(smow) blog compact Dutch Design Week Special: Sectie C

October 20th, 2014

Proving that Eindhoven is full of old factories, but that they are not necessarily all former Philips factories, Sectie C is a former industrial estate on the eastern edge of Eindhoven that has become home to a, seemingly, thriving community of creatives.

Featuring a nice mix of creative genres and small businesses Sectie C’s real charm is the way the tenants have colonised the available space just as vegetation does in derelict industrial estates: offices constructed under the rafters like post-industrial tree-houses, or where interior walls exist these have been built by the tenants themselves with a mix of materials and according to a floor plan based on need not geometry.

And one of the joys of Dutch Design Week is that the designers open their studios, workshops and spaces and invite visitors to have a look and learn a little more about what they do and why.

At most deign weeks “Open Studios” are a special programme section where if you happen to be in town on that day and have time you can visit a designer in their studio. In Eindhoven, in general, the idea of the Open Studio is a central component of the Dutch Design Week philosophy, and that is especially the case at Sectie C.

Which is one of those things that makes Dutch Design Week not only such a pleasure to visit but makes the event a lot more agreeable and more sympathetic than other design weeks.

We don’t like all the work that is produced at Sectie C, not by a long shot, but some of it; and in the next few days we will bring you a few of those projects and designers who particularly caught our attention this year.

But for now a few impressions from Sectie C at Dutch Design Week 2014.

Grassimesse Leipzig 2014

October 20th, 2014

Time was when Leipzig hosted two fayres per year, one at Easter and one at Michaelmas.

The Easter Fair has since given way to a grotesque faux middle ages market. And no we’re not using grotesque as a synonym for the pains and discomforts of the middle ages as reflected in the stalls, shows and characters who compose the market experience. We mean its painful and uncomfortable.

The Michaelmas Fair however has evolved much more agreeably and is now ably represented by the annual Grassimesse.

Established in 1920 by Richard Graul, the then director of the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig, the Grassimesse was intended as a platform for craftsmen and which for all should underscore the difference between the products of traditional handicrafts and the mass market products being presented at the Leipzig autumn trade fair.

In the intervening nine decades the Leipzig autumn trade fair has ceased to be but the Grassimesse has gone on to establish itself as one of the premier trade fairs for handicrafts in Central Europe.

For the 2014 Grassimesse some 110 artists, craftsmen and designers will present a range of objects across genres as varied as, for example, jewellery, furniture, and toys.

All hand made. All self made. All for sale

In addition Grassimesse 2014 features a special exhibition focus on design for children, including a presentation of the nominated projects from the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts “Grassi für Kinder” competition which sought ideas on how to make the museum more accessible for younger visitors, and will also present works from silver and goldsmith students at the Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaft und Kunst Hildesheim, the Akademie der Bildenden Künste Nürnberg and the Hochschule Wismar.

Grassimesse 2014 runs at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig, Johannisplatz 5-11, 04103 Leipzig from Friday October 24th until Sunday October 26th

Full details can be found at http://grassimesse.de

Grassimesse Leipzig 2014

(smow) blog compact Dutch Design Week Special: Blumenampel Edition by Zascho Petkow and Birgit Severin for Atelier Haussmann

October 19th, 2014

It is very rare that one comes across an object where a manufacturer has combined two independently developed products into one.

And even rarer that we like such an object.

Our natural resistance reaction is to say, No. No. Not on our watch. Begone.

We were however instantly taken with the so-called Blumenampel Edition by Zascho Petkow and Birgit Severin for Berlin based Atelier Haussmann.

Possibly because initially we didn’t know its providence. That only became clear in conversation with Birgit Severin.

The Blumenampel is a hanging “room object” created by Berlin based designer Zascho Petkow. In the standard version Blumenampel comes with a plastic vase, and is thus perfectly suited for use as a hanging basket “room object.” Or indeed as a hanging vase “room object.”

In the “Edition” Blumenampel is paired with an Ashes II vase by Birgit Severin, in effect a special edition of the Ashes project which featured in Birgit Severin’s solo exhibition Lifetimes at the DMY Design Gallery Berlin.

To be honest we spent quite along time considering if the use of Ashes II in the composition was sensible. If it was, perhaps, a waste of an object that is more than capable of existing in its own right.

Before deciding the two pieces work together perfectly. Which is of course why we didn’t realise it was two projects in one.

Blumenampel exudes a certain Victorian, pre-industrial romantic that is typical of much of Atelier Haussmann’s portfolio.

The Ashes II vase adds a certain gravitas, a character, that makes the composition grave enough to be endearing.

Its not a happy object. But is a friendly, honest and for all welcoming work. Like a dour Victorian vicar.

This dark character then serving to perfectly highlight the colour, beauty and individual form of whatever vegetation one chooses to place in the vase. Industrial juxtapositioned with natural in an easy, unforced manner.

We’ve never seen the standard Blumenampel and so cannot comment on the comparison, but we are certainly very taken with the “Edition.”

In addition to the Blumenampel Edition Birgit Severin is also showing vases from the original Ashes series, a new jewellery collection created via the same process, objects from the series of rubber coated porcelain as presented at Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus, Oranienbaum this summer past and a very poetic candle snuffer whose name we sadly/stupidly forgot to note. But will chase up.

Should you be in Eindhoven Birgit Severin can be found in Schellensfabriek, Vestdijk 280, a.k.a. Venue 63.

Dutch Design Week 2014 Blumenampel Edition Zascho Petkow Birgit Severin Atelier Haussmann 100

Dutch Design Week Special: Blumenampel Edition by Zascho Petkow and Birgit Severin for Atelier Haussmann

Dutch Design Week 2014 Birgit Severin

Ashes by Birgit Severin, as seen at Dutch Design Week 2014

Dutch Design Week 2014 Birgit Severin

Candle snuffer by Birgit Severin, as seen at Dutch Design Week 2014

Dutch Design Week 2014 Birgit Severin

Rubber coated porcelain by Birgit Severin, as seen at Dutch Design Week 2014

(smow) blog compact Dutch Design Week Special: Lumist by Teresa van Dongen

October 19th, 2014

In 1951 the German designer Wilhelm Wagenfeld created a glass punch bowl for Württembergische Metallwarenfabrik, WMF: the clou of which is a glass tube which passes through the lid and down to the bottom of the bowl. The ideas being to fill this tube with ice, when the ice, inevitably, melts the resulting water remains separate from the punch, can be thrown away and replaced with fresh ice.
Thus ensuring your punch remains chilled, and unadulterated, until the last drop.

A revolution in its time and painfully obvious, well thought through concept in a genuinely charmingly, well crafted object.

We were greatly reminded of Wagenfeld ‘s punch bowl when we saw Lumist by Teresa van Dongen at the Design Academy Eindhoven 2014 graduate show.

In short Lumist uses the heat produced by a halogen light bulb to heat water, generate steam and so create a combination humidifier-cum-lamp.

In the photo below the humidifier is the narrower tube, the larger, wider bowl is the reservoir from which the humidifier tube is filled.

Obviously we’ve not tested Lumist, only seen it on display, but find the idea simply delightful, not least because Teresa has packaged it in such a charming, understated yet self-confident glass and metal structure,thus giving you,in effect three objects in one: lamp, humidifier and a room sculpture which is just as dignified and elegant when not in service as when in.

In addition what really attracted us to Lumist was the alternative uses for such a concept: one needn’t remain at heating water for steam. Small amounts of controllable heat are needed for all manner of operations, consequently we are sure that if she wants Teresa could easily develop the idea further into a nice range of objects.

Ideally all with the same easy grace.

Dutch Design Week Design Academy Eindhoven Graduation 2014 Lumist Teresa van Dongen

Lumist by Teresa van Dongen, as seen at Design Academy Eindhoven - Graduation 2014

(smow) blog compact Budapest Design Week Special: Lola Women’s Boudoir by Helena Dařbujánová

October 19th, 2014

Ever since Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec released their Alcove Sofa for Vitra in 2006 ever more furniture objects have appeared on the market which promise the owner the opportunity to create flexible room partition solutions. To create rooms within rooms and provide a place in which to separate yourself from a home that is becoming ever more an office. To find safety in the midst of the unending data, information and sensory flood. Or just amongst the kid’s mess.

And with very few exceptions, apart from Ronan and Erwan’s original all have been soulless, characterless and singularly uninspiring.

Lola Women’s Boudoir by Prague based designer and architect Helena Dařbujánová is anything but.

Presented as part of the “meed – Meeting of Central European Designers” exhibition at Budapest Design Week Lola Women’s Boudoir has all the controlled conservative sylvan charm of a rural Victorian cottage. Albeit with an uncompromising 1950s bus station aesthetic.

Yes. That does make sense.

What makes less sense, at least to us, is the fact that Helena Dařbujánová positions Lola Women’s Boudoir as a life long companion, as a place to play and worry in as a child, to relax and unwind as a growing adult and finally to find peace and reflection as a senior citizen….. but only for women.

?

Or better put.

????

We know many women who feel at home in their garages tinkering with their cars and building model sailing boats; and we also know many men who like nothing better than curling up with a good novel and a cup of green tea. Some even in the company of a cat. And some who even shed a soft tear when the novel gets sad and starts to mirror their own hopeless downward social trajectory.

So no, we’re not having any of this gender politics nonsense.

What particularly attracts us to the object is the fragility of the work; the moulded plywood frame and stainless steel legs confer the work a vulnerability that belies its robust and sturdy construction. This feeling of exposure also contrasting nicely with the textile arguments most “escape booths” employ to temp us in.

And we know we’d feel more comfortable in Lola Women’s Boudoir than in most of the padded textile options on the market. There is a certain reassurance in its honesty. You simply trust it. And trust protects better than padding. And certainly more durably.

Thus in addition to the obvious domestic and office uses, we can also well imagine Lola Women’s Boudoir working perfectly in any café, hotel lobby, or wherever people meet for a long heart-to-heart and a shared piece of cake.

Or indeed any 1950s bus station.

Budapest Design Week 2014 Lola Women’s Boudoir by Helena Darbujánová

Budapest Design Week 2014: Lola Women’s Boudoir by Helena Darbujánová

Budapest Design Week 2014 Lola Women’s Boudoir by Helena Darbujánová

Budapest Design Week 2014: Lola Women’s Boudoir by Helena Darbujánová

(smow) blog compact Dutch Design Week Special: Design Academy Eindhoven – Graduation 2014

October 18th, 2014

Despite what popular myth may have you believe, the Design Academy Eindhoven is not alone responsible for Eindhoven’s current status as one of the most important design city’s in Europe.

But love it or loath it there is no getting away from the Design Academy’s influence on the development of contemporary European design. And so of course on Eindhoven’s current status as one of the most important design city’s in Europe.

Consequently the annual Design Academy Graduate Show is one of the high-points of the Eindhoven cultural and social year.
And culinary year, if we may be allowed to briefly digress to express our delight and thanks for the excellent pastries at the opening this morning. Believe it was some sort of pistachio cream filling. Regardless, well done to all concerned.

The students projects were, on the whole, less satisfying.

A lot of the projects appeared to be concerned with smell in various contexts. As if the consensus of opinion in Eindhoven is that public, private, commercial and industrial spaces can be no further improved tactilely, visually or acoustically and so its time to turn design’s attentions to the olfactory nerve.

Nothing against that, and we’re certainly looking forward to seeing what emerges.

However on the whole a lot of the projects seemed to be “coasting”. Were fine. Good and competent. But nothing special.

Naturally there was one the other exception. Projects that appealed to us as being particularly special and offering something genuinely interesting.

In the coming days we will bring you a selection of those we particularly enjoyed, but for now some impressions of the Design Academy Eindhoven 2014 graduation show.

(smow) blog compact Vienna Design Week Special: Servant by Katharina Wernig

October 18th, 2014

At an otherwise disappointing presentation of projects by students from the TU Graz Institute of Spatial Design during Vienna Design Week, a genuine stand out project was the valet Servant by Katharina Wernig.

Brazenly contradicting the position we took with Fidelio by Christian Spiess that a chair is the most natural form for a valet, Katharina Wernig has opted instead for a side table-cum-valet.

Or at least side table-cum-semi-valet.

For while in our book a valet must include an option for draping a jacket or a shirt around, Servant only offers space to hang things from and/or over.

Not that that in any way detracts from the quality of the work.

Presenting an excellently reduced, unassuming form Servant is the valet for those who don’t want valet. Who would otherwise use a chair to hang their clothes over at the end of the day. Or leave them lying on the floor. The simple retractable bar at the font of Servant can be pulled out when required. Or left integral in the body of the object when not. The table top meanwhile offers the perfect place for laying down keys, loose change, phones or unrequested bills, the small interior compartment is perfect for gloves, scarves, dog leads or unrequested bills, while, and perhaps most delightful of all, you can store shoes under it thus keeping them neatly out the way.

An unashamedly obvious contemporary form language and easy, accessible functionality complete a genuinely delightful piece of work.

Vienna Design Week 2014 Servant by Katharina Wernig

Vienna Design Week 2014: Servant by Katharina Wernig

Vienna Design Week 2014 Servant by Katharina Wernig

Vienna Design Week 2014: Servant by Katharina Wernig

Schrill Bizarr Brachial. Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre at the Bröhan Museum Berlin

October 17th, 2014

“Marcel Breuer seeing a pair of bicycle handle-bars decided to make chairs using the same industrial process. The new world constructor seeing a pair of bicycle handle-bars decides to use them as they are and save himself the trouble and expense of bending the tube.”1

So articulated Jasper Morrison in his 1984 text “The Poet will not Polish” not only the theoretical background to his Handlebar Table, but much more the frustration and alienation being felt at that time by a young generation of European artists, architects and designers to and with the existing systems and the accepted cultural norms. A lack of faith if you will in industrial society’s ability to provide that what the population actually needed and wanted. And that the functionalists were largely to blame for the current unhappy state of affairs.

Morrison’s text appeared in the catalogue to the exhibition Kaufhaus des Ostens – Department Store of the East – an exhibition organised by Joachim Stanitzek and Andreas Brandolini, ably assisted by Jasper Morrison, and which presented works by students from the Hochschule der Künste Berlin. Kaufhaus des Ostens arose from a project in which students were asked to create furniture and/or household objects from items available at the local building centre; the idea being to stick two fingers up to the industrial producers by designing without designing, to take industry’s carefully created products and give them a new, alien, function. The rules for the students were simple: they could spend a maximum of 100DM and had one week to complete the project. Although essentially nothing more spectacular than the presentation of a student project, Kaufhaus des Ostens had a second, ulterior, motive, one which touched a creative nerve: the subtitle of the project takes the “KdO” abbreviation of Kaufhaus des Ostens to create “Kampf der Ohnmacht” – fight the impotence – and thus can be understood as a call to reject the status quo, to explore new ways producing, of living, of understanding the world around you. Consequently Kaufhaus des Ostens was one of the defining moments in the so called Neue Deutsche Design – New German Design – movement of the 1980s. Italy had the Memphis group of Ettore Sottsass, Michele de Lucchi, Alessandro Mendini et al fighting post modernism’s corner. Germany had Kaufhaus des Ostens, Möbel perdu, Bellefast, Kunstflug et al. And the Bröhan Museum in Berlin is currently celebrating these radical young things and their contribution to the history of German design with the exhibition “Schrill Bizarr Brachial. Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre” [Fancy Bizarre Brutal. New German Design of the 1980s]

Schrill Bizarr Brachial Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre Bröhan Museum Berlin

Schrill Bizarr Brachial. Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre at the Bröhan Museum Berlin

The first exhibit one sees on entering Schrill Bizarr Brachial is Morrison’s Handlebar Table, presented as part of a display devoted to Kaufhaus des Ostens. Jasper Morrison himself was not technically a student at the Hochschule der Künste in 1984, was however in Berlin, was very friendly with Andreas Brandolini and so was invited not only to participate, but to co-curate the exhibition. Similarly, Morrison had already created his Handlebar Table in 1983 and had, in effect, brought it with him as part of his luggage to Berlin; however, as it fitted with the philosophy of the exhibition he was allowed to present it. In addition to the Handlebar Table Morrison also contributed other projects to Kaufhaus des Ostens, projects which did meet the rules including “Directional Lamp with small table”, essentially a light bulb in a plastic filter funnel on a metal stand, and an object which can enjoyed in all its perverse yet persuasive glory in the Bröhan Museum. Further Kaufhaus des Ostens projects featured in Schrill Bizarr Brachial include John H. Hirschberg’s sideboard made from brick layer’s trowels, Axel Stumpf’s axe and glass coffee table Kumpel II and Bettina Wiegandt and Manuel Pfahl’s sheet zinc stool and side table.

The decision to, in effect, open the exhibition with Kaufhaus des Ostens is deliberate: Kaufhaus des Ostens is in many ways the inspiration for Schrill Bizarr Brachial. Not only did the show première in Berlin thirty years ago, but was last presented in 1985 in the building that now houses the Bröhan Museum, albeit in the then resident Werkbundarchiv.

That the Bröhan Museum is the Berlin State Museum for Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Functionalism one could see a slight contradiction in the institution presenting an exhibition devoted to Neue Deutsche Design; museum director and exhibition curator Tobias Hoffmann doesn’t, “I want to use our special exhibitions to further expand our classic focus, that is present exhibitions that perhaps lie outwith our core period of 1890 and 1940, yet exhibitions which have a connection to our classic themes,” explains Dr Hoffmann, “and this exhibition has two connections. Firstly the local connection, and secondly from an artistic aspect the objects shown here repeat what Art Nouveau stood for, namely searching for creative freedom, to create objects which can remain as one-offs, to not always think about serial production, about industrial production. This longing for the industrial production plays a central role in history of German design, be that with Bauhaus, with the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm or with gute Form. And with both Art Nouveau and the Neue Deutsche Design we break completely from this thinking.”

To demonstrate this search for a brave, new future Schrill Bizarr Brachial presents, in addition to Kaufhaus des Ostens, collections of works by key protagonists of the era, including, for example, the Berlin based Bellefast collective of Andreas Brandolini, Joachim Stanitzek and Max Moormann, or Pentagon from Cologne featuring Wolfgang Laubersheimer, Reinhard Müller and Ralph Sommer, in addition to individual designers and artists such as Axel Kufus, Volker Albus or Siegfried Michail Syniuga. In addition the exhibition recreates Andreas Brandolini’s 1987 “Deutsche Wohnzimmer” – German Living Room – installation from the Documenta 8 art festival and presents an original ensemble from Hamburg Galerie Möbel perdu – including a video of the opening of the 1982 exhibition “Möbel perdu – Schöneres Wohnen”, an exhibition that is generally considered to mark the “awakening” of Neue Deutsche Design as a tangible, definable movement.

Schrill Bizarr Brachial Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre Bröhan Museum Berlin

Schrill Bizarr Brachial. Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre at the Bröhan Museum Berlin

What Schrill Bizarr Brachial makes very clear is not only was Neue Deutsche Design a geographically diverse movement, but in no way was it a movement defined by a unified style or approach. Everyone was doing their own thing, some with a more artistic approach, some more design, but all looking in the same direction and all with the same ideals and fervour. A state of affairs that had its origins in the way the movement came together and organic way it evolved. “The protagonists generally began independently from one another, often without even being aware of one another”, explains Tobias Hoffmann, “but after the first exhibitions they very quickly became aware of one another and then started to cooperate, staged joint exhibitions and attempted to help one another”

A situation that almost perfectly describes the path taken by the artist known as Stiletto Studios. Stiletto moved to Berlin in 1980 and after initial experimentation with photography and film moved on to furniture. With his 1983 Consumer’s Rest Lounge Chair Stiletto created one of the true pin up pieces of the era, a work which attracted a lot of media attention thus helping others find publicity and a work which has since gone on to be included in the permanent collection of numerous leading design museums including the Vitra Design Museum, the V&A London, and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York.

“Shortly after I moved to Berlin I realised that I couldn’t see myself as a regular worker in the industrial society, realised my studies were the wrong choice and so I made a radical cut, ditched everything and submerged myself in the Berlin post punk world. As often as I could afford it I would go to the club Jungle which was where all the Berlin subcultures met, also the designers an artists.”, explains Stiletto, “Initially I had nothing to do with design, didn’t know anything about any scene and certainly wasn’t aware that there were people exploring design with an artistic, critical or analytical approach. However that quickly changed, I made ever more contacts, and became more involved. My first works were produced in 1981, but it was 1982 before I started working conscientiously, and there then followed a period of one maybe one and half years where I worked very intensely in context of design, for example with readymade, bricolage and similar concepts”

And it is fortunate that he was there when he was, for just as quickly as it rose, so vanished Neue Deutsche Design. “The exhibition “Wohnen von Sinnen” in Düsseldorf in 1986 was the grandiose highpoint, the biggest and most important exhibition and then very quickly afterwards it cooled and became much weaker.” says Dr Hoffmann. The reasons why are probably as numerous as the protagonists, but ultimately the final death knell fell with the Berlin Wall in 1989 and subsequent German unification. The resultant social, political and cultural changes creating new conditions, new challenges, new realities, new associations and a need for new responses.

Schrill Bizarr Brachial Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre Bröhan Museum Berlin Stiletto Studios Consumer's Rest

Consumer's Rest by Stiletto Studios

Given the divergent nature of the protagonists, the fact that Neue Deutsche Design effectively lasted less than a decade and the social and cultural changes that have occurred since the 1980s, the one question that dominates your thoughts as you view Schrill Bizarr Brachial is, can one speak of a legacy? “Formally there are very few connections that can be made”, answers Tobias Hoffmann, “however, in terms of content definitely. When one, for example, looks at the current maker scene, especially here in Berlin, that is exactly what began in the 1980s, this idea of taking things in your own hands, establishing small galleries and generally taking control over the design, production and distribution processes.” But Neue Deutsche Design survives in other ways: in more open, experimental relationships with materials, the ill advised readymades which blight so many an otherwise good design exhibition, and also in a number of newer furniture producers who took up many of the ideals of the time and have absorbed them into the company philosophy. Whereas a company such as Cappellini in their current form can be understood as a direct consequence of Memphis and the cultural upheavals in 1980s Italy, so to can a manufacturer such as Nils Holger Moormann be seen and understood in context of the experiences of Neue Deutsche Design, and more recently Pulpo, a company who for us make decisions based on emotional gut feelings as much as any considered commercial interest.

But for us the most lasting, most durable, and perhaps also most important influence of Neue Deutsche Design is to be found in the German design education system: Axel Kufus and Inge Sommer at the Universität der Künste Berlin, Volker Albus at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe, Ralph Sommer at the HFBK Hamburg, Wolfgang Laubersheimer at the Köln International School of Design and Jörg Hundertpfund at the FH Potsdam, amongst others, all coming from Neue Deutsche Design. And all who not only attempt to install a principle of experimental free thinking in their students but who approach their teaching work now with the same panache and passion as their design work then.

An excellently designed and constructed exhibition Schrill Bizarr Brachial mixes design objects with film, photography and short texts to present a very open and accessible introduction to a period in German design history that was perhaps more fun to be part of than to look back on, which definitely missed its aim of destroying the established design traditions, but which did usher in a new approach to design thinking and opened new possibilities for design, made design something that was culturally relevant and not just commercially important, and for which we should all be thankful.

As such for all wanting to understand 20th century German design beyond Bauhaus, Dieter Rams and Egon Eiermann it is an exhibition well worth visiting.

Schrill Bizarr Brachial. Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre runs at the Bröhan Museum until Sunday February 1st.

The exhibition texts are – almost – all bilingual German/English and full details, including information on the accompanying fringe programme, can be found at www.broehan-museum.de

1.Kaufhaus des Ostens, Catalogue, c kdo + verlag zweitschrift, Hannover 1984

(smow) blog compact Budapest Design Week Special: Cardboard Room Divider by János Terbe

October 16th, 2014

Much like crisps, cardboard furniture is something with which we have a very troubled relationship.

However whereas with crisps the problem is saying no: with cardboard furniture it is saying yes.

We know that cardboard furniture makes sense, or at least can make sense. We even once developed our own cardboard chair, the (smow) chair

But most cardboard furniture simply doesn’t appeal to us. There is invariably something about the form, the construction or a pig ugly aesthetic we simply cannot get our heads around.

Not always though, and very occasionally we come across an item of cardboard furniture which genuinely fascinates us.

Such as in the case of a sadly otherwise unnamed room divider created by János Terbe aka Karton Design which we saw at madeinhungary during Budapest Design Week.

An essentially very simple design, the clou with the room divider is the small slithers of glass spread throughout the cardboard.

At first we didn’t realise it was glass. We thought it was gaps. Which for us is all the evidence we need to understand that the glass slithers open up the design, create an object that allows physical division without getting defensive about it. Keeps the room open despite offering closure. And because glass refracts light, as you move through a room your perception of the divider and its effect vary; thus transforming a passive piece of furniture into an active component of a room.

All in all an excellent example of simple yet effective furniture design.

We’re not going to claim to be big fans of everything that János Terbe and Karton Design produce. We’re not. But we are of the cardboard room divider.

Now where did we put those crisps………………………………………..

Budapest Design Week madeinhungary 2014 Cardboard Room Divider János Terbe Karton Design

Cardboard Room Divider by János Terbe, as seen at madeinhungary 2014

Budapest Design Week madeinhungary 2014 Cardboard Room Divider János Terbe Karton Design

Cardboard Room Divider by János Terbe, as seen at madeinhungary 2014

Budapest Design Week madeinhungary 2014 Cardboard Room Divider János Terbe Karton Design

Cardboard Room Divider by János Terbe, as seen at madeinhungary 2014

(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