smow Design Blog


The sense, logic or otherwise of the biannual changing of the clocks is a subject that can keep any conversation animated until the next change occurs……When it can start all over again.

The biannual repositioning of the hands of time is however also an opportune moments to consider our relationship to time, for all our measurement of time, our harnessing of time, our charting of time, and of time metaphoric and time symbolic as represented by that embodiment of time tangible … the clock.

Radio smow A Clocks Playlist


“I don’t know what design is”, opined once the Italian designer Enzo Mari.

Not because he hadn’t considered the question. But because he had. A lot.

With the exhibition Enzo Mari curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist with Francesca Giacomelli the Triennale Milano present an opportunity to approach an understanding of that which in the course of those considerations, and his 60+ year career, Enzo Mari has variously understood both design to be, and what it could, should, must, be……..

Enzo Mari curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist with Francesca Giacomelli, Triennale Milano, Milan


In 1977 Ludwig Glaeser, curator of the Mies van der Rohe Archive at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, opinioned that “it is certainly more than a coincidence that [Mies van der Rohe’s] involvement in furniture and exhibition design began in the same year as his personal relationship with Lilly Reich.”1

A statement that has in many regards come to define understandings of the furniture designs of both Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich.

An understanding that “is certainly more than a coincidence”. It is wrong. Certainly in terms of furniture design.

And a statement and understanding whose clarification not only provides an excellent starting point for an exploration of the furniture designs of Lilly Reich and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, but also for some reflections on the (hi)story of furniture design……..

Lilly Reich and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe


In 1977 the German designer Luigi Colani demanded a “renaissance of Art Nouveau”1

What he meant, why he meant it, and if it is something we should all fear, can be explored and considered in the exhibition Luigi Colani and Art Nouveau at the Bröhan-Museum, Berlin…….

Luigi Colani and Art Nouveau at the Bröhan-Museum, Berlin


“Last night the waiter put the celery on with the cheese, and I knew that summer was indeed dead”, opined once A.A. Milne, continuing that, while there may be other indications of autumn’s arrival, “it is only with the first celery that summer is over.”

And the first celery appears, or at least appeared in early 20th century England, in October.

Not that one should fear the celery, for in its crispness, freshness, tenderness, sweetness celery, so A.A. Milne, reminds us that winter isn’t only about the cold, wet, dark and dreary, but is a season which brings its own pleasures and joys, is a season of “crisp and sparkling days, long pleasant evenings, cheery fires” and to which we’ll add lingering visits to architecture and design exhibitions. Our recommendations for new showcases opening in October 2020 can be found in Munich, Milan, Rotterdam, Philadelphia and Brussels.

And as ever in these times, if you do feel comfortable about visiting any museum, 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….

“Here’s to October—and, waiter, some more celery.”1

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for October 2020


As a general rule we prefer to focus the Design Calendar on positive events, it just seems more, well, positive; however, sometimes a negative event is more illustrative of a situation, provides for better access to a story.

An event such as Mart Stam’s beurlauben, suspension, as Rector of the Hochschule für angewandte Kunst, Berlin, on September 22nd 1952.

The unhappy end of Mart Stam’s not altogether joyful sojourn in East Germany.

But also a moment that allows for some focussed considerations on both the person Mart Stam and on his understandings of art, architecture and design.

Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee ca 1956, with its new extension. Thus not as Mart Stam knew it... (Photo: Hans-Günter Quaschinsky, courtesy Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-41083-0001 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 via commons.wikimedia.org)


On October 31st 1517 Martin Luther published his 95 Theses, his Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, his criticism of the contemporary Catholic church. 95 theses which fired a debate and discourse that, ultimately, led to the splitting of the, until then, all-powerful Catholic church, an event which was to have consequences far, far, beyond religious practice and power, and which was arguably one of the single most important moments in the development of European society.

According to the popular telling of (hi)story, Martin Luther published his 95 Theses by…… nailing them to the door of the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg.

Imagine if @MartinLuther95 had had 60 million followers on Twitter…..

With the exhibition From Luther to Twitter. Media and the Public Sphere the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, explore developments in the nature of public debate and discourse and the role of evolving media and technology in those developments.


Hvis jeg får et nyt liv, vil jeg være gartner“, opined once the Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobsen.

“If I have another life, I want to be a gardener”

Not that, as Arne Jacobsen – Designing Denmark at Trapholt, Kolding, would tend to imply, he made an incorrect career choice…..

Arne Jacobsen - Designing Denmark, Trapholt, Kolding


Not the Situla itself.

But rather what is depicted on that small, delicately carved, 10th century ivory object: the four Christian Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, busy writing their gospels while seated at height-adjustable desks…….

<em>La Situla del vescovo Gotofredo</em> (photo Dominik Matus via commons.wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0)


Tuesday September 22nd marks the 2020 Southward Equinox, and thus the start of autumn in the northern hemisphere, and of spring in the southern hemisphere. Two seasons known throughout history for the vagaries, capriciousness, of their weather.

And thus two seasons perfectly suited to a longer architecture and design, or art, museum visit.

Our recommendations for four new showcases opening in September (autumn) 2020 can be found in Berlin, Kolding, Düsseldorf and Berlin (again); our recommendation for a new showcase opening in September (spring) 2020 can be found in Sydney.

And as ever in these times, if you do feel comfortable about visiting any museum, 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 September 2020


“Trunk-hasped, cart-heavy, painted an ignorant brown.
And pew-strait, bin-deep, standing four-square as an ark”1

Reading Seamus Heaney’s musings on his Settle Bed one could be forgiven for considering it a thoroughly unremarkable object. Ignorant even.

That would however be to misunderstand the nature, spirit, essence, of poetic construction. And the nature, spirit, essence of the Settle Bed.

A World of Vernacular Furniture: The Settle Bed


“It is a very interesting thing indeed to ask myself certain questions”, reflected H.G. Wells in 1937, “How did I come to know what I know about the world and myself? What ought I to know? What would I like to know that I don’t know? If I want to know about this or that, where can I get the clearest, best and latest information? And where did these other people about me get their ideas about things? Which are sometimes so different from mine. Why do we differ so widely?”1

Questions whose validity and urgency were undeniable in 1937 as Europe lurched, helplessly, towards another war; and questions whose validity and urgency has increased in the intervening 83 years as we have acquired not only ever more sources of information but ever quicker methods of information mediation.

With the exhibition Common Knowledge – Design in Times of the Information Crisis the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden explore the complex relationships between information, the individual and society…….

Common Knowledge - Design in Times of the Information Crisis, Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden


“At the present day a library has become as necessary an appendage to a house as a hot and cold bath” wrote the Roman Stoic Seneca at some point in the first century CE, “I would excuse them straightway if they really were carried away by an excessive zeal for literature; but as it is, these costly works of sacred genius, with all the illustrations that adorn them, are merely bought for display and to serve as wall-furniture.”1

And today?

While the glossy coffee table book may be have become an increasingly popular, and commercially successful, use of books as idle representation, we’d be interested to know how many individuals in the past months have deliberately positioned themselves in front of a carefully reorganised bookcase for work video conferences, or how many politicians have ensured that an appropriately stocked bookcase serves as the background for their video interview?

For, and despite the, alleged, reduction in the relevance and importance of the printed word in contemporary society, the bookcase remains, in contrast to the bath, not only a near ubiquitous piece of domestic furniture, but a strongly symbolic object…….

Bookcases. Purely decorative. Or a source of knowledge and power best kept under lock and key......?


“Wij hebben de nieuwe wereld te scheppen” wrote a, then, 19 year old Mart Stam in 1919.1

“We have to create the new world”

And subsequently spent the following decades developing, explaining and demonstrating his understandings of what that meant……

Mart Stam (1899 - 1986)


“What August dosen’t do, September puts right”1 declared Johann Wolfgang Goethe.

And loathed as we are to contradict Goethe. He’s wrong.

August may be a time when one can allow oneself a little more freedom than the rest of the year; however, that which we call life is the actions, experiences, leanings, emotions of each month consecutively and sequentially building on, informing and evolving one-another, a month of inactivity is a month of moments missed, and hoping that September can in some form rectify for a laxness in August is wishful thinking.

And this year not particularly sensible: for as we all understand, that which we don’t do in August may come back to bite us in September.

Thus, on this occasion, ignore Goethe, and use August wisely, sagely and as a chance to get more out of September. And subsequently get more out of October. November. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Our five recommendations for meaningful things to do in August 2020, apart from regular hand washing, keeping abreast of local developments/advice and maintaining mutual respectful relations with those around you, can be found in Tallinn, Brussels, Malmö, Amsterdam and Berlin.

And as ever in these times, if you are planning visiting any museum or 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 August 2020


While understandings of form, of beauty, in context of the objects with which we surround ourselves continually evolve and develop, understandings of function are, generally, much more stable. Or at least are once they have been identified, understood and normalised.

Something that can be studied and appreciated in Thomas E. Warren’s Centripetal Spring Chair…..

A Centripetal Spring Chair by Thomas E. Warren for the American Chair Company with tapered back and armrests (Image © and courtesy Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn)


In all corners of the globe one finds objects of furniture which developed in response to local conditions, traditions and practices; vernacular objects without a formal author and which although, on account of?, arising from a very specific place and time can, invariably, both teach us a lot about the essentials of furniture and help explain furniture’s relationships with wider realities.

And objects we want to celebrate, starting with arguably, one of the best known examples of vernacular furniture: the Windsor chair.

A World of Vernacular Furniture: The Windsor Chair


The German designer and graphic artist Otl Aicher once opined, “Hans Gugelot wasn’t a theoretician. But not a practitioner either. What is one if neither a theorist nor a practitioner?”1

What, indeed…..?

With the exhibition Hans Gugelot. The Architecture of Design the HfG-Archiv Ulm allows one to approach an answer…..

Hans Gugelot. The Architecture of Design, HfG-Archiv Ulm


Christa Petroff-Bohne arrived a trifling couple of minutes late for the opening of Beauty of Form.

And was most apologetic, apologised for keeping us all waiting.

Whereby, we couldn’t help thinking, it is much more us, all, the international community, who should be apologising for keeping Christa Petroff-Bohne waiting for such a comprehensive and rounded recognition of her work and career………1

Form studies by students of Christa Petroff-Bohne's Basics of Visual Design, as seen at Beauty of Form. The Designer Christa Petroff-Bohne, Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden


July is traditionally a slow month for new architecture and design exhibition openings. July 2020 less so. Not because of any fundamental changes in understandings amongst architecture and design museums of when is a good time to open an exhibition; but because owing to Corona many shows scheduled to open in the spring had to be postponed, not least until the museums were allowed to open.

And throughout July 2020 ever more museums are planned and planning to open; meaning ever more architecture and design exhibitions are planned and planning to open throughout July 2020.

And thus, while our physical travel options may still be limited, our (potential) cerebral and cultural travel spheres continues to expand, and that is never a bad thing.

If you do feel comfortable about visiting a museum, and are physically allowed to do so, as we will never tire of saying in these trying of times, 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 July 2020


Given the very close connections between Le Corbusier and France, one could be forgiven for, occasionally, forgetting that he was born in Switzerland.

With the exhibition Le Corbusier and Zürich the Museum für Gestaltung allow not only an insight into the Le Corbusier biography as charted by Switzerland’s largest city, but also of his not always easy relationship with the country of his birth.

Pavillon Le Corbusier, Zürich


Our recent deliberations on Bauhaus and music very naturally led us to a whole raft of further deliberations on the associations between music and other forms of creative expression; and for all the question, given that so many of those Bauhäusler who had/could have had second careers as musicians were artists, are there designers who have/had second careers as musicians…….

…….of course there are……

6 D 030 Z by Charles Ray Eames for Evans for Zenith Radio. Designers can create the means to enjoy music, but also make music to enjoy.....


“It’s not possible to define a style in my work”1, opined once the Italian architect and designer Gae Aulenti.

With the exhibition Gae Aulenti: A Creative Universe, the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot don’t contradict that opinion, but do provide for a framework for considerations on its validity……

Gae Aulenti: A Creative Universe, Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot


In a letter in 2008 to the editors of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians concerning remarks in an article on the staged illumination of Mies van der Rohe’s skeletal frame constructions, the architecture historian Kathleen James-Chakraborty refers to the “linking of Heinrich Tessenow’s Festspielhaus of 1910-12 in Hellerau with the installation for the glass industry that Mies designed (in collaboration with Lilly Reich, whom Petty does not mention) for the Stuttgart Werkbund exhibition in 1927.”1

“(in collaboration with Lilly Reich, whom Petty does not mention)”

(in collaboration with Lilly Reich, whom history so often does not mention, or when then fleetingly and sparingly, and which thus tends to leave Lilly Reich’s oeuvre in the shadows. Not least in the shadows of the staged illumination of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe…….)

Lilly Reich (1885 - 1947)


As previously noted, the (hi)story of the office is long and has its origins in functions and individuals rather than physical spaces; its understanding evolving over the course of several centuries as those functions/individuals gradually became synonyms for their physical place of activity. Before in the course of the 19th century its understanding became increasingly institutionalised, not least against the background of increasing commerce, industry and civic administration, and leading to the emergence of the “office building” as an identifiable branch of architecture; something, arguably, most popularly associated with the skyscrapers of Chicago, and in which context Louis H Sullivan penned the (fateful) words “form ever follows function, and this is the law.1

A law, tenet, understanding, option, that Sullivan’s former employee, and in many regards pupil, Frank Lloyd Wright developed to a milestone of office building design with his Larkin Administration Building in Buffalo, New York.

The Larkin Administration Building by Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo New York (photo ca 1906)