Category: Designer


When one considers the, let’s say, unique, derisive, unalluring place the Sächsisch dialect enjoys endures amongst German speakers, it could be considered unwise, foolhardy, to explore all too deeply the contributions made by creatives and industry in and from the State of Sachsen to the development of Bauhaus, to explore, if you will, Bauhaus’s Sächsisch accent.

With the exhibition Bauhaus_Sachsen the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst Leipzig do just that…….

Bauhaus_Sachsen, Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst Leipzig

Aside from the, inevitable, consolidation the main theme at Milan Furniture Fair 2019, and the one which occupied us much more than that which was on show for our perusal, is/was the international furniture industry’s increasing hunger for data; a hunger which embodied itself at Milan 2019 in a exponential surge in the number of manufacturers requiring potential stand visitors to either pre-register, submit a business card or have their Fair ticket scanned before being allowed onto the stand.

No data. No entry.

And a state of affairs on which we have penned several hundred (agitated) words; but, this is neither the time nor place for them. We will however return to them at a later date, not least because the scale of the shift we witnessed at Milan 2019 suggests that as a development it is on it way to becoming standard. Which ain’t good.

Elsewhere the halls of Milan were busier with visitors in 2019 than we remember them for many a long a year, the weather in 2019 cooler than we remember for many a long year, and despair and delight stood as close to one another as every year

And in that sense, and as ever accepting we may have missed one or two gems, not least because we decided against sharing our data in order to view new items of furniture manufacturers had, allegedly, brought to Milan to promote, and so subsequently weren’t on a lot of stands, a smow Blog Milan 2019 High Five!!

Milan Furniture Fair 2019 High Five

“We feel ourselves beholden to the traditions of Bauhaus”1 opined Rolf Kuhn, Director of the Dessau based Zentrum für Gestaltung, in the catalogue for the institute’s 1988 exhibition Experiment Bauhaus.

And while that may have been the case in the late 1980s, it certainly wasn’t always so in East Germany.

With the exhibition Shaping everyday life! Bauhaus modernism in the GDR the Dokumentationszentrum Alltagskultur der DDR in Eisenhüttenstadt allow for not only an exploration of the relationship(s) between the Bauhaus legacy and the East German state, but also for comparisons between inter-War and post-War design in eastern Germany.

3101 chair from VEB Stima Stendal (l) Werkstattstuhl by Mart Stam for Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee (m) & Seminarstuhl Selman Selmanagic, Herbert Hirche & Liv Falkenberg for Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau (r), as seen at Shaping everyday life! Bauhaus modernism in the GDR, Dokumentationszentrum Alltagskultur der DDR, Eisenhüttenstadt

“Sometimes one has to remind oneself that this change took place in one generation – such is the gap between the woman of today and of yesterday, between the girl of then and of now.”

So begins the German magazine Die Woche’s 1930 article “Mädchen wollen etwas lernen“, “Girls want to learn something”, an article which opens Four “Bauhausmädels” and is subsequently extend by the Angermuseum Erfurt to explore not only what Gertrud Arndt, Margarete Heymann, Margaretha Reichardt and Marianne Brandt learned at Bauhaus, but how they subsequently applied that “something”.

Four "Bauhausmädels", Angermuseum, Erfurt

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Enticed us into the following architecture and design exhibitions…….

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98, From you have I been absent in the spring (extended, with apologies)

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for April 2019

Whereas at Bauhaus Weimar and Dessau architecture was essentially a subject of theory and experimentation, elsewhere in inter-War Europe architecture was theory and practice, and that, occasionally, on a large scale. Such as the Neues Frankfurt project.

Instigated in 1925 by Frankfurt’s then Mayor Ludwig Landmann and employing a team of some 148 architects, urban planners, garden designers, journalists et al, under the leadership of Ernst May and Martin Elsaesser, Neues Frankfurt realised between 1925 and 1933 some 12,000 new homes in Frankfurt; but for all indicated possible new forms of building, new forms of living, new forms of financing housing and new forms of urban planning. New forms that were not only responsive to the new political, social and economic realities of the 1920s, but utilised to that end advances in both process/materials technologies and also scientific understandings.

With the exhibition New Human, New Housing: Architecture of the New Frankfurt 1925–1933 the Deutsches Architekturmuseum Frankfurt reflect on the project, and into the future of urban planning and the provision of of housing in the city.

New Human, New Housing - Architecture of the New Frankfurt 1925–1933, the Deutsches Architekturmuseum Frankfurt

Although Bauhaus did undeniably exist, sometimes we could all be forgiven for believing we had collectively imagined it. Not only on account of its ephemerality as an institution, but also because it existed in a period of history that is, generally, a little abstract, intangible, indecipherable for a majority of us. While today the popular image of Bauhaus is so ideal, represents such a utopia and eutopia, it has that tangible feeling of intangibility, of unreality, of something imaginary.

With the exhibition Bauhaus Imaginista the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin aim to allow for a more substantive understanding of Bauhaus.

Bauhaus Imaginista @ the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin

As all familiar with the peculiar and idiosyncratic method by which these dispatches are produced will appreciate, come March 30th 2019 there will be a few fundamental changes, as the smow blog team are forced to abandon our familiar home on the internet and create a new one for ourselves in the analogue wastelands of the (dis)United Kingdoms.

And as Brexit’s unregulated shadow casts itself ever deeper, indelibly, suffocatingly, over the smow blog office, our thoughts turn, somewhat inevitably, to the furniture we may find ourselves engaging with in an all too palpable future.

Will we even have furniture? Or will be forced to refer to the neolithic tribes of Skara Brae and their intuitive and innovative use of stone?

Possibly.

However it may not come that far, for, and despite whatever other deficits and callowness it has, Whitehall does have experience in securing the supply of furniture in times of national emergency: the Utility Furniture Scheme of the 1940s…….

The Utility Furniture Scheme's "CC41".....

The Burg Galerie im Volkspark Halle is open every day, is täglich geöffnet; and with their new exhibition, opens the every day: presenting artistic and design reflections on daily routine(s), the Alltag, and in doing so allows for new perspectives on the what, wherewith and wherefore of our (perceived) daily realities…..

täglich geöffnet @ Burg Galerie im Volkspark, Halle

For the fifth year in succession ArkDes, Sweden’s national centre for architecture and design, is hosting the Ung Svensk Form/Young Swedish Design award/platform exhibition: a showcase of 25 projects providing for 25 understandings of contemporary design in/from Sweden.

Ung Svensk Form/Young Swedish Design 2019 Exhibition, ArkDes Stockholm

“Beware the Ides of March” Julius Caesar was, allegedly, advised by the soothsayer Spurinna. And he probably wished he had. March 15th seeing his death at the hands of some 60 Senators, a death which led to civil war as opposing forces sought to control Rome’s destiny.

“Beware the 5th of the Calends of April” a modern day Spurinna would no doubt warn the good folks of the United Kingdom. March 29th looking as it is like being an equally fateful day.

But while Caesar could have taken steps to prevent his demise, the fate of the good folks of the United Kingdom is out of their hands, they must wait and see what an ideologically driven group of some 60 Conservative Senators MPs have in store…….

And while we all wait, what could be more enriching than that which helps set the temporality of politicians’ decisions against the irrepressible force of social and cultural evolution; a force parliamentarian laws can delay but never stop, and a truth one finds elegantly mirrored in architecture and design.

Our five recommendations for new exhibitions opening in March 2019 can be found in Frankfurt, Brussels, Chemnitz, London and Magdeburg.


“On, on, on, cried the leaders at the back….”

No, it’s not all shoulder pads and garish colour clashes……. although……..

…….much more, with the exhibition 1980s – A new era in furniture design Stockholm’s Museum of Furniture Studies explore furniture design in that most politically, culturally, socially and economically fluid of decades, and, and not completely unrelated, a decade which not only brought fundamental changes to understandings of furniture design, but arguably brought more abrupt, more curt, more enduring changes than at any time since the 1920s.

Works by Olle Anderson and First Chair Michele de Lucchi, as seen at 1980s - A new era in furniture design, The Museum of Furniture Studies, Stockholm

As regular readers will be aware, in these dispatches we, very, very occasionally, quietly bemoan a certain monotony at furniture trade fairs, protest that, if you will, we regularly find ourselves wading through an homogenous mass.

On this occasion we will however let someone else make that observation on our behalf.

In his 2015 book Swedish Design: An Ethnography the American anthropologist Keith M. Murphy notes of a visit to the 2006 Stockholm Furniture Fair, “[T]he only problem was, so much of the stuff here looked so similar, and I had a difficult time anchoring myself in the exhibition’s plan”, continuing later that, “[T]he place is predominantly suffused not with a variety of different kinds of objects, but rather with a variety of different objects of the same general kind.”1

So 2006. So 2019.

Though interestingly he does also note that, “one cannot evade the impression that Sweden endures under a tyranny of simple forms and solid bright colours”. These days it’s more solid pastel tones, but…..

Such isn’t exclusive to Stockholm, but can be experienced wherever the furniture industry meet to display their wares. Clearly there are a host of varied, arguably inter-related, causes for such a situation, but here is neither the time nor the space to discuss them; the consequence, however, is that walking through the halls of any give trade fair one finds that while many objects do speak to you, they all tend to do so with a repetition of the same limited vocabularies, often in a very forced, insecure, equivocal manner, and which thus, very quickly, becomes tiresome.

However as Keith M Murphy also notes, “not everything fit [sic] the model” and there are not only always objects to be found with something interesting to say, but which say that in an intelligent, literate and engaging fashion.

And so, and as ever, with the understanding that we have inevitably missed and/or not properly understood several gems, a smow blog Stockholm Furniture Fair 2019 High 5!!

Stockholm Furniture Fair 2019: High Five!!

It’s been 8 years since we last visited an exhibition by Stockholm based studio Färg & Blanche.

Then 2011, back in the days when we still had our own teeth, our own hair, dreams and aspirations which were in our control, it was the exhibition 20 designers at BIOLOGISKA, one of the most memorable locations we’ve ever viewed an exhibition in. And despite having been in many an impressive venues since, a multi-storey 360 degree diorama populated by stuffed animals in a range of habitats, remains a firm favourite.

Now 2019, the venue equally as memorable, Emma Marga Blanche’s paternal great-grandparents late-19th century flat on the site of, and next, to their former Knäckebröd factory. A space seemingly caught in time while all around Södermalm has evolved from a largely working class district into one of Stockholm’s hipper.

The principle difference between 2011 and 2019 is that then Färg & Blanche presented works by themselves and selected chums, now it is all their own work.

The wedge shaped component of Keyhole collection by Färg & Blanche, as seen at The Baker's House, Stockholm Design Week 2019

Despite what some may have us believe, Bauhaus didn’t appear one morning from the slowly clearing mists of the Ilm valley; rather, and for all its lasting allure, Bauhaus ’twas but a moment on a longer, wider, international helix. One which began its twisting long before Walter Gropius and his merry band arrived in Weimar, and which continues, winding its way ever onwards, to this day.

With the exhibition From Arts and Crafts to the Bauhaus. Art and Design – A New Unity! the Bröhan Museum Berlin explore the helix as it approached and then, briefly, informed Bauhaus.

From Arts and Crafts to the Bauhaus. Art and Design - A New Unity @ The Bröhan Museum Berlin

“The role of the architect is one of organisation. The house is the considered organisation of our ways of life”1, opined the Austrian architect Margarete Lihotzky in 1921.

And in the course of a long, varied career, she repeatedly demonstrated what she understood by such; including most famously, if somewhat narrowly, in a kitchen design………….

Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky (1897-2000) (Photo Werner Faymann, source https://commons.wikimedia.org)

“…a new generation, a new age, must develop forms and tenors for their interior and exterior worlds which correspond to its desire for well-being and its ideals” wrote Frankfurt city mayor Ludwig Landmann in 1926.1

With the exhibition Moderne am Main 1919-1933 the Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt explore how such developments were approached and realised in Frankfurt and environs, and by extrapolation explore the contribution made by the region to the evolution of inter-War understandings of architecture and design, and the legacy that remains.

Moderne am Main 1919-1933 @ Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt

According to the posters to be found liberally distributed throughout the city, IMM Cologne 2019 promised to present “1000 furnishings ideas for your home”

And it may very well have done. We didn’t count. Not least because….

What interest the number, if the ideas themselves ain’t meaningful?
What interest the number, if the ideas themselves ain’t logical?
What interest the number, if the ideas themselves ain’t justifiable?

Or reducing the thought to its essence, what interest the idea if it ain’t meaningful, logical and justifiable?

1 meaningless, illogical and unjustifiable idea being every bit as undesirable and harmful as 1000.

As Brexit so poetically underscores.

And so while we can’t confirm there were a 1000 ideas, we can confirm that the principle idea at IMM Cologne 2019 was “consolidation”, the presentation of familiar lines in different colours, materials, heights, widths, etc….

Which, yes, is a comment we make a lot about furniture trade fairs, one we get the impression we’re making ever more often, one we feel will ultimately see us stop attending such; but a comment that, as ever, isn’t a complaint, far from it. It needn’t, shouldn’t, always be new, new, new. If it is it becomes fashion, not furniture. And thoroughly awful.

Whereby one must add IMM Cologne featured some very intelligent, meaningful, logical, justifiable, consolidations. Consolidation ≢ bad.

But there does also need to be new. Because on the one hand technology and materials are ever new, and furniture designers and the, and for want of a better phrase, designer furniture industry, have a duty to respond to those changes; on the other society is ever new, and by extrapolation so are the demands we place on our furniture, be that functionally, aesthetically or environmentally, and furniture designers and the designer furniture industry have a duty to respond to those changes; and on the rare, and especially valuable third hand, in order to advance we need that which we didn’ know we needed, that which we could never have imagined being without, even though we could never imagine being with, that which questions the accepted. Responding to such new realities, challenging conventions, presenting solutions based on a singular understanding of the reality, is the basis of what ultimately became the designer furniture industry and the furniture designer, and the future of both can only be found in the same.

Or put another way, the balance between the established and the new needs to remain healthy if the, for want of a better phrase, designer furniture industry, is to remain relevant.

And so, and as ever with the assumption we have missed one or the other delight, and/or not fully understood something we did see, a smow Blog IMM Cologne 2019 High Five!!

IMM Cologne 2019: High Five!!

Fortune, we are told, favours the brave. Misfortune the reckless, but fortune the brave.

Thus, summing all the bravery we could muster, we descended into the unknown of the Bunker am Bahngleis and the exhibition Generation Köln…..*

Karoline&Klemens&Thomas&Tim. Generation Köln @ Passagen Cologne 2019

Although founded twelve years before Bauhaus Weimar, and despite overlaps in personnel and biographies, it would be incorrect to draw a direct line from the Deutsche Werkbund to the Gropius school, even if a line of sorts can, should, be traced between the two institutions.

A line which serves not only to connect the two but to underscore the role both played in the development of contemporary understandings of formal aesthetics in the first decades of the 20th century, and also the influence both retain over contemporary understandings of such a century or so later.

In context of such considerations, the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin are presenting throughout 2019 a series of four exhibitions under the title 111/99. Questioning the Modernist Design Vocabulary and which aim to explore various aspects of the development of, well, modernist design vocabulary.

The start being made with graphic arts and the showcase Commercial Design instead of Applied Art?

Commercial Design instead of Applied Art? @ the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin

On December 10th 1869 Gebrüder Thonet voluntarily relinquished their 1856 Privilege in respect of “The manufacture of chairs and table legs made of bent wood, the bending facilitated by the action of steam or simmering liquids”; thereby ending not only a thirteen year monopoly during which time Thonet became a firmly established global brand, but also the culmination of a neigh on three decade story which highlights the importance of patent protection in the furniture industry.

Biegen oder Brechen. Michael Thonet (1796 - 1871)

If you are planning visiting an architecture or design museum, anywhere in the world, in 2019, it will be staging a Bauhaus themed special exhibition. Guaranteed. There are literally millions of them lined up. If not billions.

Which is no complaint. Or at least not unless they are exhibitions based on formulaic, lazy clichés. Then it is very much a complaint. But if they are exhibitions which take open, honest and unblinkered views on either the institution as a whole or a specific, ideally, under researched, aspect of the institution, and of course remember that it is 100 years Bauhaus Weimar, and not 100 years Bauhaus Dessau, then it is no complaint.

Consequently, December 2018 could be your last chance to experience anything else for a goodly while.

Our Bauhaus free recommendations or December 2018 can be found in Vienna, Dortmund, New York, London & San Francisco……..

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for December 2018

Designer, grib magten! enjoined the 2018 Design School Kolding exhibition, Designer, seize the power!

Which not only sounds a bit more revolutionary than one is use to from Danes, but also implies designers should be in power. A position on which, and as we oft noted, we’re highly sceptical.

Intimately involved in power systems yes, but designers in charge…….

Consequently we thought it wise to set course for the Design School Kolding 2018 Graduation Exhibition.

Designer, grib magten! Design School Kolding 2018 graduation exhibition, Koldinghus

Atop bonny Killesberg, and beside Kochenhof, (the) Akademie der Bildenden Künste, ABK, Stuttgart has been nurturing a basic kernel within a bright kettle of students of numerous creative disciplines since 1761.

For their 2018 Rundgang the, we believe the word is, identity, was based on alternative resolutions of the initialism ABK, the central one being Alle brauchen Kunst – Everyone Needs Art.

But do we need that applied, functional art developed in the year past at the ABK Stuttgart……?

A visit to the 2018 Rundgang promised to supply us with a better knowledge, but also to bequeath the students a bit kudos…….?

Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart, Rundgang 2018

French designer Ionna Vautrin first reached a broad international public with her Binic lamp for Italian manufacturer Foscarini, a design which, it’s fair to say, is/was one of those genuinely, gloriously, joyous moments in the (hi)story of lighting design, a work full of character yet devoid of vanity, universally applicable yet always individual.

Ionna Vautrin is however more than Binic: before Binic Ionna had enjoyed a varied, international career working with a diverse roster of studios and across an equally diverse range of design genres. Since Binic Ionna had enjoyed a varied, international career working with a diverse roster of manufacturers and across an equally diverse range of design genres.

Keen to know more we met up with Ionna Vautrin in Paris…….

Ionna Vautrin