“What is the goal?” asked Elsie de Wolfe in 1913 in context of domestic interior design.
“A house”, she answered, “that is like the life that goes on within it, a house that gives us beauty as we understand it and beauty of a nobler kind that we may grow to understand, a house that looks amenity.”1
How Elsie de Wolfe understood such, and how over the intervening century and a bit understandings of life, beauty, nobler beauty, amenity, the goal(s) of domestic interior design have developed and expanded are explored and discussed in the Vitra Design Museum’s exhibition Home Stories: 100 Years, 20 Visionary Interiors.
On March 6th 1927 the exhibition Europäisches Kunstgewerbe opened at the Grassimuseum Leipzig, not only a presentation of contemporary European applied arts but the inaugural exhibition in the museum’s (almost finished) new home on the city’s Johannisplatz.
With the exhibition Spitzen des Art déco the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst Leipzig stage not only a presentation of European Art déco porcelain, but a reminder of both the Johannisplatz complex’s Art déco heritage and the vibrancy, colour and roar of the 1920s.
Our increasingly networked, digital, virtual society is not only changing our relationship to innumerable everyday activities, activities such as personal communication, shopping or watching television to name but three, and thereby activities which a few short years ago seemed destined to remain unchanged for ever, but is also changing our relationship to work, be that in terms of what we do, where we do it or how we do it.
Changes which invariably place both new demands on our furniture, and our understanding of the term “functional” in context of furniture; an understanding which a few short years ago seemed destined to remain unchanged for ever.
With the showcase USM Haller HomeWork smow Cologne consider responses to such evolutions with the assistance of the USM Haller modular furniture system.
Off late, and certainly in a European context, January has become a month of forgoing, eschewing and general abstention, with campaigns such as Dry January and Veganuary extolling us to utilise our guilt at our dangerous, decadent, gluttony of late December as an impetus to radically alter our behaviour, as a catalyst for reduction.
And while less is unquestionably more, and thus worth striving for, fundamental change is invariably more sustainably and meaningfully achieved through better understandings rather than by sudden, extreme, knee-jerk, changes; that more information can lead to less harmful choices. More information and better understandings such as those an architecture or design exhibition can provide.
We can’t promise the following five will necessarily change your (unhealthy) relationship to alcohol or food, they should however allow for new perspectives on the world around us, new perspectives which should allow for new reflections on your relationship to that world, and, potentially, a healthier, happier you. And a healthier, happier world. Potentially.
“…when we shall hear
The rain and wind beat dark December, how,
In this our pinching cave, shall we discourse
The freezing hours away?”
asks Arvirargus of his brother Guiderius in Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline, before lamenting,
“We have seen nothing”
Easily solved old boy, a visit to an architecture or design exhibition should not only provide for new, stimulating, impressions but plenty of discourse throughout not only December but for many, many months to come.
For all a visit in December 2019 to the following new exhibitions opening in Vienna, Holon, Bloomfield Hills, Weil am Rhein & San Francisco……..
Sitting unassumingly, and largely unnoticed, in the middle of Germany, the city of Gotha may have only little resonance with the majority, with the great unwashed; however, every European royal family can trace their lineage back to Gotha: most famously the English royal family through Queen Victoria’s 1840 marriage to Prince Albert, but the royal houses of Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Holland, Norway, you get the idea, can all trace their lineage back to and through Gotha.
Gotha and royalty ✔
Gotha and inter-war Modernism ¿✔?
As this Bauhaus Weimar centenary year is making ever clearer, whereas Bauhaus may have been physically sited in Weimar, Dessau and (nominally) Berlin, approaching a better understanding of “Bauhaus” involves leaving those sites and following the many paths that either led to, or from, those sites.
Paths that not only allow one to approach a better understanding of “Bauhaus”, but for all to approach a better understanding of the wider developments of the inter-War years, of inter-War Modernism, and thus to better understand that Bauhaus was but a component of that period, but a component of inter-War Modernism.
And paths, such as those mapped by the Brandenburgisches Landesmuseum für moderne Kunst, that invariably lead to new places, to new understandings and to an Unknown Modernism………
Whereas the 1920s may have been Roaring, Golden, Années folles, a decade which could be certain that The Great War, that war to end all wars, had brought lasting peace to Europe, and where the utopian visions of the International Modernists, coupled to political and social emancipation and technological progress, made everything possible, and meant we could all gaily Charleston away our nights and days; the 1920s was also the decade that ushered Europe into one of the darkest periods in its history.
With the exhibition Design of the Third Reich the Design Museum Den Bosch explores the role of artists, architects and designers, in helping that darkness settle over 1930s Europe……..
László Moholy-Nagy may have given Marianne Brandt “mettle for metal”, and metal may be the material with which she is most readily and popularly associated; however, as she wrote in 1922, “Ich bin ganz von Glas”….. I am entirely glass.
Fragile? Transparent? Opaque? Metamorphic? Refractive? Sparkling?
For its 7th edition the triennial International Marianne Brandt Contest sought projects exploring glass in all its interpretations, properties and essences; the 60 nominated projects being presented alongside a cabinet showcase devoted to Marianne Brandt in the exhibtion Ich bin ganz von Glas. Marianne Brandt and the Art of Glass Today at the Sächsische Industriemuseum Chemnitz.
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……………
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.
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…..
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….
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……
“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.
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…….
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…….
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…….
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
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…..
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……
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.
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.
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…….
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.
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……