Posts Tagged ‘copenhagen’

5 New Design Exhibitions for October 2014

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers” exclaims Anne Shirley in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, “it would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it?”

Yes Anne, it would.

Yet while Ms Shirley turned her youthful attention to decorating her bedroom with the brightly coloured maple branches so prevalent on Prince Edward Island at this time of year, our joy is found in the new architecture and design exhibitions opening in the coming weeks.

In no particular order, and as Anne would no doubt phrase it, our top five thrills for October 2014……

“Studio Wieki Somers – Out of the Ordinary” at Museum Boijmans, Rotterdam, Holland

We first came across the work of Rotterdam based Studio Wieki Somers a.k.a. Dylan van den Berg and Wieki Somers through their contribution to the 2012 exhibition “Contemporary Dutch Design Live” at the Vitra Design Museum. Yes the fact that they were presenting a 100 kilo chocolate praline helped attract our attention, but much more impressive was the way Studio Wieki Somers employed a relatively brutal and direct process to elicit a delicate, almost unseen transformation in the pattern of the praline. And this attention to the finer details of aesthetic and construction, an ability to bring the inner beauty of an object to the surface without comprising the functionality, underscores much of the Studio Wieki Somers’ canon. In addition to having their work produced by manufacturers as varied as Kahla Porcelain, Tectona or Droog, Studio Wieki Somers have also cooperated with the likes of Galerie Kreo Paris, the Textile Museum in Tilburg and Galerie Vivid Rotterdam. To celebrate the studio’s tenth anniversary the Museum Boijmans in Rotterdam are presenting an exhibition of the studios output. Featuring projects such as their 2004 Trophies drinking glasses, the 2005 Bathboat or their 2010 Frozen in Time collection, Out of the Ordinary promises to provide a succinct overview of a very interesting design studio. A particularly nice touch is that with the exhibition running over winter visitors will be able to make use of the Merry-Go-Round Coat Rack Studio Wieki Somers created in 2009 for the entrance of the Museum Boijmans.

Studio Wieki Somers – Out of the Ordinary opens at Museum Boijmans, Museumpark 18, 3015 CX Rotterdam on Saturday October 11th and runs until Sunday January 11th.

 ”Chocolate Mill” by Studio Wieki Somers created in context of the exhibition “Contemporary Dutch Design Live” at the Vitra Design Museum, 2012

“Skud på Stammen 2014″ at Trapholt – Museum of Modern Art, Applied Art, Design and Architecture, Kolding, Denmark

Since 2007 the programme Skud på Stammen – roughly “Chip of the old block” or “New branches ” – has paired carpentry students from Copenhagen Technical College with experienced designers to work on a collaborative project. And since 2007 the results of these co-operations have been presented in an exhibition at the Trapholt art and design museum in Kolding. Following on from the themes “From seed to…” in 2011, “Recession” in 2012 and “Globalisation” in 2013, Skud på Stammen 2014 asked participants to work on the theme “Over the line”: a theme which takes 2014 and Hans J Wegner and Børge Mogensen 100th birthdays as a starting point to challenge popular conceptions of “Danish Design” as represented by the works of the two centenarians. A not altogether unfitting theme as it was co-operations between designers/architects such as Mogensen or Wegner and carpenters which laid the foundations for the works that today form the popular understanding of the much hyped “Danish Design”. An understanding we know many younger Danish designers have real problems with; yet from which carpenters and cabinet makers still benefit. Thus it should be interesting to see how the invited contemporary designers, including, Kasper Salto, Sigurd Larsen and Jonas Pedersen, and the students cooperate. And who has the greater say in the finished works.

Skud på Stammen 2014 opens at Trapholt – Museum of Modern Art, Applied Art, Design and Architecture, Æblehaven 23, DK-6000 Kolding on Tuesday October 28th and runs until Sunday February 1st

Børge Mogensen FDB Chair Danish Museum of Art and Design Copenhagen

A Børge Mogensen FDB Chair and an 18th/19th century English chair, as seen at Danish Museum of Art and Design in Copenhagen. A perfect demonstration of the origins of "Danish Design" in traditional carpentry.

“Frank Gehry” at Le Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

We’re not going to claim to be the biggest fans of Canadian architect Frank O Gehry’s buildings. Or perhaps better put we’re not going to claim to be the biggest fans of Gehry Partners’ formulaic repetition in their constructions, something we most recently noted in our post on Gehry Partners’ planned tower block for Alexanderplatz in Berlin. In that post we also argued that the “blame” doesn’t lie with Gehry alone, but that the largest part must be accepted by those who commission Gehry with the tacit expectation of a building that looks like something he previously built. Frank Gehry should obviously say no to such commissions. But one can’t really blame him for accepting them. Yet while we find the debates surrounding Gehry Partners’ projects important they do however distract somewhat from the undeniable contribution Frank Gehry has made to contemporary architecture, including his early experimentation with deconstructivist forms, his reconfiguration of modernist standards, his considerations on perception of space or his role in developing the use of 3D computer based planning in architecture, innovations which underscore the Pritzker Architecture Prize Jury’s 1989 Citation that “Gehry’s work is a highly refined, sophisticated and adventurous aesthetic that emphasizes the art of architecture.”1 The Centre Pompidou’s forthcoming exhibition would seem to offer an excellent chance to weigh up such positions. Curated by Frédéric Migayrou and Aurélien Lemonier from the Musée National d’art Moderne the exhibition is, according to the organisers, the first major Frank Gehry retrospective in Europe and will feature some 225 drawings and 67 models through which 60 Gehry projects are investigated, including the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and, naturally, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. And by lucky coincidence October also sees the opening of Frank Gehry’s latest “signature” work: The Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. Gehry-sur-Seine, as it were.

Frank Gehry opens at Le Centre Pompidou, Place Georges-Pompidou, 75191 Paris on Wednesday October 8th and runs until Monday January 26th

1. http://www.pritzkerprize.com/1989/jury Accessed 29.09.2014

vitra design museum frank gehry

The Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein. Frank Gehry's first building in Europe.

“Gaudí. Eine zukunftsweisende Architektur” at the Architekturzentrum Wien, Vienna, Austria

Those wanting a more complete impression and/or deeper understanding of d’oeuvre Frank O Gehry are probably best advised to travel from Paris to Vienna for an exhibition devoted to another great exponent of signature architecture: Antoni Gaudí. As indeed are all who want to understand more about the man and architect behind the Parc Güell and La Sagrada Família in Barcelona. Organised by the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, “Gaudí. Architecture Ahead of its Time” promises to explore not only Gaudí’s most famous creations but also his lesser known early works, his design work, including furniture, in addition to explaining how he approached his projects and his empirical, model based, methods for calculating the statics and load bearing capacity of his constructions, and thus aims to provide an image of the man that goes beyond mosaic covered lizards and unfinished churches.

Gaudí. Eine zukunftsweisende Architektur opens at the Architekturzentrum Wien – Alte Halle, Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Vienna on Thursday October 2nd and runs until Sunday November 2nd

Antoni Gaudí. Krypta der Kirche der Colònia Güell. Innenansicht (1898-1917)

Antoni Gaudí. Crypt of the church in the Colònia Güell. Interior. (Photo © Ricard Pla i Pere Vivas. Triangle Postals. Courtesy of Architekturzentrum Wien)

“Villa Tugendhat” at Weissenhofwerkstatt im Haus Mies van der Rohe, Stuttgart, Germany

Just as universally identifiable with Barcelona as Gaudí’s La Sagrada Família is without question Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Pavilion for the German trade mission to the 1929 International Exposition. Parallel to developing the Barcelona Pavilion Mies van der Rohe was also working on a further project that would confirm his position as one of the most important architects of his generation, the so-called Villa Tugendhat in Brno. As with his Barcelona Pavilion Mies van der Rohe ignored “traditional” construction principles for Villa Tugendhat preferring instead an iron reinforced concrete frame, a decision which negated the need for internal supporting walls, thus allowing for a more individual, and for all more open, room plan. A construction principle which was truly revolutionary in its day. The majority of the rear wall meanwhile is given over to floor-to-ceiling windows, thus not only allowing for an increased feel of lightness and openness but also offering spectacular views over Brno. In addition to revolutionary construction principles the Villa Tugendhat is also remarkable for the advanced technology employed, including an electronic window opening system and an integrated heating/cooling system. Besides the building Mies van der Rohe was also responsible for the fixtures and fittings, largely relying on his own furniture including the Barcelona Chair and MR 20 cantilever chair in addition to two chairs developed specially for the project, the “Tugendhat Chair” and “Brno Chair. The one major exception to the self-created interior was the decision to use Poul Henningsen’s new PH Lamps. Curated by the Villa Tugendhat Study and Documentation Centre the exhibition in Stuttgart aims not only to explain and explore the construction itself but also the recently completed renovations and thus promises to provide a delightful and accessible introduction to a most fascinating construction.

Villa Tugendhat opens at the Weissenhofwerkstatt im Haus Mies van der Rohe, Am Weissenhof 20, 70191 Stuttgart on Saturday October 11th and runs until Sunday November 30th.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Villa Tugendhat Brno

Villa Tugendhat Brno by Ludwig Mies van der Roh, rear view (Photo © David Židlický, Courtesy of Villa Tugendhat Study and Documentation Centre)

 

 

(smow) blog compact: Finn Juhl – a Danish Design Icon at Design museum Gent

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

By way of a final addendum to our “5 New Design Exhibitions for July 2014” post, the Design museum Gent are currently hosting an exhibition devoted to one of the true masters of 20th century design, Finn Juhl.

A designer who, as regular readers will be aware, we yield ground to no man to in our admiration for.

Finn Juhl Chieftain Chair

Finn Juhl in his Chieftain Chair (Photo: © Trapholt Museum Kolding, courtesy Design museum Gent)

Born in Frederiksberg, Denmark in 1912 Finn Juhl studied architecture at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. Following his graduation in 1934 Finn Juhl took up a position with the modernist architect Vilhelm Lauritzen, before establishing his own studio in 1945. As with many architects of his age Finn Juhl’s first furniture designs were for his own apartment, his public début coming at the 1937 Copenhagen Cabinetmaker’s Guild exhibition. In the same year Finn Juhl’s first works were produced by the Copenhagen cabinet maker Niels Vodder, the beginning of a partnership that lasted until 1959. In addition to Niels Vodder Finn Juhl’s furniture designs were also produced by France & Søn, Ludvig Pontoppidan, Bovirke and Baker Furniture from Grand Rapids, Michigan; a partnership which highlights just one of the differences between Finn Juhl and his compatriot Hans J. Wegner who initially refused to have his furniture produced in America for fear of losing quality of craftsmanship. Being a “pure” architect without any form of carpentry or general craft training Finn Juhl had no such qualms. He trusted that Americans were as skilled craftsmen as their Danish colleagues.

In addition to his furniture designs Finn Juhl also completed numerous notable architecture projects, including Bing & Grøndahl’s flagship store in Copenhagen and the chamber of the UN Trusteeship Council at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, in addition to teaching at the Copenhagen School of Interior Design and the Institute of Design, Chicago. Finn Juhl died in Copenhagen on  May 17th 1989.

Finn Juhl Poet Sofa

Poet Sofa by Finn Juhl (Photo: © Trapholt Museum Kolding, courtesy Design museum Gent)

From a young age Finn Juhl had planned to follow a career in art history, his father, thankfully, manoeuvring him towards architecture. His passion for art however never left him and contemporary art, and for all abstract sculpture, served as a major influence on his architectural and furniture design work. With flowing, self-confident, almost regal objects such as the Poet Sofa, Chieftain Armchair, Pelican Chair or Eye Table Finn Juhl not only helped introduce complete new form languages and conventions into furniture design but also helped establish the tenacious myth of “Danish Design”.

Finn Juhl – a Danish Design Icon was originally shown in 2012 at the Trapholt Museum of Modern Art, Applied Art, Design And Furniture Design in Kolding, Denmark, and in addition to presenting examples of Finn Juhl’s work also explains the source of his various inspirations, how he interpreted them into his work, juxtapositions Finn Juhl with his contemporaries and so helps explain why Finn Juhl is such an important designer. And why his works are more than just endearing visual masterpieces.

Finn Juhl – a Danish Design Icon runs at Design museum Gent, Jan Breydelstraat 5, 9000 Gent until Sunday October 12th 2014.

Full details can be found at www.designmuseumgent.

Finn Juhl through One Collection. Here at CODE 10, Copenhagen

CH24 Wishbone Chair by Hans J. Wegner for Carl Hansen & Søn

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

At the 1949 Copenhagen Carpenters Guild exhibition Hans J. Wegner presented his JH501 “Round Chair” for Johannes Hansen. Often referred to simply as “The Chair”, for many its basic yet expressive form reflecting perfection in chair design, the JH501 was the work with which Hans J. Wegner first reached a mass public and is in many ways the work that first established the international reputation of Danish design and which made Danish furniture “hip”.

Among those who saw the JH501 at the 1949 exhibition was the furniture dealer Eivind Kold Christensen, who subsequently asked Wegner if he could create something similar for the Odense based manufacturer Carl Hansen & Søn, something similar, but which in its construction would be adaptable for partial machine production and so less exclusive than the handmade JH501.1 An affordable chair for a mass public, as, for example, with Michael Thonet’s chairs.

Wegner readily agreed. And promptly created the CH24 Wishbone Chair, also known as the Y Chair, an object which bears little or no similarity to the JH501.

Other than the use of bent wood.

CH24 Wishbone Chair Hans J. Wegner Carl Hansen & Søn Sketch

Sketches by Hans J. Wegner of what would become the CH24 Wishbone Chair (Photo: Hans J. Wegners Tegnestue I/S, courtesy of Hatje Cantz Verlag)

As with all good design the Wishbone Chair looks effortless, yet this effortlessness hides a carefully planned and thoroughly thought through construction, a construction composed by a craftsman with not only a fine understanding of his craft but much more by one with a restless creative mind driven by a passion for improving works past.

As a student at the Copenhagen Arts and Crafts School Hans J. Wegner was introduced to the so-called Chinese Chair, a simple, common chair form that was to inspire and influence him his career long. In the mid 1940s he designed two “Chinese Chairs” for Fritz Hansen, the FH1783 and FH4282 2, and, as Christian Holmsted Olesen beautifully illustrates in “WEGNER – Just one good chair“, the Wishbone Chair can be seen as a further development of these works.

With a few important variations.

For all the characteristic “Y” shaped backrest element, a feature which allows the backrest to curve further out than would otherwise be the case, thus allowing a slightly longer, more organic backrest which gives the sitter more room than in, for example, Wegner’s Chinese Chairs or JH501. This backrest construction is aided and abetted by the rear leg, which extends forwards with a delicate, self confident, twist to support the backrest in the middle of the seat, thus avoiding the need for an additional, and potentially space constricting, supporting element at the front of the arms.
The result is a much more open, lighter form language, a chair that emits a welcoming calm that almost invites one to sit down.

In addition, with its much shorter arms the Wishbone Chair is more suitable for use at the dinning table than the JH501 – a deliberate design decision on Wegner’s part and one which solved one of the, for him, faults with “The Chair”3

The CH24 as an improvement on the perfect JH501, if you will.

Released by Carl Hansen & Søn in 1950 the Wishbone Chair took time to establish itself, but ultimately was to go on to become Wegner’s most commercially successful chair design.

To mark Hans J. Wegner’s centenary (smow) are offering the CH24 Wishbone Chair from Carl Hansen & Søn at celebratory prices. The offer applies to all oak and beech versions of the Wishbone Chair ordered before May 15th 2014.

And so while, much like Hans J. Wegner, you never be able to design just one good chair…. you can own one.

Full details can be found at smow.com

1. “Christian Holmsted Olesen”, WEGNER – Just one good chair”, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, 2014

2. ibid

3. ibid

CH24 Wishbone Chair Hans J. Wegner Carl Hansen & Søn

CH24 Wishbone Chair by Hans J. Wegner for Carl Hansen & Søn

CH24 Wishbone Chair Hans J. Wegner Carl Hansen & Søn Side

CH24 Wishbone Chair by Hans J. Wegner for Carl Hansen & Søn

(smow) blog Design Calendar: April 2nd 1914 – Happy Birthday Hans J. Wegner!

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Born on April 2nd 1914 Hans Jørgensen Wegner is without question one of the most important designers of the so-called Danish Modern movement.

Works such as the Peacock Chair from 1947, the 1949 JH501, an object often referred to simply as “The Chair” or his 1949 CH24 Wishbone Chair, his best selling creation, largely helping define Danish design in the 1940s and 1950s. Golden decades that still dominate the public persona of the Danish design tradition.

Hans Jørgensen Wegner is equally unequivocally one of the most academically neglected designers, and is, for example, the subject of considerably fewer books than his contemporaries.

And so it is especially welcome that to mark Wegner’s 100th birthday not only is the Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen staging one of the most comprehensive Wegner exhibitions ever conceived, but are also publishing an accompanying book on the designer and his work: WEGNER – Just one good chair.

WEGNER – Just one good chair Christian Holmsted Olesen Hatje Cantz Verlag

WEGNER – Just one good chair by Christian Holmsted Olesen, published by Hatje Cantz

Written by Christian Holmsted Olesen, the Designmuseum Danmark’s head of exhibitions and collections, and largely based on video interviews recorded with Wegner before his death and interviews with those who knew, understood and worked with Wegner, Just one good chair not only documents Hans J. Wegner’s journey from teenage carpentry apprentice to the Grand Doyen of 20th century Danish furniture design, but also contains a comprehensive, if not complete, register of Wegner’s works.

The first thing to say is that Just one good chair is a little too sickly sweet for our tastes. Olesen is clearly a fan of Wegner, and who isn’t, but the book is written in such uncritically positive tones, occasionally unbearably so, that it distracts from the subject at hand and, at times, almost turns the reader away from the designer. Wegner’s work doesn’t need the hagiography. Just explaining.

However, read through the sickly sweet prose and Just one good chair provides a comprehensive and very informative overview of Hans J. Wegner’s approach to his work and his understanding of his responsibilities.

For all his responsibility to the traditions of Danish carpentry.

Born in the southern Danish town of Tønder as the second son to shoemaker Peter Mathiesen Wegner and his wife Nicoline, Hans J. Wegner spent a considerable part of his early years hanging around his father’s workshop, whittling on odds and ends of wood, before leaving school at 14 to begin an apprenticeship with local carpenter H. F. Stahlberg. According to Olesen an important moment in the young Wegner’s career came in 1935 when, while completing his military service in Copenhagen, he visited the annual exhibition of the Copenhagen Carpenters’ Guild, and realised that if he was going to achieve his aim of becoming a Master Carpenter, he was going to have to seriously improve his skills. As a consequence, in 1936 Wegner enrolled in the carpentry class of the Kunsthåndværkerskolen, the Copenhagen Arts and Crafts School: an institution which he then left two years later to take up a position with Arne Jacobsen and Erik Møller. In 1942 Hans J. Wegner established himself as freelance designer and architect. The rest, as they say…..

Although Wegner only attended the Arts and Crafts School for two years, as Christian Holmsted Olesen explains, in the course of these two years the foundations were laid on which Hans J. Wegner was to establish his career.

Firstly the teaching at the Arts and Crafts School was almost completely based on the design principles of the institutes guiding father Kaare Klint, an architect and designer with an almost fanatical addiction to traditional forms and traditional crafts. Although in his adoption of, for example, organic forms and suspended seats Wegner distanced himself from aspects of Klint’s thinking, in other respects, most notably his dogmatic adherence to handicrafts and his reference to established historical forms, Wegner clearly remained a designer influenced by Klint. An important aspect of the Arts and Crafts School’s concept was the measuring and drawing of historical furniture models. That the school was housed in the Designmuseum Danmark there were no shortage of examples to choose from, and during his time at the school Wegner was introduced to numerous chair forms which he regularly referenced in his own designs.

Although Kaare Klint was the guiding force behind the Kunsthåndværkerskolen, during Wegner’s time the school was under the directorship of Klint’s former pupil Orla Mølgaard-Nielsen, a man who not only to set up the position for Wegner with Jacobsen and Møller but who also introduced Wegner to the carpenter Johannes Hansen, with whom Wegner subsequently cooperated for 26 years and in whose workshops many of Wegner’s most important projects were realised. And perhaps most importantly it was Orla Mølgaard-Nielsen who in 1946 arranged a job for Wegner in Copenhagen, thus allowing him to return to the capital from his war time base in Aarhus. And so to resume his cooperation with Johannes Hansen, and so realise those projects that were to establish his reputation.

At the Kunsthåndværkerskolen Wegner also met Børge Mogensen, an man with whom he was to enjoy a lifelong friendship and professional relationship – even if, as Christian Holmsted Olesen makes clear, the two often had strongly opposing views on design questions. Although one must also add that in many respects these differences and the pair’s regular, or better put, constant, discussions, pushed both designer’s thinking forward and so helped them form their own, individual, approaches to design.

In addition to documenting the importance of the Arts and Crafts School to Wegner’s development Christian Holmsted Olesen also highlights and underscores the important role played in Wegner’s career by the Copenhagen furniture dealer Eivind Kold Christensen, the man who brokered Wegner’s contact to important commercial furniture producers of the period including Getama, A. P. Stolen and Carl Hansen & Søn, discusses Wegner’s, often too easily forgotten, development of low-cost furniture systems, explores the importance of Wegner’s three month tour of America in 1953 and also provides ample evidence that Hans J. Wegner clearly had something of a stubborn streak.

A stubborn streak which may of course also explain why the Ox Chair was his personal favourite amongst his chairs.

During his 1953 American tour, Olesen recounts, Wegner was approached with a proposal to have his work serially produced in America, and thus made available, at an affordable price, to a mass public au fait with organic design through the works of Eames, Saarinen et al. Wegner said no! For Wegner his furniture had been created to be made by craftsmen, by hand, in Denmark. Anything else was inconceivable. In the 1970s, however, the changed economic and market conditions in Europe meant that Wegner had to accept the partial machine production of his furniture. Albeit still exclusively in Denmark. These changing conditions also meant that Wegner’s preferred dark, tropical woods were no longer en vogue. Ejnar Pedersen, CEO of manufacturer PP Møbler, remembers that when they took over production of the Valet Chair from Johannes Hansen in 1991 he asked Wegner from which wood it should be made, “”pine and teak” replied Wegner, “we’ll never sell those” I said, “it must be maple.” “You and your maple”, answered Wegner, “do what you want!”. And so we made 50 in maple, 50 in mahogany and 50 in pine and teak. When the 50 in maple had been sold we had only sold 20 in mahogany and 20 in pine and teak”

Which all of course reminds us of Arne Jacobsen’s, initial, stubborn, refusal to make his three legged Ant Chair four legged as Fritz Hansen wanted. The subsequently developed four legged Series 7 chair of course going on to become Jacobsen’s most commercially successful chair.

Events which nicely highlight the perils of leaving certain decisions to designers alone.

In addition to Christian Holmsted Olesen’s text WEGNER – Just one good chair is richly illustrated, featuring some 240 photos including images of Wegner at work, impressions of his sketches and other art works in addition to numerous photos of Wegner’s furniture designs.

hans j wegner and his chairs

Hans J. Wegner relaxing amongst some of his chairs. (Photo: Hans J. Wegners Tegnestue I/S, courtesy of Hatje Cantz Verlag)

From the very beginning Olesen makes clear that part of the aim of Just one good chair is to de-construct the myth of Hans J. Wegner as simply a genial carpenter and instead present Wegner as an experimental designer, an artist and as a master of materials and construction with an especially strong affinity to form.

For us he succeeds. Partly.

Having read Just one good chair we don’t see Wegner as having been genuinely experimental in the classical sense. Olesen does however convincingly present a profile of a man who understood the traditions of Danish carpentry, understood the value of proven, established forms and who was one of the first practitioners to understand the importance of not only interpreting these proven, established forms in new, modern ways, but of also of re-interpreting the basic tenets of Danish carpentry. And who thus helped advance a new approach to furniture design and an aesthetic that perfectly complimented the uncompromising formality of the dominant modernist architecture of the period.

Wegner didn’t break the mould, he planed it down, layer for layer, and re-formed it with “almost provocative” curves.

The title of the book is a reference to a 1952 quote from Wegner, “If only you could design just one good chair in your life . . . But you simply cannot”

Wegner knew such was impossible, not because he couldn’t design chairs, but because, much like Egon Eiermann, he always felt one could do better, one could perfect what one had created, or as Olesen quotes him, “there is nothing that you can’t improve.” Just one good chair eloquently explains how Hans J. Wegner pursued this perfection.

As we say, informative and enlightening as Christian Holmsted Olesen’s text unquestionably is, it is, for us, a little too sweet; however, if you consider it as a literal butterscotch drizzled marzipan meringue torte, then it makes the perfect birthday cake.

Happy Birthday Hans J. Wegner!

WEGNER – Just one good chair by Christian Holmsted Olesen is published by Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern and is available in English and German.

The Danish version, WEGNER – bare een god stol, is published by Strandberg Publishing, København.

hans j wegner ox chair

Hans J. Wegner in his Ox Chair (Photo: Hans J. Wegners Tegnestue I/S, courtesy of Hatje Cantz Verlag)

 

5 New Design Exhibitions for April 2014

Monday, March 31st, 2014

April 2014, as every April we can ever remember, means Milanese purgatory.

Apparently it is meant to cleanse the soul, purify our thoughts and generally mitigate for the sins of the past, and so allow us to proceed to higher plains and greater virtues.

And boy must we have sinned. We can’t remember exactly when, far less how. We just hope we enjoyed it at the time. Because now we are paying.

When, if, we return these are the new design exhibitions we’re planning on visiting to help us recover.

“Sitting – Lying – Swinging. Furniture from Thonet” at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, Leipzig, Germany

As we have repeated on numerous occasions in the past, the back catalogue and archive of German manufacturer Thonet is of the kind to make the soul of even the most hardened design critic melt with longing. As one would, should, expect from a furniture manufacturer who have helped usher in two furniture design revolutions: the industrial production of furniture through mass-scale wood bending in the late 19th century and the use of bent steel tubing in the early 20th century.

The Grassi Museum for Applied Arts in Leipzig however have chosen to, more or less, ignore these moments, and so the first 130 years of the company history, and focus instead on furniture produced since the end of World War II in the company’s Frankenberg (Eder) base.

A decision that is as brave as it is commendable.

Presenting some 130 items the exhibition promises to present well known, lesser known and unknown works by the likes of Stefan Diez, Konstantin Grcic, Sir Norman Foster, Verner Panton or Alfredo Häberli.

The first ever major presentation of Thonet’s contemporary output Sitting – Lying – Swinging not only promises to allow a chance to place the more modern works in the company’s tradition and history but also to understand the role Thonet continues to play in the development of contemporary furniture design. We suspect it will also illustrate how, and why, the company lost its way a little in the wake of the the cultural and aesthetic rethinking of the 1980s, before regaining ground in the past decade.

Sitting – Lying – Swinging. Furniture from Thonet opens at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, Johannisplatz 5-11, 04103 Leipzig on Thursday April 17th and runs until Sunday September 14th.

Sitting – Lying - Swinging. Furniture from Thonet at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, Leipzig, Germany

The bar stool 404H and chair 404 by Stefan Diez awaiting lacquering at Thonet's Frankenberg (Eder) production facility.

“Otl Aicher – Ordnungssinn und Dolce Vita. Fotografien der 1950er Jahre” at the HfG-Archiv Ulm, Germany

Although best known as a graphic designer, and for all through his work for Braun, Lufthansa and the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, Otl Aicher was a classically trained sculptor and so was, unsurprisingly, active in other artistic fields. Including photography.

The first exhibition of Otl Aicher’s photography for many a long decade, Ordnungssinn und Dolce Vita is, in effect, two exhibitions in one skin.

The Ordnungssinn – Sense of order – is explored through a presentation of some 50 original prints from a recently rediscovered collection of Otl Aicher photographs from the 1950s. Largely depicting landscapes and “structures” the exhibition organisers promise that the displayed works will allow both a glimpse into how Aicher perceived and understood the environment around him and also document the spirit of change/chance of the 1950s.

In addition to the rediscovered works the exhibition will also (re)present an exhibition of Otl Aicher’s photos that was originally shown in the Ulmer Museum in 1959 and which, and assuming we’ve understood the exhibition information correctly, largely presents studies from a tour of Italy undertaken by Aicher, and which present the Dolce Vita of the 1950s that still dominates German impressions of Italy. A particular highlight, if you think like us, promises to be an image of a non-leaning tower of Pisa – an image that unifies Ordnungssinn and Dolce Vita.

Otl Aicher – Ordnungssinn und Dolce Vita. Fotografien der 1950er Jahre opens at the HfG Studio, HfG-Archiv, Am Hochsträß 8, 89081 Ulm on Friday April 11th and runs until Sunday October 12th

Otl Aicher Ordnungssinn und Dolce Vita. Fotografien der 1950er Jahre at the HfG-Archiv Ulm, Germany

Otl Aicher - Ordnungssinn und Dolce Vita. Fotografien der 1950er Jahre" at the HfG-Archiv Ulm (Photos: Otl Aicher © Florian Aicher / HfG-Archiv/Ulmer Museum, Germany)

“Okolo Offline” at Depot Basel, Basel, Switzerland

After what feels like an eternity, everyone’s favourite Basel based design collective finally return with a new exhibition. An exhibition devoted to everyone’s favourite Prague based design collective, Okolo.

Established in 2009 by Jakub Štěch, Matěj Činčera, Adam Štěch and Jan Kloss Okolo have spent the past five years designing, curating exhibitions and publishing – online and offline.

Okolo Offline promises to give 25 Okolo blog posts from the past five years a physical, tactile form and so – hopefully – help explain the group, their approach to and understanding of contemporary creativity and so introduce the collective and their work to a wider audience.

In addition to the exhibition itself Okolo Offline also marks the launch of MINUTE a series of short films on design history produced by Okolo.

Okolo Offline opens at Depot Basel, Voltastrasse 43, 4056 Basel on Friday March 28th and runs until Sunday April 27th.

Okolo Offline Depot Basel

Okolo Offline at Depot Basel...... Basel

“Ola Kolehmainen – Geometric Light” at Haus am Waldsee, Berlin, Germany

“I use architecture as a starting point and source of inspiration, not as the ultimate final result. In fact my work is an examination of space, light and color, which reflect and question our way of looking at things.”

So explains the Finnish photographer Ola Kolehmainen his approach to his work. An approach that is as structured and methodical in its preparation as it is abstract and deconstructed in its result.

Until May 17th the Berlin gallery Haus am Waldsee is presenting Ola Kolehmainen’s latest project “Geometric Light” a series of photographs in which he ignores the buildings even more than before and concentrates on the light and shadow within and around the works.

Inspired and initiated by and during a tour of Spain in 2013 Geometric Light includes works from that Spanish tour in addition to photos originating, for example, in the Hagia Sophia.

Originating in. Not necessarily “of”……

Ola Kolehmainen – Geometric Light opens at Haus am Waldsee, Argentinische Allee 30, 14163 Berlin, Germany on Saturday April 5th and runs until May 17th

Ola Kolehmainen Konstruktivizm Infantil XII 2013

Ola Kolehmainen, Konstruktivizm Infantil XII, 2013 (© Ola Kolehmainen, Courtesy: Gallery Taik)

“WEGNER – Just one good chair” at the Designmuseum Danmark, Copenhagen, Denmark

Hans J. Wegner is one of the most important representatives of Danish modern design. We know this because it is invariably the opening sentence of any given Wegner biography.

Yet he remains a designer about whom there is a genuine dearth of reliable, insightful information. And certainly a subject of much fewer books and exhibitions than most of his contemporaries.

And so punctually to his 100th Birthday the Designmuseum Danmark Copenhagen are presenting the largest, most in depth exhibition devoted to Hans J. Wegner and his oeuvre ever staged.

Presenting some 150 exhibits, including original furniture, drawings, models and photographs, Just one good chair promises not only to explain Wegner’s life and work, but also through analysing Wegner’s contribution to the Danish design tradition also explain how Danish Modernism and Organic Modernism in general developed. And how that all led to the abiding myth of Danish Design as a style in its own right.

In addition to the Wegner objects, Just one good chair promises to round the history by juxtaposing Wegner’s work with that of his contemporary such as Charles & Ray Eames, Finn Juhl or Arne Jacobsen and contemporary designers including Jasper Morrison or Konstantin Grcic.

WEGNER – Just one good chair opens at the Designmuseum Danmark, Bredgade 68, 1260 Copenhagen on Thursday April 3rd and runs until Sunday November 2nd

Hans J Wegner and Johannes Hansen JH550 PP550 The Peacock Chair

Hans J Wegner (l.) and Johannes Hansen (r.) inspect a JH550/PP550 "Peacock Chair" (Photo: Designmuseum Danmark, Copenhagen)

smow(abseits): Holland

Friday, August 7th, 2009
Holland. It all looks like this you know

Holland. It all looks like this you know

It’s not all hard work you know.

Just read a nice little article on dutch design portal design.nl in which Marie-Luce Bree, deputy director of the Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam, talks about their photo project “New Greetings From”; which basically follows the tried and tested method of getting members of the public to submit photos and then using the best to create an exhibition.

Stone by Marcel Wanders for Kartell

Stone by Marcel Wanders for Kartell

In detail, “New Greetings From” requests contributors to submit photos showing their interpretation of what Holland look like, and that the image is positive.

But hey isn’t everything in Holland!

And what does Holland look like? According to Marie-Luce Bree what often matters most to people is “nature, and even cows and tulips”

Genius.

And on the “New Greetings From” website, we’ve even found a few windmills.

What we’ve yet to see, however, is much in the way of Dutch furniture design.

Panton Chair by Verner Panton for Vitra

Panton Chair by Verner Panton for Vitra

Which is a shame.

For while Denmark positively gloats over it’s furniture design heritage, Holland is much more reserved.
Go to Copenhagen, Aarhus or Aalborg and you can’t move without stumbling over the works of Verner Panton, Arne Jacobsen or Hans Wegner.

Indeed, the last time we were in Copenhagen we saw so many Panton chairs everything we saw started to take on a flowing, wave form.

In Holland, however, the local appreciation of the designers is much less. And that despite the talent on offer, the presence of self-confident producers such as moooi or droog and the strong interest among Dutch people for well designed and crafted designer furniture.

Bovist by Hella Jongerius for Vitra

Bovist by Hella Jongerius for Vitra

At the end of the day original designer furniture is just as at home in Amsterdam as in Copenhagen.

So we’d like to say to the peoples of the Netherlands, take part in “New Greetings From”, but take pictures that do Hella Jongerius, Marcel Wanders or Mart Stam proud. Make your dutch designers as famous and as culturally important as the Danes there’s.

And yes it’s OK to photograph the furniture next to a windmill, if you really must.