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….

smow song contest 2018

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.

Then as now the way to the top was difficult, but a challenge the succesful traders didn't shy away from.....

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!!

Light + Building Frankfurt 2018: High Five!!

Architects are always very keen to stress how they are working in the interests of society, for society. Often selflessly so.

Yet little polarises society quite like architecture.

And no architecture polarises quite like Brutalism.

Whereas in discourses on other architectural genres the middle ground is a place where those of moderate opinions can meet objectively and attempt to approach one another’s position: there are no Brutalism moderates.

With the exhibition SOS Brutalism – Save the Concrete Monsters, the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt becomes that objective middle ground and thereby enables a very welcome discussion on Brutalism, its origins and its legacy.

SOS Brutalism - Save the Concrete Monsters at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum Frankfurt

“The problem of the construction of affordable housing for the lowest earning sections of the population is currently a primary concern in almost all civilized countries.”

Thus invited the Congrès internationaux d’architecture moderne to their second congress, a three day event which opened on Thursday October 24th 1929 in the Palmengarten Frankfurt am Main, and which saw some of the leading protagonists of inter-war architecture discuss potential solutions for that most primary of concerns.

The success of the Frankfurt congress can perhaps be best summed up by the contemporary relevance of the invitation.

Furniture for Neue Frankfurt by Ferdinand Kramer, as seen at Germany versus France. The Struggle over Style 1900-1930, Bröhan Museum Berlin

The September architecture and design exhibition recommendations are arguably the cruellest to write: the fact that the majority of the exhibitions end in the depths of the European winter meaning that as we sit here hoping that summer keeps going just a little, little, longer…. we’re forced to think about winter jackets and gloves.

And so before things get that far, best get out there and visit an exhibition!! Our five recommendations for September 2017 feature new exhibitions in Weil am Rhein, Los Angeles, Utrecht, Frankfurt and Malmö…….

smow blog 5 New Design Exhibitions for September 2017

In northern hemispheres June marks the start of both astronomical and meteorological summer.

In southern hemispheres June marks the start of both astronomical and meteorological winter.

The one rejoices, the other laments …. and we don’t even notice, far too busy as we are perusing architecture and design exhibitions. Our five recommendations for June 2017 features new shows in Den Haag, Frankfurt, New York, Leipzig and Brussels.

5 New Design Exhibitions for June 2017

It’s early May and once again the party ship we call the smow song contest is ready to set sail……

smow song contest 2017

In our post The Sedentary Workers: Orchestra Musicians we explored the unique world of orchestra musicians’ chairs. One of Europe’s largest, and most experienced, manufacturers of orchestra and musicians’ chairs is Esslingen based Wilde+Spieth. Who thus seemed an ideal address to learn more about the orchestra chair and the orchestra chair market…..

Musicians Chair by Wilde+Spieth, based on the SE 68 by Egon Eiermann

Although the evidence is not, yet, conclusive, recent years have seen an increasing confidence in the theory that sitting for too long can have a negative impact on health, and that all whose job involves prolonged sitting should regularly stand, move and generally change their body position.

But what about those workers who can’t? What about those workers whose job is defined by long periods of sitting?

Orchestra musicians at work. Seated. Specifically, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Riccardo Muti at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, January 2017 (Photo © Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Elbphilharmonie Hamburg)

The German designer and silversmith Christian Dell is arguably best known for the numerous lighting designs he realised during the 1920s and 1930s.

Christian Dell was however also one of the pioneers of plastic design. If all too briefly.

Christian Dell (1893 - 1974)

Ambiente Frankfurt 2017 allowed an all to seldom reunião with Portuguese brand Vicara. And an occasion which served to remind us that we really should catch up with them more often…..

Vicara at Ambiente Frankfurt 2017

Amongst all the fake flavours at Ambiente Frankfurt 2017 the Umami of Japanese design studio Bouillon was a genuine delight.

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

Wind powered street lighting from Vulkan, as seen at Light + Building Frankfurt 2016

As the name implies the Light + Building Trade Fair in Frankfurt is largely about architectural lighting rather than domestic

Rondella Lamp by Christian Dell(rechts), 1930s Advert *Owing to the nature of teh item we don't ahve any photos we can use... google it,you won't be disappointed)

In his Letter of Reference for Christian Dell on the occasion of his departure from the Kunsthochschule Frankfurt, the school’s

Wow Shelf by Aveva Design, as seen at Ambiente Frankfurt 2016

As a “consumer goods” trade fair devoted to tableware, accessories, gifts, light-bulbs with filigree filaments, and the like, Ambiente Frankfurt

Feinserie at Ambiente Frankfurt 2016

In our interview with Marcel Kabisch, founder of and creative force behind German label Feinserie, he told us that what

T Chair by Kai Linke (Photo: Alexander Böhle Courtesy Studio Kai Linke)

Internationally known for its financial district, airport, financial institutions and sausages, Frankfurt am Main is less well understood as a

December is famously a half month – no one does anything useful in the second half of the month, unless

The end of design’s summer hibernation is traditionally marked by the opening of the Vitra Design Museum’s winter exhibition, which

Frankfurt University Jügelhaus before and after, as seen at Line Form Function. The Buildings of Ferdinand Kramer, the Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt

Following on from the exploration of Ferdinand Kramer’s design work in the exhibition The Kramer Principle: Design for Variable Use

"Please touch!" at the Museum für Gestaltung – Schaudepot, Zürich

In the complete interview with Matylda Krzykowski ahead of the Depot Basel exhibition Forum for an Attitude, there is a

Vitra Frankfurt Ampelphase 7 Sehnsucht SYRA_Schoyerer Architekten & Elmar Lixenfeld

If form follows function, what form does, could, should yearning and longing have? If architects are continually searching for a

Tendence Frankfurt 2015: Flechtgestaltung - Diana Stegmann

If we’re completely honest, until now the only piece of wickerwork about which we have ever gotten truly excited is