The Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst Basel’s Institute Industrial Design is sited in the city’s Dreispitz district, a name derived from the district’s (roughly) triangular form, and a term which translates into English as “cocked hat”
But would the work of the Institute’s students see conventional ideas, wisdoms and understandings knocked into a Dreispitz…..
Tracing its history back to 1807 and the establishment of a Sketching School by the, still active, Gesellschaft für das Gute und Gemeinnützige [Society for Good and the Common Benefit] as a vehicle to improve technical competence amongst trades folks, the contemporary Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst, HGK, Basel began to take on its current form in 1887 when the city authorities took control of the school and brought it into association with the newly established Craft & Trades Museum, the school being renamed the General Craft & Trades School. The two institutes moving into a shared building in 1893.
Over the coming decades the General Craft & Trades School gradually expanded its scope, including the addition of programmes in areas such as architecture, graphics, sculpture, and fashion, before in 1944 the school was divided into a commercial section and an applied arts section; a division which ultimately led in 1980 to the transfer of the applied arts courses to the then Fachhochschule beider Basel. The more commercial graphic, visual deign and textile design classes remaining to form what became in 2003 the Schule für Gestaltung Basel.
In 2006 the Fachhochschule beider Basel merged with numerous other local colleges to form the new Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz, FHNW, the contemporary Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst Basel being one of nine colleges within the FHNW family.
Home to some 800 students the HGK is divided into ten institutes covering a broad spectrum of creative disciplines, including Art, Aesthetic Practice and Theory, Postindustrial Design, Art & Design Education and the Institute Industrial Design. No. There is no preposition. Which yes, makes it sound more like a manifesto than a school. Which, no, isn’t a criticism.
The Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst Basel Institute Industrial Design’s Summer 2018 Look showcase presented the results of projects from the past semester, a rare and welcome treat from the graduation project focus generally preferred by non-German design schools, and which, and as we always note, helps one to better understand the school and how they aim to form a new generation of designers. And which also serves as a form of advertising for the school, showing potential students what they can expect. And what the school expects of them.
Amongst a wide variety of projects presented were concepts as varied as, for example, Pleats please, one of those classic undergraduate design projects in which students are challenged to create a 3D object by folding a 2D piece of sheet metal, in the case of Pleats please sheet aluminium and the results included the usual array of occasional furniture, storage objects, and lighting, but, and as ever, important ain’t the result but the idea, the development of that idea, the overcoming of problems and what the student thereby learns about the creative process; My Way – Public transportation, which concerned future passenger transport options and resulted in the inevitable rash of the improbable and the unwelcome, but also included an interesting re-imaging of the rollator by Vanessa Wilsher & Kathrin Kochs; or 3 aus 36 in which the students had to realise three projects, each in a short time period, the shortness of the time period and the thus required rapidity of thought and action being the decisive elements of the course.
The module however which most attracted our attention and which, consequently, we spent the most time deliberating was Made of… by and with Johannes Fuchs and which involved the students becoming familiar with the inherent properties of a specific material and then considering how those could be combined with material specific processes to create innovate products based on the material’s inherent properties. A project which resulted in a wide range of products in a variety of materials, from which two cork objects particularly caught our imaginations.
As a material cork has a lot going for it, it is light, formable, hygienic, durable, recyclable, even develops a patina over time, indeed among its only major drawbacks is that it is a very, very, very slow growing tree; however, if properly managed, and for all if proper use is made of waste cork, there is no reason why cork couldn’t be more widely used than it is. Something neatly underscored by two of the Made of… projects: Marin and Sim
Designed by Annik Hodler & Mélody Schulthess Marin takes the idea of the transportable, rechargeable lamp and adds a new dimension: it floats. Meaning, as Annik & Mélody note, swimmers can take it into the water with them to aid their visibility to boats at night. Although we would, and indeed urgently do, argue that swimming at night where boats are active, possibly isn’t that sensible an idea. Even with a lamp. The idea however of a floating cork light not only for providing an atmospheric background light to a summer picnic by the sea/lake/pool/river but also, for example, for use as an emergency lamp for any sailors/canoeists/etc who find themselves involuntarily in the water at night and awaiting rescue, does appeal. Yes, you could also make such from plastic, Marin however brings with it the aesthetic charm of cork and thus an easy accessibility meaning it can be used just as effectively in or out of water: a table lamp on your yacht, and a rescue/accompanying lamp in case you sink.
As we’ve oft noted in these pages, any object intended to perform two functions invariably implies making/accepting compromises in terms of both. Sim by Eva Böhlen & Sabina Čuruković appears to be a very pleasing exception to the rule, being as it is a chair and a bed both (apparently) well adapted to their respective functions: as a chair it has the low sitting position and broadness of seat and backrest that implies less an object for regular use, as something for the hallway, bedroom, nursery, conservatory, etc, etc, etc, and which can either be used for ad-hock sitting as and when required or brought in to a living room when extra seating is needed. And then it folds out to a bed.
Revealing in the process a hollow. A hollow which not only is the heart and soul of the concept, that which allows it to claim its character and personality, but which provides space for laying out a thin mattress. The hollow also providing neat, convenient storage space for bedding when it’s not needed.
We tried really, really, hard, but couldn’t find anything not to like about it.
Yes, it was only presented as model in Basel, and, yes, there are invariably still all manner of technical, functional and practical problems to be explored and answered, some more obvious than others; but it certainly appears an idea worthy of further exploration, which we hope Eva & Sabina get the opportunity to. It may go nowhere, but then hey, ain’t that what makes design so enthralling, infuriating and fascinating……..
More information on the Institute Industrial Design at the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst Basel can be found at: www.fhnw.ch/institut-industrial-design