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smow blog compact: Open World at Kazerne Eindhoven

March 30th, 2015

As we’ve often noted/complained/mocked in these pages, for a town widely lauded as being the most creative in the universe, there isn’t that much evidence of design, creativity or innovation to be found in Eindhoven.

Or at least not in downtown Eindhoven.

Go a little bit outside to the former Philips industrial estate at Strijp on the western edge of the city or the Sectie C complex to the east, and you’ll find seemingly inexhaustible communities of creatives holed up like rabbits in warrens, working away with various degrees of diligence and success.

But the city centre?

Kazerne Eindhoven is an attempt to change that.

Formally opened during Dutch Design Week 2014 Kazerne is a combination of restaurant, bar, function suite and design gallery and aims to bring design and contemporary creativity to the centre of Eindhoven, and so to a wider, and for all lay, audience.

Following on from their inaugural exhibition, Open Mind, which sought to explore how designers think, or at least how Design Academy Eindhoven designers think, Kazerne are now presenting Open World, an exhibition which aims to explain the rudimentary nature of design research, how design research can help us understand our world and so help us better shape and form our future society, and so in many respects is an exhibition which also helps move towards answering the question we posed in our review of the Stedelijk Museum ‘s-Hertogenbosch’s exhibition How we Work, namely “if the sort of thing contemporary Dutch designers do is sensible and meaningful”?

Open World at Kazerne Eindhoven

Open World at Kazerne Eindhoven

Featuring contributions from over 20 contemporary Dutch design studios including the likes of Raw Color, Steven Banken, Nacho Carbonell or Jeroen Wand, Open World at times achieves its aims in the most delicious fashion; but not always, sometimes it simply presents interesting, thought provoking, projects.

Whereas works such as, for example, Momentum by Jeffrey Heiligers with its neat visualisation of potential energy and the relative ease with which small amounts of electricity can be generated; the sculpture “Light is a vector projecting a line” by Arnout Meijer as a nice piece of research on how we perceive light; or CaCO3 – Stoneware by Laura Lynn Jansen & Thomas Vailly which attempts to harness the power of fossilisation and petrification for production processes, do provide nice visions of a possible future reality: projects such as, for example, Unfixed by New Window x Ola Lanko, Studio Drift’s ever genial Fragile Future III or the Collage 2.0 collection by Joost van Bleiswijk in which remnants of industrial production are fused together to create new objects with their own individual form language and character, are for us more about research for the sake of research, are in that sense more art than design, and so, at least for us, not primarily about increasing our understanding or helping society move forward. Which doesn’t make then any less valid, interesting, or worthy of viewing, just a little too far removed from the exhibition’s intended focus.

Very much in the exhibition’s focus is Mine Kafon by Massoud Hassani, a project to which the largest part of Open World has been given over. Developed as Massoud’s Design Academy Eindhoven Diploma project, Mine Kafon seeks to develop a simple, universal, and for all safe, method for landmine clearance, and is a project which of late has been subject to some controversial discussion – in short, some have questioned the sense of the project, and by extrapolation the sense of the academic approach championed by Design Academy Eindhoven, largely based around the question, “Mine Kafon. Would you trust it?”
Presenting prototypes, documentation and models of past, present and future Mine Kafons Open World not only provides an excellent opportunity for all to form their own opinion on the project but also offers Massoud a platform with which to not only respond to the current criticism but also explain that the central criticisms of the project are likely to become redundant in coming months, assuming that is Massoud’s forthcoming “new” Mine Kafon meets the bold claims he makes for it.

Time will, as always, tell.

We’ll have a bit more on Mine Kafon, Design Academy Eindhoven and the Kazerne project in general real soon, but for now a few impressions from Open World.

And should you be in or near Eindhoven, Open World can be viewed, and an espresso enjoyed, at Kazerne, Paradijslaan 2-8, 5611 KN Eindhoven until Monday June 8th

Full details can be found at

smow blog Design Calendar: March 27th 1886 – Happy Birthday Ludwig Mies van der Rohe!

March 27th, 2015

How to celebrate the birthday of man all celebrate?

What words can one find to honour the birthday of the German architect, designer and ex-Bauhaus Director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe?

When in doubt we invariably turn to the man who has words for every occasion, George Nelson.

Following his graduation from Yale University George Nelson won the so-called “Rome Prize”, a fellowship awarded by the American Academy in Rome for particularly talented individuals from across a range of disciplines and which, in Nelson’s own words, meant “two years in Rome with all expenses covered”1

During his time in Italy Nelson used his status as an Academy Fellow and the associated contacts to arrange interviews with twelve leading European architects, including Giò Ponti, Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. The interviews were subsequently published in the American architecture magazine Pencil Points, the September 1935 edition featuring Nelson’s portrait of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, or Miës van der Rohe as Nelson insists on referring to him…….

On the top floor of a rather dowdy old house in Berlin there lives a man who, in spite of having built little, spoken less, and written not at all, has somehow come to be considered one of the greatest architects of his time. Such is the power of personality and an idea.

Up to ten years ago he had built virtually nothing of his own, and it was only in certain groups in Germany that his influence was making itself felt. Today he occupies a position which is unique – even in Germany – and he is almost as well-known as the more widely publicized Le Corbusier. In spite of his unwillingness to dramatize himself, Miës is no dreamy recluse to whose garret door the world has beaten a path: the luxuriously simple apartment in Berlin is in no sense a garret, and for this ample, well-fed German the meagre life holds no attractions. He likes his food and knows his wines, and with a sufficient quantity of both inside of him he can become a charming and mellow conversationalist.2

Which is good because, as Nelson notes,

Of all possible architects Miës was the hardest to interview. He was polite but frankly very bored by the prospect of talking with a stranger, and he did nothing whatever to help out when his interviewer became enmeshed in the abominable intricacies of German grammatical construction,

however, and as already noted,

As the conversation progressed to matters of mutual interest, Miës gradually unbent and we both had a much better time, I left enormously impressed by the keenness and extraordinary personal force of the man.

Not that one should get the impression that Nelson was anything but an admirer of Mies van der Rohe and his art, the Tugendhat House in Brno is, according to Nelson,

Miës’ masterpiece, justly world famous, perhaps the finest modern house that has been built

and Nelson ends with for us the most wonderful tribute to a man we never met but after reading Nelson’s profile sorely wish we had,

As for the man himself, he is a sure, sensitive artist, and in his handling of space and feeling for material he has no superior. He is brilliant, slow, affable, and vain.

Happy Birthday Ludwig Miës van der Rohe!

1. George Nelson, quoted in Abercrombie, Stanley. “George Nelson. The design of modern design” MIT Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts) 1995

2 and all subsequent quotes George Nelson “Architects of Europe Today. 7 – Van Der Rohe, Germany”, Pencil Points – An Illustrated Monthly Journal for the Drafting Room, September 1935

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Villa Tugendhat Brno

Villa Tugendhat Brno by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.  According to George Nelson “…. perhaps the finest modern house that has been built” (Photo © David Židlický, Courtesy of Villa Tugendhat Study and Documentation Centre)

smow blog compact: CUCULA – Refugees Company for Crafts and Design at the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin

March 23rd, 2015

When Italian designer/design theologian Enzo Mari released his Autoprogettazione family of self build furniture in 1974 he did so with the aim of challenging popular conventions on industrial furniture production, and for all the concept that price is related to quality; the real value of an object, according to Mari, being something more intrinsic, something that exists inherent within a piece of furniture and which comes from a purity of form. Commercial furniture production distorts this relationship through a focus on “newness” and the creation of a belief that expensive is desirable, presenting luxury as the pinnacle of human achievement. Through building their own furniture consumers should learn to appreciate the importance of form in furniture and thus the real value of an object.

Some forty years later the Berlin based initiative CUCULA are using the Autoprogettazione family to similarly challenge popular conventions, albeit in relation to refugees from Africa, European society’s impression of refugees and the refugees own impressions of their position in European society.

Founded in 2013 with the aim of working with refugees to help them open up new perspectives and build a new, sustainable life in Berlin without the stigma of “victim or “helpless”, a central facet of the initiative’s work is a furniture workshop in which, together with a professional product designer, five young West Africans produce objects from Mari’s Autoprogettazione programme.

Until April 6th the fruits of this labour can be viewed in a small showcase at the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge in Berlin.

CUCULA Refugees Company for Crafts and Design Werkbundarchiv Museum der Dinge Berlin

CUCULA – Refugees Company for Crafts and Design at the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin

One of the central features of “Open Design” projects such as Autoprogettazione is that every maker is entitled, indeed actively encouraged, to change and adapt the objects to suit their own needs, or in the the case of the CUCULA makers, their own situation.

Having started by simply (re)producing the Autoprogettazione chairs, the five makers subsequently started working their own experiences into the pieces, the result being the so-called Ambassador collection of 50 chairs into which wood from Lampedusa refugee boats has been integrated and which thus not only highlight the reason for the chairs existence but much more transforms the chairs from purely functional sitting machines into reminders of the journey made by the five, the fact that ever more continue to make such journeys and of the international community’s helplessness and/or unwillingness to either stop such or to properly respond to the needs of those making such journeys.

The true value of the object being as Enzo Mari teaches not something which can be assessed in monetary terms alone, but rather is contained in the object, in its form, in its construction, in its story.

CUCULA Refugees Company for Crafts and Design Werkbundarchiv Museum der Dinge Berlin Lampedusa

Wood from Lampedusa refugee boats, and its integration into furniture, as seen at CUCULA – Refugees Company for Crafts and Design at the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin

In addition to the the Ambassador collection the showcase also presents an illustration of the simplicity of the Autoprogettazione concept as demonstrated by the Sedia Uno kids chair and a new bar height version of the classic Sedia Uno developed by Moussa Usuman and which we suspect is just the first of several new models and objects the project will realise: a recent crowdfunding campaign having raised sufficient funds to develop and expand the project.

CUCULA – Refugees Company for Crafts and Design at the Museum der Dinge Berlin is little more than a few chairs and bits of wood on a large pedestal, in itself its not especially exciting; however, it is an excellent reminder that design isn’t just about trends, innovation or aesthetics, but as Enzo Mari puts it in his own idiosyncratic and provocative way in the 2002 re-edition of Autoprogettazione, “In my job as designer, or rather as an intellectual who contradicts the actual state of things, I try within the network of commissions and projects to ‘smuggle in’ moments of research and ways of creating the stimulus to free oneself from idealogical conditioning, standard norms, behaviour, and taste.”1

Design should motivate us to think. If not act.

CUCULA – Refugees Company for Crafts and Design runs at the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin, Oranienstraße 25, 10999 Berlin until Monday April 6th

Full details can be found at

And further details on CUCULA can be found at

1. Enzo Mari Autoprogettazione?, Corraini Edizioni, Mantova, 2002

CUCULA Refugees Company for Crafts and Design Werkbundarchiv Museum der Dinge Berlin Enzo Mari Autoprogettazione

Autoprogettazione by Enzo Mari. Designs for furniture. And a new future.

CUCULA Refugees Company for Crafts and Design Werkbundarchiv Museum der Dinge Berlin Ambassador collection

Two Sedia Uno’s from the CUCULA Ambassador collection, as seen at CUCULA – Refugees Company for Crafts and Design at the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin

CUCULA Refugees Company for Crafts and Design Werkbundarchiv Museum der Dinge Berlin Moussa Usuman

The bar height Sedia Uno by Moussa Usuman, as seen at CUCULA – Refugees Company for Crafts and Design at the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin

Chemnitz Creative: Marcel Kabisch

March 19th, 2015

As we’ve often noted in these pages the eastern German town of Chemnitz markets itself as the “City of Modernism”, which as we’ve equally often noted in these pages is a bit of an over optimistic claim.

For just as a swallow doesn’t make a summer so being the birthplace of Marianne Brandt and possessing an Erich Mendelsohn department store building doesn’t make you a “city of modernism”

Which isn’t to say that Chemnitz isn’t without its cultural relevance: historically through works such as, for example, the Villa Esche by Henry van de Velde or Lew Kerbel’s 7 metre high Karl Marx bust from 1971, and today thanks largely to the efforts of institutions such as the Kunstsammlungen art museum or the new Staatliches Museum für Archäologie Chemnitz – the State Archaeology Museum.

But is contemporary Chemnitz also a creative location? How much creativity and innovation lives and thrives in the wilds of southern Saxony. Will future city father’s be able to make better founded claims to the town’s role as a creative centre? There is only one way to find out, go there and talk to those working in creative, innovative fields.

Following on from our conversation with Jörg Kaufmann from silbærg snowboards we spoke with designer Marcel Kabisch.

Based in his native Frankenberg, a städchen idyllically set just outside Chemnitz’s historic town walls, Marcel Kabisch initially trained as a carpenter before studying Wood Design – Holzgestaltung – at the Fachschule für Angewandte Kunst Schneeberg, his Diploma project, a family of ergonomically optimised side/visitor chairs, being nominated for the Designpreis der Bundesrepublik Deutschland 2004. After developing numerous product design, graphic design and artistic projects as a freelance designer/wood designer in 2012 Marcel established his own label, Feinserie, to produce and distribute his designs; a project that got off to an excellent start when his stool-cum-side table Griffbereit won second prize at the Sächsischer Staatspreis für Design 2014.

Marcel Kabisch Griffbereit Feinserie

Griffbereit by Marcel Kabisch for Feinserie, a reduced, stackable stool and/or side table (Photo: Marcel Kabisch/Feinserie)

Marcel Kabisch recently partook in a podium discussion in Chemnitz on the theme “Designhandwerk – Handwerk im Design” and among the questions he had to face from the audience was, can a product have a soul?

Which seemed an excellent place to start. Can a product have a soul?

Marcel Kabisch: Absolutely. One of my first products was called Feuerholz and is a modern interpretation of the Räucherwerk, so traditional little smoking candles, and by way of introducing the product I wrote a short story, a proper little fairytale involving an Erzgebirgisch carver who went into the forest to collect wood for his Räuchermännchen. On the way back to his village lightning hit his cart, it caught fire, and he thought “well, that’s that”…. and then came an idea. And Feuerholz. And through such one can give a product a soul in that one makes it personal. Because ultimately the most important objects are not the most expensive ones but the ones with which you associate. Which through a personal association have a soul.

smow blog: You’ve had a varied career path, how would you describe yourself carpenter, designer, artist, Holzgestalter?

Marcel Kabisch: You can’t define yourself, others need to define you. I trained as a carpenter and then studied design, Holzgestaltung. And have always just seen myself as “creative”, but if I’m honest it is the serial production that interests me the most.

smow blog: And that was then reason then to study design?

Marcel Kabisch: Exactly. The question as to what I did after the studies was open when I began, but serial production, bringing a certain intelligence into a product to enable it to be serially produced, an efficiency in design, that was what interested me. And that not necessarily only in and with wood, after my studies, for example, I worked for a company who principally produce metal products and my first collection was in steel and stainless steel, and I still work with metal and glass as well as wood.

smow blog: You studied at the Fachschule für Angewandte Kunst Schneeberg. Was that simply because it was the nearest college, or what was the reason for choosing Schneeberg?

Marcel Kabisch: In the first instance because of Professor Gerd Kaden, and secondly I liked the fact that the course in Schneeberg is positioned between art and design, promotes this playfulness with the material, that greatly appealed to me. When you look at other schools with their trend scouts and the like, such isn’t and wasn’t important at Schneeberg. Rather you learn to understand your material, the possibilities you have when working with that material and then a creative process develops organically and it is irrelevant what others are doing.

smow blog: You mentioned Professor Gerd Kaden, one of the Grand Doyen’s of German wood design, is he still an influence, does he still influence your work?

Marcel Kabisch: Absolutely. I recently made a series of bowls in various woods, so formed wooden objects that you could, for example, use as fruit bowls. And no one was interested, I couldn’t give them away! Gerd Kaden once told us, if something doesn’t work, make it bigger! And so I did. I extended the bowl so that it was 4 metres long and thus turned it into a bench. Exactly the same object, just bigger. And which now sells.

Marcel Kabisch Bank mit Kindern

Began life as a fruit bowl, is now a bench….. by Marcel Kabisch (Photo: Marcel Kabisch)

smow blog: We know you’re from Frankenberg and so being based here has personal reasons, but are there also professional advantages of being based in Frankenberg? Have you never considered moving to, for example, Berlin?

Marcel Kabisch: The great advantage of Frankenberg, and the Erzgebirge in general, is that you can do a lot here, there are an awful lot of handwork and craft firms who can help you develop projects and undertake specialist jobs for you. And the other big advantage is that you have lots of space here and renting workshop and atelier space is very cheap. Unbelievably cheap! Naturally there is only very little work to be found here. I, for example, do a lot of public architectural sculpture projects and have cooperated with the Blind School in Chemnitz for many years, but no one comes here looking for a designer. For such you’d probably have better chances if you lived in Berlin, not least because it sounds better on the advertising! But you always have to weigh up the pros and cons and then make the best out of that what you have.

smow blog: But is it worth coming here looking for designers, is Chemnitz a creative town?

Marcel Kabisch: I sit on the committee of the Chemnitz Association of Artists, a nationwide organisation of regional and local chapters, and Chemnitz is the only branch that has applied artists as members. All the rest are pure visual artists. But here in Chemnitz we have designers, and it has always been that way and that is largely on account of Schneeberg and the number of graduates who then remain here in the area. And so for me, yes Chemnitz is a very creative town

smow blog: And eastern Germany in general?

Marcel Kabisch: There are plenty of designers in the east, but not that many companies who can use them. In 2012 the German design magazine FORM published a map of Germany with the locations of those firms who produce design. The former West was full, the former East empty: they even placed the legend with the various categories over the former East. There was space for it.

The irritating aspect is that the designers here are good, have always been good even throughout the years of DDR and BRD; but there is no industry here, and which West German firm goes looking in the East for a designer? They have enough talented designers on their doorsteps.

smow blog: And was that then the motivation for you to form your own label?

Marcel Kabisch: Immediately after graduating I worked for a company where I slowly realised that I didn’t really need or want the company and so decided to set up on my own. For several years I just worked as a “regular” freelancer, the real motivation to establish Feinserie as label however came after I visited Bernau, a village in the Black Forest, a region almost identical in many respects to here in the Erzgebirge, and in Bernau you have three design companies in the one village! Three old houses, all neighbours, all producing design objects largely based on traditional crafts; and when I saw that I thought, I’ll repeat that in the Erzgebirge!

smow blog: Frankenberg as the centre of a Saxony design revolution….?

Marcel Kabisch: Why not! In Saxon we don’t have a shortage of designers but rather a shortage of labels, of manufacturers and distributors. That’s what’s missing. We’ve got skilled craftspeople. We’ve got skilled designers. What’s missing is industry professionals with the know-how to manage and promote that.

smow blog: You launched Feinserie in 2012. Now that your up and running, is it as difficult as you imagined?

Marcel Kabisch: Much harder. However I think that would be the same regardless of where you are. The current plan is to exhibit at the Ambiente trade fair every two years, not least because I don’t really see the necessity of releasing a new product every year, every two years is a good time-frame for developing a new product. I started with small objects, accessories, and then last year came Griffbereit and as the next project I am developing a chair, and the plan is to build up the collection, one step at a time.

More information on Marcel Kabisch, his work and Feinserie can be found at and

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin: Sammlung Bauhaus & 100 New Objects

March 17th, 2015

Following the necessary disruption of their permanent exhibition to accommodate the recently ended exhibition Sensing the Future: László Moholy-Nagy, die Medien und die Künste, the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin have taken the opportunity afforded to redesign their exhibition concept.

And in doing so have allowed a very welcome fresh wind to blow through their museum.

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin Sammlung Bauhaus

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin: Sammlung Bauhaus

Presented under the title Sammlung Bauhaus – The Bauhaus Collection – the new permanent exhibition still provides only the very vaguest of vague overviews – explaining the complete Bauhaus story in the few square meters available in the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin’s museum space is never going to be possible; however, with the new layout and exhibition concept the Bauhaus Archiv have achieved a display that goes far beyond that offered by the previous permanent exhibition, have created a much more entertaining and accessible exhibition than was previously the case, and that although there is, if we’ve judged it correctly, less on display. A nice illustration of less is more, as one of the more illustrious Bauhaus illuminato would no doubt phrase it.

In addition to looking at the three Bauhaus locations, how the school functioned, the major protagonists and the areas in which the Bauhaus was active, the new permanent exhibition also explores Bauhaus through closely related institutions, be they institutions inspired by Bauhaus such the so-called New Bauhaus in the Chicago or the HfG Ulm in Germany, or contemporaries of Bauhaus such as Burg Giebichenstein Halle, an institution which opened some four years before Bauhaus and which in its teaching and artistic philosophy was just as avant garde and challenging. In addition the new permanent exhibition helps explain that much as Bauhaus was a place of eduction it was also a movement that sought to be at the vanguard of new ideas and developments for building and living. Something it can be easy to forget when one gets too bogged down in the popular visual imagery of a few “Bauhaus Classics” and forgets the context in which they were created, and for all why.

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin Sammlung Bauhaus Marcel Breuer Kitchen Vogler Surgery Berlin 1929 Kitchen Chair 1924

A Kitchen for the Vogler Surgery Berlin (1929) and a Kitchen Chair (1924) all by Marcel Breuer, as seen as part of the new Sammlung Bauhaus, Bauhaus Archiv Berlin

Parallel to unveiling the new permanent exhibition the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin are also opening a new temporary exhibition presenting some 100 new and recent acquisitions. Although neatly complimenting the sense of renewal given by the new permanent exhibition and underscoring the fact that a museum such as the Bauhaus Archiv is a dynamic and forward looking institution, viewing “100 New Objects” is also a gentle stroll down memory lane, featuring as it does objects acquired in context of some of the Bauhaus Archiv’s more interesting recent special exhibitions, including, for example, Mein Reklame-Fegefeuer. Herbert Bayer. Werbegrafik 1928 – 1938, Katsura Imperial Villa. Photographs by Ishimoto Yasuhiro, or 2010’s Hajo Rose – Bauhaus Foto Typo. Among a vast array of photographs, paintings, furniture objects, toys, ceramics and arts works, the highlights of the recent acquisitions for us are a fascinating chair from 1932 by Hansgeorg Knoblauch, a work that wouldn’t look out of place in the Centraal Museum Utrecht’s exhibition Klaarhamer according to Rietveld, Ferdinand Kramer’s disposable Rainbelle paper umbrella, and a desk lamp designed in 1932 by Heinrich Siegfried Bormann for the Leipzig based manufacturer Kandem, and which serves as a nice reminder that Bauhaus graduates did work for real industrial firms and did produce real industrial products that have their own charm without necessarily being promoted to the aforementioned level of “classic”. Simply being good. Or very good.

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin Sammlung Bauhaus Lamp Heinrich Siegfried Bormann Kandem

A lamp by Heinrich Siegfried Bormann for Kandem, as seen at 100 New Objects, Bauhaus Archiv Berlin

It was recently confirmed that the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin will receive its much discussed and mooted extension; viewing the two new exhibitions it is very clear why the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin needs its extension.
All going to plan, and assuming bureaucracy and vainglorious, litigious architects don’t get in the way, the extension will be finished in 2019, punctual to the celebration of Bauhaus’s centenary. And thus not a moment to soon.

Bauhaus isn’t the be all and end of all of 20th century architecture and design, nor is it a movement that has any hallowed right to a pedestal particularly higher or more prominent than any other; however, as a moment in European cultural history it was very important and remains as relevant now as it ever was. The new Bauhaus Archiv Berlin permanent exhibition is an excellent location for discovering and understanding why, and provides the necessary motivation to set you out on your own path of discovery and understanding. Which is of course exactly what such a permanent exhibition should do.

100 New Objects runs at the Bauhaus Archiv, Klingelhöferstrasse 14, 10785 Berlin until Monday May 25th. Sammlung Bauhaus, the permanent exhibition, at the same address albeit, and as the name implies, permanently.

Full details, including opening times and information on special events and tours can be found at

smow introducing: Izabela Bołoz

March 12th, 2015

Name: Izabela Bołoz

Born: Wałbrzych, Poland

Alma mater: University of Wrocław, Poland, University of Zurich, Switzerland & Design Academy Eindhoven, Netherlands

Selected Work:

Responsive Furniture
Waiting Spot
Shadow City
Waiting Rooms
Leaning Bench

smow blog: To begin, our standard opening question, why the decision to study design?

Izabela Bołoz: Initially I studied social sciences with the intention of following a “classic” career path in, for example, economics or the diplomatic corps, but then in the second year it became very clear to me that I actually wanted to do something completely different, and for all something creative. And so after graduating from the University of Zurich I moved to London to study interior design at Kingston University, which I then quickly realised didn’t suit me that well, because it was mostly about arranging and rearranging objects, and the creative process itself wasn’t that involved.

And then I visited the Design Academy Eindhoven open day and the atmosphere in the school was very stimulating and motivating and I was very impressed by the general mood in the school and so applied on the basis that it is better to be in a good school and then let the direction come naturally. And so, although what I am doing now is all a bit unplanned, it is also the result of a natural, logical, development and progression.

smow blog: We’ll talk briefly about where you are currently professionally in a minute, but where you are physically is still Eindhoven, does that mean for you Eindhoven is a good location to be based……?

Izabela Bołoz:  Yes, in Eindhoven I have everything I need, my studio, my network, my friends and a well-connected airport which is important because as general rule my work occurs elsewhere and so it is important that I can travel quickly and easily. Also within the city, and in Eindhoven you can be everywhere in 15 minutes by bike, which all in all makes life very easy.

smow blog: There are famously a lot of designers in Eindhoven, but is it a creative city, does one feel the creativity?

Izabela Bołoz:  Yes, and one shouldn’t forget that in addition to the Design Academy there is also the Technical University and a lot of technical companies and so yes one does feel a lot of innovation in the city.

smow blog: You also teach in the Industrial Design department at the Technical University, what do you as a designer get from that work?

Izabela Bołoz:  What I like about design education is that it is very creative but this creativity can be translated to other fields and life in general; if you can manage a creative process where you regularly have to make decisions relatively blindly and often based on only the vaguest of information, then you can also do this in everyday situations and so perhaps see alternative possibilities and utilise them, and it is very empowering to be able to transmit that to the students. Then there is the personal dimension and the potential each student has and trying to develop and strengthen that.

smow blog: In your own design work your primary focus is installations, what for you as a designer is the attraction of installations?

Izabela Bołoz: With my installations I am fascinated by the idea that they can have an effect on the city, in terms of bringing a new element into the city, something larger than a bench but smaller than a building, and in addition the possibility that an intervention can positively influence a city in terms of interactions between people and also bring a new aesthetic and a new visual interest.

smow blog: And with the development of such installations and larger works, how is the creative process, do work principally on a computer or with paper and pencil?

Izabela Bołoz:  I generally start with a concept, most of my work is inspired by either things I find interesting or important or by the way I look at things, and that can be quite simple, abstract things like the weather. In terms of executing projects, that is largely done on the computer although sometimes I find it helpful to make models towards the later stages of a project development, because when you have something tangible you are somehow more critical and tend to make better decisions. With a computer it is easy to get stuck in a rut and repeat things over and over again.

smow blog: Do you think your social science studies helps, or perhaps better put influences, your design work?

Izabela Bołoz:  On the one hand I think the fact that I did something else first has given me a wider perspective and that has been very helpful in establishing my studio. I think that if you just studied design in Eindhoven then it is perhaps harder to start on your own because the school is very conceptual and one learns very little about the practical side of making a living as a designer.

And on the other hand I think I use this element of observing and analysing a lot. If you want to understand a social phenomena or historical changes then you observe and try to draw a conclusion, and this mechanism of observing and analysing is an important element of the origins of my projects. That may also be part of my personality but I think it largely comes from my previous training.

smow blog: And for the future do you plan sticking with the installations and interventions or can we expect, for example, more product design work?

Izabela Bołoz:  I think I would definitely like to do more in terms of products because some of the work I have recently done, for example, Intersections, an installation with a series of interlinking geometric shapes is something that I think could be relatively easily developed into something interesting for interiors; and in a way I think that is also a logical step, not least because a lot of people seem to like the objects and I get very positive feedback.

However the installations will remain my principle focus. I would really like to see how my work functions in an architectural environment and also explore a little bit more artistic themes, so a mix of art, architecture and design would be the goal because in many ways that is where I think my work meets and so it would be good to explore the borders a little more.

More information on Izabela Bołoz and her work can be found at

Intersections Izabela Boloz

Intersections by Izabela Bołoz

Leaning Bench Izabela Boloz

Leaning Bench by Izabela Bołoz (Photo: Conor Trawinski)

Waiting Rooms Izabela Boloz

Waiting Rooms by Izabela Bołoz (photo Agnieszka Marciniak)

Shadow City Izabela Boloz

Shadow City by Izabela Bołoz

Waiting Spot Izabela Boloz

Waiting Spot by Izabela Bołoz (Photo: Anna Khodyreva)

Responsive Furniture Izabela Bołoz

Responsive Furniture by Izabela Bołoz (Photo: Femke Rijerman and Studio Izabela Bołoz)

smow blog Design Calendar: March 10th 1915 – Happy Birthday Harry Bertoia!

March 10th, 2015

“I am rather silent, resolute and industrious. I can use any tool or machinery with dexterity.”

So described a 21 year old, and apparently extremely self-confident, Harry Bertoia himself on his application for Cranbrook Academy of Art.

That the boast was anything other than hollow is something Harry Bertoia was to go on to prove. Repeatedly and in many fields.

Harry Bertoia 1915 1978

Harry Bertoia 1915 – 1978 (Photo courtesy of Knoll International)

Born in San Lorenzo, Italy on March 10th 1915 Arieto Bertoia moved to Detroit in 1930 to join his older brother Oreste who was already living in the city.

And anglicised his name to Harry Bertoia.

A classical example of a prodigious artistic talent Harry Bertoia initially studied art in Detroit before in 1937 he was awarded the aforementioned scholarship for Cranbrook Academy of Art where he studied painting and drawing, and got to know the likes of Walter Gropius, Carl Milles, Charles Eames, Maija Grotell, Florence Knoll, Eero Saarinen, Ray Kaiser et al.

In 1939 Cranbrook Academy of Art Principle Eliel Saarinen, father of Eero, asked Bertoia if he would be interested in taking over the metal workshop at Cranbrook, Bertoia was, and over the coming four years taught metalwork and jewellery design in addition to developing his own sculpture and painting projects, including a series of monoprints which he sold to the Guggenheim Museum of Non-Objective Art, the forerunner of the modern Guggenheim Museum, for the princely sum of $1000.

In 1943 Harry Bertoia left Cranbrook and moved to Los Angeles to join Charles and Ray Eames‘s expanding design studio, and for all to assist with the development of Charles Eames’s experimentations with moulded plywood. Although the personal links between the three were very close, Harry Bertoia for example had created Ray Kaiser’s wedding ring, Bertoia felt his contribution to the joint projects was undervalued, all work was publicly only credited as “Eames”, and so in 1946 he left.

After taking a series of jobs Harry Bertoia was approached in 1950 by Florence Knoll with an invitation to work with her and her husband Hans’s fledgling furniture company, an offer Bertoia duly accepted and which resulted in 1952 in the release of the Diamond Chair collection – one of the best known examples of 1950s American furniture design, a product family which placed Harry Bertoia alongside Eames, Nelson, Saarinen et al at the forefront of mid-century American modernism, and a commercial success which gave Harry Bertoia the financial security to concentrate on his sculpture work.

For much like his contemporary Isamu Noguchi, Harry Bertoia always understood himself primarily as a sculptor, and much like Noguchi saw his product design work as an exploration of the borders of his sculpting and an opportunity to test his art in other contexts.

Over the course of his career Harry Bertoia created an estimated 50,000 sculptures, some 50 sculptural objects and interventions for public buildings and spaces, and from the early 1960s onwards turned his attentions ever more to music.

Inspired by childhood memories of watching Hungarian Gypsies repair and make metal kitchenware and fascinated by the universality of a sculpture as a musical instrument which everyone could “play” regardless of talent or training, Harry Bertoia created a series of so-called tonal sculptures, largely created from rods of differing metals, lengths and thickness, but also featuring gongs and other hanging constructions, and with which he recorded and produced 11 albums in his barn in rural Pennsylvania.

Released under the title “Sonambient” the works remain as avant-garde and challenging today as they invariably were when first released, moving as they do from passages of almost spiritual beauty to unforgivingly brutal sensory assaults. Even if at times they do get a little bit too close to bell-ringing for our liking.

Currently out of print all 11 albums will be re-issued to mark Harry Bertoia’s 100th anniversary, and in addition a Kickstarter project is running to raise the necessary funds to digitalise, and so preserve, the 350+ cassettes of tonal sculpture recordings in the Harry Bertoia archive.

We hope they succeed, it would certainly be a fitting gift for one of our most original designers on his 100th birthday.

Happy Birthday Harry Bertoia!

SYSTEM DESIGN. Über 100 Jahre Chaos im Alltag at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln. Reprise

March 8th, 2015

In our 5 New Design Exhibitions for January 2015 post we noted with dismay, and an unmistakable hint of accusation, that System USM Haller appeared not to be included in the exhibition SYSTEM DESIGN. Über 100 Jahre Chaos im Alltag at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln.

We were wrong.

Of course System USM Haller was included in the exhibition. Anything else would have been absurd.

And while the actual object on show is and was a less than ideal example of the genius of the system, the essay on Fritz Haller in the accompanying exhibition catalogue is a much more fitting tribute to Fritz Haller and his work.

Written by Professor Georg Vrachliotis from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology the essay explains not only the background to the furniture system but much more explains how systems formed the central tenet of Fritz Haller’s work, how Fritz Haller “radicalised” the understanding of the term “system” in context of architecture, how Fritz Haller developed software to allow him to further develop his systems and how ultimately, and as Georg told us in an earlier interview, “Fritz Haller’s intention was, as he puts it, to develop systems that are completely flexible.

The essay opens however with a delightful tale……..

In 1973 the German architect Konrad Wachsmann wrote to his friend Fritz Haller to inform him that after a long search he had finally found a house in Los Angeles. “There will be no furniture in the house”, Wachsmann informed Haller “except for tables and chairs and four of your low cabinets”

Four low, light grey cabinets which Wachsmann intended to use to store and house his “…8,000 slides, many films, numerous cameras, lenses and technical equipment. I also intend to install (ready for use at all times) three carousel projectors, one large glass plate projector, one 16mm sound projector, one single image projector, one super 8mm film projector and two tape recorders”.

Thus just some four years after USM launched Fritz Haller’s modular furniture system onto the market it had already evolved from simply being an office filing system into a concept that every user could personalise to meet their own requirements, and which thus elegantly fulfils System Design curator René Spitz’s definition of a system as that with “which we bring order to chaos in that we connect things which for us belong together in such a way that it has a meaning for us

For some those “things” are tax records. For some books. For some Toby Jugs. For Konrad Wachsmann it was an improbably large and extensive collection of audio-visual equipment.

Time was however of the essence, Wachsmann needing the units “immediately”. On October 1st 1973, some two months after placing the order with Fritz Haller the units were delivered, or as Judith Wachsmann noted in a letter to Fritz Haller, “Hallelujah! The furniture has arrived! And it’s beautiful!”

A response still elicited today. And ideally after a shorter wait.

“”Hallelujah! The furniture has arrived! And it’s beautiful!” Konrad Wachsmann, Fritz Haller, USM” by Georg Vrachliotis is published in “SYSTEM DESIGN. Über 100 Jahre Chaos im Alltag/Over 100 Years of Chaos in Everyday Life”, edited by Petra Hesse & René Spitz.

Konrad Wachsmann, Fritz Haller, USM

Konrad Wachsmann, Fritz Haller and the remarkable adaptability of system USM Haller (Photo gta Archiv/ETH Zürich, estate Fritz Haller)

smow blog compact: Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden Presents Parts of a Whole. Stories from the collection of the Kunstgewerbemuseum

March 6th, 2015

By way of an addendum to an addendum to our 5 New Design Exhibitions for March 2015 post, until June 21st the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden is presenting the exhibition Parts of a Whole. Stories from the collection of the Kunstgewerbemuseum.

When Tulga Beyerle took over as Director of the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden at the beginning of 2014 she announced her intention to stage a winter exhibition in Dresden city – the Kunstgewerbemuseum museum itself is based a little out of town in Schloss Pillnitz, an idyllic Baroque palace on the banks of the Elbe, and an building which for conservatorial reasons is closed in the winter months.

With the winter exhibition Tulga Beyerle hoped to not only extend the Kunstgewerbemuseum’s programme but also as she told us, “re-introduce Dresden to the Kunstgewerbemuseum

Parts of a Whole. Stories from the collection of the Kunstgewerbemuseum is that exhibition in Dresden city. If in spring rather than winter. That’s not a criticism, rather approval, as it means the exhibition is still running when the Kunstgewerbemuseum re-opens in May thus allowing a seamless linking of the two exhibitions and the hope that having been “re-introduced” in the city the good folk of Dresden will then travel to Schloss Pillnitz. And that those from outwith Dresden, and who discover the Kunstgewerbemuseum through the exhibition, will be motivated to cross the Elbe to the museum’s principle residence.

Hosted in and by the so-called Kunsthalle in the Lipsiusbau, Parts of a whole continues the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden’s exploration of their own collection in terms of scale, scope and contemporary relevance.

And if we’re honest, that is about all we really know for sure.

Apart from that it also features a copper crab shaped Menuki. And that according to the press information, Parts of whole will seek to explore the relationship between the whole and its component parts as exemplified by nine thematic fields and promises an exhibition design far removed from objects on pedestals. What that means in practice can however only be fully ascertained by viewing it.

Which we haven’t.

We had intended to be in Dresden for the opening of the exhibition and post a review. Fate however had other plans for us. As so often.

However reading between the lines and knowing what we do about the development of the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden under Tulga Beyerle we would expect a museal experience far beyond the much more traditional, Baroque and Classicism heavy exhibitions to found elsewhere in Dresden, an exhibition which through a focussed juxtaposition of historical items from the collection with contemporary objects and contemporary social, cultural and design themes further underscores both the relevance of the Kunstgewerbemuseum and its resurgence of late, and also an exhibition well worth visiting.

We’ll let you know once we’ve seen it.

Or should anyone view it before us, do please let us know what you thought.

Parts of a Whole. Stories from the collection of the Kunstgewerbemuseum runs at the Kunsthalle in the Lipsiusbau, Georg-Treu-Platz 1, 01067 Dresden until Sunday June 21st.

Full details can be found at

Menuki in shape of a crab

A Menuki in shape of a crab, unknown artist, Japan, before 1884 (© Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Photo: Hans-Peter Klut)

Munich Creative Business Week 2015: Tools for A Break – Korean Crafts and Design at Galerie Rieder

March 4th, 2015

As we’ve noted in these pages in the past, changing methods of working and communicating mean that we need new chair forms, specifically chairs which allow one to work with tablet computers and similar devices.

When we wrote letters we needed desks, and so chairs which allowed us to sit comfortably at the desk. When we worked with computers we needed larger desks, and so chairs which allowed us to sit comfortably at the desk. Now we work with tablets we need chairs which allow us to sit comfortably, without desks, but in new positions, for which we need new chair forms.

New chair forms can of course also mean old chair forms. Such as the traditional legless chairs popular in countries as Japan or Korea.

A thought which occurred to us when we saw the Line and Union collection by Park Jai Woo in the exhibition Tools for A Break – Korean Crafts and Design presented at Galerie Rieder during Munich Creative Business Week.

Curated by Berlin based Keum Art-Projects Tools for A Break – Korean Crafts and Design presents works by 16 Korean artists and designers across a range of genres and from the conceptual to the functional.

As ever we understand such showcases aren’t beauty contests, but among the highlights for us were the Kkini bowl and chopsticks set by Song Seung Yong, the Lunchbox by Park Ye Yeon, the unnamed yet utterly charming collection of stone like porcelain objects by Kim Sang Woo, and of course the Line and Union collection which presents a very elegant and expertly crafted re-interpretation of traditional Korean furniture, including a very nice legless chair that is as contemporary as it is unquestionably rooted in history.

What particularly appealed to us about the showcase was the lack of urgency. Many of the exhibitions we attended during Munich Creative Business Week had a very-off putting aura of commerce; one regularly had the feeling you were in marketing presentation where you were being told how perfect, wonderful, exiting, new, innovative and completely necessary everything was.

Tools for A Break – Korean Crafts and Design doesn’t and didn’t. It simply presents the objects and leaves you in peace to find your own relationship with them. Or not. Which is of course how it should be.

And yes, we know we should now link those thoughts to the exhibition title and make a pun about “taking a break from the pressure sell”, but feel that would cheapen both exhibition and experience.

Munich Creative Business Week 2015 has ended, but Tools for A Break – Korean Crafts and Design can be viewed in Galerie Rieder, Maximilianstraße 22, 80539 Munich until Saturday March 7th.

Full details can be found online at

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