Category: Architecture


One could be forgiven for thinking that little would be as pointless as a Le Corbusier colouring-in book.

So singularly achromatic is the popular understanding of Le Corbusier, a lack of colour reinforced by the dour, austere, round bespectacled, persona which so universally defines Le Corbusier: what, one asks oneself, could there possibly be to colour in a Le Corbusier colouring-in book?

Yet in contrast to the popular Le Corbusier image, Le Corbusier’s career was one undertaken in colour. A career accompanied by, informed by, arguably driven by, considerations on and the study of colour.

An (oft overlooked) aspect of his work, of his understandings and approaches, and persona, explored in the exhibition Le Corbusier and Color at the, appropriately kaleidoscopic, Pavillon Le Corbusier, Zürich.

Le Corbusier and Color at the Museum für Gestaltung, Pavillon Le Corbusier, Zürich

“Space and form are important elements in the creation of the [interior] environment”, opined the Danish architect, artist and designer Verner Panton in 1969, however, he continues, “colours are even more important”.

And no-one, even those with but the briefest familiarity with Verner Panton, can oversee the colour in Verner Panton’s work.

Yet important as colour and space and form were for Panton, “in the creation of the [interior] environment”, “l’homme reste l’élément central“, man remains the central element.1

With the exhibition Verner Panton – Colouring a New World, Trapholt, Kolding, undertake a search for the human in the colourful new world of Verner Panton.

Verner Panton - Colouring a New World, Trapholt, Kolding

In days of yore October was known in Germanic lands as Weinmonat, Wine Month, Month of Wine, whereby thoughts were, unquestionably, less with the drink as with the grape and the harvest, and thus the promise of the new wine.

And in many regards our exhibition recommendations can be considered a monthly harvest of the new crop of architecture and design exhibitions; specifically, and staying in Germanic registers, an Auslese, a considered selection of those well ripened concepts and premises it is hoped will most excite an invigorate the palate both experienced and novice. Or the viewer, experienced or novice.

Our quintet of, possible, new, memorable vintages from Weinmonat 2021 can be found in Ulm, Stockholm, ’s-Hertogenbosch, Paris and Tokyo…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for October 2021

In her 1929 essay A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf, as a component of her reflections on the myriad subjects of ‘women and fiction’, reads her way, chronologically, through a bookcase of works written by women from across the centuries.

Here We Are! Women in Design 1900 – Today at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, has the feeling of Virginia Woolf’s bookcase, allowing as it does for reflections on, and a critical questioning of, the myriad subjects of ‘women and design’…….

Here We Are! Women in Design 1900 - Today, Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein

In September 1951 the East German newspaper Neue Zeit informed its readers that, “whomever travels to Fürstenberg sees the beginnings of the new city, a city planned according to the “Principles of Urban Development”.1

Whomever travels to Fürstenberg today arrives in Eisenhüttenstadt, the planned city that arose from those “beginnings”; and a city which, arguably, more than any other, stands proxy for the rise and fall of East Germany.

With the exhibition Endless Beginning. The Transformation of the Socialist City, the Museum Utopie und Alltag explore not only the past, present and future of Eisenhüttenstadt, but also employs Eisenhüttenstadt as a conduit for more general reflections on urban planning and the ongoing, inevitable, intrinsic, transformation(s) of our cities. Socialist or otherwise……

Downtown Eisenhüttenstadt largely in Plaspi and..... Sugar, as seen in Endless Beginning. The Transformation of the Socialist City, Museum Utopie und Alltag, Eisenhüttenstadt

According to the 6th century CE antiquarian John the Lydian, “the oracle recommends drinking milk for the sake of good health all through the month of September”.1

And while milk may have advantages in terms of your physical health, for your spiritual and intellectual health, we’d recommend the following quintet of new architecture, design and art exhibitions opening in September 2021.

Whereby, exhibitions and milk aren’t mutually exclusive, you can partake of both if you so wish……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for September 2021

Globally some 2 billion of us live in a city of more than 500,000 inhabitants.1

A number that is progressively growing.

But what does “city” mean?

Not lexicographically, but physically, culturally, socially, politically, economically, morally, etc, etc, etc?

With the exhibition Die Stadt. Between Skyline and Latrine the smac – Staatliches Museum für Archäologie Chemnitz attempt to approach possible answers……

A model of Archigram’s 1964 Walking City as part of a discussion on literary and architectural ideal cities, as seen as, Die Stadt Between Skyline and Latrine, smac - Staatliches Museum für Archäologie Chemnitz

“We must endeavour to introduce a little order into this business, or at least sense into a great deal of it. But what is sense without order? We must try to find some method of arriving at some sort of order – one that will at least enable us to escape from this vagueness in the design of colour”, opined Amédée Ozenfant in 1937.1

And had an idea or two as to the how…….

Not directly associated with Amédée Ozenfant, but being as it is the house next door to the house/studio designed by Le Corbusier for Amédée Ozenfant in Paris in 1922 (the one on the right-hand side), is a nice metaphor of the dearth of images of Amédée Ozenfant and/or his work available: it's the next best thing. Also because it very neatly mirrors Amédée Ozenfant's 1937 views on ivy and Virginia creeper....... (photo by Mbzt via commons.wikimedia.org CC BY 3.0)

We published our first exhibition recommendations list in November 2013, and have diligently, and joyfully, ended every month since with a list of five architecture and design related exhibitions opening in the coming month that appear worthy of a recommendation.

A tradition we very much planned to continue in July 2021 for August 2021.

And would have; however, having undertaken our regular tour through our database of international museums and galleries, we can find but two exhibitions opening in August 2021 we, in all good conscience, can recommend. And while we don’t always stick religiously to the 5 in months of scarcity, 2 is… 2 few. And so we’ll find another way to integrate them into the blog.

August is always slow for new exhibitions, primarily because, and certainly in the USA and Europe, everyone is on holiday; however, we get the feeling that August 2021’s paucity is related to the realities of the past few months.

Any exhibition is the result of years of planning, years of planning that never feels quite long enough, and events such as a Covid pandemic that eats into that limited time have a very real effect on the preparation and realisation of exhibitions; meaning that all museums have been forced to reschedule their programmes, a rescheduling that in addition to a great many, and regrettable, cancellations has seen many museums extend the runs of those exhibitions that are open until the accrued losses in time can be made good.

And which, we very much get the feeling, means many museums are waiting for autumn 2021 (northern hemisphere)/spring 2021 (southern hemisphere) to launch new exhibitions, to re-set their programmes and planning schedules. Which means that for September 2021 and October 2021 we may very well get two lists for each month. All going to plan.

But means for August 2021, rather than 5 new openings… 32 architecture and design exhibitions already running that are, or certainly appear to be, worthy of a recommendation.

And as ever in these times, if you are planning visiting any exhibition please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious……

32 new-ish Architecture & Design Exhibitions for August 2021

As the worldline of architecture’s spacetime continuum moves through the 1970s and ever further into the 1980s it becomes increasingly blurry, indistinct, harder to confidently follow: established conventions and systems, acknowledged fundamental and/or necessary rules of architecture become increasingly difficult to locate.

Indeed were there rules in 1980s architecture?

With the exhibition Anything Goes? Berlin Architecture in the 1980s the Berlinische Galerie explore the architectural developments in the, then, two Berlins, and in doing so not only allow one to approach better understandings of the architectural development of the, now, one Berlin, but also to question the putative lawless of 1980s architecture…….

Anything Goes? Berlin Architecture in the 1980s, Berlinische Galerie, Berlin

We go in withering July,
To ply the hard incessant hoe;
Panting beneath the brazen sky,
We sweat and grumble, but we go…..1

…..alternatively, skip the panting, sweating and grumbling with a visit to an air-conditioned museum.

Our recommendations for escaping the brazen sky of withering July 2021 can be found in Munich, Aalborg, Eisenhüttenstadt, Wrocław and Karlsruhe.

And as ever in these times, if you are planning visiting any exhibition please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for July 2021

“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it is always June”, ponders Anne Shirley in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1915 novel Anne of the Island.

“You’d get tired of it”, sighs her adoptive mother Marilla Cuthbert by way of reply.

“I daresay”, responds Anne, “but just now I feel that it would take me a long time to get tired of it…”

Thoughts we very much concur with as we survey and contemplate the varied profusion of new architecture and design exhibitions sprouting forth in June 2021. Who could ever tire of such a joyous abundance? Who?

Our five recommendations from that early summer crop can be found in Leipzig, Hornu, Berlin, Bloomfield Hills and Chemnitz…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for June 2021

“¿Qué es diseño?” asked Clara Porset in 1949. What is design?1

Not because she didn’t know. Far from it. Over the course of the preceding two decades Clara Porset had ably demonstrated her considered, critical and responsive understandings of design; understandings that saw her develop into one of the most important, interesting and informative furniture designers in Mexico, understandings that saw her develop into one of the more important, interesting and informative protagonists in the development of industrial design in Mexico.

Before she slipped from view and into the (relative) anonymity she finds herself today.

Before the more pertinent question became, ¿quién es Clara Porset?

Clara Porset (1895 - 1981) (photo commons.wikimedia.org CC BY-SA 4.0, courtesy Archivo Clara Porset Dumas)

In 1935 George Nelson opined that “the history of art in Italy presents the astonishing spectacle of a series of men who knew no boundaries between the arts”; a history, a tradition, Nelson saw continued into 1930s Italy through “the cheering example of Gio Ponti, who found early in life that no one profession was sufficient to use up his energy or exhaust his interests, and added others with the nonchalance of a small boy increasing his collection of marbles”.1

A borderless, inexhaustible collection of marbles explored and discussed in the new Gio Ponti monograph from TASCHEN Verlag……

Gio Ponti, with two Superleggera chairs (Photo Dan Wynn © Gio Ponti Archives/Historical Archive of Ponti’s Heirs, courtesy Taschen Verlag)

According to Germanic folklore Mairegen bringt Segen, Rain in May brings blessings.

It also brings an excellent excuse to visit an architecture and/or design exhibition.

Our five recommended shelters from the showers in May 2021 can be found in Ulm, Stockholm, Baruth, Zürich and Hasselt……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2021

In 1956 the Dutch electronics conglomerate Phillips asked Le Corbusier if he would be interested in designing their pavilion for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels.

Le Corbusier was.

Albeit, “je ne ferai pas de pavillon; je ferai un Poème électronique avec la bouteille qui contiendra“, “I will not create a pavilion; I will create a Poème électronique with the bottle to contain it.”1

And a pavilion/bottle/Poème électronique which offers an apposite starting point to approaching a differentiated image, a differentiated composition?, of Le Corbusier…….2

Radio smow A Le Corbusier Playlist 2021

As the 19th century English poet Robert Browning so very, very, nearly phrased it:

Oh, to be in Berlin, Vienna, Chemnitz, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, or Berlin (again),
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in Berlin, Vienna, Chemnitz, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, or Berlin (again),
Sees, some morning a most interesting, entertaining and instructive sounding architecture and/or design exhibition,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for April 2021

With the 2021 Pritzker Architecture Prize being awarded to Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal international attention has become focused on architectural strategies geared towards maintaining existing buildings in the face of evolving economic, social, demographic, et al, realities rather than demolishing and erecting new ones by way of a response; and also of the value, the economic, the social, the cultural and the environmental value, of reusing, remodelling and reimagining that which exists rather than replacing through rebuilding and replanning.

The Deutsche Architektur Zentrum Berlin’s exhibition Caring for what already exists. Ten Architectural Strategies was developed, and was scheduled to open, long, long, before Lacaton & Vassal’s selection; however, in asking questions of how buildings and urban spaces could, should, must?, evolve with those societies and communities around them, questions of the relationships between built environments and the communities with which they co-exist, its delayed opening has not only brought its themes a new popular relevance to compliment their unquestioned importance, but also allows it to help contribute to the sharpening or our collective foci in context of architecture and our built environments….

Caring for what already exists. Ten Architectural Strategies, Deutsche Architektur Zentrum, Berlin

Design ist unsichtbar“, Design is invisible/unseen proclaimed the Swiss sociologist Lucius Burckhardt in 1981.1

Which surprised a great many in 1981.

And may surprise a great many in 2021……

Lucius Burckhardt (1925 - 2003) (Photo Annemarie Burckhardt, © Martin Schmitz Verlag)

“One sits more comfortably on a colour that one likes” declares Verner Panton in his 1997 book Lidt om Farver/Notes on Colour.1

A succinct expression of an understanding of colour as more than just a decorative element, and one of many reflections on the function and relevance of colour beyond the merely decorative which, in a myriad guises, pervade the history of furniture and product design.

And contrasting, if at times complementary, reflections, pun intended, we will consider in the coming weeks and months via a selection of texts and pronouncements from a contrasting, if at times complementary, collection of international creatives. And while not all the sources considered represent theories in a classic understanding of the term, and certainly not colour theory in a classic understanding; in representing the respective creative’s understandings of the relationships between colour and form, colour and function, colour and user, colour and artistry, etc, can be considered as contributions to the development of a more formal design.colour.theory..

We start with Verner Panton and Lidt om Farver/Notes on Colour……

The Panton Chair by Verner Panton for Vitra .... but on which one would you sit most comfortably......?

Following the declaration of the French Republic in 1792 a new calendar was introduced in the realms of France: the Revolution had washed away France past and the Republic marked the start of a new reality for mankind, one of universal Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, and therefore demanded a resetting of the collective clock, a new measuring of time, and thus out went the Gregorian calendar and its historic associations with church and state, and in came le calendrier républicain, the French Republican Calendar.

And while, yes, one can consider the belief amongst the new republicans in the eternal gloriousness of the coming future as somewhat naive, one must remember that we can reflect on their optimism with the benefit of over 200 years hindsight and experience.

The argument for a new calendar appears however as compelling and self-evident as it must have done at its adoption on October 24th 1793. Or 3 Brumaire II, as we believe le calendrier républicain would date the day of its adoption.

Aside from its ten day week, an early attempt at bringing decimalisation to our time keeping, and the bequeathing of every day its own unique name, the principle difference between the Gregorian and Republican calendars is the move from the 12 months of varying lengths inherited from the Romans to twelve months each comprising thirty days, three ten day weeks, and the renaming of the months to give them a connection to nature rather than to Romans: the period between 19/20th February and 19/20th March, that period in which we find ourselves at the time of writing, being known as Ventôse, from venteux, windy, and was preceded by Pluviôse, rainy, and followed by Germinal, germination

Which all strikes us as particularly apposite as we move towards the next phase of our post-pandemic society; as a fresh wind blows the global rain clouds away and ushers in a period of re-birth and springing forth. Yes, such optimism may be as naive as that of the French revolutionaries, but we have a much better understanding of history today, and for all a much better understanding of the sense and logic in, utter necessity of, making use of the myriad lessons of history in order to avoid the pitfalls and follies of the past, and to allow us to chart an untroubled course forward……oh…..hang on……

Although, now is as good a time as any to start. The theory is known, we just need to move into the practice. And so given that all nations and all peoples have had their Corona tribulations should we not think about re-setting our global clocks, starting afresh at a new global year zero for a new global society?

We’ll leave others more qualified than us to work out the practicalities and technicalities, and decide on the basis of the nomenclature, and instead recommend here four new exhibitions scheduled to open in Germinal CCXX, and thus, one hopes, once the winds of Ventôse have begun to do their job, and also recommend a radio station that’s been online since the rains of Pluviôse….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for March 2021

Alongside the Chinese and Korean New Year celebrations one of the most popular observances in any given February is, arguably, the Feast Day of Saint Valentine on February 14th; St Valentine famously being the patron saint of greetings card manufacturers, lovers, but less famously, if just as importantly, also offering protection from the plague.

Now while the misanthropes amongst you will query whether love and plague aren’t synonyms, and a pox upon you for that; this February 14th we could all do with not only a little love, but a goodly dose of plague protection. And so rather than the traditional veneration of St Valentine through the distribution of hurriedly purchased and poorly considered flowers and chocolates, how about we all agree to celebrate the life of St Valentine through taking a little more care of one another, spreading a little more communal love and a little less plague, taking the weight of his shoulders for a few hours………….?

Beyond offering protection to lovers and from the plague, and protecting beekeepers, St Valentine also offers protection to travellers, which sadly no-one is these days. But those days will come again.

Until they do we continue with our hybrid exhibitions recommendations lists: that for February 2021 featuring a trio of offline exhibitions in Weil am Rhein, Hamburg und Falkenberg, and while they in all probability wont open as planned, will open, and before they do offer impetus for a little self study, and also two online highlights to explore, research and, for all, enjoy at your leisure.

Perhaps on February 14th, for as we all know, the couple that develop and deepen their design understandings together, stay together……

5 (New) Architecture & Design Exhibitions for February 2021

In 1936 Aino Aalto opined that “homes can be given interior design in other ways than before – not by buying expensive complete suites of furniture, but by concentrating on low-cost furnishings which can be used – with the aid of flowers, carpets, drapery and colours – to create hitherto more practical and more comfortable homes.”1

A break not only with the understandings, the ways, of generations long past in terms of what constitutes appropriate furniture; but also a break with the ways of many of the functionalist modernist practitioners of the immediately preceding decade in terms of what constitutes an interior design.

And an opinion, an understanding, which underscores why Aino Aalto stands as an important moment in the (hi)story of interior and furniture design…..

Aino Aalto (1894 - 1949)

The only certainty as 2020 flows into 2021 is the ongoing uncertainty. An uncertainty that is increasingly being understood as an ongoing certainty and thereby turning ever more “plans” into “options”.

And also causing a great many global architecture and design museums to skip over the first quarter of 2021 as if weren’t there, and to move their new exhibition openings to April and beyond.

A state of affairs which on the one hand means there are currently fewer lonelier locations than any given museum’s “future exhibitions” listings; but on the other hand means that much as the coldest hour is the one just before the dawn, so it is increasingly certain, as in “old” certain, that the paucity of new exhibitions opening in the first quarter of 2021 will cede to a flood come spring. And so you can now plan, as in old “plan”, to visit an exhibition a day come summer. And still have options. Old and new

And a state of affairs which has to a degree forced our hand and produced a hybrid recommendations list for January 2021: offline exhibitions in Berlin, Hamburg and Metz; online exhibitions from Warsaw and Weimar/Dessau.

And as ever in these times, if you do feel comfortable visiting any museum, please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious…….

5 (New) Architecture & Design Exhibitions for January 2021

“Only slowly does it dawn on people that modern furniture must be designed on the basis of practical necessities”, observed the Danish architect and designer Kaare Klint in 1930.1

How Kaare Klint understood those “practical necessities”, how he understood “modern furniture”, would not only define his career, but in many regards define the development of 20th century furniture design in Denmark.

Kaare Klint (1888 - 1954)