A summer silly season with 360 degree product images and handmade bottle openers explaining the difference between craft and design assumed a veneer of normality thanks to a fairytale presentation of vintage furniture in Berlin, contemporary porcelain at the Bauhaus Archiv and a little thinking about architecture in Stuttgart………
Posts Tagged ‘Berlin’
In our recent post from Florence we reported on the attempts being made there by the local authorities to help support and advance the local craftsfolk.
Since 2008 the Chambers of Commerce from five of Florence’s nearish neighbours have followed a different, though just as valid path towards achieving the same. Under the title “Rethinking The Product” the Chambers of Commerce from Lucca, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Terni pair young designers with local businesses and set them specific challenges.
For the 2013 edition the designers were asked to create an object using the combined materials and experience of two companies. The result is thirty prototypes that can be viewed in a curiously fascinating exhibition in Berlin until Friday December 13th.
So until tomorrow.
Two days isn’t a lot of time for an exhibition, but what you gonna do?
The first thing that grabs you when you enter the exhibition is the truly grotesque decadence on show. And not always in the positive sense we normally use such a phrase. Many of the works are obviously in denial that Pop Art and Post Modernism ever occurred, are living in a more conservative age when furnishings was about status and show. Anyone, who like us, is forced to endure the cheaper end of Milan’s hotel spectrum during Milan Design Week will be familiar with the sentiments, aspirations and perversions expressed in many of the objects.
We believe the problem is marble. Marble as a material simply cannot be ignored, it always has something to say.
But sadly very few designers, anywhere, not just in relation to Rethinking The Product, seem able to teach marble a new language or even to help it expand its vocabulary. And so marble remains the brash beast it always was.
We once wrote that in terms of the local product design industry, cork was Portugal’s greatest hope. Many of the young designers who have recently started working with cork are using it in ways that their parents generation couldn’t have envisaged. Its not all good. But a lot is. And ultimately it is the experimentation that counts.
One could apply similar sentiments to marble, and so it would have been good to have seen the material being used in new, innovative ways. Rather than just shouting its providence across the room.
Fortunately Rethinking The Product isn’t all marble and decadence, there are some genuinely fascinating projects on display.
Among those that really caught our attention were Fishtail by Francesco Bigagli, a truly improbable combination of carpet and metal furniture. Now obviously no one really wants a metre high piece of aluminium sticking out of their carpet. Apart from the practical inconvenience it is downright dangerous. We’ve all come back from the pub a later later than planned and, to avoid waking the family, skulked through the flat in the dark. And stubbed a toe on the coffee table. That hurts. Try walking into a meter high piece of aluminium sticking out of your carpet. You’ll be off work for a month.
However there are other possible applications, other ways of applying such an idea. Possibilities that one should seriously consider and investigate. In our post on the OMA Tools for Life collection Knoll unveiled at Milan Design Week 2013 we commented that the chair “11 Floor Seating” was the sort of object we need in a society where tablets and similar mobile devices are becoming more popular and so the search for new seating styles more important and urgent. Fishtail reminded us a lot of 11 Floor Seating.
The bedside lamp Sogni d’oro by Simona Atzori is pure genius. The one-off switch is controlled by the weight of a book. Lift your book up to start reading, the light comes on. Place your book down, light goes out. Its the sort of contraption that could keep Homer Simpson amused for hours. If it is practical in a daily use situation is admittedly questionable, but the idea is enticing and we hope that designer and producer get the opportunity to develop it further.
Elsewhere we were very taken with the felt “curtains” FanTaVolino by Lorenzo Stoduti, simple objects which transform any table into a children’s wonderland, the vintage television inspired unit RiVintage TV & Wine by Eleonora Sassoli and Valeria Della Dora had a warming kitschness about it, while Terra Luna by Alessia Bettazzi and Pierluigi Percoco is the first lamp we’ve ever seen that promises to protect us from nuclear radiation and earthquakes. Something which of course makes it the perfect companion piece to the Eames plastic armchair in the 1950s “Mars resistant” fibreglass.
As many of you will know we are huge fans of Vienna Design Week Passionswege programme, not least because it proves that cooperations between established, traditional businesses and young creatives can produce truly wonderful results.
In many ways Rethinking The Product demonstrates that the path to a useful conclusion of such a project is long and rocky. Which is what ultimately makes the exhibition so interesting.
Viewing Rethinking The Product we were greatly reminded of the Transalpino “Made in Between” exhibition that debuted at DMY Berlin in 2011; with the proviso that we found the results of Transalpino a tick more matured, more fully thought through. Objects such as Schnittlampe by Dominik Hehl, Put Table by Steffen Schellenberger or Gefäß mit Halskrause by Valerie Otte showing a little more genuine innovation. And on a side note a few of the objects from Transalpino can currently be viewed as part of the Geblüt exhibition at Villa Schöningen Potsdam.
However the rawness of the works on show at Rethinking The Product not only opens up the design process, making it visible and comprehensible, but also shows the limits of manufacturing. A combination that allows one to understand what is possible and so to take an idea that obviously isn’t working and transform it into something that does.
And that is always a truly magical moment in any creative process.
As we say, Rethinking The Product is sadly only being shown for two days. It really deserves longer.
If you happen to be in Berlin in the next two days, Rethinking The Product can be viewed at Berliner Freiheit Gallery, Berliner Freiheit 2, Potsdamer Platz and we can thoroughly recommend dropping by. And if you can’t make it all products can be viewed at www.rethinkingtheproduct.com
Until Monday February 24th 2014 the Bauhaus Archive Berlin is presenting the exhibition “Mein Reklame-Fegefeuer. Herbert Bayer. Werbegrafik 1928 – 1938.”
Born in Haag, Upper Austria on April 5th 1900 Herbert Bayer joined Bauhaus Weimar in 1921 and moved with the institution to Dessau in 1925 where Walter Gropius appointed him head of the newly established Print and Advertising Workshop. In 1928 Herbert Bayer departed Bauhaus and established his own commercial graphic design studio in Berlin where he completed commissions for private and public customers, before in 1938 he emigrated to America. In 1964 Herbert Bayer participated in Documenta III in Kassel and in 1968 was responsible for designing the 50th anniversary Bauhaus retrospective in Stuttgart, his last major commission. Herbert Bayer died in Santa Barbara California in September 1985.
Curated by Prof. Dr. Patrick Rössler from Erfurt University, Mein Reklame-Fegefeuer presents examples of Herbert Bayer’s graphic design projects realised between leaving Dessau for Berlin in 1928 and leaving Berlin for America in 1938.
Although ostensibly an exhibition about the graphic design of Herbert Bayer, the exhibition is much more about the political and social developments in Germany during the decade.
A decade that is and was arguably one of the most eventful and globally important in the history of a country that has given the world more “historic episodes” than most.
The first work which one sees is Bayer’s poster for the 1927 Bauhaus Exhibition at the Grassi Museum Leipzig, an event that played an important role in introducing Bauhaus to a wider public. Neatly juxtapositioned to the Leipzig poster stands a series of emergency bank notes Bayer created for the State of Thüringen in 1923. The 50 million Mark note may appear a little exaggerated, but with eggs costing around 320 million Marks each, was still probably a little small.
The innocent hope of Bauhaus and the brutal reality of inflation. This was the period in which Herbert Bayer sought to establish himself.
And establish himself he did.
As in the late 1920s and early 1930s the German economy recovered from the shock of the inflation years, increased financial security saw a period of increased consumerism in Germany, and by extrapolation increased demand for a talented graphic designer such as Herbert Bayer; consequently, in course of the mid-1930s Herbert Bayer advanced to become one of the best earning and highest profile representative of his trade.
A situation which raises the question, how does one become high earning and high profile under a dictatorship?
With his Bauhaus background, Jewish-American wife and modern approach to art and design, the likes of Herbert Bayer should theoretically have had no chance in Nazi Germany. Nor truck with the Nazi regime.
Yet while some of his works were in 1937 entartet – declared Degenerate Art by the Nazis – Herbert Bayer received high profile commissions from public bodies throughout the 1930s.
We ourselves know far too little about Herbert Bayer to come to any form of conclusion, but all sources we trust say that although willingly used by the NSDAP Herbert Bayer was staunchly apolitical and never a member of the party nor a supporter of its manifesto. Something which didn’t stop him completing projects on behalf of the party apparatus, such as the identity/graphic design for the exhibitions “Deutsches Volk, deutsche Arbeit” in 1934 and “Das Wunder des Lebens” in 1935, or a book cover for the Hitler Youth in 1936.
His acceptance by the regime was probably largely due to the NSDAP being clever enough to tolerate him so as to allow them to (mis)use his ability to transport elements of their, at the time still largely unspoken, message. Coupled of course to Herbert Bayer’s ready willingness to let himself be (mis)used. And certainly the regular use of heroic, “Germanic” imagery in many of his mid-1930s works doesn’t appear to be down to random chance alone.
A situation which of course brings us back to the question of how political should designers be. Especially graphic designers, a profession whose talents are largely used to shape emotions, opinions, and by extension decisions. How political should graphic designers be? Mein Reklame-Fegefeuer doesn’t tackle the question directly, but does provide more than enough discussion points to help even the most politically apathetic of visitors reach some form of conclusion.
Hopefully the correct one.
Which is, indubitably, the opposite of the one Herbert Bayer reached.
The exhibition information board comment about the effort Herbert Bayer made to keep his Nazi associations out of later biographies and exhibitions tending to support the view that even Bayer understood his decision wasn’t the cleverest.
By 1938 however even Herbert Bayer was starting to notice that less than positive changes were afoot and decided to leave Germany.
The opportunity came through an offer from Walter Gropius to design the New York Museum of Modern Art’s Bauhaus retrospective, and so fittingly the visitor departs Mein Reklame-Fegefeuer with examples of Bayer’s graphic design for said exhibition displayed alongside further examples of his early American output.
Although we would have liked a little more context, for all in relation to the depth and nature of Herbert Bayer’s contact to and agreements with the NSDAP, Mein Reklame-Fegefeuer provides in the course of the 200 or so exhibits a nice introduction to the man, the period and so the early development of the modern graphic design industry we know today. Through the changes in and evolution of graphic and text styles, layouts and subject matter in the presented works one understands not only how Herbert Bayer developed as an artist, but how much modern graphic designers still owe one of the pioneers.
Mein Reklame-Fegefeuer Herbert Bayer. Werbegrafik 1928 – 1938 runs at the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin until Monday February 24th 2014. Full details can be found at www.bauhaus.de
In 2019 the Staatlichen Bauhaus Weimar celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding.
And so, in effect, we can all celebrate 100 years of European Modernism as an important, tangible, unignorable and ever challenging movement.
As part of the build-up to the anniversary the three Bauhaus locations – Berlin, Dessau, Weimar – have combined forces to instigate the Triennale der Moderne
A Triennale with a triangular concept: Every three years each of the three locations will host three days of festivities over three consecutive weekends.
Three, famously, being the magic number. As it were
The Triennale der Moderne 2013 begins in Berlin on the weekend of September 27th – 29th, moves on to Weimar on the weekend October 4th – 10th before ending in Dessau over the weekend October 11th – 13th 2013.
The central theme for the Triennale der Moderne 2013 is “Zerstörte Vielfalt” – Destroyed Diversity – and as such it hitches a ride on the coattails of Berlin’s 2013 culture project of the same name, a project which focuses on examining the effects on German cultural identity of the Machtübergabe by the NSDAP. Two of the effects being the closure of Bauhaus Berlin four months after the Machtübergabe and the “work bans” for and subsequent emigration of Jewish architects.
All three Triennale der Moderne 2013 locations explore aspects of these events.
In 2016 the 2nd Triennale der Moderne will celebrate the 90th anniversary of Walter Gropius’ Bauhaus Dessau Building before in 2019 the centenary of the Staatlichen Bauhaus Weimar is the focus of attention.
Officially the Triennale der Moderne is positioned as a project aimed at promoting modernist architecture in Germany.
As such it is a bit of a shame that no “non-Berlin/Dessau/Weimar” locations of modernist architecture in Germany have been included in the Triennale der Moderne 2013. And don’t appear to be included in future Triennali. Stuttgart with its Weissenhofsiedlung or Alfeld an der Leine with its Fagus-Werk being two of the most obvious examples.
We find such important not least because if you include more than just the three Bauhaus locations you can build a better, fuller, rounder and for all more accurate picture of what modernist architecture was and what it has become.
That said the programme at all three locations would appear to offer the visitor an excellent insight into some lesser explored corners of the modernist story and as such make the Triennale der Moderne 2013 an event worth exploring in more detail.
Full details on the Triennale der Moderne 2013 can be found at http://www.triennale-der-moderne.de
Much as we bemoan our annual trip to Milan, we do generally return enriched in some form or another. And, secretly, glad that we went.
2011′s epiphany came when we were introduced to the Milanese producer Azucena. The introduction coming via Konstantin Grcic and his Entre-Deux “screen/divider/barricade”, an object that was/is the start of a longer term cooperation between Grcic and Azucena.
A continuation of which we are patiently awaiting.
Until then we are whetting our Azucena appetite with the exhibition Between Time in Berlin.
Staged by vintage furniture dealer Erik Hofstetter and interior designer Gisbert Pöppler, Between Time is billed as a hybrid between “interior design showroom, furniture store and art gallery”. A description which anyone who has viewed Between Time knows is almost an insult to the spectacular setting: a neglected 19th century former ironmonger shop in Berlin-Mitte.
And for us it is the setting that makes the show.
Yes it is all very obvious. Yes it is maybe all too obvious. But then so was Elvis Presley in his 1973 “Aloha from Hawaii” concert. And Between Time is every bit as dramatic, every bit as rhinestone and every bit as delectable.
For us the highlights of Between Time are the objects from the Azucena collection including, for example, Luigi Caccia Dominioni’s 1958 Catilina iron armchair, his 1964/65 Boccia and Grappolo lamps or Corrado Corradi Dell’Acqua’s Angolo upholstered chairs. Then there is of course Dominioni’s Lampada Poltrona which in 2011 we described as “….a leather strap with an in-built, adjustable, brass lamp. And a switch. The idea is that Lampada Poltrona can be placed over a chair, side table or a pillow/cushion and so used as a mobile reading lamp. Genius.”
And it still is.
To compliment the Milanese artisan classics the curators have bestrewn the space with some truly majestic examples of vintage furniture design, including an 1880 Thonet chair with perforated markings that offers an interesting, and rarely seen, perspective on the, early, Thonet aesthetic philosophy. It looks like a brogue.
If we’re honest we didn’t give the displayed art works the attention they almost certainly deserve; but we were there for the furniture and the location and so make no apologies for being so distracted.
And it is all very distracting.
And highly recommendable. Some impressions…..
Between Time runs at Wallstrasse 85, 10179 Berlin until September 22nd 2013.
For us there are many highlights to the (smow) design year, Milan, London, Brussels, Copenhagen…. and of course DMY Berlin.
DMY Berlin isn’t the biggest design fair, but what it lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality. And for 2010 the organisers have not only found a new location; but also a new jury structure.
Rather than the normal “rotating heads jury” DMY Berlin now features a UN Security Council approach with 3 permanent members and 2 rotating.
The three permanent members will preside over the jury for the next three years, a decision which in our minds can only improve the quality of their decisions and so the standing and importance of DMY Berlin.
We believe on facebook people would give that a thumbs-up.
The first three permanent jury members are Werner Aisslinger (Designer, Studio Aisslinger), Jurgen Bey (Designer, Studio Makkink& Bey) and Jerszy Seymour (Designer, Jerszy Seymour Design Workshop), and they will be joined in 2010 by Hella Jongerius (Designer, Jongeriuslab) and – in all probability – Alfredo Häberli (Designer, Alfredo Häberli Design Development Zurich).
Now we know Ms Jongerius was there last year because we spied her quietly perusing the DMY Youngsters exhibition.
And so for those of you wanting to be part of the competition, and potentially impress Hella Jongerius and the other judges: The final deadline for entries is March 10th
Full details can be found here
And like a remiss lover returning from a holiday fling, instantly felt a pang of guilt as we saw the card and were reminded of that wonderful time at DMY Youngsters.
Why hadn’t we responded since our return? Did it all mean so little?
For the truth is that LADAR by Wohngold is a truly wonderful product in an area of product design with a lot of competition.
In our modern world we rely heavily on mobile items, and happily ignore the fact that the majority of mobile items occasionally need to be recharged or otherwise attached to cables. Most of us ignore this fact in that we ignoring the piles of spaghetti that accumulate on or near our desks.
But we all know its wrong.
There are a number of “boxes” on the market designed to help you control the uncontrollable, but what we like about LADAR is the fact that it is wall mountable, the space on top and inside can be used for storage of non-electrical items and it looks fantastic.
We were honestly greatly taken with the ingenious simplicity of LADAR – and so apologies that we haven’t sent you card since our return.
We at (smow)blog we have often mentioned Vitras Net’n'Nest office design concept – one the one hand because we like it and on the other because as an official Vitra partner we at smow like to draw attention to new developments and products from Vitra.
We have, however, never made a secret of the fact that one can – if one wants – mix and match furniture from various producers.
Which was pretty much our third thought upon seeing Adenike by Heidelberg based designer Bao-Nghi Droste at DMY Youngsters in Berlin.
Our first thought was what a fantastic object.
Our second was then, hhhmmm wonderful design, but with the padded surface it is a bit impractical for writing and drawing.
Then we spoke to Bao-Nghi and realised that our interpretation of it’s usage was incorrect.
Although the upper surface is solid enough to allow one to write on it, Adenike should be seen more as temporary work or meeting island. Or simply as a place to withdraw to from a group work situation in the same room and either do some work by yourself, or just read a paper and relax.
The first thing you notice, or better said don’t notice, when you approach Adenike is how it draws you in. You automatically lean on it, use it, interact with it. But because of the quality of the design you don’t notice, it feels natural, feels good.
Adenike has enough space for 4 or 5 people to comfortably work around it, and with it’s own in-built lamp is perfect for checking proofs, finalising documents or even playing poker to wile away a slow afternoon. Sorry to encourage a creative brainstorming session to ensure your company maintains the commercial high-ground.
In addition to beautifully fulfilling it’s intended function Adenike is also a well crafted piece of furniture; you genuinely don’t need to be a carpenter to appreciate the craftsmanship of the joints.
And so after chatting with the extremely amiable Bao-Nghi and testing Adenike, we came to thought three.
Adenike is perfect for all whose work involves occasional group discussions and/or short bursts of group consultation. Or for those who after a long sitting session creating something, want to stand to check the outcome of their work. And so a wonderful addition for any office looking to base it’s layout on the principles of the Vitra Net’n'Nest concept.
Adenikeis currently not is serial production, and so if you are interested you will need to contact Bao-Nghi Droste direct.
Before we start slowing down and head outdoors to enjoy the summer we want to take the opportunity over the next couple of weeks to look back on the smow design spring; namely our trips to Milan, New York, Brühl, Basel and Berlin … as well as to start looking forward to the forthcoming smow design autumn.
With the experience of the five very different trips, and the slight pause afforded by the summer, we want to take stock, analyse a little more deeply and for all highlight those innovations and products that really caught our attention and which we believe are of interest.
There may also be some really, really weak humour … but we hope not.
In addition we want to preview a little of what can be expected during the smow design autumn
We will certainly be at the London Design Festival, Designers Open in Leipzig, Design September in Brussels, Copenhagen Design Week and we also fancy the Cardiff Design Festival, if they ever get round to confirming the dates :)
Further shows, trade fairs and especially trips to smow partner producers and designers may follow.
But don’t think we’ll be slacking off over the summer … although there may be a couple more posts about outdooor furniture, barbecues and seat coverings that are good for sun-burnt backs than normal, we will still be actively searching for – and finding – the very best in designer furniture.
Every month we send a photo to the Vitra magazine. And every month they don’t.
Whereas the good Jaspers photos are always entertaining, this months entry was a lot more thoughtful and thought provoking.
Taken in Indian Pondicherry the photo shows a chandelier made from old PET bottles and Christmas lights. “If this was an exhibit at the Salone del Mobile in Milan I wouldn’t give it a second look” comments Morrison, before adding “but far removed from the temptations of designer dreams in Pondicherry, it holds a very different meaning and purpose.”
We don’t know how often Jasper Morrison was out and about in Milan, but we saw at least two lamps made from recycled bottles in Italy, then a couple in New York and yet another at DMY Berlin (in addition to the re-appearance of one we’d already seen in Milan)
Not only that but in Berlin we also found a lamp made out of broken umbrellas.
Discarded consumer goods as lighting is a current topic in contemporary design.
Except of course the materials aren’t discarded; rather, they’ve been used out of context to create the impression of a recycled product and so make a statement about first world consumption.
Only the product themselves automatically become an abuse of the uncontrolled consumption we in the north practice. We just call it “the temptations of designer dreams” in order to justify the unjustifiable.
For everyone who knows how much natural resources and energy goes into making one PET bottle also knows that tying it to another dozen to create a lamp is irresponsible waste.
And so where Morrison focuses on the Pondicherry Chandelier as demonstrating the intrinsic quality of good design, for us the more important message is: Stop pretending your recycling. Please.
If you live and work as an industrial or product designer in Europe you have almost limitless possibilities as regards raw materials and production processes. If you genuinely care about creating “green” or “sustainable” design make sure your materials and production processes reflect that concern and minimise impact.
And if you don’t care about creating “green” or “sustainable” design, then build a chair from asbestos.
When Morrison states “…in Pondicherry, it holds a very different meaning and purpose” he means, and we believe understands, that it is “genuine”. Isn’t created as an artistic exercise by someone with access to libraries, internet, machines and materials in a scale beyond the grasp of most people; rather, by someone who needs to solve a problem, and that with the limited resources that physically lie before him.
There’s a verse in “Holiday in Cambodia” by the Dead Kennedys that goes:
Play ethnicky jazz
To parade your snazz
On your five grand stereo
Braggin that you know
How the niggers feel cold
And the slums got so much soul
The world doesn’t need designers demonstrating to the the worlds poor how clever one can be with a few old plastic bottles and a bit of electric cable. As the Pondicherry Chandelier beautifully demonstrates, the skills exist, the innovation exists, the understanding exists.
And the unfair global distribution of resources exists.
The world needs designers who improve our situation and who understand that PET bottles are part of the problem and incorporating them into designs doesn’t actually help.
We need fewer PET bottles, not more.
Sustainability and fairness don’t mean puritan abstinence; they can be fun, aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. And as far as we’re concerned should be. We positively appeal to the designers of the world to make the future for comfortable and safe; and that for all of us from Tipperary to Pondicherry and from Copenhagen to Harare.
Just don’t pretend your recycling for the benefit of the over-fed and the over-paid. And especially not with PET bottles.
And so thanks to Jasper Morrison for the photo, and more of the same please.
More weak, and potentially unfunny, humour about dogs driving delivery vans tomorrow :)