smow Design Blog


“Reinforced concrete is the best constructional material yet devised by mankind”, enthused the Italian civil engineer Pier Luigi Nervi in 1956.1

A position Nervi spent a circa sixty year career arguing for, both in innumerable texts and through a canon of varied, and varyingly challenging, constructions throughout Italy, and much further afield. And in doing so Pier Luigi Nervi not only helped advance a popular acceptance of reinforced concrete as a construction material, but also helped develop an argument that in context of our built environment how we construct is, in many regards, more important than what we construct. An argument that has lost none of its contemporaneous since Pier Luigi Nervi first advanced it…….

Pier Luigi Nervi (1891 1979)


Monographic exhibitions portraying designers from ages past, generally, only leave you with but little opportunity to directly assess, compare and contrast that designer in context of their time.

The, desired, concentrated focus on the protagonist leaving you, by necessity, not least by necessity of limits of time and space, primarily relying on those snippets of information and/or blurry images of objects, invariably popularly celebrated objects, your brain can recover in that moment, for any semblance of assessment, comparison and contrast with what others were realising in that period, any semblance of assessment, comparison and contrast with the positions and approaches of others in that period.

Following its run at Neuwerk 11, Halle, the exhibition Chairs: Dieckmann! The Forgotten Bauhäusler Erich Dieckmann is now on display at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin, who have employed their own collection to expanded the Dieckmann presentation with contemporaneous works. To expand the works of Erich Dieckmann with works by The Others…….

Chairs: Dieckmann! The Forgotten Bauhäusler Erich Dieckmann, Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin


The Historia Supellexalis: “K” for Knoll

Knoll

A Wilhelm; A Walter; A Willy; A Hans; A Florence; A Lineage


With the Boötids, the Arietids and the Beta Taurids June is an eventful month for meteor showers; and a month of great promise for all those who hope their most earnest wishes for the future will be fulfilled through entrusting them to a shooting star.

If only their wasn’t the seemingly endless wait for nightfall, the seemingly endless sitting and streaming and snacking and stupor of waiting…….

Alternatively, use the day(s) ahead of the arrival of those celestial messengers of hope in perusing a good architecture and/or design exhibition: something that may enrich your life in ways you could never have imagined. Far less hoped for. And could lead you, could lead us all, to a future better, more promising and more fulfilling than you/we could ever have wished for. Could ever have achieved through the sitting and streaming and snacking and stupor of waiting for the future.

But you can still watch the meteors when they appear. And wish upon a star.

Our four meaningful distractions until nightfall in June 2022 can be found in Berlin, Rotterdam, Wrocław and Copenhagen……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for June 2022


“It is possible to live without taking colours in daily life seriously just as it is possible to live and to ignore music, sculpture and other arts” opines the textile designer Bernat Klein in his 1965 book Eye for Colour, and thereby not only freely equating colour with other cultural goods but also very neatly setting up the refutal, “no one will doubt, however, that life will be fuller and richer if colours are daily absorbed, handled and savoured as they can and should be”.1

Eye for Colour is both an introduction to how Bernat Klein arrived at such a position, and an argument in support of its validity…….

Design. Colour. Theory.: Bernat Klein – Eye for Colour


There is an argument to be made that the craft of the glassmaker is as anachronistic in the 21st century as that of the candlemaker: an argument that while the later has seen their craft superseded by the electric lightbulb, the function of the former has not only been increasingly marginalised by the rise of industrially produced glassware, but also by the development of new materials, materials more robust and more durable than the famously fragile and transient glass.

The candlemaker and the glassmaker, so one could further argue, having been reduced to little more than popular attractions at Ye Olde Worlde Village Fayre and similar commercial and pedagogic acts of romanticised nostalgia.

With the showcase Glass – Hand Formed Matter the Bröhan Museum, Berlin, present a convincing counter-argument…….

Glass - Hand Formed Matter, Bröhan Museum, Berlin


Following smow Turin’s thoroughly unexpected, if in no way undeserved, victory in the 2021 smow Song Contest, it’s off to Piemonte for the 2022 edition.

A 2022 smow Song Contest being held very much in context of events 20 years previous…….

smow song contest 2022 smowblog


“The May of life blooms but once”, reflects Friedrich Schiller, continuing, “It has faded for me”.1

Cheer up Freddie!!!

And there’s nothing quite like a good architecture or design exhibition to revitalise all your faculties.

Our recommended fertilizers for the zest of life in May 2022 can be found in Berlin, Den Haag, Brussels, Pfäffikon SZ and Amsterdam…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2022


“Green is beautiful” proclaims an anonymous youth, an anonymous youth blind since birth, from Sophie Calle’s 1986 photography project The Blind, “because every time I like something, I’m told it’s green. Grass is green, trees, leaves, nature too… I like to dress in green”.

An indication, a confirmation, that even for those who have never seen colour, colour can awaken associations, stir emotions, have agency on the human being.

With the exhibition Color as Program. Part One the Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, explore colour beyond its physical reality, and in doing so allow for differentiated insights and perspectives into and on our relationships with colour, with colours.

Tanz RGBCMYK by Antje Majewski, as seen at Color as Program. Part One, Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn


“Everything is sculpture” opined once Isamu Noguchi.1

But is it?

The exhibtion Isa­mu Noguchi in the Mu­se­um Lud­wig, Cologne, allows one to engage with, reflect on, immerse yourself in Isamu Noguchi’s life and work, and thus to better approach your own opinion on Isamu Noguchi’s firmly held conviction…..

Isamu Noguchi, Museum Ludwig, Cologne


The Historia Supellexalis J for Jongerius

Jongerius

A Hella; A Lab; An Open-ended exploration


As here in the northern hemisphere winter cedes to spring, not only is nature once again reawakening from its long repose but so too is the international museum community; and that, one senses, with more vigour than in the most recent springs where the Covid pandemic induced upsetting of the established order of the museal ecosystem, through both enforced closures and fundamental disruptions of essential exhibition development processes, dimmed somewhat the promise of the annual spring blush.

In spring 2022, one sense from wandering through the global museum landscape, the vitality, and for all variety, has returned to that landscape.

Which is to be welcomed, for little is as effective in helping us all broaden our minds, expand our perspectives, appreciate unseen associations, free us from prejudices, develop as human beings and as members of a functioning society, than a good museum exhibition. For while a good TV programme or a good podcast can inform, they tend to do so in definitives and in an unyieldingly linear fashion: they tell, they know, just how things were, are, will be. And in their telling tend to leave you bereft of tools of your own. A good museum exhibition in contrast gives you information but primarily bequeaths you a framework in which to develop your own understandings and positions, to question, to challenge, to expand on that which is presented; ’tis but a invitation to let your mind wander as it sees fit. And that in an environment which is devoid of time and space, where you are free to jump about as you wish, go back, rush forward. Stop.

 
 

Start again somewhere else

noiɈɔɘɿib bɘɈɔɘqxɘnυ nɒ ni ɘvoM

Discover new, uncharted, paths.

Thus whereas you can leave a TV programme or a podcast with new information on the subject at hand; you can leave a well organised exhibition not only with new information on the subject at hand, but with your thoughts immersed in a completely different subject and with your mind stimulated, receptive, restless.

And broad, receptive, questioning, unihibited, objective minds freed of definitives are very, very, important at this moment in global (hi)story.

Thus, get thee to an exhibition!

Our five recommendations for exiting the space-time continuum in April 2022 can be found in Essen, Brussels, Stockholm, Linz and Helsinki…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for April 2022


In 1997 Euro-popsters Aqua declared that “life in plastic, it’s fantastic”.

And in 1997 a greater part of humanity would have readily, and unquestioningly, concurred with Aqua that plastic was indeed fantastic. And that plastics offered us an endlessly fantastic, undimmably bright, future.1

But that was 1997.

Last century.

An eternity ago.

And, as so oft, the passage of time has shaken once firmly held convictions and forced fundamental re-appraisals of all that which once seemed so eternal, so certain, so bright. So fantastic.

With the exhibition Plastic: Remaking Our World the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, explore the (hi)story of plastics of all ilks and in doing so not only chart the transformations in popular perceptions of plastics over the past 150 years, but also pose questions of our future use of, and our future relationships with, plastics…….

Plasticene - a world of plastic, as seen at Plastic: Remaking Our World, Vitra Design Museum


In December 1969 the Austrian TV station ORF broadcast a half-hour portrait of the architect Hans Hollein, including a presentation of Hollein’s Mobile Office project: essentially an inflatable plastic bubble in which one person could sit and work.

“Klingt vielleicht etwas verrückt”, mused the presenter, “sounds perhaps a bit crazy”.

And in 1969 a device, a construct, that allowed for the creation of a private domain in the midst of a public space, unquestionably did sound “etwas verrückt”.

And in 2022…….

Hans Hollein at work in his Mobile Office under the watchful eye of ORF


With spring approaching thoughts invariably turn to days spent out of doors, and, for those fortunate enough, to thoughts of leisurely days spent sat in the garden.

Leisurely days spent sat in the garden, ideally, listening to music.

¿Listening to music about being sat in the garden; sat in the garden listening to songs about garden furniture……?

Radio smow: A Garden Furniture Playlist


“Dear Architect” wrote Maria Chinaglia Ponti in 1967 to the architect, but no relation, Gio Ponti, “why don’t you design us some modern furniture? Daddy Walter is worried because our traditional stuff is not selling as it used to”.1

An unsolicited request, from a company of whom he’d never heard, an architect of the status of a late 1960s Gio Ponti could have turned down, it wasn’t as if a late 1960s Gio Ponti needed the commission; however, something about the letter from Maria Chinaglia Ponti interested, intrigued, Gio Ponti. Beyond the shared surname. For as he continues, in his recounting of the tale, “Ci vado“.

“I went to see them”…….

Gabriella Chair by Gio Ponti for Walter Ponti


With furniture, as with so much in life, it is rarely the showy, high profile, works, or individuals, that teach us most, but those works, and those individuals, who in their anonymity and modesty accompany us in invisible silence.

Or rather the anonymous and quiet could teach us most, if we spent less time being distracted by, letting ourselves willingly be distracted by, the noise of the showy.

With the project Monobloc author and director Hauke Wendler, and a team of co-collaborators, offer us all an opportunity to focus on, and learn from, an object we’ve all seen and used, but only rarely, if ever, openly engaged with…….

Monobloc Hauke Wendler Rutger Fuchs Hatje Cantz


“It was one of those March days” reflects Philip “Pip” Pirrip in Great Expectations, “when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade”.1

And thus exactly the sort of dithering, indecisive, capricious, March day when rather than surreptitiously rowing down the Thames towards Gravesend, one should seek refuge in the consistent climate and warming intellectual atmosphere of an architecture or design exhibition.

Our five Great exhibition Expectations for March 2022 can be found in Weil am Rhein, Brussels, Wolfsburg, Vienna and Ulm…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for March 2022


Each and everyone of us sits innumerable times each and every day in a wide variety of contexts, yet we rarely, if ever, consider the act of sitting.

The exhibition Sitting reconsidered. Design, Observe, Stage at the Burg Galerie, Halle challenges us all to do just that…….

MRS1 & MRS1 Low by Luis-Konstantin Schlicht, and uncredited student photographic works, as seen at Sitting reconsidered. Design, Observe, Stage, the Burg Galerie, Halle


The Historia Supellexalis: "I" for Italy

Italy

A Peninsula; A Commonwealth; A Context


“…one only finds warmth of life and sincerity where human nature is allowed to flourish”, opined the German designer Erich Dieckmann in 1931, “one shouldn’t forget that in our apartments. Let’s treat our contemporary homes to something humane. Something unelaborate, something provisional, with some leeway and space for things to grow as they wish over time.”1

With the exhibition Chairs: Dieckmann! The Forgotten Bauhäusler Erich Dieckmann, the Kunststiftung des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt and Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin extend an invitation to explore how Erich Dieckmann understood an unelaborate, humane, contemporary apartment full of leeway and space to grow…….

Chairs: By Dieckmann!, as seen at Chairs: Dieckmann! The Forgotten Bauhäusler Erich Dieckmann, Neuwerk 11, Halle


We were obviously off ill on the day of the great global public debate about whether, given the myriad problems of contemporary societies, our resource emergencies, and the effortless manner in which we’ve managed to turn the Internet, the greatest tool ever placed at the disposal of a member of the Animalia, into a platform for hate and vanity and greed and crime; if given all that, if we all wanted to, if we all should, move to the Metaverse.

But that debate must have occurred, for the decision has been made; and ever since global society decided of its own free will that we should all move to the Metaverse those Californians who hope to reap billions of dollars from our presence there, can’t stop extolling just how utterly brilliant it’s all going to be.

Which means that slowly we do all need to start reflecting on our furniture for the Metaverse, start considering how we’re going to furnish the Metaverse once we get there……

Furnishing the Metaverse....but with what will you fill your green screen with, and with whom will you share it.......


“Exhibiting means selecting, emphasising, demonstrating as a model or an example”, wrote Klaus Wille in his 1960 Diploma thesis at the Hochschule für Gestaltung, Ulm, continuing that, “the object is information. This information can be used for didactic, commercial or representative purposes. Aimed at individuals as consumers of products and ideas, the exhibition is used to educate, canvass and represent, to influence people, to get them to react in certain ways.”1

The exhibition HfG Ulm: Exhibition Fever at the Bauhaus Building, Dessau, explores how the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm not only educated, canvassed and represented through the media of exhibition design, but how they thereby contributed to the development of the practice and theory of exhibition design……

HfG Ulm: Exhibition Fever, Bauhaus Building, Dessau


According to the Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro February 7th marks the first day of spring.

Which strikes us, as we’re sure it does you, as a little early; however, there was reason in Varro’s bold claim, for Varro further sets February 7th as the start of the year, and for all links February 7th with the rising of the west wind, a favourable, warming wind, whose arrival indicates the need to start cultivating your land and crops, specifically Varro advises, “these are things which should be done in the first period, from the rising of the west wind to the vernal equinox: All kinds of nurseries should be set out, orchards pruned, meadows manured, vines trenched and outcropping roots removed, meadows cleared, willow beds planted, grain-land weeded.”1

But not just the cultivation of your land and crops is important from the rising of the west wind to the vernal equinox, the cultivation of mind and spirit and character is of equal importance.

Our five non-agrarian cultivation tips for February 2022 can be found in Halle, Garðabær, Paris, Stockholm and Zürich…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for february 2022 smow blog


Familiar as our objects and rituals of daily life are to us, to someone from the 16th century they would appear most, most, odd, just as their familiar 16th century objects and rituals would appear most, most, odd to someone from the 11th century: yet as Simon & Garfunkel teach us “that’s not unusual, No, it isn’t strange”, for as societies develop they acquire new objects and rituals, daily life continually evolves anew alongside, and in conjunction with, new objects and new rituals. And if we were to be acquainted today with objects and rituals from future societies we would consider them most, most, odd.

With the exhibition New Normals at Haus am Waldsee, Berlin, Konstantin Grcic presents some exceedingly odd things and in doing so invites us all to reflect on the fact that that which is not yet, will one day be…….

Konstantin Grcic. New Normals, Haus am Waldsee, Berlin