Rudolf Horn at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig

July 25th, 2014

As we noted in our post from the recent Burg Giebichenstein Halle summer exhibition, the institution is currently one of the more interesting design schools in Germany.

That it is is largely on account of the conscientious work done and reputation established during the days of divided Germany, and the way that work has subsequently been carried on through into the unified days.

One of the most interesting, if not influential, members of the Burg Giebichenstein staff during the DDR days was Rudolf Horn, a man who joined the Burg Giebichenstein’s Institute for Furniture and Construction Design in 1966 and who remained at Burg until 1996, a man who, almost single-handedly, furnished East Germany, and a man whose contribution to the story of German design is currently being presented in a very brief, if informative, showcase in the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig.

Rudolf Horn MDW Grassi Leipzig

The MDW modular furniture system for VEB Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau by Rudolf Horn, as seen at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig

Born in Waldheim, Sachsen in 1929 Rudolf Horn trained first as a carpenter and subsequently as an interior designer before taking up a position with the furniture manufacturer VEB Möbelwerke Heidenau. In 1952 Horn moved on to the East German Ministry for Light Industry where he remained until joining the so-called Büro für Entwicklung, Messen und Werbung in der Möbelindustrie in 1958. Parallel to his jobs Rudolf Horn studied part-time at the Ingenieurschule für Holztechnik Dresden – Dresden Technical College for Wood Technology – graduating in 1962. In 1964 Rudolf Horn’s first series of modular furniture, the so-called “Leipzig IV” collection was released, followed in 1965 by an accompanying collection of chairs, tables and associated pieces. Rudolf Horn’s real breakthrough however came in 1967 when the VEB Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau released his MDW modular furniture system: a system that was to be produced for the next 24 years and which, as far as we can ascertain, graced every single living room in East Germany. We certainly don’t know many East Germans who aren’t familiar with the MDW system. In later years Rudolf Horn developed further furniture designs that were also to become standard in homes and offices across the DDR, including the Temaset modular office furniture system, a variable sofa system and a family of polyurethane wall mounted modules.

In addition to his furniture design work Rudolf Horn was also involved in numerous housing projects, most notably helping develop and construct a series of concepts high rise flat in Berlin, Rostock and Dresden. Utilising modular construction principles the pilot projects enabled the inhabitants to create, and alter, the internal layout of their flats to meet their, invariably changing, requirements.

For Rudolf Horn the fascination with modular systems came from a simple conviction, namely that “consumers must be able to decide. No-one should tell them what they need and what to buy!”

As if seeking to demonstrate the validity of this position, Rudolf Horn developed a habit of visiting customers to see for himself how they were using their MDW system. And regularly discovered situations where customers had cut the boards or otherwise manipulated and adapted the pre-fabricated elements: something that was very much to his liking “that is exactly how such a systems should be used”, he says smiling broadly, “everyone should have exactly that what they want!” An attitude to furniture that far from making him the “Father of IKEA” as the eastern German media refer to him, makes Rudolf Horn for us clearly the “Father of Open Design”.

In addition to this desire to give customers the opportunity to have the furniture and furnishings most appropriate for them, Rudolf Horn was also motivated by the nature of the job in hand.

Post-War East Germany, as with the rest of post-War Europe, had chronic problems in terms of accommodation and furnishings. And a similarly huge problem of alleviating the situation. Decisions had to be made.

“The central question was where are we going, how should this new, post-war, society be organised”, so Horn, “the society we had known before the war, and the one our parents knew was, and with all respect, not that what we wanted. Everything was broken and simply to re-create what had been wasn’t the answer”

Consequently, the remit for Rudolf Horn and his contemporaries was to look for a moment in history where similar conditions had prevailed, to see how the designers and architcets then had reacted, and so see what the new generation could learn.

Their search lead them to Bauhaus, European modernism and formalism in general. A movement that in many ways arose in situations similar to those being experienced in 1950s East Germany. Yet one which through the pre-war Nazi activities and subsequent war years had largely been closed to Rudolf Horn and his contemporaries.

Dumb however that the young designers had discovered formalism at just that period in history when the East German government were busy banning formalism. The so-called Formalism Debate of the early 1950s denouncing everything associated with the classic modern or the inter-war avant garde as “alienated and hostile” if not a “weapon of imperialism”. As we noted in our previous Design Calendar post on the exhibition “Models for industrial design” from the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden, the East German authorities decreed in 1951 that “Formal tendencies are especially strong in architecture and they ignore the real needs of the workers”

Indeed when the then East German head of state Walter Ulbricht saw the MDW system at its formal presentation in 1967 he announced for all to hear that all he could see was “Bretter“. “Planks”

What the East German authorities wanted was sturdy, solid, heavily ornamented furniture. Biedermeier. The Gelsenkirchener Barock of yore.

But how did a young designer such as Rudolf Horn respond to such debates, to the accusation that his work was ignoring the workers real needs, could one take the authorities seriously?

“Of course we took them seriously”, he responds, “It was all about the workers, the new class, who were now in power, it was about creating something new for the workers so that they realised that they are important. And that was to be demonstrated with richly decorated furnishings, not with simple boxes. And that wasn’t an argument we could ignore out of hand”

Rudolf Horn PUR Grassi Leipzig

Synthetic modular wall units by, and with, Rudolf Horn, as seen at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig

Government wishes however are famously one thing. Reality another.

And so while the political leadership of the day was advocating solid wood furniture, the East German industry was busying itself with the question of “How?”

Quite aside from the lack of materials, machines and factories was the sheer volume of furniture that was needed to be produced. And that as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Fortunately for the East German furniture industry designers such as Rudolf Horn and his contemporaries – unquestionably motivated by the numerous designers and architects with Bauhaus links still working and teaching in the DDR, including, for example, Friedrich Engemann, Selman Selmanagic or Walter Funkat – were quietly ignoring the wishes of the authorities.

“Once we understood what we wanted and had freed ourselves from the arguments in favour of the historical standards, we simply set to work” explains Horn, “And then came the industry. And they wanted what we were doing.”

And through good contact in the government the industry got just that. And slowly, very slowly, the evils of formalism were forgotten.

Which of course raises the obvious question, why were the likes of Rudolf Horn allowed to work on such projects? Why did no-one intervene to stop them?

The answer is a simple as it is obvious “We were young, no one knew us.”

Many still don’t. The systems Horn and his colleagues developed being marketed and sold in the DDR without a designer’s name. The MDW system may be widely recognized. Rudolf Horn isn’t. The presentation at the Grassi Museum intends to change that.

For a designer of Rudolf Horn’s stature and importance the presentation in the Grassi Museum is far too small, provides an introduction to the man and his oeuvre but little more. And that’s a shame.

If only there was another museum somewhere in whose storerooms the archive of the Hellerau Werkstätten slumbered and who could put on a more detailed exploration…… If only.

That the presentation is taking place in the Grassi Museum however is very apposite, for here began the story of one of Rudolf Horn’s more interesting projects, the somewhat unfortunately named Conferstar lounge chair.  A lounge chair that bears a remarkable resemblance to Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair.

But then it’s supposed to. That however is a subject for another post…….

The Rudolf Horn presentation can be viewed until December 31st 2014 in the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig permanent exhibition, “Art Nouveau to Present”

Rudolf Horn Conferstar Grassi Leipzig

The Conferstar Lounge Chair for Röhl by Rudolf Horn, as seen at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig. Yes we know. But wait, there is a reason.......

Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus, Oranienbaum

July 23rd, 2014

In 2011 a group of Dutch artists and designers established the Orangemann Trust and set about converting an old, abandoned house in the centre of Oranienbaum into a gallery for contemporary art and design.

That Oranienbaum is a village of some 3000 inhabitants situated 150 kilometres south of Berlin, 80 kilometres north of Leipzig and 4 light years from the next railway station, the location could appear somewhat questionable.


Were it not for the fact that modern Oranienbaum was acquired in 1660 by the House Oranien-Nassau and that in 1683 the Dutch royal family began with the construction of a palace and landscaped garden complex in the middle of the village. A palace and landscaped garden complex that quickly established itself as a popular summer and hunting residence of the Dutch royals and their cohorts.

Then came the war. Weimar Republic. Another war. DDR. German unification. And with it the chance to renovate the crumbling and dilapidated shell that had been Schloss Oranienbaum.

In 2012 with the renovations almost complete Schloss Oranienbaum hosted “Dutch Design – Huis van Oranje”, an exhibition devoted to over 400 years of Dutch creativity.

And 500 metres down the road the Orangemann Trust opened the inaugural summer exhibition in the newly established Ampelhaus Gallery.

2014 sees Ampelhaus present “Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus”, the gallery’s third summer exhibition and a show which ably demonstrates why Ampelhaus is well on its way to becoming just as popular a summer destination as the neighbouring Schloss once was.

Bram Braam Zwei Türen Birgit Severin Geheel gebroken Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus Oranienbaum

Zwei Türen by Bram Braam and Geheel gebroken by Birgit Severin, as seen at Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus, Oranienbaum

Following on from their 2012 exhibition “Use it Again” which explored reusing and recycling in various contexts and 2013′s “King Size: Art and Design fit for a King” with its more regal perspective on the same subjects, the 2014 exhibition “Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus” moves the discussion on to add more considered reflections on aesthetics, memory, semantics and emotions in context of salvaged and recycled objects.

Something perhaps best demonstrated by Studio Makkink & Bey’s truly monstrous Tree Trunk Bench: a work which is also one of the more apposite exhibits, being as it is an example of reuse created by a Dutch designer in Oranienbaum. Just a dozen years before Ampelhaus arrived.

On a visit to Oranienbaum in 1999 Jurgen Bey witnessed the large numbers of fallen trees lying around the grounds of Schloss Oranienbaum; their similarity to park benches being inescapable and irresistible Jurgen Bey created bronze backrests modelled on historic chair designs found in the Schloss to complete the impression. Last year, by good fortune, the Ampelhaus team observed a tree being felled across the road from them, secured the trunk and so this year can present a Tree Trunk Bench in, near as damn it, its original location.

Tree Trunk Bench Jurgen Bey Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus Oranienbaum

Tree Trunk Bench by Studio Makkink & Bey, as seen at Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus, Oranienbaum

The very first Tree Trunk Bench was created in context of the Studio Droog project “Couleur Locale”, a project which also included works by Hella Jongerius, Marcel Wanders and Martí Guixé, an enviable collection of some of the most promising young Dutch based designers of that period.

Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus in many ways mirrors and updates that roster, presenting as it does works by some of the more interesting and progressive young designers and artists the Netherlands currently has to offer.

Dirk Vander Kooij, for example, is represented with his 2013 Chubby Chair, a work that takes the extreme 3D printing concept developed in his Endless project to create a recycled polystyrene chair with the most delightfully endearing and engaging cartoon-esque form, while Amsterdam based Pepe Heykoop is represented with two projects, the anarchic 2012 Bits of Wood which combines waste wood and waste tin to create new products, plus two objects from his ongoing Skin Collection series in which he covers old, neglected objects in leather waste thus giving a new life, purpose and aesthetic charm to both.

In addition Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus features works by a further 20 or so artists and designers including, amongst others, Olaf Mooij, Isaac Monté, Bram Braam and Tejo Remy & René Veenhuizen, whose Accidental Carpet created from cut-offs and loose ends of old wool blankets graces the space like some slowly melting Keith Haring painting. One could almost say Keith Haring meets Salvador Dali. In a wool carpet.

But its not all Dutch designers and artists. There is, for example, the installation Geheel gebroken by Bielefeld born, Berlin based designer Birgit Severin in which old, slightly damaged porcelain is coated in black rubber, thus, apparently, preserving the past in a stable and secure form. However, despite its new shroud of invincibility the porcelain remains as fragile and transient as ever. Drop it and it will still break. You just won’t see it.

Or Korean designer Bora Hong with her Cosmetic Surgery Kingdom project, a project in which she transposes the world of plastic surgery on to the world of design. Cosmetic Surgery Kingdom is and was a far reaching, multi-faceted project, on show at Ampelhaus is but one part of that whole, namely an “Eames DCW” and a “Rietveld rood-blauwe stoel” each created from the de-constructed, disjointed remnants of another, less illustrious chair, a chair that wanted/needed “plastic surgery” to become interesting, attractive, illustrious. But is it better than it was? Or just more familiar than it was?

Both Bora Hong and Birgit Severin are, it must be noted, Design Academy Eindhoven alumni, and so while not Dutch themselves, there is an Oranje link.

Accidental Carpet Tejo Remy René Veenhuizen Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus Oranienbaum

Accidental Carpet by Tejo Remy & René Veenhuizen and Chubby Chair by Dirk vander Kooij, as seen at Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus, Oranienbaum

Little remains in Ampelhaus from past exhibitions. For Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus all is refreshingly, and fittingly, new. Including the extension of the exhibition space into the courtyard, stables and outhouses. The one obvious retention from years past being Leerdam artist Oscar Prinsen’s 2013 intervention “Überraschendes Gespräch”, in which two holes were cut in the ground floor ceiling and a very high chair placed under each hole, thus allowing visitors the chance to engage in a conversation across the expanse of the first floor. The first floor itself remaining out of bounds for visitors: Überraschendes Gespräch allowing access and interaction. For Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus Oscar Prinsen has gone down, cutting a whole in the ground floor floor through which one reaches a stool in the cellar, and thus, apparently, opening up the cellar for the visitor. Just as Überraschendes Gespräch achieved with first floor. Except Oscar Prinsen doesn’t open up the cellar. Quite apart from placing the visitor in a cage akin to that used when diving with sharks, the floor of the Ampelhaus cellar has been littered with 1080 ceramic flowers by Rotterdam based artist Onno Poiesz. Delicate, fragile ceramic flowers which although, meadow like, invite one to lie down and dwell a while, paradoxically also stop you doing just that. Consequently you are left alone, isolated and with a tantalising view of a freedom you could have.

With its mix of art and design Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus isn’t an especially easy exhibition. There are easy, very accessible, moments, moments where it is very clear what the designer or artist wants to demonstrate/explain/bemoan; but there are also works that require a lot more time, a lot more effort and a lot more consideration. Time, effort and consideration that the relaxed atmosphere in the Ampelhaus and the open exhibition design concept positively support and encourage.

And away from the theoretical, philosophical aspects Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus can also be enjoyed at a very basic level, Martijn Hesseling’s art work, for example, arising from a fascinating mix of newspaper and varnish, Ron van der Ende’s mesmerising bas-reliefs or Claudy Jongstra’s wool, silk and linen wall hangings being objects that one can simply sit back and enjoy.

Something we can strongly recommend.

Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus can be viewed at Ampelhaus, Brauerstraße 33, 06785 Oranienbaum until Saturday September 20th

Full details, in Dutch and German, can be found at

Die Burg verbindet: Burg Giebichenstein Summer 2014 Exhibition

July 21st, 2014

24 hours after Hella Jongerius crossed our paths at the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin Rundgang 2014, and 48 hours after finding ourselves in the same corridor as Axel Kufus at the Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2014, Stephan Schulz cycled past us as we walked to the 2014 summer exhibition at Burg Giebichenstein Halle.

Its just the way we rock. Sorry…….

As we’ve noted before Halle should be Vienna. It’s certainly a much more attractive, imposing and interesting city than its near neighbour, and current global media darling, Leipzig.
But Halle is covered by layers of dirt and dust. Untouched, untroubled even, by the investment and hope of German unification. And so is easily, and regularly, ignored.

The one exception is Burg Giebichenstein College, an institution which over the years has cleaned up, renewed, refreshed, dusted itself down and which today is one of the genuinely more interesting design schools in Germany.

As the 2014 student summer showcase nicely demonstrated.

As is expected at Burg Giebichenstein the product and industrial design presentations largely concentrated on the results of numerous seminars from the past year, and largely presented “products” in comparison to the much more theoretical and conceptual works seen, for example, at the two Berlin schools.

Five projects in particular caught our attention….

Bamboo+ by Toshiki Yabushita

Bamboo has long been a popular material for designers. Back in the 1940s Charlotte Perriand famously attempted to utilise bamboo to help invigorate the Japanese design industry, while today bamboo with its inherent strength and ease of cultivation is a popular research material for designers looking for new ways to furnish our world. For his final year project thesis Toshiki Yabushita looked at a different aspect of bamboo; namely using bamboo charcoal to absorb odours. That active charcoal can be used to neutralise odours is not new; however, with bamboo charcoal one has, as Toshiki Yabushita’s project charmingly depicts, a readily accessible, sustainable source of charcoal that can be easily added to other materials to create environmentally friendly odour eliminating objects. Among the products on display at the Burg Giebichenstein showcase were, for example, a bin lid and items of clothing with integrated bamboo charcoal. All in all a very nice project and one which offers a lot of room for further development.

Die Burg verbindet Burg Giebichenstein 2014 Bamboo+ by Toshiki Yabushita

Bamboo+ by Toshiki Yabushita, as seen at Die Burg verbindet 2014 Burg Giebichenstein Halle

Carry Me by Miriam Bunte

We must have visited the room in which Carry Me by Miriam Bunte was being displayed at least 500 times before ultimately deciding that we really did like it. Initially we thought: just carry your bike! Grab it by the frame and carry it! But that is often easier said than done, or perhaps better put involves more time and effort than the situation requires. Often you just need to quickly negotiate a small step or other irksome hurdle. The simple genius of Carry Me is that it allows anybody to pick up and carry their bike with just one hand. Quick. Painless. Efficient. And presented as it is as a nice leather band it is a feature that adds value to the contemporary bicycle.

Die Burg verbindet Burg Giebichenstein 2014 Carry Me by Miriam Bunte

Carry Me by Miriam Bunte, as seen at Die Burg verbindet 2014 Burg Giebichenstein Halle

Hallway storage unit by Alexander Köppel

As with Carry Me we spent a lot of time trying to decide if we liked Alexander Köppel’s otherwise unnamed hallway storage unit. Before deciding we did. Our biggest problem with the unit is that it is, in our opinion, too deep, takes up more space than most modern flats and houses can afford. We know why its as deep as it is, understand why it is as deep as it is, just feel it needs to be less deep. And modular. Every owner of such a unit will have different requirements, as such to be a truly useful, interesting and dare we add, successful product it needs to be more modular. Which yes all sounds as if we didn’t and don’t like it. But we do. Very much.

Die Burg verbindet Burg Giebichenstein 2014 hallway storage unit by Alexander Köppel

Hallway storage unit by Alexander Köppel, as seen at Die Burg verbindet 2014 Burg Giebichenstein Halle

Lichtkörper – Objekts mit Light

Sadly there are obviously still elements within Burg Giebichenstein who believe that the world is full of evil forces just waiting to steal any design that crosses their path. And so banned photography in the showcase of works from the class Lichtkörper – Objekts mit Light.

Sadly, for two of the projects on display were genuinely fantastic and worthy of a wider audience.
Which they are sadly now denied.

Yes we could describe what they were, of what materials they were made, how they functioned, what the advantages and disadvantages were and present detailed sketches of them. Or we could have taken a photo and expressed our delight at the creativity that led to such results.

Those who steal and copy design steal and copy those ideas with which they can make a profit. Which in the world of product design is, as a general rule, objects for which there is an existing market. There, for example, weren’t any copies of Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s Bauhaus Lamp before Tecnolumen produced it. Now there are thousands. If not millions.

The plagiarists aren’t interested in the quality of the design. Just the insatiable market of customers who have no interest in the quality of the objects they buy, but who simply want to furnish their homes with objects they recognise and associate with possessing a certain quality. A quality they’re not prepared to pay for because its all about the image. Cultural semantics if you will.

I own a Bauhaus lamp therefore I am.

New concepts aren’t interesting because no thief is going to invest money in building up a market for such. Especially not the money required to develop a vaguely functioning student project into a market ready product that, ultimately, may not sell.

That would be stupid. And plagiarists aren’t stupid. Just immoral.

There are however an awful lot of hard-working, honest furniture and lighting manufacturers out there looking for new impetus, new ideas, new talent with whom to co-operate. With whom to develop new projects, markets and genres.

And such people far out number the crooks.

Die Burg verbindet Burg Giebichenstein 2014

Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin Rundgang 2014

July 20th, 2014

Some 24 hours after finding ourselves in the same corridor as Axel Kufus at the Universität der Künste 2014 Rundgang our paths crossed that of Hella Jongerius at the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin Rundgang.

It’s just how it is in Berlin……

And as with the UdK Rundgang, in terms of product/industrial the 2014 show at Weißensee was/is, in our opinion, somewhat smaller than in previous editions, did/does however present a highly entertaining review of the past years work and so neatly explains what design students get up to all day.

Three projects in particular caught our attention, although to be completely honest two of them had already caused palpitations of delight when we saw them at DMY Berlin 2014. Seeing them during the Rundgang merely giving us a new, welcome, chance to write about them.

The 2014 Rundgang at the Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee can be viewed until 8pm on Sunday July 20th so today. In addition to product/industrial design the Rundgang features showcases from across the school’s programme including printing, fashion, art, stage design …..  Full details can be found at

Brillendampfer by Anne Lang

A collapsible glasses case.

It’s that simple.

When your glasses are in their case it is fairly clear that it is going to be bulky. But when you take them out, put them on, but still need to have the case on your person, then most of us would be happy when the case wasn’t bulky.

Brillendampfer by Anne Lang offers just that. A robust, protective case that folds flat.

It’s that simple.

Brillendampfer by Anne Lang Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin Rundgang 2014

Brillendampfer by Anne Lang, as seen at Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin Rundgang 2014

Biohocker by Wanru Zhao

Despite the undeniable fact that organic waste, much like taxes and dentists, will continue to exist in our future world regardless of how far society advances, until now the potential of using compostable waste as a material in product design has been, as far as we can ascertain, relatively under researched. Realised in context of the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin’s Greenlab research project Wanru Zhao’s Biohocker explores the possibility of using compostable materials as the basis for a stool. Clearly the stool itself isn’t the project, but the material research. And that we find is important, interesting and certainly something worthy of further investigation.

Biohocker by Wanru Zhao Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin Rundgang 2014

Biohocker by Wanru Zhao, as seen at Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin Rundgang 2014

S.Rack by Heinrich Kerth

Good music deserves to be stored with respect. Such as in Heinrich Kerth’s S.Rack record holder. A single piece of bent steel wire, S.Rack is not only a deliciously simple piece of design, but an object which adds an elegance and sense of wonder to any record collection. Just delightful.

S.Rack by Heinrich Kerth Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin Rundgang 2014

S.Rack by Heinrich Kerth, as seen at Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin Rundgang 2014

(smow) blog Design Calendar: July 19th 1933 – Bauhaus Closes. For ever.

July 19th, 2014

“Herr Mies van der Rohe proposed to close Bauhaus. The proposition was unanimously approved”.1

With this sober protocol dated July 20th 1933, but referring to a meeting held on July 19th 1933, the closing of Bauhaus Berlin, and so the end of the Bauhaus story, is formally confirmed.

Present at the meeting on July 19th, and so unified in their responsibility for the decision were, in addition to Mies van der Rohe, Josef Albers, Ludwig Hilberseimer, Wassily Kandinsky, Walter Peterhans, Lilly Reich and “Walther” – a person we can’t further identify, but suspect Walther “Walter” Gropius is meant.

Although the decision was formally taken on July 19th, with hindsight its probably fair to say the closure had been inevitable since the local elections of October 1931 which saw the Nazis take power in Dessau.

Before and during the election the Nazis had campaigned against the “Bolshevik” Bauhaus with its foreign teaching staff and un-Aryan principles; consequently, upon them assuming power in Dessau it was only a matter of time before the school was closed. Something which was confirmed on August 22nd 1932 when Dessau town council voted to enforce the closure of Bauhaus Dessau. Four weeks later the “mission” was accomplished

Although at that time Bauhaus had formal offers to relocate to either Leipzig or Magdeburg, Mies van der Rohe had already decided that the school would move to Berlin. 2

On the 10th of October 1933 Mies van der Rohe signed a rental agreement for a former telephone factory in Birkbuschstrasse in the leafy Berlin suburb of Steglitz and on January 3rd 1933 teaching at Bauhaus Berlin formally began.3

On April 11th 1933 the Gestapo raided Bauhaus Berlin on the orders of the Dessau public prosecutors office, ostensibly looking for evidence in context of an investigation against the former Dessau mayor. The charge? Supporting Bauhaus. Following the search the building was sealed and entry banned. In effect the school was closed. Unable to collect teaching fees from students and with income from licensing fees dropping, Bauhaus Berlin’s less than stable financial situation worsened. And became critical when the authorities in Dessau cancelled an agreement to pay the wages of the Bauhaus teaching staff.

The end was no longer neigh. But there.

In a letter to students on August 10th 1933 informing of the decision to close Bauhaus Mies van der Rohe writes that the “difficult economic situation” was responsible.  And certainly in the protocol from July 20th Mies van der Rohe notes that the financial situation of the school “is so negative that a redevelopment of Bauhaus cannot be considered”4

Although one must always add the conduit that the financial situation wouldn’t have been so dramatic if the Nazis hadn’t interfered to the level they had……

Whatever the decisive reason for the schools closing was, we believe it is good that it did close. As an institution Bauhaus was very much of and geared for its time: Design and architecture however need to have contemporary influences. And given the social, political and cultural change that occurred in the wake of the Second World War, a post-war Bauhaus run on the same principles as the pre-war Bauhaus would have been an ungainly beast. But Bauhaus closed, its leading protagonists went of into the world and developed remarkable projects, buildings and educational institutions: and in the void that was left came a new generation of architects and designers who adapted what Bauhaus had taught us and applied that to their age. People like Rudolf Horn.

And today, exactly 81 years since the decision was made to close Bauhaus, architecture and design students at the Berlin Universität der Künste and the Kunsthochschule Weißensee are presenting the results of their work from the past year. Work unquestionably influenced by the legacy of Bauhaus and European Modernism, yet free from the pressures to conform to preconceived ideas of a “living” Bauhaus tradition. Although we suspect, indeed hope, that amongst the current generation of Berlin architecture and design students one or the other Bolshevik is to be found. It would certainly be fitting.

And certainly more fitting than the unkempt plaque that marks the spot – or at least a spot relatively close to the spot – where one of the most important movements in European architecture and design history met its end….

1. Hahn, Peter “Bauhaus Berlin : Auflösung Dessau 1932, Schließung Berlin 1933, Bauhäusler und Drittes Reich ; eine Dokumentation” Kunstverlag Weingarten, Weingarten, 1985

2. Droste, Magdalena “Bauhaus : 1919 – 1933″, Taschen, Köln, 1991

3. Hahn, Peter “Bauhaus Berlin : Auflösung Dessau 1932, Schließung Berlin 1933, Bauhäusler und Drittes Reich ; eine Dokumentation” Kunstverlag Weingarten, Weingarten, 1985

4. ibid

bauhaus berlin memorial plaque

The best Berlin can do for the site of Bauhaus Berlin, or at least a site close to the site....

Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2014

July 18th, 2014

One of the highlights for us of the student summer semester showcase season is always the annual Rundgang at the Universität der Künste, UdK, Berlin.

And while the Product/Industrial Design presentation at the 2014 Rundgang is/was somewhat smaller than usual, it was/is still the expected, and entertaining, mix of the theoretical, the conceptual and the practical.

In addition to the chance to once again experience projects such as Clair Obscur, a project which can of course also be viewed as part of the DMY Award exhibition at the DMY Gallery, or once again enjoy the Axel Kufus curated showcase Zwischen den Stühlen – Möglichkeitsmodelle als Sitzgelegenheiten, the UdK Rundgang also presents a selection of the 2014 graduate projects, free projects by students and the results of numerous semester seminars. And a couple of projects that genuinely excited us.

Yes only two, but lest we forget students showcases aren’t about presenting market ready projects but explaining what the students have done all year and why. And at the UdK a lot of that is conceptual. And a lot of that, while interesting to view and analyse in person, on location, isn’t interesting out of context.

Should however you be in Berlin this weekend and be looking to escape the sun, we can thoroughly recommend a trip to Charlottenburg.

The Universität der Künste Rundgang 2014 runs until Sunday July 20th. In addition to product design the Rundgang presents works from across the University spectrum, including architecture, art, music, theatre… Full details can be found at

Gren Light by Gunnar Søren Petersen

Anyone who has read this blog at least once will be well aware of our passion for the Modo lighting family by Jason Miller for Roll and Hill. Less well documented is our passion for Jason Miller’s outrageously decadent Superordinate Antler family of lamps. Largely because they are so outrageously decadent. One can’t even begin to explain them. Far less justify them. Gren Light by Gunnar Søren Petersen beautifully combines the best of both the Modo and the Superordinate Antler families. Crafted from wood and ceramic Gren Light combines a refined, dulcet charm with an understated beauty in an extremely elegant object. An extremely elegant object constructed on the basis of a very simple, easily reproducible, infinitely variable construction principle. And an extremely elegant object that is well on its to becoming modular, or perhaps better put on the way to be being a freely configurable system. There is still a bit of work to be done, but when Gunnar Søren Petersen reaches that stage we believe he will have a family of lighting objects with a lot of potential applications in domestic, commercial, and for all gastronomy settings.

Fuller details can be found at

Universität der künste Berlin Rundgang 2014 Gren Light by Gunnar Søren Petersen

Gren Light Chandelier by Gunnar Søren Petersen, as seen at the Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2014

Universität der künste Berlin Rundgang 2014 Gren Light by Gunnar Søren Petersen

Gren Light table lamp and chandelier by Gunnar Søren Petersen, as seen at the Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2014

Dock by Florian Schreiner & Adeline Chimento

Projects exploring the future of working spaces and working practices have been a popular diversion for designers for decades. During the 2014 summer semester the course “Collaborate” asked UdK students to specifically explore systems that could be applicable for co-working facilities. A course that produced Dock by Florian Schreiner. There is, to be brutally honest, nothing especially new or innovative to be found in the Dock system; however something about Dock caught our imagination. Be it the mix of materials, the clear functionality of the components, the ease on the eye, the obviousness of its existence, the way the static island is continued into and over the wall. Or the fact that although created in context of a co-working space course it is very much a project that also has applications in more domestic settings. Either way it is a fascinating project, was a delight to see and we certainly hope Florian Schreiner is given the chance to develop it further.

Universität der künste Berlin Rundgang 2014 Dock by Florian Schreiner

Dock by Florian Schreiner & Adeline Chimento, as seen at the Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2014

Universität der künste Berlin Rundgang 2014 Dock by Florian Schreiner

Dock by Florian Schreiner, as seen at the Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2014


(smow) blog compact: B10 Active House by Werner Sobek

July 16th, 2014

Since the beginning of July the Weissenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart has been one building richer with the official unveiling of the so-called B10 Active House by Stuttgart based architect Werner Sobek.

Realised in collaboration with the Stuttgart Institute of Sustainability in context of the Schaufenster Elektromobilität – Electric Mobility Showcase – research project, the B10 Active House goes beyond normal passive house standards and has been designed to enable it to utilise renewable energy sources to generate some 200% of its own energy needs: thus allowing it not only to be used as an energy source for electric vehicles and the recharging of other electric devices, but also to assist in powering neighbouring, older, buildings. The new generation helping the older generation in a sort of social architectural anthropomorphism.

Over the next two years scientist from Stuttgart University’s Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK) will both collect and analyse data from the B10 Active House and optimise the self-learning building automation system – the heart of the project.

Whereas in the first twelve months of the project the house will be uninhabited, for the second twelve months two occupants will live in the 85 sqm house to allow it to be tested under “real” conditions.

Following the end of the two year trial the B10 Active House will be de-constructed and rebuilt at another location. Which, yes, does sound like an elaborate, and not especially resource efficient, process; however, the B10 Active House has been designed as prefabricated, flat pack system and the complete house can be built and/or unbuilt in just one day.

The B10 Active House can be viewed at Bruckmannweg 10, 70191 Stuttgart – so behind Mies van der Rohe’s house, and between buildings by Max Taut and his brother Bruno Taut, in the middle of the Weissenhofsiedlung

Full details can be found at

B10 Active House by Werner Sobeck Stuttgart

B10 Active House by Werner Sobek, Stuttgart

(smow) blog compact: Swiss Design Award 2014

July 14th, 2014

As is becoming customary Design Miami Basel 2014 provided the backdrop for the presentation of the Swiss Design Award. And an exhibition of all nominated projects.

Inaugurated in 1918 the Swiss Design Award is organised by the Swiss Federal Culture Agency – the Bundesamt für Kultur – and seeks to reward and recognise particularly outstanding contemporary design by both Swiss designers and Swiss based international designers. The 2014 edition attracted 252 entries for the four competition categories from which 45 were nominated and subsequently 20 projects honoured.

For our taste the 2014 Swiss Design Award may have lacked anything as genuinely monumental as Damian Fopp’s Celeb Bowls collection from 2013, or indeed any projects as interesting and thought provoking as those from Depot Basel, Postfossil, Moritz Schmid, Tomas Kral and Michel Charlot which so shone in 2013, but there were still a few delights to be found. Among those 2014 projects that particularly caught our attention being Carlo Clopath’s Palutta kitchenware collection, Florian Hauswirth’s tableware collection, the collapsible sledge Maarno by Max Frommeld & Arno Mathies and of course Eric Andersen’s heartfelt homage to FIFA.

And regardless of our opinion, congratulations to all!

Full details on all nominated projects can be found at

Swiss Design Award 2014 Winners:

Fashion and Textile Design

Stéphanie Baechler

Flaka Jahaj

Sandro Marzo

Julian Zigerli

Graphic Design

Atlas Studio (Martin Andereggen, Claudio Gasser & Jonas Wandeler)

Prill Vieceli Cremers (Tania Prill, Alberto Vieceli & Sebastian Cremers)

Vincent Devaud

Eugster/Keshavjee/Koller (Marietta Eugster, David Keshavjee & Andreas Koller)

Louisa Gagliardi

Robert Huber

Ronny Hunger

Simone Koller

Aurèle Sack


Julien Gremaud

Emilie Muller

Virginie Rebetez

Product and Object

Brunner X Mettler (Thilo Alex Brunner, Jörg Mettler)

Carlo Clopath

BIG-GAME (Augustin Scott de Martinville, Elric Petit & Grégoire Jeanmonod)

Yann Mathis

Bauhaus University Weimar: Summaery 2014

July 11th, 2014

On the evening of Thursday July 10th the annual Bauhaus University Weimar “Summaery” student showcase exhibition opened for its 2014 edition.
In terms of product design, and without meaning to be disingenuous, it wasn’t the strongest Summaery we’ve ever been to. There were however a few projects that allowed us to leave without the feeling of having completely wasted our train fares. And so, and in no particular order…..

WOob by Lisa Kästner (Realised in context of the class: MACHEN? – Anschluss 2014)

With its red MDF and small rubber tyre WOob looks like a product that belongs in the collection of an infamous Aschau im Chiemgau based contemporary furniture producer. But that’s not why we like it. There are currently numerous objects on the market that can be used as make-shift, ad-hoc desks. Generally however they are wall mounted. WOob is a trunk. And that creates numerous advantages. On the one hand you can more easily integrate a greater array of features. Speakers for example. Also it makes it not just an object for compact and bijou domestic spaces. Many companies, especially start ups have colleagues who aren’t in the office on a regular bases, yet who need a desk when they are there. Keeping a desk free for such colleagues is in most instances a luxury; WOob gives you an object you can use as a piece of normal office furniture on those days when no desk is required. And finally, older readers will remember the project Bedcrate by Jack Brandsma from the Gronicles #4 showcase at Passagen Cologne 2014. Jack Brandsma and Lisa Kästner should really, urgently, get in touch. No honestly! Get in touch!

Bauhaus University Weimar Summaery 2014 WOob by Lisa Kästner

WOob by Lisa Kästner, as seen at Bauhaus University Weimar Summaery 2014

Stance by Zhaowei Jia (about:form – porcelain/function/meaning)

The seminaer “about:form – porcelain/function/meaning” proved to be a very happy hunting ground for us, producing as it did projects such as Stance by Zhaowei Jia. Quite aside from the undeniable aesthetic charm of the piece, there is something deliciously mischievous, if not dadaistic, about a porcelain knife. Just a genuine joy.

Bauhaus University Weimar Summaery 2014 Stance by Zhaowei Jia

Stance by Zhaowei Jia, as seen at Bauhaus University Weimar Summaery 2014

Gesten der Esskultur by Irene Nitz (Master of Fine Arts Final Project)

Projects involving less than perfect porcelain objects have been very popular for a few years now. The concept invariably being the same; challenging ideas of standardised perfection in a post industrial society. Irene Nitz approaches the subject from a different perspective. A large part of the resource usage in pottery is concerned with heating and firing the kilns. What if you fired objects stacked within one another? Such is possible, but, according to Irene, is generally rejected because of the irregularities in form that arise. But who cares? Resources are finite, if you can fire more pottery for a set amount of resources is that not good? Do we even need to ask that question? We do hope not. In addition to experimenting with various firing strategies Gesten der Esskultur also looked at reusing the so-called kiln furniture, those objects inside the kiln that support the porcelain, ensure order during the firing process and which are currently disposed of after firing.

Bauhaus University Weimar Summaery 2014 Gesten in der Esskultur by Irene Nitz

Gesten der Esskultur by Irene Nitz, as seen at Bauhaus University Weimar Summaery 2014

Akustik in biomorphen Formen by Felicia Schneeweis (about:form – porcelain/function/meaning)

Over the years we’ve seen various porcelain speaker projects, but never one that really got us rocking. Felicia Schneeweis’ Rabbit Ears didn’t quite have us pogoing round the atelier, but we were feeling it. We suspect what’s holding us back is that it is obviously only a product for very tidy people. After two weeks in the (smow) blog flat the things would be so full of dust we might as well be listening to the neighbour’s stereo. But if you keep an orderly ship……………….

Bauhaus University Weimar Summaery 2014 Akustik in biomorphen Formen by Felicia Schneeweis

Akustik in biomorphen Formen by Felicia Schneeweis, as seen at Bauhaus University Weimar Summaery 2014

Torus by Nils Brack (Independent Project)

Ask any novelist for a tip on how to write a bestseller and they’ll invariably tell you to write about what you know. Ideas flow more easily from familiar situations. Similarly a lot of student projects involve solutions for problems that affect students and their friends, rather than say, real world problems. Which isn’t to say that students can’t produce excellent work. As Torus eloquently demonstrates. Essentially Torus is a system for transforming a bed into a practical space when it is not being used for sleeping in. Perfect for those who live in confined spaces where room for furniture is at a premium. Like students. If we’re honest, in the matter of hours since we saw Torus we’ve already mentally developed it further. A lot further. And not just in context of student flats. We hope Nils Brack gets the chance, or better put, takes the chance, to do the same.

Bauhaus University Weimar Summaery 2014 Torus by Nils Brack

Torus by Nils Brack, as seen at Bauhaus University Weimar Summaery 2014

Handwerk Plus by Evelyn Reuß (Bachelor of Fine Arts Final Project)

As a general rule we don’t like knitted furniture and home accessories. Really don’t. Knitting is for jumpers. Projects such as llot llov’s Lucille macramé flower pot holder and Andrea Brena’s arm knitted objects being obvious exceptions. But what attracts us to Handwerk Plus from Evelyn Reuß is less the oh so homely knitted optic and more the fact that having experimented with forms Evelyn started experimenting with materials. Consequently what looks and feels like nothing more advanced than rope, is in fact rope with a iron wire core. The seats have no internal support, no skeleton structure providing stability: are constructed solely from iron wire filled rope. And that we do like. A lot. And we know that there an awful lot of people who do like a knitted optic……. And that we’ll be seeing a lot more of Handwerk Plus in the coming months. Presumably under a new name.

Bauhaus University Weimar Summaery 2014 Handwerk Plus by Evelyn Reuß

Handwerk Plus by Evelyn Reuß, as seen at Bauhaus University Weimar Summaery 2014

Summaery 2014 can be viewed at the Bauhaus University Weimar until Sunday July 13th 2014. In addition to product design the showcase presents works from across the university’s departments including architecture and art.

Full details can be found at


(smow) blog compact: Bundespreis Ecodesign 2013 Exhibition, Umweltbundesamt Dessau

July 10th, 2014

Back in November the winners of the 2013 German Federal Ecodesign Award – the Bundespreis Ecodesign – were announced at a slightly less than glittering ceremony in Berlin. In February 2014 an exhibition featuring the 12 winners and further 19 nominated projects opened in Ludwigsburg. Following a brief stop at the designforum in Vienna the Bundespreis Ecodesign 2013 exhibition is currently being presented at the headquarters of the Umweltbundesamt – the German Federal Environment Agency – in Dessau.

Bundespreis Ecodesign 2013 Exhibition Umweltbundesamt Dessau

Bundespreis Ecodesign 2013 Exhibition at the Umweltbundesamt Dessau

As any fool know, the most ecologically responsible approach to design is of course not to produce things. But given that things in all possible connotations are occasionally necessary, if not desirable: how do we produce them in a sensible, responsible, future-orientated fashion?

Viewing the 2013 Bundespreis Ecodesign exhibition one sees, roughly speaking, four favoured approaches: recycling, new materials and new approaches to energy generation/use. In addition to reducing consumption.

What one also sees is that environmentally responsible design isn’t just about protecting the environment but also about increasing social equality and so not only helping extend the length of time that planet Earth is habitable, but making it a planet we want to inhabit.

Insights that make the sparse but very accessible and informative exhibition very easy to recommend

Not that we’re suggesting anybody should make a special trip to Dessau to view the exhibition, apart from anything else that would be ecologically irresponsible; however, should you find yourself  in Dessau this summer, say visiting Bauhaus Dessau or the exhibition Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus in Oranienbaum, the  Umweltbundesamt is next door to Dessau train station and it is well worth investing the time for a visit. For everybody else, all nominated and winning projects can be viewed on-line at

The Bundespreis Ecodesign 2013 Exhibition can be viewed in the foyer of the Umweltbundesamt, Wörlitzer Platz 1, 06844 Dessau-Roßlau until Sunday August 24th. Entrance is free.