“Conservative Hamburg only permits white paint for its ceilings, doors and windows, and, at most, economical gilding”, remonstrated once the decorative painter Peter Gustaf Dorén.1

And set about rectifying that, set about bringing more colour to Hamburg……

Peter Gustaf Dorén. Interior Design in Hamburg circa 1900 Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Following the declaration of the French Republic in 1792 a new calendar was introduced in the realms of France: the Revolution had washed away France past and the Republic marked the start of a new reality for mankind, one of universal Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, and therefore demanded a resetting of the collective clock, a new measuring of time, and thus out went the Gregorian calendar and its historic associations with church and state, and in came le calendrier républicain, the French Republican Calendar.

And while, yes, one can consider the belief amongst the new republicans in the eternal gloriousness of the coming future as somewhat naive, one must remember that we can reflect on their optimism with the benefit of over 200 years hindsight and experience.

The argument for a new calendar appears however as compelling and self-evident as it must have done at its adoption on October 24th 1793. Or 3 Brumaire II, as we believe le calendrier républicain would date the day of its adoption.

Aside from its ten day week, an early attempt at bringing decimalisation to our time keeping, and the bequeathing of every day its own unique name, the principle difference between the Gregorian and Republican calendars is the move from the 12 months of varying lengths inherited from the Romans to twelve months each comprising thirty days, three ten day weeks, and the renaming of the months to give them a connection to nature rather than to Romans: the period between 19/20th February and 19/20th March, that period in which we find ourselves at the time of writing, being known as Ventôse, from venteux, windy, and was preceded by Pluviôse, rainy, and followed by Germinal, germination

Which all strikes us as particularly apposite as we move towards the next phase of our post-pandemic society; as a fresh wind blows the global rain clouds away and ushers in a period of re-birth and springing forth. Yes, such optimism may be as naive as that of the French revolutionaries, but we have a much better understanding of history today, and for all a much better understanding of the sense and logic in, utter necessity of, making use of the myriad lessons of history in order to avoid the pitfalls and follies of the past, and to allow us to chart an untroubled course forward……oh…..hang on……

Although, now is as good a time as any to start. The theory is known, we just need to move into the practice. And so given that all nations and all peoples have had their Corona tribulations should we not think about re-setting our global clocks, starting afresh at a new global year zero for a new global society?

We’ll leave others more qualified than us to work out the practicalities and technicalities, and decide on the basis of the nomenclature, and instead recommend here four new exhibitions scheduled to open in Germinal CCXX, and thus, one hopes, once the winds of Ventôse have begun to do their job, and also recommend a radio station that’s been online since the rains of Pluviôse….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for March 2021

Alongside the Chinese and Korean New Year celebrations one of the most popular observances in any given February is, arguably, the Feast Day of Saint Valentine on February 14th; St Valentine famously being the patron saint of greetings card manufacturers, lovers, but less famously, if just as importantly, also offering protection from the plague.

Now while the misanthropes amongst you will query whether love and plague aren’t synonyms, and a pox upon you for that; this February 14th we could all do with not only a little love, but a goodly dose of plague protection. And so rather than the traditional veneration of St Valentine through the distribution of hurriedly purchased and poorly considered flowers and chocolates, how about we all agree to celebrate the life of St Valentine through taking a little more care of one another, spreading a little more communal love and a little less plague, taking the weight of his shoulders for a few hours………….?

Beyond offering protection to lovers and from the plague, and protecting beekeepers, St Valentine also offers protection to travellers, which sadly no-one is these days. But those days will come again.

Until they do we continue with our hybrid exhibitions recommendations lists: that for February 2021 featuring a trio of offline exhibitions in Weil am Rhein, Hamburg und Falkenberg, and while they in all probability wont open as planned, will open, and before they do offer impetus for a little self study, and also two online highlights to explore, research and, for all, enjoy at your leisure.

Perhaps on February 14th, for as we all know, the couple that develop and deepen their design understandings together, stay together……

5 (New) Architecture & Design Exhibitions for February 2021

The only certainty as 2020 flows into 2021 is the ongoing uncertainty. An uncertainty that is increasingly being understood as an ongoing certainty and thereby turning ever more “plans” into “options”.

And also causing a great many global architecture and design museums to skip over the first quarter of 2021 as if weren’t there, and to move their new exhibition openings to April and beyond.

A state of affairs which on the one hand means there are currently fewer lonelier locations than any given museum’s “future exhibitions” listings; but on the other hand means that much as the coldest hour is the one just before the dawn, so it is increasingly certain, as in “old” certain, that the paucity of new exhibitions opening in the first quarter of 2021 will cede to a flood come spring. And so you can now plan, as in old “plan”, to visit an exhibition a day come summer. And still have options. Old and new

And a state of affairs which has to a degree forced our hand and produced a hybrid recommendations list for January 2021: offline exhibitions in Berlin, Hamburg and Metz; online exhibitions from Warsaw and Weimar/Dessau.

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…….

5 (New) Architecture & Design Exhibitions for January 2021

Outwith his native Denmark, the country home to the most architectural works by Arne Jacobsen is Germany.

Yet the vast majority of them remain popularly unknown.

As does Arne Jacobsen’s partner on his German projects: Otto Weitling

With the showcase Gesamtkunstwerke – Architecture by Arne Jacobsen and Otto Weitling in Germany, the Felleshus Berlin not only set the record straight but allow for some fresh reflections on both Arne Jacobsen and our relationships to and with architecture and our built environments……

Gesamtkunstwerke – Architecture by Arne Jacobsen and Otto Weitling in Germany at Felleshus, The Nordic Embassies, Berlin

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….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for November 2020

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…..

smow song contest 2020

While we’d all much rather physically visit architecture and design museums, our current enforced virtual patronage does allow us all an excellent opportunity to begin to understand architecture and design museums as more than just an exhibition space with shop and café, and to begin to learn to interact with them, and for all their collections, in new, proactive, manners. To understand architecture and design museums as tools as much as institutions.

And while a virtual visit can never replace a physical one, it can help us extenuate and expand our understandings and thereby allow us to take even more from that physical visit. And those physical visits will return.

Until then, volume two of our online recommendations takes you from your sofa to Berlin, Hamburg, Bloomfield Hills, Mumbai, München, and hopefully and awful lot further…..

5 Online Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2020

“In many workshops and offices it is regularly attempted to achieve both direct and semi-indirect lighting by means of large, single, light sources, that is, to work only with ample general lighting. Yet as pleasant as this type of lighting may be, in many cases it proves unsatisfactory on account of certain inherent shortcomings”1

So opined in 1926 the German engineer Curt Fischer.

Rhetorically. For in 1919 he had already patented his first solution to resolving such “inherent shortcomings”.

How, and where his considerations have taken contemporary lighting design, are discussed and explored in the exhibition 100 Years of Positionable Light at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg.

100 Years of Positionable Light, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg

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….

smow song contest 2019

More or less……

…..while 3 of the 5 have a direct connection to Bauhaus, 5 of the 5 are very much in the spirit of the attempts of inter-War architects and designers to reform architecture and design, to establish a new architecture and design for the new society, attempts in which Bauhaus played an important role.

And for those seeking escape from Dessau and Weimar, figuratively not physically, we refer you to our more general 5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2019 recommendations….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2019 - Bauhaus Special

How do we ensure there is sufficient, affordable, healthy, practical, accommodation for our contemporary population and their needs?

Not just a question for today’s society but arguably one that has been posed, considered and approached by architects and urban planners since the late 19th century.

If, admittedly, without anyone ever solving the conundrum. Or at least not unequivocally. Or sustainably.

With the exhibition Die Neue Heimat ­(1950–1982). A Social Democratic Utopia and Its Buildings, the Architekturmuseum der TU München review the (hi)story of the Neue Heimat housing corporation and its efforts to ensure sufficient, affordable, healthy, practical, accommodation for West Germany, and in doing so add to the contemporary discourse.

Die Neue Heimat ­(1950–1982). A Social Democratic Utopia and Its Buildings, the Architekturmuseum der TU München

Escalating tension between the nuclear powers, public discourses on gender equality/respect, racial equality/respect, religious equality/respect, thousands displaced through war and conflict in South East Asia, destabilising wars and conflicts in the Middle East, warnings about irreversible environmental stability and the long-term habitability of earth, thousands on the streets demanding change…..

And the situation in 1968 wasn’t very different.

With the exhibition 68. Pop und Protest the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg explore the relationships between the social and political developments of the late 1960s and the cultural manifestations of the period……

Hermann von Wissmann, and proters posters from Paris, as seen at 68. Pop und Protest Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

If Jean-Claude Juncker gets his way October 2018 could see the clocks of Europe turned back an hour for the final time.

And thereby bringing to an end the long tradition of local newspapers publishing bi-annual articles documenting the curious tales and legends of town clocks, stories from the Schwarzwald on the largest and smallest cuckoo clocks, and photographs of horologists surrounded by the 350+ clocks and watches they need to reset.

For our part, we’ll miss them.

It will also mean you won’t have that extra hour the last Sunday in October to enjoy an extra leisurely visit to an architecture and/or design exhibition, so take the chance while you can…..

Our five recommendations for using that extra hour in October 2018 can be found in Hamburg, Weil am Rhein, Zürich, Paris and Helsinki.

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for October 2018

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.....

“October is the month of painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round the world. As fruits and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint just before they fall, so the year near its setting. October is its sunset sky; November the later twilight”

Before Henry David Thoreau’s twilight comes, our five painted leaves, flashing their rich glow round the world from Nürnberg, Lausanne, Hamburg, Eindhoven and Barcelona.

5 New Design Exhibitions for October 2017

As the old proverbs teach us, Waste Not, Want Not!

And, all that (g)litters is gold!

With the exhibition Pure Gold. Upcycled! Upgraded! the Museum für Kunst & Gewerbe Hamburg not only demonstrate the inherent value that can exist in apparent waste, but also how understanding that inherent value could help us reduce future waste problems.

Pure Gold. Upcycled! Upgraded!, at Museum für Kunst Gewerbe Hamburg

As the apostle Paul once wrote to the people of Galatia, “for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” The manifestation of that wisdom can be observed in the twisted reality of our contemporary farming and food production systems.

What we could, should, sow in order to reap a more sustainable and democratic future harvest, and for all the role our personal relationships’ to food plays in approaching such an answer, is explored in the exhibition Food Revolution 5.0. Design for Tomorrow’s Society at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg.

Food Revolution 5.0. Design for Tomorrow’s Society at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

On May 1st 1851 Queen Victoria opened The Great Exhibition in Hyde Park London: the first “World’s Fair”, an event which celebrated the advances of the industrial age, and whose influence on industry, engineering, science, architecture and society was to resonate globally for decades, acting as it did as the motor for the quickening technological advances of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. While the profit generated from the 6 million visitors allowed for the construction of London’s Science Museum, Natural History Museum and neighbouring Victoria and Albert Museum.

If any of the numerous architecture and design exhibitions opening globally in May 2017 will become quite so pivotal remains to be seen. Our top five can be found in Hamburg, Atlanta, Amsterdam, London and Stuttgart.

5 New Design Exhibitions for March 2017

Stuttgart reißt sich ab Architekturgalerie am Weissenhof, Stuttgart

Our five recommendations for new design and architecture exhibitions opening in June 2016 feature four in Germany and one in

Vis-a-vis by Glen Oliver Löw & Antonio Citterio for Vitra

Born in Leverkusen Glen Oliver Löw initially studied Industrial Design at the University of Wuppertal before moving to Milan in

Normally October is all about design festivals, October 2015 wasn’t. On the one hand we weren’t at that many this

Art Nouveau advertising for Stollwerck's chocolate, as seen at Art Nouveau The Great Utopian Vision, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

No one likes a hippy. Which might explain the ambivalence many have towards Art Nouveau. For with its floral motifs,

Karl Gräser Sessel

We’re fairly certain most museum curators aren’t inherently nocturnal, it is however noticeable that the longer the nights become, the