smow Design Blog

The MOWO - Move with VIVI and CC collections, as seen at Vienna Design Week 2023

There is an argument to be made that while variation and uniqueness are inherent features of craft processes, design strives for the production of endless uniformity.

Or perhaps more accurately design did: while the earliest design practitioners, and those of the 1920s and 1930s who followed them, very much (largely) sought to develop products that contemporary industry could produce en mass as exact replicas of one another, since the 1960s individuals and groups of designers have sought to move away from the design of the identical for a society that is diverse; have sought to develop either systems that allow for individual expression and individual adaptation and/or to develop production processes that inherently and intrinsically enable and foster and realise variety without fundamentally questioning the idea of industrial multiplication and reproduction.

With the showcase The Series Vienna Design Week 2023 allows space for reflections on approaches by contemporary designers to designing for variety, and thereby also for differentiated reflections on contemporary design…….

Vienna Design Week 2023: Fokus - The Series

It’s been a while, and we were beginning to think it would never happen again; however, after an inordinately long absence September 2023 sees us once again meet up with Vienna Design Week…….

In context of the 1923 Bauhaus exhibition in Weimar, that first wide-ranging presentation of the school, its work and its understandings of itself and the world in which it existed, the institute presented with the Haus am Horn by Georg Muche and its interior, furniture, fittings and accessories by the likes of, and amongst others, Erich Dieckmann, Alma Buscher, Otto Lindig, Benita Otte or Marcel Breuer, a synopsis of the prevailing understandings of and positions to domestic arrangements and domesticity amongst the Weimar Bauhäusler.

With their 2023 theme year Wohnen the Klassik Stiftung Weimar take us all back to a century and a bit before Haus am Horn and to understandings of and positions to domestic arrangements and domesticity in the late-18th/early-19th century Weimar of Goethe, Schiller, Wieland, Herder et al.

And also consider possible future understandings of and positions to domestic arrangements and domesticity as we all move towards 2123…….

Nietzsche Privat, Neues Museum Weimar. Part of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar's Theme Year 2023: Wohnen

Music was my first love, And it will be my last,
Music of the future. And music of the past.

confided to us all the English singer John Miles in 1976, and thereby both tending to confirm the fundamental place music has, has had, in human civilisations and societies, music as an ancient and eternal force in human civilisation and society, and also through setting the future before the past, a setting, yes, not unrelated to the requirements and provisions of the ancient laws of rhyme, most poetically reminding us all that that which is before us will one day, via processes we don’t understand yet seek to control, be behind us.

And thereby also reminding us all that the music of the future is every bit a component of a contemporary society as is the music of the past.

With the exhibtion Can You Hear It? Music and Artificial Intelligence the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, offer space for reflections on music, and musicians, past, future and present.

And by extrapolation for reflections on design past, future and present…….

Can You Hear It? Music and Artificial Intelligence, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg

In the alpine regions of Europe the arrival of September marks the start of the Almabtrieb, that annual migration of the cattle, sheep and goats of the region from their high pastures to the valleys far, far below.

A migration undertaken because, as the cattle, sheep and goats of the alps innately understand, September is the month when the global architecture and design museum community (slowly) end their summer siesta and begin to invite us all to peruse their autumn/winter exhibition programmes.

And a migration that looks particularly worthwhile in September 2023, being as it is abloom with a crop of new showcases every bit as enticing and flavoursome as the herb rich pastures of any alpine alm. Indeed so bountiful is the September 2023 harvest we could have written two lists. For probity’s sake we stick with the one.

Our five reasons for saying Servus, Tschüs and Adieu to the fresh air and green, green, grass of the high alps and venturing into the city can be found in Frankfurt, New York, Kolding, Vienna and Malmö…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for September 2023

We’re not saying that Capellagården is the best design school in the world.

But would say it is, without question, one of the most delightful and most engaging and most relaxing to visit, one of the best to visit.

A genuine joy that was denied us during the Covid years.

But one we weren’t going to give up on.

In summer 2023 the stars aligned and we ventured once again over the seas to Öland…….

Capellagården Summer Exhibition 2023

The popular Bauhaus focus, preoccupation, of discussions on creativity in the 1920s very naturally leads to us all ignoring other important protagonists, causes us all, when oft unwittingly, to miss other equally valid, and enjoyable, paths to appreciations of developments in craft, design, technology and our objects of daily use in the early decades of the 20th century, that important, and still very relevant, period where handwork increasingly ceded to industry.

With Haël. Margarete Heymann-Loebenstein and her workshops for decorative ceramics 1923-1934 the Bröhan Museum, Berlin, helps one locate, and begin to explore, one of those regularly overlooked paths and thereby allows one to begin to develop those more probable appreciations…….

Haël. Margarete Heymann-Loebenstein and her workshops for decorative ceramics 1923-1934, Bröhan Museum, Berlin

The Historia Supellexalis S for Switzerland


A Confoederatio; A Range; A Context

Arising in the early 1950s from a collective, a community, who had been ardently opposed to the NSDAP, their world view and their warmongering dictatorship, the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm understood itself very much in context of the post-War re-development of society, the post-War development of a new democratic, future-resilient, society. In West Germany and further afield.

Thus it is little wonder that synthetic plastics, that material class which post-War offered, embodied, (seductively, unscrupulously) foretold, the promise of a borderless democracy, an egalitarian global society, should have been a material of experimentation and utilisation at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm.

With Plastic Material − Magic Material: Freedom and Limits of Design the HfG-Archiv, Ulm, reflect on synthetic plastics in context of the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm. And also in context of society and democracy…….

Plastic Material - Magic Material, Freedom and Limits of Design, HfG-Archiv Ulm

Summer Break!!!

As in August 2022!!

And once again, not us, we’re here, we’re busy, we’re keen, we’re chomping at the bit; but the international architecture and design museum community have very clearly decided amongst themselves not to open new exhibitions in August. Whereby, yes, August always was a slow month for new openings but that in August 2022 and August 2023 we should find but one new showcase is a signal of something more than a coincidence.

And, as with August 2022, one exhibition is clearly not a list.

Thus in place of a list of new exhibitions, we offer here two geographically arranged lists of those architecture and design exhibitions on show in August 2023 and which you can, should, must, visit.

Whereby, and as ever, the list is in no way exhaustive, we have without question missed interesting and informative showcases, so please check local press for what is happening wherever you happen to be…….

5 New Architecture Design Exhibitions for August 2023

As we were preparing for our trip to Halle and the 2023 Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Jahresausstellung one of those people on the edge of the smow Blog, one of those people who are so important to its operation, asked us how many summer exhibitions we’d seen at Burg Halle.

A question that caused a terror to develop within us as the enormity of the number forming before our eyes became ever more distinct and discernable; but then, before we gave vocal form to such an improbable, hair-raising, number, we regained our composure, “None”, we replied, “for similar as each summer exhibition may be, it’s always a virgin experience”.

Eyes were conspicuously rolled as our questioner walked away, and as we set off for Halle…….

Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle Jahresausstellung 2023

Unlike a great many international craft, applied art and design fairs, entry to the annual Grassimesse Leipzig is strictly by jury selection. And has been since the first edition in 1920. ’twas, in many regards, one of the pillars on which the event established its reputation. And one which helps it maintain that reputation.

The 2023 Grassimesse jury recently convened to review the abundance of applications for this year’s edition, up some 33% on 2022, and, and perhaps more satisfyingly, featuring applications from creatives in 13 countries, an indication of the event’s ongoing international appeal and relevance, from whom they selected 82 exhibitors representing a wide spectrum of craft, applied art and design genres, from jewellery to furniture, from glass to toys, from millinery to ceramics and beyond; including 18 international exhibitors from Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Austria and the Netherlands.

All 82 of whom will assemble in the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig, in late October.

And all 82 of whom are in with an equal chance of picking up the €2,500 Grassimesse smow-Designpreis.

Who that is, who will go down in history as the inaugural winner of the Grassimesse smow-Designpreis, will be decided by the international jury on Thursday October 19th.

Watch this space!!!

Until then you can peruse the exhibitors/candidates at and select your favourite, and/or find your new favourite creative. Or perchance find several convincing arguments to enjoy a late October weekend in Leipzig yourself…….

grassimesse smow-designpreis

As we noted, almost exactly 12 months ago, although we here at smow Blog are more or less fully up and running again after the Covid enforced disruption, the extremely complex nature of the smow Blog machinery means that there are still a few elements of the whole that are awaiting a proper re-boot, including, as we noted almost exactly 12 months ago, our famed, and falafel fixated, annual #campustour through European design school summer exhibitions.

Which doesn’t mean that we aren’t visiting design school summer exhibitions. We very much are. Nor does it mean we aren’t eating falafel. We very much are. Just means we’re doing so in a much less structured, less coherent, manner. And means that we don’t always have the time and space to post from those showcases we visit. But do always try. Last year, admittedly, our attempts didn’t get much beyond Weimar. And (nominally) Brussels. Although we were at a great many more.

This year we’re hoping for a much improved number of postings, starting in Hamburg and the Hochschule für Bildende Künste’s 2023 Graduate Show, Unfinished Business…….

Part of the presentation of Konstantin Grcic's Open Design class, as seen at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Hamburg Graduate Show 2023: Unfinished Business

Of all the novel technological developments of the past century or so, or more specifically those novel developments in context of mobility, arguably, none have approached the human species’ imagination, spoken to the human species’ fantasies nor so tantalisingly promised that limitless future we all innately know is possible, to quite the degree of the airship; arguably a form of transport that today, all those decades after reaching its zenith as a commercial enterprise, still has an appeal, a fascination, beyond that of the rocket, the plane or even the train.

And a development facilitated to a large degree by aluminium, a, then, still relatively novel material.

A still relatively novel material whose advantages were quickly understood and readily exploited; but whose problems and consequences were, in the golden age of the airship, unknown. Unknowable at that period. But which today are very well documented. And tangible.

With the exhibition Into the Deep. Mines of the Future the Zeppelin Museum, Friedrichshafen, employ the aluminium of the earliest airships as a conduit for discussions on future society’s raw materials, and for all for a discussion on the sources and extraction of those materials…….

Into the Deep. Mines of the Future, Zeppelin Museum, Friedrichshafen

The Historia Supellexalis R for Rowac


A Rivet; A Crimp; A Schemel

In July 1969 Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and as Neil Armstrong stepped from the Eagle lunar module he announced it was, “one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”.

And inarguably it was. And was.

But what has it brought mankind?

Apart from an awful lot of conspiracy theories. And an ongoing fascination with space that drives the irrational belief that in the 21st century we urgently require everything which appeared in 1950s and 1960s science fiction comics and films in order to have happy, functioning societies.

Yes, it also brought us Gil Scott-Heron’s, ever glorious, and still very relevant, Whitey on the Moon; a work that through it’s continuing, unabated, undiluted, relevance reminds us all how little Apollo 11 has brought mankind.

Other small steps can, we’d argue, be much more meaningful. Can enable longer leaps in more meaningful directions.

Such as the small step into an architecture or design museum; a step that can, will, inform and entertain, can, will, allow fresh insights and perspectives, can, will, cause a questioning and reflection: and thereby, potentially, enable the development of differentiated thoughts and appreciations on the now and on that now still to come. And perhaps in doing so quell a few conspiracy theories. And so allow for the development of a future worthy of the name.

Our five featured short steps for July 2023 can be taken in Stuttgart, New York, Hornu, London and Berlin…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for July 2023

While the Art Nouveau of the late 19th/early 20th centuries was without question inspired and informed by nature, for all by plants, one thinks, for example of the many representations of alliums, liliums, vitaceae et al, it was a moment that was led by humans, and for all one that placed human needs, human demands, human comforts at its core. Certainly above the needs, demands, comforts of plants.

With the exhibition Plant Fever. Towards a phyto-centred design Schloss Pillnitz, Dresden, or more specifically the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden and the Staatliche Schlösser, Burgen und Gärten Sachsen, SBG, the contemporary residents of Schloss Pillnitz, consider alternative expressions of inspiration and information, alternative human-plant relationships…….

Plants as Passion, as seen at Plant Fever. Towards a Phyto-centred design, Schloss Pillnitz Dresden

Only very few novel transport methodologies have impacted on society to quite the degree of the railway; not only did the arrival of the railway, pun intended, mean once far removed cities were now near neighbours, but also meant that the raw materials for, and the goods of, industrialisation could be easily and economically moved from location to location. And as the fledgling railway networks and systems developed so society.1

With the exhibition Futurails. Wege und Irrwege auf Schienen the DB Museum, Nürnberg, explore and discuss that development of rail networks and systems, and also initiate a discussion on rail networks and systems of the future…….

Futurails. Wege und Irrwege auf Schienen, DB Museum, Nürnberg

“Customs turn into habits, some modest, some all-powerful”, opined Le Corbusier in 1950, a reference to that inexplicable way humans have of passing through life blithely accepting all that has come before, accepting all that existed when they were born, as fixed and immutable and unchallengeable; an acceptance of the familiar, the existing, as fixed and immutable and unchallengeable that, for Le Corbusier, represented a major hindrance to the “free play of the mind”. However, Le Corbusier continues, “a simple decision can sweep away the obstacle, clearing the path for life”.1

A simple decision such as sweeping away the customs turned habits of “the metre or the foot-and-inch” as the basis of measurement and sweeping in a measurement system based on human proportions.

A simple decision that Le Corbusier very much favoured we make.

A simple decision which Le Corbusier made, and for which he developed a scale of proportions, le Modulor.

If a simple decision that as The Modulor — Measure and Proportion at Pavillon Le Corbusier, Zürich, helps elucidate, wasn’t that simple; and one which, while while it didn’t, ¿hasn’t yet? become the ubiquitous construction and planning tool Le Corbusier envisaged, nor has it (¿yet?) cleared any notable paths for the greater majority of us, does allow one to better approach better appreciations of Le Corbusier, his work, his positions and his place in the (hi)story of architecture and design…….

The Modulor - Measure and Proportion, Pavillon Le Corbusier, Zürich

According to Germanic folklore, A cold and wet June spoils the whole year.

For farmers possibly, but not for the rest of us, as a cold, wet June is a perfect excuse to visit an architecture or design exhibition, an experience that can only enrich and enliven and invigorate the rest of the not only your year, but your life.

Our recommendations for new showcases opening in June 2023 can be found in Värnamo, Ljubljana, East Lansing, Vienna and Ulm…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for June 2023

Everyone knows that the Nazis built Autobahnen. Everyone knows that the Nazis built an imposing and daunting parade ground in Nürnberg. And that they had outrageous, decadent, plans for Berlin. But the wider architecture and spatial planning projects of the NSDAP dictatorship are not only a lot less well known, but a lot less well understood, and certainly far less well popularly reflected on in wider contexts of the relationships between architecture, spatial planning, state, community, identity, control etc, etc, etc. Similarly far too irregularly posed is the question why and wherefore the NSDAP undertook so many varied and various architecture and spatial planning projects; and when it is posed is all too often answered with well worn references to representation and a desire to drive their shiny new Volkswagens, their shiny new Porsches, really, really fast.

With the exhibition Power Space Violence. Planning and Building under National Socialism the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, allow one to begin to reflect on such themes and also to begin to learn to better formulate such questions…….

Power Space Violence. Planning and Building under National Socialism, Akademie der Künste, Berlin

For all that the Schwarzwald is popularly known for its cuckoo clocks, as Mythos SABA – Memories of a Global Company at the Franziskanermuseum, Villingen-Schwenningen, helps elucidate, such aren’t the only noise emitting precision technical objects, nor indeed the only harmonies, rhythms, melodies and metres, associated with the (hi)story of, and the cultural contribution of, the Schwarzwald.

If alternative noise emitting precision technical objects and alternative harmonies, rhythms, melodies and metres that are all too often masked by the call of the cuckoo.

And also an elucidation, an enunciation, of the alternatives by the Franziskanermuseum that begins, somewhat inevitably, with clocks…….

Mythos SABA – Memories of a Global Company, Franziskanermuseum, Villingen-Schwenningen

The Historia Supellexalis: "Q" for Quercus


An oak; A cultural good; A material

Although the Grassimesse has been staged, with readily understandable pauses, since 1920, the Grassimesse smow-Designpreis is being staged for the first time in 2023.

Which means a highly impressive roster of innovative, intelligent, imaginative, informative, designers from back in the day can’t win it. Have, if one so will, missed out

But you can win it and the associated €2,500.

Or can if your reading this before Friday May 12th Sunday May 21st, the new extended, deadline for entries.

Otherwise you’ve also missed out.

You’ve now missed out.

Putting you in an illustrious, if very unfortunate, group along with the likes of…….

A selection of works that did, or could have appeared at the Grassimesse between 1920 and 1941, and could have won the smow-Designpreis, had it existed.......