One of the early highlights of our 2017 #campustour was the Arc Collection by Marie Hesseldahl & Nanna Neergaard created in context of their Diploma project at Design School Kolding.

Consequently it was a particularly pleasing mødes igen with the Arc Collection at IMM Cologne 2018 where it was launched as a product family by Danish manufacturer Le Klint.

Arc Pendant Lamp by Manér Studio for Le Klint, as seen at IMM Cologne 2018


“Have you ever laid out all your plates like a carpet, or piled furniture into a tower?”, asks the introduction to the Technical University Dortmund’s project, Alles, was ich habe [Everything that I possess]

Our answer to the last question is a categorical, yes.

It was one afternoon during our final year at secondary school, and together with a few chums we stacked all the common room furniture up against one wall. Just to see if we could. We could.

Alles, was ich habe is a little more fundamental, exploring as it does possessions and consumerism, and by extrapolation the global production, distribution and marketing industries that are sustained by both.

Alles, was ich habe by the Seminar für Kulturanthropologie des Textilen, TU Dortmund, as seen at Passagen Cologne 2018


In his 5th century BC text “The Art of War”, the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu notes:

There are roads, not to take.

There are armies, not to attack.

There are towns, not to besiege.

There are terrains, not to contest.

There are ruler’s orders, not to obey.1

Were Sun Tzu’s metier the furniture fair rather than the warfare, we feel certain he would have added:

There are objects, not to produce.

IMM Cologne 2018 is awash with such. It’s not IMM’s fault; rather is endemic of an industry which supplies utensils of human need, objects which surround our every waking and sleeping moments, accompany the trials, tribulations, triumphs and temporality of existence, but which all too often do so not with the aim of improving our immediate environment, be that aesthetically, functionally or morally, but of generating profit.

The inevitable result is innumerate brands all desperately trying to prove they can do exactly the same as everyone else, can all do what the t**** soothsayers tell them the market(s) want.

Yet as George Nelson teaches us, don’t produce for a perceived market, produce for yourself. Your customers will find you. And those who don’t, aren’t your customers.

As we say, its not IMM’s fault, IMM is one the major furniture industry platforms, and consequently its visitors are exposed to a very concentrated dose of the unnecessary and unseemly

However it’s not all soulless pastiche, lazy appropriation or “cocooning” at IMM Cologne 2018, there are also works which demonstrate as Sun Tzu reminds us, and despite what we may believe in any given moment, “Anger can turn to pleasure.”

As ever, we’re not claiming to have seen everything, have invariably missed some gems, while there are a few projects which may in retrospect have earned a place in the following list, but on which we are still in the process of forming an opinion.

With that in mind, and in no particular order, our IMM Cologne 2018 High Five!

1. Sun Tzu, The Art of War, translated by John Minford, Penguin Books, 2002

IMM Cologne 2018 High 5


As regular readers will appreciate, we’re no great approvers of lumping individual creatives together under one umbrella term; always strikes us as being an unnecessary distraction, and (more than) a little counterproductive.

We are however most appreciative that following an inaugural presentation at Kazerne Eindhoven during Dutch Design Week 2017, the showcase Generation Köln is now being presented, as it were, on home turf.

Generation Köln. A Family Portrait


As in art, music or literature, the path in design from an idea to its realisation is rarely straight. And not always achieved. Or at least not immediately. Consequently every designer, as with every artist, every musician or every author, has projects which began their journey’s full of hope,but, then, for whatever reason…….

With the showcase “in Arbeit” Cologne based designers Thomas Schnur and Klemens Grund present some of their projects which are, still, “in Arbeit”

In Arbeit. Prototypen von Thomas Schnur und Klemens Grund, Passagen Cologne 2018


One of Germany’s leading post-war architects and architectural theoreticians, Egon Eiermann was also one of post-war Europe’s most important chair designers, not just in context of what he realised, but also in context of what he worked towards realising and the reasons why. With the exhibition Cologne celebrate that legacy.

Der Stuhl des Architekten - Sitzmöbel von Egon Eiermann @ Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft CologneDer Stuhl des Architekten - Sitzmöbel von Egon Eiermann @ Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft Cologne


As we’ve oft noted in these pages, not only have designers since time immemorial had a particular fascination for chairs, but society a particular predilection.

Arguably the two are related and can be traced to the long, universal, cultural, political and social relevance of the chair and the act of sitting, a state of affairs which not only makes the physical chair/seat an integral part of our lives, but the metaphorical: excitement brings us to edge of our chairs, those who are brave/foolish enough place themself in the hot seat, while we either sit in judgement or on the fence depending on what prudence and prejudice advise.

And so following on from our Cupboards, Closets, Wardrobes Playlist, a Radio smow Chairs Playlist, starting with five songs which discuss the action, symbolism and relevance of chairs/sitting in various contexts. Considerations on which can keep us occupied for hours.

No, honest…..

radio smow chairs playlist


With his two faces the Roman God Janus looks simultaneously forward and backwards, standing in constant watch over transitions, the passage of time, beginnings, ends.

The easy connection to make is with January, that month of the year when we are invariably reflecting and hoping in equal measure: the more complex connection to make is with a well-crafted architecture and design exhibition, one which effortlessly links reflections of the past with proposals, visions and excitement for the future. Nothing existing as it does in isolation. And everything requiring a transition.

Our five gatekeepers for January 2018 can be found in San Francisco, Brussels, Basel, Milan and Cologne.

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for January 2018


While preparing our 5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for December 2017 post we spent a not inconsiderate amount of time contemplating the exhibition Cupboard Love at the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur, in particular the fact the while it promises to explore cupboards in their metaphoric manifestations as expressed in film, literature and art, they appear to have overlooked the use of cupboards, closets and other storage units in music.

We just had to rectify that…….

Cupboard Love at the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur


We can’t remember exactly when we first came across Prague based creative collective Okolo, but certainly by the autumn of 2014 we were very much liking what they were doing: April 2014 seeing the exhibition Okolo Offline at Depot Basel and in September Okolo Offline Two – Collecting at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden, both of which in their own gentle ways guided the visitor into and through the Okolo world.

Keen to better understand that world we met up with Okolo co-founder Adam Štěch…..

Okolo Magazine Lausanne (Photo courtesy Okolo)


On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a ticket for a design exhibition.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me, two tickets for two design exhibitions, and a ticket for a design exhibition.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me…… You get the idea.

Our five goohoold rings for December 2017 are new architecture and design exhibitions in Winterthur, Barcelona, New York, Munich and Moscow.

5 New Design Exhibitions for December 2017


Whereas exhibitions featured in these pages are normally still in the first flush of youth, having recently enjoyed their vernissage and thus making their first public appearance, the presentation of Two German Architectures 1949-1989 at the Technische Universität Berlin is much more a finissage.

After a 13 year, 26 city, global tour, the exhibition has, in many regards, come home to retire.

Two German Architectures 1949 - 1989 @ the Technische Universität Berlin


Artefacts are generally considered remnants of societies and civilisations long past. Remnants which act as chroniclers, guides and reminders of societies and civilisations long past.

Artefacts however needn’t be ancient. Nor the society they document.

With the exhibition Von Ata bis Zentralkomitee the Kulturhistorisches Museum Rostock explore daily life in the DDR through everyday objects, artefacts, and thereby the nature and reality of state influence and control on everyday life.

Von Ata bis Zentralkomitee at the Kulturhistorisches Museum Rostock


The first metaphors may, or may not, have been animal based, but materials are just as adaptable. And few are as adaptable as glass. The Glass Ceiling as the impenetrable, yet invisible boundary. The Heart of Glass as a state of extreme emotional weakness. Yet when most people use glass as a metaphor they are using in itself as a metaphor, for transparency.

With the exhibition Welt aus Glas. Transparentes Design the Wilhelm Wagenfeld Haus Bremen abstract that metaphor to explore the link between transparency in design and architecture, and transparency in society.

Welt aus Glas. Transparentes Design at the Wilhelm Wagenfeld Haus Bremen


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Gestures belong to the oldest of human actions and interactions. Have accompanied mankind through good times and bad, through its innumerate technical, cultural and social revolutions.

And are so intuitive, we are often barely aware of them.

With the exhibition Gestures – Past, Present and Future, the Sächsische Industriemuseum Chemnitz explores not only the (hi)story and importance of gestures, but for all their role in our smart, digital, autonomous futures.

Gestures - Past, Present and Future at the Sächsische Industriemuseum Chemnitz


Visitors to the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig have long been able to rest on Jasper Morrison’s Vitra Bench, an object liberally distributed throughout the museum complex.

With the exhibition Thingness the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig offers visitors a deeper insight into Jasper Morrison’s oeuvre, and creative processes.

Jasper Morrison - Thingness @ Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig


As any fule kno, an echo requires a surface off which to reflect.

Otherwise it is just shouting into the void.

With the exhibition Echoes – 100 Years in Finnish Design and Architecture at the Felleshus, Berlin, that reflective surface is the traditions, cultures and landscapes of north-east Europe.

Echoes - 100 Years in Finnish Design and Architecture @ Felleshus, The Nordic Embassies, Berlin


The old adage that the only certainties in life are death and taxes has become (more than) a little passé of late.

However even the accountants and investment bankers cannot, yet, avoid death.

With the exhibition Tod & Ritual – Kulturen von Abschied und Erinnerung the Staatliches Museum für Archäologie Chemnitz, smac, explore the historical and cultural traditions and rituals of that last remaining timeless, universal, and utterly inescapable phenomenon.

Tod & Ritual - Kulturen von Abschied und Erinnerung, Staatliches Museum für Archäologie Chemnitz


Back in the day one of the joys of reading the British Yellow Pages was the entry for Boring: “See Civil Engineers”*

Oh how we laughed! And still do!

Partly to counter such negative associations, partly to explain what Civil Engineers do, and partly to explain just how fundamentally that what Civil Engineers do has contributed to our contemporary society, and the multitude of possibilities available to us, whether we choose to take them or not, the Oskar von Miller Forum Munich is staging the exhibition Visionäre und Alltagshelden. Ingenieure – Bauen – Zukunft.

Visionäre und Alltagshelden. Ingenieure – Bauen – Zukunft @ the Oskar von Miller Forum Munich


When we spoke with designer Patrick Frey in context of our #campustour, the plan was quite simply to discuss contemporary design education; however, the natural flow of the conversation took us in a raft of interesting directions, including his experiences as a freelance designer, the question of development payments in the furniture industry and the background to his and Markus Boge’s joint diploma project, a project in many regards personified by the tables Kant and Marketing.

Kant by Patrick Frey & Markus Boge for Nils Holger Moormann


Can innovation be an end to itself? Are we living in excess? Do things bewilder and inspire us still? Does a museum collection inevitably lose its link to reality as time goes by? What is good design?

The exhibition Hella Jongerius & Louise Schouwenberg – Beyond the New at Die Neue Sammlung Munich poses a lot of questions.

Questions which needn’t necessarily find answers, but which should serve as inspiration and motivation to further questions, and thus a deeper discourse on design.

Hella Jongerius & Louise Schouwenberg - Beyond the New, Die Neue Sammlung - The Design Museum, Munich


Architects are always very keen to stress how they are working in the interests of society, for society. Often selflessly so.

Yet little polarises society quite like architecture.

And no architecture polarises quite like Brutalism.

Whereas in discourses on other architectural genres the middle ground is a place where those of moderate opinions can meet objectively and attempt to approach one another’s position: there are no Brutalism moderates.

With the exhibition SOS Brutalism – Save the Concrete Monsters, the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt becomes that objective middle ground and thereby enables a very welcome discussion on Brutalism, its origins and its legacy.

SOS Brutalism - Save the Concrete Monsters at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum Frankfurt


Modular lighting is a seldom encountered genre, and when it is encountered, then invariably in a very technical form, a form that implies the computer software has taken a greater role in the creative process than the designers understanding of form-giving,

There are however exceptions…..

304 by Nick Beens, as seen at Dutch Design Week Eindhoven 2017


While figuratively “blowing the roof off” is arguably an aim of every design festival; physically having your roof blown off is not.

Sadly that is what happened to Designblok Prague 2017; Storm Herwart, when not completely de-roofing the Art Deco Palace of Industry which hosted the event, causing damage sufficient to force organisers the cancel the last two days of the five day festival.

A situation not only unfortunate and irksome for the organisers and exhibitors, but disappointing all those who had planned spending the Sunday and/or Monday at the event.

Does however give the organisers a relevant and fitting theme for Designblok Prague 2018 …… but before we get there, our Designblok Prague 2017 High 5!!

Designblok Prague 2017: High Five!!


Although as an event Dutch Design Week has always had a focus on presenting design in context, design in practice, our feeling is that of late that focus has intensified, something we thoroughly approve of as it helps make tangible that design is, can be, more than pretty objects; does however mean that you increasingly need to take more time with you to Eindhoven. Or accept that you are going to miss a lot of, potentially, interesting and thought provoking presentations.

Necessity meant that this year we followed option two.

But that still left us more than enough time to discover projects to get cross about, be confused by or simply quietly admire.

Or indeed vocally admire: our Dutch Design Week 2017 High Five!!

Dutch Design Week Eindhoven 2017: High Five!!