The so-called Bielefeld Conspiracy asserts that the German city of Bielefeld doesn’t exist.

Have you ever been to Bielefeld?, it asks.

Do you know anyone who has ever been to Bielefeld?

Do you know anyone from Bielefeld?

If your answer to all three questions is no…….. how do you know Bielefeld exists?

A similar conspiracy could be built around Gertrud Kleinhempel, one of Germany’s first professional furniture designers and who for the greater part of her career was active in Bielefeld.

Or was, assuming Bielefeld exists. And assuming Gertrud Kleinhempel exists.

For have you ever seen any work by Gertrud Kleinhempel, do you know anyone who has seen any work by Gertrud Kleinhempel, have you ever seen Gertrud Kleinhempel on the helix of furniture design?

If your answer to all three questions is no……..

Gertrud Kleinhempel (1875 - 1948)

“Only slowly does it dawn on people that modern furniture must be designed on the basis of practical necessities”, observed the Danish architect and designer Kaare Klint in 1930.1

How Kaare Klint understood those “practical necessities”, how he understood “modern furniture”, would not only define his career, but in many regards define the development of 20th century furniture design in Denmark.

Kaare Klint (1888 - 1954)

In a letter in 2008 to the editors of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians concerning remarks in an article on the staged illumination of Mies van der Rohe’s skeletal frame constructions, the architecture historian Kathleen James-Chakraborty refers to the “linking of Heinrich Tessenow’s Festspielhaus of 1910-12 in Hellerau with the installation for the glass industry that Mies designed (in collaboration with Lilly Reich, whom Petty does not mention) for the Stuttgart Werkbund exhibition in 1927.”1

“(in collaboration with Lilly Reich, whom Petty does not mention)”

(in collaboration with Lilly Reich, whom history so often does not mention, or when then fleetingly and sparingly, and which thus tends to leave Lilly Reich’s oeuvre in the shadows. Not least in the shadows of the staged illumination of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe…….)

Lilly Reich (1885 - 1947)

With the exhibition Citizen Office the Vitra Design Museum staged not only their first conceptual, research based, exhibition, but also one of the first museal reflections on “the world of the office”.

Reflections which not only pointed towards new directions and understandings then, but which offer insights and lessons for today…….

Citizen Office as visualised by James Irvine

“The work of the Dresden artist Margarete Junge is largely shrouded in darkness” noted the art historian Gert Claußnitzer in his introduction to the 1981 exhibition “Margarete Junge. Fashion sketches and flower studies”1

And while Margarete Junge’s 2D works may have been allowed to shine, if only briefly, in the early 1980s, her 3D works remained stubbornly shrouded: only in recent years being afforded the opportunity, if only partially, to radiate as they once did.

Thankfully. For the works, and the biography, of Margarete Junge are as interesting and important as they are illuminating……

Works by Margarete Junge, as seen at Against Invisibility – Women Designers at the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau 1898 to 1938, Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden 03.11.2018—01.03.2019

“The role of the architect is one of organisation. The house is the considered organisation of our ways of life”1, opined the Austrian architect Margarete Lihotzky in 1921.

And in the course of a long, varied career, she repeatedly demonstrated what she understood by such; including most famously, if somewhat narrowly, in a kitchen design………….

Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky (1897-2000) (Photo Werner Faymann, source https://commons.wikimedia.org)

Qu’est-ce que le design?

What is design?

A question as old as the word itself, arguably older. But one with an answer?

In an attempt to approach one the Musée des Arts Décoratifs Paris asked Charles Eames, Verner Panton, Roger Tallon, Joe Colombo and Fritz Eichler, Qu’est-ce que le design?……

A view of Verner Panton's installation at Qu'est-ce que le design Musée des Arts Décoratifs Paris 1969 (Photo © and courtesy Musée des Arts Décoratifs Paris)

“This exhibition intends to acknowledge the cultural achievements of Italian design in the last decade, to honor the accomplishments of its gifted designers and incisive critics, and to illustrate the diversity of their approaches to design by presenting a collection of the most interesting examples of their work.”1

Thus announced the curators of the Museum of Modern Art’s 1972 exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape their intentions.

The New Domestic Landscape portrayed by the gifted designers accomplishments and diversity of their approaches wasn’t however, necessarily, one inhabited by voluminously upholstered sofas and elegant lighting…….

Italy The New Domestic Landscape The Museum of Modern Art, New York 1972

The German architect and designer Ferdinand Kramer didn’t just translate the new principles of construction and design which arose in the inter-war years into his architecture, furniture and industrial designs, he was also a very eloquent writer on such matters, and thus helped, and continues to help, explain the motivations behind, and fascination with, functionalist ideals.

The Kramer Principle Design for Variable Use Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt am Main Chair B 403 Thonet

Exposition internationale des Arts Décoratifs et industriels modernes Paris 1925

“What is the Paris Exposition?”, asked Roger Gilman in the September 1925 edition of The Art Bulletin, “It is a

Charles Eames US Patent Nr 2,969,831 Side Flexing Shock Mount

“In the development and designing of furniture one prevailing problem is the means for securing parts of the furniture together

philippe starck portrait Jean-Baptiste Mondino

A few years ago the (smow) blog telephone rang….. “Good morning is it possible to speak to Philippe Starck please?”

There are those, charlatans one must say, who claim that design only exists in the here and now, that design