Direktorenhaus Berlin: Summer Break VA / Neue Arbeiten

July 7th, 2014

As if to help underscore the assertion in our “5 New Design Exhibitions for July 2014” Post that July and August tend to be quiet months in terms of design and architecture exhibitions because near everyone is on holiday, Berlin’s Direktorenhaus Gallery have titled their 2014 summer exhibition “Summer Break VA”. The VA being shorthand for “various artists”.

“We’re not here” they seem to be saying, “but if we were here, these are the sort of delights you could enjoy”

Direktorenhaus Berlin Summer Break VA Neue Arbeiten Mark Braun Fortune

Fortune by Mark Braun, as seen at Summer Break VA / Neue Arbeiten, Direktorenhaus Berlin

Established in 2010 Direktorenhaus Berlin is, predominately, a location for contemporary art – the owners also being responsible for the annual Illustrative Festival of illustration and graphic art. However, despite their more artistic focus over the years the Direktorenhaus has curated numerous exhibitions devoted to contemporary product designers, perhaps most notably Vienna based studio Vandasye or the young British designer Benjamin Hubert, in addition to the 2012 exhibition Handmade in Germany which presented objects by 30 designers and manufacturers whose work, in the curators opinion, not only reflects a high-quality of craftsmanship but a commitment to traditional production methods and of small(er) scale production over mass market.

Handmade in Germany also presents the context of Summer Break VA / Neue Arbeiten.

More or less.

This coming autumn Handmade in Germany will be presented in St Petersberg as the first stage of a two year global tour. By way of a convivial “Bon Voyage”, or perhaps better out “Счастливого пути”, the Direktorenhaus Berlin are showcasing selected works by eight young(ish) German product design studios who although not included in the Handmade in Germany exhibition compliment the showcase’s focus in that their work, largely, demonstrates a commitment to finding contemporary applications for traditional production process and reinterpretations of traditional forms and practices

Direktorenhaus Berlin Summer Break VA Neue Arbeiten Rejon Armchair Valter

Rejon Armchair & Valter shelving system, as seen at Summer Break VA / Neue Arbeiten, Direktorenhaus Berlin

Although presenting eight design studios, the lion’s share of the exhibition space is given over to Potsdam based Rejon.

A decision with which we have no problem.

We can’t remember exactly when we were first introduced to Rejon’s work, suspect it was in context of a Fachhochschule Potsdam student show; we are however certain that since we first saw the work we have been fascinated by the studio’s output. Characterised by an almost brutalist clarity of form and material Rejon’s work has a lightness, naturalness and easy accessibility that makes it very difficult to resist. In addition, with objects such as the “table lamp” or the “plant pot table” Rejon offer products that present new perspectives on domestic furniture and so open new possibilities for the organisation of our living spaces.

For all unfamiliar with Rejon Summer Break VA / Neue Arbeiten is an excellent starting point.

Aside from Rejon Summer Break VA features works by Florian Schmid, Daniel Becker, Maria Bruun, Rimma Tchilingarian and established (smow) blog favourites Uli Budde, Karoline Fesser and Mark Braun. The furniture and accessories being wonderfully supported by painting and illustrations by Berlin based artist Martin Haake.

Despite the implication in the exhibition title not all the works on show are especially new, one or the other is in truth very old, but what links them is not only their use of craft but much more their deeper significance. At first glance all objects appear to be very simple works created for their visual charm alone; a deeper look however reveals objects that in their genesis, functionality or production process represent an attempt on the designer’s part to focus attention on aspects of our contemporary lifestyles, consumption patterns and/or resource use.

Mark Braun’s Fortune carafes, for example, being unashamedly luxury items, but luxury items that force the owner to reflect on the fact that water is increasingly becoming a luxury item; Mirror Mirror by Maria Bruun extending a mirrors traditional field of vision in the hope of encouraging us all to do the same; while Rejon with their focus on close co-operations with local craftsman proving that all often the best really is to be found on your own doorstep.

Direktorenhaus Berlin Summer Break VA Neue Arbeiten C58 dressing table Florian Schmid All Wood Stool Karoline Fesser

Carla by Florian Schmid - available through Zeitraum - and All Wood Stool by Karoline Fesser, as seen at Summer Break VA / Neue Arbeiten, Direktorenhaus Berlin

Almost the perfect summer design exhibition – not especially extensive nor taxing and staged in a space almost as impressive as the works on display – Summer Break VA / Neue Arbeiten is more about allowing the selected designers to present a visiting card, their credentials, than it is about any in-depth exploration of contemporary design per se

Which is fine. And for us the point of such group exhibitions.

The only slight problem for us is that as with all exhibitions in the Direktorenhaus Berlin viewing is by advance appointment only. We understand why that is, but just feel that for such a light summer exhibition one could have found a lighter, more summery, solution.

Summer Break VA / Neue Arbeiten runs until Wednesday July 30th at Direktorenhaus Berlin, Am Krögel 2  10179 Berlin.

Full details and contact information for arranging a visit can be found at www.direktorenhaus.com

(smow) blog compact: It takes more than one by mischer’traxler at Design Miami Basel 2014

July 5th, 2014

When we met up with Katharina Mischer and Thomas Traxler aka mischer’traxler ahead of the exhibition Castling. Designers meet the collection at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden, we also briefly discussed their “It takes more than one” project which was presented at Design Miami Basel 2014 by Victor Hunt Designart Dealer.

Created in context of the studio’s tenure as the 2011 “W-Hotels Designer of the future”, It takes more than one is a mirror that requires two people for it to function.

And as such is a reminder, if not a warning, for our increasingly narcissistic modern society that self-reflection is a process that requires external input. Despite an all-encompassing belief to the contrary, as an individual you cannot develop and mature by yourself. You need help. You need interaction. Need to trust people and ask for help if you want to grow.

mischer’traxler advised us that would be quite a difficult object to photograph.

They hadn’t bargained on us managing to rope in John Stam from Commonplace Studio and “Victor Hunt”* himself to help us. Or of us having loads of time on our hands.

* We sadly can no longer read our note of the galerist’s real name. Apologies! And thanks!

It takes more than one by mischer’traxler

It takes more than one by mischer’traxler at Victor Hunt Designart Dealer, Design Miami Basel 2014

It takes more than one by mischer’traxler

As Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston taught us......

It takes more than one by mischer’traxler

..... it takes two baby!

(smow) blog compact: We Traders. Tausche Krise Gegen Stadt at the Kunstraum Kreuzberg / Bethanien Berlin

July 4th, 2014

Weltstadt – Who creates the city?“, we wrote in our review of the eponymous exhibition at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum, DAZ Berlin, “is about promoting a dialogue, of encouraging discussion and for all about motivating each and every one of us to think about our own communities and our own cities and to consider what could be improved. And for all how.”

Practical examples of just how projects to achieve such could be organised and what they could, potentially, achieve can currently be studied in the exhibition We Traders. Tausche Krise Gegen Stadt – We Traders. Swapping Crisis for City -  at the Kunstraum Kreuzberg / Bethanien Berlin.

We Traders Tausche Krise Gegen Stadt at the Kunstraum Kreuzberg Bethanien Berlin

We Traders - Tausche Krise Gegen Stadt at the Kunstraum Kreuzberg / Bethanien, Berlin

The similarities between “Who creates the city” and “We Traders” is naturally no chance occurrence; We Traders is, in effect, a sub-project of Who creates the city and is funded from the same funds made available by the Goethe-Institut, the German state culture institute. Following showcases in Madrid and Turin, Berlin represents the half way point on the exhibition’s tour.

Presenting 24 projects from 5 European cities We Traders aims to show the possibilities offered by alternative, de-central initiatives while at the same time inspiring visitors to think more critically about their own town, community, environment.

And so we have, for example, the Miraorti urban gardening project in Turin, Cozinha popular da Mouraria, a collective cooking project in Lisbon that seeks to foster a closer, more integrated community or Bois & Cie in Toulouse which seeks to promote and encourage more recycling of timber and better, more environmentally and socially responsible, construction. That the exhibition is currently showing in Berlin projects from the city naturally form a central focus; specifically the urban gardening organisation Allmende-Kontor, the betahaus co-working space, Open Design City co-workshop space, the Initiative Möckernkiez which is building a communal residential district in Berlin and Rütli-Wear, a clothing company established in a Berlin school in context of an anti-stigmatisation programme.

Despite the relatively limited space available in the Kunstraum Kreuzberg / Bethanien the intelligent exhibition design concept from Berlin based designer Alex Vader allows for an easy to follow, accessible and for all entertaining exhibition.

Yes there is a lot of voting to be done on the way round and opinions to be expressed, but then given that most of the projects set very loud “plenum” alarm bells ringing, that is probably to be expected.

And doesn’t in any way distract from the enjoyment.

Not least because, and unlike your average plenum, you don’t have to participate. Or indeed spend the first two hours of a half hour meeting discussing if you can begin or not.

Probably more important than the exhibition however is the fringe programme of workshops, presentations and discussion by and in context of the 24 featured initiatives and We Traders’ wider foci. More or less every day of the exhibition’s six week stay in Berlin sees some form of event.

We Traders Tausche Krise Gegen Stadt at the Kunstraum Kreuzberg Bethanien Berlin

We Traders - Tausche Krise Gegen Stadt at the Kunstraum Kreuzberg / Bethanien, Berlin

The background to We Traders is relatively simple: the effects of the financial crises in Europe have focussed attention on the need to analyse our existing social, cultural and economic models while at the same time looking for possible alternative structures, different ways of organising ourselves, to ensure a more resilient society and so avoid the problems currently being experienced in many regions of Europe.

Not all featured projects represent new ideas. The context in which they are being tested is however new. And that is what makes them, and the exhibition, so interesting and worth exploring. As with Who creates the city, you won’t like all the projects nor agree with all the positions. But they are all worth getting to know.

We Traders. Tausche Krise Gegen Stadt runs at the Kunstraum Kreuzberg / Bethanien, Mariannenplatz 2, 10997 Berlin until Sunday August 17th and is presented bi-lingual German/English.

Following Berlin the exhibition can be viewed in Lisbon and Toulouse.

All projects can also be viewed on line at www.goethe.de/ins/be/prj/wet/enindex.htm

(A truly ridiculous URL which tends to indicate that the Goethe-Institut themselves need to alter the way they approach everyday problems and situations……..)

(smow) blog compact: Aufbruch! Architektur der 1950er Jahre. Photographic exhibition in Stiftung Stadtgedächtnis Cologne

July 2nd, 2014

Popular opinion is that old buildings deserve be preserved, restored, used and loved.

Popular opinion however has a very singular and narrow definition of “old.” A definition normally based on a simplified, generic, understanding of visual beauty rather than age or historical relevance.

Something that means a lot of 1950s buildings are all too often classed as meaningless post-war quick-fixes.

And so ignored.

Allowed to fall in disrepair.


Munich based photographer Hans Engels felt something needed to be done and so started the photo project “Aufbruch! Architektur der 1950er Jahre” – Takeoff! 1950s Architecture – to highlight some of the delights of 1950s architecture still to be found in Germany.

The photo project became a book and the book has become an exhibition which from Thursday July 3rd can be enjoyed at the Stiftung Stadtgedächtnis in Cologne.

Presenting 23 large format photos by Hans Engels the exhibition aims to show that 1950s architecture isn’t all about soulless concrete functionality but does include some truly delightful objects that are not only valuable architectural creations in their own right, but which have also contributed positively to the story of German architecture.

Buildings such as the Park-Café in Cologne’s Rheinpark.

Designed by Austrian architect Rambald von Steinbüchel-Rheinwall in context of the 1957 Cologne Garden Festival, the Park-Café is characterised by a free standing kidney shaped roof terrace floating above a glass fronted first floor dining room. And is very much a building of its time. Organic, modern and completely untroubled by any inclination as to what either of those terms may mean.

It is also currently empty. A situation the initiative Perle sucht Dame hope to change.

The exhibition Aufbruch! Architektur der 1950er Jahre has been organised by Perle sucht Dame with the intention of helping stimulate a debate about our relationship to 1950s architecture and so encourage more people to take an active interest in those works that surround them. Such as the Park-Café.

Aufbruch! Architektur der 1950er Jahre runs at the Stiftung Stadtgedächtnis, Große Budengasse 10, 50667 Cologne from Thursday July 3rd until Saturday August 30th 2014.

Park-Café Rheinpark Koln

Park-Café Rheinpark Cologne (Photo: http://rheinparkcafe-koeln.de)

5 New Design Exhibitions for July 2014

June 30th, 2014

Tradition being the predictable beast that it is, July and August tend to be quiet months in the design universe – most everyone taking themselves off to their Gîtes, Dachas, Ferienwohnungen, Vakantiehuis and lakeside bungalows for a few weeks of quiet reflection ahead of the autumn trade fair and design week season.

Most. But not all.

A few hardy souls remain, stocking the furnaces of creative culture with architecture and design based exhibitions intended to inspire, excite and entertain.

Our five hot coals from the new offerings opening during July 2014………

“Disobedient Objects” at the V&A, London, England

In recent years “social design” and “critical design” have become increasingly present as ever more people realise that design isn’t a profession, but a way of thinking, and a force for change. Or at least can serve as an impetus for change. And something that is much more effective than songs or poetry. Such concepts however are nothing new and from July 26th, and as far as we are aware in the first exhibition of its kind, the V&A in London is presenting an exploration of the role of art and design in social and political change. Looking at, for example, objects created in context of direct action and solidarity protests, the architecture and planning of protest camps and methods of communication designed to avoid censorship, Disobedient Objects also promises to present case studies of specific protest actions including Guerrilla Girls masks and an action by the Barbie Liberation Organisation in which GI Joe and Barbie voiceboxes were switched to highlight gender stereotyping. Especially interesting is that many of the items on show have been loaned by activist groups themselves, making Disobedient Objects not only a unique exhibition but an institutional acknowledgement of the activists efforts.

Disobedient Objects opens at the Porter Gallery, V&A, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL on Saturday July 26th and runs until Sunday February 1st.

Disobedient Objects at the V&A London

Inflatable cobblestone, action by Eclectic Electric Collective in co-operation with Enmedio collective during the General Strike in Barcelona, 2012 (Photo: © Oriana Eliçabe/Enmedio.info)

“NYC Makers: The MAD Biennial” at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, USA

In a similar vein to the V&A’s exhibition the New York Museum of Arts and Design is devoting its summer 2014 exhibition to 100 New York “Makers”: that sub-genre of creative who ignore traditional rules, institutions, definitions and models and simply……. make.

The 100 Makers presented in the exhibition were selected by the museum’s Director Glenn Adamson and exhibition curator Jake Yuzna from a long list nominated by a “selection panel” comprised of 300 figures from the New York cultural and creative scenes. At this point we should really write something along the lines of: “Featuring a who’s who of the New York maker scene…..”; but we recognise hardly any of the names on the list.

Which is one of those things that makes the exhibition so interesting for us: the chance to explore, discover, not like, learn, not understand, adore….

And to discover exactly how Gaetano Pesce, the Metropolitan Opera and Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band fit into the melee.

In addition to a presentation of projects by the 100 Makers the exhibition also features an accompanying fringe programme of performances, culinary events and fashion shows, and thus promises to provide an interesting, informative and for all accessible introduction to the current maker scene in New York.

NYC Makers: The MAD Biennial opens at the Museum of Arts and Design, 2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019 on Tuesday July 1st and runs until Sunday October 12th

NYC Makers The MAD Biennial at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York

NYC Makers The MAD Biennial at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York

“The Good Cause: Architecture of Peace – Divided Cities”, at the Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität München, Germany

Much like sports officials never tire of telling us how positive their particular sport is for the development of a peaceful, healthy, stable society, so to are architects always available for a quick quote about how their constructions make the world a better place. But how much truth exists behind such sound-bites? And given the nagging suggestions that war, famine, suffering and poverty may in fact be rife on our planet, what can architecture actually do for society?

No honestly, what?

The TU Munich Architecture Museum’s exhibition may not directly answer such a question, but does aim to show the positive that can be achieved when projects are developed in close co-operation with the local community, their needs, histories and traditions. Rather than just parachuted in by a headline hungry st*r architect.

The first part of the exhibition presents examples of reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, South Africa, Israel, Palestine, Rwanda and Kosovo which in the curators opinion show the positive, healing, powers of architecture. The second part of the exhibition is more specific, looking as it does at the problems associated with divided cities, in particular Belfast, Nicosia, Mitrovica and Mostar.

Sounding very much like a conflict specific version of the excellent Netherlands Architecture Institute exhibition “Testify! The Consequences of Architecture”, The Good Cause promises to provide some interesting perspectives on the role of professional planning and architecture in post conflict situations.

The Good Cause: Architecture of Peace – Divided Cities opens at the Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität München, Pinakothek der Moderne, Barer Straße 40, 80333 München on Thursday July 17th and runs until Sunday October 19th

The Good Cause Architecture of Peace Divided Cities at the Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität München

Visitor Centre, Pamir-i-Buzurg, Afghanistan (Photo: AFIR Architects / Anne Feenstra)

“Pierre Charpin” at L’Appartement 50, Marseille, France

In 1952 Le Corbusier completed construction of his La Cité Radieuse project. A 165 m long, 24 m deep and 56 m high block of 337 apartments in the southern quarter of Marseille, La Cité Radieuse represented Le Corbusier’s vision of the future of urban living.

In 2008 Jean-Marc Drut, resident of Apartment Number 50 invited Jasper Morrison to furnish said apartment with a selection of his works, and works by others which Morrison felt complemented his own works, the apartment and Le Corbusier’s intentions with La Cité Radieuse. And then opened the display to the public.

A sort of positive antithesis to George Orwell’s (in)famous Room 101.

In 2010 Jean-Marc Drut repeated the exercise with Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec and in 2012 with Konstantin Grcic.

The 2014 edition of the L’Appartement 50 Biennale, as we believe it now deserves to be called, sees Paris based Pierre Charpin take on the challenge.

Promising a representative collection of Charpin’s works for clients as varied as Galerie Kreo, Ligne Roset, Post Design and Venini, and thus an excellent opportunity to get know more about the designer and his oeuvre, the exhibition is also a wonderful opportunity to get to know, and understand, one of the most interesting moments in the story of European modernist architecture.

Pierre Charpin at L’Appartement 50 opens at Unité d’habitation Le Corbusier, Appartement 50 / 5ème rue, 280 Boulevard Michelet 13008 Marseille on Tuesday July 15th and runs until Friday August 15th

Pierre Charpin at L'Appartement 50, Marseille

Pierre Charpin at L'Appartement 50, Marseille

“Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus”, at Ampelhaus, Oranienbaum, Germany

If Berlin’s star as the most creative centre in Germany is waning. And if Leipzig’s star as the most creative centre in Germany is ascending. Then Oranienbaum, positioned as it is half way between the two, is obviously the celestial source of all creativity in Germany.

A fact we suspect the Oranienbaum based galley Ampelhaus will ably prove this summer.

Following on from 2013′s King Size: Art and Design fit for a King, and 2012′s Use it Again, Ampelhaus’ 2014 exhibition sees them explore the underbelly of contemporary art and design. Or at least their own cellar. The artistic intervention that last year saw the first floor of the gallery be transformed into an exhibition space despite strict fire regulations restricting public use to the ground floor, being inverted to allow access to the cellar. Thus turning the gallery, in the organisers words, into een levensgrote kijkdoos, “a life-size diorama” in which the presented objects are largely viewed from afar through gaps and openings.

Which sounds more like een levensgrote Zwitserse kaas to be perfectly honest.

And that, at the moment, is all we can say about Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus. For we have no further information. Other than it will feature works by Dutch and German artists and designers. But something in the bottom of our collective stomach tells us it will be well worth visiting.

Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus opens at Ampelhaus, Brauerstraße 33, 06785 Oranienbaum on Saturday July 12th and runs until Saturday September 20th

King Size Art and Design Fit for a King Ampelhaus Oranienbaum

Ampelhaus, Oranienbaum

Fabriek van Niek – nachBAR for the Dutch Embassy in Berlin: Reprise

June 29th, 2014

As we noted in our original post on Niek Wagemans’ nachBAR project for the Dutch Embassy in Berlin, we sadly had to depart Berlin before construction was finished.

“What we’ve seen so far however impresses.”, we noted, “And we can’t imagine our position will change dramatically.”

It hasn’t.

A delightfully compact, well proportioned and very welcoming object, nachBAR proudly presents it origins and with its sheet steel cladding and rounded edges radiates something of the aura, and arguably spirit, of Jean Prouvé, while remaining very much its own object.

And an object that more that holds its own against Rem Koolhaas’ Dutch Embassy. Despite, or maybe because of, the difference of scale.

But as we noted in our original post, nachBAR isn’t about the architectural merits or otherwise of the finished work. But how the object came about and what it represents. And for all how everyone who comes into contact with it interprets the ethos behind the project and applies the conclusions they reach to their own life.

The nachBAR has now been parked within the safe confines of the Embassy but will be used, as a café/bar, on a regular basis.

If you get the chance to enjoy a drink there do take it.

And who knows, with the Oranje doing so well at the football world cup maybe the Ambassador himself will pull a few celebratory, neighbourly, beers should Holland win.

Just a thought……………….

A few impressions:

(smow) blog compact: Petstools by Hanna Emelie Ernsting in the VitraHaus….

June 28th, 2014

In our post on the Pulpo Galerie in Lörrach we noted that “you don’t get your products shown in the VitraHaus just because you happen to have the correct postcode…….”

Being local doesn’t count. Isn’t an advantage. Your work must be good. And as if to prove our point……

Jason Miller’s postcode is New York 11232 and his Modo chandelier for Roll and Hill can be found in the VitraHaus.

Lars Beller Fjetland‘s postcode is 5032 Bergen and his Re-Turned birds for Discipline can be found in the VitraHaus.

Hanna Emelie Ernsting’s postcode is 60487 Frankfurt am Main….. and her delightful Petstools family have now inhabited the VitraHaus.

And look very, very much at home!

We first came across the Petstools family at the 2013 Cologne Design week Showcase “Objects for the Neighbour” before meeting them again at DMY Berlin 2013 and then most recently on Hanna Emelie Ernsting’s stand at Salone Satellite 2014 in Milan, and it’s probably fair to say that with every meeting our appreciation of the product has grown.

More than just stools with a cartoon-esque charm, Petstools are footstools designed to allow you to bury your feet into the material; thus allowing you to warm cold feet on an autumn evening or simply find security, solace, tenderness even, after a particularly long, tiring day at the office. Comfort famously not just being what you sit on, but how you feel. A state of mind.

And yes with their cute animal optic they are also a welcoming sight when you arrive home after said long, tiring day.

Hanna Emelie Ernsting produces and markets Petstools herself, full details can be found at www.hannaernsting.com

Petstools Hanna Emelie Ernsting VitraHaus Daisy

Daisy from the Petstools family from Hanna Emelie Ernsting relaxing with some new friends in the VitraHaus


Petstools Hanna Emelie Ernsting VitraHaus Ella Alcove Bouroullec

Ella gets to know the Alcove Sofa by Ronann and Erwan Bouroullec

Petstools Hanna Emelie Ernsting VitraHaus Daisy Oda Artek Karuselli

Daisy, the Karuselli lounge chair by Yrjö Kukkapuro through Artek and the Oda lamp by Sebsatian Herkner for Pulpo


Petstools Hanna Emelie Ernsting VitraHaus Ella forest

Ella escapes from the public for a quite rest in the VitraHaus "forest"


DMY Award Winners 2014 Exhibition @ DMY Design Gallery Berlin

June 27th, 2014

Back in the day all ten projects nominated for the DMY Award were presented in a post-festival exhibition in the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin. An exhibition that for us always made perfect sense, mixing as it did experimental, conceptual works by contemporary designers with the conceptual, experimental spirit of Bauhaus.

That however was then. And the cooperation sadly ended a couple of years ago.

If we’re honest we find it a real shame that that is no longer the case, not least for the designers. For we know from conversations with numerous past nominees just how much of an honour they found it to have their work shown in such a space.

Time however moves on, and one must accept the changes it brings. Regardless how painful.

And so this year DMY Berlin are presenting the DMY Award Winners Exhibition in their own DMY Design Gallery.

DMY Award Winners 2014 Exhibition DMY Design Gallery Berlin Clair Obscur Fischer Weidenmüller Unterberg Ton

DMY Award Winners 2014 Exhibition @ DMY Design Gallery Berlin: Clair Obscur by Fischer Weidenmüller Unterberg and TON

Presenting all ten nominated projects in the limited space of the DMY Design Gallery in Berlin Kreuzberg was never going to be an option; even presenting the four winners in the gallery’s confined space would have been something of a curatorial challenge. Not least on account of the number of projects/objects involved in the Lund University School of Industrial Design and the Flowers for Slovakia. Lost & Found by Vitra presentations. A selection therefore needed to be made, and consequently for the 2014 DMY Award exhibition the DMY Design Gallery are presenting the Czech manufacturer TON, winners of the exhibitor category, and Clair Obscur by Berlin based Fischer Weidenmüller Unterberg, winner of the new talent category.

Raised in 1994 from the ashes of the former Thonet production facility in Bystřice the name TON is the abbreviation of “Továrna na ohýbaný nábytek” – Bentwood furniture factory – a name which for us describes the foundation on which the company is based, but not those projects on which the company’s future is being built. For us the unequivocal highlights of the TON collection are the formed, moulded plywood chairs such as the ever exquisite Merano family by Vienna based Alexander Gufler, a chair concept we first saw as a student project at IMM Cologne 2010 and which still impresses us. And which forms the focal point of the TON presentation in the DMY Design Gallery. Maybe the company should change their name to TTPN – Továrna na tvarované překližky nábytku.

Or possibly not.

DMY Award Winners 2014 Exhibition DMY Design Gallery Berlin Clair Obscur Fischer Weidenmüller Unterberg Ton window

Merano and Merano bar stool by Alexander Gufler for TON. And if you look through the circle from outside, you can observe Clair Obscur inside.....

Clair Obscur in contrast needs no re-naming.

Essentially involving a projected image that can only be seen through a special filter, Clair Obscur – Clear Obscure – was without question one of the public highlights of DMY Berlin 2014. Everyone who walked past the stand stopping, doubling-back and checking that they really had seen what they thought they had seen.

On our way to the exhibition vernissage we continually asked ourselves, what attracts us to the project? Why were we going to an exhibition presenting a project we last saw just four weeks ago? And to be honest couldn’t find a definite answer. Or perhaps better put, couldn’t hang our fascination with the project on one of our pegs.

It’s simply not the sort of project we normally like.

But like it we do, largely on account of the potential it allows. OK it may ultimately prove to be a potential exclusively for lifestyle and marketing purposes; but the ability to hide film, photos, information from a section of a group of people while making it freely available to “selected” individuals is not only a delightful metaphor for our modern society, but is something new, something different. And something for which one still needs to find a use. Or uses. And that’s exciting. And worth seeing.

We hope Lene Fischer, Constantin Unterberg and Jörn Weidenmüller get the chance to develop it further. We’ll certainly keep you updated.

The DMY Award exhibition runs at the DMY Design Gallery, Blücherstr. 23, 10961 Berlin until Friday August 22nd. The gallery is open Monday to Friday 11am – 4pm, the Clair Obscur presentation can however also be enjoyed through the window should you visit in the evening or at the weekend.

DMY Award Winners 2014 Exhibition DMY Design Gallery Berlin Clair Obscur Fischer Weidenmüller Unterberg

Clair Obscur by Fischer Weidenmüller Unterberg....

DMY Award Winners 2014 Exhibition DMY Design Gallery Berlin Clair Obscur Fischer Weidenmüller Unterberg

....Lene Fischer demonstrates the magic.

DMY Award Winners 2014 Exhibition DMY Design Gallery Berlin Clair Obscur Fischer Weidenmüller Unterberg

Clair Obscur by Fischer Weidenmüller Unterberg. It doesn't matter from where you view it. Just as long as it is through the filter.....

Space @ Pulpo Galerie, Lörrach

June 26th, 2014

Since June 14th 2014 the Basel metropolitan region has been one contemporary design institution richer: the Pulpo Galerie in Lörrach.

Run by the contemporary lighting and accessory manufacturer Pulpo in the Pulpo HQ, the Pulpo Galerie is part Pulpo Galerie, part Pulpo showroom, part Pulpo office, part Pulpo newsagent, part informal Pulpo Café.

But principally Pulpo Galerie.

The inaugural exhibition, Space, presents recent works by painter Daniel Richter, sculptor Tobias Rehberger and the Basel based artist/illustrator/graphic designer Christoph Göttel, including a series of seven prints commissioned by Pulpo from Christoph Göttel; prints which represent the company’s first, tentative, steps into art.

And a fairly logical extension of the Pulpo portfolio.

Space Pulpo Galerie Samuel Treindl Christoph Göttel

Samuel Treindl & Christoph Göttel, as seen at Space, Pulpo Galerie

Established in 2006 by Ursula & Patrick L’hoste, Pulpo have quickly grown to an established name in the contemporary European design market and have equally quickly established a highly impressive roster of designers including Samuel Treindl, e27 Berlin, Sebastian Herkner and Peter Raacke. Pulpo are also one of those young companies that have helped transform the annual IMM Cologne trade fair from a tortuous couple of January days into something almost worth looking forward to.

That Pulpo have hit a nerve with their easy, almost logical, mix of traditional handicraft and contemporary rapid production technology can probably be best seen 9 kilometres down the road from the Pulpo Galerie at the VitraHaus where Pulpo objects, including the Container Vase and Oda lamp by Sebastian Herkner, can be found sitting easily amongst Vitra classics old and new. And believe us, you don’t get your products shown in the VitraHaus just because you happen to have the correct postcode…….

From their beginnings with exclusively sheet metal products Pulpo have laterally expanded to include glass and in the future plan to expand their range of materials to include wood, plastic, ceramics and sandstone.

A development that can be observed and followed in “Space” where in addition to the presented artworks prototypes of future Pulpo products, and experimental objects that interest Ursula & Patrick L’hoste, can be viewed; an openness which is just one of those things that separates so many of the new designer furniture/lighting/accessory manufacturers from their more traditional counterparts. We know of no established manufacturer who would so freely admit that they were in contact with a certain designer, far less present and discuss a product ahead of a formal launch.

And with such freshness comes a certain affability.

Space Pulpo Galerie

Space @ Pulpo Galerie

When Ursula & Patrick L’hoste transformed their former music school into Pulpo Galerie they removed all the plaster from the wall to expose the natural stone. What initially sounds as if it could be a little clichéd, works very well, not only because the rougher texture distracts from the exhibition and so helps create a more informal atmosphere, less clinical if you will than your average gallery, but small colour moments in the walls beautifully compliment the displayed works.

It is also a delightful pre-industrial space for Pulpo’s, essentially, post-industrial collection and an equally delightful environment for presenting Space, an exhibition which for us works on account of the almost effortless way the selected works of art and prototypes/products supplement and extend one another. At times there appears to be an almost borderless transfer between objects, and that despite the lack of any obvious connections.

All in all a very enjoyable première.

Whereas Space is essentially an art exhibition with a side serving of design objects, the plan is to have more design focussed shows in the future. As soon as we have concrete details we will let you know.

But for the time being, the opening of Pulpo Galerie means that in and around Basel one can currently enjoy, in addition to Space, Fritz Haller. Architect and Researcher at the Swiss Architecture Museum Basel, Konstantin Grcic – Panorama at the Vitra Design Museum, Álvaro Siza – Visions of the Alhambra at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery, Craft & Bling Bling – Fake at Depot Basel and round it all off with a go on the Vitra Slide Tower.

Which is, as far as we are aware, the most intense, varied and above all entertaining architecture and design exhibition programme currently available anywhere in Europe.

And as if all that wasn’t enough for one summer, on Saturday July 19th Billy Bragg plays Lörrach………

Full details of Pulpo Galerie an be found at www.pulpo-galerie.com

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin: Wassily Kandinsky – Lehrer am Bauhaus

June 25th, 2014

Amid all the hype surrounding “Bauhaus Style”, “Bauhaus Classic” and “Bauhaus Design” it is often forgotten that Bauhaus was a college.

And whereas many, if not most, people can name half-a-dozen or so Bauhaus graduates; hundreads of students passed through Bauhaus.

And it wasn’t all just partying and theatre. They did also learn.

But what did they learn? How did they learn? And what can we learn from how and what they learnt?

In an attempt to answers such questions the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin is currently presenting an exhibition devoted to the longest serving member of the Bauhaus teaching staff: Wassily Kandinsky.

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin Wassily Kandinsky Lehrer am Bauhaus

Wassily Kandinsky - Lehrer am Bauhaus at Bauhaus Archiv Berlin

Born in Moscow on December 4th 1866 Wassily Kandinsky initially studied law, economics and statistics in Moscow before moving to Munich in 1896 where he attended painting classes under tuition from Anton Ažbe. In 1901 Kandinsky co-established the progressive artist collective, and private painting school, Phalanx; an institution which closed in 1904, upon which Kandinsky undertook a series of study tours to and of Holland, France, Tunisia, Italy and Switzerland. Returning to Moscow in 1914 Wassily Kandinsky held various teaching and administrative positions at culture and art institutions, most notably the State Commissariat for Education (Narkompros) and the Institute of Artistic Culture (INChUK), before Walter Gropius invited him to join Bauhaus in 1922. Following the closing of Bauhaus in 1933 Wassily Kandinsky emigrated to Paris where he died on December 13 1944 aged 78.

Presenting a mix of works by Kandinsky, Kandinsky’s students and his Bauhaus teaching colleagues, works supported and extended by Kandinsky publications and original documents and teaching materials, “Wassily Kandinsky – Lehrer am Bauhaus” not only shows how Kandinsky ran his various courses in Weimar, Dessau and Berlin and what he expected of his students, but also helps explain how Kandinsky himself developed as an artist over his Bauhaus years.

As one would expect from an exhibition exploring Wassily Kandinsky and his teaching at Bauhaus there are an awful lot of geometric shapes in primary colours to be found on the walls. Created by his students in the context of Kandinsky’s “abstract elements of form” course, the colours and patterns present both part of Kandinsky’s own research into form and colour and also illustrate how he sought to encourage his students to think for themselves.

How Kandinsky employed what he learnt from such research can be seen in several of the Kandinsky works on show. How the students employed what they learnt from such research in their subsequent careers, is sadly not documented. Would however be equally interesting.

A further focus of the exhibition is Kandinsky’s “analytical drawing” class, a central component of his teaching and a class which taught students to understand relationships between objects through a process of simplification of form. Again here a selection of works by Kandinsky students beautifully illustrates how they were encouraged to focus on the essential through a process of sequential reduction, and then build something new from there. An approach we can probably all occasionally benefit from following. In whatever we do.

In addition to the more abstract works and ideologies “Wassily Kandinsky – Lehrer am Bauhaus” also looks at the fine art class taught by Kandinsky and Paul Klee, including a truly remarkable 1932 work by Hajo Rose, and in a similar vein, the exhibition “ends” with one work each by László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee, Georg Muche and Lyonel Feininger. Works that the four presented to Kandinsky on his 60th birthday and which beautifully depict the creative talents of the Bauhaus teaching staff.

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin Wassily Kandinsky Lehrer am Bauhaus

Wassily Kandinsky's "Pictorial Atlas" which he used in the course of his teaching.....

Wassily Kandinsky is and was an important teacher at Bauhaus not only because of his length of service, but also because from 1922 until 1930 – so the most important Bauhaus years – Kandinsky’s Vorkurs was compulsory for all students. Which, and if we may simplify the world for just a couple of minutes, means that if you understand Kandinsky you understand Bauhaus.

Representing the most comprehensive exploration of Wassily Kandinsky’s teaching ever compiled, and coming some 30 years after the last exhibition on the subject, “Wassily Kandinsky – Lehrer am Bauhaus” is a timely and highly entertaining investigation of the subject but for all is a very accessible exhibition that uses simple, at times almost too simple, methods to present the key information and so allow the visitor to explore and understand the topics at hand.

Wassily Kandinsky – Lehrer am Bauhaus runs at the Bauhaus Archiv, Klingelhöferstrasse 14, 10785 Berlin until Monday September 8th 2014.

In addition to the exhibition itself, the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin have organised an accompanying programme of talks and tours. Full details can be found at www.bauhaus.de