(smow) blog compact: Made in Germany – Politik mit Dingen. Der Deutsche Werkbund 1914 at the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin

October 15th, 2014

In 1907 a loose association of German architects, artists and industrialists joined forces as the Deutsche Werkbund – the German Industrial Association. Principally established with the aim of helping German industry adapt to the technological advances of the age and so help them both prepare for the forthcoming industrialisation and ensure that the coming challenges were met with high quality products and healthy, happy workers, the Deutsche Werkbund founders were additionally motivated by a recently passed UK law which required all products from Germany to be labelled as “Made in Germany”: in effect a mark of inferior quality. And a clear and deliberate insult from one colonial power against another.

On May 16th 1914 the Deutsche Werkbund gathered in Cologne for their inaugural exhibition, one of the first major presentations of contemporary industrial products in Germany and as such a demonstration of the prowess of German industry of the day. It was in addition to become the occasion for a very public demonstration of the conflicts which plagued the young association.

Made in Germany Politik mit Dingen Der Deutsche Werkbund 1914 Werkbundarchiv Museum der Dinge Berlin

Made in Germany – Politik mit Dingen. Der Deutsche Werkbund 1914 at Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin

Taking the opening of the 1914 Cologne exhibition as its inspiration “Made in Germany – Politik mit Dingen. Der Deutsche Werkbund 1914″ at the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin seeks to explore the economic and cultural ideals behind the Deutsche Werkbund’s philosophy and by extrapolation the role the Deutsche Werkbund played in the transformation of ”Made in Germany” from a indicator of inferior quality to an internationally recognised guarantee of high quality.

To this end, in addition to a presentation in the museum’s special exhibition room, Politik mit Dingen weaves effortlessly through the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge’s permanent collection; the museum’s idiosyncratic display cases being partly given over to presentations explaining, for example, how and why “brands” arose, how they were marketed, how the rise of German industrial production was closely linked to the rise of German nationalism, or how the Deutsche Werkbund companies were the first to commission and employ designers in context of product development and corporate identity. And how through such co-operations the Deutsche Werkbund companies helped the likes of Wilhelm Wagenfeld or Peter Behrens establish their reputations.

And the importance of design to industry.

And that this focus on design led product development over profit led product development is one of the reasons “Made in Germany” is now such an internationally respected standard.

Going beyond such thematic and programmatic considerations one of the highlights of the exhibition is a scale model of the Glass Pavilion Berlin architect Bruno Taut created for the 1914 exhibition. Resembling a western European impression of an oriental temple the Glass Pavilion was created as a marketing vehicle for the German glass industry, and with its carefully designed illumination literally shimmered like a jewel on the exhibition site. Presented as a model, as the subject of a film and as a series of 3D images, the installation in the Werkbundarchiv not only brings Taut’s creation to life but helps the visitor understand just how the visitors in Cologne must have wondered and this glistening foretaste of what the equally glistening future would bring.

Made in Germany Politik mit Dingen Der Deutsche Werkbund 1914 Werkbundarchiv Museum der Dinge Berlin

Shoe polishing for the Kaiser.

In addition to looking at the role the Deutsche Werkbund played in establishing German economic might, and nationalist pride, Made in Germany – Politik mit Dingen also briefly explains the so-called “typification debate” that raised its head in Cologne and, effectively, led to the movement’s later split, and so indirectly to the rise of the Bauhaus school. One the one side Hermann Muthesius and his predilection for set standards, for a predefined set of global forms on which industrial production and architecture should be based. On the other side Henry van de Velde and his call for the artistic freedom of all designers and architects to create that which they felt was appropriate and correct. A debate which, to be fair, rages as strongly today as it did for 100 years.

Made in Germany – Politik mit Dingen. Der Deutsche Werkbund 1914 isn’t a large exhibition, but is large enough to allow it to succinctly and deftly explain one of the most important moments in not only German design history but also Germany’s development to the economic centre of Europe it is today. And to do so in a way that is informative, entertaining and instructive.

Made in Germany – Politik mit Dingen. Der Deutsche Werkbund 1914 runs at Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin, Oranienstraße 25, 10999 Berlin until Monday February 2nd. In addition to the exhibition itself the museum have also organised an accompanying fringe programme.

Full details can be found at www.museumderdinge.de

Stadt-Land-schafft. smow Cologne present Waidblicke 2014. Reprise

October 14th, 2014

As already noted, until Friday October 31st smow Cologne are presenting the exhibition Stadt-Land-schafft. Making use of smow Cologne’s generous window space and even more generous Waidmarkt frontage, Stadt-Land-schafft presents eight interpretations of urban topology and the conflict/synergy between our natural and our built environments.

And so, for example, Aachen based K2 Architekten present the installation Barb[el] which reflects on how city and countryside merge with one another without losing their own identity and own demands; landscape architect Andreas Fethke and landscape gardener Dirk Eichel visualise how urban landscapes give way to natural landscapes; while Schmale Architekten have developed a so-called “Vedute Mobile” in which familiar images of cityscapes and landscapes merge in and out of each other thus blurring the perception of both. A mirror places the observer in the middle of this transformation thus allowing a more personal reflection on the experience. If that isn’t an unnecessary pun.

In addition Stadt-Land-schafft features contributions from communications agency dreiform, Austrian lighting manufacturer Molto Luce, Pell Architekten, Object Carpet and Corporate Architecture students from the Fachhochschule Köln in conjunction with Vitra.

All installations can be viewed 24/7 from outside or during normal opening hours from inside.

Full details can be found at: www.waidblicke.de

And further photos at pinterest.com/smowblog

Gaudí. Architecture Ahead of it’s Time at the Architekturzentrum Wien

October 10th, 2014

Ask most people what they identify as the central feature in the work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and they’ll probably mention the abstract Gothic revival forms of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or the flowing, organic mosaics of Park Güell. Certainly something visual, potentially something decorative.

Ask art historian, critic and internationally recognised Antoni Gaudí expert Daniel Giralt-Miracle, and he won’t. “The skeleton is the central feature of Gaudí’s work, everything else comes from the basic skeleton”

And because Daniel Giralt-Miracle is also responsible for the exhibition “Gaudí. Architecture Ahead of it’s Time”, skeletons is what one gets.

Largely, at least.

Gaudí Architecture Ahead of it's Time at the Architekturzentrum Wien

Gaudí. Architecture Ahead of it's Time at the Architekturzentrum Wien

Organised by the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Gaudí. Architecture Ahead of it’s Time is a touring exhibition conceived to present a profile of Antoni Gaudí which goes beyond that which is lazily repeated in every Barcelona city guide and in doing so present a new, fresh impression of the man and his work.

Much like the Vitra Design Museum are currently seeking to achieve in context of Alvar Aalto with their exhibition “Alvar Aalto – Second Nature.

However, whereas the Vitra Design Museum achieve their goal, Daniel Giralt-Miracle doesn’t.

Or at least not completely.

The biggest hindrance is the scale and concept of the exhibition. As a touring exhibition Gaudí. Architecture Ahead of it’s Time is necessarily limited and simply cannot approach the subject with the depth and spectrum that the Vitra Design Museum can devote to Aalto.

And so although presenting videos, models and detailed plans which provide a clear and entertaining overview of some of Antoni Gaudí’s key works, the exhibition can do little more than introduce the works. Curator Daniel Giralt-Miracle is of the opinion that the exhibition contains a lot of text. We’ve been to exhibitions with more. And for us the exhibition needs even more text in order to help the visitor understand the Gaudí that isn’t always visible. Too many visitors we fear will watch the videos and express their amazement and appreciation at and of the aesthetic talents of Antoni Gaudí.

Despite Daniel Giralt-Miracle’s assertion that Gaudí’s works are about structure, not decoration.

Which of course is one of the aspects that made Gaudí’s architecture, as the exhibition title puts it, “ahead of it’s time”

“The difference between Gaudí and his contemporaries is that Gaudí worked towards the future” explains Daniel Giralt-Miracle, “Gaudí realised that change was coming and he grasped that!” For all Gaudí grasped that the function of buildings was changing, he grasped that new construction techniques were necessary to meet these functional changes, and was of the opinion that the best way to meet this coming future was with new ways of using traditional materials.

For his Casa Milà apartment building completed in 1912, for example, Gaudí freed the outer façade from its carrying function, supporting instead the whole building on a series of stone and brick pillars. A skeleton from which the room division and functionality grew. When 27 years later Mies van der Rohe used a similar approach for his famous, and famously revolutionary, Barcelona Pavilion, only very few visitors would have been aware of the parallels to Gaudí’s construction. Although just 3kms separate the two buildings.

Antoni Gaudí also grasped early on that this new future required not only creating new forms, but developing new ways of planning buildings.

Something wonderfully demonstrated by the so-called Stereo-funicular Model, a model which for Daniel Giralt-Miracle best illustrates Gaudí’s forward thinking nature.

Resembling an ill-conceived student lighting project, the Stereo-funicular Model is in essence a system of strings and lead weights that Gaudí used to help develop his design for the Church of Colònia Güell. Having attached a series of initial strings to the roof to form a series of catenary arches, Gaudí then strategically hung further strings and weights from these arches thus allowing him to model the form he wanted for the church. To create the skeleton from which the rest of the structure grew. A system as simple as it is effective, negating as it does the need to sketch the plans and manually calculate the curvature of the supporting aches. Nature does that for you. Gaudí would later apply a similar process when designing his Sagrada Familia.

Gaudí Architecture Ahead of it's Time at the Architekturzentrum Wien

Gaudí. Architecture Ahead of it's Time at the Architekturzentrum Wien

In addition to the architecture the Gesamtkünstler Antoni Gaudí also designed and created the interiors of his buildings, just as his contemporaries such as Henry van de Velde or Charles Rennie Mackintosh did for theirs. Particularly interesting in context of the fixtures and fittings is Gaudí’s attempts at creating ergonomic designs. Door handles, for example, with slight curves to better fit the hand, or whereas most of his contemporaries including the aforementioned van de Velde or Mackintosh were producing straight, formally rigid furniture, Gaudí’s work has a much freer, more abstract form, very reminiscent of buildings by the likes of Erich Mendelsohn or Rudolf Steiner. Yet a freer, abstract form that isn’t based on any aesthetic considerations, but rather on aiding the comfort for the sitter. Form following if not function, then anatomy.

A well organised and excellently designed exhibition Gaudí. Architecture Ahead of it’s Time presents an wonderful introduction to and overview of the man and his oeuvre, just as we say without ever going too deep or attempting to move the discussion in completely new directions. It is all very familiar, if the perspective is sometimes new.

But for all who want to know more, dig the depths, the Architekturzentrum Wien Library is just across the courtyard, and in addition to a collection of over 13,000 architecture books, they also have a specially prepared Antoni Gaudí “Reading List” to accompany the exhibition.

Gaudí. Architecture Ahead of it’s Time runs at the Architekturzentrum Wien, Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Wien until Sunday November 2nd

Full details can be found at www.azw.at

(smow) blog compact Budapest Design Week Special: Table and Desk Chair by AU Workshop

October 9th, 2014

Just to be clear:

Despite posting twice about them in little over week, we’re not paid to do PR for Budapest based architecture/design collective Architecture Uncomfortable Workshop.

We’ve never even met AU Workshop. Nor spoken to AU Workshop. Nor had Email contact with AU Workshop.

However, during our 2014 Danube Design Voyage we have been introduced to numerous examples of the collective’s work. And have generally been very impressed with what we have seen.

Such as their table which was presented as part of the NoNonszensz exhibition staged during Budapest Design Week 2014.

A table whose name we sadly forgot to note. And which even more regrettably isn’t listed on their website.

But which is a truly delightful piece of work.

Largely because of the way it appears to take up a lot less space than it actually does.

It’s not a big table, it’s only a “two seater”, but is an effortlessly compact two seater which offers more than enough space for two people without taking up unnecessary space itself.

And that is a rare and valuable thing in today’s troubled society.

The beauty of the design is the leg construction principle that allows the table to be used from both sides, while at the same distracting the observer from the size of the table top, and giving each “sitter” a sense of freedom through the “missing” legs.

As we say it’s not a big table, but appears smaller and more compact than it is.

Yes you can argue about the “D.I.Y.” optic, and we certainly would. While at the same time accepting and understanding that it is part of the AU Workshop design philosophy.

Similar arguments can be made about the collective’s “Desk Chair” which was also being displayed at NoNonszensz . If we’re honest it took us quite a long time to decide if we actually liked Desk Chair, largely because one has to disregard all previous conceptions about the art of sitting in order to fully understand the piece. But once you’ve opened your mind to new ideas, Desk Chair is a very interesting object. One that possibly needs a little more development and refinement, but is still a very interesting object.

As of course is the AU Workshop Candlestick from our previous, Vienna Design Week 2014 post.

Budapest Design Week 2014 Table AU Workshop

Budapest Design Week 2014: Table and Desk Chair by AU Workshop

Budapest Design Week 2014 Table AU Workshop

Budapest Design Week 2014: Table and Desk Chair by AU Workshop

Sensing the Future: László Moholy-Nagy, die Medien und die Künste at the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin

October 8th, 2014

In his 1936 film “Modern Times” Charlie Chaplin is famously swallowed by the wheels of progress in a short yet cutting critique on the problems and challenges technological and social change were bringing for the common man.

Over a decade earlier the Hungarian artist and author László Moholy-Nagy had also began to approach and study the problems and challenges of modernity, of increasing technological innovation and the associated flood of new sensory experiences, and in their winter 2014/15 exhibition “Sensing the Future: László Moholy-Nagy, die Medien und die Künste” the Bauhaus Archive Berlin present an in-depth exploration of not only László Moholy-Nagy’s work in this field, but also the continuing relevance of that work in our own “Modern Times”

Sensing the Future Lászlo Moholy-Nagy die Medien und die Künste at Bauhaus Archiv Berlin

Sensing the Future: László Moholy-Nagy, die Medien und die Künste at Bauhaus Archiv Berlin

Born in 1895 in Bácsborsód, Hungary László Moholy-Nagy initially intended to follow a legal career, before his plans changed upon discovering avant-garde art and literature, first through the Budapest “Activist” movement and subsequently Dadaism and Russian Constructivism. In 1920 László Moholy-Nagy moved to Berlin where in addition to being introduced to the ideas of the progressive education movement he published his first, programmatic, texts and participated in his first art exhibitions, before in 1923 Walter Gropius appointed him to replace Johannes Itten as tutor for the famous introductory Vorkurs at Bauhaus Weimar. Having moved with the institution from Weimar to Dessau László Moholy-Nagy left Bauhaus in 1928 to establish his own design studio in Berlin before, and as with so many of his contemporaries, the rise to power of the NSDAP saw him emigrate: firstly to Amsterdam, then London, Brno and ultimately Chicago. In 1937 László Moholy-Nagy attempted to revive the Bauhaus spirit with the so-called “New Bauhaus” college in Chicago, an ill-fated adventure which lack of funds forced to closed in 1938, whereupon László Moholy-Nagy established the Chicago School of Design which ultimately became the contemporary Illinois Institute of Technology Institute of Design. László Moholy-Nagy died in Chicago on November 24th 1946.

Initiated and curated by Professor Oliver Botar from the University of Manitoba’s School of Art “Sensing the Future” seeks to explore how in his work, artistic and educational, László Moholy-Nagy sought to both understand the exponential technological changes taking place in the 1920s and also help the population at large prepare for and deal with the coming future, for all the coming medial future. “László Moholy-Nagy felt that art was the best way to help people deal with this onslaught of sensory inputs”, explains Oliver Botar, “on the one hand by teaching us how to use our senses to their full capacity, but also through art itself. He felt that if you made art that was sensory challenging, then this challenge, in a controlled situation, could be an arena to help people adapt better to the changes of the period.”

And so just as Fritz Haller designed a space colony to help him think more clearly about terrestrial architectural and urban planning problems, so did László Moholy-Nagy consider that creating an artificially challenging environment would help us understand and adapt to evolving technological realities.

An example of how László Moholy-Nagy understood this role and function of art can be seen is his Poly-Cinema, a “film projection space” in which several films are played at once on a curved projection surface; a concept which initially overpowers the viewer but which also challenges you to find a way to control the information flood and so bring order to the chaos. Sensing the Future features a reconstruction of a Poly-Cinema thus allowing all visitors the chance to do just that.

And at the same time understand that the issues facing László Moholy-Nagy and his contemporaries are just as relevant now as they were then: increasing and more rapid reproducibility through new media, new production processes, advertising, globalisation. László Moholy-Nagy may not have had to worry about ever new apps, 3D printing or virtual viruses; but he did have photography, film and the motor car.

Sensing the Future Lászlo Moholy-Nagy die Medien und die Künste at Bauhaus Archiv Berlin

Enjoying the mobile sculpture Floe by Erika Lincoln

In addition to helping society understand the future László Moholy-Nagy also considered how new technology could be used to help us adapt. One such consideration was his so-called “Konstruktionsorgel” – Construction Organ – a replica of which is included in the exhibition. In a 1938 presentation of the Konstruktionsorgel László Moholy-Nagy argued that because visual images would become ever more important, that communication with and via visual images would become a daily occurrence, yet because the costs of photography were prohibitively high, those without access to the tools of photography, and such experience in composing and creating graphics, would become the illiterate of the future world. Consequently technical aids were required to make access to visual composition available to all. The Konstruktionsorgel is his solution. In effect it is Photoshop. In 1938. With the images saved on punch cards. It is also a wonderful analogy for the modern situation with smartphone and mobile computer technology: those who don’t have access risk being left behind. Or at least not able to open hotel doors, book concert tickets or find out when the next train departs.

These days we are probably more likely to turn to designers for solutions to social and cultural problems, one of the more durable legacies of Bauhaus being the development of design from art via applied art. But does art still have a role to play in helping us understand our environment. Or have we moved on?

“I think art is still very important in this regard”, answers Oliver Botar unequivocally, the impetus however is on the artist to take the initiative, to understand the world around them and the nature of the changes taking place, as László Moholy-Nagy once did. “László Moholy-Nagy said that artists have to engage with all new technology, regardless of what it is”, continues Oliver Botar, “artists shouldn’t be afraid of technology and should collaborate with technicians. If artists can do it, that gives us all the courage and confidence to engage with new technology.”

To this end Sensing the Future features, in addition to paintings, sculptures, plans, installations, photographs and films by László Moholy-Nagy, contemporary works produced by contemporary artists which continue the spirit of László Moholy-Nagy’s philosophy.

A very open and clearly designed exhibition Sensing the Future not only provides an excellent introduction to László Moholy-Nagy but also helps us understand that despite how quickly we may think our current society is progressing and changing, it isn’t progressing and changing any quicker than society was for a 100 years. And consequently we can learn a lot from previous generations about adapting to new technology and new futures.

“László Moholy-Nagy felt it was very important that we controlled technology lest we be controlled by technology”, adds Oliver Botar, “That was his basic message and I feel that message is relevant today because we all feel occasionally overwhelmed”

And all occasionally get sucked into the machinery à la Charlie Chaplin.

Sensing the Future: László Moholy-Nagy, die Medien und die Künste runs at the Bauhaus Archiv, Klingelhöferstrasse 14, 10785 Berlin until Monday January 12th 2015.

Full details, including information on the accompanying fringe programme can be found at www.bauhaus.de

(smow) blog compact Bratislava Design Week Special: Transmission Lights by Studio deFORM

October 7th, 2014

At Bratislava Design Week 2014 Jakub Pollág and Václav Mlynář a.k.a. Studio deFORM re-premièred their Transmission light family; “re-premièred” because although initially created in 2012 for Prague based Kavalierglass, since earlier this year the lamp family have been part of the portfolio of another Czech glass manufacturer, Lasvit.

Constructed from a series of concentric glass structures which become ever more elongated as their diameter shrinks, the Transmission lamps present an unmistakable Art Deco aesthetic. A dangerously Art Deco aesthetic, an aesthetic that really should have us running to the hills, cursing the diseased society that bore such a creation…… However, we really quite like the Transmission family.

As with the mirrors created by deFORM for their Passionswege project with Rudolf Scheer & Söhne, the Transmission lamps have a scale and intensity that makes them impossible to ignore. Yet despite this brutal, uncompromising appearance the luminescence generated by the lamps – both the standing and hanging versions – is remarkably subtle, almost understated. Almost as if it isn’t there. Ethereal one could almost add. But certainly very pleasing.

And for us it is this contrast between expectation and result that makes the lamps so interesting.

And while admittedly not a lamp family for every room and every space, in the correct room and space the Transmission lamps are certainly a very interesting option.

Bratislava Design Week 2014 Transmission Lights Studio deFORM

Bratislava Design Week 2014: Transmission lights by Studio deFORM

Bratislava Design Week 2014 Transmission Lights Studio deFORM

Bratislava Design Week 2014: Transmission lights by Studio deFORM

Bratislava Design Week 2014 Transmission Lights Studio deFORM

Bratislava Design Week 2014: Transmission lights by Studio deFORM

(smow) blog compact: Bauhaus. The Art of the Students. Works from the Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau Collection

October 6th, 2014

Although it is probably fair to say that today Bauhaus is best remembered for its architects and designers, art played a central role in the institution’s programme.

Albeit a central role which today is often over shadowed by the legacy of those artists who taught at Bauhaus.

To rectify this situation the Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau are presenting “Bauhaus. The Art of the Student”, an exhibition which explores both Bauhaus’ importance as an art college and also looks beyond the likes of Lyonel Feininger, Paul Klee, Josef Albers or Joost Schmidt to investigate the role played by the college’s students in the development of 20th century art.

Presenting 155 works by 63 artists “Bauhaus. The Art of the Student” concentrates on the second generation of Bauhaus students – so largely those who joined or were predominately based at Dessau – and in addition to presenting works by well know Bauhaus graduates such as Max Bill, Mordecai Ardon or Marianne Brandt, also features works by less well known, but no less relevant, artists including Rudolf Ortner, Fritz Kuhr or Corona Krause.

Originally presented at the Städtischen Galerie Remscheid near Cologne, for the Dessau show the exhibition has been expanded not only by 20 new works but also a new thematic introductory section on the role of art in the Bauhaus education plan thus creating what the curators promise is the most complete and in-depth exploration of Bauhaus as an art school ever presented.

“Bauhaus. The Art of the Students. Works from the Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau Collection” runs at Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau, Gropiusallee 38, 06846 Dessau-Roßlau from Wednesday October 8th until Sunday March 1st 2015.

Bauhaus Die Kunst der Schüler Werke aus der Sammlung der Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau

Bauhaus. Die Kunst der Schüler – Werke aus der Sammlung der Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau (Image © Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau)

Budapest Design Week 2014: Design Without Borders – madeinhungary + meed

October 4th, 2014

In 2014 the exhibition “madeinhungary” celebrates its 10th anniversary. What began as a presentation of contemporary Hungarian product design hosted as part of the Budapest “Home Trend” trade fair has existed since 2013 as an independent event staged during Budapest Design Week. And has slowly evolved into a sort of annual family get together for the Budapest design community. For the 2014 edition organisers, curators and project initiators Szilvia Szigeti and Tamás Radnóti have compiled a showcase of recent works by over 40 Hungarian design studios in an exhibition that presents both a very nice mix of furniture, lighting and accessories and also ably demonstrates that young Hungarian designers share the same cosmopolitan sartorial preferences as their counterparts elsewhere in Europe. And are working on similar topics: new uses of new materials, new uses of established materials, sustainability, optimal use of room and space, challenges of a mobile, post-industrial society, private space in a public world etc, etc, etc. It is all there in a very accessible, easily viewed exhibition which nicely underscores and highlights the quality of work currently being produced in Hungary.

Budapest Design Week 2014 Design Without Borders madeinhungary meed

Budapest Design Week 2014: Design Without Borders - madeinhungary + meed

Given that 2014 marks the tenth anniversary edition the obvious question one poses while viewing the exhibition is, have things got better, easier, for Hungarian designers over the intervening decade? “No” replies Szilvia Szigeti “sadly it is the case that many of the local manufacturers have closed and so compared to ten years ago designers today have less options not only in terms of what they can produce and how but also with whom they can cooperate to develop new ideas. In terms of the quality of the ideas, the innovation and the design approach, the niveau is as good as ever, but these days many designers must make almost everything themselves with the resources that are available, and that is obviously limiting. Although one must also add that the community is very vibrant despite the fact that the situation isn’t so simple”

In addition to a lack of manufacturers two further problems beset Budapest’s product designers, or perhaps better put, two further problems combine to make the situation even less simple than it could or should be: the lack of an internal market and not being on the international radar.

“The Hungarian market is very small,  in effect it is only Budapest”, says Farkas Pongrácz from design studio Blum & Wolf, “and being a city of just two million residents even here there are only a very limited number of private customers interested in design” Consequently an important market for Budapest’s designers is contract work realised in cooperation with architects, “We, for example, as a specialist lighting studio focus on project office work and helping our network of architects find solutions for their projects.” A recent commission in this context being the use of their Möbio light in Emirates Airline’s Budapest offices. However walking round Budapest one doesn’t have the impression that there is a lot of new and/or re-development work happening in the city, the current economic and political situation in Hungary being reflected in investment and meaning that for the local designers such projects aren’t as regular or fulsome as is the case for designers in other European metropoli.

Budapest Design Week 2014 Design Without Borders madeinhungary meed

Budapest Design Week 2014: Design Without Borders - madeinhungary + meed

And so with limited possibilities to have products produced and sold at home, the obvious solution is to look abroad. Blum & Wolf, for example, have a lamp in production with Amsterdam based manufacturer Flux, and others are hoping to follow suit. Not that anyone is waiting for foreign buyers to come to Budapest.

“No you have to go to other countries, attend exhibitions and design weeks to try to get your work noticed” says András Kerékgyártó, “not many people come to Hungary looking for products or designers”. A recent graduate of first the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest and laterally the Aalto University of Art and Design Helsinki András made his international début at Milan’s Salone Satellite in 2014, and promptly found a company interested in one of his chair designs. Ironically a Hungarian company who saw András’ Milan stand profiled on an internet platform. A state of affairs that underscores the problems many Hungarian designers have being recognised at home.

András however sees a glimmer of hope, that vibrancy to which Szilvia referred, “I think there is a change slowly taking place, and for example there are three or four young fashion labels from Budapest who are establishing good international reputations, and I think in time other branches such as product design will follow.”

Obviously a show such as madeinhungary should help promote contemporary Hungarian design, promote the genuine quality that can be found in Hungary; however, it is currently only shown in Hungary. And is barely noticed by the national media.  “At the press conference today there were no journalists from the state media”, says Szilvia Szigeti, “and for an event with over 100 designers that is very disappointing” And a truly abstract situation. A comparable exhibition in Germany, the UK, Holland, Spain, anywhere, would have been guaranteed the undivided attention of the local TV and radio stations, while the local newspaper photographers would have busied themselves with composing the classic shots every newspaper editor demands from such an event. There weren’t any local press photographers at the madeinhungary 2014 preview. Given such conditions it is therefore no real surprise that a young designer such as András Kerékgyártó had to show his chair in Milan to attract the attention of a Hungarian partner.

To help raise the profile of Hungarian design Szilvia Szigeti would like to be able to present the exhibition overseas, but that is a question of funding. Which generally means in the first instance government funding through cultural institutes and similar bodies. Which is isn’t something we can imagine is especially high on the current Hungarian government’s list of priorities.

Budapest Design Week 2014 Design Without Borders madeinhungary meed

Budapest Design Week 2014: Design Without Borders - madeinhungary + meed

In addition to madeinhungary “Design Without Borders”, as the whole event is termed, is presenting two further exhibitions as part of its 2014 edition.

In 2012 Szilvia Szigeti and Tamás Radnóti premièred “meed – Meeting of Central European Designers”, a curated exhibition of works by selected young designers from the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia and whose presence raises madeinhungary from the most important presentation of contemporary Hungarian design to unquestionably one of the most inclusive presentations of contemporary East and Central European design to be staged anywhere.

While going beyond classic product design, the 2014 edition of Design without Borders is being presented for the first time in the New Budapest Gallery and to mark the occasion also plays host to an exhibition of contemporary art, antidesign and social design curated by Gábor Andrási, Ágnes Konkoly, Zsuzsanna Szegedy-Maszák and Tamás Török from the New Budapest Gallery, an exhibition which neatly compliments, expands, and in a way questions and challenges, the product design on show.

Should you be in Budapest in the coming weeks we can recommend taking time out from visiting old buildings and cheap-ish bars to view Design Without Borders and wish madeinhungary Happy Birthday!

It’s as much a gift for you as it is to them!

Design Without Borders – madeinhungary + meed runs at the New Budapest Gallery, 1093 Budapest, Fővám tér 11-12 (Bálna Budapest) until Sunday November 23rd.

Full details including further information on all featured studios can be found at madeinhungary.co.hu

Vienna Design Week 2014: Passionswege – Big-Game @ Wiener Silber Manufactur

October 3rd, 2014

For some 200 years Wiener Silber Manufactur have produced the finest silverware. Exquisite cutlery, table services, coffee pots and sugar bowls designed by both the firm’s own craftsman and also developed in co-operation with external designers: works by leading protagonists of the Wiener Werkstätte such as Josef Hoffmann or Kolo Moser being joined over the decades by designs from and by the likes of Oswald Haerdtl, Otto Prutscher, Gregor Eichinger or Claesson Koivisto Rune. Yet regardless of designer or era, all created with the same attention to the finer details of design and construction. Recent Vienna Design Week Passionswege projects have continued this tradition seeing as they have perfectly proportioned and delicately constructed projects by the likes of Charlotte Talbot or Tomás Alonso.

With their 2014 Passionswege project Lausanne based design studio Big-Game, have put an end to this traditional focus on the finer elements of the silversmith’s craft; yet with a product that exactly because it pushes ideas about what fine silverware is enhances the Wiener Silber Manufactur portfolio much more than it contradicts.

Taking their inspiration from Oswald Haerdtl’s 1952 Martelé Bowl, and for all the way the silversmiths carefully hammer the form, Big-Game have designed a table/desk lamp which despite its delicate handwork providence presents a very rough and ready industrial charm.

With a lamp shade resembling a well travelled and well used gold panner’s pan the magic of the object is the way it utilises the reflective properties of silver to create a lamp which illuminates via indirect light: an LED shines onto the inner surface of the shade from below, and the light radiates out into the surrounding space. A tilt mechanism allowing the direction of illumination to be changed depending on required mood.

The charm of the design is that it leaves the silver unadulterated, makes use of the material, its properties and its emotional associations without asking it to actively participate in the object. One can enjoy it for the high quality handmade silver bowl it is.

Owing to the nature of the presentation in the immaculately illuminated Wiener Silber Manufactur showroom it is however difficult to judge just how the illumination comes across. How “good” it is. We assume however its good.

Less good is the lamps metal base. We like the contrast, like the industrial aesthetic, like the way it looks like the silver shade has been lazily clipped onto some pre-existing structure: just think it looks a little tooooo clunky, less like a carefully designed feature and more a quick fix. As if the design process hasn’t quite run its course, hasn’t yet found a material and scale it is happy with.

But as ever, what do we know.

And regardless of such considerations the lamp is not only a very good Passionswege project but a fascinating object for which we can see a great deal of potential.

Vienna Design Week 2014 Passionswege Big-Game Wiener Silber Manufactur

Vienna Design Week 2014: Passionswege - Big-Game @ Wiener Silber Manufactur

Vienna Design Week 2014 Passionswege Big-Game Wiener Silber Manufactur

Vienna Design Week 2014: Passionswege - Big-Game @ Wiener Silber Manufactur

Vienna Design Week 2014 Passionswege Big-Game Wiener Silber Manufactur

Vienna Design Week 2014: Passionswege - Big-Game @ Wiener Silber Manufactur

(smow) blog compact Bratislava Design Week Special: Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava Studio of Industrial Design

October 3rd, 2014

Having announced in our introductory Bratislava Design Week post that we are in favour of a global network of regional design weeks that focus on local designers, we did of course start our coverage of Bratislava Design Week 2014 with a product designed by a Swiss designer and manufactured by an Austrian company.

In our defence Fidelio by Christian Spiess was being displayed as part of the exhibition “Work is all around” and as such was in Bratislava because curators Lubica Husta and Viera Kleinova felt it fitted in with the exhibition’s theme. And not because either Christian Spiess or manufacturer Hubert Feldkircher had booked a stand.

Bratislava Design Week 2014 did however, naturally, also feature a lot of native talent, including a very nice showcase by students of the Bratislava Academy of Fine Arts and Design’s so-called “Studio of Industrial Design”

Bratislava Design Week 2014 Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava Studio of Industrial Desig

Bratislava Design Week 2014: Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava Studio of Industrial Design

Realised in conjunction with Czech Republic manufacturer TON the project, if we correctly understood it, asked students to develop new chair designs using bentwood rods, and three chairs in particular appealed to us.

The Splita Chair by Eduard Herman takes chair construction with bentwood rods to the extremes of material frugality, employing as it does a lovely and deceptively simple wood splitting technique to create a backrest  and four legs from one wooden rod. And in doing so creates a chair with a delightfully familiar yet fresh form. Our principle concern is the question of the load bearing capacity and durability of the structure; however, one shouldn’t forget we are dealing here with student prototypes and that should there be any problems further development will solve them. Hopefully.

Bratislava Design Week 2014 Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava Studio of Industrial Design Splita Chair Eduard Herman

Bratislava Design Week 2014: Splita Chair by Eduard Herman

Although Michael Thonet did develop and produce a large number of rocking chair designs, as far as we are aware they are all relatively ornate pieces and we can’t recall anything quite as charmingly reduced as that created by Vlasta Kubušová. Although not a “proper” rocking chair in the biblical sense, the chair does have enough of a curve at the front and back to allow a little bit of movement. And obviously it would be very interesting to see how far one could push the design and if one could create a “full rocker”. We’re less convinced by the quadratic seat, for us that needs a little bit of rethought, but on the whole a very satisfying concept.

Jozef Minarik’s design also needs a new seat, urgently, one that does justice to the weightless, volumeless, form language his design bestows the chair. As with Spilta Chair we’re not convinced that the joint will withstand long-term use, but as with Eduard Herman’s design we understand that we are dealing here with a student project prototype and hope that further development will prove our fears ungrounded.

We’ll keep you updated.

Bratislava Design Week 2014 Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava Studio of Industrial Design Vlasta Kubušová

Bratislava Design Week 2014: A chair by Vlasta Kubušová

Bratislava Design Week 2014 Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava Studio of Industrial Design Jozef Minarik

Bratislava Design Week 2014: A chair by Jozef Minarik