As Sydney blew a massive gale last week, I was hunkered down at Mascot airport, waiting for my flight to be cleared for takeoff to San Francisco. Let’s just say i got to know Sydney Airport rather well – and after thirty hours I finally got to SF for what turned out to be a whirlwind visit. I’d been invited by a new client, a 30 year-old venture capitalist with a passion for young startups and a predilection for my kind of architecture. He’s a great guy, someone I know rather well so getting into the swing things was a non-issue. We spent the weekend hanging out at his new digs, getting a real sense of what is still a functioning service garage but will soon enough be a brick and mortar incubator for young talent. And San Francsico, as always, didn’t fail to excite!. The cliché has it that it’s a lot like Sydney, and for its harbour location that’s true. But there’s a genteel grittiness to this West Coast city that I find truly endearing. It palpitates with its Haight-Ashbury hippie past, its 1970s gay activism, the eeriness of its iconic Twin Peaks. But at the same time it is alive with the nervous energy of the nerds, the kids who gather at places like The Battery and spend hours pitching each other – and any entrepreneur who’ll listen – new ideas. The space we’ll be reconfiguring, and where I stayed in SoMa (South of Market street) is a turn-of-the-century red brick block of a building on a street that also houses an art gallery, a commune, an S&M warehouse and a dance academy. Ever niche you can imagine, it’s there, in a state of happy cooexistence. I guess it feels like Surry Hills, 25 years ago. Gee, but it’s great to be back home. At least until I leave for Venice for the Biennale – tomorrow.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a National Press Club symposium. I’d never been to one of these before, and it was truly awesome. Packed to the rafters, a lot of media, a lot of politicians, many great curators and gallerists including directors of many major public institutions from numerous states. I took Samson and Griffin along – it was a sit down lunch, televised live, the boys behaved perfectly! Simon Mordant, Commissioner of this year’s Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, was very impressive. Clearly a great statesman, Simon did a great job of pulling together the massive amount of work we've doing in the lead up to Venice. He also had the task of overseeing the vernissage of the new Australian Pavilion designed by Denton Corker Marshall, the coordination of the Biennale opening, the seven Australian artists who will be in the main show, the 35 or more other artists who will be in other recognised shows in Venice at that time. In a sense, Simon personifies the importance of private philanthropy for a rich and creative culture – he really brought home, in a major way the message about the importance of the arts in any country. Great stuff. After the lunch, his Commissioner's Council held a private tour of James Turrell show, which is truly fantastic – and it awesome to see it through the innocence of our kids’ eyes, too. We stayed at Hotel Hotel again. It's so cool, but it’s a shame it's in Canberra! We need one in Sydney, tout de suite!
Of all sports, sailing has to be one of my absolute favourites. So when I was invited up to Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, I leapt at the chance.
Flying in over the Whitsundays is a spectacle in blues and greens and blazing white sand – and the brightly coloured spinnakers of yachts sailing around the islands. I was met at the airport by staff from the Qualia luxury resort, and whisked off to the hotel in an Audi S8 – growl! – to find my bags waiting for me in my pavilion nestled among the trees. The ‘pavilions’ are enormous, but still manage to give a relaxed, laid-back – very Australian – vibe. To have such quality service in the middle of tropical forest, is an incredible experience.
As was having my own Mr Porter buggy to get around in! With time to myself, I went paddle-boarding in the pristine water, looking for whales. Then, after a long bath and grooming I session headed to the Audi/Kylie Kwong dinner at Pebble Beach. Kylie’s food is so perfectly balanced, simple, wholesome and authentic. It’s always a treat.
After a relaxed breakfast on the beachfront, it was off on the paddle board once more. Then a quick duck into the Qualia Spa stocked full of my favourite Sodashi products. I really like the Clay Cleanser with Lime and the Calming Skin Boost gel (both smell strangely manly). Then to the Mr Porter x Charles Heidsieck lunch. It was very glam, some 250 people – a mix of locals, yachties, and a lot of Sydney and Melbourne types. I was wedged between Nicky Tindal (Nicky’s grandfather Bob Oatley is the grand patriarch, the owner of Hamilton Island, and of course the maxi yacht Wild Oats XI) and Alison Veness, editor or the Australian edition of 10 magazine – she’s always a pleasure)
After lunch I headed for a quick meditation/re-fuel at the pavilion, then to Pebble Beach for drinks on the sand, then out on Andiamo with drinks, DJ, a select gang. It wasn’t so much ‘gin palace’, more champagne and vodka and a group of the youngest, hippest and most adventurous on the Island – many of whom were finishing a week of Island racing before heading to Burning Man. This boat is built for entertaining – it’s wide, it’s flush from inside to outside, and it’s trimaran hull makes it very stable!
Race day! I headed out on Wild Oats XI. What a machine! This is the seven-time winner of the Sydney to Hobart, 100 ft of the highest tech, lightest weight, sailboat ever. It's like a giant sled, so fast! Skippered by legendary captain Mark Richards (who also created and founded Palm Beach Boats. Even Bob Oatley (aka Popeye) was aboard. When it comes to racing no one comes near Wild Oats, it was nearly lonely way out front there! Except for some whales teaching their calves some tricks. The fact the crew were so 'in sync' they were nearly silent added to that wonderful feeling of being alone on the ocean. Bliss.
Upon returning to dock, I headed out for a trail run up to Passage Peak (the highest point on the island, in fact, of the Whitsundays). I meditated on a rock looking over the islands and ran back for some quiet time in the pavilion before heading out for the Net-a-Porter fashion show. It was an incredible set up by The Projects with the catwalk going over the pool, great tunes, blazing beauties, and the clothes were good too! It was overall a pretty social event as you can imagine with a lot of lingering and chatting afterwards.
Thank you so much to Sophie Baker for inviting me, The Oatley Family, Qualia and Hamilton Island for making the stay a real gem. It was amazing to witness the Oatley vision in all its glory, it has to be seen to be believed.
Zurich exists under a cloud of clichés so thick, from a distance it’s hard to get any real idea of Switzerland’s largest city. But once on the ground, it’s only too apparent that the city chicly nestled on its expansive namesake lake is a hotbed of contemporary culture. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the monolithic Löwenbräu Kunst, a shining example of how a rich, vibrant art community can be encouraged to grow, and a clear indication that Switzerland is about more than just metronomic clockwork.
The converted Löewenbräu brewery has been the go-to art destination since its initial conversion in 1996. But its more recent renovation two years ago, a collaboration between Gigon/Guyer and Aterlier ww has seen the sprawling 1897 building expand upwards with a startling black residence tower – a phoenix, rising in glory from the ashes. It now houses the Kunsthalle Zürich and the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, two of the most important museums for contemporary art in Zurich, as well as an impressive lineup of contemporary galleries including Westbau, Galerie Freymond-Guth and Hauser & Wirth. At this last, I saw an extraordinarily moving installation of works by Louise Bourgeois, L’araignée et les tapisseries. It was a continuation of her well known Spider series, exploring the spider as a mother figure, carefully and patiently working, waiting and caring. But extended with the introduction of figurative tapestry pieces which, for me introduced a much more haunted aspect. This part of the work appears to be dealing with deep pain and a need to purge and repair.
The architectural excellence of the Löenbrau conversion is indisputable; it’s totally fit for purpose, a best practice case study in adaptive reuse. But what really makes the Löwenbräu Kunst complex shine is the quality of the tenants – ranging from great galleries to interesting shops to creative offices. Clearly, there is a commitment on the part of the developer to not only revive, but to enrich this part of town with an almost ideal mix of businesses. Such visionaries are rare, and to be prized.
The other day I received an email from a friend, saying he’d seen me in Bondi. Impossible, I replied – I’ve been traveling through Europe with Miranda and the boys this past month! Turns out, what he’d seen is a picture of me, hanging larger than life in the window of Witchery. I’d been asked by style bureau Oliver Grand to be one of the ‘real guys’ – along with AFL player Jimmy Bartel and hair stylist Richard Kavanagh – enlisted to represent WitcheryMan in its Transeasonal campaign. With a wardrobe that spans the super formal (I love my Dior evening suit) right through to cool casual stuff like ACNE slim fit jeans, I figured, Why not?! When I saw it was to be shot by Trevor King, I was extra chuffed – he’s great at capturing the kind of carefree, stylish (but not overstyled) masculinity that feels so right for our times. We shot on location around Sydney harbour, and the girls behind Oliver Grand – the lovely Jesse Arifien and Gabrielle Weller – pulled out all the stops to make great fun, as well as great imagery. As for the clothes, I have to say they’re perfect for an active lifestyle. I can be at the studio one minute with sleeves rolled up, poring over plans. The next I can be in the car speeding off to a client meeting at a high-powered business restaurant in the CBD. I need to be neat and groomed and permanently on-call. Witchery Man facilitates a high-performance urban wardrobe. In fact, I packed quite a few pieces for this European grand tour. Thanks WitcheryMan
To my mind, design excellence is about performance and craft melded into a unique offer of absolute authenticity. So when BMW asked me to test-drive a gleaming new 4 Series Convertible – a true object of desire – I leapt at the opportunity. At a glance, the lines are slick, the solid, compact volume inspires confidence, the tone of arctic white just right. Seated, you’re confident, assured. (You know you look good!) It glides out from the curb, effortlessly, you feel the power under the hood as you pick up speed – aware that on city streets you will never feel it hit maximum throttle, you begin dreaming of long drives on deserted roads. It’s an incredible piece of engineering in every aspect, from engine to axle, to suspension and the best bucket seats around. And of course, it’s also very beautiful, truly sophisticated. And then, you pop the top – it drops at lightening speed, and stops with a self-satisfied ‘click’. Low-lying, high-flying, This little beauty is the epitome of quality design and creative engineering.
When we were planning the grounds of our South Coast home in Tilba, Miranda and I invited our friend, horticulturalist and author Myles Baldwin down to landscape the place for us. For years, Myles has shown himself to be highly sensitive to the nuance of quietly shifting native plant life, but also to the lives of the folk who dwell on the properties he landscapes and has photographed. He’s not only unobtrusive, he’s a total pleasure to have around! Even more pleasurable, though, is seeing the beautiful images he curates assembled into a chic compendium by publishers Allen & Unwin. To my knowledge, no horticulturalist/author has focused on Australia’s unique coastal plains gardens before, and the choice is perfect since these plateaux provide a rich, varied terre and as a result encourage the growth of quite extraordinary plant families. On the softly undulating grounds of Tilba, for instance, he planted a perimeter of Melaleuca and Casuarina that softly frame native Poa and exotic Miscanthus grasses. We just love lolling about there! In Australian Coastal Gardens, Myles runs the gamut – from an old Copper mining town of South Australia to the sheer cliff faces of Dover Heights and the almost English terrain of the Mornington Peninsula. These gardens of delight are truly inspiring.