smow Design Blog


The Historia Supellexalis H for Hygge

Hygge

A Curse; A Malediction; A Torment


“Boxing is not an exclusively athletic term in these practical and utilitarian days”, noted John Crocker in 1913, rather, “the making of useful and ornamental things for the home, from the boxes, that in other days adorned the rear of stores, is the nucleus of armament that has made “boxing” a pursuit that contains both amusement and substantial results.”1

And nobody contributed more to promoting and advancing the amusement and substantial results of the practical and utilitarian craft of domestic boxing than Louise Brigham.

A contribution that for all it may have been little recognised in recent decades remains as informative and instructive in the early 21st century as it was in the early 20th century…….

Louise Brigham (1875 - 1956) Here in ca. 1914


According to Germanic folklore, “If January is frosty and cold, a green woodland will soon entice us”.

The implication being that a severe January is the necessary pre-requisite not only for a timeous spring bursting forth with new life, but also for a warm, (meteorologically) settled, summer.

But in the frost and cold and dark and endlessness of January that green (deciduous) woodland is still a long way off, is unimaginable, is unreachable, is almost mythical; however, protection, and distraction, from January can always be found in the warmth and stimulation and light of a good architecture or art or design exhibition.

Our five enticing shelters from the climatic vagaries of January 2022 can be found in Berlin, Humlebæk, Bloomfield Hills, Moscow and New York…….

5 New Architecture and Design Exhibitions January 2022


There are a great many and varied mediums via which to track the (hi)story of a region, the 2021 Bauhaus Lab chose plants; or more accurately, the 2021 Bauhaus Lab chose the (hi)stories of the flora in the region around Dessau as a medium for explorations of the human, social, industrial, political, economic, ecological, et al (hi)stories of the region.

A telling of a local (hi)stories which enables access to both global considerations on, and questions concerning, our relationships with the planet we require for our existence, and also to differentiated considerations on, and questions concerning, Bauhaus and International Modernism.

Considerations and questions presented in the showcase Vegetation Under Power – Heat, Breath, Growth in the Bauhaus Building, Dessau.

Bauhaus Lab: Vegetation Under Power – Heat, Breath, Growth, Bauhaus Building, Dessau


1 x rounded piece of beech, 2 x quadratic pieces of beech, 3 x quadratic pieces of spruce…

1, 2, 3… An Ulmer Hocker1

With the exhibition The Ulmer Hocker: Idea ─ Icon ─ Idol the HfG-Archiv, Ulm, help elucidate that while an Ulmer Hocker is that simple, it is a deceptive, and highly informative, simplicity…….

The Ulmer Hocker: Idea - Icon - Idol, HfG-Archiv Ulm


In 1922 the Scottish novelist J.M. Barrie told the undergraduates at St. Andrews University “you remember someone said that God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December”, an allusion to the summer of your life filling your darkening winter days with colour and aroma, and an analogy he neatly reinforces a little later with a, “you have June coming”.1

But that was 1922. Roses were seasonal. Today roses are available all year round, which is not only symbolic of the short-sighted idiocy with which we’re intent on destroying our planet, but also means the rose has been reduced from a metaphor that can be so poignantly and joyously employed as Barrie did, to a cheap, stereotypical, derivative trope devoid of real meaning.

Not that a century later we can’t all do things to ensure that as we progress down life’s highway, as we all approach our own, personal, December, we do so with our emotional and mental capacities fully stimulated and finely honed. Amongst the most rewarding method of which is the regular visit to architecture or design exhibitions: spaces, experiences, whose intellectual and cultural stimulation and nourishment mean that it can be forever June.

Our five new Junes blooming forth in the non-metaphoric December 2021, can be found in Vienna, New York, Düsseldorf, Kanazawa and Paris.

And as ever in these times, if you are planning visiting any exhibition please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for December 2021


“The problem”, elucidated Herman Hertzberger in 1973, in context of his project for the Centraal Beheer insurance company in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, “was to make an office building that would be a working place where everybody would feel at home: a house for 1000 people.”1

How Herman Hertzberger sought to solve that problem not only helping explain aspects of the development of architecture in the course of the 20th century, nor only aspects of the development of office design in the course of the 20th century, but also being informative in context of the problems associated with designing our contemporary, and future, office spaces……

The Centraal Beheer Office Building, Apeldoorn, by Herman Hertzberger, at its official opening on November 1st 1972 (photo Nationaal Archief via https://commons.wikimedia.org cc0)


It is perhaps indicative of the differing receptions to and estimations of design in the former West Germany and the former East Germany that while Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles of good design are revered as if cast in stone, Karl Clauss Dietel’s Five Big Ls of good design have barely seen the light of day since November 1989.

A popular focus on the former West which tends to popular understandings of design from West Germany as being valid and authentic and laudable, while design from East Germany is reduced, denigrated, to cartoon Ostalgie.

With karl clauss dietel. die offene form Walter Scheiffele and Steffen Schuhmann allow one to approach more probable understandings both of the (hi)story of design in the former East Germany and of Karl Clauss Dietel’s position in the (hi)story of design, and in doing so stimulate a re-evaluation of the receptions to and estimations of design in and from East Germany…….

karl clauss dietel. die offene form by Walter Scheiffele and Steffen Schuhmann through Spector Books (image courtesy Spector Books)


Our relationships with colour are invariably shaped and informed by the culture and society in which we were raised. A state of affairs that, equally invariably, leads to us all possessing relatively strictly defined understandings of colour, understandings of the psychology of colours or of the agency of colours or of the use of colours.

With the exhibition Green Sky, Blue Grass. Colour Coding Worlds, the Weltkulturen Museum Frankfurt discuss the cultural relevance and social functions of colour in various and varied contexts and in doing so extend an invitation to expand our relationships with colour, and the world(s) they code…….

Green Sky, Blue Grass. Colour Coding Worlds, Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt


Whereas politics, economics or sport in West Germany and East Germany are well and widely studied, and the similarities and differences regularly and publicly analysed and contextualised, thereby allowing for more refined, nuanced, popular understandings; design in and from the two Germanys remains, largely, a niche subject for a small band of specialists, and on a popular level something not only repeatedly reduced to a few works, institutions and protagonists, but also defined by understandings that, popularly, have barely changed since 1989.

With the exhibition German Design 1949–1989. Two Countries, One History the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden challenge those ingrained understandings and thereby allow for the development of more differentiated and detached perspectives……

German Design 1949–1989. Two Countries, One History at the Kunsthalle im Lipsiusbau, Dresden


In his 1961 short film Danish Design, Jørgen Roos tells how in the late 18th century the Danish artist Nicolai Abildgaard travelled to Greece and Italy in search of inspiration from classical art, and came back not only with artistic impetuses, but with classical furniture concepts he began to reproduce: “Abildgaard had become Denmark’s first furniture designer”.1

And while we’d argue about the validity of that claim, there is an undeniability in an understanding of not just furniture design, but design, as both a profession and a cultural expression, in Denmark and further afield, as having its origins in artistic practice.

And since then?

With the exhibition The Magic of Form – Design and Art, Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg seek formal parallels and inter-twinnings in the (hi)stories of art and design…….

Reflections on Pop Art, as seen at The Magic of Form - Design and Art, Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, Aalborg


“November’s night is dark and drear, The dullest month of all the year”, opined Letitia Elizabeth Landon in 1836, however, ’twas not all doom and gloom, for, as she continues, “the November evening now closing in round Mrs. Cameron’s house was of a very cheerful nature.”*

A cheerfulness in Mrs. Cameron’s house/school occasioned by the gaiety associated with the rapidly approaching annual school prize-giving and ball; and a cheerfulness to banish the dreary darkness of a November evening that can also be achieved through the intellectual stimulation of an architecture and/or design exhibition.

Our five recommended distractions from November 2021 can be found in Frankfurt, Basel, Dresden, Miami Beach and Munich…..

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for November 2021


The Historia Supellexalis G for Grcic

Grcic

A Konstantin; A Nurturing; A Reduction


One could be forgiven for thinking that little would be as pointless as a Le Corbusier colouring-in book.

So singularly achromatic is the popular understanding of Le Corbusier, a lack of colour reinforced by the dour, austere, round bespectacled, persona which so universally defines Le Corbusier: what, one asks oneself, could there possibly be to colour in a Le Corbusier colouring-in book?

Yet in contrast to the popular Le Corbusier image, Le Corbusier’s career was one undertaken in colour. A career accompanied by, informed by, arguably driven by, considerations on and the study of colour.

An (oft overlooked) aspect of his work, of his understandings and approaches, and persona, explored in the exhibition Le Corbusier and Color at the, appropriately kaleidoscopic, Pavillon Le Corbusier, Zürich.

Le Corbusier and Color at the Museum für Gestaltung, Pavillon Le Corbusier, Zürich


“Space and form are important elements in the creation of the [interior] environment”, opined the Danish architect, artist and designer Verner Panton in 1969, however, he continues, “colours are even more important”.

And no-one, even those with but the briefest familiarity with Verner Panton, can oversee the colour in Verner Panton’s work.

Yet important as colour and space and form were for Panton, “in the creation of the [interior] environment”, “l’homme reste l’élément central“, man remains the central element.1

With the exhibition Verner Panton – Colouring a New World, Trapholt, Kolding, undertake a search for the human in the colourful new world of Verner Panton.

Verner Panton - Colouring a New World, Trapholt, Kolding


In days of yore October was known in Germanic lands as Weinmonat, Wine Month, Month of Wine, whereby thoughts were, unquestionably, less with the drink as with the grape and the harvest, and thus the promise of the new wine.

And in many regards our exhibition recommendations can be considered a monthly harvest of the new crop of architecture and design exhibitions; specifically, and staying in Germanic registers, an Auslese, a considered selection of those well ripened concepts and premises it is hoped will most excite an invigorate the palate both experienced and novice. Or the viewer, experienced or novice.

Our quintet of, possible, new, memorable vintages from Weinmonat 2021 can be found in Ulm, Stockholm, ’s-Hertogenbosch, Paris and Tokyo…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for October 2021


In her 1929 essay A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf, as a component of her reflections on the myriad subjects of ‘women and fiction’, reads her way, chronologically, through a bookcase of works written by women from across the centuries.

Here We Are! Women in Design 1900 – Today at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, has the feeling of Virginia Woolf’s bookcase, allowing as it does for reflections on, and a critical questioning of, the myriad subjects of ‘women and design’…….

Here We Are! Women in Design 1900 - Today, Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein


In September 1951 the East German newspaper Neue Zeit informed its readers that, “whomever travels to Fürstenberg sees the beginnings of the new city, a city planned according to the “Principles of Urban Development”.1

Whomever travels to Fürstenberg today arrives in Eisenhüttenstadt, the planned city that arose from those “beginnings”; and a city which, arguably, more than any other, stands proxy for the rise and fall of East Germany.

With the exhibition Endless Beginning. The Transformation of the Socialist City, the Museum Utopie und Alltag explore not only the past, present and future of Eisenhüttenstadt, but also employs Eisenhüttenstadt as a conduit for more general reflections on urban planning and the ongoing, inevitable, intrinsic, transformation(s) of our cities. Socialist or otherwise……

Downtown Eisenhüttenstadt largely in Plaspi and..... Sugar, as seen in Endless Beginning. The Transformation of the Socialist City, Museum Utopie und Alltag, Eisenhüttenstadt


Of all the genres of furniture which accompany global society, none, arguably, is more self-explanatory, more obvious, than the table.

Yet for all the simplicity, or perhaps exactly because of all the simplicity, the table is, arguably, the most versatile of all the genres of furniture which accompany global society; the contemporary table existing as it does in a myriad forms and contexts.

And not just physical forms and contexts………

Radio smow: A Tables Playlist…….


According to the 6th century CE antiquarian John the Lydian, “the oracle recommends drinking milk for the sake of good health all through the month of September”.1

And while milk may have advantages in terms of your physical health, for your spiritual and intellectual health, we’d recommend the following quintet of new architecture, design and art exhibitions opening in September 2021.

Whereby, exhibitions and milk aren’t mutually exclusive, you can partake of both if you so wish……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for September 2021


Globally some 2 billion of us live in a city of more than 500,000 inhabitants.1

A number that is progressively growing.

But what does “city” mean?

Not lexicographically, but physically, culturally, socially, politically, economically, morally, etc, etc, etc?

With the exhibition Die Stadt. Between Skyline and Latrine the smac – Staatliches Museum für Archäologie Chemnitz attempt to approach possible answers……

A model of Archigram’s 1964 Walking City as part of a discussion on literary and architectural ideal cities, as seen as, Die Stadt Between Skyline and Latrine, smac - Staatliches Museum für Archäologie Chemnitz


“We must endeavour to introduce a little order into this business, or at least sense into a great deal of it. But what is sense without order? We must try to find some method of arriving at some sort of order – one that will at least enable us to escape from this vagueness in the design of colour”, opined Amédée Ozenfant in 1937.1

And had an idea or two as to the how…….

Not directly associated with Amédée Ozenfant, but being as it is the house next door to the house/studio designed by Le Corbusier for Amédée Ozenfant in Paris in 1922 (the one on the right-hand side), is a nice metaphor of the dearth of images of Amédée Ozenfant and/or his work available: it's the next best thing. Also because it very neatly mirrors Amédée Ozenfant's 1937 views on ivy and Virginia creeper....... (photo by Mbzt via commons.wikimedia.org CC BY 3.0)


The Historia Supellexalis: “F” for Front Design

Front

An Anna; A Sofia; A Charlotte; A Katja; A Conduit.


We published our first exhibition recommendations list in November 2013, and have diligently, and joyfully, ended every month since with a list of five architecture and design related exhibitions opening in the coming month that appear worthy of a recommendation.

A tradition we very much planned to continue in July 2021 for August 2021.

And would have; however, having undertaken our regular tour through our database of international museums and galleries, we can find but two exhibitions opening in August 2021 we, in all good conscience, can recommend. And while we don’t always stick religiously to the 5 in months of scarcity, 2 is… 2 few. And so we’ll find another way to integrate them into the blog.

August is always slow for new exhibitions, primarily because, and certainly in the USA and Europe, everyone is on holiday; however, we get the feeling that August 2021’s paucity is related to the realities of the past few months.

Any exhibition is the result of years of planning, years of planning that never feels quite long enough, and events such as a Covid pandemic that eats into that limited time have a very real effect on the preparation and realisation of exhibitions; meaning that all museums have been forced to reschedule their programmes, a rescheduling that in addition to a great many, and regrettable, cancellations has seen many museums extend the runs of those exhibitions that are open until the accrued losses in time can be made good.

And which, we very much get the feeling, means many museums are waiting for autumn 2021 (northern hemisphere)/spring 2021 (southern hemisphere) to launch new exhibitions, to re-set their programmes and planning schedules. Which means that for September 2021 and October 2021 we may very well get two lists for each month. All going to plan.

But means for August 2021, rather than 5 new openings… 32 architecture and design exhibitions already running that are, or certainly appear to be, worthy of a recommendation.

And as ever in these times, if you are planning visiting any exhibition please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious……

32 new-ish Architecture & Design Exhibitions for August 2021


What is a chair?

You sure?

With the exhibition Chairs. For children only! the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig, explore the (hi)story of and developments in children’s seating, and in doing so not only allow for insights into an all too often undervalued, underappreciated, ignored, genre of furniture, but also forces you to reconsider your response to what you thought was a very, very straightforward question…

Chairs. For children only!, Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig