Systems bring order to chaos, allow relationships to be understood/defined, enable standardisation. And depend on a carefully considered, well designed and constructed connector.

In 1939 the German architect Konrad Wachsmann developed a metal connector which subsequently became the central component of the General Panel prefabricated construction system developed by Wachsmann in cooperation with Walter Gropius.

In 2018 the Bauhaus Lab reflected on that connector, Konrad Wachsmann and standardised, prefabricated construction systems. The results of those reflections were discussed in a one day symposium, and can be viewed in the exhibition The Art of Joining: Designing the Universal Connector at Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau.

Bauhaus Lab 2018. The Art of Joining: Designing the Universal Connector, Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau


“It is a peculiar tension that precedes a first visit to a painting exhibition”, opined the Dutch art critic Jacques van Santen Kolff in the introduction to his four part review of the 1875 exhibition at the Teeken-Akademie Den Haag, “there is a unique charm, something stimulating in that nervousness, an eminently “picturesque” tension.”1

Kolff wasn’t disappointed, that which he had sensed in the air was confirmed by that which hung on the walls and led him to coin the term “Hague School”, thus giving a name, a status, a relevance, to a contemporary movement in Dutch art, one which, according to Kolff, was a “new ultra-radical movement.”

We felt that peculiar tension, that unique charm and stimulating nervousness as we approached the Teeken-Akademie’s successor, the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten Den Haag’s, 2018 Graduation Festival.

But would we be as fundamentally convinced by what we saw in 2018 as Kolff was in 1875? Would we subsequently speak of a “new ultra-radical movement” in Dutch design?

And would our review run to four parts………

Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten Den Haag


Our visit to the 2017 Royal College of Art London Graduate Show was one of the more sobering moments of our 2017 #campustour.

Or as we wrote then, “…in a world controlled by RCA graduates every, but every, aspect of our lives will be controlled by autonomous smart technology. We will literally lose the ability to think for ourselves. The human brain will become the appendix of the 21st century.”

Donning a hat fashioned from aluminium foil and an old metal sieve, we headed once more to South Kensington……

Royal College of Art Graduate Show London


“Welcher Fehler braucht ein system?”, “Which errors/mistakes/imperfections does a system require?”, asked the Kunsthochschule Burg Giebichenstein Halle’s 2018 annual exhibition.

And used the question as a celebration of the power of trial and error, of the value, importance, poetry, of imperfections, abrasion, the incorrect, the unintended, the random, the well planned but ultimately unsuccessful, and how any otherwise well-organised, professional and targeted system needs a nuisance factor, needs a source of imperfection, chaos, resistance, experimentation, an aberration, to keep it fresh, exciting, relevant and vital.

Thanks guys, appreciate it…….

Kunsthochschule Burg Giebichenstein, Halle


As Katie Melua informs us “There are nine million bicycles in Beijing. That’s a fact. It’s a thing we can’t deny”

But why chose to highlight Beijing’s nine million bicycles? Why not focus instead on a city such as Münster where there are a great many more bicycles than the paltry nine million Beijing has to offer? Maybe Katie wasn’t convinced people would believe her, wouldn’t be so willing to accept that that’s a fact. It’s a thing we can’t deny.

Which all has nothing in the slightest to do with the Akademie für Gestaltung Münster Finale 2018 graduation exhibition.

It just occurred to us as we crossed the city on our way to the Akademie.

On they way back to the train station we were too preoccupied with newer thoughts generated by the students’ graduation projects to worry about the streams of bicycles flowing through the streets or the post-industrial sculpture park into which Münster has been transformed by the ubiquitous bicycle parks/storage units.

Akademie für Gestaltung Münster


Writing to his friend Heinrich Köselitz in August 1881 Friedrich Nietzsche remarked, “My dear friend! The August sun hangs over us, the year drifts by, it is quieter and more peaceful on the mountains and in the forests. On my horizon thoughts have arisen, the likes of which I have never known….”

We like to imagine that those thoughts arose through his having visited an architecture and/or design exhibition. Were he still with us, we’d suggest he visited the following vista extending showcases opening in Saint Petersburg, Weil am Rhein, Rostock, London and Hasselt….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for August 2018


Since 2000 Utrecht has been home to, when not the world’s longest poem, then certainly the world’s longest-term poem: running its way down Oudegracht through the heart of the inner-island, De Letters van Utrecht is extended every Saturday by the addition of a new letter, a process planned to continue ad infinitum. And which is in many ways similar to how smow blog posts are formed: we start writing, adding new words at regular intervals, without any real plan, far less any intention, ever to stop, but rather to just keep going on and on and on and on and on and on…….

As we strolled down Oudegracht towards the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht’s Exposure 2018 Graduation Exhibition the last letter set was number 965, was to be the first letter of a new word, and was a Z. But what would the new word be? Zaaien? Zaakkennis? Zakken, zalig, zalf, zagen, zangliefhebber, zakdoekjesboom, zandloperdolfijn?

Putting down our dictionaries we headed for the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht…….

Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht, Design Department, Pastoe Fabriek


Kassel isn’t just birthplace of the Brothers Grimm but is also, in many regards, birthplace of the noble art of the Spaziergangswissenschaft, Strollology, a concept developed by Lucius Burckhardt during his tenure at Kassel University and which not only challenges conventional perceptions of the world around us, but for all encourages us to develop a differentiated understanding of how we perceive the world around us.

But would our stroll through the 2018 Kunsthochschule Kassel Rundgang challenge any of our established and institutionalised images? Would we see only that which custom, culture and convention programmes and preconditions us to see? Or would our eyes be opened to new understandings, a new consciousness….?

Kunsthochschule Kassel, Rundgang 2018


The 2018 Manchester Art School Degree Show was held under the title “Take Flight”

But, …. and you’re ahead of us, we know… how many of the projects would cause us to soar with delight. How many to flee in foreboding and terror……?

Manchester School of Art


We’ve long considered it an absolute cheek that German high-speed ICE trains stop in Hildesheim. Nothing against Hildesheim, but when one considers other cities in Germany where ICEs don’t stop, or stop with an almost insulting (in)frequency, coupled to the closeness of Hildesheim to more major centres and their ICE hubs, it always seemed as if Hildesheim was being unfairly favoured by Deutsche Bahn.

That was until we wanted to visit the Hochschule für angewandte Kunst Hildesheim’s Summer Graduation Exhibition, then the ICE stop made perfect sense, was a clear and logical piece of planning, something civilised society couldn’t conceivably exist without…..

And the projects on show at the 2108 Hildesheim Summer Graduation Exhibition…….?

Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaft und Kunst, Hildesheim


The Proclaimers may have rightly celebrated the virtues of the Sunshine on Leith, but on the day we visited the 2018 Degree Show at Edinburgh College of Art’s School of Design the city was very much in the grip of a North Sea haar which had drifted, unhelpfully, up the Firth of Forth.

Or was it perchance an omen?

Would that which greeted us in the exhibition be equally as nebulous, cold and opaque……..?

Degree Show 2018, Edinburgh College of Art, Evolution House


Whereas Frankfurt can, and very loudly does, claim to the birthplace of the German poet, playwright, scientist, statesman, etc, etc, etc Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, nearby Offenbach was not only the birthplace of his almost wife and long, long time love Lili Schönemann, but it was in the, then, relative, calm of Offenbach that Goethe’s affections for Lili evolved and grew; “Lili was the first person I deeply and truly loved, and maybe she was the last”, an octogenarian Goethe is reported as having confided to a friend.

Would however we return from the 2018 Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach Rundgang with such a deep, enduring love….? With our own Lili……?

Rundgang 2018, Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach


The building which Central Saint Martins calls home was erected in 1852 as store for grain arriving from Lincolnshire and awaiting its further distribution to London’s bakers.

Was, if you like, a transfer point, a hub, a location where general ideas became specific solutions, a place industry and trade called upon when needing raw materials for their latest project, a source for those whose work helped support and nourish the populace, a central institution in the development of the city and one, thereby, directly related to the immediate needs and interests of society.

We’re sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere, somewhere, but where…….? Would a visit to the 2018 Central Saint Martins’ Degree Show help us locate it…….?

Central Saint Martins, London


“We are children of the age of the steam engine, the telegraph and electricity. We have turned our backs on the beautiful, and that is why we no longer understand it”, bemoaned the Dutch draughtsman, designer and educator Johannes Ros in his 1904 text “Het doel” [The goal/target/objective]

How Johannes Ros and his contemporaries attempted a return to the beautiful, indeed what was understood as beautiful in the Netherlands at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, and for all the particular Dutch accent of that attempt/understanding is explored in the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag’s exhibition Art Nouveau in Nederland.

Art Nouveau in Nederland, The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag


The Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst Basel’s Institute Industrial Design is sited in the city’s Dreispitz district, a name derived from the district’s (roughly) triangular form, and a term which translates into English as “cocked hat”

But would the work of the Institute’s students see conventional ideas, wisdoms and understandings knocked into a Dreispitz…..

Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst Basel, Campus Dreispitz


In October 2017 the Design Department of the Folkwang Universität der Künste Essen moved into its new home, the so-called Quartier Nord designed by Stuttgart based MGF Architekten.

The 2018 Folkwang Summer Rundgang therefore not only offered an opportunity to explore the work undertaken by institute’s students in the semester past, but also to explore their new home…….

Folkwang Universität der Künste Essen Quartier Nord Rundgang 2018


Tracing its history back to 1899 the Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design a.k.a The Cass has an established place in the (hi)story of English design, for all in woodcraft based design including toys, music instruments and furniture.

But as we all know a long history and illustrious alumni are poor hooks on which to hang the future of an institution, much more robust are the current staff, students and their work.

The 2018 Cass Summer Show allowed some insights into the contemporary Cass……

Cass London, Calcutta House


Our visit to the 2018 Glasgow School of Art Degree Show occurred before the recent fire, indeed this post was all planned to go, then came news of the fire … and it seemed appropriate to wait.

But not to archive it away altogether, for tragic and destructive as the fire unquestionably was, an art/design/architecture school is its staff and students and ideas and visions and understanding of the world. Not the bricks and mortar that surround it.

Even if those bricks and mortar were arranged by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

And so with reflections on what has been lost, but our eyes still firmly on the future…..

Glasgow School of Art, Reid Building


Lilla torg, the square in Malmö old town which the Form/Design Center calls home, traces its history back to Malmö’s hanseatic days, the former market of yore having evolved over the centuries to become one large open air food court, bordered as it is on all sides by restaurants, bars and coffee shops, which spill gregariously out into the ever narrowing square.

The functional, ordered, democratic supply of provisions, having become a self-satisfying celebration of the same.

What would Émile Zola say?

And would the projects on show at the Form/Design Center’s 2018 Vårutställning – Spring Exhibition – of student graduation projects help lighten his humour…..?

Form/Design Center Malmö


The Dog Days of summer are with us and, as is traditional, the international curatorial community have removed themselves to the cooler climes of their storerooms, archives and libraries to sit out the heat until autumn’s bracing breeze tempts them back out.

Which, logically, means a great sparsity of new architecture and design exhibitions opening in July 2018.

A sparsity however isn’t a nontity and in four of the world’s cultural and meteorological hotspots one finds exhibition curators more accustomed to the heat and humidity of July……
five new architecture and design exhibitions july 2018


Whoever thinks of Switzerland thinks of Swiss clockwork, Swiss railways, Swiss chocolate, Swiss precision.

It’s therefore all the more surprising that Dada has its European origins in Switzerland, and for all in the legendary Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich.

But would the 2018 Zürcher Hochschule der Künste graduates prove as anarchic, confrontational, spirited and revolutionary in their creativity……..?

Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, Toni-Areal, Zürich.


19th century Sheffield was the City of Steel; as one of the major centres of steel and steelware in the British Empire, Sheffield was not only important in the evolution of functional-decorative & decorative-functional tableware, personal and household accessories, but also one of technical innovation, for all the development in the city of stainless steel revolutionising global product design and architecture.

20th century Sheffield was one of the main centres for the development and evolution of UK music; the collapse of the steel industry in the second half the 20th century seeing artists as varied as, and amongst many others, The Human League, Cabaret Voltaire, Def Leppard or Pulp making prudent use of the post-industrial cityscape, and for all the availability of post-industrial space for rehearsing, to develop their individual soundscapes.

21st century Sheffield is home of the World Snooker Championship.

But would the 2018 graduation projects from design students at the Sheffield Institute of Arts see them pot the reds then, screw back, for the yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black? Or would they miscue and go in-off…………?

Sheffield Institute of Arts


Anchored next to the Göta älv Bridge in Gothenburg is a decommissioned ferry. Repurposed as a car park.

While in no way a substitute for an integrated urban transport concept that reduces our dependence on the car, it is a really nice example that recycling, reusing and reappropriating isn’t just something for designers, is also a subject for architects and urban planners. And by extrapolation, us all.

Suitably motivated we scaled and crossed the Göta älv Bridge and made our way the 2018 HDK Gothenburg Degree Exhibition.

Frihamnen 11, location of the 2018 HDK Gothenburg Degree Exhibition


In his Ron Arad monograph Restless Furniture Deyan Sudjic notes that the Sticks & Stones furniture crusher Arad developed for the exhibition Nouvelles Tendances staged by the Centre de Creation Industriel Paris in 1987 was itself only saved from the crusher through the post-exhibition “intervention of a friendly Swiss furniture manufacturer.”1

While all Swiss furniture manufacturers are friendly, one particularly friendly Swiss furniture manufacturer springs to mind whenever the discussion turns to furniture design as being more than the shape of a chair, furniture design as a cultural imperative or the preservation of furniture design heritage.

As if confirmation were needed, the Sticks & Stones crusher greets visitors to the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot exhibition Ron Arad: Yes to the Uncommon!

Ron Arad. Yes to the Uncommon! @ the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot


During June 2018 the participative art installation Freiheit 2.0 in Stuttgart is exploring issues around Big Data, artificial intelligence and the future of our relationships with the digital, virtual, environment.

In addition to a series of colloquia in which invited experts talk about aspects of the wider themes and engage in conversations with the project initiator Florian Mehnert, the three further pillars on which Freiheit 2.0 is built are a Self-Tracking App via which everyone can create a personal movement profile akin to the ones Big Data constructs for each of us everyday; Public Space, the renaming of local businesses with the suffix “der freiheit” [of/for/the freedom]; and the Guidance System, a series of coloured lines which lead from the renamed businesses to the Freedom Laboratory in Stuttgart’s StadtPalais museum.

The latter two being pillars which, if we’re being honest, we didn’t quite 100% understand as supporting ahead of the opening; but whose intrinsic role in the construction became much clearer after we’d had a chance to stroll along and among them……

smow der Freiheit, as seen during Freiheit 2.0 Stuttgart