Havana, Cuba

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Havana, Cuba

Cuba is a nation caught in a time warp. How many times have we heard that cliché? And since my first visit at the end of 1993, until today, it still largely rings true. However, like that other country that seemed to stop moving forward, Burma, it is changing little step by little step. For good or for bad, you make your own conclusion.

I spent about 9 glorious years of my life living in Havana. The island nation of Cuba is just 90 miles south of Monroe County, Key West, the most southerly point of the United States. And yet this proximity is juxtaposed with 'el bloqueo'; US direct investment began to cease after an economic embargo was enacted on October 19th, 1960. The verbal warfare between Cuba and the United States forced the people of Cuba to become masters of make do and self sufficiency as capital flight and human resource left in dramatic fashion in the days and months after the fall of Batista and rise of Castro. Architecture, motoring design and interiors stopped changing, stopped evolving and remained fixed in time. American modernism or Fifties design became Cuba in the 1960’s, the 1970’s and so on. And so when I walk around Havana I see architecture from world renowned figures like Le Corbusier or Frank Lloyd Wright and if its not them then its an inspiration from such greats. 

Nicolás Quintana's work is seen across the island for example. Yet there is of course so much more than just modernism. Rather apt the term used for mid fifties design is when Cuba largely 'stopped' and allowed the rest of the world to evolve and make the mistakes of demolishing gems and scrapping cars and furniture that one can see so beautifully and lovingly cared for, especially in Havana.

By merely writing a few words one cannot do justice to what Cuba has to offer architecturally. However, I was fortunate enough to buy hundreds of furniture designs from the well known and respected Gonzalo Cordoba and sometime, hopefully soon, we will begin bringing those back to life. We will enhance and expand the collection befitting of Cuba and with the advantage of modern day materials.

Until I write again about Cuba I am going to leave you with a link to a beautiful book by Hermes Mallea, a Cuban American, who left his beloved island when he was just five years old and who made numerous return pilgrimages for his project. His book is called 'Great Houses of Havana' covering a hundred or more years of the best of local architecture from Jansen to Neutra. One of these homes is the 1918 gem you see below.

The reason I wanted to show this interior space is because it is the home of HM's British Ambassador to Cuba in Havana and where I was fortunate to visit on many occasions including a one time introduction with Fidel Castro.

This spectacular yet understated swimming pool enclosure and the property itself was designed by John H. Duncan for Pablo Gonzalez de Mendoza.

Written by: Richard M. Brown

Link:- http://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/hermes-mallea-havana-book-interview-article

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Polished Concrete

Polished Concrete

FRC or Fibre Reinforced Concrete has become rather popular in North America, Europe and parts of Japan and Australasia. In fact examples can be seen around the world. A polished or coloured concrete material used in conjunction with wood and metal to offer an alternative design idea for private and commercial environments. But what is it?

FRC or fibre reinforced concrete is, as the name suggests, concrete containing fibrous material that substantially increases its core strength. Containing randomly orientated but evenly distributed natural fibres. Usually, in the product Larimar offers, these fibres are from the coconut husk or an otherwise wasted or discarded by-product of the coconut fruit itself. Coconut fibres have high tensile strength and mitigate cracking and degradation of the surface. We use other natural fibres too such as bamboo. Glass, steel or plastic fibres may also be used but are not quite so friendly to our planet.

While using fibres inside the product may not overly strengthen the impact resistance of the material it will, as we have mentioned, significantly reduce cracking possibilities and reduce shrinkage both of which are considerations in environments where temperatures and humidity can change rather quickly.

These materials have grown significantly in popularity and, when polished,  are an attractive table top, chair, stool or table that will endure heavy use inside or out. 

Some design examples that are available on Lazada:

Link: http://www.lazada.com.ph/catalog/?q=larimar

Written By: Richard M. Brown

 

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Katie Patterson

The artist Katie Patterson has designed and delivered some marvellous work. Patterson was born in Glasgow and is now based in Berlin.

We like a lot of her work such as ‘All the Dead Stars’ which is a map of all the dead stars in the universe, ‘Future Library’ which is a newly planted forest in Norway whose wood will be used in 100 years time to print an anthology of books by invited artists the first of which is written by Margaret Attwood and finally we love ‘Hollow’. A newly completed sculptural works and microcosmos of all of the world’s trees that sits in the Royal Fort Gardens in Bristol. It is a collaborative works with Architects Zeller & Moye based in Mexico City and Berlin. We really like this firm but more about them in another blog.

Somewhere, inside ‘The Hollow’, are trees from the Philippines such as Nara or Gmelina. In all 10,000 species went into this magnificent works, a symbol of diversity and collaboration across the planet. We salute all of those involved.

    For more of her works, visit: http://www.katiepaterson.org/hollow/

 

 

For more of her works, visit: http://www.katiepaterson.org/hollow/

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Our Home City

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Our Home City

Welcome to our home city of Bristol. This is where it all began. Bristol is famous for its industry and entrepreneurship over many hundreds of years. John Cabot sailed from here in 1497 and discovered North America. Isambard Kingdom Brunel's masterpiece of industrial design, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, was completed in 1864 and is one of the world’s oldest. Bristol is also famous for aviation.

The Concorde was built in Bristol, flying at twice the speed of sound. Airbus wings and Rolls Royce engines are also built in Bristol. The creative industries such as Aardman’s Wallace & Gromit characters is further evidence that Bristol is one of the most innovative cities in the UK. This is where our inspiration was born and grew for producing unique pieces of furniture.

Richard M. Brown, Founder.

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Exceptional People

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day about what makes a good employee or co-worker as I refer to members of our team. The question I posed to him, a fellow Englishman, was how one particular nation appeared to be supplying so many carers and hospitality staff to hospitals and hotels around the globe? How come you feel like you are in the Philippines when you take many a cruise or, god forbid, you fall ill?

Well, he could not really define it either and with more experience of the Philippines than I it left me with an unanswered question and frustrated. The Filipinos are certainly a very hospitable people, they are renown for it. Combine that with a sense of purpose, a sense of dedication and a sense of family and you begin to see how they make great co workers in so many fields. We certainly experience that in our manufacturing endeavours in Cebu. To answer my question I am delving into the past but it will take me time to gather all the answers as surely there must be multiple reasons why a culture grows and develops and behaves the way it does and I generally mean aside from all of the obvious ones. I think I actually owe it to the people I know, the people I employ and the people who, on occasion, are our clients to find out a lot more about this fascinating archipelago. I will be reporting back on this subject in due course.

Richard M. Brown, Founder.

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