As with all creative professions, design is something into which one grows, where over time your position to it develops and evolves until such time as you reach a place where you are comfortable with what you are doing and why. Sure one starts of under the impression you understand design, the wise quickly realise they don’t, step back, reconsider, listen, observe, reconsider, experiment, listen, observe, reconsider, experiment and slowly but surely form their own position to and understanding of design, ultimately arriving at Bob Dylan’s realisation that “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

An important, though not necessarily essential, step on that process is design school, a place for experimentation, observation, discourse and statics, and a place to come into contact experienced designers of various hues: consequently, when out and about on our #campustour we not only explore the student projects and consider underlying themes and priorities, but also speak to those responsible for design education, including Helmut Jakobs, who for neigh on three decades guided design students at the FH Aachen.

Helmut Jakobs FH Aachen


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

smow song contest 2018


In the wonderful month of May,
As all the buds bloomed,
My heart became,
With Love consumed

In the wonderful month of May,
As all the birds did sing,
I confessed to her
My desire and yearning.

Heinrich Heine, Im wunderschönen Monat Mai, 1827

And then???

Heinrich, don’t leave us hanging! It all started out so positive!

It’s an awkward month May, the vitality of blooming buds and oratorio of singing birds luring us into hopeful fantasies, utopian visions of what lies ahead: but what will become of them? Will the freshly bloomed buds survive the inevitable late frost? Will the birds’ new chicks evade their predators to flee the nest and carry their song to pastures new? Will she respond to your confessions of desire and yearning?

Probably not. And so therefore rather than losing your May to romantic dreaming, before May becomes but a painful memory of what could have been, something destined to remain forever in the past tense, use it to improve your understandings of the realities of the world around you, to learn to talk confidently in the future.

Our five recommendations for new architecture and design exhibitions opening during May 2018………

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for March 2018


Any anthology of 20th century design would by necessity feature a very, very long chapter on Italy. With Storie. Il Design Italiano the Triennale Design Museum Milan sketch out how the narrative of such a chapter could develop, highlight key moments in the plot development and introduce the most important protagonists.

Storie. Il Design Italiano @ Triennale Design Museum, Milan


By way of celebrating designer Achille Castiglioni’s centenary Italian lighting manufacturer Flos used Milan Design Week 2018 to launch re-editions of two Castiglioni designs: Ventosa and Nasa.

Objects which in their own, small, ways allow for an insight into Achille Castiglioni’s approach to, and understanding of, design.

Flos present Achille Castiglioni - If you are not curious forget it, Milan Design Week 2018


We’re great believers in Fate, in the guiding principle that if it is meant to be, it will be: not least because it protects us from the expectations of achievement.

Further proof of the veracity of Fate was provided by our meeting during Milan Design Week 2018 with the project Moorwerk by Jan Christian Schulz.

Moorwerk by Jan Christian Schulz, as seen at ein&zwanzig, Milan Design Week 2018


Milan Furniture Fair 2018, at least amongst those more design led manufacturers, is/was largely about consolidation, largely about new materials, new colours, slight changes to existing objects, with one or the other family proudly presenting their latest members. Which is no complaint, far from it, Milan’s speciality traditionally being the new for the sake of the new, that misguided belief that one has to present something new every year. You don’t. Present something new when you’ve got something new to say, something new to contribute, something meaningful.

Largely ≇ exclusively and there were a few new projects to be found which did have something new to say, did have something new to contribute, were something meaningful. If not enough for a handful. Sure we could have added another project just to compete the quintet, there being no shortage of candidates to choose from, but then just as we don’t expect manufacturers to publish for the sake of the new rather for the quality, so we don’t publish for the sake of the five….

As ever we didn’t see everything, have without question missed things we shouldn’t have missed, things we will regret missing later, apologies all round, but, and with that in mind, our Milan Furniture Fair 2018: High Four!!

Milan Furniture Fair 2018 High Five


Whereas exhibitions in which designers show prototypes and discontinued projects by way of explaining who they are, where they come from and how they work, are a, relatively, regular occurrence, exhibitions in which manufacturers do such are much, much rarer: with the exhibition Typecasting Vitra make a very rare and very welcome exception

And in doing so don’t just present an image not only of Vitra past, but also take a look into the future…..

Vitra -Typecasting, as seen at Milan Design Week 2018


Curated by Carwan Gallery Beirut co-founder Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, Unsighted presents projects by eight international designers; the title making reference to the fact that the designers weren’t told for what they were being commissioned, had no external context; were working, as it were, Unsighted.

During Milan Design Week 2018 all became clearer…

Unsighted, Milan Design Week 2018


“Shake of all the props – the props tradition and authority offer you – and go alone – crawl – stumble – stagger – but go alone”, encouraged the Scottish architect, designer and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh his audience during his 1902 lecture Seemliness.1

How Charles Rennie Mackintosh himself attempted to do just that can be explored in the exhibition Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Making the Glasgow Style.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Making the Glasgow Style @ Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow


According to the German philologist, mythologist, folklorist and definer of the Germanic Umlaut, Jacob Grimm, an old belief states that the Cuckoo never sings before the 3rd of April; and, “should you have money in your pouch when you hear him sing the first time, you will be well off all that year, if not, you will be short the whole year” 1

Much like the cuckoo, our five new architecture & design exhibitions recommendations for April 2018 begin with their songs after April 3rd; and should you have money in your pouch when in their vicinity, and use it to visit one, we can’t guarantee a year of financial wealth, but they all sound like providing not only a couple of hours entertainment, but a lifetime of joy through helping you develop your understanding of architecture and design, and thereby the world that surrounds you….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for April 2018


Following on from the Collective in 2015, Movement in 2016 and Substance in 2017, the Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau’s annual theme for 2018 is the Standard; a central component of the teaching at Bauhaus Dessau yet one which is and was freely open to artistic, technological and functional interpretation.

And one the Bauhäusler freely interpreted artistically, technologically and functionally

The first exhibition in context of the annual theme explores the work of the German architect Carl Fieger, how he applied his understanding and interpretations of standardisation of architecture and design from his days at Bauhaus in the 1920s to his time at the East German Bauakademie in the 1950s, how he evolved and developed as an architect in that period and his contemporary relevance.

Carl Fieger. From Bauhaus to Bauakademie at Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau


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

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

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

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


1918 was a bad year for the Wiener Moderne, losing as it did with the deaths of Koloman Moser, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and Otto Wagner four of its leading protagonists.

To mark the centenary, and help underscore the important role Vienna played at the turn of the 19th/20th century in the development of art, architecture, music and literature, museums across Vienna are staging a wide range of specially themed exhibitions throughout 2018; the Hofmobiliendepot – Imperial Furniture Museum – taking the opportunity to celebrate not only Otto Wagner, but his younger contemporaries Josef Hoffmann and Adolf Loos.

Wagner, Hoffmann, Loos and Viennese Modernist Furniture Design. Artists, Patrons, Producers


While it is generally the case that the development, evolution, of product design is dependent on the development, evolution, of technology, such is particularly the case in context of lighting design: ever since a burning stick was first employed to create a relaxing evening atmosphere in a neolithic cave, technological developments have been the driving force behind the development of lighting design, be that formally, functionally or technically.

The nature of Light + Building Frankfurt, the fact that it is much more of case of “Light in and around Buildings”, means that the majority of the projects presented are about technical lighting in architectural contexts, and in terms of technical evolution most manufacturers are atop of the game: demonstrating technical competence being a key element in any lighting manufacturers’ self-image. Does however by necessity mean that often the required functionality is largely pre-defined by the very specific nature of the usage, while the form is in many cases irrelevant.

A small section of Light + Building does however present objects of more freer nature, and there one does/could find a few design led projects which in addition to adopting technological innovation approach new formal and functional solutions and thus new understandings of what lighting can/should be. As ever we’ve not seen everything, have invariably missed one or the other gem, apologies all-round, but with that in mind, and in no particular order, our Light + Building Frankfurt 2018 High Five!!

Light + Building Frankfurt 2018: High Five!!


Nightclubs and discos are not only about entertainment and sensory overload, but also provide a society with means of expression and reflection.

With the exhibition Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 – Today the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein explore five decades of club culture.

Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today, Vitra Design Museum


In front of the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich stands a Futuro House by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen, a work realised in 1968 as his response to considerations on questions concerning our future society.

And an object which resembles a flying saucer. And arguably does so more now than it did then. Then it was a bright new future enabled by contemporary technology: now it is a piece of late 1960s science fiction.

Inspired by the Futuro House 28 students from the Industrial Design and Architecture Master’s degree programs at the Technische Universität München undertook their own considerations on questions concerning our future society.

The results of their deliberations are presented in the exhibition 50|50. Die Welt 2068.

Futuro House by Matti Suuronen @ the Pinakothek der Moderne Munich


Following three years of renovations and redesign the principle house of the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich is once again open for visitors.

Three years which have not only seen the physical structure renovated and redesigned, but also the presentation concept and foci.

Museum für Gestaltung Zürich


In context of the renovation of the historic Falkenhütte alpine hut, Munich based StudioFaubel were commissioned to develop a formally appropriate, contemporary lighting solution.

During Munich Creative Business Week 2018 the Alpines Museum Munich are presenting with Gentiana Alba – Tradition und Design, not only the result of that commission, but an insight into the development process.

Gentiana Alba by StudioFaubel, as seen at Tradition und Design, Alpines Museum Munich


Vicis (latin, f.): Change, variety, alteration

VICIS (Munich Creative Business Week 2018): An invitation to consider such.

VICIS. Always Change a Running System Munich Creative Business Week 2018


With the exhibition Hans J. Wegner: Designing Danish Modern the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot explores the oeuvre of one of the Grand Doyens, and arguably one of the most widely misconstrued protagonists, of 20th century Danish design.

Hans J. Wegner: Designing Danish Modern, Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot


Arguably because Passover/Easter is early this year, every, but every, museum is opening a major exhibition in the course of March 2018, in preparation for the unofficial start of the tourist season in April.

A situation which leaves us with the daunting possibility of creating 5 such Top 5 lists. And still having some exhibitions left over.

Faced with a similar situation back in November 2017 we referred to the abundance of options which lay before us as being akin to “gardens mottled with the vibrant leaves of autumn”, here it is much more the case of lawns bestrewn with the tantalising hues of Easter Eggs. And while some will unquestionably be those disappointingly hollow ones, the majority look like being solid lumps of architecture and design endorphin loaded goodness into which to sink your teeth, and thereby celebrate the end of winter’s paucity and the coming spring.

In that sense, our top 5 new architecture and design EGGsibitions for March 2018 …. Bon appétit!!!

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for March 2018


With the exhibition INSIDE architecture by Åke Axelsson, Jonas Bohlin, Mats Theselius Sweden’s Konstakademien, Royal Academy, pay tribute not to the architecture of Messrs Axelsson, Bohlin & Theselius, but to the interior and furniture design work of three: and in doing so neatly underscore the function of the interior architect and the important link between interior design and furniture design.

Works by Mats Theselius, as seen at INSIDE architecture by Åke Axelsson, Jonas Bohlin, Mats Theselius @ Konstakademien, Stockholm


Organised by the Swedish Society of Crafts and Design, IKEA, the City of Malmö and ArkDes, Sweden’s national architecture and design museum, the annual Ung Svensk Form/Young Swedish Design award/platform, premiers young design talents not only of Swedish birth, but non-Swedes currently based in Sweden, regardless of genre, but who, in the words of outgoing Swedish Society of Crafts and Design CEO Ewa Kumlin, “experiment freely, venture without fear, believe in their ideas and have the strength to implement them”

Celebrating its 20th edition Ung Svensk Form/Young Swedish Design 2018 features the work of 29 creatives; works which can be experienced in the Ung Svensk Form/Young Swedish Design 2018 Exhibition at ArkDes, Exercisplan 4, Skeppsholmen Stockholm until Sunday March 18th.

As ever with such competitions, the jury have made their choices, the work is on display, and now it is up to the visitors to form their own opinion on the validity, or otherwise, of the inclusions. For those who can’t make it to Stockholm, the exhibition will be touring, see local press for details, and all winners are listed online at http://ungsvenskform.se

We have made it to Stockholm, a few thoughts on some of the projects….

Ung Svensk Form/Young Swedish Design 2018 Exhibition, ArkDes Stockholm


One of the most striking aspects at Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair is the way the various Scandinavian manufacturers try to impress how old they are. Arguably on account of the sheer concentration of Scandinavians at the region’s premier furniture and lighting trade fair, you will rarely find so many in one place at one time, all seem locked in a battle to claim the status as oldest, to lay claim, as it were, to being the elder statesmen of the guild.

Established in 1964 screams one stand. Founded in 1907 another. Since 1869. Etablerad 1724. Constituted in 1079 in the reign of Harald the Soft. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera. Further and further back into the ether of time.

One suspects the reason is that given the relative similarity of the products on display, each is keen to show that they have been doing it longer than the rest.

Yet the question isn’t who has been doing it the longest, but who is doing it best.

Or perhaps better put, elsewhere the question wouldn’t be who has been doing it the longest, but who is doing it best; but we’re talking about the furniture industry, an industry which in its heart has always been about taking inspiration from others. Something which increasingly means a focus on a few universally accepted archetypal “Scandinavian” forms: and not just amongst Scandinavians, we also spotted a few non-Scandinavians trying their utmost to claim a northern heritage.

Which shouldn’t be taken as meaning that all the stands were carbon copies of one another, that all had identical portfolios and nobody was trying new things. Nor that there weren’t objects of merit on show. It doesn’t. Far from it. Such isn’t our intention. Should however be taken as meaning that throughout the fair one is and was regularly greeted by variations on a very small number of basic forms. If you will by the fundamental geometry of understandings of Scandinavian design.

Yet, and much as we argued in our post from IMM Cologne on the 118 by Sebastian Herkner for Thonet, for us things get difficult when the object, the form, becomes the main focus of attention, rather than the thinking, processes and traditions which led to the object, the form, achieving its exalted position. And considerations on such were, for us, too infrequently on display. Or at least drowned out by the shouting

As ever we may have missed things, we’re certainly not claiming totality, not least because our list is by necessity limited, with that in mind, and in no particular order, our Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair 2018 high five! six!

Stockholkm Furniture & Light Fair 2018: High 5