Category: Exhibitions and Shows


What is a chair?

You sure?

With the exhibition Chairs. For children only! the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig, explore the (hi)story of and developments in children’s seating, and in doing so not only allow for insights into an all too often undervalued, underappreciated, ignored, genre of furniture, but also forces you to reconsider your response to what you thought was a very, very straightforward question…..

Chairs. For children only!, Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig

Much as with “Bauhaus”, “Memphis” is all too often popularly reduced to a “style”, something one can “recreate”.

As with “Bauhaus” that it is not only disingenuous, and erroneous, but hinders development of understandings of the (hi)story of design, understandings of the path taken to our contemporary design that are important for considerations on where we are and how best to progress.

With the showcase Memphis: 40 Years of Kitsch and Elegance the Vitra Design Museum Gallery issue an invitation for us all to delve a little deeper, to look below the plastic laminated surface.

Memphis: 40 Years of Kitsch and Elegance Vitra Design Museum Gallery

Braun occupy a special, ¿unique?, position not only in the mythology of product design but also in the (hi)story of West Germany; arguably no brand is as closely related with and to West Germany as Braun.

With the exhibition Braun 100 the Bröhan-Museum, Berlin, explore the development of design at Braun in the post-War decades and in doing so help one approach differentiated understandings of not only Braun and Braun design, but also of the relationships between Braun, design and West Germany…….

Braun 100, Bröhan-Museum, Berlin

“In his work the designer seeks to find the constancy of the good”, wrote Karl Clauss Dietel in 1973, a lightly articulated yet not so straightforward task for, as he continues, not only is the assessment of such dependent on a myriad varying factors, but “the search for what defines design, what it grows from, where it comes from and where it wants to go, takes on new dimensions against the background of our cultural upheaval”.1

With the exhibition Simson, Diamant, Erika. Formgestaltung von Karl Clauss Dietel the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz allow insights into not only how Karl Clauss Dietel understood “what defines design, what it grows from, where it comes from and where it wants to go” but how those understandings aided and abetted him in his own search for, understanding of, “the constancy of the good”…….

Simson Diamant Erika. Formgestaltung von Karl Clauss Dietel, Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz

As the worldline of architecture’s spacetime continuum moves through the 1970s and ever further into the 1980s it becomes increasingly blurry, indistinct, harder to confidently follow: established conventions and systems, acknowledged fundamental and/or necessary rules of architecture become increasingly difficult to locate.

Indeed were there rules in 1980s architecture?

With the exhibition Anything Goes? Berlin Architecture in the 1980s the Berlinische Galerie explore the architectural developments in the, then, two Berlins, and in doing so not only allow one to approach better understandings of the architectural development of the, now, one Berlin, but also to question the putative lawless of 1980s architecture…….

Anything Goes? Berlin Architecture in the 1980s, Berlinische Galerie, Berlin

We go in withering July,
To ply the hard incessant hoe;
Panting beneath the brazen sky,
We sweat and grumble, but we go…..1

…..alternatively, skip the panting, sweating and grumbling with a visit to an air-conditioned museum.

Our recommendations for escaping the brazen sky of withering July 2021 can be found in Munich, Aalborg, Eisenhüttenstadt, Wrocław and Karlsruhe.

And as ever in these times, if you are planning visiting any exhibition please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for July 2021

Although cultures very often arose in splendid isolation, only very few remained splendidly isolated for very long.

For much like a young child who having learned to walk intuitively understands what a powerful tool mobility is/can be and seeks to exploit it to the fullness of their abilities, so too did our youthful human civilisations very quickly understand that there was, in all probability, a world beyond their own, and began wandering, at first in their immediate vicinity but increasingly further afield. Increasingly beginning to settle in those further afields.

With the exhibition Cultural Affairs. Art without Borders the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst Leipzig reflect on the thereby arising cultural exchange in context of art, craft and design…….

Cultural Affairs. Art without Borders Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig

In 1950 the Dutch architect and designer Mart Stam told a conference in Leipzig, “when I speak here for a group of individuals active in industry about the problem of industrial design, I do so because I believe that it is necessary for us to concern ourselves in detail with the question of industrial design, and also because I believe that through intensive work and cooperation in this field we can contribute to increasing the cultural quality of our goods.”1,2

With the exhibition The Early Years. Mart Stam, the Institute and the Collection of Industrial Design the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin elucidate that Stam did more than simply speak about “the problem of industrial design” in the, then, fledgling East Germany, that Mart Stam wasn’t the only person in 1950s East Germany interested in “increasing the cultural quality of our goods”, if ideas about how one defined “increasing” and “cultural quality” varied greatly; and in doing so allows insights into the development of industrial design in East Germany……

The Early Years. Mart Stam, the Institute and the Collection of Industrial Design, the Werkbundarchiv Museum der Dinge, Berlin

“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it is always June”, ponders Anne Shirley in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1915 novel Anne of the Island.

“You’d get tired of it”, sighs her adoptive mother Marilla Cuthbert by way of reply.

“I daresay”, responds Anne, “but just now I feel that it would take me a long time to get tired of it…”

Thoughts we very much concur with as we survey and contemplate the varied profusion of new architecture and design exhibitions sprouting forth in June 2021. Who could ever tire of such a joyous abundance? Who?

Our five recommendations from that early summer crop can be found in Leipzig, Hornu, Berlin, Bloomfield Hills and Chemnitz…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for June 2021

“What would it mean to live life as lightly as possible?” asks the exhibition School of No Consequences. Exercises for a New Life at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, “what would it mean to live life in a way that had as small an impact as possible?”

What indeed……

School of No Consequences. Exercises for a New Life at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg

How did previous generations imagine daily life in our contemporary age?, the Museum für Kommunikation Frankfurt asked itself.

Specifically, how did previous generations imagine technology integrating into and assisting daily life in our contemporary age? A question which naturally leads into questions of how we imagine technology integrating into and assisting daily life in our contemporary age? How does our contemporary age imagine technology integrating into and assisting daily life in coming ages?

The answers, as presented and discussed in context of the exhibition Back to Future. Technology visions between fiction and reality, may surprise you, may appear familiar to you, may surprise you in that they appear familiar to you. And in their surprising familiarity could, should, stimulate more critical reflections on the role, function, purpose and place of technology in our cultures and societies, and of our relationships with and to technology……

Boundless Communication, as seen at Back to Future. Technology visions between fiction and reality, the Museum für Kommunikation, Frankfurt

According to Germanic folklore Mairegen bringt Segen, Rain in May brings blessings.

It also brings an excellent excuse to visit an architecture and/or design exhibition.

Our five recommended shelters from the showers in May 2021 can be found in Ulm, Stockholm, Baruth, Zürich and Hasselt……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2021

As the 19th century English poet Robert Browning so very, very, nearly phrased it:

Oh, to be in Berlin, Vienna, Chemnitz, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, or Berlin (again),
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in Berlin, Vienna, Chemnitz, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, or Berlin (again),
Sees, some morning a most interesting, entertaining and instructive sounding architecture and/or design exhibition,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for April 2021

In the final decades of the 19th century the lands of the, then, German Empire, established themselves amongst the leading protagonists in the developments of contemporary applied arts as they moved towards that which we today term design. A leading position which, in certain regards, became a European dominance in the course of the 1900s, 1910s and 1920s through the contributions made to the evolving practices, processes, expressions and understandings of the period by institutions such as, and amongst many others, the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau, the Deutsche Werkbund, the Frankfurt city building authorities and, and perhaps most famously, the Bauhauses.

Then, as so oft in 1920s Europe, came the 1930s, the War and subsequently the establishment within (part of) the lands of the, former, German Empire two new nations: West Germany and East Germany.

And what became of the design understandings and approaches that had developed and evolved in that region over the previous half century?

That, to misquote Hamlet, is one of the questions the Vitra Design Museum pursue in German Design 1949–1989. Two Countries, One History.

German Design 1949–1989. Two Countries, One History, Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein

With the 2021 Pritzker Architecture Prize being awarded to Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal international attention has become focused on architectural strategies geared towards maintaining existing buildings in the face of evolving economic, social, demographic, et al, realities rather than demolishing and erecting new ones by way of a response; and also of the value, the economic, the social, the cultural and the environmental value, of reusing, remodelling and reimagining that which exists rather than replacing through rebuilding and replanning.

The Deutsche Architektur Zentrum Berlin’s exhibition Caring for what already exists. Ten Architectural Strategies was developed, and was scheduled to open, long, long, before Lacaton & Vassal’s selection; however, in asking questions of how buildings and urban spaces could, should, must?, evolve with those societies and communities around them, questions of the relationships between built environments and the communities with which they co-exist, its delayed opening has not only brought its themes a new popular relevance to compliment their unquestioned importance, but also allows it to help contribute to the sharpening or our collective foci in context of architecture and our built environments….

Caring for what already exists. Ten Architectural Strategies, Deutsche Architektur Zentrum, Berlin

“Conservative Hamburg only permits white paint for its ceilings, doors and windows, and, at most, economical gilding”, remonstrated once the decorative painter Peter Gustaf Dorén.1

And set about rectifying that, set about bringing more colour to Hamburg……

Peter Gustaf Dorén. Interior Design in Hamburg circa 1900 Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Following the declaration of the French Republic in 1792 a new calendar was introduced in the realms of France: the Revolution had washed away France past and the Republic marked the start of a new reality for mankind, one of universal Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, and therefore demanded a resetting of the collective clock, a new measuring of time, and thus out went the Gregorian calendar and its historic associations with church and state, and in came le calendrier républicain, the French Republican Calendar.

And while, yes, one can consider the belief amongst the new republicans in the eternal gloriousness of the coming future as somewhat naive, one must remember that we can reflect on their optimism with the benefit of over 200 years hindsight and experience.

The argument for a new calendar appears however as compelling and self-evident as it must have done at its adoption on October 24th 1793. Or 3 Brumaire II, as we believe le calendrier républicain would date the day of its adoption.

Aside from its ten day week, an early attempt at bringing decimalisation to our time keeping, and the bequeathing of every day its own unique name, the principle difference between the Gregorian and Republican calendars is the move from the 12 months of varying lengths inherited from the Romans to twelve months each comprising thirty days, three ten day weeks, and the renaming of the months to give them a connection to nature rather than to Romans: the period between 19/20th February and 19/20th March, that period in which we find ourselves at the time of writing, being known as Ventôse, from venteux, windy, and was preceded by Pluviôse, rainy, and followed by Germinal, germination

Which all strikes us as particularly apposite as we move towards the next phase of our post-pandemic society; as a fresh wind blows the global rain clouds away and ushers in a period of re-birth and springing forth. Yes, such optimism may be as naive as that of the French revolutionaries, but we have a much better understanding of history today, and for all a much better understanding of the sense and logic in, utter necessity of, making use of the myriad lessons of history in order to avoid the pitfalls and follies of the past, and to allow us to chart an untroubled course forward……oh…..hang on……

Although, now is as good a time as any to start. The theory is known, we just need to move into the practice. And so given that all nations and all peoples have had their Corona tribulations should we not think about re-setting our global clocks, starting afresh at a new global year zero for a new global society?

We’ll leave others more qualified than us to work out the practicalities and technicalities, and decide on the basis of the nomenclature, and instead recommend here four new exhibitions scheduled to open in Germinal CCXX, and thus, one hopes, once the winds of Ventôse have begun to do their job, and also recommend a radio station that’s been online since the rains of Pluviôse….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for March 2021

In context of the exhibition Luigi Colani and Art Nouveau, the Bröhan-Museum Berlin’s staircase is emblazoned with a long quote from Colani, a long and typically outspoken quote, in which Luigi Colani denigrates the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm, that design school which has such a prominent and pre-eminent position in popular understandings of design in post-War West Germany; and who for Luigi Colani were “defrauders of the German creative spirituality of the twenties and thirties! Imbecilic criminals.”1

A quote that not only neatly epitomises the (consciously cultivated) Colani communication strategy, nor only leads one to reflect on Colani’s own relationship to inter-War design in Germany, but for all leads one by necessity to question the validity of the accusation; and thereby to reflect on the relationship(s) between the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm and the “German creative spirituality of the twenties and thirties”, and by extrapolation to reflect on post-War design in West Germany……..

Luigi Colani and Art Nouveau at the Bröhan-Museum, Berlin ... Ich spreche doch mit den Ulmern nicht!

For popularly understood reasons not only did the 2021 edition of the IMM Cologne furniture trade fair not take place as planned in mid-January, neither did the 2021 edition of Cologne’s Passagen Interior Design Week…..

….which doesn’t mean that fresh contemporary design wasn’t to be found in Cologne in mid-January.

In an offline realised and online presented exhibition the assemblage Generation Köln introduced the results of their collaborations with the CIAV Meisenthal glassworks; a virtual exhibition, and very much hands-on project, that can now be explored via a short film……

Generation Köln x CIAV Meisenthal

Cleaning is a chore.

If only we could get through life without the necessity of dusting, sweeping, washing, polishing et al…….

With the project Cleaning against the Dictatorship of Efficiency Birgit Severin and Guillaume Neu-Rinaudo a.k.a. studio b severin explore cleaning, its rituals, contexts, symbolism, functions, psychology, and in doing so enable differentiated perspectives on both that ubiquitous chore and the necessity in the necessity of dusting, sweeping, washing, polishing et al…………

Studio B Severin - Cleaning against the Dictatorship of Efficiency, feldfünf, Berlin

Alongside the Chinese and Korean New Year celebrations one of the most popular observances in any given February is, arguably, the Feast Day of Saint Valentine on February 14th; St Valentine famously being the patron saint of greetings card manufacturers, lovers, but less famously, if just as importantly, also offering protection from the plague.

Now while the misanthropes amongst you will query whether love and plague aren’t synonyms, and a pox upon you for that; this February 14th we could all do with not only a little love, but a goodly dose of plague protection. And so rather than the traditional veneration of St Valentine through the distribution of hurriedly purchased and poorly considered flowers and chocolates, how about we all agree to celebrate the life of St Valentine through taking a little more care of one another, spreading a little more communal love and a little less plague, taking the weight of his shoulders for a few hours………….?

Beyond offering protection to lovers and from the plague, and protecting beekeepers, St Valentine also offers protection to travellers, which sadly no-one is these days. But those days will come again.

Until they do we continue with our hybrid exhibitions recommendations lists: that for February 2021 featuring a trio of offline exhibitions in Weil am Rhein, Hamburg und Falkenberg, and while they in all probability wont open as planned, will open, and before they do offer impetus for a little self study, and also two online highlights to explore, research and, for all, enjoy at your leisure.

Perhaps on February 14th, for as we all know, the couple that develop and deepen their design understandings together, stay together……

5 (New) Architecture & Design Exhibitions for February 2021

The only certainty as 2020 flows into 2021 is the ongoing uncertainty. An uncertainty that is increasingly being understood as an ongoing certainty and thereby turning ever more “plans” into “options”.

And also causing a great many global architecture and design museums to skip over the first quarter of 2021 as if weren’t there, and to move their new exhibition openings to April and beyond.

A state of affairs which on the one hand means there are currently fewer lonelier locations than any given museum’s “future exhibitions” listings; but on the other hand means that much as the coldest hour is the one just before the dawn, so it is increasingly certain, as in “old” certain, that the paucity of new exhibitions opening in the first quarter of 2021 will cede to a flood come spring. And so you can now plan, as in old “plan”, to visit an exhibition a day come summer. And still have options. Old and new

And a state of affairs which has to a degree forced our hand and produced a hybrid recommendations list for January 2021: offline exhibitions in Berlin, Hamburg and Metz; online exhibitions from Warsaw and Weimar/Dessau.

And as ever in these times, if you do feel comfortable visiting any museum, please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious…….

5 (New) Architecture & Design Exhibitions for January 2021

To paraphrase the Propellerheads, this is just a little bit of a blog post repeating

For much as with our November 2020 exhibition recommendations, so some of our December 2020 exhibition recommendations won’t be opening. Or at least not in December 2020.

But then as now are in still in our list.

On the one hand because they will open, and is an important part of any pleasure not the expectation and anticipation?

And on the other hand, because that which makes an exhibition recommendable in advance of its opening, that which makes its anticipation and expectation so pleasurable, is that it promises to present a rarely explored subject and/or promises to explore a regularly presented subject from a new and/or fresh and/or deeper perspective. And thus a recommendable exhibition is also a nudge that there may be more to learn and understand about architecture and design than you were aware of. And thus a stimulus for your own research. And what better season than winter for that research?

Our five recommendations/stimuli/nudges for December 2020 can be found in Berlin, Vienna, Helsinki, Rome and St Petersburg.

And as ever in these times, if you do feel comfortable visiting any museum, please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for December 2020

Outwith his native Denmark, the country home to the most architectural works by Arne Jacobsen is Germany.

Yet the vast majority of them remain popularly unknown.

As does Arne Jacobsen’s partner on his German projects: Otto Weitling

With the showcase Gesamtkunstwerke – Architecture by Arne Jacobsen and Otto Weitling in Germany, the Felleshus Berlin not only set the record straight but allow for some fresh reflections on both Arne Jacobsen and our relationships to and with architecture and our built environments……

Gesamtkunstwerke – Architecture by Arne Jacobsen and Otto Weitling in Germany at Felleshus, The Nordic Embassies, Berlin

Back in May we were faced with the decision as to whether to remain with the online exhibition recommendations we’d been carrying throughout the spring, or, given that ever more museums were re-opening, move back offline for our June recommendations.

And decided to move back offline, not least because “viewing an exhibition in a museum is the more satisfying experience, the more rewarding experience, the more enduring experience. And an important experience.

Ahead of our November recommendations we faced a similar choice. Travel, certainly international travel, is not only becoming increasingly difficult and of questionable responsibility, but in many regions the official advice is not to travel unless absolutely necessary; meaning while most museums are open, they are, in a purely practical sense, inaccessible for many. And so is compiling a list of offline exhibitions a meaningful undertaking? Is such a list sensible? Should we move back to online recommendations?

Yes. Yes. No.

And not just because museums are important cultural spaces, but primarily because most all museums are open……

…..or were while we were writing this. However, the rapidly developing nature of contemporary society meant that just before publishing this post it became clear that two of our five November openings will not be opening in November.

We’ve kept them in the list. Not because we couldn’t change the list, not that we couldn’t have substituted them for two others. We could. We’re smow: quick, uncomplicated solutions is what we do, flexibility and spontaneity are our best friends, there is never a Plan B but always alternative options, no job is too big, no pup is too …. no, hang on, that’s Paw Patrol.

We could have substituted them.

But didn’t see why we should. Every month we scan hundreds of museums and galleries around the globe looking for interesting, relevant, recommendable architecture and design exhibitions, the five we present are those we consider to be the most interesting, relevant, recommendable. And no temporary lockdown closure changes that. And all going well, come December, all five will be open.

And now, returning to where our ready-for-posting text was on Friday morning……

……and also with the reminder that such a recommendations list shouldn’t be understood solely as suggestions of locations to physically visit, but also as an impetus for your own study and research, for voyages of cultural discovery from your own sofa and/or desk. Most museum websites have in-depth descriptions of their exhibitions and the themes therein, often components of the exhibition are available online, and there will, almost always, be a catalogue that goes into more depth and detail than the exhibition; and so if an exhibition interests you, and you physically can’t get to the respective museum, why not use the long autumn and winter evenings to explore on your own.

Our five recommendations for new exhibitions opening in November 2020, and five recommendations for a meaningful use of the long autumn and winter evenings, can be found in Frankfurt, Zürich, Jyväskylä, Oslo and Hamburg.

And as ever in these times, if you do feel comfortable visiting any museum, please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for November 2020