smow Design Blog


“I assure you that you and your work are the model case for what the Bauhaus has been after” wrote Walter Gropius to Wilhelm Wagenfeld in April 1965.

Just how Wilhelm Wagenfeld developed that “model case” “after” Bauhaus is explored, as least in terms of one design genre, in that genre for which Wilhelm Wagenfeld is most popularly known as a Bauhaus model, in the exhibition Wilhelm Wagenfeld: Lamps at the Wilhelm Wagenfeld Haus Bremen.

Tropfen (l) & Düren (r) by Wilhelm Wagenfeld for Glashütte Peill & Putzler, as seen at Wilhelm Wagenfeld: Lamps, Wilhelm Wagenfeld Haus, Bremen


The German town of Boppard sits on two of the most pronounced and prominent curves on the Mittelrhein.

Can it be a coincidence that Boppard’s most famous son, Michael Thonet, is most popularly known for his curving bentwood chairs?

Can it really be a coincidence?

Possibly. Almost certainly.

What is less contentious is that the flow and meandering of first Michael Thonet’s creativity and vigour and subsequently that of the company Thonet has carved its mark not only on the Rhenish Massif furniture design and on understandings of furniture, but also the furniture industry, from production to sales and distribution.

With the exhibition Thonet & Design the Neue Sammlung Munich embark on a voyage along some 200 years of Thonet design (hi)story.

Thonet & Design, Die Neue Sammlung - The Design Museum, Munich


For all the controversy surrounding smow Tel Aviv’s victory in the 2018 smow Song Contest, not least the question if there even is a smow Tel Aviv, the staging of the 2019 Contest in Israel does allow for a very nice reinforcing of the central theme of the 2019 smow Song Contest….

smow song contest 2019


That joining the Women’s Department weaving workshop was for many a female Bauhäusler not so much an active wish as the response to a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, shouldn’t be confused with the workshop producing work of an involuntary, unloving, uncaring nature, of it playing second fiddle to the rest of the institution. Far from it. The quality and relevance of the work created in the Bauhaus weaving workshop being in many regards attested by the fact it was one of the more productive and commercially successful Bauhaus workshops.

With the exhibition Bauhaus. Textiles and Graphics the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz explore the work undertaken in the Bauhaus weaving workshops, some of the institutions’ principle protagonists and their place in wider considerations of inter-War weaving. While also neatly, if indirectly, highlighting Bauhaus’s gender differences, inequalities, prejudices……

Bauhaus. Textiles and Graphics, Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz


More or less……

…..while 3 of the 5 have a direct connection to Bauhaus, 5 of the 5 are very much in the spirit of the attempts of inter-War architects and designers to reform architecture and design, to establish a new architecture and design for the new society, attempts in which Bauhaus played an important role.

And for those seeking escape from Dessau and Weimar, figuratively not physically, we refer you to our more general 5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2019 recommendations….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2019 - Bauhaus Special


“Low bowls with flowers, as well as flowers placed on the tablecloth and a platter of fruit, are the most beautiful table decorations. All table centrepieces with rocks, palm trees, ostriches, deer, and such are ludicrous, for these things have no business on a table, and all tall table decorations – even those made of flowers – are also unsuitable since they screen the dinner guests from one another”, opined Ellen Key of table culture in her 1899 essay Beauty in the Home.1

But that was then.

With the exhibition table talks — Tischgespräche the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden present positions by students from Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Copenhagen on contemporary table culture.

Jelly Effect by Elena Eulitz & Hybrid by Dan Saroussi, as seen at table talks - Tischgespräche, Kunstgewerbemuseum, Schloss Pillnitz, Dresden


One of the principle motors of the development of new products is new materials: stone famously ceding its primacy to bronze, which in turn ceded to iron… to …. to …. to …. plastics; new materials not only allowing for new forms of objects, but for objects with new functionalities, new properties, new purposes, and thus objects both reflective of the new needs of a continually evolving society and also allowing those needs to be not only met but, ideally, exceeded, thus contributing to our social and cultural evolution.

With the exhibition New textile worlds in a creative context – Potential technical, intelligent textiles + smart materials the Wasserschloß Klaffenbach explores such relationships between materials and objects in context of both commercial products employing new materials technology and/or understandings and also academic research indicating possible future realities.

New textile worlds in a creative context – Potential technical, intelligent textiles + smart materials, Wasserschloß Klaffenbach, Chemnitz


While the shortlist of exhibitions for this column is regularly long, that for May 2019 was particularly so.

And particularly tricky. Perusing it we saw no realistic chance of getting it down to five, all made good claims for inclusion, none deserved to be ignored……

Then we noticed that, with a little bit tweaking, we could get two lists: one featuring those exhibitions directly connected with Bauhaus/Inter-War architecture and design, and one featuring those less directly connected.

💡

The Bauhaus/Inter-War architecture and design list will follow, but for all keen to explore architecture and design in a wider context, five new exhibitions opening in May 2019 in Munich, New York, Berlin, Basel & Villingen-Schwenningen, you may like to consider visiting……..

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2019


Sitting, quietly, unobtrusively, in the north-western corner of Germany, Oldenburg is, in many regards, a near textbook example of a provincial town. Which we don’t mean as an insult. Doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. In any sense less worthy than elsewhere. Much more Oldenburg is the sort of self-contained community that exists not so much independent of the rest of the world, but without the rest of the world noticing. Or Oldenburg caring if they notice. Oldenburg has its (hi)stories, its intrigues, its characters, its dramas, its ways, its understandings, the sheer number of cafes in the pedestrianised town centre confirming that it does, and that is all important for Oldenburg. But Oldenburg is inconspicuous. Oldenburg isn’t the sort of place that is ever going to feature on the news, is never casually referenced in TV programmes, magazine articles or radio discussions, if they have a football team, then not one who play in a league you’ve ever heard of. Oldenburg is the sort of place one is from, but one would never move to. Respectable, decorous, correct, happy, unassuming. Provincial.

And thus surely not the sort of place to be troubled by something as radical, avant-garde and reformist as Bauhaus.

Surely……..

………………But yes.

And, as the exhibition Between Utopia and Adaptation. The Bauhaus in Oldenburg in the Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte discusses, was not only troubled by, but actively contributed to.

Between Utopia and Adaptation. The Bauhaus in Oldenburg, Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Oldenburg


“I first saw resilient tubular steel furniture designed by Professor Mies van der Rohe in September 1927 at the exhibition “Samt und Seide” in Berlin, objects which made a very deep impression on me, because I felt and saw that here, for the first time, was a meaningful way to utilise the forces inherent in tubular steel.” Anton Lorenz, 27th March 19391

Because discussions on the steel tube furniture that, in many regards, characterises the inter-War period tend to focus on the designers and architects, it can be all too easily forgotten that without those who identified the potential, those who not only understood the significance of the new developments of the period, but had the requisite skills to bring the ideas of a, relatively, small group of creatives to the market, steel tube furniture may not today enjoy the fascination and following that it does.

Certainly wouldn’t stand as characteristic of the inter-War period.

Amongst those who played a leading a role in such developments was the Hungarian born designer and entrepreneur Anton Lorenz. With the exhibition From Avant-Garde to Industry the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot not only explain Anton Lorenz’s role in the development of inter-War furniture, but also his post-War contributions to an, apparently, contradictory furniture genre……

Anton Lorenz: From Avant-Garde to Industry, Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot, Weil am Rhein


When one considers the, let’s say, unique, derisive, unalluring place the Sächsisch dialect enjoys endures amongst German speakers, it could be considered unwise, foolhardy, to explore all too deeply the contributions made by creatives and industry in and from the State of Sachsen to the development of Bauhaus, to explore, if you will, Bauhaus’s Sächsisch accent.

With the exhibition Bauhaus_Sachsen the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst Leipzig do just that…….

Bauhaus_Sachsen, Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst Leipzig


Today industrially produced objects are so self-evident and ubiquitous it can be hard to believe there was a time when they weren’t.

There was.

With the exhibition Unique Piece or Mass Product? the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin explores the developments of industrial production in the early 20th century, the discussions and discourses which accompanied those developments and the connections between such developments and the evolution of both formal understandings and the role and function of designers.

Unique Piece or Mass Product?, Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin


Aside from the, inevitable, consolidation the main theme at Milan Furniture Fair 2019, and the one which occupied us much more than that which was on show for our perusal, is/was the international furniture industry’s increasing hunger for data; a hunger which embodied itself at Milan 2019 in a exponential surge in the number of manufacturers requiring potential stand visitors to either pre-register, submit a business card or have their Fair ticket scanned before being allowed onto the stand.

No data. No entry.

And a state of affairs on which we have penned several hundred (agitated) words; but, this is neither the time nor place for them. We will however return to them at a later date, not least because the scale of the shift we witnessed at Milan 2019 suggests that as a development it is on it way to becoming standard. Which ain’t good.

Elsewhere the halls of Milan were busier with visitors in 2019 than we remember them for many a long a year, the weather in 2019 cooler than we remember for many a long year, and despair and delight stood as close to one another as every year

And in that sense, and as ever accepting we may have missed one or two gems, not least because we decided against sharing our data in order to view new items of furniture manufacturers had, allegedly, brought to Milan to promote, and so subsequently weren’t on a lot of stands, a smow Blog Milan 2019 High Five!!

Milan Furniture Fair 2019 High Five


“We feel ourselves beholden to the traditions of Bauhaus”1 opined Rolf Kuhn, Director of the Dessau based Zentrum für Gestaltung, in the catalogue for the institute’s 1988 exhibition Experiment Bauhaus.

And while that may have been the case in the late 1980s, it certainly wasn’t always so in East Germany.

With the exhibition Shaping everyday life! Bauhaus modernism in the GDR the Dokumentationszentrum Alltagskultur der DDR in Eisenhüttenstadt allow for not only an exploration of the relationship(s) between the Bauhaus legacy and the East German state, but also for comparisons between inter-War and post-War design in eastern Germany.

3101 chair from VEB Stima Stendal (l) Werkstattstuhl by Mart Stam for Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee (m) & Seminarstuhl Selman Selmanagic, Herbert Hirche & Liv Falkenberg for Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau (r), as seen at Shaping everyday life! Bauhaus modernism in the GDR, Dokumentationszentrum Alltagskultur der DDR, Eisenhüttenstadt


“Sometimes one has to remind oneself that this change took place in one generation – such is the gap between the woman of today and of yesterday, between the girl of then and of now.”

So begins the German magazine Die Woche’s 1930 article “Mädchen wollen etwas lernen“, “Girls want to learn something”, an article which opens Four “Bauhausmädels” and is subsequently extend by the Angermuseum Erfurt to explore not only what Gertrud Arndt, Margarete Heymann, Margaretha Reichardt and Marianne Brandt learned at Bauhaus, but how they subsequently applied that “something”.

Four "Bauhausmädels", Angermuseum, Erfurt


“Form should not be finite but should be amorphous, so that the experience within is loose, meandering and multiple” – Balkrishna Doshi1

With the exhibition Architecture for the People the Vitra Design Museum explore Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi’s understanding of, belief in and approach to realising the amorphous, the social, the humane, in architecture.

Balkrishna Doshi. Architecture for the People, Vitra Design Museum


From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Enticed us into the following architecture and design exhibitions…….

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98, From you have I been absent in the spring (extended, with apologies)

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for April 2019


Whereas at Bauhaus Weimar and Dessau architecture was essentially a subject of theory and experimentation, elsewhere in inter-War Europe architecture was theory and practice, and that, occasionally, on a large scale. Such as the Neues Frankfurt project.

Instigated in 1925 by Frankfurt’s then Mayor Ludwig Landmann and employing a team of some 148 architects, urban planners, garden designers, journalists et al, under the leadership of Ernst May and Martin Elsaesser, Neues Frankfurt realised between 1925 and 1933 some 12,000 new homes in Frankfurt; but for all indicated possible new forms of building, new forms of living, new forms of financing housing and new forms of urban planning. New forms that were not only responsive to the new political, social and economic realities of the 1920s, but utilised to that end advances in both process/materials technologies and also scientific understandings.

With the exhibition New Human, New Housing: Architecture of the New Frankfurt 1925–1933 the Deutsches Architekturmuseum Frankfurt reflect on the project, and into the future of urban planning and the provision of of housing in the city.

New Human, New Housing - Architecture of the New Frankfurt 1925–1933, the Deutsches Architekturmuseum Frankfurt


Were it possible that there could be such a thing as a “lost” Bauhaus building, something wholly unimaginable this of all years, then the best candidate would, arguably, have to be the ADGB Bundesschule in Bernau bei Berlin. Yes, it is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and so is not really lost; however as an object it only rarely features, and when then invariably passingly, in the popular Bauhaus discourse …. and that despite being built by a serving Bauhaus Director.

With the exhibition Volksbedarf statt Luxusbedarf – Bernau and its Bauhaus the Galerie Bernau aim to not only help increase the works visibility but also allow for a better understanding of its character.

Volksbedarf statt Luxusbedarf - Bernau and its Bauhaus @ Galerie Bernau


The 1920s was in many regards a decade that promised so much, achieved so much, but which was then overtaken by political and economic events before it could cement that which it promised and achieved, and which therefore remains hanging, almost stranded, in history. Somehow unfulfilled. And which with its popular image as as roaring, golden, age also appears a little too joyous, a little too optimistic, sandwiched as it is between the horrors and loss of two wars.

But then in the course of the Années folles, who could have foreseen that the real folie stood before us.

With their exhibition Small Apartment, Department Store, Power Station – New Building and New Living in 1920’s Halle the Stadtmuseum Halle explore and explain the decade in the context of daily life in the city.

Small Apartment, Department Store, Power Station - New Building and New Living in 1920's Halle, the Stadtmuseum Halle


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.