Belgium is uncharted territory for us. Not literately, we’re in Belgium fairly frequently. Indeed so frequently that we are often asked why we don’t move to Belgium. Because we’ve been to Belgium, we reply (JOKE!!))
But Belgium is uncharted territory in terms of our annual #campustour: the design school summer showcases in Belgium tending as they do to run parallel to those in London, and that in previous years we’ve had good reason to be in London at that time, we’ve, logically, not been in Belgium. This year ’twas different, we had absolutely no reason to be in London and every reason to be in Belgium, which, yes, does sound like a metaphor. Isn’t, but does sound like one…… And so took the opportunity to visit a trio of Belgian design schools, technically a quartet, but legally a trio……
It’s almost impossible to reflect on design education without reflecting on Bauhaus. Especially this year. And especially when a tour of design school summer exhibitions takes you to Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen, to those (contemporary) German States where for 100 years Bauhaus both began and found its de facto end.
And while there will be time in coming posts for those reflections on the Gropius school and the developments of the century past, the focus of our 2019 #campustour visits to Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen, specifically Halle and Weimar, is and was the contemporary students and the work realised in the year past.
With its abundance of forests, earths, coals and waterways the contemporary Nordrhein-Westfalen has long been an important centre of production, industry, trade and by extrapolation design and creativity; at various stages in history important impulses and innovation radiating from communities such as Aachen, Hagen, Krefeld, Essen, Soest or Düsseldorf…….
………and since the end of the 19th century from the myriad of art, applied art, architecture and design schools dotted throughout the region: a myriad from which logistical realities, and some most unfortunate timetabling, regrettably, meant that the 2019 smow blog #campustour only visited two. If two that represent very different approaches to design education…….
Small as the Netherlands may be in the global jigsaw, it has been the source of numerous significant impulses in terms of architecture and design, numerous significant impulses which for reasons of brevity we’ll reduce to the Dutch gable as a defining feature of baroque architecture, to De Stijl as leading protagonists of the early 20th century European avant-garde, and to that late 20th century Dutch avant-garde that developed in the course of the 1990s and which did so much to force an evolution in understandings of design, including allowing for an increasing popular acceptance of conceptual design and thereby the understanding that design isn’t necessarily the object but how one gets there and what we (can) collectively learn from the journey.
How the coming generation of Dutch, and in the Netherlands trained non-Dutch, designers are making their way, what they’ve learned thus far from their journey and why they are undertaking the journey, were among the motivations for taking our 2019 #campustour to the Netherlands.
Small as the Netherlands may be in the global jigsaw, our visits to its design schools was the source of more than could comfortably be accommodated in one post, and so we’ve split it into two, starting in Maastricht and Arnhem…….
If the recent history of Germany is one of East and West, the longer history is one of North and South; a history which, and simplifying to the point of falsehood, saw the rivalry and conflict between the Hanseatic League and the traders of the southern states become a rivalry and conflict between Prussia and the realms of Baden, Württemberg, Hessen and Bavaria: the latter being the most reluctant to ratify the 1870 November Treaties and join the new Deutsches Reich. A reluctance expressed not only by the then Bavarian parliament’s protracted deliberations on, and initial rejection of, the Treaties, but Bavaria’s then King, Ludwig II, he of the fairytale castles, absence from the formal proclamation of the Kaiserreich in January 1871.
Yet despite Bavaria’s long, deep, and (arguably) continuing, resistance and hostility to the union, it is Weißbier, Lederhosen and FC Bayern, and fairytale castles, which stand representative for many a non-German’s understanding of German identity.
Conversely, while Bavaria has contributed much to the development of contemporary design in Germany, not least through the efforts of, and amongst many others, the late 19th/early 20th century Vereinigte Werkstätten für Kunst im Handwerk, Die Neue Sammlung as one of the oldest and largest dedicated design museums, the Munich born and based designer Konstantin Grcic or Stuttgart born but Chiemgau based design publisher Nils Holger Moormann, the popular understanding of “Designed in Germany” lies outwith the Freistaat, in the realms of gute Form, largely developed in Ulm and arguably most popularly understood through Braun; in Stuttgart’s Porsche or Wolfsburg’s Volkswagen; or, and this year of all years, by Bauhaus, an institution which as we noted in context of our 2019 smow Song Contest coverage, was very, very Prussian in its make up, students from Bavaria being outnumbered by those from Mars. More or less.
But what can Bavaria’s design schools contribute to altering such a position? To raising the profile of Bavarian design? We can’t offer any concrete prognosis, or at least not here, logistic realities meaning that we only visited two Bavarian design schools, technically three but we’ll get to that, at length; however, from the two (three) we did visit……
Partly for reasons of its size, and partly on account of the way the then nations of the contemporary Germany responded to the challenges and realities of late 19th/early 20th century industrialisation, Germany is home to a truly outrageous number of architecture and design schools, certainly more than it would be logical, prudent or congenial to pack into one post.
And so to save your nerves, and our fingers, we’ll present the German leg of our 2019 #campustour via a series of regional postings, starting in and around the German capital.
Alongside Switzerland’s most important contributions to contemporary society – bobsleigh, Dada and muesli – a trio we regularly combine on a Wednesday evening, Switzerland has also contributed much to the (hi)stories of architecture and design: quite aside from creatives such as, and remaining for reasons of brevity in recent history, the likes of Max Bill, Le Corbusier, Susi Berger, Fritz Haller or Sigfried Giedion, organisations such as the Schweizerische Werkbund were every bit as important as their German and Austrian counterparts in disseminating inter-war ideas, similarly the retailer/manufacturer Wohnbedarf, established in Zürich in 1931 was one of the more proactive commercial protagonists in the popularising of interior understandings of the pre/post-War decades, while, and as we learned from the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich’s permanent collection exhibition, ’twas in Switzerland that aluminium smelting was developed. A metal which has contributed much to the (hi)story of design and society.
Charged with ensuring that Switzerland remains relevant in coming decades are the country’s architecture and design schools, a collection of institutions with a wide range of foci and formats: the logistics of an undertaking such as a #campustour meaning however that we only made it to Basel and Zürich…… Apologies to all others, it wasn’t lack of interest which kept us from your doors. Yet although we visited but a fraction of the Swiss design school cheese, it was to two exhibitions that represented different approaches to the design school summer showcase: the graduation show and the review of semester projects…..
For Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince Summertime may very well be a “Time to sit back and unwind”, for us Summertime is when our year finally, finally, gets going.
While others spend the long hot days of summer on the beach, in the mountains, riding around in their Jeep, their Benzos, Nissan or eating pizza at Lorenzos, we’re to be found either riding backwards in trains, our eyes fixed firmly on the past as we race into the future, terrified that a metaphor is becoming an omen, or wandering the corridors, ateliers and workshops of European design schools, considering and reflecting on not only the students’ semester and graduation projects, but contemporary European design education, the positions of the coming generation of designers, and questioning if the world, the society, laid out before us is one we we want to be part off? Weeks of travel, reflection and existential anguish sustained by no more than our endless curiosity, more water than we consume the rest of the year and the promise of a (near) daily falafel.
That’s our “new definition of summer madness”
Designer, grib magten! enjoined the 2018 Design School Kolding exhibition, Designer, seize the power!
Which not only sounds a bit more revolutionary than one is use to from Danes, but also implies designers should be in power. A position on which, and as we oft noted, we’re highly sceptical.
Intimately involved in power systems yes, but designers in charge…….
Consequently we thought it wise to set course for the Design School Kolding 2018 Graduation Exhibition.
Atop bonny Killesberg, and beside Kochenhof, (the) Akademie der Bildenden Künste, ABK, Stuttgart has been nurturing a basic kernel within a bright kettle of students of numerous creative disciplines since 1761.
For their 2018 Rundgang the, we believe the word is, identity, was based on alternative resolutions of the initialism ABK, the central one being Alle brauchen Kunst – Everyone Needs Art.
But do we need that applied, functional art developed in the year past at the ABK Stuttgart……?
A visit to the 2018 Rundgang promised to supply us with a better knowledge, but also to bequeath the students a bit kudos…….?
As we all learned from the exhibition Peter Behrens. The Practical and the Ideal at the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum Krefeld, the city was an important location in the development of the young Peter Behrens, not least through the role played by the museum’s founding director Friedrich Deneken in helping Behrens take his first steps from pure to applied arts; help which included not only giving Behrens’ work space in the museum but also mediating commissions with Krefeld manufacturers.
One of the more interesting projects discussed by Deneken and Behrens was creating the Damenzimmer – Boudoir – in Behrens’ house on the Mathildenhöhe Artists Colony in Darmstadt as a “Krefeld Room”, featuring exclusively, or near as makes no difference, works by Krefeld manufacturers.
Ultimately, for reasons of time, it wasn’t realised as such, but the fact that it was seriously considered underscores the depth of manufacturing and craft industries in Krefeld of 1901.
And the breadth of Behrens’ fledgling talents.
Krefeld of 2018 may not have the depth of industry it enjoyed in 1901, but do the current fledgling designers have the breadth of talent of a Peter Behrens?
The 2018 designkrefeld Werkschau provided a good opportunity to gather an impression.
The 2018 ArtEZ Academy of Art & Design Arnhem graduation exhibition was staged under the title, Liberty, but how many would the students be taking……
As we regularly note in our #campustour posts, what students produce is largely irrelevant, alone important in how the student got there, including how they responded to a given brief, posed their initial question, the logic in the decisions they made, the lessons learned from their mistakes, the lessons learned from others, the impulses received from contemporary discourses, etc, and how through the course of all such their understanding of and relationship to design evolved……
The Münster School of Design understand this process as a Parcours.
Their graduation exhibition allowing chance to reflect on all that leaping, bounding, climbing, rolling……
We doubt we will be able to visit the 2019 Summaery exhibition at Bauhaus University Weimar, as we suspect the town will be too full of visitors celebrating the centenary of Bauhaus Weimar.
Or perhaps better put, full of confused visitors wondering where all the steel tube furniture is….. Wrong Bauhaus people.
Consequently we attempted to extract as much as we could from Summaery 2018.
Having made his way to America as a stowaway on an British freighter the Dutch abstract expressionist artist, and eponym of Rotterdam’s art school, Willem de Kooning, initially made his living as a painter and decorator.
Which, considered in context of his later work, is just the most delicious thought……
“No Willem, that wall ONLY green, that wall ONLY yellow, the doors ONLY white. And straight edges!!!”
That unfamiliar bouquet in the air in Karlsruhe is the wind of change blowing through the Hochschule für Gestaltung: having guided, nurtured and, one assumes, wisely counselled, the design department since 1994 as Professor for Product Design Volker Albus is departing.
What that all means for the future is anyone’s guess, it’s very much a case of watch this space; for now all we could do is to what we do whenever a wind of change blows, and follow the Moskva down to Gorky Park and then on to the Hochschule für Gestaltung where the children of tomorrow were dreaming away at the 2018 Rundgang annual exhibition.
But would it be a glory night…….?
Derived from the French parcourir, the parcours is perhaps historically most popularly associated with equine show-jumping, the challenge of negotiating an artificial obstacle course; more recently it has become popular in context of human show-jumping, the challenge of negotiating an urban obstacle course.
Approaching the Köln International School of Design 2018 KISDparcours semester and graduation exhibition we hoped the obstacles to be negotiated would be of the mental, philosophical, type……
If, as we all freely accept, the meaning of life is 42, what does that make 43?
A miscalculation, and a life led in the belief that it was correct, all for the best, but was in actual fact all very wrong and completely missing the point?
A self-deluding over-estimation of the value of one’s own contribution to society?
Biting off more than you can chew?
Such, and other, considerations have kept us busy since the the 2018 smow blog #campustour formally ended…….
Counting amongst its alumni the likes of Finn Juhl, Arne Jacobsen, Nanna Ditzel, Kaare Klint, Georg Jensen, do stop us if we get boring, Verner Panton, Thorvald Bindesbøll, Ole Wanscher, Poul Kjærholm, and pretty much any other Danish designer or architect of whom you’ve ever heard, and a great many more of whom you haven’t, the Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi Copenhagen was formally inaugurated on March 31st 1754 in honour of the 31st birthday of Frederik V.
But is it a gift that keeps on giving?
A visit to the Schools’ of Architecture, Design and Conservation 2018 graduation exhibition promised to provide some answers……
Odd as it may be to consider today, in the course of the 19th century and throughout the first decades of the 20th century, the German town of Chemnitz was one of the most important locations in central Europe for heavy and mechanical engineering, and thereby an important motor on the highway from craft to industrial production, supplying as it did the machines, infrastructure and ideas to enable that transfer. The importance of Chemnitz in the 19th century can perhaps be best gauged by the fact that the city, for all in the person of then Oberbürgermeister Dr. Wilhelm André, was one of the leading protagonists in the campaign which ultimately led in 1877 to the passing of the first Patent Law in the freshly established German Reich. The wealth those patents brought Chemnitz, its engineers and industrialists can still be seen today, for example, in the Kaßberg district, one of the most expansive Jugendstil suburbs in Germany, and also in the number of villas from the turn of the 19th/20th centuries to be found lining the broad boulevards, including the one built in 1902/03 by Henry van de Velde for the textile manufacturer Herbert Esche.
While the names of many/most of those engineers and industrialists may not be popularly known today that of Chemnitz’s most famous 20th century designer certainly is: Marianne Brandt, a trained artist who learned her metalwork trade in the workshops at Bauhaus Weimar, followed the school to Dessau and became, for all through her many designs for Leipzig based manufacturer Kandem, one of the genuine pioneers of lighting design. Even if most associate her today with teapots.
As the centenary of Bauhaus Weimar approaches, and thus memories are awakened of that period in history when eastern Germany was at the forefront of attempts to unify craft and art for the benefit of industry and society, what can Chemnitz offer? What can Chemnitz creatives contribute to the development of craft, industry, design? The exhibition Unikate 7 presenting graduation projects from the Handwerkskammer Chemnitz’ Gestalter im Handwerk programme seemed like an appropriate place to approach an answer…….
We’ve spent so much time walking alongside canals on this #campustour we’ve started to feel less like dashing thoroughbreds and more like plodding, monotonous, if honest, loyal and sedulous barge ponies.
There are, as far as we are aware, no canals in Aachen, yet, and much like those city’s who owe their existence to canals, Aachen owes its existence, and name, to its waters: the thermal springs arising in the city meaning that since Roman times the peoples of the region, and from further afield, have visited to take the aquae, the waters, from which over High Middle German one arrives at Aachen.
We arrived at Aachen with a train from Cologne. But would the works on show at the FH Aachen summer exhibitions soothe our tired, aching sensibilities much as thermal springs soothe tired, aching muscles? And would it put that much missed spring back in our step………
Approaching the 2018 Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang one was obliged to navigate the weekly antique and flea market that overwhelms the Straße des 17. Juni, and thereby walk, hurry, past untold objects whose ill consideration, self-celebration, kitschiness or plain ugliness confuse, insult, anger and otherwise offend the senses and sensibilities.
An inconvenience, or an omen for that which awaited us……….?
“It is a peculiar tension that precedes a first visit to a painting exhibition”, opined the Dutch art critic Jacques van Santen Kolff in the introduction to his four part review of the 1875 exhibition at the Teeken-Akademie Den Haag, “there is a unique charm, something stimulating in that nervousness, an eminently “picturesque” tension.”1
Kolff wasn’t disappointed, that which he had sensed in the air was confirmed by that which hung on the walls and led him to coin the term “Hague School”, thus giving a name, a status, a relevance, to a contemporary movement in Dutch art, one which, according to Kolff, was a “new ultra-radical movement.”
We felt that peculiar tension, that unique charm and stimulating nervousness as we approached the Teeken-Akademie’s successor, the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten Den Haag’s, 2018 Graduation Festival.
But would we be as fundamentally convinced by what we saw in 2018 as Kolff was in 1875? Would we subsequently speak of a “new ultra-radical movement” in Dutch design?
And would our review run to four parts………
Our visit to the 2017 Royal College of Art London Graduate Show was one of the more sobering moments of our 2017 #campustour.
Or as we wrote then, “…in a world controlled by RCA graduates every, but every, aspect of our lives will be controlled by autonomous smart technology. We will literally lose the ability to think for ourselves. The human brain will become the appendix of the 21st century.”
Donning a hat fashioned from aluminium foil and an old metal sieve, we headed once more to South Kensington……
“Welcher Fehler braucht ein system?”, “Which errors/mistakes/imperfections does a system require?”, asked the Kunsthochschule Burg Giebichenstein Halle’s 2018 annual exhibition.
And used the question as a celebration of the power of trial and error, of the value, importance, poetry, of imperfections, abrasion, the incorrect, the unintended, the random, the well planned but ultimately unsuccessful, and how any otherwise well-organised, professional and targeted system needs a nuisance factor, needs a source of imperfection, chaos, resistance, experimentation, an aberration, to keep it fresh, exciting, relevant and vital.
Thanks guys, appreciate it…….