Posts Tagged ‘Milan’

5 New Design Exhibitions for September 2014

August 29th, 2014

The inescapable chill in the morning air and the deep-seated boredom in the eyes of school aged children can only mean that summer is, ever so slowly, coming to an end.

And just as spring beckons life to return in the natural world, so to does autumn herald a revival of activity in the unnatural world of museums and galleries.

Consequently, whereas in August we only managed to find three architecture and design exhibitions to recommend, for September we have seven!

A Magnificent Seven who not only help us keep our recommendations average at five per month, but also, hopefully, will provide some stimulus and hope at a time of year when despondency can so often have the upper hand.

“Crafting Narrative” at Pitzhanger Manor House & Gallery, London, England

London is by no stretch of the imagination a city short of notable galleries and museums, yet despite the apparent museal saturation a smallish gallery in the west London suburb of Ealing is slowly but surely making a name for itself as one of the leading London addresses for design exhibitions. Following on from the cross-media exhibition “Reason & Intuition: Alvar Aalto & Ola Kolehmainen in Soane”, the Pitzhanger Manor House & Gallery present Crafting Narrative, an exploration of storytelling in design. Organised by the UK Crafts Council and curated by London based designer Onkar Kular, Crafting Narrative is a touring exhibition which aims to demonstrate how contemporary designers use the process of designing and making to create narratives incorporating cultural, historical and social themes. Featuring works by creatives as varied as Hilda Hellström, El Ultimo Grito or Martino Gamper and presenting projects such as Zhenhan Hao’s “Imitation, imitation” clothing collection or “The Welsh Space Campaign” by Hefin Jones, Crafting Narrative has all the potential to be a highly entertaining and thought provoking exhibition.

Crafting Narrative opens at Pitzhanger Manor House & Gallery, Walpole Park, Mattock Lane Ealing, London W5 5EQ on Wednesday September 10th and runs until Sunday October 19th

Hefin Jones The Welsh Space Campaign Crafting Narrative

Hefin Jones - The Welsh Space Campaign, part of Crafting Narrative at Pitzhanger Manor House & Gallery (Photo © Dan Burn-Forti, Courtesy Craft Council UK)

“100 Years of Swiss Design” at the Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich, Switzerland

In September 2014 the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich open their new depository in the city’s Toni-Areal district. In addition to providing space for the museum’s collection the new Schaudepot offers a new exhibition gallery; a gallery which will be inaugurated by the exhibition 100 Years of Swiss Design. Presenting projects ranging from the mundane everyday such as light switches and vegetable peelers over furniture design classics from the likes of Le Corbusier, Max Bill or Willy Guhl and on to clothing and more conceptual design, 100 Years of Swiss Design features over 800 objects, prototypes, models, sketches and advertising films and thus promises to be one of the most inclusive and wide ranging studies of the Swiss Design tradition ever undertaken.

100 Years of Swiss Design opens at the Museum für Gestaltung – Schaudepot, Toni-Areal, Pfingstweidstrasse 96, CH-8005 Zürich on Friday September 26th and runs until Sunday February 8th

100 Jahre Schweizer Design Willy Guhl Scobalit-Stuhl mit abnehmbaren Sitzschalen

The Scobalit chair by Willy Guhl. Part of the exhibition 100 Years of Swiss Design, Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich

“Le Labo des héritiers” at Le Grand Hornu Images, Hornu, Belgium

There is, we assume, we have no direct experience, nothing more infuriating than attempting to establish a creative career as the offspring of an internationally renowned creative. People are either accusing you of riding on your parents coattails. Or viewing your work in the context of your parents, stubbornly refusing to accept you as an independent individual. Consequently many children and grandchildren don’t even bother. But some do. With success. Taking four “creative dynasties” as examples Le Labo des héritiers aims to explore questions such as how do younger generations relate to the oeuvre of the older generations, how do older generations relate to the oeuvre of the younger generations, is the desire to contradict a loved one greater than the instinct to follow, are family members more relevant to a career than teachers, critics, colleagues and other non-family influences? Presenting objects, sketches, photographs and texts Le Labo des héritiers investigates such questions in the context of Gijs Bakker/Emmy van Leersum and their son Aldo Bakker; Pieter, Lowie, Tinus and Robin Vermeersch and their father Rik and grandfather José; Tobia Scarpa and his father Carlo Scarpa; and David Van Severen and his brother Hannes, the children of Maarten Van Severen and grandsons of the Belgian abstract painter Dan Van Severen.

Le Labo des héritiers opens at Le Grand Hornu Images, Rue Sainte-Louise, 82 7301 Hornu, Belgium on Sunday September 21st and runs until Sunday January 4th

Le stock d’atelier de muller van severen Le Labo des héritiers

"Le stock d’atelier de Muller Van Severen" (Photo: Fien Muller, Courtesy of Le Grand Hornu Images)

“Copper Crossing” at the Triennale Design Museum, Milan, Italy

Copper can in many ways claim to have been the bridge between the technical advancement of the neolithic age, when our ancestors started forming tools, and the bronze age when this increased technical capability could be coupled with a new, hard yet pliable, material. The Chalcolithic period may only have lasted some 3000 years but is and was critical in the story of man’s cultural, social and intellectual evolution. Subsequently the Romans used copper as one of their earliest currencies; the pliability of copper allowed it to be used in construction, for all roofing and cladding; the development of copper water pipes helped protect from the negative effects of the original lead piping; while copper’s conductive properties have allowed for the increasing electrification of our daily lives. Where would we be without copper! In their exhibition Copper Crossing the Triennale Design Museum Milan bring the story up to date and reflect on the use of copper in contemporary art, design, architecture and technology. Featuring over 250 copper based projects by artists such as Joseph Beuys or Anselm Kiefer, architects including James Stirling and Renzo Piano over design objects by, amongst others, Tom Dixon, Ron Arad and Oskar Zieta, and on to a final section looking at more technical uses of copper, including IT and communications applications in addition to copper’s anti-bacterial properties, Copper Crossing will seek to explain the contemporary relevance of this most ancient of materials.

And while yes it all sounds like some expensive and decadent promotional campaign for copper, does copper really need promoting? Of course not, it needs celebrating!

Copper Crossing opens at the Triennale Design Museum, Viale Alemagna, 6, 20121, Milan on Tuesday September 16th and runs until Sunday November 9th

Oskar Zieta Plopp Copper

Plopp Copper by Oskar Zieta, part of Copper Crossing at the Triennale Design Museum, Milan

“Spatial Positions 8: Kooperationen. Diener&Diener in Zusammenarbeit mit Martin Steinmann und Josef Felix Müller / Peter Märkli und Josephsohn” at the Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel, Switzerland

In 2014 the Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel celebrates its 30th anniversary and as part of the festivities is hosting an exhibition curated by the institutes very first Director, Dr. Ulrike Jehle–Schulte Strathaus. Architecture and art often cross over into each others territories, yet it is invariably an artist getting all architectural or an architect getting all artistic. For Spatial Positions 8 the Swiss Architecture Museum paired up architects and artists to work on a joint project, joint projects that explore what happens when the two disciplines collaborate. Thus the Basel architect Roger Diener was teamed up with St. Gallen based artist Josef Felix Müller while Zurich based architect Peter Märkli collaborated with Zurich sculptor Hans Josephsohn. In addition to presenting the results of their collaborations and the associated prototypes, sketches and development works the exhibition will, we hope, provide a few clues to help us better understand in how far architects are just artists with a sense of order and in how far artists are architects who don’t believe space should be confined by walls.

Spatial Positions 8: Kooperationen. Diener&Diener in Zusammenarbeit mit Martin Steinmann und Josef Felix Müller / Peter Märkli und Josephsohn opens at S AM Swiss Architecture Museum, Steinenberg 7, CH-4051 Basel on Saturday September 6th and runs until Sunday October 19th

Spatial Positions 8: Kooperationen. Diener&Diener in Zusammenarbeit mit Martin Steinmann und Josef Felix Müller / Peter Märkli und Josephsohn" at the Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel, Switzerland

Spatial Positions 8: Kooperationen. Diener&Diener in Zusammenarbeit mit Martin Steinmann und Josef Felix Müller / Peter Märkli und Josephsohn" at the Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel

“Future Stars?” at Aram Gallery, London, England

Established in 2002 by Zeev Aram, proprietor of the Aram contemporary furniture store and holder of the exclusive global rights to the furniture design works of Eileen Gray, the Aram Gallery hosts exhibitions dedicated to contemporary art and design, exhibitions which more often than not are of an experimental, conceptual nature. As part of their contribution to the 2014 London Design Festival the Aram Gallery are presenting new works by seven young designers, designers the Aram Gallery are tipping for a bright and glorious future. Featuring product design by Maria Jeglinska, Kim Thome, James Shaw and Lola Lely, fashion/footwear from Cat Potter, jewellery by Sophie Thomas and, we presume, we’ve not seen it yet, something more conceptual from Arnhem based Thor ter Kulve, Future Stars? doesn’t just promise to be a fascinating show but would also appear to offer everything that all the more corporate London Design Festival events don’t. Indeed can’t.

“Future Stars?” opens at The Aram Gallery, 110 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5SG on Saturday September 13th and runs until Saturday October 25th.

aram gallery future stars

Future Stars? at Aram Gallery London

“Alvar Aalto – Second Nature” at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany

Alvar Aalto stands like no other for the easy accessibility of 20th century design. The man who questioned for whom “functionalism” should be “functional” Alvar Aalto not only helped us understand that modernism could be humane and so helped guide post war design and architecture along the path we’ve all come to know and cherish, he was also the man who taught us to mould plywood and that designers can also be producers. In the first major retrospective of Alvar Aalto’s oeuvre this century the Vitra Design Museum exhibition promises to explore not only Aalto’s most important architectural and design works but also examine the wider influences on the man and his canon, including his correspondence with artists such as Hans Arp and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and his contact with and relationship to the leading international architects of the day. We can’t however guarantee they will repeat the epic tale of what happened when Alvar Aalto met George Nelson.

Alvar Aalto – Second Nature opens at the Vitra Design Museum, Charles-Eames-Str. 2, D-79576 Weil am Rhein on Saturday September 27th and runs until Sunday March 1st

Alvar Aalto on his boat Nemo Propheta

Alvar Aalto on his boat Nemo Propheta, 1960s.... And obviously enjoying the memories of his adventures with George Nelson....(Photo Göran Schildt © Schildt Foundation, Courtesy Vitra Design Museum)

(smow) blog compact Milan 2014 Special: USM Haller

May 4th, 2014

We round up our Milan 2014 coverage with a company we admire, but about whom we find it all but impossible to write.

Because their products and their collection so rarely change.

Milan Furniture Fair 2014 USM Haller

USM Haller at Milan Furniture Fair 2014

Ever since commencing with the commercial production of the modular USM Haller furniture system in 1969 USM have done little else. Save the introduction of the USM KITOS system in 1989.

But that’s it. That’s all they do.

Which is also one of the principle reasons we admire them. They do what they do, do it well and let the others chase headlines and plaudits.

However, at Milan Furniture Fair 2014 USM Haller did present two new permutations of the accepted raster: one obvious and one much, much more subtle.

The obvious refinement is a collection of new materials and new colours for the USM table collection.

A couple of years ago USM invested heavily in the launch of a series of new colours for the Living Essentials collection as part of a concerted effort to persuade the public that a furniture system all too often associated with offices can also be successfully and happily deployed in domestic situations. The Living Essentials colours only applied to the USM Haller sideboards, highboards, lowboards et al. The new table tops are, in effect, the next step in this process of gentle persuasion.

In domestic spaces users have, somewhat naturally, different demands of their furnishings than in office spaces, for all in terms of what one could term the “emotional” aspects of the furniture. To this end when developing the new table tops in co-operation with La Neuveville based design studio Atelier Oï not only was special attention paid to the colours but also to the haptic qualities of the surfaces. The result is a range of new materials, including MDF and matt glass, and some 20 new colours, a considerable increase on the previous palette and one which means the USM table collection is now available in some 55 colour/material combinations.

Enough of a choice for any living room, dining room, balcony or kitchen.

And yes, we did write “in co-operation with La Neuveville based design studio Atelier Oï”

USM working with an external design studio!

The co-operation with Atelier Oï is of course the more subtle innovation from Milan 2014. One is so use to contemporary furniture manufactures co-operating with external design studios, co-operations that currently always seem to be in context of developing new colour schemes, one tends to register such and roll on.

But in context of USM Haller one must gave it a little more importance. Because it is simply not the sort of thing they do. Or at least not publicly.

We must admit to still being a little unsure if we approve of the idea or not. It’s a bit like when your conservative great uncle starts watching The Simpsons. Your happy that he’s experiencing more of life, but you fear that before too long he’ll want to start skateboarding. Or watch Breaking Bad. And so part of you wishes he’d just go back to reading Sophocles and complaining about the quality of modern peppermints.

Time will tell how far USM Haller take their external co-operations, or if the co-operation with Atelier Oï is but a blip on an otherwise linear trajectory.

We will of course keep you updated. Should anything happen…………………………….

Milan Furniture Fair 2014 USM Haller

USM Haller at Milan Furniture Fair 2014

Milan Furniture Fair 2014 USM Haller

USM Haller at Milan Furniture Fair 2014

(smow) blog compact Milan 2014 Special: Sarah Böttger & Hanna Emelie Ernsting at Salone Satellite

April 24th, 2014

Milan is awash with churches.

Milan is awash with monasteries.

Basilica. Friaries. And other suitable locations for submitting penitence.

We go to Salone Satellite.

Last year you may remember we had to apologise to Karolin Fesser for our failure to publish a post on the from Karolin co-curated Objects for the neighbour exhibition. Not that we were obliged to publish anything on the exhibition; it was just so good it deserved one and we were negligent in not doing such.

This year it was Sarah Böttger to whom we expressed our contrition.

During Cologne Design Week 2014 we bumped into Sarah in the cellar of the Boffi flagship store during the Young Perspectives showcase, and after exchanging pleasantries preceded to take a series of really, really bad photos of her Woodware storage box project.

We refuse to accept the full blame, the Boffi cellar is not the best photo location in Cologne. Nor was the placing of Woodware by the curators the most advantageous. That said our photos really, really didn’t do Woodware any justice.

And that was negligent of us.

In Milan Sarah Böttger was sharing a Salone Satellite stand with Frankfurt based, HfG Karlsruhe graduate Hanna Emelie Ernsting, a designer whose Petstools project we’ve also nearly managed to kill in a succession of photo disasters for both these pages and other projects.

Cue more apologies.

Undeterred we did of course take photos of their joint stand.

A joint stand that included a first joint project: the carpet series Dune.

Inspired by the rounded, serene forms found on calm, sandy beaches the Dune carpets are woven from loden – a wool based fabric traditionally used for blankets and overcoats in the Germanophone Alps and a material which is characterised by extreme durability and a very welcoming, soft, surface. Just what one wants from a carpet: and an extremely pleasing project.

Solo, Sarah Böttger was presenting Woodware and Woodware’s bigger cousin, the side table Cache. Essentially a related wooden storage concept, just in a much larger form, and for us the more logical realisation of the idea as Cache’s size makes them unavoidable and somehow more practical, easier to integrate into and justify in a space. In addition Sarah Böttger also presented the turned ash doorstop… Doorstop, a project that we first saw at the aforementioned Object for the neighbours exhibition and an object which for us still retains all the naive, innocent charm from then; and the seat-cum-step Peak, a deceptively simple and beautifully crafted object which impressed with its self-confidence.

Hanna Emelie Ernsting meanwhile presented Petstools and Red Riding Hood, two projects which delightfully illustrate her ongoing research into what we’re going to term “living textiles”. The 2013 Petstools projects is a series of stools in animal form which can either be used as stools or footstools, but into which you can also sink your feet, or as we wrote last year “…the beauty of the dumb companions comes when you allow your feet to sink into the soft material. The effect is just as if a household pet, or a partner, is gently massaging your feet after a hard day in the uncaring world.” Complimenting the Petstools collection, and providing more protection from the uncaring world, is and was the armchair Red Riding Hood – essentially an armchair with a cape – and a project that impressed and impresses us more than most of Hanna’s previous projects involving furniture that engulfs one, not least because optically it is a very unobtrusive, easily accessible yet thoroughly absorbing object. Or put another way, we can well imagine it looking as if it belongs in any given living room. Something which isn’t always the case with experimental furniture design.

A few impressions:

(smow) blog compact Milan 2014 Special: Artek @ Salone del Mobile

April 13th, 2014

If we’re honest, we really, really, should have seen it coming. We didn’t.

Having been acquired in 2013 by Vitra, Artek have now begun working with leading designers from the Vitra roster.

Specifically, in Milan Artek launched a new chair from Konstantin Grcic and new colour and textile schemes from Hella Jongerius for the classic Alvar Aalto 400 and 401 armchairs and Stool 60.

We just hope no-one is tempted to over egg this particular pudding.

In the Milan press release Artek CEO Mirkku Kullberg expresses her delight that through Vitra Artek have become part of an infrastructure that allows the company to focus on product development and the expansion of the distribution network, in the words of Kullberg “the core elements for growth”

Judging by the easy, almost natural way, the Vitra sales reps crossed from the Vitra stand to the neighbouring Artek stand to show their customers the Artek collection, Artek should have no major problems growing through the new distribution possibilities. And certainly it makes perfect sense for both companies to fully utilise the new realities to optimise their sales, marketing and distribution structures.

For us however in terms of products, product ranges and product development Artek must remain focused on its core competence: Alvar Aalto as designed by Alvar Aalto. That is what it does best. Nothing against new collaborations and new products, and indeed over the years Artek have regularly – and very successfully – co-operated with new designers and brought new blood into the company, perhaps most famously with Tom Dixon as Creative Director. Which is obviously all positive and helps keep the company fresh and competitive. But one shouldn’t get too distracted. Just because one has easier access to leading contemporary designers doesn’t mean one should take up the option.

That said, the two new collaborations presented in Milan have, we believe, been completed in Artek’s best interest.

With Konstantin Grcic Artek have cooperated with a designer who understands the soul of Artek and understands where Artek come from. A fact demonstrated, perhaps a little too elegantly, by a work in progress prototype from Grcic being presented in Milan by Magis. At this juncture all we shall say is, had Alvar Aalto been a keen skier he too may have arrived at such an idea.

However for Artek Grcic has also poetically demonstrated his understanding of Aalto and Artek and has developed a new swivel chair christened, somewhat curiously, Rival and intended for home office use, but which in our opinion is much better suited to bar, restaurant and conference room use. Or possibly co-working spaces. Crafted from birch Rival comes with either a high or low backrest, a choice of seat padding and in a range of colours.

Hella Jongerius meanwhile has not created a new product but has refreshed three Aalto classics, in that she has developed four new wood colours – silver birch, honey, walnut and charcoal – for Aalto’s Stool 60, Armchair 400 and 401, and introduced new textiles for the 400 and 401. Developments that will almost certainly help make the objects interesting and accessible to a wider audience than was perhaps the case until now.

While we full understand the background thinking behind the changes, and would agree that Hella Jongerius has achieved her aim of adding more depth and warmth to the objects, for us, and for all with the designs for the 401 we just feel that she has gone a little too close to a “generic Jongerius” aesthetic. The 401 would, for example, look every bit as good and every bit at home on the Vitra stand as on the Artek stand.

And that is exactly what the two companies need to make sure they avoid. Vitra and Artek come from different backgrounds, their identities, philosophies and understanding of design originated at different times, from different motives and in different contexts; consequently they must travel different paths. Must maintain that what makes them unique.

A fusion of the two traditions would benefit neither.

As we say, the start is positive, but it’s going to be interesting to observe how things develop!

A few impressions from Artek in Milan.

Milan 2014 Artek Rival Konstantin Grcic

Rival by Konstantin Grcic for Artek, as seen at Salone del Mobile Milan 2014

Milan 2014 Artek Alvar Aalto 400 Hella Jongerius

Alvar Aalto Armchair 400 by Hella Jongerius for Artek, as seen at Salone del Mobile Milan 2014

Milan 2014 Artek Alvar Aalto 401 Hella Jongerius

Alvar Aalto Armchair 401 by Hella Jongerius for Artek, as seen at Salone del Mobile Milan 2014

(smow) blog compact Milan 2014 Special: Berlin Design Selection

April 11th, 2014

In design the term “readymade” is used to refer to products created by giving existing objects a new function; generally a new function far, far removed from the original.

Examples of the genre include the Mezzadro stool fashioned from a tractor seat by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, Jasper Morrison‘s 1983 Handlebar Table or David Olschewski’s Clothes Peg Lamp, an object that never reached the fame of the previous two examples. But which is and was every bit as interesting.

Berlin based Werner Aisslinger has pushed the scale boundaries of readymade design a little, and has transformed European landmarks into items of furniture.

No, honest!

The first results can currently be enjoyed as part of the Berlin Design Selection exhibition in Milan: and despite sounding like an obvious, and particularly uninspired, student project, one can genuinely enjoy Aisslinger’s interpretation of the Colosseum as a side chair-cum-lounger or the Atomium as a side table/light combination. The latter being a truly marvellous item reminiscent in many ways of the better, more structured, less experimental works of Joe Colombo.

Elsewhere in the Berlin Design Selection show we were very taken with the Crossboard shelving system by LOCKWOOD, a relatively simple concept that combines oak and steel to excellent, modular, effect, the rattan lamps by hettler.tüllmann initially confused but ultimately delighted us with their innocent mix of 1970s DIY and Japanese lantern while Hopf, Nordin’s Astrahedra lamps, visualising in their form as they do the vastness of the interstellar void are always a joy to behold.

And a special mention must go to the ceramic-table collection by Elisa Strozyk,featuring table tops created through experimentation with mixing and handling different liquid glazes. A collection we first saw when they premièred at the Objects and the factory exhibition in Cologne. And which still delights.

A few impressions from Berlin Design Selection 2014 in Milan.

(smow) blog compact Milan 2014 Special: Danish Dynamite by Alexander Muchenberger

April 11th, 2014

“We are red, we are white, we are Danish dynamite!”

So sang the Danes their national football team to victory at the 1992 UEFA Euro tournament.
Another example of “Danish Dynamite” is/was on display at Ventura Lambrate as part of the Design School Kolding’s Milan 2014 show.

If we were slick professionals we’d now say something along the lines of, and it isn’t red and white. But green!!!

Created by Interaction Designer Alexander Muchenberger and essentially nothing more technically advanced than three sticks and a piece of rope, the idea with Danish Dynamite is that you bind the sticks with the rope to form a tripod. The sticks have small spikes on top which you can use to fix a magazine, pile of cardboard – or in Milan a catalogue – and as if by magic you have a makeshift stool.

When you no longer need a stool you simply dispose of the seating element and pack up the sticks/rope.

Until you next need a seat.

As a system Danish Dynamite is, in our opinion, perfect for camping trips, bike/walking tours and of course festivals and similar events. One just needs to ensure that you can find always something stable enough to use as a seat. Which shouldn’t really pose too many problems.

In addition it is a wonderful space saving, resource light object that ably demonstrates that in product design new approaches and new concepts can always be found and developed. One just has to know where and how to look. And we really like they way Alexander has approached the project.

Following their 1992 success the Danish national football team’s star began to wane somewhat.

We hope that of Alexander Muchenberger’s Danish Dynamite is just beginning its ascendency and look forward to seeing how it develops.

A couple of impressions.

Danish Dynamite Alexander Muchenberger Design School Kolding Milan 2014

Danish Dynamite by Alexander Muchenberger, Design School Kolding @ Ventura Lambrate Milan 2014

Danish Dynamite Alexander Muchenberger Design School Kolding Milan 2014

Danish Dynamite by Alexander Muchenberger, Design School Kolding @ Ventura Lambrate Milan 2014

Danish Dynamite Alexander Muchenberger Design School Kolding Milan 2014

And from where it gets its name.......

(smow) blog compact Milan 2014 Special: Moooi

April 11th, 2014

Preparing for his solo exhibition “Pinned Up at the Stedelijk, 25 years of design” clearly helped Marcel Wanders tackle, and defeat, his inner demons.

We can find no other explanation for the transformation from the darkness of Moooi’s 2013 Milan show to the lighter, happier, untroubled, feel of 2014′s.

The formats were and are essentially the same, both based around room contexts backdropped by large format photos of heavily stylised spaces, but whereas last year’s presentation was a menacing neo-sadistic Wes Anderson battles Tim Burton fantasy hell; this year there was free sorbet on offer on the press day.

In two flavours: pink grapefruit or lemon.

The new Moooi products also exude a lighter, more accessible, less troubled, aesthetic.

And a new construction approach: carpentry.

Something that until now simply wasn’t part of the Moooi programme, and which they have realised with an aplomb we honestly wouldn’t have expected.

Not because Moooi can’t do quality or craft, but because in recent years the feel of the collection has been going ever more towards extroverted extremes, to forms, compositions and imagery that have challenged concepts of good taste.

The antithesis if you will of nicely turned chair legs and rounded table edges.

And then came Pinned Up………..

Among the new products the highlight for us was the Zio family of armchair, footstool, sideboard and low table by Marcel Wanders. And principally the sideboard.

An object that doesn’t do anything especially new, when all is said and done it’s a standard mid-60s wood sideboard; however, it does what it does with a wonderful degree of clarity and a self-controlled vanity that is somehow far removed from the its more formal forefathers.

It may be meant ironically. We don’t know. We don’t care. We like it.

Elsewhere the new Taffeta sofa and chair from Alvin Tjitrowirjo caught the attention with their almost colonial charm, the Nut chairs and footstool by Marcel Wanders bring a genuinely fresh form to the over-saturated world of moulded plywood chairs, and so prove that in the furniture world a market is never so over-saturated that one more object can’t be squeezed in, while the Prop Lamps from Bertjan Pot bring the glamour of the stage dressing room to the living room. In a surprisingly incognito fashion one must add for such big, brash objects. And they probably also represented the most theatrical aspect of the Moooi 2014 presentation.

A few impressions.

(smow) blog compact Milan 2014 Special: Source Material @ Kaleidoscope Project Space

April 10th, 2014

Exhibitions in which designers present objects that inspire them are nothing new. But are by their very nature exhibitions that are always new. No two being the same. A fact that always makes them worth visiting.

During Milan Design Week the Kaleidoscope Project Space is showing “Source Material”, the latest such exhibition.

Presenting objects submitted by 45 creatives from across a range of genres, Source Material claims to be an exploration of how the creative process is both “informed by the legacy of material culture that surrounds us” and at the same time an “affirmation of the potential of an object to reflect and nurture the human spirit”

That the exhibition has been organised by Jasper Morrison and Jonathan Olivares in cooperation with art director/publisher Marco Velardi the list of participating creatives is suitably A list, and so we learn, for example, that Naoto Fukasawa first understood beauty through the rolls of vinyl friction tape his electrician father used, that Richard Sapper finds inspiration in Romano Guardini’s Lettere dal lago di Como or that Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon carries his songs, cigarettes, computer and camera in a handmade leather briefcase bought in 2009 in Japan. And how the idea of longevity inherent in the briefcase inspires him to strive for the same in his music.

All very interesting, entertaining and insightful individual stories.

But nothing more.

We all have objects that tell stories, yet simply telling the story behind a collection of unrelated objects from unrelated individuals is too little for an exhibition.

For us the basic problem is that curatorial aim of Source Material is too easy.

We all know that personal objects can cause us to reflect and can inspire us. That’s why we keep them, often in the face of bitter opposition from a loved one who simply cannot understand our infatuation with some, invariably, broken object. Or a cellar full of boxes from which we can’t be parted.

The stories of objects belonging to successful people we may have heard of, assuming we have the correct cultural interests and references, are however no more interesting than those of people we’ve not heard of. And never will hear of.

Unless that is all the objects presented have played some role in the success of the individual. Have directly inspired their work. Helped build the career. Are, so to say, biographically relevant.

With Source Material, despite the implicit intention in the exhibitions name, that is not the case. Or not always. Occasionally it is. Too occasionally.

Or put another way, had the curators focussed more attention on the objects rather than the contributors they could have created a much more coherent and useful exhibition.

However, if you simply want to know what an old pair of yellow industrial earmuffs mean to Konstantin Grcic, embroidery frames to Klaus Hackl or what his spurtle means to chef Fergus Henderson, your definitely in the right place.

Source Material can be viewed at Kaleidoscope Project Space, Via Macedonio Melloni 33, Milan until Saturday April 12th

There is also an accompanying book by Kaleidoscope Press.

Full details can be found at www.source-material.net

(smow) blog compact Milan 2014 Special: Thomas Schnur @ Salone Satellite

April 9th, 2014

As regular readers will be aware, unlike The Kinks we are no dedicated followers of fashion.

Millinery is another matter altogether.

There is little that excites us quite as much as a good hat.

And so we were obviously instantly taken by what we took to be an over sized Fes on Cologne designer Thomas Schnur’s stand at Salone Satellite.

It was of course not a Fes but “Felt Stool”, one of Thomas’s newer projects. And a project that is exactly what it claims to be. A stool made of felt.

Not only does Felt Stool resemble the Fes in its physical form, but Thomas engaged the help of a hat maker to create the prototype.

A further brilliant example of the importance of traditional crafts in contemporary product design. If more were necessary.

Headwear aside the stand out object for us on Thomas’s Cologne stand wasn’t Felt Stool but rather the coat rack Rail.

The secret of the design is a cleverly thought through and endearingly simple mounting mechanism based around, in effect, a couple of screws and a piece of rope which holds the bent steel tube frame taught and firm. The result is a very low maintenance and low profile hanging system created from a minimum of materials and with a minimum of fuss. And a product with a lot of character that appeals to us greatly.

Full details on Thomas Schnur and his work can be found at www.thomasschnur.com

A few impressions from Milan.

(smow) blog compact Milan 2014 Special: Le Feu Sacré. Designers and glass blowers at Institut français

April 8th, 2014

“With Milan design week, as with life”, we noted in our Milan Design Week 2014 preview, “the best, most interesting, most enjoyable discoveries are invariably to be made on the by-ways. And often as the result of spontaneous, unconsidered, chance, decisions.”

And so it came to pass.

On the Sunday before Milan design week we were busy completing all those important, unacknowledged, thankless, tasks without which this all wouldn’t be possible, when by pure chance we walked past the Milan dependence of the Institut français and saw that they were staging an exhibition. The existence of which we were until then unaware.

But which we are very thankful for having discovered.

Presenting works created by 17 design studios in cooperation with the Meisenthal International Glass Art Centre, Le Feu Sacré premièred at Grand Hornu in 2012 and is as much about the continuing importance of traditional crafts in contemporary design as it is about the works on display.

Tracing its roots back to 1704 the Meisenthal Glassworks fell victim to the harsh economic conditions in post war France and closed on December 31st 1969. In 1983 a museum was established on the site before in 1992 a group of enthusiasts established the Meisenthal International Glass Art Centre: an institution which not only reignited the Meisenthal kilns but also the tradition of experimental glass making in the Vosges mountains, a tradition that began in the late 19th century with Emile Gallé, arguably the most important French Art Nouveau glass artist.

We first became aware of Meisenthal through the Mesh Vase by Werner Aisslinger, an object created by blowing the glass inside a glass fibre textile bag, and so were delighted to see examples from the project on show in Milan alongside projects by international design studios such as V8 Designers, David Dubois, Andreas Brandolini, Jasper Morrison, etc, etc, etc.

One of the joys of seeing industrial designers working in an experimental fashion with glass is that it reminds us that, when all is said and done, design comes, in effect, from craft, industrial design from the desire to make craft more accessible and more affordable.

Le Feu Sacré is a delightful demonstration of this, and that despite all our alleged advances and sophistication, traditional crafts still feed the design process, still inspire, excite and drive designers to realise projects and to experiment with processes which they otherwise wouldn’t.

Many of the projects on display at Le Feu Sacré have no future as mass market products. But all contain research and experimentation that can be used elsewhere.

A fact that makes an institute like the Meisenthal International Glass Art Centre so important. And Le Feu Sacré so enjoyable.

Le Feu Sacré. Designers and glass blowers runs at the Institut français, Corso Magenta 63, Milan until May 16th.

The vernissage takes place on Thursday 10th April from 6.30 pm until 11.00pm, should you be in Milan we can think of worse places to be.