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…….
“Everything is sculpture” opined once Isamu Noguchi.1
But is it?
The exhibtion Isamu Noguchi in the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, allows one to engage with, reflect on, immerse yourself in Isamu Noguchi’s life and work, and thus to better approach your own opinion on Isamu Noguchi’s firmly held conviction…..
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!
For popularly understood reasons not only did the 2021 edition of the IMM Cologne furniture trade fair not take place as planned in mid-January, neither did the 2021 edition of Cologne’s Passagen Interior Design Week…..
….which doesn’t mean that fresh contemporary design wasn’t to be found in Cologne in mid-January.
In an offline realised and online presented exhibition the assemblage Generation Köln introduced the results of their collaborations with the CIAV Meisenthal glassworks; a virtual exhibition, and very much hands-on project, that can now be explored via a short film……
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…..
Apart from the chance to peruse and consider the collections and new products of and from a wide variety of manufacturers and labels, one of the real joys of visiting any furniture fair is the opportunity it allows to observe designers in conversation with manufacturers and labels. For all in pairings that currently don’t formally exist. We never eavesdrop on such conversations, that would be rude, and to overplay our prowess as spies; but we do enjoy imagining what may arise from those conversations, imagining the enthralling objects and brave new world that awaits us all.
A brave new world that far from being a refuge from our contemporary world in many regards helps sharpen our focus on the contemporary world that surrounds us, the collections and new products of and from a wide variety of manufacturers and labels laid out for our consideration and perusal.
New products that may have begun as an informal conversation on a trade fair stand. And now look where that’s developed…..
And so, and with our customary caution that we have invariably missed one or the other gem, which in this case we know we did, but which we plan to make up for later, an IMM Cologne 2020 High Five!!
In our post from the exhibition
Design Gruppe Pentagon at the Museum Angewandte Kunst Cologne we noted that Gallery Pentagon was laterally based in Cologne’s Bismarckstrasse. Bismarckstrasse 50 to be precise, a former cardboard packaging factory which in the 1980s was developed into spaces for creatives of various ilks…..
…..Bismarckstrasse 50 is still home to creatives of various ilks, and is still home to a gallery, Galerie Martina Kaiser, where in context of the 2020 Passagen Interior Design Week a new generation of Cologne designers are presenting new projects, projects raised not in the agitations, turmoils and transformations of 1980s West Germany that informed the Pentagonia’s works, but rather in the calm, alpine forests of Austria’s Bregenzerwald.
Yet objects no less expressive for the change of air…….
Our increasingly networked, digital, virtual society is not only changing our relationship to innumerable everyday activities, activities such as personal communication, shopping or watching television to name but three, and thereby activities which a few short years ago seemed destined to remain unchanged for ever, but is also changing our relationship to work, be that in terms of what we do, where we do it or how we do it.
Changes which invariably place both new demands on our furniture, and our understanding of the term “functional” in context of furniture; an understanding which a few short years ago seemed destined to remain unchanged for ever.
With the showcase USM Haller HomeWork smow Cologne consider responses to such evolutions with the assistance of the USM Haller modular furniture system.
Within any regular pentagon one can locate, in numerous, manifold, relationships, the Golden Ratio, that centuries old guarantor of harmony, balance, beauty….
And within an irregular Pentagon?
With the exhibition
Design Gruppe Pentagon the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Cologne search for an answer in context of the 1980s Rheinland design quintet…….
Off late, and certainly in a European context, January has become a month of forgoing, eschewing and general abstention, with campaigns such as Dry January and Veganuary extolling us to utilise our guilt at our dangerous, decadent, gluttony of late December as an impetus to radically alter our behaviour, as a catalyst for reduction.
And while less is unquestionably more, and thus worth striving for, fundamental change is invariably more sustainably and meaningfully achieved through better understandings rather than by sudden, extreme, knee-jerk, changes; that more information can lead to less harmful choices. More information and better understandings such as those an architecture or design exhibition can provide.
We can’t promise the following five will necessarily change your (unhealthy) relationship to alcohol or food, they should however allow for new perspectives on the world around us, new perspectives which should allow for new reflections on your relationship to that world, and, potentially, a healthier, happier you. And a healthier, happier world. Potentially.
While Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is arguably best known for the works he realised in the (mid-)west USA, the works he realised in west(ern) Germany are no less relevant or important for understanding the man, his work and his legacy.
Summer 2019 saw the western German State of Nordrhein-Westfalen host three Mies van der Rohe exhibitions, one each in, and devoted to Mies’s works in, Aachen, Krefeld and Essen. Three exhibitions now united in one in Cologne, and which as a unified trio not only provides for a very concise overview of the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in Nordrhein-Westfalen, but also of both the development of Mies van der Rohe as an architect and, in many regards, the wider developments in understandings of architecture and design in the course of the 20th century.
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…….
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….
Since 1823 the good folks of Cologne have taken to the streets on the Monday before Ash Wednesday to mark the approach of Lent with one last day, (and night) of earthly, secular, celebration before resigning body and soul to the sanctity of abstention; the highlight being the Rosenmontag procession which weaves its way through the Altstadt Veedel on the city’s left bank.
From modest beginnings the Zoch has grown to become not only the largest Rosenmontag procession in Germany, but longer than the route: the first participants arriving at the end before the last ones have left the start. We’d call that a planning issue. For Cologne it is, and as so often in the city, a solecism carried as a badge of honour.
The 2019 Rosenmontag procession is being staged under the motto Uns Sproch es Heimat, Our Language is Home, a motto chosen on the one hand to encourage all native Kölsch speakers to take a little more pride in their tongue/home and on the other to encourage non-speakers to learn, to discover a new Kölsch home.
Better understanding Cologne doesn’t however necessarily require fighting with Ripuarian dialects, or indeed donning fancy dress and developing an involuntary laugh; can also be achieved by ignoring the floats and dance troops of the Rosenmontag procession and engaging instead with the architecture along the route.
According to the posters to be found liberally distributed throughout the city, IMM Cologne 2019 promised to present “1000 furnishings ideas for your home”
And it may very well have done. We didn’t count. Not least because….
What interest the number, if the ideas themselves ain’t meaningful?
What interest the number, if the ideas themselves ain’t logical?
What interest the number, if the ideas themselves ain’t justifiable?
Or reducing the thought to its essence, what interest the idea if it ain’t meaningful, logical and justifiable?
1 meaningless, illogical and unjustifiable idea being every bit as undesirable and harmful as 1000.
As Brexit so poetically underscores.
And so while we can’t confirm there were a 1000 ideas, we can confirm that the principle idea at IMM Cologne 2019 was “consolidation”, the presentation of familiar lines in different colours, materials, heights, widths, etc….
Which, yes, is a comment we make a lot about furniture trade fairs, one we get the impression we’re making ever more often, one we feel will ultimately see us stop attending such; but a comment that, as ever, isn’t a complaint, far from it. It needn’t, shouldn’t, always be new, new, new. If it is it becomes fashion, not furniture. And thoroughly awful.
Whereby one must add IMM Cologne featured some very intelligent, meaningful, logical, justifiable, consolidations. Consolidation ≢ bad.
But there does also need to be new. Because on the one hand technology and materials are ever new, and furniture designers and the, and for want of a better phrase, designer furniture industry, have a duty to respond to those changes; on the other society is ever new, and by extrapolation so are the demands we place on our furniture, be that functionally, aesthetically or environmentally, and furniture designers and the designer furniture industry have a duty to respond to those changes; and on the rare, and especially valuable third hand, in order to advance we need that which we didn’ know we needed, that which we could never have imagined being without, even though we could never imagine being with, that which questions the accepted. Responding to such new realities, challenging conventions, presenting solutions based on a singular understanding of the reality, is the basis of what ultimately became the designer furniture industry and the furniture designer, and the future of both can only be found in the same.
Or put another way, the balance between the established and the new needs to remain healthy if the, for want of a better phrase, designer furniture industry, is to remain relevant.
And so, and as ever with the assumption we have missed one or the other delight, and/or not fully understood something we did see, a smow Blog IMM Cologne 2019 High Five!!
Fortune, we are told, favours the brave. Misfortune the reckless, but fortune the brave.
Thus, summing all the bravery we could muster, we descended into the unknown of the Bunker am Bahngleis and the exhibition Generation Köln…..*
At Orgatec Cologne 2016 Vitra staged, in effect, their own trade fair, renting an entire hall and inviting family and friends along to share the space and their ideas on the future of work.
And obviously had a lot of fun and/or success with the concept.
For at Orgatec Cologne 2018 they once again staged the Vitra Fair……. Work
How many stories can a city tell? There are the public, collective, communal stories told by its buildings, by its peoples, by its industries, by the development of its cultural institutions and through the actions of famous/infamous citizens; but there are also the myriad private, individual stories, the scurrilous, the appalling, the romantic, the comic, the tragic, the improbable, and of course the secret, whispered, ones.
At the risk of sounding like a city marketing platform, a city is the sum of its stories. And is thereby always in flux.
For Waidblicke #3 smow Cologne invited selected professional and student architects, photographers and designers to reflect on Cologne’s Stadtgeschichte(n) – City (Hi)stories
As previously, and repeatedly, noted, one of the defining aspects about an office furniture fair such as Orgatec Cologne is that wherever one looks one sees a similar vista. Whereas in terms of domestic furnishings there are enough genres of furniture and interpretations of those genres to allow for a, at least relatively when not necessarily satisfyingly, varied landscape, office furniture is much more limited, not only doesn’t have the variety of genres, but has a few that are essentials; consequently every manufacturer has very similar product lines, every manufacturer has, for example, a height-adjustable desk, a sofa with high sides, a desk height rocking stool, a modular bench system, and an office chair with flat, slightly organic quadratic armrests that resemble cutlery Georg Jensen may have produced in the 1960s. The differences are, generally, to be found in terms of mechanisms, connection systems, interfaces, materials or textiles, so very technical aspects. Very important aspects, very fundamental aspects, but things that aren’t necessarily instantly visible. Hence the visual monotony. And aspects which when explored in detail aren’t always that interesting/innovative/engaging/sensible/relevant/practical/functional/etc. It’s a tiring, thankless, business working your way through such a landscape.
Particularly a landscape such as Orgatec 2018 which was, at least as we experienced it, largely about consolidation, about manufacturers extending existing product families or presenting existing products in new materials, new textiles, new colours, new fragrances, etc, etc…..
Which isn’t to say it wasn’t a thankless and fruitless task, just thankless, and thus, and with the standard disclaimer that we have invariably missed numerous genuine highlights, a smow blog Orgatec Cologne 2018 High 5!!
With a new name, but a familiar format, the 2018 Kölner Design Preis once again celebrates the city’s design students and creative colleges, including an exhibition of all nominated projects in the Cologne Museum für Angewandte Kunst.
On the train to Cologne the signs were unmissable, the sun may have been gloriously, victoriously, shinning, as it has done since Easter, from a clear azure sky: but autumn is definitely approaching. And while it may be a bit premature to start planning for next summer, at the annual spoga+gafa garden, freetime and equestrianism trade fair in Cologne, manufacturers presented what they expect us to sit on next summer in our gardens, on our balconies, while camping, the accessories they expect us to have around us while we do such and the ludicrously testosterone charged names of the barbecues they expect us to cook with.
But will we? Should we? Can we?
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……
For the German architect, designer, artist Peter Behrens it was important that the exterior reflected a building’s intended function, that the exterior provided information about the nature of the building and its occupants.
We suspect therefore he would greatly approve of the title of the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Cologne’s exhibition in honour of his 150th birthday, neatly encapsulating as it does the nature of its protagonist.
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.