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Discussion, discourse, and creative insight through STIRring conversations in 2022

Best of 2022: From Oscar-nominated production designers to trend forecasters, STIR recalls compelling conversations centred on the disciplines of architecture and design.

by Jincy IypePublished on : Dec 27, 2022

I have been a perpetual believer in the power of words.

Words carry energy to heal, hurt, comfort, anger, educate, inspire, incite violence or strengthen bonds. The influence is manifold, for both, a community and an individual, gathering insight, learning, and unlearning via audio, video, or text; watering our emotional and intellectual responses to what we consume by reading, writing, hearing, and speaking. Imagine if we all, with our varied life experiences, nationalities, and learnt languages, became intentional, critical, and encouraging with our words, and the kind of impact and explosive stories we would create through the magnanimous power of spoken and written expression.

This year witnessed a plethora of pedagogical, compelling, entertaining, and informational conversations, colourfully centred on design and architecture, crystalising our present perceptions of the global creative disciplines at large, confirming our beliefs, opposing age-old ideas, and catalysing fresh ones. As a global media house, STIR rounds up the best of interviews partaken in 2022, conversing with and learning from leading architects, designers, and creative professionals from the world over, who pushed boundaries, addressed issues, and questioned the status quo through discourse, debate, and dialogue.

1. The woman in the BIG chair: Sheela Maini Søgaard

Sheela Maini Søgaard, CEO and Partner at Bjarke Ingels Group | STIRring Conversations of 2022 | STIRworld
Sheela Maini Søgaard, CEO and Partner at Bjarke Ingels Group Image: Flemming Leitorp

On International Women's Day 2022, STIR spoke with the woman who has been critical in shaping one of the world’s most powerful architectural firms: the Bjarke Ingels Group.

Vocal. Vulnerable. Audacious. Understanding. Breaking the bias is perhaps about embracing the beauty of all parts of being a woman. At BIG, Sheela Maini Søgaard is the CEO and Partner. Thirteen years after walking into Bjarke's Copenhagen office with no experience in the architectural business, she today commands a team that drives arguably the most ambitious and game-changing firm in the industry.

2. In conversation with Aric Chen on the role of cultural institutions

The role of cultural institutions: STIR in conversation with Aric Chen Video: Courtesy of STIR; Image: Courtesy of Het Nieuwe Instituut

What is the role and importance of cultural institutions? Many institutions are in the process of reimagining their purpose and reflecting on their internal processes. In a fascinating conversation with Aric Chen, who was recently appointed as the General and Artistic Director of Het Nieuwe Instituut (HNI) in Rotterdam, we explore the shifting paradigm of institutional practices and contemporary design.

Chen explains in great detail the importance of the archive, referencing the past, but at the same time emphasises the value of decolonising the archive as well. He refers to the vocabulary as having an asterisk, as an indicator of an ongoing discourse of the word’s connotations.

3. Then, Now, and Next: A conversation with Alberto Alessi

Then, Now, and Next: A conversation with Alberto Alessi Video: Courtesy of STIR; Alberto's portrait by Toni Thorimbert

When Alberto Alessi joined the family business in July 1970, after he graduated from law school, he found the factory ‘a bit too dark and too grey.’ The company, founded in 1921, by his grandfather Giovanni Alessi who later handed the baton to his son (and Alberto’s father) Carlo Alessi, is today made up of an eclectic range of home products which includes tableware, cooking utensils, watches, furnishing accessories, lighting, and small domestic appliances. Alberto’s entry into the company ushered in a new era of joy as the 76-year-old 'entrepreneur by mistake' spearheaded the inclusion of international designers into the Alessi universe. The collaborations resulted in thousands of products over the decades, many of which have become icons of contemporary design.

The President of Alessi Spa engaged in a conversation with STIR, traversing the 'Then, Now, and Next' of the iconic Italian design company, and his own place in it.

4. Mise-en-scène with STIR: The best of film architecture at Oscars 2022

In a series of interviews with the 2022 Oscar nominees for production design, STIR delves into the best of film architecture this year | STIRring Conversations of 2022 | STIRworld
In a series of interviews with the 2022 Oscar nominees for production design, STIR delves into the best of film architecture this year Image: Courtesy of STIR; Portraits: Courtesy of respective designers

The red carpet, celebrity entrances, the sharp gowns and tuxedos, and exuberant stage scenography are just a part of the associated glitz of the Oscars, a celebration of the best of global cinema. Through delving into exquisite detail and architectural theory, both for tangible and intangible spaces, this year’s fantastical sets decorated alien worlds, period pieces, musicals, and even entirely implausible spatialities.   

The overt and definitive architectural character of some of this year’s films caught our eye and in a series of conversations with these Oscar-nominated production designers, we attempt to decipher the genesis, the visualisation, and the process of bringing these fantastical worlds to life through Mise-en-scène with STIR, a carnival of stimulating conversations with Oscar winner Patrice Vermette, and his equally deserving fellow nominees Stefan Dechant, Grant Major, and Tamara Deverell.

5. Making design actionable with Beatrice Leanza at Milan Design Week 2022

Making design actionable with Italian curator, critic, and author Beatrice Leanza | STIRring Conversations of 2022 | STIRworld
Making design actionable with Italian curator, critic, and author Beatrice Leanza Image: Courtesy of Platforme 10

Salone del Mobile.Milano had this to say about their 2022 edition’s powerful programme—"We now understand only too well – progress, inevitably, has to be sustainable. We have to pull together and renew our serious and generous ecological efforts. Design, lateral thinking, creativity, taking a critical approach, openness training and knowledge exchange—all characteristics inherent in those involved with the world of design—are the main drivers for accelerating the evolution of a more equitable society and a more sustainable world.”

Beatrice Leanza, one of the three powerful female curators of this year's panel of stirring conversations addressed these pressing issues, of facing the uncertainty of the times we live in and reflecting upon concrete actions for a better tomorrow, with design as a catalyst for improvement. As a cultural strategist, curator, writer and critic with a background in Asian studies who was based in Beijing for 17 years, Leanza spoke to STIR about actionable design, agency, and the potential of the intersection of sustainable design and technology as the crucible of societal empowerment.

6. Tatiana Bilbao on creating architecture that enhances the human experience

In conversation with STIR, the Mexican architect discussed her ideas for a future city, creating stronger communities through design, and questioning social and spatial hierarchies Video: Courtesy of STIR; Image: Ana Hop

Elke Krasny, an Austrian cultural and architectural theorist, in her work Critical Care: Architecture and Urbanism for Broken Planet, along with Angelika Fitz, establishes how “Architecture provides a primary form of care.” An interpretation of this ideology is at the core of Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO's work. Tatiana Bilbao founded her eponymous studio in 2004 after her role as an Advisor in the Ministry of Development and Housing of the Government of the Federal District of Mexico City.

In conversation with STIR, the Mexican architect expresses her disdain for architecture that is informed by capitalist structures and stresses the importance of designing towards creating social justice, stronger communities, and a healthy ecosystem.

7. Luminaries of our Times – Lidewij Edelkoort

STIR in conversation with Dutch trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort Video: Courtesy of STIR; Li's portrait by Thirza Schaap

Remarkably prescient, Lidewij Edelkoort’s comments in early March 2020 on the likely impact of COVID-19, went viral. Before coronavirus was declared a pandemic and most countries went into lockdown, Edelkoort foretold that the world would see a “quarantine of consumption.” She advised people to stop planning mega-events, that air travel would reduce significantly, and that the virus would bring fundamental changes in lifestyles, giving humanity the opportunity to slow down and reset goals and needs. The accuracy of that forecast has added even more heft to her already formidable reputation of being one of the finest trend forecasters globally.

Over the last 50 years, she has projected shifts not only for the fashion industry but for design and lifestyle, predicting form, materials, and colour along with important social and cultural currents. Edelkoort, ensconced in a hotel in Florence, where she is establishing a radical, sustainable textile master at Polimoda, expounded on a range of issues from memories of her first fashion forecast in this interview with STIR, to thoughts on the metaverse, and much more.

8. FIFA Arenas: Lusail Stadium by Foster + Partners in Lusail, Qatar

FIFA Arenas: Lusail Stadium by Foster + Partners in Lusail City, Qatar Video: Courtesy of STIR and Foster + Partners; Image: © Nigel Young / Foster + Partners

Resembling a 'burnished golden vessel', whose gleaming diagrid façade design features geometric motifs in anodised metal, the Lusail Stadium by London-based Foster + Partners has been described as the "centrepiece" of all the venues developed for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The glimmering new landmark with a capacity of 80,000 became a focal point of the new urban development to the north of Doha. While speaking to STIR, Angus Campbell, Senior Partner, and Doretta Bevilacqua Gilkes, Partner at Foster + Partners, elaborate on their 13-year-long journey towards achieving the lofty goals set out at the commencement of the project, outlining the intricacies of designing a venue fit to host football’s greatest spectacle—the 2022 FIFA World Cup final.

9. STIR in conversation with Sumayya Vally, founder of Counterspace

STIR in conversation with Sumayya Vally (L); Liminal Identities in the Global South (R) | STIRring Conversations of 2022 | STIRworld
STIR in conversation with Sumayya Vally (L); Liminal Identities in the Global South (R) Image: Mikhael Subotzky; Courtesy of Counterspace

Based out of Johannesburg, South AfricaSumayya Vally’s design, research, and pedagogical practice Counterspace is an interesting new expression of what a contemporary architectural practice can be. While known for her design of the 20th Serpentine Pavilion (2020/2021), in London, Vally’s methodology has been heralded as one with the potential to shape the future by questioning the canon of architecture. She has recently worked on initiating and developing ‘Support Structures for Support Structures’, a fellowship programme launched at the Serpentine Gallery, designed to facilitate the artists and collectives who support the community through their work.

In a conversation with STIR, the young architect and pedagogical thinker takes us through her process, elaborating on the genesis of Counterspace, and the more recent Counterparts.

10. Hanif Kara in conversation with STIR on expanding the spectrum of design

STIR in conversation with Professor Hanif Kara (OBE) Video: Courtesy of STIR; Image: Courtesy of AKT II

The fractal, fluidic and fantastical nature of contemporary architecture is only possible because of the careful alliance between creative forms and experimental engineering. With 40 years of experience, Professor Hanif Kara, the co-founder of London-based design-led engineering practice AKT II, is a strong voice propagating the importance of intersectional practice. In recognition of his services in architecture, engineering, and education, Professor Kara received an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire award (OBE) in the Queen’s New Year Honours List. In a conversation with STIR, he elaborates on what citation and recognition mean to him while expanding on the ethos of AKT II.

11. Gene Sherman on exploring architecture and fashion as forms of cultural expression

Australian cultural figure, collector, academic, gallerist and philanthropist, Dr Gene Sherman AM | STIRring Conversations of 2022 | STIRworld
Australian cultural figure, collector, academic, gallerist and philanthropist, Dr Gene Sherman AM Image: Courtesy of SCCI

Gene Sherman AM, a collector, academic, art specialist and gallerist has been hailed "a beacon in the Australian cultural landscape," and for fostering an architectural culture in Sydney. At their core, Sherman’s events and discussions are issue-based and cross-disciplinary, congregating architects with filmmakers, fashion designers, writers, human rights lawyers, and more. Sherman’s foundation relays that she has undoubtedly made her mark and proven that architecture deserves its place within public discourse alongside the arts, in Australia, and beyond.

Her approach to architecture as a “culturally informed outsider” has enabled her pursuits, fame, and intent, to move the dial on merging these contemporary disciplines, redefining their intents via thought-provoking combinations and discourse. Speaking with STIR, Sherman highlights her vision of the SCCI Fashion and Architecture Programme 2022, as its Founder, Executive and Artistic Director, prior to retiring from engaging in public events.

12. Palinda Kannangara on the architectural ethos of Sri Lanka, and the site as narrator

Sri Lankan architect Palinda Kannangara in conversation with STIR | STIRring Conversations of 2022 | STIRworld
Sri Lankan architect Palinda Kannangara in conversation with STIR Image: Palinda’s portrait: Courtesy of Palinda Kannangara Architects; Artist’s Retreat, Pittugala: Sebastian Posingis

Among several countries with remarkable architecture in the Southeast Asian belt, each with their own ethos and indigenous methods that have led to the definition of a style, it is perhaps the island nation of Sri Lanka. A near-holy reverence to the site, and the extension of the architectural process as essentially a dialogue between the architect and the site, is what may be argued to be at the heart of Sri Lanka’s tropical modernism.

Renowned homegrown architect Palinda Kannangara spoke to STIR over a course of several months, while this country of inimitable beauty and wondrous terrains overcame a political crisis through a people’s movement. Kannangara opened up about his acclaimed practice and his personal musings on architecture, staying locally rooted with respect to Sri Lanka, and all that the land has endowed him with, leading to a veritable style that symbolically carries the mantle from Geoffrey Bawa.

13. Perusing 'The Inventory of Life' with French designer Mathieu Lehanneur

STIR in conversation with French designer and creator Mathieu Lehanneur Video: Courtesy of STIR; Images: © Lionel Gasperini (L) and © Felipe Ribon (R)

To see the world through the eyes of French designer and multidisciplinary creator Mathieu Lehanneur is to comprehend and revel in his radical, creative, instinctive and giddily nerdy ideas of what design is, and can be honed into, as an agency. Described as a “champion of intellectual agility in the field of contemporary design” by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, MoMA-NY, Lehanneur is fascinated with nature, science, the human psyche, and the real world, giving into an investigative curiosity that enables him to learn, and create for our complex species.

The ambidextrous industrial designer joined us over a Zoom call from his "factory" in France, his animated gestures giving away his egalitarian, and fiercely independent nature. We spoke at length on his now concluded solo exhibition curated by independent design curator, consultant, critic and author Maria Cristina Didero, The Inventory of Life at the Triennale de Milano 2022, comprising four succinct installations —State of the World, 50 Seas, Live/ Leave, and How Deep is Time. 

14. Ben Evans discusses the role of design festivals in cities

STIR in conversation with Ben Evans CBE, Director of the London Design Festival, and Executive Director of London Design Biennale Video: Courtesy of STIR

London is a melting pot of people, cultures, ideas, and perhaps most importantly, activators. These activators manifest in different ways. Sometimes they are organisations that cast a wide net of support. Sometimes they are individual people that connect the points of creative output and ground them in the reality of their context. These translators of culture are an important aspect of any cultural and design fair. In relation to the city of London, there are perhaps two key design events that come to mind. The first is the annual London Design Festival and the second is the London Design Biennale which takes place every alternate year.

To better understand the curatorial approach and the impact of these two events, Amit Gupta, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of STIR, spoke to Ben Evans CBE, Director of the London Design Festival, and Executive Director of London Design Biennale. Evans established the Festival in 2003 with Co-Founder Sir John Sorrell. Over the course of the conversation, Evans not only talked about spearheading city-wide creative festivals but engaged in a deeper discussion about how these festivals impact the city not just in economics but also in terms of engaging the public.

15. Adam Nathaniel Furman and Adam Kaasa on 'Queer Spaces', narratives, and expression

Adam Nathaniel Furman in conversation with Dr Adam Kaasa on their new book, Queer Spaces Video: Courtesy of STIR; Adam Furman’s portrait: Gareth Gardner

In a sensitively strewn conversation, artist and designer Adam Nathaniel Furman speaks with Dr Adam Kaasa of the Royal College of Art and founder of Theatrum Mundi on their new book Queer Spaces, an essential history, and notions of refuge in a queer ecosystem.  

Across the 200+ spaces that the book lovingly catalogues, there must be certain common spatial factors that would bind the varied selection of spaces – some permanent, some transient, and some increasingly intimate. As architects now transitioned into making basal enquiries into the spaces we write about, the conditioning called for motioning the narrative around referential styles and statements. Amid the enlightening conversation between these two immensely reputed London-based practitioners and professionals, a talking point initiated by Dr Kaasa observed how this atlas of LGBTQIA+ spaces began and ended, corroborated as completely intentional narrative bookends by Furman.

16. Sagi Haviv on creating an icon of permanence for Warner Bros. Discovery

STIR in conversation with Sagi Haviv of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv on the new graphic identity for Warner Bros. Discovery Video: Courtesy of STIR; Sagi’s Image: Courtesy of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv

Indestructible. Foolproof. Ironclad. Adjectives of fortitude and solidity that better define an encampment than a logo, an identity for a brand. But a conversation with Sagi Haviv, one-third of the New York-based Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv lent a different perspective to that notion. "We are concerned with permanence," stated a pensive Haviv, termed the 'logo prodigy' by The New Yorker, during our conversation on the new identity design for what can only be termed a rarity in the corporate entertainment world—a merger between Discovery, Inc. and WarnerMedia by AT&T.

17. Bridging the virtual and tangible with digital artist and designer, Andrés Reisinger

Digital artist and designer Andrés Reisinger | STIRring Conversations of 2022 | STIRworld
Digital artist and designer Andrés Reisinger Image: Andrés’ Image by Anna Huix; Product Images: Courtesy of Reisinger Studio

When approaching this interview and discussion with the Barcelona-based artist-designer and virtual creator Andrés Reisinger, we will admit that the “unclassifiability” of his work—not fitting into brackets—is what proved to be the most attractive aspect of his repertoire.

If anything, the dawn of the age of the NFT has further emboldened these brackets, and the advent of the metaverse firmly stands to make those boundaries even more fluid, even more limitless. And that confidence in adapting his creations to both worlds, both mediums, comes across firmly in Reisinger’s work. Carefully placed at a well-calculated precipice between both, constantly tugged by the two and yet planted in a realm in the midst, something Reisinger calls the “emotional” realm, his creations are his emancipation from the practicality of it all, and what comes after design.

18. Design is about people, not chairs: Maria Cristina Didero at Salone del Mobile 2022

Maria Cristina Didero, international curator, consultant, editor and author, as well as an expert in Italian Radical Design | STIRring Conversations of 2022 | STIRworld
Maria Cristina Didero, international curator, consultant, editor and author, as well as an expert in ‘Italian Radical Design’ Image: Stefano Ferroni

"Design is all about people, not about chairs," Maria Cristina Didero exclaims, encapsulating what forms the credo of the Milan-based, independent design curator, author and journalist, working at the leading edge of the global design conversation. Focusing on how an object comes to be and the creators behind these as storytellers, instead of just the object itself, the fiery redhead forms part of a powerful, all-female trio leading the Talks programme at the just-opened, 60th chapter of the Salone del Mobile.Milano.

What is it about the curatorial powerhouse brimming with humility and optimism, that allows her to click with design mavericks and young talents at the same time? STIR catches up with Didero ahead of her Talks curation, based on Sustainability: Three Different Episodes, discussing her lineup of creators who anchor themselves in pragmatic sustainability in design, how she plans to stir things up on the international design stage as the newly appointed Curatorial Director of Design Miami 2022, and more.

19. Vinu Daniel feels at home with the brick

(L – R): Indian architect Vinu Daniel; IHA Residence, Trivandrum, Kerala, 2018 | STIRring Conversations of 2022 | STIRworld
(L – R): Indian architect Vinu Daniel; IHA Residence, Trivandrum, Kerala, 2018 Image: Anand Jaju

Talking to innovative architects is always an enlightening experience. There is no one way of creating buildings and every commission presents different sets of challenges and opportunities. Still, one would think there is a general sense of direction and a certain design methodology that architects rely on. That’s not how Vinu Daniel, the founder of Wallmakers in Trivandrum, the capital of the Indian west-coast state of Kerala, sees his mission; he strives at being uniquely specific to each site's needs. In our conversation over Zoom that follows a brief introduction, he told us, "Your success is the worst thing that can happen to you as an architect because it takes your attention away from the new problem."

20. The World Around's Beatrice Galilee on architecture's now, near, and next

STIR in conversation with Beatrice Galilee - writer, curator, cultural consultant, and co-founder of The World Around Video: Courtesy of STIR; Image: Courtesy of Beatrice Galilee and The World Around

Heralding a particularly refreshing narrative space for architectural and design programming in modern curation, The World Around Summit, now in its third edition, presented some increasingly interesting frontrunners as part of its mission statement this year. With an idea to represent architecture’s “now, near, and next,” the summit’s curation of projects, initiatives, and even ongoing research proved to be a beacon for essential conversations in the field of architecture. At the forefront of it is Beatrice Galilee, Co-founder and Executive Director of the summit, who spoke to STIR about her interest in how modern discourse and intersectionality affect the practice of architecture across the globe.

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