International Marianne Brandt Contest 2013: Interview with Co-Organisers Linda Pense and Stefan Hannig.

Despite a very personal, and very, very, old, aversion to all things Chemnitz – a situation we really should start getting over – the Chemnitz based Marianne Brandt Contest is without question one of our favourite international design competitions.

We know of no other design competition that could crown an origami hummingbird with a paperclip beak as winner.

And we know of no new product concept of late that has so instantly excited and won as over quite as Mechthild did. Or indeed Damensattel by Caspar Huckfeldt which won a special award in 2010. And of course Stephan Schulz’s Comfy Cargo Chair which was so cruelly overlooked by the 2010 jury.

Until May 26th applications are being accepted for the 2013 International Marianne Brandt Contest: not only a new edition of the triennial competition, but the first under the command of a new organising committee.

Among the first changes made by the new team is the introduction of the category “Cradle to Cradle”, a category we completely misunderstood in our previous post on the 2013 contest.

To find out exactly what the Cradle to Cradle category involves, and what other changes we can expect in the 2013 edition of the Marianne Brandt Contest we met with Linda Pense and Stefan Hannig from the new organising committee and started by asking about the change in command.

Linda Pense: It all really began with a film project that Fran, Stefan and Alexander were working on about industrial design and specifically industrial design in the context of the Marianne Brandt Contest. The research for the film became quite involved and ultimately Ilona Rosenkranz who established the competition and had run it since its conception in 2000 asked us if we wouldn’t be interested in taking on the organisation of the event.

Stefan Hannig: We spent quite a long time time considering the proposition and the final decision to say yes was then a very intuitive, almost gut reaction: for us there is no commercial logic to the decision, it was much more a case of there has been so much effort invested over the years, the contest is an excellent competition that should be kept going, deserves to be kept going and because it exists it wasn’t as if we needed to start from scratch….

(smow)blog: …. which leads to the obvious follow up question, is it a case of “new blood, new competition” or is the plan to keep everything as it was?

Linda Pense: I was very familiar with the competition and always found it wonderful because it had such a sincere atmosphere, was somehow very personal and also the motto “The Poetry of the Functional” is an excellent basis for such a competition. And we wanted to maintain all that… but have slowly realised that we’ve taken it a lot further than we intended! That said the central features are still the same and the central motto “The Poetry of the Functional” remains. What we have altered is a lot in terms of, for example, the communication methods, we are using a lot more digital platforms than was previously the case, but also the selection process is new in that the long-lists will be selected digitally from submitted pdfs before any “real” objects are submitted. Plus we’ve expanded the event from a strictly European contest into a truly international competition.

Stefan Hannig: In addition we have decided against having a formal awards ceremony in favour of a more informal event, loosely based if you like on the famous Bauhaus festivals with music, art, good food and even better conversation. Essentially we wanted to move away from the normal design contest concept where we say, more or less, send us your work, we’ll have a look and decide if you win a prize or not, and wanted much more to focus on the exchange and discourse over design that arises in the context of such a contest. And so this year the jury meeting and the awards ceremony will take place on the same day, in the competition exhibition, which means that all involved have the opportunity to come together and discuss those topics they find important.

(smow)blog: The categories design and photography have been retained, new this year is the category Cradle to Cradle. A category we completely misunderstood in our last post. To correct things, what is the background to the category and what are you looking for?

Linda Pense: Cradle to Cradle as a concept was devised by Michael Braungart, one of our new jurors, and, in effect, involves developing integrated systems where the focus is on the effectivity of ecology not on the efficiency of ecology. That means, for example, not just producing something that can be recycled but rather producing something that can be recycled – and which doesn’t generate any waste either during the production process or at the end of its use.

When we were working on the film project we dealt with a lot of very fundamental questions concerning what is design, what can design do, what should design do, and at the same time what did Bauhaus want to achieve and what would Bauhaus want to achieve if it was around today? Questions that in one way or another have a lot to do with materials and production processes.

Similarly, Cradle to Cradle concerns itself with materials and processes and for all the product as an integral part of the product cycle rather than something parallel.

And for our part we really like the positive, proactive, aspect of the Cradle to Cradle philosophy. Cradle to Cradle is an approach that attempts to facilitate change by saying “do this” or “do that”, in contrast to the restrictions that are normally associated with discussions around “sustainability”, so don’t do this, don’t do that…….

Stefan Hannig:  And when one starts considering such subjects one comes automatically to the question of who is responsible for driving change? Is it the consumer, politicians, manufacturers?  The answer is that ultimately it is the designer. Which is where we come back to Bauhaus. Bauhaus tackled a lot of contemporary questions of the age, perhaps most centrally how to move from handwork to mass production. And it was the designers who tackled such questions, not industrialists, not politicians, but designers. And in essence that is the function of designers: solving problems and challenging conventions. Not simply making a spoon more attractive or designing, yet another, vase, rather the principle function of a designer is accepting responsibility for finding innovative solutions to society’s problems. And so in the Cradle to Cradle section we’re hoping for some exciting new concepts and projects in that direction.

(smow)blog: To end, it’s your first contest as organisers, you’ve told us what we can expect, have you yourselves any targets or general expectations….. ?

Stefan Hannig: We genuinely have no idea what to expect, on the one hand because we have extended it to be a truly international rather than purely European competition and also because we have communicated the event differently from how Ilona Rosenkranz did. It could be that only 100 designers submit their work, which would obviously be a real disappointment, but we genuinely don’t have any set goals. For us perhaps more important is the feedback at the end of the competition and the reaction to the awards ceremony and exhibition event. But now is the point where the work really begins and we’re all really looking forward to seeing how the coming weeks will develop.

More information on the International Marianne Brandt Contest 2013 and how to enter can be found at

International Marianne Brandt Contest 2013

International Marianne Brandt Contest 2013

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