Posts Tagged ‘Berlin’

(smow) blog compact: Berlinische Galerie present Küchenmonument by raumlabor Berlin

September 2nd, 2014

Am Anfang war der Pneu – first there was air – so hypothesised the German architect and master of lightweight construction Frei Otto: a conviction which led him to spend a large part of his career attempting to reduce architecture back to its natural origins and build a permanent structure “constructed” solely from air. And although he never realised his dream of material-less construction Frei Otto did develop a couple of very interesting studies, including the 1971 Arctic City project which envisaged a controlled climate city in the Arctic housed underneath a synthetic outer shell supported by air pressure alone. Similar in many ways to the glass dome the US government placed over Springfield, just more benevolent.

Proof however that air can be used as the basis for a construction, if on a small-scale, temporary basis, is currently being provided at the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin via the so-called Küchenmonument project by Berlin based creative collective raumlabor.

Berlinische Galerie Küchenmonument raumlabor Berlin

Küchenmonument by raumlabor at the Berlinische Galerie Berlin. And one of raumlabor's chaise bordelaise chairs.

Much like cars, power drills or suits, the majority of event spaces are only needed on an ad-hoc, occasional basis. Yet are permanently there. Taking up space rather than providing it.

Premièred in 2006 Küchenmonument – Kitchen Monument – is raumlabor’s solution to such situations. In essence a terrestrially-bound hot air balloon Küchenmonument was conceived as a temporary location for collective events, and in the past eight years has been used for concerts, conferences, parties and theatre events in cities as diverse as Duisburg, Hamburg, Liverpool or Warsaw. In 2009 raumlabor developed the concept further, or perhaps better put, took the concept to its logical next step, and packed the inflatable skin inside a van thus creating Spacebuster, a mobile temporary space. A mobile temporary space which they subsequently inflated at numerous locations around New York.

From within Küchenmonument one can see the outside world, just not in all its glorious detail. Similarly those outwith can follow what is happening inside as if watching an out of focus film. Thus a distinct, defined space is created, yet one which adapts to, respects and becomes part of the space it has invaded. Before vanishing again when no longer required.

And no, one can’t just pitch a tent. And in any case such is not always practical nor desirable.

Berlinische Galerie Küchenmonument raumlabor Berlin

Küchenmonument by raumlabor at the Berlinische Galerie Berlin

In Berlin Küchenmonument will host a series of events over the coming weeks including discussions on possible future uses of the River Spree in Berlin and the future of experimental architecture in addition to a presentation by Atelier Le Balto on the urban garden they have created for the Berlinische Galerie. The start however was made on Thursday August 28th with a furniture workshop. By way of a “getting to know you” event the Berlinische Galerie issued a open invitation to the institute’s neighbours, and indeed all in Berlin interested in learning more about Küchenmonument, to a workshop in which objects from raumlabor’s furniture collection could be built before being used as the seating and tables for a communal evening meal. And then taken home by the proud makers.

Full details on the events programme in Küchenmonument at the Berlinische Galerie can be found at and more details on Küchenmonument itself at

Architektur Design Industrie – Vitra Campus. Ein Jubiläum at Aedes am Pfefferberg, Berlin

September 1st, 2014

1989. A year of social, culture and political upheaval whose effects are still being felt today. The Berlin Wall falls. George Bush is sworn in as 41st President of the United States of America. Nirvana release their debut album Bleach. The Poll Tax is introduced in Scotland. The first episode of The Simpsons airs. And while not wanting to over dramatise the situation, yet clearly and deliberately doing just that in the interests of an introduction, 1989 also saw the opening of the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, an institution that has not only gone on to produce numerous critically acclaimed exhibitions devoted to design and popular culture, but is and was the building that marks the, effective, origins of the Vitra Campus and so Vitra’s transformation from a furniture manufacturer to a curator of contemporary architecture and design.

In November 2013 the Vitra Design Museum marked the approaching anniversary with the publication of “The Vitra Campus – Architecture Design Industry“, and that book has now, more or less, been transformed into an exhibition at the Berlin architecture gallery Aedes am Pfefferberg.

Vitra Campus Architektur Design Industrie Aedes Am Pfefferberg Berlin

Architektur Design Industrie - Vitra Campus. Ein Jubiläum at Aedes am Pfefferberg, Berlin.

Conceived by Aedes and designed by Chris Rehberger from Berlin agency Double Standards, who was also responsible for the design of the original book, Architektur Design Industrie presents a compact overview of the objects and buildings to be found on the Vitra Campus in addition to video interviews with the architects responsible and catalogues from selected Vitra Design Museum exhibitions. By no stretch of the imagination a particularly academic, technical or overly critical exhibition, Architektur Design Industrie is a very accessible, clearly designed and open presentation that provides both the necessary background information to allow visitors to understand what the Vitra Campus is and more detailed information to allow those wanting to know more to do just that.

According to outgoing Vitra CEO Rolf Fehlbaum the Vitra Campus grew organically, without any long-term master plan. By his own admission following the infamous 1981 fire that destroyed the original Vitra production facility in Weil am Rhein he initially intended to redevelop the site in cooperation with just one architect, namely Nicholas Grimshaw. However having got to know Frank Gehry and then commissioning him to build both the Vitra Design Museum and a production hall he found himself confronted in the form of Gehry’s production hall and Grimshaw’s production hall by two buildings next to each other which although similar in terms of size, cost and function, were completely different. And thus illustrated the varied possibilities of architecture in a simple, accessible way and so inspired him to undertake a journey that has led to buildings from the likes of Zaha Hadid, Álvaro Siza or Renzo Piano. With the commissioning of the sculpture Balancing Tools from Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen in 1984 the Vitra Campus not only acquired its first work of art but also the first object outwith the production area, and thus the first publicly accessible object. Following the opening of Gehry’s Museum building the “public” area of the Vitra Campus was extended first in 1993 with Tadao Ando’s conference pavilion and laterally through Herzog & de Meuron’s VitraHaus, thus creating the current mix of public and industrial spaces. A mix beautifully celebrated and illustrated by the two most recent additions to the Vitra Campus, the SANAA factory building – a sober, functional, if monumental construction – and the Vitra Slide Tower.

Vitra Campus Architektur Design Industrie Aedes Am Pfefferberg Berlin

Architektur Design Industrie - Vitra Campus. Ein Jubiläum at Aedes am Pfefferberg, Berlin

Originating from a discussion between Aedes and the Vitra Design Museum the decision to host Architektur Design Industrie at Aedes Berlin is very apposite, for in 1989 Aedes published the first monograph on Frank Gehry’s then brand new Vitra Design Museum building, and so it is fitting that they should be hosting the “anniversary exhibition”, as we really don’t want to call it but somehow feel a deep need to.

According to Vitra Design Museum Chief Curator Mateo Kries Architektur Design Industrie is currently only intended as being a one-off presentation at Aedes. For our money however transforming it into a touring exhibition is not only possible, but an all but guaranteed certainty. Perfect as it is in form and content for use as an in-store exhibition in Vitra’s global flagship store and dealer network.

Which, unavoidably and inevitably, brings us to the obvious question concerning Architektur Design Industrie: Yes, at times it does look like a sales pitch for Vitra - and indeed Artek if one considers the lighting. However, removing all the more commercial references to Vitra would have been a little weird, and somehow made Vitra more present: just as with those deceased Roman citizens who falling into disgrace post death had their faces removed from statues, thus encouraging questions as to who they were and why they had no face. Thus ensuring their eternal fame. The Vitra Campus and the Vitra Design Museum arose from Vitra, filling the exhibition space with furniture by other manufactures would be perverse.

OK one could do without the chairs from the Vitra Design Museum miniatures collection which are also on display, that is a little unnecessary, not least because only Vitra miniatures are on display although the miniatures collection is a wonderfully independent and democratic reflection of the history of furniture design. And the Vitra Home Collection catalogue on the main table, one could do without that, being as it is a little too blatant and not in any way part of the subject in hand.

That said, Architektur Design Industrie is firmly about the Vitra Campus and the Vitra Design Museum, and ultimately we assume most visitors will be able to rise above the visual semantics and enjoy it for what it is.

On a more general note of criticism the exhibition texts are only in German. We know why that is, understand why that is, accept why that is. But still feel it a touch limiting, that some form of translation would help make the exhibition more inclusive. Especially in a global city like Berlin where German is in many ways the unofficial second language.

Such criticism aside Architektur Design Industrie remains an engaging introduction to a genuinely fascinating location and one which reminds us that despite Public Enemy’s protestations to the contrary, 1989 was not just “another summer”

Architektur Design Industrie – Vitra Campus. Ein Jubiläum runs at Aedes am Pfefferberg, Christinenstrasse 18-19, 10119 Berlin until Sunday September 28th.

Further details can be found at

Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin Rundgang 2014

July 20th, 2014

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

It’s just how it is in Berlin……

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

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

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

Brillendampfer by Anne Lang

A collapsible glasses case.

It’s that simple.

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

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

It’s that simple.

Brillendampfer by Anne Lang Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin Rundgang 2014

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

Biohocker by Wanru Zhao

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

Biohocker by Wanru Zhao Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin Rundgang 2014

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

S.Rack by Heinrich Kerth

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

S.Rack by Heinrich Kerth Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin Rundgang 2014

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

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

July 19th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The end was no longer neigh. But there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. ibid

bauhaus berlin memorial plaque

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

Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2014

July 18th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gren Light by Gunnar Søren Petersen

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

Fuller details can be found at

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

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

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

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

Dock by Florian Schreiner & Adeline Chimento

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

Universität der künste Berlin Rundgang 2014 Dock by Florian Schreiner

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

Universität der künste Berlin Rundgang 2014 Dock by Florian Schreiner

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


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

(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

(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

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

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

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