The Kitchen Of The Future

If you’ve been watching the current Phillipe Starck thingy on the box (Design For Life) you’ll know that designers … well … they can be a bit precious, a bit daft, and occasionally quite mad.

Some of the ideas pitched by the students beggar belief, but none of them can quite match the antic capers of Starck himself.

His account of evolution in the episode I caught was one of the funniest things I’ve seen on TV in ages: “To start wiz, we was bacteria! Zen feesh. Aftair, we become frog … Perhaps tomorrow I will jump on zis box and fly!”

I’m sure you will Phillipe, I’m sure you will.


Flights of fancy are at the heart of a rather more focussed design competition launched by Electrolux, the results of which were unveiled at 100% Design today.

The entrants were asked to design home appliances that will shape how people prepare and store food, wash clothes, and do dishes over the next nine decades.

The winner was a cooker that will, err, ‘make’ meat and fish by heating up animal molecules. So there’ll be no need to go out and spear a salmon or kill a calf (can’t see Gordon Ramsay liking that one).

There’s also a fridge that will teleport food straight to its shelves (hmm, wonder where they got that idea from?) and a personal flying rainwater catcher based on a hummingbird.

No futuristic competition worth its salt would be complete without a product designed to appal Prince Charles – so step forward the washing machine that does something unspeakable with nano-technology and negative ions.

And last, but by no means least, let’s hear it for the bug-eyed mobile greenhouse designed to facilitate the future exploration and population of Mars (like we haven’t made a big enough mess of this planet…)

September 25, 2009 at 5:33 PM 1 comment

A Tall Tale

Well done to New York-based Stephen Holl Architects who recently won an international competition to design a new building for the Glasgow School of Art.

Coincidentally, the Art School’s main building was also the result of an architectural competition back in the 1890s, which was won by a then unknown Charles Rennie Mackintosh.


But my favourite competition construction in Glasgow is the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, whose winning design was created by a London firm of architects, also at the tail end of the 19 th century.

However, the urban myth that exists in Glasgow about this building’s history is probably better known than the actual reality. 

The widely held belief is that, following the competition, the gallery was actually built back-to-front, and the distraught architect subsequently committed suicide by throwing himself from one of its two tallest towers.


A quick look in the FAQ section on Kelvingrove’s official website has confirmed that this story is, indeed, just a rumour.

Having grown up with this tale - Glasgow’s my home city - I’m actually quite disappointed to know the truth (although happy for the architect in question, clearly.)  Is that wrong of me?

September 25, 2009 at 5:29 PM Leave a comment

Wreck Of The Week

The Property: The ruined remains of a Grade II* listed country house

The Place: Chepstow, Monmouthshire

The Price: £2,000,000


The Pain: When we say ruined, we mean ruined: the place is a roofless echoing shell. It is, however, a Grade II* listed echoing shell, which means if you do take it on you’ll have to work closely with conservation officers, heritage bodies, and top notch craftsmen.

It’s hard to estimate how much it will cost to transform this into a habitable home but the agent thinks you’ll need around £10m-£15m under your mattress to do the job properly.

The Gain: This one is a bit special: designed by the great neo-classical architect Sir John Soanes (who designed the Bank of England, Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Royal Hospital Chelsea), it really is a prime piece of architectural heritage.

The house has the potential to be a quite magnificent private home but the grounds are equally impressive:129 acres of Grade I listed landscaped parkland.

The Agent: Jackson-Stops & Staff, Country Houses (Tel: 0843 2843 798).



September 25, 2009 at 1:40 PM Leave a comment

Five To View: Former Breweries

Happy Arthur Day, one and all! If, like I was until a couple of hours ago, you were unaware of such a day, I can tell you that it’s in honour of Arthur Guinness who, 250 years ago today, signed the lease for his legendary brewery in Dublin.


Let me help you with the mental arithmetic here:  that made it the year 1759. Which is why, at 17.59 GMT this evening, there’s going to be a toast to the great man in pubs around the world.

If ever there was an excuse needed to enjoy a pint of the black stuff, you can’t get a better one than that.

And, in our own humble tribute to Mr Guinness, this week’s 5 to View are homes in former breweries or brew houses.  Sláinte!

(Click on pics for full property details)

1. Fontmell Magna, Dorset



2. North Walsham, Norfolk



3. Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex



4. Oswestry, Shropshire



5. Crewkerne, Somerset

£102,500 (Offers Over)


September 24, 2009 at 5:15 PM Leave a comment

Property in Islington: Arsenal’s Highbury Converted to Flats

First off, apologies for that headline … I have no excuse aside from the fact that it was marginally better than “Home-buyers will be singing in the terraces” (see what I did there … terra … oh forget it).


If association football is not your thing, look away now because we’re talking here, my friends, about today’s launch of 724 new apartments in the old Arsenal stadium at Highbury.

Highbury Square, as the development is called, cleverly recycles the pitch as a central garden square (accessed via the players’ tunnel!) and the old listed facades of the wonderful Art Deco East Stand.

The most expensive properties, unsurprisingly, look inward over the imaginatively redesigned pitch and have the highest price tags.

Prices start at £250,000 for a one-bed flat and climb to £1.5m for a three-bed penthouse.

Not exactly cheap …  but to your average Gooner this must look like a Nick Hornby fantasy come to life.





September 24, 2009 at 3:17 PM 1 comment

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