smow Design Blog


Occasional table by Rita Koralevics from the Paper-up Collection, as seen Magyar Design, Otthon Design Budapest 2024


A living room design by Gertrud Lincke featuring two Arbeitskojen, Work Bunks/Berths, on the left and right, home office à la the 1920s (undated, but before 1927, possibly 1925)


Components of the Bold collection by András Kerékgyártó for Brave Home, as seen at Magyar Design, Otthon Design Budapest 2024


Polc íróasztallal by Woodoo, as seen at Magyar Design, Otthon Design Budapest 2024


Otthon Design Budapest 2024


An (early) interior (and possibly early furniture) by Dr Josef Frank, undated, but before 1915


Chairs by Elisabeth von Baczko realised by Korbmacher Kapsch, Bremen


After several years of preparation, and a lot of, at times (very) heated, discussion, this past March saw the staging of the inaugural Grassimesse Leipzig in the city’s Rathaus.

Instigated by Dr. Richard Graul, Director of the Leipzig Kunstgewerbemuseum by way of a response to, an answer to, the increasing concerns amongst many professional creatives regarding the quality of contemporary objects of daily use presented at the bi-annual Leipzig Fair, for all the quality of the novel machine produced goods of contemporary industry, the Grassimesse intends to be not only a platform for presenting the highest quality of contemporary craft, applied art and design, but also to be a platform for exchange and mediation between creatives and industry and commerce, and thereby seeks to help to stimulate an increase in the quality, usefulness, beauty and value for money of the everyday goods of contemporary life.

An important part of the Grassimesse concept is that only works selected by a jury are admitted. Or more accurately, works selected by juries: potential exhibitors at the inaugural Grassimesse were first required to submit their work to a regional jury who, based on the prevailing requirements, made their recommendations to the principle jury who had the final say on who was to be admitted. A principle jury headed by Dr. Graul and including in its number both creatives such as, and amongst others, Peter Behrens, Walter Gropius, Josef Hoffmann or Bernhard Pankok and also representatives of manufacturers and dealers including, for example, Rosenthal porcelain, Selb, Rabe & Co, Bremen, Bruckmann & Söhne, Heilbronn or the Plauen based textile manufacturer Alfred Schönfeld.1 And thus a jury which tends to underscore not only the support Dr. Graul’s initiative has, but also the Grassimesse’s relevance, arguably importance, in context of the contemporary debates of our post-War 1920s.

In the coming days and weeks we’ll bring you some of our thoughts and reflections on some of those selected exhibitors, and of and from Grassimesse 1920 in general.

And for all crafters, applied artists and designers interested in being part of the Grassimesse, in contributing to its (hi)story, and in helping it develop further from its original aims and intentions, helping it remain a relevant and informative and entertaining platform for discussions and discourse on contemporary craft, applied art and design, applications for the 2024 edition can be submitted until Wednesday May 15th.

Whereby, the jury selection process for 2024 is much, much simpler than it was for 1920. If no less strict and demanding and rigorous. And no less important.

Full details, including details of the six Grassi Prizes up for grabs, a sextet that features the €2,500 smow-Designpreis, can be found at www.grassimesse.de

Good Luck!!!

grassimesse leipzig 1920


So unwilling are we here at smow Blog to blow our own trumpet, we don’t even own a trumpet. Why would we, we’d never blow it. It would just lie in the corner, unused, wastefully untooted.

However, 2000 smow Blog posts is an occasion very much demanding of a fanfare.

Technically 2001 smow Blog posts, the nature of these things meaning this post didn’t appear as planned between Transform! Designing the Future of Energy at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein and 5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for April 2024, but hey when did things ever go to plan round our way.

And while we can’t sound a fanfare, wouldn’t sound a fanfare even if we could, we can do that thing we enjoy almost as much as furniture: we can have a bit of a dance.

And, and making a rare exception, it is after all a very special occasion, you’re all invited…….

2000 smow Blog Posts Radio smow playlist


As Letitia Elizabeth Landon so very, very, nearly wrote in 1823,

Of all the months that fill the year
Give April’s month to me,
For the architecture and design museums are then so filled,
With sweet variety!

Our sweet variety in April’s month of 2024 can be found in Dessau, Brussels, Rome, Paris and Dresden…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for April 2024


As we all know from the 1st Law of Thermodynamics, energy cannot be created nor destroyed, only transformed from one form to another.

And as a species we’ve developed a myriad ways of transforming one form of energy to another.

We burn oil.

We burn coal.

We burn gas.

We burn wood.

We burn an awful lot, don’t we…..

But we also employ, for example, the kinetic energy of wind, waves and photons or the potential energy of Uranium atoms.

With Transform! Designing the Future of Energy the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, focus less on the physical and chemical transformations of energy, as on transformations in how we source, supply and use energy…….

Transform! Designing the Future of Energy, Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein


“To meet the needs of a living architecture,” opined Otti Berger in 1930, “we need clarity about what fabric is, and further, what fabric in space is”.1

With the showcase Otti Berger. Weaving for Modernist Architecture the Temporary Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin, allow one to begin to approach appreciations of what both Otti Berger understood as fabric, “and further, what fabric in space is”, and in doing so not only enable differentiated perspectives on Weaving and Modernist Architecture but allow Otti Berger to begin to retake her place on the helix of design, and architecture, (hi)story……

Otti Berger. Weaving for Modernist Architecture, Temporary Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin


It would inarguably, and inexcusably, be little more than employing a lazy, cheap, unwarrantable, stereotype and innuendo to opine that Hamburg is an apposite location for an exhibition exploring and discussing human societies’ relationships with water, being as it is a city where the incessant, clinging drizzle is only interrupted by the regular torrential downpours; rather, Hamburg is an apposite location for an exhibition exploring and discussing human societies’ relationships with water, as it is a city where the incessant, clinging drizzle is only interrupted by the regular torrential downpours. And because not only the fortunes and stature of the city were built on water, for all in the distant days of the fabled Hanseatic League, and of the pirates who cooperated with the city’s Hanseatic era leaders in their desires to assert Hamburg’s primacy on the Elbe1, but also Hamburg is physically built on, and for all physically built in, water. Which means that not only the streets and canals and banks – river and financial – of Hamburg offer access to perspectives on and of our relationships with water past and present, but that our relationships with water future will, invariably, be expressed through, and embodied by, Hamburg’s future. Or lack thereof.

With Water Pressure. Designing for the Future the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, not only create space for that exploration of and discussion on human societies’ relationships with water, but also for reflections on the roles, functions and responsibilities of design, and designers, in context of forming and defining our relationships with water past, present and future…….

Water Pressure. Designing for the Future, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg


The Historia Supellexalis V for Vitra

Vitra

A Fehlbaum; A Campus; A Commonwealth


There is a convincing argument to be made that in our contemporary age perfection is one of our primary aims, one of our guiding aims, individually and collectively. A convincing argument to be made that perfection is, to paraphrase a Shane MacGowan, ‘the measure of our dreams’. And there are no shortage of experts out there to tell us all how to achieve that perfection, in all areas of life and work and love and home and hobby.

With Perfectly Imperfect – Flaws, Blemishes and Defects the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur question perfection, and society’s fascination with perfection…….

Perfectly Imperfect. Flaws Blemishes and Defects, Gewerbemuseum Winterthur


In the popular narrative of architecture and design in the second half of the 20th century the phrase ‘Postmodern’ is widely used; a wide use, and an equally wide, unquestioning, popular acceptance of what is meant, that all too often not only blinds us all to the heterogeneity of the period but also impedes meaningful debate and discussion on the motivations, positions and realities of that period. And on the lessons of the period.

With Bold and Beautiful. Estonian private houses from the 1980s the Eesti Arhitektuurimuuseum, Tallinn, remind of the need for more nuanced, and wider-ranging, reflections and discussions…….

Bold and Beautiful. Estonian private houses from the 1980s, Eesti Arhitektuurimuuseum, Tallinn


In Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale Perdita bewails that she has no “flowers o’ th’ spring” to make garlands for, and to strew over, her beloved Florizel; “flowers o’ th’ spring” including violets, primroses, oxlips or “daffodils, That come before the swallow dares, and take the winds of March with beauty”.

Whereby in her infatuation with, and fearless youthful love for, Florizel, Perdita fails to appreciate that it wasn’t fear of the winds of March that kept the swallows away, swallows love a stiff wind; rather that they are all in architecture and design museums enjoying the new blush of exhibitions that invariably blooms forth every March. As should she and Florizel, for the shared experience of an architecture and design exhibition is a more sustainable and resilient conduit to maintaining the thrill of young love than a violet, primrose, oxlip or daffodil that will soon wilt and fade.

Our six, yes six, ‘exhibitions o’ th’ spring’ opening in March 2024 for swallows, lovers, Elizabethans, and us all, can be found in Hamburg, Vienna, New York, London, Paris and Weil am Rhein……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for March 2024


As Europe begins to ardently shake of the last remnants of winter and the first green and blue and yellow and white specks appear in parks and gardens, as the chance that summer might just arrive becomes tangible…. October can seem a mighty long way away. Unimaginable. But it is approaching.

As is the 2024 Grassimesse.

The path thereto has been laid and until Wednesday May 15th are all called upon to apply…….

Grassimesse 2024


“When architecture is born, a place is born” opined Japanese architect Tsuyoshi Tane in 2018, continuing, “humans began to understand that by building architecture, a meaning is given to a place, and then that place has a story that can be passed on to others”.

But for Tane architecture doesn’t just bequeath a place meaning and a story, it also “gives memories to a place”, memories of the past and memories of the future, collective memories that help create bonds. But memories that are increasingly being lost in our complex, high-tempo, contemporary society, with all the inevitable consequences that has for an architecture that must grow organically from itself in unison with society; architecture and society which both need the memories of the past and the memories of future.

Thus, argues Tane, “to create the architecture of a more meaningful further future, perhaps we must … dive in to the past to think of the future, rather than only looking forward”.1

The exhibition Tsuyoshi Tane: The Garden House in the Vitra Design Museum Gallery, and the eponymous Garden House by Tsuyoshi Tane, the latest addition to the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, allow one to approach not only a better appreciation of Tane’s positions but also to experience how they influence and inform his approach, his works, his architecture…….

Tsuyoshi Tane: The Garden House, Vitra Design Museum Gallery, Weil am Rhein


As noted from the exhibition Der ungesehene Designklassiker at the Deutsches Stuhlbaumuseum, Rabenau, alongside the introduction, re-introduction, enabled to the EW 1192 by Horst Heyder, a work that was, in all probability, the most widely found, most widely used, chair in the DDR and, potentially, one of the chairs existent in the greatest population densities anywhere ever, and thus a chair that inarguably shouldn’t need to be re-introduced, but which on account of the nature of the development of Europe since 1989 sadly does, one also finds a contemporary 21st century re-design of the EW 1192 by Leipzig based designer Jacob Strobel.

A re-design that poses the question darf one re-design a work such as the EW 1192?, is one allowed to re-design a work such as the EW 1192?

¿Is one allowed to re-design a work that was one of the most widely found, most widely used, chairs in the (hi)story of a nation?

¿Is one allowed to re-design a work that so eloquently and succinctly allows access to more nuanced appreciations of the (hi)story of furniture design in the DDR?

¿Is one allowed to re-design a work that is one of the few surviving testaments to the work of Horst Heyder, an individual who played an important role in the development of furniture design in the DDR?

¿Is one allowed to re-design a work that is one of the few surviving testaments to the work of the Entwicklungsbüro Waldheim, an institution who played an important role in the development of furniture design in the DDR?

¿Is one allowed to re-design a work that is an artefact of daily life in the DDR, in a nation no longer existent?

¿Darfst du?

???

Standing in the Deutsches Stuhlbaumuseum looking at that contemporary re-design it occurred to us that there was one person particularly well placed to answer that question, one person who’d already considered it in a lot more detail than us. So we we asked them: ¿Is one allowed to re-design a work such as the EW 1192, Jacob Strobel?

¿Darfst du?

The EW 1192 by Horst Heyder (l) and the EW 1192 Horst by Jacob Strobel (r), as seen at Der ungesehene Designklassiker, Deutsches Stuhlbaumuseum, Rabenau


Basketry has something of the archaic about it, almost anachronistic, has echoes of a past we’ve all long moved on from.

With the exhibition All Hands On: Basketry the Museum Europäischer Kulturen, Berlin allow for, demand, a critical reassessment…….

All Hands On: Basketry, Museum Europäischer Kulturen, Berlin


Edition 33 as seen at Passagen Interior Design Week Cologne 2024


Arguably little characterises contemporary society, certainly contemporary European society, better than our relationship with sleep.

And, arguably, little charts the path of human society, again certainly European society, better than the (hi)story of our relationship with sleep.

With the exhibition Uneversum: Rhythms and Spaces the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design, Tallinn, explore and reflect upon sleep, spaces of sleep, rhythms of sleep, and for all on our relationships with sleep past, present and future…….

Uneversum: Rhythms and Spaces, Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design, Tallinn


For all that as a species we like to think that we are in control of the wider universe, like to think that our mastery of physics and mathematics has put us in charge, little underscores the fallacy of that position as neatly as the Gregorian calendar, an apparently flawless invention, one that defines our lives, where everything sits so snugly…. until every four years we have to add an extra day to stop it all going haywire. Unless that is the year is exactly divisible by 100, but not by 400, then it isn’t a leap year. The Gregorian calendar doesn’t really work, it is a rough approximation, has an inherent inaccuracy we’re aware of, we understand…… but don’t know how to fix beyond pretending its all normal and adding an extra day every four years. Or not, if its 1800, 1900, or 2100.

Other animals don’t need an extra day every four years, their worlds’ progress in keeping with the seasons. Plants don’t need an extra day. Why do humans?

The inaccuracy of the Gregorian calendar does however mean we all have an extra day in 2024 to do something meaningful, something truly worthwhile…. like visit an architecture and/or design exhibition.

Our suggestions for those meaningful, worthwhile exploits for the 29 days of February 2024, and beyond, takes us to Leipzig, Malmö, Katowice, Oslo and Jyväskylä…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for February 2024


Imagine you were one of the best selling and most widely used chairs in your country. But (hi)story had forgotten you.

Imagine you were informative in context of elucidating important, but rarely illuminated, chapters in the (hi)story of furniture design. But (hi)story had forgotten you.

Imagine you were instructive in context of the practice and craft and industry of furniture design. But (hi)story had forgotten you.

Imagine you were in use in a great many locations. But no-one saw you. No-one knew your name. Just sat on you.

Imagine you were the EW 1192 by Horst Heyder.

With Der ungesehene Designklassiker the Deutsches Stuhlbaumuseum, Rabenau, not only enable one to imagine, but for all begin to redress the situation……

Der ungesehene Designklassiker, Deutsches Stuhlbaumuseum, Rabenau