(smow) blog compact: Only Wood at Galerie kreo Paris

November 9th, 2014

Until December 20th the Paris dépendance of Galerie kreo is presenting an exhibition dedicated to the vivacious variety of contemporary wooden furniture design.

Presented under the sparklingly original title “only wood” the exhibition presents a mix of previously displayed objects and new works.

Amongst the older works on show a special mention must go to the Woodwork lamp by BIG-GAME, a work premièred at Galerie kreo’s 2008 La Liseuse exhibition, the Cork #3 storage system by Martin Szekely which previously featured in Szekely’s Heroic shelves & simple boxes solo show, and the truly monumental Hanger coat rack by Naoto Fukasawa as first shown in the 2008 exhibition, 16 new pieces, and which takes all the innovation, inquiry, contradiction, insecurity and formal reduction of contemporary post industrial product design to new heights. Or depths, depending on your perspective.

The exhibition 16 new pieces also featured the Geta Table, an oak coffee table by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec created using a computer controlled digital chisel. At Only Wood the Bouroullec’s are presenting Geta Noir, a limited edition of the Geta Table in black oak.

The Geta Noir table was, technically, premièred in September during London Design Festival 2014 as part of the exhibition Des Formes Utiles, the inaugural exhibition in Galerie kreo’s new London base; a further Des Formes Utiles alumni is London Calling by Konstantin Grcic, a project which for us, and based on nothing more reliable than PR photos, is the genuine highlight of Only Wood.

Now in recent years Konstantin Grcic may have given the impression that he had broken with his cabinet making roots. And certainly projects such as Pro chair for Flötotto, Waver for Vitra or the Traffic family for Magis tended to support such a view. His Panorama exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum should have been enough to convince the last doubters.

Observant eyes at Milan 2014 would have spotted a “work in progress” on the Magis stand that suggested otherwise; however, London Calling is the best evidence we have seen that not only is Konstantin Grcic as committed as ever to traditional carpentry, but that he has lost none of his grace and compositional delicacy despite his regular ventures into other genres and processes.

London Calling is a set of spiralling wooden library steps. But a set spiralling wooden library steps that needn’t only be used in a library. We can well imagine them working in a kitchen, a conservatory or simply in a large spacious lounge as a feature-cum-occasional chair.

Simply delightful.

Only Wood runs at Galerie kreo, 31, rue Dauphine, 75006 Paris until Saturday December 20th.

Full details can be found at http://galeriekreo.fr/

Only Wood Galerie kreo Paris

Only Wood at Galerie kreo Paris (Photo © & courtesy of Galerie kreo Paris)

London calling Konstantin Grcic Only Wood Galerie kreo Paris

London calling by Konstantin Grcic. On view at Only Wood, Galerie kreo Paris (Photo © & courtesy of Galerie kreo Paris)

Cork #3 Martin Szekely Only Wood Galerie kreo Paris

Cork #3 by Martin Szekely. On view at Only Wood, Galerie kreo Paris (Photo © & courtesy of Galerie kreo Paris)

Hanger Naoto Fukasawa Only Wood Galerie kreo Paris

Hanger by Naoto Fukasawa. On view at Only Wood, Galerie kreo Paris (Photo © & courtesy of Galerie kreo Paris)

(smow) blog Design Calendar: November 7th 1929 – The New York Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, Opens

November 7th, 2014

“The belief that New York needs a Museum of Modern Art scarcely requires apology. All over the world the rising tide of interest in the modern movement has found expression not only in private collections but also in the formation of great public galleries for the specific purpose of exhibiting permanent as well as temporary collections of modern art. That New York has no such gallery is an extraordinary anachronism. The municipal museums of Stockholm, Weimar, Düsseldorf, Essen, Mannheim, Lyons, Rotterdam, The Hague, San Francisco, Cleveland, Providence, Worcester, Massachusetts and a score of other lesser cities provide students, amateurs and the more casual public with more adequate permanent exhibits of modern art than do the institutions of our vast and conspicuously modern metropolis.”1

So announced the trustees of the future New York Museum of Modern Art their intentions in August 1929.

And just three months later on Thursday November 7th 1929 the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, formally opened its inagural exhibition presenting 100 works by Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh and Seurat.

A quadruplet who indicate that at the institution’s opening the MoMA backers’ definition of “modern” had only little to do with the spirit of change sweeping 1920s Europe and more to do with the spirit of change that had swept Europe some 40 years earlier.

But then winds of change take a long time to blow across the Atlantic. At least from East to West.

But arrive it did. On January 18th 1930 the MoMA opened its third exhibition, Painting in Paris, a showcase of contemporary French painting that featured works by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Marc Chagall and the Paris based Catalan Joan Miró; and a showcase which proved so popular with the New York public it forced the MoMA trustees to begin, reluctantly, charging entry to the museum. The first two exhibitions and the majority of Painting in Paris had been free; however, two weeks before it was due to close the MoMA announced that on account of the unexpected popular success of the show they had received “innumerable complaints from visitors” who had “come intending to look at pictures and have instead been trampled, with no better compensation than a view of other visitors’ necks.”"2

A fifty cent entry fee between 12 noon and 6 pm was considered the best solution.

moma new york 1929

The original New York Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, home in the Heckscher Building, corner of Fifth Avenue and 57 Street.

Just as it didn’t take the MoMA long to discover European modernism it also didn’t take long for the MoMA to expand its horizon and to embrace modern film, music, architecture and design.

On February 10th 1932 the MoMA presented with Modern Architecture: International Exhibition its first architecture exhibition, quickly followed by Early Modern Architecture: Chicago 1870-1910 in January 1933 and in April of the same year a show looking at some of the more promising and notable young mid-western architects of the day. This passion for contemporary, modern architecture was unquestionably attributable to the hiring of Philip Johnson as the first Director of the institution’s Department of Architecture: and it was Johnson who also curated the New York Museum of Modern Art’s first dedicated design exhibition “Objects: 1900 and Today” which opened on April 5th 1933 and which, as the name implies, presented objects produced between 1900 and 1933. Some 100 in total. And which according to Paola Antonelli contained many objects from the curatorial team’s own homes, and even items from Philip Johnson’s mothers house.3 Which gives an indication of the level of personal interest the MoMA staff had in the subject. And the limited resources the fledgling museum had available.

This inaugural design exhibition was quickly followed by Machine Art in 1934, an exhibition arguably as important as Modern Architecture: International Exhibition and an exhibition which not only established the New York Museum of Modern Art as an important location for presenting, discussing and exploring contemporary design but also marks the establishment of the MoMA design collection.

Curated, somewhat inevitably, by Philip Johnson, Machine Art presented objects “produced by machines for domestic, commercial, industrial and scientific purposes”4 and demonstrated, according to the museum, “a victory in the long war between the craft and the machine.”5 No mean boast. And one they underscored with a display of some 400 objects including ball bearings, propellers, kitchen units, glass vases, copper tubing, steel springs and Poul Henningsen’s PH Lamp from Louis Poulsen, an object listed as retailing for the princely sum of $24.50.

Philip Johnson resigned from his post as Director of the Department of Architecture and Industrial Art shortly after Machine Art closed, being succeeded by first Ernestine. M. Fantl and then in 1937 by John McAndrew. And while under the tenure of these two directors the commitment to contemporary architecture remained unshakable, design, or “Industrial Art” as the MoMA insisted on referring to it, was limited to the occasional handicraft exhibition or as an occasional, additional, feature of an architecture and/or art exhibition; until that is 1938 when the MoMA presented first, Furniture and Architecture by Alvar Aalto, an exhibition in which Aalto’s moulded plywood furniture was given just as much, if not more, prominence than his architecture, before on September 28th 1938 the Museum of Modern Art began what would become their most influential and enduring contribution to American design, the Useful Objects exhibition series.

moma new york 1939

The New York Museum of Modern Art's first permanent home at 11 West 53 Street

Premièred in 1938 with the exhibition “Useful Household Objects under $5.00″, the Useful Objects series, effectively, grew out of a conversation between Philip Johnson and the MoMA’s founding Director Alfred H. Barr in which they discussed their joint desire for an industrial design show “which would discriminate between “good modern design and modernistic cosmetics or bogus streamlining”"6 A desire which in our books makes both men very sympathetic. Running nine years and formally ending with the 1947 showcase “100 Useful Objects of Fine Design (available under $100)” Useful Objects was ultimately about selling products, something it did very successfully, if the reports of the day are to be believed. Which we do.

Not that the MoMA was selling directly. The MoMA presented the objects in hands on, interactive exhibitions, and provided a list of retailers from whom visitors could purchase those products which interested them. And as such was, if you will, a forerunner of public consumer goods trade fairs. And provided many American consumers with their first contact with contemporary design, a contact which established the notion of “modern culture as modest, down-home, democratic housewares.”7 And thus arguably accelerated and anchored the popular acceptance of post-war American design, and so paved the way for the commercial success of designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson or Alexander Girard.

Despite the clear commercial focus of the Useful Objects exhibition inclusion was based on a strict set of criteria; for example when compiling the inagural 1938 exhibition John McAndrew selected objects on the basis of their functionality, material and production processes.8 And this combination of usability and contemporariness was to define the Useful Objects shows under McAndrew’s successors; Eliot Noyes, who in 1939 was appointed the first Director of the newly created Department of Industrial Design, and subsequently Edgar Kaufmann Jr. the man who more than most was to establish the MoMA’s position at the vanguard of what would become known as Mid-century modernism.

A scion of the Philadelphia based Kaufmann department store dynasty, Edgar Kaufmann Jr first began cooperating with MoMA in 1938 as a consultant to the Useful Objects exhibition before in 1940 helping conceive the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition. In 1946 Kaufmann took over from Eliot Noyes as Director of the Industrial Design department and one his first projects was the now legendary Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design, a competition which of course ultimately gave us the Charles and Ray Eames plastic chair collection.

Edgar Kaufmann Jr was also responsible for transforming the Useful Objects exhibition series into the Good Design programme, an exhibition series which ran from 1950 – 1955. And which took the commercial connections initiated with Useful Objects to whole new levels. Organised in conjunction with the Merchandise Mart in Chicago – an immense shopping centre geared towards the wholesale and contract trade – the Good Design exhibition featured three showcases a year: in January and June in Chicago and then in winter in New York. The MoMA showcase presenting selected products from the two Chicago shows and thus being, in effect, a “Best of”. As well as of course a museum presentation of the Chicago “in-store” presentation. One could argue an affirmation.

However one must also add that as with Useful Design, and despite the clear commercial nature of the shows, inclusion to the Good Design exhibitions was via a selection process. They were curated shows in a museal sense. Ahead of each Chicago exhibition Kaufmann and two external judges selected exhibits from new products launched in the previous six months and according to strictly defined criteria. Yes Kaufmann unquestionably viewed objects as one with experience in retail, and yes one must query, for example, the predominance of furniture by Herman Miller and Knoll Associates in the Good Design exhibitions; however, as a devotee of Frank Lloyd Wright and a man who busied himself with design and architecture theory, Edgar Kaufmann Jr also had a clear understanding of what contemporary design is, was and should do.

Nor were the MoMA were alone in mixing museal presentation with economic interests, of blurring the lines if you will between the curated and the commercial presentation. The Good Design concept was, for example, greatly influenced by the For Modern Living exhibition Alexander Girard had organised at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1949, and throughout the 1950s similar shows were being staged in museums and cultural institutions across the USA.

However, and aside from the scale and regularity of the shows, what made the MoMA Good Design shows so important was that in addition to presenting objects and advising where they could be purchased, the Good Design shows also awarded prizes and allowed all selected objects to market themselves as having been in the exhibition. Not only the start of the branding of “Good Design” but also the start of the maxim “MoMA = Good Design”. An association that many producers, designers and retailers still happily and openly play with.

moma good design

The MoMA Good Design logo.

In 1956 Edgar Kaufmann Jr left the museum and was replaced by Arthur Drexler, who would guide the MoMA’s Architecture and Industrial Design department for the next 30 years.

Three decades through which, and as with the years under Fantl and McAndrew, although the reputation of the MoMA’s architecture exhibitions continued to grow, its design department began to wane, becoming an institution much more associated with reflecting on the past than the present and/or the future. In the early 1980s, for example, as the first seeds of postmodern design were being planted in Milan and the Neue deutsches Design movement was starting to break through in Germany, the MoMA presented retrospectives of Eileen Gray and Marcel Breuer. Both valid themes for a design museum. But not exactly cutting edge. Almost as if having caught up with European Modernism in the 1930s the MoMA felt obliged to remain there while the rest of the world moved on.

Although to be fair, and without wanting to sound jingoistic, the years from 1960 onwards were not golden ones in terms of American design, nor did the new design movements sweeping Europe necessarily reach America. And despite its unquestionable international view the New York Museum of Modern Art, rightly or wrongly, tended to focus on themes of interest to America and Americans.

What did however continue was the growth of the museum’s collection, with works by the likes of Enzo Mari, Verner Panton, Jasper Morrison or Maarten Van Severen being added over the decades. Yet these works were never presented in thematic, contemporary exhibitions; instead design became something presented as “Recent Acquisition” or “Design from the Museum Collection” exhibitions rather than in context of current developments, current thinking, current ideas. Modern design.

Of late that has changed with exhibitions such as Contemporary Design from the Netherlands in 1996, the 2008 show Design and the Elastic Mind or the current Design and Violence demonstrating that the MoMA is capable of presenting interesting exhibitions that do explore contemporary design thinking and issues.

However in context of design the MoMA remains largely a place of reflection, a location for grand retrospectives, and, ultimately, in the words of Wolf Von Eckardt the place “which introduced and nurtured” modern American design9

Which to be honest, is no bad claim.

And something for which we should all be thankful.

1.”Publicity for Organization of Museum”, Museum of Modern Art Press Release, New York, August 1929 Source: http://www.moma.org/docs/press_archives/1/releases/MOMA_1929-31_0001_1929-08.pdf Accessed 07.11.2014

2.”MOMA to charge admission during last 2 weeks of Painting in Paris because of unexpected crowds” Museum of Modern Art Press Release, New York, February 17, 1930 Source: http://www.moma.org/docs/press_archives/27/releases/MOMA_1929-31_0027_1930-02-17.pdf Accessed 07.11.2014

3.Paola Antonelli “Design: die Sammlung des Museum of Modern Art. Objects of design from the Museum of Modern Art” Prestel, München, 2003

4.”Exhibit of machine art opens” Museum of Modern Art Press Release, New York, March 3, 1934 Source: http://www.moma.org/docs/press_archives/164/releases/MOMA_1933-34_0031_1934-03-03.pdf Accessed 07.11.2014

5.”Machine Art” in The Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art, Vol. 1, No. 3, November 1933

6.Mary A. Staniszewski, “The power of display: a history of exhibition installations at the Museum of Modern Art” MIT, Cambridge, Mass., 1998


8.Paola Antonelli “Design: die Sammlung des Museum of Modern Art. Objects of design from the Museum of Modern Art” Prestel, München, 2003

9.Wolf Von Eckardt, Forms That Follow Function, Time, Vol. 122 Issue 18, p89, 1983,

(smow) blog compact: HeuHütten.BergBauern.LandSchafft at the Schwäbisches Bauernhofmuseum Illerbeuren

November 6th, 2014

Given the urban-centric view of the world most of us posses it’s all to easy to forget that social and cultural change, and the associated problems, challenges and opportunities they bring, aren’t limited to our cities. An exhibition of photographs of the Ostrach valley in Bavaria by local photographer Christian Heumader attempts to reinforce this point.

Presented at the Schwäbisches Bauernhofmuseum Illerbeuren near Kempten im Allgäu as part of the Architekturforum Allgäu’s LandLuft programme, HeuHütten.BergBauern.LandSchafft aims to both explain the nature of the changes taking place in the Ostrach valley, and also remind us why it is important that these changes are managed every bit as carefully as we expect our urban change to be managed.

The photographs presented are all black and white. Now as many of you will be aware nothing, but nothing, brings us into a rage quite like contemporary black and white photography; and so we’ll ignore the monochrome nature of the photos and concentrate on the context.

As we’d advise everyone else to do.

The exhibition is based on photographs published in Christian Heumader’s books Hoibat – Die Geschichte der Bergwiesen im Ostrachtaland from 2011 and 2013′s Stadel und Schinde – Hütten und Fluren der Hindelanger Bergbauern and presents images of the typical agricultural buildings, structures and constructions of the region, often in various states of disrepair, and images of the typical agricultural folk of the region. Be that those older members who have spent their whole lives in the valley or those younger members who probably won’t.

In addition, or perhaps better put, above all, the photographs show the Ostrach valley, show that such a valley doesn’t just exist for pleasant Sunday afternoon strolls, show why it is important that an area such as the Ostrach valley is cared for and by extrapolation explain that demographic change, social pressure, technological advance and evolving identities are rural as well as urban issues.

And unavoidable issues for rural communities in western Europe just as they are for those in Africa, Asia, southern America or far eastern Russia on whom documentarists normally focus.

And so something in which we should all take an interest.

HeuHütten.BergBauern.LandSchafft runs at the Schwäbisches Bauernhofmuseum Illerbeuren, Museumstraße 8 87758 Kronburg (Illerbeuren) until Sunday November 30th.

HeuHütten.BergBauern.LandSchafft at the Schwäbisches Bauernhofmuseum Illerbeuren

Eckwiesen Hinterstein, part of HeuHütten.BergBauern.LandSchafft at the Schwäbisches Bauernhofmuseum Illerbeuren (Photo © Christian Heumader)

(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