Ukrainian designers haven’t featured often in these pages.

Arguably never.

And may never have, had it not been for the exhibition Transformation staged at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre during Paris Design Week 2017

The installation Pulse of Life by Nikolay Kabluka & decorKuznetsov, as seen at Transformation, Ukrainian Cultural Centre, Paris Design Week 2017

Aachen is famous for its Cathedral, its Rathaus, as a sedes regia, Royal seat, and coronation location of Germanic monarchs for 600 years, and its confectionery.

But for its design?

The network Designmetropole Aachen aim to change that, through both promoting the work of Aachen based designers in exhibitions and events, and also through being a network, a variagted structure in which local creatives support local creatives. Among Designmetropole Aachen’s current projects is as co-curators of the exhibition LuForm – The Design Department at the Ludwig Forum Aachen, an exhibition which has just received its fourth Update.

To find out more about LuForm, and creativity in and around Aachen, we met up with Designmetropole Aachen co-initiator Fabian Seibert.

Depressed Lamp by Patricia Yasmine Graf & Fabian Seibert (Photo Bartosz Plodovski © Sülzkotlett )

Just as the Eamsien adage proclaims that “the details are not the details; they make the product”, so too are a design school’s teaching staff not the teaching staff, they make the school.

Consequently, it follows that to better understand not only an individual institution, but also both the wider contemporary condition, and possible future directions, of design education, it is important to talk to, and understand, design school teaching staff; both those full-time Professors, and also those practising designers who have accepted the responsibility of instructing future generations.

Practising designers such as Patrick Frey, Assistant Professor at the Hochschule Hannover.

Patrick Frey. Designer and Assistant Professor, Hochschule Hannover

Whereas most design schools stage their annual exhibition at the end of the summer semester, there are exceptions, such as the Folkwang Universität der Künste, Essen, who present theirs just before the start of the winter semester.

And so nigh on three months after all others have ended.

Because, one wonders, they fear its brilliant glow would place all other schools in its shade, and they want to remain fair to their colleagues elsewhere? Because they have something to hide, and hope by waiting till October no one will visit?

Our #campustour may have long since been parked up for 2017, but keen to learn more we cranked it up and set course for Germany’s Ruhrgebiet…….

SANAA Building, Zeche Zollverein Essen, location for Finale 2017, Folkwang Universität der Künste Essen

“October is the month of painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round the world. As fruits and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint just before they fall, so the year near its setting. October is its sunset sky; November the later twilight”

Before Henry David Thoreau’s twilight comes, our five painted leaves, flashing their rich glow round the world from Nürnberg, Lausanne, Hamburg, Eindhoven and Barcelona.

5 New Design Exhibitions for October 2017

With their 1997 exhibition The Work of Charles and Ray Eames the Vitra Design Museum staged one of the first major Charles and Ray Eames retrospectives

Twenty years later they return to two of the 20th century’s most important creatives with An Eames Celebration: less of Charles and Ray, and more of the diversity, depth and continuing relevance of their work.

Charles & Ray Eames. The Power of Design, Vitra Design Museum

As regular readers will be aware, for us there is little more elegant and logical than the modular shelving system.

And in the variety of systems developed, little which better illustrates both the multitude of options available for the seemingly most simple of functionalities, and thereby the talent required, or perhaps function, of the designer in developing something meaningful, interesting and, ideally, attractive.

Of late we have seen several interesting new modular shelving propositions, Arronde by Camille Ravanel being one of the more pleasing.

Arronde by Camille Ravanel, as seen at Paris Design Week 2017

One of the inescapable features of our recent #campustour was the number of projects exploring potential, possible, new materials, including, and amongst many others, egg shells, eelgrass and chitosan. Explorations whose relevance and importance was neatly underscored post-tour by the exhibition Pure Gold. Upcycled! Upgraded! at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg.

Beyond the questions posed by the projects themselves, the experimentation we’ve seen these past few weeks has increasingly caused us to reflect on a material once tipped as being a potential new future for the furniture industry…… Papier-mâché.

Chair, 1830-1840 Wooden legs, Papier-mâché backrest (Photo © Wolverhampton Arts and Museums Service,

Having grown up near Quimper, Brittany, Ronan Bouroullec moved to Paris in 1989 to study industrial design; since when the French capital has not only witnessed him complete his studies, but establish a studio, achieve his first commercial success and together with his brother Erwan develop projects for a roster of international clients including, and amongst many others, Vitra, Magis, Flos, Kvadrat and Samsung, in addition to realising numerous collaborations with Galerie kreo.

We met up with Ronan Bouroullec to discuss Paris, his experiences in, and relationship with the city, but somehow the conversation kept drifting outwith the city limits…..

Erwan & Ronan Bouroullec in their atelier in Paris Belleville (Photo courtesy Studio Bouroullec)

Paris Design Week is largely about brand in-store and similar PR driven presentations. An extension if you will of Maison et Objet into the city, and thus predictably prosaic.


Not exclusively.

Throughout the city there are/were stimulating and challenging presentations to be found and interesting designers and manufacturers to be discovered and enjoyed.

Among the new discoveries we made at Paris Design Week 2017 was Paris based studio woodmade.

Mali à bascule by woodmade, as seen at now! le Off!, Paris Design Week 2017

As the old proverbs teach us, Waste Not, Want Not!

And, all that (g)litters is gold!

With the exhibition Pure Gold. Upcycled! Upgraded! the Museum für Kunst & Gewerbe Hamburg not only demonstrate the inherent value that can exist in apparent waste, but also how understanding that inherent value could help us reduce future waste problems.

Pure Gold. Upcycled! Upgraded!, at Museum für Kunst Gewerbe Hamburg

Back in June 2016 we included the Stedelijk Museum ’s-Hertogenbosch’s exhibition Nacho Carbonell – On the Origin of Pieces amongst our five new architecture and design exhibition recommendations, noting that, for us, the exhibition appeared to offer “an excellent opportunity to, finally, get to know the man and his work. And for all to understand his cocoon constructions, works which terrify us as much as they fascinate us.”

We sadly never did make it to On the Origin of Pieces; however, the exhibition Living Organisms at the Horta Museum Brussels offers an equally good, if slightly less fulsome, opportunity to achieve the same.

A Forest chair and table, as seen at Living Organisms, the Horta Museum Brussels

If Milan marks the start of summer, Paris marks the end: the gentle warmth of the Lombarden sun and the fresh alpine breeze blowing over the Saloni ceding as it invariably does, nay must, to the brisk crispness of Maison et Objet.

C’est la vie!

The September 2017 edition of Maison et Objet was a disconcerting mix of baroque revival and picturesque, fantasy, Scandinavian, as if late 1980s Philippe Starck discovered hygge.

And over large stretches Maison et Objet 2017 is/was just as terrifying as that sounds. Our only consolation being the certainty that those responsible are but blindly chasing the shadow of a fashion, ’tis but a trend, and trends always, but always, fade.

Fortunately some objects on show arose from more honest origins. As ever we didn’t see everything, apologies to all we missed, but here our Maison et Objet Autumn 2017 High 4!! And some poppy, late ’90s dance…

Designers are prone to spending inordinate amounts of time shaving a millimetre of a surface thickness. Or trying to increase the distance between two points by a couple of millimetres. Occupations which to the uninitiated can appear just a tick obsessive. In how far however relatively small changes of scale, differences of a few millimetres, can alter not only the physical appearance of a product, but the very character of a product, was elegantly explained by Danish manufacturer Houe at spoga+gafa Cologne 2017.

And that such changes can also have an aural impact, a Click becoming a Clip.

Clips Rocking Chair by Henrik Pedersen for Houe, as seen at spoga+gafa Cologne 2017

Whereas other cities get by with a design week, Brussels has a whole month: which shouldn’t be taken as an indication Brussels is four times more design than say Milan, Eindhoven or Vienna.

It isn’t.

It just takes its time. Doesn’t rush. It is Belgium after all ……

For Brussels Design September 2017 MAD Brussels is hosting Belgitude & The New Belgians, two exhibitions of contemporary product design curated by the federal platform Belgium is Design.

Belgitude @ MAD Brussels

On our recent #campustour we didn’t only view the students’ works, and chat to students about their works, we also spoke to members of the design schools’ teaching staff about their motivations, methods, experiences and views on contemporary design eduction.

Ultimately if you want to understand contemporary design education, you have to understand contemporary design educators.

Whereby one of the peculiarities of design eduction is that any given school’s staff is a mix of full time staff members and practising designers who teach selected courses, or in the case of designer Peter Marigold a whole Studio, the central teaching concept at the Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design, or the Cass London as it more familiarly known.

Designer and tutor Peter Marigold with an object from his Split series

The 2017 spoga+gafa garden trade fair in Cologne hosted the 5th edition of the unique youngstar outdoor living design competition. Open to current design students, or those who have graduated within the past three years, the 2017 unique youngstar attracted a recorder number of 81 entries from 18 countries, from which a shortlist of 15 nominees was selected and presented in an exhibition at spoga+gafa 2017. At an awards ceremony on Sunday in Cologne the prize winners were announced……

unique youngstar 2017, Cologne

The September architecture and design exhibition recommendations are arguably the cruellest to write: the fact that the majority of the exhibitions end in the depths of the European winter meaning that as we sit here hoping that summer keeps going just a little, little, longer…. we’re forced to think about winter jackets and gloves.

And so before things get that far, best get out there and visit an exhibition!! Our five recommendations for September 2017 feature new exhibitions in Weil am Rhein, Los Angeles, Utrecht, Frankfurt and Malmö…….

smow blog 5 New Design Exhibitions for September 2017

Much like the aardvark, or Alvar Aalto, Aachen is always likely to find itself at the top of any alphabetical list.

But aside from such orthographic deceit, would the FH Aachen be at the top of our #campustour list…….?

FH Aachen Design Department @ Boxgraben 100 Aachen

Although Bauhaus originally opened in Weimar, the Bauhaus most people understand as Bauhaus is Bauhaus Dessau.

But can the students of the Bauhaus University Weimar reclaim “Bauhaus” for Weimar?

The Bauhaus University Weimar’s annual Summaery exhibition offered a chance to learn more…..

Bauhaus University Weimar (Photo © Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Foto: Nathalie Mohadjer)

According to the Chinese philosopher Laozi “a journey of 1,000 li begins with a single step”.

For a journey of 20,000 li that step is onto a bus to Malmö…. and is followed by a succession of trains, boats, planes and trams. If sadly not Laozi’s preferred mode of transport, the water buffalo.

While there are still a few #campustour posts to come, for now the rucksacks have been hung up, the red travellin’ socks are, finally, in the wash and we can start to try to take stock….

By the end of the #campustour we could really associate with the Leinaustraße Hannover tram stops by Andreas Brandolini. First stop the hairdresser......

Without wanting to in any way detract from the work undertaken by Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee students in the past year, a highlight of our visit to the 2017 Rundgang summer exhibition was the thunderstorm which broke while we there. Calling it biblical would be to trivialise the ferocity with which it smit the day asunder, turning in its fury the Bühringstraße in front of the school into a Bühring Straits. And the first of three storms which broke over Berlin in quick succession, almost sinking the German capital.

Magnificent, imposing and a joy to behold. But would the 2017 Rundgang also make such a positive and lasting impression……..?

Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee

Visiting the 2017 end of year Werkschau exhibition at the Peter Behrens School of Arts, Düsseldorf we were greatly reminded of the school’s eponym’s own time in Düsseldorf.

If not for the reasons one might assume…….

Peter Behrens School of Arts Düsseldorf

Whereas the Ludwig Forum Aachen’s focus is contemporary art, since March 2017 the museum has giving floor space over to contemporary designers and the project LuForm. The Design Department; thereby not only increasing the scope of the museum but also offering designers from the region a new platform.

LuForm @ Ludwig Forum Aachen

In 2018 the Hochschule München Design Department will move a few hundred metres round the corner from its current home, a home it has occupied for over forty years, to a new purpose built facility opposite the main college building; consequently, the 2017 Jahresausstellung was one of the last chances to experience the Design Department in its original location.

But was it a presentation worthy of the moment, a fitting au revoir to an old friend……….?

Hochschule München Design Department