Category: Exhibitions and Shows


Anchored next to the Göta älv Bridge in Gothenburg is a decommissioned ferry. Repurposed as a car park.

While in no way a substitute for an integrated urban transport concept that reduces our dependence on the car, it is a really nice example that recycling, reusing and reappropriating isn’t just something for designers, is also a subject for architects and urban planners. And by extrapolation, us all.

Suitably motivated we scaled and crossed the Göta älv Bridge and made our way the 2018 HDK Gothenburg Degree Exhibition.

Frihamnen 11, location of the 2018 HDK Gothenburg Degree Exhibition

In his Ron Arad monograph Restless Furniture Deyan Sudjic notes that the Sticks & Stones furniture crusher Arad developed for the exhibition Nouvelles Tendances staged by the Centre de Creation Industriel Paris in 1987 was itself only saved from the crusher through the post-exhibition “intervention of a friendly Swiss furniture manufacturer.”1

While all Swiss furniture manufacturers are friendly, one particularly friendly Swiss furniture manufacturer springs to mind whenever the discussion turns to furniture design as being more than the shape of a chair, furniture design as a cultural imperative or the preservation of furniture design heritage.

As if confirmation were needed, the Sticks & Stones crusher greets visitors to the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot exhibition Ron Arad: Yes to the Uncommon!

Ron Arad. Yes to the Uncommon! @ the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot

During June 2018 the participative art installation Freiheit 2.0 in Stuttgart is exploring issues around Big Data, artificial intelligence and the future of our relationships with the digital, virtual, environment.

In addition to a series of colloquia in which invited experts talk about aspects of the wider themes and engage in conversations with the project initiator Florian Mehnert, the three further pillars on which Freiheit 2.0 is built are a Self-Tracking App via which everyone can create a personal movement profile akin to the ones Big Data constructs for each of us everyday; Public Space, the renaming of local businesses with the suffix “der freiheit” [of/for/the freedom]; and the Guidance System, a series of coloured lines which lead from the renamed businesses to the Freedom Laboratory in Stuttgart’s StadtPalais museum.

The latter two being pillars which, if we’re being honest, we didn’t quite 100% understand as supporting ahead of the opening; but whose intrinsic role in the construction became much clearer after we’d had a chance to stroll along and among them……

smow der Freiheit, as seen during Freiheit 2.0 Stuttgart

“…this is also a sure sign for the development of our style that we gradually succeed in bringing the practical back in line with the ideal. It seems to me, this could now also apply to many aspects of our common aspirations.”1 So wrote Peter Behrens in 1901 to the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum Krefeld’s director Friedrich Deneken.

With the exhibition The Practical and the Ideal the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum Krefeld explore not only how Peter Behrens’ understood such and how he attempted to achieve just that, but also the importance of both the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum and Friedrich Deneken in the development of Peter Behrens’ oeuvre. And in doing so offer new perspectives on the popularly understood Behrens’ biography.

Examples of Peter Behrens' woodcut and book art work, as seen at Peter Behrens. The Practical and the Ideal, the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum Krefeld

Rely too heavily on popular representations of design from Denmark and one could come to the conclusion that Danes only started designing objects in the late 1940s, so often is one presented with Danish design books, exhibitions and newspaper/magazine/blog articles that begin, self-evidently, post-War.

With their exhibition Made in Denmark. Design since 1900, the Grassi Museum of Applied Arts Leipzig demonstrate that design in Denmark does have a pre-war, and pre-design, history.

Made in Denmark. Design since 1900 @ Grassi Museum of Applied Arts Leipzig

While others spend their summers’ holidaying with families, barbecuing with friends or pretending to read novels on the balcony, at the beach and/or in the local park, we travel Europe visiting design school summer exhibitions and subsisting exclusively from falafel. It’s a curious, idiosyncratic, slightly tragic, way to spend your life, but it’s the one we’ve chosen, is in many regards the only road we’ve ever known. And so, as May’s warmth ceded to the heat of June, we made like Whitesnake…. Here We Go Again.

Our 2018 #campustour kicked off in Stockholm, a city as closely related with the Hanseatic League as smow, and specifically at Konstfack, Sweden’s largest and oldest art/craft/design school.

Konstfack Stockholm

If swarm intelligence describes natural systems where individuals pool their resources for the benefit of the community, then Big Data can be considered a form of swarm intelligence appropriated by commerce: where commerce pools individuals’ resources, their data, for the benefit of commerce. In both swarm intelligence and Big Data the individuals involved are, largely, unaware of the extent of the interaction and resource pooling. Whereas however birds, bees, fish and ants needn’t be aware of such, we all really should be, that we generally aren’t making Big Data much more a demonstration of swarm unintelligence. If not swarm negligence.

With his participatory art installation Freiheit 2.0 Florian Mehnert visualises the permanent interaction between our analogue and digital lives, the ensuing tensions, and thereby aims to allow us a new, differentiated, view of where we are at and where we could end up.

Throughout June 2018 Freiheit 2.0 can be experienced in Stuttgart, and ahead of the opening we spoke with Florian Mehnert.

Freiheit 2.0 Stuttgart

“Memphis in June,
A shady veranda under a Sunday blue sky,
Memphis in June,
And cousin Amanda’s makin’ a rhubarb pie”

(Memphis in June, Hoagy Carmichael)

Sounds lovely Hoagy, but we’ll have to pass, because despite Memphis having some interesting museums, we can’t find one opening a new architecture or design exhibition in June 2018.

Consequently, and unlike Marc Cohn, we’ll not be “Walking in Memphis” this June, but in Düsseldorf, Espoo, Andelsbuch, Rotterdam and San Francisco…..

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for June 2018

“Monsieur, with these Rocher you are really spoiling us!”

Ever since Ferrero brought a touch of self-congratulatory kitsch to the savoir-faire of international diplomacy, we’ve felt a great empathy for the concept of the Embassy.

And while the years since we first heard those words may not have seen us follow an illustrious, freely debonair, diplomatic career, we do have as a substitute the embassy design exhibition.

3daysofdesign Copenhagen 2018 offered such a wealth and variety of embassy exhibitions we simply couldn’t resist donning a metaphorical morning coat and taking a flânerie through the diplomatic quarter.

But would that which awaited us also be an ultimate “sign of good taste”……..?*

3daysofdesign Copenhagen 2018: #embassytour

“This exhibition intends to acknowledge the cultural achievements of Italian design in the last decade, to honor the accomplishments of its gifted designers and incisive critics, and to illustrate the diversity of their approaches to design by presenting a collection of the most interesting examples of their work.”1

Thus announced the curators of the Museum of Modern Art’s 1972 exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape their intentions.

The New Domestic Landscape portrayed by the gifted designers accomplishments and diversity of their approaches wasn’t however, necessarily, one inhabited by voluminously upholstered sofas and elegant lighting…….

Italy The New Domestic Landscape The Museum of Modern Art, New York 1972

For the German architect, designer, artist Peter Behrens it was important that the exterior reflected a building’s intended function, that the exterior provided information about the nature of the building and its occupants.

We suspect therefore he would greatly approve of the title of the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Cologne’s exhibition in honour of his 150th birthday, neatly encapsulating as it does the nature of its protagonist.

#all-rounder

Peter Behrens. #all-rounder, the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Cologne

Established in 1897 as an institution for pure and applied arts the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum in Krefeld was, for all through the person of its founding director Friedrich Deneken, an important protagonist in the discourse concerning the relationships between art, craft and industry at the turn of the 20th century

With the exhibition From Idea to Form. Domeau & Pérès: Design and Craftsmanship in Dialogue, the contemporary Kaiser Wilhelm Museum Krefeld continue this discourse.

From Idea to Form. Domeau & Pérès Design and Craftsmanship in Dialogue at the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum Krefeld

In the wonderful month of May,
As all the buds bloomed,
My heart became,
With Love consumed

In the wonderful month of May,
As all the birds did sing,
I confessed to her
My desire and yearning.

Heinrich Heine, Im wunderschönen Monat Mai, 1827

And then???

Heinrich, don’t leave us hanging! It all started out so positive!

It’s an awkward month May, the vitality of blooming buds and oratorio of singing birds luring us into hopeful fantasies, utopian visions of what lies ahead: but what will become of them? Will the freshly bloomed buds survive the inevitable late frost? Will the birds’ new chicks evade their predators to flee the nest and carry their song to pastures new? Will she respond to your confessions of desire and yearning?

Probably not. And so therefore rather than losing your May to romantic dreaming, before May becomes but a painful memory of what could have been, something destined to remain forever in the past tense, use it to improve your understandings of the realities of the world around you, to learn to talk confidently in the future.

Our five recommendations for new architecture and design exhibitions opening during May 2018………

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for March 2018

Any anthology of 20th century design would by necessity feature a very, very long chapter on Italy. With Storie. Il Design Italiano the Triennale Design Museum Milan sketch out how the narrative of such a chapter could develop, highlight key moments in the plot development and introduce the most important protagonists.

Storie. Il Design Italiano @ Triennale Design Museum, Milan

By way of celebrating designer Achille Castiglioni’s centenary Italian lighting manufacturer Flos used Milan Design Week 2018 to launch re-editions of two Castiglioni designs: Ventosa and Nasa.

Objects which in their own, small, ways allow for an insight into Achille Castiglioni’s approach to, and understanding of, design.

Flos present Achille Castiglioni - If you are not curious forget it, Milan Design Week 2018

We’re great believers in Fate, in the guiding principle that if it is meant to be, it will be: not least because it protects us from the expectations of achievement.

Further proof of the veracity of Fate was provided by our meeting during Milan Design Week 2018 with the project Moorwerk by Jan Christian Schulz.

Moorwerk by Jan Christian Schulz, as seen at ein&zwanzig, Milan Design Week 2018

Milan Furniture Fair 2018, at least amongst those more design led manufacturers, is/was largely about consolidation, largely about new materials, new colours, slight changes to existing objects, with one or the other family proudly presenting their latest members. Which is no complaint, far from it, Milan’s speciality traditionally being the new for the sake of the new, that misguided belief that one has to present something new every year. You don’t. Present something new when you’ve got something new to say, something new to contribute, something meaningful.

Largely ≇ exclusively and there were a few new projects to be found which did have something new to say, did have something new to contribute, were something meaningful. If not enough for a handful. Sure we could have added another project just to compete the quintet, there being no shortage of candidates to choose from, but then just as we don’t expect manufacturers to publish for the sake of the new rather for the quality, so we don’t publish for the sake of the five….

As ever we didn’t see everything, have without question missed things we shouldn’t have missed, things we will regret missing later, apologies all round, but, and with that in mind, our Milan Furniture Fair 2018: High Four!!

Milan Furniture Fair 2018 High Five

Whereas exhibitions in which designers show prototypes and discontinued projects by way of explaining who they are, where they come from and how they work, are a, relatively, regular occurrence, exhibitions in which manufacturers do such are much, much rarer: with the exhibition Typecasting Vitra make a very rare and very welcome exception

And in doing so don’t just present an image not only of Vitra past, but also take a look into the future…..

Vitra -Typecasting, as seen at Milan Design Week 2018

Curated by Carwan Gallery Beirut co-founder Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, Unsighted presents projects by eight international designers; the title making reference to the fact that the designers weren’t told for what they were being commissioned, had no external context; were working, as it were, Unsighted.

During Milan Design Week 2018 all became clearer…

Unsighted, Milan Design Week 2018

“Shake of all the props – the props tradition and authority offer you – and go alone – crawl – stumble – stagger – but go alone”, encouraged the Scottish architect, designer and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh his audience during his 1902 lecture Seemliness.1

How Charles Rennie Mackintosh himself attempted to do just that can be explored in the exhibition Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Making the Glasgow Style.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Making the Glasgow Style @ Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

According to the German philologist, mythologist, folklorist and definer of the Germanic Umlaut, Jacob Grimm, an old belief states that the Cuckoo never sings before the 3rd of April; and, “should you have money in your pouch when you hear him sing the first time, you will be well off all that year, if not, you will be short the whole year” 1

Much like the cuckoo, our five new architecture & design exhibitions recommendations for April 2018 begin with their songs after April 3rd; and should you have money in your pouch when in their vicinity, and use it to visit one, we can’t guarantee a year of financial wealth, but they all sound like providing not only a couple of hours entertainment, but a lifetime of joy through helping you develop your understanding of architecture and design, and thereby the world that surrounds you….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for April 2018

Following on from the Collective in 2015, Movement in 2016 and Substance in 2017, the Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau’s annual theme for 2018 is the Standard; a central component of the teaching at Bauhaus Dessau yet one which is and was freely open to artistic, technological and functional interpretation.

And one the Bauhäusler freely interpreted artistically, technologically and functionally

The first exhibition in context of the annual theme explores the work of the German architect Carl Fieger, how he applied his understanding and interpretations of standardisation of architecture and design from his days at Bauhaus in the 1920s to his time at the East German Bauakademie in the 1950s, how he evolved and developed as an architect in that period and his contemporary relevance.

Carl Fieger. From Bauhaus to Bauakademie at Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau

1918 was a bad year for the Wiener Moderne, losing as it did with the deaths of Koloman Moser, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and Otto Wagner four of its leading protagonists.

To mark the centenary, and help underscore the important role Vienna played at the turn of the 19th/20th century in the development of art, architecture, music and literature, museums across Vienna are staging a wide range of specially themed exhibitions throughout 2018; the Hofmobiliendepot – Imperial Furniture Museum – taking the opportunity to celebrate not only Otto Wagner, but his younger contemporaries Josef Hoffmann and Adolf Loos.

Wagner, Hoffmann, Loos and Viennese Modernist Furniture Design. Artists, Patrons, Producers

While it is generally the case that the development, evolution, of product design is dependent on the development, evolution, of technology, such is particularly the case in context of lighting design: ever since a burning stick was first employed to create a relaxing evening atmosphere in a neolithic cave, technological developments have been the driving force behind the development of lighting design, be that formally, functionally or technically.

The nature of Light + Building Frankfurt, the fact that it is much more of case of “Light in and around Buildings”, means that the majority of the projects presented are about technical lighting in architectural contexts, and in terms of technical evolution most manufacturers are atop of the game: demonstrating technical competence being a key element in any lighting manufacturers’ self-image. Does however by necessity mean that often the required functionality is largely pre-defined by the very specific nature of the usage, while the form is in many cases irrelevant.

A small section of Light + Building does however present objects of more freer nature, and there one does/could find a few design led projects which in addition to adopting technological innovation approach new formal and functional solutions and thus new understandings of what lighting can/should be. As ever we’ve not seen everything, have invariably missed one or the other gem, apologies all-round, but with that in mind, and in no particular order, our Light + Building Frankfurt 2018 High Five!!

Light + Building Frankfurt 2018: High Five!!

Nightclubs and discos are not only about entertainment and sensory overload, but also provide a society with means of expression and reflection.

With the exhibition Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 – Today the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein explore five decades of club culture.

Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today, Vitra Design Museum