The 2017 spoga+gafa garden trade fair in Cologne hosted the 5th edition of the unique youngstar outdoor living design competition. Open to current design students, or those who have graduated within the past three years, the 2017 unique youngstar attracted a recorder number of 81 entries from 18 countries, from which a shortlist of 15 nominees was selected and presented in an exhibition at spoga+gafa 2017. At an awards ceremony on Sunday in Cologne the prize winners were announced……
We don’t want to appear too harsh, we’re not party to all the facts, but…….
Back at IMM Cologne 2011 we bemoaned the, in our opinion, unfathomable decision to place, nay banish, the design schools to a hall on the outermost edge of the Cologne Trade Fair site. If not Cologne itself.
So long was the journey it was very much a case of “pack some sandwiches and spare underwear, you might not be back until tomorrow.”
Similarly the placement of the unique youngstar 2017 exhibition left more than a little to be desired: abandoned and alone as they are/were in a far off corner of Hall 10.2. You almost needed binoculars to see the next stand, and even then it was only the uninspiringly blank rear wall of the stand. We did actually measure the gap between the edge of unique youngstar exhibition and its neighbour. 9 metres. And about 30m long. Which anyone with any experience of trade fair square metre prices has already translated.
It’s admittedly been a couple of years since we were last at spoga+gafa and so we can’t comment on last years exhibition. But the 2015 exhibition was definitely much better integrated. Felt like part of the event.
We have no doubt that those manufactures who care about good design, are interested in sensible solutions and appreciate new thinking will make their way over, and indeed the fact that a nominated project from last year was launched by a manufacturer as a product this year, would tend to confirm such, and more on that product later. Similarly those journalists who want to be challenged and surprised rather than Instagram followed or #OMG’d will also visit. But it would be nice if the organisers ensured that more “normal” visitors stopped by, or at least knew it was there. A situation made even more urgent by the absurdity that as soon as the winners had been announced the information on all the projects that had been online to enable the online voting for the Public Prize. Was removed. Thus leaving no online trace of the nominees. And thus only those who drop by the exhibition in Cologne will ever know what was on show. But what is on show isn’t obviously so.
Or perhaps better put
Ultimately the organisers are under no obligation to stage such a competition; one assumes they do so because they want to, because they see value and meaning in such, and for our part we are very glad they do, so why not also ensure it feels part of the fair, and not just something that happens to occur at the same time in the same location?
And now that we’ve got our two cents out of the way, the most important part….
1st Prize: Pflanzen Talje by Jessica Bruni
2nd Prize: Städler Made Outdoor Oven by Pieter Städler
3rd Prize: Sitzen stehend Leute by Chris Walter and Amélie Ika
Public Prize: Digger by Samuel Shoham
Congratulations to all!!
And in the interests of posterity, and fairness, all 15 nominations (alphabetically by project name. And please bear in mind, they are mainly, though not exclusively, prototypes. And we’re not saying we like, far less approve of all projects, we’re just presenting and describing)
7M Chair by Ara Levon Thorose (Detroit, USA)
Although formally 7M implies it could have been created in Milan in the early 1960s, it is very much a contemporary sitting object. Crafted from a series of synthetic tubes 7M is, in essence, a straight line bent seven times to create a thin, flexible chair. And a figure almost human in posture. We didn’t try sitting it, an so can’t comment on the comfort and stability, but we’re guessing, not ideally suited to a long television or reading evening, but fine for shorter, more animated occasions.
Bochum by Lukas Unertl (Halle, Germany)
A pared down steel tube sofa featuring a minimum of connections and parts, Bochum was devised to be easily disassembled to allow the seat fabric to be removed and cleaned. Or possibly exchanged: for example when changes to the general decoration require a new colour/pattern/material or to allow an effortless switch between an indoor or outdoor use. A spring/summer look, and an autumn/winter look. We didn’t ask about the name, the Ruhrgebiet confuses us enough as it is without adding Halle to the mix.
Concave by Christian Heikoop (Brooklyn, USA)
Much as Mart Stam had to add internal supports to the frames of his early cantilever chair designs to allow for the stability of the desired form, so to is the stability the greatest problem with Concave. Yet a problem it is arguably well worth trying to solve. Essentially Christian has selectively flattened steel tubes, inserting the flattened ends into other tubes, thereby creating a very, very simple joint, and an object with a very nice, organic and coherent form language. If a somewhat unstable structure. The question is if the structural qualities can be brought up to those of the aesthetic.
Digger by Shoham Samuel (Jerusalem, Israel)
That Digger won the public prize we can only assume that most of those who voted are foragers, or otherwise often need to make use of survival skills. A multi-purpose tool, although so analogue it does push the definition of the term “tool” almost back to the “tools” Darwin thought finches were using, Digger allows you to use an old tin can as cooking pot, crush in such a way that you can use it as spade and/or helps you use the lid as knife like tool. Does however mean having an appropriate can to hand, but we’re guessing that’s not an issue for your modern urban forager.
Garden Torch Seewald by Moritz Jähde und Grischa Erbe (Karlsruhe, Germany)
It’s a truism that while there are objects all designers develop, there are other objects in which designers are thoroughly uninterested: despite the fact that everyone accepts that the existing options are less than satisfactory. Objects such as the garden torch. Or as Moritz and Grischa explain the existing choice is between a bamboo stick with flower opening atop or the overly ornate faux-industrial art object. In between….. nothing. With Seewald the pair aim to fill that gap. Crafted from folded, powder coated steel Seewald is a reduced, unobtrusive object, the hanging version in addition bringing the feel of the middle age’s castle to contemporary Europe. Most apporiate, given the direction we’re currently moving.
Lightly by Gal Bulka and Idan Noyberg (Tel Aviv, Israel)
Clothes pegs featuring solar powered lamps. Not top of any ones list of things the world currently needs. It isn’t going to help society advance, or at least we hope not. Yet stupidly appealing. And no, not to help you find your washing in the dark, but as variously coloured fire flies of light in the garden, or on the balcony. Not important, not going to change your life. But might just make it a little more fun.
Merula by Philipp Möbius (Dromershein, Germany)
Merula is a birdhouse for blackbirds (Turdus merula). Which is niche. But then why should our birdhouses only cater for the tits and sparrows of our urban spaces? Is the blackbird not just as important a voice in the dawn chorus? According to Philipp blackbirds must regularly eat insects and other invertebrates, Merula is conceived as a feeding station large enough for blackbirds, and where rather than nuts and burnt fat, insects are offered: which raises the possibility that we all could soon be sharing our self-propogated mealworms with blackbirds……
Pflanzen Talje by Jessica Bruni (Saarbrücken, Germany)
As we’ve oft noted in these pages, there is a lot to be said for having plants hanging in rooms, not least the visual disruption such causes, the breaking of static room structures and new understandings of the interior space. Pflanzen Talje is a particularly elegant, well considered and realised, solution offering as it does the option to raise and lower plants, be it to water them, or simply to change your room atmosphere. Also as plants dry out they should, theoretically, migrate upwards, which even we’d probably notice and react to. Eventually. We are admittedly not particularly keen on the sandsack counterweights, even if they do give the project its name. And define it. And if we’re honest we spent a good deal our time imagining possible alternative solutions. But as ever, what do we know?
Rain Flower Walk by Jessica Bizzoni (Rimini, Italy)
Given the summer we’ve just had, it’s hard to find anything to celebrate in rain. Far less try to make us appreciate it. Yet that is, more or less, what Jessica wants to achieve. A family of steel flowers of varying sizes and forms Rain Flower Walk is devised so as to convert falling rain into a sound landscape, to amplify, abstract and intensify the aural experience of rainfall, as if in jungle or similar arboreal environment. As a project Rain Flower Walk makes more sense, and is more easily understood, when you know that the larger project from which it arose was called Sound Zen Garden.
Rolling Table by Gregor Stobe and Johannes Bauer (Karslruhe, Germany)
Almost more pleasing than the project is the background: Gregor and Johannes were going camping, didn’t have an appropriate table. And so designed one. Intended, as the name cunningly implies, to roll flat to be easily carried in a rucksack or on the luggage rack of a bike, the key to Rolling Table is the integrated fold-out legs which allow it to stand freely: be that on a beer crate as exemplified in Cologne or simply securely anchored in sand, earth, stones. Simple, lightweight and created from a very real, personal need. Yet one with which many of us can identify.
Rotate by Maria Ovchinnikov (Yekaterinburg, Russia)
At spoga+gafa 2017 there were three exhibition halls dedicated to barbecuing: with plenty “look at the size of mine!” macho idiocy to be found. Rotate brings everything back down a little and reminds us that in the beginning there was fire. A combined grill & fireplace with the necessary accessories, Rotate, well rotates around the central column, thus allowing not only for various use positions, but also meaning it can all be packed compactly together for transport and/or storage.
Sitzen stehend Leute by Chris Walter and Amélie Ika (Halle, Germay)
We believe we said all we need to say, or indeed feel competent saying, about Sitzen stehend Leute in our #campustour post from Burg Giebichenstein Halle. Except that it appeared a lot happier, more natural in the expanse of Cologne trade fair than in the corridor in Halle where we first experienced it.
Sliced Lamp by Juliane Fuchs (Kassel, Germany)
In essence Sliced Lamp takes the sushi principle and transforms it into a transportable cableless lamp. Or better put, transforms it into numerous individual rechargeable cableless lamps. If without soy sauce and wasabi. In their place the flexibility to take a lamp with you, hang it up, set it on a table, use it as a torch. Whatever. And when not in use the whole roll sits in its recharging unit. Neatly and unobtrusively.
Solo by Nina Eberhard, Simon Frambach und Fabian Kolpack (Kassel, Germany)
Through encasing a flower in its vase Solo transforms the latter from that which holds the former into that which presents it. Although not a magnifying glass per se, Solo highlights the character of the flower through isolating it: as it were less seeing the tree without the wood as seeing the flower without the bunch. Although Nina, Simon and Fabian also suggest it functions just as well with a budding twig. Borderline Art Deco, but didn’t set our alarm off…..
Städler Made Outdoor Oven by Pieter Städler (Rotterdam, Holland)
A flatpack COREN steel oven that can be assembled tool-free, the lower part of the oven houses the fire, atop space for cooking/baking, be that bread, roast vegetables or, and the most natural use, pizza. According to Pieter a pizza takes around five minutes, which has obvious advantages in context of a long afternoon/evening with friends and family. We’ve not seen it in action, but see absolutely no reason to doubt Pieter. A nice compact object whose form language implies its functionality without being defined by it, and an object from a previous age but very much for this.