A Gulf; A Commonwealth; A Context
In the 1880s design in France stood, in many regards, at the threshold of Art Nouveau, with the likes of, and amongst many others, Louis Majorelle, Émile Gallé or Hector Guimard beginning to start to question the production of, the formal expression of and our relationships with, our objects of daily use in context of the early years of the Third Republic and a rapidly rising industrialisation with all the associated social, economic, technical and political et al developments of the age.
And design in 1980s France?
With the exhibition Années 80. Mode, design et graphisme en France the Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris, undertake a revue of creativity in that very recent, but somehow very distant, decade…….
In 1959 Alexander Girard was commissioned to design the interior of the New York restaurant La Fonda del Sol, a commission for which Charles and Ray Eames designed the seating.
Yet whereas the La Fonda dining chair and La Fonda side chair are well-known, if currently out of production, components of the Eames’ canon, what of the La Fonda bar stool…….
We published our first monthly list of exhibition recommendations on November 1st 2013, one of those short, superficial, posts we used to compose, having as we did back then endless time on our hands; and an intervening nine years that means that with this list for November 2022 we are entering our tenth year of helping you advance your cultural education.
While being very much aware that the vast majority of you have never visited a single one of the circa 450 new exhibitions we’ve carefully and conscientiously selected for your delectation, nor indeed have the vast majority of you visited any architecture or design exhibition in the past nine years: that the vast majority of you have chosen to neglect your cultural education. However, one of the joys of the museum exhibition as a format for elucidation, exploration, energising and entertainment, the reason we don’t give up on you all, is that, the next opportunity is always approaching.
Thus, while that which you have missed is gone for ever, and you’ll just have to try to catch up as best you can; that which is still to come is an opportunity waiting to be grasped. And in November 2022 there is an unusually large and varied amount of opportunities to grasp; the global architecture and design museum community unleashing a plethora of diverse new showcases.
And a plethora of new exhibitions opening in November 2022 that we were simply unable to narrow down to five. It would also have felt unjust given how many new showcases there are.
five six new opportunities to advance your cultural education in November 2022 can be found in Leipzig, Edinburgh, Winterthur, Berlin, New York and Vienna…….
“Everybody, except myself, have used, and admit to having used my photographs … and often also without mentioning my name”, lamented Lucia Moholy in 1956, “everyone – except myself – have derived advantages from using my photographs, either directly, or indirectly, in a number of ways, be it in cash or prestige, or both”.1
The photographs in question being of and from the Weimar and Dessau Bauhauses, photos which played, and continue to play, a not unimportant role in mediating Bauhaus to a wider audience. But which in doing such don’t necessarily help mediate Lucia Moholy to that wider audience. On the contrary, they tend to hold her in a relative anonymity.
With Lucia Moholy – The Image of Modernity the Bröhan Museum, Berlin, help explain how such a situation came to be, why Lucia Moholy’s lament is both justified and an important lesson, and also how it relates to popular understandings of Bauhaus.
But for all seek to redress some of the ongoing consequences of that relative anonymity…….
Just a few short years ago, whereby given the timescales involved one could convincingly argue just a few short hours ago, coal looked very much like yesterday’s resource as the international community, or at least a sizeable part of it, promised to move away from coal and embrace novel fuels.
A commitment to a move away from coal, and fossil fuels in general, that recent geopolitical and economic developments have stalled; have led the international community to move away from their commitment to move away from coal.
A state of affairs which doesn’t change the fact that the global coal supply is finite. That a post-coal future is coming. Sooner or later.
With the exhibition At the coalface! Design in a post-carbon age, the Centre for Innovation and Design at Grand-Hornu provide space for reflection on our various and varied relationships with coal, past, present and (possible) future…….
What is a school?
A question in Dessau all too often answered in architectural terms. And while the space in which a school exists is not irrelevant, what is a school?
For the 2022 edition of the Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau’s Bauhaus Lab the participants concerned themselves with education in apartheid era South Africa, considerations which took them far beyond the school room, and far beyond South Africa; and the results of which are presented in the exhibition Doors of Learning: Microcosms of a Future South Africa…….
A Nils Holger; An Autodidact; A Restlessness
Autumn is once more upon the Northern Hemisphere, that season of not only “mists and mellow fruitfulness”, but as a John Keats also reminds us the season of harvest, be that vine fruits, apples, gourds or hazelnuts.
Or the architecture and design exhibitions Keats didn’t mention. If, to be fair to him, they would have been largely unknown in 1819.
Unlike today; a today where after a long summer of waiting patiently, of observing from afar, and hoping, autumn traditionally presents a bountiful crop of new showcases to be consumed with gay abandon. And with plentiful thanks for the unseen work that led to their creation.
And Autumn 2022 is no exception. After a summer of growth and development and careful tendering the global architecture and design museums are once again brimming and overflowing with fresh, invigorating, nourishing delights to suit all tastes.
Our pick of the new crop in October 2022 can be found in Paris, New York, Brussels, Helsinki and Rome…….
In 1947 the American designer Edward J Wormley reflected in the New York Times on what contemporary furniture could, should, be, and amongst his thoughts on beds, chairs, storage units et al, opined that “an ideal table would be a flat plane suspended in space”, and that not least because “it’s the legs that are the big nuisance”.
“Can we find this kind of furniture in today’s market?”, he asked his readers, albeit, rhetorically, “You know we can’t.”1
Which tends to imply Wormley didn’t visit the Home Show exhibition in New York in April 1930, for had he, he would have seen Friedrich Kiesler’s Flying Desk…….
Amongst the many developments that have influenced and informed the path of furniture and interior design in the past 120ish years one must, without question, count developments in context of colour.
Whereas in previous centuries colours were limited in their availability, range and durability, recent decades have seen not only progress in that availability, range and durability, and as such ever more possibilities in our use of colour, but also seen increasing study of psychology and colour and of developments in understandings of human perception of colour, ever increasing appreciations of how colours exist beyond the physical and chemical. And an ever increasing use of colour in marketing, a creeping commercialisation of colour.
With the installation Colour Rush! Rotterdam based designer Sabine Marcelis transforms the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot into a space for differentiated considerations on colour and our furniture and interiors, on the colours of our furniture and interiors. And in doing so also allows for some fresh insights not only into the Vitra Design Museum collection, but what that collection can teach us all about furniture and interior design over the past 120ish years…….
“For men who have to write a lot, and over prolonged periods, a desk at which they can work standing up is an indispensable piece of furniture for altering their posture and for maintaining their health”, opined Journal der Moden in May 1786. An age when, famously, only men wrote.
Yet advantageous and positive as standing to write was, prolonged standing could, as Journal der Moden notes, lead to tiredness.
A solution was however at hand for all who preferred working at a standing height desk over a prolonged period: a chair, “or a so called donkey … on which one sits as if on a saddle, and which must be just high enough that one can sit half-standing…”1
A half-standing sitting solution whose nickname can be readily derived from the proposed sitting position.
And a half-standing sitting solution that for all it is thoroughly familiar today, was novel, one could almost argue revolutionary, and even enlightened, in 1786…….
In September 1839 Henry David Thoreau and his brother John spent two weeks navigating the Concord and Merrimack rivers on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border. A boat trip, a journey, motivated by Thoreau’s long time observation of the Concord river, and for all its many organic and inorganic inhabitants, floating past him, “fulfilling their fate” as they did; and which inspired Thoreau to “launch myself on its bosom and float wither it would bear me.”1
Which is not only a very positive attitude to life, but also to approaching an architecture and/or design exhibition: launch yourself at it and see whither it bears you.
Our five recommendations for allowing yourself to carried off to pastures unknown, and possibly fulfilling fate as you are, in September 2022 can be found in Frankfurt, Hornu, Kolding, Rotterdam and Los Angeles…….
In Poetics Aristotle argues poetry arose on account of two intrinsic human instincts: an “instinct for ‘harmony’ and rhythm” and “the instinct of imitation”, as in representation rather than copying, an imitation Aristotle opines is the method via which humans learn, and that “to learn gives the liveliest pleasure”.
Yet while for Aristotle all forms of poetry are “in their general conception modes of imitation”, again as in representation rather than copying, “they differ, however, from one another in three respects – the medium, the objects, the manner or mode of imitation”.1
With the exhibition Mimesis. A Living Design the Centre Pompidou-Metz explores designers as imitators of nature, and the varying, and continually developing, mediums, objects, and manners or modes of that imitation…….
In their 2021/22 exhibition Craft is Cactus the Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt, constructed a very convincing argument for including craft in the cactus family, a very convincing argument for making the Craftoideae a fifth subfamily of the Cactaceae.
Yet while a very good argument, as we all know, much work remains to be undertaken on the classification of the Craftoideae, not least in context of their habitats: where does one find craft? Where do the Craftoideae prevail?
With the exhibition Craft as Myth. Between Ideal and Real Life the Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt undertake a detailed field study of the Craftoideae, and in doing so allow for reflections on both contemporary craft and of future contemporary craft. On the future of craft…….
Arguably there is no museum permanent collection exhibition more painstakingly, fastidiously, organized than that of the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin: what initially resembles a hurried attempt to cram as much as possible into as few vitrines as possible, reveals itself on closer, more careful, inspection as vitrine after vitrine of disparate everyday objects organized according to a wide variety of characteristics and properties, such as, for example, objects formed from specific materials, objects for specific tasks, objects containing specific flaws, etc, etc, etc…
As an exercise in organizing objects of daily use it is borderline pathological.1
And a most informative visualisation of the organization that is inherent in the craft of the museologist and archivist.
With the exhibition Organizing Things the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin, turn their attention less to the whats of museal collections as to the hows, and in doing so allow for differentiated reflections on organizing, both institutional and private…….
We’re still here, tirelessly toiling to provide the fuel to keep your fires of inquiry burning bright and thereby powering your ongoing exploration into the depths and breadths of design. And your deconstruction of the simplifications, half-truths and objectifications that have become popularly confused for design.
But the international architecture and design museum community have collectively decided not to open any new exhibitions in August 2022.
We’re not bragging, it’s not what we do, but we do possess inarguably the largest global databank of architecture, design (and art) museums ever compiled, a resource that is continually growing, a resource through which we continually move, within which in many regards we live. And a resource which reveals no new architecture or design relevant exhibitions opening in August 2022.1
Globally we found one new exhibition opening in August 2022 that would fit our criteria for being an exhibtion worthy of recommendation before it has opened and revealed what it actually it is not that which the curators claim it is.
But one is too few for a list. We will however visit it and, should it live up to its promise, report on it in due course.
Not that no new exhibtion openings means the global architecture and design museum community are all on holiday, far from it, they have simply retreated to the cool of their archives; and September and October should, will, offer veritable bounties of easily recommendable new shows.
Nor does no new exhibtion openings mean the global architecture and design museum community are closed. They are very much open, and very much should, must, be visited.2
Thus in place of a list of new exhibitions, we offer two geographically arranged lists of those architecture and design exhibitions on show in August 2022 and which you can, should, must, visit…….
A Phaesporia; A Fonden; A Pleat
For all that the (hi)story of architecture and design is one staged against a background of economic, social, environmental, cultural, et al evolutions and developments, it is also a (hi)story fundamentally dependent upon developments and evolutions in materials, and also in the development and subsequent evolution of novel technologies. Novel technologies and materials which not only enable new approaches to the construction of our buildings and the manufacturing of our objects of daily use, but also enable new forms which offer the possibility of new functionalities and new relationships; new functionalities and new relationships appropriate for and demanded by the age, appropriate for and demanded by the contemporary economic, social, environmental, cultural, et al realities. And which ultimately allow that age to develop into, segue into, the next.
With PRINT3D. Reprint Reality the CaixaForum, Sevilla, allow space for reflections on the actuality, and future possibilities, of 3D printing, a technology that although it has been around for a few decades is, arguably, only now starting to fully reveal its potential and indicate where and how it could contribute to the future of architecture and design. And thereby contribute to future society…….
For reasons too well understood to need mention here, the last couple of summers largely passed by without design school end of year exhibitions, or at least not in the manner and with the public accessibility we all once enjoyed and cherished. And as an inevitable consequence, our Campustour came to a grinding halt.
Summer 2022 sees the return of the universal end of term exhibition. But not of the Campustour.
Not that we’ve lost our passion for randomly traversing Europe, consuming improbable amounts of falafel and complaining, far from it, they remain three of our four favourite pastimes. Much more the frameworks and structures that enabled the Campustour need to be refired, need to be awoken from their pandemic enforced idleness; and that, as with the refiring, the re-awaking, of any blast furnace, takes time. Thus for 2022 we will, regrettably, only post from those student showcases we’re fortunate enough to meet in the course of our wider travels, starting in one of the more historically interesting locations in context of European architecture and design, Weimar, and the Bauhaus University’s Summaery 2022…….
Against the background of an ongoing climate emergency, rising nationalism, ever more politically active religious fanaticism of all hues, a Covid pandemic that refuses to go quietly, the return of War to Europe, amongst a great many other contemporary existential ills, there are a myriad questions we’d all rather be asked than if you believe in the future?
We’d all like to believe, but, well…….hhhmmm……. you know…….
The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg however considered the question particularly apposite, necessary even.
And so asked.
July 2021 marked what would have been the 100th birthday of Karl H. Bröhan, initiator of the collection that initiated Berlin’s Bröhan Museum; a centenary marked by the museum with the exhibition Bröhan Total!, a, as the title implies, comprehensive presentation of that collection.
A presentation of the Total! Bröhan collection, an intensive examination, and study, of the Total! Bröhan collection by the Bröhan Museum which, indirectly and directly, led the Bröhan Museum to undertake, if one so will, a gender audit of their Total! collection; an audit which came to the conclusion that from the ca. 20,000 objects therein just some 1,500 were by females creatives, or ca. 7.5%. And from the ca. 1100 creatives represented in that collection just some 99 were female, ca. 10%; thus more than the 7.5% of the objects indicating a greater average object per head ratio for male creatives than females.
Numbers which led to questions, not least questions of why, and subsequently led the Bröhan Museum Berlin to the exhibition Regard! Art and Design by Women 1880–1940.
An exhibition which presents works by all 99 female creatives represented in the Bröhan Museum collection, and allows space for your own reflections on the numbers, the biographies, the (hi)story of design, museum collections, and for all the myriad whys. The myriad whys, then and now…….
As we all know, the key to reading is learning your ABC. Once you’ve learned the letters, and combined them in simple words, you can approach more complex words, then sentences, paragraphs, essays and finally let that which you read discourse with your observations and experiences to help you better develop your understandings and appreciations of the world around us and those with whom we share it. But can learning the ABC of a designer help us to better approach understandings and appreciations of their work, their relevance, their legacy? With the exhibition Wilhelm Wagenfeld A to Z the Wilhelm Wagenfeld Haus, Bremen, attempt just that, in context of an eminently interesting and informative, if at times very difficult to read, designer…….
“One day in the midst of a burning July,
When meadows were parched and the rivulets dry,
A cluster of Bees in extreme……. anticipation,
Flew towards…… a design exhibition”1
(With apologies to Sara Coleridge)
Our five welcoming, stimulating, retreats for bees, or anyone or anything, from the parching burning of July 2022 can be found in Munich, Metz, Tulsa, Vienna and Bordeaux…….
“Reinforced concrete is the best constructional material yet devised by mankind”, enthused the Italian civil engineer Pier Luigi Nervi in 1956.1
A position Nervi spent a circa sixty year career arguing for, both in innumerable texts and through a canon of varied, and varyingly challenging, constructions throughout Italy, and much further afield. And in doing so Pier Luigi Nervi not only helped advance a popular acceptance of reinforced concrete as a construction material, but also helped develop an argument that in context of our built environment how we construct is, in many regards, more important than what we construct. An argument that has lost none of its contemporaneous since Pier Luigi Nervi first advanced it…….