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Cultural concept: Mercedes me Melbourne

Imagine, if you will, a destination hub so inspiring it is poised to revitalise one of the most rapidly developing, yet underrated precincts in Melbourne. Perched on the corner of one of the city’s busiest intersections, at the foot of the soaring Rialto Towers, and spread across two glittering levels of architectural splendour, it is a place where you can enjoy your favourite morning brew, connect with colleagues, revel in the latest in prestige automobile design and meet some of Melbourne’s leading craftspeople.

This is the home of Mercedes me Melbourne. Marrying aspirational lifestyle with innovative café culture, the bespoke venue – the latest of only seven Mercedes me lifestyle concept spaces in the world – is designed to create midtown magic at the intersection of King and Collins streets.

While each Mercedes me store is characterised by a few common aesthetics, they are ultimately designed to reflect the specific tastes and passions of the host city’s culture.

“We want to be a place that people love, and look forward to coming back to,” says Mercedes me general manager, Simon Johnson. “Whether that is just coming in and enjoying that atmosphere, or the great hospitality, or finding out more about the Mercedes-Benz brand.

“The Mercedes me stores around the world are about celebrating each city’s particular culture. Of course, in Melbourne we knew that had to be the city’s famed café culture, and the streetscape itself.

“As well as being a place for fans and customers to enjoy, Mercedes me Melbourne opens up the Mercedes-Benz brand to people who may not have previously considered it. It’s not a merchandise store nor a retail outlet, but an access point to the brand, in what is an entirely new approach in Australia,” Johnson adds.

The concept – designed by architects Jackson Clements Burrows (JCB) with Mercedes-Benz, in collaboration with hospitality partner St Ali – is a collision of art, design, performance, innovation, sport and hospitality.

The experiential space is designed by the question, “what would an aspirational home for a Mercedes-Benz owner look like?”. The result is an intimate environment embracing urban living. For this, the architects drew on inspiration from the extensive Mercedes-Benz archival library.

“We were trying to develop a language which we felt would be reflective of the home for Mercedes-Benz,” JCB’s Simon Topliss says. “We found these wonderful images of some of the Mercedes-Benz factories of the ’50s, and these beautiful factory spaces with amazing, fine steelwork. It was spare and minimal … and incredibly ordered.

Mercedes-Benz factories from the past inspired the use of steelwork throughout Mercedes me Melbourne.

“It became our inspiration, the driving force behind how we can develop the language of the metalwork, and that became simply articulated in this one gesture that we have repeated, which is the frame. Just taking this one simple idea of the frame, which then becomes the balustrade, which then becomes the lighting frame, and so on. It became this one element we could wrap around the space.”

The materials palette of steelwork, tiles, polished concrete and timber is spare and luxurious – in keeping with the global Mercedes me store aesthetic. But it also speaks to the character of the city, and allows the one simple element to define the architectural vision: the steelwork.

Flexible, innovative space

The design showcases a collection of private and public zones where every space tells a story. Interspersed throughout are nooks and crannies in which to retreat, and public-facing areas that engage with the streetscape.

The Lounge, on the upper level, is a beautiful space to catch up on reading or for quiet discussions.

On the ground level, the Living Room is modelled on a luxurious residence, complete with kitchen and comfortable seating. Wrapped around it is the open-air Garden, linking street and venue. The double-sided kitchen, which has a bar servery in front and a chef’s table on the side, is on display as a showcase of St Ali’s renowned coffee and food offerings. “A whole hospitality operation is going on live,” Topliss says. “We didn’t want to hide the kitchen away; we wanted it to be part of the experience.”

The car, naturally, is the centrepiece of the experience. Driven from the back through the Garage, it is framed against a wall of display screens. Although constantly changing, it resides as an object centre-stage; at once part of the “home” but also its undisputed star.

As night falls, the venue transforms into a flexible event space through the use of a simple device – the Veil, a curtain that wraps around the inner-frame. This lends softness to the industrial edges and a flexibility to the environment.

Meanwhile, private booths along the edge of the sculpted stairs lead the way upstairs, where an espresso bar accessible from the Rialto atrium is ideally placed for a grab-and-go coffee. On the floating loft, the Library is an open collaborative space; next to it, on the plinth, private discussions can be held behind the closed doors of the Drawing Room.

The three booths represent land sea and air and give customers an elevated view of the space. 

This level's highlight is the Meet the Maker space, showcasing the work of the city's creatives. “It’s designed so someone like a milliner or a bootmaker can show their wares and creative process, and it gives customers an opportunity to get an insight into the craftsmanship and artistry in Melbourne,” Topliss says.

Technology has, of course, been carefully considered and plays a starring, yet discreet, role. Dotted throughout are state-of-the-art multimedia touchpoints: jewellery-like display boxes, giant projection screens and theatre-style lighting.

Mercedes me Melbourne is now open.

Words by Miranda Tay

MONA. Photo by Rob Burnett.

The Museum of Everything meets MONA

The museum that refuses to be defined meets the art that can't be. 

Descending into Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in a glass-sided elevator, you have the sense of sinking into the lair of a supervillain, hidden beneath the earth. But then, it’s obvious there’s something different about this museum from the second you step foot on the camo-print MONA Roma ferry at Brooke Street Pier, where crew in custom Dickies boiler suits attend to passengers sitting sidesaddle on plastic sheep. 

If there is a Machiavellian mind behind MONA, it belongs to David Walsh, the Hobart-born millionaire who transformed his personal art collection into one of Australia’s biggest cultural institutions. 

Senior Research Curator Jane Clark has been with MONA since before earth was broken on the site, when the museum was still a collection of David’s antiquities on display at the Moorilla Estate winery. “David quips ‘Nobody came, so we thought we’d build a bigger one’,” Jane says. “At that time, none of us really knew what was going to happen, whether it would work.” Fast forward six years, and it's hard to imagine the city of Hobart without MONA. 

MONA has become notorious for its unconventional approach to art – exhibiting a mechanical “poop machine” or a wall of casts of women’s nether regions alongside Egyptian sarcophagi and cuneiform tablets. Now, it is acting as the first Australian port for one of the art world’s most head-scratching major exhibitions, The Museum of Everything. Curated by James Brett, the roaming collection brings together “untrained, unintentional, undiscovered and unclassifiable artists of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries.” 

The Museum of Everything is the result of James’ relentless hunt through garages, estate sales, art auctions, eBay and even mental-health workshops, collecting around 2000 pieces linked only by their position on the peripheries of mainstream art. The term “outsider art” is used with reticence, failing to do justice to the scope of the exhibition. 

“James doesn’t want to use the label ‘outsider’ because it seems to categorise all these things as one thing, when really they’re many things,” Jane says. “In many cases, the minute they’re discovered there’s actually a market for some of this stuff, and people love it, and it’s not ‘outside’ at all.” 

To encompass the enormous collection, the bottom floor of the MONA has been transformed into a creaking, labyrinthine series of smaller rooms. Obsession and compulsion run like threads throughout the exhibition, from the religious rantings of self-described prophets to fantastical collections shaped out of scavenged materials. Trauma too makes an appearance, such as Henry Darger’s nightmarish renderings of childhood abuse or Joseph Karl Rädler’s surprisingly serene portraits of fellow inmates at an Austrian sanatorium. Anyone looking for easy categories is going to be left frustrated. 

“It leads to this big picture thing; what do we mean when we say art?” Jane says “Which of course, is one of MONA’s big interests, and is probably one of the reasons David was interested in pursuing the show in the first place.” The Museum of Everything and MONA share a fascination with the whole spectrum of human creativity, and the many glorious and mad ways it bubbles to the surface. 

Words Krysia Bonkowski

The Museum of Everything is showing at the Museum of Old and New Art until 2 April 2018. 

This year, all you’ll read about is “hygge”

The design direction of 2017 is all about living well and simply. Hygge, the Danish philosophy for wellbeing, is a big design trend this year: an emphasis on cosiness and conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment. Everything about it is all-embracing, down to the word itself (pronounced “hoo-gur”) and its derivative connotations of the “hug”.

Nordic design’s clean-lined aesthetic and joyous play on light is an ideal platform for cosiness and reflection. Its signature minimalist interiors forgo all unnecessary items in favour of essentials that work in harmony to create intimate environments. A Stokke baby cradle, a Great Dane Furniture dining table, or a Danske Mobler chair are all the statement makers that are needed to complete a space and enhance the occupant’s state of wellbeing.

“It is often said that the Danes are the happiest people in the world,” says Jo Mawhinney, Australian national retail manager of Living Edge, which carries iconic Scandinavian designs. “In Copenhagen, there is a Happiness Research Institute. Meik Wiking is the CEO, who wrote the gorgeous book called The Little Book of Hygge, the Danish way to love well.”

“By living mindfully, you become more aware of your surroundings,” says interior designer Cushia McFadden, of TomMarkHenry in New South Wales. “Being present in your life, making conscious decisions to surround yourself with what makes you happy results in a more fulfilled existence.”

This state of mindfulness cherishes even the simplest task, making it meaningful and joyful. At its heart, hygge is bourgeois, encapsulating contemporary aspirations of the middle class for simple sophistication, the artisanal and rustic, while celebrating its luxurious elements. “Whether it’s a five-minute meditation on our own in a calm and quiet space, or a coffee with a friend in your favourite café, it’s about taking time to do what makes you happy,” says McFadden.

“A state of wellness can be achieved through lifestyle by surrounding yourself with positive and friendly people,” says Mawhinney. “If we are able to enjoy a living room, lobby, even an airline lounge, with a glass of wine, it is a beautiful, mood-boosting moment.”

Design is crucial for this. It cleverly resolves the space so the user can relax almost effortlessly.

“Design for the home is very personal. What works for one person will not necessarily work for another,” says Mawhinney. “That’s the interesting part – why we create such unique spaces for ourselves and for each other.”

Above all, hygge is a winter philosophy – when woollen throws, comfy chairs, flickering tealights, yoga meditation, and warm embers in the fireplace recall our need for shelter and gathering with friends.

“More and more, people are turning to design for an experience or opportunity,” says McFadden. “A lot of people are now specifically looking to incorporate spaces in their homes where they can ‘switch off’: a reading nook or a living room with no TV.

“On the other hand, a social setting encourages connecting with people. Large communal tables, round banquette seating … these encourage conversation and getting closer to those around you, which is vital to do when so many of us are attached to a phone or computer all day.”

Words Miranda Tay

Ten must-have architecture and design books

What will our future worlds look like? How will we live them? In Sensual Purity – Gordon Wagener on Designs, a collaboration between Mercedes-Benz and Conde Nast International, futurologists, philosophers, neuroscientists and novelists present their unique visions for a brave, new world of Daimler design. British photographer Jonathan Glynn-Smith’s spectacular imagery envisions roads, bridges, skyscrapers and transport of boundless wonder and exciting new technologies, which nonetheless reference the past and present while reimagining the future.

In the same vein, our top 10 architecture and design titles showcase how forward-thinking philosophy and boundless creativity propel exciting new environments to take shape.


Fifty Under Fifty: Innovators of the 21st Century
By Beverly Russell, Eva L. Maddox and Farooq Ameen
Images Publishing

This impressive volume of next-generation vision features global innovators selected after a worldwide search of 50 top architecture and design firms – and all were under 50 at the time of print.

20th Century World Architecture
The Phaidon Atlas

Any “atlas” with the Phaidon imprimatur is a must-have resource. More than 750 of the most outstanding works of architecture built between 1900-1999 are presented in this phenomenal canon of authoritative work.

Lumi Tecture: Illuminating Interiors For Designers and Architects
By Anna Yudina
Thames and Hudson

Dappled, evocative and mood-enhancing, light awakens the senses as much as it does the space. As our environments become more interactive, the realm of new possibilities brought about by its transformative qualities are infinite and edifying.

The Tale of Tomorrow: Utopian Architecture in the Modernist Realm
Edited by Sofia
Borges and Gestalten

This tale celebrates the radical forms and eye-popping structures of the utopian buildings of the ‘60s and ‘70s, which heralded a retro-futuristic epoch, in a spectacularly stunning book.

Mobitecture: Architecture on the Move
By Rebecca Roke

Architecture literally goes places in this inspiring, thought-provoking, ultimately visionary collection of mobile shelters, which range from rustic to deluxe huts, wearable structures and futuristic prototypes.

Building Community: New Apartment Architecture
By Michael Webb
Thames and Hudson

This book examines contemporary apartment development as an enriching building type of growing significance in 39 exemplar projects from urban villages to megastructures.


Room: Inside Contemporary Interiors
Conceived and edited by Phaidon editors

Ten curators choose 10 contemporary interiors – and the result is glorious. With lavishly illustrated insight into groundbreaking interiors, ranging from retail to hotels to homes that defy convention and challenge the imagination, once you enter, you may never want to leave.

The New Chic: French Style From Today’s Leading Designers
By Marie Kalt and the Editors of Architectural Digest

The effortless elegance and joie de vivre that define Parisian style is given a contemporary twist by a rising tide of design talent in this sumptuous title, curated by the editors of French Architectural Digest.


30:30 Landscape Architecture
By Meaghan Kombol

Breathtaking aerial views are the hallmark of this wondrous international journey of magnificent landscapes by 60 established and emerging talents, which showcases an increasingly sophisticated approach to designing the way we live outdoors.

New Nordic Gardens: Scandinavian Landscape Design
By Annika Zetterman
Thames & Hudson

The simplicity, attunement and openness for which Scandinavian design is much revered extends to its outdoor spaces in this inspiring compilation.

Words Miranda Tay

Danish design in focus

Innovation, minimalism and functionalism are key elements, for sure, but equally important is a strong aesthetic appeal born of exquisite craftsmanship and high-quality materials.

To start out, it’s well worth visiting Copenhagen’s impressive Danish Design Museum to see how Danish designers have streamlined even the most prosaic household objects – from pedal bins and light switches to cutlery and vacuum cleaners – and how sleek chairs and tables were created for multi-purpose living spaces.

There are guided tours in English on Sundays, and the museum shop not only has a wide selection of ceramics, glass, textiles, fashion, toys and posters but also great design books.

Iconic chairs on display at the Danish Design Museum.

Normann Copenhagen

Possibly the coolest design store in Copenhagen got even more exciting with the opening of its completely reimagined showroom in a former movie theatre in Osterbro. Brushed steel, mirror glass, terrazzo and bold colours are juxtaposed with the original stucco ceiling and tall marbled beams, all the better to show off their original, eye-catching products that transform the ordinary into the extraordinary through innovative design.

The collection consists of a wide and ever growing range of versatile furniture, sculptural lighting, stunning textiles and clever home accessories that challenge conventional thinking. Among the most famous are Ole Jensen’s rubber washing-up bowl, a vase created from silicon and a dog made out of plastic.

Illums Bolighus

This is Copenhagen’s exquisite department store for Danish and international design. Started in the 1920s, Illums Bolighus pioneered the concept of showcasing furnished interiors where textiles, furniture and homewares interacted as art. To this day, its display windows on Stroget show the latest design trends alongside much-loved classics.

The flagship store is a temple of design offering an impeccable sense of style across numerous floors. There is handcrafted wooden furniture, iconic leather chairs, innovative lighting, bathroom and kitchen treatments, porcelain, silver, glassware and even the best curated Danish fashion labels. In particular, it houses the sleek furniture designs of Hans Wegner and Frits Henningsen at Carl Hansen and Son and Arne Jacobsen’s iconic egg, swan and drop chairs at Fritz Hansen.

Arne Jacobsen chairs on display at Illums Bolighus.


At the heart of everything that HAY does is the notion that contemporary design should spring from a good idea, innovative technology and quality materials in combination with joyful, straightforward and uncomplicated aesthetics.

Founded in 2002, HAY works with a range of designers to create its own brand of beautiful, durable, quality furniture and homewares at affordable prices. The aesthetic honours the quality, craftsmanship and functionalism of Danish modern while also exploring new technologies and materials as design solutions for contemporary needs.

In addition to furnishings and rugs, their second-floor flagship shop on Stroget has a whimsical selection of accessories including bottle openers, serving trays, toothbrushes, tote bags, travel accessories, vases, clocks, pillows and stationery that make terrific gifts.

Designer Zoo

Designer Zoo offers a more artistic approach to interior design and for many years the store has hosted the graduate exhibition of the Danish Design School and ceramics department, as well as half a dozen exhibitions annually that highlight the latest developments in Danish design.

Spread over two floors in Vesterbro, the design store and gallery exhibits the handcrafted work of Designer Zoo’s own seven designers (who work in furniture, glass, ceramics, jewellery and more) as well as numerous guest designers. The staff members are designers – and can offer knowledgeable advice – and it’s also possible to visit some of the workshops where the products are made.

The owner, Karsten Lauritsen, is famous for his customisable bean-shaped tables.

Words Susan Gough Henly

WA’s Lake Ballard and Gormley’s statues

The sparse outback landscape of Western Australia may feel like an unlikely place for a major art installation. But visitors braving a bush driving adventure hundreds of kilometres from the nearest capital city are rewarded with one of Australia's most fascinating installations, as Sir Antony Gormley created what some consider the greatest art installation anywhere in the world on Lake Ballard in outback Western Australia.

Fifty one steel sculptures are spread across 10 sq km of desert, which is variously sun-cracked red earth or shimmering white salt plain, or even shallow water depending on the season.

There are no interpretive panels or signs of any sort at the artist’s insistence, just footprints connecting each piece across the vastness and in doing so becoming part of the artwork.

Titled Inside Australia, the installation is about 800km from Perth, itself one of the world’s most isolated capital cities. It’s 50km from the nearest town, Menzies (population about 60) with access via a corrugated red-dirt road.

Each piece was cast in Perth and trucked to the site; temperatures at the time of their installation sometimes soared above 40 degrees and its very existence in this remote place is testimony to the artist’s tenacity in realising his audacious vision.

The artwork was created for the 50th anniversary of the Festival of Perth in 2003 and is the reason then festival director Sean Doran described it as his most challenging event ever.

Each sculpture is based on a Menzies local, many of them Indigenous people of the area, whom had their bodies scanned in the town hall.

Alana was one of them. She recalls they thought it a very strange request that they strip naked to have their entire bodies imaged, so no one turned up initially.

They eventually relented and she can tell her sculpture because of the pronounced sway in its back; she was five months pregnant with her son at the time. He is now 14. Many of the nearby sculptures are of her family.

“I feel overwhelmed and proud – he’s [my son’s] out there with me but not really out there with me. We are going to be there for a long time,” she says.

Commentators say Gormley’s body of work questions where humans stand in relation to nature and the universe. Alana says the art also makes a strong statement about the connection for traditional owners to the land, particularly women, since Lake Ballard is an important part of their dreaming.

Their story of the seven sisters tells of seven stars (the Greeks called them Pleiades) who, on one of their adventures across the night sky, descended to play on the lake’s surface. They hid in the caves when a man chased them, reappearing on the land as the seven islands across the salt lake.

It is usually very still and intensely quiet on Lake Ballard, enhancing the deep spiritual connection some visitors describe feeling for the piece.

Words and image Kerry Faulkner