gren light chandelier by Gunnar Søren Petersen (Photo © Alex Kueper)
September 16th, 2015 by smow

In our recent review of contemporary Berlin creativity we noted that one of the problems increasingly being faced by Berlin is that of holding on to the ever increasing number of graduates from the city’s many design institutions.

Thus it seemed apposite to talk to a recent Berlin design graduate about the reality of life as a recent Berlin design graduate.

A recent Berlin design graduate such as Gunnar Søren Petersen.

Born and raised in Bonn Gunnar Søren Petersen studied Industrial Design at the Universität der Künste, UdK, Berlin, a course of studies which included an exchange year in Copenhagen studying furniture design at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture, Design and Conservation.

We first came across Gunnar Søren Petersen when we saw his lamp gren light at the UdK Berlin Rundgang 2014. When we first saw gren light we were initially very impressed. Then less sure. Then impressed. Then …….. In the course of that Friday afternoon we must have visited the room in which gren light was hanging at least twelve times, before finally deciding that, yes, it was that good. Less a modular lamp and more a freely configurable system based around a small number of standard components, gren light, as we noted in our 2014 post “combines a refined, dulcet charm with an understated beauty in an extremely elegant object. An extremely elegant object constructed on the basis of a very simple, easily reproducible, infinitely variable construction principle.” And a work which takes a little time to adjust to. Unless that is you’re prepared to simply follow you’re gut reaction.

Appreciating Gunnar’s most recent work – snak – requires a lot less time. An eminently accessible object snak is a collapsible picnic and/or camping table crafted from wood and polypropylene integral foam and effortlessly combines a classic feel with a contemporary form language. And a table tennis net.

Having spoken to Gunnar Søren Petersen about snak in the wake of his success in the 2015 Garden Unique Youngstars competition we went on to discuss the reality as a recent design graduate in Berlin and the pros and cons of Berlin vs. Copenhagen, but started, as is our want in such interviews, by asking, why design?

Gunnar Søren Petersen: For as long as I can remember I have been interested in designing things and creating, later came an interest in constructive thinking and in exploring questions about space, objects and the relationships between people, space and objects, and so in a way it was a fairly logical, and easy, conclusion to decide to follow a design career.

smow blog: The first step on that path was then Industrial Design at UdK Berlin. Why the decision for the UdK?

Gunnar Søren Petersen: After finishing secondary school I had moved to Berlin, largely because it was Berlin, and so in a way it was natural to also study here. To be completely honest, because I was doing my Zivildienst I had missed the application deadlines for the Kunsthochschule Weissensee and FH Potsdam, the UdK’s deadline was a little later and so I threw everything into that application and was lucky enough to be accepted.

smow blog: And despite the somewhat, let’s say, non-targeted nature to your application, the course at the UdK was subsequently to your liking, or…….?

Gunnar Søren Petersen: Very much so. What I particularly liked about the course at the UdK is that it is very practical and that you are given the freedom within the programme to develop in the direction you wish to, and to either concentrate on those areas and skills that particularly interest you or to use the variety of workshops and courses to gain experience in a wide range of disciplines. And regardless what you do there is always someone to support and advise you.

smow blog: But, and because we know the world isn’t always rosy, was there anything missing, or perhaps better put anything you would change about the course?

Gunnar Søren Petersen: In general in design education I believe that the design schools need to work much more closely with industry and with producers. At the UdK, for example, there were cooperations, but only infrequently and only very rarely were they of a scale and scope which meant that anything truly positive resulted for the students. I for example was fortunate enough to be part of a project organised by Professor Axel Kufus in conjunction with the Italian textile manufacturer Alcantara and that was an excellent project in the course of which numerous guest lecturers were invited to lead workshops in Berlin, we had a trip to the Alcantara factory in Italy where we could learn first hand about the development and production processes and then at the end of the course we had a stand at the Qubique trade fair with all the organisation and planning such involves. Which is a lot of input from a relatively short course: but relevant and interesting input and something only possible through the cooperation. And more such cooperations would I believe be of very real benefit, not least because through such you learn about the reality of the future you’re training for.

smow blog: Which is a nice bridge, you’re now finished, have entered that reality, and are still in Berlin, can one deduce that for you Berlin is a good base as a designer?

Gunnar Søren Petersen: I believe so, yes. In my case I had pretty much decided before studying that I wanted to be based in Berlin, but as a city Berlin offers lots of possibilities, is a good size, and is a good location in which to develop personally

smow blog: But as a young freelance designer is there also work?

Gunnar Søren Petersen: Yes, there is work in Berlin, but it is helpful if you have a good network. In my case it was so that three or four years ago I had a few excellent contacts and through them I was able to organise fairly regular work and commissions. But then having spent time in Copenhagen and subsequently having concentrated more on my studies that network isn’t, let’s say, as fresh as it once was. However my current focus is not exclusively establishing my own studio but additionally looking for an employed position in an established studio, principally so that I can gain more experience, for all in those aspects of the industry that one doesn’t learn at Uni.

smow blog: We presume you mean all the business elements that design students famously aren’t taught….

Gunnar Søren Petersen: Exactly! In terms of the technical skills, practical thinking and artistic, creative aspects of the profession you are as a design graduate very well prepared, but the business aspects aren’t taught enough, nor for example the communications and publicity aspects, so how to present yourself and to ensure a degree of visibility.

smow blog: And you hope to learn them in an established agency….

Gunnar Søren Petersen: That at least is the plan! I am currently applying both here in Berlin and also in Copenhagen, and in Berlin I have had a lot of positive feedback but the majority of the studios simply don’t have vacancies, or at least not paid vacancies, but rather when they have a vacancy it is an internship, and my aim is a job, not least because I don’t believe that after having completed your studies, including undertaking internships, that you should then have to undertake further unpaid internships. However in design that is how you are expected to proceed, which is a shame, not least because in other branches that isn’t the case. In most other professions it is understood that you finish your studies and enter paid employment.

smow blog: Interesting that you say there is only very rarely paid opportunities in Berlin, one would have thought that given the number of design studios in Berlin one would find an equivalent number of vacancies……

Gunnar Søren Petersen: The principle reason is that the design studios in Berlin are generally very small and don’t need the extra staff. Which isn’t to say they aren’t successful, there are a lot of very successful studios in Berlin but they operate at a size at which they are comfortable and above which they don’t necessarily want to grow or at least not until they are certain that they have sufficient work to justify such.

smow blog: And in Copenhagen, has one more chances there? Are there more, larger agencies?

Gunnar Søren Petersen: Specifically in term of furniture, which is my principle focus, there are, in my opinion, more, larger, agencies than in Berlin and also more agencies who are better established in the international market than is the case in Berlin. And so in theory there are probably currently more opportunities for me in Copenhagen than Berlin. I have however only recently started applying in Copenhagen and so I may yet be proved wrong….

smow blog: And generally speaking can one compare Berlin and Copenhagen, or is such not possible…..?

Gunnar Søren Petersen: In general I think one can say that Copenhagen is a little more professional, which isn’t to say better, just the attitude is different. Both function as they are very well, but very differently. Although having said that one can also say that if Berlin was smaller it would in many ways be very similar to Copenhagen, not exactly the same but very similar.

smow blog: You mentioned earlier that you originally moved to Berlin because it was Berlin, and that it still works for you as a location, but we sense that it the needn’t necessarily be your future?

Gunnar Søren Petersen: No not necessarily, I would also quite happily move to Copenhagen, I have a great social circle there and feel very much at home in Copenhagen and so if I was offered a good job I’d have no hesitations about moving. But at the same time Berlin still has a very strong appeal and fascination for me and so I am open to both. And not that I’m ruling out other locations, Amsterdam, Hamburg or London all have their advantages, but for the time being my focus is Copenhagen and Berlin.

More information on Gunnar Søren Petersen can be found at

Posted in Designer, Interview Tagged with: , , , ,

Manifesto. Works by Students and Graduates of the Studio of Glass in Prague at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Dresden, Germany
August 28th, 2015 by smow

As old Mother Goose, allegedly, once claimed:

Thirty days hath September, and the following five enticing new design and architecture exhibitions which are probably well worth checking out if you get the chance…….

“Piet Mondrian. The Line” at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany

Just as those architects who were to lead the move to modernism in the first decades of the 20th century generally began working in more classic styles before being seduced by the reduced charm of modernism, so to did the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian begin as an impressionist before discovering that which would become his defining form: the line. Organised by the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin in conjunction with Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, “Piet Mondrian. The Line” promises to present some 50, largely early, works by Mondrian through which the curators aim to explain how the artist strove to find his own artistic voice – a voice which remains an enduring influence on contemporary art, architecture and design.

Piet Mondrian. The Line opens at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin, Niederkirchnerstraße 7, 10963 Berlin on Friday September 4th and runs until Sunday December 6th.

Piet Mondrian (1872 – 1944): Kirchenfassade 1: Kirche in Domburg

Piet Mondrian (1872 – 1944): Kirchenfassade 1: Kirche in Domburg, 1914 (Photo: © Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Netherlands, Courtesy of Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin)

“The Bauhaus #itsalldesign” at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany

The second most pertinent question in context of the Vitra Design Museum’s forthcoming Bauhaus exhibition is, what would Walter Gropius make of the hashtag? Something tells he would have liked it. And not just because of its quadratic sophistication, but much more because of the inherent sense of solidarity and directed action it transports. And its commercial value, obviously.
And the most pertinent question, what can another major Bauhaus exhibition add to our knowledge and understanding of that most lauded of institutions? Divided into four themed sections exploring Bauhaus’s historical and social context, the understanding of space at the institution, Bauhaus communication and the plethora of design objects produced in Weimar and Dessau, the most interesting and valuable aspect of “The Bauhaus #itsalldesign” promises to be a juxtaposition of works by Bauhaus alumni such as Marcel Breuer, Marianne Brandt and Lyonel Feininger with works by contemporary creatives such as Adrian Sauer, Jerszy Seymour, Konstantin Grcic and Enzo Mari, and the attempt therein to explore the relevance of the Bauhaus legacy on contemporary creativity. For if it has none – what has it?

The Bauhaus. #itsalldesign opens at the Vitra Design Museum, Charles-Eames-Str. 2, 79576 Weil am Rhein on Saturday September 26th and runs until Sunday February 28th

Photograph from an instruction manual for the usage  of tools, Thonet brothers, 1935 , Collection Alexander  von Vegesack, Domaine de Boisbuchet,  (photographer unknown)

Photograph from an instruction manual for the usage of tools, Thonet brothers, 1935 , (Photo Collection Alexander von Vegesack, Domaine de Boisbuchet, Photographer unknown, courtesy of Vitra Design Museum)

“Sukiya – Japanese Teahouse” at Museum of Finnish Architecture, Helsinki, Finland

There can be fewer more iconic objects in the development of modernism than the Japanese house. With its reduced construction principle, functional elegance and material simplicity the traditional Japanese house is in many ways the archetypal modernist construction. And a form which continues to inspire and motivate in equal measure. Focussing on sukiya, an architectural style traditionally, though not exclusively, used for the construction of teahouses, the Museum of Finnish Architecture will attempt to explain the history and cultural relevance of sukiya while at the same time exploring its modern relevance and role in contemporary Japanese architecture and construction. In addition to a full size sukiya teahouse complete with wooden, bamboo and tatami mats, shoji room dividers and assorted items of furniture, the exhibition will present an exploration of the tools, material and processes involved in sukiya while in a number of workshops artisan craftsman will demonstrate the sukiya technique and so help explain what makes sukiya so unique. And as captivating as ever.

Sukiya – Japanese Teahouse opens at the Museum of Finnish Architecture, Kasarmikatu 24, 00130 Helsinki on Wednesday September 2nd and runs until Sunday November 15th

Sukiya – Japanese Teahouse Museum of Finnish Architecture

Sukiya – Japanese Teahouse at Museum of Finnish Architecture

Manifesto. Works by Students and Graduates of the Studio of Glass in Prague at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Dresden, Germany

Shortly after taking up her position as Director of the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden Tulga Beyerle told us that the decision to invite Prague based studios Okolo and Dechem to participate in exhibitions was, at least partly if not exclusively, a way “of demonstrating that a city such as Prague is a location where things are happening and that it makes sense, and is hopefully fun, to learn more about what is happening there.” As a next step in that direction the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden are presenting an exhibition of works by Rony Plesl and his students from the Glass Studio of the Prague Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design. In addition to presenting work created during the eight years of Rony Plesl’s tenure as Head of the glass studio in Prague, and thus providing an overview of the direction in which Rony Plesl has taken the institution, Manifesto will also present a selection of works specially created for the exhibition and inspired by the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden’s collection – thus continuing the institution’s critical exploration of its collection through the eyes of outsiders.

Manifesto. Works by Students and Graduates of the Studio of Glass in Prague opens at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Schloss Pillnitz, August-Böckstiegel-Straße 2, 01326 Dresden on Friday September 4th and runs until Sunday November 1st.

Manifesto. Works by Students and Graduates of the Studio of Glass in Prague at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Dresden, Germany

Manifesto. Works by Students and Graduates of the Studio of Glass in Prague at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Dresden, Germany

MINDCRAFT15 at Designmuseum Danmark, Copenhagen, Denmark

One of the joys about having decided to give up trekking to Milan every April is visiting those shows that you invariably would have missed in Milan in other locations. Even when that location is one as mindbogglingly expensive as Copenhagen. Organized by the Danish Agency for Culture MINDCRAFT is an annual exhibition series which presents a curated selection of contemporary Danish craft and design: the 2015 edition being curated by Copenhagen based design studio GamFratesi and featuring works by, amongst others, benandsebastian, Cecilie Manz, Henrik Vibskov and Louise Campbell and as with all MINDCRAFT exhibitions aims to not only provide a succinct overview of contemporary Danish creativity but also explore the contemporary similarities and differences between design and craft.

MINDCRAFT15 opens at the Designmuseum Danmark, Bredgade 68, 1260 Copenhagen K on Friday September 18th and runs until Sunday January 31st

MINDCRAFT15 Chiostro Minore di San  Simpliciano Milan

MINDCRAFT15, here at Chiostro Minore di San Simpliciano Milan (Photo: © MINDCRAFT/Jule Hering, Courtesy Designmuseum Danmark

Posted in 5 New Design Exhibitions, Architecture, Bauhaus, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Sigurd-Larsen Sorte Hus Copenhagen
August 24th, 2015 by smow

As we noted in our recent review of contemporary creativity in Berlin, the creative landscape in the German capital is not just an eclectic composition of genres and philosophies but for all of nationalities: in addition to a, relatively, low number of native Berliner the Berlin creative community is characterised by a goodly mix of German and international creatives. International creatives such as the Danish architect Sigurd Larsen.

Following completion of his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture in Copenhagen Sigurd Larsen spent time in the offices of firms as varied as OMA-Rem Koolhaas in New York, MVRDV Rotterdam and Cobe Architects Copenhagen before moving to Berlin in 2008 to take up a position with with Topotek1 landscape architects and subsequently establishing his own architecture practice in 2009. Since going solo Sigurd Larsen has completed interior architecture projects for clients such as Zalando and the Voo Store Berlin in addition to developing and realising a wide range of architecture projects, the most recent being the so-called Sorte Hus in Copenhagen, a low-cost construction based on prefabricated components and a flexible construction principle which can be customised as required to fit local conditions and regulations.

Despite the scope of his architectural work we however were first introduced to Sigurd Larsen not through his architecture but his furniture design work: specifically the objects Concrete Table, Daybed Sideboard and The Shrine which Sigurd presented at DMY Berlin 2012, the latter being the most delightfully idiosyncratic and gracefully self-confident storage box with inbuilt record player. And that rare sort of project that once seen you never forget. More recently Sigurd Larsen has developed projects such as the charmingly brutalist Concrete Sideboard and the paired down Melbourne Collection, a family of tables, chairs and daybeds whose component copper, leather and steel have been selected less for the sense of unashamed decadence they convey and more to ensure a patina develops and thus increase the objects emotional value over time. Whereas Sigurd manufactures and distributes the aforementioned furniture himself, 2014 saw the release of Sigurd Larsen’s first cooperation with a commercial furniture brand: CLICK shelf for Berlin based label New Tendency. Crafted from powder coated steel, or in a luxurious copper version, CLICK shelf is a pleasingly minimal construction highly reminiscent of the plastic aircraft models of yore, but a lot less messy to assemble and a lot more formally pleasing, practical and durable.

To find out more about the man behind the works we met up with Sigurd Larsen to discuss the pros and cons of being based in Berlin and the interplay of furniture design and architecture, but began by asking, why Berlin?

Sigurd Larsen: I had often visited Berlin, had friends here, was familiar with and liked the city and so after graduating I decided to apply for some jobs in Berlin and was lucky enough to get one. In a way I always assumed it would be a temporary step, initially I didn’t think it was realistic for me to live and work as an architect in Berlin, I just hoped to stay here for as long as possible, and indeed for the first 18 months or so the majority of my belongings were still in my old flat in Copenhagen. But as it turned out it was possible and seven years later I’m still here.

smow blog: Which we presume means that for yourself Berlin is a good city to be based in and in which to work ?

Sigurd Larsen: Yes, very much so. It’s in the middle of everything, is internationally well connected, there are a lot of regular fairs and events while within the city there is a good infrastructure for getting things done and for finding work. I think as architects and designers we have got a lot to thank the Berlin art scene for, in many ways they paved the way and for example thanks to the artists a lot of the tradesmen and craftsmen in Berlin are used to building outrageous models and impossible prototypes and that is a really positive thing in Berlin. Plus there is a lot of international interest in what is going on in Berlin, people are paying attention to what is going on here, are coming here to see things for themselves and that makes it exciting to be based here.

smow blog: And we presume you cooperate with these “art experienced” craftsmen for your own furniture collection?

Sigurd Larsen: Yes, the furniture is made in Berlin and then I distribute it internationally through selected shops and also on-line. And what I really enjoy about the furniture production is that I have become friendly with a lot of the craftsmen involved and so I go along as an architect with my ideas and then they as craftsmen suggest possible ways to realise it and then we end up having long involved discussions about how best to proceed, and that is a process that I find very rewarding and interesting, and is something that I think is also very characteristic of the open atmosphere here in Berlin and something which happens with more ease in Berlin than anywhere else.

smow blog: While we’re on the subject of furniture, last year New Tendency released your CLICK shelf. How did the cooperation with New Tendency come about? Were you actively looking for a production partner, or……?

Sigurd Larsen: We met each other at a kind of “speed dating” event at the Danish Embassy here in Berlin. Once a year the combined Scandinavian Embassies invite Scandinavian creatives to meet local companies, journalists, galleries and others with whom one could, eventually, cooperate, it is a wonderful event with some very interesting guests, and there I first met New Tendency and we subsequently talked further and decided to try to develop a project together. Although to be honest I think we would have eventually met anyway because our networks cross at several points, but the event at the Danish Embassy was the facilitator.

smow blog: Was it a case of New Tendency asking you to develop a shelf or did the idea originate from yourself?

Sigurd Larsen: I suggested several proposals and then through discussions we came to the decision that the shelf fitted best into their programme, and obviously it is important that as a manufacturer you can offer a competent range of products and I’m very happy to have been able to contribute to the collection.

smow blog: And are you interested in further commercial cooperations, maybe with other producers, or is and was CLICK a one off and the focus now your own production?

Sigurd Larsen: In principle for every furniture project I would certainly be interested in finding a commercial partner, and that needn’t necessarily be here in Berlin. The cooperation with New Tendency is very good but I would be just as open for a partner elsewhere in Germany or overseas, if I felt it was the right company for that project.

smow blog: Changing tact a little, as everyone knows Berlin is currently the global start-up capital and everyone is falling over themselves to help the App developers. Do you have the feeling that as a result architects and designers suffer a little, that maybe as a group you’re a little ignored by the authorities?

Sigurd Larsen: I think as architects and designers we do our own thing, and who knows maybe one day the city will discover us! But yes I do feel we are a little bit ignored, but on the other hand it is up to us to develop and expand our businesses ourselves and not rely on grants and handouts. I’m not supposed to run a company that can only survive with funding but am supposed to run a company which generates a profit and can stand on its own two feet because people want to own the things I design!

smow blog: Something you’re currently doing very successfully! Do you think it has helped that you started in Berlin, it is perhaps easier to establish yourself as a young architect or designer in Berlin than say in Copenhagen?

Sigurd Larsen: That’s a very interesting question but obviously as I’ve only ever established a company in Berlin I don’t have the direct comparison. My feeling is that the location is not so important, however the one thing about establishing a business in Germany is that here there is a graded tax system which means that you start off paying little, or even no, tax, and then the more you earn the higher your tax rate, whereas in Denmark you pay 50% tax from day one, and that is pretty tough for a young, small business.

smow blog: And having now established yourself, and accepted that you can work here, where do you see your future, more towards furniture or towards architecture or will you continue to split your time between the two?

Sigurd Larsen: I will continue to work on both disciplines in parallel. As a Danish architect who designs furniture I’m not a pioneer, in a way we’ve always done that, a fact which I think has a lot to do with the Danish architecture education system. In Denmark you don’t study so much the engineering behind buildings and construction but rather you study creative processes, and these are ways of thinking that you can apply to buildings, urban planning or furniture, its just a question of understanding the scale of the project and controlling the creative process. In my case I have for example several furniture projects which began as buildings but were then scaled down, or in the other direction I made a furniture object called The Shrine, and we recently won a competition for the new Danish Culture Institute in Bordeaux, a building which is a wooden box within a glass box, and the wooden box is essentially The Shrine, just scaled up….

smow blog: ……excellent! But we hope it still involves a record player in some way…..

Sigurd Larsen: Well it’s a house of dance culture so some of the bigger rooms are conceived for hosting dance performances, and so in that respect, yes!

More details on Sigurd Larsen and his work can be found at

Sigurd Larsen Sorte Hus Copenhagen

Sorte Hus Copenhagen by Sigurd Larsen (Photo, courtesy of Sigurd Larsen)

NEW TENDENCY Sigurd Larsen CLICK shelf copper

CLICK shelf copper by Sigurd Larsen for New Tendency (Photo New Tendency, courtesy of Sigurd Larsen)

Sigurd Larsen The Shrine

The Shrine by Sigurd Larsen (Photo Sigurd Larsen)

Sigurd Larsen Melbourne Collection

Melbourne Collection by Sigurd Larsen (Photo Sigurd Larsen)

Posted in Architecture, Designer, Interview, Product Tagged with: ,

rescue station on Binz Beach by Ulrich Müther (completed 1968)
July 21st, 2015 by smow

The so-called “Teepott” on the promenade at Warnemünde on Germany’s Baltic See coast is a rare and precious construction.

Not only because of the way it starkly contrasts with the 19th century lighthouse next to it, nor on account of the delightful way it sweeps and flows in harmony with the dunes and water behind it, nor because it reminds of work by Eero Saarinen, Pier Luigi Nervi or Félix Candela, yet is geographically far removed from such. But much more because it is a work by the German engineer Ulrich Müther which is still in use today. One of only a tragically small number of buildings by one of the most interesting and important East German constructors which is still in use today.

(completed 1968, modernised 2002)

Teepott Warnemünde by Ulrich Müther (completed 1968, modernised 2002) (Photo OmiTs, via

Born in Binz on the Baltic See island of Rügen on July 21st 1934 as the son of a local architect and building contractor, Ulrich Müther belonged to that generation of East Germans who suffered from the perverse DDR logic that children of academics and the self-employed weren’t allowed to “graduate” from secondary school and thus were denied direct entry to further education – only children from working class and agricultural families were afforded such a privilege. Thus Ulrich Müther initially trained as a carpenter before attending the technical college in Neustrelitz and subsequently taking up a position in the Infrastructure Ministry in Berlin where he assisted with the planning of power stations. Parallel to working in Berlin Ulrich Müther completed a distance learning degree in civil engineering at Dresden Technical College, writing his graduation thesis on so-called hyperbolic paraboloid concrete constructions, or hypars – a mathematics heavy construction principle involving so-called double curved thin walled concrete shells, essentially saddle shaped constructions which on account of their inherent forces provide a very high degree stability with a minimum of materials.

Following the completion of his studies Ulrich Müther returned to Rügen in 1963 to take over the running of the family business; or at least what remained of it, the East German authorities having converted the former privately owned “Baugeschäft Willy Müther” into the collective “PGH Bau Binz”. Müther’s first commission as PGH Bau Binz was a roof for the so-called “Haus der Stahlwerker” holiday home in Binz, a commission he completed with a 14 m x 14 m, 7 cm thin, four hyper construction – a wonderfully reserved almost classic, construction, imagine four gable roofs fused as one single unit – before in 1966 he cooperated on the construction of a new exhibition hall for Rostock Trade Fair. The architect responsible for the exhibition hall was one Erich Kaufmann, chief architect for the regional housing cooperative, and who was so impressed by Ulrich Müther’s work on the exhibition hall that he subsequently commissioned Müther for numerous projects, including the Teepott in Warnemünde.

A popular meeting point on Warnemünde promenade since the 1920s the original Teepott had been all but destroyed in the war, yet locals continued to make use of what remained of the ruins as a makeshift meeting point. Responding to this obvious desire for a permanent Teepott, the authorities decided to build a replacement as part of the celebrations to mark the 750th anniversary of the Hansa port of Rostock in 1968. To compliment Erich Kaufmann’s essentially round structure Ulrich Müther devised a flowing 1200 square metre roof construction comprised of three curved concrete shells each with a thickness of just 7cm1. And so thus while Ulrich Müther wasn’t responsible for the building per se, he was responsible for giving the new Teepott its defining characteristic and its enduring charm, and thus must be considered if not the biological then certainly the spiritual father of the work.

Following the Teepott Ulrich Müther went on to complete a wide range of projects from multi-purpose halls and sports facilities over restaurants and supermarkets and onto religious houses, bus shelters and perhaps most impressively two rescue stations on the beach at Binz: the most delightfully space age constructions and works which unify functionality, aesthetics and an economical construction principle in a way the Bauhaüsler and their modernist cohorts could only dream of achieving.

rescue station on Binz Beach by Ulrich Müther (completed 1968)

Rescue station on Binz Beach by Ulrich Müther (completed 1968)

In addition to his many projects throughout East Germany, Ulrich Müther’s work can be found, or at least could have been found, in countries as varied and dispersed as Cuba, Jordan, Kuwait, Finland and even West Germany.

A particular focus of Ulrich Müther’s oeuvre was planetariums: not only are planetarium domes perfectly suited for the sort of thin shells Ulrich Müther specialised in, but one of the very first thin shell double curved constructions realised was the 1923 Carl-Zeiss-Planetarium in Jena2 – and it was in cooperation with Carl-Zeiss Jena that Ulrich Müther realised planetariums in, amongst other locations, Tripoli, Wolfsburg, Meddelin, East Berlin and Algeria. Carl-Zeiss providing the technology, Ulrich Müther the domes.

Ulrich Müther wasn’t the only engineer working on thin concrete shells in the DDR, he was however the leading protagonist of the double curved, hyperbolic paraboloid structure, the majority of his colleagues concentrating on simple curves or arches, and as such Ulrich Müther was responsible for bringing a certain international flair to the DDR, of producing constructions which added a new geometry to the urban landscape, and who achieved such without costing the authorities that much: whereas his constructions are and were relatively labour intensive to realise, they are not particularly material intensive, a combination which perfectly suited a regime which had access to lots of the former and little of the latter.

And a combination which meant that following the end of East Germany Ulrich Müther struggled to find customers for his, suddenly, very expensive creations; consequently, it is perhaps unsurprising that in 1999 Müther GmbH Spezialbetonbau filed for bankruptcy and Ulrich Müther entered a well-deserved, if not entirely voluntary, retirement. By all accounts a very private and reserved man Ulrich Müther spent his latter years quietly on Rügen where he died in his native Binz on August 21st 2007.

Seerose Potsdam by Ulrich Müther (completed 1980)

Seerose Potsdam by Ulrich Müther (completed 1980)

Despite having being involved in over 60 constructions, garnered global recognition for his work, advanced the understanding of thin concrete shell construction, generated much needed foreign income for the East German government and having almost single-handedly broken the quadratic monotony of East German urban spaces with his idiosyncratic peaks, points and curves, Ulrich Müther remained largely unknown then and has been largely forgotten since.

The respect with which Ulrich Müther’s work has been handled post-unification is perhaps best reflected in the fate of the so-called Ahornblatt – Maple Leaf – in Berlin. Opened in 1973 the Ahornblatt doubled as a self-service canteen during the day and an event location in the evening, and was characterised by, and named after, Ulrich Müther’s five pointed roof construction. Post unification the Ahornblatt was a perfectly serviceable structure which contrasted delightfully with the high-rise flats around it: and was demolished in 2000 to make way for a faceless, soulless hotel. A faceless, soulless quadratic hotel one understands. And a hotel in a part of Berlin full of hotels but lacking community centres and venues with an individual and personal charm for small scale, local, events. But then which urban planner thinks locally in these globalised, monetised, brand-led days?

Equally disrespectful treatment has been endured by many other Ulrich Müther works. By Müther’s own admission it took him fourteen months to calculate and plan the roof construction for the “Haus der Stahlwerker”3 – and, relatively speaking, 14 seconds for the post-unification owner to demolish Ulrich Müther’s first work in order to extend the new hotel’s wellness section. Müther at least knew that demolition was happening, when one of the two rescue stations in Binz was demolished, no-one thought to inform him. And even where his works still stand they are often in appalling states of disrepair or have been modernised beyond recognition.

The Ahornblatt Berlin by Ulrich Müther (completed 1973, demolished 2000)

The Ahornblatt Berlin by Ulrich Müther, here shortly before demolition (completed 1973, demolished 2000) (Photo Axel Mauruszat, via

Not that Ulrich Müther is alone in such respects, he shares his fate with many DDR architects and engineers whose work is and was rejected simply because of when it was created without any attempt to understand it in terms of its cultural importance, urban planning relevance and/or architecture historical interest. The DDR may have been a despicable totalitarian regime, but that doesn’t mean that all buildings from then should be demolished, many are not only historically important and/or aesthetic enrichments of their localities but often, as the Teepott in Warnemünde so eloquently demonstrates, poetic expressions of the power of considerate architecture and works whose internal layout can be effortlessly altered to allow for new uses.

Not that we’re arguing that all East German buildings should be preserved, that would be an outrageous and culpable demand. However, one need only view a lot of the travesties that have been built since 1990 to understand that in architecture new isn’t always good. Nor is capitalist construction necessarily better than Marxist-Leninist.

Given the hand history had dealt him Ulrich Müther had every right to be bitter. And few would have blamed him. It is testament to the character of the man that he wasn’t. In a 2003 interview with the magazine Brands Eins he reflected realistically, stoically, on the state of affairs, even hypothesising that “the demolition of the Ahornblatt in Berlin has rescued me from oblivion”4

It is a genuine shame it had to come that far. However there are fortunately enough Ulrich Müther constructions still standing to ensure that future generations can afford a more fitting, sensitive and respectful tribute to the man and his work than previous generations have managed.

Happy Birthday Ulrich Müther!

1. “Teepott” Rostock-Warnemünde, Deutsche Architektur, Nr 3 1969

2. Ulrich Müther, Constructions of double curvature shells for planetariums, Bulletin of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures, Nr 83 December 1983

3. Kai Michel, Nach der Utopie, Brand eins, Nr 9, 2003

4. ibid.

Zeiss-Großplanetarium by Berlin Ulrich Müther (completed 1986)

Zeiss-Großplanetarium Berlin by Ulrich Müther (completed 1986)

Christuskirche Rostock by Ulrich Müther (completed 1971)

Christuskirche Rostock by Ulrich Müther (completed 1971)

Teepott Warnemünde by Ulrich Müther

Teepott Warnemünde by Ulrich Müther

Posted in Architecture, Design Calendar, Designer Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2015 TEA43 by Dennis Nguyen
July 17th, 2015 by smow

It is probably fair to say that over the years and decades the Universität der Künste Berlin, UdK Berlin, has produced the majority of the more interesting and important Berlin designers. Whereas historically that was largely on account of the lack of alternatives; today the school has responded to the increasing competition by employing good sensible teaching staff who set the students good sensible semester projects and also give them the freedom to develop their own individual projects as they see fit. Good. Sensible. Or otherwise.

Such can be clearly observed at the 2015 Rundgang end of year exhibition.

By no ways a classic year, as with the recent Summaery 2015 at Bauhaus University Weimar several of the “standard” classes which are usually good, weren’t, and a lot of the free projects lacked any real conviction or well founded basis, too often we found ourselves not so much asking why a project had been developed but rather being asked to provide moral support for the project as it struggled with its own identity crisis. Who I am ? Why am I here? 42???? They cried. Answers we had none. Save that they were born innocent and free.

That said there were still a few projects that caught our attention.

Should you be in Berlin this weekend the UdK Rundgang 2015 can be viewed at various locations until 8pm on Sunday July 19th. What follows here concerns solely the design department,in addition the UdK Rundgang 2015 presents student works from the faculties of art, architecture, music, fashion, et al

Full details can be found at

Dinner for Two by Philipp Hainke

Because as a species we have an innate hang to kitsch and the soulless, our world is becoming ever more swamped by senseless electronic rabbits, flowers, cats and aliens which let you know when a loved one from who you are currently geographically far removed, is online. The flower blooms. The cat waves. The alien bleeps. Joy of joys, my darling is checking their social media updates. Digital closeness ensues. Dinner for two by Philipp Hainke is the analogue version of that, allowing as it does for non-verbal communication and a sense of spiritual togetherness over a distance of 1 meter.

And is all the more delightful, practical, interesting and endearing for it.

Created in context of the Hot Spots seminar Dinner for Two is a sea-saw with a table in the middle thus allowing for a convivial meal for two where the regular spheres for communication are added to by a continual, unpredictable movement induced by your dining partner. Not only does such allow for a direct instantaneous unspoken interaction between the two protagonists, but also forces you to consider the other. Who is heaviest? Tallest? Is it OK if I move now? Do they want me to move? Do I trust him/her? Why doesn’t he/she trust me?

And not that the meal need be convivial, a frosty, ill-tempered meal takes on a whole new character, enters unknown territories of theoretical cruelty, when your seating is physically linked.

Nor need a meal be involved. Quite aside from the thought of what would have happened had Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi had such a set up for their 1978 World Chess Championship “encounter”, Dinner for Two obviously becomes especially interesting as alcohol intake increases and perceived stability decreases.

A genuinely delightful concept we can image Dinner for Two working particularly well in public spaces as picnic tables. Or in the United Nations canteen.

Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2015 Dinner for Two by Philipp Hainke

Dinner for Two by Philipp Hainke, as seen at the Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2015

TEA43 by Dennis Nguyen

Although Dennis Nguyen conceived and designed TEA43 for the subtle and refined ritual of tea drinking, we can’t help mentaly filling the porcelain vesicle with beer. Sorry, it’s just the way we are, and we are far too old and stubborn to change. TEA43 is pronounced “Tea for three” and is intended as a tea pot for enhancing the communal tea drinking experience. The stand on which the pot rests contains a tea light to keep the tea warm and the tea can be poured from any “side” and in any direction. However for us as a concept for tea TEA43 simply doesn’t work. The pouring process is wrong, one doesn’t need three spouts, one needs one. But for beer, as a central feature on a beer garden table. Perfect. Maybe using the joint system developed by Eric Wester for his criminally overlooked Standing Task Light and then you have a pitcher that pitches. But doesn’t fall over. And yes, as an alternative one could also add water, say on a restaurant table or a family dining table.

Which isn’t to say we don’t like or appreciate the work Dennis Nguyen put into the project, we do. A lot. It’s a well considered and reasoned project. We just feel an alternative conclusion could/should have been reached.

But as ever, what do we know.

Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2015 TEA43 by Dennis Nguyen

TEA43 by Dennis Nguyen, as seen at the Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2015

Knot a Tent by Christine Oehme & Pauline Schlautmann

A tent is in essence a very simple object. Knot a Tent is an even simpler object, and a delightful pun.

Developed by Christine Oehme and Pauline Schlautmann in context of the 2nd semester class “Fluss or Regen” – River or Rain – the essence of Knot a Tent is a silicon connector, visually reminiscent of a bow tie or an abstract femur bone, and which can be used to secure any number of sturdy sticks as a tripod, and thus be used to construct a makeshift tent.

Why not just use a piece of rope? ask the clever kids at the front of the class.

A question to which we have no convincing or truthful answer, other than Knot a Tent offers an advanced version of the classic rope in a more compact and easier to transport form crafted from a material which isn’t likely to deteriorate over time or rain and whose operation involves no mastery of the black art of knot tying in order to ensure stability. In addition Knot a Tent allows for speedier tent construction than when messing about with ropes, something very important if it is already raining.

In addition, and yes clever clogs, as with rope, Knot a Tent can be used in a wide range of contexts. Many of you will no doubt remember Danish Dynamite by Alexander Muchenberger from Milan 2014, Knot a Tent can easily be employed to create just such a Knot a Stool or Knot a Table or simply as a universal hanging/fixing/connecting device in any number of situations, locations and contexts. Domestic or in the wilderness.

And where rope may not be applicable.

Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2015 Knot a Tent Christine Oehme Pauline Schlautmann

Knot a Tent Christine Oehme & Pauline Schlautmann, as seen at the Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2015

Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2015 Knot a Tent by Christine Oehme Pauline Schlautmann

Knot a Tent by Christine Oehme & Pauline Schlautmann, as seen at the Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang 2015

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows Tagged with: , ,

DMY Berlin 2015: H20 - Tea by induction by Marta Suslow
June 19th, 2015 by smow

“Fancy a cup of tea?”
“Oh, yes please! Thank you!”
“OK, I’ll put the kettle on”

Boiling water for tea is a process as old as, well…… the drinking of hot tea.

And a process that has remained largely unchanged since.

When change has come it has invariably been influenced by technology: kettles over open fires, kettles on stoves, electric kettles.
But always involving a kettle.
(Accepting that is that the samovar is a “kettle”…….and even if you don’t, the samovar has undergone a similar progression from organic fuel to electric)

But why the reliance on the kettle? Are there not alternatives?

For her graduation project at the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin Marta Suslow investigated a possible alternative, a teapot in which one boils the water directly.

Featuring a cast iron body with wooden handle and lid Marta’s TeapotKettle, as we alone are calling it, harnesses the power of induction to bring the water to the boil, once the water has boiled a teabag can be placed inside the TeapotKettle and the object taken to your living room/garden/bedroom/wherever you want to enjoy your tea.

It’s that simple.

If we’ve read the information correctly there could/should be a version with an LED display that tells you how warm the water is.

We say reject that concession to tea fetishists, yes white tea may greatly appreciate a water temperature of exactly 83.8 degrees Celsius. Guess. Boil the water, let it cool for a couple of minutes, it’ll be fine. In addition, by remaining with the cast iron body and wooden lid you keep the design as low tech and simple as possible which creates a nice harmony with and tribute to the traditional Japanese Tetsubin, a delightful piece of functional utilitarian craftsmanship. And not an object we’ve ever come across with an LED display.

What we would however appeal for is a removable/retractable cage under the lid and into which one could place loose tea or fresh herbs.

Although on the one hand about updating the process by which tea is made, utilizing contemporary technology to make a traditional process more efficient, H20 – Tea by induction by Marta Suslow is also about creating a unity of culture between domestic space and kitchen and about improving the aesthetics of everyday objects to make our lives more pleasurable.

A combination of factors which makes us wonder why Wilhelm Wagenfeld never came up with such an idea.

Obviously not everyone is going to like Marta Suslow’s project, potters for example will fear the death of the valuable teapot trade; however, for our part we find the idea not only charming and intriguing but a very nice piece of design research.

Should anything come of it, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Full details can be found at

DMY Berlin 2015: H20 - Tea by induction by Marta Suslow

DMY Berlin 2015: H20 – Tea by induction by Marta Suslow. The Teapot/Kettle

Posted in Designer, DMY Berlin, Exhibitions and Shows Tagged with: , , ,

DMY Berlin 2015: FS Modular Shelving System by Philipp Beisheim
June 16th, 2015 by smow

There is little in this world that brings us more pleasure than a good modular shelving system.

We know that sentence speaks volumes about the state of our alleged “lives”, but we’re not embarrassed to admit it.

We like shelves.

Consequently, given that it appears that everybody but everybody is developing a modular shelving system and that as a result you currently can’t visit a furniture fair or design event without stumbling every few metres across another new system, these would appear to be heady days for the likes of us.

And they would be, were in not for the fact that the vast majority of the new systems demanding our attention are much a muchness, and not especially new, thus making it rare to find something to get excited about.

Rare, but not impossible

As SF by Frankfurt based, South African born designer Philipp Beisheim ably demonstrates.

Just as Deee-Lite knew that Groove Is in the Heart so to is the heart of the SF system a groove which runs around the quadratic horizontal segments and into which one slots the vertical supports. That the user is free to insert the vertical stabs where they want, albeit within the confines of the 3 pre-defined shelf lengths, SF is an eminently flexible system which allows for constructions with individual geometries and which can be disassembled and reconfigured as required.
Tool-free. Obviously

Presenting itself in a pleasingly light, eminently accessible visual form, what really appeals to us is the self-effacing simplicity of the system. A lot of designers try to make their systems stand out in that they integrate all manner of options, functionalities and extras, Philipp Beisheim hasn’t. And has thus created a shelving system that allows you to achieve everything you want and need from such a shelving system without any unnecessary fuss or distractions.

And that based on nothing more complicated or ground-breaking than good carpentry.

Still a prototype Philipp Beisheim is currently looking for a manufacturer, an endeavour in which we wish him every success.

More details can be found at

DMY Berlin 2015: SF Modular Shelving System by Philipp Beisheim

DMY Berlin 2015: SF Modular Shelving System by Philipp Beisheim

DMY Berlin 2015: SF Modular Shelving System by Philipp Beisheim

DMY Berlin 2015: SF Modular Shelving System by Philipp Beisheim

DMY Berlin 2015: SF Modular Shelving System by Philipp Beisheim

DMY Berlin 2015: SF Modular Shelving System by Philipp Beisheim

Posted in Designer, DMY Berlin, Exhibitions and Shows Tagged with: , , , , ,

Klein's Lamp by Lucien Dubuis
June 14th, 2015 by smow

Customs are a form of social regulation. Love them or loath them customs allow us to form connections, to find a sense of stability and order, to differentiate ourselves from others, align ourselves with others, and not least enjoy regular festivities and parties as customs are celebrated and/or enacted.

Customs are therefore inherently good.

Unless it is the sort of Customs which sit at the border between two counties and stop a young Swiss ceramicist displaying their work at an international design festival.

That’s a bad custom(s)

At which point we’d like to hastily we add we have no information as to the background to the problem and attach no blame for the non-appearance of any works in any respect to the customs officials involved.

But still. Boo!

DMY Berlin 2015: Klein's Lamp by Lucien Dubuis

DMY Berlin 2015: Klein’s Lamp by Lucien Dubuis

We’ve not seen Klein’s Lamp by Lucien Dubuis, however our innate sense of fair play and solidarity leads us to say that it is a series of enamel LED lamps created by Lucien Dubuis from the Atelier Poterie de Gruyére in Bulle, Switzerland, and is inspired by the so-called Klein’s bottle: a non-orientable surface described by the German mathematician Felix Klein in 1882. Essentially formed from the fusion of two Möbius loops Klein’s bottle is a vesicle who’s inside is also its outside. Impractical for carrying fluids, but perfectly suitable as a lamp.

We’ll have more to say should we ever get the chance to view Klein’s Lamp by Lucien Dubuis.

An event which we assume, should it happen, will happen in Switzerland.

Klein's Lamp by Lucien Dubuis

Klein’s Lamp by Lucien Dubuis in two versions

Posted in Designer, DMY Berlin, Exhibitions and Shows Tagged with: , , , ,

DMY Berlin 2015: Splitting Wood by Bastian Austermann
June 13th, 2015 by smow

The first thing any carpentry apprentice does is build their own wooden toolbox.

It makes sense. You’re learning to work with wood, you will need somewhere to keep all your chisels and saws. So you build a toolbox.

The first thing anyone wanting to chop logs does is make their own wooden axe head


Or perhaps better put


But why couldn’t it be the case, for as HFBK Hamburg student Bastian Austermann demonstrates with his Splitting Wood project, such is eminently possible.

What began as project exploring the borders of what was possible with wood by asking if it was possible to use wood to chop wood, has ended in the affirmative.

Crafted from guayacan, Lignum Vitae, a tree species found in South America and the Caribbean and acknowledged for its strength and durability, the axe head is resilient enough for splitting logs, but not felling trees.

Nor has it been tested in long term tests and so no-one is really sure how durable and long lasting it is, but then most of us don’t spend all day everyday splitting logs, and so the actual use time is likely to be limited.

A pure handicraft product, and potentially not the cheapest or most practical of axes your ever likely to encounter, at the moment Splitting Wood is unquestionably an object for showing off to your neighbours and relations, for keeping in your weekend house as a reminder of life’s simple pleasures, or even – and given the lightness of the axe – taking with you on a weekend trekking or cycling tour, assuming that is you can be certain of finding logs for splitting on your way. Or put another way, it’s the sort of object we can imagine the likes of Nils Holger Moormann would take with him before spending a weekend in his Walden.

Truly interesting would be if the axe head could be developed to allow for chopping down trees, or at least removing branches, and if a form and material can be found to allow for effective, cheap, semi-industrial production and thus make it an object for everyday use, not least because part of the beauty of the work is that should the axe head break, you can burn it. No waste. No fuss.

But more importantly Splitting Wood by Bastian Austermann is a lovely example of what can happen when designers undertake well planned and well thought through material research projects. It needn’t result in a commercial product, just new understandings, new perspectives and new lines of enquiry.

DMY Berlin 2015: Splitting Wood by Bastian Austermann

DMY Berlin 2015: Splitting Wood by Bastian Austermann

Posted in Designer, DMY Berlin, Exhibitions and Shows Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Fish Futures by Martí Guixé, as seen at Pet Market, Galerie erstererster, Berlin
June 13th, 2015 by smow

Much as we adore our pets they can be troublesome. Be it the cat the refuses to move from your bed, the dog that chews your shoes, pillows, newspapers et al, or the sweary parrot embarrassing us at every (inopportune) moment. If only we could distract them. Maybe we should treat them better? Or at least treat them to better possessions, to objects that meet a standard of functionality and design quality that we demand from our objects. We’re not averse to claiming our pets are family members, why not put as much consideration into the objects they use on a daily basis as we put into those used by our other family members?

Such, or at least similar, thoughts form the background to the exhibition Pet Market currently showing at Galerie erstererster in Berlin

DMY Design Spots 2015: Pet Market at Galerie erstererster

DMY Design Spots 2015: Pet Market at Galerie erstererster Berlin

Pet Market began as semester project at the Kunsthochschule Kassel under the direction of Tanja Seiner, who is also curator of the exhibition. “I became aware that we are increasingly sharing our living spaces with animals, that there appears to be ever more pets in our lives”, explains Tanja, “and so I set my students the task of design a product for pets and humans, not just an object for the pet alone, not just an object for the human alone, but an object for both.”

Buoyed by the success of the students works Tanja asked established designers and artists of her acquaintance to do the same. The results of the exercise can be viewed in Pet Market, and range from the sublime to ridiculous, which of course is exactly what you want from such an exhibition, it should, must, push boundaries at both ends.

The practical end of the Pet Market spectrum features object such as Schmoozen by Jennifer Meyer, a shell-shaped cat basket for your lap and which allows you to stroke you’re cat without getting cat hairs on your clothes, perfect for that last bit of togetherness before you head out for the night, or indeed an important business meeting; or the Katon cardboard cat box by Leo Berger, a foldable, stackable box for cats to sit on or sleep in – and developed in cooperation with real cats to ensure it finds feline favour. The more abstract end of Pet Market includes projects such as, well…… lets just say……. BirdKiteKit by Silvia Knüppel, a leather harness attached to a piece of kite rope for taking your pet budgie or parrot for a quick fly, or Christof Flötotto & Sven Funcke’s jumpers for tortoises. Although having said that…. Given that you can buy clothes for other animals, why not your tortoise? Plus with a nice woolly jumper your tortoise can avoid hibernation and thus spend the winter months nice and warm in your living room. And while the product’s name is perhaps zoologically not quite 100% correct, in all other respects it is perfect: Turtleneck

In between these two extremes, and as ever we know and understand that such showcases aren’t a contest, there is no Best of Breed or Best in Show rosettes to be awarded, we were very taken with the Kaze 100, Modell Fungi by Max Kosoric & Sanne Pawelzyk – essentially resting places for cats which can be attached to tress and which resemble bracket fungi and are thus a lovely bit of observational design – and also by the cat scratching lamp Catlights by Silvia Knüppel. The cat scratching post is without question one of the most awful objects ever created. A truly atrocious piece of work and an object derived from Satan’s deep understanding of the human psyche, of the frailties held within and the unrivalled mastery with which his dark sense of humour exploits such. If you want to understand evil, buy a cat scratching post. But a cat scratching lamp: a floor lamp which you can use as a lamp and your cat can scratch, and chase as it rocks back and forth. Brilliant.

Turtleneck Christof Flötotto & Sven Funcke, as seen at Pet Market, Galerie erstererster, Berlin

Turtleneck by Christof Flötotto & Sven Funcke, as seen at Pet Market, Galerie erstererster, Berlin

Although it is very easy to dismiss an exercise such as Pet Market as nothing but messing about, honestly design for pets? Have we not enough problems in the world? Have you nothing better to do? Designers!!!!

Its not.

On the one hand why shouldn’t pets have access to well designed objects? And no we don’t mean jewel encrusted pipes for cats, hamster bibs, tablet computers for dogs or other “lifestyle” products for those members of society who regularly prove that wealth is inversely proportional to taste; but good quality, intelligently designed objects for pets which improve the life and well-being of both animals in the relationship. And strengthen the relationship. “The majority of products currently available for pets are more concerned with human needs than those of the animals”, says Tanja Seiner, “and while yes when, for example, we have objects for our pets in our homes they must naturally meet certain aesthetic criteria, it is also important that the human needs don’t run roughshod over the requirements of the animals.”
The solution to that balancing act is part of the reason behind the “Market” concept. The visitors should imagine that the objects on display are actually commercially available. Would you buy them? Why? Would you not buy them? Why not? With such questions comes a discourse over our relationships to our pets, what we do for, to and with our pets, what we don’t do for, to and with our pets. Where is the balance? How much of my pet is me? How much of me is my pet. And ultimately, do we need pets? And while interestingly none of the contributors produced an “anti-pet” project, two did produce projects without animal content. PURRRRR by Dietrich Luft, for example, is a wearable fluffy cushion that purrrrrrrrs. And as such is the purrrrrfect cat replacement for the urban worker with neither time nor space for a cat, or indeed those have have both, but no desire to own one. Similarly Olaf Val’s TweetingBitPlant translates incoming twitter messages into bird song, thus you have avian accompaniment to your day, without the cage. Or the swearing.

The “market” concept is also interesting because the pet goods market is one of the few commercial markets where product designers aren’t heavily involved. We have no idea why that is, have many inklings as to why that may be, but nothing we can substantiate. What is however beyond doubt, as Pet Market perfectly demonstrates, is that when asked designers are capable of either developing new products or improving existing objects which bring an added value to pet related goods, a fact which must be in everyone’s interest: designers, manufacturers, consumers, pets.

Finally, and arguably most importantly in terms of the current exhibition, a project such as Pet Market is a valid exercise because it is always good for designers to test themselves in new areas, not least because it brings new perspectives and new ideas into their work. When all is said and done the job of a designer is problem solving, that problem may be an office chair, may be a shelving system, a street light, a blood sugar measuring device….. or something for a cat. It is all the same. But if you only work in one area, with one process, material or object you become stale, lack focus. Trying new things, finding new impulses, new perspectives always helps you develop as a designer, and can also allow you to help wider society reflect in new ways.

The American designer and author George Nelson famously lectured on the benefits a design led approach brings to killing, not because he wanted to make killing more efficient but because he wanted to explain the benefits of good design thinking while highlighting designers responsibilities, and in doing so made 1960s America aware how pointless the arms race was; the Swiss architect Fritz Haller famously designed a space colony, not because he wanted us to live in space but by through the challenge of designing a space colony he hoped to gain fresh insights into how to improve terrestrial colony design, and also make us all think about why we might need a space colony; the Spanish designer Martí Guixé famously created Fish Futures, a series of design objects and spatial features for aquariums. And a project on show as part of Pet Market.

Featuring 13 scenarios including, for example, a chill out zone, a food area and the so-called “aquarium in aquarium” Fish Futures is not about aquarium architecture and piscine pleasure but contemporary social questions, the fish is but the conduit, and as we reflect on what the fish is doing, what it is thinking about the environment in which it finds itself, it its happy, if it is a good solution that the designer has created, if its necessary, we invariably, if unconsciously, place ourselves in the fish’s position and can thus be motivated to swap the world of the fish for the world of our own.
Less an aquarium, more a mirror. And thus an excellent extension of the Pet Market, being as it is as much about the contemporary nature of pet/human relationships as it is about cat baskets, hamster cages or dog bowls.

Catlights by Silvia Knüppel, as seen at Pet Market, Galerie erstererster, Berlin

Catlights by Silvia Knüppel, as seen at Pet Market, Galerie erstererster, Berlin

An intelligently thought through project Pet Market works at both a design theory and design practice level, can however also be enjoyed for the objects on display and what they are, with no need to search for a deeper meaning, a fact which, when combined with the uncomplicated shop-style exhibition design, makes Pet Market an eminently accessible and highly enjoyable exhibition around a subject to which only very few of us rarely give even a modicum of thought.

The exhibition in Berlin is the Pet Market’s public première, but, and all going to plan, not the end. “Ideally I would not only like to show the exhibition elsewhere but also invite further designers to participate” says Tanja, “and for all I would like to involve designers from other cultures because I think that would result in an expression of perspectives on the subject far removed from those of the German designers we have here.”

Design for pets is niche; however, it is a field with a lot of potential, the start Tanja Seiner and her colleagues have made with Pet Market is very promising, we look forward to the continuation.

And to the demise of the cat scratching post.

Pet Market can be viewed at Galerie erstererster, Pappelallee 69, 10437 Berlin until Saturday June 20th

Full details can be found at

Posted in Designer, DMY Berlin, Exhibitions and Shows, Product Tagged with: , , , ,

DMY Berlin 2015 The Shrinking Office Project by Roy Yin
June 12th, 2015 by smow

As we have often noted in these pages, a combination of increasing automation, advancing technology, the changing nature of industry and commerce and the associated evolution of the term “office work” will increasingly enforce changes in office furniture design. And we’re not being particularly clever or perceptive when we say such, its simply how the process works, how office furniture design has always progressed: be it the evolution of the office chair in the 19th century as ever more workers spent their days sitting in offices managing industry’s rise; George Nelson and Robert Propst’s Action Office project for Herman Miller from 1964 which sought to make American offices healthier and more productive as technology made American office work more mundane and depressing; or the rise of “hot desking” as advanced computer technology meant workers were no longer tied to one computer and one telephone on one desk.

The challenge for designers is, and has always been, to create new systems that respond to the new requirements.

The Shrinking Office Project by Rotterdam based, Royal Academy Of Art The Hague graduate Roy Yin is one of the more promising solutions we have seen of late.

Nothing more complicated than a collection of connected tables of differing heights The Shrinking Office Project offers users a range of working positions and working heights, be that individually or in a group, in an active yet unimposing construction.

No we’re obviously not proposing The Shrinking Office Project as an office furniture solution in its own right, that would be outrageous; however, as part of an integrated office landscape which features a range of what industry experts would invariably call “zones”, the idea has an awful lot of promise.

Still a prototype the ideas inherent in the concept require a bit of development before it can become truly universally applicable, not least we’d like to see it as a modular system that the user can adapt, expand or reduce as required, some form of storage would be useful and also a little more consideration given as to how one can integrate technology into the system. By which we mean of course electricity.

But regardless of such, as it stands the Shrinking Office Project is a very nice concept which explores contemporary office design in an intelligent, realistic fashion and is a project whose development we are thoroughly looking forward to following.

More details can be found at

DMY Berlin 2015 The Shrinking Office Project by Roy Yin

The Shrinking Office Project by Roy Yin, as seen at DMY Berlin 2015

DMY Berlin 2015 The Shrinking Office Project by Roy Yin

The Shrinking Office Project by Roy Yin, as seen at DMY Berlin 201

Posted in Architecture, Designer, DMY Berlin, Exhibitions and Shows, Office Furniture Tagged with: , , , , ,

Structural Skin New material by Jorge Penades, as seen at DMY Berlin 2015
June 12th, 2015 by smow

When making biscuits, after having cut out the required shapes you invariably have a lot of dough left over, dough you clump together, roll out again and use to make more biscuits. A process which can be repeated ad nauseam until all your dough is used.

With leather you can’t.

Having cut the required shapes from your chosen piece of leather you are left with a lot of holes surrounded by a lot of waste leather.

It is therefore little surprise that the furniture, fashion, automotive, luxury goods and associated industries generate an awful lot of leather waste; leather waste which all too often well meaning if erring “upcyclers” transform into mobile phone cases, purses and other contemporary sows ears.

They are however at least using the leather, a resource far too valuable, and far too slow decaying, to be simply binned.

Istituto Europeo di Design Madrid graduate Jorge Penadés’ Structural Skin process is much more gratifying.

Having shredded the waste leather he mixes it with “bone glue”, collagen derived from cooking animal bones, presses the mix together and thus forms a new material. The finished pieces are then smoothed and treated with shellac.

Not the most vegan friendly process in contemporary design we’ll grant you, but one which is many ways reminiscent of how Dirk Vander Kooij forms his Melting Pot Tables or Mieke Meijer her NewspaperWood, just the waste plastic/newspaper being replaced by waste leather, and more importantly a process which results in a new material with new properties, new applications and new possibilities.

Visually very reminiscent of marbled paper, or, and at the risk of taking the animal theme a little too far, the cellular structure of muscle, LeatherWood as Jorge Penadés doesn’t call it but we might, is very reminiscent of wood, can be handled as wood and can be used as wood. Jorge hasn’t yet tested its full durability, so load bearing capacity at different rod thicknesses etc, however it can hold a screw, and by way of completion of his graduation project Jorge has created a number of objects from his new material, and is displaying two side tables at DMY 2015

We’re not going to claim the objects he has created from the new material were or are to our liking; for us they are little too baroque, a little too rich Parisian window with her yappy dog, cigarettes and stories of lunch with Karl Lagerfeld; but the project is about the material not the objects, and as a material Structural Skin is a genuinely delightful project, obviously one still at a very early development stage, but one for which we hope Jorge can find a commercial partner to help him develop it further and thus not only find a worthy use for a noble material, but save us from the upcyclers.

More information can be found at

Structural Skin New material by Jorge Penades, as seen at DMY Berlin 2015

Structural Skin – New material by Jorge Penades, as seen at DMY Berlin 2015

Structural Skin New material by Jorge Penades, as seen at DMY Berlin 2015

Structural Skin – New material by Jorge Penades, as seen at DMY Berlin 2015

Structural Skin New material by Jorge Penades, as seen at DMY Berlin 2015

Structural Skin – New material by Jorge Penades, as seen at DMY Berlin 2015

Structural Skin New material by Jorge Penades, as seen at DMY Berlin 2015

Structural Skin – New material by Jorge Penades, as seen at DMY Berlin 2015

Structural Skin New material by Jorge Penades, as seen at DMY Berlin 2015

Structural Skin – New material by Jorge Penades, as seen at DMY Berlin 2015

Posted in smow Tagged with: , , , ,

June 12th, 2015 by smow

In context of DMY 2015 the Berlin/Beijing based cultural exchange association Migrant Birds are presenting the exhibition Modern Fossils, a solo exhibition of works by the Beijing based artist and designer Song Tao.

Migrant Birds present Modern Fossils by Song Tao

Migrant Birds present Modern Fossils by Song Tao

Born in Shanghai in 1969 Song Tao initially graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 1986 before moving to France to complete a Masters degree in Plastic Arts at the Université Paris 1.

Although Song Tao’s work has been the subject of regular solo exhibitions in China, he has only rarely been shown in Europe; Modern Fossils is his first exhibition in Germany and follows on from a more expanded exhibition of his works at the Centre Culturel de Chine á Paris.

Trained as an artist and still very much active as an artist in the classic sense, Song Tao has been active as a designer for twenty years and, and by his own admission, sees little difference in the motivations and process of the two genres, other than with design the end objects has, or at least is intended to have, a functional quality not required in the art works.

We’re not going to claim to be experts of Song Tao’s complete canon, but those works we have seen tend to combine concepts, materials and approaches, and for all mix traditional Chinese objects with modern materials and/or more contemporary understandings of aesthetics and functionality and which thus create objects that are as much bridges between differing times or cultures as they are functional products.

So to the Modern Fossils collection.

Featuring a combination of antique elm set in an amber-esque resin and supported by stalks of brass bamboo, the pieces reflect the important role elm, amber, and for all bamboo have played and continue to play in Chinese culture and society.

At times bordering on the unnecessarily decadent, at times appearing the very epitome of reserved majesty and grace, the works are not instantly accessible, we, for example, were greatly reminded of the Tools for Life collection by OMA for Knoll, a family of objects which it genuinely took us a couple of days to get used too. And a family which contains a couple of members with whom we still have no friendly relationship.

Not so with Modern Fossils, while initially unfamiliar, a little off-putting, the “getting to know” phase is relatively short, you very quickly learn to follow the logic and thinking behind the pieces and become accustomed to material and form language. And while yes, as we say, at times the pieces can appear unnecessarily decadent…. they’re supposed to. As benches, tables and the like, they are unquestionably functional objects and nobody could criticise you for using them as such; but they are equally unquestionably conceptual gallery pieces, created to make a statement and to be enjoyed and valued for what they are as much as what they can do. The contradiction between the visual impression and the material, between the opulence and the inherent simplicity, between the history and the perpetuity is part of the collections charm, the feeling of alienation from something so familiar is just delightful. As is the way character of the objects changes as light refracts and dances through the bonbon amber; fossils they may be, but they ain’t dead.

Summus Aqua by Song Tao, as seen at Modern Fossils, Berlin

Summus Aqua by Song Tao, as seen at Modern Fossils, Berlin

As a collection title Modern Fossils is certainly appropriate for there is an undeniable sense of something being preserved in the works, of holding time and saying this where we are, this is what we are. A permanent, unchanging reminder of cultural norms which will remain long after all natural matter has decayed and vanished. Yet just as palaeontological fossils give us clues as to the world gone and for all why it went, so to can Song Tao’s Modern Fossils help us shape a more sustainable future. Bamboo as simple legs for a table featuring a table top salvaged from a piece of furniture or a building to which one attaches personal importance. There are more complicated and resource intensive ways to make furniture. And luxury isn’t always amber, antique elm and brass. Sometimes it is just a table or bench.

In addition to being Song Tao’s first Germany exhibition Modern Fossils is also the first of a series of exhibitions of contemporary Chinese design being organised by Migrant Birds in Berlin; a series with which Migrant Birds hope to both continue the Sino-Germanic cultural dialogue while at the same time giving a platform to the increasing number of contemporary author designers working in China.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated.

And for all in or near Berlin, Modern Fossils by Song Tao can be viewed at Zhong Gallery, Koppenplatz 5, 10115 Berlin until Saturday July 11th

Full details can be found at

Posted in Designer, DMY Berlin, Exhibitions and Shows Tagged with: , , , ,

BLOW vases by Ruben der Kinderen, as seen at Contemporary Creation Processes in Design at DAD Galerie Berlin
June 11th, 2015 by smow

As we believe we’ve said before, and assume we will repeat in the future, contemporary Dutch design is largely, though not exclusively, about the research, and the subsequent processes invariably developed. If it leads to a product, that’s good. But it needn’t.

That it however often does can be experienced in the exhibition Contemporary Creation Processes in Design on show at DAD Galerie Berlin.

Curated by Berlin based, Eindhoven graduate Ruben der Kinderen Contemporary Creation Processes in Design presents works by four Dutch design studio whereby regardless how appealing or otherwise one finds the end result, the focus is on the production process.

Contemporary Creation Processes in Design at DAD Galerie Berlin

Contemporary Creation Processes in Design at DAD Galerie Berlin

In 2010 Kirstie van Noort travelled to Cornwall to, in her own words, “research the extensive influence of the mining industry onto the landscape.” For centuries ore and coal mining was the backbone of the Cornish economy and was an industry which in addition to supporting England’s economic rise also gave the world the Cornish pasty. Kirstie van Noort’s interest however was principally residues, rock and soil samples collected from sites associated with the Cornish porcelain, copper and tin industries. Back in Eindhoven Kirstie used these collected mineral containing materials as the basis for a series of unique ceramic paints which reflect the natural landscape and industrial heritage of the location from which the original material was collected. Applied to simple ceramic objects the result is collection of bowls and cups as unique as the few square metres of Cornwall from which the colour originates.

The Research Collection by Kirstie van Noort, as seen at Contemporary Creation Processes in Design at DAD Galerie Berlin

The Research Collection by Kirstie van Noort, as seen at Contemporary Creation Processes in Design at DAD Galerie Berlin

With their Open Objects project Lotte de Raadt & Dirk Osinga have created a chair which is supplied as seven individual elements that the user can assemble as they see fit. Although essentially a modular concept, it is much more an open design concept, and for all an open design processes concept. Open design process are, for us, the future of the furniture industry. Which no doesn’t mean a future of DIY and crate furniture. Most us can’t or simply don’t want to get involved in DIY, have absolute no interest in making things; however, the processes, for example, CNC routing, laser cutting or 3D printing allow for fast, efficient, decentralised, customisable production, something which has not only environmental, economic and social advantages, but also offers the end user more choice. The challenge for manufacturers and designers is how to make that process as simple and as accessible as possible for customer so that we all benefit. The Open Objects chair isn’t a particularly aesthetically charming product, however the idea is a very promising suggestion for a possible future solution.

Open Objects chair by Lotte de Raadt & Dirk Osinga, as seen at Contemporary Creation Processes in Design at DAD Galerie Berlin

Open Objects chair by Lotte de Raadt & Dirk Osinga, as seen at Contemporary Creation Processes in Design at DAD Galerie Berlin

The last project we saw from Eindhoven based Jetske Visser was her Holon “spinning bubble”, presented as part of the Dutch Invertuals Body Language exhibition in Milan. A confusingly futuristicly analogue creation Holon is one of those design research project where you kind of know that it will probably go somewhere very interesting. But you don’t know where. Jetske’s HYDRO-PHOBIA scarf project is much simpler, but no less captivating. Essentially Jetske has applied the centuries old process of marbled paper production to textiles. With marbled paper a coloured pattern is created from paints dispersed in water, a piece paper is laid on top and the pattern thus transferred. For the HYDRO-PHOBIA scarf an oil based pigment is dispersed in water and the resulting pattern transferred to a piece of silk. The result is the most delightfully filigree patterns reminiscent of frost on a poorly insulated window or the dessicated marks on conservatory walls when the ivy has faded. And naturally every piece is as unique as marbled paper. No the HYDRO-PHOBIA scarf doesn’t advance society, but then it is textile design and its aim is to beautify society. Which it achieves.

HYDRO-PHOBIA scarf by Jetske Visser, as seen at Contemporary Creation Processes in Design at DAD Galerie Berlin

HYDRO-PHOBIA scarf by Jetske Visser, as seen at Contemporary Creation Processes in Design at DAD Galerie Berlin

As a general rule industrialisation involves taking traditional manual, analogue production process and automating them. Not only does thereby a lot of the charm of the end product get lost, but also a lot of the understanding for how the process actually works. Something that is especially true when industrialisation creates new processes to meet changing demands and conditions. Who knows for example how PET bottles are made? Essentially it is an adaptation of glass blowing. Firstly an object the size an shape of a test tube is created. These are the “inflated” into the bottles. In order to both demonstrate this, and also claim the industrial process for the manual world Ruben der Kinderen has developed a process which makes use of the principles of PET bottle production, yet which can be used on your kitchen table; and which results in objects with all the grace of blown glass objects. Yes, we should be trying to reduce our reliance on PET bottles, but no one is suggesting that Ruben’s process should become industrial and ultimately it is not about the end result, but understanding that by not understanding how modem industrial processes function we become ever further alienated form the world we inhabit. And for all looking for a permanent reminder of such, Ruben has created a collection of vases which combine PET with copper, and is developing a collection of LED PET lamps.

BLOW vases by Ruben der Kinderen, as seen at Contemporary Creation Processes in Design at DAD Galerie Berlin

BLOW vases by Ruben der Kinderen, as seen at Contemporary Creation Processes in Design at DAD Galerie Berlin

While Ruben der Kinderen’s PET bottle objects resemble glass his 57 Hour Learning Curve project is glass. Wanting to learn the black arts of glass blowing Ruben der Kinderen began a course with Berlin Glas e.V. Being an Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Ruben documented the process in that he saved all the pieces he created, thus allowing him to compile a sort of 3D timeline of his “progression” A timeline which can be viewed at DAD Galerie . We use the inverted commas for “progression” because while we are sure he is technically improving with every hour, as the objects on display make very clear, concepts such as to what is the “best” glass aren’t as clearly defined as they are often presented. Is the glass created after 57 hours really “better” than the one created after 18? Or 35? That depends on your perspective, your idea of the “perfect” glass, the function that it should fulfil and how well the object in hand ultimately fulfils that intended function. And as 57 Hour Learning Curve beautifully demonstrates there isn’t a definitive answer rather a range of possibilities. A realisation which goes on to pose a whole range of further questions about….. well everything.

57 hour learning curve by Ruben der Kinderen, as seen at Contemporary Creation Processes in Design at DAD Galerie Berlin

57 hour learning curve by Ruben der Kinderen, as seen at Contemporary Creation Processes in Design at DAD Galerie Berlin

Contemporary Creation Processes in Design is not an exhibition in the museal sense, rather in the in-store display sense. There are therefore no swathes of text explaining the background to the projects, but there are experienced staff on hand to explain the projects. And more importantly the processes that led to the physical result you see.

Contemporary Creation Processes in Design runs at DAD Galerie Berlin, Oranienburger Str. 32 (Heckmann Höfen), 10117 Berlin until Sunday June 14th. So during DMY 2015

Full details can be found at

Posted in Designer, DMY Berlin, Exhibitions and Shows, Product Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Mark Braun Metro NOMOS Glashütte
June 9th, 2015 by smow

On Thursday June 11th the 2015 DMY International Design Festival opens its doors to the public, and Berlin will once again be the focus of the global design community.

But is Berlin the creative city many assume it to be? Beats the creative heart genuinely with a different rhythm, and with more fervour, on the banks of the Spree than elsewhere? Or is “Berlin Design” just a nice bit of location marketing behind which stands little more than non-stop parties and endless cheap lifestyle accessories no one actually needs nor wants?

Not least on account of recent enforced changes the DMY festival has undergone, DMY Berlin 2015 seemed an opportune moment to reflect with some of the Berlin design community’s protagonists on the current condition of contemporary design in Berlin.

DMY Berlin 2015

In many respects the story of Berlin as a design metropolis begins in 2003 with Designmai, or perhaps more accurately put, the story of post-unification Berlin as a design metropolis begins with Designmai. Pre World War II Berlin was not only one of Germany’s most important centres for architecture and design, but one of Europe’s. Through his work with and for AEG in Berlin Peter Behrens helped introduce and propagate the ideas of both corporate identity and improved quality through design led product development; Walter Gropius may have established Bauhaus in Weimar, but its origins are firmly rooted in the Berlin creative scene of the late 19th/early 20th century; while the Barcelona Chair, unquestionably one of modernisms most iconic works, famously found its seat form in the sand of Berlin’s Wannsee beach. Post-war, German design moved, largely, westwards: Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Düsseldorf becoming the new centres…. and Berlin Kreuzberg, the West Berlin enclave becoming popular amongst those looking to avoid national service – West Germans living in West Berlin being excused from such. Isolated from the rest of West Germany and living under the shadow of the Berlin Wall a more or less autonomous community became established in Kreuzberg, a community which spawned its own unique creative scene of artists, musicians and designers, perhaps the best known representative of the latter being Stiletto Studio with his ever genial Consumer’s Rest armchair. And while with the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee East Berlin did have one of the DDR’s most important design schools, the main centres of industrial production, and thus of industrial design, were largely outwith the East German capital.

As in 1989 the two Germanys came together as one, the spirit of the age, the desire for change and the necessity of finding alternative solutions to new and existing problems inspired a new generation of young Berlin designers, and attracted ever more creatives to the future German capital. The fusion of West Berlin improvisation, East Berlin realism and the new ideas being brought from outwith, fuelled, invariably, by the relatively cheap cost of living and the infamous party scene of the 1990s, creating the foundations for contemporary Berlin’s creativity and facilitating the establishment of Designmai in 2003.

Organised by the Transform e.V collective, a group whose members included, amongst others, Hermann August Weizenegger, Werner Aisslinger and Mateo Kries, then head of the Vitra Design Museum’s short lived Berlin outpost, today Chief Curator of the Vitra Design Museum, Designmai ran for just five years, yet talk to anyone, but anyone, who experienced it and you will hear how, thanks largely to its essentially conceptual approach, it changed perceptions about what design is, can and should be, changed the way design was perceived and for all changed the way designers understood their profession. In 2004 the inaugural Designmai Youngsters was staged as a platform within Designmai for young Berlin design talents, from Designmai Youngsters arose, following the demise of Designmai, the DMY festival, a platform which is today perhaps the most conspicuous and accessible expression of Berlin as a city of design.

Schrill Bizarr Brachial Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre Bröhan Museum Berlin Stiletto Studios Consumer's Rest

Consumer’s Rest by Stiletto Studios, unquestionably one of the best known representatives of pre-unification West Berlin design. (Here as seen in the exhibition Schrill Bizarr Brachial. Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre, Bröhan Museum Berlin)

Partly because of the nature of its origins and partly because of the history of the city, Berlin’s post-unification design community has long had a reputation for improvisation, of producing low tech, low cost design, or as Tim Brauns from design agency e27 remembers the years following unification, “the products that were being produced were often very innovative in terms of their idea, but in terms of realisation it was all circular saws and MDF, people were simply making whatever the available tools allowed them to make.” Founded in 1995 by Tim Brauns, Hendrik Gackstatter and Fax Quintus e27 are one of the longest serving design agencies in Berlin. Originally formed as a product design studio economic reality forced an early adoption of graphic design and today e27 work as a graphic, web and corporate identity agency, in addition to creating products, be that lighting and furniture for the likes of Pulpo, B.lux and Magazine or industrial products for and with firms such as e.on or Ebee Smart Technologies, and as such have not only grown with the Berlin design community over the past twenty years, but have been well placed to observe the developments first hand. Thus, while the circular saw and MDF approach may have dominated the immediate post unification years, and in many ways represented the Berlin design scene of the period, as Tim Brauns recalls, there were other, more progressive forces, at work, “with the Endless Shelf for Porro Werner Aisslinger was, effectively, the first Berlin designer who realised a commercial product with die-cast aluminium components, and that was fantastic, almost revolutionary”. The Endless Shelf was launched in 1997 and since then Tim Brauns has observed a gradual evolution of and in the Berlin design community, “those designers who remained focussed on what they were doing have definitely developed, have become more professional and are now producing work to a very high international standard”, he says, “and behind them there are an awful lot of good younger designers who in all probability will become more professional quicker than we did simply because the conditions today are more favourable.”

This sense of an increasing professionalism of the Berlin design community and increasing possibilities for designers in the city is a view shared by Oliver Deichmann from osko+deichmann design studio, “this idea of Berlin designers using what they find in the street or simply nailing a couple of planks of wood together is an outdated image”, he says, “Berlin today is home to a lot of very talented designers who are using modern methods to realise works of a very high quality.” Following seven years as the more conceptual based studio wunschforscher – and having famously given the world the Sushi Roller, a mechanised, half-automatic, sushi making machine – in 2005 the UdK Berlin graduates Oliver Deichmann and Blasius Osko established osko+deichmann design studio as a concerted move towards professional product design; a move which has seen the pair establish an impressive portfolio of projects with an equally impressive international roster of manufacturers including Ligne Roset, Blå Station and Brunner, and which, according to Oliver, has let them experience “all three phases of Berlin” as design in the city has become ever more professional. “In the beginning people tended to feel sorry for us, stuck here in Berlin,”, he laughs, “then suddenly Berlin was “in”, became underground and creative, and now all the major manufacturers want to have a flagship store here, a development which, paradoxically, to an extent also kills off the underground image they hope to capture.”

The more one speaks to designers who have been active in Berlin since the 1990s, the more one realises not only that the rough and ready design approach of yore has largely been superseded by work of an increasingly professional nature, but that the “Arm aber Sexy” – Poor but Sexy – motto which has long defined Berlin’s position in modern Europe is not only losing the essential truth that was deftly hidden in the affectation, but that it may slowly becoming more damaging than it was undoubtedly helpful.

“Despite all the progress that has occurred here, one has the feeling that Berlin is still considered as a location for fanciful, youthful improvisation, and not of serious designers who are realising innovative, high-quality projects for international companies”, laments Mark Braun. And not one feels without a degree of justification. A graduate of the FH Potsdam, and with the experience of exchange semesters at Burg Giebichenstein Halle and Design Academy Eindhoven, Mark Braun established his own studio in Berlin in 2006. Himself one of the young hopefuls who helped the then fledgling DMY confirm itself as the platform for Berlin’s creatives, Mark Braun has gone on to realise projects for international manufacturers as varied as, amongst others, NOMOS Glashütte, Thonet, Authentics or e 15.

In addition to design studios such as Mark Braun, e27 or osko+deichmann Berlin can boast the likes of the aforementioned Werner Aisslinger who cooperates successfully with manufacturers as varied as Moroso, Vitra or Flötotto; Delphin Design‘s co-operations with Thonet and Brune may not create the same media impact as a new Werner Aisslinger product, but are every bit as innovative and commercially important to the manufacturers; similarly Läufer+Keichel have quietly established an enviable portfolio of high quality, critically acclaimed, products with the likes of Offecct, Thonet or Zeitraum, while in the persona Hella Jongerius Berlin has an immigré with more than a hint of international allure and mystery. But it’s not just the old, established studios who are driving contemporary Berlin design, younger Berlin designers are continually coming through and making themselves felt on the European market; as three examples of many, David Geckeler’s Nerd Chair is in production with Muuto, Florian Schmid’s Carla & Carlo table/mirrors are available through Zeitraum, while Neue Wiener Werkstätte produce Johanna Dehio’s Hockerbank and Milan based Discipline her Quarter Bin. Yet for many outwith Berlin the city’s design culture is still all about making do and adapting. And partying.

For Mark Braun this lack of recognition can partly be laid at the feet of the design community themselves, “Berlin designers tend to underplay their successes”, he reflects, “I think we need to learn a few lessons from, for example, the Munich designers, and to celebrate our successes, and to show that yes we are innovative, creative improvisers but also mature, experienced professional designers.”

To learn from others, or as Fabian Burns, Creative Director of DMY 2015 hinted in his recent conversation with us, find a stronger voice.

Mark Braun Metro NOMOS Glashütte

Not just furniture. The multi award winning Metro watch by Mark Braun for NOMOS Glashütte

Aside from the evolution in terms of design and designers, recent years have also seen advances in terms of  producers. Whereas for many years System 180 and their modular, scaffolding inspired, shelving and storage system were Berlin’s only furniture maker of note, the city can today boast an increasing array and diversity of interesting and innovative, if predominately small scale, producers. Atelier Haussmann, for example, have grown from a forger of rustic metal furniture to a very sympathetic manufacturer of consistently high quality objects; similarly Schneiderschram have quietly established a strong reputation for quality and innovation, albeit predominately in wood rather than the steel preferred by Atelier Haussmann. In addition to the new producers Berlin is also home to an ever increasing number of designer/producers – not a Berlin trend per se, but something that fits in very well with the (his)tory of Berlin design and seems to make more sense in Berlin than in most other metropoli. Studios such as, for example, llot llov, Bartmann Berlin, 45 Kilo or Alex Valder, to name but four, have successfully established their own signature collections far removed from the felt bags and upcycled kitchen accessories many outwith the city associate with Berlin designer/producers and thus have helped advance the idea of Berlin as a location for eclectic, professional design.

Then there are those, such as, for example L&Z, who started out as self-producers but who are now growing into self-confident design publishers. Established in 2010 by Daniel Lorch and Aidin Zimmermann largely as a vehicle through which to produce and distribute Daniel Lorch’s Sinus trestle, L&Z quickly expanded their range, firstly with self-designed pieces such as the Mobile Pedestal Ed before beginning co-operations with external designers: the first being the Roll-Up Bin by Basel based Michel Charlot, the second a lamp, currently being developed in cooperation with a Berlin based design studio and which all going well will be released later this year. Although the decision to establish their company in Berlin was largely based on the mundane fact that both Daniel and Aidin were already living in the city, the decision did come with in-built advantages, quite aside from the affordable office, atelier and warehouse space came the fact that, according to Daniel, the majority of the initial trestle customers were based in Berlin, for all in the many design and architecture bureaus to be found across the city. A fact which would tend to put paid to the legend that there is no real purchasing power for contemporary design in Berlin, especially given the support offered by the experiences of the label New Tendency. Tracing its origins back to a Bauhaus University Weimar student project New Tendency was established as an interdisciplinary design company in Berlin in 2012 and initially concentrated on the production and distribution of their own designs such as the Meta table and Shift storage system before expanding their portfolio with works by external designers including Clemens Tissi, Markus Miessen and Sigurd Larsen. “At the beginning it was a little bit slow here in Berlin, initially business was much better in Switzerland and Southern Germany”, explains New Tendency’s creative director Manuel Goller, “that however is changing and Berlin is becoming an ever more important market for us. Not only because of the number of people moving to the city but also thanks to, for example, the start-up scene and the new companies that are being established here, in addition on account of increasing tourism the Berlin hotel market is currently very exciting.”

Whereas both New Tendency and L&Z appear to have successfully disproved the belief in Berlin’s failing purchasing power, they both confirm another long accepted norm of Berlin design: the city’s lack of manufacturing capacity. “Berlin isn’t particularly strong in terms of industrial production, and so our products are not manufactured here in Berlin, rather in regions such as Bavaria where there is more industry and the production is more efficient”, explains Daniel Lorch, before adding, “but to be honest the location of the manufacturer is not so important for us, important is the quality of the work and that promised delivery times are met.” Similarly while all New Tendency products are produced exlusively in Germany, they are not produced in Berlin. Berlin production being the sole reserve of smaller scale designer/producers, and System 180, in effect a large scale designer/producer having as they do, essentially, one system which can be freely configured to produce storage units, tables, display boards, et al. But could one, theoretically, as a furniture brand produce in Berlin? Manual Goller considers for a few seconds, “We do work with a couple of Berlin companies in context of model construction or prototypes, and in terms of such Berlin is an excellent location with some very good workshops, but if one could organise larger scale, serial production in Berlin? I’m not convinced. It would however be great if Berlin could offer more manufacturing, that would be fantastic. However for us Berlin is more important as a creative base than a manufacturing base.”

And is a creative base in which the young company clearly feels at home. In addition to a network of over 25 partner shops throughout Germany, New Tendency have established a sales network of contemporary furniture stores in Greece, Latvia, Denmark, Switzerland, South Korea, Japan, Monaco and Canada. All going to plan New York should be added by the end of the year with further locations in planning. Similarly L&Z products can be found in cities such as Vienna, Venice, London, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Hamburg, Cologne or Seoul; Atelier Haussmann can boast of partners in Europe, New York or Moscow; while System 180’s dealer network stretches from San Francisco over Europe and on to Tokyo. And while being represented in shops is obviously no guarantee in itself that products will actually be sold, it does increase the chances. Not least the chance that architects will select your products for an upcoming project. And in the furniture industry architects are, generally speaking, more important than private customers.

Thus while firms such as L&Z or New Tendency don’t produce in Berlin they are increasingly benefiting the Berlin economy through both the tax they are paying on global sales and the money they invest in the city’s trade workshops during the product development stages, printing workshops during the marketing stages and bars and restaurants during the hospitality stages, while their national and international presence invariably helps promote a more realistic image of contemporary Berlin creativity. At least a little. In addition, although neither have a particular focus on Berlin designers – both, sensibly, preferring to choose co-operations which compliment the collection and underlying design philosophies rather than on geographic merits – both L&Z and New Tendency cooperate with Berlin designers and are more than open to future co-operations, there being obvious advantages in developing a project with someone who lives in the same city as you.

Logically, therefore, the more successful companies such as New Tendency or L&Z are, the more they can contribute and the more co-operations they can offer designers. And the more successful, and more numerous, Berlin based labels become, the greater the chances that someone will decide that rather then developing a new app it might be just as profitable to establish a manufacturing company and thus not only allow for serial production in Berlin, but also increased opportunities for the city’s designer/producers to further expand their collections and reputations.

The Shift shelf by New Tendency & December Lamp by Sebastian Schönheit, both through New Tendency

The Shift shelf by New Tendency & December Lamp by Sebastian Schönheit, both through New Tendency

Despite the evolution the Berlin design industry and community has unquestionably undergone over the years, many “problems” remain: most Berlin design studios are one man operations generating sufficient income to remain viable, but little more, and certainly lacking the resources to absorb the many excellent graduates the city’s design schools produce; politicians of all persuasions are quick to use Berlin’s designers to accentuate the city’s creativity, yet there is only limited official support for the design industry; Berlin is home to only very few contemporary design galleries meaning Berlin designers have relatively few opportunities to present new works locally; Berlin continues to be ignored by the rest of Germany – there is in effect “German Design” and “Berlin Design”; the “brand” Berlin is still widely understood as it was in 1995, and not as it is in 2015.

Berlin wouldn’t be Berlin however if it didn’t know how to transform “problems” into “advantages”; consequently, and largely because of the city’s innate attitude, Berlin is arguably currently one of the more promising locations to be based as a designer.

One of Berlin’s greatest strengths, greatest assets, is the networks that exist throughout the design community. We know that over the years there have, invariably, as in any extended family, been conflicts and problems; but, when all is said and done, Berlin is, despite all its pretensions, little more than a village. Everyone knows everyone and the networks that have become established over the past twenty or so years are one of the most important sources of nourishment for the Berlin design community bringing as they do commercial benefits as one designer introduces a colleague to a producer, architect or industrial concern. And while such networks aren’t exclusive to Berlin, they do play a particular role in Berlin as they allow the city’s designers to by-pass the lack of state support, national recognition and the city’s commercial and industrial shortcomings.

Then there are the city’s handicraft businesses and workshops, a support chain for the design community and one which all Berlin creatives with whom we have ever spoken refer to in the highest terms. That Berlin has carpentry workshops, metal workshops, model makers and the like obviously isn’t unique to the city, what is specifically Berlin however is the sense of fearless adventure that tends to haunt such concerns. Partly because their recent history is similar to that of the design industry, partly because of their experiences with Berlin’s long established conceptual art community, the Berlin handicraft trades have, and at the risk of generalising to the point of misleading, developed a certain immunity to the belief that things can’t be done. Everything can be achieved. Somehow. And will be paid for. Somehow. But first the work. In a previous smow interview Nils Holger Moormann compared product development with mountaineering, and for all the excitement of going on an unconventional tour with unconventional methods. In their local workshops Berlin designers have in many respects the ideal companions for such a trip. Which in retrospect may also explain the relatively high number of Berlin designers in the Moormann portfolio.

Plot by osko+deichmann for Brunner

Plot by osko+deichmann for Brunner

A final, and possibly decisive, factor as to why Berlin is so attractive a location for designers is, and as every designer you speak to you will tell you, the inherent power of Berlin to inspire. A sentiment you never hear in Cologne, Frankfurt, London, Paris, Copenhagen, even Milan. Berlin however with its history, mix of cultures and traditions, political confusion, strong artistic heritage, invariably the nightlife, restaurants and cafes, its diversity of museums, theatres, art galleries, concert venues and for all the density and variety of international creatives based in the city, be that designers, architects, artists, authors, musicians, photographers, translators or fashion stylers: Berlin is a city emboldened by a sense of independence that is readily reflected in a unique creative energy. Hyperbolic? Almost certainly. But as a visiting Eindhoven based designer recently enthused, in Eindhoven you only meet designers, in Berlin you constantly meet creatives from across genres, a situation which allows for new impulses and new insights. In addition, thanks to its relative affordability Berlin is home to a lot more conceptual design and architecture studios than you are likely to find in most other German cities and, and again because it is but a glorified village, this freer spirit invariably seeps through to the rest of the design community and stops the scene becoming too conservative, too financially orientated and helps remind all of the fundamental nature of the design profession and the design process. And that it is meant to be something to be enjoyed. Or as Oliver Deichmann puts it “there is a wonderful attitude in Berlin which constantly reminds you that, in the big scheme of things, as a designer your problems really aren’t that important. And that makes working here a real joy.”

Yet paradoxically the biggest challenge facing Berlin design is exactly its freedom and independence. Speak to any designer or architect in Berlin who has lived and worked in other cities and they will tell you that everything in Berlin is much slower, not less productive or less focussed, just less hurried, and that largely because the lower cost of living means there isn’t the immediate need to generate income that there is in London, Paris, Munich or Copenhagen. That is changing, Berlin is becoming more expensive, suitable space is becoming less readily available, Mark Braun speaks of the future being about a “Kampf um Freiräume” – a struggle for space – conceptual as well as physical, albeit a struggle that won’t be undertaken, as once, by building barricades and declaring autonomous republics, but by evolving so that one earns the money necessary to meet the new conditions. The contemporary design scene in Berlin has understood, the challenge for the Berlin design community is now to master that future without simply becoming another part of the professional German design industry, without compromising its integrity and rejecting the history that has brought it where it is today.

And that is what we, at least partly, understand in the criticism one often hears around Berlin that the DMY festival has become an outmoded platform. It hasn’t. However it is not only the best known face of Berlin design but, and for all in context of its origins as part of Designmai, is an institution that has accompanied the Berlin design community as it has grown and which due to its close association with the Berlin design scene has always helped Berlin underscore its status as an island on Germany’s eastern shore. There is a strong emotional link between the Berlin design community and DMY, in effect it belongs to the community, and we feel that many Berlin designers, both established and establishing, want DMY to help them master the coming challenges. Question however if it can. The insolvency of the original festival organiser DMY Berlin GmbH & Co. KG was therefore for many a moment to reflect as to how DMY could best continue to accompany them. The ideas are manifold, often contrasting, we are after all talking about Berlin, and so perhaps the most important aspect of DMY 2015 will not be the exhibitions per se, but the debate that will inevitably occur as to how DMY proceeds and if it can/should continue to take the Berlin design community with it. An important aspect of that discussion, we suspect, will be the success or otherwise of the professional day and the mix of professionals who visit the festival. The designers need to know that potential clients are there, the manufacturers need to know that potential customers are there. By Sunday evening we’ll all be a little wiser.

And dancing in Berghain. Obviously.

Ed Mobile Pedestal by Daniel Lorch for L and Z

Ed Mobile Pedestal by Daniel Lorch for L&Z

Loll Coat Rack by e27 through pulpo

Loll Coat Rack by e27 through pulpo

Posted in Designer, Producer, Product Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

June 5th, 2015 by smow

As previously reported, the company DMY Berlin GmbH & Co. KG, who for the past decade or so has run the annual DMY Berlin design festival, filed for insolvency in October 2014: the festival itself however continues under the auspices of a new organiser, about:design.

“DMY is dead. Long live DMY”, as it were.

The 2015 edition of DMY opens for professional, specialist, visitors at 10am on Thursday June 11th, at 6pm that evening to the general public, and runs until Sunday June 14th. Ahead of the opening we spoke with Fabian Burns Creative Director of DMY 2015, and formerly Creative Producer of DMY Berlin, to find out more about the 2015 festival, the background to the new start and the plans for the future, but began by asking why the decision to continue with the festival despite the insolvency……

Fabian Burns: DMY Berlin GmbH & Co. KG was more than just the festival, as a company they were involved in numerous projects, but obviously after 13 years the festival and the company were intrinsically linked in most peoples minds. And while there are, were, many reasons why DMY Berlin GmbH & Co. KG went insolvent, it wasn’t the festival’s fault, and so continuing with the festival was a relatively logical decision.

smow blog: And was the decision to keep the name equally logical?

Fabian Burns: The decision to continue under the name DMY is largely to do with the situation of the partners in about design. They are amongst the creditors of DMY Berlin GmbH & Co. KG and they have, in effect, secured the rights to the festival name, logos etc against their outstanding invoices. Which isn’t to say that in the future the festival will necessarily be known as DMY, but for 2015 it was a sensible decision and I believe the correct one.

smow blog: When one speaks to designers in Berlin about the festival one often hears the view that the format is no longer so appropriate for Berlin, maybe not so contemporary, not so zeitgemäß, was the bankruptcy of DMY GmbH not an opportunity to reflect on the format and make changes?

Fabian Burns: I have also often heard similar positions, yet over the past few years the festival has enjoyed very healthy visitor numbers, and so in that respect I think it’s largely an academic discussion: at the end of the day DMY is a festival and festivals only exist as long as people pay to visit them and thus make them economically viable. When that ceases to be the case then one must naturally consider if changes are necessary or if the whole concept is simply no longer required. However when one looks at the past few festivals they were from an financial perspective viable, and that is, as I say, why we’re continuing. Nobody gets rich from a festival such as DMY Berlin, but we believe it is a festival format for which there is a continuing demand and interest.

smow blog: “Getting rich” is a nice keyword, in the past one of the, lets say, major “headaches” for the DMY festival was that it didn’t receive any public funding, has that changed, is there any official funding?

Fabian Burns: No, the festival is unfunded, which is a situation I find deeply regrettable because for me if an event like DMY wants to develop an interesting, in-depth, independent, programme of talks, discussions and similar events then that is something that in the long term can only survive with public financing; such a fringe, supporting programme is in essence uneconomic as it doesn’t necessarily generate an income which covers the associated costs. However on the other hand one shouldn’t become too dependent on central funding because then you are at the mercy of political decisions, and so one should always try to stand on your own economic legs, and then if funding comes, that is fantastic and you can then use that money to improve the depth and range of the festival.

smow blog: And non-financial support……

Fabian Burns: Nothing.

smow blog: Even with the new culture secretary in Berlin, we thought that might have moved things along…….?

Fabian Burns: In the Berlin regional government design regrettably isn’t the responsibility of the culture department but the industry/economic department, and at the moment their focus seems to be on other areas, and so there is relatively little resources available for design. But I believe that it is also a reflection of how the Berlin design scene presents itself and at the moment there isn’t really a unified voice representing the interests of design and designers, and that is something that is necessary when dealing with the authorities.

smow blog: If the state won’t support the festival is there not an argument for involving more manufacturers in DMY and organising a professional platform next to the, lets say, “regular” festival, and thus on the one hand generating a little more financial stability while also providing a platform for the many professional designers in Berlin, many of whom work with major producers?

Fabian Burns: Its a good idea, and one which over the years we’ve worked hard to realise, but the manufacturers aren’t interested. The majority have in effect two major events per year, in Milan and Cologne, events where they invest large sums because they expect good returns. A furniture “image event” in contrast brings the manufacturers very little, and while the furniture industry presents itself with lot of glamour, behind the scenes there is often a lot of financial pressure and so they have to consider carefully where and what they do. Ultimately the decision is do I invest X thousand Euros in an event in Berlin where maybe 20,000 visitors will come, the majority of whom are potentially uninteresting in terms of direct sales and revenue, or do I take out a newspaper or magazine advert and thereby reach more of the people I need to reach?

smow blog: Aside from the new organiser the biggest change for 2015 is the new location, why the move from Tempelhof Airport to Kraftwerk?

Fabian Burns: The decision for Kraftwerk was partly made against the background of the new conditions. On the one hand with the changes that have occurred it makes sense to start at a new location, to underscore this sense of “new beginnings”. Secondly Tempelhof airport charges rents which we as a small festival simply can’t afford, and we’re not the first event to have left Tempelhof. And then finally, and the main reason, the nature of DMY is that we have many exhibitors who only have very small, reduced stands with maybe one or two products, and all too often they get lost in the vast space of Tempelhof. In Kraftwerk we have 8000 sqm which is more or less equivalent to two hangers at Tempelhof, and so the same floorspace as we had at Tempelhof, however we have more opportunities to create intimate spaces with more manageable dimensions which thus allow the exhibitors to better present themselves and their work.

smow blog: This year the first day is a business, industry preview day, what is thinking behind that decision?

Fabian Burns: In the past couple of years we have undertaken visitor surveys and realised that we had a surprisingly high number of industry professionals, be that architects, design managers, furniture producers, but the information we had was always a bit vague and in addition many of the exhibitors were unclear that industry professionals were visiting and thus that DMY was a platform where one could make useful contacts. This year we can quantify who is coming and so construct a more precise image as to who visits DMY, if they are in management positions and across which industries and professions. In addition to giving trade visitors the opportunity to view the stands ahead of the formal opening we are also organising a programme of keynote industry talks on the Thursday which we hope will motivate discussion and interest.

smow blog: And in terms of the festival itself, is that “as you were”, or can we expect new innovation?

Fabian Burns: Given all that has happened we want to go a little bit back to the roots this year, Back to the Future as the festival motto says, and focus more on young designers. DMY started out as Deign Mai Youngsters and we want to reactivate that feeling, in which context together with the IKEA Foundation we recently organised the New Talent Competition and will be presenting the 25 selected designers at the festival. In addition, and because it makes sense to have have a design festival in Berlin with a focus on Berlin Design, we will be introducing the “Berliner Zimmer” a themed room where Berlin designers can present themselves and their work. I must however add that the response from the Berlin design community has been very reserved. Which I can’t really understand. One often hears from Berlin designers that DMY doesn’t bring any real benefit for local designers, but when they are offered a platform within the festival then the response is more lukewarm than encouraging.

smow blog: A couple of years ago DMY introduced Berlin Design Week as a decentralised fringe programme, is that being continued in 2015?

Fabian Burns: No, there is no Berlin Design Week this year principally because the rights got sucked up and lost in the insolvency process, in particular the domain. But we also have enough to do to get the festival up and running this year, and so even if we had the rights we may not have organised the event. We are a very small team and there is little point in spreading the few resources we have even thinner. That said several individuals who took part in previous Berlin Design Weeks have decided themselves to organise events which we have grouped together under the title DMY Spots. So its not just the central exhibition there are interesting events happening throughout the city.

smow blog: Although we know its polite to wait until the 2015 festival is finished, are their plans for the coming years, how do you envisage the future of DMY?

Fabian Burns: I think consolidation will be the guiding principle. We have plans and ideas as to how we could, possibly, eventually proceed, but at this moment nothing has been decided, I hope we can make a few more concrete announcements during this years festival, but the plan is definitely to continue. However as recent experiences have proved the festival can’t support a company and so I assume it will be the case that the festival will employ one person all year but the rest of us will have to work to support ourselves and then develop the festival parallel. Which is a more than uncomfortable thought, and in an international context a very sad state of affairs, but that’s the reality here in Berlin.

Full details on DMY 2015 including opening times and ticket prices can be found at

DMY Berlin 2015

Kraftwerk Berlin, the central location for DMY 2015 (Photo © Fineartberlin)


Kraftwerk Berlin (Photo © Fineartberlin)

Posted in DMY Berlin, Exhibitions and Shows, Interview Tagged with: ,

bauhaus re use @ Bauhaus Archive Berlin
May 27th, 2015 by smow

Given that Bauhaus is often perceived as having been an incubator for the creative talents of the 1920s, it is perhaps fitting that windows salvaged from Bauhaus Dessau should have been upcycled into a greenhouse for the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin.

Or at least into a greenhouse-esque structure for the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin.

Conceived, planned and realised by Berlin architectural practice zukunftsgeraeusche GbR together with the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin, Technischen Universität Berlin and Wagner Tragwerke with the assistance of the Oberstufenzentrum Knobelsdorff-Schule Berlin, the new bauhaus re use pavilion is intended as a temporary event location and home for the museum’s programme of educational activities until the completion of the institution’s much heralded, and desperately needed, extension – a project which all involved hope will be completed in time for the Bauhaus centenary in 2019.

In addition to the salvaged Dessau windows and doors the new Berlin bauhaus re use pavilion is constructed from a reduced steel skeleton and comes equipped with two sea containers which serve as storage and toilets/wash facilities. Making intelligent use of a nice double wall construction principle for insulation the bauhaus re use pavilion is a delightful example of a technology light construction which not only saves energy through the re-use of existing resources but which for its daily operation has only limited resource requirements.

While there is admittedly nothing particularly novel in the construction of a building from salvaged windows, a particularly fine example can be found some 125 kms south of Berlin in the form of Niek Wagemans’ WunderBAR in the courtyard of the Ampelhaus in Oranienbaum, there is something especially fitting, almost ancestrally correct, about the use of salvaged windows from Bauhaus Dessau for a Bauhaus pavilion in Berlin given that, in essence, Gropius’s Bauhaus Dessau is in itself little more than windows. And that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Bauhaus Berlin was a reduced and reworked version of Bauhaus Dessau which, albeit unintentionally, was also but a fleeting, short-lived, institution

All in all a delightful and worthy addition to the Bauhaus Archiv ensemble.

The new bauhaus re use Pavilion can be viewed 24/7 in the grounds of the Bauhaus Archiv, Klingelhöferstrasse 14, 10785 Berlin and full information on the pavilion and the programme of events therein can be found at

Posted in Architecture, Bauhaus, smow blog compact Tagged with: , , ,

URBAN LIVING - Strategies for the Future at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ, Berlin
May 22nd, 2015 by smow

How can the urban environment be improved with new housing? Which spatial constellations foster interaction? Which strategies reduce costs but still produce a high quality? How can we initiate a new era of house building? Such and similar questions are posed, and possible answers presented, in the exhibition URBAN LIVING – Strategies for the Future currently on show at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ in Berlin.

URBAN LIVING Strategies for the Future Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ Berlin

URBAN LIVING – Strategies for the Future at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ, Berlin

Curated by architect and critic Kristien Ring from Berlin based AA Projects, Urban Living presents a mix of concepts realised in context of the Berlin regional governments 2013 Urban Living workshops programme and projects featured in Selfmade City, Kristien Ring’s survey of the contemporary architecture landscape in Berlin, and aims through the selected projects to present ideas and concepts which explore how future housing and urban planning can be developed so as to strengthen communities, reduce costs and produce sustainable urban environments which encourage and promote self-determination and individual freedoms.

In an intelligently realised exhibition design Urban Living – Strategies for the Future makes judicious use of models, texts and plans to explain the projects and their relevance to the problems of contemporary housing and/or urban planning. Particularly pleasing is the decision to “hide” the texts and plans behind photos of the projects, all the information you need and want is there, but only when you need and want it, unlike in so many architecture exhibitions where from the moment one enters a room one is overloaded with texts: texts which one invariably quickly loses the will to study. Urban Living is much more sensitive to the visitors fragilities. Equally pleasingly it is also one of the more colourful architecture exhibitions we have visited of late.

URBAN LIVING Strategies for the Future Deutsches at the Architektur Zentrum DAZ Berlin

URBAN LIVING – Strategies for the Future at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ, Berlin

Viewing Urban Living the obvious question which arises is, for whom is the exhibition intended? The obvious answer is all with an interest or stake in urban planning and the future of built environments. Or put another way, everybody. And as an exhibition Urban Living is accessible to all, and while it features purely Berlin based and/or inspired projects, the underlying principles on which they are based are in the majority of cases universally applicable.

“But what’s the point?” we hear you reply, “everyone knows decisions on architecture, urban planning and regional development are rarely taken by those directly affected but by small cliques, invariably guided by personal manifestos, egoism and/or the promise of financial gain.”

“Yes”, we reply, “and that must change before questions such as how can the urban environment be improved with new housing, which spatial constellations foster interaction or which strategies reduce costs but still produce a high quality, can be satisfactorily answered. Architecture and urban planning must always reflect local conditions, local needs and for all locals, and that is why it is important that you go, to understand what alternatives are possible and to consider such in context of your own opinions.” Otherwise you may find yourself experiencing a new era of house building from which you feel alienated and removed.

Which isn’t to say that all the projects on display are perfect and provide the solutions we’ve all been waiting for, they aren’t, and there is in addition a very disappointing formal monotony in the invariable quadratic greyness of many of the visualised buildings, further evidence if you will of contemporary architects stubborn resistance to anything other than the box they all claim to think outside of; however, the point isn’t the projects per se but the way the projects attempt to present future orientated solutions for house construction and urban planning and the insights that are thus offered into the challenges involved and the advantages of facing then communally.

As we believe we’ve said before, easy as it is to complain after the fact, it is much easier to be correctly informed in advance.

URBAN LIVING – Strategies for the Future runs at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum, DAZ, Köpenicker Straße 48/49, 10179 Berlin until Saturday July 4th

In addition to the physical exhibition a virtual exhibition and discussion platform can be found at

Posted in Architecture, Exhibitions and Shows, smow blog compact Tagged with: , , ,

Tools for A Break Korean Crafts and Design at Orangelab Berlin Seo Jeong Hwa
May 16th, 2015 by smow

Shium is the many ways the Korean antipode to our modern world: Shium is decelerate, rest, relax, pause, reflect, slow down. Refresh body and soul

Shium is also the foundation on which the exhibition Tools for A Break – Korean Crafts and Design is built, and following its première during Munich Creative Business Week 2015, Tools for A Break – Korean Crafts and Design is currently on show in Berlin.

Tools for A Break Korean Crafts and Design at Orangelab Berlin

Tools for A Break – Korean Crafts and Design at Orangelab Berlin

Fascinated by the diversity of meaning within the term Shium, its contemporary relevance and inspired by the essay Müdigkeitsgesellschaft – The Tired Society – by Berlin based South Korean philosopher and cultural theorist Byung-Chul Han, a work which criticises the modern performance orientated society, curator Keumhwa Kim from Keum Art Projects set about compiling a collection of contemporary objects by Korean artists and designers which address approaches to alternative, decelerated, lifestyles.

In addition to projects such as, for example, the Line and Union furniture collection by Park Jai Woo, the Kkini bowl and chopsticks set by Song Seung Yong or Sang Woo Kim’s smoked clay collection which were presented in Munich, the Berlin exhibition features works by three additional designers.

Munich based silversmith Ja-kyung Shin is presenting a new collection of spoons in which antique precious metal window and door fittings have been extended with silver to create a collection of objects as fascinating as they are endearing, and which wonderfully illustrates that upcycling needn’t just be for students and fans of felt, upcycling can also be something noble.

Tools for A Break Korean Crafts and Design at Orangelab Berlin Ja-kyung Shin

A spoon created from an antique window fitting and silver by Ja-kyung Shin, as seen at Tools for A Break – Korean Crafts and Design, Orangelab Berlin

Much more rooted, almost literally, in Korean cultural traditions, Berlin based textile designer Jinhee Kim is represented by a concept material created from knitted mulberry bark fibres filled with wool; a project conceptionally and visually reminiscent of silkworm cocoons and a product which can be used, for example, as a simple room divider with acoustic function, or as a wall hanging with acoustic and cushioning function, while, and proving that you can take the designer out of Eindhoven but you can’t take Eindhoven out of the designer, Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Sanghyeok Lee is presenting the most delightful collection of sculptural seating devices. Titled “For a rest” the collection is inspired, as with all genuinely delightful pieces of design work, by a simple observation; in a forest there is no regular resting place rather you must always search and find your place and position. The wooden elements of the “For a rest” collection are unquestionably inspired by shapes and forms found in the forest, and equally unequivocally offer no obvious indication of how they are best to be used. At the moment “For a rest” is still a very conceptual work, but one with a lot of future potential and whose further development we very much look forward to following.

Some three quarters of the designers represented are based in Korea, and for many of them Tools for A Break is their first exposure to a German, if not European, public; consequently in addition to being an interesting and entertaining exhibition in its own right Tools for A Break also offers a rare, curated, insight into contemporary Korean creativity as opposed to the commercial “look how good our computers are” style of most Korean design exhibitions.

In our post from the Munich exhibition we noted that Tools for A Break “simply presents the objects and leaves you in peace to find your own relationship with them. Or not.” The Berlin showcase repeats that sense of ease, albeit thanks to the extra space offered by Orangelab does so in a much more open and accessible way that gives you even more time and peace to find your own sense of Shium.

Tools for A Break – Korean Crafts and Design runs at Orangelab, Ernst-Reuter-Platz 2, 10587 Berlin until Saturday May 30th.

In addition to the exhibition, on Thursday May 21st a discussion evening will be held under the title “Entschleunigung: Über das Pausieren in der Großstadt”

Full details can be found at

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, smow blog compact Tagged with: , ,

Globe Project by Floris Wubben, as seen at DAD Berlin by Floris Wubben, as seen at DAD Berlin
May 7th, 2015 by smow

Floris Wubben is a rare and precious being.

Floris Wubben is a contemporary Dutch designer who didn’t study at Design Academy Eindhoven.

When we ask him how such a situation can arise, why he didn’t attend Eindhoven, he smiles and replies that we’re not the first to ask him that, everybody it seems wants to know. An indication of just how rare and precious a being he is.

Floris Wubben does of course have his atelier in Eindhoven. Anything else would be far too absurd, if not illegal, and until May 24th three of his current projects are being presented under the title “Low Tech Crafts” at the DAD Galerie Berlin.

Floris Wubben Low Tech Crafts at DAD Galerie Berlin

Floris Wubben – Low Tech Crafts at DAD Galerie Berlin

Although superficially an exhibition of ceramic objects and ceramic lighting, Low Tech Crafts is actually an exhibition of the production processes Floris Wubben has developed.

Chronologically the oldest of the projects on show is the so-called Pressed project, a project which also neatly explains why Floris Wubben designs processes, or perhaps more accurately put, why Floris Wubben designs machines. “Initially”, explains Floris, “I created unique pieces by traditional processes, which was often a very long and involved process, and so I started thinking that maybe it would be better to develop a technique which creates unique pieces faster, and so which makes them more widely available because they are created in a semi-industrial way.”

By his own admission the idea for the subsequent porcelain press was inspired by Play-doh, and much like the perennial kids favourite involves pressing clay through templates. Simply switching the template allows for the creation of pieces with new forms, new characters. As does rotating the template during pressing. The raw material used defining the colour. Porcelain extrusion isn’t new, it is, for example, used for industrial production of ceramic tiles; however, through semi-automating a handicraft Floris has moved the craft on and created the possibility of resource light, investment light, decentralised production which maintains the traditional character of the end product and the physical connection between product and producer, or as Floris understands the relationship, “using a machine is a craft, and you have to understand the machine. Sometimes the machines don’t work as you want them to and then you have to work through it until you get the result you want, as with any handicraft”

Floris Wubben Low Tech Crafts at DAD Galerie Berlin Pressed ceramic

Examples of the Pressed, ceramic project by Floris Wubben as seen at DAD Galerie Berlin

During the course of building and developing the porcelain press Floris Wubben became ever more obsessed with the idea of developing his own machines; the second machine/process he developed owes less to “P as in Play-doh” however and more to “P as in Piet Hein Eek”

“Piet had seen the Pressed project, was very excited by it and kept saying we have to do something together!” recalls Floris. “It was Piet who had the idea to press down and to force the clay upwards, and so I started looking at how we could create such a machine, create a process that allowed such. While working with one of the early prototypes some air became trapped in the construction, I instinctively took a hammer and tapped it…. and the clay came out, a little bit more with every hit. And I thought this is awesome, and just kept hitting it and hitting it, and when Piet saw it he was like this is awesome. And so we built a machine to allow us to achieve such on a larger scale”

The result is essentially a steel drum which is hit with a large wooden mallet. A very heavy looking large wooden mallet, how heavy? we ask,

“Too heavy!!” replies Floris laughing, the memories of a long week of demonstrations under the warm Milan sun still haunting him.

And while yes the Hammered Bowls would appear to fall perfectly into that category of contemporary Eindhoven projects which illicit a response along the lines of, “yes……. OK…….. but why?”, one must understand them, as with the pressed ceramics, in the wider context. Historically goods were produced by hand, each unique and individual, a testament to the skill or otherwise of those who created them; then came industrialisation which produced goods in uniform quality, and that quicker and cheaper than the craftsman of yore: what was gained in efficiency and price was lost in charm and individuality. Or as Wilhelm Wagenfeld once so eloquently phrased it, industrialisation gave us goods which give the impression that “some international conglomeration of the sedulous, small minded industry and economy have decided to once and for all abolish human dignity.” Floris Wubben develops machines which allow for efficient production at rates more than sufficient to support small scale, local, demand;  develops machines which produce objects which through their inherent randomness and vernacular innocence radiate a dignity of charachter; and develops machines which in many ways appropriate the machine for craftsman and thus achieve Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s ideal in which “machines and handicraft are intimately interwoven with one another”1

But does that really have to involve a man hitting an oil drum, Thor like, with an improbably heavy hammer? No of course it doesn’t. But it can. And the wonderfully robust yet delicate bowls that result with their wood like grace more than justify the process.

Similarly Floris’s newest project, the so-called Globe Project allows for the creation of innumerable related, yet unique, objects in a relatively fast, analogue process. In essence the Globe Project involves a process in which an unbaked porcelain globe is heated with a blow torch, depending on how, where and for how long the flame is applied layers of porcelain peel off. Following the glazing process one has a lamp with its own individual character and charisma yet which is unquestionably a member of a family. And which functions as a lamp.

Hammered Bowls by and with Piet Hein Eek and Studio Floris Wubben

As ever when in conversation with Eindhoven based designers, sooner or later one has to ask what the future holds for all this research? Unlike many of his contemporaries, Floris has a ready answer, “my vision is a factory with many different types of self-designed machines, each with its own way of creating objects.” A vision that is on its way to becoming reality. The first employee is busy hammering pots in Piet Hein Eek’s Eindhoven factory, and the next machine is in planning; provisionally titled Pressed Project XL the new machine is, according to Floris, 6 metres high and could, for example, be used to produce extruded ceramic tables and other larger objects.

A development which of course posses the question, will he remain with ceramics? Floris laughs. “Someone recently said to me, “you’re that ceramics designer”, and I thought OK now I’ve really got to move on and find a new material! However generally the materials chose me rather than me choosing the materials. I design processes and there is generally a material that best fits with the process. I make the machines and the machines make the choices.”

Which is of course a very Eindhoven approach, and a state of affairs we imagine Wilhelm Wagenfeld would heartily approve of.

Floris Wubben – Low Tech Crafts runs at DAD Galerie Berlin, Oranienburger Str. 32 (Heckmann Höfen), 10117 Berlin until Sunday May 24th

Full details can be found at

And further details on Floris Wubben at

1.Wilhelm Wagenfeld “Qualität und Wirtschaft” in Die Form: Zeitschrift für gestaltende Arbeit 1934, 1, 1-4

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Product Tagged with: , , , ,

CUCULA Refugees Company for Crafts and Design Werkbundarchiv Museum der Dinge Berlin
March 23rd, 2015 by smow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Design should motivate us to think. If not act.

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

Full details can be found at

And further details on CUCULA can be found at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows Tagged with: , , , , ,

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin Sammlung Bauhaus Werner Jackson puppets
March 17th, 2015 by smow

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

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

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin Sammlung Bauhaus

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin: Sammlung Bauhaus

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

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

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

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

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

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin Sammlung Bauhaus Lamp Heinrich Siegfried Bormann Kandem

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Architecture, Bauhaus, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Product Tagged with: , , , , , ,

January 4th, 2015 by smow

With ever more of our fellow train passengers displaying acute symptoms of over exposure to cheap Glühwein it can only mean that December is upon us. And the end of one the genuinely more enjoyable smow blog years.

Indeed its fair to say 2014 was one of those years that makes you consider if its not time to hang up the old travelling socks and seek a more sedate, sedentary, existence. A fitting moment perhaps, but the correct decision? We’ve a couple of days to decide.

And to accompany us Russian avant-garde architecture, reflections on Israeli modernism, the future of seating and the tale of what happened when George Nelson, Isamu Noguchi, Irving Harper and Richard Buckminster-Fuller drunk and drew…..

VKhUTEMAS A Russian Laboratory of Modernity Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin

VKhUTEMAS – A Russian Laboratory of Modernity at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

The Urburb Patterns of contemporary living at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ Berlin

The Urburb Patterns of contemporary living at the Deutsches Architektur Zentrum DAZ Berlin

vitra george nelson ball clock

Isamu Noguchi, George Nelson, alcohol...... and the Ball Clock

The End of Sitting by RAAAF & Barbara Visser

The End of Sitting by RAAAF & Barbara Visser

Posted in Architecture, Bauhaus, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

January 3rd, 2015 by smow

Such was the quality of the new products we saw during our autumn tour they kept us going well into November; indeed it wasn’t until a cold dank Friday in Chemnitz ahead of the opening of the exhibition Andy Warhol – Death and Disaster at the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, that we even realised it was November.

Andy Warhol Death and Disaster Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz Sixteen Jackies White Disaster II

Sixteen Jackies and White Disaster II by Andy Warhol, as seen at Andy Warhol - Death and Disaster, Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz

Haus Rucker Co Architectural Utopia Reloaded at Haus am Waldsee Berlin

Haus-Rucker-Co - Architectural Utopia Reloaded at Haus am Waldsee, Berlin

Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin Scandinavia

Scandinavian design at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin: Alvar Aalto, Finn Juhl, Hans J Wegner et al

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Stylepark Being Home 4+4 Gamfratesi

Orgatec Cologne 2014: Stylepark present Being Home 4+4. Here the submission from Studio Gamfratesi

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Concept Kitchen by Kilian Schindler for Naber

Orgatec Cologne 2014: Concept Kitchen by Kilian Schindler for Naber

Grassi Museum Leipzig Exclusive Carpentry Works From Leipzig F G Hoffmann Court Carpenter and Entrepreneur

Exclusive Carpentry Works From Leipzig: F.G. Hoffmann – Court Carpenter and Entrepreneur at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts Leipzig.

Dutch Design Week 2014 Dutch Invertuals Cohesion

Dutch Design Week 2014: Dutch Invertuals - Cohesion

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January 2nd, 2015 by smow

……and continued over Budapest and on to Berlin – where amongst other delights we partook of the exhibitions Sensing the Future: László Moholy-Nagy, die Medien und die Künste at the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin and Schrill Bizarr Brachial. Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre at the Bröhan Museum – and onto Cologne for the Orgatec office furniture trade fair.

Schrill Bizarr Brachial Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre Bröhan Museum Berlin Jasper Morrison Handlebar Table

Handlebar Table by Jasper Morrison, as seen at Schrill Bizarr Brachial. Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre, Bröhan Museum Berlin

Budapest Design Week 2014 Table AU Workshop

Budapest Design Week 2014: Table by AU Workshop

Der entfesselte Blick Die Brüder Rasch und ihre Impulse für die moderne Architektur Marta Herford

House with a Lamellar Construction, 1931, by Bodo Rasch, as seen at Der entfesselte Blick – Die Brüder Rasch und ihre Impulse für die moderne Architektur, Marta Herford

Dutch Design Week 2014 Leaning Bench by Izabela Bołoz

Dutch Design Week 2014 Leaning Bench by Izabela Bołoz

Budapest Design Week 2014 Biela by András Kerékgyártó

Budapest Design Week 2014: Biela by András Kerékgyártó

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Vitra Konstantin Grcic Allstar office chair Hack table

Allstar office chair and Hack table by Konstantin Grcic for Vitra, as seen at Orgatec Cologne 2014

Dutch Design Week Special TAB Studios Daphna Laurens Studio Maatwerk

Stool 01 by Daphna Laurens and flower pot with integrated paving stone by Studio Maatwerk , as seen at TAB Studios, Dutch Design Week 2014

Dutch Design Week 2014 Dirk Vander Kooij Melting Pot Table

Dirk Vander Kooij at Dutch Design Week 2014. In the middle the Melting Pot Table.

Budapest Design Week 2014 Design Without Borders madeinhungary meed

Budapest Design Week 2014: Design Without Borders. madeinhungary + meed

Bratislava Design Week 2014 Transmission Lights Studio deFORM

Bratislava Design Week 2014: Transmission lights by Studio deFORM

Sensing the Future Lászlo Moholy-Nagy die Medien und die Künste at Bauhaus Archiv Berlin

Sensing the Future: László Moholy-Nagy, die Medien und die Künste at Bauhaus Archiv Berlin

Posted in Architecture, Bauhaus, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Producer, Product, Vitra Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,