IMM Cologne kept us busy into February, but the month also saw the opening of an Eileen Gray retrospective in Paris, a visit to the Louis Kahn exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum and the sad passing of James Irvine….
Posts Tagged ‘Moormann’
It’s not always good.
Waistlines. Overdrafts. Weeks since you last phoned your mother.
For example wouldn’t be good.
Business expansion is however good.
And the best news is that (smow) continues to expand.
Offering a full range of products from leading contemporary furniture manufacturers including USM Haller, Vitra, LoCa, Belux and Nils Holger Moormann, (smow) Cologne is run by Anett Ahlefeld and Guido Eichel, a management team who join (smow) from Vitra where for the past 15 years they have advised and assisted customers in Cologne, Bonn, Aachen and environs. Experience and product competence that is now available to all, private and business customers alike.
If you are in Cologne do drop by and say hello. And if you say “Kölle Alaaf! (smow) blog sent us”, you can claim your free apple. As in a piece of fruit. Obviously. Not a computer. That would be daft.1
(smow) Cologne can be found at Waidmarkt 11, 50676 Köln.
And at www.facebook.com/smow.koln
A few impressions:
1. Free apples strictly subject to availability. No cash alternatives. But possibly citrus alternatives.
As we noted in our designer barbecue post “… summer is bidding its final farewells”
And with autumn’s impudent chill invading ever more our pastoral calm the time for our hibernation approaches. And so we’re currently exploring accommodation options.
Fortunately it’s been a bit of a “small house year” in these pages with, for example, Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Vitra’s Diogene or Jean Prouve’s Maison des Jours Meilleurs occupying our thoughts.
Our first contact with reduced room accomodation however came in May when (smow) made their debut at Leipzig’s premier contemporary art showcase, the Baumwollspinnerei Rundgang, a debut ably supported by a small Moormann house.
Back in 2006 Nils Holger Moormann released Walden, a sleek, unobtrusive outdoor construction inspired by the book “Walden; or, Life in the Woods” by Henry David Thoreau.
Featuring storage space, a barbecue, seating and even a sky lounge, Walden offers everything you could possibly require for a few relaxed days out of doors. Be that in the woods as Thoreau recommended, on the side of a lake or simply at the bottom of your garden.
At the 2006 “The Design Annual” trade fair in Frankfurt, Moormann celebrated their new product with a specially adapted, and anything but unobtrusive, version of Walden as their fair stand: and a couple of years ago that very stand was, legally, acquired by (smow)
And so it came to pass that for the 2013 Spring Rundgang the former Moormann fair stand was selected to provide the central focus of the (smow) (self)presentation.
It just had to be constructed.
Before the act the warnings were of a building process of biblical proportions, weeks would be required boomed the Gods of Doom, the service of a veritable plaque of Bavarian engineers was prophesied.
In the end it took a little over two and half minutes…..
Back at Saloni Milano 2010 Ronan Bouroullec told us about his feeling that the internet and new technology could, perhaps even should, eventually, replace the resources and time invested – and ultimately wasted - every year in an event such as Milan Furniture Fair.
In 2013 everyone’s favourite German conceptual contemporary furniture manufacturer Moormann, have made the start.
And in doing so proved that even from the pastoral calm of Aschau im Chiemgau, one can still be part of the Milan madness.
In our conversations with Moormann ahead of Milan they told us we could “look forward” to what they were organising in place of their regular Saloni Milano stand.
Which is a nice line in modest understatement one dosen’t normally associate with Moormänner…..
For rather than investing in the faltering Italian economy, Moormann have created a celluloid masterpiece!
To make things easier we’ve embedded the film here. The original can be found at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8GwMxAsHnc
In little under a week the Doors of Hell will once again open to release Milan Design Week on our unsympathetic, unapologetic world.
The normally pleasant, quiet and reasonably priced Lombardian metropolis will be overrun by molten rivers of corporate greed and naive student hope, transforming the canals, parks and former industrial sites into burning pits of contradiction, imitation and pure gold.
Survival is a question of ignoring reality and convincing yourself that everything is brilliant and that you are having a really, really good time.
Technically, the same procedure as every year…..
….. only this year one of the saner heads in the madness will sadly be missing: Moormann ain’t going.
Essentially the reason is dissatisfaction with the stand they were offered at the furniture fair and a general unhappiness with the way the whole process was/is organised and communicated.
When we spoke to Nils Holger Moormann in 2011 he commented on the problems of the stand distribution in Milan.
And in recent conversations with senior managers from other contemporary furniture producers we know how infuriating and drawn out the stand distribution system in Milan is.
The majority however see no alternative and so endure what they must endure to ensure their presence.
Presumably with 2013 the Moormann camel has finally had one straw too many placed, roughly, on its back.
For us the bitter irony is that the vast majority of Hall 20 – which is where the contemporary manufacturers are housed – will be Italian producers who not only are presenting nothing even vaguely innovative, but whose “new” objects are not even destined to see production and are only on display to catch attention.
Wasting space for show rather than using the opportunity to allow the industry to grow and develop.
While we’ll obviously miss Moormann, we do find the resistance good. Milan’s monopoly needs to be broken, and while that will be a long process the more people who make the conscious decision not to go, and publicly justify it, the quicker we will have the alternatives the contemporary designer furniture industry so badly needs.
The one, very, positive fact in Moormann’s decision is of course that when faced with a challenge, Moormann tend to respond in the most glorious, creative, off-beat fashion.
The Bookinist Cup being one of the better examples.
We know that Morrmann have new products. We know Moormann want to show them.
We can’t wait to find out where and how that is.
Naturally, what with Moormann being Moormann, they didn’t announce their Milan absence with a simple press release.
No. Moormann developed a board game.
And we, having as ever far too much time on our hands, managed to play a quick round….
In the past couple of years we have often referred to, but never actually shown, the shelf “Das Brett” by Belgian designer Kaspar Hamacher.
A shelf that is one of our abbiding memories of Milan 2010.
That and nearly drowning…..
The release of Watn Blech by Bernhard Osann for Moormann however provides the perfect opportunity to right that wrong.
What attracted us to Das Brett, and has always remained with us, was the very simple principle behind the piece.
By gently inclining the shelf towards the centre one creates a surface that provides greater stability than the traditional “flat” book shelf.
The secret of the design is in the angle of the inclination: just enough to be functional without compromising the proportions.
Watn Blech by Bernhard Osann for Moormann applies a similar principle.
Though with Watn Blech the “stability” attained is primarily not in context of the objects on the shelf. But the shelf itself.
If we remember correctly from what we learned at school “Magic” and “Physics” are synonyms.
So let’s say that through the dark beauty of magic, gently bending a piece of sheet metal increases its stability.
The secret of the design is in the angle of the bending: just enough to be functional without compromising the proportions.
In addition, through the gentle incline one creates a convenient, and inherently stable, storage surface that subtly subverts the, invariably, linear homogeneity of a room.
And because it’s a Moormann product you get a convenient, and inherently stable, storage surface with an inbuilt piece of innocent, childlike, fun…. The shelf look like it’s been incorrectly hung!!
On Friday last week we were at a discussion in Potsdam where Nils Holger Moormann spoke as eloquently and convincingly as ever about the advantages of long lifecyles for furniture and the continual development that is possible when one understands furniture as an evolving entity and not as a quick, profit generating, commodity.
Referring, for example, to the FNP shelving system he commented, something along the lines of: even after 25 years one always finds new ways of extending and developing the system.
And it’s not just the company’s own products that are continually reworked and developed.
Inspired by the (smow)graphic department’s sensitive yet unsentimental reworking of Moormann’s former, as one now must correctly say, square logo, the good folks in Aschau put aside the pre-Christmas workload stress to help (smow) achieve a more fitting, modern corporate identity.
One of the new logos they created can be found at the top left of this page.
And indeed so happy are the (smow)bosses with the work delivered thus far, they are currently considering if they shouldn’t ask Moormann to create a logo for the new (smow)room Stuttgart. The question is, if that isn’t asking too much of the Chiemgau creative forge…..
At Milan 2011 Nils Holger Moormann told us of the literal and figurative mountain pass that had to be negotiated before Harry’s idea could be transformed into a market ready, mass producible product.
Then ahead of Milan 2012 Harry Thaler then told us about the long way from the original experiments with wood until he had the concept that won Nils’ heart.
Now we have the most delightful film documenting the creation of the prototype in a North London metal workshop.
We don’t believe Dieter Rams included “Good design is hard work” in his list of design principles. He might want to consider adding it……
Last year Nils Holger Moormann enthused at great length about Pressed Chair. And so to complete the story, ahead of Milan 2012 we caught up with Harry Thaler in his London studio to learn more about both him and the background to Pressed Chair.
(smow)blog: To begin with maybe a little to your background. If we’re correctly informed you were initially a goldsmith?
Harry Thaler: Yes, I spent 10 years working as goldsmith in my home town of Merano and then I moved briefly to Vienna before doing a jewellery course at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Pforzheim. And it was my time in Pforzheim which was then the motivation to move into design – so stoked the desire to work at larger scales.
(smow)blog: And so how did you then end up at the Royal College of Art in London?
Harry Thaler: After Pforzheim I initially studied design in Bolzano, until I gave that up for lets’ say “an English reason”. There was one course that I had to complete in English, and after I had failed eight times I thought “OK, you’ll have to go to London to learn English!” So I applied to the RCA, was accepted, studied there for two years, and established my studio here in London in 2010.
(smow)blog: Given your background in jewellery. As a designer do you work more with models and “hands-on” construction or are the first design steps on the computer?
Harry Thaler: It depends a lot on the project. I am currently working on a house, and that is naturally a lot of computer based work, but then there are projects such as Pressed Chair which never involved the computer and is the result of pure experimentation.
(smow)blog: Which brings us nicely to the next question! When we look at your earlier work, we can’t see any obvious path to Pressed Chair. Was it a completely new project for you, or is there a connection to your previous work?
Harry Thaler: I would say it is rooted in my earlier work, in that if I hadn’t worked as a goldsmith I would probably never have had the idea. Obviously the scale is completely different but, for example, forming pieces of sheet metal is a typical goldsmith process.
(smow)blog: And can you remember what the initial idea was? Was there a moment of inspiration, or….
Harry Thaler: While there are projects where you wake up and the idea is there, Pressed Chair was more a process. It started with a small fork made from one piece of wood, that was then developed further into a table, chair, stool made from one piece of wood and then came a sort of wooden wafer that was then bent to form a chair…..
(smow)blog:…… and then you thought, OK if it works with wood lets try with metal?
Harry Thaler: No, not exactly. The original plan was to make something out of just one material, which was ultimately metal. And once we had the basic form the next step was to develop it further so that the sheet was as thin as possible. If we were to take a 1cm thick piece of metal it would be much easier, so just bend it and that would be that with no need for the groove. But it is the groove that makes the chair what it is.
(smow)blog: And then the first meeting with Nils Holger Moormann?
Harry Thaler: That was in January 2011 in Cologne. I had won an Interior Innovation Award and Nils approached me at IMM.
(smow)blog: Did he already know the work or did he encounter it for the first time in Cologne?
Harry Thaler: He said that he’d been following it for some time, and I’ll never forget how he approached in Cologne, he came direct to me, no looking left or right. Just straight, focussed, to me!
(smow)blog: And how is it for you as a designer, you develop a chair, win prizes, then a company such as Moormann come and say “Great, we want to produce it. But we’ll have to make changes.” Is that something that makes you nervous, or uneasy?
Harry Thaler: No not at all! The cooperation with Moormann was excellent. They sent me pictures and I could see that it was in essence the same chair. They had made minor changes but the spirit was the same. And I was kept informed as to what was happening, it wasn’t the case that they just took it and did what they wanted without consulting me. They did a lot, but as I was kept informed and so could in effect accompany the process.
(smow)blog: And now, finally, it is on the market. Is the project for you now closed and your just waiting for the cheques to roll in, or is it still something that you think about, something that you still follow closely ?
Harry Thaler: The great thing about design is that maybe I’ll see the chair in a cafe here in London or in someone’s house, so somewhere where it has its own life. And when people take pleasure from the chair and really use it then that is something that makes me happy. But obviously I am also looking to develop the concept further into other objects such as a table or a stool.
During the “Summaery” exhibition back in July 2011 we asked Professor Bernd Rudolf, Decan of the Architecure Department at Bauhaus Uni Weimar, about the motivations of the modern architecture student. “It is still the case”, he answered playfully, “that they all want to make the world a better place. That remains the principle reason for studying architecture…”
And designers ? Can designers make the world a better place? Do they even want to ? What motivates contemporary designers ?
At their 2012 design symposium the HFBK Hamburg attempted to find some answers to the question “Warum Gestalten ?” (Why Design ?)
Or at least move towards finding some answers.
To this end six professors from the HFBK design department each invited a design professional along who presented their view on design, the design process and for all why. The high-calibre line-up featuring Andrej Kupetz, Axel Kufus, Jaime Hayon, Nienke Klunder, Christoph Schäfer, Andreas Brandolini and Peter Kubelka.
(As a small administrative note: on account of the event “somewhat” over-running and our pressing need to catch a train to Berlin, we missed Peter Kubelka. And so his insights and opinions sadly aren’t included here.)
First up was the German Design Council’s CEO Andrej Kupetz. For us a good opening because as a “non-practicing designer” he spoke not about his own motivations but more about design in broader terms and where design can make a difference.
Why design? as is in “What’s the point?” rather than “This is why I do it”. As it were.
A large part of his presentation was concerned with materials in various contexts, and in particular what he referred to as the designers (old) dream of a weightless world. Of dematerialisation. Of producing products that require fewer resources.
The weightless world as a synonym for designers creating a better, sustainable, world. Of designers helping solve global problems. As a possible answer to the question “why”.
This dream, according to Andrej Kupetz, remains unfulfilled; largely because of industry.
Industry, so Kupetz, makes most of its money from product differentiation, be it in surfaces, colours or materials. Such suffocates innovation, and so original design, because it doesn’t bring the necessary finacial gains.
A view which fits very nicely with what a senior manager from a leading designer furniture producer told us had struck him about his visit to IMM Cologne 2012 – very few truly new products, but lots of producers who have developed their products further in terms of fabrics or colours.
Which of course raises the question who decides what is produced and what is not produced? Or perhaps put another way who decides which designs are realised ? A topic that was to become one of the underlying themes of almost all the presentations.
For Andrej Kupetz design is driven by marketing. The role of the designer being to help consumers straddle the obvious divide between belonging to a group and being individual. In a similar vein Christoph Schäfer brought in the concept of “Royal Participation” – where individuals are led to believe that they are playing a participatory role in a process. But are in fact just pawns in a much bigger game and all too often an innocent tool to help increase profits. Jaime Hayon spoke, with some passion, about his disdain for marketing analysts in the product design industry. The fixation with what consumers allegedly want limiting the producers vision, stifling new ideas and creating insecurity.
A scenario that would mean that most designers do little more than create what marketing departments dictate. Which could lead one to ask the designers. Why design?
Were the assembled designers not unanimous in their belief that the principle pre-occupation, or function if you like, of a designer is experimenting.
Commercial products are a desirable conclusion of the experiment. But not the raison d’etre of the experimentation.
Axel Kufus, for example, spoke of the workshop as being a laboratory, of products as being aggregates of processes. His former partner-in-crime Andreas Brandolini recalled how the Bellefast collective produced their own products to sell, explicitly to raise money to allow them to experiment. The products themselves had little or no meaning for their creators, although for the public they were the only tangible evidence of the designers work. In a similar context, one of Andrej Kupetz’s illustrations for a weightless world was Pressed Chair by Harry Thaler through Moormann. As we all know, a commercial product that is the result of experimenation by fantatics whose only motivation was seeing if it’s even possible. And which links in with something Axel Kufus said about designers creating processes rather than products.
Which all-in-all left us feeling a bit stuck in a sort of Penrose Triangle.
Industry needs design to make sure the profits keep rolling in. Designers can deliver the solutions. Which they do to pay the bills to allow them to experiment.
Society needs design to help it overcome problems. Designers can deliver the solutions. Because they experiment. Work for which they often aren’t directly paid for. But which they understand as their main function. In contrast to the public who understand designers as creators of commercial products.
Products which generate income for industry.
Naturally it did occur to us a couple of times during the afternoon that if less money was invested in producing sooooo many new chairs, tables and lamps to further flood an already over-saturated market, more designers could be paid to do the experimentation that not only potentially helps society but also produces truly innovative new chairs, tables and lamps that do more than generate extra waste.
But then we realised that was stupid. What would all the “design blogs” and glossy magazines write about?
And designers. Why do designers need design? Design for them may be experimentation. But what is the motivation? The drive?
A question which of course brings us back to Professor Rudolf. Are designers, like architects, motivated by a desire to change the world?
Jesko Fezer looked his guest Andreas Brandolini square in the eyes, “Why Design?”
“Because its fun!” replied Brandolini “I’m not happy when I have nothing to do!”
Loud applause from the assembled design students and professional designers.