It’s probably fair to say that no object at IMM Cologne 2018 confused us quite as much as the new 118 chair by Sebastian Herkner for Thonet.

Not in bad way. Just in a confused way.

We know, we know, what sort of being gets confused by chairs.

Us. Regularly. It’s why our lives’ are such a mess.

118 by Sebastian Herkner for Thonet, as seen at IMM Cologne 2018

Aside from the chance to catch up with, and following the development of, familiar manufacturers and designers, one of the (all too rare) joys of a fair like IMM Cologne is being introduced to the previously unknown.

Among our new discoveries at IMM Cologne was Münster based manufacturer Caussa.

Wedge table/stool Andreas Kowalewski for Caussa, as seen at IMM Cologne 2018

While Georges-Eugène Haussmann is associated with the radical and unrestrained, Atelier Haußmann prefer the understated and reserved. Yet applied with the same level of conviction, self-confidence and appreciation of a well considered line.

Following a couple of years absence 2018 saw Atelier Haußmann return to IMM Cologne….

Atelier Haußmann @ IMM Cologne 2018

The English playwright and composer Noël Coward is widely attributed to have once opined that, “a perfect Martini should be made by filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy”

We can’t confirm if Munich based StudioFaubel employed the grand raconteur’s advice in the development of their Martini Sessel for Müller Möbelfabrikation. The result is however equally as satisfying…..

Martini Sessel by StudioFaubel for Müller Möbelfabrikation, as seen at IMM Cologne 2018

In his 5th century BC text “The Art of War”, the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu notes:

There are roads, not to take.

There are armies, not to attack.

There are towns, not to besiege.

There are terrains, not to contest.

There are ruler’s orders, not to obey.1

Were Sun Tzu’s metier the furniture fair rather than the warfare, we feel certain he would have added:

There are objects, not to produce.

IMM Cologne 2018 is awash with such. It’s not IMM’s fault; rather is endemic of an industry which supplies utensils of human need, objects which surround our every waking and sleeping moments, accompany the trials, tribulations, triumphs and temporality of existence, but which all too often do so not with the aim of improving our immediate environment, be that aesthetically, functionally or morally, but of generating profit.

The inevitable result is innumerate brands all desperately trying to prove they can do exactly the same as everyone else, can all do what the t**** soothsayers tell them the market(s) want.

Yet as George Nelson teaches us, don’t produce for a perceived market, produce for yourself. Your customers will find you. And those who don’t, aren’t your customers.

As we say, its not IMM’s fault, IMM is one the major furniture industry platforms, and consequently its visitors are exposed to a very concentrated dose of the unnecessary and unseemly

However it’s not all soulless pastiche, lazy appropriation or “cocooning” at IMM Cologne 2018, there are also works which demonstrate as Sun Tzu reminds us, and despite what we may believe in any given moment, “Anger can turn to pleasure.”

As ever, we’re not claiming to have seen everything, have invariably missed some gems, while there are a few projects which may in retrospect have earned a place in the following list, but on which we are still in the process of forming an opinion.

With that in mind, and in no particular order, our IMM Cologne 2018 High Five!

1. Sun Tzu, The Art of War, translated by John Minford, Penguin Books, 2002

IMM Cologne 2018 High 5

As regular readers will appreciate, we’re no great approvers of lumping individual creatives together under one umbrella term; always strikes us as being an unnecessary distraction, and (more than) a little counterproductive.

We are however most appreciative that following an inaugural presentation at Kazerne Eindhoven during Dutch Design Week 2017, the showcase Generation Köln is now being presented, as it were, on home turf.

Generation Köln. A Family Portrait

One of Germany’s leading post-war architects and architectural theoreticians, Egon Eiermann was also one of post-war Europe’s most important chair designers, not just in context of what he realised, but also in context of what he worked towards realising and the reasons why. With the exhibition Cologne celebrate that legacy.

Der Stuhl des Architekten - Sitzmöbel von Egon Eiermann @ Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft CologneDer Stuhl des Architekten - Sitzmöbel von Egon Eiermann @ Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft Cologne

With his two faces the Roman God Janus looks simultaneously forward and backwards, standing in constant watch over transitions, the passage of time, beginnings, ends.

The easy connection to make is with January, that month of the year when we are invariably reflecting and hoping in equal measure: the more complex connection to make is with a well-crafted architecture and design exhibition, one which effortlessly links reflections of the past with proposals, visions and excitement for the future. Nothing existing as it does in isolation. And everything requiring a transition.

Our five gatekeepers for January 2018 can be found in San Francisco, Brussels, Basel, Milan and Cologne.

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for January 2018

Algorithms as dance, a tactile architecture guide and a future-proof flat sharing platform.

On Thursday October 26th the winners of the 2017 Kölner Design Preis were unveiled at a ceremony in the city’s Museum für Angewandte Kunst, MAKK; and where until Sunday November 19th the three winning, and all nominated, projects, can be viewed in a specially conceived Kölner Design Preis 2017 exhibition.

Kölner Design Preis 2017 exhibition at Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln, MAKK

When we first viewed the exhibition Full House: Design by Stefan Diez at The Museum für Angewandte Kunst Cologne, it was was still being assembled. Objects were missing, set-ups not in their final composition, lights not yet properly positioned. As such we didn’t get to form an opinion on the final, complete, intended exhibition. Did however mange to take some truly awful photos.

Fortunately we have now had a second chance to view the exhibition.

And it is every bit as good as we assumed it would be from what we had seen.

Prototypes of the 404 collection by Stefan Diez for Thonet, as seen at Full House: Design by Stefan Diez, The Museum für Angewandte Kunst Cologne

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

As a fair IMM Cologne 2017 didn’t impress, but one or the other product did. Our IMM Cologne 2017 High Five!! And a few words of comfort from Epictetus.

IMM Cologne

With the exhibition 5 Years kaschkasch Florian Kallus and Sebastian Schneider aka studio kaschkasch celebrate, well, five years of studio kaschkasch.

5 Years kaschkasch, Cologne

The 1973 film Ceremony by Italian architecture group Superstudio features individuals who inhabit the “Invisible House”, a house devoid of not only a physical structure but, we are told by the narrator, all forms of furniture.

The inhabitants of the invisible house are happy.

Despite this and their other regular very public pronunciations against architecture and design, from their earliest days Italian architecture group Superstudio also designed furniture and lighting: a selection of which can be enjoyed in the exhibition Superstudio Mobilia 1966-2016 at Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft, UAA, in Cologne.

Superstudio Mobilia 1966-2016 at Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft Cologne

Passagen Design Week Cologne 2017 is playing host to Naked Objects, the fifth edition of the exhibition series “Nieuwe German Gestaltung” – and an exhibition which as with the previous four is an unashamed celebration of the diversity and vitality of contemporary German product design.

Naked Objects: Nieuwe German Gestaltung #005 Cologne

With the exhibition 21 Common Things designer Thomas Schnur explores his personal relationship with everyday objects. And in doing so the concept of functionality.

Thomas Schnur - 21 Common Things

With the exhibition Full House: Design by Stefan Diez the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Cologne, MAKK, present the first museal overview of the canon of the German designer Stefan Diez.

And an exhibition which in many respects also helps explain industrial design. Or at least the contemporary industrial design process.

Yard by Stefan Diez for emu, as seen at FULL HOUSE: Design by Stefan Diez, Museum für Angewandte Kunst Cologne

Our pick of the new architecture and design exhibitions opening in January 2017, with showcases in Cologne, New York, Rotterdam, Atlanta and Helsinki.

5 New Design Exhibitions for January 2017

Back in February we spoke with Richard Lampert and he told us he was planning exhibiting at Orgatec.

Had a few ideas he said.

Boy, did he have ideas………

Orgatec Cologne 2016: Richard Lampert

PrintStool by Thorsten Franck for Wilkhahn, here as seen at NeoCon Chicago 2016

Whereas 3D printing is omnipresent in the media, and a ubiquitous tool in contemporary research and development, in most daily

Pip by Daniel Kern for Richard Lampert, as seen at Orgatec Cologne 2016

We must start with a confession . This High Five! is a High Four! Not because there weren’t good products

Pacific Chair by Barber Osgerby, as seen at Vitra - Work, Orgatec 2016

When we spoke with Vitra’s Chief Sales Officer Josef Kaiser at NeoCon Chicago he told us that at “Orgatec 2016

Plane Secretary and Mobile Container by Felix Stark for Müller Möbelwerkstätten

Continuing our series of posts on creativity in Cologne, historic and contemporary, we met up with product designer Felix Stark.

Köln International School of Design, KISD

An important commercial, financial and administrative centre since the middle ages Cologne has contributed greatly to the development of European

USM Airportsystems at Passenger Terminal Expo 2016 Cologne

The Swiss architect Fritz Haller famously developed a space colony as a means to allow him to explore his ideas