This week we have been finding inspiration in 'Brancusi, Film, Photographie: Images Sans Fin', the catalogue from the 2011 Centre Pompidou exhibition of the same name. Whenever Brancusi sold a sculpture he would replace the original with a plaster replica so as to not disrupt the relationship between the group of pieces.
Concealed by towering Eucalyptus trees, wispy rushes and lush grasses, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation slowly reveals itself as you meander through the verdant gardens which surround it. Designed by Alberto J. Pessoa, Pedro Cid and Ruy Jervis d'Athouguia in the late 1950s, the building is an inspiring mix of concrete, glass, greenery and water. As we stand in the gallery we watch the cantilevered concrete drains carry rain water from the terraced green roof above into the pools of water below.
Many people, when they pick up our planters say “ah! Terrazzo.” But to us, we’ve always thought of our material as polished concrete. Which lead us to think about, what is terrazzo? Immediately we think of Venice and the vibrant polished marble floors ubiquitous in the city. Terrazzo is an invention of Venice, created as a low cost flooring material consisting of scrap marble chips left over from the production of costlier floor tiles, set in a bed of clay which would then be sealed with goats milk.
With the advent of concrete and industrial polishing machines in the 1920’s, terrazzo evolved into a material still using shards and chips of marble, with fine aggregates exposed within a concrete mix. Often strips of metal, often brass or copper, would be used to divide differing mixes of stone allowing colour and pattern beyond the natural stone to be integrated.
So its not wrong to describe our planters as terrazzo. Our material does consist of the same ingredients as the venetian floors. But until we do start using our material as floor tiles and surfaces, we will keep calling it polished concrete.
The following photos are from our trip to Venice last year to visit the Architectural Bienalle.
Earlier this summer we took a trip to Copenhagen to celebrate our birthdays. On an uncharacteristically hot day we boarded the train from the city centre to the north of Copenhagen. After a short bus journey we found Finn Juhl’s house, surrounded by woodland and not far from the sea. Built in 1942 the house embodies Juhl’s multidisciplinary approach to design. Designed from the inside out, the different rooms interact with one another creating the sense of one continual space wrapped in a wall. Every element of the house and every object within it has been carefully considered with no space being left redundant; paintings hang high above door frames, bookshelves line the hallways and kitchen cupboards flow into the next room. Ceilings are painted pale yellow, inspired by the soft glow of a tent roof, doors are bright orange and rugs are vivid pink, yet the overall palette of the house is neutral and calming. Finn Juhl’s house is a great example of how a house can be both functional and beautiful.
Finn Juhl’s ultimate goal was to design and make every element of his house, from the architecture to the light fittings, something he didn’t manage to realise in his lifetime. The Conpot planter design stems from our own desire to create the ideal objects for our home, an ideal which continues to inform new designs.
Conpots are primarily intended for inside use so are not made with drainage holes. People often ask what how to pot their plant in a Conpot so we thought we would write a brief guide.
We often find that shop bought plants have already outgrown their plastic pots and are ready to be planted into a larger pot. If your plants roots are beginning to come through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot it is ready to be repotted.
To keep your Conpot and plant well drained put a generous layer of small drainage stones inside the bottom of your pot before planting. Small pebbles, gravel or aquarium stones work well. This provides a place for excess water so it doesn’t sit in the plant’s roots; overwatering is the primary cause of root rot and the downfall of most house plants.
When potting cacti we use specialty soil. Cactus soil has better drainage than ordinary soil meaning it dries quickly once the plant has absorbed all the liquid it needs. This reduces the risk of fungal disease and rot.
When re-potting your plant you want the new top soil level to be the same height as the existing. To make watering your plant easier leave a 5mm gap between the soil and the top of your planter. A layer of drainage stones or gravel on the top of the soil allows the plant to absorb water more effectively. We use dark stones which don’t distract from the planter or plant.
Alternatively, plants in correctly sized plastic pots with drainage holes can be placed directly inside the Conpot. Cutting the protruding rim off the plastic pot means it will sit discreetly inside the planter. If you do decide to pot your planter in this way you will need to take the plant out now and again to drain any excess water sitting at the bottom of the planter.
Photos by Josh Fray
Each Conpot planter’s material make-up starts with the choice of stone. Over a relatively small land-mass Britain has a rich geological diversity. In formulating the composition of our planters we strive to visit the source, to understand both the extraction process and the provenance of the stone.
Our visit to Hermitage Quarry began with an investigation of locality; to discover the nearest source of stone to our Peckham studio and its place in the regional history. Kentish Ragstone is the only hard rock available in the South-East, circling Kent in a band which was laid in the sea bed around 100 million years ago. We drove to the quarry, some 30 miles from the studio and toured the pits, discussing the extraction and processing of the material. The stone, although similar to the Derbyshire Limestone we currently use, has a darker composition with a brownish tint.
The selection process of the materials we use can be long and considered, with Ragstone we like that there is a careful approach to the effects of quarrying. After the stone is extracted from the pits, they are then filled with any demolition material that cannot be reused. Once filled the pit is then converted into forest with planting chosen to best accommodate local wildlife. The stone is perhaps not appropriate for the needs of our future products, but the trip was an insight into a sustainable and considerate mining process.
Great Britain has a rich and diverse geological structure, with distinct colouration changing with location. Conpot planters, through using carefully sourced stone seek to represent this sense of place through regional strata.
Our Brecon Granite planters are constructed from a concrete using green granite sourced from a quarry just outside the Brecon Beacons national park. Here we spent a weekend in early April exploring this landscape in order to gain a sense of the stones provenance. Based at Penpont House, a 350 year old building set within a 2000 acre working rural estate, the weekend was spent exploring the rolling hills.