Category: Architecture


Our Mondo Contemporaneo is a very unhappy, unsatisfying, unrewarding, dark, place.

Should we perhaps all consider a move to the colourful, dynamic reverie of Mondo Mendini?

At the Groninger Museum you can undertake a trial visit……………

Alessandro Mendini, Marcel Proust, & Poltrona di Proust by Alessandro Mendini, as seen at Mondo Mendini, The Groninger Museum, Groningen

While Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is arguably best known for the works he realised in the (mid-)west USA, the works he realised in west(ern) Germany are no less relevant or important for understanding the man, his work and his legacy.

Summer 2019 saw the western German State of Nordrhein-Westfalen host three Mies van der Rohe exhibitions, one each in, and devoted to Mies’s works in, Aachen, Krefeld and Essen. Three exhibitions now united in one in Cologne, and which as a unified trio not only provides for a very concise overview of the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in Nordrhein-Westfalen, but also of both the development of Mies van der Rohe as an architect and, in many regards, the wider developments in understandings of architecture and design in the course of the 20th century.

Mies im Westen, Landeshaus des LVR Cologne

While it is important, and relevant, that the centenary of the opening of Bauhaus Weimar is used to delve a little deeper into the (hi)story of both the institution and inter-War Modernism, design and architecture is more than Bauhaus.

Thus following on from our October Bauhaus/inter-War Modernism focussed new exhibition recommendations, five more general, if anything but humdrum, architecture and design exhibitions opening in October 2019 in Groningen, Frankfurt, New York, Stockholm and Weil am Rhein…..

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for October 2019

More or less……

….. Back in May 2019 the sheer number of new architecture and design exhibitions opening globally allowed us to produce two recommendations lists: one featuring exhibitions with a strong Bauhaus/inter-War Modernism focus, and one more general, less focussed.

Spring forward five months and with the global museum community now fully awoken from their summer slumber we once again find ourselves with a cornucopia of new exhibitions that invites two lists. An invitation we would consider rude to decline.

In May we started with the more general exhibitions and so this time it seemed only fair to begin with new exhibitions in Berlin, Weimar, Cottbus, London W1 and London E17 that explore Bauhaus and inter-War modernism in a relatively wide sense, but then the wider the sense, the more detailed the understanding….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for October 2019 – Bauhaus Special

Belgium is uncharted territory for us. Not literately, we’re in Belgium fairly frequently. Indeed so frequently that we are often asked why we don’t move to Belgium. Because we’ve been to Belgium, we reply (JOKE!!))

But Belgium is uncharted territory in terms of our annual #campustour: the design school summer showcases in Belgium tending as they do to run parallel to those in London, and that in previous years we’ve had good reason to be in London at that time, we’ve, logically, not been in Belgium. This year ’twas different, we had absolutely no reason to be in London and every reason to be in Belgium, which, yes, does sound like a metaphor. Isn’t, but does sound like one…… And so took the opportunity to visit a trio of Belgian design schools, technically a quartet, but legally a trio……

#campustour 2019: Belgium

“This house is a work by Le Corbusier” announces a yellow and white sign on the edge of the Zürichhorn park, “I commissioned it in his honour, and as a location from which to spread his ideas amongst a wider public”

With the exhibition Mon univers the Pavillon Le Corbusier Zürich attempt to do just that via an exploration of the Swiss architect, artist, designer, author, et al, through a very specific filter: that which he collected.

A Spanish Tinaja, ships cowls, and furniture by Le Corbusier/Jeanneret/Perriand, as seen at Mon univers, Pavillon Le Corbusier, Zürich

With its abundance of forests, earths, coals and waterways the contemporary Nordrhein-Westfalen has long been an important centre of production, industry, trade and by extrapolation design and creativity; at various stages in history important impulses and innovation radiating from communities such as Aachen, Hagen, Krefeld, Essen, Soest or Düsseldorf…….

………and since the end of the 19th century from the myriad of art, applied art, architecture and design schools dotted throughout the region: a myriad from which logistical realities, and some most unfortunate timetabling, regrettably, meant that the 2019 smow blog #campustour only visited two. If two that represent very different approaches to design education…….

#campustour 2019: Germany – Nordrhein-Westfalen

Small as the Netherlands may be in the global jigsaw, it has been the source of numerous significant impulses in terms of architecture and design, numerous significant impulses which for reasons of brevity we’ll reduce to the Dutch gable as a defining feature of baroque architecture, to De Stijl as leading protagonists of the early 20th century European avant-garde, and to that late 20th century Dutch avant-garde that developed in the course of the 1990s and which did so much to force an evolution in understandings of design, including allowing for an increasing popular acceptance of conceptual design and thereby the understanding that design isn’t necessarily the object but how one gets there and what we (can) collectively learn from the journey.

How the coming generation of Dutch, and in the Netherlands trained non-Dutch, designers are making their way, what they’ve learned thus far from their journey and why they are undertaking the journey, were among the motivations for taking our 2019 #campustour to the Netherlands.

Small as the Netherlands may be in the global jigsaw, our visits to its design schools was the source of more than could comfortably be accommodated in one post, and so we’ve split it into two, starting in Maastricht and Arnhem…….

#campustour 2019: Netherlands - Maastricht & Arnhem

Whereas in the natural world spring ushers in new life but once a year, in the design museum world re-awakenings are biannual: a spring spring as curators awake from their winter hibernation and an autumn spring as they awake from their summer dormancy. Both bringing forth not only the promise of growth, energy, of a new esprit, of new experiences, new sensations, but confirming the eternal nature of existence, that we are but a moment on an endless spiralling continuum…….

Our five new stimulations for September 2019 can be found in Berlin, Helsinki, Weil am Rhein, Stockholm and ‘s-Hertogenbosch…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for September 2019

In 1968 the East German designer Rudolf Horn opined that “the changed tenor of industrial production in the socialist society, in relation to its task of satisfying cultural needs on a mass scale, raises the question of how despite mass production the consumer can realise an individual [domestic] environment, and in addition forces us to consider the problem of how the cultured personality can creatively contribute to the design of their immediate surroundings.”1

How indeed….?

It was, however, a largely rhetorical question, because, and as the exhibition Rudolf Horn – Wohnen als offenes System at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden explains, in 1967 Rudolf Horn had already formulated an answer, or perhaps more accurately put, in 1967 formulated a framework via which to allow each and everyone of us to approach our own answer…..

Rudolf Horn - Wohnen als offenes System, the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden

If the recent history of Germany is one of East and West, the longer history is one of North and South; a history which, and simplifying to the point of falsehood, saw the rivalry and conflict between the Hanseatic League and the traders of the southern states become a rivalry and conflict between Prussia and the realms of Baden, Württemberg, Hessen and Bavaria: the latter being the most reluctant to ratify the 1870 November Treaties and join the new Deutsches Reich. A reluctance expressed not only by the then Bavarian parliament’s protracted deliberations on, and initial rejection of, the Treaties, but Bavaria’s then King, Ludwig II, he of the fairytale castles, absence from the formal proclamation of the Kaiserreich in January 1871.

Yet despite Bavaria’s long, deep, and (arguably) continuing, resistance and hostility to the union, it is Weißbier, Lederhosen and FC Bayern, and fairytale castles, which stand representative for many a non-German’s understanding of German identity.

Conversely, while Bavaria has contributed much to the development of contemporary design in Germany, not least through the efforts of, and amongst many others, the late 19th/early 20th century Vereinigte Werkstätten für Kunst im Handwerk, Die Neue Sammlung as one of the oldest and largest dedicated design museums, the Munich born and based designer Konstantin Grcic or Stuttgart born but Chiemgau based design publisher Nils Holger Moormann, the popular understanding of “Designed in Germany” lies outwith the Freistaat, in the realms of gute Form, largely developed in Ulm and arguably most popularly understood through Braun; in Stuttgart’s Porsche or Wolfsburg’s Volkswagen; or, and this year of all years, by Bauhaus, an institution which as we noted in context of our 2019 smow Song Contest coverage, was very, very Prussian in its make up, students from Bavaria being outnumbered by those from Mars. More or less.

But what can Bavaria’s design schools contribute to altering such a position? To raising the profile of Bavarian design? We can’t offer any concrete prognosis, or at least not here, logistic realities meaning that we only visited two Bavarian design schools, technically three but we’ll get to that, at length; however, from the two (three) we did visit……

#campustour 2019: Germany - Bavaria

Partly for reasons of its size, and partly on account of the way the then nations of the contemporary Germany responded to the challenges and realities of late 19th/early 20th century industrialisation, Germany is home to a truly outrageous number of architecture and design schools, certainly more than it would be logical, prudent or congenial to pack into one post.

And so to save your nerves, and our fingers, we’ll present the German leg of our 2019 #campustour via a series of regional postings, starting in and around the German capital.

campustour 2019: Germany - Berlin & Brandenburg

The Hungarian composer Béla Bartók was (reportedly) the opinion that, “in art there are only fast or slow developments. Essentially it is a matter of evolution, not revolution.”

A position one, arguably, could apply to all expressions of contemporary culture and society.

And a position the exhibition SPACES. Interior design evolution at the ADAM Brussels Design Museum explores in context of domestic interiors.

SPACES. Interior design evolution, ADAM Brussels Design Museum, Brussels

According to our old friend Roget possible synonyms for “August” include great, noble, impressive or worshipful.

We can’t promise the following quintet of exhibitions will exactly meet such qualities; however, they promise to be anything but frivolous, undignified or flighty explorations of their subject, and therefore certainly should be tending to the August in August 2019…….

5 New Architecture and Design Exhibitions for August 2019

In these dispatches we once doubted the prevalence of designer furniture in comics, noting and acknowledging the regular appearance of popular furniture designs in other visual media, we, off-handedly, opined, “… Designer furniture in a comic?”

Elegantly proving us very, very wrong the Vitra Design Museum’s exhibition Living in a Box. Design and Comics not only explores the use and depiction of designer furniture and lighting in comics, but also considers how comics have contributed to and influenced furniture and lighting design.

Living in a Box. Design and Comics, Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot

July was once known as Quintilis, and was the fifth month of the Roman calender. The fifth of ten. “Winter” being but an ill-defined cold and dark period between December and March.

And sensible as such as an arrangement sounds, and much as we could live with such an arrangement today, with the rise of the Roman Republic the wise decision was made to divide winter into January and February.

Wise not least because it means our contemporary year has 12 months: and thus two extra months in which to enjoy even more architecture and design exhibitions, and thereby to allow us all to even better understand the world which surrounds us.

Our quintet for Quintilis 2019 can be found in Stuttgart, San Francisco, Weil am Rhein, Melbourne and Dresden……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for July 2019

To paraphrase the title of the recent exhibition at the Deutsche Architekturmuseum, with the Neues Frankfurt project the team of architects and urban planners around Ernst May and Ludwig Landmann sought to develop new housing for new humans.

With the exhibition Wie wohnen die Leute? the Historisches Museum Frankfurt explore the contemporary reality of the Neues Frankfurt estates and thereby the new housing of then in context of the new humans of today.

A home adapts by the group Historischer Stadtspaziergang, as seen at Wie wohnen die Leute? Historisches Museum Frankfurt

According to the old saying “Human spirit and the June wind often change swiftly”, and while we can undertake only little to influence the wind, a visit to an architecture or design exhibition should help strengthen, enhance, embolden and thus stabilise the human spirit. In June, or at any time of the year.

Our five recommendations for new exhibitions opening in June 2019 can be found in Ulm, Hornu, Munich, Gothenburg and Boston……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for June 2019

While the shortlist of exhibitions for this column is regularly long, that for May 2019 was particularly so.

And particularly tricky. Perusing it we saw no realistic chance of getting it down to five, all made good claims for inclusion, none deserved to be ignored……

Then we noticed that, with a little bit tweaking, we could get two lists: one featuring those exhibitions directly connected with Bauhaus/Inter-War architecture and design, and one featuring those less directly connected.

💡

The Bauhaus/Inter-War architecture and design list will follow, but for all keen to explore architecture and design in a wider context, five new exhibitions opening in May 2019 in Munich, New York, Berlin, Basel & Villingen-Schwenningen, you may like to consider visiting……..

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2019

Sitting, quietly, unobtrusively, in the north-western corner of Germany, Oldenburg is, in many regards, a near textbook example of a provincial town. Which we don’t mean as an insult. Doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. In any sense less worthy than elsewhere. Much more Oldenburg is the sort of self-contained community that exists not so much independent of the rest of the world, but without the rest of the world noticing. Or Oldenburg caring if they notice. Oldenburg has its (hi)stories, its intrigues, its characters, its dramas, its ways, its understandings, the sheer number of cafes in the pedestrianised town centre confirming that it does, and that is all important for Oldenburg. But Oldenburg is inconspicuous. Oldenburg isn’t the sort of place that is ever going to feature on the news, is never casually referenced in TV programmes, magazine articles or radio discussions, if they have a football team, then not one who play in a league you’ve ever heard of. Oldenburg is the sort of place one is from, but one would never move to. Respectable, decorous, correct, happy, unassuming. Provincial.

And thus surely not the sort of place to be troubled by something as radical, avant-garde and reformist as Bauhaus.

Surely……..

………………But yes.

And, as the exhibition Between Utopia and Adaptation. The Bauhaus in Oldenburg in the Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte discusses, was not only troubled by, but actively contributed to.

Between Utopia and Adaptation. The Bauhaus in Oldenburg, Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Oldenburg

“We feel ourselves beholden to the traditions of Bauhaus”1 opined Rolf Kuhn, Director of the Dessau based Zentrum für Gestaltung, in the catalogue for the institute’s 1988 exhibition Experiment Bauhaus.

And while that may have been the case in the late 1980s, it certainly wasn’t always so in East Germany.

With the exhibition Shaping everyday life! Bauhaus modernism in the GDR the Dokumentationszentrum Alltagskultur der DDR in Eisenhüttenstadt allow for not only an exploration of the relationship(s) between the Bauhaus legacy and the East German state, but also for comparisons between inter-War and post-War design in eastern Germany.

3101 chair from VEB Stima Stendal (l) Werkstattstuhl by Mart Stam for Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee (m) & Seminarstuhl Selman Selmanagic, Herbert Hirche & Liv Falkenberg for Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau (r), as seen at Shaping everyday life! Bauhaus modernism in the GDR, Dokumentationszentrum Alltagskultur der DDR, Eisenhüttenstadt

“Form should not be finite but should be amorphous, so that the experience within is loose, meandering and multiple” – Balkrishna Doshi1

With the exhibition Architecture for the People the Vitra Design Museum explore Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi’s understanding of, belief in and approach to realising the amorphous, the social, the humane, in architecture.

Balkrishna Doshi. Architecture for the People, Vitra Design Museum

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Enticed us into the following architecture and design exhibitions…….

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98, From you have I been absent in the spring (extended, with apologies)

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for April 2019

Whereas at Bauhaus Weimar and Dessau architecture was essentially a subject of theory and experimentation, elsewhere in inter-War Europe architecture was theory and practice, and that, occasionally, on a large scale. Such as the Neues Frankfurt project.

Instigated in 1925 by Frankfurt’s then Mayor Ludwig Landmann and employing a team of some 148 architects, urban planners, garden designers, journalists et al, under the leadership of Ernst May and Martin Elsaesser, Neues Frankfurt realised between 1925 and 1933 some 12,000 new homes in Frankfurt; but for all indicated possible new forms of building, new forms of living, new forms of financing housing and new forms of urban planning. New forms that were not only responsive to the new political, social and economic realities of the 1920s, but utilised to that end advances in both process/materials technologies and also scientific understandings.

With the exhibition New Human, New Housing: Architecture of the New Frankfurt 1925–1933 the Deutsches Architekturmuseum Frankfurt reflect on the project, and into the future of urban planning and the provision of of housing in the city.

New Human, New Housing - Architecture of the New Frankfurt 1925–1933, the Deutsches Architekturmuseum Frankfurt

Were it possible that there could be such a thing as a “lost” Bauhaus building, something wholly unimaginable this of all years, then the best candidate would, arguably, have to be the ADGB Bundesschule in Bernau bei Berlin. Yes, it is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and so is not really lost; however as an object it only rarely features, and when then invariably passingly, in the popular Bauhaus discourse …. and that despite being built by a serving Bauhaus Director.

With the exhibition Volksbedarf statt Luxusbedarf – Bernau and its Bauhaus the Galerie Bernau aim to not only help increase the works visibility but also allow for a better understanding of its character.

Volksbedarf statt Luxusbedarf - Bernau and its Bauhaus @ Galerie Bernau