Monthly Archives: October 2011

Terence’s ‘nice’ bowl for Alessi

We are loving the The ‘Nice’ bowl – designed by Terence Conran as part of the Alessi Officina collection. It’s his first piece for the company and has been designed with an inverted beehive shape and mirrored double wall bowl,  inspired by a stack of old wooden bowls once commissioned by him.

Added to the Alessi catalogue in honour of his 80th Birthday, Terence named it ‘nice’, as he suggests the double wall structure makes it the perfect ice receptacle.

Available now from The Conran Shop

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Do the press like our M&S range? We think so!

There have been some fantastic pieces of press recently for the Conran M&S range now in stores and online

An interview with Terence in the Yorkshire Post, here pictured sitting in the Bainbridge chair.

The Bainbridge chair also features in Novembers issue of  House Beautiful

As well as printed publications bloggers have also been showing their love for the range with the lovely Norwegian  interiors blog Ideas To Steal mentioning it.

Sofas and chairs are proving very popular with House and Garden featuring the Ackroyd sofa as one of their stylish ideas for the home. What a beautiful page of colour!

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Terence’s life in travel

On his first holiday he goes to Bognor Regis and hits another boy on the head with a spade. Luckily, it’s all uphill from then on- especially when his car breaks down halfway up a mountain in Switzerland.

From Tokyo to Rajasthan, with quite a lot of France in between, find out more about Terence’s life in travel here in The Independent.

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Conran: Debating our housing crisis

Given the current housing crisis in the UK, it’s useful to look back to the great decade of housing around 50 years ago. 

In the book “A Decade of British Housing 1963-1973” the period is reviewed, lessons are learnt and the future of housing is debated. 

At that stage only 6% of housing stock was made up of the output of the new voluntary housing groups (now called housing associations or RSLs) and by the end of the period architects were starting to look at a numbers of issues including reducing car use, shared surfaces, the end of fossil fuels, prefabrication, off-site timber frame construction and lack of land – so in many ways very little has changed!

The big opportunity that we are currently exploring is really about putting right some of those mistakes made 50 years ago.  

When estates like Green Man Lane in Ealing were built they were the great hope for the future: optimistic 1960s living, with all the facilities you needed – shops, GP surgeries, nurseries, and a post office.

But a mixture of bad design, bad management and poor construction meant that many of these estates had a limited lifespan.  At the time they met a need – slums were cleared away and bright airy new flats in the sky were the solution!

They in turn now offer a new solution.  Estate regeneration allows us to take a fresh look at these places.  Sometimes they need total demolition, with a complex plan for “decanting” residents, buying out or doing deals with leaseholders. 

And sometimes all or part of the estate can be refurbished.  Good buildings should be restored and re-used, despite their problems. Alison and Peter Smithson’s Robin Hood Gardens in East London is iconic and should be cherished. Look at the wonderful Park Hill in Sheffield saved by Tom Bloxham’s Urban Splash.

The result, if it works, can be high quality high-density urban living with multi-tenure housing serving diverse communities. 

When working with residents on an estate I always tell them that my hope is that, when complete, their estate effectively disappears and is replaced instead by streets, squares and courtyards that are part of the city and part of the community.

I think we’re getting this right  but we need to sort the issues around densification – we need schools, surgeries, shops, workplaces within easy reach, or ideally within these developments.  

But the architecture has to be the best possible too – and that’s where “tenure-blind” architecture comes in to its own.  If you need to sell flats and houses then the whole development must be good.  No more affordable housing in the worst part of the site!

We are producing good affordable housing and we are providing some of the greenest housing in the UK, with better space standards than many private developers, though we still build some of the smallest flats in Europe.

We looked at this issue of density over two decades ago at Butlers Wharf. It’s now a new city quarter with houses, flats, shops, restaurants, offices, a nursery and a museum.  It set new standards for urban living.

And now we are doing it again at a similar scale in Ealing, Walthamstow and other sites around London. 

These developments, when they are large enough and have a critical mass, can change our city for the better, and we can show that we have learned from history and can make places that work!

 Paul Zara, Director, Conran & Partners

Read more about our work on regenerating London’s housing estates here:

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Where do you find design inspiration?

In the first post of a new column here on the Conran blog looking at where we find design inspiration, Will Unwin, a product designer from Studio Conran, tells us more about the mysterious and beautiful place he finds his…

In the creative industry it is only a matter of time before we experience what I like to call ‘a dry spell’. Of course I am talking about those little ideas that eventually end up allowing good design to be exactly that: good design!

This begs the question, where can we get design inspiration? Some people may get it by looking at that object in their home from a different angle, some people might get it from talking to their friends, or maybe it just hits you while you’re on the tube. Whatever your method, can I suggest a new one?

Before returning to work at Conran in August this year, I spent the previous 5 months exploring South America. Since then I have come to the conclusion that my inspiration cannot be found on the underground, but instead lies in a far away land. The land I am talking about in particular is Antarctica.

After making the biggest impulse reaction of my life, I blew the majority of my hard earned savings on a boat trip across the Drake Passage to the unknown continent at the bottom of our planet. I was not prepared for what I saw.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place that provides you with such a diverse range of ideas and inspiration. It’s a place that puts you in the perfect mindset for work. Hopefully some of the below images will help you understand what I mean.

I saw icebergs in shapes I did not know were physically possible; I saw colours I was not aware even existed; I saw combinations of forms that I didn’t think would complement one another- all of which can be used to influence design directly. If any of you budding architects out there are looking for a new form to compete with the soon-to-be-complete London Shard, Antarctica is your place

The landscape is simply stunning. It does things to you like nothing else can. It can relax you or it can energise you. It can calm you as easily as it can excite you. The effects too are long lasting; it’s easy for me to slip away into my memories and when I return I feel somewhat enlightened, ready to attack another design problem.

Speaking of design problems, I think I’ve worked out a design for next winter’s coat collection…

Where do you find your design inspiration?


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What Conran saw: LDF 2011 Part 2

More from our teams on their LDF 2011 travels. Alice Walsh from Conran & Company had a good run around! If you missed part 1 click here

Mind over Matter at Kemistry gallery on Charlotte Road in east London was one of my fave spots. The exhibition brings together a collection oforiginal material and notes from Alan Fletcher’s archive, documenting thirty or so years of attentive curiosity. A small space but I found myself there for a good hour perusing the sketches filling the walls. Definitely worth a look. 

Another favourite was Continue reading

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Why are we helping to knock down the Brighton Astoria?

Quite a lot of people have asked me here in Brighton why we are trying to save Saltdean Lido while happily gaining planning approval to knock down the listed Astoria Cinema. 

Well it’s simple. One is a good building and one is not. 

The Lido was built as the heart of a new community – it has a library, a (once) grand ballroom, cafe, rooms to hire.  If it was loved and run better and restored as well as the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, then it would be a regional and national attraction.  Fish and chips and a glass of wine on the sun terrace would be a rare treat and we want to help make that happen.  

The Astoria Cinema was knocked up in a few months as a big entertainment shed. It served its purpose and was, like so many cinemas, wrecked by conversion to a bingo hall decades ago.  There’s almost nothing left worth keeping and what is left is mainly made from asbestos! (see the attached picture of a recent visit by local councillors).  Not all old buildings are good. Some things improve with age (like a certain chairman) and other should be thrown away and replaced with something better. 

Our proposals for the Astoria give the city it’s greenest office building, providing some of the best workspace, which is why the planning committee approved it.  Deputy Leader of the Council Amy Kenned called it ‘A 21st Century building for a 21st century city”. We owe it to our towns and cities to design the best buildings we can, to create the listed buildings of the future. Don’t let sentiment hold us back!

Paul Zara, September 2011

Paul Zara is the Director of Conran & Partners in Brighton. Read more by Paul:

Where have all the shops gone?

The future of architecture

Click here to read more about saving Saltdean Lido 

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