Category: Designer


The Historia Supellexalis D for Denmark
Denmark

A Peninsula; An Archipelago; A Context

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

In the final decades of the 19th century the lands of the, then, German Empire, established themselves amongst the leading protagonists in the developments of contemporary applied arts as they moved towards that which we today term design. A leading position which, in certain regards, became a European dominance in the course of the 1900s, 1910s and 1920s through the contributions made to the evolving practices, processes, expressions and understandings of the period by institutions such as, and amongst many others, the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau, the Deutsche Werkbund, the Frankfurt city building authorities and, and perhaps most famously, the Bauhauses.

Then, as so oft in 1920s Europe, came the 1930s, the War and subsequently the establishment within (part of) the lands of the, former, German Empire two new nations: West Germany and East Germany.

And what became of the design understandings and approaches that had developed and evolved in that region over the previous half century?

That, to misquote Hamlet, is one of the questions the Vitra Design Museum pursue in German Design 1949–1989. Two Countries, One History.

German Design 1949–1989. Two Countries, One History, Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein

“Conservative Hamburg only permits white paint for its ceilings, doors and windows, and, at most, economical gilding”, remonstrated once the decorative painter Peter Gustaf Dorén.1

And set about rectifying that, set about bringing more colour to Hamburg……

Peter Gustaf Dorén. Interior Design in Hamburg circa 1900 Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

“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......?

The Historia Supellexalis C for Cranbrook Academy of Art

Cranbrook

An Alma Mater; An Academy of Art; A colony of experimentation

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

Wandering aimlessly through the digital Marcel Breuer Archive one afternoon, we stumbled across a letter dated July 25th 1950 from Peter M Fraser, one of Breuer’s employees, to the Eames Office, enquiring about a lighting design by Charles and Ray that Breuer was interested in using in one of his architectural projects, and requesting………

………”a lighting design by Charles and Ray”???

Eames lighting???

Eames furniture Eames toys Eames textiles Eames exhibitions Eames films Eames photography

But where is the lighting design in the portfolio of Charles and Ray Eames…….?

Charles and Ray Eames: Often bright, but also illuminating......?

In context of the exhibition Luigi Colani and Art Nouveau, the Bröhan-Museum Berlin’s staircase is emblazoned with a long quote from Colani, a long and typically outspoken quote, in which Luigi Colani denigrates the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm, that design school which has such a prominent and pre-eminent position in popular understandings of design in post-War West Germany; and who for Luigi Colani were “defrauders of the German creative spirituality of the twenties and thirties! Imbecilic criminals.”1

A quote that not only neatly epitomises the (consciously cultivated) Colani communication strategy, nor only leads one to reflect on Colani’s own relationship to inter-War design in Germany, but for all leads one by necessity to question the validity of the accusation; and thereby to reflect on the relationship(s) between the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm and the “German creative spirituality of the twenties and thirties”, and by extrapolation to reflect on post-War design in West Germany……..

Luigi Colani and Art Nouveau at the Bröhan-Museum, Berlin ... Ich spreche doch mit den Ulmern nicht!

For popularly understood reasons not only did the 2021 edition of the IMM Cologne furniture trade fair not take place as planned in mid-January, neither did the 2021 edition of Cologne’s Passagen Interior Design Week…..

….which doesn’t mean that fresh contemporary design wasn’t to be found in Cologne in mid-January.

In an offline realised and online presented exhibition the assemblage Generation Köln introduced the results of their collaborations with the CIAV Meisenthal glassworks; a virtual exhibition, and very much hands-on project, that can now be explored via a short film……

Generation Köln x CIAV Meisenthal

The Historia Supellexalis: "B" for Bouroullec

Bouroullec

A Ronan; An Erwan; An unassuming, poetic, connection.

Cleaning is a chore.

If only we could get through life without the necessity of dusting, sweeping, washing, polishing et al…….

With the project Cleaning against the Dictatorship of Efficiency Birgit Severin and Guillaume Neu-Rinaudo a.k.a. studio b severin explore cleaning, its rituals, contexts, symbolism, functions, psychology, and in doing so enable differentiated perspectives on both that ubiquitous chore and the necessity in the necessity of dusting, sweeping, washing, polishing et al…………

Studio B Severin - Cleaning against the Dictatorship of Efficiency, feldfünf, Berlin

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

The so-called Bielefeld Conspiracy asserts that the German city of Bielefeld doesn’t exist.

Have you ever been to Bielefeld?, it asks.

Do you know anyone who has ever been to Bielefeld?

Do you know anyone from Bielefeld?

If your answer to all three questions is no…….. how do you know Bielefeld exists?

A similar conspiracy could be built around Gertrud Kleinhempel, one of Germany’s first professional furniture designers and who for the greater part of her career was active in Bielefeld.

Or was, assuming Bielefeld exists. And assuming Gertrud Kleinhempel exists.

For have you ever seen any work by Gertrud Kleinhempel, do you know anyone who has seen any work by Gertrud Kleinhempel, have you ever seen Gertrud Kleinhempel on the helix of furniture design?

If your answer to all three questions is no……..

Gertrud Kleinhempel (1875 - 1948)

“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

“The placing of foam mattresses, spring mattresses, and the like, on bed frames made of wood or metal is familiar”, notes a July 1966 patent application, and it was. However, it continues, “bed frames of this type are heavy, continually take up one and the same space in a room, must be dismantled if they are to be moved to a new location, and represent a major obstacle in context of cleaning the bedroom.”1

Which, certainly in the early 1960s, they were and did.

But what is one to do?

Verner Panton had an idea.

An idea that may not count amongst his better known projects, but is a project that allows one to approach a better understanding of the work and career of Verner Panton…….

Lost Furniture Design Classics: The Panton Bed

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

“I don’t know what design is”, opined once the Italian designer Enzo Mari.

Not because he hadn’t considered the question. But because he had. A lot.

With the exhibition Enzo Mari curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist with Francesca Giacomelli the Triennale Milano present an opportunity to approach an understanding of that which in the course of those considerations, and his 60+ year career, Enzo Mari has variously understood both design to be, and what it could, should, must, be……..

Enzo Mari curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist with Francesca Giacomelli, Triennale Milano, Milan

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

In 1977 the German designer Luigi Colani demanded a “renaissance of Art Nouveau”1

What he meant, why he meant it, and if it is something we should all fear, can be explored and considered in the exhibition Luigi Colani and Art Nouveau at the Bröhan-Museum, Berlin…….

Luigi Colani and Art Nouveau at the Bröhan-Museum, Berlin