Otthon Design Budapest 2024, Szia!

Otthon Design Budapest 2024

The Budapest born photographer Robert Capa is quoted as once opining that, in context of photography, “it is not enough to have talent, you also have to be Hungarian”1, and in terms of furniture design there was, arguably, a period when that was also true; for all during that, all too, brief period between the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918 and the outbreak of the 1939 – 1945 war, an inter-War period that, amongst other episodes, saw the Magyar trio Marcel Breuer, Kálmán Lengyel and Anton Lorenz play decisive roles in the development of, and for all in the marketing and establishing of, steel tube furniture, that so defining, if at times blindingly, skewingly, so, development of the period. And an Anton Lorenz who post-War went on to play a leading role in the establishment of the phat reclining TV lounge chairs so stereotypical of post-War American homes; post-War American homes a Paul László also played an important role in defining and furnishing. If in a very, very different manner to Lorenz.

That was however then. And now?

Looking at the global furniture design industry one could almost come to the opinion that being Hungarian is an active hindrance. Or perhaps more accurately, being in Hungary is an active hindrance: and lest we forget, a Capa, a Breuer, a László, et al all found fame outwith the borders of the contemporary Hungary. Who would they be today had they stayed in Hungary?2 Is Hungary a good place to be furniture designer in the 21st century?

Questions also very inherent in the opinion recently voiced in these dispatches by Budapest based Line and Round, I O, a.k.a. Self and Scope a.a.k.a. Annabella Hevesi and Gábor Bella, that “it is a bit of a mission impossible to try to make a career as a furniture designer in Hungary“.

An opinion that over the years a great many other Hungarian based furniture designers have expressed to us in alternative forms, if with a similar direction. Yet Hungary keeps on producing furniture designers. Talented and interesting furniture designers. Talented and interesting Hungarian furniture designers who keep on telling us how hard it is.

And every time that happens we tell ourselves that we must explore contemporary design in Hungary in more depth. And then, in that way of ours, don’t get round to doing it. Or at least not properly, we did undertake a brief attempt back in 2014, but that was but a start which never moved much beyond that; a start that was also an end, for Hungary was always just a day and half too far away. Which given the nature of the subjects at hand may or may not be ironic, we’d obviously have to confirm with Alanis Morissette if it is.

But was certainly unsatisfying. Very.

Thus we’ve, finally, decided to grasp that particular Magyar Szürke, Hungarian Grey, bull by its terrifying, if highly impressive, horns.

And Otthon Design Budapest – Home Design Budapest – seemed a good place to start, a good opportunity to begin to learn to frame some of the questions we need to try to approach.

Or put another way, while everyone else in early April 2024 was making their way to Milano, we went to Budapest. Which is lovely in early April. Certainly was in early April 2024.

In many regards an extension of the much, much larger home construction orientated Construma trade fair, Otthon Design features, if one so will, objects for the making of the home you can build thanks to the exhibitors in Construma, presenting as it does lots of flooring, fireplaces, reclining massage chairs that for all they are an direct, ¿inevitable?, development of Anton Lorenz’s work, Lorenz would fear as much as a Josef Hoffmann would fear them as direct descendents of his Sitzmaschine, which may or may nor be an analogy for the IT industry. And also presenting jacuzzi hot-tubs for your garden or terrace. An immense, as in ridiculous, outrageous, number of jacuzzi hot-tubs. ¿Is the Hungarian market for jacuzzi hot-tubs really that big? ¡Genuinely! And also features grass, no not that sort, but the majority did seem to have been sourced in Holland.

And also furniture. Although not that much, there is, was, arguably more grass, certainly more jacuzzi hot-tubs at Otthon Design. Despite a chair being the event’s logo. Were arguably more chairs on the logo than in the exhibition hall. Apart that is from the great many Eames plagiarisms to be found throughout the hall, including a couple in a very prominent location.

And, or perhaps more accurately, thereby, as one can infer from the above paragraph, a trade fair where the ‘Design’ of its title must be understood as in configuration, formation, intent, objective, etc, must be understood in context of creating a visual composition, of creating an impression of an idealised interior, that thing magazines and social media do with such gusto, rather than ‘design’ as in the seeking of novel solutions in context of contemporary materials, processes and social, culture, political, economic, ecological, et al realities, of developing novel interpretations of objects and systems responsive to and meaningful for prevailing realities, of enabling the creation of functional, responsive, engaging, comfortable spaces without defining what is required, of questioning what is ‘furniture’, ‘space’, ‘home’, where does it come from, why do we need it, are there other options: that ‘design’ that is reason we all get up in the morning.

Which could lead one to imagine that in terms of helping us learn to frame some of the questions we need to try to approach, Otthon Design wasn’t that much help. Au contraire mon ami!! ‘Twas even more helpful than we’d imagined. Could have hoped for. Watch this space…….

In addition, beyond the flooring, fireplaces, reclining massage monsters, grass, et al, Otthon Design also featured projects from the Wood Like After platform of the Hungarian Furniture and Wood Industry Association, Fabunio, with its selection of (wood based) projects by young Hungarian designers; a presentation of works by members of SZETT, The Association of Carpet Designers, many of whom are more technically textile designers who develop, amongst other textiles, carpets, which they either produce themselves or are produced by small, artisan, manufacturers; and also the segment Magyar Design, a regular feature of Otthon Design which, as the name implies, presents design from Hungary, primarily design by young(er) Hungarians, and a platform to which we shall return another day, save here to note that rather than individual designers presenting their works on a stand, curator Németh Gabriella sets contemporary works by Hungarian designers together in room scenarios; the 2024 edition featuring some 24 creatives displayed as four and a half room settings. And that not as proposals for your home, but simply as a way of encouraging you to approach individual objects through incorporating them in a mass in which they belong but from which they can be removed, to enable a more relaxed, less daunting, experience. Or that at least was how we experienced it. And enjoyed it.

In the coming days and weeks we will bring you some of our thoughts and reflections on some of the (non jacuzzi hot-tub) work experienced at Otthon Design Budapest 2024 (primarily from Magyar Design, SZETT and Wood Like After, but you’d probably worked that out already, jacuzzi hot-tubs not really being a big thing round our way)…….

1. Quoted everywhere, but never with a source.  A source we currently can’t find, but will update once we do. Assuming that is it actually exists…….

2. As with so many countries in central Europe referring to ‘Hungary’ as a physical area can only be done in context of a specific time, and a great many nationalities are and were bequeathed on individuals retrospectively. Which is always worth remembering…. Especially in context of contemporary Hungary.

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