Posts Tagged ‘Berlin’

Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2014

Friday, July 18th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gren Light by Gunnar Søren Petersen

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

Fuller details can be found at

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

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

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

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

Dock by Florian Schreiner & Adeline Chimento

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

Universität der künste Berlin Rundgang 2014 Dock by Florian Schreiner

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

Universität der künste Berlin Rundgang 2014 Dock by Florian Schreiner

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


Direktorenhaus Berlin: Summer Break VA / Neue Arbeiten

Monday, 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

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

Friday, 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

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

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

Sunday, 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:

DMY Award Winners 2014 Exhibition @ DMY Design Gallery Berlin

Friday, 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.....

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin: Wassily Kandinsky – Lehrer am Bauhaus

Wednesday, 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

Fabriek van Niek – nachBAR for the Dutch Embassy in Berlin

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

With their high walls, locked gates, uncooperative guards and more video cameras than your average broadcasting company need to cover a simple football tournament in South America, embassies aren’t, generally speaking, the most welcoming of places.

A small piece of another culture they may be, but never a piece of another culture that appears particularly interested in interacting with the neighbours.

To demonstrate that alternatives are possible, that embassies can be a focal point in a neighbourhood, the Dutch Embassy in Berlin have commissioned Utrecht based Fabriek van Niek a.k.a. designer Niek Wagemans to build them an outdoor bar: an outdoor bar that not only gives the Embassy a location from where it can interact with the neighbourhood but which is constructed from materials found in the neighbourhood.

A neighbourhood bar in every sense of the word.

A neighBAR even. A nachBAR

niek wagemans nachbar berlin

Niek Wagemans and team at work

We first came across Niek Wagemans’ work at last year’s “King Size: Art & Design Fit for a King” exhibition at the Ampelhaus in Oranienbaum where, in addition to objects from his Confused Furniture collection, Niek also created the so-called WunderBAR café/bar in the gallery’s courtyard – all constructed from salvaged materials. Similarly his nachBAR for the Dutch Embassy is built from materials and objects considered by others as waste and thus rejected and discarded.

For Niek Wagemans such projects aren’t about recycling or up-cycling per se. Or better put, not only. “I could just go the scrapyard, buy all I need and then complete the project”, so Niek, “but for me it is important that the materials come from the community because then you not only get an understanding for the local community but can hopefully also reflect something of the character of the community in the work and so make it a project for the community.”

A process that begins by scouting the neighbourhood on foot.

As he sets out to look for possible materials Niek has, by his own admission, no idea how the bar will look, far less from what it will be constructed, “Initially I just collect everything that appears useful”, explains Niek, “if you think too much too early about what you might, potentially, build you become distracted.”

If having five days to build an object he can’t visualise from materials he doesn’t have places Niek under any form of pressure he certainly doesn’t show it as he strolls easily through Berlin Mitte, eyes darting left and right, always on the look out for possible sources. Or possible tips from locals. The interaction with the local community, the chance to explain the project and invite all to participate, to be involved, being just as important for Niek as the locality of the materials. “I’m not a social worker” says Niek, smiling wryly, obviously amused at such a thought, “but such a project is also about bringing people together. The community provide the materials, the Dutch Embassy the drinks. Everybody benefits!” Even two officers of the law join in the spirit of things and prove that Berlin’s Polizei really are your friend and helper – at least if you are a Dutch designer looking for unwanted, superfluous, building materials.

niek wagemans nachbar berlin

Niek engaging the locals.....

In addition to building an object based in the local vicinity a further aim of such projects for Niek is showing what can be found in a community, what is available, hidden behind closed doors, in cellars, in backyards. Urban foraging is often reserved for discussions about what foodstuffs one can find growing wild, but what about building materials? Local swap/borrow/trade platforms generally involve machines, tools, cars and other hardware. But what about building materials?

When we have a small building or handwork project to complete we all invariably drive to the building centre and buy lengths of wood or strips of metal.

Viewing the collection of objects and materials that Niek collected around the Dutch Embassy it is clear that if you need a bit of wood/metal/glass to help you complete a project there is an excellent chance that your neighbour might just have what you are looking for. And that they will give it to you. If you just ask.

Niek is building a bar. You might just want to patch up an old bookcase or build a cold frame for your herbs.

The principle is the same.

niek wagemans nachbar berlin

Fabriek van Niek - nachBAR for the Dutch Embassy in Berlin. Work in progress!

Because designers and journalists calenders rarely co-align, we’ve seen the nearly finished nachBAR. But not the completely finished nachBAR. As you read this it will be finished. We however are on our travels. We’re back in Berlin in a couple of days and once we’ve seen the finished work we will bring you our final verdict.

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

And in any case a project such as nachBAR is more about how the project was realised than what was realised.

And in realising nachBAR Niek Wagemans has not only demonstrated the abundance of resources that one can find locally, but has underscored how lackadaisical we are with resources. Or at least we in the west.

We don’t need to keep buying new things, we can repair, remake, reconfigure, renew. And that more often than not from what our neighbours consider waste.

Should you find yourself in Berlin this coming week not only can nachBAR be viewed – and, when it is open, a  beer or coffee enjoyed – in the space between the Dutch Embassy and the River Spree, but on Wednesday afternoon Niek Wagemans and Berlin based designer Jan Körbes are organising a workshop in which chairs will be created from old tyres.

All are welcome to participate. Or simply enjoy a drink and watch.

And of course socialise with the Dutch Embassy and their neighbours.

The Dutch Embassy in Berlin can be found at Klosterstraße 50, 10179 Berlin

Lina Bo Bardi – Together at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum, DAZ Berlin

Friday, June 13th, 2014

Should the 2014 football World Cup final see Italy meet Brazil that would, arguably, be a more than fitting celebration of the 100th anniversary of Italo-Brazilian architect, artist, designer and author Lina Bo Bardi.

However, because football’s fickle fate cannot be relied upon the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum, DAZ Berlin are currently staging the exhibition “Lina Bo Bardi – Together”, an equally fitting tribute to Lina Bo Bardi and her work.

Born in Rome on December 5th 1914 Achillina Bo graduated from Rome School of Architecture in 1939 before moving to Milan in 1940 where in addition to working as an architect she also undertook numerous journalistic commissions; commissions that in 1943 led to her appointment as deputy director of the Italian architecture and design magazine Domus. In 1946 Lina Bo married the Italian modernist architect Pietro Maria Bardi and in the same year the pair moved to Brazil, settling in São Paulo from where Lina Bo Bardi added stage design, curating and lecturing to her architecture and journalism work. Architecture remained however her principle focus and among the architectural highlights of Lina Bo Bardi’s career in Brazil are the Museum of Art of São Paulo, the Museum of Modern Art of Bahia in Salvador, the SESC Pompéia culture & leisure centre in São Paulo and the so-called Casa de Vidro – The Glass House – the home she designed and built for herself and her husband. And where Lina Bo Bardi died on March 20th 1992 aged 77.

Lina Bo Bardi Together at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ Berlin

Lina Bo Bardi - Together at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum, DAZ Berlin

Essentially three exhibitions in one “Together” explores the influence of indigenous Brazilian craft and art on Lina Bo Bardi’s work, the influence of Lina Bo Bardi’s work on the people of Brazil, or at least São Paulo, and also reflects on the private Lina Bo Bardi.

“For Lina Bo Bardi architecture was like the theatre”, explains exhibition curator Noemi Blager, “Just as a play begins once the actors take the stage, so to does a building require people to make it come alive. To give it a purpose.”

And just as Lina Bo Bardi’s buildings can be understood as theatre so to is there something unmistakably theatrical in the exhibition design by London based agency Assemble. And we don’t just mean the heavy felt curtains that surround the space. A multi-media presentation conceived with the intention of re-creating the experience of visiting one of Lina Bo Bardi’s works the exhibition is intense without over-powering and features films, photographs, cast concrete vitrines full of Brazilian folk art and all watched over by a silent guard of Exu deities. From the ceiling untold hands point towards that which you can’t possibly have missed. There is also a constant background soundtrack of urban commotion which at one point sounds as if it could have been written by the band Coldplay. It wasn’t, but the moment you consider if it could be is the moment you understand the theatre that underscores Chris Martin’s approach to his work. Just as an aside.

The most present feature of the exhibition is a series of films by Helsinki born film-maker Tapio Snellman which introduce Lina Bo Bardi’s work through the experiences of the people who use her buildings. Projected onto screens suspended in the exhibition space the films show visitors and users bringing the SESC Pompéia to life – the actors as it were in the improvised social play that architecture makes possible - as well as more general street scenes from the daily reality in São Paulo. The private, off-stage, world of Lina Bo Bardi meanwhile is presented in a further Tapio Snellman film and photos from inside the Glass House. A presentation that reminds one of the imagery and visual registers popularly associated with portraits and films of the Eames House in Los Angeles. And for us creates the impression that the curators are trying to position Lina Bo Bardi and Pietro Maria Bardi as the South American Charles and Ray Eames.

A comparison that is not completely without its justification given the role Brazilian folk art played in Lina Bo Bardi’s life and work; an influence reflected in the exhibition by both a collection of ceremonial objects, hand-crafted toys and folk art assembled by the Dutch artist Madelon Vriesendorp and objects created by Brazilian children in a workshop ran by Madelon Vriesendorp at the Museum of Modern Art of Bahia in Salvador.

Lina Bo Bardi Together at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ Berlin

Lina Bo Bardi - Together at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum, DAZ Berlin

No one would argue that Lina Bo Bardi is or was the most important architect of her generation, she is however one who deserves a lot more recognition that she currently gets and one whose work deserves to be better understood.

How much you will actually learn about Lina Bo Bardi through visiting Lina Bo Bardi – Together is however questionable. Or better put, relative to how much time you bring with you.

As with all architecture exhibitions the curators have been faced with the option of a text heavy show or something that relies principally on visual images. Going for visual images as they have makes the show more inviting, less daunting, but much more difficult for the visitor to fully contextualize and understand what they are seeing. The information panels that are there are very good. Yet succinct. And seldom. But not as seldom as images of the exteriors of Lina Bo Bardi’s buildings and/or of the buildings in their location and context. Of which there are none – save one photo of the Glass House. Consequently it is very hard for the uninitiated visitor to fully grasp what Lina Bo Bardi achieved. Outwith the main exhibition space a collection of monographs are available that offer the full Lina Bo Bardi story; in the main space however the visitor is largely left to decipher the meaning of the constant information stream for themselves. Something that is difficult without either a lot of prior knowledge on Lina Bo Bardi and her oeuvre – or continually returning to the literature. For us an ever so slightly more detailed exhibition programme would allow all visitors the chance to better understand what is on display. And so the contribution Lina Bo Bardi made to 20th century architecture.

If you bring the time and interest with you Lina Bo Bardi – Together is an excellent introduction to Lina Bo Bardi’s life and work: for the casual visitor the sound, colour and movement allow one to briefly immerse oneself in an environment you may not fully understand. But will enjoy. And will be glad you visited.

Much like an evening at the theatre.

Lina Bo Bardi – Together runs at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ, Köpenicker Straße 48/49, 10179 Berlin until Sunday August 17th.

Full details can be found at

Lina Bo Bardi Together at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ Berlin

Lina Bo Bardi - Together at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum, DAZ Berlin

Lina Bo Bardi Together at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ Berlin

Lina Bo Bardi - Together at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum, DAZ Berlin

Lina Bo Bardi Together at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ Berlin

Lina Bo Bardi - Together at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum, DAZ Berlin

Lina Bo Bardi Together at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ Berlin

Lina Bo Bardi - Together at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum, DAZ Berlin

(smow) blog compact DMY Berlin Special: zTuA by Marko Steininger, Martin Winkler and Fabian Steiner, Hochschule Rosenheim

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

We can’t rule out that our interest in the project zTuA by Hochschule Rosenheim students Marko Steininger, Martin Winkler and Fabian Steiner is a direct consequence of the current situation in the (smow) blog HQ. That our professional opinions are being influenced by personal circumstances.

We hope they aren’t.

But can’t rule it out.

zTuA is an acronym of “zwischen Tür und Angel” – “between door and hinge” – a nice German idiom that refers either to a necessary urgency, to being in the process of leaving, moving on, hurrying. Or alternatively to finding oneself between two equally unpleasant choices.

A genuinely awful name for a genuinely innovative and fascinating project.

In small flats space is always at premium, especially hallway space. Yet even the most compact and bijou of hallways is expected to play host to shoes, coats, dog leads, and ideally a small table for keys, letters, umbrellas, the like.

And so most of us fill our hallway with such.

zTuA offers an alternative.

zTuA transforms a door into storage space.

Resembling in profile a triangular slice of cake, zTuA hangs like a normal door in a normal door frame; however, is angled diagonally inwards on the hall side. The result is a door frame sized void in front of the door on the hall side.

If that makes sense……

And for this space Marko Steininger, Martin Winkler and Fabian Steiner have created a small shoe rack-cum-storage table and a hanging rail which in their form compliment the angle of the incline and the volume of the available space

And thus one can use the door to store shoes, coats, dog leads, keys, letters, umbrellas, the like.

On the rear side of the door, so in the room, you do have “bulge.” An fairly unsightly bulge.

However, on the one hand, we believe with a bit of reconfiguration one could negate the necessity for the bulge. And even if that doesn’t prove possible, at the moment the bulge is unused, yet has possible functions. Needn’t remain unsightly.

As a concept zTuA is clearly not applicable to all situations, by default the amount of storage space available in the door frame is limited, and so, for example, a family of four would struggle to store all their coats, shoes and dog leads. However, demographic and social changes mean that, as we all know, there are and will continue to be ever increasing numbers of single person households, and for most singles, or couples of reserved lifestyles, zTuA would seem to offer a wonderful alternative to unsightly hallways.

All in all a most fascinating, thought provoking and downright exciting project, and one we genuinely hope Marko, Martin and Fabian develop further.

And rename.

As Johnny Cash would no doubt put it, “Bill or George! Anything but zTuA!”

DMY Berlin 2014 zTuA by Marko Steininger Martin Winkler and Fabian Steiner Hochschule Rosenheim

DMY Berlin 2014: zTuA by Marko Steininger, Martin Winkler and Fabian Steiner, Hochschule Rosenheim

DMY Berlin 2014 zTuA by Marko Steininger Martin Winkler and Fabian Steiner Hochschule Rosenheim

DMY Berlin 2014: zTuA by Marko Steininger, Martin Winkler and Fabian Steiner, Hochschule Rosenheim

DMY Berlin 2014 zTuA by Marko Steininger Martin Winkler and Fabian Steiner Hochschule Rosenheim

DMY Berlin 2014: zTuA by Marko Steininger, Martin Winkler and Fabian Steiner, Hochschule Rosenheim

(smow) blog compact DMY Berlin Special: Algaemy – Crafting our Future Food by Blond & Bieber

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

As our more loyal readers will be aware, for us the future is analogue.

As ever more aspects of our daily routine are taken over by digital technology, the more time we have to concentrate on the things that matter.

And they are all analogue.


Parallel, open design and open processes will become more important as we all lose the need to be part of a stylised mass and finally comprehend that contemporary industrial production and distribution networks are no longer ecologically or socially justifiable.

On the surface the project Algaemy- Crafting our Future Food by Berlin based design studio Blond & Bieber has little to do with our future utopia.

However, while currently presented as textile printing, the heart of the project is the cultivation, harvesting and utilisation of microalgae as a dye.

One the one hand, a dye is a dye and can be used for purposes other than textile printing. And, and assuming Blond & Bieber aka Essi Johanna Glomb and Rasa Weber want to share the secrets of their Algaemy, dye extraction from microalgae is a process that can be carried out locally, thus allowing global access to a relatively cheap, simple, reliable and for all sustainably renewable source of dyes.

We know, we know, other sources of dyes are available and have been successfully used and applied for thousands of years. Are however invariably either regionally or seasonally restricted in their availability. Algae offers alternatives. A post-industrial response to the limitations of traditional technologies. As it were.

And aside from all such considerations. We do very much like the textile designs Blond & Bieber produce.