowing, excellent, warming. Scottish culture glorifies craftsmanship. Pininfarina’s glass references the drop. It sits beautifully in your hand – a translation of exceptional harmony in every drink. Limited Edition 2 takes Chivas 18 to another stratosphere.” Chivas 18 Mascherone by Pininfarina is the ultimate status symbol for your home. Inspired by the mascherone, the original wooden frame that was used to refine automobile shapes, it marks the pinnacle of the partnership. Hand assembled in Cambiano by Pininfarina, Limited Edition 3 has an oak internal structure clad in aluminium. Illumination from the base brings this collector’s piece to life. Only five Mascherones will be on display globally. Otherwise, it’s made to order. If you have to ask, chances are you can’t afford it.
Lunch with Paolo Pininfarina at the Louise Blouin Foundation. Outside, the November sky is unseasonably blue. Inside, the converted warehouse is simply white. It’s the backdrop to the tv series Four Rooms. Lunch was a suitably scrumptuous Italian affair. Antipasta served with Italian breads. Wild mushroom pappardelle with rosemary oil, toasted hazelnuts and parmesan. Panna cotta with autumn berries. Coffee and petit fours.
“London has such elegant blue skies,” observes Paolo and then qualifies the statement adding, “Sometimes!”. He says, “Blue is the institutional colour of our brand.” It’s more than 80 years since Battista “Pinin” Farina signed the deed founding Società Anonima Carrozzeria Pinin Farina in Turin. His grandson leads what has become an industrial design powerhouse and global partner to the motor industry.
“Design is what we have been about since the beginning,” says Paolo. “We use our knowledge to create for the future… to create magic!” Pininfarina’s automotive clients include Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati among others. Custom built luxury models take Pininfarina back to its roots, back two generations. Take the Hyperion (or at least you could if you’d a couple of million pounds to spare).
Created in Italy, this opulent one-off roadster takes up the legacy of Rolls-Royces designed by Pininfarina. Silver Dawn saloon of 1951, Camargue coupé of 1975… it has an illustrious heritage. The car is named after one of the Titans of Greek mythology, emphasising its architectural and figurative power.
The concept behind the Hyperion was to create a custom built car that would evoke the sumptuousness of 1930s driving. A majestic regal bonnet which surges forward, a body surrounding the driver and a single passenger, and an elegantly short tail were all musts. The result is a 21st century model firmly rooted in the values of the Pininfarina and Rolls-Royce brands. Structurally, Pininfarina moved the driving position back 400mm and took out the rear seats. A new style of hood was designed which folds behind the seats under a wood lined cover.
The iconic (for once the adjective is truly deserved) Rolls-Royce grille has been slightly inclined. An upper trapezoid part aerodynamically links to the engine hood. Recessed Bixenon headlights convey sportiness. The bonnet is underlined by the muscular taut wings. An illusion of movement even when the car is stationary is provided by extending the line that embraces the front wheels until it disappears into the hood cover. The rear end recalls Pininfarina’s legendary ‘Berlinettas’ of the 1950s and 60s with their cut off tails inclined downwards and a flat closure borrowed from boat building.
The bodywork is made of carbon guaranteeing geometrical accuracy, high rigidity and unexpected lightness. External and internal wooden finishing is another nautical reference. The doors are made of fine solid wood by craftsmen employing technologies used to create components for luxury yachts. A watch designed by Girard-Perregaux specially for the Hyperion can be removed from the dashboard and worn.
Hyperion is blue. Azure blue, the aquamarine of a hazy day on the ocean. Pininfarina has just completed a collaboration with another leading brand Paolo tells us in confidence. “Blue is the colour of both our companies,” he confides. We’ll keep you posted.
Griege. It’s the oligarch agent’s choice of colour from Belsize Park to Belgrave Square. Ban it. Griege is dull. Safe. Predictable. Life should be black and white with a dash of colour provided by Lavender’s Blue. So it was with a huge sense of relief as we gingerly – ever the shrinking violets – arrived at the Grosvenor House Apartments penthouse party.
Wow! Monochrome hasn’t looked this good since Anouska Hempel styled her eponymous hotel in Amsterdam. Entering the penthouse, via a high speed private lift of course, was like being inserted into a CGI. Writer and broadcaster and general bon viveur Lady Lucinda Lambton recently regaled us with her story of Monkton House, a Sir Edwin Lutyens building transformed by Edward Jones into the 1930s Surrealist style.
Exactly 90 years since construction was completed on Grosvenor House, another Lutyens building, it too has been transformed. This time into reverse hyperrealism (think about it and then catch up). The penthouse interior is undeniably second decade 21st century. It is defined and refined by rows of black framed neo Georgian sash windows and French doors which encircle the rooms like silent sentinels surveying the controlled decoration. This definition and refinement suggest a computer still, a mise-en-scène for the 20 centimetre screen.
Turns out Anouska aka Lady Weinberg, Bond girl turned society gal turned Renaissance woman, actually was the interior designer. A renowned perfectionist, she recently told FT: “I’m a control freak. We do it my way unless you’ve got a better way… Every now and again one of the little people suggests an alternative way of doing things, I say, “You are brilliant, thank you!” And then Anouska does it her own way.
The excuse for the party, if one was needed, was the launch of Jumeirah Living’s At Home. This programme introduces residents to a different aspect of luxury London living each month. Canapés and cocktails by award winning chef Adam Byatt (moreish mussels and multi coloured macaroons), a private viewing of artist designer Mark Humphrey’s first solo show Art in Life and piano playing in the hallway promoted the programme with impressive aplomb.
General Manager Astrid Bray declared, “We are delighted to host Mark Humphrey’s innovative collection Diamonds and Flames. He shows a true talent and his art perfectly complements our aesthetic. We feel Mark’s pieces, mixing classic skills of design with contemporary touches, will further set apart our hotel apartments. We’re combining the discretion of an exclusive Mayfair residence with a more private form of luxury and an immediate sense of home. We’ve people staying three days or a whole year. We’ve all of those!”
Precisely nine decades later, General Editor of the Survey of London Hermione Hobhouse’s words have turned full circle: “The Grosvenor House of the Dukes of Westminster has become the Grosvenor House of innumerable misters.” Now it’s possible again to live like a duke. A 24 hour butler caters for nights in and an Aston Martin Rapide for days out. The aptly named Grosvenor is the largest penthouse. At 448 square metres it’s the size of a decent townhouse.
Grosvenor House greedily grabs two of Mayfair’s golden addresses, Mount Street and Park Lane. A corner site, its terraces benefit from sweeping views across Hyde Park. If residents care to leave the privacy of their apartments, they can lounge in the second floor atrium. Thrillingly open seven storeys to the glass roof, the atrium is a cathedral to relaxation.
To paraphrase (or should that be plagiarise?) the hyperbolic alliterative Lucinda, the Grosvenor House Apartments positively bristle with the beautiful. They are a delight to be in and come up to sensational scratch. Jumeirah Living has proved itself to be a plum player in the field.
The Natural Audi project is a collaboration between the Audi Design Team based in Ingolstadt and London’s RCA. The 10 final designs were presented to a VIP audience which included leading figures from the design industry and Lavender’s Blue.
Earlier, arriving in a chauffeur driven Audi R8, doormen running at the ready on arrival, helped get the evening off to a good start.
An open brief without limits was stimulated by the ‘natural’ remit. Student talent rose to the challenge and then some, exploring all sorts from magnetic levitation to biochemical sensors with the goal to enhance the relationship between machine and human.
Frank Rimili and Christine Labonte from the Audi Design team mentored the students. He says of this fusion of design and technology:
“At Audi Design we are constantly searching for input to widen our horizons. This time we chose to work with young designers, some of who are in disciplines other than vehicle design, such as fashion and textiles, to open our minds to exciting, groundbreaking and innovative ideas.”
Talking in the top floor gallery of the Audi Quattro Rooms, its rounded skylight reminiscent of a gargantuan car sun roof, Audi Designer Dr Cornelia Menzel told us,
“We are always ahead of our time with our thoughts. We are very curious and are looking for an intellectual discussion with the generation ahead of us. London being so international is a melting pot of creative freedom. When you design a car it should look like it’s moving even when it’s still. A car should appeal to our five senses.”
True to form, the 2012 Audi Urban Future Award is taking place at this year’s Design Biennale. In Istanbul. This time it’s architecture. The aim is to develop an online layer of the physical city which can enhance the efficiency, fun and social interactivity of future mobility. Suitcases at the ready. Vorsprung durch Technik.