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WOO Toys from Vrtíška Žák

Decorative toy concept embodies natural elements and draws on simplicity, thoughtfulness and whimsy

by Adam Stech in Design on 24 October 2014

Czech, Decor, Design, Designblok, Independent Designers, Interior Design, Toys

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Created by Czech design and architecture outfit Vrtíška Žák, WOO toys are a boy's dream come true. "We wanted to design something just for ourselves without any client. So we decided to design these three toys," describes Vladimír Žák. He and his partner Roman Vrtíška have run their design and architecture studio for more than 8 years, working mainly on commercial interior projects. "This is something which we really enjoy. We returned to childhood and designed miniatures of what we like. Of course, every boy loves all the vehicles and their designs," adds Vrtíška.

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The result of their project—presented for first time at Designblok 2014 in Prague earlier this month—is a collection comprised of an airplane, a sailboat and a bulldozer. The toys, all an exercise of good form, simplify the main characteristics of the three forms. The designers teamed up with independent carpenters to manufacture their designs using solid wood, a luxurious finish and a natural curved surface veneer for all three models. The surface veneer—used for the sails, airplane wings and bulldozer belts—creates an elegant material contrast to the lacquered body of each toy.

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The vehicles symbolize three natural elements of water, air and earth. The toys are conceived as decorative sculptures for older boys in the manner of Charles and Ray Eames' House Bird produced for Vitra rather than real play items for children.

WOO toys prices and orders available upon request.

Images courtesy of Vrtíška Žák.

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East London's White Lyan Cocktail Bar

Few brands are found in this venue that creates their own house spirits

by David Graver in Food + Drink on 24 October 2014

Cocktail Bars, Cocktails, London, Spirits, White Lyan

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London's appreciation of a good cocktail can easily be traced back to 1891, but right now the craft resurgence is at a new high point: solid offerings continue to pop up across the metropolitan with an array of well-made classic and neo-classic drinks. And few represent the care and concern going into cocktail making quite like Hoxton's White Lyan cocktail bar. This pristine, minimal venue—helmed by celebrated bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana—offers something you won't find anywhere else: their own proprietary spirits. These branded house spirits are made specifically for and purchased directly from distillers, to White Lyan's specifications. The white spirits, in particular, are completely unique. But even their whiskey is blended and diluted with White Lyan's own water.

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Chetiyawardana's vision meant quality control on all possible elements. "We knew we wanted to use our water," he explains to CH, "so that was a crucial difference too." Water is a defining factor in spirits production and to make a good cocktail, one must first start out with the best spirit possible. To take cocktail creation to that level, many individuals in White Lyan's sphere stepped up. "Over the years, lots of relationships were formed where people were very keen to do something very 'different' with us. When it came to White Lyan, I called all these favors in as there was finally a project where there were no boundaries or stakeholders to answer to, and thankfully, all of them said yes." Chetiyawardana says. "When we told them the concept they loved the idea, so we just spiraled from there." The project took three years to bring to fruition, but the team notes that it took many more years of previous relationship building for something like this to even get off the ground.

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As for customer reaction, Chetiyawardana notes that "They don't always notice. We took away a lot of the standard pillars of a bar—including brands—to try and encourage guests to choose according to mood or their own genuine taste rather than marketing. Others love it. Some were worried we were undercutting quality but when you taste the products, I'd say we have some of the best around—and many attest to that too." All the cocktails are premixed and bottled. That means you won't see cocktail shakers, or even ice—the drinks have been refrigerated. You also won't find a perishable item. It's all about preparation—and it pays off.

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Coupling those spirits with innovative recipes leads to a unique cocktail experience. While at White Lyan we imbibed a few new favorites. The "Civil Serve" featuring vermouth delivers a bit of (blueberry) vinegar to the nose, with elderflower immediately on the palate. It's a sweet, dry finish that abates quickly. White Lyan's "Pillow Manhattan" is a more subtle, less sweet and less fussy contemporary take on the classic rye concoction. There's no citrus and no flourish—it's more like what you'd want in your hip flask. Perhaps their most literal drink, the "Salad" tastes much like a refreshing garden medley and sports their own gin, lettuce, Herbes de Provence and a little red apple soda. Regardless of guest selection, it's a one-of-a-kind experience.

White Lyan is located at 153-155 Hoxton St., London N1 6PJ and is open seven days a week from 6PM to late.

Lead image and Chetiyawardana portrait by Jason Bailey, other images courtesy of White Lyan

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SIGNAL Light Festival 2014, Prague

In its second year, the spectacular three-day celebration becomes the Czech Republic's most well-attended cultural event

by Gabriella Garcia in Culture on 24 October 2014

Art Installation, Festivals, Light Design, Prague, Travel, Video Mapping

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With Prague's incredible collection of pristine architecture, it's hard to imagine it possible to make this former Bohemian capital even more beautiful. The SIGNAL Light Festival however succeeds in doing just that. Wrapping up its second year this past weekend, SIGNAL transforms Prague into an immersive visual art gallery with installations created by teams of light designers, architects, engineers and hackers. The festival, founded by Martin Posta, strives to revive both well-known and hidden, mysterious places throughout the city while celebrating an emergence of creativity driven by innovative technology. "I personally love the contrast of the new technology and the beauty of the magical and classical Prague," Posta tells CH. "It is some form of symbiosis in contrast and it works amazingly well."

Posta, who partnered with Amar Mulabegović of video mapping team The Macula, says that SIGNAL was conceptualized while the artists were on a business trip. "It crossed our minds that it would be cool to pull off something crazy, such as a huge open city light festival," Posta explains. The thought came after he joined The Macula to design a video mapping project for the 600th anniversary of the Prague clock tower, an event that captured global attention. "I honestly think the guys were thinking of something more intimate, maybe community oriented," Posta says, "but I knew it would be nearly impossible to raise funds for a small type of event."

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After three years of planning, SIGNAL launched in 2013 and immediately became the Czech Republic's most-attended cultural event, attracting 250,000 people its first year. Though down from last year's 35—by choice—this year's SIGNAL featured 21 installations (ten of which premiered at the festival), all free and open to the public. "We decided to focus on the more complex and complicated installations," Posta explains. Selected artists were a mix of those approached by SIGNAL and entrants from the festival's open call. "Response to our open call was extreme," Posta says. "We received over 450 projects from all over the world," from which only six were eventually chosen.

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While video mapping projections—such as Maxin10sity's hypnotizing show on Kinsky Palace—tend to steal the show due to their scale and use of some of Prague's most prestigious landmarks, SIGNAL offers a broad spectrum of light experimentation, from performances to interactive pieces that guests could touch and manipulate. Cyclique, a kinetic installation by Maxime Houot and Nohista of Collectif Coin, used 256 helium-filled balloons lit by LEDs to create a magical light show. Posta notes that he was "pleasantly surprised" by a piece called Zona by Petr Nikl & David Vrbík, which mixed an impish performance by Nikl (who donned a huge light-up dunce hat) with a reflective pool that the audience could play with. Ultimately, Posta says, "We are seeking beauty, innovative use of technology in art and extreme creativity."

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While this year's festival has drawn to a close, there is no end in sight for Posta's work on SIGNAL. "We are immediately starting to work on fundraising for the next edition," he says. "We will be starting an open call for 2015 in a couple of days and we are really looking forward to the projects that we receive." SIGNAL will also be transporting ten installations throughout the country as part of a tour called Czech the Light, and will be presenting a new series of art pieces in Pilsen as part of the European Capital of Culture project in February of 2015. Most exciting is Posta's plan to establish the SIGNAL Lab, an institution for developing new interdisciplinary projects. "We will be expanding," Posta says. "A bright future awaits us."

Images courtesy of SIGNAL, video courtesy of Maxin10sity.

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