5 New Design Exhibitions for September 2014

August 29th, 2014

The inescapable chill in the morning air and the deep-seated boredom in the eyes of school aged children can only mean that summer is, ever so slowly, coming to an end.

And just as spring beckons life to return in the natural world, so to does autumn herald a revival of activity in the unnatural world of museums and galleries.

Consequently, whereas in August we only managed to find three architecture and design exhibitions to recommend, for September we have seven!

A Magnificent Seven who not only help us keep our recommendations average at five per month, but also, hopefully, will provide some stimulus and hope at a time of year when despondency can so often have the upper hand.

“Crafting Narrative” at Pitzhanger Manor House & Gallery, London, England

London is by no stretch of the imagination a city short of notable galleries and museums, yet despite the apparent museal saturation a smallish gallery in the west London suburb of Ealing is slowly but surely making a name for itself as one of the leading London addresses for design exhibitions. Following on from the cross-media exhibition “Reason & Intuition: Alvar Aalto & Ola Kolehmainen in Soane”, the Pitzhanger Manor House & Gallery present Crafting Narrative, an exploration of storytelling in design. Organised by the UK Crafts Council and curated by London based designer Onkar Kular, Crafting Narrative is a touring exhibition which aims to demonstrate how contemporary designers use the process of designing and making to create narratives incorporating cultural, historical and social themes. Featuring works by creatives as varied as Hilda Hellström, El Ultimo Grito or Martino Gamper and presenting projects such as Zhenhan Hao’s “Imitation, imitation” clothing collection or “The Welsh Space Campaign” by Hefin Jones, Crafting Narrative has all the potential to be a highly entertaining and thought provoking exhibition.

Crafting Narrative opens at Pitzhanger Manor House & Gallery, Walpole Park, Mattock Lane Ealing, London W5 5EQ on Wednesday September 10th and runs until Sunday October 19th

Hefin Jones The Welsh Space Campaign Crafting Narrative

Hefin Jones - The Welsh Space Campaign, part of Crafting Narrative at Pitzhanger Manor House & Gallery (Photo © Dan Burn-Forti, Courtesy Craft Council UK)

“100 Years of Swiss Design” at the Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich, Switzerland

In September 2014 the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich open their new depository in the city’s Toni-Areal district. In addition to providing space for the museum’s collection the new Schaudepot offers a new exhibition gallery; a gallery which will be inaugurated by the exhibition 100 Years of Swiss Design. Presenting projects ranging from the mundane everyday such as light switches and vegetable peelers over furniture design classics from the likes of Le Corbusier, Max Bill or Willy Guhl and on to clothing and more conceptual design, 100 Years of Swiss Design features over 800 objects, prototypes, models, sketches and advertising films and thus promises to be one of the most inclusive and wide ranging studies of the Swiss Design tradition ever undertaken.

100 Years of Swiss Design opens at the Museum für Gestaltung – Schaudepot, Toni-Areal, Pfingstweidstrasse 96, CH-8005 Zürich on Friday September 26th and runs until Sunday February 8th

100 Jahre Schweizer Design Willy Guhl Scobalit-Stuhl mit abnehmbaren Sitzschalen

The Scobalit chair by Willy Guhl. Part of the exhibition 100 Years of Swiss Design, Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich

“Le Labo des héritiers” at Le Grand Hornu Images, Hornu, Belgium

There is, we assume, we have no direct experience, nothing more infuriating than attempting to establish a creative career as the offspring of an internationally renowned creative. People are either accusing you of riding on your parents coattails. Or viewing your work in the context of your parents, stubbornly refusing to accept you as an independent individual. Consequently many children and grandchildren don’t even bother. But some do. With success. Taking four “creative dynasties” as examples Le Labo des héritiers aims to explore questions such as how do younger generations relate to the oeuvre of the older generations, how do older generations relate to the oeuvre of the younger generations, is the desire to contradict a loved one greater than the instinct to follow, are family members more relevant to a career than teachers, critics, colleagues and other non-family influences? Presenting objects, sketches, photographs and texts Le Labo des héritiers investigates such questions in the context of Gijs Bakker/Emmy van Leersum and their son Aldo Bakker; Pieter, Lowie, Tinus and Robin Vermeersch and their father Rik and grandfather José; Tobia Scarpa and his father Carlo Scarpa; and David Van Severen and his brother Hannes, the children of Maarten Van Severen and grandsons of the Belgian abstract painter Dan Van Severen.

Le Labo des héritiers opens at Le Grand Hornu Images, Rue Sainte-Louise, 82 7301 Hornu, Belgium on Sunday September 21st and runs until Sunday January 4th

Le stock d’atelier de muller van severen Le Labo des héritiers

"Le stock d’atelier de Muller Van Severen" (Photo: Fien Muller, Courtesy of Le Grand Hornu Images)

“Copper Crossing” at the Triennale Design Museum, Milan, Italy

Copper can in many ways claim to have been the bridge between the technical advancement of the neolithic age, when our ancestors started forming tools, and the bronze age when this increased technical capability could be coupled with a new, hard yet pliable, material. The Chalcolithic period may only have lasted some 3000 years but is and was critical in the story of man’s cultural, social and intellectual evolution. Subsequently the Romans used copper as one of their earliest currencies; the pliability of copper allowed it to be used in construction, for all roofing and cladding; the development of copper water pipes helped protect from the negative effects of the original lead piping; while copper’s conductive properties have allowed for the increasing electrification of our daily lives. Where would we be without copper! In their exhibition Copper Crossing the Triennale Design Museum Milan bring the story up to date and reflect on the use of copper in contemporary art, design, architecture and technology. Featuring over 250 copper based projects by artists such as Joseph Beuys or Anselm Kiefer, architects including James Stirling and Renzo Piano over design objects by, amongst others, Tom Dixon, Ron Arad and Oskar Zieta, and on to a final section looking at more technical uses of copper, including IT and communications applications in addition to copper’s anti-bacterial properties, Copper Crossing will seek to explain the contemporary relevance of this most ancient of materials.

And while yes it all sounds like some expensive and decadent promotional campaign for copper, does copper really need promoting? Of course not, it needs celebrating!

Copper Crossing opens at the Triennale Design Museum, Viale Alemagna, 6, 20121, Milan on Tuesday September 16th and runs until Sunday November 9th

Oskar Zieta Plopp Copper

Plopp Copper by Oskar Zieta, part of Copper Crossing at the Triennale Design Museum, Milan

“Spatial Positions 8: Kooperationen. Diener&Diener in Zusammenarbeit mit Martin Steinmann und Josef Felix Müller / Peter Märkli und Josephsohn” at the Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel, Switzerland

In 2014 the Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel celebrates its 30th anniversary and as part of the festivities is hosting an exhibition curated by the institutes very first Director, Dr. Ulrike Jehle–Schulte Strathaus. Architecture and art often cross over into each others territories, yet it is invariably an artist getting all architectural or an architect getting all artistic. For Spatial Positions 8 the Swiss Architecture Museum paired up architects and artists to work on a joint project, joint projects that explore what happens when the two disciplines collaborate. Thus the Basel architect Roger Diener was teamed up with St. Gallen based artist Josef Felix Müller while Zurich based architect Peter Märkli collaborated with Zurich sculptor Hans Josephsohn. In addition to presenting the results of their collaborations and the associated prototypes, sketches and development works the exhibition will, we hope, provide a few clues to help us better understand in how far architects are just artists with a sense of order and in how far artists are architects who don’t believe space should be confined by walls.

Spatial Positions 8: Kooperationen. Diener&Diener in Zusammenarbeit mit Martin Steinmann und Josef Felix Müller / Peter Märkli und Josephsohn opens at S AM Swiss Architecture Museum, Steinenberg 7, CH-4051 Basel on Saturday September 6th and runs until Sunday October 19th

Spatial Positions 8: Kooperationen. Diener&Diener in Zusammenarbeit mit Martin Steinmann und Josef Felix Müller / Peter Märkli und Josephsohn" at the Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel, Switzerland

Spatial Positions 8: Kooperationen. Diener&Diener in Zusammenarbeit mit Martin Steinmann und Josef Felix Müller / Peter Märkli und Josephsohn" at the Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel

“Future Stars?” at Aram Gallery, London, England

Established in 2002 by Zeev Aram, proprietor of the Aram contemporary furniture store and holder of the exclusive global rights to the furniture design works of Eileen Gray, the Aram Gallery hosts exhibitions dedicated to contemporary art and design, exhibitions which more often than not are of an experimental, conceptual nature. As part of their contribution to the 2014 London Design Festival the Aram Gallery are presenting new works by seven young designers, designers the Aram Gallery are tipping for a bright and glorious future. Featuring product design by Maria Jeglinska, Kim Thome, James Shaw and Lola Lely, fashion/footwear from Cat Potter, jewellery by Sophie Thomas and, we presume, we’ve not seen it yet, something more conceptual from Arnhem based Thor ter Kulve, Future Stars? doesn’t just promise to be a fascinating show but would also appear to offer everything that all the more corporate London Design Festival events don’t. Indeed can’t.

“Future Stars?” opens at The Aram Gallery, 110 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5SG on Saturday September 13th and runs until Saturday October 25th.

aram gallery future stars

Future Stars? at Aram Gallery London

“Alvar Aalto – Second Nature” at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany

Alvar Aalto stands like no other for the easy accessibility of 20th century design. The man who questioned for whom “functionalism” should be “functional” Alvar Aalto not only helped us understand that modernism could be humane and so helped guide post war design and architecture along the path we’ve all come to know and cherish, he was also the man who taught us to mould plywood and that designers can also be producers. In the first major retrospective of Alvar Aalto’s oeuvre this century the Vitra Design Museum exhibition promises to explore not only Aalto’s most important architectural and design works but also examine the wider influences on the man and his canon, including his correspondence with artists such as Hans Arp and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and his contact with and relationship to the leading international architects of the day. We can’t however guarantee they will repeat the epic tale of what happened when Alvar Aalto met George Nelson.

Alvar Aalto – Second Nature opens at the Vitra Design Museum, Charles-Eames-Str. 2, D-79576 Weil am Rhein on Saturday September 27th and runs until Sunday March 1st

Alvar Aalto on his boat Nemo Propheta

Alvar Aalto on his boat Nemo Propheta, 1960s.... And obviously enjoying the memories of his adventures with George Nelson....(Photo Göran Schildt © Schildt Foundation, Courtesy Vitra Design Museum)

(smow) blog compact: Young Architects from Germany at the Museum of African Design Johannesburg, South Africa

August 28th, 2014

Parallel to the exhibition “Aus allen Richtungen” at the AIT ArchitekturSalon in Cologne and its exploration of 30 young German architects relationships to their profession, the Johannesburg Museum of African Design presents examples of how 12 young German architects transform this philosophical relationship into tangible projects.

Focussing on projects realised since 2004 outwith Germany the exhibition presents projects by a dozen young architects/architectural practices which in the words of the organisers aim to go beyond the popular media interest for spectacular architecture and rather present examples of innovative contemporary projects which focus on the specific location for which they were created. And just as importantly, the specific user-group for whom they were created.

To this end the exhibition features, amongst others projects, Berlin based Haberland architect’s extension of the Canton schools in Rychenberg and Im Lee, Switzerland, the urban planning projects undertaken in Sibiu and Cluj, Romania by Bamberg based plan&werk or the so-called Haus AvSJJF in Amsterdam by Amsterdam based, Krefeld born Claudia Schmidt aka MIR architects. In addition to examples of actual building projects Young Architects from Germany also presents examples of interior design and landscape architecture projects, thus providing as wide an impression as possible of the contemporary architecture profession.

A touring exhibition organised by the Federal Chamber of German Architects in conjunction with the Stuttgart based Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, Young Architects from Germany has already been shown in various global locations. The presentation at the Museum of African Design represents its first visit to Africa

Young Architects from Germany runs at the Museum of African Design, 281 Commissioner Street, Johannesburg 2094, South Africa from Friday August 29th until Sunday September 21st.

Full details can be found at www.moadjhb.com

Mueller Kneer Associates The Cotton House Manchester Young Architects from Germany

The interior design of the Cotton House, Manchester by Mueller Kneer Associates, one of the projects featured in Young Architects from Germany at the Museum of African Design Johannesburg (Photo: Rolant Dafis Courtesy of The Museum of African Design)

At first glance by Daphna Laurens at “Trading Places. Designers meet the collection”, Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden

August 26th, 2014

Back in February the participants of the exhibition “Trading Places. Designers meet the collection” at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden spent two days trawling through the museum’s depots looking for objects with which to work.

During the tour Daphna Isaacs and Laurens Manders, aka Eindhoven based studio Daphna Laurens, were shown inside a drawer. Walked on. Stopped. Walked back. Looked inside the drawer again and asked Herr Knorr, Head of metal, glass and ceramics at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, about one particular object.

“At first we thought that it was some sort of letter opener”, remembers Daphna Isaacs, “and then he took it in is hand and slowly opened it and we were like “Wow!!!”"

That pair of 18th/19th century Persian scissors, for that is what the believed letter opener turned out to be, now forms the centre piece of the installation “At first glance”, Daphna Laurens’ contribution to Trading Places.

Or better put the pair of scissors and Daphna Laurens’ reaction, “We wanted to share with the museum visitors the experience we’d had of experiencing the scissors for the first time”, explains Laurens Manders, “the experience of observing one shape transforming into another and of where that can lead, what that can stimulate. Consequently as we were considering how best to design an installation about the scissors it was very clear to us that it had to be dynamic.”

The result is an interactive installation which invites visitors to play with shapes, observe changing shapes and generally lose oneself for a few minutes in the meditative properties of metamorphosis, transfiguration and modulation. In addition to a replica of the original scissors which visitors can open and close, At first glance also features abstract 2D forms which can be altered through the use of cogs and pulleys and a series of anodised aluminium geometric shapes which visitors can take in their hands and play with: a physical process, and indeed emotional process, very reminiscent of handling worry beads or baoding balls to help pass time and focus concentration.

Or as Laurens eloquently describes it, “Its a bit like cycling or walking. At some point your mind gets freed, your thoughts liberated, and you can think clearer. Playing with our installation is a lot like that. And hopefully visitors can then view the rest of the museum’s exhibits with a little more clarity.”

At first glance Daphna Laurens Trading Places. Designers meet the collection Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden

At first glance by Daphna Laurens (Photo: Daphna Laurens)

Delightful as At first glance is we were more than a little surprised that the pair hadn’t chosen a furniture object, that being the genre we most associate with Daphna Laurens. When we spoke with Kunstgewerbemuseum Director Tulga Beyerle ahead of the exhibition opening we asked her if she had also been surprised, “No, not at all”, came the instant reply. “At Vienna Design Week they were involved in a Passionswege project with Wittmann Möbelwerkstätten where they created pieces of furniture and also displayed sketches from the development phase of the project. And if you looked at their drawings you could just as easily say something was a view from above, or from the side or from the front. They play around with patterns, create these abstract forms and then ask “What is it?” and subsequently develop the 3D project from there. Which in a way is all very similar to the environment that they have created here, so no it wasn’t that surprising.”

In addition we must note the parallels between the hand held aluminium shapes in At first glance and the collection of clips Daphna Laurens presented as part of the Dutch Invertuals “Happy Futures” showcase during Milan 2014. The clips arising from a research project Daphna Laurens undertook exploring random, abstract shapes and which were originally only intended as being a source of inspiration for the pair. But which subsequently became a product.

One must also add that Daphna Laurens did consider a piece of furniture for their project in Dresden, but ultimately the decision for the scissors was made because “they were closer to us, to our way of working, and also because with the scissors we saw the greatest potential to make an interesting installation.”

At first glance Daphna Laurens Trading Places. Designers meet the collection Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden

The pair of 18th/19th century Persian scissors that set the ball in motion. (Photo: Daphna Laurens)

But why the decision to accept Tulga Beyerle’s invitation to participate in Trading Places, it’s not as if the pair aren’t busy enough with other projects? What motivates a design studio to participate in such a museum based project? “We would never say no to Tulga!” replies Daphna. The serious look on her face only breaking into a wide smile after a pause just long enough to, almost, lead us to believe her. Almost.

“No, every new environment and every new project is positive”, she continues, “and ultimately the challenge is always the best reason for accepting such an invitation, the opportunity to explore a new field, learn new things and test oneself in a new environment. For example we made it a little hard on ourselves here through deciding to have a dynamic installation; but then through such experiences you learn a lot about yourself and your work”

“Plus” adds Laurens, “we found the idea of helping bring a museum’s depot into the public sphere very interesting. A lot of the textiles, for example, will never come out of the depot because of the problems with exposing them to light and so such an exhibition is a nice way to make visitors aware of just what exists in the dark spaces of a museum depot. Similarly the scissors were lying in a fairly anonymous drawer that probably is never opened. And so we’re really happy that we found them and can share that experience”

As indeed are we.

At first glance by Daphna Laurens – in addition of course to the projects by Dechem Studio, Loris & Livia, Judith Seng and mischer’traxler – can be viewed in the exhibition Trading Places. Designers meet the collection at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Schloss Pillnitz, Dresden until Sunday November 2nd 2014.


(smow) blog compact: Woody Skateboards

August 25th, 2014

No sooner had we published our post on the innovative high-tech world of silbærg snowboards, than we received information on a fascinating project producing older than old skool skateboards.

Initiated by Royal Academy of Art, The Hague graduate Bastiaan van Druten, Woody skateboards are created from elm trees which had to be felled in Amsterdam and Utrecht “…because of disease or because they were in the way of capitalism”

Which is a turn of phrase almost as exquisite as the skateboards Bastiaan creates from these innocent victims of gentrification.

Deliberately choosing “retro” inspired deck shapes to remind us all of skateboarding’s innocent, hedonistic yet idealistic and close-to-nature origins – and so distance Woody boards from the modern commercial, capitalist, reality – what we particularly like is the site specific nature of the project.

Really, really, really old readers will remember Eindhoven based Portuguese designer Bruno Carvalho and his research into site specific furniture, as represented, for example, by his Tempelhof Lamp at DMY Berlin 2011. Essentially Bruno’s project involved transmuting a feature of a building into a piece of furniture for that building. The Tempelhof Lamp being modelled on a window sill.

More recently we had the story from Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus of how Jürgen Bey took the fallen trees in the grounds of Schloß Oranienbaum as inspiration for his deliciously decadent Tree Trunk Bench project, and of course there is Niek Wagemans’ nachBAR for the Dutch Embassy in Berlin which was created from waste materials found in the near vicinity of the Embassy.

Recycling and re-use needn’t be site specific, but has lot more charm when it is.

As Woody skateboards perfectly demonstrate.

Quite aside from the fact that all boards are genuinely unique works of craft, according to the press information – and as ever we have no way of verifying this information, but also absolutely no reason to doubt it – Bastiaan van Druten has created a board from “the oldest Elm in the Netherlands”, a tree dating back to 1790 and which stood on Catharijnesingel in central Utrecht.

That is a board that you have to, indeed can only, ride through the streets of Utrecht.

And regardless of the age of the tree from which your deck is crafted, should you find yourself being berated for your gall in skateboarding: relax – you have the social and environmental high ground.

Rebelling has never been so responsible.

As a concept Woody skateboards is of course perfectly applicable to any town or city plagued by members of the fungal genus Ophiostoma, property speculators or other destructive forces. As such we’re looking forward to seeing where the ride takes them next; or should any design festivals be looking for an idea for a site specific recycling/upcycling workshop, we’re sure Bastiaan van Druten would be more than happy to help out.

Full details on Woody skateboards, including purchase information, can be found at www.woodyskateboards.nl

Woody Skateboards Familiy

The Woody skateboard familiy


Rudolf Horn at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig. Reprise

August 22nd, 2014

It is very apposite that the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig is currently hosting a special presentation dedicated to the designer Rudolf Horn: for here began the story of one of Rudolf Horn’s more interesting projects, the somewhat unfortunately named Conferstar club chair.

And yes it does look like Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair.

It’s supposed to.

Rudolf Horn conferstar club chair

The Conferstar club chair by Rudolf Horn

In 1962 Rudolf Horn was sitting in his office in Leipzig and was, by his own admission, fed up. And so decided to visit the Grassi Museum. Where he saw the Barcelona Chair. A chair which interested him less on account of its form or story but because of the spring steel used in the base – a material which was unknown in the DDR and consequently a material with which he had no experience.

Finding himself alone in the exhibition room, curious to experience the qualities of spring steel and empowered by the cheek of youth, Rudolf Horn sat himself, slowly, in the masterwork: “It was uncomfortable”, he recalls, the disappointment of then still audible in his voice, “beautiful, but so uncomfortable!”

And so Rudolf Horn went home to consider how he could make Mies van der Rohe’s classic more comfortable. More fitting.

Attaching a sheet of baking paper to his kitchen wall Rudolf Horn sketched the Barcelona Chair and quickly identified, for him, the weakness in the design: the point where the two arms of the base cross.

The solution for Horn was equally clear: to ensure the required comfort this static point must be made dynamic.

The result was his cantilevered club chair with its sprung base; a base that has always somehow reminded us of a duck.

By way of showing his respect, inspiration and indeed motivation Horn left all other aspects as per the Barcelona Chair.

From 1966 onwards the Conferstar club chair was produced by the company Röhl in Potsdam and was, more or less, only exported outwith the DDR, principally to West Germany. However it was also apparently very popular in Sweden.

We have only ever seen it in museums.

And never been cheeky enough to test it and so see just how comfortable it is………………….

ludwig mies van der rohe barcelona chair rudolf horn

The Barcelona Chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, with Rudolf Horn's believed weakness.....

Rudolf Horn conferstar club sessel

.....and his solution.

Chemnitz Creative: silbærg snowboards

August 20th, 2014

In the past we have, admittedly, been “somewhat” harsh on Chemnitz. Unfairly so considered some. Many.

“C’mon! Chemnitz isn’t all that bad!!!!” being the general response.

And so we decide to investigate a little more closely, to peer behind our prejudices and explore contemporary creativity in Chemnitz.

Beginning with snowboard manufacturer silbærg.

Initiated in the context of a research project at the Chemnitz Technical University silbærg snowboards make use of so-called Anisotropic Layer Design, A.L.D., technology to create a new genus of snowboard. In short: the silbærg boards respond to shifts in the rider’s weight placement. When carving the front edge of the board bends downwards into the snow thus improving the control. In free ride or park situations the edges curve upwards, reducing the surface area in contact with the snow and thus both smoothing the ride and increasing the momentum.

An innovation that has not only captured the imagination of boarders and earned the company critical acclaim, but which has also been rewarded with numerous awards; most recently the silbærg Carvomat pro carbon winning a Plus X Award for its innovation, high quality, design and functionality. At the 2014 Plus X Award silbærg were in addition recognised in the “Most Innovative Brand” category.


A relatively recent innovation the principles of A.L.D technology have been the subject of numerous, largely theoretical, research projects, projects which have rarely if ever extended beyond the prototype phase. The silbærg snowboards are, according to silbærg, the first serial product to utilise such technology. We have no way of checking that statement. But also see little reason to doubt silbærg.

We recently met up with Jörg Kaufmann, CEO of silbærg and initiator of the project, to find out a little more about the technology, the boards and Chemnitz as a location for such a technology company, but started by asking, what came first the desire to develop a new snowboard or the search for a use for A.L.D. technology?

Jörg Kaufmann: I’ve been boarding since 1995 and the more knowledge of and experience with engineering I gathered the more the desire grew to combine the two. The chance then came in context of my Doctor thesis where I am involved with so-called anisotropic coupling effects, which, in effect, is to do with how certain materials bend. We undertook deforming trials with fibre-reinforced composite sheets and as I saw how they could be deformed it was clear that we should try to apply such technology to snowboards.

(smow)blog: Anisotropic coupling effects and fibre-reinforced composite sheets are not concepts most people will understand. Without giving too much away, what is the secret of the boards functionality?

Jörg Kaufmann: The secret of the technology lies in the alignment of the fibres in the snowboard. A normal snowboard has machine produced fibre intermediates, our boards have fibre intermediates comprising up to 40 separate pieces all of which are hand produced here in Chemnitz, and the alignment of the fibres and the hand production makes the difference and causes the unique effect.

(smow)blog: Sounds simple! But what were the main problems in the development?

Jörg Kaufmann: The effects that we generate in the board are temperature dependent, as such reaching a state where the boards could be pressed without deforming was very complex. And generally the optimising of the effect was a long process because it involves counter rotation, and getting that right, understanding how that works, was a very intricate process. In the course of the development we tested over 1000 models in computer simulations, with traditional prototype construction and testing we would still be at the prototype phase.

(smow)blog: But eventually you must take the boards out on real hill……?

Jörg Kaufmann: Yes, we tested in Zermatt using anonymised white boards, a mix of “our” and “normal” boards. The test team was comprised of ten boarders who tested each board and completed an evaluation form after each ride. The subsequent analysis of the data produced the unequivocal result that the boards with the A.L.D. technology were better the conventional boards. Results that supported the gut feeling that all our testers had had, and which made it clear that we would have to form a company and produce the boards commercially!

(smow)blog: And what was easier to develop, the board or the company?

Jörg Kaufmann: Very good question! The development of the board took six years, and I knew that the development of the brand, establishing a position in the market and internationalising the brand would be difficult. And it is and has been!  However it is also a lot of fun, and it is wonderful feeling to develop your own product, your brand and to experience the delight and satisfaction of the customers.

(smow)blog: Most snowboarders of course don’t want to just ride well but also look good. How much attention do you pay to the form of the boards?

Jörg Kaufmann: At the moment the individual fibre intermediates are made by hand here in Chemnitz and the boards themselves are then pressed in Austria by GST, one of the leading snowboard manufacturers; and so currently we are in the fortunate position of being able to rely on their 20 years experience and use their forms. However the form of the board is, as you say, an important aspect, also in terms of brand identity, and is something where there is definitely room for further development. We are currently working on developing our own shapes, but won’t release them until they are as perfect as our A.L.D. technology.

(smow)blog: “Further development” is a nice keyword….. you started in Chemnitz because you were here. If things continue to grow and develop can you stay here, or…….?

Jörg Kaufmann: For us Chemnitz is a very good location and I see no reason why we can’t remain here. Not least because through the close cooperation with the TU Chemnitz, and for all with the Institute of Lightweight Structures, we have here the perfect partners. In addition, from Chemnitz we can reach the Alps relatively quickly, which is very important in terms of sales and marketing during the season, while with the nearby Oberwiesenthal ski region we have a perfect location for testing. In Chemnitz we also have a very good supply of highly qualified students, which is important for the further development of the product.

(smow)blog: And to end, sorry, but we have to ask, does the board give you an advantage in competitions? Can it be used in competitions?

Jörg Kaufmann: Of course they can be used! At the 2014 German University Championships the TU Chemnitz student snowboard team riding silbærg boards won every gold medal in the Olympic disciplines of halfpipe, boardercross and slopestyle. Which I think is an answer in itself…….

Further details on silbærg snowboards can be found at http://silbaerg.com/

silbaerg a l d snowboard

The principles of the silbærg A.L.D smowboard technology


(smow) blog compact: Aus allen Richtungen. Positionen junger Architekten im BDA at AIT ArchitekturSalon Cologne

August 18th, 2014

When we stated in our 5 New Design Exhibitions for August 2014 post that there were only three exhibitions opening in August worth recommending, we were, it would appear, being somewhat hasty.

On Thursday August 21st the exhibition Aus allen Richtungen. Positionen junger Architekten im BDA opens at the AIT ArchitekturSalon Cologne.

Presenting works by some 30 young German architects Aus allen Richtungen is a touring exhibition in which each architect and/or architectural practice is given an A3 sized box in which to present their opinion on the current state of architecture and the architecture profession.

Owing to the unique way in which (smow) blog works we have already seen the exhibition in Berlin, Leipzig and Stuttgart.

And can thoroughly recommend it.

It’s not always easy nor immediately accessible, is however entertaining and well worth taking the time to explore. In addition to Cologne based Aysin Ipekci from STUDYO ARCHITECTs, Aus allen Richtungen also features contributions from, for example, Christian Brückner (Brückner & Brückner Architekten, Würzburg), Elke Reichel (Reichel Schlaier Architekten, Stuttgart) or Jan Henrik Hafke (o5 Architekten, Frankfurt). And the Solarkiosk project by GRAFT architects Berlin. A project that can also be enjoyed as part of the Bundespreis Ecodesign 2013 Exhibition currently on show at the Umweltbundesamt Dessau

For all in Cologne on August 21st the vernissage takes place at 7.30 pm. For all others Aus allen Richtungen. Positionen junger Architekten im BDA can the be viewed at AIT ArchitekturSalon, Vogelsanger Strasse 70, Barthonia Forum 50823 Cologne until Saturday September 27th.

Full details can be found at: http://koeln.ait-architektursalon.de/

Aus allen Richtungen Positionen junger Architekten im BDA DAZ Berlin

Aus allen Richtungen. Positionen junger Architekten im BDA. As seen at the DAZ Berlin.

Aus allen Richtungen Positionen junger Architekten im BDA DAZ Berlin Solarkiosk GRAFT

Solarkiosk GRAFT Architekten, as seen at Aus allen Richtungen. Positionen junger Architekten im BDA, DAZ Berlin

Aus allen Richtungen Positionen junger Architekten im BDA Wechselraum Stuttgart Ulrike Mansfeld Mikroplis

Mikropolis by Ulrike Mansfeld, as seen at Aus allen Richtungen. Positionen junger Architekten im BDA, Wechselraum Stuttgart

Aus allen Richtungen Positionen junger Architekten im BDA Wechselraum Stuttgart SML Architekten

SML Architekten, as seen at Aus allen Richtungen. Positionen junger Architekten im BDA, Wechselraum Stuttgart

(smow) blog compact design tourism special: Croatian Design Superstore, Zadar

August 15th, 2014

In our post from the excellent exhibition Croatian Holiday at Vienna Design Week 2012 we questioned the curators assertion that through incorporating contemporary designers into a nation’s tourist industry one could help that nation promote a contemporary national identity abroad.

Our scepticism wasn’t levied at the employment of designers in, for example, creating furniture for hotels, the interior design of tourist attractions or promotional material, but much more about employing designers to create contemporary souvenirs.

“Tourists aren’t interested in modern interpretations of national identities”, we argued, “tourists want the traditional, the expected, but mainly the things other people have and did.”

Fortunately not only tourists travel, also people who are interested in discovering a country, learning about its past and exploring what its contemporary culture has to offer. Such people, we theorised, may purchase objects by contemporary designers, “not because of any cultural identification but because they are high quality, original objects.”

One simply has to offer appropriate opportunities to view and purchase such.

And so it was with great delight, and just a touch of excitement, that we received news from a holidaying acquaintance of the project “Croatian Design Superstore” currently residing in the National Museum in Zadar.

A temporary institution that appears to do just that.

As the Superstore currently has no website and/or other information as to exactly who is represented and with what, we can sadly only base our opinion on a few Facebook photos and a promotional flyer – but what we have seen impresses.

From the 2012 Croatian Holiday exhibition only the XZ folding chair by Numen / For Use and the tote bag family “Croatia – as it is” by Superstudio 29 appear to have made it through to the Croatian Design Superstore.

The delightful Katriga table and chairs by Neven Kovačićby don’t appear to be on offer in Zadar, in their place however Neven and Sanja Kovačićby’s sofa bed family Up-Lift for Croatian manufacturer Prostoria; a product which we’ve never experienced “in the flesh” but which certainly looks very promising.

In addition we were very taken with the photos we’ve seen of Numen / For Use’s Polygon armchair and XL Folding Lounge Chair, the desk lamp Mini Me by Filip Gordon Frank and the Handy Bowl collection by Lidia Boševski. Elsewhere the Croatian Design Superstore offers a selection of toys, clothing, ceramics, furniture and lighting by a nice mix of Croatian designers young and less so.

But perhaps most convincingly, the presence of YY by Numen / For Use – a project that began life as a chair for a hotel in Rovinj on Croatia’s northern shores and ended up in the Moroso programme – highlights that even international furniture manufacturers occasionally pick up high quality, original contemporary design objects while on holiday.

So why shouldn’t you?

Should you find yourself in Croatia this summer the Croatian Design Superstore can be visited until Thursday September 25th at the Rector’s Palace, Poljana Šime Budinića, Zadar.

Full(ish) details can be found at www.facebook.com/croatiandesignsuperstore. From where we have appropriated the following images…..

Croatian Design Superstore 2014 Zadar

Croatian Design Superstore 2014 (Photo Igor Dugandzic, via: www.facebook.com/croatiandesignsuperstore)

Croatian Design Superstore 2014 Zadar

Croatian Design Superstore 2014 (Photo Miljenko Bernfest, via: www.facebook.com/croatiandesignsuperstore)

Croatian Design Superstore 2014 Zadar

Croatian Design Superstore 2014 (Photo Miljenko Bernfest, via: www.facebook.com/croatiandesignsuperstore)

Croatian Design Superstore 2014 Zadar

Croatian Design Superstore 2014 (Photo Miljenko Bernfest, via: www.facebook.com/croatiandesignsuperstore)

(smow) blog compact design tourism special: Weil am Rhein – City of Chairs

August 12th, 2014

Any self-respecting modern conurbation needs a moniker. An evocative tag line on which to hang its city marketing strategy and attract tourists.

Paris is of course the City of Love, Rome the Eternal City, Prague the City of a Hundred Spires while Edinburgh, whether advisable or not, regails as simply Auld Reekie.

In 1998 the southern German town of Weil am Rhein re-christened itself “City of Chairs”

If we’re honest the reason why escapes us, for aside from Vitra there is, as far as we are aware, no further chair manufacturer in the town.

Nor can Weil am Rhein by any stretch of the imagination be considered the cradle of contemporary chair design.

But then when did facts play a part in such naming decisions. The Polish city of Wrocław calls itself the City of Hundred Bridges when it has, at most, forty; Tel Aviv likes to be known as The City That Never Stops, a patent lie as anyone who has visited over Yom Kippur can testify; while in these pages we have often highlighted the, let’s say curiosities, associated Chemnitz’s claim to be the City of Modernism.

And so, why not Weil am Rhein – City of Chairs. With the Vitra Design Museum Weil am Rhein can at least rightly claim to host one of the most complete documentations of contemporary chair design to be found anywhere.

By way of visualising, and cementing, Weil am Rhein’s claim in 1999 the town’s marketing authority started positioning over-sized models of important and interesting examples of chair designs around the town. Each of the so-called Maxiaturen are produced in a scale ranging from 1.5:1 up to 8:1 and have all been realised in collaboration with the Vitra Design Museum – thus ensuring that just as with the Vitra Design Museum miniatures collection the Maxiaturen remain true to the originals.

Each Maxiaturen is sponsored by a local business or institution and from an initial collection of nine chairs has now grown to 21, and extended geographically beyond the towns boundaries to neighbouring communities.

And so one can enjoy, for example, Jasper Morrison‘s Wingnut Chair on Lindenplatz in Altweil, the Zig Zag chair by Gerrit T. Rietveld on Weil am Rhein Hauptstrasse or 3:1 copy of Michael Thonet’s Chair Nr. 14 in the nearby village of Ötlingen. Further Maxiaturen present works by designers as varied as Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Mart Stam, Michele de Lucchi, Ron Arad or Shiro Kuramata, in addition to two copies of Robert Mallet-Stevens’ 1920s stacking tubular steel chair. One big. And one even bigger.

Although each chair is accompanied by a plaque saying what it is, by whom it is and who paid for it, there is, sadly, no further information available to help the viewer place the work in a historical or creative context. However that aside, the presence of the chairs does make a stroll though and round Weil am Rhein a little more entertaining than would otherwise be the case. But much more allows one a moment of calm to consider both the development of chair design over the decades and also the state of contemporary chair design and the role of the contemporary chair designer. As such should you visit the Vitra Campus do try to find a bit of time to discover the Maxiaturen. And should you decide to photograph any of them – try not to look too much as if you might be from the police, customs and excise, immigration, social work or any similar official body.

Full details on the location of all chairs can be found at: www.w-wt.de

We’ve still not found all 21, but here a few impressions of those we have…..

(smow) blog Design Calendar: August 9th 1878 – Happy Birthday Eileen Gray!

August 9th, 2014

As previously noted in these pages the (hi)story of modernism is largely one of successful male/female partnerships, the most famous questionably being Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich or Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand in the main period of inter-war European modernism and Charles and Ray Eames in context of the post-war American adaptation.

Yet it is also a (hi)story with only very few identifiable female leads. From the examples above Lilly Reich, Charlotte Perriand and Ray Eames are all popularly perceived as the “wee women” on the side of the creative male. At best responsible for the aesthetic, “female”, qualities that round-off the central, important, technical creative talents of the male. But only rarely individually acknowledged as the talented and successful designers, architects or artists the were.

There are of course some shinning examples of successful female modernist architects and designers who are accepted without the need of a male “qualifier” , the most notable being Eileen Gray.

Eileen Gray

Eileen Gray (1878 - 1976)

Born on August 9th 1878 in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland as the youngest of five children to the Scottish landscape painter James McLaren Smith and his wife Eveleen Pounden, the 19th Lady Gray, Eileen Gray studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London before moving to Paris in 1902. Eileen Gray first achieved the attention of a wider public with her oriental lacquer works, a process she learnt first in London at the Dean Street workshop of a Mr. D. Charles and subsequently in Paris under the guidance of the Japanese lacquer master Seizo Sugawara. In 1913 the Paris fashion styler Jacques Doucet purchased her lacquer folding screen Le Destin and subsequently commissioned further works from her; commissions which not only helped Eileen Gray financially, but much more introduced her to an ever wider range of potential clients and customers. One such was a certain Madam Mathieu-Lévy who in 1919 commissioned Eileen Gray to redesign the interior of her apartment, Gray’s very first such commission and one that resulted in some of Eileen Gray’s earliest furniture pieces including the Serpent Chair, Bibendum Chair and the monumentally grotesque, yet somehow endearingly charming and lovable, Pirogue Sofa.

In addition to creating works on commission and for interior design projects in 1922 Eileen Gray established her own shop, Galérie Jean Désert – the “Désert” being a reference to the fond memories of her numerous trips to the deserts of North Africa, the “Jean” because she felt, not unreasonably, that a male gallery owner would be taken more seriously than a female. In addition to selling works by Eileen Gray and promoting her interior design services, Galérie Jean Désert also sold carpets sourced from artisan producers in Morocco. Although such shops were known in the Paris of that period, Eileen Gray was one of the very first designers to attempt to market their own work through their own shop, and certainly one of the first females anywhere to attempt such.

Eileen Gray Bibendum ClassiCon

The Bibendum Chair by Eileen Gray through ClassiCon

Eileen Gray’s first contact with architecture came through her relationship with the Romanian architecture critic and journalist Jean Badovici, an interest that achieved its first physical manifestation in one of Eileen Gray’s most celebrated works, the so-called house E-1027 in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Côte d’Azur. Teetering precariously on the rocks above the Mediterranean E-1027 is not just an architectural wonder and testament to Eileen Gray’s single minded pursuit of her goals, but also gifted the world some of her most important furniture designs, including the Non Conformist Chair, the Occasional Table and the E-1027 Adjustable Table.

Buoyed by the success of E-1027, and with Galérie Jean Désert suffering in the harsh economic climate of the late 1920s, Eileen Gray decided in 1929 to close Galérie Jean Désert and to focus on architecture rather than her artistic and design projects; a decision which subsequently led to some 45 projects from which seven were realised, mainly for herself, including the 1932 Villa Tempe a Pailla in Castellar and Villa Lou Pérou, Eileen Gray’s last architecture project and one which involved converting an abandoned cabanon in a vineyard near Saint-Tropez.

Villa E 1027 Eileen Gray

Villa E 1027 in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin by Eileen Gray

Being, as she was, a financially secure well educated, artistically inclined child born of the landed petite noblesse and living a single life in early 20th century Paris, Eileen Gray’s biography is awash with those tales and anecdotes that can only come from belonging to that class and that age: being made the subject of a poem by disturbing occultist Aleister Crowley, getting lost in the Tunisian desert and spending the night smoking hashish with nomadic tribesman, ballooning with Rolls Royce co-founder the Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls, or, and perhaps the most deliciously debauched behaviour of all, cruising the streets of Paris in her Chenard-Walcker convertible with her lover, the nightclub chanteuse Damia. Damia’s pet panther sat in the back seat. We can’t guarantee that’s true. It may just be apocryphal. But we do so hope it is true.

Post World War II it was a lot quieter around Eileen Gray, there were certainly no more “panthers in roadsters” episodes, and Eileen Gray was in real danger of slipping into an discourteous anonymity were it not for a delightful twist of fate. Following a 1968 review of her oeuvre by Joseph Rykwert in the Italian architecture and design magazine Domus, a 1972 Paris auction of Jacques Doucet’s estate saw Yves Saint Laurent acquire her Le Destin folding screen. A purchase which led to renewed interest in this “unknown” artist who so fascinated Yves Saint Laurent. Thus, just as the original purchase of Le Destin by a fashion styler led to initial interest in Eileen Gray, the purchase of Le Destin by a fashion styler led to renewed interest in Eileen Gray. In the final years of her life Eileen Gray struck up a friendship with the London based furniture dealer Zeev Aram, who subsequently acquired the exclusive rights to Eileen Gray’s furniture designs, designs which today are produced under exclusive license by Munich based manufacturer ClassiCon.

Eileen Gray died in Paris in 1976; however, thanks to the efforts of Aram London, ClassiCon and all those involved in trying to restore and repair E-1027, Eileen Gray remains as present, contemporary and effortlessly stylish as ever.

Happy Birthday Eileen Gray!

Eileen Gray Adjustable Table ClassiCon

The E-1027 Adjustable Table by Eileen Gray through ClassiCon