(smow) blog compact: Plug Lamp by Form Us With Love for Ateljé Lyktan

November 5th, 2014

On seeing a lamp grace a Jean Prouvé desk on the Vitra stand at Orgatec 2014 we termed it “a genuine reminder that good design is often the simplest solution”

On seeing a lamp grace a Jean Prouvé desk in the VitraHaus, we concurred.

Quietly noting that it was, in addition, “a genuine reminder that a good name is often the simplest solution”

Plug Lamp by Form Us With Love for Ateljé Lyktan is both those things. Packaged in the most delightful and engaging object.

A desk lamp with an integrated plug – because where in Hades if not while at your desk are you likely to need a plug?

And there is little else to say really except die-cast aluminium body and base, opal glass shade, dimmable, standard E 27 bulb fitting, available in a range of colours, Jean Prouvé would probably have designed it had electricity needs been as high in 1954 as 2014…..

vitrahaus plug lamp Form Us With Love atelje lyktan

Plug Lamp by Form Us With Love for Ateljé Lyktan

prouve table vitrahaus plug lamp Form Us With Love atelje lyktan

....gracing a a Jean Prouvé desk in the VitraHaus

(smow) blog compact Dutch Design Week Special: Dutch Invertuals – Cohesion

November 3rd, 2014

Cohesion is a concept with which we are very familiar. Largely because it is a state we never achieve. Much like the geometry’s asymptote never touches its associated curve, so to do our lives approach cohesion, without ever achieving such a condition. It remaining something tantalisingly ahead of us. Infinitely so.

And so it was with a particular personal interest we viewed the new 2014 Dutch Invertuals’ exhibition: Cohesion.

As is traditional with Dutch Invertuals the participating designers and design studios were given a brief and then invited to develop a project based on that brief. Or at least as closely based on the brief as they wanted.

And as ever produced one of the most interesting and rewarding shows at Dutch Design Week.

Formally the brief asked the participants to investigate the “interrelation between objects, materials, parts and dimensions”; the results varied from largely conceptual works such as Volume 01, 02 & 03 by Alissa + Nienke or Frames & Volumes by Studio Mieke Meijer over more targeted research projects such as Arnout Meijer’s Light is a vector (projecting a line) and on to projects that positively radiated “product”, most notably Thomas Vailly & Laura Lynn Jansen’s Tension matter project and the Flat light collection by Daphna Laurens.

And just as any given entity is the result of the cohesion of its associated elements, so to is and was the strength of Cohesion the interplay and interaction between the projects. No two projects covered the same territory, but often explored themes which overlapped in their result if not their materials or approach. And so, for example, whereas Jeroen Wand created with his Flat Solid a room divider that presented a different optic and aesthetic depending on the position from which one viewed it and the nature and direction of the light passing through it, so to did Jetske Visser & Michiel Martens’ Hue blinds explore the largely transient nature of our perception of light. Albeit in an object where in contrast to Flat Solid the designer can control how light passes through it and so influence the end result.

Although by no means always an easy or straightforward exhibition, for lest we forget it was a Dutch Invertuals exhibition, Cohesion contained all the inquisition, dissecting and juxtaposition that makes contemporary design so interesting, and did so in away that not only made you want to understand those elements that weren’t instantly obvious, but ensured you had the tools to do just that.

All in all a most entertaining showcase, and for all who missed it in Eindhoven we’re sure you’ll get another chance to see it in Milan next April.

Or online. For in addition to presenting Cohesion Dutch Invertuals also used Dutch Design Week 2014 to formally launch “Dutch Invertuals Collected” an online gallery of Dutch Invertuals projects past. The current Cohesion projects are not yet there, but the gallery does feature such much loved projects as CaCO3 – Stoneware by Thomas Vailly & Laura Lynn Jansen from 2014′s Happy Future showcase, Daphna Laurens’ Cover collection from Dutch Invertuals – Untouchables Retouched or the unforgettable and endlessly endearing Drawn By Time from Edhv as premièred at 2010′s Matter of time exhibition. The full Dutch Invertuals gallery can be viewed at www.dutchinvertualscollected.nl

Orgatec Cologne 2014: Stylepark – Being Home 4+4

November 1st, 2014

We don’t consider ourselves slouches when it comes to the effort we make in regards of presenting ourselves at Orgatec Cologne, but we do have to doff our ornately feathered caps to the colleagues at Stylepark.

In keeping with their curated “Featured Editions” programme at IMM Cologne where design studios are asked to create an installation around a given design object, for Orgatec 2014 Stylepark asked four designers to create a 12 sqm presentation reflecting their interpretation and understanding of the contemporary “home office”. A request which assumes of course that the “home office” still exists and hasn’t transformed into a “home/office.”

In addition to creating their own installation the chosen four designers were asked to invite a further design studio whose work they are currently enjoying to create an installation, thus eight installations were presented in Cologne: one each from Stefan Diez, Sebastian Herkner, Besau Marguerre a.k.a. Marcel Besau and Eva Marguerre, Sarah Böttger, Ineke Hans, Gamfratesi, Raw Edges and Olaf Schroeder.

Somewhat obviously the views on the nature of the contemporary home office and/or home/office were as varied as the designers contributing and so whereas, for example, Besau Marguerre argued that the best ideas rarely strike at the desk, but can, and do, occur anywhere, Gamfratesi reflected on the need for not just work space but also space for intimacy and concentration while Raw Edges were brutally honest and admitted that for them working from home invariably gets “quite messy.”

We refuse to get to drawn into any discussions as to the pros and cons of the various ideas presented, must however note that Stefan Diez’s New Order system looked every bit as good in the small scale “Being Home” installation as it did in the larger scale set-up on the HAY stand. And that, and at the risk of sounding overly truculent, most chose their own designs; but not only, or at least not predominately. Especially pleasing was seeing Sebastian Herkner choose Bertjan Pot’s Pit Stop kid’s beanbag in an adult setting, Sarah Böttger selecting Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s Uncino chair and Olaf Schroeder’s decision to place Tip Ton by Barber Osgerby through Vitra in his “Parcours” installation, an installation in which he argues that the modern office is a place of movement and that your chosen office furniture must respond to that movement. Making Tip Ton a fairly easy choice.

As we say we refuse to get to drawn into any discussions on the individual installations, so here, in no particular order, some photos. (By way of explanation the ropes in front of the stands are to stop people entering the installations. Look daft in the photos, were effective on the ground….)

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Stylepark Being Home 4+4 Sebastian Herkner

Orgatec Cologne 2014: Stylepark Being Home 4+4 - Sebastian Herkner

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Stylepark Being Home 4+4 Sarah Böttger

Orgatec Cologne 2014: Stylepark Being Home 4+4 - Sarah Böttger

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Stylepark Being Home 4+4 Raw Edges

Orgatec Cologne 2014: Stylepark Being Home 4+4 - Raw Edges

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Stylepark Being Home 4+4 Stefan Diez

Orgatec Cologne 2014: Stylepark Being Home 4+4 - Stefan Diez

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Stylepark Being Home 4+4 Ineke Hans

Orgatec Cologne 2014: Stylepark Being Home 4+4 - 4 Ineke Hans

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Stylepark Being Home 4+4 Gamfratesi

Orgatec Cologne 2014: Stylepark Being Home 4+4 - Gamfratesi

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Stylepark Being Home 4+4 Olaf Schroeder

Orgatec Cologne 2014: Stylepark Being Home 4+4 - Olaf Schroeder

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Stylepark Being Home 4+4 Besau Marguerre a.k.a. Marcel Besau and Eva Marguerre

Orgatec Cologne 2014: Stylepark Being Home 4+4 - Besau Marguerre a.k.a. Marcel Besau and Eva Marguerre

5 New Design Exhibitions for November 2014

October 31st, 2014

It’s now been twelve months since we decided to start recommending upcoming architecture and design exhibitions based on nothing more substantial and reliable than a press release or a PR agency text. A year in which we have recommended 60 exhibitions which sounded good, sounded worth visiting, sounded entertaining. Most of those that we subsequently visited were. A fact that has encouraged us to continue. And so to celebrate “5 New Design Exhibitions” first birthday, 5 New Design Exhibitions for November 2014.

“Oskar Schlemmer – Visionen einer neuen Welt” at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany

It’s probably fair to say that very few exhibitions have been quite as long in preparation as the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart’s forthcoming show “Oskar Schlemmer – Visionen einer neuen Welt.” The fact that the museum, and for all the exhibition’s curator Dr Ina Conzen, have spent the best part of a decade working on the show dedicated to the German painter, designer,choreographer and former head of the mural, sculpture and theatre workshops at Bauhaus has nothing to do with the work ethic in Stuttgart, and all to do with conflicts amongst and with Oskar Schlemmer’s family. Conflicts which meant displaying any Oskar Schlemmer works would inevitability be followed by legal action on grounds of violating rights to the works and their use. On January 1st 2014 the copyright on Oskar Schlemmer’s works expired and so the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart can finally present their retrospective, untroubled by threats of legal action. Featuring some 250 paintings sketches, sculptures and photos in addition to the original costumes from Schlemmer’s famous Triadic Ballet, Oskar Schlemmer – Visionen einer neuen Welt promises to be one of the most comprehensive explorations of a genuinely fascinating character ever staged. And because we’ve all had to wait so long, it promises to be even more enjoyable.

Oskar Schlemmer – Visionen einer neuen Welt opens at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Konrad-Adenauer-Str. 30–32, 70173 Stuttgart, on Thursday November 20th and runs until Monday April 6th.

Oskar Schlemmer - Visionen einer neuen Welt

"Der Abstrakte" - "The Abstract" - from Oskar Schlemmer's Triadic Ballet. As to be seen in Oskar Schlemmer - Visionen einer neuen Welt (Photo courtesy of Staatsgalerie Stuttgart)

“How do we pronounce design in Portuguese” at the MUDE – Museu do Design e da Moda, Lisbon, Portugal

We always thought the answer was [pɾoʒeˈtar]; however, in their forthcoming exhibition the MUDE in Lisbon will attempt to highlight and explain the essence of Portuguese design since 1980. And so demonstrate that pronunciation is always a question of dialect. Focussing on traditional genres and materials, such as, for example textiles, ceramics, glass and, inevitability, cork, “How do we pronounce design in Portuguese” aims to present not only a complete review of contemporary Portuguese design but also examine the differences and similarities that exist between the two main centres of Portuguese design: Lisbon and Paredes. We’ve said before and we’ll say it again, and keep repeating it, Portugal is home to a fascinating, and very amiable, design community who not only understand the tradition of the region but also how such can be applied in our contemporary world. They often just need a stronger voice. And that we all understand the numerous ways one can pronounce design in Portuguese. Did we really just write that….? We believe we did.

How do we pronounce design in Portuguese opens at the MUDE – Museu do Design e da Moda, Rua Augusta, nº 24, 1100-053 Lisbon on Thursday November 27th and runs until Monday March 30th

spore vase Paulo Sellmayer eindhoven

Possibly our favourite piece of Portuguese design: Spore Vase by Paulo Sellmayer, here @ Made Out Portugal, Eindhoven

“Constructing Text. Swiss Architecture Under Discussion” at the Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel, Switzerland

The pen is famously mightier than the sword. In architecture however the photo is mightier than the pen.

Or is it?

Following on from the 2012 exhibition “Building images”,”Constructing Text. Swiss Architecture Under Discussion” will seek to explore the role the written and the spoken word plays in architecture; principally the role architectural criticism plays in how projects are both developed and also received and perceived by the specialist and the lay public. And so by extrapolation seek to investigate how relevant architecture criticism is. To this end the exhibition explores 15 projects from the past 40 years, including the Kaiseraugst nuclear power plant, the Europaalle area development in Zurich, and the Roche Tower Basel (Bau 1), which stand as examples of the interaction between words and architecture.

And although as the exhibition title succinctly explains the focus is Swiss architecture and Swiss architects, the conclusions reached and arguments presented will of course be globally applicable. We assume.

Constructing Text. Swiss Architecture Under Discussion opens at S AM Swiss Architecture Museum, Steinenberg 7, CH-4051 Basel on Saturday November 1st and runs until Sunday February 22nd

Constructing Text. Swiss Architecture Under Discussion opens at S AM Swiss Architecture Museum

Roche Tower Bau 1 (Photo: Marcel Rickli, Courtesy of S AM Swiss Architecture Museum)

“Making Music Modern: Design for Ear and Eye” at the Museum of Modern Art MoMA, New York, USA

Not only have design and music always enjoyed a very close and mutually beneficial relationship but the parallels between the two are remarkable: a variety of genres which you are free to like or not, regardless of your position on other genres; regular development of new movements which challenge existing norms; adoption of previous styles but younger generations; a dangerous hang to kitsch; a completely uncritical acceptance by a mass of the public of a few widely known works as being the most important and genre defining “classics”; their ubiquity. We could go on. In fact just about the only perceivable difference between the two is that where as music is a strictly reactive medium that can comment on a given situation and suggest that an alternative may be required, design allows one to not only comment but pro-actively react to and create an alternative. To celebrate these fraternal bonds the New York Museum of Modern Art have plundered their own archives to curate an exhibition exploring designs contribution to music in context of, for example, instruments, marketing, auditoriums, phonographs. etc, etc. In addition to works by the likes of Hans Poelzig, Dieter Rams, Hiroshi Ohchi and, somewhat inevitably, Sir Jonathan Ive, the exhibition also promises works by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Lilly Reich. No idea what, but certainly very intriguing.

Making Music Modern: Design for Ear and Eye opens at the Museum of Modern Art MoMA, 11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019 on Saturday November 15th and runs until Sunday November 15th. That’s twelve months. Not a typo.

Hans Poelzig. Concert Hall Project, Dresden, Germany, Interior perspective of preliminary scheme

Hans Poelzig. Concert Hall Project, Dresden, Germany, Interior perspective of preliminary scheme (Photo courtesy of Museum of Modern Art MoMA, New York)

“Vanity of Object: Tom Vack – Design Photography” at Neuen Sammlung – The International Design Museum Munich, Germany.

Much as in the 1950s and 60s Aldo and Marirosa Ballo helped establish the enduring tradition of commercial furniture photograph, so to has Tom Vack helped shape and define product, and for all furniture, photography since the 1980s. Yet whereas for the likes of Aldo and Marirosa Ballo the object was the focal point of the photo and the aim of the work was to set that in the most opportunistic light, Tom Vack’s focus is the photographic composition itself. The photos happen to contain a product, often one feels more by chance than intention, and indeed in many cases one has to look twice to actually see the product in question. Following his move from America to Milan in the 1980s Tom Vack quickly found himself collaborating with the likes of Michele De Lucchi and the experimental, postmodern Milan scene of the period, before beginning a ten year collaboration with Philippe Starck as his personal photographer: a collaboration which in many ways was responsible for establishing Philippe Starck’s medial success. In addition Tom Vack has cooperated closely with designers such as Ron Arad, lngo Maurer and Marc Newson. The result is a portfolio ranging from shots with the sober fantasy of Romantic art over works endowed with the experimental freedom of the early computer age and onto images that look more rendered than photographed; and an enviable client list that includes manufacturers such as Magis, ClassiCon, Flos, Thonet and Nils Holger Moormann. And yes Tom Vack has photographed a Tom Vac. We’re not going to claim to be the biggest fans of all Tom Vack’s work: however, we do have a lot of respect for the work he has produced, the artistic and aesthetic ideas he has developed and for all the influence he has had on the genre. Presenting as it will some 200 Tom Vack photographs from the past three decades “Vanity of Object” promises to offer a wonderful opportunity to better understand and appreciate Tom Vack’s oeuvre and importance.

Vanity of Object: Tom Vack – Design Photography opens at the Neuen Sammlung – The International Design Museum, Barerstrasse 40, 80333 Munich on Saturday November 8th and runs until Sunday January 25th

Tom Vack Tom Vac

Tom Vac by Tom Vack (2004, for Ron Arad)(Photo © Tom Vack, courtesy Neuen Sammlung – The International Design Museum Munich)

(smow) blog compact Budapest Design Week Special: Entrance Hall at Palmetta Design Gallery

October 30th, 2014

Established in 1998 by the artist couple Anna and István Regős as a gallery/shop in the cellar of their house in the Hungarian town of Szentendre, since 2013 Palmetta Design have operated a second gallery in Budapest where, in addition to offering a selection of international design items for sale, they present a regularly changing programme of art and design exhibitions. For Budapest Design Week 2014 that of course meant a design exhibition and specifically “Entrance Hall” a showcase of works by contemporary Hungarian designers focussing on the one room of a house everyone uses but only the fewest of us give the attention it deserves.

One of of the biggest problems with the contemporary “Entrance Hall” is of course that most of us don’t have an Entrance Hall, we have, “The corridor behind the front door”: a space that generally not only lacks space but also is required to utilise this failing space for numerous, unrelated, and invariable space requiring, functions.

Many of the works on show at the Palmetta Design gallery reflected this unhappy constellation in objects that attempted to bring not only order to the chaos, but a touch of joy to the contemporary Entrance Hall.

Among the displayed works one of the highlights for us was without question the bench/coat rack system Avignon by Győr based Codolagni Design Studio. Presenting an otherwise unassuming 19th century agrarian aesthetic what really impressed us was the way Avignon benevolently dominated the exhibition. It made clear it was in charge without intimidating or crowding the other objects. And if it can do that in gallery space, it can do it in your Entrance Hall. To be completely honest Avignon reminded us greatly of Grant Wood’s 1930 painting American Gothic. Not sure why, think it’s the rake like coat rack and the strict yet homely geometry.

Elsewhere it was nice to catch up with the Möbio lamp by Blum & Wolf to which we were introduced at madeinhungary, the Banda side table “system” by Juhos Lehel intrigued and beguiled us while exhibition “host” István Regős’ “Back to nature” concept largely interested us on account of the possibilities offered by the innocuous looking stool he included. Fake grass clad walls obviously not being our thing. Nor should they be anybody’s. And invariably AU Workshop were represented, specifically by a very neat three part folding stool and a very simple coat rack.

However what “Entrance Hall” did most convincingly was once again underscore the interesting, high quality work currently being undertaken by Hungarian furniture designers and furniture architects. A few impressions

(smow) blog compact: Saxony Design Award 2014 – Winners

October 29th, 2014

On Friday October 24th the winners of the Saxony Design Award 2014 – the Sächsischer Staatspreis für Design 2014 – were announced at a, no doubt, suitably grand ceremony in Leipzig.

Ran under the motto “Mehr Wert durch Design” – “More value through design” – the 2014 edition of the biennial contest looked for projects which help illustrate the potential of design in our modern post-industrial industrial economy.
And which we suspect, although it wasn’t explicitly stated, was intended to highlight the potential offered by Saxony’s many talented designers to the regions many small and medium sized businesses.

In early September the awards Jury nominated 35 projects from the 261 submitted entries from which 14 received an award.

In the Product Design category first prize, and the associated €10,000, was awarded to Dresden based neongrau for their Pendix 1.0 system for Zwickau based Herms Drives GmbH. In effect Pendix 1.0 allows any normal bicycle to be transformed into an e-bike without the need of any complex, and costly, reconstruction and rebuilding. It, crudely put, clips on and thus allows you to continue enjoying the bike you have.

Sächsischer Staatspreis für Design 2014 neongrau Pendix 1.0 Herms Drives GmbH

Pendix 1.0 by neongrau for Herms Drives GmbH. 1st Place Product Design, Sächsischer Staatspreis für Design 2014

Second place went to Frankenberg based designer Marcel Kabisch for his self-produced and distributed stool-cum-sidetable Griffbereit – “Ready to hand” – a solid ash and beech plywood object which plays with the current fascination of the furniture industry for transportable metal tables, in a delightfully straightforward and easily accessible form.

Sächsischer Staatspreis für Design 2014 Griffbereit Marcel Kabisch FEINSERIE

Griffbereit by Marcel Kabisch for FEINSERIE. 2nd Place Product Design, Sächsischer Staatspreis für Design 2014

Completing the podium, and also the spectrum of contemporary product design, third prize went to FABian from Berlin based agency formfreun.de for Cell. Copedia GmbH. We’re not even going to pretend to know exactly what FABian is or can; all we know is that it is a full automatic device for selecting proteins and/or cells from a biological suspension.

Sächsischer Staatspreis für Design 2014 FABian formfreun.de Cell. Copedia GmbH

FABian by formfreun.de for Cell. Copedia GmbH. 3rd Place Product Design, Sächsischer Staatspreis für Design 2014

In addition to the Product Design category the Saxony Design Award 2014 also recognised the following projects in the following categories:

Communication Design:
1. Umwelt- und Nachbarschaftshaus Kelsterbach Intolight Hersteller: Gemeinnützige Umwelthaus GmbH

2. Book design „Schönheit & Last – Bildnisse vom Alter“ by Oberberg . Seyde for Cajewitz-Stiftung

3. Book design »Mascha und der Bär« by Renate Wacker for kunstanstifter verlag e.Kfr.

3. Selections from the Spector Books programme 2012-2014 by Spector Books / Spectormag GbR, Jan Wenzel for Spector Books / Spectormag GbR.

Young Talents:
1. Combine harvester with a novel folding cutting concept by Christoph Philipp Schreiber

2. My way. Materiel study – Pine needles / Textildesign an der Burg Giebichenstein: I did it my way! by Katharina Jebsen

3. Schuko-plug-twisted by Christoph Uckermark

Special recognition and the Leipzig Messe Prize. EVOLVE – Lightweight touring tent by Ingo Schuppler and Jonas Schwarz

Special Award “Apps – New Mobile Media”:

Special Recognition: Abflug – Take-Off! The fun-packed journey for little passengers. by APPSfactory GmbH Dr. Alexander Trommen for Lufthansa AG

Special Recognition: ifdesign.awards by APPSfactory GmbH Dr. Alexander Trommen for IF International Forum Design GmbH

Special Recognition: Solarwatt Energy Portal by neongrau. (design) and Kiwigrid GmbH (programming) for Solarwatt GmbH

Congratulations to all!

More details on the Saxony Design Award 2014 can be found at www.design-in-sachsen.de, and the stool-cum-sidetable Griffbereit by Marcel Kabisch for FEINSERIE is available through (smow) Chemnitz.


Sächsischer Staatspreis für Design 2014

Orgatec Cologne 2014: Thonet

October 28th, 2014

For just about as long as Thonet have been producing furniture one of the company’s most important designers has been “Thonet Design Team”, a description we’ve always considered to be a rather disparagingly sterile and unnecessarily nebulous description for Thonet’s team of in-house designers.

Every serious contemporary furniture manufacturer has an in-house design team who are responsible for both helping adapt external designers works to the company’s production patterns and also creating new products and/or product families. Traditionally the in-house designers remain quietly anonymous in the background; however, a couple of years ago Thonet decided to start giving credit to those team members who realise their own designs in context of Thonet Design Team projects, without forgetting the contribution made by the rest of the team. Among the first products to benefit from the addition of a designer’s moniker were the S 290 shelving and storage system by Thonet Design Team: Sabine Hutter and S 1200 secretary by Thonet Design Team: Randolf Schott as unveiled at IMM Cologne 2014.

At Orgatec 2014 one of Thonet’s key new launches was the S 95 conference chair programme by Thonet Design Team: Randolf Schott. Available as either a cantilever chair or a swivel chair, and in two backrest heights, all S 95 chairs feature a characteristic opening between backrest and seat, an opening which is more than a just formal nod to the construction principle of the classic Thonet cantilever designs from Mart Stam or Marcel Breuer. “For me the rear side of such a conference chair is the most important side, because that is always the side you see when you enter a room,” explains Randolf Schott, “and here we have created a very transparent chair, which emits a feeling of lightness and openness, and that was important for me.” Equally important in this respect is the form of the cantilever chair foot. The S 95 cantilever chair frames are made from quadratic steel, an unusual but not unknown material for Thonet, and one which comes with its own specific challenges. When you bend round steel tubing you get a nice, smooth curve. When you bend quadratic steel tubing you don’t. Therefore you can either utilise a relatively unaesthetic quadratic joint which makes such a chair less pleasing to approach, or invest the time and effort creating something that flows and gives the chair a much more sympathetic aesthetic. And which of course also gives a visual clue as to the chairs providence. Only very few manufacturers can achieve such a competent, controlled bending of steel.

Available with either textile covers in a range of colours or Thonet’s new perforated leather covers the Thonet S 95 is a nice new addition to the Thonet programme offering as it does a chair family that is more robust and has a more physical stature that that which was previously available, yet without forcing itself on you. And which retains both an unequivocal Thonet optic and the “quiescent vertical and horizontal lines” and cubic form that Heinz Rasch considered so critical for the success of a cantilever chair.

Thonet Orgatec Köln s 95 chair

The new Thonet S 95 collection, as seen at Orgatec Cologne 2014

In addition to the S 95 collection a further major new project being launched by Thonet at Orgatec was also a direct result of the concentrated work of the Thonet Design Team, yet in a much less spectacular context. If every bit as important.
Originally developed in 2001 by Kassel based design studio Lepper Schmidt Sommerlade the A 1700 table family is a central component of the Thonet contract office furniture division, is however over a decade old and in the fast paced world of office furniture due for an overhaul. To this end the Thonet Design Team have now updated the system, principally the leg. As we said spectacular it ain’t. In short the A 1700 table leg has not only received a new tear-drop form, a new cable duct and a new, patented, system to connect legs with table tops, but one can add inlays to the front edge of the new tear drop leg form thus allowing an individual accent to be set and allow the easier integration of the system into a room.

Elsewhere at Orgatec 2014 Thonet presented the S 8000 conference table by Hadi Teherani in a new round version, a version which despite its new curvature loses none of the bombast of the quadratic original, while the S 160, S 170 and S 180 multi-purpose chair families by Delphin Design are now available in eight new colour tones; a new palette which although intended to increase the options available to architects when organising chairs for cafeterias etc, also offer interesting possibilities for the private cafeteria. Or kitchen, as we believe they are more typically referred: and it goes without saying, responsible for the new colour tones was the ubiquitous Thonet Design Team.

Breaking with tradition, and indeed our principles, we use the Thonet press photos of their new products. The reasons are purely technical….

Thonet Orgatec Köln S 96 S 8000

Thonet at Orgatec 2014, including the new S 96 conference chair and the round S 8000 conference table.

Thonet Orgatec Köln S 95 swivel chair

The new Thonet S 95 Swivel Chair

Thonet Orgatec Köln S 160 S 170 S 180 Delphin Design

The Thonet S 160, S 170, S 180 by Delphin Design in their new colour tones

Thonet Orgatec Köln A1700 Evo Inlay

The new Thonet A 1700 Evo table leg, with inlay

(smow) blog Budapest Design Week Special: Segítő Vásárlás – Design Dates

October 27th, 2014

In 2010 the spectacularly sinister sounding Hungarian Ministry of Human Capacities launched a programme to help promote products made in workshops employing persons with disabilities; and since 2013 the Segítő Vásárlás label – Design that Helps – has been coordinated by the Salva Vita Foundation.

In June 2014 the Salva Vita Foundation organised a “Design Date” event which brought participating workshops and Hungarian design studios together with the aim of fostering new co-operations and ultimately creating new products for the workshops.

The first Design Date results were presented at an exhibition during Budapest Design Week 2014. There were and are a lot of bags. An awful lot of bags. But not just. As ever we know such isn’t a beauty pageant, but we were very taken with the wooden Oscar & Edward lion puzzle by Freshka Design, the family of paper and plywood baskets by Melinda N. Kiszely, the “Angels” tea light holder-cum-serviette holder by Adrienne Körtvély and the stool Stoki by Daniel Szalkai.

We know several, generally smaller, producers who cooperate with disabled persons workshops in context of the production, packaging and/or distribution of their products; but naturally when a workshop produce and sell their own collection then not only is the profit a little higher, but the institution comes even further out of the shadows and gets a chance to have the quality of its work recognised by a wider public. Thus allowing for greater financial stability and an increased reputation which, hopefully, makes programmes such as Segítő Vásárlás superfluous: the workshops ceasing to be a disabled persons workshop and becoming another competitor in an invariably over saturated market and dependent on the quality of their range for their survival.

The prerequisite of course is that they have well designed, well thought through and well contemporary products

The collection of objects realised through the Design Dates programme not only, largely, offer such, but also provides a nice a model of how similar co-operations in other regions could be organised.

Full details, only in Hungarian, can be found at www.segitovasarlas.hu

Marta Herford Presents: Der entfesselte Blick – Die Brüder Rasch und ihre Impulse für die moderne Architektur.

October 24th, 2014

Much as we all like to assume we all know everything there is to know about modernism, and convinced as we all are that we can name all the important protagonists and their key works.

We largely can’t.

We can largely scratch the surface of modernism and name a handful of the best known protagonists and name a few of their better known works.

Just how little the vast majority of us truly understand about modernism is currently being laid bare in the exhibition “Der entfesselte Blick – Die Brüder Rasch und ihre Impulse für die moderne Architektur” – The Unfettered Gaze. The Rasch Brothers and their Influences on Modern Architecture – at the Marta Herford museum in Herford, Germany.

The Rasch brothers?


Der entfesselte Blick Die Brüder Rasch und ihre Impulse für die moderne Architektur Marta Herford

Der entfesselte Blick – Die Brüder Rasch und ihre Impulse für die moderne Architektur at Marta Herford

Heinz Rasch was born in Berlin on February 15th 1902 and began studying architecture in Hannover in 1920 before switching to the Technische Hochschule Stuttgart in 1922 from where he graduated in 1924. His brother Bodo was born a year later on February 17th 1903, began studying agriculture in 1922, graduating from the Landwirtschaftliche Hochschule Hohenheim in 1926.
In a situation very reminiscent of Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, the Brothers Rasch first cooperated in 1923 when younger brother Bodo assisted older brother Heinz in his so-called “Werkkunst Arche” venture, essentially a small workshop where they developed simple wooden furniture and lighting projects. In 1926 however things became more professional with the establishment of the company “Brüder Rasch. Hochbau, Möbelbau, Werbebau” in Stuttgart; an atelier which according to the exhibition curators quickly developed into an important meeting point of the burgeoning Stuttgart architecture, artistic and creative community of that period. In 1927 Heinz and Bodo Rasch were commissioned by Mies van der Rohe and Peter Behrens to furnish two houses for the Weissenhofsiedlung exhibition and over the coming three years developed numerous architecture, urban planning and design projects; projects which although not actually realised not only brought the brothers into close contact with many of the leading protagonists of the era but also helped them establish a reputation for the advanced nature of their thinking and planning. In addition to their architecture and design work Heinz and Bodo Rasch also worked as authors and editors, most notably publishing the works “Wie Bauen?” in 1927 and “Der Stuhl” in 1928, the accompanying text to the Stuttgart exhibition of the same name. In 1930 Heinz Rasch moved to Berlin and at the same period the brothers Rasch suffered an unbrotherly falling out which put paid to further joint projects; thus the fruitful period of co-operation lasted just four short years. Post war both brothers continued their architecture and design work independently of one another: albeit largely without the plaudits and public attention of the 1920s. Bodo Rasch died on December 27th 1995, Heinz Rasch on 27 November 1996.

Although positioned as an architecture exhibition Der entfesselte Blick opens with an exploration of Heinz and Bodo Rasch’s publishing, interior design and furniture design work. A central place in which is given over to their role in the development of the cantilever chair.

Largely the result of elementary research on the ergonomics of sitting and of the optimal construction of load bearing structures which the brothers had conducted since 1923, the cantilever chairs developed by Heinz and Bodo Rasch were first produced in 1924, so some three years before Mart Stam unveiled his Kragstuhl: yet never achieved a market to match those of their contemporaries. Far less a fame. One could add that much like Heinz and Bodo Rasch their chairs have become anonymous. Characteristic of the Rasch brothers cantilever chairs is a diagonal frame, a design concept and construction principle which according to Axel Bruchhäuser, Chief Executive of the German furniture manufacturer TECTA, founder of the cantilever chair specialised Kragstuhlmuseum, and personal friend and associate of Heinz Rasch, could, explain why they never established themselves. “Heinz Rasch believed that on account of the geometric divisibility of a standard room only cubic chairs such as those from Mart Stam could establish themselves; because they repeat this cubic form. That is chairs with quiescent vertical and horizontal lines have a chance whereas those which contradict this spatial harmony do not.” And certainly when you look at the history of furniture design in general it is difficult to argue with Heinz Rasch’s logic.

As if to compound the lack of success with and recognition for their cantilever chair designs, there is a certain irony in the fact that it was Heinz Rasch who both helped Mart Stam solve the construction and durability problems of his design and who also introduced Mart Stam to the furniture producer L + C Arnold, who had been producing Heinz Rasch’s diagonal cantilevers since 1924 and who subsequently produced Stam’s cantilever chair for the Weissenhofsiedlung exhibition. In effect Heinz Rasch set Mart Stam on his path to posterity, and so blocked his and his brother’s paths.

Der entfesselte Blick Die Brüder Rasch und ihre Impulse für die moderne Architektur Marta Herford

Two cantilever chairs, ca. 1926, by Heinz and Bodo Rasch and one from Heinz Rasch, ca. 1986, (from left to right), as seen at Der entfesselte Blick Der entfesselte Blick – Die Brüder Rasch und ihre Impulse für die moderne Architektur, Marta Herford

Having used the brother’s place in the history of furniture design to help introduce the dominating architecture and design philosophy’s of the late 1920s, Der entfesselte Blick moves on to its principle focus, the brother’s architectural output.

To this end the exhibition concentrates on three areas of architecture in which the brothers were especially active: Pneumatic Structures, Container Architecture and perhaps most importantly, Suspension Houses. Beginning by explaining the work undertaken by Heinz and Bodo Rasch the exhibition presents sketches, models and photographs which succinctly explain the focus of the brothers’ architectural and urban planning work, the goals they set themselves, the visions and principles that stood behind the work and how they attempted to realise their visions, while all the time placing their research and project planning in context of the period it was developed.

Having introduced the three central themes the exhibition then moves on to explain how other architects subsequently realised many of these ideas, if you will explains the brothers and their oeuvre through constructions realised by architects in later eras yet often using principles, techniques and ideas reminiscent of those developed, or at least anticipated, by Heinz and Bodo Rasch: “Pneumatic Structures”, for example, being illustrated by projects including Coop Himmelb(l)au’s’ Wolke 68 and Foster and Partners’ Air Supported Office; “Suspension Houses” are represented by amongst other constructions the Olivetti Towers in Frankfurt by Egon Eiermann; while “Container Architecture” is illustrated by, for example, Richard Rogers Partnership’s Inmos microprocessor factory and Nicolas Grimshaw’s new grandstand for Lord’s Cricket Ground in London.

In doing so Der entfesselte Blick very neatly and competently demonstrates that, in principle, one can find traces of the Rasch brothers thinking in all decades since the war.

But can one talk of an influence? There the exhibition is more vague. The impression one gets is that one should be able to, that the curators want you to believe that there is, yet there is no direct evidence presented. Only evidence that the Rasch’s were often amongst the first to work on certain concepts, to work on achieving certain architectural solutions. But if any of the later architects were aware of Heinz and Bodo Rasch? If they had seen any of their sketches?

Similarly, while the brothers role in the development of 1920s furniture design is clearly explained, the question of in how far Heinz and Bodo Rasch directly influenced the development of architecture in the 1920s remains open.

Being as they were in close contact with the likes of Walter Gropius, Erich Mendelsohn, Mies van der Rohe et al it is inconceivable that a regular and frank exchange of ideas and opinions didn’t occur. But in how far the ideas and positions Heinz and Bodo Rasch held and expressed in these exchanges actually influenced their contemporaries, remains unanswered. And ultimately is a question for those researching the works of Gropius, Mies, Breuer et al to research and answer. In effect to look more closely in their archives and attempt to follow any potential threads backwards.

What the exhibition does however do very well is what the Marta Herford’s artistic director Roland Nachtigäller hoped it would, namely present new aspects, new perspectives and cast new light on the modernist era. It is all to easy to forget that a period such as modernism was more than handful of architects and designers busily creating everything. There were also the likes of Heinz and Bodo Rasch. And once you understand that, once you marvel at the work they were producing and realise the foresight and vision which it contains, you not only understand modernism as a wider more multi-faceted and alinear epoch than before but you also start to question more about our own age. Important is not just those buildings or those furnishings that are produced, built, sold and rendered, but also the research and the development work being undertaken by untold Heinz and Bodo Raschs. Work that may not be realised for a generation or two to come and whose authors may never get the full credit they deserve.

Consequently just as Alvar Aalto – Second Nature at the Vitra Design Museum is an exhibition for all who want to understand Aalto beyond organic flowing structures and birch, or just as Schrill Bizarr Brachial. Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre at the Bröhan Museum Berlin is for all who want to to understand 20th century German design beyond Bauhaus, Dieter Rams and Egon Eiermann, so is Der entfesselte Blick an exhibition for all who want to understand architecture beyond the normal blithely accepted “contemporary” nature of all “new” ideas, to understand that architectural concepts not only take time to reach full maturity, but often need to pass through several practitioners to achieve their final form. And of course for all who want to understand modernism beyond their current, limited, knowledge.

Der entfesselte Blick Die Brüder Rasch und ihre Impulse für die moderne Architektur Marta Herford

House on a slope, 1927, by Heinz and Bodo Rasch, as seen at Der entfesselte Blick – Die Brüder Rasch und ihre Impulse für die moderne Architektur, Marta Herford

What Der entfesselte Blick explicitly doesn’t do is explain how and why Heinz and Bodo Rasch could become so anonymous. Largely because no one seems to have a definitive answer, the reason being most likely a chain of barely related yet additively damaging facts: the personal conflict between the brothers, the economic crisis of the Weimar Republic, the Second World War, the lack of commercial success with their furniture projects, the fact that many of their architectural projects could only be realised once technology was up to the task, and that those architects and designers who were first to make use of the new technology went down in history as the authors of the idea. Plus one shouldn’t forget that, generally speaking, all the pre-war modernist architects who went on to find post war fame and fortune found it in America: Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Breuer. Those who didn’t cross the Atlantic didn’t cross into the public domain, or at least not so immediately or sustainably: Mart Stam, Victor Bourgeois, Hans Scharoun, Heinz and Bodo Rasch.

However slowly but surely the world is learning more about the true depth and variety of those practitioners who helped make modernism the important era that it was. It is to be hoped that Der entfesselte Blick helps Heinz and Bodo Rasch establish the status they unquestionably deserve. Or perhaps better put, re-establish the status they once held.

But was there resentment from the brothers at their lack of recognition and subsequent fall into anonymity? Did it not grate? To answer this question we’ll give the last word to Heinz Rasch. In his last letter to Axel Bruchhäuser he reflected on the place his work has taken in the history of furniture design, and did so in the most delightfully humble, touching, eloquent and genuinely unassuming manner. He was referring as we say to his furniture design work, but we’ll take the liberty of expanding it to the question of his whole oeuvre.

“…..with my own models I had no luck, but I was never jealous and lived essentially for the success of others. I considered that the natural duty of any architect who sees in himself only a craftsman.”

Der entfesselte Blick – Die Brüder Rasch und ihre Impulse für die moderne Architektur runs at the Marta Herford, Goebenstraße 2–10, 32052 Herford, Germany until Sunday February 1st.

Full details can be found at http://marta-herford.de

(smow) blog compact Dutch Design Week Special: Ontwerpduo – Impossible things before breakfast

October 23rd, 2014

One of the highlights for us of Dutch Design Week 2014 is and was the showcase of works by Eindhoven based studio Ontwerpduo a.k.a. Tineke Beunders and Nathan Wierink. For although in the past we have seen various Ontwerpduo projects individually, there is no real alternative to seeing a studio’s collection together in order to build a more complete picture of the designers and their work.

In addition to reunions with those Ontwerpduo products with which we were already familiar, including the candle Tallow, the lamp Lloop and Light Forest, a most delightful cross between honey fungus and plumbing, the Ontwerpduo exhibition also presented a series of new products, one of the highlights of which was, for us, the Tile Table.

A disarmingly simple and equally disarmingly charming object Tile Table does pretty much what the name implies: it is a table with tiles. Available in three versions the split-level side table and coffee table were the stand out versions for us; largely on account of the gap in the lower level, a feature which neatly breaks up the geometry of the objects and thus endows Tile Table with a certain visual lightness. The taller version isn’t without its appeal, but struck us as somehow unnecessary.

A further new product which caught our attention was the Loena Lantern. A pleasantly formed but otherwise unspectacular lamp Loena unveils its true beauty on being turned off: the shade having been screen printed with a luminous ink meaning that when the bulb is extinguished the shade continues to shine with a pleasing blue light. Thus delaying the arrival of darkness; and so perfect for all who maybe aren’t so keen on the dark and who would like a little light until they are asleep. The idea in itself isn’t new, but there is certain understated grandeur in how Ontwerpduo have realised Loena which really appealed to us.

In the past couple of weeks we’ve seen a few lamps that remain “light” after they have been turned off; all completely different in technology and operation but all pursuing the same goal. We’re not sure if we should talk about it being a tr**d. So we won’t. But the Loena Lantern is definitely a delightful example of the genre.

The Ontwerpduo collection as presented at Dutch Design Week 2014 doesn’t contain any objects that will revolutionise our world or our understanding of our world; but then we don’t suspect Ontwerpduo want to. We suspect they want to help you create a personal space that is ever so slightly removed from the public world you have to move through everyday. A personal space that offers just enough distance from reality to distract you, but not so much that you don’t feel comfortable. And we certainly see in the current Ontwerpduo collection not a search for individuality, but for comfort and homeliness. Which is just as important as revolution.

More details on Ontwerpduo and their work can be found at http://www.ontwerpduo.nl

And should you be in Eindhoven Ontwerpduo can be visited at Halvemaanstraat 20 (Piet Hein Eek Arena) aka Venue 6