smow Design Blog


Staged in context of Intersections, ADAM Brussels Design Museum’s biennale programme, Design Generations explores not only the work of designers of differing generations, but for all design that remains relevant across generations……

Intersections #5 Design Generations, ADAM Brussels Design Museum


Back in the day most everything was produced locally, every community had its network of producers, who not only produced but were also knowledge depositories for processes, materials, local conditions etc, etc, etc

Back in the day.

More recently production has become remote, goods being produced in anonymous factories, transported across continents, through innumerate staging posts, and thereby not only severing the link between producer and customer, but meaning ever fewer people understand how things are produced.

But could evolving cultural, social and ecological understandings open the way for a return to local production?

With the exhibition New Urban Production Halle 14 Leipzig explore possible future realities.

Cow&Co by Ottonie von Roeder Anastasia Eggers, as seen at New Urban Production, Halle 14, Leipzig


The metal wire chair is such a well established seating genre it is hard to imagine it is possible to do anything new with it. Far less anything exciting.

However……

ArNO by Bright Potato, as seen at Meet My Project, Paris Design Week 2018


In our post from the state of DESIGN Berlin curated exhibition VICIS. Always Change a Running System during Munich Creative Business Week 2018 we opined that there was something biographical in the title. Similarly Expertimental Design has overtones of self-reflection. And for all of an unyielding belief in the value, logic, necessity of experimentation in design.

Something also reflected in the 2018 state of DESIGN Berlin showcase.

state of DESIGN Berlin, Expertimental Design


It is a universal rule of life that some of the most pleasing things occur unplanned, and that is certainly the case when visiting a design week, events where the disappointment that invariably arises visiting shows you intended to, is quickly offset by something you stumble across per chance.

So too was it as we turned into the Rue des Coutures-Saint-Gervais, our thoughts less concerned with where we were or where we were going as with where we had been and for all why we’d been where we’d been, then we passed number 14. Stopped. Went back…..

Plateau Lamp by Ferréol Babin for Daniel, as seen during Paris Design Week 2018


As we regularly note in our #campustour posts, what students produce is largely irrelevant, alone important in how the student got there, including how they responded to a given brief, posed their initial question, the logic in the decisions they made, the lessons learned from their mistakes, the lessons learned from others, the impulses received from contemporary discourses, etc, and how through the course of all such their understanding of and relationship to design evolved……

The Münster School of Design understand this process as a Parcours.

Their graduation exhibition allowing chance to reflect on all that leaping, bounding, climbing, rolling……

Münster School of Design @ Parcours 2018


Everything should be Ecodesign, opines the tag line to MAD Brussels’ exhibition Buy Now, Pay Later.

And while we are, arguably, (at least a little) further advanced in terms of ecological, sustainable, design thinking than we were a generation ago, we still have a long way to go.

Buy Now, Pay Later highlights some of the areas where we could do better…….

Buy Now, Pay Later. Everything should be Ecodesign at MAD Brussels


The advantage the autumn edition of Maison et Objet has over the spring edition is Paris Design Week, a chance to not only explore French creativity in a wider context than can be found in the trade fair halls, but also to explore the French capital without the distraction of the city’s history.

A central component of Paris Design Week is Le Off, a platform for young designers and which for its 2018 edition was based in the Ground Control event and creative centre, tucked away behind Gare du Lyon.

Although for us it quickly became much more Gare du Nord…….

Friche au pied du ballot umbrella stand-flower box by Benjamin Helle through Aequo Edition, as seen at Paris Design Week 2018


We doubt we will be able to visit the 2019 Summaery exhibition at Bauhaus University Weimar, as we suspect the town will be too full of visitors celebrating the centenary of Bauhaus Weimar.

Or perhaps better put, full of confused visitors wondering where all the steel tube furniture is….. Wrong Bauhaus people.

Consequently we attempted to extract as much as we could from Summaery 2018.

Bauhaus University Weimar, Summaery 2018Bauhaus University Weimar, Summaery 2018


The biggest disappointment at Maison et Objet Autumn 2018 was that Announcement Lady wasn’t broadcasting across the halls, and so this year there was no continual “Mesdames, Messieurs”, and so we had no continual Sash soundtrack to carry us though our visit.

We just hope Announcement Lady’s absence wasn’t on account of us, we hope she didn’t quit because she felt we were mocking her, being cheeky, or otherwise making fun of her. We weren’t. It was genuinely one of our highlights at Maison et Objet Autumn 2017. One of the reasons we went back.

Fortunately, and as much as we missed her, there were a few other highlights to distract us in Paris this September.

And so with a hearty Encore une fois for auld lang syne, a Maison et Objet Autumn 2018 High Four!

Maison et Objet Paris Autumn 2018 High 5


While for most locations a design week is sufficient, Brussels takes a whole month. We’ve never asked why, just assume it is because in the bi-lingual Franco-Dutch city where everything has to be repeated twice, thrice when one considers the more or less obligatory English required for the large diplomatic community in the de facto European capital, everyone is just used to things taking a little longer and plan accordingly.

Whatever the reason, throughout September Brussels is playing host to a wide variety of design events, events reflecting various definitions, understandings and degrees of design, and over the next couple of weeks we’ll bring you some of those projects which particularly caught our attention, starting with an exploration of nature that while presenting unmistakable parallels to Brussels’ Art Nouveau heritage, couldn’t be further removed.

Marcin Rusak - Nature of Things II at the Horta Museum Brussels


Having made his way to America as a stowaway on an British freighter the Dutch abstract expressionist artist, and eponym of Rotterdam’s art school, Willem de Kooning, initially made his living as a painter and decorator.

Which, considered in context of his later work, is just the most delicious thought……

“No Willem, that wall ONLY green, that wall ONLY yellow, the doors ONLY white. And straight edges!!!”

Willem de Kooning Academy & Piet Zwart Institute Rotterdam


On the train to Cologne the signs were unmissable, the sun may have been gloriously, victoriously, shinning, as it has done since Easter, from a clear azure sky: but autumn is definitely approaching. And while it may be a bit premature to start planning for next summer, at the annual spoga+gafa garden, freetime and equestrianism trade fair in Cologne, manufacturers presented what they expect us to sit on next summer in our gardens, on our balconies, while camping, the accessories they expect us to have around us while we do such and the ludicrously testosterone charged names of the barbecues they expect us to cook with.

But will we? Should we? Can we?

spoga+gafa Cologne 2018: High Five


That unfamiliar bouquet in the air in Karlsruhe is the wind of change blowing through the Hochschule für Gestaltung: having guided, nurtured and, one assumes, wisely counselled, the design department since 1994 as Professor for Product Design Volker Albus is departing.

What that all means for the future is anyone’s guess, it’s very much a case of watch this space; for now all we could do is to what we do whenever a wind of change blows, and follow the Moskva down to Gorky Park and then on to the Hochschule für Gestaltung where the children of tomorrow were dreaming away at the 2018 Rundgang annual exhibition.

But would it be a glory night…….?

Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe


According to Germanic lore, “ein guter Septemberregen kommt nie ungelegen“, a good rain in September is never inopportune.

This year arguably more so than ever.

Similarly a good architecture and design exhibition in September is never inopportune.

And, and keeping with rain metaphors, while we can all remember what rain is, September 2018, sees a proper downpour of new architecture and design exhibitions. A downpour that is particularly opportune. Following July’s drought and its meagre 4 recommendations we have a ongoing deficit of one in our annual quota, the current deluge however means that for September 2018 we can present 6.

And so grab your umbrellas and take yourselves to an architecture and/or design exhibition this September. Our recommendations can be found in Kolding, Munich, London, Herford, Moscow and Weil am Rhein……..

5 new Architecture & Design Exhibitions September 2018


Derived from the French parcourir, the parcours is perhaps historically most popularly associated with equine show-jumping, the challenge of negotiating an artificial obstacle course; more recently it has become popular in context of human show-jumping, the challenge of negotiating an urban obstacle course.

Approaching the Köln International School of Design 2018 KISDparcours semester and graduation exhibition we hoped the obstacles to be negotiated would be of the mental, philosophical, type……

Köln International School of Design


Multi-storey car parks are many things to many people. For skateboarders a playground, for love-torn teens a place of privacy, for authors and film-makers an all too easy metaphor, and for yet others ….. somewhere to park their car.

For the German architect Paul Schneider-Esleben the multi-storey car park represents his career breakthrough. And one of his most defining projects.

Lichtplatz Car Park (Hanielgarage), Düsseldorf by Paul Schneider-Esleben


If, as we all freely accept, the meaning of life is 42, what does that make 43?

A miscalculation, and a life led in the belief that it was correct, all for the best, but was in actual fact all very wrong and completely missing the point?

A self-deluding over-estimation of the value of one’s own contribution to society?

Biting off more than you can chew?

Superfluous?

Such, and other, considerations have kept us busy since the the 2018 smow blog #campustour formally ended…….

#campustour 2018


Counting amongst its alumni the likes of Finn Juhl, Arne Jacobsen, Nanna Ditzel, Kaare Klint, Georg Jensen, do stop us if we get boring, Verner Panton, Thorvald Bindesbøll, Ole Wanscher, Poul Kjærholm, and pretty much any other Danish designer or architect of whom you’ve ever heard, and a great many more of whom you haven’t, the Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi Copenhagen was formally inaugurated on March 31st 1754 in honour of the 31st birthday of Frederik V.

But is it a gift that keeps on giving?

A visit to the Schools’ of Architecture, Design and Conservation 2018 graduation exhibition promised to provide some answers……

KADK, Løsninger


Odd as it may be to consider today, in the course of the 19th century and throughout the first decades of the 20th century, the German town of Chemnitz was one of the most important locations in central Europe for heavy and mechanical engineering, and thereby an important motor on the highway from craft to industrial production, supplying as it did the machines, infrastructure and ideas to enable that transfer. The importance of Chemnitz in the 19th century can perhaps be best gauged by the fact that the city, for all in the person of then Oberbürgermeister Dr. Wilhelm André, was one of the leading protagonists in the campaign which ultimately led in 1877 to the passing of the first Patent Law in the freshly established German Reich. The wealth those patents brought Chemnitz, its engineers and industrialists can still be seen today, for example, in the Kaßberg district, one of the most expansive Jugendstil suburbs in Germany, and also in the number of villas from the turn of the 19th/20th centuries to be found lining the broad boulevards, including the one built in 1902/03 by Henry van de Velde for the textile manufacturer Herbert Esche.

While the names of many/most of those engineers and industrialists may not be popularly known today that of Chemnitz’s most famous 20th century designer certainly is: Marianne Brandt, a trained artist who learned her metalwork trade in the workshops at Bauhaus Weimar, followed the school to Dessau and became, for all through her many designs for Leipzig based manufacturer Kandem, one of the genuine pioneers of lighting design. Even if most associate her today with teapots.

As the centenary of Bauhaus Weimar approaches, and thus memories are awakened of that period in history when eastern Germany was at the forefront of attempts to unify craft and art for the benefit of industry and society, what can Chemnitz offer? What can Chemnitz creatives contribute to the development of craft, industry, design? The exhibition Unikate 7 presenting graduation projects from the Handwerkskammer Chemnitz’ Gestalter im Handwerk programme seemed like an appropriate place to approach an answer…….

Unikate 7 Handwerkskammer Chemnitz Gestalter im Handwerk Wasserschloss Klaffenbach


We’ve spent so much time walking alongside canals on this #campustour we’ve started to feel less like dashing thoroughbreds and more like plodding, monotonous, if honest, loyal and sedulous barge ponies.

There are, as far as we are aware, no canals in Aachen, yet, and much like those city’s who owe their existence to canals, Aachen owes its existence, and name, to its waters: the thermal springs arising in the city meaning that since Roman times the peoples of the region, and from further afield, have visited to take the aquae, the waters, from which over High Middle German one arrives at Aachen.

We arrived at Aachen with a train from Cologne. But would the works on show at the FH Aachen summer exhibitions soothe our tired, aching sensibilities much as thermal springs soothe tired, aching muscles? And would it put that much missed spring back in our step………

FH Aachen


Approaching the 2018 Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang one was obliged to navigate the weekly antique and flea market that overwhelms the Straße des 17. Juni, and thereby walk, hurry, past untold objects whose ill consideration, self-celebration, kitschiness or plain ugliness confuse, insult, anger and otherwise offend the senses and sensibilities.

An inconvenience, or an omen for that which awaited us……….?

Universität der Künste Berlin, Germany


Systems bring order to chaos, allow relationships to be understood/defined, enable standardisation. And depend on a carefully considered, well designed and constructed connector.

In 1939 the German architect Konrad Wachsmann developed a metal connector which subsequently became the central component of the General Panel prefabricated construction system developed by Wachsmann in cooperation with Walter Gropius.

In 2018 the Bauhaus Lab reflected on that connector, Konrad Wachsmann and standardised, prefabricated construction systems. The results of those reflections were discussed in a one day symposium, and can be viewed in the exhibition The Art of Joining: Designing the Universal Connector at Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau.

Bauhaus Lab 2018. The Art of Joining: Designing the Universal Connector, Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau


“It is a peculiar tension that precedes a first visit to a painting exhibition”, opined the Dutch art critic Jacques van Santen Kolff in the introduction to his four part review of the 1875 exhibition at the Teeken-Akademie Den Haag, “there is a unique charm, something stimulating in that nervousness, an eminently “picturesque” tension.”1

Kolff wasn’t disappointed, that which he had sensed in the air was confirmed by that which hung on the walls and led him to coin the term “Hague School”, thus giving a name, a status, a relevance, to a contemporary movement in Dutch art, one which, according to Kolff, was a “new ultra-radical movement.”

We felt that peculiar tension, that unique charm and stimulating nervousness as we approached the Teeken-Akademie’s successor, the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten Den Haag’s, 2018 Graduation Festival.

But would we be as fundamentally convinced by what we saw in 2018 as Kolff was in 1875? Would we subsequently speak of a “new ultra-radical movement” in Dutch design?

And would our review run to four parts………

Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten Den Haag


Our visit to the 2017 Royal College of Art London Graduate Show was one of the more sobering moments of our 2017 #campustour.

Or as we wrote then, “…in a world controlled by RCA graduates every, but every, aspect of our lives will be controlled by autonomous smart technology. We will literally lose the ability to think for ourselves. The human brain will become the appendix of the 21st century.”

Donning a hat fashioned from aluminium foil and an old metal sieve, we headed once more to South Kensington……

Royal College of Art Graduate Show London