A Nils Holger; An Autodidact; A Restlessness
Autumn is once more upon the Northern Hemisphere, that season of not only “mists and mellow fruitfulness”, but as a John Keats also reminds us the season of harvest, be that vine fruits, apples, gourds or hazelnuts.
Or the architecture and design exhibitions Keats didn’t mention. If, to be fair to him, they would have been largely unknown in 1819.
Unlike today; a today where after a long summer of waiting patiently, of observing from afar, and hoping, autumn traditionally presents a bountiful crop of new showcases to be consumed with gay abandon. And with plentiful thanks for the unseen work that led to their creation.
And Autumn 2022 is no exception. After a summer of growth and development and careful tendering the global architecture and design museums are once again brimming and overflowing with fresh, invigorating, nourishing delights to suit all tastes.
Our pick of the new crop in October 2022 can be found in Paris, New York, Brussels, Helsinki and Rome…….
In 1947 the American designer Edward J Wormley reflected in the New York Times on what contemporary furniture could, should, be, and amongst his thoughts on beds, chairs, storage units et al, opined that “an ideal table would be a flat plane suspended in space”, and that not least because “it’s the legs that are the big nuisance”.
“Can we find this kind of furniture in today’s market?”, he asked his readers, albeit, rhetorically, “You know we can’t.”1
Which tends to imply Wormley didn’t visit the Home Show exhibition in New York in April 1930, for had he, he would have seen Friedrich Kiesler’s Flying Desk…….
Amongst the many developments that have influenced and informed the path of furniture and interior design in the past 120ish years one must, without question, count developments in context of colour.
Whereas in previous centuries colours were limited in their availability, range and durability, recent decades have seen not only progress in that availability, range and durability, and as such ever more possibilities in our use of colour, but also seen increasing study of psychology and colour and of developments in understandings of human perception of colour, ever increasing appreciations of how colours exist beyond the physical and chemical. And an ever increasing use of colour in marketing, a creeping commercialisation of colour.
With the installation Colour Rush! Rotterdam based designer Sabine Marcelis transforms the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot into a space for differentiated considerations on colour and our furniture and interiors, on the colours of our furniture and interiors. And in doing so also allows for some fresh insights not only into the Vitra Design Museum collection, but what that collection can teach us all about furniture and interior design over the past 120ish years…….
“For men who have to write a lot, and over prolonged periods, a desk at which they can work standing up is an indispensable piece of furniture for altering their posture and for maintaining their health”, opined Journal der Moden in May 1786. An age when, famously, only men wrote.
Yet advantageous and positive as standing to write was, prolonged standing could, as Journal der Moden notes, lead to tiredness.
A solution was however at hand for all who preferred working at a standing height desk over a prolonged period: a chair, “or a so called donkey … on which one sits as if on a saddle, and which must be just high enough that one can sit half-standing…”1
A half-standing sitting solution whose nickname can be readily derived from the proposed sitting position.
And a half-standing sitting solution that for all it is thoroughly familiar today, was novel, one could almost argue revolutionary, and even enlightened, in 1786…….
In September 1839 Henry David Thoreau and his brother John spent two weeks navigating the Concord and Merrimack rivers on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border. A boat trip, a journey, motivated by Thoreau’s long time observation of the Concord river, and for all its many organic and inorganic inhabitants, floating past him, “fulfilling their fate” as they did; and which inspired Thoreau to “launch myself on its bosom and float wither it would bear me.”1
Which is not only a very positive attitude to life, but also to approaching an architecture and/or design exhibition: launch yourself at it and see whither it bears you.
Our five recommendations for allowing yourself to carried off to pastures unknown, and possibly fulfilling fate as you are, in September 2022 can be found in Frankfurt, Hornu, Kolding, Rotterdam and Los Angeles…….
In Poetics Aristotle argues poetry arose on account of two intrinsic human instincts: an “instinct for ‘harmony’ and rhythm” and “the instinct of imitation”, as in representation rather than copying, an imitation Aristotle opines is the method via which humans learn, and that “to learn gives the liveliest pleasure”.
Yet while for Aristotle all forms of poetry are “in their general conception modes of imitation”, again as in representation rather than copying, “they differ, however, from one another in three respects – the medium, the objects, the manner or mode of imitation”.1
With the exhibition Mimesis. A Living Design the Centre Pompidou-Metz explores designers as imitators of nature, and the varying, and continually developing, mediums, objects, and manners or modes of that imitation…….
In their 2021/22 exhibition Craft is Cactus the Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt, constructed a very convincing argument for including craft in the cactus family, a very convincing argument for making the Craftoideae a fifth subfamily of the Cactaceae.
Yet while a very good argument, as we all know, much work remains to be undertaken on the classification of the Craftoideae, not least in context of their habitats: where does one find craft? Where do the Craftoideae prevail?
With the exhibition Craft as Myth. Between Ideal and Real Life the Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt undertake a detailed field study of the Craftoideae, and in doing so allow for reflections on both contemporary craft and of future contemporary craft. On the future of craft…….
We’re still here, tirelessly toiling to provide the fuel to keep your fires of inquiry burning bright and thereby powering your ongoing exploration into the depths and breadths of design. And your deconstruction of the simplifications, half-truths and objectifications that have become popularly confused for design.
But the international architecture and design museum community have collectively decided not to open any new exhibitions in August 2022.
We’re not bragging, it’s not what we do, but we do possess inarguably the largest global databank of architecture, design (and art) museums ever compiled, a resource that is continually growing, a resource through which we continually move, within which in many regards we live. And a resource which reveals no new architecture or design relevant exhibitions opening in August 2022.1
Globally we found one new exhibition opening in August 2022 that would fit our criteria for being an exhibtion worthy of recommendation before it has opened and revealed what it actually it is not that which the curators claim it is.
But one is too few for a list. We will however visit it and, should it live up to its promise, report on it in due course.
Not that no new exhibtion openings means the global architecture and design museum community are all on holiday, far from it, they have simply retreated to the cool of their archives; and September and October should, will, offer veritable bounties of easily recommendable new shows.
Nor does no new exhibtion openings mean the global architecture and design museum community are closed. They are very much open, and very much should, must, be visited.2
Thus in place of a list of new exhibitions, we offer two geographically arranged lists of those architecture and design exhibitions on show in August 2022 and which you can, should, must, visit…….
For reasons too well understood to need mention here, the last couple of summers largely passed by without design school end of year exhibitions, or at least not in the manner and with the public accessibility we all once enjoyed and cherished. And as an inevitable consequence, our Campustour came to a grinding halt.
Summer 2022 sees the return of the universal end of term exhibition. But not of the Campustour.
Not that we’ve lost our passion for randomly traversing Europe, consuming improbable amounts of falafel and complaining, far from it, they remain three of our four favourite pastimes. Much more the frameworks and structures that enabled the Campustour need to be refired, need to be awoken from their pandemic enforced idleness; and that, as with the refiring, the re-awaking, of any blast furnace, takes time. Thus for 2022 we will, regrettably, only post from those student showcases we’re fortunate enough to meet in the course of our wider travels, starting in one of the more historically interesting locations in context of European architecture and design, Weimar, and the Bauhaus University’s Summaery 2022…….
Against the background of an ongoing climate emergency, rising nationalism, ever more politically active religious fanaticism of all hues, a Covid pandemic that refuses to go quietly, the return of War to Europe, amongst a great many other contemporary existential ills, there are a myriad questions we’d all rather be asked than if you believe in the future?
We’d all like to believe, but, well…….hhhmmm……. you know…….
The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg however considered the question particularly apposite, necessary even.
And so asked.
July 2021 marked what would have been the 100th birthday of Karl H. Bröhan, initiator of the collection that initiated Berlin’s Bröhan Museum; a centenary marked by the museum with the exhibition Bröhan Total!, a, as the title implies, comprehensive presentation of that collection.
A presentation of the Total! Bröhan collection, an intensive examination, and study, of the Total! Bröhan collection by the Bröhan Museum which, indirectly and directly, led the Bröhan Museum to undertake, if one so will, a gender audit of their Total! collection; an audit which came to the conclusion that from the ca. 20,000 objects therein just some 1,500 were by females creatives, or ca. 7.5%. And from the ca. 1100 creatives represented in that collection just some 99 were female, ca. 10%; thus more than the 7.5% of the objects indicating a greater average object per head ratio for male creatives than females.
Numbers which led to questions, not least questions of why, and subsequently led the Bröhan Museum Berlin to the exhibition Regard! Art and Design by Women 1880–1940.
An exhibition which presents works by all 99 female creatives represented in the Bröhan Museum collection, and allows space for your own reflections on the numbers, the biographies, the (hi)story of design, museum collections, and for all the myriad whys. The myriad whys, then and now…….
As we all know, the key to reading is learning your ABC. Once you’ve learned the letters, and combined them in simple words, you can approach more complex words, then sentences, paragraphs, essays and finally let that which you read discourse with your observations and experiences to help you better develop your understandings and appreciations of the world around us and those with whom we share it. But can learning the ABC of a designer help us to better approach understandings and appreciations of their work, their relevance, their legacy? With the exhibition Wilhelm Wagenfeld A to Z the Wilhelm Wagenfeld Haus, Bremen, attempt just that, in context of an eminently interesting and informative, if at times very difficult to read, designer…….
“One day in the midst of a burning July,
When meadows were parched and the rivulets dry,
A cluster of Bees in extreme……. anticipation,
Flew towards…… a design exhibition”1
(With apologies to Sara Coleridge)
Our five welcoming, stimulating, retreats for bees, or anyone or anything, from the parching burning of July 2022 can be found in Munich, Metz, Tulsa, Vienna and Bordeaux…….
“Reinforced concrete is the best constructional material yet devised by mankind”, enthused the Italian civil engineer Pier Luigi Nervi in 1956.1
A position Nervi spent a circa sixty year career arguing for, both in innumerable texts and through a canon of varied, and varyingly challenging, constructions throughout Italy, and much further afield. And in doing so Pier Luigi Nervi not only helped advance a popular acceptance of reinforced concrete as a construction material, but also helped develop an argument that in context of our built environment how we construct is, in many regards, more important than what we construct. An argument that has lost none of its contemporaneous since Pier Luigi Nervi first advanced it…….
Monographic exhibitions portraying designers from ages past, generally, only leave you with but little opportunity to directly assess, compare and contrast that designer in context of their time.
The, desired, concentrated focus on the protagonist leaving you, by necessity, not least by necessity of limits of time and space, primarily relying on those snippets of information and/or blurry images of objects, invariably popularly celebrated objects, your brain can recover in that moment, for any semblance of assessment, comparison and contrast with what others were realising in that period, any semblance of assessment, comparison and contrast with the positions and approaches of others in that period.
Following its run at Neuwerk 11, Halle, the exhibition Chairs: Dieckmann! The Forgotten Bauhäusler Erich Dieckmann is now on display at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin, who have employed their own collection to expanded the Dieckmann presentation with contemporaneous works. To expand the works of Erich Dieckmann with works by The Others…….
A Wilhelm; A Walter; A Willy; A Hans; A Florence; A Lineage
With the Boötids, the Arietids and the Beta Taurids June is an eventful month for meteor showers; and a month of great promise for all those who hope their most earnest wishes for the future will be fulfilled through entrusting them to a shooting star.
If only their wasn’t the seemingly endless wait for nightfall, the seemingly endless sitting and streaming and snacking and stupor of waiting…….
Alternatively, use the day(s) ahead of the arrival of those celestial messengers of hope in perusing a good architecture and/or design exhibition: something that may enrich your life in ways you could never have imagined. Far less hoped for. And could lead you, could lead us all, to a future better, more promising and more fulfilling than you/we could ever have wished for. Could ever have achieved through the sitting and streaming and snacking and stupor of waiting for the future.
But you can still watch the meteors when they appear. And wish upon a star.
Our four meaningful distractions until nightfall in June 2022 can be found in Berlin, Rotterdam, Wrocław and Copenhagen……
“It is possible to live without taking colours in daily life seriously just as it is possible to live and to ignore music, sculpture and other arts” opines the textile designer Bernat Klein in his 1965 book Eye for Colour, and thereby not only freely equating colour with other cultural goods but also very neatly setting up the refutal, “no one will doubt, however, that life will be fuller and richer if colours are daily absorbed, handled and savoured as they can and should be”.1
Eye for Colour is both an introduction to how Bernat Klein arrived at such a position, and an argument in support of its validity…….
There is an argument to be made that the craft of the glassmaker is as anachronistic in the 21st century as that of the candlemaker: an argument that while the later has seen their craft superseded by the electric lightbulb, the function of the former has not only been increasingly marginalised by the rise of industrially produced glassware, but also by the development of new materials, materials more robust and more durable than the famously fragile and transient glass.
The candlemaker and the glassmaker, so one could further argue, having been reduced to little more than popular attractions at Ye Olde Worlde Village Fayre and similar commercial and pedagogic acts of romanticised nostalgia.
With the showcase Glass – Hand Formed Matter the Bröhan Museum, Berlin, present a convincing counter-argument…….
“The May of life blooms but once”, reflects Friedrich Schiller, continuing, “It has faded for me”.1
Cheer up Freddie!!!
And there’s nothing quite like a good architecture or design exhibition to revitalise all your faculties.
Our recommended fertilizers for the zest of life in May 2022 can be found in Berlin, Den Haag, Brussels, Pfäffikon SZ and Amsterdam…….
“Everything is sculpture” opined once Isamu Noguchi.1
But is it?
The exhibtion Isamu Noguchi in the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, allows one to engage with, reflect on, immerse yourself in Isamu Noguchi’s life and work, and thus to better approach your own opinion on Isamu Noguchi’s firmly held conviction…..
A Hella; A Lab; An Open-ended exploration
As here in the northern hemisphere winter cedes to spring, not only is nature once again reawakening from its long repose but so too is the international museum community; and that, one senses, with more vigour than in the most recent springs where the Covid pandemic induced upsetting of the established order of the museal ecosystem, through both enforced closures and fundamental disruptions of essential exhibition development processes, dimmed somewhat the promise of the annual spring blush.
In spring 2022, one sense from wandering through the global museum landscape, the vitality, and for all variety, has returned to that landscape.
Which is to be welcomed, for little is as effective in helping us all broaden our minds, expand our perspectives, appreciate unseen associations, free us from prejudices, develop as human beings and as members of a functioning society, than a good museum exhibition. For while a good TV programme or a good podcast can inform, they tend to do so in definitives and in an unyieldingly linear fashion: they tell, they know, just how things were, are, will be. And in their telling tend to leave you bereft of tools of your own. A good museum exhibition in contrast gives you information but primarily bequeaths you a framework in which to develop your own understandings and positions, to question, to challenge, to expand on that which is presented; ’tis but a invitation to let your mind wander as it sees fit. And that in an environment which is devoid of time and space, where you are free to jump about as you wish, go back, rush forward. Stop.
Start again somewhere else
noiɈɔɘɿib bɘɈɔɘqxɘnυ nɒ ni ɘvoM
Discover new, uncharted, paths.
Thus whereas you can leave a TV programme or a podcast with new information on the subject at hand; you can leave a well organised exhibition not only with new information on the subject at hand, but with your thoughts immersed in a completely different subject and with your mind stimulated, receptive, restless.
And broad, receptive, questioning, unihibited, objective minds freed of definitives are very, very, important at this moment in global (hi)story.
Thus, get thee to an exhibition!
Our five recommendations for exiting the space-time continuum in April 2022 can be found in Essen, Brussels, Stockholm, Linz and Helsinki…….