The German town of Boppard sits on two of the most pronounced and prominent curves on the Mittelrhein.
Can it be a coincidence that Boppard’s most famous son, Michael Thonet, is most popularly known for his curving bentwood chairs?
Can it really be a coincidence?
Possibly. Almost certainly.
What is less contentious is that the flow and meandering of first Michael Thonet’s creativity and vigour and subsequently that of the company Thonet has carved its mark not only on
the Rhenish Massif furniture design and on understandings of furniture, but also the furniture industry, from production to sales and distribution.
With the exhibition Thonet & Design the Neue Sammlung Munich embark on a voyage along some 200 years of Thonet design (hi)story.
That joining the
Women’s Department weaving workshop was for many a female Bauhäusler not so much an active wish as the response to a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, shouldn’t be confused with the workshop producing work of an involuntary, unloving, uncaring nature, of it playing second fiddle to the rest of the institution. Far from it. The quality and relevance of the work created in the Bauhaus weaving workshop being in many regards attested by the fact it was one of the more productive and commercially successful Bauhaus workshops.
With the exhibition Bauhaus. Textiles and Graphics the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz explore the work undertaken in the Bauhaus weaving workshops, some of the institutions’ principle protagonists and their place in wider considerations of inter-War weaving. While also neatly, if indirectly, highlighting Bauhaus’s gender differences, inequalities, prejudices……
More or less……
…..while 3 of the 5 have a direct connection to Bauhaus, 5 of the 5 are very much in the spirit of the attempts of inter-War architects and designers to reform architecture and design, to establish a new architecture and design for the new society, attempts in which Bauhaus played an important role.
And for those seeking escape from Dessau and Weimar, figuratively not physically, we refer you to our more general 5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2019 recommendations….
“Low bowls with flowers, as well as flowers placed on the tablecloth and a platter of fruit, are the most beautiful table decorations. All table centrepieces with rocks, palm trees, ostriches, deer, and such are ludicrous, for these things have no business on a table, and all tall table decorations – even those made of flowers – are also unsuitable since they screen the dinner guests from one another”, opined Ellen Key of table culture in her 1899 essay Beauty in the Home.1
But that was then.
With the exhibition table talks — Tischgespräche the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden present positions by students from Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Copenhagen on contemporary table culture.
One of the principle motors of the development of new products is new materials: stone famously ceding its primacy to bronze, which in turn ceded to iron… to …. to …. to …. plastics; new materials not only allowing for new forms of objects, but for objects with new functionalities, new properties, new purposes, and thus objects both reflective of the new needs of a continually evolving society and also allowing those needs to be not only met but, ideally, exceeded, thus contributing to our social and cultural evolution.
With the exhibition New textile worlds in a creative context – Potential technical, intelligent textiles + smart materials the Wasserschloß Klaffenbach explores such relationships between materials and objects in context of both commercial products employing new materials technology and/or understandings and also academic research indicating possible future realities.
While the shortlist of exhibitions for this column is regularly long, that for May 2019 was particularly so.
And particularly tricky. Perusing it we saw no realistic chance of getting it down to five, all made good claims for inclusion, none deserved to be ignored……
Then we noticed that, with a little bit tweaking, we could get two lists: one featuring those exhibitions directly connected with Bauhaus/Inter-War architecture and design, and one featuring those less directly connected.
The Bauhaus/Inter-War architecture and design list will follow, but for all keen to explore architecture and design in a wider context, five new exhibitions opening in May 2019 in Munich, New York, Berlin, Basel & Villingen-Schwenningen, you may like to consider visiting……..
Sitting, quietly, unobtrusively, in the north-western corner of Germany, Oldenburg is, in many regards, a near textbook example of a provincial town. Which we don’t mean as an insult. Doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. In any sense less worthy than elsewhere. Much more Oldenburg is the sort of self-contained community that exists not so much independent of the rest of the world, but without the rest of the world noticing. Or Oldenburg caring if they notice. Oldenburg has its (hi)stories, its intrigues, its characters, its dramas, its ways, its understandings, the sheer number of cafes in the pedestrianised town centre confirming that it does, and that is all important for Oldenburg. But Oldenburg is inconspicuous. Oldenburg isn’t the sort of place that is ever going to feature on the news, is never casually referenced in TV programmes, magazine articles or radio discussions, if they have a football team, then not one who play in a league you’ve ever heard of. Oldenburg is the sort of place one is from, but one would never move to. Respectable, decorous, correct, happy, unassuming. Provincial.
And thus surely not the sort of place to be troubled by something as radical, avant-garde and reformist as Bauhaus.
And, as the exhibition Between Utopia and Adaptation. The Bauhaus in Oldenburg in the Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte discusses, was not only troubled by, but actively contributed to.
“I first saw resilient tubular steel furniture designed by Professor Mies van der Rohe in September 1927 at the exhibition “Samt und Seide” in Berlin, objects which made a very deep impression on me, because I felt and saw that here, for the first time, was a meaningful way to utilise the forces inherent in tubular steel.” Anton Lorenz, 27th March 19391
Because discussions on the steel tube furniture that, in many regards, characterises the inter-War period tend to focus on the designers and architects, it can be all too easily forgotten that without those who identified the potential, those who not only understood the significance of the new developments of the period, but had the requisite skills to bring the ideas of a, relatively, small group of creatives to the market, steel tube furniture may not today enjoy the fascination and following that it does.
Certainly wouldn’t stand as characteristic of the inter-War period.
Amongst those who played a leading a role in such developments was the Hungarian born designer and entrepreneur Anton Lorenz. With the exhibition From Avant-Garde to Industry the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot not only explain Anton Lorenz’s role in the development of inter-War furniture, but also his post-War contributions to an, apparently, contradictory furniture genre……
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…….
Today industrially produced objects are so self-evident and ubiquitous it can be hard to believe there was a time when they weren’t.
With the exhibition Unique Piece or Mass Product? the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin explores the developments of industrial production in the early 20th century, the discussions and discourses which accompanied those developments and the connections between such developments and the evolution of both formal understandings and the role and function of designers.
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!!
“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.
“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”.
“Form should not be finite but should be amorphous, so that the experience within is loose, meandering and multiple” – Balkrishna Doshi1
With the exhibition Architecture for the People the Vitra Design Museum explore Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi’s understanding of, belief in and approach to realising the amorphous, the social, the humane, in architecture.
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)
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.
Were it possible that there could be such a thing as a “lost” Bauhaus building, something wholly unimaginable this of all years, then the best candidate would, arguably, have to be the ADGB Bundesschule in Bernau bei Berlin. Yes, it is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and so is not really lost; however as an object it only rarely features, and when then invariably passingly, in the popular Bauhaus discourse …. and that despite being built by a serving Bauhaus Director.
With the exhibition Volksbedarf statt Luxusbedarf – Bernau and its Bauhaus the Galerie Bernau aim to not only help increase the works visibility but also allow for a better understanding of its character.
The 1920s was in many regards a decade that promised so much, achieved so much, but which was then overtaken by political and economic events before it could cement that which it promised and achieved, and which therefore remains hanging, almost stranded, in history. Somehow unfulfilled. And which with its popular image as as roaring, golden, age also appears a little too joyous, a little too optimistic, sandwiched as it is between the horrors and loss of two wars.
But then in the course of the Années folles, who could have foreseen that the real folie stood before us.
With their exhibition Small Apartment, Department Store, Power Station – New Building and New Living in 1920’s Halle the Stadtmuseum Halle explore and explain the decade in the context of daily life in the city.
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.
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…..
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.
How do we ensure there is sufficient, affordable, healthy, practical, accommodation for our contemporary population and their needs?
Not just a question for today’s society but arguably one that has been posed, considered and approached by architects and urban planners since the late 19th century.
If, admittedly, without anyone ever solving the conundrum. Or at least not unequivocally. Or sustainably.
With the exhibition Die Neue Heimat (1950–1982). A Social Democratic Utopia and Its Buildings, the Architekturmuseum der TU München review the (hi)story of the Neue Heimat housing corporation and its efforts to ensure sufficient, affordable, healthy, practical, accommodation for West Germany, and in doing so add to the contemporary discourse.
“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.
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!!