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smow blog compact Milan 2016 special: Belgian Matters

As we believe is now traditional at this time of year…..

….. every year at Milan Design Week the Belgian Design authorities proclaim that Belgium is Design. And every year we respond, that it isn’t.

But is a country with an awful lot of very talented designers………

The “Belgium is Design” claim is however the principle reason we decided to investigate contemporary Belgian creativity in a little more detail, to investigate as it were how much truth stood behind it, and to be able to better comment on it. Our interviews with Jean Angelats a.k.a. Ateliers J&J and Thomas Lommée are already online, others are on tape and in processing if not, yet, in print.

Amongst the numerous Belgian showcases at Milan Design Week 2016 was “Belgian Matters”, a project which paired seven Belgian designers with one of seven Belgian companies and asked them to develop a joint project: the sort of design project of which we invariably approve and which equally invariably produces some very enjoyable results.

As was the case with Belgian Matters.

For us the true stand out work at Belgian Matters was the Board Sofa and Board Chair by Brussels based designer Julien Renault in collaboration with the Walloon furniture manufacturer TimberGroup. We first came across Julien Renault’s work when he contributed to the exhibition Objects for the Neighbour during Passagen Cologne 2013, his Park Chair, we noted, “genuinely impressed us with its very self-confident form language”, and the Board family left a similar impression on us. Self-confident and very well proportioned objects, with both the Board Sofa and the Board Chair all the lines flow in logical directions, the curves make sense, the joints are implied more than proven, and all-in-all they emit a very harmonious, untroubled aura. If there was one slight irritation about the project it is that the wood used is salvaged wood from Canada. Obviously using salvaged wood is an eminently sensible idea. But why from Canada? Why can’t we leave salvaged Canadian wood in Canada for Canadians, and use salvaged European wood in Europe? It would appear to be not only the elegant, but for all the environmentally responsible, solution. The comments in the exhibition catalogue concerning the “…charm and warmth of the natural colour, matured with age…” remind us of all those European restaurants who proudly boast that their steaks come from Argentina. Obviously. Because there is such a shortage of cows in Europe! We don’t need Argentinian beef, southern hemisphere wine or salvaged wood from Canada; we do need to think a lot more about how, where and for all why we use our finite resources. Apart from that an absolutely inspired project and one whose subsequent development we are thoroughly looking forward to following.

In addition we very much taken by Thomas Lommée and Christiane Högner’s OS Plumbing system and by Kaspar Hamacher’s Low Chair and Stool realised in cooperation with Tannerie Radermecker.

Devised as an extension/further development of the OpenStructures concept OS Plumbing is a family of metal tubes, both straight and with a variety of curvatures, which thanks to a specially developed connecting system can be effortlessly and quickly combined into a myriad of forms and thus used as the basis for an equal myriad of furniture objects. And disassembled and reconfigured as, when and if required. In Milan the presentation was a table, but that should be considered more a suggestion than an instruction. With a diameter of 2 cm and the fixing points separated by a distance of 4 cm, the OS Plumbing tubes remain true to the dimensional ideals of the OpenStructures system and thus, we assume, are compatible with all other OpenStructures components. Aside from being a very elegant system in its own right what is perhaps most interesting about OS Plumbing is that it offers a more market orientated variation of the OpenStructures system than was hitherto the case, it is an a way less conceptual, more tangible, universally accessible, and thus would appear to offer what Thomas Lommée referred to as a way “to bring it from research to realisation, to produce parts so that it can spread, as a project it needs to spread to exist.” For our part we certainly hope they find partner who has the good sense/bravery/blind faith to allow it to do just that.

Kaspar Hamacher was one of the first contemporary Belgium designer’s to attract our attention, seeing his wooden shelf “Das Brett” at the 2009 [Les Belges] showcase remaining one of our defining Milan moments, and for Belgian Matters Kaspar Hamacher once again did that which he does with an unnerving and unassuming grace, implicitness and consistency: carved wood. And then added a very pleasing second dimension in the form of a leather sling seat, or in the case of the stool a leather sling seat/foot rest/table top. Brutal and imposing objects, both the Low Chair and the Stool also have a propriety about them which quietly whispers to you that the brutality is just show, invest a few minutes and you’ll get to know my real character. Sadly we didn’t get to try them and thus cannot confirm if they deliver the comfort promised. But let’s just assume they do.

As was to be expected Belgian Matters didn’t prove that Belgium is Design. Because it isn’t. But Belgian Matters did ably demonstrate that Belgium Matters, and that as a country Belgium has a very pleasing and unexpected depth of creativity.

Something we are planning to continue to explore, chart, but principally enjoy. And a journey we can heartily recommend.

Full details on Belgian Matters and all the projects realised can be found at

smow blog compact Milan 2016 special: Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart present Più di Pegoretti

Every time we are in Milan, be it for the Design Week or simply to enjoy the city without the inconvenience of the Design Week, we invariably find ourselves strolling past the Rossignoli bicycle shop on the Corso Garibaldi. An emporium with a history stretching back to 1900, and which positively oozes such, the Rossignoli store has long fascinated us, long fired our imaginations, and yet remains an address we have somehow never managed to enter: this year the perfect excuse was delivered by students of the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, ABK, Stuttgart with their showcase Più di Pegoretti.

Realised in conjunction with the Verona based master bicycle constructor Dario Pegoretti, Più di Pegoretti saw students from Professor Uwe Fischer’s Industrial Design class and Professor Hans-Georg Pospischil’s communication design class develop 15 cycling related products, products which during Milan Design Week 2016 were presented in context of, and in the windows of, Rossignoli Milano.

As with all student projects the works realised represented a healthy mix of hit and miss, and also as ever with such student projects the end results are much less important than the way the individual students approached the brief, how they researched the subject and subsequently developed their idea into a product. And of course the experience of doing such.
Despite such considerations there was obviously one or the other product which particularly caught our attention, perhaps most notably, the handlebar bag by Louis Michel and Silvio Rebholz, the handlebar lock by Leonie Schimmeyer and Patrick Nagel and Marvin Unger’s Bike Stand, an object which brings a delightfully overblown aura of post-modern monumentalism to the simple, uninteresting, and thoroughly trivial process of storing your bike.

As older, more dedicated, readers will be aware, we don’t buy into cycling cult; a bike is neither fashion accessory nor trend. A bike is a mode of transport, and one that has not only been around for centuries but which has been democratising society for almost as long.

Thankfully that also appears to have been the way the ABK students approached the brief and thus the result is and was a collection of clothing and accessories which yes, while all aiming to be contemporary and to be objects cyclists would desire to own, were, or at least largely were, primarily about improving the cycling experience, be that through improved functionality, through the use of contemporary technology, or in the case of David Gebka and Freia Achenbach’s Wind Jacket through bringing a touch of humour and showmanship to the daily commute: and an object which magnificently takes the wind out of the cycling fetishists’ sails, “No”, it screams, “you don’t look cool. I do!!”

Full details on Più di Pegoretti and all the resulting projects can be found at:

State of Design Berlin 2016

From May 4th and until May 8th 2016 Berlin will host the inaugural edition of the festival State of Design. Initiated by the Belgian design critic, author and curator Max Borka and the German Communications Designer Alexandra Klatt, State of Design promises a series of exhibitions, events and discussions which, in the words of the organisers, will “question the tyranny of what is all too often still proclaimed to be good design: slick, glamorous, luxurious, good looking and highly seductive, or simply practical, but lethal and perilous – “formes fatales” that keep on promising heaven but have long been proven to be a one-way ticket to its antipode”

Which aside from being the most wonderful formulation, is exactly what the doctor ordered after having been exposed to some of the darker corners of design’s soul in Milan.

State of Design Berlin 2016 (Design: Bureau Mirko Borsche, München. Courtesy of State of Design)

State of Design Berlin 2016 (Design: Bureau Mirko Borsche, München. Courtesy of State of Design)

Staged at nine venues across the German capital, State of Design 2016 has two major undercurrents which flow through the festival and connect the various events as if they were Spree and Havel: East/West, not only in the obvious context of Berlin but also in terms of the festival’s focus on both Turkey and Israel, two nations straddling, albeit (increasingly) uneasily, the east/west cultural border, and Something from Nothing which in addition to nicely reflecting Berlin’s infamous poverty also reflects the fact that the vast majority of the global population live in a situation of constant want and need, yet survive and prosper: a fact celebrated in the eponymous, and from Max Borka curated, exhibition Something from Nothing which promises to highlight design solutions which prove that creativity is the best currency for a strong, fair and sustainable global economy.

Elsewhere, and among a wide ranging exhibition programme, the Israeli designers Ezri Tarazi and Haim Parnas present with Radical Design an exploration of how contemporary Israeli designers visualise and reflect violence in their works, the Fachhochschule Potsdam present with Otto – Allerorten a mobile micro-architecture concept, while the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft, Galerie erstererster and KAOS are collectively hosting the showcase Refugium – Nieuwe German Gestaltung. A follow up to Max Borka’s 2013 exhibition Refugium – Berlin as a Design Principle, and one with an obvious titular and content nod to Max Borka’s 2009 exhibition Nullpunkt. Nieuwe German Gestaltung at the museum Marta Herford, Refugium 2.0 will feature works by Berlin and non-Berlin based designers and according to the State of Design website “while the first edition was just meant as a bouquet of flowers to the outside world, this platform is far more ambitious.”

Which means?

“That this time we want to explore in more detail the concept behind the works” answers Max Borka,” to explain the question, the inspiration, that was at the source of the process and from which the design arose.” To that end the selected designers will be asked to contribute items and thoughts which help explain how a transient moment became a tangible object.

Complimenting the exhibition programme a central feature of State of Design 2016 is a two day international conference exploring the relationship between design and violence; day one seeing a podium discussion under the title “Using violence as a raw material” and featuring contributors from Germany, Turkey and Israel, day two being devoted to screenings of Marcus Vetter’s Jenin Trilogy: “The Heart of Jenin”, “Cinema Jenin” and “After the Silence”, screenings in the presence of Marcus Vetter who will introduce the films and then participate in subsequent discussions.

In addition State of Design 2016 features debates, musical interludes, three sided football matches …. and one or the other party. It is, lest we forget, being staged in Berlin.

Christopher Schanck Design Community - Alu-Foil Furniture (Photo courtesy State of Design)

Christopher Schanck Design Community – Alu-Foil Furniture (Photo courtesy State of Design)

Promising a scope, breadth and level of discussion that goes beyond that offered by most contemporary design festivals, and that despite the very select and bijou nature of the event, State of Design would appear to offer an interesting new addition to the global design festival programme. Or perhaps better put, an interesting re-addition to the global design festival programme. In our 2013 interview with Max Borka he talks about his admiration for the former Designmai festival, an event staged in Berlin between 2003 and 2007, and which on its demise bore forth DMY Berlin. For us there is something about State of Design which rings like an attempt to reconnect with Designmai, at least in spirit if not as a direct, seamless, continuation, and a situation we can’t think of any reason to disapprove of.

Similarly we can’t think of any reason to disapprove of the fact that the State of Design programme bears the unmistakable fingerprint of Max Borka. All familiar with Max Borka’s work will have understood/will understand that many of the themes and topics featured are those on which he has been working in recent years, and thus in many respects State of Design is as much a review of Max Borka’s recent work as it is a festival programme. But why not? If no one is going to open a Max Borka Museum then we can think of no better way to bring the interesting, relevant and universal themes on which he works into a wider public domain.

But why Berlin? Because of Designmai? Or simply because the organisers are based here?

“Why Berlin? Because there is nothing in Berlin, there is nothing which answers the potential in Berlin”, exclaims Max Borka, “design stands on two feet, one commercial and one cultural, and Berlin is incredibly strong on the cultural side. On account of the situation here Berlin has always been an Experimentierfeld, a place of experimentation, of the search for alternative strategies and has been the source of an enormous number of innovations, but until now design in Berlin has only been considered an economic factor, not a cultural, and this is reflected in the nature of the design institutions in Berlin. What makes design fascinating however is that it is a tool for living, and so yes it touches on markets, but it always needs a cultural perspective, and this cultural perspective is often lacking in how design is presented and represented in Berlin. DMY, for example, was a very good event as long as it maintained something of the character of Designmai, I remember the first DMY with workshops on lock-picking and all manner of events that one had never previously experienced at a design festival, but then all that slowly disappeared and at some point it became a fair, and Berlin is the last city that should host a design fair, there is no market here, no commercial interest.”

At which point the fairly large elephant who hitherto has been sitting quietly in the corner of the room rises to its feet and makes its presence felt, State of Design takes place one month before DMY Berlin, a deliberate provocation?

“No not all,” answers Max Borka, “I know it sounds a little arrogant, but we didn’t think about DMY when we were planning things, they simply weren’t part of our calculations.”

But now, could you, possibly, eventually, imagine staging the two events parallel in the future?

“Absolutely, that wouldn’t be something with which we would have a problem, design needs the commercial and the cultural, but we are currently not in contact with them, there are no plans, and at the moment our sole priority is successfully staging our first festival.”

In how far they achieve that, in how far State of Design 2016 reaches its goals, reaches a public, and for all poses serious questions of the tyrant and thus emboldens the masses to consider design more critically and less superficially, remains to be seen. It is however to be hoped they do.

Full details of State of Design Berlin 2016, including venues, opening times and information on the Design and Violence conference can be found at

And for all who missed them first time round, our 2015 overview of Contemporary Berlin Creativity and our 2013 interview with Max Borka on Refugium and his views on Berlin’s design identity.

UdK Berlin designtransfer present Cultural Commuters (Courtesy of State of Design)

UdK Berlin designtransfer present Cultural Commuters (Courtesy of State of Design)

The Bezalel Academy Of Arts And Design present Jerusalem Berlin Bridge (Courtesy of State of Design)

The Bezalel Academy Of Arts And Design present Jerusalem Berlin Bridge (Courtesy of State of Design)

A Sister Blister lamp by Walking Chair Design Studio Vienna (Photo courtesy of State of Design)

A Sister Blister lamp by Walking Chair Design Studio Vienna (Photo courtesy of State of Design)

smow blog compact Milan 2016 special: kkaarrlls

It’s been a good long while since we last posted about the Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe’s kkaarrlls collection, and thus ambling down Milan’s Via Palermo towards the kkaarrlls 2016 Edition showcase we inevitably found ourselves querying why that should be……. Not least because ever since we stumbled by chance across the first kkaarrlls showcase at Milan 2009 it has been a project we have liked, enjoyed and followed. If latterly only from afar.

Given how much we admire kkaarrlls, we reasoned, our (un)enforced absence from their annual Milan exhibition couldn’t possibly be attributed to us, and thus we choose instead to blame the pressure of time during Milan design week. One simply cannot see everything!

A cowardly excuse, and one which kkaarrlls 2016 Edition quickly reduced to shreds………

Established in 2009 as a platform to promote both the students capabilities and the school’s strengths, kkaarrlls presents selected projects by Hochschule für Gestaltung, HfG, Karlsruhe students either as prototypes or as limited edition series, however as kkaarrlls co-founder and HfG Karlsruhe Professor for Product Design Volker Albus was keen to underscore in our 2013 interview, “we call the objects “Editions” but the gallery market isn’t our aim”, much more the aim is “to present the school and for all the students work better and in a more professional manner”

Something the 2016 showcase did with particular finesse.

The swing As High As Best by Oliver-Selim Boualam & Lukas Marstaller, table Traum by Max Negrelli & Dip LED lamp by Anne-Sophie Oberkrome, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

The swing As High As Best by Oliver-Selim Boualam & Lukas Marstaller, table Traum by Max Negrelli & Dip LED lamp by Anne-Sophie Oberkrome, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Selected, as ever and as only, by Volker Albus and kkaarrlls project manager Stefan Legner, the 2016 kkaarrlls collection presented twelve student projects, and a selection of objects from the Old World – New World cork collection as previously exhibited at Tendence Frankfurt 2015, a slightly cheeky decision in our opinion, but we see where they are coming from. And given the overall quality of the cork pieces eminently sensible.

As ever with such student showcases, they ain’t no beauty pageant, there ain’t no winners, there ain’t no egos, that said there were a couple of projects which particularly caught our attention.

The Bockbank project by Max Guderian takes the familiar trestle but rather than use it as the basis for a table, uses it as the basis for a bench and a chair. Particularly pleasing is the way that has been achieved, namely two wood panels are joined with a hinge, hung between two trestles and fixed with rope, thus creating a collapsible, easily storable, formally elegant and unchallenging seating solution which has something of the feel of a porch swing, albeit without the false graces. For us just as applicable for indoors as out, in addition to the obvious use as garden furniture, in the catering/hospitality/event branch or as an informal office bench, we don’t see any reason not to use it in a domestic situation: a few cushions and/or throws and Bockbank would work in any kitchen, bedroom or, and assuming there is space, hallway. All in all a very well conceived and realised project.

Bockbank by Max Guderian, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Bockbank by Max Guderian, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Normally we’d hurry past an object such as Fetter Schrank by Anne Tönsmann, invariably muttering something unrepeatable about student flats, that we didn’t isn’t because there wasn’t any space to, but because something about the construction, or perhaps better put, the composition, appealed to us; it posses an unexpected and charming harmony and controlled authority. And then having noticed it, we began to appreciate its functionality. We wouldn’t necessarily insert an umbrella at that angle chosen in Milan, but otherwise as an object for the permanent storage of plants, as demonstrated, or temporary storage of newspapers, clothing, books, umbrellas (vertically), mail, info flyers, flags, dog leads, etc, etc, etc… why not? Particularly as an alternative to a coat rack/shelf system in an office or shared work space. Yes, we’re also sensing a potential long-term dust problem, but that is then a question of the chosen textile and cleanliness routine.

Fetter Schrank by Anne Tönsmann, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Fetter Schrank by Anne Tönsmann, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Only post Milan did we discover the background to the Fetter Schrank project: works by the Finnish photographer Iiu Susiraja in which she unashamedly exploits her excessive weight, and exaggerated figure, to transform her body into a multi-functional storage system.

Proof that design needn’t always start with a problem.

Or indeed a qualified designer, as eloquently proven by Clemens Lauer and his project “Design is 10 Years Old”, in which a group of ten year olds were asked to sketch a piece of furniture, four of which Clemens subsequently realised.  The results range from an abstract door handle, over a curious, almost baroque, lamp/side table and onto a dining table with legs at but three corners.  You’re thinking “nice playful take on classic table design”, we’re saying “barrier free table for unproblematic wheel chair use or ease of access for vacuuming. If, on account of the necessary counterweight, not so mobile.”

The highlight of Clemens Lauer’s project however was without question the Peanut Coat Rack, an object which transports the eternal “My child could do that!!!” criticism of Modern Art into the world of Readymades and Post-Modern misappropriations. Which is of course more or less the genre(s) where Volker Albus’s professional career began. Which kind of amuses us. As in, a lot.

Design is 10 Years Old - Peanut Coat Rack by Clemens Lauer, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Design is 10 Years Old – Peanut Coat Rack by Clemens Lauer (and an unidentified child), as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

The truth behind the old adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is questionable, the Irish band The Corrs, for example, recently announced a comeback following a ten year hiatus, our collective hearts barely missed a beat at the news; that said, having not seen a kkaarrlls showcase for a couple of years we had forgotten what an excellent platform it can be and what a good example it is of what can be achieved when a design school curates their students’ projects rather than simply exhibiting them.

And also made us understand that if you don’t do something, you’ve not only got no-one to blame but yourself, but ultimately it is you who misses out……..

More information on the kkaarrlls 2016 edition, all previous editions and the project in general can be found at

And for all who missed it first time round, here our 2013 interview with Professor Volker Albus on five years of kkaarrlls

Design is 10 Years Old - Lamp/Side Table by Clemens Lauer, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Design is 10 Years Old – Lamp/Side Table by Clemens Lauer, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Pong lamp by Simon Diener & Yurt Market 800 chair by Max Guderian & Clemens Lauer, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Pong lamp by Simon Diener & Yurt Market 800 chair by Max Guderian & Clemens Lauer, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Design is 10 Years Old - Table by Clemens Lauer, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Design is 10 Years Old – Table by Clemens Lauer, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Bockbank and Bocksessel by Max Guderian, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Bockbank and Bocksessel by Max Guderian, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

smow blog compact Milan 2016 special: HAY

Established in 2002 Danish label HAY have quickly risen to become an important player in the European furniture and home accessories market, and in many ways have also served as the archetype for the innumerable new labels that have sprung up across the continent in the last five to six years. Yet to judge by the scale, breadth and obvious cost of their presentation at Milan 2016 HAY are clearly not planning resting on their laurels any time soon: here is brand, we were informed, moving up a level and prepared to throw everything at the expansion.

For us they may be throwing a little too much, trying too hard to be all things to all men at all times; however, regardless of such considerations there were a few absolute gems to be found in the depths of Milan’s former La Pelota swimming pool where HAY launched their new 2016 collection.

Dapper and New Order from HAY, as seen at Milan Design Week 2016

Dapper Lounge Chair by Doshi Levien and New Order shelving system by Stefan Diez for HAY, as seen at Milan Design Week 2016

For us the genuine highlight of the 2016 HAY collection is and was without question the Can sofa and armchair by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. Sold as a flat pack kit to be assembled at home, both the Can sofa and armchair feature a steel tube frame with fulsome, inviting, cushions held in place by exterior textile walls, in addition the Can sofa doubles as a makeshift bed. Very easy, accessible objects, the Can family are contemporary yet conservative, casual yet disciplined and for us formally, constructionally and in terms of the underlying spirit of mobility, lightness and temporality are very reminiscent of the Cuisine désintégrée kitchen or Lit clos room-within-a-room concept from early in the Bouroullec’s careers. A state of affairs we thoroughly approve of.
Aside from such formal aspects an important factor behind the Can concept is the, relatively, low price, something achieved largely through a concentration on and optimisation of the number of components and production steps, and something which for Ronan Bouroullec lies at the heart of the brothers cooperation with the company, “With HAY you have passionate people who want to succeed between IKEA and more exclusive design companies”, he explains, “I like this approach, and it also means we have a platform where we can try to solve basic needs, to create what in the fashion industry would be the white t-shirt, so simple, everyday objects which don’t cost a fortune and appeal to a broad range of people.” With Can we believe they have achieved just that. A belief which, not entirely unsurprisingly, is shared by Ronan Bouroullec, “I am quite proud of the fact that with the sofa and chair we succeeded in creating something which provides an elegant answer for basic needs”, he concludes. Proud they all may be.

Can by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for HAY, as seen at Milan Design Week 2016

Can by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for HAY, as seen at Milan Design Week 2016

As more loyal readers will be aware, back at IMM Cologne 2015 we noted an unmistakable popularity amongst independent design studios for relatively low chairs featuring what we referred to as a “deliberately overproportioned upholstered seat and back rest”; among the more interesting examples we cited to back up our case being the Bridge armchair by Rui Alves, the Pocket Chair by Jesper Junge and the Lenz Lounge Chair by Bartmann Berlin, Silvia Terhedebrügge & Hanne Willmann. We obviously shied away from using the evil “T” word, but there was, we opined, definitely something in the air; and a bug that obviously also infected London based studio Doshi Levien. Their new Dapper Lounge Chair for HAY doesn’t ride as low as the three works mentioned above, and is thus perhaps better intended as a dining chair or an occasional chair in, for example, the conservatory, hotel bedroom or office waiting room, than a out-and-out lounge chair per se; does however emit the same warm glow of Hans J. Wegner in a 1980s post-disco melancholy and thus is every bit as appealing. Not least because as a work it is self-confident, very well proportioned, aesthetically charming and thus eminently inviting.

Elsewhere the modular New Order system by Stefan Diez continues to impress us as much as it ever has, and frankly always will, we simply cannot imagine a time when it doesn’t excite us, while the Bouroullec’s new outdoor Palissade collection offers everything it promised. And a little more. Which is always pleasing.

With the additions to their portfolio we have little doubt that HAY will take the obviously much desired step to the next corporate level; it is however to be hoped that once they do they remember that in design quality and quantity are rarely the best of chums, and that too much of the latter can, invariably will, adversely affect the former. Yes one must develop, but, and as in all aspects of life, one must always remain true to oneself.

A few impressions from the HAY 2016 Collection showcase in Milan.

Milan Furniture Fair 2016: High Five!

To the casual observer selecting five outstanding products from the Milan Furniture Fair is a neigh on impossible task, so great is the number of potential candidates. “How”, asks our casual observer, “are you going to select just five?!?!”

For the seasoned attendee selecting five outstanding products from the Milan Furniture Fair is a neigh on impossible task, because the vast majority of articles on show are anything but outstanding. And those which are are invariably older, established products, and thus for the purposes of this column not applicable.

Milan Furniture Fair 2016 was an excellent example of just that: the majority of the new products were, for us, underwhelming, while many of those producers from whom one would/could have expect a shudder of illicit exhilaration mustered little more than a friendly, if knowingly apologetic, smile.

Which isn’t to say what was on display wasn’t good, wasn’t interesting, wasn’t valid. It often was. Just rarely outstanding.

There was however outstanding, and here our High Five! from Milan Furniture Fair 2016*

Officina Lounge Chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Magis

At Milan 2016 Magis unveiled an extensive extension of the Officina collection by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, including what we’re referring to as the Officina Lounge Chair: and for us an object which represents the ultimate expression of the ideas contained in the Officina Armchair. Don’t get us wrong we’re huge fans of the Officina Armchair, but with the extra width, the exaggerated proportions and the combination of leather and wrought iron the Officina Lounge is for us a much more natural, harmonious construction than the compact Armchair and one which has something primal, almost bestial, about it, albeit an unashamedly domesticated beast, and which makes it for us a very logical and appealing piece of work.

Officina Lounge Chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Magis, a sseen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

Officina Lounge Chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Magis, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

Stool 01 by Studio Daphna Laurens

Created as part of Eindhoven based design studio Daphna Laurens’ contribution to the Passionswege programme at Vienna Design Week 2012 the subtly named Stool 01 is by no means a new design, but is one which for us remains as fresh and exciting today as when we first saw in Vienna. And one which we passionately believe more people should have the opportunity to experience. For us the attraction lies in the ambiguity inherent in the object. In essence a very simple stool, Stool 01 is anything but; presenting as it does no clear guidelines as to how or where it is to be used. That is up to you. A situation intensified by the fact that as an object Stool 01 not only invites interaction but continually reveals new facets of its character and new possibilities depending on the conditions under which you approach it. Over the years we’ve seen Stool 01 on numerous occasions and in numerous locations, yet still have no idea how one should sit on it. That isn’t a simple stool, but is a very pleasing and rewarding piece of product design.

Stool 01 by Studio Daphna Laurensas seen at Salone Satellite, Milan Furniture Fair 2016

Stool 01 by Studio Daphna Laurens as seen at Salone Satellite, Milan Furniture Fair 2016

866 F Rocking Chair by Lydia Brodde, Thonet Design Team for Thonet

As a genre the rocking chair is largely defined by the classic “Windsor”, spindle, form or its more quadratic cousin, as to be found per auto-stereotype on your average American porch. Or it is some horrendous contemporary abomination of the sort that makes you wish for a new law punishing those responsible with long prison sentences. Between the two there isn’t a great deal of note to be found. The new-ish Thonet 866 F Rocking Chair offers just such an alternative. An extension of the Thonet 860 programme by Lydia Brodde from the Thonet Design Team, the 866 F benefits not only from the well considered and excellently proportioned form of the 860 collection, but also from Thonet’s long experience with rocking chairs: Michael Thonet was responsible for numerous rocking chair designs, whereby in addition to investing time and effort in developing filigree bentwood structures he also paid careful attention to the radii of his rockers. Detailed research in the Thonet archives and workshops has thus resulted in a curvature based on this tradition and which allows for a stable, secure and for all very pleasing rocking action.

866 F Rocking Chair by Lydia Brodde, Thonet Design Team for Thone, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

866 F Rocking Chair by Lydia Brodde, Thonet Design Team for Thonet, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

FRAM3 by Anna Weber

FRAM3 was for us one of those classic trade fair experiences. Walking around the stand where Burg Giebichenstein Halle Anna Weber was presenting her work, our attention kept coming back to it, yet we couldn’t explain why. And thus couldn’t decide if we liked it. Thought we probably did and so took a few photos. Away from the intensity of the fair and with the time and space to think about things we decided that, yes, we did and do like it. Or specifically we really liked/like one configuration of FRAM3. As an object FRAM3 is, as the name suggests, a metal frame which can used in one of three positions, and as a rectangular frame that means it can be used in any one of three heights depending on which edge is used as the base. A series of exchangeable inserts turn FRAM3 into a practical sideboard, table, etc….. and it was the metal insert with the indentation and thus an open invitation for book storage which especially caught our attention. We know, we know. Dust. Leave a book there for too long, it’s going to get dusty. Then don’t leave books there for too long. Life is that simple. Use it as space for temporary book storage, for example in the hall, kitchen, conservatory or office. And not just for books. The rim around the upper surface means that small items can be securely placed on top with the indent providing temporary ad-hoc space for scarves, jute bags, small packages, dog leads etc, etc, etc. Or books. In addition to the pleasing functionality FRAM3 is also an aesthetically pleasing piece of work; reduced without being unnecessarily filigree it has a robustness of character which it isn’t afraid to transmit and which it does without appearing uncouth.

FRAM3 by Anna Weber, as seen at Salone Satellite, Milan Furniture Fair 2016

FRAM3 by Anna Weber, as seen at Salone Satellite, Milan Furniture Fair 2016

Ulisse Daybed by Konstantin Grcic for ClassiCon

One of the joys of Konstantin Grcic’s work is you never know where it will take him next: something unashamedly, if competently, commercial; an artistic diversion; something that explores new formats, pushes horizons and thus expands the vocabulary of furniture design; or something that presents Konstantin Grcic the carpenter. The Ulisse Daybed for ClassiCon is a wonderful example of the latter. Presenting itself in an uncomplicated, reduced formal language, the real joy of the piece is the reclining mechanism; in essence a very simple, almost elementary, carpentry solution to a functional problem, yet one with a logical efficiency that is undeniably industrial. An excellently realised piece of carpentry, Ulisse, as with so much of Grcic’s oeuvre, references numerous historic objects while offering a new interpretation of the elegance and functionality for which they are acknowledged and beloved.

Ulisse Daybed by Konstantin Grcic for ClassiCon, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

Ulisse Daybed by Konstantin Grcic for ClassiCon, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

* with the proviso that:

(a) Given the 8,000,000 manufacturers presenting their wares in 20,000 halls and across three time zones, no we didn’t see everything, and invariably missed one or the other outstanding piece of work. We’ll catch up with them eventually though.

(B) This list only features works seen at the Milan Furniture Fair, Milan city isn’t the fair. It’s the city. Even if ever more producers try to muddy the waters and convince us otherwise.

Chemnitz Creative: Offspring @ GALERIE Angewandte Kunst Schneeberg

The Faculty of Applied Arts Schneeberg is by no stretch of the imagination Germany’s largest design school; however, that in context of design education size is less important than how creativity is nurtured, supported and encouraged can currently be explored in the exhibition “Offspring – Graduates of Schneeberg present furniture and product design” at the GALERIE Angewandte Kunst Schneeberg in Schloss Lichtenwalde.

Presenting works by eleven graduates from Schneeberg’s Wood Design course Offspring links the selected designers post-Schneeberg careers with their student days by displaying one college piece, generally part of their Diploma project, alongside later, professional, works; an excellently conceived exhibition concept which on the one hand neatly demonstrates how important it is that design students are given the freedom to explore various approaches during their studies and which on the other underscores that Schneeberg Wood Design graduates aren’t bound to wood, but can successfully work across and with a number of materials, or as exhibition curator and gallery director Professor Jochen Voigt phrases it, “The education at Schneeberg is very diverse, and while the focus is wood we deal extensively with other materials, and consequently our graduates are trained to think across a wide range of materials.”

The evidence to back up Jochen Voigt’s claim can be seen in objects such as, amongst others, Randolf Schott’s S 1200 secretary and S 95 conference chair for Thonet, Rüdiger Schaack’s Allright cantilever chair and Swing Up office chair for Sedus or Jo Zarth’s product and corporate design work for the German razor and shaving accessory manufacturer Mühle.

It goes however without saying that wood is also strongly represented, for example, through works such as the Pause Daybed by Andreas Mikutta, the Griffbereit family by Marcel Kabisch a.k.a Feinserie or the upcycled “Furniture from old wood” collection by Lars Dahlitz, the first graduate from the new Schneeberg Masters programme at thus the only designer represented solely by a student project.

The 25th exhibition to be staged at the GALERIE Angewandte Kunst Schneeberg since its opening in March 2010, Offspring is the first dedicated review of the professional work of Schneeberg alumni, and in the selection of graduates Jochen Voigt sought not only to express the variety of skills mastered by Schneeberg graduates, nor only the variety of career options available to Schneeberg graduates, but also the quality of Schneeberg graduates, to which end all the featured designers are award winners, largely in an international context, “we wanted to show that when you have studied at Schneeberg you are capable of competing with the best”, says Jochen Voigt, “to put it somewhat crudely, we wanted to present designers who you can doff your cap to!” Something Jochen Voigt and his team have unquestionably achieved. And thus, yes, Offspring is also unquestionably a bit of advertising for the Faculty of Applied Arts Schneeberg, but why not? As we invariably note during our end of year student exhibition posts, student exhibitions are as much about showing what the college can offer as they are about showcasing the students’ talents.

Offspring neatly achieves both in a well conceived, accessible and entertaining exhibition which for all underscores that a design education is only part of a professional progression, not an end to a means in itself.

And that how you study is often more important than what. Or indeed where.

Offspring – Graduates of Schneeberg present furniture and product design runs at the GALERIE Angewandte Kunst Schneeberg im Schloss Lichtenwalde, Schlossallee 1, 09577 Lichtenwalde until Sunday June 26th

Full details can be found at GALERIE Angewandte Kunst Schneeberg

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

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