The news that the rapper A$AP Rocky is launching a “decor studio” will be startling to believers in the high-minded principles of modern design, and its antecedents in the arts and crafts movement, especially when they see that his main idea is to add some primary-coloured mushrooms to a cactus-shaped hatstand created 50 years ago by the Italian designers Guido Drocco and Franco Mello. “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful,” said the Victorian socialist and designer William Morris, words that don’t have much traction in this case. “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away,” said the author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Nope, also not much use here. Rocky’s explanation is that he has long advocated for psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, so “it was only right that we made a cactus with them”. This might sound like a flimsy argument to justify what looks like a marketing gimmick. But maybe legacy objections don’t apply when, as Rocky says of himself, you’re trying to “push the boundaries of the home decor space”.
The McS&M chair?
Purists will be even more horrified, along with most sentient human beings, by the black-and-yellow “McCrispy Ultimate Gaming Chair” created by McDonald’s, which looks like a piece of office furniture half-heartedly repurposed for a sex dungeon. Its aim is to let you game and ingest at once, so it comes with holders for fries, dips and drinks and a “heat zone” for keeping your McCrispy chicken burger warm while you fiddle with the console. In the likely event that its users will spread McGunk with their sticky fingers, its surfaces are wipe-clean. But, at least, to quote another modernist motto, form follows function.
Trotting out tales
There are times when the British planning system degenerates into an arms race between the inflated claims of property companies and ever-more ingenious counter-arguments of objectors. Language loses its usual meaning, logic evaporates. Thus the developers of 72 Upper Ground, a big office block on London’s South Bank that I describe in today’s New Review, boast that it will provide “two new public squares”. These noble-sounding places turn out to be areas of paving and landscaping squeezed into the edges of the development that modestly increase the amount of open space already available along the river front – which space will be made significantly less enjoyable by the shadow that the vast block will, if approved, cast.
In the other category, it is claimed that a proposed solar farm in Gloucestershire will impair Britain’s chances of winning medals in dressage at future Olympic Games. Charlotte Dujardin, who has already won three golds, says that construction traffic for the 34-acre installation will make it harder to exercise her horses along local lanes. I don’t know the area in question, but I can’t help wondering if there might not be alternative lanes available. And some short-term disruption seems a small price for the long-term benefits.
On top of solar
Congratulations to the French government for its new rule that large car parks should be covered by solar panels, which will both generate sustainable energy and stop cars becoming furnaces in the sun. Perhaps the same idea could be applied to the substantial barns and stables dedicated to horses in this country, which would achieve the ultimate dream – saving both the planet AND dressage.
• Rowan Moore is the Observer’s architecture correspondent
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