One of the most striking aspects at Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair is the way the various Scandinavian manufacturers try to impress how old they are. Arguably on account of the sheer concentration of Scandinavians at the region’s premier furniture and lighting trade fair, you will rarely find so many in one place at one time, all seem locked in a battle to claim the status as oldest, to lay claim, as it were, to being the elder statesmen of the guild.
Established in 1964 screams one stand. Founded in 1907 another. Since 1869. Etablerad 1724. Constituted in 1079 in the reign of Harald the Soft. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera. Further and further back into the ether of time.
One suspects the reason is that given the relative similarity of the products on display, each is keen to show that they have been doing it longer than the rest.
Yet the question isn’t who has been doing it the longest, but who is doing it best.
Or perhaps better put, elsewhere the question wouldn’t be who has been doing it the longest, but who is doing it best; but we’re talking about the furniture industry, an industry which in its heart has always been about taking inspiration from others. Something which increasingly means a focus on a few universally accepted archetypal “Scandinavian” forms: and not just amongst Scandinavians, we also spotted a few non-Scandinavians trying their utmost to claim a northern heritage.
Which shouldn’t be taken as meaning that all the stands were carbon copies of one another, that all had identical portfolios and nobody was trying new things. Nor that there weren’t objects of merit on show. It doesn’t. Far from it. Such isn’t our intention. Should however be taken as meaning that throughout the fair one is and was regularly greeted by variations on a very small number of basic forms. If you will by the fundamental geometry of understandings of Scandinavian design.
Yet, and much as we argued in our post from IMM Cologne on the 118 by Sebastian Herkner for Thonet, for us things get difficult when the object, the form, becomes the main focus of attention, rather than the thinking, processes and traditions which led to the object, the form, achieving its exalted position. And considerations on such were, for us, too infrequently on display. Or at least drowned out by the shouting
As ever we may have missed things, we’re certainly not claiming totality, not least because our list is by necessity limited, with that in mind, and in no particular order, our Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair 2018 high five! six!
By way of an addendum to our 5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for February 2018 post, and arguably also to save us mentioning it every month, February 2018 sees the inauguration of a new design exhibition cycle in Berlin: Design Views, a cooperation between the Internationale Design Zentrum Berlin and the Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin initiated with the aim of highlighting contemporary developments, thinking and directions in design.
It is arguably just us, but we firmly believe that there are ever more design students studying ever more design degrees in ever more design schools, which (potentially) means ever more designers. In itself no bad thing: assuming that is that what they learn is relevant for the ever evolving nature of not only the design profession, but the society they will/should serve.
To better gauge the current situation of design education in Europe we embarked in 2017 on our #campustour, an ongoing exercise which involves not only visiting design schools but for all speaking to some of those responsible for teaching the coming generation of designers.
Among them Professor Florian Petri from the Department of Design at the Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaften München.
If academics are to be believed, which admittedly seems unnecessary given the wealth of irrefutable facts available on Twitter and Facebook, February has always been a short and flexible month.
Initially non-existent – the contemporary January and February being once considered an indivisible “winter” – when the Romans decided to extend their calender, February was deliberately left shorter than all other months, largely for accounting purposes, that is, to allow it to be adjusted as the solar calender dictated. And nobody has seen fit to rectify that situation.
Nor do we.
And so maintaining this tradition, our 5 new architecture and design exhibition recommendations for February 2018 features but four……..
It’s probably fair to say that no object at IMM Cologne 2018 confused us quite as much as the new 118 chair by Sebastian Herkner for Thonet.
Not in bad way. Just in a confused way.
We know, we know, what sort of being gets confused by chairs.
Us. Regularly. It’s why our lives’ are such a mess.
Aside from the chance to catch up with, and following the development of, familiar manufacturers and designers, one of the (all too rare) joys of a fair like IMM Cologne is being introduced to the previously unknown.
Among our new discoveries at IMM Cologne was Münster based manufacturer Caussa.
While Georges-Eugène Haussmann is associated with the radical and unrestrained, Atelier Haußmann prefer the understated and reserved. Yet applied with the same level of conviction, self-confidence and appreciation of a well considered line.
Following a couple of years absence 2018 saw Atelier Haußmann return to IMM Cologne….
The English playwright and composer Noël Coward is widely attributed to have once opined that, “a perfect Martini should be made by filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy”
We can’t confirm if Munich based StudioFaubel employed the grand raconteur’s advice in the development of their Martini Sessel for Müller Möbelfabrikation. The result is however equally as satisfying…..
One of the early highlights of our 2017 #campustour was the Arc Collection by Marie Hesseldahl & Nanna Neergaard created in context of their Diploma project at Design School Kolding.
Consequently it was a particularly pleasing mødes igen with the Arc Collection at IMM Cologne 2018 where it was launched as a product family by Danish manufacturer Le Klint.
“Have you ever laid out all your plates like a carpet, or piled furniture into a tower?”, asks the introduction to the Technical University Dortmund’s project, Alles, was ich habe [Everything that I possess]
Our answer to the last question is a categorical, yes.
It was one afternoon during our final year at secondary school, and together with a few chums we stacked all the common room furniture up against one wall. Just to see if we could. We could.
Alles, was ich habe is a little more fundamental, exploring as it does possessions and consumerism, and by extrapolation the global production, distribution and marketing industries that are sustained by both.
In his 5th century BC text “The Art of War”, the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu notes:
There are roads, not to take.
There are armies, not to attack.
There are towns, not to besiege.
There are terrains, not to contest.
There are ruler’s orders, not to obey.1
Were Sun Tzu’s metier the furniture fair rather than the warfare, we feel certain he would have added:
There are objects, not to produce.
IMM Cologne 2018 is awash with such. It’s not IMM’s fault; rather is endemic of an industry which supplies utensils of human need, objects which surround our every waking and sleeping moments, accompany the trials, tribulations, triumphs and temporality of existence, but which all too often do so not with the aim of improving our immediate environment, be that aesthetically, functionally or morally, but of generating profit.
The inevitable result is innumerate brands all desperately trying to prove they can do exactly the same as everyone else, can all do what the t**** soothsayers tell them the market(s) want.
Yet as George Nelson teaches us, don’t produce for a perceived market, produce for yourself. Your customers will find you. And those who don’t, aren’t your customers.
As we say, its not IMM’s fault, IMM is one the major furniture industry platforms, and consequently its visitors are exposed to a very concentrated dose of the unnecessary and unseemly
However it’s not all soulless pastiche, lazy appropriation or “cocooning” at IMM Cologne 2018, there are also works which demonstrate as Sun Tzu reminds us, and despite what we may believe in any given moment, “Anger can turn to pleasure.”
As ever, we’re not claiming to have seen everything, have invariably missed some gems, while there are a few projects which may in retrospect have earned a place in the following list, but on which we are still in the process of forming an opinion.
With that in mind, and in no particular order, our IMM Cologne 2018 High Five!
As regular readers will appreciate, we’re no great approvers of lumping individual creatives together under one umbrella term; always strikes us as being an unnecessary distraction, and (more than) a little counterproductive.
We are however most appreciative that following an inaugural presentation at Kazerne Eindhoven during Dutch Design Week 2017, the showcase Generation Köln is now being presented, as it were, on home turf.
As in art, music or literature, the path in design from an idea to its realisation is rarely straight. And not always achieved. Or at least not immediately. Consequently every designer, as with every artist, every musician or every author, has projects which began their journey’s full of hope,but, then, for whatever reason…….
With the showcase “in Arbeit” Cologne based designers Thomas Schnur and Klemens Grund present some of their projects which are, still, “in Arbeit”
One of Germany’s leading post-war architects and architectural theoreticians, Egon Eiermann was also one of post-war Europe’s most important chair designers, not just in context of what he realised, but also in context of what he worked towards realising and the reasons why. With the exhibition Cologne celebrate that legacy.
As we’ve oft noted in these pages, not only have designers since time immemorial had a particular fascination for chairs, but society a particular predilection.
Arguably the two are related and can be traced to the long, universal, cultural, political and social relevance of the chair and the act of sitting, a state of affairs which not only makes the physical chair/seat an integral part of our lives, but the metaphorical: excitement brings us to edge of our chairs, those who are brave/foolish enough place themself in the hot seat, while we either sit in judgement or on the fence depending on what prudence and prejudice advise.
And so following on from our Cupboards, Closets, Wardrobes Playlist, a Radio smow Chairs Playlist, starting with five songs which discuss the action, symbolism and relevance of chairs/sitting in various contexts. Considerations on which can keep us occupied for hours.
With his two faces the Roman God Janus looks simultaneously forward and backwards, standing in constant watch over transitions, the passage of time, beginnings, ends.
The easy connection to make is with January, that month of the year when we are invariably reflecting and hoping in equal measure: the more complex connection to make is with a well-crafted architecture and design exhibition, one which effortlessly links reflections of the past with proposals, visions and excitement for the future. Nothing existing as it does in isolation. And everything requiring a transition.
Our five gatekeepers for January 2018 can be found in San Francisco, Brussels, Basel, Milan and Cologne.
While preparing our 5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for December 2017 post we spent a not inconsiderate amount of time contemplating the exhibition Cupboard Love at the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur, in particular the fact the while it promises to explore cupboards in their metaphoric manifestations as expressed in film, literature and art, they appear to have overlooked the use of cupboards, closets and other storage units in music.
We just had to rectify that…….
We can’t remember exactly when we first came across Prague based creative collective Okolo, but certainly by the autumn of 2014 we were very much liking what they were doing: April 2014 seeing the exhibition Okolo Offline at Depot Basel and in September Okolo Offline Two – Collecting at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden, both of which in their own gentle ways guided the visitor into and through the Okolo world.
Keen to better understand that world we met up with Okolo co-founder Adam Štěch…..
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a ticket for a design exhibition.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me, two tickets for two design exhibitions, and a ticket for a design exhibition.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me…… You get the idea.
Our five goohoold rings for December 2017 are new architecture and design exhibitions in Winterthur, Barcelona, New York, Munich and Moscow.
Whereas exhibitions featured in these pages are normally still in the first flush of youth, having recently enjoyed their vernissage and thus making their first public appearance, the presentation of Two German Architectures 1949-1989 at the Technische Universität Berlin is much more a finissage.
After a 13 year, 26 city, global tour, the exhibition has, in many regards, come home to retire.
Artefacts are generally considered remnants of societies and civilisations long past. Remnants which act as chroniclers, guides and reminders of societies and civilisations long past.
Artefacts however needn’t be ancient. Nor the society they document.
With the exhibition Von Ata bis Zentralkomitee the Kulturhistorisches Museum Rostock explore daily life in the DDR through everyday objects, artefacts, and thereby the nature and reality of state influence and control on everyday life.
The first metaphors may, or may not, have been animal based, but materials are just as adaptable. And few are as adaptable as glass. The Glass Ceiling as the impenetrable, yet invisible boundary. The Heart of Glass as a state of extreme emotional weakness. Yet when most people use glass as a metaphor they are using in itself as a metaphor, for transparency.
With the exhibition Welt aus Glas. Transparentes Design the Wilhelm Wagenfeld Haus Bremen abstract that metaphor to explore the link between transparency in design and architecture, and transparency in society.
Gestures belong to the oldest of human actions and interactions. Have accompanied mankind through good times and bad, through its innumerate technical, cultural and social revolutions.
And are so intuitive, we are often barely aware of them.
With the exhibition Gestures – Past, Present and Future, the Sächsische Industriemuseum Chemnitz explores not only the (hi)story and importance of gestures, but for all their role in our smart, digital, autonomous futures.
Visitors to the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig have long been able to rest on Jasper Morrison’s Vitra Bench, an object liberally distributed throughout the museum complex.
With the exhibition Thingness the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig offers visitors a deeper insight into Jasper Morrison’s oeuvre, and creative processes.
As any fule kno, an echo requires a surface off which to reflect.
Otherwise it is just shouting into the void.
With the exhibition Echoes – 100 Years in Finnish Design and Architecture at the Felleshus, Berlin, that reflective surface is the traditions, cultures and landscapes of north-east Europe.