Monographic exhibitions portraying designers from ages past, generally, only leave you with but little opportunity to directly assess, compare and contrast that designer in context of their time.

The, desired, concentrated focus on the protagonist leaving you, by necessity, not least by necessity of limits of time and space, primarily relying on those snippets of information and/or blurry images of objects, invariably popularly celebrated objects, your brain can recover in that moment, for any semblance of assessment, comparison and contrast with what others were realising in that period, any semblance of assessment, comparison and contrast with the positions and approaches of others in that period.

Following its run at Neuwerk 11, Halle, the exhibition Chairs: Dieckmann! The Forgotten Bauhäusler Erich Dieckmann is now on display at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin, who have employed their own collection to expanded the Dieckmann presentation with contemporaneous works. To expand the works of Erich Dieckmann with works by The Others…….

Chairs: Dieckmann! The Forgotten Bauhäusler Erich Dieckmann, Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin

With the Boötids, the Arietids and the Beta Taurids June is an eventful month for meteor showers; and a month of great promise for all those who hope their most earnest wishes for the future will be fulfilled through entrusting them to a shooting star.

If only their wasn’t the seemingly endless wait for nightfall, the seemingly endless sitting and streaming and snacking and stupor of waiting…….

Alternatively, use the day(s) ahead of the arrival of those celestial messengers of hope in perusing a good architecture and/or design exhibition: something that may enrich your life in ways you could never have imagined. Far less hoped for. And could lead you, could lead us all, to a future better, more promising and more fulfilling than you/we could ever have wished for. Could ever have achieved through the sitting and streaming and snacking and stupor of waiting for the future.

But you can still watch the meteors when they appear. And wish upon a star.

Our four meaningful distractions until nightfall in June 2022 can be found in Berlin, Rotterdam, Wrocław and Copenhagen……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for June 2022

There is an argument to be made that the craft of the glassmaker is as anachronistic in the 21st century as that of the candlemaker: an argument that while the later has seen their craft superseded by the electric lightbulb, the function of the former has not only been increasingly marginalised by the rise of industrially produced glassware, but also by the development of new materials, materials more robust and more durable than the famously fragile and transient glass.

The candlemaker and the glassmaker, so one could further argue, having been reduced to little more than popular attractions at Ye Olde Worlde Village Fayre and similar commercial and pedagogic acts of romanticised nostalgia.

With the showcase Glass – Hand Formed Matter the Bröhan Museum, Berlin, present a convincing counter-argument…….

Glass - Hand Formed Matter, Bröhan Museum, Berlin

Following smow Turin’s thoroughly unexpected, if in no way undeserved, victory in the 2021 smow Song Contest, it’s off to Piemonte for the 2022 edition.

A 2022 smow Song Contest being held very much in context of events 20 years previous…….

smow song contest 2022 smowblog

“The May of life blooms but once”, reflects Friedrich Schiller, continuing, “It has faded for me”.1

Cheer up Freddie!!!

And there’s nothing quite like a good architecture or design exhibition to revitalise all your faculties.

Our recommended fertilizers for the zest of life in May 2022 can be found in Berlin, Den Haag, Brussels, Pfäffikon SZ and Amsterdam…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2022

The Historia Supellexalis J for Jongerius

Jongerius

A Hella; A Lab; An Open-ended exploration

“…one only finds warmth of life and sincerity where human nature is allowed to flourish”, opined the German designer Erich Dieckmann in 1931, “one shouldn’t forget that in our apartments. Let’s treat our contemporary homes to something humane. Something unelaborate, something provisional, with some leeway and space for things to grow as they wish over time.”1

With the exhibition Chairs: Dieckmann! The Forgotten Bauhäusler Erich Dieckmann, the Kunststiftung des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt and Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin extend an invitation to explore how Erich Dieckmann understood an unelaborate, humane, contemporary apartment full of leeway and space to grow…….

Chairs: By Dieckmann!, as seen at Chairs: Dieckmann! The Forgotten Bauhäusler Erich Dieckmann, Neuwerk 11, Halle

According to the Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro February 7th marks the first day of spring.

Which strikes us, as we’re sure it does you, as a little early; however, there was reason in Varro’s bold claim, for Varro further sets February 7th as the start of the year, and for all links February 7th with the rising of the west wind, a favourable, warming wind, whose arrival indicates the need to start cultivating your land and crops, specifically Varro advises, “these are things which should be done in the first period, from the rising of the west wind to the vernal equinox: All kinds of nurseries should be set out, orchards pruned, meadows manured, vines trenched and outcropping roots removed, meadows cleared, willow beds planted, grain-land weeded.”1

But not just the cultivation of your land and crops is important from the rising of the west wind to the vernal equinox, the cultivation of mind and spirit and character is of equal importance.

Our five non-agrarian cultivation tips for February 2022 can be found in Halle, Garðabær, Paris, Stockholm and Zürich…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for february 2022 smow blog

Familiar as our objects and rituals of daily life are to us, to someone from the 16th century they would appear most, most, odd, just as their familiar 16th century objects and rituals would appear most, most, odd to someone from the 11th century: yet as Simon & Garfunkel teach us “that’s not unusual, No, it isn’t strange”, for as societies develop they acquire new objects and rituals, daily life continually evolves anew alongside, and in conjunction with, new objects and new rituals. And if we were to be acquainted today with objects and rituals from future societies we would consider them most, most, odd.

With the exhibition New Normals at Haus am Waldsee, Berlin, Konstantin Grcic presents some exceedingly odd things and in doing so invites us all to reflect on the fact that that which is not yet, will one day be…….

Konstantin Grcic. New Normals, Haus am Waldsee, Berlin

According to Germanic folklore, “If January is frosty and cold, a green woodland will soon entice us”.

The implication being that a severe January is the necessary pre-requisite not only for a timeous spring bursting forth with new life, but also for a warm, (meteorologically) settled, summer.

But in the frost and cold and dark and endlessness of January that green (deciduous) woodland is still a long way off, is unimaginable, is unreachable, is almost mythical; however, protection, and distraction, from January can always be found in the warmth and stimulation and light of a good architecture or art or design exhibition.

Our five enticing shelters from the climatic vagaries of January 2022 can be found in Berlin, Humlebæk, Bloomfield Hills, Moscow and New York…….

5 New Architecture and Design Exhibitions January 2022

Braun occupy a special, ¿unique?, position not only in the mythology of product design but also in the (hi)story of West Germany; arguably no brand is as closely related with and to West Germany as Braun.

With the exhibition Braun 100 the Bröhan-Museum, Berlin, explore the development of design at Braun in the post-War decades and in doing so help one approach differentiated understandings of not only Braun and Braun design, but also of the relationships between Braun, design and West Germany…….

Braun 100, Bröhan-Museum, Berlin

As the worldline of architecture’s spacetime continuum moves through the 1970s and ever further into the 1980s it becomes increasingly blurry, indistinct, harder to confidently follow: established conventions and systems, acknowledged fundamental and/or necessary rules of architecture become increasingly difficult to locate.

Indeed were there rules in 1980s architecture?

With the exhibition Anything Goes? Berlin Architecture in the 1980s the Berlinische Galerie explore the architectural developments in the, then, two Berlins, and in doing so not only allow one to approach better understandings of the architectural development of the, now, one Berlin, but also to question the putative lawless of 1980s architecture…….

Anything Goes? Berlin Architecture in the 1980s, Berlinische Galerie, Berlin

In 1950 the Dutch architect and designer Mart Stam told a conference in Leipzig, “when I speak here for a group of individuals active in industry about the problem of industrial design, I do so because I believe that it is necessary for us to concern ourselves in detail with the question of industrial design, and also because I believe that through intensive work and cooperation in this field we can contribute to increasing the cultural quality of our goods.”1,2

With the exhibition The Early Years. Mart Stam, the Institute and the Collection of Industrial Design the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin elucidate that Stam did more than simply speak about “the problem of industrial design” in the, then, fledgling East Germany, that Mart Stam wasn’t the only person in 1950s East Germany interested in “increasing the cultural quality of our goods”, if ideas about how one defined “increasing” and “cultural quality” varied greatly; and in doing so allows insights into the development of industrial design in East Germany……

The Early Years. Mart Stam, the Institute and the Collection of Industrial Design, the Werkbundarchiv Museum der Dinge, Berlin

“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it is always June”, ponders Anne Shirley in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1915 novel Anne of the Island.

“You’d get tired of it”, sighs her adoptive mother Marilla Cuthbert by way of reply.

“I daresay”, responds Anne, “but just now I feel that it would take me a long time to get tired of it…”

Thoughts we very much concur with as we survey and contemplate the varied profusion of new architecture and design exhibitions sprouting forth in June 2021. Who could ever tire of such a joyous abundance? Who?

Our five recommendations from that early summer crop can be found in Leipzig, Hornu, Berlin, Bloomfield Hills and Chemnitz…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for June 2021

After a long, challenging, year the smow Song Contest finds itself exactly where it was: Rotterdam.

Not just the location, but the stage, the decoration, the costumes, even the bier en frieten exactly as they were twelve months ago.

The decisive, defining, difference between the 2020 smow Song Contest and the 2021 smow Song Contest being the new understandings, the new perceptions, the new perspectives, the new vitality, the new passions, the new desires, the new old new, articulated by the contest’s motto: Open Up!

smow song contest 2021

As the 19th century English poet Robert Browning so very, very, nearly phrased it:

Oh, to be in Berlin, Vienna, Chemnitz, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, or Berlin (again),
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in Berlin, Vienna, Chemnitz, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, or Berlin (again),
Sees, some morning a most interesting, entertaining and instructive sounding architecture and/or design exhibition,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for April 2021

With the 2021 Pritzker Architecture Prize being awarded to Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal international attention has become focused on architectural strategies geared towards maintaining existing buildings in the face of evolving economic, social, demographic, et al, realities rather than demolishing and erecting new ones by way of a response; and also of the value, the economic, the social, the cultural and the environmental value, of reusing, remodelling and reimagining that which exists rather than replacing through rebuilding and replanning.

The Deutsche Architektur Zentrum Berlin’s exhibition Caring for what already exists. Ten Architectural Strategies was developed, and was scheduled to open, long, long, before Lacaton & Vassal’s selection; however, in asking questions of how buildings and urban spaces could, should, must?, evolve with those societies and communities around them, questions of the relationships between built environments and the communities with which they co-exist, its delayed opening has not only brought its themes a new popular relevance to compliment their unquestioned importance, but also allows it to help contribute to the sharpening or our collective foci in context of architecture and our built environments….

Caring for what already exists. Ten Architectural Strategies, Deutsche Architektur Zentrum, Berlin

In context of the exhibition Luigi Colani and Art Nouveau, the Bröhan-Museum Berlin’s staircase is emblazoned with a long quote from Colani, a long and typically outspoken quote, in which Luigi Colani denigrates the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm, that design school which has such a prominent and pre-eminent position in popular understandings of design in post-War West Germany; and who for Luigi Colani were “defrauders of the German creative spirituality of the twenties and thirties! Imbecilic criminals.”1

A quote that not only neatly epitomises the (consciously cultivated) Colani communication strategy, nor only leads one to reflect on Colani’s own relationship to inter-War design in Germany, but for all leads one by necessity to question the validity of the accusation; and thereby to reflect on the relationship(s) between the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm and the “German creative spirituality of the twenties and thirties”, and by extrapolation to reflect on post-War design in West Germany……..

Luigi Colani and Art Nouveau at the Bröhan-Museum, Berlin ... Ich spreche doch mit den Ulmern nicht!

Cleaning is a chore.

If only we could get through life without the necessity of dusting, sweeping, washing, polishing et al…….

With the project Cleaning against the Dictatorship of Efficiency Birgit Severin and Guillaume Neu-Rinaudo a.k.a. studio b severin explore cleaning, its rituals, contexts, symbolism, functions, psychology, and in doing so enable differentiated perspectives on both that ubiquitous chore and the necessity in the necessity of dusting, sweeping, washing, polishing et al…………

Studio B Severin - Cleaning against the Dictatorship of Efficiency, feldfünf, Berlin

The only certainty as 2020 flows into 2021 is the ongoing uncertainty. An uncertainty that is increasingly being understood as an ongoing certainty and thereby turning ever more “plans” into “options”.

And also causing a great many global architecture and design museums to skip over the first quarter of 2021 as if weren’t there, and to move their new exhibition openings to April and beyond.

A state of affairs which on the one hand means there are currently fewer lonelier locations than any given museum’s “future exhibitions” listings; but on the other hand means that much as the coldest hour is the one just before the dawn, so it is increasingly certain, as in “old” certain, that the paucity of new exhibitions opening in the first quarter of 2021 will cede to a flood come spring. And so you can now plan, as in old “plan”, to visit an exhibition a day come summer. And still have options. Old and new

And a state of affairs which has to a degree forced our hand and produced a hybrid recommendations list for January 2021: offline exhibitions in Berlin, Hamburg and Metz; online exhibitions from Warsaw and Weimar/Dessau.

And as ever in these times, if you do feel comfortable visiting any museum, please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious…….

5 (New) Architecture & Design Exhibitions for January 2021

To paraphrase the Propellerheads, this is just a little bit of a blog post repeating

For much as with our November 2020 exhibition recommendations, so some of our December 2020 exhibition recommendations won’t be opening. Or at least not in December 2020.

But then as now are in still in our list.

On the one hand because they will open, and is an important part of any pleasure not the expectation and anticipation?

And on the other hand, because that which makes an exhibition recommendable in advance of its opening, that which makes its anticipation and expectation so pleasurable, is that it promises to present a rarely explored subject and/or promises to explore a regularly presented subject from a new and/or fresh and/or deeper perspective. And thus a recommendable exhibition is also a nudge that there may be more to learn and understand about architecture and design than you were aware of. And thus a stimulus for your own research. And what better season than winter for that research?

Our five recommendations/stimuli/nudges for December 2020 can be found in Berlin, Vienna, Helsinki, Rome and St Petersburg.

And as ever in these times, if you do feel comfortable visiting any museum, please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for December 2020

Outwith his native Denmark, the country home to the most architectural works by Arne Jacobsen is Germany.

Yet the vast majority of them remain popularly unknown.

As does Arne Jacobsen’s partner on his German projects: Otto Weitling

With the showcase Gesamtkunstwerke – Architecture by Arne Jacobsen and Otto Weitling in Germany, the Felleshus Berlin not only set the record straight but allow for some fresh reflections on both Arne Jacobsen and our relationships to and with architecture and our built environments……

Gesamtkunstwerke – Architecture by Arne Jacobsen and Otto Weitling in Germany at Felleshus, The Nordic Embassies, Berlin

In 1977 Ludwig Glaeser, curator of the Mies van der Rohe Archive at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, opinioned that “it is certainly more than a coincidence that [Mies van der Rohe’s] involvement in furniture and exhibition design began in the same year as his personal relationship with Lilly Reich.”1

A statement that has in many regards come to define understandings of the furniture designs of both Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich.

An understanding that “is certainly more than a coincidence”. It is wrong. Certainly in terms of furniture design.

And a statement and understanding whose clarification not only provides an excellent starting point for an exploration of the furniture designs of Lilly Reich and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, but also for some reflections on the (hi)story of furniture design……..

Lilly Reich and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

In 1977 the German designer Luigi Colani demanded a “renaissance of Art Nouveau”1

What he meant, why he meant it, and if it is something we should all fear, can be explored and considered in the exhibition Luigi Colani and Art Nouveau at the Bröhan-Museum, Berlin…….

Luigi Colani and Art Nouveau at the Bröhan-Museum, Berlin

As a general rule we prefer to focus the Design Calendar on positive events, it just seems more, well, positive; however, sometimes a negative event is more illustrative of a situation, provides for better access to a story.

An event such as Mart Stam’s beurlauben, suspension, as Rector of the Hochschule für angewandte Kunst, Berlin, on September 22nd 1952.

The unhappy end of Mart Stam’s not altogether joyful sojourn in East Germany.

But also a moment that allows for some focussed considerations on both the person Mart Stam and on his understandings of art, architecture and design.

Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee ca 1956, with its new extension. Thus not as Mart Stam knew it... (Photo: Hans-Günter Quaschinsky, courtesy Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-41083-0001 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 via commons.wikimedia.org)