Category: Architecture


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)

“With every new building the first task is to clarify the needs that will arise in context of its use”,1 opined Peter Behrens on December 10th 1912 at the official inauguration of the new administrative HQ for the Prussian industrial concern Mannesmannröhren-Werke AG.

And while Peter Behrens was certainly not the first to opine such, with the so-called Mannesmann-Haus in Düsseldorf he realised one of the earliest large office buildings designed to evolve and develop as those needs evolved and developed.

Mannesmann-Haus, Düsseldorf by Peter Behrens

To paraphrase the Propellerheads, this is just a little bit of a blog post repeating

For much as with our November 2020 exhibition recommendations, so some of our December 2020 exhibition recommendations won’t be opening. Or at least not in December 2020.

But then as now are in still in our list.

On the one hand because they will open, and is an important part of any pleasure not the expectation and anticipation?

And on the other hand, because that which makes an exhibition recommendable in advance of its opening, that which makes its anticipation and expectation so pleasurable, is that it promises to present a rarely explored subject and/or promises to explore a regularly presented subject from a new and/or fresh and/or deeper perspective. And thus a recommendable exhibition is also a nudge that there may be more to learn and understand about architecture and design than you were aware of. And thus a stimulus for your own research. And what better season than winter for that research?

Our five recommendations/stimuli/nudges for December 2020 can be found in Berlin, Vienna, Helsinki, Rome and St Petersburg.

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 December 2020

Outwith his native Denmark, the country home to the most architectural works by Arne Jacobsen is Germany.

Yet the vast majority of them remain popularly unknown.

As does Arne Jacobsen’s partner on his German projects: Otto Weitling

With the showcase Gesamtkunstwerke – Architecture by Arne Jacobsen and Otto Weitling in Germany, the Felleshus Berlin not only set the record straight but allow for some fresh reflections on both Arne Jacobsen and our relationships to and with architecture and our built environments……

Gesamtkunstwerke – Architecture by Arne Jacobsen and Otto Weitling in Germany at Felleshus, The Nordic Embassies, Berlin

Back in May we were faced with the decision as to whether to remain with the online exhibition recommendations we’d been carrying throughout the spring, or, given that ever more museums were re-opening, move back offline for our June recommendations.

And decided to move back offline, not least because “viewing an exhibition in a museum is the more satisfying experience, the more rewarding experience, the more enduring experience. And an important experience.

Ahead of our November recommendations we faced a similar choice. Travel, certainly international travel, is not only becoming increasingly difficult and of questionable responsibility, but in many regions the official advice is not to travel unless absolutely necessary; meaning while most museums are open, they are, in a purely practical sense, inaccessible for many. And so is compiling a list of offline exhibitions a meaningful undertaking? Is such a list sensible? Should we move back to online recommendations?

Yes. Yes. No.

And not just because museums are important cultural spaces, but primarily because most all museums are open……

…..or were while we were writing this. However, the rapidly developing nature of contemporary society meant that just before publishing this post it became clear that two of our five November openings will not be opening in November.

We’ve kept them in the list. Not because we couldn’t change the list, not that we couldn’t have substituted them for two others. We could. We’re smow: quick, uncomplicated solutions is what we do, flexibility and spontaneity are our best friends, there is never a Plan B but always alternative options, no job is too big, no pup is too …. no, hang on, that’s Paw Patrol.

We could have substituted them.

But didn’t see why we should. Every month we scan hundreds of museums and galleries around the globe looking for interesting, relevant, recommendable architecture and design exhibitions, the five we present are those we consider to be the most interesting, relevant, recommendable. And no temporary lockdown closure changes that. And all going well, come December, all five will be open.

And now, returning to where our ready-for-posting text was on Friday morning……

……and also with the reminder that such a recommendations list shouldn’t be understood solely as suggestions of locations to physically visit, but also as an impetus for your own study and research, for voyages of cultural discovery from your own sofa and/or desk. Most museum websites have in-depth descriptions of their exhibitions and the themes therein, often components of the exhibition are available online, and there will, almost always, be a catalogue that goes into more depth and detail than the exhibition; and so if an exhibition interests you, and you physically can’t get to the respective museum, why not use the long autumn and winter evenings to explore on your own.

Our five recommendations for new exhibitions opening in November 2020, and five recommendations for a meaningful use of the long autumn and winter evenings, can be found in Frankfurt, Zürich, Jyväskylä, Oslo and Hamburg.

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 November 2020

“How far can we entrust the machine to design?” asked the American architect Louis I. Kahn in context of the 1968 conference Computer Graphics in Architecture and Design.

In his opinion, not much.

“The machine can communicate measure, but the machine cannot create, cannot judge, cannot design. This belongs to the mind”.1

And today?

With the exhibition The Architecture Machine. The Role of Computers in Architecture, the Architekturmuseum der TU München explore the (hi)story of the computer in architecture, the (hi)story of architecture in the computer and considers the question, if the course of those (hi)stories has seen the computer take control of architecture or architecture tame the computer…….?

Imaginary Architecture by Otto Beckmann (l) and Plotter Drawings by Günter Günschel (r), as seen at The Architecture Machine. The Role of Computers in Architecture, the Architekturmuseum der TU München

In 1977 Ludwig Glaeser, curator of the Mies van der Rohe Archive at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, opinioned that “it is certainly more than a coincidence that [Mies van der Rohe’s] involvement in furniture and exhibition design began in the same year as his personal relationship with Lilly Reich.”1

A statement that has in many regards come to define understandings of the furniture designs of both Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich.

An understanding that “is certainly more than a coincidence”. It is wrong. Certainly in terms of furniture design.

And a statement and understanding whose clarification not only provides an excellent starting point for an exploration of the furniture designs of Lilly Reich and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, but also for some reflections on the (hi)story of furniture design……..

Lilly Reich and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

“Last night the waiter put the celery on with the cheese, and I knew that summer was indeed dead”, opined once A.A. Milne, continuing that, while there may be other indications of autumn’s arrival, “it is only with the first celery that summer is over.”

And the first celery appears, or at least appeared in early 20th century England, in October.

Not that one should fear the celery, for in its crispness, freshness, tenderness, sweetness celery, so A.A. Milne, reminds us that winter isn’t only about the cold, wet, dark and dreary, but is a season which brings its own pleasures and joys, is a season of “crisp and sparkling days, long pleasant evenings, cheery fires” and to which we’ll add lingering visits to architecture and design exhibitions. Our recommendations for new showcases opening in October 2020 can be found in Munich, Milan, Rotterdam, Philadelphia and Brussels.

And as ever in these times, if you do feel comfortable about 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….

“Here’s to October—and, waiter, some more celery.”1

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for October 2020

As a general rule we prefer to focus the Design Calendar on positive events, it just seems more, well, positive; however, sometimes a negative event is more illustrative of a situation, provides for better access to a story.

An event such as Mart Stam’s beurlauben, suspension, as Rector of the Hochschule für angewandte Kunst, Berlin, on September 22nd 1952.

The unhappy end of Mart Stam’s not altogether joyful sojourn in East Germany.

But also a moment that allows for some focussed considerations on both the person Mart Stam and on his understandings of art, architecture and design.

Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee ca 1956, with its new extension. Thus not as Mart Stam knew it... (Photo: Hans-Günter Quaschinsky, courtesy Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-41083-0001 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 via commons.wikimedia.org)

Tuesday September 22nd marks the 2020 Southward Equinox, and thus the start of autumn in the northern hemisphere, and of spring in the southern hemisphere. Two seasons known throughout history for the vagaries, capriciousness, of their weather.

And thus two seasons perfectly suited to a longer architecture and design, or art, museum visit.

Our recommendations for four new showcases opening in September (autumn) 2020 can be found in Berlin, Kolding, Düsseldorf and Berlin (again); our recommendation for a new showcase opening in September (spring) 2020 can be found in Sydney.

And as ever in these times, if you do feel comfortable about 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 September 2020

“At the present day a library has become as necessary an appendage to a house as a hot and cold bath” wrote the Roman Stoic Seneca at some point in the first century CE, “I would excuse them straightway if they really were carried away by an excessive zeal for literature; but as it is, these costly works of sacred genius, with all the illustrations that adorn them, are merely bought for display and to serve as wall-furniture.”1

And today?

While the glossy coffee table book may be have become an increasingly popular, and commercially successful, use of books as idle representation, we’d be interested to know how many individuals in the past months have deliberately positioned themselves in front of a carefully reorganised bookcase for work video conferences, or how many politicians have ensured that an appropriately stocked bookcase serves as the background for their video interview?

For, and despite the, alleged, reduction in the relevance and importance of the printed word in contemporary society, the bookcase remains, in contrast to the bath, not only a near ubiquitous piece of domestic furniture, but a strongly symbolic object…….

Bookcases. Purely decorative. Or a source of knowledge and power best kept under lock and key......?

“Wij hebben de nieuwe wereld te scheppen” wrote a, then, 19 year old Mart Stam in 1919.1

“We have to create the new world”

And subsequently spent the following decades developing, explaining and demonstrating his understandings of what that meant……

Mart Stam (1899 - 1986)

“What August dosen’t do, September puts right”1 declared Johann Wolfgang Goethe.

And loathed as we are to contradict Goethe. He’s wrong.

August may be a time when one can allow oneself a little more freedom than the rest of the year; however, that which we call life is the actions, experiences, leanings, emotions of each month consecutively and sequentially building on, informing and evolving one-another, a month of inactivity is a month of moments missed, and hoping that September can in some form rectify for a laxness in August is wishful thinking.

And this year not particularly sensible: for as we all understand, that which we don’t do in August may come back to bite us in September.

Thus, on this occasion, ignore Goethe, and use August wisely, sagely and as a chance to get more out of September. And subsequently get more out of October. November. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Our five recommendations for meaningful things to do in August 2020, apart from regular hand washing, keeping abreast of local developments/advice and maintaining mutual respectful relations with those around you, can be found in Tallinn, Brussels, Malmö, Amsterdam and Berlin.

And as ever in these times, if you are planning visiting any museum or 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 August 2020

July is traditionally a slow month for new architecture and design exhibition openings. July 2020 less so. Not because of any fundamental changes in understandings amongst architecture and design museums of when is a good time to open an exhibition; but because owing to Corona many shows scheduled to open in the spring had to be postponed, not least until the museums were allowed to open.

And throughout July 2020 ever more museums are planned and planning to open; meaning ever more architecture and design exhibitions are planned and planning to open throughout July 2020.

And thus, while our physical travel options may still be limited, our (potential) cerebral and cultural travel spheres continues to expand, and that is never a bad thing.

If you do feel comfortable about visiting a museum, and are physically allowed to do so, as we will never tire of saying in these trying of times, 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 2020

Given the very close connections between Le Corbusier and France, one could be forgiven for, occasionally, forgetting that he was born in Switzerland.

With the exhibition Le Corbusier and Zürich the Museum für Gestaltung allow not only an insight into the Le Corbusier biography as charted by Switzerland’s largest city, but also of his not always easy relationship with the country of his birth.

Pavillon Le Corbusier, Zürich

“It’s not possible to define a style in my work”1, opined once the Italian architect and designer Gae Aulenti.

With the exhibition Gae Aulenti: A Creative Universe, the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot don’t contradict that opinion, but do provide for a framework for considerations on its validity……

Gae Aulenti: A Creative Universe, Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot

As previously noted, the (hi)story of the office is long and has its origins in functions and individuals rather than physical spaces; its understanding evolving over the course of several centuries as those functions/individuals gradually became synonyms for their physical place of activity. Before in the course of the 19th century its understanding became increasingly institutionalised, not least against the background of increasing commerce, industry and civic administration, and leading to the emergence of the “office building” as an identifiable branch of architecture; something, arguably, most popularly associated with the skyscrapers of Chicago, and in which context Louis H Sullivan penned the (fateful) words “form ever follows function, and this is the law.1

A law, tenet, understanding, option, that Sullivan’s former employee, and in many regards pupil, Frank Lloyd Wright developed to a milestone of office building design with his Larkin Administration Building in Buffalo, New York.

The Larkin Administration Building by Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo New York (photo ca 1906)

We thought long and hard as to if we should continue our online exhibition recommendations series, or go back to offline exhibitions…… and decided for a return to offline.

We fully appreciate that in a lot of countries museums are still closed, as indeed are the international borders that you would normally and naturally criss-cross for a short city break to visit those that are open; however, many museums are open, many more are planned/planning to open in the course of June, and interesting and informative as online presentations can be, viewing an exhibition in a museum is the more satisfying experience, the more rewarding experience, the more enduring experience. And an important experience.

As we oft opine, museums aren’t just about collecting and preserving the past, nor just additions, adornments, to cafés and gift shops; rather they are locations for discourse, contemplation and reflection. Locations in which not only subjects which, in the overhyped, overheated marketplace of contemporary media may never find an audience, can be allowed to tell their story, can in many cases be allowed to reclaim their place in our (hi)story, but locations where subjects can be approached not only from a multitude of perspectives simultaneously, but from new, contradictory and often otherwise unachievable perspectives, and that without prejudice, bias or a commercial necessity to conform to some preconceived narrative.

Admittedly not every exhibition manages that, many do succumb to an egoistic desire to be a “blockbuster” and thus present an accepted, tourist gaze, presentation of their subject; but there is no reason why every exhibition cannot discuss lesser illuminated subjects without fear or favour.

And when museums do such, and do such well, do such with honesty and impartiality, they become locations which invite, encourage and enable you to extrapolate on that which is presented and to carry your thoughts and arguments over into other arenas and areas, and thereby helping us all approach better understandings of ourselves, individually and collectively, and of the world around us, the innate natural and that which human society has created. While also improving our knowledge of the subject at hand. Clarifying that you may not have understood a subject as completely as you believed you did.

And that’s not an experience and opportunity that one should ever undervalue or neglect. And certainly never stop searching for.

While specifically in context of design exhibitions; for all that online exhibitions can and do offer, there is simply no substitute to being in the presence of a physical object, nor can we imagine there ever will be.

And so while all museums remain virtually open 24/7, and we’d encourage each and everyone of you to use museums’ online services as tools and resources; the fact that many are physically open is much more important. And something to be treasured and made use of.

If made use of with appropriate awareness and sensibility at this moment. Therefore, if you feel comfortable visiting a museum, please before doing so (a) check in advance to ensure that it is actually open, short-term changes can occur and (b) familiarise yourself in advance with ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, etc rules and systems. And during your visit stay safe and responsible. And receptive for new ideas, new opinions, new names, new perspectives, new connections, new understandings……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for June 2020

Developed in the mid-1960s as an office furniture system, the inherent flexibility and variability of USM Haller’s modular system has allowed it to naturally evolve alongside office practices and realities; for example, alongside the shift in recent decades from rigid to more flexible office scenographies, alongside the rise in recent decades of home working, or, most recently, with the USM Security Screen which naturally, and quickly, allows any existing USM reception desk to be effortlessly updated and reinvented for our Corona age.

Similarly in the domestic landscape. A landscape USM Haller quickly inhabited and where over the decades the inherent flexibility and variability of its modular system has seen it naturally adapt to the ever evolving realities of domestic life: the domestic life of both the private individual with all its personal fluctuations, high, lows and unpredictability, but also of communal society and, for example, its ever increasing collective networked, digital structure.

But despite its indoor success, system USM Haller hasn’t found its way out of doors……

…..yet…..

USM Haller: Garden, Terrace, Balcony.....

While we’d all much rather physically visit architecture and design museums, our current enforced virtual patronage does allow us all an excellent opportunity to begin to understand architecture and design museums as more than just an exhibition space with shop and café, and to begin to learn to interact with them, and for all their collections, in new, proactive, manners. To understand architecture and design museums as tools as much as institutions.

And while a virtual visit can never replace a physical one, it can help us extenuate and expand our understandings and thereby allow us to take even more from that physical visit. And those physical visits will return.

Until then, volume two of our online recommendations takes you from your sofa to Berlin, Hamburg, Bloomfield Hills, Mumbai, München, and hopefully and awful lot further…..

5 Online Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2020

The museums may be closed, travel restricted and leaving your home, when possible, unadvised….. but that’s no reason to restrict your cultural uptake, far less neglect the development of your architecture and design understandings.

Or put another way, if you can’t get to the museum….. let the museum come to you.

Five online architecture and design exhibitions and museum collections to explore from your sofa, bed, garden, balcony, wherever…..

5 Online Architecture & Design Exhibitions for April 2020

“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.

Home Stories: 100 Years, 20 Visionary Interiors, Vitra Design Museum

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.

Spitzen des Art déco, Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig

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.

USM Haller HomeWork, smow Cologne