Bespoke Fireplaces

Our fires combine the latest in high technology with an enduring respect for traditional craftsmanship. Our unique Fire Objects are hand-cast in fireproof materials. They range from organic forms to architectural fragments and geometric shapes.

9.


Contemporary outdoor fireplace
Contemporary outdoor fireplace

Spring is here! Bring a new style to your outdoor space with a contemporary fire, it’s the perfect focal point for those long summer nights for more info click here

10.

The festive season is the perfect time to visit Marrakech, to top up on Vitamin D and to experience a culture that remains steadfastly exotic and holds on to positive aspects of its past without seeking mindless modernity. The central square within the Medina (or ancient walled town) Jemaa el-Fnaa, is still the magnet that draws visitors from all over the world to its charming chaos. It is a starting and ending point to experience this fabulous city. This was our fourth visit, and the charm never fails to win us over once again.

Henry Harrison, Platonic Fireplaces

During the day the square teems with visitors and locals standing and talking, mopping up the atmosphere, emerging from or entering the magical adjoining Souk, or watching the traditionally dressed Berbers with their flamboyant orange hats and bright costumes pose for photographs. Groups of visitors stand rooted to the spot next to the snake charmers blowing on trumpets and goading their collection of pythons, vipers, grass snakes and, most compelling of all, Cobras, their heads and caped necks hovering mesmerically in the air. These are such a draw, that the monkey tamers hardly get a look in.

At night the square is transformed into a giant communal outdoor refectory, with numerous mobile kitchens and plastic covered tables and benches. The waiters compete to attract would be diners to their individual pitches. The endless variations on Moroccan tagines, along with kebabs and spicy sauces eaten with flat bread, is surprisingly delicious. Eating at communal tables also encourages relaxed conversations with visitors of all ages, hailing from all over the world.

The symbol of the City is the Moorish minaret of the 12th Century Koutouba Mosque, which overlooks the square. After a few days taking in the charms of the City, including the glorious Majorelle Gardens, restored by Yves St Laurent, one is ineluctantly drawn to escape the constant hubbub of the City and drive up to the Atlas Mountains, whose snow-capped peaks loom over Marrakesh like a distant mirage. A day trip is easily organised, and perhaps the most stunning trek is to visit the mountain-top village of Archain at the foot of Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. At the heart of the village, nesting on a rocky outcrop in a monastic setting, is the magnificent Kasbah du Toubkal.

Indeed, its very monastic feel was exploited by the film maker Martin Scorcese in 1996, when he had the Kasbah transformed into the Tibetan monastery of Dungkhar, to which the Dali Lama fled from Lhasa in Tibet from the invading Chinese. The Kasbah was clad with stonework, prayer wheels, wooden doors and Tibetan domes. 100 Tibetans, 45 horses and 2 yaks, along with 33 SUV’s were imported to impart the impression of an authentic Tibetan monastery.

The Kasbah retains that magical feel. Improbably, it was built by an English ex-geography teacher, Mike Smith, as an upmarket hotel in partnership with a local entrepreneur. It easily outshines Sir Richard Bransons later constructed Kasbah Tamadot. This is located further down the mountain and has neither the views of Mount Toubkal, nor the breathtaking outlook across three valleys that the Kasbah Toubkal enjoys. It is good to see the small guy win occasionally, as he does here, in great style.

Back in Marrakesh, nothing could be better than staying in a Riad in the centre of the Souk. This connects one with the lifestyle of the local people. To be woken by the Muezzin prayers erupting on all sides at dawn is a truly singular experience, like no other.

A recent addition to the well-known attractions of the souk, which include the well known attractions of the Medersa Ben Yousef medieval Islamic school and the Saadian Tombs, is Le Jardin Secret o Secret Garden. This is a project completed in 2016 that was the initiative of Lauro Milan, with the assistance of Karim el Achak and English landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith. It involved the restoration of the original Riad dating back to the Saadian Dynasty more than four hundred years ago. The Riad fell into dis-repair in 1934 and the work begun in 2008 involved the restoration of the Riadin and re-creation of two courtyard gardens, a larger Islamic garden and a smaller Exotic garden. Like the Medina itself, the two gardens are irrigated through underground pipes originating in the Atlas Mountains 50 kilometres away.

wwwlejardinsecretmarrakech.com

www.kasbahtoubkal.com

11.

Venice Biennale

Now that its late summer, you may feel the need to bask in an architectural hotspot, and what better destination than checking out the Venice Biennale. This year it is extra special, whatever your tastes, traditional or cutting edge contemporary.

Firstly, and most importantly, the palazzo franchetti is hosting a major respective of Zaha Hadid’s artistic and architectural work. Zaha died earlier this year, and as a contemporary of hers at the Architectural Association school of architecture in the mid-seventies, I felt the loss of a brilliant fellow pupil, who was clearly marked for a stellar career: even if it took her over thirty years to actually realise her first built commission.

As a client of ours, she always kept us guessing, never completely satisfied with a fireplace or any other interior design solution; restless, questioning, always seeking a unique solution to each project. “We will never cease from experimentation”’ she said on more than one occasion, and that is an object lesson of a high order to all architects and designers.

During her early fallow years, she spent her spare time when not tutoring at the AA, making extraordinary intricate paintings of her architectural visions: fragmenting buildings endlessly seeking to defy gravity and convention. Her later projects realised theses aims with enormous panache and breathtaking skill and competence. A great example to young and old – and fellow contemporaries at the AA too.

The Biennale this year is one of the best of recent times. The Arsenale, the old naval dockyard where the famous Venetian merchant and fighting ships were built (coming of the production line at one per day in medieval times), is host to many fascinating displays of constructional and cultural innovation from architects and designers all over the world. The theme is ‘overcoming hurdles’. The exhibits range from a pop up city in India for five million temporary inhabitants, water tanks transformed into neighbourhood parks in South America, industrialised migrant accommodation in Germany and building envelope-popping apartment buildings in Seoul.

In addition, the old British favourites, Richard Rogers and Norman Foster produced fascinating displays, as well as Renzo Piano, Rogers original partner. Foster’s proposal for a Droneport network throughout Africa to support cargo drone routes capable of delivering urgent supplies to remote areas is particularly compelling. The Droneport itself is a building typology in its own right; a striking vaulted structure constructed using locally sourced building products and finished in pressed handmade bricks. It has a multi-purpose potential to be used for commercial and civic purposes, and to be a central hub of activity for rural communities. A most challenging idea in a difficult time for this great continent.

Venice Biennale Venice Biennale

 

Hard to talk about, but equally compelling, were a series of blueprints made by architects for the gas chambers at Auschwitz in the 1940’s. . These were presented in Braille form, like a secret code, or for those who would not look and open their own eyes to the truth of what was evidently going on around them. It is stated as the worst crime committed by architects, and that is a pretty hard indictment of the profession.

A thought provoking and immense collection of ideas from all over the world, the Venice Biennale is especially relevant today, when old patterns are constantly being overturned. It is a great pleasure, therefore, when I revisit the Palladio’s Redentore; the great Church serene it’s its beguiling simplicity in a city of astonishing adornment. A great sense of peace descends as one enters the nave, and recognises the masterly control that Palladio exercised over the form, massing, scale, volume and intricate detail of every part of this masterpiece. It is a visual food of the finest quality, and continues to astonish and humble some four hundred years after its construction.

13.

As you drag your feet through the endless mud heading for some distant point only one mile but probably two hours away, you know that there is only one place this can be: Glastonbury Festival, what else? If it’s late June, whatever the weather, and whatever your age, can there be anywhere as compelling and memorable to be? You are not alone of course. There are 175,000 other people doing the same thing, come rain or shine. So if you are agoraphobic or enchlophobic you won’t be here. And it helps to like noise, loud music of all kinds and not be averse to the ubiquitous crowds throughout Worthy Farm.

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This instant city, with the same population as Swindon, or even the London Borough of Richmond, springs up in a matter of weeks, hosts its vast throng of dedicated acolytes and is disbanded and returned to its displaced bovine inhabitants, a few days later. It is a great logistic and bureaucratic enterprise, depending on the willing labour of thousands of tired and patient volunteers. It is liquid marmite.

This year was one of the wettest on record, but after two days of spontaneous river flow across the valleys of the site, the rain abated somewhat, and the late arrivals, like ourselves, only have a steady drizzle, huge crowds and six inches of mud to contend with. Traversing the site becomes a marathon effort, nevertheless, and with considerable distances to negotiate, it can take several hours to cross the site to visit offbeat places like Strummerville and the stone circle.

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For those who have signed up for the full Glastonbury experience, camping on the premises is de rigeur. Not for them a cosy bed and breakfast or boutique hotel in the local town. It is the pop up tent pitched on a grass slope near a bank of eco-toilets with the sweet sickly smell of sewage ever-present. It is the all night din of surround sound partying that demands engagement if for no other reason that it is impossible to avoid it, or switch it off. Yet the experience is there for the young, middle aged and older alike, because it is such a re-juvenating experience.

With over 17 stages, ranging from the immense (Pyramid Stage – probably the best known Festival stage in the world) to the intimate (Summerhouse – enough room for a a group of friends), it is impossible to see more than a fraction of the musical talent on show. And with the going very heavy (it can take two hours to cross the site) it is best to choose the desired stage and head there early. My son’s band Mystery Jets play the John Peel Stage on Sunday afternoon. It is an experience I will never forget – a rammed tent holding perhaps four thousand vociferous fans, and a great sound system – makes for an utterly memorable occasion.

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Later, in the early evening, several hundred of us gather at Strummerville, for many years the haunt of Joe Strummer of the Clash. Here musicians play around a huge bonfire in the style of ages past. The Mystery Jets find this more challenging than playing in front of several thousand people. But all goes well. Then it’s back through all the mud to the camp site.

As usual, Glastonbury captures a great selection of the best musical acts in the world. This year Muse, Adele and Coldplay headline the Pyramid Stage. But other unmissable acts include Tame Impala, John Grant, The 1975, Beck and the ageless Jeff Lynne’s ELO.

By Monday morning, exhausted but enervated, we slowly de-camp and recover our senses and sense of time, fortified by more lattes and bacon butties. Of course the weekend cannot be complete without a four or five hour wait to leave the Festival site. Plenty of time to reflect on memories that will never fade away. Was this the best ever? It certainly feels like it.