John Desmond Ltd's Blog

We find the world of metals and finishes rather fascinating We see and encounter these finishes every day – from the shiny bits on our mobile phones, pens, lipstick cases to the shutters, railings and shop fronts we see on the street. Inside shops the clothes rails and counters are often specially treated metals and although we take these for granted they are put there at no little expense. Here we delve a little into the stories behind some of the finishes and materials we probably take for granted and also the surprising history of some processes that are considered entirely ”modern”. You will probably never look at a metal the same way again!
Metal Curtains

Metal Curtains

Architectural Mesh as Solar Shading. The concept of mesh as solar shading Architectural mesh may not be the first material that springs to mind when considering shading from the sun but not only is it highly effective, mesh also has some other very interesting properties. Viewed from varying angles, mesh can appear transparent and for this reason has been popular for cladding the exteriors of buildings such as multi-storey car parks, exterior staircases and balconies, allowing light through whilst creating a safety barrier, or fall-protection. It is particularly suitable for tall buildings, such as car parks, as it is able…
New Double Stone Steel PVD coloured stainless steel fabrication unit in Wimbledon, London

New Double Stone Steel PVD coloured stainless steel fabrication unit in Wimbledon, London

John Desmond Ltd have recently set up a dedicated factory in Wimbledon to create Double Stone Steel PVD coloured stainless steel. This is the first production-unit to colour large-format stainless steel in the UK and colours sizes up to 3 metres by 1.7 metres. Capacity The chamber size is 3.3 metres by 2.2 metres and will accommodate products and sheet material up to a size of 3 metres by 1.5 metres and certain items up to 1.7 metres. Depending on the final use and required durability PVD coatings will be created of varied thicknesses. The standard PVD coating is 0.35…
The role of architectural finishes in the (re)use of existing buildings

The role of architectural finishes in the (re)use of existing buildings

How architectural finishes play an overt or subtle role in building refurbishment Extending and changing the life of a building The process of reconfiguring an existing building to extend its lease of life or of changing its use from one typology to another is an attractive proposition for a variety of economic, social and ecological reasons. It is often cheaper and even architecturally fascinating to take an existing building that is unoccupied, or under-utilised and refurbish it. In doing so, this can improve the building’s performance for its existing function by extending its lifespan. There is also the opportunity to…
Architectural Finishes - What are they and what purpose(s) do they serve?

Architectural Finishes - What are they and what purpose(s) do they serve?

An analysis of architectural finishes and the role they play. What is an architectural finish? We often talk about ‘architectural finishes’ within the construction industry and in everyday language in relation to aspects of a building that is visible to anyone using or viewing both the exterior and interior parts of a building. Architects and designers typically use this terminology specifically to describe a wide range of surface treatments to horizontal surfaces (floors and ceilings) and vertical surfaces (walls) fixed to the main structural elements of the building (floor and ceiling slabs, block walls or stud walls) to complete or…
Stainless steel – the super-alloy

Stainless steel – the super-alloy

An overview of this versatile material Versatility Stainless steel is a metal that’s all pervasive - strong, robust and flexible - but so widely used that it all-to-often blends competently and unobtrusively into the background. Here I attempt to provide insight into its versatility as a remarkable building material; from handsome structural elements to the more whimsically formed art pieces, furniture, fittings and speciality metal works. Structural stainless steel beams by Kivort Steel Tom Dixon’s Etch Web light fitting constructed from stainless steel As iron alloys with elements such as carbon, chromium, nickel, molybdenum, copper, manganese and various other elements…
Wayfinding

Wayfinding

The importance of signage Where am I? Signage and wayfinding is fundamental to the way we operate. Whether as a passenger on the London Underground, a driver speeding along the Californian freeways, finding the right concourse at international airports—whether it be in Seoul, Beijing, Paris or New York or navigating through 2m square feet of retail/entertainment space in the mixed-use environment of Dubai Festival City, Signage and wayfinding is critical to us getting from A to B with ease and on schedule. One is guided through, and to one's destination with seeming ease by the artistic talents of various creatives—…
A fount of timeless inspiration

A fount of timeless inspiration

Touring around the design projects of the prolific designer, Alberto Pinto. Alberto Pinto, the background Alberto Pinto, 1943 – 2012, was born to Argentinian parents in Casablanca. Pinto was a photographer and interior designer working on domestic interiors, corporate spaces, hotels, yachts and aeroplanes. It was the direction in which his photographic work took him, specialising in interior design, that led him to start designing interiors himself. Pinto himself loved enormous spaces although he claimed not to love one particular style. His penchant for large space was to create a cosiness within it despite the “restraints” of size. Pinto has…
Gio Ponti – designing across all mediums

Gio Ponti – designing across all mediums

A skim around the broad-ranging design work of this designer and architect Dates Giovanni "Gio" Ponti, born 18th November 1891 in Milan, Italy, was an Italian architect, industrial designer, furniture designer, artist and publisher. He died 16th September 1979, Milan, Italy. Ponti graduated with a degree in Architecture in 1921 from the Politecnico di Milano University and the same year he married Giulia Vimercati Hotel Parco dei Principi One project for which Ponti was particularly famous was his work on the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento. He designed the whole building and, in collaboration with Ceramica D’Agnostino, created the…
Ico Parisi, a master influencer

Ico Parisi, a master influencer

Looking at the work of this designer and architect Ico Parisi was an Italian architect and designer who was born 23 September 1916, Palermo, Italy and died 19 December 1996, Como, Italy. Parisi did not want to be pigeon-holed as either an architect, designer or artist as he was interested in all mediums. This was borne out by his additional activities as industrial designer, painter and photographer. Remaining most of his life in Como, Italy worked on architectural and design projects sometimes with his wife Luisa with whom he had a design studio, La Ruota. Ico married Luisa in 1947…
Biophilia: just another trendy buzz word?

Biophilia: just another trendy buzz word?

An examination of this design philosophy in relation to One Central Park, Sydney, Australia. Biophilia, bio urbanism, biomimicry or biomorphic design… The number of variations to the term bio seem endless today so you might well wonder if this isn’t just another elaborate buzzword which greenwashing marketers have come up with? The term "biophilia" means "love of life or living systems." Unlike phobias, which are the aversions and fears that people have of things in their environment, philias are the attractions and positive feelings that people have toward organisms, species, habitats, processes and objects in their natural surroundings. Biophilia was…
Second Home Lisbon – Biophilia in action

Second Home Lisbon – Biophilia in action

A look at the design and principles behind this innovative workspace... Project info: Client: Second Home (founded by Sam Aldenton and Rohan Silva) Architects: SelgasCano (founded by Jose Selgas and Lucia Cano) Location: Mercado da Ribeira, Avenida 24 de Julho, Lisboa Size of project: 12,000 sq. Ft. Project cost: €1.3 million Environmental engineer: Richie & Daffin Prime contractor: old2new Pot plant heaven With over 1,200 pot plants and trees installed along the edge of long, wavy-edged tables shared by members, this interior refurbishment project by Spanish architects José Selgas and Lucía Cano beautifully illustrates the design principles of biophilia. The…
The Shangri-La at the Shard

The Shangri-La at the Shard

The people involved in the creation of the Shard and its famous Shangri-La hotel. The concept of the Shard is begun The site of The Shard was originally occupied by the 1970’s building Southwark Towers however following a government White Paper being published favouring the development of high-rise buildings near transport centres this was soon to change. With redevelopment in mind, the entrepreneur Irvine Sellar went to Berlin in 2000 to meet the architect Renzo Piano, 1998 Pritzker Prize winner, to discuss the design of a spectacular building for the site. Renzo Piano was known to greatly dislike standard format…
A meteorite in the city

A meteorite in the city

An architectural review of the dramatic building, The Whale, Borneo-Sporenburg, Amsterdam The Whale Three meteorites fell in the city, in a recently requalified neighbourhood of Amsterdam, Borneo-Sporenburg. These so called meteorites are in fact three massive buildings placed diagonally to disrupt a grid of low-rise units and to provide the programmed density to this area. One of them is The Whale. Designed by Architekten Cie., this volume has a visual impact; not only due to its big proportions but also due to its shape, materiality and configuration. The program is divided into three main sectors: 194 apartments in the volume…
Walter Gropius in Dessau. Part II, The Masters’ Houses

Walter Gropius in Dessau. Part II, The Masters’ Houses

Continuing our walk around the campus of the famous Bauhaus school in Dessau, Germany. The Masters’ Houses After an overwhelming experience at Bauhaus, we continue our path towards the Masters’ Houses. Located at a walking distance from the School, we arrive at a small pine-tree wood plot and we see the four white volumes. Commissioned by the city of Dessau, this project was constructed in parallel with the Bauhaus building. It consisted of three semi-detached houses for the Bauhaus masters and another one for its director. Each house has its first resident name – 1.Walter Gropius ; 2. Lászlo Moholy-Nagy…
Colour in contemporary furniture design

Colour in contemporary furniture design

A review of modern coloured furniture. Solid colour makes a comeback High metallics are wonderful but there is also a place for solid colour and this is where powder coat comes into its own. Reviewing powder coated products it seems the Scandinavians are ahead of the rest of Europe in its use - playing on its strengths of density of colour and using it exuberantly on modern forms. The Dimma chair and table 2016 by Alexander Lervik manufactured by Tingest Lervik, a very well-known designer in Sweden, was inspired by Thonet’s Bistro chairs which have taken a solid place in…
Colour on the streets

Colour on the streets

A look at some fun and functional pieces of street furniture Lucky Beam and Supreme Beam by Katch I.D. It is good to see that Scandinavia is not completely dominating the coloured outdoor furniture scene. Lucky Beam is an outdoor bench designed by sisters Steph and Pamela Katch. They run an interior design studio, Katch I.D. in New York, founded in 2007, which works on luxurious projects so it may be surprising to some that they have come up with this witty and colourful solid piece of industrial inspired furniture. The sisters quote "We always obsess over materials, color, proportion,…
Street furniture meets sculpture meets marketing

Street furniture meets sculpture meets marketing

A look at some powerful ways that street furniture is used to convey messages Bryant Park Litter Bins designed by Ignacio Ciocchini Ciocchini is known for his work with a few Manhattan business improvement districts including the 34th Street Partnership and the Rosslyn Streetscape Plan. Ciocchini sees public space as a product and one that needs to attract clients – the clients being the people who live, work and visit the area. He believes that cities cannot be passive about attracting people and must proactively design their spaces to be alluring for people to spend their time. Ciocchini believes that…
Colour and industrial furniture design

Colour and industrial furniture design

A look at how colour has moved industrial-style furniture into a new era Jennifer Newman Studio Ltd Based in Clerkenwell in London, Jennifer Newman produces a range of bright furniture which would have an industrial look except for the super-bright powder coats she uses to create a range of fun an functional tables and chairs. Her furniture designs are for use in hotels, offices, homes and outdoors and fabricated in powder-coated aluminium and a variety of timbers. She does export but prefers the sustainable option of granting a license to a manufacturer in the locality for them to make the…
Lille's Grand Stadium

Lille's Grand Stadium

An architectural review of the home stadium to LOSC Lille Métropole, the Stade Pierre-Mauroy A sophisticated, multi-functional steel structure achieving several technical feats Last June thousands of football fans from all over Europe converged on Lille’s new stadium to watch a number of UEFA cup fixtures. This venue which seats over 50 000 spectators was designed by the Paris- based architectural practice Valode & Pistre together with Atelier Ferret Architectures, a practice specialized in sports facilities. It was first launched in August 2012. To make the stadium more cost- effective one of the essential requirements was that this new facility…
Borneo-Sporenburg, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Borneo-Sporenburg, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

An architectural critique of this high density housing area. Amsterdam Borneo Sporenburg development. Photography by West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture. Amsterdam’s history The city of Amsterdam is quite known for its unique picturesque architecture. The Dutch first used wood as a prime material in construction building but in the 16th Century most of it was demolished and replaced by brick buildings. The city developed as a result of conscious planning. The canals’ plans were settled in the early 1600’s to simplify the overseas trades and the immigration peak. The canals followed a four “U-shape” design, from west to…
Walter Gropius in Dessau Part I

Walter Gropius in Dessau Part I

A walk around the famous Bauhaus building, Dessau, Germany European Modern Architecture For me European Modern Architecture has always been a reference and a subject of debate. Eager to actually see this, to touch and to be touched by this architecture, we went to Germany – the heart of European Modern Architecture. We had a special curiosity about Walter Gropius’ work. Dessau was mandatory- we needed to see The School, we needed to see the Masters’ Houses. Founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius and directed afterwards by Hannes Meyer and then by Mies van der Rohe, the School was the…
The Cloud Gate Sculpture, Chicago

The Cloud Gate Sculpture, Chicago

Reflections on Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate Sculpture. A discovery The day is gray, drizzle. We’re in the Millenium Park in Chicago; a place of passage and wandering. For the city man, an escape of the daily hustle and bustle, a place of refuge and proximity with nature; for the traveller a must-visit place - an open space, green, within a bustling city. Millennium Park, Chicago, showing the Cloud Gate sculpture against the backdrop of the city buildings 2011. Photography by Ana Lopes Ramos We note a geometric design, a strict green cord. The repetitive and ordered elements send us back…
Bridging the gap: lightweight pedestrian foot bridges,  Part 2

Bridging the gap: lightweight pedestrian foot bridges, Part 2

The second part of a look at contemporary European footbridges... In this article I continue to look at the footbridge as part of urban regeneration schemes, connecting previously dislocated parts of the city, utilising brownfield sites and creating architectural showpieces. Villetaneuse footbridge, Paris A new transport hub was set up in 2010 around the University of Villetaneuse north of Paris that brings together light rail networks with new tram lines. However this new hub widened the divide between the north and south sections of the city. The footbridge therefore fulfils two functions: make the railway station more accessible whilst linking…
Glass Overview - Chapter 3: A simple question - a City without Glass

Glass Overview - Chapter 3: A simple question - a City without Glass

The concluding chapter of an exploration of the use of glass in architecture... Glass – 03 How would the city be if glass wasn’t been invented yet.. well.. we are where we are, glass is everywhere, it is not only in the windows: glass is one of my best friends since the first thing I do even before I stand up in the morning, is to put on glasses to be able to see. Glass is in the hob when we warm up food, it is in the glasses when we drink, in many cooking trays in the kitchen. In…
Mies Van Der Rohe - Part II. The mind behind the steel

Mies Van Der Rohe - Part II. The mind behind the steel

Continuing the exploration of Mies’ principles of structure, design and economy in architecture... Mies' move to the USA When Mies moved to the United States, after thirty years of practice in Germany, he was already considered by the US proponents of International Style a pioneer of Modern Architecture. It is in Chicago that Mies found the conditions that allowed him to achieve a new level of reflection and action. With a capitalist market much more developed than that in Germany, the US provided a place where the alliance between industry and architecture (as claimed by the Deutscher Werkbund) is demonstrated…
Stainless Steel Sheets – performance and use in architecture

Stainless Steel Sheets – performance and use in architecture

How stainlesss steel sheet crops up in our daily lives. "Because I like it!" When I was at the University at the Faculty of Architecture there was a non-written rule: never justify a design choice saying "because I like it", such an answer could have caused convulsions to the professor and assistants and for sure your proposal would have been badly rejected. Now, I know, this could sound a bit too strict and none should never be inhibited on expressing freely what he likes, but at the time Architecture was believed to be an altruistic and selfless science with the…
Bridging the gap: lightweight pedestrian foot bridges,  Part 1

Bridging the gap: lightweight pedestrian foot bridges, Part 1

The first part of a look at contemporary European footbridges... Over the past decade a wealth of urban regeneration schemes across Europe have completely changed the urban landscape by reconquering former brownfield sites, cleaning up riverways and creating pedestrian links and cycle paths. Very often these projects required creating new light pedestrian footbridges to link up different parts of the city across existing transport infrastructure which opened up a new field of design for architects within the built environment. Many of these footbridges have become architectural showpieces in their own right that show what can be achieved today with computer…
An Overview of Steel & Sustainability in Construction

An Overview of Steel & Sustainability in Construction

Looking at some of the key properties of steel within the context of sustainability... Sustainability in building materials Sustainable – according to the Oxford English Dictionary 2015, "conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources". As a Masters degree student and Construction Lecturer who lectures in Sustainable Construction I only found out just how wasteful we, as humans, are recently. Thirty years ago building design and material selection didn’t even really take into account the matter of sustainability. If wood was used for example it was selected because it looked good, was cheap or the council planning department…
Glass Overview - Chapter 2: A simple question - a City without Glass

Glass Overview - Chapter 2: A simple question - a City without Glass

Continuing an exploration of the use of glass in architecture... Why Glass? To imagine London without glass is quite hard, maybe Italo Calvino could help us to exercise our imagination with the Invisible Cities.. if glass wouldn’t have been invented then maybe another material which is now unknown, or used for different scopes, could have been used; or maybe a completely different strategy would have been developed to allow for the light to come in and reach ours sofas. As a consequence, buildings and cities would be probably completely different now. There is perhaps a possible path toward a more…
The History of Toasters

The History of Toasters

An engaging account of the design story of these kitchen appliances... The ancient art of toasting bread Toasting bread is an ancient practice. Early civilizations placed bread over an open fire in order to preserve it, to keep it from growing mold. The bread was toasted on a hot stone in front of the fire. Later on, simple devices were created to toast bread in the fire such as wire frames, to cook the toast more evenly, or sticks like those we use to toast marshmallows over a campfire today. The Romans brought the idea back from Egypt in 500…
The anatomy of the door: a few vital organs

The anatomy of the door: a few vital organs

A forensic examination of the door... Don't open that door! To open and to close doors is so deeply part of our routine that we don’t even have to think about it, we just do it… unless the keys are lost somewhere, at the bottom of the bag or, worse, forgotten right behind that door that you have just closed, and you wish you could re-open now! To open and to close are almost unconsciously driven acts. However, in order to be enabled to do so a conscious and deep level of design is required to allow the technical control:…
A Brief History of the Kitchen

A Brief History of the Kitchen

How heat and food bring people together, looking at the relationship between ovens and kitchens... The origins of the kitchen In ancient times, people cooked on open fires that were built outside on the ground. Later on, simple masonry constructions were used to hold the wood and food. In the Middle Ages the food was often placed in metal cauldrons that were hanging above the fire. These cooking areas naturally caused people to gather as they were the primary source of heat, light, safety and, of course, food. A recreated 12th-Century kitchen, Dover Castle, English Heritage The smoke and soot…
Banc Sabadell Headquarters, Bach Architects

Banc Sabadell Headquarters, Bach Architects

How the recession forced a great design... Born during the recession – the scheme gets down-sized Back in 2008 the commission for the Headquarters Building for Banc Sabadell was received among the design team as a mixture of feelings, sounds strange, but a sweet and sour flavour surrounded us. We had been working for two years designing a building that we all felt was our baby. The 6-storey hole for the car park levels was already dug. We were about to pour the concrete for the foundations when the fears of recession made Banc Sabadell reconsider their ambitious plans of…
Estimator – Architectural Metalwork

Estimator – Architectural Metalwork

Permanent, full time, CAD Draughtsman required for an Estimator in Architectural Metalwork. Location: Wimbledon, London Hours: 40 per week Wage: Salary with performance related bonus package negotiable and dependent upon qualifications and/or experience. Duration: Permanent Description: Due to an increased workload and current expansion plans of new PVD coating plant and anti-microbial coatings we are looking for an Estimator with experience and skills in Architectural Metalwork. John Desmond Ltd provides a bespoke design, manufacture and installation service typically tendering on major contracts for prestigious, commercial high end and residential projects. Responsibilities: Ensure all documentation received from clients is comprehensive enough…
Glass Overview - Chapter 1: A simple question - a City without Glass

Glass Overview - Chapter 1: A simple question - a City without Glass

Exploring the origins and use of glass in architecture I was just looking outside of the windows of our living room, from where we can see in the background all the tallest towers in the City, the “Shard”, the “Cheese Grater”, the “Gherkin” and other friends made mainly of glass and steel when my son asked a simple question: how would the City be if glass wasn’t been invented yet? The Shard, London. Photo by Jason Hawkes Yes, sometimes parents don’t have the answer and well, sometimes this can be frustrating, like in this case, since I am an architect…
Stainless Steel Sheets – from tomato cans to skyscrapers

Stainless Steel Sheets – from tomato cans to skyscrapers

How stainlesss steel sheet crops up in our daily lives. From tomatoes... The three clips of my braces, the sink where I wash the cap, the dishwasher, the wash machine, the fridge, the majority of the appliances in my kitchen, the lift, the bus I take to go to work, the roof and the cladding of the buildings around... the list could carry on forever! We are surrounded, like it or not, by sheet metal. There is one particular object which could symbolize the reasons why sheet metal is so diffused. It is a very common object which shape and…
A look at street lights

A look at street lights

Considering this illuminating presence in our lives. Lamp-posts as part of our lives Progress comes in different guises but how often do we consider the intangible cost. A beautiful new running track along a nearby beach is bringing residents out for exercise as never seen before. LED lighting in turquoise-coloured lamp-posts punctuate the route; toilets have been erected and ironically, a host of food outlets have also been set up. All of this opposite a row of desirable residences whose owners no longer venture to the sea-shore in solitude. And, no longer can we gaze at stars from a light…
Mies Van Der Rohe Pt. 1 From Traditionalism to Modernism

Mies Van Der Rohe Pt. 1 From Traditionalism to Modernism

Looking at the inspirations of this iconic architect and designer Mies van der Rohe was an architect with notable draw skills. This gave him the opportunity to work in 1905 with Bruno Paul, having his first contact with Peter Behrens and Herman Muthesius. In 1908, Mies was working for Peter Behrens, Sandra Honey in European Works says:- "Behrens gave Mies a respect for detail, a deep admiration for Schinkel and a valuable experience in the management of a large commission"1. Mies had to fight himself to get away from the Classicism of Shinkel, but he never actually did; and this…
Structural Steelwork Overview – “The third stage in the Journey of a Fabricated Beam”

Structural Steelwork Overview – “The third stage in the Journey of a Fabricated Beam”

The steel beam receives its protective coatings ready for its life in the City. Chapter 3: Towards adulthood If you are reading this chapter, that probably means you survived the first two, proving you are remarkably strong and persistent. Having got this far, it won’t be difficult to get to the end of the steel beam’s journey which is, you’ll be relieved to know, very close to the end. We left the previous chapter with the beam completely welded and cut to its final shape, just waiting for something to happen. I will now describe the “dressing” of the beam…
CAD Draughtsman Job Vacancy

CAD Draughtsman Job Vacancy

Permanent, full time, CAD Draughtsman required for our Architectural Metalwork company. Location: Wimbledon, London Must be fully proficient in AutoCAD and have previous experience of working with metals, especially stainless steel. You will be working in a small office on interesting and challenging projects. Previous experience of staircase design is an advantage. For full job description please email [email protected] Wood Lane Underground Station, one of John Desmond Ltd’s projects working with Ian Ritchie Architects
The Selfridges Building, Birmingham

The Selfridges Building, Birmingham

Looking at this iconic example of "Blob Architecture". Part of the Bullring Masterplan After the creation of the Bullring’s Masterplan, Birmingham obtained a retail centre of a significant architectural importance, which was expressly composed of the West Midlands’ multicultural city’s copyright. The building of Selfridges owes its inspiration and creation to Future Systems Architects back in 2003. With four floors and a retail area space of 110,000 square meters, the modern building of the £60 million is considered one of the most important structures ever built because of its unique architectural style called Blob Architecture or Blobi-tecture. This term came…
Structural Steelwork Overview (the continuing journey of a fabricated beam)

Structural Steelwork Overview (the continuing journey of a fabricated beam)

The steel beam is shaped and cut to suit. Chapter 2: Boyhood If you are a structural engineer you probably don’t want to read an architect’s raving around the boyhood of a steel beam, I this case I would suggest you to stand up and perhaps enjoy a walk in the park. This is the continuation of the story of my trip in a steel mill to follow the journey of a beam from her non-defined liquid form to the final product installed in a building in the City of London. We left the first chapter when I and the…
A detailed inspection of handrails

A detailed inspection of handrails

Looking at the considerations and factors involved in creating this component so essential for our security. Safety, thermal quality and finishes Think of a time you have been at a beautiful location taking in the view and you idly put your hand on the rail of a balustrade; only to have the adversely hot temperature of the rail make you recoil. Conversely, can you think of an occasion where you have had to grasp a handrail for support and were thankful to it for saving your fall? As end users, perhaps we only consider the design of handrails when we…
Architectural door handles

Architectural door handles

Looking at the role of interior handles in architectural detail Detail does matter, in both architectural and interior design terms. Functional metalwork, in the form of door and window handles, can be so visually important. They are used frequently throughout each day, so they need to combine ergonomic comfort with visually-pleasing looks. If you are designing an interior scheme to a specific historical period, then your range of options should probably be limited to metalwork designs of that time. If you are working in a generic traditional style then your options are rather more complicated. The origins and development of…
The history and meaning of fences

The history and meaning of fences

Looking at the origins, materials and subliminal messages of boundaries The origins of fences The origin of the word "fence" comes in the XIV Century with the word fens, a short term for defense, protection. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as "a structure serving as a barrier, boundary or enclosure, usually made of posts or stakes joined together by boards, wire, or rails. It surrounds, separates, keeps away, it defends." The history of civilization is closely tied with the history of fences. It emerged from the notions of agriculture, family and property. Fences helped institutionalize the collective recognition of private…
Grand Hotel design and history

Grand Hotel design and history

A glamorous tour of Grand Hotels looking at design and detail The Grand Budapest Hotel At the 86th Academy Awards in February this year, it came as little surprise when Adam Stockhausen was presented with the Oscar for Best Achievement in Production Design for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Stockhausen succeeded in creating an impressionistic land with flavours of Eastern Europe that on screen looked almost as if it had sprung to life from the pages of a picture story book. Who could forget the image of the lavish 19th Century hotel perched aloft on rugged, snow-capped peaks in the fictional…
The evolution of decorative ironwork

The evolution of decorative ironwork

A journey back in time looking at the design origins of decorative ironwork "Hand forged Ironwork is the Salt & Pepper of Architecture.” Samuel Yellin, 1885-1940" The origins of iron production and aesthetics The first iron production started in the Middle Bronze Age. The Hittites were the first to understand the production of iron. The vast availability of the raw material enabled bronze weapons to be replaced with iron ones. In Europe, the spread of ironwork is associated with the Celtic Expansion, being first introduced to Greeks around 1100-1000 BC and reaching western and central Europe by 600 BC. Iron…
Spiral, Helical and Elliptical Staicases

Spiral, Helical and Elliptical Staicases

An essay about Imagination and Construction The origins of stairs Stairs are one of the oldest constructions in architectural history. It is believed the first stairs dated from 6000 BC: in order to overcome difficulties imposed by the terrain, men fitted together wood trunks, so that they could move fast, easily and safely. They were not designed, calculated or even planned. They were just an intuitive way to solve a problem. With the years, and along with mankind’s evolution, the stair was used for religious devotions; a metaphorical way to reach the Sky connecting the Earth/Men with the Gods. Stairs…
The architect as furniture designer

The architect as furniture designer

Looking at how architects approach furniture design Integrating architecture and furniture design Many beautiful and iconic pieces of furniture have been designed by architects: The Barcelona Chair by Mies Van Der Rohe, the Eames Chair by Charles and Ray Eames, the Wiggle Chair by Frank Lloyd Wright. Alongside the many talented furniture designers in the industry, architects have firmly made their mark in this field. The Barcelona chair by Mies van der Rohe There seem to be two directions that an architect might take when designing furniture. On the one hand, he may want the design philosophy to go beyond…
Architectural wire mesh

Architectural wire mesh

We look at the development of mesh into a material for indoors and out. Architectural wire mesh Wire meshes are being increasingly used by architects and designers the world over both for external and internal applications. Wire mesh is a very versatile material that exists in a range of different metals and manufacturing techniques. For instance stainless steel mesh or galvanized steel mesh are often specified for external applications whilst finely woven wire mesh or brass wire mesh are often used in interior design. Welded wire mesh is produced through the electronic fusion of two wires together to create a…
Structural Steelwork Overview

Structural Steelwork Overview

The story of a fabricated steel beam Chapter 1: Birth As architect I often have to defend myself from the prejudice that architects lack pragmatism. I use to work daily with engineers and yes, they love to blame architects for not being realistic! Therefore I couldn’t say no when a bunch of suspiciously friendly engineers invited me for an instructive trip to follow the process of the making of a fabricated steel beam from the raw materials to the final installed object. This is the first chapter of a sort of notebook of my descent into the burning cave of…
The peerless qualities of stainless steel

The peerless qualities of stainless steel

Looking at the qualities of this remarkable alloy Metals and alloys The Blue Planet, which is home to approximately 7 billion humans alone, is also home to a cache of material resources buried deep within its strata, on hand to meet our every need. Most of these materials in their elemental form are metals. In their purest form, metals lack the hardiness required to endure time and place and must be alloyed with other metals and non-metals to be of use. Iron, for instance, is a remarkably strong metal, yet brittle and susceptible to rust in exposed environments. Conversely, aluminium…
An overview of architectural cladding and materials

An overview of architectural cladding and materials

An overview of architectural cladding and materials Cladding /klædıŋ/ a covering or coating on a structure or material, etc. (Oxford English Reference, 1996). One type of cladding, or siding as they say in the USA, starred as the theme of the 1987 movie Tin Men, also starring Danny DeVito and Richard Dreyfuss. Set in the 1960s, at the height of America’s post war building prosperity, rival salesmen use skullduggery to close sales on aluminum sidings. These characters are as passionate about their product as closing their deals. No doubt there is still healthy competition in markets today where there are…
Arnaldo Pomodoro – Inspiring Architecture in Relief

Arnaldo Pomodoro – Inspiring Architecture in Relief

Discussing the work of this influential sculptor Fill a room full of designers and empower them to brainstorm for their own new studio space, and the sky’s the limit. It’s when our soaring visions collide with the cold, hard reality of budget constraints that we’re faced with the choice to dismiss the vision altogether, or pursue a clever solution. My colleagues and I were presented with precisely this assignment just a few months ago. Encouraged by the adage that limited funds should not deter a great idea, we set-to and mined books, the internet, and our own collective memory for…
In Search of Wonderful

In Search of Wonderful

Looking at the work of master metalsmith Carlo Scarpa By Naomi Evans, Architect at Cox Architecture, Melbourne, Australia As Christmas approaches, an advertisement is currently airing on Australian television for a high- profile department store. The marketing campaign has coined the phrase, “find wonderful” and the ad, with cinematic flair, follows a pretty ingénue as she weaves her way through a whimsical paper city and poses the question, “ever wonder where wonderful went?” As children, the story suggests, we found delight in little details. We were enthralled by life’s small offerings, and “fairies paid good money for teeth.” But as…
CPD on PVD

CPD on PVD

Aka an Information Evening on PVD coated coloured stainless steel As part of the London Design Festival, April Dahlberg of John Desmond Ltd will be hosting a series of CPD sessions during an informal evening event on Tuesday 16th September at The Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch. April will be hosting small groups of architects, interior designers and contractors throughout the evening with wine, canapés and lively discussion. The CPD (continuing professional development) sessions are designed to provide An introduction to titanium ion technology, which is still very new in the UK. A demonstration of some of the design possibilities using…
The use of steel in restoration

The use of steel in restoration

How steel has developed from a structural to an aesthetic choice for buildings. Steel as a structural element The restoration of buildings plays a fundamental role in the regeneration of urban spaces. Recovering and upgrading the "built space" provides an opportunity for urban communities to provide high-quality housing that meets the needs of both local people and their immediate surroundings. Restoring buildings is also essential for preserving the architectural heritage of an area. However, insight and creativity are needed to use new planning guidelines in such a way that make old structures compatible with new consolidation-and-repair methods, both stylistically and…
The craze for copper

The craze for copper

We look at this beautiful material and its myriad of applications. What is behind the 'copper craze'? Over recent years the use of copper in architecture and interior design has become all the rage both in mainland Europe and the US. This might seem a bit of a paradox when one hears that industrial demand in the BRIC economies is putting a strain on the copper supply chain, leading to increased prices and an increase in copper theft. So is this fashion trend linked to aesthetic appeal and/or performance advantages? Or is this trend linked to product innovation leading to…
Perforated metal screens

Perforated metal screens

We look at how the use of screen materials is developing The trend of the past two decades for covering entire buildings in glazing has had negative environmental implications that has required architects to develop new approaches. This has led to the development of bioclimatic architecture: rather than creating glass towers that trap heat and rely on mechanical cooling, architects are now incorporating systems in their building designs that provide protection from summer sun, reduce winter heat loss, and make use of the environment for heating, cooling and lighting buildings. The practice of screening exterior façades from sun or winter…
Metal-framed windows

Metal-framed windows

We look at the use of metal frames for windows and doors from the early Crittall products up to their use in modern design. The birth of metal-framed windows Metal-framed windows were an idea developed as an alternative to wooden frames which require comparatively frequent maintenance. Metal was also chosen for its strength, due to the inherent, unique properties of iron - both for load-bearing and resistance to the elements. Over the years, the technology used in the manufacturing process has been refined and applied to modern-day designs: for architectural doors, walls and internal screening. The dominant manufacturer was Crittal.…
Bronze PVD

Bronze PVD

Looking at yet another bronze revival. Bronze finishes are once again the rage with those at the forefront of design. The trend is noticeable internationally in both the States and in Europe, notably the UK. Taps (faucets) shower heads and bathroom plumbing are all appearing in Interior Design magazines and blogs. These home fixtures are, of course, also widely featuring on Pinterest alongside, interestingly, the same finish being used on jewellery and accessories. Aurora style bronze pvd fountain pen Whilst real bronze is still in evidence with antique pieces of architectural ironmongery most bronze finishes being produced now are in…
Rose Gold PVD

Rose Gold PVD

A look at the fascination from both men and women for this finish. Any jewellery fashionistas will be very aware of both Rose Gold PVD and Black PVD. Rose Gold PVD is used on exquisite women’s rings and necklaces and also on expensive watches for both men and women. Michael Kors watch in Rose Gold Rose Gold PVD brilliantly mimics Rose Gold however is a sought-after commodity in its own right. Interestingly it is fashionable for both male and female jewellery being used for rings, earrings, bracelets, watches and necklaces for women and for cufflinks, rings and watches for men.…
Great glasshouses

Great glasshouses

A look at metalwork and glass structures from Victorian times to the present day... The great glass houses of Britain are part building, part sculpture and part nursery – iron, steel and glass structures nurturing rare species of plants and trees from a wide variety of regions and climates. The construction materials may have changed over the past 150 years, or so, but the architectural aims and challenges seem to have remained similar. So what is the main aim in the design and structure of a glasshouse of epic proportions? Scale, first and foremost, in terms of the height and…
Metalwork sculpture in Cardiff

Metalwork sculpture in Cardiff

How metalwork sculpture can forge an enduring identity Sculpture and regeneration Cardiff Bay, with its vast, 500-acre waterfront, is now widely regarded as one of the most successful regeneration projects in the United Kingdom. Connecting the new water front and the old city centre via a sweeping, grand boulevard was one of its aims. So too, was the creation of a new identity as a modern European capital – using its industrial and maritime heritage to link, inextricably, the achievements of the past with the ambitions of the future. Public art plays a very important role in redefining the identity…
Street furniture

Street furniture

How modern materials and a modern approach are taking over from a Victorian stronghold How often do we think about street furniture? It is unlikely we would think about it apart from when actually walking down a street – but how often then do we observe it? Street furniture ranges from the obvious benches and seats to bins, barriers, planters, bicycle racks through to traffic signs, street lamps and sculptures. Many of these are in the hands of the local government and regulated by UK road traffic standards but here we look at some of the other pieces of street…
Why PVD is different to traditional finishes

Why PVD is different to traditional finishes

What does the PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) coating process actually mean and why is it so significant in product-coating terms? "PVD" is an acronym that’s increasingly prevalent in metalwork-finishing parlance and is generally associated with scratch-resistance and colouring benefits. But what does the PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) coating process actually mean and why is it so significant in product-coating terms? Traditional electroplating It is electroplating that is regarded as the traditional metalwork-coating process. This involves the plating solution being put in a tank and the product to be plated receiving a negative electrical charge. This negative charge attracts the positively-…
A brief tutorial in Titanium Ion Plating

A brief tutorial in Titanium Ion Plating

What possibly you never thought you'd need to know, a fascinating insight. Titanium is a popular metal as it is very strong, non-corrosive and lightweight. Another positive is the fact it doesn’t cause skin irritation or discolour, making titanium the perfect solution for a wide number of modern uses. Titanium was discovered in the 18th century – the ore is obtained from minerals ilmenite and rutile, and titanium appears at number nine in the list of most abundant elements in the Earth’s crust. Titanium grown by the iodide, or crystal bar, process Ion plating is a PVD process that uses…
The hot zinc spraying process

The hot zinc spraying process

An explanation of the processes used in working with the natural mineral, zinc. Mined zinc Zinc's excellent corrosion resistance has led to it being used as a protective coating on many products, able to win the battle with all weather extremities. Zinc has the remarkable ability to form thick, adherent corrosion by-products. This super resilience leads to a rate of corrosion considerably lower than similar metals – it can be10 to 100 times slower, depending on the harshness of the environment. Hot dip galvanizing, a method of coating steel, iron or aluminium with zinc to protect it against the elements,…
PVD coatings in the salon industry

PVD coatings in the salon industry

Millions of pairs of PVD coated scissors are produced every month, here's why. PVD coatings stand up to most endurance tests and are now performing well at the sharp end - that is as a coating on scissors used in hairdressing salons and barbers. Cutting to the quick; how are PVD coated shears better than simple stainless steel scissors? The coating applied to the scissors is a layer of TiN (Titanium Nitride) by using the PVD metal coating process. With this coating the scissors become considerably more robust. The measured hardness of the TiN layer is something in the order…
PVD, the fashion favourite

PVD, the fashion favourite

Looking at how PVD coating is used in the world of jewellery and fashion accessories. Why use PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) coatings for watches and jewellery? First of all, the finish won’t wear off. It increases the life of bracelets, crowns and bezels and adds a unique professional appearance to timepieces and virtually wipes out the issue of reflective glare. As the deposition process is so flexible many industries have begun using this exciting technology. Tag Heuer Racer is a an Android smart phone from Swiss watch-maker Tag Heuer. How is PVD applied? PVD is applied in a similar method…
What is PVD coating?

What is PVD coating?

This apparently incredibly modern finishing process has its origins in the seventeenth century. Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) is a technique used to deposit thin films of one atom (or one molecule) at a time onto various surfaces, often metal, to give them a hard durable coating. The source of the coating is physical that is a solid or liquid instead of chemical as in the alternative coating process of Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD). PVD processes are carried out under vacuum conditions. The process involves four steps: These are Evaporation, Transportation, Reaction, Deposition. Evaporation - A target is bombarded by a…
PVD coatings and architectural ironmongery

PVD coatings and architectural ironmongery

Looking at the history of materials used for taps and handles and the modern-day options. Stainless steel is now used widely on a vast range of commonplace household items. Metal finishes, achieved with the PVD process, are now adding a new dimension to really make items such as bathroom fixtures and architectural ironmongery not only stand out but stand the test of time. Kohler’s tap, or faucet, in Rose Gold Taking a step back into history, metals used for taps and bathroom fittings have come and gone in terms of preference. Due to its corrosion resistance, nickel was the popular…
What is Shot Peening

What is Shot Peening

An explanation of the shot-peening process which is used today by contemporary architects and designers and yet which has been around since mediaeval times. We give a simple account of the process. Shot peening is a cold working process which can trace its roots to the methods blacksmiths practiced in medieval times. The surface which requires shot peening is bombarded by small round media called shot which are creating the same kind of impact as the blacksmith’s hammer. In the same way, the shot strikes the surface leaving behind a small indentation or dimple. In order for a dimple to…
What can PVD coatings be made of?

What can PVD coatings be made of?

PVD coated stainless steel is still very new in the UK. We give a broader picture of PVD coatings and explain some of the technical aspects of the process. Thin PVD coatings are typically deposited to give, often metal products, extra strength as well as aesthetic appeal. Almost any material can be PVD coated, but the most typical examples are using the process for stainless steel or titanium. Other materials include: chrome plated brass and all other steels. The list of coating materials used in the PVD process include: - TIN: titanium nitride - the first PVD hard coating to…
Yacht interior design

Yacht interior design

Looking at the unique challenges of interior design for yachts and why it is so different to land-locked property. On-trend coloured stainless steel is now inspiring interior designers all over the world. New and exciting colour choices, often created as a result of the PVD (physical vapour deposition) process are guaranteed to make all kinds of buildings including retail outlets, restaurants, malls and now, increasingly, luxury yachts stand out. Until the late 1990s only shades of gold coloured stainless steel were really possible offering a very limited choice for designing interiors. Over the last few decades the colour palette of…
Stainless steel and art

Stainless steel and art

Looking at some iconic modern installations and sculptures and examining why stainless steel is such a popular medium for artists Stainless steel is a popular choice for public art, sculptures and outdoor features as it can be welded, machined, bent, and finished with many different surface finishes and colour effects. Stainless steel art In contrast any paint finish is likely to bubble and peel. However the beauty of stainless steel is that it does not rust and strongly resists attack by a great many liquids, gases and chemicals. There are different grades of stainless steel, for instance, a 304 grade…
Using Stainless steel and PVD coatings for yachts

Using Stainless steel and PVD coatings for yachts

The nitty-gritty of yacht fixtures and accessories and how modern techniques are improving their appearance and lifespan. The metals most commonly used today in the construction of yachts, marine structures and chandlery are stainless steel and aluminium. While aluminium is light, it has limited corrosion resistance in seawater and requires significant maintenance. Stainless steel, however, is recognised as one of the best materials for marine applications as its corrosion resistance is excellent. It is also a strong and stiff metal and can be given many different eye-catching finishes to make it last even longer. The Maltese Falcon, designed by Ken…
The world of shot peening

The world of shot peening

Looking at the range of materials and uses of shot peening. There are thousands of ways of using shot peening media. Fatigue life is enhanced significantly increasing the useful life of the treated part, the stress is relieved so that all of the component parts work together and surface hardness is enhanced increasing resistance to scratches. Very importantly shot peening also provides an aesthetically pleasing finish. Shot for peening has to be round, but can be made from cast steel, cut-wire, stainless steel, glass, ceramic as well as other materials. The degree and consistency of results depends on the base…
Lighting - a brief overview

Lighting - a brief overview

A quick flash through time looking at the first electric lamp up to the modern day approach to lighting. Lighting can literally light up your life by completely changing the mood of a room. Just as theatre lighting transforms a stage, lights in a room can alter colour and emphasise texture. A soft lighting scheme can be calming and soothing or, at the other end of the scale, dramatic shades can be exciting or daring. Importantly for interior designers, lighting affects the perception of space. Small rooms can be made to feel larger, large rooms smaller. By using clever lighting,…
Doors, doors, doors

Doors, doors, doors

An essential item for our security and privacy and also a style and design statement. We look at some of the options on doors. Contemporary style metal doors Metal external doors are not just functional for factories and foundries any longer. Today, it is not unusual for these doors to be used at hotels, apartment buildings, and even homes. In many areas steel doors actually outsell their wood and fibreglass counterparts. Home extension by Innovarchi in Balmain, New South Wales, Australia Popular choices of materials are stainless steel, bronze, brass and aluminium. There are ways of making them more interesting,…
PVD coating – a finish for all seasons

PVD coating – a finish for all seasons

PVD coated coloured stainless steel is used in the creation of sculpture, architecture, jewellery, phones and is used for interiors and exteriors. We look at this very versatile medium. PVD coating - a spectrum of colour options When it comes to stainless steel you’re not just restricted to simply silver. There are a rainbow of colour opportunities which can be achieved through the Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) process. Jeff Koons Balloon Flower - Magenta The process of PVD coating During the process, first of all the stainless steel is cleaned to make sure that the coating will bond well. The…
How are PVD coatings used?

How are PVD coatings used?

We roam around in the world of PVD coatings to see what, in our everyday world, it is used for. And of course, how is it actually done. High quality coatings achieved by Physical Vapour Deposition have wider uses than most people realise – on car engines, double glazed units, bath taps, drill bits, mobile phones, spectacles – the list is endless. The market is growing at 10 per cent per year and with annual sales in excess of £2 billion. PVD coating in the car industry In the car industry, it is a newer and much cleaner alternative to…
Signs of the times

Signs of the times

We look at just how far we have come from cave-painting and mediaeval sign-writing up to modern day laser-cutting and back-lighting in the world of signs. It's a sign of the times perhaps that modern developments have brought massive changes to the way placards and notices are designed and made. Throughout the 20th century new eye-catching features have emerged such as light bulbs, neon, flashing letters and the most recent innovation, digital displays. In the last few decades the sign writing industry has been almost swallowed up to be replaced by signs designed on computers, often in 3D. However up…
Canopies, a brief overview

Canopies, a brief overview

The Victorians knew how to use canopies to full effect, think of Crystal Palace, and today canopies are enjoying a similar resurgence and are being specifed on a large scale, including airports. We look at some of the favourites. The term canopy commonly refers to large structures placed over the entrance to many public buildings such as theatres, hotels, schools or businesses. Both marquees and canopies have gained popularity during the 19th and 20th centuries, when the size and prominence of the signs associated with them also grew. Historically, materials commonly used in marquee or canopy construction were steel, bronze,…
Antimicrobial Decorative finishes

Antimicrobial Decorative finishes

Can a decorative finish kill bacteria too? We look at some of the old and new technology that does exactly that. Can coatings add more to surfaces than durability and decoration? The answer is yes - not only can the surface of a countertop look more attractive or the handle on a fridge look like chrome – but coatings applied using the PVD process can help fight invisible germs. This is done by incorporating antimicrobial additives into the hard surface coating. Killing infection in hospitals and clinics Repeated testing reliably concludes that these coatings can be effective in helping to…