Category: Designer


Earth Centered Design. An Exhibition, Hochschule München, Munich Creative Business Week 2024

Rowac at Berlin Design Week 2024

For all that steel tubing is the popular personification of the rise of the novel in furniture and interior design in context of the developing industrialisation of the first third of the 20th century, that primary representative of the rise of the machine and its victory over craft, in many regards the real symbol of the progress of the period was the novel synthetic plastics being developed, Bakelite being inarguably the best known and most widely employed.

Yet while in the 1920s and 30s the likes of a Christian Dell developed interesting, instructive, objects from novel plastics, ably demonstrated the possibilities of the novel materials contemporary chemistry was bringing forth, their use in objects of daily use remained limited, not least on account of problems of structural stability and durability; limited, save, arguably, and unfortunately, Bakelite’s use in the construction of Walter Maria Kersting’s Volksempfänger radio, that piece of contemporary design the NSDAP used so efficiently and so knowledgeably to transport their nefarious agenda and toxic propaganda into every home. Yes, there is a lesson to be learned there.

The 1930s however also saw the first patents for a novel synthetic plastic that would not only demonstrate the possibilities of the novel materials, but which had the characteristics to enable it to make those possibilities realities: polyurethane

A material that, it’s fair to say, on its commercial introduction in the 1960s, revolutionised not only furniture design but furniture production as fundamentally as a Michael Thonet once had with his adaptation of the dark art of woodbending. While the colour polyurethane enabled brought a vitality and freshness and exuberance that, it’s equally fair to say, revolutionised interiors. Allowed 1960s and 70s interiors to Pop.

And while today polyurethanes are more critically analysed than they once were, their use is rightly questioned today, as is the proposition of alternatives actively considered, the developments of the 1960s and 70s, the positions that were advanced in that period and the understandings of furniture that arose in that period remain.

If often popularly only very poorly, superficially, understood.

As is the (hi)story of furniture and interior design in the two Germanys of the 1960s and 70s.

As are the intersections of the political, economic, social (hi)stories of the two Germanys of the 1960s and 70s.

With PURe Visions. Plastic Furniture Between East and West the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden go deep into the (hi)story of polyurethane furniture in the two Germanys of the 1960s and 70s and thereby also allow one to approach better appreciations of the (hi)story of furniture and interior design in the two Germanys, and of the wider (hi)story of the two Germanys……

PURe Visions. Plastic Furniture Between East and West, Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden

Given that ‘design’ is popularly associated with a limitless reality, an unrestrainable questioning, a pushing at the open doors of possibility, it does tend to get hemmed in quite a lot, we do tend to like place it within an awful lot of borders: geographic borders, category borders, practice borders, conceptual borders, historic borders, etc, etc, etc.

Or at least most of us do. For the past 20 years Budapest has been home to a borderless design, to Design Without Borders, an institution that has grown from a four day showcase featuring a handful of local protagonists to a six week exhibition programme presenting the work of some 200 international creatives, alongside concerts and film screenings.

Ahead of its 20th edition we met up with Szilvia Szigeti and Tamás Radnóti, instigators and curators of Design Without Borders, to discuss the past, present, future. And the hows, whos, whys……

Szilvia Szigeti and Tamás Radnóti a.k.a Design Without Borders

Morari by Jesse Altmann, Valentina Lenk and Klara Schneider, as seen at Berlin Design Week 2024

Dedas by Annabella Hevesi, as seen at Berlin Design Week 2024

Next: Young European Design, Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin, Berlin Design Week 2024

As all around, certainly all around here in Europe, the world blossoms and blooms into life, as colour and variety and vitality abound, it’s strange to remember that just a few short weeks ago everything was so barren, monochrome, desolate.

Not least in context of the global architecture and design museum community: how hard we had to labour to achieve anything approaching what could justifiably be termed a ‘list’ of new architecture and design exhibitions.

Similarly it’s hard to imagine that in a few short weeks we will once again be in a position of scrubbing around looking for new exhibitions worthy of mention.

But spring and early summer are months of abundance, months where new exhibitions are waiting to be harvested, months to take advantage of while the going is good. We could have published two lists for May 2024, decided however to stay with the one; would however very much encourage you all to visit, at least, two lists worth. If not more. Get your fill while you can.

Our 6 recommendations for new exhibitions opening in May 2024, our starting points for May 2024, take us all to Berlin, Prague, Jyväskylä, Milan, Brussels and Weimar…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2024

Badekarren in Katwijk by Wilhelm Gutmann, 1908 (Image Public Domain, courtesy of Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main)

Occasional table by Rita Koralevics from the Paper-up Collection, as seen Magyar Design, Otthon Design Budapest 2024

A living room design by Gertrud Lincke featuring two Arbeitskojen, Work Bunks/Berths, on the left and right, home office à la the 1920s (undated, but before 1927, possibly 1925)

Components of the Bold collection by András Kerékgyártó for Brave Home, as seen at Magyar Design, Otthon Design Budapest 2024

Polc íróasztallal by Woodoo, as seen at Magyar Design, Otthon Design Budapest 2024

Otthon Design Budapest 2024

An (early) interior (and possibly early furniture) by Dr Josef Frank, undated, but before 1915

Chairs by Elisabeth von Baczko realised by Korbmacher Kapsch, Bremen

After several years of preparation, and a lot of, at times (very) heated, discussion, this past March saw the staging of the inaugural Grassimesse Leipzig in the city’s Rathaus.

Instigated by Dr. Richard Graul, Director of the Leipzig Kunstgewerbemuseum by way of a response to, an answer to, the increasing concerns amongst many professional creatives regarding the quality of contemporary objects of daily use presented at the bi-annual Leipzig Fair, for all the quality of the novel machine produced goods of contemporary industry, the Grassimesse intends to be not only a platform for presenting the highest quality of contemporary craft, applied art and design, but also to be a platform for exchange and mediation between creatives and industry and commerce, and thereby seeks to help to stimulate an increase in the quality, usefulness, beauty and value for money of the everyday goods of contemporary life.

An important part of the Grassimesse concept is that only works selected by a jury are admitted. Or more accurately, works selected by juries: potential exhibitors at the inaugural Grassimesse were first required to submit their work to a regional jury who, based on the prevailing requirements, made their recommendations to the principle jury who had the final say on who was to be admitted. A principle jury headed by Dr. Graul and including in its number both creatives such as, and amongst others, Peter Behrens, Walter Gropius, Josef Hoffmann or Bernhard Pankok and also representatives of manufacturers and dealers including, for example, Rosenthal porcelain, Selb, Rabe & Co, Bremen, Bruckmann & Söhne, Heilbronn or the Plauen based textile manufacturer Alfred Schönfeld.1 And thus a jury which tends to underscore not only the support Dr. Graul’s initiative has, but also the Grassimesse’s relevance, arguably importance, in context of the contemporary debates of our post-War 1920s.

In the coming days and weeks we’ll bring you some of our thoughts and reflections on some of those selected exhibitors, and of and from Grassimesse 1920 in general.

And for all crafters, applied artists and designers interested in being part of the Grassimesse, in contributing to its (hi)story, and in helping it develop further from its original aims and intentions, helping it remain a relevant and informative and entertaining platform for discussions and discourse on contemporary craft, applied art and design, applications for the 2024 edition can be submitted until Wednesday May 15th.

Whereby, the jury selection process for 2024 is much, much simpler than it was for 1920. If no less strict and demanding and rigorous. And no less important.

Full details, including details of the six Grassi Prizes up for grabs, a sextet that features the €2,500 smow-Designpreis, can be found at www.grassimesse.de

Good Luck!!!

grassimesse leipzig 1920

As Letitia Elizabeth Landon so very, very, nearly wrote in 1823,

Of all the months that fill the year
Give April’s month to me,
For the architecture and design museums are then so filled,
With sweet variety!

Our sweet variety in April’s month of 2024 can be found in Dessau, Brussels, Rome, Paris and Dresden…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for April 2024

As we all know from the 1st Law of Thermodynamics, energy cannot be created nor destroyed, only transformed from one form to another.

And as a species we’ve developed a myriad ways of transforming one form of energy to another.

We burn oil.

We burn coal.

We burn gas.

We burn wood.

We burn an awful lot, don’t we…..

But we also employ, for example, the kinetic energy of wind, waves and photons or the potential energy of Uranium atoms.

With Transform! Designing the Future of Energy the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, focus less on the physical and chemical transformations of energy, as on transformations in how we source, supply and use energy…….

Transform! Designing the Future of Energy, Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein

“To meet the needs of a living architecture,” opined Otti Berger in 1930, “we need clarity about what fabric is, and further, what fabric in space is”.1

With the showcase Otti Berger. Weaving for Modernist Architecture the Temporary Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin, allow one to begin to approach appreciations of what both Otti Berger understood as fabric, “and further, what fabric in space is”, and in doing so not only enable differentiated perspectives on Weaving and Modernist Architecture but allow Otti Berger to begin to retake her place on the helix of design, and architecture, (hi)story……

Otti Berger. Weaving for Modernist Architecture, Temporary Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin

It would inarguably, and inexcusably, be little more than employing a lazy, cheap, unwarrantable, stereotype and innuendo to opine that Hamburg is an apposite location for an exhibition exploring and discussing human societies’ relationships with water, being as it is a city where the incessant, clinging drizzle is only interrupted by the regular torrential downpours; rather, Hamburg is an apposite location for an exhibition exploring and discussing human societies’ relationships with water, as it is a city where the incessant, clinging drizzle is only interrupted by the regular torrential downpours. And because not only the fortunes and stature of the city were built on water, for all in the distant days of the fabled Hanseatic League, and of the pirates who cooperated with the city’s Hanseatic era leaders in their desires to assert Hamburg’s primacy on the Elbe1, but also Hamburg is physically built on, and for all physically built in, water. Which means that not only the streets and canals and banks – river and financial – of Hamburg offer access to perspectives on and of our relationships with water past and present, but that our relationships with water future will, invariably, be expressed through, and embodied by, Hamburg’s future. Or lack thereof.

With Water Pressure. Designing for the Future the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, not only create space for that exploration of and discussion on human societies’ relationships with water, but also for reflections on the roles, functions and responsibilities of design, and designers, in context of forming and defining our relationships with water past, present and future…….

Water Pressure. Designing for the Future, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg

There is a convincing argument to be made that in our contemporary age perfection is one of our primary aims, one of our guiding aims, individually and collectively. A convincing argument to be made that perfection is, to paraphrase a Shane MacGowan, ‘the measure of our dreams’. And there are no shortage of experts out there to tell us all how to achieve that perfection, in all areas of life and work and love and home and hobby.

With Perfectly Imperfect – Flaws, Blemishes and Defects the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur question perfection, and society’s fascination with perfection…….

Perfectly Imperfect. Flaws Blemishes and Defects, Gewerbemuseum Winterthur

In the popular narrative of architecture and design in the second half of the 20th century the phrase ‘Postmodern’ is widely used; a wide use, and an equally wide, unquestioning, popular acceptance of what is meant, that all too often not only blinds us all to the heterogeneity of the period but also impedes meaningful debate and discussion on the motivations, positions and realities of that period. And on the lessons of the period.

With Bold and Beautiful. Estonian private houses from the 1980s the Eesti Arhitektuurimuuseum, Tallinn, remind of the need for more nuanced, and wider-ranging, reflections and discussions…….

Bold and Beautiful. Estonian private houses from the 1980s, Eesti Arhitektuurimuuseum, Tallinn

In Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale Perdita bewails that she has no “flowers o’ th’ spring” to make garlands for, and to strew over, her beloved Florizel; “flowers o’ th’ spring” including violets, primroses, oxlips or “daffodils, That come before the swallow dares, and take the winds of March with beauty”.

Whereby in her infatuation with, and fearless youthful love for, Florizel, Perdita fails to appreciate that it wasn’t fear of the winds of March that kept the swallows away, swallows love a stiff wind; rather that they are all in architecture and design museums enjoying the new blush of exhibitions that invariably blooms forth every March. As should she and Florizel, for the shared experience of an architecture and design exhibition is a more sustainable and resilient conduit to maintaining the thrill of young love than a violet, primrose, oxlip or daffodil that will soon wilt and fade.

Our six, yes six, ‘exhibitions o’ th’ spring’ opening in March 2024 for swallows, lovers, Elizabethans, and us all, can be found in Hamburg, Vienna, New York, London, Paris and Weil am Rhein……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for March 2024

As Europe begins to ardently shake of the last remnants of winter and the first green and blue and yellow and white specks appear in parks and gardens, as the chance that summer might just arrive becomes tangible…. October can seem a mighty long way away. Unimaginable. But it is approaching.

As is the 2024 Grassimesse.

The path thereto has been laid and until Wednesday May 15th are all called upon to apply…….

Grassimesse 2024