24 hour sushi in Akihabara at Isomaru・アキバの磯丸水産の寿司居酒屋

Tokyo is a beautifully colourful place.

I really appreciate good design in life. When people, businesses and local authorities make an effort. A lot of elements come together to make a place enjoyable. The shape of the buildings, the colours, the cleanliness, the ease of getting around.

Life can be busy, it can get tiring commuting around, rushing to work, rushing to meet people. Everything is a better when the places we go feature interesting and beautiful design.

One of my genuine beliefs is it shouldn’t just be about minimising costs and maximising profits, it should be about making the world a better place.Read More »

Cities – same, but different

Do you live or work in a city? What do you see on your day to day trip to work?

Last night after work I walked from my client office towards St. Pauls with a colleague. As we were walking I remarked, “doesn’t London have some amazing architecture?”. My colleague; originally from Bulgaria, replied that he loved the area.

This is the view we had:

London is an unusual place. It is a city. And a lot of people live here. But it doesn’t have big wide streets. And it doesn’t have one architectural style. From street to street you see a huge variety of design.

I lived in Moscow for a year and I remember the 6 lane roads that run through the city.

Or walking around Pudong in Shanghai the sheer size and scale of the new towers are remarkable.

More and more I realise how much the layout and architecture of a city influence the feeling of day to day life.

One special thing about London is that you can walk around most of the famous sights in half a day. From baker street and regent park down to oxford street, along to Hyde Park, then back to piccadilly, down to Westminster, along the south bank to tower bridge and up through the city to shoreditch.

Compare that to Tokyo. To visit many of the sights you can use the Yamanote line. But just to go around the Yamanote line once would take an hour on the train.

One of the things I love about London is how easy it is to stroll around and enjoy the buildings. The mix of new and old. I think you have to be proud of our strict planning permission that’s kept the number of eyesores under relatively good control.

Nothing illustrates the beauty of old and new design coming together than the view of the city sitting to the north of tower bridge. And beautifully framed we can see my favourite of the modern buildings in London – 30st. Mary Axe aka ‘The Gherkin’ / ‘Swss Re’

And below two favourites together, just to the left we can see the exterior of Lloyds – the original concept of Lloyds was having all the ‘functional’ parts of the building visible. It’s got such an industrial ‘futuristic’ vibe.

What is the architecture like in your city? Would you change it if you could?

Portable Loft, Yangjae Citizens Forest, Seoul and; Fish in The Pool

I found the cutest local cafe in Seoul with the friendliest owners.

It’s called Portable Loft. They also have a craft / design store – Portable Lollipop.

I found their blog; you can see some pictures of Portable Loft and the owners plus their friends / family here http://blog.naver.com/jungurion/220896163629. The Lollipop website http://www.portablelollipop.com/

The cafe and store are located in Yangjae Citizen’s Forest; totally off the tourist route, but not far from Gangnam. About ten different buses from Gangnam pass by the area.

It was a lucky find, I happened to stay in an Airbnb apartment above the cafe for the week.

The owners don’t speak English, but despite that they made me feel super at home. Through pointing and gestures I managed to order their delicious hand drip coffee in the morning. They also have two draught craft beers on tap and a selection of other drinks.

The owners gave me one of their postcards which is based on a hand drawn sketch of the cafe. You will recognise the lady in the postcard and blog pictures by the distinctive hairstyle 🙂

Portable Loft really inspired me. If I were to have my own cafe / shop business this is pretty much the blueprint I’d love to create it based upon. Some of the charming features I loved were:

  • Hand chosen craft beers and hand drip coffee that show care and love for quality
  • Beautiful natural interior decoration – a little bit ‘Scandinavian wood feel’
  • They do have a food menu, but it’s literally one cooker behind the bar, so cute
  • A lot of customers appear to be friends and I saw groups come and enjoy relaxing and talking to the owners
  • The cafe and shop show an interest in art and design and they have built a really interesting collection of products.
  • They are off the beaten path so I think most of their customers are local or may come based on word of mouth etc. no unappreciative tourists!
  • They have a music system in one corner and they have a pile of vinyl and CDs next to it and their selection of music is beautiful. A lot of acoustic and calming sounds.

Talking of music I came across the fish in the pool by Hekuto Pascal album while sitting in Portable Loft. I didn’t know what it was, but realising it was Japanese I snapped a pic of an empty CD cover with Japanese text on it. I later found the album on Spotify:

This is some seriously beautiful music.

I’m slightly embarrassed to say this music actually brought me to tears a few times.

The album is mostly instrumental, but the final track has lyrics and there is something soft, sweet and magical about the melody and vocals. Perhaps there is an undertone of sadness. It’s a songs that makes me feel an appreciation for people and places, but also a sadness for lost opportunities and lost times.

Portable Loft is one of the reasons I love to travel. Forget the tourist checklist, I really appreciate the chance to see a corner of local culture and to meet people that care about art and design and customers.

I recently came across a book called Do / Design: Why Beauty Is The Key To Everything by Alan Moore.

It’s a great little book that takes about good design and why that matters in life. This resonates strongly with me and I think design along with community are two of the most important things that can bring enjoyment to everyday life.

Portable Loft hit’s both of these perfectly.