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As the Covid-19 pandemic rages across the world, an increasing number of influential figures from the worlds of design and architecture are succumbing to the virus.
Luigi Feltrin, founder, former CEO and honorary president of the Italian design brand Arper, has passed away age 85. Feltrin established Arper in 1989 with his sons Claudio and Mauro, with an initial focus on furniture manufacturer before gradually fanning out into more a holistic design approach. ‘We say goodbye,’ said the brand, ‘to a father, a grandfather, a life partner, a guide and a mentor for the entire company. A dreamer who managed to realise his dream — of which Arper is the living proof.’
The British-born, America-based architect Michael McKinnell has passed away age 84. McKinnell shot to prominence in the 1960s with the brutalist masterpiece Boston City Hall. Designed with his colleague and former tutor Gerhard Kallmann and entered into competition before either had built anything, its aperture-studded facade promised openness and democratic access. McKinnell and Kallmann went to design numerous other buildings across the city and were appointed to the Harvard Graduate School of Design. From the late 1970s, the pair worked on a string of buildings around the world.
In the week the White House attempted to bar mask exports from the US, tech superpower Apple has joined various other companies in providing medical supplies. CEO Tim Cook announced a company-spanning project to design, engineer, package and supply face shield to health workers. Apple plans to ship a enormous 1million of such shields a week, both in the US and internationally. Apple join a diverse range of manufacturers and unlikely companies and facilities across the world now producing vital equipment to help tackle the outbreak, including Elon Musk’s Tesla, Nike and even an Iranian mosque which was turned into a workshop producing face masks.
The pandemic has continued to batter Britain’s architecture sector. A RIBA survey found that 79 per cent of practices have reported project delays. 57 per cent, meanwhile, have seen their turnover fall. The economic shock has hit firms of all sizes. Earlier this week, Foster + Partners, Britain’s second biggest architecture firm, has asked all employees to take a 20 per cent pay cut, and began to furlough staff. And today, RIBA itself announced it would be furloughing its own staff.
GOING GOING GONE
As countries across the world struggle to support their medical staff, some in the design world have hit on a novel way to contribute. In New York, interior design studio General Assembly have launched At Home, featuring works by 40 designers from the metropolis including Amit Greenberg, Apparatus, CCKW and Matter. Proceeds will go to Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid organisation working to provide personal protective equipment to health workers. The auction closes 12 April.
And in Milan, design consultancy Mr. Lawrence and auction house Cambi have teamed up for Design Loves Milano, an online charity auction of limited edition pieces which will take place on 12 May. Donors include Faye Toogood, Formafantasma, Muller San Severen, Richard Hutten and Studio Wieki Somers, and the process will go to Milan’s Ospedale Luigi Sacco.
The Negroni Talks — a series of lively, often provocative discussion evenings hosted by architecture studio fourth_space at its Venetian restaurant Ombra in London— has announced its first online instalment. Inspired by the fervid conservation of fin de siecle European cafe culture, topics to date have included bullying, privilege and gender inequality in architecture. The inaugural online edition — themed The Joy of Architecture: Does fun follow form function fear & finance — will broadcast on 21 April, and will feature among others Space Popular, Baxendale Studio and chair Jane Clossick of Cass Cities. You can register to attend on Eventbrite. In the meantime, the 20 previous talks are being uploaded as podcasts on Soundcloud and Spotify.
As lockdowns become the new normal, children sequestered from their schools can be forgiven for getting itchy fingers. Designers from the James Dyson Foundation have come up with one solution. Available as a single free download, Challenge Cards presents a series of creative science and engineering tasks for children aged seven and above using household objects. Challenges, which tend towards the novel, including constructing balloon cars, human-bearing cardboard chairs and spaghetti bridges. Parents are encouraged to tweet their children’s efforts with the tag #JDFChallenge.
While hundreds of museums and galleries are offering virtual tours of one kind or another, modern British art-focused Hastings Contemporary is pushing one step further. Would-be visitors are able to walk around the gallery through the eyes of a videoconferencing robot, developed by Double Robotics in collaboration with D3D project, Accentuate UK and Bristol Robot Lab.
There are few habitual internet traps more irritating than dropping a pin on Google Maps to enter Street View, only to find you’ve been beamed into a cafeteria or hair salon. Thankfully, however, the armchair tourist’s favourite app does contain some gems of architectural interest. Drop the little yellow man over such modernist marvels as Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, Philip Johnson’s Glass House and Gerrit Rietvald’s Schröder House, and enjoy a solitary virtual visit.