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Genoa is very old and very new.  The layout of the city and the famous harbour are said to be fundamentally unchanged since Christopher Columbus was a boy here in the 1440’s.  But if you stop and look, you will see modern life at its best thriving, proudly, in Genoa today.  Above is the breakfast room at a hotel in Genoa called Palazzo Cicala, which overlooks a very nifty cathedral, San Lorenzo.

If you stepped outside the hotel–and tilted your head a bit–this is what you’d see.  Photo from here.


The architect, Renzo Piano still works from his native Genoa, and he has been busy for more than 20 years adding ideas, structures, and life to the city, especially on the old harbour.  He designed one of the world’s largest aquariums there, along with a biosphere (above), seen here.

This is a structure/sculpture called Bigo,  designed by Mr P to celebrate the hardworking cranes of the Genoan docks that, along with thick-backed shore workers, have loaded and unloaded the world’s heavy goods for a long, long time.  One of the arms of the Bigo now lifts tourists above the harbour for a gull’s eye view.  Photo above here.

This painting of the harbour, done more than 400 years ago by a man called Grassi, shows the busy-ness of the place back in the age of wooden boats and sails.  More here

The above image is of the harbour about a hundred years earlier, around the time that Genoa’s own C. Columbus set out (with Spanish boats and hopes) for America.  It shows the fortifications necessary to keep a harbour secure for its customers.

The lighthouse on the left in the above ancient print still stands at the entrance to the Genoa harbour, and people say it’s the oldest anywhere. Its red cross on a white background is the emblem of Genoa and has come to symbolize “help available” all over the place.

This painting of a ceremony that may never have happened is weird and beautiful, from here. It is among the many many treasures of the swell Maritime Museum in Genoa.



Another example of old Genoa meets new Genoa is the street called via Garibaldi (pic above left found here), whose amazing palaces (along with those of an adjacent street)  were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.  Outside, these buildings tell you a lot about what people fancied in the 1500’s.  Like great heavy doors and great scary doorknockers.

They also cared about eye catching colours combined with the kind of craftsmanship we are unlikely to see again.  Seen at Wapedia here


Inside, past the (heavy, scary) doors of these places, you might see almost anything (these neat chairs in Palazzo Bianco, photo here)


Silence and solitude and arches gently hued.  And this is a public building!  Nice image and more from here.


Or you’ll find a swish contemporary furniture store called  via garibaldi 12, which is its address.  See more


Genoa claims both Pesto sauce and Focaccia as its own, .

And there is seafood in endless variety, some of it spooky, all of it tasty, wherever you turn.

Above, dinner for two, outdoors, in a plain but life filled Genoan piazza, yummy to the end.


Just go, when you get a chance.

and go back often.

Two pics above from here.

Above is part of an exhibit of important 20th century design established at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris in 1993.  These pieces of furniture were all designed by Pierre Chareau, born 1883, died 1950.  In between, he rose to the top of his profession in France, and then, after being forced to leave his country, he found himself in America, in New York, unknown and mostly unsuccessful in finding opportunities to deploy his remarkable talent. Image above found here.

Today, his furniture pieces sell for $50,000 and more, sometimes much more (above from Christies, here), and a house he designed in Paris, La Maison de Verre, is among the most highly regarded examples of residential design in the 20th century.

Designed for a physician and his wife and completed in 1932, La Maison de Verre is a mind spinning display of creative talent–miles ahead of its time, completely unprecedented, and still capable of causing jaws to drop in 2011.  Everything in the house was designed by M Chareau, everything (including the piano, we think).  It was purchased in 2006 and has been very respectfully restored.  Great story and slide show in the New York Times here.  Beautiful photos by Mark Lyon above and below.

Another recent view of La Maison de Verre.

Pierre Chareau began his professional life as a cabinet maker, and he has left us with a wonderful (and much prized) collection of small household objects like tables, chairs, stools, mirrors, and cupboards.

Pierre Chareau Stool in mahogany and patinated wrought iron ca. 1927 from Artnet

Umbrella stand at La Maison de Verre (Wikipedia!).

This wall mirror above sold recently at Christie’s for €91,000 or about $130,00 seen here.

Cupboard–how cute is that–seen here

There are, nowadays, companies reproducing his designs, so people can own something approximating a brand new Pierre Chareau, such as this lamp:

Based on the original below.

Despite the chilly reception he received in America, Pierre Chareau did receive one commission of significance–a studio house for the artist Robert Motherwell in the Hamptons, outside New York.  Once again he produced something joyously original: a low-cost structure employing materials and ideas based on military Quonset huts.

Wonderful photograph of Motherwell in his little Chareau house by the wonderful Hans Namuth in 1944, gratefully found here. The house was demolished in 1985.

Above interior of the Motherwell house from here

The story of Pierre is both inspiring and demoralizing.  His was a talent that seemed to know no boundaries, one of the great design talents of the last 100 years, and yet it was a talent that was allowed to go largely unused and even unnoticed in a place that prides itself, above all, on its ability to know the real thing when it sees it.  The lesson is, apparently, that talent is no guarantee to success, not then, not now.

Many books have been produced about Pierre Chareau and his work.  Here is one:

If you you find that true and deep inspiration is sometimes hard to find these days in the wonderful world of design, give yourself over to a feast of Pierre Chareau.  You won’t go away hungry.

Above is one of the best known tall buildings anywhere:  the Pirelli Building in Milan designed by Gio Ponti (1891 to 1979).  See here

Year after year, she just gets sweeter and sweeter, especially during fashion week in Milan shown here

Mr Ponti was prolific and one of a kind, just the way we like our designers. Above is Taranto Cathedral, go here

He designed houses too, like this above and 2 below.

Ponti’s villa in Venezuela, 3 above, seen at dailyicon.

Good article here on this remarkable artist/designer.

Chair designed in the year 1937 and produced by L’Abbate in massive beech wood lacquered in eleven different colours or stained.

Go here to get some.

Another very nice Ponti seating arrangement, seen here

All Crystal Dining Table by Gio Ponti for Fontana Arte designed in 1938, seen here

The multi-storey residential building speaks to the surrounding street.  Says Gio Ponti, here

Gio Ponti designed this hotel, and most everything inside, below, too.  Take a look here

Ponti did some wondrous ceramics in the 1920’2.  Above piece is at the MET, shown here

There’s a BOOK!  This is the Italian edition, seen here

This is the garden at the Noguchi Museum in Queens, New York.

And this is inside the museum building, both above pics from here

Mr. Noguchi was a sculptor, architect, poet, furniture and landscape designer, and a very busy artist during his 84 years on the planet.

Born in Los Angeles in 1904 to a Japanese poet mother and an American writer father, Noguchi spent his childhood in Japan before returning to the US at the age of 13.  He won scholarships that allowed him to travel to Paris in the 1920’s.  That was exactly the place to be if you were going to be an iconic artist of the 20th century.

Nice short backgrounder at designboom here

America has many impressive examples of Noguchi’s work, including this Red Cube on Broadway in lower Manhattan.

And he left his mark in Japan as well.  This above is called Energy Void

This pair is Gate, in Tokyo

But he also turned his lovely mind to small everyday objects, like this teaspoon seen here

Above 3 from the Vitra Design Museum collection of Noguchi work.

Book left is Noguchi in Paris by Marc Trieb, see here, published by UNESCO.  Noguchi designed gardens for the UNESCO Headquarters building in Paris.

Above is a section of Noguchi’s Garden of Peace at UNESCO HQ Paris, seen here

Always keen to combine ideas and blur the lines between sculpture, landscape, and interior objects, Noguchi designed an interior sculpture garden called Tengoku in Tokyo, seen here

Back outside, above and below is Moerenuma Park in Sapporo Japan.  See here and here for more

This wonderful smooth big black slide seen here

Noguchi did a lot of work in playground design.  Like many of the most creative artists of the 20th century, his work appeals to the young the old and just about everyone in between.  The above face is a sculpture he called Sculpture to be seen from Mars. See here.

Here we are back at the Noguchi Museum in Queens NY.  Sit a while.  Stay a while.

Noguchi has produced an enormous amount of work in many forms and fields.  Each piece seems to be both ultra modern and ancient, both female and male, both sophisticated and playful.  There is probably something he did that you will fall deeply in love with.  I have a feeling it happens every day to all kinds of people.

If you have stuff, you eventually want to put it somewhere, out of sight, temporarily at least. That’s what cabinets are for. Besides doing you a favour, they can be quite an eye-catching item all by themselves.

Above was made for a 17th century person with small stuff. Seen here.

This is a lemony cabinet of the credenza type. According to patriciagrayinc, it is a ” classic credenza designed by the fabulous Tommi Parzinger”. She’s probably right.

Above seen at apartmenttherapy. It is the work of Xavier Lust. Who else?

This above is very very nice in the thoroughly modern credenza mode. It is called the Lake Credenza, and it is from from BDDW, shown here.

Above is “la faceta” which was designed by Markus Fischer for WK Wohnen of Germany. Seen here

More unexpected is this cabinet/credenza that features the artwork of graphic artist Guido Crepax (1933-2003), who was influential in the development of European comic art. His most famous storyline, featuring the character ‘Valentina’, was created in 1965, and that’s her all over the furniture. See here.

Which brings to mind the amazing Piero Fornasetti, above and below.

Above is his cabinet Libri, one of hundreds and hundreds of wonderful things he designed, from plates to wallpaper, from umbrella stands to cabinets. A good presentation at designboom–click “enter the world of fornasetti”

This is named “Kiss” by Barnaba Fornasetti, son of Piero, inspired by his father’s famous series “Tema e Variazioni”. The shape is that of Piero’s cabinet “Libri” . Limited edition of 12 pieces for Nilufar of Milan

Seen here for eg

If you care for something with more of a regular-working-stiff look, the above is a postal sorting cabinet that can be had from an amazing store called Factory 20 in Virginia.

Another hard working cabinet from Factory 20, this one with enough drawers for almost any pack rat. Factory 20 has a website here.

OK, so what if I want something thoroughly utilitarian and thoroughly modern–and room for lots of stuff. This might do:

Known simply as Toolbox, designed by Pietro Arosio, made by EmmeBi and seen at the seemingly never ending Chaplin’s website. If you like to look a furniture, you can spend a lot of time at Chaplin’s and more money than you’ll ever earn.

But the truth is we are not all that modern when it comes to stuff here at the R of L. We keep all kinds of things that most people wouldn’t and some of it is just plain peculiar and very difficult to justify. So it could be that our ideal storage unit is a cabinet of curiosities like the one above in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, probably made in the Northern Netherlands between 1675 and 1700. Go here.

It will have to do until modern designers take on the pack rat crowd.



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