In the alpine regions of Europe the arrival of September marks the start of the Almabtrieb, that annual migration of the cattle, sheep and goats of the region from their high pastures to the valleys far, far below.
A migration undertaken because, as the cattle, sheep and goats of the alps innately understand, September is the month when the global architecture and design museum community (slowly) end their summer siesta and begin to invite us all to peruse their autumn/winter exhibition programmes.
And a migration that looks particularly worthwhile in September 2023, being as it is abloom with a crop of new showcases every bit as enticing and flavoursome as the herb rich pastures of any alpine alm. Indeed so bountiful is the September 2023 harvest we could have written two lists. For probity’s sake we stick with the one.
Our five reasons for saying Servus, Tschüs and Adieu to the fresh air and green, green, grass of the high alps and venturing into the city can be found in Frankfurt, New York, Kolding, Vienna and Malmö…….
In September 1839 Henry David Thoreau and his brother John spent two weeks navigating the Concord and Merrimack rivers on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border. A boat trip, a journey, motivated by Thoreau’s long time observation of the Concord river, and for all its many organic and inorganic inhabitants, floating past him, “fulfilling their fate” as they did; and which inspired Thoreau to “launch myself on its bosom and float wither it would bear me.”1
Which is not only a very positive attitude to life, but also to approaching an architecture and/or design exhibition: launch yourself at it and see whither it bears you.
Our five recommendations for allowing yourself to carried off to pastures unknown, and possibly fulfilling fate as you are, in September 2022 can be found in Frankfurt, Hornu, Kolding, Rotterdam and Los Angeles…….
In their 2021/22 exhibition Craft is Cactus the Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt, constructed a very convincing argument for including craft in the cactus family, a very convincing argument for making the Craftoideae a fifth subfamily of the Cactaceae.
Yet while a very good argument, as we all know, much work remains to be undertaken on the classification of the Craftoideae, not least in context of their habitats: where does one find craft? Where do the Craftoideae prevail?
With the exhibition Craft as Myth. Between Ideal and Real Life the Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt undertake a detailed field study of the Craftoideae, and in doing so allow for reflections on both contemporary craft and of future contemporary craft. On the future of craft…….
Following smow Turin’s thoroughly unexpected, if in no way undeserved, victory in the 2021 smow Song Contest, it’s off to Piemonte for the 2022 edition.
A 2022 smow Song Contest being held very much in context of events 20 years previous…….
The contemporary systematics of the family Cactaceae recognises four subfamilies, Cactoideae, Maihuenioideae, Opuntioideae and Pereskioideae; is however a classification very much in motion, one very much in an ongoing process of re-evaluation, re-definition, re-assessment, one which undergoes regular revisions.
¿An ongoing re-evaluation and re-definition and re-assessment and revision which could see the addition of a fifth subfamily, the Craftoideae?
With the exhibition Craft is Cactus. The Collection from 1945 to Today the Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt, explore contemporary craft in its myriad expressions, positions and relationships, and in doing so also undertake an appraisal of the contemporary taxonomy of our objects of daily use…….
Our relationships with colour are invariably shaped and informed by the culture and society in which we were raised. A state of affairs that, equally invariably, leads to us all possessing relatively strictly defined understandings of colour, understandings of the psychology of colours or of the agency of colours or of the use of colours.
With the exhibition Green Sky, Blue Grass. Colour Coding Worlds, the Weltkulturen Museum Frankfurt discuss the cultural relevance and social functions of colour in various and varied contexts and in doing so extend an invitation to expand our relationships with colour, and the world(s) they code…….
“November’s night is dark and drear, The dullest month of all the year”, opined Letitia Elizabeth Landon in 1836, however, ’twas not all doom and gloom, for, as she continues, “the November evening now closing in round Mrs. Cameron’s house was of a very cheerful nature.”*
A cheerfulness in Mrs. Cameron’s house/school occasioned by the gaiety associated with the rapidly approaching annual school prize-giving and ball; and a cheerfulness to banish the dreary darkness of a November evening that can also be achieved through the intellectual stimulation of an architecture and/or design exhibition.
Our five recommended distractions from November 2021 can be found in Frankfurt, Basel, Dresden, Miami Beach and Munich…..
Braun occupy a special, ¿unique?, position not only in the mythology of product design but also in the (hi)story of West Germany; arguably no brand is as closely related with and to West Germany as Braun.
With the exhibition Braun 100 the Bröhan-Museum, Berlin, explore the development of design at Braun in the post-War decades and in doing so help one approach differentiated understandings of not only Braun and Braun design, but also of the relationships between Braun, design and West Germany…….
After a long, challenging, year the smow Song Contest finds itself exactly where it was: Rotterdam.
Not just the location, but the stage, the decoration, the costumes, even the bier en frieten exactly as they were twelve months ago.
The decisive, defining, difference between the 2020 smow Song Contest and the 2021 smow Song Contest being the new understandings, the new perceptions, the new perspectives, the new vitality, the new passions, the new desires, the new old new, articulated by the contest’s motto: Open Up!
How did previous generations imagine daily life in our contemporary age?, the Museum für Kommunikation Frankfurt asked itself.
Specifically, how did previous generations imagine technology integrating into and assisting daily life in our contemporary age? A question which naturally leads into questions of how we imagine technology integrating into and assisting daily life in our contemporary age? How does our contemporary age imagine technology integrating into and assisting daily life in coming ages?
The answers, as presented and discussed in context of the exhibition Back to Future. Technology visions between fiction and reality, may surprise you, may appear familiar to you, may surprise you in that they appear familiar to you. And in their surprising familiarity could, should, stimulate more critical reflections on the role, function, purpose and place of technology in our cultures and societies, and of our relationships with and to technology……
Back in May we were faced with the decision as to whether to remain with the online exhibition recommendations we’d been carrying throughout the spring, or, given that ever more museums were re-opening, move back offline for our June recommendations.
And decided to move back offline, not least because “viewing an exhibition in a museum is the more satisfying experience, the more rewarding experience, the more enduring experience. And an important experience.”
Ahead of our November recommendations we faced a similar choice. Travel, certainly international travel, is not only becoming increasingly difficult and of questionable responsibility, but in many regions the official advice is not to travel unless absolutely necessary; meaning while most museums are open, they are, in a purely practical sense, inaccessible for many. And so is compiling a list of offline exhibitions a meaningful undertaking? Is such a list sensible? Should we move back to online recommendations?
Yes. Yes. No.
And not just because museums are important cultural spaces, but primarily because most all museums are open……
…..or were while we were writing this. However, the rapidly developing nature of contemporary society meant that just before publishing this post it became clear that two of our five November openings will not be opening in November.
We’ve kept them in the list. Not because we couldn’t change the list, not that we couldn’t have substituted them for two others. We could. We’re smow: quick, uncomplicated solutions is what we do, flexibility and spontaneity are our best friends, there is never a Plan B but always alternative options, no job is too big, no pup is too …. no, hang on, that’s Paw Patrol.
We could have substituted them.
But didn’t see why we should. Every month we scan hundreds of museums and galleries around the globe looking for interesting, relevant, recommendable architecture and design exhibitions, the five we present are those we consider to be the most interesting, relevant, recommendable. And no temporary lockdown closure changes that. And all going well, come December, all five will be open.
And now, returning to where our ready-for-posting text was on Friday morning……
……and also with the reminder that such a recommendations list shouldn’t be understood solely as suggestions of locations to physically visit, but also as an impetus for your own study and research, for voyages of cultural discovery from your own sofa and/or desk. Most museum websites have in-depth descriptions of their exhibitions and the themes therein, often components of the exhibition are available online, and there will, almost always, be a catalogue that goes into more depth and detail than the exhibition; and so if an exhibition interests you, and you physically can’t get to the respective museum, why not use the long autumn and winter evenings to explore on your own.
Our five recommendations for new exhibitions opening in November 2020, and five recommendations for a meaningful use of the long autumn and winter evenings, can be found in Frankfurt, Zürich, Jyväskylä, Oslo and Hamburg.
And as ever in these times, if you do feel comfortable visiting any museum, please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious….
In a year in which the familiar glow of many a beloved cultural event is missing, one beacon continues to shine.
As a virtual, and in many regards virtual, event the smow Song Contest is one that can be staged regardless of prevailing physical social distancing regulations and physical travel restrictions.
And while virtual closeness and virtual travel can never, and must never be allowed to, replace the physical, the 2020 smow Song Contest does allow us all an opportunity to cross great distances, to come together, to stay safe, to stay responsible, but for all to stay dancing…..
As this Bauhaus Weimar centenary year is making ever clearer, whereas Bauhaus may have been physically sited in Weimar, Dessau and (nominally) Berlin, approaching a better understanding of “Bauhaus” involves leaving those sites and following the many paths that either led to, or from, those sites.
Paths that not only allow one to approach a better understanding of “Bauhaus”, but for all to approach a better understanding of the wider developments of the inter-War years, of inter-War Modernism, and thus to better understand that Bauhaus was but a component of that period, but a component of inter-War Modernism.
And paths, such as those mapped by the Brandenburgisches Landesmuseum für moderne Kunst, that invariably lead to new places, to new understandings and to an Unknown Modernism………
While it is important, and relevant, that the centenary of the opening of Bauhaus Weimar is used to delve a little deeper into the (hi)story of both the institution and inter-War Modernism, design and architecture is more than Bauhaus.
Thus following on from our October Bauhaus/inter-War Modernism focussed new exhibition recommendations, five more general, if anything but humdrum, architecture and design exhibitions opening in October 2019 in Groningen, Frankfurt, New York, Stockholm and Weil am Rhein…..
To paraphrase the title of the recent exhibition at the Deutsche Architekturmuseum, with the Neues Frankfurt project the team of architects and urban planners around Ernst May and Ludwig Landmann sought to develop new housing for new humans.
With the exhibition Wie wohnen die Leute? the Historisches Museum Frankfurt explore the contemporary reality of the Neues Frankfurt estates and thereby the new housing of then in context of the new humans of today.
For all the controversy surrounding smow Tel Aviv’s victory in the 2018 smow Song Contest, not least the question if there even is a smow Tel Aviv, the staging of the 2019 Contest in Israel does allow for a very nice reinforcing of the central theme of the 2019 smow Song Contest….
Whereas at Bauhaus Weimar and Dessau architecture was essentially a subject of theory and experimentation, elsewhere in inter-War Europe architecture was theory and practice, and that, occasionally, on a large scale. Such as the Neues Frankfurt project.
Instigated in 1925 by Frankfurt’s then Mayor Ludwig Landmann and employing a team of some 148 architects, urban planners, garden designers, journalists et al, under the leadership of Ernst May and Martin Elsaesser, Neues Frankfurt realised between 1925 and 1933 some 12,000 new homes in Frankfurt; but for all indicated possible new forms of building, new forms of living, new forms of financing housing and new forms of urban planning. New forms that were not only responsive to the new political, social and economic realities of the 1920s, but utilised to that end advances in both process/materials technologies and also scientific understandings.
With the exhibition New Human, New Housing: Architecture of the New Frankfurt 1925–1933 the Deutsches Architekturmuseum Frankfurt reflect on the project, and into the future of urban planning and the provision of of housing in the city.
“Beware the Ides of March” Julius Caesar was, allegedly, advised by the soothsayer Spurinna. And he probably wished he had. March 15th seeing his death at the hands of some 60 Senators, a death which led to civil war as opposing forces sought to control Rome’s destiny.
“Beware the 5th of the Calends of April” a modern day Spurinna would no doubt warn the good folks of the United Kingdom. March 29th looking as it is like being an equally fateful day.
But while Caesar could have taken steps to prevent his demise, the fate of the good folks of the United Kingdom is out of their hands, they must wait and see what an ideologically driven group of some 60 Conservative
Senators MPs have in store…….
And while we all wait, what could be more enriching than that which helps set the temporality of politicians’ decisions against the irrepressible force of social and cultural evolution; a force parliamentarian laws can delay but never stop, and a truth one finds elegantly mirrored in architecture and design.
Our five recommendations for new exhibitions opening in March 2019 can be found in Frankfurt, Brussels, Chemnitz, London and Magdeburg.
“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………….
“…a new generation, a new age, must develop forms and tenors for their interior and exterior worlds which correspond to its desire for well-being and its ideals” wrote Frankfurt city mayor Ludwig Landmann in 1926.1
With the exhibition Moderne am Main 1919-1933 the Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt explore how such developments were approached and realised in Frankfurt and environs, and by extrapolation explore the contribution made by the region to the evolution of inter-War understandings of architecture and design, and the legacy that remains.
The reason most of us fail to keep most of our New Year resolutions is, mostly, because we either resolve to give up things we enjoy or to do things we don’t.
Which is foolhardy in the extreme.
If you wanted to do more sport, you would.
If you wanted to eat less crisps, you would.
But don’t. And don’t. So don’t.
The wiser choice is to resolve to do more of that which you enjoy, and thereby not only setting yourself an achievable goal but one which through the genuine fulfilment it brings benefits you spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically; therefore, let us all, collectively, promise to visit more architecture and design exhibitions in 2019 than we did in 2018.
Our five starters for January 2019 can be found in Frankfurt, Malmö, New York, Berlin and Stuttgart……………..
Whereas Frankfurt can, and very loudly does, claim to the birthplace of the German poet, playwright, scientist, statesman, etc, etc, etc Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, nearby Offenbach was not only the birthplace of his almost wife and long, long time love Lili Schönemann, but it was in the, then, relative, calm of Offenbach that Goethe’s affections for Lili evolved and grew; “Lili was the first person I deeply and truly loved, and maybe she was the last”, an octogenarian Goethe is reported as having confided to a friend.
Would however we return from the 2018 Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach Rundgang with such a deep, enduring love….? With our own Lili……?
Following smow Lisboa’s surprise victory in the 2017 smow Song Contest, the Portuguese capital is preparing to host the 2018 song contest: a contest being staged very much in context of the contemporary relevance of smow’s historic connections….
The only FAQ not answered by the smow FAQs is the one that begins, “What is smow……..?”
And as smow grows and grows so too does the F with which the Q is A’d.
The answer in one sense is very simple, smow trade in furniture, lighting and home/office accessories through a series of showrooms and online shops. But that only partly explains “smow”. Doesn’t explain the how, who, why and wherefore. Nor the richness. Explaining the true smow is in many respects best achieved by exploring another trading institution whose superficial simplicity hides its true depth of character ….. The Hanseatic League.
While it is generally the case that the development, evolution, of product design is dependent on the development, evolution, of technology, such is particularly the case in context of lighting design: ever since a burning stick was first employed to create a relaxing evening atmosphere in a neolithic cave, technological developments have been the driving force behind the development of lighting design, be that formally, functionally or technically.
The nature of Light + Building Frankfurt, the fact that it is much more of case of “Light in and around Buildings”, means that the majority of the projects presented are about technical lighting in architectural contexts, and in terms of technical evolution most manufacturers are atop of the game: demonstrating technical competence being a key element in any lighting manufacturers’ self-image. Does however by necessity mean that often the required functionality is largely pre-defined by the very specific nature of the usage, while the form is in many cases irrelevant.
A small section of Light + Building does however present objects of more freer nature, and there one does/could find a few design led projects which in addition to adopting technological innovation approach new formal and functional solutions and thus new understandings of what lighting can/should be. As ever we’ve not seen everything, have invariably missed one or the other gem, apologies all-round, but with that in mind, and in no particular order, our Light + Building Frankfurt 2018 High Five!!