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smow Blog Interview: Glen Oliver Löw – I have always been of the opinion that design begins with a problem.

Born in Leverkusen Glen Oliver Löw initially studied Industrial Design at the University of Wuppertal before moving to Milan in 1986 where he completed a Masters degree at the Domus Academy. Following his graduation from the Domus Academy Glen Oliver Löw remained in Milan where he took up a position with Antonio Citterio, becoming a partner in the practice in 1990, and developing a wide range of projects for companies as varied as, amongst others, Vitra, Kartell and Flos.

In 2000 Glen Oliver Löw returned to Germany where he took up a professorial position at the Hochschule für bildende Künste, HFBK, in Hamburg and established a design studio in the city from where he has realised projects with clients such as Thonet, Steelcase and Knoll.

We met up with Glen Oliver Löw to discuss contemporary product design, 1980s Milan and the HFBK Hamburg, but began, as ever, by asking why design?

Glen Oliver Löw: As a child I had a strong affinity with design, was always building and creating, and so when it came time to decide on a direction industrial design was an obvious choice. What I especially enjoy is working as part of a team to develop meaningful, functioning products.

smow Blog: And why Wuppertal?

Glen Oliver Löw: It was a Hochschule which had a very good reputation, particularly in terms of practical skills, which at that time was what design was, creating objects for industrial production and at Wuppertal one received a very good basis in areas such as materials or production processes.

smow Blog: After Wuppertal you switched to the Domus Academy in Milan, which sound likes a dictionary definition of “culture shock”, why the decision for Milan?

Glen Oliver Löw: For me it was necessary, and important, after a fairly dry, technical, German education to see and to understand design in a cultural context, and I was lucky enough to get an Europa-Stipendium which enabled me to attend Domus. That was 1986 which was a very exciting, motivating time, Memphis, for example, were very present with their functionalism criticism and their anti position in terms classic product design. I was clearly on the side of the functionalists, and despite the influences I remained a functionalist, always form follows function, but it was a wonderful, exciting, environment to be in.

smow Blog: Interesting you say that because you were a student in Wuppertal as the neue Deutsche Design Welle was breaking across West Germany, did that leave you cold, did what was happening not interest you, or…..?

Glen Oliver Löw: I couldn’t stand all that, I found it gruesome – it never appealed to me. The Memphis aesthetic was however something which I found more interesting

smow Blog: You said that Milan in the mid 1980s was an exciting environment to be in, how is it when you visit Milan today, do you still feel a sense of energy, or has city and its design community changed, evolved with the years?

Glen Oliver Löw: Personally I don’t find it so exciting, that could however be to do with me! However in general I don’t find the contemporary industrial design discourse especially interesting. Back then completely new things were being created, new ideas advanced, there was genuine innovation, these days its more show, to make things different but not necessarily better. And specifically in terms of Milan in the 1980s it was an El Dorado for designers, there were a relatively large number of small and medium sized furniture producers and they all needed something innovative and creative in order to be competitive, and so there was a lot of possibilities for designers. Today I see a lot less innovation and creativity, and for all fewer companies prepared to take a risk and let a designer try something experimental, all prefer to play safe, to focus on that which has already proved itself, or more commonly what competitors have in their programme, rather than risking an investment in something new, and the consequence is that it is always the same designers who are commissioned to produce the same ideas over and over again.

smow Blog: Can you explain why that should be, is it because of a changed understanding of design, has the design market altered….?

Glen Oliver Löw: I have always been of the opinion that design begins with a problem. Today however a lot of design is self-involved – design for design’s sake. In many respects design has become similar to fashion, with the repetition of shortsighted trends. And on the other hand the affinity to objects is not there as it once was, the interest in an object. Everything today happens in media, and how things look is of secondary importance, the object as a physical entity is not so important today, functionality is much more understood in terms of usability. Man-Machine interaction.

smow Blog: And can we therefore assume that you also have the feeling the term design is becoming more vague, less defined?

Glen Oliver Löw: Absolutely, total ambiguous. Today everything is packaged under the term design, if, for example, someone works in a social context then one designs society or social processes. Today everything is design.

smow Blog: Having gone to Milan to study for a year, you remained for neigh on 15 years, principally cooperating with Antonio Citterio, how did that partnership arise?

Glen Oliver Löw: At that time he was looking for a German speaking designer to be responsible for the contact with Vitra. He asked at Domus, they suggested me and as Antonio Citterio was one of the few designers in Milan in those days who’d remained true to functionalism and hadn’t been seduced by Memphis, everything fitted perfectly. For me personally it meant that I started travelling to Basel, to Vitra, once a week and that was then when I truly began to understand how a design process functions and what it means to design in an industrial context.

smow Blog: And how was the design process with Antonio Citterio, was it the case that you developed a project and he said good or not good or was it a more joint approach?

Glen Oliver Löw: From the very beginning we worked very closely together, and then after I became a partner I was much more independent in what I did, but always in close cooperation with Citterio. I think we always had similar approaches and a similar understanding, I would say that I was probably always more interested in innovation and invention, so doing something new or different, whereas Citterio has a very good hand to take things that are already there and to reconfigure in a new and meaningful fashion.

smow Blog: In 2000 you left Milan, was that just a case of new millennium, new perspectives, or….

Glen Oliver Löw: After 13 years cooperation with Citterio the time was right to establish my own office, and the position here at the Hochschule offered the perfect opportunity. There were also personal, family, considerations, but at that time everything just seemed to indicate that a return to Germany was the correct decision, and so I took up the position here and established my own studio.

smow Blog: When we look at the HFBK the Design Department is, let’s say, very experimental, and then there is Professor Glen Oliver Löw as the representative of a more traditional form of design…

Glen Oliver Löw: I’m the dinosaur here, a remnant as it were of Industrial design. In the fifteen years that I’ve been here the design department has changed a lot. When I first came it was much more focussed on the forming of objects, so classic product design, it was understood that design was products, these days I have to fight my position a little harder. The new direction is much more social design, and objects are much more a peripheral aspect.

smow Blog: And what does that mean for the practicalities of the education here, can one for example still design a chair here as graduation project?

Glen Oliver Löw: The HFBK is an art school and all students study for a Bachelor in Fine Arts, within the course there is a focus Design and in terms of the practicalities it isn’t the case that the teaching staff stand at the front of the class and explain how things are, rather each student should find their own way. The aim is that every student develops their own theme, their own attitude and finds a subject in which they work and develop over the three years, and that could yes be product related, for example a chair. One of the great advantages of the HFBK is the fantastic workshops and workshop staff, facilities which mean that all our students have the opportunity develop a design into a functional object; but that is an opportunity that is not taken up as often as it once was, or at least not so often at a high level. When I first arrived here students were building, for example, functional solar aircraft in the workshops, today there is much more dilettantism: Gaffer tape is considered sexy and is regularly used in place of a refined technical detail.

smow Blog: Which we take to mean that not only has the design department changed over the years, but also the design student……?

Glen Oliver Löw: Their interests are certainly different, and they are also much younger, these days they often come straight from school, which is often too early. One regularly has the feeling a student doesn’t really know themselves what they want here, other than this all encompassing “design”, that they need a bit more experience, that they should first of all complete an apprenticeship to get a better understanding of things, because a four year course isn’t that much time to discover what you want.

smow Blog: When we speak to recent graduates they often articulate a wish that there had been more business elements in die education, how is the situation here, are such things taught?

Glen Oliver Löw: No, no, and that deliberately so! We are art school and as designers we are not interested in aligning design with economic aspects! Here, for example, Open Design is a big theme, everyone places their designs online and others can change them, adapt them, and that is obviously a completely different mentality to my generation where we all thought we’d invented something, sought to protect it and to earn money through licence fees.
Occasionally students do come to ask questions and I happily give tips and advice from my own experience on, for example, what is important with a contract or where one should take care when speaking with a client, and in such ways business elements do become part of the student’s education here. In principle I recommend all students undertake an internship or work in a design office in order to learn those elements of the profession which aren’t covered in the college in a professional context.
smow Blog: But were you taught such things at Wuppertal?

Glen Oliver Löw: No, we weren’t taught such things either, if I remember I think we had a course in copyright, but otherwise it was all learning by doing.

smow Blog: And does the situation arise that students come and say, I’ve got a chair design, would like to find a producer….. can you help me?

Glen Oliver Löw: That does occur, yes, and several projects developed here at the college are now in serial production. However often students over-estimate the potential of an academic, student, project. The primary aim of the education is not specific object but rather the gestaltende Individuum, the personal development.
I am in any case firmly of the opinion that one should always develop a project together with a producer. Personally I have never designed something and then looked to place it with a manufacturer, that rarely functions. However as a student or young designer you often have little other choice to try to draw attention to yourself and to attract the attention of a manufacturer.

smow Blog: In addition to your teaching work here you are also still developing furniture projects, is that something you still enjoy?

Glen Oliver Löw: Very much so, it is something which gives a great deal of satisfaction and which shows that classic product design is not dead, and that there is still an interest in a good functional product which functions globally and across cultural borders, and that despite everything functional design is still in demand.

smow Blog: Changing tact slightly, you’ve been in Hamburg for 15 years now, is Hamburg a creative city? Are there options for students here after graduation?

Glen Oliver Löw: Creative yes, but not one with much in terms of production or companies who can realise designs. As a city Hamburg is much more geared towards, for example, media or trading. However in our contemporary global economy designers don’t necessarily need to be based near to manufacturers.

smow Blog: And to end, is there one piece of advice you would give your students?

Glen Oliver Löw: To be successful as a designer requires a great passion for objects, the design process and an unconditional creative will. Design students who have to force themselves to create something, I would advise to consider a different path.

Think by Glen Oliver Löw for Steelcase

Think by Glen Oliver Löw for Steelcase

S 60 by Glen Oliver Löw for Thonet

S 60 by Glen Oliver Löw for Thonet

S 1070 by Glen Oliver Löw for Thonet

S 1070 by Glen Oliver Löw for Thonet

Battista by Glen Oliver Löw & Antonio Citterio for Kartell

Battista by Glen Oliver Löw & Antonio Citterio for Kartell

Vis-a-vis by Glen Oliver Löw & Antonio Citterio for Vitra

Vis-a-vis by Glen Oliver Löw & Antonio Citterio for Vitra

Heimat Lamp by Birgit Severin and Guillaume Neu-Rinaudo

The question as to what “home” means has never been an easy one to answer, and in our global age of networked, anonymous, communities, our age of refugees and migrant workers, our age of abstract “Homeland Security” agencies, the question has in many ways become even more complicated.

The Lamp Heimat (Homeland) by Berlin based designers Birgit Severin and Guillaume Neu-Rinaudo is an attempt to approach an answer.

Birgit Severin and Guillaume Neu-Rinaudo met while studying at Design Academy Eindhoven, Bielefeld born Birgit studying Contextual Design, Parisian Guillaume Social Design, the pair now share a studio space in Berlin, Heimat Lamp is their first joint project and was realised in context of the Ampelhaus Oranienbaum’s 2015 exhibition “Lost and Found” and on the basis of a brief which asked them to develop a project in the course of a one month residency, and using local materials.

“In Oranienbaum there is a noticeable feeling of emptiness” explains Birgit Severin the background to the project, “something which is intensified by all the abandoned mining facilities in and around the town. And so we started researching the background to why the mining industry died out, what used to happen there, what was happening now, and in the course of this research learnt that the nearby Vockerode power station had been one of the biggest power plants in Germany, until it was forced to close following the fall of the wall. And so you had the coal mining and the power generation which both stopped and that meant large-scale unemployment and led to people leaving the area.”

The Heimat Lamp collection is Birgit Severin and Guillaume Neu-Rinaudo’s attempt to capture that story in objects, to give form to the ghosts of lives past, and for all to develop a sense of home. Of Heimat.

“Fire is both light and warmth but when it’s gone it’s gone, the fire goes and what you’ve burnt vanishes”, explains Guillaume, “and so we thought that given the history of the area fire was a nice symbol and so we decided to work with a burning process and to try to capture the feeling of industry, home, memories.”

To that end Birgit and Guillaume decided to work with primitive kiln firing; essentially a fire was laid in an old well, pre-fired ceramic lamps placed on top and then covered with a mix of wood and wallpaper from abandoned buildings in the area, as well as hay, grass and herbs from neighbouring farms. The kilns were left to burn overnight and in the morning the traces of the locality were burnt into the porcelain.

The result is a series of ceramic lamps which just like Oranienbaum proudly display the scars of their recent history; for Oranienbaum that is the industrial ruins, the feeling of loss and the infrequent bus service to neighbouring, bigger and more important, towns, for the Heimat Lamp it is the scorch marks, the atmosphere of smoky silence and a delicate permanency.

And before anyone accuses us of drowning in pathos, or being too harsh on Oranienbaum, let us not forget that in 1999 it was the sight of wind felled trees in the grounds of Schloss Oranienbaum which inspired Jurgen Bey to realise his deliciously decadent Tree Trunk Bench. While Fabriek van Niek a.k.a. Niek Wagemans transformed the wealth of salvageable raw materials in Oranienbaum into Ampelhauses’ jouyously unpretentious wunderBARR cafe/bar. For all its problems, the town inspires, or, and to paraphrase Thomas Lommée’s recent description of Brussels “its problematic and therefore potentially interesting”

The forms of the various Heimat lamps don’t originate from Birgit and Guillaume, but rather are based on generic lamp forms from the period of Oranienbaum’s economic joys. The original plan had been to use original lamps from the original buildings, a plan thwarted by a combination of scavengers and bureaucracy. Sadly, because a quick look at archive photos gives an idea of what could have been possible, and as Guillaume adds, “even without finding an actual lamp we could possibly have found something else which could have given us an idea, served as an inspiration.”

Obviously a ceramic lamp fired in a hole in the ground has only limited options as a mass market product. But then that’s not the point.
On the one hand the Heimat lamps were created in response to a brief as part of an exhibition and met that brief in a highly poetic and critical fashion.

And on the other the extrapolation scale for such a project is not one in terms of volume but of scope. What one can realise in Oranienbaum can be repeated in other towns, other regions and not necessarily with the same post-industrial story or in the form of a lamp, but in site specific explorations of the local history, and for all with explorations of local associations of home.

Which of course just leaves one question unanswered, neither Guillaume nor Birgit live where they were raised, but where they have chosen, what do they understand by “home”, by “Heimat”

Birgit: If you look at the dictionary definition of Heimat it is the place where you are born, the place where you come from, however when you move away from there, the place where you are currently living becomes more familiar, more relevant to you and then Heimat becomes in a way “a home which is foreign”

Guillaume: I think you have to go away to understand what it means, I don’t think you can say that somewhere is your Heimat, it is always somewhere where you used to be and where you’ve left memories.

More details on the Heimat Lamps, Birgit Severin and Guillaume Neu-Rinaudo can be found at &

And for all in Milan for Fuorisalone 2016, the Heimat Lamps will be on display as part of the group exhibition “The Journey of Things” at Via Ventura 2, (Ventura Lambrate), 20134 Milano from April 12th – 17th

(All photos © & courtesy Birgit Severin and Guillaume Neu-Rinaudo)

Lost Furniture Design Classics: Rocking Chair by Jacob Müller

Amongst the objects Jasper Morrison selected from the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich’s archive for the “MyCollection” section of his Thingness retrospective is/was a prototype for a wooden rocking chair by the Swiss designer and architect Jacob Müller.

A wooden rocking chair from the 1920s. Which belongs in the 2020s.

In the exhibition notes Jasper Morrison states that “the addition of the rocking function is also part of its appeal”


In as far as 95% can be considered a “part”, then yes.

As we never tire of repeating, in our contemporary world of tablets, smartphones and ever changing work practices we need new typologies of chairs which allow for new types of convenient, comfortable and practical sitting positions.

There is something very, very painful about watching people sitting in a conventional chair at a conventional desk/table using a tablet supported on a pyramid so as to provide a convenient angle for use.

There are more natural sitting positions, positions which not only provide a greater degree of comfort but which allow the user to naturally determine the position of the digital aid rather than contorting themselves to use the aid at a position it defines.

And these new typologies needn’t be newly developed…. they almost certainly exist, lost in some archive or historic exhibition catalogue, waiting to be found…….

Jacob Müller’s rocking chair is one of the best examples we’ve seen.

Low to the ground, Jacob Müller’s rocking chair allows the user to find a natural sitting position while the rocking mechanism allows for continual adjustment and movement. In addition the full length backrest ably supports the body while the long, inclined, seat allows the rocking chair, as Marcel Breuer would no doubt phrase it, to “support the upper leg along its full length without the pressure that arises with a flat seating surface

And importantly it isn’t a lounge chair. Rocker by Constantin Wortmann & Benjamin Hopf which previously featured in this column offers a similar functionality, but in lounge version, the formal language of Müller’s chair is much more conducive to work: stricter, more formal and less about luxury than pure functionality.

And it is not just a chair for our digital selves; also in the analogue world the Müller rocking chair has obvious advantages as, for example, a reading chair, or in an outdoor version as a lazy garden chair for lazy summer afternoons, lazily enjoying a lively rosé.

Who could possibly object? Honestly, who?

A stupidly simple design, according to Jacob Müller’s grandson the rocking chair was a one-off creation, an object which was a great favourite in the Müller household, and one which apparently served as much as a piece of play/sport equipment as a chair per se: if sadly no one is exactly sure when it was created.1

What we do know is that Jacob Müller trained as a carpenter in the early 1920s and, and given the dearth of other information, one must assume the rocking chair was a piece created during his apprenticeship; possibly, we would venture to suggest, as some form of study into generic types of furniture, our assumption basing itself on our firmly held belief that Jacob Müller was inspired by some example of rustic, vernacular Swiss Bauernmöbel.

Clearly still needing a little bit of development work before being considered a market ready product, everything, but everything about the rocking chair impresses us.

Except that it only exists in a museum in Zürich.

1. Information supplied in an email from the Collections Department of the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich

Rocking Chair by Jacob Müller, as seen at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich

Rocking Chair by Jacob Müller, as seen at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich

Rocking Chair by Jacob Müller, as seen at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich

Rocking Chair by Jacob Müller, as seen at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich

Rocking Chair by Jacob Müller, as seen at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich

Rocking Chair by Jacob Müller, as seen at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich

Rocking Chair by Jacob Müller, as seen at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich

Rocking Chair by Jacob Müller, as seen at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich

Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne: USM Airportsystems

The Swiss architect Fritz Haller famously developed a space colony as a means to allow him to explore his ideas of architecture in an extreme environment, and thus help him to better understand the possibilities of terrestrial architecture.

To explore Fritz Haller’s USM furniture system in an extreme environment, and thus better understand the wider possibilities, you need go little further than your local airport.

Established in 2011 USM Airportsystems develop, as the name implies, tailored solutions for airports. The combination being logical: if a central, defining, requirement for airport furniture and furnishings is a combination of functionality, flexibility and durability, then the modular and freely configurable USM Haller system makes perfect sense.

Something perhaps best demonstrated by the mobile immigration control trolleys developed by USM Airportsystems in cooperation with Zurich Airport. Faced with a requirement to be able to undertake passport/visa checks at any number of variable gates Zurich Airport needed easily mobile units which provide the immigration officers the functionality to perform their duties: a few USM balls, steel tubes, metal panels and castors later, and 70 such units exist. And should in the future Zurich Airport decide they no longer need such, or at least no longer need so many, the trolleys can be dismantled and rebuilt into other objects that are required.

In addition to Zurich Airport USM Airportsystems have also supplied, amongst other contracts, security screening units for the New Doha International Airport, check-in and gate counters for 46 regional airports in Norway, baggage drop-off counters for Cote D’Azur Airport Marseille and numerous, and ever changing, aviation and non-aviation solutions for Leipzig-Halle Airport, including boarding pass control gates, information desks and lounge furnishings.

And that the USM Haller system’s adaptability is itself adaptable was neatly demonstrated by USM Airportsystems in Cologne with a panel crafted from the proprietary material Corian through which an LED display can be projected and thus allowing display and information systems to be integrated with a USM unit without disrupting the optical unity. And just one of those painfully obvious solutions that makes you wonder why it took so long to realise….

Ever new technological and legal requirements mean that an airport’s demands from much of its furniture is constantly changing, with its modularity and reduced design principle, system USM Haller can adapt to those changes with a minimum of fuss and a minimum of cost.

And not just varying functional demands, also varying visual, styling, demands, “In America it is often the airlines, not the airport, who are responsible for providing their counters”, explains USM Airportsystems CEO Brita Forrest-Hampson, “which can result in an airport looking quite messy and uncoordinated because every airline creates their own counter independent of other operators. With USM each airline can still create its own counter as it requires, but the airport presents a unitary, clearly defined, harmonious, visual impression.”

And of course what is applicable in an airport is equally applicable in the the home, office, shop, surgery, etc, etc, etc…. just a lot less extreme.

A few impressions from USM Airportsystems at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 in Cologne:

smow blog Design Calendar: April 3rd 1863 – Happy Birthday Henry van de Velde!

Henry van de Velde not only helped define Art Nouveau, he was also party to Art Nouveau’s christening; even if the immediate reception didn’t bode all too well for the fledgling movements longevity…………………

Henry van de Velde Leidenschaft Funktion und Schönheit Klassik Stiftung Weimar

Henry van de Velde meets Henry van de Velde, here as seen at the exhibition Henry van de Velde. Leidenschaft, Funktion und Schönheit, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, 2013

Born in Antwerp on April 3rd 1863 Henricus Clementinus van de Velde1 initially trained as a painter, studying first at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and subsequently as a student of the portrait painter Charles-Emile-Auguste Durand in Paris. In 1888, and after numerous residences, and flirts with as many artistic styles, Henry van de Velde was admitted into the Brussels’ artist group “Les XX”, an organisation who from their founding in 1883 gradually evolved from pure art to a mixture of pure and applied arts; their annual exhibition in 1891 being the first to feature book design, posters and ceramics alongside paintings2, and corresponded to a display of arts and crafts works by London based company Liberty in the window of the “Compagnie Japonaise” store in Brussels, a display which clearly made an impression on the then 28 year old Henry van de Velde, “We savoured these items as if they were a Spring suddenly brought into our lives, a Spring brought into our dull, grey houses with their heavy, threadbare furniture which chokes all gaiety, with all those dusty useless objects around which we weave. In contrast the window of Compagnie Japonaise in the Rue Royale shone like a chapel; refreshing our eyes, freeing our emotions, like the soul of the believer following prayer.”3

Henry van de Velde’s first applied work, a Broderie, was subsequently displayed at the 1892 Les XX exhibition and shortly afterwards Henry van de Velde turned his back on painting and diverted his energies instead to architecture, interior design, product design, journalism and teaching, the latter being a career branch which began in 1894 as tutor for “The Industrial Arts and Ornamentation” at the newly established Université Nouvelle in Brussels and one in which Henry van de Velde is unquestionably best known as the founding director of the Großherzoglich-Sächsische Kunstgewerbeschule in Weimar, the forerunner – both spiritually and physically – of Bauhaus. An autodidact and multi-talent Henry van de Velde died in Switzerland in 1957 aged 95, and left as a legacy an unparalleled canon of architecture, furniture, book designs, textile designs, corporate designs, paintings and sculpture. An important moment in Henry van de Velde’s career, his break if you will, came in December 1895; even if “break” was initially implied in the more negative sense.

Hauptgebäude Bauhaus Universität Weimar Henry van de Veldes (©Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Foto: Nathalie Mohadjer)

Bauhaus University Weimar, by Henry van de Velde

In spring 1895 Henry van de Velde was visited at his home in Uccle near Brussels by the Paris based, Hamburg born art dealer Siegfried Bing and the Berlin based art critic and publisher Julius Meier-Graefe4*: the former had intentions of transforming his gallery from its then focus on Japanese arts and crafts into one devoted to contemporary European arts and crafts, the latter guided him to some potential collaborators.

The path to Uccle wound over furniture by Henry van de Velde which Julius Meier-Graefe had encountered on a visit to the Brussels studio of the Belgian architect Victor Horta. In a subsequent article for the magazine Neue Deutsche Rundschau Meier-Graefe praised van de Velde, together with unnamed “Dutch colleagues”, for the way they “strictly subordinate their art the utility of the objects” and that in van de Velde’s case “it is furniture which above all is conducive to use”5

In early summer 1895 Henry van de Velde travelled to Paris where Siegfried Bing outlined his plans in more detail and for all that rather than presenting the various works, museum style, on pedestals, he intended “to present proper salons and rooms. New types of furniture, lighting, wallpaper, textiles, carpets – all these furniture and furnishings should be part of a living unity”6

As part of the project Henry van de Velde was commissioned to design “a large dinning room, a smoking room in congo-wood, a small closet in satinwood, and a large rotunda-like room with furniture and wall panels, and all in a coordinated, harmonised fashion”7; a commission which meant that Henry van de Velde was responsible for the vast majority of the interior design and which in addition represents what Catherine Krahmer describes as van de Velde’s “first, bold, step into the public sphere”8. And one that caused him serious headaches, “until then all that I had created was for existing rooms and for a client whose tastes and needs I knew” he recalls in his memoirs, “Working for an unknown customer and a non-existent room was foreign.”9 A statement which of course also neatly encapsulates the change in mindset that accompanied the transfer from those “designers” before van de Velde who worked exclusively on private commissions, and those after van de Velde who designed for industry.

“Only slowly and with great difficulty did I become accustomed to this unfamiliar situation,” he confides, “while fearing being unable to deliver the objects on time”10

Deliver however he could and on December 26th 1895 Siegfried Bing opened his “Salon de l’Art Nouveau” in Paris’s rue de Provence, an institution which by default is generally considered the eponym of the movement. Yet despite presenting a catalogue of over 600 works by the likes of Émile Gallé, Walter Crane, Louis C. Tiffany or Georges Lemmen11, and promising the citizens of Paris the first glimpse of a brave new future, the opening turned into a very public scandal.

Or as Henry van de Velde recalled it, ” … a glorious adventure and memorable defeat”12

Or put another way

“An elegant mass surged into the rooms, loud, hostile and indignant. The cream of Parisian society, famed members of the Académie française, artists, and important intellectuals, aesthetes and art critics were united in their belief that here the traditional style was under attack and a revolutionary breach was being formed, which implied something unforgivably insulting”13

And that although one could have expected that the average Parisien would, should, have approved of anything revolutionary; however, the famed French appétit for revolution apparently does not extend to their furniture and furnishings. Or their architecture when one considers the opposition to Le Centre Pompidou.

The reaction of the press was equally, if not universally, critical.

Writing in the La Liberté, for example, Alfred Pallier considered the Salon “decadent and dismissed the exhibition as a misguided commitment to symbolism”14, La Chronique des Arts noted that in addition to the unfortunate choice of name “there is, properly speaking, nothing original. There are beautiful things in disorder but nothing can be feared or hoped from this smallest of artistic revolutions”15

The charge however was led by the art critic Arsène Alexandre in a front page article in Le Figaro on December 28th 1895. “Let’s now enter the hotel de l’Art Nouveau.” he wrote, “We encounter there a confusion of lines and colours, a lack of science, which creates only novelty ….. the broken bottle plays a big role in L’Art Nouveau: it’s dazzling and brutal. It has no significance as an ornamental element, is stupefied and looks like a tinsel fairyland ….. on several floors are arranged paintings and prints, around which reigns an authentic wrought iron bannister from the eighteenth century and which flicks an ironic finger at all the indigestible architecture and furniture.”  Siegfried Bing, so Alexandre, is “an amiable, courteous and nervous man under the curious illusion he can wed America with Japan and Montmartre”16

“I left tired, sick, exasperated, my nerves shattered and my head full of nightmares of dancing bottles. Impressions I had never felt before with works, classic or contemporary, which are not of l’Art Nouveau”17

Arsène Alexandre also completely unnecessarily, and inexcusably, adding that “All this smacks of the vicious Englishman, the morphine addicted Jew or the Belgian rogue, or a nice salad of these three poisons”18

Thankfully the quality of art and design criticism in Le Figaro has risen considerably over the course of the past 100+ years

Henry van de Velde Leidenschaft Funktion und Schönheit Klassik Stiftung Weimar

Kids furniture by Henry Van de Velde for the Willy Engels, here as seen at the exhibition Henry van de Velde. Leidenschaft, Funktion und Schönheit, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, 2013

Particular derision was directed at Henry van de Velde personally; something one presumes in light of Monsiuer Alexandre’s comments, had as much to do with his Belgian nationality as the quality of his work.

After criticising the dinning room as being from “a group of English workers under the leadership of a Belgian” Arsène Alexandre continues to deride that “from the same Belgian M. van de Velde originates a smoking room containing furniture which aims for form, but are unformed, and with wall panels featuring arabesques that make one dizzy”, before concluding “L’Art Nouveau means to teach us that the English are good carpenters and the Belgians no longer know what a line is? We knew that…..” 19

Outside the Maison l’Art Nouveau the mood of the attending public was just as hostile to van de Velde’s work. The French writer and critic Edmond de Goncourt let it be known that in his opinion, “the most ridiculous of the exhibitors, van de Velde, designs his furniture according to the principles of ship building. It appears as if he practices a “Yacht Style””20, while Auguste Rodin, himself represented in the Salon with three sculptures and an artist who had been admitted to Les XX on the same day as van de Velde, declared that “your van de Velde is a Barbarian!”21 Which of course reminds of the criticism half a century later that Ferdinand Kramer’s reconstruction of the main entrance of Frankfurt University amounted to “modern Barbarism.” Kramer got his revenge by sending a foot from one of the dismounted neo-Baroque figures to his critic with the note “As a consolation for the indignant. The Barbarian”.22 Henry van de Velde was much more diplomatic “… this crushing attack was not as disparaging as the grandmaster believed. He, who so adores the cathedrals and who so admires their constructors, should have been aware that the Gothic style – especially in France – was considered the invention of Barbarians. I could be proud to be pilloried as their relative”23

Aside from his obvious immense and unshakable self-confidence Henry van de Velde could also take heart from the support expressed in more sympathetic sections of the press. Writing in Le Journal Gustave Geffory is recorded as having written, “… these men are on the search for a simpler and deeper art; in which cause they employ a good method: incessant work” and “when one, for example, observes the rooms by Henry van de Velde, one observes a harmony in the line of all the furniture, something which has been consciously realised”24, while in Revue biblio-iconographique Octave Uzanne notes, in an otherwise largely critical article, that “the dining room made with great art, simplicity and science by M. Van de Velde is the real highlight of la Galerie Bing”.25 One of the more entertaining articles on the Salon de l’Art Nouveau was written for the London based magazine “The Studio” by their Paris correspondent Gabriel Mouray and in which he writes that “M. Bing, it must be said, has been somewhat roughly handled by the press” and that somewhat unfairly as his efforts “are certainly deserving of encouragement, not so much on account of the actual results achieved, as from the ideas whence they have sprung” and while although himself very critical of the way Siegfried Bing organised and presented his exhibition Gabriel Mouray’s opines that “his scheme, after all, deserves support, and, if it lasts, may one of these days be the means of bringing out really good work, and removing the frightful, the deplorable stagnation in regards to decorative art in which we are now involved”26

A wish/prophecy which was to become largely fulfilled as over the subsequent decade Art Nouveau rose to become the predominant style amongst cultured Europeans, and, and even if one should, nay must, query many of the aesthetic and formal decisions taken by the artists nouveau, their new thinking about form, function, purpose and ornamentation unquestionably helped solve this “stagnation” and opened up numerous bright new futures.

Nor was Henry van de Velde’s career overly troubled by the less than glorious start in Paris: in 1896 he successfully presented the furniture he had created for his own Bloemenwerf house at the La Libre Esthétique exhibition in Brussels; in 1897 his Paris room designs were presented to a more welcoming and appreciative public at the International Kunstausstellung in Dresden; in 1899 he completed several large commissions in Holland, Germany and France and in the following decades would go on to become one of the genuine forefathers and guiding lights of what we understand today, and enjoy, as contemporary architecture and design.

Which just goes to show, you should never let yourself be deflected in your ambitions and ideals by a group of angry French artists and academics. Far less by a comparison with the Barbarians. For, and as we have noted before, sometimes progress needs a little bit of controlled barbarism to keep it on the straight and narrow.

Happy Birthday Henry van de Velde!

1. Birgit Schulte, Henry van de Velde. Die Lebensreise 1863 – 1957, in Henry van de Velde. Ein europäischer Künstler seiner Zeit, Wienand Verlag, Köln, 1992

2. Henry van de Velde, Geschichte meines Lebens, Piper Verlag, München, 1962


4.ibid [*If that was really the case seems unlikely based on other sources, however it is how Henry van de Velde remembers events, although one must add his memories do often come across as simplified and annotated by the mists of time. Are however very entertaining]

5.Julius Meier-Graefe, Dekorative Kunst, Neue Deutsche Rundschau Jahrg VII, Heft 6, Juni 1896

6. Henry van de Velde, Geschichte meines Lebens, Piper Verlag, München, 1962

7. ibid

8. Catherine Krahmer Über die Anfänge des Neuen Stils. Henry van de Velde – Siegfried Bing – Julius Meier-Graefe, in Henry van de Velde. Ein europäischer Künstler seiner Zeit, Wienand Verlag, Köln, 1992

9. Henry van de Velde, Geschichte meines Lebens, Piper Verlag, München, 1962

10. ibid

11.Salon de l’art nouveau, Catalogue December 1895, Paris

12. Henry van de Velde, Paris und das Europäische Kunstgewerbe, Die Neue Rundschau, Jhrg. 36, Heft 10, Oktober 1925

13. Henry van de Velde, Geschichte meines Lebens, Piper Verlag, München, 1962

14. Gabriel P Weisberg, Art Nouveau Bing. Paris Style 1900, Abrams, New York, 1986

15. L’Art Nouveau in La Chronique des Arts, 11.01.1896, quoted in French in Gabriel P Weisberg, Art Nouveau Bing. Paris Style 1900, Abrams, New York, 1986

16. Arsène Alexandre, L'”Art Nouveau” Le Figaro, 28.12.1895, Paris

17. ibid

18. ibid

19. ibid

20. Henry van de Velde, Geschichte meines Lebens, Piper Verlag, München, 1962

21. ibid

22. Wolfgang Voigt et al Ferdinand Kramer. Die Bauten, Ernst Wasmuth Verlag, 2015

23. Henry van de Velde, Geschichte meines Lebens, Piper Verlag, München, 1962


25. Octave Uzanne, Le Salon de l’Art Nouveau, Revue biblio-iconographique, 25.01.1986, Paris

26. Gabriel Mouray, Studio-Talk. Paris. The Studio. An Illustrated Magazine of Fine and Applied Art Volume 7 No 35 February 1896 London

Henry van de Velde Leidenschaft Funktion und Schönheit Klassik Stiftung Weimar

Two chairs and desks from Ghent University Library, and some half-hidden Ionic pillars, here as seen at the exhibition Henry van de Velde. Leidenschaft, Funktion und Schönheit, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, 2013

Henry van de Velde Leidenschaft Funktion und Schönheit Klassik Stiftung Weimar

Looking back on a long and eventful life…… Happy Birthday Henry van de Velde!

5 New Design Exhibitions for April 2016

If the etymologists are to be believed “April” has its origins in the Latin verb “aperire”. To uncover, to open.
Our ancient forefathers and mothers were unquestionably referring to nature’s habit of “opening” at this time of year; our thoughts however turn more to the derivation “aperol”, and that most pleasing of summertime refreshments, and one who’s season opens in Milan every April. It is thus no surprise that our five new design exhibition aperitis for April 2016 take us to Milan ….. in addition to Düsseldorf, Helsinki, Dresden and Amsterdam.

“Jean Tinguely. Super Meta Maxi” at Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, Germany

Born in Fribourg, Switzerland, in 1925 the artist Jean Tinguely is unquestionably best known for his innumerate kinetic sculptures; works some denounce as being unsightly piles of discarded metal. And which in many cases are. A fact perhaps best demonstrated by one of Jean Tinguely’s most famous works, his 1960 “Homage to New York” built in the sculpture garden of the MoMA New York from, amongst other components salvaged from New York city dumps, “80 bicycle wheels, parts of old motors, a piano, metal drums, an addressograph machine, a child’s go-cart and enameled bathtub.”* And all in a machine designed to destroy itself over the course of a thirty minute performance. As it transpired the performance didn’t go exactly as planned, but the consumer culture criticism was made and Tinguely reached a global audience. Organised by the Kunstpalast Düsseldorf in cooperation with the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam Super Meta Maxi promises a chronological journey through Jean Tinguely’ oeuvre including many of his interventions and creative cooperations and thus aims to provide a comprehensive portrait of a artist who generally worked against the portrait as a genre.
And on a side note, Super Meta Maxi isn’t Düsseldorf’s first meeting with the Dadaist Tinguely: in 1959 the city hosted Jean Tinguely’s first solo exhibition in Germany, an exhibition which culminated with Tinguely scattering his manifesto “Für Statik” – “For Statics”- from an aircraft over the city: “Everything is in motion. Nothing stands still ….. Stop “painting” time. Stop building cathedrals and pyramids that will crumble. Breathe deeply, live in the now, live for and in the moment. For a beautiful and absolute reality”

Jean Tinguely. Super Meta Maxi opens at Museum Kunstpalast, Ehrenhof 4-5, 40479 Düsseldorf on Saturday April 23rd and runs until Sunday August 14th

* MoMA Press Release, March 18th 1960 (pdf)

Jean Tinguely, Große Méta-Maxi-Maxi-Utopia (Photo Christina Baur, © Museum Tinguely, Basel, Donation Niki de Saint Phalle © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015, Courtesy of Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf)

Jean Tinguely, Große Méta-Maxi-Maxi-Utopia (Photo Christina Baur, © Museum Tinguely, Basel, Donation Niki de Saint Phalle © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015, Courtesy of Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf)

“Eero Aarnio” at the Designmuseo Helsinki, Finland

With his Ball Chair and Bubble Chair the Finnish designer Eero Aarnio not only gave the 1960s spirit of revolution, freedom and unlimited opportunity a physical form, but he also created new genres of furniture and helped forge new understandings of materials and production processes. More recently creations such as Puppy for Magis or the Rocket Stool for Artek have brought Eero Aarnio’s creativity into a new generation, and in context of the wooden Rocket Stool, a new material. Yet ubiquitous and instantly recognisable as his works are, Eero Aarnio himself remains largely unknown. With their retrospective the Designmuseo Helsinki aim to change that. Promising a mix of furniture, lighting and small objects, of mass produced products and one-off works from the 1950s to today and all complimented and extended by drawings, sketches, prototypes and personal objects the exhibition promises to be the most exhaustive exploration of Eero Aarnio the man and Eero Aarnio the designer ever staged.

Eero Aarnio opens at the Designmuseo, Korkeavuorenkatu 23, 00130 Helsinki on Friday April 8th and runs until Sunday September 25th

Eero Aarnio at the Designmuseo Helsinki

Eero Aarnio at the Designmuseo Helsinki

“Living in the Amsterdam School” at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Holland

Much like the German Jugendstil/Arts and Crafts movement fragmented in the inter-war years into the more traditional Werkbund and the avant-garde Bauhaus movements so to is the development of contemporary architecture and design in Holland characterised by a bruising fission: on the one side the brash young things of De Stijl and on the other the more conservative Amsterdam School. Whereas De Stijl in its numerous carnations and creative genres, and the architecture and architectural legacy of the Amsterdam School have been extensively researched, according to the Stedelijk Museum Living in the Amsterdam School presents the first museal exploration of the furniture and furnishings which accompanied the Amsterdam School’s architecture; and promising as it does some 500+ items certainly sounds like being extensive enough to ensure that the visitor can understand both the connection between the architecture and the interiors, but also why there was so much antagonism between the Amsterdam School and the De Stijl protagonists.

Living in the Amsterdam School opens at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Museumplein 10, 1071 DJ Amsterdam on Saturday April 9th and runs until Sunday August 28th

Armchair and coffee table by Liem Bwan Tjie, ca. 1930 (Photo Erik & Petra Hesmerg, Courtesy of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam)

Armchair and coffee table by Liem Bwan Tjie, ca. 1930 (Photo Erik & Petra Hesmerg, Courtesy of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam)

XXI Triennale International Exhibition: “21st Century. Design After Design”, Milan, Italy

For the 21st Milan Triennale the organisers have chosen to look at the 21st century and for all to ask what the future holds for designers and design as both a profession and as a notion. Featuring over 20 exhibitions at 11 locations in and around Milan the 21st Milan Triennale aims to explore questions such as how best to respond to the increasing conflict between our reliance on mass production and proliferation of new production processes, how should/will our cites and communities transform to reflect changing realities, what is the role of the designer in all this, what will the role of the designer become and for all what will “design” actually mean in the near future…. so after design?

The XXI Triennale International Exhibition, 21st Century. Design After Design, takes place at numerous locations in Milan from Saturday April 2nd until Monday September 12th

XXI Triennale International Exhibition: 21st Century.Design After Design, Milan

XXI Triennale International Exhibition: 21st Century.Design After Design, Milan

“Self-Propelled. Or how the Bicycle moves us” at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden, Germany

Much like our relationship to photography is a purely functional, practical, one, so to our relationship with cycling. We simply don’t buy into all this “bike as lifestyle” nonsense.
Get on bike. Go to baker. Come home. Eat cake.
Get on bike. Go to cinema. Watch film. Get back on bike. Go home.
Get on bike. Go for long cycle. Narrowly avoid getting hit by bus. Come home. Feel fitter.

But this bike as a “cult” object ….. not with us.

And we suspect not with the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden.

With their exhibition Self-Propelled. Or how the Bicycle moves us the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden aim to explore the development of the bicycle in its cultural, social and technological context, of which the first two sound potentially the most interesting, promising as they do to explore how the bicycle as a democratic and universal tool has accompanied, defined and even enabled, numerous cultural and social movements. And no we don’t mean tattooed urbanites with racing caps.

Self-Propelled. Or how the Bicycle moves us opens at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Schloss Pillnitz, Wasserpalais, August-Böckstiegel-Straße 2, 01326 Dresden on Saturday April 30th and runs until Tuesday November 1st

Typical Hipster! Littering the countryside without any consideration for the deeper cultural and social consequence of their actions, typical......

Typical Hipster! Littering the countryside without any consideration for the deeper cultural and social consequence of their actions, typical……

Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne: Rimowa Electronic Tag

As more loyal readers will be aware, we are firmly of the opinion that increasing digital technology must be employed, autocratically if necessary, to reduce our daily need for and on paper; there are so many examples of unnecessary paper use, of situations where digital technology provides or could provide a more than suitable alternative.

Those same readers will also be aware that we are extremely uneasy about any developments which extend society’s dependency on smartphones and tablets, for the very obvious reasons that the more we depend on such, the more we risk creating a new type of poverty, new “class” boundaries and also new forms of control, monitoring and suppression.

Its a tightrope, but as Philippe Petit has regularly proved, a tightrope needn’t be a hindrance. And can indeed be a tool to creative freedom.

At Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 in Cologne German luggage manufacturer Rimowa presented a new digital luggage labelling solution which in context of a paperless future very much appealed to us.

According to Rimowa their Electronic Tag is the first digital luggage check-in solution and means that after having checked in online for your flight, and received your electronic boarding card, you can then “check in” your luggage, the label being sent via Bluetooth to your suitcase where it is displayed on a small screen.

A very elegant, effortless and eminently sensible solution, what particularly appeals to us is the fact that the developers have decided to keep the visual design of the “classic” luggage label. There was no need to, important for the airports and airlines are alone the bar codes and the three letter airport codes, Rimowa could have created a new layout for the digital label. Didn’t. Which is very pleasing because nothing says “flying” quite like the green stripes and solid blocks of a luggage label. And we’ve lost enough of the charm, mystique and luxury of flying without having to bid adieu to such simple yet satisfying visual charms.

Currently only available in Rimowa suitcases we suspect that the technology will quickly spread, largely because we suspect that airlines and airports will encourage, or perhaps better put force, uptake of such: pre-labelled bags save costs in terms of printing labels, save costs in terms of staff, while the digital technology also allows for new, less voluminous, less formal, baggage drop facilities, and thus not only savings in terms of infrastructure but also offering the possibility of an improved customer service experience and freeing up space for retail and catering.

The new technology won’t replace the analogue completely, there will always be the likes of us who turn up at airports with a rucksack; but we can definitely foresee a future where such technology is standard for a majority of travellers. And eventually where RFID or similar chips are built into luggage, which will of course be a sad day as then the luggage label design will finally have boarded the long, one way flight to Retirement City.

More information on the Rimowa Electronic Tag can be found at

Rimowa Electronic Tag, as seen at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne

Rimowa Electronic Tag, as seen at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne

Rimowa Electronic Tag, as seen at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne

Rimowa Electronic Tag, as seen at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne

Rimowa Electronic Tag,on and off.

Rimowa Electronic Tag. On and off.

Rimowa at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne.... and already thinking about Barcelona....

Rimowa at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne…. and already thinking about Barcelona….

smow blog Compact: Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec in Rennes

Until August 28th the Breton capital Rennes is paying tribute to arguably the region’s most famous sons since Lancelot: Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec.

Born in Quimper on the extreme south west of the peninsula in 1971 (Ronan) and 1976 (Erwan) respectively, the brothers Bouroullec found their way to design via slightly abstract routes; however, having arrived swiftly set about creating not only their own design identity but changing many established conventions about what furniture and furnishings is, are and can be. Or perhaps better put, evolving many established conventions about what furniture and furnishings is, are and can be.

Initial projects for Cappellini quickly became projects for Lignet Roset, Vitra and, and perhaps most importantly, Galerie Kreo in Paris, a partner who offered Ronan and Erwan a platform to develop the more poetic aspects of their aesthetic, to refine their understanding of design and the design process and a cooperation from which numerous interesting commercial projects have ultimately arisen.

By way of a summer of Bouroullec celebrations Rennes is staging four Bouroullec events: the exhibition 17 Screens, an explorative showcase which was first shown at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; a retrospective of 20 years Bouroullec creativity at the Frac Bretagne museum; a presentation of the Kiosque modular pavilions the brothers developed in 2015, and which are very closely related to their new Palissade outdoor furniture collection for HAY; and perhaps most interestingly an exhibition by the name Rêveries Urbaines – Urban Daydreams – at Les Champs Libres. Presenting, and assuming our French is up to the translation, the Bouroullecs’ first foray into creating public spaces Rêveries Urbaines promises furniture, pergolas, fountains, brooks and a marquee conceived with the aim of creating a convivial ambiance for socialising, relaxing, flânerie and presumably, dozing and daydreaming. And a presentation which although being staged in Rennes is, according to the brothers, intended as being more widely, universally, applicable.

Which all in all sounds like a summer of pure Bouroullec porn.

The only thing we can’t work out, or at least translate out, is, why?

We’re not opposed, far from it, just curious as to why Brittany have chosen now to honour the Bouroullecs…….

But then that question is probably less important than the one about if the presentation(s) do Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec and their canon justice.

And certainly less important than the one about what a cooperation between Lancelot and the Bouroullecs would produce……

More information, including the locations and opening times of the various exhibitions, can be found at

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec :17 Screens at Tel Aviv Museum of Art (Photo © & courtesy of Studio Bouroullec)

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec :17 Screens at Tel Aviv Museum of Art (Photo © & courtesy of Studio Bouroullec)

Lit clos by Ronan an Erwan Bouroullec, Galerie Kreo

Lit clos by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Galerie Kreo (Photo © & courtesy of Galerie Kreo)

Algue by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra

Algue by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra

Milan Design Week 2013 Workbay Office by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra

Milan Design Week 2013: Workbay Office by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra

Kiosque by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, here in front of the Louvre, 2015 (Photo © & courtesy of Studio Bouroullec)

Kiosque by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, here in front of the Louvre, 2015 (Photo © & courtesy of Studio Bouroullec)

smow blog compact: Konstantin Grcic. Abbildungen @ Kunsthalle Bielefeld

Since 1994 the so-called Bielefeld Conspiracy has contended that the German city of Bielefeld doesn’t exist.
A central component of the theory is formed by three questions:

Have you ever been to Bielefeld?
Do you know anyone who has ever been to Bielefeld?
Do you know anyone from Bielefeld?

If you respond, as you invariably will, with a straight “No” to all three questions…. how do you know for certain Bielefeld exists?

To the three standard questions, one could also add “Do you know anyone who has ever been to an exhibition preview in Bielefeld?”

We were supposed to attend the preview of the exhibition Konstantin Grcic Abbildungen at the Kunsthalle Bielefeld; but were thwarted in our endeavours by a chain events one could almost describe as “conspiratorial”

A state of affairs which makes you think……

Taking the “pedestal” as its central theme Abbildungen presents both works by Konstantin Grcic and objects chosen by him from the Kunsthalle Bielefeld collection and which set juxtaposed aim to initiate a dialogue between the functional and the decorative and thus explore the differences, similarities and inter-dependencies.

When we spoke with Konstantin Grcic ahead of the opening of his exhibition Panorama at the Grassi Museum in Leipzig we spent a lot of the time talking about the Bielefeld show. Or rather Konstantin Grcic did, enthused as he was by the project, the atmosphere of Philip Johnson’s Kunsthalle pavilion, and the possibilities opened by the chance to stage “a design exhibition without having to maintain a design language” He also reiterated on several occasions that just because he was exhibiting in an art museum didn’t mean he was an artist, however, “in an exhibition one must explain design, but not art, art exists for itself, that is a privilege art has and a privilege that I am momentarily taking advantage of.”

Which made us all the keener to view Abbildungen. Which we still intend to. Assuming that is Bielefeld, and the Kunsthalle, actually exist……..

Konstantin Grcic Abbildungen runs at the Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Artur-Ladebeck-Straße 5, 33602 Bielefeld until Sunday July 3rd.

Full details can be found at

*We do realise the fact that Konstantin Grcic had already been to Bielefeld when we spoke to him in Leipzig means that we can answer “Yes” to one of the questions, and thus negate the conspiratorial element. But that would have spoiled the narrative. And in any case, and as regular readers will be well aware, Berlin based designer, and smow Blog regular, Birgit Severin is originally from Bielefeld, and so even before we knew that Konstantin Grcic would be exhibiting in Bielefeld, we could answer “Yes” to one question……

Konstantin Grcic. Abbildungen @ Kunsthalle Bielefeld (Photo Wolfgang Günzel, Courtesy of Kunsthalle Bielefeld)

Konstantin Grcic. Abbildungen @ Kunsthalle Bielefeld (Photo Wolfgang Günzel, Courtesy of Kunsthalle Bielefeld)

Konstantin Grcic. Abbildungen @ Kunsthalle Bielefeld (Photo Wolfgang Günzel, Courtesy of Kunsthalle Bielefeld)

Konstantin Grcic. Abbildungen @ Kunsthalle Bielefeld (Photo Wolfgang Günzel, Courtesy of Kunsthalle Bielefeld)

smow blog compact: Bauhaus Archiv Berlin present Textile Design Today – From Experiment to Series

Mild-mannered and polite as we are, we still occasionally find ourselves causing offence, arousing feelings of mild outrage and generally causing people to turn against us; invariably, when we contend, as we regularly do, that fashion isn’t design.

Which of course it isn’t.

“This winter we’ll be wearing stripes” is obviously as vacuous as it is untrue.

Fashion isn’t design.

It’s styling.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Just don’t call it design

Textile design is design, because textile design explores new ways of approaching and working with textiles, of finding new understandings of our relationships to textiles, new possibilities in terms of materials, of manufacturing, and ultimately new ways of integrating textiles into our social, cultural and economic lives.

In their temporary exhibition Textile Design Today – From Experiment to Series the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin aim to explore the current status of textile design and thus the contemporary importance and relevance of textile design.

Realised in cooperation with the Textile department of the Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle, Textile Design Today promises to explore the multi-faceted universe of contemporary textile design through seven subject areas – tradition, material, colour, cultural transfer, technology, smart textiles and sustainability – and through numerous fields of contemporary textile use such as architecture, interior design, automobiles….. and yes, fashion.

Featuring contributions from established designers such as Hella Jongerius or Janne Kyttanen as well as projects by Burg Halle students and examples of commercially available products from firms as varied as Kvadrat, Création Baumann or Freitag, Textile Design Today promises to be both an extensive survey of contemporary textile design and also a reminder that many of the the subjects explored in the exhibition, were just as contemporary at Bauhaus as they are today.

Textile Design Today – From Experiment to Series runs at the Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung, Klingelhöferstrasse 14, 10785 Berlin until Monday September 5th.

Full details, including information on the accompanying fringe programme, can be found at

LCS Perlon rep in the colours of LeCorbursier, free selected colour and quality variants (© design: Anker Teppiche, photo: Matthias Ritzmann)

LCS Perlon rep in the colours of LeCorbursier, free selected colour and quality variants (© design: Anker Teppiche, photo: Matthias Ritzmann)

Josefine Düring, Pinifère Profonde, finished veneer, 100% spruce, screen print with reactive dye, perforated, embroidered (© design/photo: Josefine Düring)

Josefine Düring, Pinifère Profonde, finished veneer, 100% spruce, screen print with reactive dye, perforated, embroidered (© design/photo: Josefine Düring)

Manuela Leite, woven fabric with folds and motion sensors that make the folds open to reveal colourful fabric (© design: Manuela Leite, photo: Matthias Ritzmann)

Manuela Leite, woven fabric with folds and motion sensors that make the folds open to reveal colourful fabric (© design: Manuela Leite, photo: Matthias Ritzmann)

Moritz Waldemeyer, basket-like cloak for Philip Treacy, lighting technology Moritz Waldemeyer (© Design/Foto: Moritz Waldemeyer)

Moritz Waldemeyer, basket-like cloak for Philip Treacy, lighting technology Moritz Waldemeyer (© Design/Foto: Moritz Waldemeyer)

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