Category: smow


The sense, logic or otherwise of the biannual changing of the clocks is a subject that can keep any conversation animated until the next change occurs……When it can start all over again.

The biannual repositioning of the hands of time is however also an opportune moments to consider our relationship to time, for all our measurement of time, our harnessing of time, our charting of time, and of time metaphoric and time symbolic as represented by that embodiment of time tangible … the clock.

Radio smow A Clocks Playlist

Our recent deliberations on Bauhaus and music very naturally led us to a whole raft of further deliberations on the associations between music and other forms of creative expression; and for all the question, given that so many of those Bauhäusler who had/could have had second careers as musicians were artists, are there designers who have/had second careers as musicians…….

…….of course there are……

6 D 030 Z by Charles Ray Eames for Evans for Zenith Radio. Designers can create the means to enjoy music, but also make music to enjoy.....

In a year in which the familiar glow of many a beloved cultural event is missing, one beacon continues to shine.

As a virtual, and in many regards virtual, event the smow Song Contest is one that can be staged regardless of prevailing physical social distancing regulations and physical travel restrictions.

And while virtual closeness and virtual travel can never, and must never be allowed to, replace the physical, the 2020 smow Song Contest does allow us all an opportunity to cross great distances, to come together, to stay safe, to stay responsible, but for all to stay dancing…..

smow song contest 2020

In these days of uncertainty one thing is indubitable: we will all become much better acquainted with our sofa, our couch and our settee.

To accompany us all, a Radio smow playlist dedicated to the sofa, couch, settee and an invitation to reflect on the symbolic, figurative and cultural role of the sofa, couch, settee…

Radio smow: A Sofa, Couch, Settee Playlist…….

According to Goethe,

Without the Fastnacht’s dance and masquerade ball
February has little to offer at all.1

Rubbish! Absolute rot!

Our recommendations for new architecture and design exhibitions opening during February 2020 in Weil am Rhein, New York, Vienna, Houston and Kerkrade which ably demonstrate that February has much more to offer than carnival, and for all that February can provide for a greater degree of cerebral gratification than sensual………

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for February 2020

“Das tritt nach …meiner Kenntnis … ist das sofort, unverzüglich”

“As far as I’m aware….. that applies …. with immediate effect, forthwith”

Rarely has an almost sentence in a press conference had such consequences. With his confidently unconfident utterances on the evening of Thursday November 9th 1989, a statement concerning a relaxation on restrictions for those East Germans wanting to travel to West Germany, a statement made while distractedly flicking through papers looking for, and missing, the answer to the question of when the relaxations applied, Günter Schabowski, East Germany’s ruling SED’s somewhat bombastically titled, Secretary of Information, in effect, opened the Berlin Wall. Within the hour streams of those East Germans were taking advantage of the freshly, prematurely, relaxed restrictions and flowing westwards…….

Yet for all its momentousness, as the exhibition 1989 – ​Culture and Politics at the National Museum Stockholm reinforces, the fall of the Wall, was only another event in a remarkable, momentousness, political year.

And a remarkable year for creative expressions: 1989 seeing the death throes of Postmodern design, art getting political, again, while in music the increasing influence of electronic dance music, for all House, in all in its numerous guises, was not only being felt in the music produced, but in the attitudes of the yoof: the poodle rockers and 80s pop kids were still there, still enjoying success, but a new generation was preparing to replace them. And a new generation who were, when not necessarily more aware than the poodle rockers and pop kids of contemporary political, economic, environmental and social realities, certainly were much more prepared to vocalise their opinions, and developing new soundscapes in which to do that.

And so by way of marking not only 30 years of Günter Schabowski stumbling towards the reunification of Europe, but all those other moments, good and less so, in 1989….. a Radio smow playlist of 89 songs from ’89……

Record sleves from 1989, as seen at 1989 - Culture and Politics, The National Museum Stockholm

On this, the longest day, a radio smow playlist devoted to that which Europe for the next 24 hours will have more of than at any other time this year. And which somehow still won’t seem enough.

We could do with a lot more light, a lot more illumination, in our contemporary society…………………

Fire. The first man made light....and still the most endearing....

For all the controversy surrounding smow Tel Aviv’s victory in the 2018 smow Song Contest, not least the question if there even is a smow Tel Aviv, the staging of the 2019 Contest in Israel does allow for a very nice reinforcing of the central theme of the 2019 smow Song Contest….

smow song contest 2019

Following the #smowblogfact revelation from Vitra Work at Orgatec Cologne 2018 that the smow blog office is devoid of shelving, we were inundated with an e-mail asking why? why has the smow blog office no shelving….?

A very simple question, and one which for the first time caused us to pose ourselves a much more fundamental question, why? why, has the smow blog office no shelving….?

Considerations which quickly evolved and diverged to concern themselves with the more general questions of what, how, when and why shelving…….

Radio smow Shelving Playlist Skara Brae Orkney Furniture

Slowly but surely the temperatures across Europe begin to fall, along with the leaves and the hours of daylight.

Hibernation approaches.

And by way of an accompaniment to the imminent long sleep, a Radio smow beds playlist.

Radio smow bed playlist

Multi-storey car parks are many things to many people. For skateboarders a playground, for love-torn teens a place of privacy, for authors and film-makers an all too easy metaphor, and for yet others ….. somewhere to park their car.

For the German architect Paul Schneider-Esleben the multi-storey car park represents his career breakthrough. And one of his most defining projects.

Lichtplatz Car Park (Hanielgarage), Düsseldorf by Paul Schneider-Esleben

Whereas Frankfurt can, and very loudly does, claim to the birthplace of the German poet, playwright, scientist, statesman, etc, etc, etc Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, nearby Offenbach was not only the birthplace of his almost wife and long, long time love Lili Schönemann, but it was in the, then, relative, calm of Offenbach that Goethe’s affections for Lili evolved and grew; “Lili was the first person I deeply and truly loved, and maybe she was the last”, an octogenarian Goethe is reported as having confided to a friend.

Would however we return from the 2018 Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach Rundgang with such a deep, enduring love….? With our own Lili……?

Rundgang 2018, Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach

In October 2017 the Design Department of the Folkwang Universität der Künste Essen moved into its new home, the so-called Quartier Nord designed by Stuttgart based MGF Architekten.

The 2018 Folkwang Summer Rundgang therefore not only offered an opportunity to explore the work undertaken by institute’s students in the semester past, but also to explore their new home…….

Folkwang Universität der Künste Essen Quartier Nord Rundgang 2018

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

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

Following smow Lisboa’s surprise victory in the 2017 smow Song Contest, the Portuguese capital is preparing to host the 2018 song contest: a contest being staged very much in context of the contemporary relevance of smow’s historic connections….

smow song contest 2018

The only FAQ not answered by the smow FAQs is the one that begins, “What is smow……..?”

And as smow grows and grows so too does the F with which the Q is A’d.

The answer in one sense is very simple, smow trade in furniture, lighting and home/office accessories through a series of showrooms and online shops. But that only partly explains “smow”. Doesn’t explain the how, who, why and wherefore. Nor the richness. Explaining the true smow is in many respects best achieved by exploring another trading institution whose superficial simplicity hides its true depth of character ….. The Hanseatic League.

Then as now the way to the top was difficult, but a challenge the succesful traders didn't shy away from.....

As we’ve oft noted in these pages, not only have designers since time immemorial had a particular fascination for chairs, but society a particular predilection.

Arguably the two are related and can be traced to the long, universal, cultural, political and social relevance of the chair and the act of sitting, a state of affairs which not only makes the physical chair/seat an integral part of our lives, but the metaphorical: excitement brings us to edge of our chairs, those who are brave/foolish enough place themself in the hot seat, while we either sit in judgement or on the fence depending on what prudence and prejudice advise.

And so following on from our Cupboards, Closets, Wardrobes Playlist, a Radio smow Chairs Playlist, starting with five songs which discuss the action, symbolism and relevance of chairs/sitting in various contexts. Considerations on which can keep us occupied for hours.

No, honest…..

radio smow chairs playlist

Can innovation be an end to itself? Are we living in excess? Do things bewilder and inspire us still? Does a museum collection inevitably lose its link to reality as time goes by? What is good design?

The exhibition Hella Jongerius & Louise Schouwenberg – Beyond the New at Die Neue Sammlung Munich poses a lot of questions.

Questions which needn’t necessarily find answers, but which should serve as inspiration and motivation to further questions, and thus a deeper discourse on design.

Hella Jongerius & Louise Schouwenberg - Beyond the New, Die Neue Sammlung - The Design Museum, Munich

Throughout June and July well be touring Europe in context for our 2017 #campustour.

By way of an accompaniment, we thought it would be an opportune moment for a game of bingo.

For who doesn’t love bingo?

Welcome to smow Blog #campustour Bingo (photo by via https://commons.wikimedia.org)

smow blog #campustour 2017

Very much like Willie Nelson, we’re on the road again, and like a band of gypsies goin’ down the highway,

It’s early May and once again the party ship we call the smow song contest is ready to set sail……

smow song contest 2017

There is one song missing from the smow blog playlist: missing for the simple, regrettable, and thoroughly avoidable, reason that it isn’t on spotify.

For din skyld by the Danish singer Birgit Brüel. Denmark’s entry for the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest. And featuring lyrics by Poul Henningsen.

Yes, that Poul Henningsen.

Poul Henningsen

It’s not quite radio smow. Not yet. But we hope it is another way to enjoy, and understand, the smow blog…….

6 D 030 Z by Charles Ray Eames for Evans for Zenith Radio, as seen at Radio Days. Tube Radios, Design Classics, Internet Radio, the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Cologne

Design European Championship 2016 Final - Starting line-up Portugal

After four weeks of competition at venues throughout France the 2016 Design EM prepares to bid adieu, au revoir and