A’DAM Toren Amsterdam: Icon under construction

Every city has an iconic landmark. Berlin’s Brandenburger Tor, Paris’s Eiffel Tower or Rome’s Coliseum are all beautiful and recognizable, but these days they mostly serve as backdrops for the requisite tourist selfie. They’re also somewhat cut off from the real life of a city.

As urban dwellers, our participation in the life of these iconic structures is limited. We can’t really know them intimately—run our hands over their bones, poke around in their guts, or watch them grow. What would it have been like to see them as they were being built?

Short of traveling back in time, that’s not really possible. Or is it?

A'DAM Toren Amsterdam The Making of a Landmark

This is why I couldn’t miss out on a very special Instameet organized by the IGersAmsterdam community. To mark Dag van De Bouw (National Construction Day) on June 13, IGersAmsterdam offered 20 local Instagrammers access to the construction site of A’DAM Toren Amsterdam, the city’s newest landmark.

Rising 22 stories high, A’DAM Toren Amsterdam was the former headquarters of Shell, located along the IJ river across Amsterdam Central Station. When Shell moved to their new headquarters, the building designed by architect Arthur Staal—known as Toren Overhoeks, or ‘Diagonal Tower’, for its 45-degree angle to the river—was open for redevelopment.

Concepts were bidded out, and the choice was made: to make the tower into a creative hub, and to finally build the iconic observation deck that Amsterdam never had. Born of a four-way partnership among creative individuals, the vision was brought to life by architects Claus & Van Wageningen. Renovation of the tower began in July 2014 and is scheduled for completion in April 2016.

A'DAM Toren Amsterdam under construction elevator

The plans for A’DAM Toren sound amazing. The tower’s main draw and crowning glory, quite literally, is called The Crown. Sitting on top of the tower, this structure will contain the Lookout: a diagonal viewing deck on the 2oth and 21st floors, with a 360-degree panorama of Amsterdam.

A'DAM Toren Amsterdam observation deck view from The Crown

There is nothing like this in Amsterdam. You can see clear across the city to Schiphol airport, even on a characteristically cloudy day. For convenience, nothing beats the accessibility to Central Station which is a five-minute (free!) ferry ride away.

The Crown took nine months to develop and a mindblowing three days to install. Three days! That’s first world construction for you.

A'DAM Toren Amsterdam shooting view of Central Station

What was fantastic about this Instameet was that we got to climb even higher than the Lookout—right up on the rooftop of the A’DAM Toren itself, which isn’t open to the general public, not even for National Construction Day.

The Lookout will also contain a bar and restaurant on the 20th floor, a revolving restaurant on the 19th floor, and…. a giant swing on the very edge of the roof. Say whaaat?! I have a mild-to-moderate fear of heights, but I. Cannot. Wait.

A'DAM Toren Amsterdam windblown hair

What’s better than going to a super cool, limited-access location? Going there with a bunch of fun, friendly and talented photographers! No need for selfies here—it was so easy to just make friends and hand them my camera or phone. I think the last time I had so many nice pictures taken of myself was at my wedding.

A'DAM Toren Amsterdam Instagrammers on roof

In the company of fellow ‘grammers, nobody twice about lying down on steel beams or taking a picture of your feet dangling off the side of the building. Who says its lonely at the top?

But wait, there’s more to A’DAM Toren Amsterdam than the view. Come and see, after the jump.

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The Store at Soho House Berlin

There are things that draw me in, and things that turn me away. For example, I’m attracted to creativity, but intimidated by luxury. This was on my mind when after-work wanderings led me into The Store at Soho House Berlin, a concept store fusing design, food, furnishings, clothing, beauty, books and music in a stylish luxury setting.

As I browsed The Store, part of me waited for the point when an exorbitant price tag or a snooty sales associate would eventually make me want me to step out. As it turned out, that moment never came.

The Store Soho House Berlin

I was both secretly delighted and suitably impressed. How can a space that is so beautifully sleek, so achingly cool, also feel so inviting?

The Store Soho House Berlin colorful cafe seating area

The Urban Jungle Bloggers will probably tell you: it’s the plants.

The Store Soho House Berlin big plant

At The Store, maximalist explosions of green warm up the space, giving it an eclectic and casual vibe.

The Store Soho House Berlin green cinema chairs

This makes it feel less like an expensive store where you’re not allowed to touch anything, and more like a very cool (and wealthy) friend’s home where you can just hang out and chat over coffee.

The Store Soho House Berlin coffee and cactus

The Store Soho House Berlin rattan swing chair

The Store Soho House Berlin copper bureau and big plants

The plants at The Store are huge. They really make a statement! Something about them calls to my tropical soul—the same part of me that insists on keeping a big fig tree by my desk in cold and gray Amsterdam.

The Store Soho House Berlin giant plants

I would have loved to stop by the funky nail bar upstairs for some pampering, but I was working then.

The Store Soho House Berlin nail bar

From the nail bar, you get an overview of the whole store. Looks rather different when you don’t see all the big, beautiful plants, doesn’t it?

The Store Soho House Berlin overall layout

I may not make my living in a visual or retail industry, but creative spaces like The Store inspire me. Being able to bring together different objects, moods, influences and ideas so that they live comfortably together, is something I’m always drawn to and admire.

I love discovering places like this. Don’t you?

The Store
Soho House Berlin
Torstrasse 1
thestore-berlin.com

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Salone del Mobile at the Universita di Milano

Walking around a furniture fair for a couple days, one inevitably sees a lot of kitchens, bathrooms, toilets and chairs—especially chairs. (Why do all designers seem to be hell-bent on reinventing the chair?) After a while, it all got to be a bit too much for me. So on our last day in Milan, I suggested that we look for some of the large-scale installations I’d been seeing on Instagram, most of which seemed to be concentrated in the Universita di Milano.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 Universita di Milano

It turned out to be a great way to end our visit—with hardly any of the crowds we’d previously encountered in Tortona, lots of big, playful and imaginative installations, and refreshing bursts of color.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 giant textile balls

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 Endless Stairs

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 copper pendant lamp

I love looking at beautiful things as much as anyone, but after a while I had begun to crave something a little more conceptual, more thoughtful—more than just someone trying to push another product. Maybe I’m just idealistic, maybe these installations at the University of Milan were trying to sell something too, but they certainly did it in a more subtle way. By pondering big questions such as scarcity, sustainability, the future of cities, and more, they created an opportunity—in the midst of all the activity of the Salone—to pause for a little reflection.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 mirror selfie

Reflection, get it? Bada-boom-tsss! Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, you’ve been a great audience.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 Blago travel buddies

Oh, look at me being all profound and meaningful when in fact I’m just another shallow girl who can’t resist taking a selfie!

Speaking of meaningful, I hope you’re having a rich and meaningful Easter weekend. From what I’m seeing on Instagram, everyone back home seems to be partying at the beach, but I wish you a few quiets moment to reflect, recharge and to celebrate all that is sacred to you. Have a blessed and peaceful Easter!

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Milan: Design spotting in Brera

I considered sharing my recent travels in chronological order, but with my #blago2014 travel buddies Jillian and Judith getting a head start on our adventures at this year’s Salone del Mobile, I decided it would be more fun to blog about Milan alongside them. Won’t it be interesting to see four different sides of the same story? Mine begins in the impossibly stylish district of Brera.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 Brera Design District

Populated by designer names, elegant boutiques and impeccably dressed residents, Brera is a hotbed of activity of Milan’s very own Design Week.

Milan Salone del Mobile 2014 Brera

Brera opens its polished, darkened doors to the masses during Salone del Mobile. It was an incredible experience to just wander around, popping in and out of upscale shops and showrooms, swept up in an Italian-designed lifestyle that 99% of us can only ever admire from afar.

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Stedelijk Museum bookshop & ABC3D

For me, no museum visit is complete without a stop at the bookshop. Amsterdam’s museums have terrific ones, and the ever business-savvy Dutch have cleverly ensured that at the major museums (the Van Gogh, Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk), visitors can access the bookshops without having to buy a ticket to the museum itself.

Our family trip to the Stedelijk ended, naturally, with a visit to the museum’s stunning shop.

Stedelijk Museum bookshop

Not only does it look like a really nice place to just sit and browse art books…

Stedelijk bookshop

but it also has a great little selection of design gifts and goodies. I had my “mommy glasses” on (the parental equivalent of beer goggles) and zeroed in immediately on the children’s section, which has design-y books in English, Dutch and—my personal favorite—children’s books that can be read in any language.

This is how I found Tala’s first alphabet: a pop-up book called ABC3D by Parisian graphic designer Marion Bataille.

Marion Bataille ABC3D

The holographic cover alone promises something different. This isn’t your ordinary alphabet!

Marion Bataille ABC3D holographic cover

I love pop-up books for the sense of fun and surprise they bring to reading, and ABC3D combines those elements with some seriously cool type design. I looked for our family’s initials and took a few shots to show you.

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