Vienna Design Week 2023, Griaß di!

It’s been a while, and we were beginning to think it would never happen again; however, after an inordinately long absence September 2023 sees us once again meet up with Vienna Design Week…….

For a great many years Vienna Design Week was a key component of our year, not only because, much as the arrival of celery on menus, and plates, informed an A. A. Milne that autumn was with us, Vienna Design Week signalled that summer was well and truly over, thus providing a little, and much need, orientation to our year; but primarily was important because the varied and deliciously random mix of projects, presentations and talks, and its easy, fluid, movement between product design, industrial design, social design, graphic design, textile design, craft, architecture, music, Heurigen, et al always offered entertaining, engaging and informative insights into design, design positions, design practice, and for all approaches to definitions of design. And in it’s, if one so will, self-evidently conceptual basis, it’s happy dance on the transient, volatile border between art and design, and also in its near complete absence of established designers, of star guests and similar distractions, was an important counterweight to the trails of trade fairs, exhibitions and archives that we travelled the rest of the year.

Vienna wasn’t the only design week we visited, far from it, but was arguably the one we visited most spiritedly.

And we remember with great fondness projects such as, and amongst many, many, many others, Vienna based studio Copa’s stool Ljod moulded from ice, a project which although about crafting a stool from ice was also about, was primarily about, the process of developing a stool crafted from ice and the sense of developing an ice crafted stool; Marlene Klausner storing fruit and veg in a cellar, staging fruit and veg in a cellar as if in a gallery, by way of reminding us, as a P.V. Klint reminded us 100 years previous, but which we all keep forgetting, that sometimes the best ideas already exist, it doesn’t always have to be the novel; Mathak + Mahlknecht’s installation Best by … about built-in obsolescence in which water-filled fish tanks fell from tables by way of stimulating thoughts on a planned obsolescence that for all we all like to think is a relatively novel discovery by industry, a feature of the greed of contemporary industry, is as old as industry, see King Camp Gillette.

Or Fortune by Mark Braun with and for J & L Lobmeyr, with its subtle yet pronounced reflections on the work involved in producing an object and the cost of that object, on water as a resource, water as a basic necessity and the increasing complexity of that relationship, that equation, on luxury and utility, etc; and a project which over the years has continually evolved for us, has continually taken on new facets and perspectives as we reflect on it in ever new contexts and juxtapositions, and which in its continuing, unbroken, relevance and informativeness is one of those projects that helps us attempt to approach the question if there is such a thing as timelessness in design, and if there is, is it that which marketeers tell you it is? Or something different? And a project to which there is a link, a good one if we remember. Or was a link, unfortunately to a blog that has long since shuffled off this digital mortal coil; a reminder that back in the day we were responsible for three smow blogs, one official, two unofficial: three simultaneously, which is ridiculous to look back on from this distance. And certainly explains some of the texts fom back then.

And it was also in Vienna that we were first introduced to the work of Budapest based architecture and design collective AU Workshop via a candle holder that is one of our reference projects, one of those works we turn to whenever we lose faith, whenever we start to question what is design, why design, why do we do this, what is the point!?!? An AU Workshop interpretation of a candle holder that we’ve just realised we first met almost a decade ago. Which is terrifying. And reminds us that we really must get back to Budapest.

And thus Vienna Design Week has an important place in the development of this blog, we wouldn’t say it made us what we are, but it definitely contributed importantly to the journey.

Or put another way, while for Ultravox Vienna means nothing, whereby we don’t believe it does, much more we believe Midge Ure is just shielding a broken heart, denying a longing he accepts is real, is strong, on account of that intrinsic human fear of what acknowledging, and for all what following, our desires may lead to… but that’s a discussion for another day… while for Ultravox Vienna means nothing for us Vienna Design Week means, when not everything, then certainly an awful lot. As does Vienna, we’ve always had a soft spot for the city, and an appreciation of, and gratitude for, its varied and various and important roles in the development of architecture and design.

But then a few years ago we stopped visiting Vienna Design Week. There was no reason why, no active decision on our part to stop going, simply the ways in which the smow Blog developed and the increasing number of projects therein meant that it simply wasn’t viable or practicable to spend a few early autumn days in Vienna, other things always seemed to have a higher priority, the number of days per year we required for the Blog, and by then it was just one, significantly exceeded the 365 available in the calendars we had access to. And so we stopped attending. Always meant to go back, but then came Covid, and it became formally as well as organisationally difficult.

September 2023 we’re back in Vienna. And can hardly contain ourselves. Can’t wait to see if Vienna Design Week is as we remember or if time has given our recollections a gilding and illumination they never possessed, that Vienna Design Week could never have carried. Or indeed if that which Vienna Design Week was when it started out, is as relevant and necessary today as it was then. Has it perhaps become a faded pastiche of what it was? Or has it changed to accommodate the invariable vagaries of the passage of time? We’ll certainly let yous know.

But primarily in the coming days and weeks we will bring you our thoughts and reflections on the projects visited and explored.

Vienna Design Week 2023, Griaß di…….

Vienna Design Week 2023: Fokus – The Series
Vienna Design Week 2023 Compact: MOWO – Move with Wood
Vienna Design Week 2023: Design Without Borders at Collegium Hungaricum
Vienna Design Week 2023 Compact: Pendulum Lamp by Matej Štefanac
Vienna Design Week 2023 Compact: Ums Eck – 1 M² by Studio Högl Borowski
Vienna Design Week 2023 Compact: Garten at Galerie Rauminhalt
Vienna Design Week 2023 Compact: Room for Change – Design Campus/d-o-t-s

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