Posts Tagged ‘Milan’

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

Sunday, 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

Friday, 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

Friday, 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

Friday, 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

Thursday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Tuesday, 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.

Milan Design Week and Furniture Fair 2014: Preview

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

“Okay so is there ANYTHING interesting happening in Milan this year?” asked dezeen founder and Editor in Chief Marcus Fairs in a recent tweet, “Judging by my inbox so far, the answer is no”

The real answer of course is: ignore your inbox.

As a Marcus Fairs must surely know.

But which is admittedly easier said than done.

With Milan design week, as with life, 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.

Or how did Pulp so very nearly phrase it, “When we woke up that morning, we had no way of knowing, that in a matter of hours, we’d see a new approach to modular table design that would cause us to reflect at length on the office environment of the future”

The problem of course is that Milan design week hosts so many events, the majority of which not only the world could do without, but which would do the world more good had they never been conceived, and presents so much uninspired dross, that finding those gems is a painful and thankless task.

And so, knowing what stands before, you regularly turn to your inbox in the hope that amongst the volumes of PR drivel you might just find something that offers the promise of being genuinely good.

That email is never there.

It is always just another over-positive puff for corporate sponsored waste.

Consequently there is no alternative to strapping your rucksack to your back, lacing up your sturdiest boots and getting out there…..

Our Milan 2014 odyssey begins on Saturday April 5th and at (smow)blog, (smow)pinterest, (smow)twitter and (smow)facebook we’ll bring you full(ish) details of all we find that amuses, interests, inspires or simply annoys us.

And if we’re feeling generous we may even give dezeen a few tips as to where to look ;)

milan preview

Milan Design Week and Furniture Fair 2014: Coming soon.......

(smow) blog 2013. A pictorial review: September

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

After the relative calm and civility of July and August, September sees a more than inconsequential upping of our professional pensum. In addition to our regular pilgrimage to Vienna Design Week, September 2013 also saw the opening of Lightopia at the Vitra Design Museum, Made in Slums – Mathare Nairobi at the Triennale Design Museum Milan, the International Marianne Brandt Contest in Chemnitz, and the acquisition of Finnish manufacturer Artek by Vitra……

Cologne Design Week 2013 Objects for the Neighbour

Cologne Design Week 2013: Objects for the Neighbour

Vitra acquire Artek Eames meets Aalto Jackson Gallery Basel

Jackson Gallery Stockholm present a collection of Alvar Aalto furniture at Design Miami Basel 2013

International Marianne Brandt Contest 2013 Jury discussions

International Marianne Brandt Contest 2013: The Jury in discussion

Triennale Design Museum Milan Made in Slums Mathare Nairobi Jiko Ya Mabati

The cooking device Jiko Ya Mabati. As seen at Made in Slums - Mathare Nairobi, Triennale Design Museum Milan

vitra design museum lightopia

Vitra Design Museum Lightopia

vitra design museum lightopia alberto garutti temporali global light map

Temporali by Alberto Garutti and a map of global light usage. As seen at the Vitra Design Museum, Lightopia

Vienna Design Week 2013 Passionswege Riess Oscar Wanless

Vienna Design Week 2013: Passionswege - Oscar Wanless @ Riess Email

Vienna Design Week 2013 Marlene Klausner Depot 0411

Vienna Design Week 2013: Marlene Klausner – Depot_0411

Vienna Design Week 2013 Passionswege Bertille + Mathieu J & L Lobmeyr

Vienna Design Week 2013: Passionswege - Bertille + Mathieu at J & L Lobmeyr

 

Triennale Design Museum Milan: Made in Slums – Mathare Nairobi

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Industrial design as any fool know is a prime example of the North’s cultural superiority. Nurtured by science and encouraged by wealth traditional crafts moved ever more towards industrial production to meet the ever more complex wishes of society until the creation of goods for mass production became an industry in its own right.

That this is absolute tosh was made perfectly clear by Charles & Ray Eames in their 1958  “India Report” in which they describe a burgeoning industrial production culture in India.

And indeed going twenty five years further back Charlotte Perriand discovered a rich, if primitive, seam of industrial design in inter-war Japan.

Amero-European Industrial Design, the situation discovered by the Eames’ in India and the world observed by Perriand in Japan were and are largely the result of an organic development from craft to industrial production through social and cultural changes. An organic development supported and encouraged by government and central institutions

Until December 8th the Triennale Design Museum Milan is presenting an exhibition that portrays another route from handicraft to controlled mass production. Need.

Organised by the Milan based NGO Liveinslums, “Made in Slums – Mathare Nairobi” presents a collection of objects produced and sold in Mathare, Nairobi’s 2nd largest slum.

Ranging from everyday items such as cooking pots or brushes and pans over practical objects such as mousetraps and chicken feeders and onto more “market specific” objects including a clothes display stand and market vendor trolley “Made in Slums – Mathare Nairobi” is as much a documentation of the people of Mathare and their situation as it is a collection of objects.

Something that makes it all the more interesting.

During DMY Berlin 2013 the Berlin based Belgian curator and journalist Max Borka organised the exhibition “Refugium” which explored Berlin design. One of Max Borka’s central theories is that Berlin’s creative and design tradition is a consequence of the fact that the city is permanently in crisis. And from these crises arises a certain necessity of action which characterises the way designers and architects think and ultimately approach their work.

Similar aspects can also be seen in many of the objects on display at “Made in Slums – Mathare Nairobi” With no realistic possibilities of acquiring “brand name” products the craftsmen and women of Mathare have created their own market with its own “brands” of products largely created from industrial waste. And poetically proved in doing so that we don’t need all the TV advertised market leader products. Or our northern industrial design of which we are all so proud.

In that context “Made in Slums – Mathare Nairobi” is also a further wake up call to all design students who think they’re being so clever by finding new uses for waste materials.
Your not. Find ways of reducing waste production.

In addition to the objects themselves Made in Slums – Mathare Nairobi also features a collection of photos and a documentary film on the slum workshops, all of which combines to help the visitor understand the context of the objects.

And as already said, the people of Mathare. And their situation.

And before anyone gets any ideas, there is nothing patronising in the exhibition. Liveinslums do what their name suggests and work with Mathare residents on numerous projects. The exhibition arose from observations made during the daily routine and was made possible by the positive response of the Triennale Design Museum to the idea. This is no Victorian exhibition of “native crafts”…..

Although we moan perpetually about the number of shows on display in Milan during design week, it is a bit of a shame that Made in Slums isn’t being shown in April, as it presents a view of what design is, can be and should be that stands diametrically to the majority of the corporate sponsored guff that occupies the hallowed halls of the Triennal during design week.

It would be interesting to see if the majority of our colleagues recognised that…..

Should you however find yourself in Milan his autumn we can thoroughly recommend a visit.

Made in Slums – Mathare Nairobi runs at the Triennale Design Museum Milan until Sunday December 8th 2013. All exhibition object information cards are in Italian and English. More details on can be found at http://triennale.it

And more details on Liveinslums, their work and projects can be found at www.liveinslums.org