smow Design Blog


According to Germanic folklore: A wet February brings a fruitful year.

And that, we’d argue, not only in terms of vegetation, but also in terms of your individual personal development: a wet February meaning more time spent in museums and thus an enhanced opportunity to engage in meaningful and relevant and motivating discourses and discussions. An ideal environment in which to allow your appreciations of and positions to the world around you to optimally develop, swell, ripen and nourish.

So come on February…… Rain!!!

Our five recommended growth stimulating shelters for February 2023 can be found in Cologne, Stockholm, Hornu, Hamburg and Montréal…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for February 2023


The Historia Supellexalis O for Objectification

Objectification

A Curse; A Malediction; A Poison


For all that shops are places where design of all types is bought and sold, as the exhibition On Display. Designing the shop experience at Design Museum Brussels helps elucidate, throughout the past 150ish years shops have been both microcosms and drivers of architectural and design positions.

If one so will have been display windows for contemporary architecture and design as much for the goods they purvey…….

On Display. Designing the shop experience, Design Museum Brussels


Globally some 100 million individuals are classed as homeless, with untold millions more living in precarious, unsafe, unhealthy conditions.1

And the problem isn’t new. Just one of the great many that as a global society we’ve never managed to get on top off.

With the exhibition Who’s Next? Homelessness, Architecture and Cities the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, both offer insights into global homelessness and also demand fresh impetus for finding more meaningful ways forward…….

Who’s Next? Homelessness, Architecture and Cities, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg


Our recent reflections on the La Fonda bar stool by Charles and Ray Eames, and also our recent reflections on Goethe’s Donkey, Goethe’s chair “just high enough that one can sit half-standing”, got us very naturally thinking a lot about stools of all types, the various and varied places one meets stools, the various and varied manners via which stools interact with and contribute to our daily lives, the (hi)story and development of the stool, in particular in context of the (hi)stories and developments of global societies; and also the cultural and social relevance of the stool, and the stool figurative, the stool metaphoric……

Radio smow: A Stool Playlist…….


By way of breaking us all gently into 2023 we thought that rather than presenting a list of new architecture and design exhibitions opening in January 2023, we’d provide a list of those exhibitions both up and running in January 2023 and those opening in January 2023.

It seemed a civilised and informative approach. An approach that was more empowering, less demanding. An invitation to visit an exhibition rather than defining an obligation to visit an exhibition.

If an approach, an invitation, admittedly aided and abetted by the dearth of new showcases opening globally in January 2023. As in essentially none. Certainly nowhere near the five of our title.

But then, the old is also the new when first discovered, everything is unknown and unfamiliar until approached and engaged with, it’s all a question of perspective.

Which is a very good way to enter a new year…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for January 2023


The Swiss Design Lounge on the first floor of the Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich, is home to selected works by the good and great of 20th and 21st century Swiss furniture, lighting and textile design, including, and amongst many others, Bruno Rey, Ubald Klug, Hans Eichenberger or Susi and Ueli Berger, works which not only stand in discourse with one another but also actively invite visitors to try them out, to spend time with them, to get to know them; and while you are, and while you enjoy yourself, while your making new friends, from outside, works by Willy Guhl, thick with the lichen and moss that rolling stones don’t gather, gaze through the windows on this scene of domestic harmony and mutual appreciation.

One could be forgiven for imagining that the scenography was in some way a comment on, a metaphor for, Willy Guhl’s place in the (hi)story of design: outside, on the periphery, faded by the merciless passage of time.

Viewing the Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich’s, exhibition Willy Guhl. Thinking with Your Hands, enables a differentiated perspective, on both Willy Guhl and on the Swiss Design Lounge…….

Willy Guhl. Thinking with your hands, Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich


Upholstered furniture is called upholstered furniture for a reason, yet how often do we consider the upholstery rather than the furniture; or more accurately, how often do we consider the upholstery that makes furniture upholstered furniture? How often do we consider the upholstery that makes upholstered furniture such a singular genre of furniture? How often do we consider the upholstery that bequeaths upholstered furniture such a singular status?

With the exhibition Deep-seated. The Secret Art of Upholstery the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig, invite you to do just that…….

Deep-seated. The Secret Art of Upholstery, Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig


According to popular (hi)story the tradition of the Christmas tree originated in the lands of the contemporary Germany. And with O Tannenbaum it was in the lands of the contemporary Germany that that most popular ode to the Christmas tree was first sung.

But it’s not by way of celebration of Germanic contributions to the Christmas season that all five of our new exhibition recommendations for December 2022 are in Germany, Austria or Germanophone Switzerland.

It’s just the way the dice fell. Just where the five most interesting sounding new architecture and design exhibition openings in December 2022 were to be found. As were what would have been at 6, 7 and 8 on our list. Had it continued that far.

And while we’d much rather, would much prefer, that they were more geographically, globally, strewn; thematically they are disparate, and all very much international, universal, in their subject matter and relevance. Plus, and lest we forget, an exhibition opening should never be understood as a reason to visit a particular museum, although please, please, do; but as an invitation to busy oneself with the subject and themes therein, an invitation to begin a journey.

Thus view what follows not as five exhibition recommendations in Germanophone Europe, but as five extra candles for your 2022 Christmas tree, five extra candles lighting your way forward into 2023 and beyond…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for December 2022


Pressures of time meant we sadly couldn’t make any of the Belgian design school graduate shows this past summer; however, the platform MAD Brussels did manage to have a look.

Or did at least look at those design schools to be found in Brussels, and selected from the innumerable graduation projects on show their top ten. An honoured decemvirate subsequently presented in the showcase Graduation Show 2022 at the MAD HQ.

A subjective selection, sure, but then aren’t all selections?

Including our favourites from MAD Brussels’ favourites…….

Graduation Show 2022, MAD Brussels


The Historia Supellexalis: "N" for Netherlands

Netherlands

A Gulf; A Commonwealth; A Context


In the 1880s design in France stood, in many regards, at the threshold of Art Nouveau, with the likes of, and amongst many others, Louis Majorelle, Émile Gallé or Hector Guimard beginning to start to question the production of, the formal expression of and our relationships with, our objects of daily use in context of the early years of the Third Republic and a rapidly rising industrialisation with all the associated social, economic, technical and political et al developments of the age.

And design in 1980s France?

With the exhibition Années 80. Mode, design et graphisme en France the Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris, undertake a revue of creativity in that very recent, but somehow very distant, decade…….

Années 80. Mode, design et graphisme en France, Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris


In 1959 Alexander Girard was commissioned to design the interior of the New York restaurant La Fonda del Sol, a commission for which Charles and Ray Eames designed the seating.

Yet whereas the La Fonda dining chair and La Fonda side chair are well-known, if currently out of production, components of the Eames’ canon, what of the La Fonda bar stool…….

La Fonda Bar Stool by Charles and Ray Eames


We published our first monthly list of exhibition recommendations on November 1st 2013, one of those short, superficial, posts we used to compose, having as we did back then endless time on our hands; and an intervening nine years that means that with this list for November 2022 we are entering our tenth year of helping you advance your cultural education.

While being very much aware that the vast majority of you have never visited a single one of the circa 450 new exhibitions we’ve carefully and conscientiously selected for your delectation, nor indeed have the vast majority of you visited any architecture or design exhibition in the past nine years: that the vast majority of you have chosen to neglect your cultural education. However, one of the joys of the museum exhibition as a format for elucidation, exploration, energising and entertainment, the reason we don’t give up on you all, is that, the next opportunity is always approaching.

Thus, while that which you have missed is gone for ever, and you’ll just have to try to catch up as best you can; that which is still to come is an opportunity waiting to be grasped. And in November 2022 there is an unusually large and varied amount of opportunities to grasp; the global architecture and design museum community unleashing a plethora of diverse new showcases.

And a plethora of new exhibitions opening in November 2022 that we were simply unable to narrow down to five. It would also have felt unjust given how many new showcases there are.

Our five six new opportunities to advance your cultural education in November 2022 can be found in Leipzig, Edinburgh, Winterthur, Berlin, New York and Vienna…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for November 2022


“Everybody, except myself, have used, and admit to having used my photographs … and often also without mentioning my name”, lamented Lucia Moholy in 1956, “everyone – except myself – have derived advantages from using my photographs, either directly, or indirectly, in a number of ways, be it in cash or prestige, or both”.1

The photographs in question being of and from the Weimar and Dessau Bauhauses, photos which played, and continue to play, a not unimportant role in mediating Bauhaus to a wider audience. But which in doing such don’t necessarily help mediate Lucia Moholy to that wider audience. On the contrary, they tend to hold her in a relative anonymity.

With Lucia Moholy – The Image of Modernity the Bröhan Museum, Berlin, help explain how such a situation came to be, why Lucia Moholy’s lament is both justified and an important lesson, and also how it relates to popular understandings of Bauhaus.

But for all seek to redress some of the ongoing consequences of that relative anonymity…….

Lucia Moholy – The Image of Modernity, Bröhan Museum, Berlin


Just a few short years ago, whereby given the timescales involved one could convincingly argue just a few short hours ago, coal looked very much like yesterday’s resource as the international community, or at least a sizeable part of it, promised to move away from coal and embrace novel fuels.

A commitment to a move away from coal, and fossil fuels in general, that recent geopolitical and economic developments have stalled; have led the international community to move away from their commitment to move away from coal.

A state of affairs which doesn’t change the fact that the global coal supply is finite. That a post-coal future is coming. Sooner or later.

With the exhibition At the coalface! Design in a post-carbon age, the Centre for Innovation and Design at Grand-Hornu provide space for reflection on our various and varied relationships with coal, past, present and (possible) future…….

At the coalface! Design in a post-carbon age, Centre for Innovation and Design at Grand-Hornu, Hornu


What is a school?

A question in Dessau all too often answered in architectural terms. And while the space in which a school exists is not irrelevant, what is a school?

For the 2022 edition of the Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau’s Bauhaus Lab the participants concerned themselves with education in apartheid era South Africa, considerations which took them far beyond the school room, and far beyond South Africa; and the results of which are presented in the exhibition Doors of Learning: Microcosms of a Future South Africa…….

Bauhaus Lab 2022: Doors of Learning. Microcosms of a Future South Africa, Bauhaus Building, Dessau


The Historia Supellexalis M for Moormann
Moormann

A Nils Holger; An Autodidact; A Restlessness


Autumn is once more upon the Northern Hemisphere, that season of not only “mists and mellow fruitfulness”, but as a John Keats also reminds us the season of harvest, be that vine fruits, apples, gourds or hazelnuts.

Or the architecture and design exhibitions Keats didn’t mention. If, to be fair to him, they would have been largely unknown in 1819.

Unlike today; a today where after a long summer of waiting patiently, of observing from afar, and hoping, autumn traditionally presents a bountiful crop of new showcases to be consumed with gay abandon. And with plentiful thanks for the unseen work that led to their creation.

And Autumn 2022 is no exception. After a summer of growth and development and careful tendering the global architecture and design museums are once again brimming and overflowing with fresh, invigorating, nourishing delights to suit all tastes.

Our pick of the new crop in October 2022 can be found in Paris, New York, Brussels, Helsinki and Rome…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for October 2022


In 1947 the American designer Edward J Wormley reflected in the New York Times on what contemporary furniture could, should, be, and amongst his thoughts on beds, chairs, storage units et al, opined that “an ideal table would be a flat plane suspended in space”, and that not least because “it’s the legs that are the big nuisance”.

“Can we find this kind of furniture in today’s market?”, he asked his readers, albeit, rhetorically, “You know we can’t.”1

Which tends to imply Wormley didn’t visit the Home Show exhibition in New York in April 1930, for had he, he would have seen Friedrich Kiesler’s Flying Desk…….

Friedrich Kiesler's Flying Desk as seen at the 1930 Home Show, New York. Note also the base of the armchair on the left, a very nice early example of a sled base...... There is, in effect, only one photo of the Flying Desk and it is under copyright, and, as yet we don't have permission to publish it. We're trying to get that permission and are hopeful we can depixelise soon. Which would be great, because as a work it deserves to be, demands to be, seen, enjoyed, analysed, further developed...... Until then it can be seen in neigh on all books about Friedrich Kiesler.......


Amongst the many developments that have influenced and informed the path of furniture and interior design in the past 120ish years one must, without question, count developments in context of colour.

Whereas in previous centuries colours were limited in their availability, range and durability, recent decades have seen not only progress in that availability, range and durability, and as such ever more possibilities in our use of colour, but also seen increasing study of psychology and colour and of developments in understandings of human perception of colour, ever increasing appreciations of how colours exist beyond the physical and chemical. And an ever increasing use of colour in marketing, a creeping commercialisation of colour.

With the installation Colour Rush! Rotterdam based designer Sabine Marcelis transforms the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot into a space for differentiated considerations on colour and our furniture and interiors, on the colours of our furniture and interiors. And in doing so also allows for some fresh insights not only into the Vitra Design Museum collection, but what that collection can teach us all about furniture and interior design over the past 120ish years…….

Colour Rush! An Installation by Sabine Marcelis, Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot, Weil am Rhein


“For men who have to write a lot, and over prolonged periods, a desk at which they can work standing up is an indispensable piece of furniture for altering their posture and for maintaining their health”, opined Journal der Moden in May 1786. An age when, famously, only men wrote.

Yet advantageous and positive as standing to write was, prolonged standing could, as Journal der Moden notes, lead to tiredness.

A solution was however at hand for all who preferred working at a standing height desk over a prolonged period: a chair, “or a so called donkey … on which one sits as if on a saddle, and which must be just high enough that one can sit half-standing…”1

A half-standing sitting solution whose nickname can be readily derived from the proposed sitting position.

And a half-standing sitting solution that for all it is thoroughly familiar today, was novel, one could almost argue revolutionary, and even enlightened, in 1786…….

A chair "just high enough that one can sit half-standing" as depicted in Journal der Moden, May 1786. Assuming to scale the sitting height is approx 78 cm. (Image via <a href="https://zs.thulb.uni-jena.de/rsc/viewer/jportal_derivate_00107658/JLM_1786_H005_0020.tif" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Thüringer Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Jena</a> cc0)


In September 1839 Henry David Thoreau and his brother John spent two weeks navigating the Concord and Merrimack rivers on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border. A boat trip, a journey, motivated by Thoreau’s long time observation of the Concord river, and for all its many organic and inorganic inhabitants, floating past him, “fulfilling their fate” as they did; and which inspired Thoreau to “launch myself on its bosom and float wither it would bear me.”1

Which is not only a very positive attitude to life, but also to approaching an architecture and/or design exhibition: launch yourself at it and see whither it bears you.

Our five recommendations for allowing yourself to carried off to pastures unknown, and possibly fulfilling fate as you are, in September 2022 can be found in Frankfurt, Hornu, Kolding, Rotterdam and Los Angeles…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for September 2022


In Poetics Aristotle argues poetry arose on account of two intrinsic human instincts: an “instinct for ‘harmony’ and rhythm” and “the instinct of imitation”, as in representation rather than copying, an imitation Aristotle opines is the method via which humans learn, and that “to learn gives the liveliest pleasure”.

Yet while for Aristotle all forms of poetry are “in their general conception modes of imitation”, again as in representation rather than copying, “they differ, however, from one another in three respects – the medium, the objects, the manner or mode of imitation”.1

With the exhibition Mimesis. A Living Design the Centre Pompidou-Metz explores designers as imitators of nature, and the varying, and continually developing, mediums, objects, and manners or modes of that imitation…….

Mimesis. A living design, Centre Pompidou-Metz


In their 2021/22 exhibition Craft is Cactus the Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt, constructed a very convincing argument for including craft in the cactus family, a very convincing argument for making the Craftoideae a fifth subfamily of the Cactaceae.

Yet while a very good argument, as we all know, much work remains to be undertaken on the classification of the Craftoideae, not least in context of their habitats: where does one find craft? Where do the Craftoideae prevail?

With the exhibition Craft as Myth. Between Ideal and Real Life the Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt undertake a detailed field study of the Craftoideae, and in doing so allow for reflections on both contemporary craft and of future contemporary craft. On the future of craft…….

Craft as Myth. Between Ideal and Real Life, Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt