smow Design Blog


Although Bauhaus did undeniably exist, sometimes we could all be forgiven for believing we had collectively imagined it. Not only on account of its ephemerality as an institution, but also because it existed in a period of history that is, generally, a little abstract, intangible, indecipherable for a majority of us. While today the popular image of Bauhaus is so ideal, represents such a utopia and eutopia, it has that tangible feeling of intangibility, of unreality, of something imaginary.

With the exhibition Bauhaus Imaginista the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin aim to allow for a more substantive understanding of Bauhaus.

Bauhaus Imaginista @ the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin


As all familiar with the peculiar and idiosyncratic method by which these dispatches are produced will appreciate, come March 30th 2019 there will be a few fundamental changes, as the smow blog team are forced to abandon our familiar home on the internet and create a new one for ourselves in the analogue wastelands of the (dis)United Kingdoms.

And as Brexit’s unregulated shadow casts itself ever deeper, indelibly, suffocatingly, over the smow blog office, our thoughts turn, somewhat inevitably, to the furniture we may find ourselves engaging with in an all too palpable future.

Will we even have furniture? Or will be forced to refer to the neolithic tribes of Skara Brae and their intuitive and innovative use of stone?

Possibly.

However it may not come that far, for, and despite whatever other deficits and callowness it has, Whitehall does have experience in securing the supply of furniture in times of national emergency: the Utility Furniture Scheme of the 1940s…….

The Utility Furniture Scheme's "CC41".....


The Burg Galerie im Volkspark Halle is open every day, is täglich geöffnet; and with their new exhibition, opens the every day: presenting artistic and design reflections on daily routine(s), the Alltag, and in doing so allows for new perspectives on the what, wherewith and wherefore of our (perceived) daily realities…..

täglich geöffnet @ Burg Galerie im Volkspark, Halle


For the fifth year in succession ArkDes, Sweden’s national centre for architecture and design, is hosting the Ung Svensk Form/Young Swedish Design award/platform exhibition: a showcase of 25 projects providing for 25 understandings of contemporary design in/from Sweden.

Ung Svensk Form/Young Swedish Design 2019 Exhibition, ArkDes Stockholm


Since 1823 the good folks of Cologne have taken to the streets on the Monday before Ash Wednesday to mark the approach of Lent with one last day, (and night) of earthly, secular, celebration before resigning body and soul to the sanctity of abstention; the highlight being the Rosenmontag procession which weaves its way through the Altstadt Veedel on the city’s left bank.

From modest beginnings the Zoch has grown to become not only the largest Rosenmontag procession in Germany, but longer than the route: the first participants arriving at the end before the last ones have left the start. We’d call that a planning issue. For Cologne it is, and as so often in the city, a solecism carried as a badge of honour.

The 2019 Rosenmontag procession is being staged under the motto Uns Sproch es Heimat, Our Language is Home, a motto chosen on the one hand to encourage all native Kölsch speakers to take a little more pride in their tongue/home and on the other to encourage non-speakers to learn, to discover a new Kölsch home.

Better understanding Cologne doesn’t however necessarily require fighting with Ripuarian dialects, or indeed donning fancy dress and developing an involuntary laugh; can also be achieved by ignoring the floats and dance troops of the Rosenmontag procession and engaging instead with the architecture along the route.

Kölle A(rchitketur)laaf. An Architectural Carneval.


How do we ensure there is sufficient, affordable, healthy, practical, accommodation for our contemporary population and their needs?

Not just a question for today’s society but arguably one that has been posed, considered and approached by architects and urban planners since the late 19th century.

If, admittedly, without anyone ever solving the conundrum. Or at least not unequivocally. Or sustainably.

With the exhibition Die Neue Heimat ­(1950–1982). A Social Democratic Utopia and Its Buildings, the Architekturmuseum der TU München review the (hi)story of the Neue Heimat housing corporation and its efforts to ensure sufficient, affordable, healthy, practical, accommodation for West Germany, and in doing so add to the contemporary discourse.

Die Neue Heimat ­(1950–1982). A Social Democratic Utopia and Its Buildings, the Architekturmuseum der TU München


“Beware the Ides of March” Julius Caesar was, allegedly, advised by the soothsayer Spurinna. And he probably wished he had. March 15th seeing his death at the hands of some 60 Senators, a death which led to civil war as opposing forces sought to control Rome’s destiny.

“Beware the 5th of the Calends of April” a modern day Spurinna would no doubt warn the good folks of the United Kingdom. March 29th looking as it is like being an equally fateful day.

But while Caesar could have taken steps to prevent his demise, the fate of the good folks of the United Kingdom is out of their hands, they must wait and see what an ideologically driven group of some 60 Conservative Senators MPs have in store…….

And while we all wait, what could be more enriching than that which helps set the temporality of politicians’ decisions against the irrepressible force of social and cultural evolution; a force parliamentarian laws can delay but never stop, and a truth one finds elegantly mirrored in architecture and design.

Our five recommendations for new exhibitions opening in March 2019 can be found in Frankfurt, Brussels, Chemnitz, London and Magdeburg.


“On, on, on, cried the leaders at the back….”


No, it’s not all shoulder pads and garish colour clashes……. although……..

…….much more, with the exhibition 1980s – A new era in furniture design Stockholm’s Museum of Furniture Studies explore furniture design in that most politically, culturally, socially and economically fluid of decades, and, and not completely unrelated, a decade which not only brought fundamental changes to understandings of furniture design, but arguably brought more abrupt, more curt, more enduring changes than at any time since the 1920s.

Works by Olle Anderson and First Chair Michele de Lucchi, as seen at 1980s - A new era in furniture design, The Museum of Furniture Studies, Stockholm


As regular readers will be aware, in these dispatches we, very, very occasionally, quietly bemoan a certain monotony at furniture trade fairs, protest that, if you will, we regularly find ourselves wading through an homogenous mass.

On this occasion we will however let someone else make that observation on our behalf.

In his 2015 book Swedish Design: An Ethnography the American anthropologist Keith M. Murphy notes of a visit to the 2006 Stockholm Furniture Fair, “[T]he only problem was, so much of the stuff here looked so similar, and I had a difficult time anchoring myself in the exhibition’s plan”, continuing later that, “[T]he place is predominantly suffused not with a variety of different kinds of objects, but rather with a variety of different objects of the same general kind.”1

So 2006. So 2019.

Though interestingly he does also note that, “one cannot evade the impression that Sweden endures under a tyranny of simple forms and solid bright colours”. These days it’s more solid pastel tones, but…..

Such isn’t exclusive to Stockholm, but can be experienced wherever the furniture industry meet to display their wares. Clearly there are a host of varied, arguably inter-related, causes for such a situation, but here is neither the time nor the space to discuss them; the consequence, however, is that walking through the halls of any give trade fair one finds that while many objects do speak to you, they all tend to do so with a repetition of the same limited vocabularies, often in a very forced, insecure, equivocal manner, and which thus, very quickly, becomes tiresome.

However as Keith M Murphy also notes, “not everything fit [sic] the model” and there are not only always objects to be found with something interesting to say, but which say that in an intelligent, literate and engaging fashion.

And so, and as ever, with the understanding that we have inevitably missed and/or not properly understood several gems, a smow blog Stockholm Furniture Fair 2019 High 5!!

Stockholm Furniture Fair 2019: High Five!!


It’s been 8 years since we last visited an exhibition by Stockholm based studio Färg & Blanche.

Then 2011, back in the days when we still had our own teeth, our own hair, dreams and aspirations which were in our control, it was the exhibition 20 designers at BIOLOGISKA, one of the most memorable locations we’ve ever viewed an exhibition in. And despite having been in many an impressive venues since, a multi-storey 360 degree diorama populated by stuffed animals in a range of habitats, remains a firm favourite.

Now 2019, the venue equally as memorable, Emma Marga Blanche’s paternal great-grandparents late-19th century flat on the site off, and next, to their former Knäckebröd factory. A space seemingly caught in time while all around Södermalm has evolved from a largely working class district into one of Stockholm’s hipper.

The principle difference between 2011 and 2019 is that then Färg & Blanche presented works by themselves and selected chums, now it is all their own work.

The wedge shaped component of Keyhole collection by Färg & Blanche, as seen at The Baker's House, Stockholm Design Week 2019


According to US gonzo journalist, Hunter S Thompson, “the human animal needs a Good Reason to get out of bed on a wretched morning in February.” 1

May we humbly suggest…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for February 2019


Despite what some may have us believe, Bauhaus didn’t appear one morning from the slowly clearing mists of the Ilm valley; rather, and for all its lasting allure, Bauhaus ’twas but a moment on a longer, wider, international helix. One which began its twisting long before Walter Gropius and his merry band arrived in Weimar, and which continues, winding its way ever onwards, to this day.

With the exhibition From Arts and Crafts to the Bauhaus. Art and Design – A New Unity! the Bröhan Museum Berlin explore the helix as it approached and then, briefly, informed Bauhaus.

From Arts and Crafts to the Bauhaus. Art and Design - A New Unity @ The Bröhan Museum Berlin


“The role of the architect is one of organisation. The house is the considered organisation of our ways of life”1, opined the Austrian architect Margarete Lihotzky in 1921.

And in the course of a long, varied career, she repeatedly demonstrated what she understood by such; including most famously, if somewhat narrowly, in a kitchen design………….

Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky (1897-2000) (Photo Werner Faymann, source https://commons.wikimedia.org)


“…a new generation, a new age, must develop forms and tenors for their interior and exterior worlds which correspond to its desire for well-being and its ideals” wrote Frankfurt city mayor Ludwig Landmann in 1926.1

With the exhibition Moderne am Main 1919-1933 the Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt explore how such developments were approached and realised in Frankfurt and environs, and by extrapolation explore the contribution made by the region to the evolution of inter-War understandings of architecture and design, and the legacy that remains.

Moderne am Main 1919-1933 @ Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt


According to the posters to be found liberally distributed throughout the city, IMM Cologne 2019 promised to present “1000 furnishings ideas for your home”

And it may very well have done. We didn’t count. Not least because….

What interest the number, if the ideas themselves ain’t meaningful?
What interest the number, if the ideas themselves ain’t logical?
What interest the number, if the ideas themselves ain’t justifiable?

Or reducing the thought to its essence, what interest the idea if it ain’t meaningful, logical and justifiable?

1 meaningless, illogical and unjustifiable idea being every bit as undesirable and harmful as 1000.

As Brexit so poetically underscores.

And so while we can’t confirm there were a 1000 ideas, we can confirm that the principle idea at IMM Cologne 2019 was “consolidation”, the presentation of familiar lines in different colours, materials, heights, widths, etc….

Which, yes, is a comment we make a lot about furniture trade fairs, one we get the impression we’re making ever more often, one we feel will ultimately see us stop attending such; but a comment that, as ever, isn’t a complaint, far from it. It needn’t, shouldn’t, always be new, new, new. If it is it becomes fashion, not furniture. And thoroughly awful.

Whereby one must add IMM Cologne featured some very intelligent, meaningful, logical, justifiable, consolidations. Consolidation ≢ bad.

But there does also need to be new. Because on the one hand technology and materials are ever new, and furniture designers and the, and for want of a better phrase, designer furniture industry, have a duty to respond to those changes; on the other society is ever new, and by extrapolation so are the demands we place on our furniture, be that functionally, aesthetically or environmentally, and furniture designers and the designer furniture industry have a duty to respond to those changes; and on the rare, and especially valuable third hand, in order to advance we need that which we didn’ know we needed, that which we could never have imagined being without, even though we could never imagine being with, that which questions the accepted. Responding to such new realities, challenging conventions, presenting solutions based on a singular understanding of the reality, is the basis of what ultimately became the designer furniture industry and the furniture designer, and the future of both can only be found in the same.

Or put another way, the balance between the established and the new needs to remain healthy if the, for want of a better phrase, designer furniture industry, is to remain relevant.

And so, and as ever with the assumption we have missed one or the other delight, and/or not fully understood something we did see, a smow Blog IMM Cologne 2019 High Five!!

IMM Cologne 2019: High Five!!


Fortune, we are told, favours the brave. Misfortune the reckless, but fortune the brave.

Thus, summing all the bravery we could muster, we descended into the unknown of the Bunker am Bahngleis and the exhibition Generation Köln…..*

Karoline&Klemens&Thomas&Tim. Generation Köln @ Passagen Cologne 2019


Although founded twelve years before Bauhaus Weimar, and despite overlaps in personnel and biographies, it would be incorrect to draw a direct line from the Deutsche Werkbund to the Gropius school, even if a line of sorts can, should, be traced between the two institutions.

A line which serves not only to connect the two but to underscore the role both played in the development of contemporary understandings of formal aesthetics in the first decades of the 20th century, and also the influence both retain over contemporary understandings of such a century or so later.

In context of such considerations, the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin are presenting throughout 2019 a series of four exhibitions under the title 111/99. Questioning the Modernist Design Vocabulary and which aim to explore various aspects of the development of, well, modernist design vocabulary.

The start being made with graphic arts and the showcase Commercial Design instead of Applied Art?

Commercial Design instead of Applied Art? @ the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin


The reason most of us fail to keep most of our New Year resolutions is, mostly, because we either resolve to give up things we enjoy or to do things we don’t.

Which is foolhardy in the extreme.

If you wanted to do more sport, you would.

If you wanted to eat less crisps, you would.

But don’t. And don’t. So don’t.

The wiser choice is to resolve to do more of that which you enjoy, and thereby not only setting yourself an achievable goal but one which through the genuine fulfilment it brings benefits you spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically; therefore, let us all, collectively, promise to visit more architecture and design exhibitions in 2019 than we did in 2018.

Agreed?

Our five starters for January 2019 can be found in Frankfurt, Malmö, New York, Berlin and Stuttgart……………..

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for January 2019


On December 10th 1869 Gebrüder Thonet voluntarily relinquished their 1856 Privilege in respect of “The manufacture of chairs and table legs made of bent wood, the bending facilitated by the action of steam or simmering liquids”; thereby ending not only a thirteen year monopoly during which time Thonet became a firmly established global brand, but also the culmination of a neigh on three decade story which highlights the importance of patent protection in the furniture industry.

Biegen oder Brechen. Michael Thonet (1796 - 1871)


Following the #smowblogfact revelation from Vitra Work at Orgatec Cologne 2018 that the smow blog office is devoid of shelving, we were inundated with an e-mail asking why? why has the smow blog office no shelving….?

A very simple question, and one which for the first time caused us to pose ourselves a much more fundamental question, why? why, has the smow blog office no shelving….?

Considerations which quickly evolved and diverged to concern themselves with the more general questions of what, how, when and why shelving…….

Radio smow Shelving Playlist Skara Brae Orkney Furniture


While a Chair of Politics is a long established academic principle, the chair as politics represents a much more contemporary understanding of, not just chairs, but all those artefacts with which we share our world and our daily lives.

With the exhibition Friedrich von Borries. Politics of Design. Design of Politics Die Neue Sammlung Munich explore, or perhaps more accurately, give architect and design theorist Friedrich von Borries free hand to explore, the intersection(s) of design and politics.

Friedrich von Borries. Politics of Design. Design of Politics @ Die Neue Sammlung Munich


If you are planning visiting an architecture or design museum, anywhere in the world, in 2019, it will be staging a Bauhaus themed special exhibition. Guaranteed. There are literally millions of them lined up. If not billions.

Which is no complaint. Or at least not unless they are exhibitions based on formulaic, lazy clichés. Then it is very much a complaint. But if they are exhibitions which take open, honest and unblinkered views on either the institution as a whole or a specific, ideally, under researched, aspect of the institution, and of course remember that it is 100 years Bauhaus Weimar, and not 100 years Bauhaus Dessau, then it is no complaint.

Consequently, December 2018 could be your last chance to experience anything else for a goodly while.

Our Bauhaus free recommendations or December 2018 can be found in Vienna, Dortmund, New York, London & San Francisco……..

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for December 2018


Much as ever increasing co-working is altering understandings of and relations to work practises and office spaces, so to is ever increasing co-habitation altering understandings of and relations to domestic practises and spaces.

Albeit domestic understandings that are altering without as much public discourse as afforded those occurring in the workplace.

With the exhibition Together. The new architecture of the collective the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst Leipzig explore, and thereby allow for a focus on, contemporary communal living.

Poolhaus Vienna, as seen at Together. The new architecture of the collective the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst Leipzig


Slowly but surely the temperatures across Europe begin to fall, along with the leaves and the hours of daylight.

Hibernation approaches.

And by way of an accompaniment to the imminent long sleep, a Radio smow beds playlist.

Radio smow bed playlist


Designer, grib magten! enjoined the 2018 Design School Kolding exhibition, Designer, seize the power!

Which not only sounds a bit more revolutionary than one is use to from Danes, but also implies designers should be in power. A position on which, and as we oft noted, we’re highly sceptical.

Intimately involved in power systems yes, but designers in charge…….

Consequently we thought it wise to set course for the Design School Kolding 2018 Graduation Exhibition.

Designer, grib magten! Design School Kolding 2018 graduation exhibition, Koldinghus