Malachi Kirby

With star turns in the mini-series Roots, Black Mirror and most recently Steve McQueen’s powerful Small Axe anthology, the issue 28 cover star and London-born actor talks to Jason Okundaye about vulnerability, shunning social media and the joy of sharing Black British Caribbean history

Kirby wears Zegna SS21 throughout

Malachi Kirby has the sage demeanour of an older brother. He feels at once charming and close, but with the evident amour propre and stature that doesn’t permit overfamiliarity or a disrespect of boundaries. Perhaps I say this because, within the opening minute of our two-hour conversation on Zoom, we realise that we had grown up in neighbouring buildings on the same estate in Battersea – the Patmore. “Oh, behave yourself – no one else lived in Patmore!” he says. We become engrossed with describing the architecture of the estate, its adventure playground, and gesticulating to each other as if our hands could beget a holographic map of its geography. As Kirby remarks to me, “This is a special one.” And when I listen back to the recording of our chat, I realise that we are both, at brief moments, notwithstanding his attentive and softened parlance, caught in a storm of each other’s memories, and speaking at breakneck speed.

The relative seclusion and anonymity of growing up on the Patmore – its neighbouring estates in Battersea, like the Doddington and the Winstanley, are more famous – to me, frames the actor’s modesty in the face of his own success. Standout performances in 2016 as Kunta Kinte in the heart-breaking miniseries, Roots, about slavery as America’s original sin, closely followed by his role as the vulnerable soldier, Stripe, who hunts humanoid monsters in the Black Mirror episode ‘Men Against Fire’, have brought him firmly into the limelight. But he admits that fame is not something he relishes, and that as a child, whose primary passion was for words and literature, acting wasn’t even on his radar: “It wasn’t something that I thought was accessible. And even if it was accessible, it wasn’t something I had any interest in. The spotlight for me was somewhere that felt unsafe.”

When he reached year nine of secondary school, his mother brought home a leaflet for a short drama course at Battersea Arts Centre, which remained on their table for a year until he decided to take it up. He describes the course there as life changing, and, like dipping a toe into a bathtub to test the heat of the water, he gradually acclimatised to the space, splendidly populated by total strangers, and eventually felt able to act and perform with freedom. It was at a showcase for friends and family that he received local acclaim. “At the end, someone’s parents came up to me and said I was good. And they didn’t have any reason to say that; it was just kindness,” he tells me. “But it encouraged me. I didn’t go, ‘Okay, I want to be an actor now’, but there was definitely a thrill of, like, ‘Wow, I was just on stage and people watched me and I had everyone’s attention, but I didn’t feel in danger. Okay, maybe this isn’t so bad.’”

This local success found Kirby admitted to Identity School of Acting in late 2007, where he befriended the actress Letitia Wright, who enrolled in 2009. “As soon as she came in the room, I adopted her as my little sister, whether she knew that at the time I don’t know. And I’m having to get to grips with the fact that she’s not so little anymore.” These two titans of Black British acting co-star in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe-anthology film Mangrove, and he recalls auditioning for his role as Darcus Howe in Letitia’s house with a friend, unknowing that she had already been cast in the part of Altheia Jones-LeCointe: “We were recording an audition tape, and she overheard us and said ‘Hey, what are you auditioning for?’, and I replied ‘I can’t really speak about it.’ Anyway, we kept going and she was like, ‘I know what you’re doing; that’s Mangrove!’ I said ‘How do you know?’ She’s like ‘I’m in it, bro!’”

Knowing that he would be starring alongside one of his closest friends amplified the joy in getting the role. But he tells me that his biggest fear for performing as Darcus Howe was mastering the Trinidadian accent, a prospect he had dreaded his entire career. “Prior to this there were two accents that I just thought I was never ever gonna touch. It was Australian and Trinidadian, specifically. I just thought, people are gonna get offended.” However, he describes learning to speak like Howe as one of the most thrilling parts of the role, crediting his voice coach with imbuing him with the confidence to nail it. And so it transformed from a fear to an honour, “To be able to tap into that and enjoy the rhythm of that, and the musicality of his voice, was like eating apple pie.” He emphasises that it shouldn’t be assumed that he could master a Trinidadian accent on the basis of his Jamaican heritage, noting the complexity of the dialect. “A Trinidadian accent is not just Trinidadian; it’s so full of all of these different cultures, and all of these different places in the world, infused into this one voice.” The process of becoming Howe was intensive, and with just three weeks to prepare, he immersed himself in his biography, newspaper articles and old video tapes, noting his luck that Howe was perhaps the most widely and accessibly documented character of the film. He comfortably admits to me that he had been unaware of Howe’s history or that of the Black Panther movement, but rather than responding to this with guilt, he embraced the belated education he was receiving and developed a newfound appreciation of Black British organising. He was particularly impressed to learn that Howe had represented himself in court, something he did not even know was possible. “There was a weight for sure of, I’ve got a lot to catch up on… and not just for my sake, but also because of, I believe, the work that we need to do to progress and move forward.” Before filming, the actor met with Darcus’s son, Darcus Beese Jr, initially intending to “pick his brains” about his father, but instead resolving that his family’s blessing would be enough to inspire his performance.

It’s clear enough that Kirby has a deep appreciation for craft and artistry. He says that from his audition he knew Steve McQueen would stretch him “as an actor, as a human, as Malachi, and as an artist. And that was terrifying.” The vulnerability he felt, though, was soothed by McQueen’s love. “He has a really big heart; he cares, and he is passionate about what he does. I began to realise that he was going to create a safe space for me to be vulnerable.” Indeed, it’s this symbiosis between deep craft and curating spaces for comfort and safety that also defines his perception of his mother, whom he lives with, and whose cooking he celebrates as a kind of artistry. When I ask him his favourite home-cooked meal, he simply says: “Everything. Everything. If she cooked cereal, it would be beautiful; there’s just a way that she makes food that I love.” Kirby has been close to his mother, living with her only since his father passed when he was six years old. As such, despite this early tragedy, he describes his childhood on Patmore Estate as happy: “I always remember it being sunny. My primary school was literally a two minute walk from my house. And I just have really beautiful memories. I have an incredible mum, and there was always a lot of love at home.” In fact, the most special part of performing in the Small Axe anthology for him was being able to share these stories of Black British Caribbean history with his Jamaican mother and grandmother. It was also an important moment for Kirby, as this was the first time he had embodied a Black Caribbean character, as opposed to previous portrayals as African Americans, Africans, or ethnically unspecific Black British people. “We made the decision to go around to my grandma’s every Sunday to watch each episode. And it was so beautiful.” When I ask him his favourite film of the series, other than Mangrove, he immediately replies Lovers Rock, “because for me it was the most familiar. Before I even knew what it was about – as soon as you hear Lovers Rock, memories come flooding in; there was a nostalgia to it. And also the experience of watching that with my family, and them witnessing and remembering the silly games and dancing and singing. It was a whole experience.”

Kirby prefers privacy over the public sphere, so his social-media presence is minimal. We laugh when I note that he follows no one on Instagram, and so is clearly uninterested in what anyone has to post. As an actor he is often met with confusion at his disinterest in social media, but as safety and reclusion are motifs which define him, he’s in no rush to tie his career to it. Though, he’s not against distributing a few follow backs in the future: “I’ve just got this thing about social media where I think, am I being naive? Am I being stubborn? Is this insecurity? Is it against my sense of morality, or is it just not for me? I’m waiting for some kind of clarity, to just either run into it or run away from it.” I’m scrolling through his Instagram at this point, flashing photographs from his various shoots and editorials to him, half teasing, half curious. He tells me that although he’s still grappling with having his picture taken, he feels most comfortable on editorial shoots where he gets to go into acting mode, “I enjoy the ones where I’m not actually being myself… it feels a bit more like a character. Those are the ones I enjoy the most, because I feel the most safe.”

Both the near and distant future will see Kirby exploring his first love, writing. His debut play was meant to premiere at the Bush Theatre in May 2020, but was a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, though he hopes that he’ll have a full audience once theatres are able to open again. Before he had even written this play, however, he had been working on a few film projects that he remains excited and hopeful about. He gives little away about the scope and content of his written projects: “They’re not ready! They’re not ready! Genuinely, I don’t know if I’m ready to have this conversation, but I will say that they are all stories that are close to my heart, the play especially.” As for influences in theatre and storytelling, he cites theatre writer Arinzé Kene. “In terms of scripts, I think he was the first writer that I really resonated with in terms of theatre. The poeticism of his language. And I find him very inspiring, especially because he comes from a background similar to mine.” A play that he finds himself constantly returning to whenever it is on stage is Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange, “I think that play has always just stuck with me. I remember seeing it at the Arcola Theatre in Hackney with an actress called Ayesha Antoine starring in it, and then a second time at the Young Vic with Daniel Kaluuya. Whenever I hear Blue/Orange, I just get excited. But also, on a personal note, my two favourite colours are blue and orange. I’ve come to describe them as two different sides of me. A really deep blue, and a really vibrant orange.”

Depth and vibrancy certainly define Malachi Kirby for me. His kind face, and his relaxed disposition, remind me of the gentle smile and brotherly nods of elder boys on the estate that we shared. Perhaps I, or my brothers, saw him at points, even briefly knew him, even if we didn’t remember now. When our conversation ends, he asks me about Battersea, noting that he left the area at 15 but frequents Clapham Junction. I tell him that the area has changed beyond recognition, the forces of gentrification having displaced many residents and jarred the landscape with the kind of plastic architecture that has the Nine Elms quarter being nicknamed locally as ‘English Dubai’. I ask that he come and visit the Patmore Estate and see Battersea again, promising to send him a recent Guardian article about developments in the area, and he keenly accepts both the invitation and the article link, clearly retaining some emotional concern and connection with the home we both once shared. And hopefully, one day, these two Battersea boys will share space again.

Kirby wears Zegna SS21 throughout 

Produced in collaboration with Zegna around its #WHATMAKESAMAN campaign, a communication platform that explores the uniqueness of the stories and experiences of the modern man

Photography Marlen Keller 

Styling Julie Velut

Make-up Nadia Altinbas using Tom Ford Beauty

Groomer styling Tanisha Rochas

Groomer beard Sheldon Edwards

Set Clara Boulard

Production Rosco

Retouching Helen Studios

This article is taken from Port issue 28. To continue reading, buy the issue or subscribe here

Port Issue 23

The Autumn/Winter issue of Port – featuring actor Vincent Cassel, Fergus Henderson in the kitchen, and abandoned military infrastructure on the Sussex coast – is available to pre-order now

Actor Vincent Cassel, star of arthouse and multiplex alike, is one of the most distinctive and compelling talents working in cinema now. In a career spanning twenty-five years and counting, he has carved out a niche playing complex, troubled and often sensuous characters in critically acclaimed films such as La Haineand Irreversible, alongside box-office hits including Jason Bourne. Having helped to regalvanise French cinema in the long shadow of the nouvelle vague, and after taking Brazil as an adoptive home, he talks to Port’s George Upton in Paris for the cover story of issue 23 about the journey to where he is today, and the joie de vivre he has found in and outside of his work on the way.

Elsewhere, photographer David La Spinacaptures street life in New York City in an extraordinary exclusive portfolio, introduced by the New York Times Magazine’s Kathy Ryan; 200 years of expertise in saddlery and showmanship is put to the test at the Saut Hermès, Paris; Christopher Turnerprofiles the godfather of modern Italian design, Gio Pontiand photographer Tobias Harvey explores the forgotten secrets of military history, hidden in plain sight on the Suffolk coastline.

Fashion director Dan Mayand photographer Rudi Geyserbring an extended fashion story from Cape Town, South Africa; Rose Fordestyles new season Manolo Blahnik, plus a photo story from Düsseldorf, 1984 and Scott Stephensoncurates the new season collections. 

Commentary comes courtesy of Steve Martin, Will Ashonand Don Morrison, alongside an exploration in translation in which Zadie Smith, Ma Jianand Tash Awtranslate Giuseppe Pontiggia. In The Porter, Fergus Hendersoncooks a warming autumnal blood lunch, Konstantin Grcicremembers an unlikely style icon in Joseph Beuys, Carlotta de Bevilacquatalks light inspiration and Michel Roux Jrcelebrates the humble table crumber. 

Please note, orders will be sent out from 19th October, when the magazine goes on sale

To pre-order Portissue 23, click here


Nicholas Balfe, the founder and head chef of Salon in Brixton, takes Port through a recipe of a foraged herb salad and poached duck egg

Foraging has shot to prominence in recent years with the rise of chefs exploring ancient techniques, ingredients and flavours in their food – but using wild food in cooking is nothing new.

I was introduced to the idea of using wild ingredients by my mum and grandma when I was young. I have vivid memories of picking elder flowers in Dorset and cooking them up in fritters, dusted in icing sugar and served with thick clotted cream.

When I began cooking professionally in my mid-20s, some of the chefs I came into contact with were already using foraged ingredients in their dishes. Back in 2007, the idea of pairing mussels with sea purslane, or pork with fennel pollen and wild herbs seemed mind-bogglingly exotic, yet inherently native at the same time.

When I opened my own restaurant, foraged ingredients became an important part of the food we serve. Being heavily guided by the seasons, it makes sense to look to nature for inspiration. I like to use what’s abundantly available at any given moment, and to source ingredients as locally as possible. If I can pick the ingredients from a local park or hedgerow, then all the better.

There’s no specialist equipment you need to go foraging – just a carrier bag and some rubber gloves if you’re picking nettles. Good foraging etiquette is to never take more than a third of what you see, so there’s some left for the next person, and don’t worry if you don’t recognise everything immediately. Start with one or two types of wild food, keep your eyes peeled, and slowly you’ll build a nice repertoire of things you can pick and use.

Wild herb salad with poached duck egg, pancetta and fennel
Serves four as a light lunch or starter

This recipe is very adaptable, so feel free to add whatever wild herbs or vegetables you come across (or buy in the supermarket, if worst comes to worst).


For the salad

4 handfuls of any of the following: chopped three-cornered garlic, wild leeks, Alexanders leaves, fennel fronds, nettle tips (blanched), wild garlic (blanched), samphire (blanched), sea purslane or sea aster (blanched), wood sorrel

1 bunch of watercress
1 handful chervil
1 handful dill
1 head of fennel, thinly sliced
1 bunch of radishes, thinly sliced
A dozen or so cooked new potatoes (optional) Two thick slices of good quality bread

A clove of garlic
A drizzle of olive oil
4 duck eggs
100g diced pancetta
Sea salt and black pepper

For the dressing

100g crème fraîche
1 dessert spoonful of Dijon mustard
Juice of one lemon
Pinch of salt and black pepper
Handful of nely chopped three-cornered garlic or chives


Pick through the ingredients you’ve foraged to remove twigs, stems, dead leaves and grass. Wash thoroughly and set aside in a large mixing bowl with the watercress, chervil, dill, fennel, radishes and cooked new potatoes.

Prepare the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients and check the seasoning – you might want to add more salt, pepper or lemon juice.

Sauté the pancetta in a drizzle of vegetable oil until nicely crisped. Drain and add to the bowl with the herbs.

Toast the bread, rub with a clove of garlic, drizzle with olive oil and tear into bite-sized pieces. Add to the herb mixture.

To poach the eggs, put a deep pan of water on the stove on a high heat and add a generous slosh of white wine vinegar. Crack the eggs into four separate cups. When the water reaches a rolling boil, swirl it around with a slotted spoon, add the eggs and immediately turn the heat down. Leave to poach for two minutes. Remove from the water and drain on a cloth. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the dressing to the herb mixture and gently toss together until everything is nicely dressed. Season with salt and pepper and divide into four bowls. Top each bowl with a poached egg and serve immediately.

Nicholas Balfe is the founder and head chef of Salon

Photography Suzie Howell

This is an extract from issue 22 of Port. To buy or subscribe, click here.
Port presents the essential outdoor kit for foraging. 

Port Issue 22

The Spring/Summer 2018 issue of Port – featuring writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf and David Hallberg, the greatest male dancer of his generation – is out now

Photography Mamadi Doumbouya

Writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the foremost intellectual voices in the United States today. The author of Half of a Yellow SunPurple Hibiscus and Americanah – as well as of one of the most-viewed Ted talks ever, sampled by Beyoncé, no less – Adichie transcends the barriers between literature, art and music. For the cover story of Port issue 22, she met Catherine Lacey in Washington DC to discuss her extraordinary books, the complexity of recent gender movements and to give a hint at a next big project.

Photography Suzie Howell

Elsewhere in the magazine, we speak to 6a – the most exciting architecture practice in London; discuss Netflix and race with the director of Mudbound, Dee Rees; and travel to rural Netherlands to meet the pioneering Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf. Also featured: The photographer Christopher Payne visits one of the largest flag factories in the US, and we uncover the secrets and beauty of space with astronaut Nicole Stott.

Photography Tereza Cervenova

In the fashion section, celebrated photographer Kalpesh Lathigra and Port‘s fashion director Dan May travel to Mumbai to shoot a 40-page story around the sprawling, seaside city; Scott Stephenson styles this season’s collections and Pari Dukovic shoots the greatest male dancer in the world, David Hallberg, wearing Saint Laurent.

Photography Kalpesh Lathigra

Commentary pieces come courtesy of Will Self, Lisa Halliday and Jesse Ball, as well as Samuel Beckett‘s seminal Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit. Highlights from the Porter include Tilda Swinton remembering her friend John Berger; an interview with the British artist Gavin Turk; foraging with chef Nicholas Balfe; and ex-director of the Tate Modern, Vicente Todolí, on his passion for citrus fruits.

To buy Port issue 22, click here.

Job Opening: Fashion Editor

Port, the biannual style magazine with a focus on beautiful and intelligent content for the modern reader, is looking for an experienced fashion editor to join our award-winning team

We are looking for an experienced and talented fashion editor with strong industry, PR and photography contacts to work alongside Port’s fashion director and the editorial team on a freelance basis. You will be responsible for helping to coordinate fashion content for print, digital and Port’s creative agency, conceiving and styling strong, industry-leading editorial, and representing Port at industry events and fashion weeks.

Essential skills

– At least three years’ experience of working in a fashion role for a fashion or lifestyle magazine 

– Excellent contacts within the industry

– Proven experience in styling fashion editorial and conceiving dynamic stories

– Experience collaborating with brands

– Great communication skills and highly organised

– Ability to work independently as well as part of a team 

– Experience of working on commercial projects

– Understanding of digital environment and active across social media 

Key Duties 

– Assisting with overseeing fashion content for print and digital

– Manage and implement editorial and commercial projects together with the Port editorial and production team 

– To attend and represent Port at relevant press days, fashion shows and industry events. Some of these may be evening events 

– Maintain and develop relationships with brands and creatives

– Work alongside commercial team and brands to deliver supported content


Please email a cover letter, CV and portfolio to


TenTen Issue 2

In our latest edition of TenTen, we explore the stratospheric reach of luxury horology from the time-keeping tale of a record-setting aviator, to the role of the Omega Speedmaster in the NASA Apollo space program, and much more…

For our second annual edition of Port’s watch special, TenTen, we’ve gone for a globetrotting theme. As the nautical name of our magazine indicates, we have a penchant for tales of seafaring. Precise, reliable ways of portable timekeeping have their roots in the oldest means of global travel: by sea. In this issue of TenTen, we discover how global exploration shaped the art of watchmaking.

TenTen remembers Walter Lange, 1924-2017, the watchmaker who fled the East German uranium mines in 1948, and returned to his home country when the Berlin Wall fell to re-establish Germany’s fine-watchmaking reputation.  

We also discover the horological legacy of Charles A. Lindbergh, who in 1927 set records for the first and longest non-stop transatlantic flight from New York to Paris. Famous horloger Longines was present to time his voyage, and the adventurous duo then collaborated on a revolutionary navigational instrument that enabled precise timekeeping. Coming back down to earth, TenTen discover the subaquatic resilience of the Rolex ‘Submariner’; and the carbon innovations in horology that combine strength with feather lightness.

Elsewhere, TenTen investigate the crucial role of the Omega ‘Moon watch’ in the ‘successful failure’ of Apollo 13 in 1970; unite man’s best friend with man’s best accessory in our playful canine editorial; investigate the quintessentially Roman brand making waves in bespoke Swiss watchmaking; and recall the cameo role played by the Rochefoucauld watch in ‘80s screwball comedy Trading Places.

TenTen is the supplement of issue 21 of Port, out now. To buy a single issue or to subscribe, click here

An Introduction to Eating Insects

Slowly but surely, the idea of eating insects is being introduced to European countries thanks to insect-based food projects and recipe books hoping to put an end to the ‘creepy-crawly’ taboo 

The concept of entomophagy, as its known, was once almost impossible to fathom in the West, but in the last few years there has been a growing interest in insects as an alternative food source. Very slowly, supermarkets are beginning to stock insect-based snacks, while chefs and restaurants are experimenting with insects as ingredients. 

Two billion people across the world already eat bugs regularly. Countries including Africa, Australia, Thailand and even the Netherlands incorporate insects into their diets, so why has it taken so long to catch on in the UK? The answer is arguably a combination of convention and unfamiliarity, but the reality is that eating insects is no different from eating shellfish. There are more than 2037 edible insects in the world and many contain a vast number of minerals, protein and good essential fats that Westerners have overlooked.  
“It is reported there are over 2000 edible insect species on the planet so that’s essentially 2000 different flavours,” explains Neil Whippet, co-founder of Eat Grub, an edible insect source that produces insect-based snacks and hosts food events in London. “People just need to get over the psychology of it. That’s what our company ethos is all about. We’re just trying to be a brand that welcomes people to eating insects.” 
In addition to selling snacks, energy bars, and cooking packs containing crickets, grasshoppers, Mealworms and more, Eat Grub also develops new recipes to try at home. These include grasshopper stir fry, buffalo worm fried rice, spicy grasshoppers with beansprouts and chocolate cherry cricket brownies. “Crickets are related to shellfish so if you like prawns, you’ll like crickets,” Whippet says. “They’re high in protein and calcium, plus the protein is complete so it has all nine essential amino acids and they’re high in vitamin B12 and fibre. We call them the original superfood.”  
Bente’s bees, Denmark.
As further evidence of the trend, a new book produced by the non-profit, open-source organisation Nordic Food Lab, On Eating Insects, is the first publication to take a comprehensive culinary view on eating insects and how to prepare, cook and enjoy them. 
Inside, Michael Bom Frøst – a sensory scientist and director of Nordic Food Lab – discusses his first experience eating insects. “Through tasting them I learned why we should eat them,” he writes. Many have interesting and unusual flavours that he claims we are missing out on. Frest looks back on his first taste of an Amazonian ant (apparently similar to lemongrass and ginger) as an almost religious experience that he found mind-changing. 
By 2050 the world could have a population of over nine billion people and according to research, food production may be forced to increase by 70 per cent. In preparation, we need to develop a more sustainable approach to food. It follows that eating insects could very well be the answer. And for those still struggling with the idea of eating insects whole, products like ground cricket flour can be a softer introduction.  
“When people talk about wanting to eat more healthily and sustainably, eating insects ticks both those boxes,” Whippet explains. “And they taste great too which is key for any food product.”
On Eating Insects: Essays, Stories and Recipes by Josh Evans, Roberto Flore, Michael Bom Frøst, published by Phaidon, is out now
Find out more about Eat Grub 
Photographs by Chris Tonnesen

Inside Richard Meier’s White-Walled World

The American architect – part of the New York Five and one of the city’s most iconic modernists – talks to Port about his body of work and branching out from his beloved colour white
Richard Meier by Joss McKinley
“It began quite innocently,” says Richard Meier of the events that propelled him to fame. In 1972 he was a young architect practising in New York, and teaching at Cooper Union with John Hejduk, the educator and theorist who would later become the school’s dean of architecture; Charles Gwathmey, another architect, was working in the same building. Meanwhile Michael Graves and Peter Eisenman were teaching at Princeton. All the men were near the start of their careers – they had built little, and not much building was going on in New York, which was mired in ever-deepening economic and social crisis.
“We all knew one another. We taught together; we were friends, and we decided to get together and sort of criticise one another’s work,” Meier recalls. “So we went to a neutral space, the conference room at the Museum of Modern Art, everyone bought one work that they were currently involved with and the others gave their opinion of it. We had a really good, friendly discussion. And afterwards we said, that was really good – we should make a little pamphlet to commemorate the event.”
That pamphlet became, in the hands of George Wittenborn – an art books publisher on Madison Avenue – a slim book called Five Architects, and the architects became known as the New York Five. Each architect included two of their houses in the publication, and Arthur Drexler, MoMA’s influential director of architecture, contributed a pugnacious introduction, praising the five for remaining true to the “rational poetry” of pure modernism, as opposed to the “proletarian snobbery” of brutalism and the “elegant but arbitrary” pure structure of Mies and his followers. For a such a slender volume, the effect was electric – even explosive. 
“At the time, most architectural discourse, if you can call it that, was around issues of social responsibility… and perhaps the very faint beginnings of postmodernism and reaction against modernist orthodoxy,” says Paul Goldberger, the Pulitzer-winning architecture critic for Vanity Fair, formerly of the New York Times and the New Yorker. “And then, into this mixture, come these young architects who were interested in modernist form and continuing to develop and refine it, and push it forward, and did not feel it was a dead end, but felt it was very much relevant. In the context of the architectural culture of the 1970s, it felt very fresh… very much oriented around pure aesthetics and pure forms and making a shape and making a space as an end in themselves.”
Left to right: presentation model of the Ackerberg House and presentation model of the Rachofsky House in the North Gallery of the New York office.
“I was surprised how much was written about it,” Meier says. “It made people think about architecture in a different way, which was very positive.” But with modernism divided and falling from grace, this clarion call was controversial. The New York Five became known as the “whites”, and were attacked in the pages of the Architectural Review by a rival grouping of proto-postmodernists and neoclassicists, the “greys”. “People certainly read it as a manifesto of some sort, and it provoked other events,” Meier says, although he denies that the aim was polemic. For him, the value was all in those initial meetings: “It was really a wonderful coming together. We knew one another; we had dinner with one another, but this was something different. It was just sitting in a room, talking about the work – not only one’s own work, but also the work of the other four.”
Meier was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1934, and established his office in New York in 1963. “White” was an entirely apt label for his work. He is associated with the colour like no other architect. The Five were always divergent in style, and their architecture went in radically different trajectories: Eisenman into deconstructivism, Hejduk into sui generis idiosyncrasy, Graves into monumental postmodernism. But Meier has remained loyal to white-walled modernism. One monograph of his work opens with an essay by him in praise of the colour: “White is always present but never the same, bright and rolling in the day, silver and effervescent under the full moon of New Year’s Eve. Between the sea of consciousness and the earth’s vast materiality lies this ever-changing line of white.”
In interview, however, he’s far more restrained – at times, frustratingly taciturn. “I felt that we were part of a tradition and respected that tradition, and showed the way it could be expanded,” is pretty much all he will be drawn to say about his relationship with his modernist forebears. But his meaning is spelled out in his work. His crowning achievement is the Getty Center in Los Angeles, a hilltop complex of galleries the size of a small town, developed over more than a decade at a cost of $1.3 billion. Few architects get this kind of opportunity; even fewer could make such consummate use of it. He has built other cultural landmarks in the United States as well, including the High Museum of Art in Atlanta; and he is one of continental Europe’s favourite Americans, with major projects such as city halls for The Hague in the Netherlands and Ulm in Germany. Dazzling white is sometimes cut into by pale stone and apertures of sky; grids and purist geometry are kept from sterility with surgical curves and deviations from the orthogonal. 
Photo cards with images from the Richard Meier Archive to commemorate and celebrate Richard Meier’s 80th birthday created by the staff from his New York office.
“What he has done is distilled a kind of elegant purist essence out of modernism,” says Goldberger. “But his works are very much compositions; they’re about balance and weight and lightness and solids and voids, all very beautifully balanced together into compositional wholes that are elegant and serene. That is not what modernist orthodoxy has prioritised so much as what he has prioritised. He has been pursuing his own private version of modernism, consistently, his entire career.”
Some of Meier’s earliest projects in the late 1960s and early ’70s, were in New York. After that, for more than a quarter of a century, he was overlooked in his home city. But with the turn of the century, that changed. Between 1999 and 2006, he built a trio of short, elegant towers on Perry Street and Charles Street in Greenwich Village, a decorous little riverfront group that deftly combines variation and restraint. “To have three buildings together, three blocks on the river, is really unique. It makes me proud,” Meier says. “And they’ve really transformed an area, given it a new life.” 
They also created demand for Meier’s architecture among condominium developers. In the early years of the 21st century, with his catalogue heavily focused on houses, civic centres and galleries, Meier had more than once expressed a desire to design a skyscraper. Since then, a few Meier spires have appeared in locations around the world, and now one is under way in New York: an apartment tower at 685 First Avenue. The site is a couple of blocks south of the United Nations building on the East River, and Meier expresses his satisfaction that his own tower is much the same height and orientation. “It’s like they’re a pair of buildings,” he says. “That context gives me great pleasure.”
Senior Associate Hans Put working on the design of a new private residence in East Hampton.
However, once it’s finished the uninformed eye might not recognise 685 First Avenue as a Meier: it’s black, clad in a “very taut, very striking” curtain wall of shadowy glass. It is a remarkable rupture with the Meier trademark. What made him break the practice of a lifetime and make a black building? Typically, his reply is a little… well, a little colourless. “ came to me and said ‘I like your work; I like the buildings that you did downtown, but would you do a black building?’ So I thought about it a while, and I said sure. So that’s what we’re doing.”
To break up the mass and highlight the blackness and tautness of the curtain wall, there’s a sliver of white about two thirds up the tower: one apartment, different to the others, with clear glass to reveal its pristine interior. An interesting place to live, I say. You’ll be able to point it out from across the river.
Another first: Meier laughs, and permits himself a dry joke. “We should tell the sales people that they should charge more for it.”
This article is taken from Port issue 20. To subscribe, click here.
Photography by Joss McKinley

At Home with Mark Hix

From his south London home, the celebrated chef, restaurateur and food writer speaks to The Modern House about what modern living means to him

I lived in Shoreditch for 20-odd years, as well as Notting Hill, and I wasn’t considering south London before I bought this place. My friend Richard, who’s a search agent, showed it to me on The Modern House website, and I zipped straight over on my scooter to take a look. I said yes straight away. I didn’t even come for a second viewing because I knew I was going to redo it.

Space was the main consideration, but I’ve found that Bermondsey is a really interesting area. It’s also easy to get to any of my restaurants… I nip over London Bridge to get to the Oyster & Chop House. I’m close to lots of bridges here! I visit at least two of my restaurants every day. I’m not really in the kitchen any more; I’ve got lots of other things to look at, mostly overseeing the creative side.

This place is my home, and I also do some work from here: writing and experimenting. I might start doing some cookery demonstrations, like I do in my Kitchen Library at the Tramshed.

I worked with Tekne on the refurbishment. Originally they’re shop fitters, but they’ve fallen into doing hotels and restaurants. They did my Bankside restaurant, Hixter, and the one in Soho. I recently put them in touch with my friend Robin Hutson, who owns The Pig Hotels, so they’ve done the last two projects for him. When Robin buys old buildings for the hotels he clears them out, and he’s given me a few salvaged things for the flat – a shower and some old Crapper loos.

I designed the space, and then Tekne worked as the contractors and architects. I gave them the ideas, and they put it all on paper. We gutted the whole thing, taking it right back to the bare bricks. We played around with materials: the wine racks are made out of scaffold planks picked up from building sites around here – some we paid for and others we were given for nothing. The same with the bookcase. Because they’re old, they’ve got a bit of character.

The kitchen counter is made from liquid metal. You can pour it over MDF to create curves at the edges, and you don’t get joins. Underneath are pieces of cast concrete from Retrouvius; I think they were originally columns in a mid-century office block. I wanted simple, natural oak units, something that would wear in naturally. Cooker hoods are normally so boring, so we went to a foundry and made a semi-industrial-looking unit that’s wrapped over the top of a normal extractor. We went back to the natural brick on the wall behind, which would have been the end wall of the original factory.

The spoon on the wall is a Michael Craig-Martin – it’s the cover of one of my books, The Collection. The ‘Vacancies’ neon piece is a Peter Saville art piece that he made. The fridge came from an antiques shop in Paris. It was made in the 1800s – originally they would have put a block of ice in the middle compartment to keep the whole thing cold. The refrigeration guy that I use for my restaurants converted it and made the top bit to match the bottom. It’s got different sections: dairy, wine, glasses, negroni cabinet!

I buy a lot of stuff from junk shops and reclamation yards. The kitchen lights are from Trainspotters in Gloucestershire, and I’ve collected midcentury Stilnovo lights over the years.

I bought the cocktail cabinet years ago at the Paul Smith shop. It had a horrible Chinese painting on the front, so I got my artist friend Mat Collishaw to make a replacement. The taxidermy mice in bell jars are by Polly Morgan, and the Bridget Riley is one of the first pieces I ever bought. There’s a shop across the road – a sort of Lithuanian shop – and they were selling what I thought was a mandolin, but I couldn’t work out why it was so big; it turns out it dates from 1903 and was used for slicing white cabbage.

The guitar comes from an event in Lyme Regis called Guitars on the Beach. A friend of mine said: ‘If I get a Fender guitar sponsored, can you ask Tracey Emin to draw on it?’, and she did. I thought it was going to be a silent auction, but it ended up being a raffle at a pound a ticket. So I bought a thousand tickets for £1,000 to narrow the chances down! It’s signed by Paul McCartney as well. I go back to Lyme Regis maybe three weekends a month. I’m part of the local community, I suppose. I get involved in local charity work and I do a food festival, which brings quite a few people to the area.

I made the garden room because the little terrace is quite small. In the summer you can open the doors up and feel like you’re inside and outside. I put the bi-fold doors in, and then got lots of crazy plants from Covent Garden. It’s a nice place to have tea in the morning. I found the old plantation chair on eBay. The artwork is by my mate Henry Hudson, who works in plasticine. That’s an Australian Moreton Bay Bug [on the ceiling]: it’s a sort of prehistoric crab. Then this is an old python skin I found rolled up in a box in a junk shop. I guess there’s a touch of the macabre, but really I just thought this room was crazy enough that you could put anything in it.

I’ve got a fishing and shooting cupboard here. The wallpaper is by one of the guys who works in the gallery, Tom Maryniak; he’s done a few different types of wallpaper in the loos at my Bankside restaurant. And then the wallpaper in the main bathroom is by Jake and Dinos Chapman.

The photographs above the bed are by Susannah Horowitz – she was one of the winners of the Hix Award. Every time we do the award I end up buying something. And this one isn’t from the Hix Award: it’s just two fucking flamingos with a little bird watching… I forget what its name is! The rooflight was already here; it was quite a weird space before, with a pool table and not much else.”

This feature is an excerpt from The Modern House, read more here



Food Photography Over the Years

Jo Ann Callis, Black Table Cloth, 1979
Spanning fine art, fashion and advertising, the author of Feast for the Eyes discusses the rich history of food photography through the lens of five influential images 
The first-ever photograph of food was taken in 1827 by photography pioneer Nicéphore Niépce, who captured a set table within a ten-hour exposure time using a camera obscura, commonly referred to as a pinhole camera. Over the last two centuries, food photography has continued to evolve. Since the emergence of digital cameras in the 1980s and the internet in the 1990s, it has remained a focus in photography, although rarely has it been recognised as an important subject. Meanwhile, the rise of social media and blogging culture has meant that food is in fact being photographed more than ever. 
In response to this, writer and independent curator Susan Bright’s book Feast for the Eyes is the first publication to explore food photography’s significant history. Bright’s book traces the development of the genre and celebrates photographers who have played a critical role in conveying ideas that go far beyond the food they have captured. Irving Penn, Stephen Shore, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Martin Parr are just a few names featured. “We understand what it means to photograph food more than ever before,” she explains. “It’s never just about the food, it’s about everything else. It’s about the person, always. Food is a symbol.”
Here, Bright discusses five photographs from Feast for the Eyes taken between 1947 and 2008.
Victor Keppler, (General Mills advertising campaign—Apple Pyequick), 1947
“Keppler was amazing at advertising and colour photography. This image is made up of only four colours but it is instantly recognisable as apple pie. He was so good at paring down colours in advertisements. It is very American and nationalistic; nothing is more American than apple pie. It is about the atomic age of American shortcuts which we can understand immediately. I think it is complete genius, using photography to short circuit the brain.”
Harold Edgerton, Milk Drop Coronet, 1957
“This photograph is just fantastic. Edgerton was a scientist and would claim he was never an artist, but there is a joy to this photograph. There is a mixture of science, art, wonderment and entertainment. I’ve seen this picture a million times and I still go: ‘wow’. We tend to look at the history of art through art photography but it was in science and commercial photography where huge innovations were being made.”
Jo Ann Callis, Black Table Cloth, 1979
“This is a very puzzling image, you’re not sure where you are.  It’s not a diner, it’s not a home; it feels very curious. We question why there is an empty bowl and strawberries in milk. There is something illicit and cinematic about Callis’ work, a tenseness and obsessiveness about it that I really like. Her use of colour is extraordinary.”
Martin Parr, Untitled (Hot Dog Stand), 1983–85
“There is a tenderness to Parr’s images of Britain, but this photograph is quite humorous. The Last Resort was his strongest body of work for me, where he manages to smash through certain British stereotypes as well as rely on them. It was really important to show the idea of the ritual, whether it be a birthday party or going to the cinema and having popcorn, or going to the beach and getting a hotdog.”
Tim Walker, Self-Portrait with Eighty Cakes, 2008
“Tim Walker manages to tap into the childlike quality in us. When you see a Tim Walker photograph you just know its him because he pushes fantasy further than anyone would in a very sweet way. It’s completely fantastical and joyful. He includes food in his photographs because it adds another layer of fantasy and narrative. It reminds me of kids stashing their sweets under the bed but he’s just putting it out there.”
Feast for the Eyes is out now, published by Aperture