The Poetry of the Functional: The International Marianne Brandt Contest 2013

Older readers will be well aware of the high esteem in which we hold the Bauhaus educated designer Marianne Brandt.

And of the fact that every time we write about her we invariably end up offending half of Saxony.

So. Deep breath. Fingers crossed. Here goes…..

In 2013 the Chemnitz Art Society Villa Arte will be hosting the 5th International Marianne Brandt Contest.

A triannual celebration of international contemporary design the 5th edition of the competition not only continues the search for objects and photographs that represent the “Poetry of the Functional” but also promises a one day Marianne Brandt symposium.

Which we think is an excellent idea.


Marianne Brandt Contest 2010: Marlen Pelny performs a Marianne Brandt poem under the artist's watchful eye.

One of our highlights of 2012 was the exhibition “Bauhaus. Art as Life” at the Barbican in London.

Not just because the flight to “The Island” meant the chance to enjoy a couple of genuinely decent beers on the way home, but also because of the new dimension to many of the Bauhaus proragonist’s outputs it presented.

Including of course Marriane Brandt.

In our interview with the curator Lydia Yee she flagged up Brandt’s collages as being among those rarely seen objects that had helped her better understand Bauhaus and its legacy.

We can only concur. But not just the collages. The exhibition was awash with rarely seen perspectives on Brandt’s work.

Design being what it is it is all too easy for a designer to be reduced to one or two “trademark” objects while the rest of their life’s work is simply ignored.

Yes Marianne Brandt’s tea service is excellent. But is one project. Exploring the rest of her work you discover aspects of her character and philosophy that you simply cannot extrapolate from a tea service.

“Bauhaus. Art as Life” presented that chance and while the International Marianne Brandt Contest is without question an excellent platform for keeping the life and work of Marianne Brandt in the public eye, a little more explanation of who she was, what she did and why she is so important wouldn’t go amiss. And would ensure that she remained relevant for young designers. We hope the symposium can achieve that.

Barbican Art Gallery Bauhaus Art as Life Marianne Brandt

A selection of lamp designs by Marianne Brandt at "Bauhaus. Art as Life"

In addition to the regular Product Design and Photography categories, the 2013 International Marianne Brandt Contest includes the special category “Cradle to Cradle” for Sustainable Design.

Which makes our hearts sink a little. Or to be honest, a lot.

For us “Sustainable Design” awards are a bit like 3D films – a passing bandwagon that everyone suddenly feels that they need to jump on. Regardless if they know the final destination or not.

Why not just make sustainability a criteria for winning the prize?

Job done.

Looking back at the 2010 International Marianne Brandt Contest many of the entries were sustainable. Very sustainable even. And it is to be expected that many 2013 entries will also be. Intelligent contemporary designers working outwith the confines of commercial contracts invariably consider resources, life-cycles, energy supply and recycling/disposal when developing their projects.

Making “Sustainable Design” an extra category doesn’t help advance any dialogue about sustainability in design, rather it keeps it as a “feature” in the public’s view. However if design is to be truly sustainable we all – designers, consumers, “lifestyle bloggers”, manufacturers, politicians – have to understand stability as part of design’s remit.

Regardless, we’re just happy to have the International Marianne Brandt Contest back.

We’ve missed it. Honest.

The 2010 International Marianne Brandt Contest famously introduced us to two projects that still excite and fascinate us – Mechthild by Christoph Schmidt and Damensattel by Caspar Huckfeldt – and we fully expect the 2013 edition to be just as stimulating, invigorating, innovating and challenging.

Entries for the 2013 International Marianne Brandt Contest cannot be submitted until May 2013 and so you’ve got time to develop a killer project.

The competition is open to all designers, regardless of how professional. The only proviso is that you must be under 40: which of course sadly rules out most residents of Chemnitz.

So close. Sooooo close.

More details on the 2013 International Marianne Brandt Contest can be found at

International Marianne Brandt Contest 2013

International Marianne Brandt Contest 2013

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