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Posts Tagged ‘Konstantin Grcic’

(smow) blog compact: Only Wood at Galerie kreo Paris

Until December 20th the Paris dépendance of Galerie kreo is presenting an exhibition dedicated to the vivacious variety of contemporary wooden furniture design.

Presented under the sparklingly original title “only wood” the exhibition presents a mix of previously displayed objects and new works.

Amongst the older works on show a special mention must go to the Woodwork lamp by BIG-GAME, a work premièred at Galerie kreo’s 2008 La Liseuse exhibition, the Cork #3 storage system by Martin Szekely which previously featured in Szekely’s Heroic shelves & simple boxes solo show, and the truly monumental Hanger coat rack by Naoto Fukasawa as first shown in the 2008 exhibition, 16 new pieces, and which takes all the innovation, inquiry, contradiction, insecurity and formal reduction of contemporary post industrial product design to new heights. Or depths, depending on your perspective.

The exhibition 16 new pieces also featured the Geta Table, an oak coffee table by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec created using a computer controlled digital chisel. At Only Wood the Bouroullec’s are presenting Geta Noir, a limited edition of the Geta Table in black oak.

The Geta Noir table was, technically, premièred in September during London Design Festival 2014 as part of the exhibition Des Formes Utiles, the inaugural exhibition in Galerie kreo’s new London base; a further Des Formes Utiles alumni is London Calling by Konstantin Grcic, a project which for us, and based on nothing more reliable than PR photos, is the genuine highlight of Only Wood.

Now in recent years Konstantin Grcic may have given the impression that he had broken with his cabinet making roots. And certainly projects such as Pro chair for Flötotto, Waver for Vitra or the Traffic family for Magis tended to support such a view. His Panorama exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum should have been enough to convince the last doubters.

Observant eyes at Milan 2014 would have spotted a “work in progress” on the Magis stand that suggested otherwise; however, London Calling is the best evidence we have seen that not only is Konstantin Grcic as committed as ever to traditional carpentry, but that he has lost none of his grace and compositional delicacy despite his regular ventures into other genres and processes.

London Calling is a set of spiralling wooden library steps. But a set spiralling wooden library steps that needn’t only be used in a library. We can well imagine them working in a kitchen, a conservatory or simply in a large spacious lounge as a feature-cum-occasional chair.

Simply delightful.

Only Wood runs at Galerie kreo, 31, rue Dauphine, 75006 Paris until Saturday December 20th.

Full details can be found at

Only Wood Galerie kreo Paris

Only Wood at Galerie kreo Paris (Photo © & courtesy of Galerie kreo Paris)

London calling Konstantin Grcic Only Wood Galerie kreo Paris

London calling by Konstantin Grcic. On view at Only Wood, Galerie kreo Paris (Photo © & courtesy of Galerie kreo Paris)

Cork #3 Martin Szekely Only Wood Galerie kreo Paris

Cork #3 by Martin Szekely. On view at Only Wood, Galerie kreo Paris (Photo © & courtesy of Galerie kreo Paris)

Hanger Naoto Fukasawa Only Wood Galerie kreo Paris

Hanger by Naoto Fukasawa. On view at Only Wood, Galerie kreo Paris (Photo © & courtesy of Galerie kreo Paris)

Orgatec Cologne 2014: Vitra

In comparison to the annual IMM Cologne furniture fair the corridors and halls of the Messe Cologne always seems curiously empty at the biennial Orgatec office furniture trade fair. Until that is one reaches the Vitra stand.

And the crowds.

The almost congenital attraction of Orgatec visitors to Vitra is unquestionably related to the high-calibre roster of international designers responsible for the Vitra office programme. At Orgatec 2014  that programme has been extended by, amongst other works, new collaborations with Konstantin Grcic and Antonio Citterio and a re-edition of works by Jean Prouvé.

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Vitra Konstantin Grcic Allstar office chair Hack table

Allstar office chair and Hack table by Konstantin Grcic for Vitra, as seen at Orgatec Cologne 2014

The general theme of the Vitra presentation at Orgatec 2014 is “Workstyles” and consequently the stand has been subdivided into a series of “Workstyles” each of which presents the works of one designer.

The medial highlight will unquestionably be the “Hacker Workshop” featuring Konstantin Grcic’s Allstar office chair and Hack table.

Konstantin Grcic famously worked with Jasper Morrison before setting up his own studio and so it is somehow fitting that just as the Bröhan Museum Berlin is presenting some of Jasper Morrison’s works from the 1980s that Konstantin Grcic should release a chair reminiscent of the 1980s.

For Konstantin Grcic himself the intention with the chair was simple “I wanted to create an office chair that doesn’t have the typology of an office chairs”, he explains, “to get away from this idea of the office chair as a machine and create something that resembles a chair. And so which is perhaps not so challenging and which can be more easily used in various locations”

And at first glance he certainly has achieved that; your first thought isn’t “office chair”. However, its curving form does of course have a little something of the first office chairs from the 1840s. Just as we say, with a little 1980s dust sprinkled over it.

What Konstantin Grcic however has done very well is hide the technology. The Allstar office chair has a height adjustable backrest, adjustable seat depth and height, tilts back and forwards and swivels. You wouldn’t believe it by looking at it. But it does.

In addition Vitra are presenting Konstantin Grcic’s new Hack table concept. Much like they premièred Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s Cork Desk concept two years ago. Where however we see the chance that Hack will become available before the Cork Desk is that Hack represents a new concept in office furniture. It’s not a mere product. Folded flat it takes up little space, is a self contained crate. Unpack it and you have a height adjustable desk with its own space divider walls. As such it redefines “flexible” office furniture as it is not just flexible in how one uses it within the office but is flexible in terms of transport and storage meaning that whole new usage concepts can be developed, whole new ideas of what owning office furniture means established and whole new relationships with office furniture formed.

Both Allstar and Hack are of course products that would tend to indicate a move towards a younger market, star-ups and the like. Konstantin Grcic doesn’t necessarily see it that way “I think they are both objects that have their place in modern offices, regardless of how large or new the company is. The modern office world isn’t the office world it was and is changing rapidly. Younger companies are just one aspect, but established companies are also evolving.”

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Vitra Konstantin Grcic Allstar office chair Hack table

Allstar office chair and Hack table by Konstantin Grcic for Vitra, as seen at Orgatec Cologne 2014

Much more classic is the Industrial Workshop and its presentation of a series of Jean Prouvé re-editions, the highlight of which without question is the Fauteuil Direction Pivotant office chair, a truly monstrous construction which is height adjustable, has a weight responsive tilting mechanism and stands in near perfect contrast to Konstantin Grcic’s Allstar. We’re not saying one is better than the other: just that they are very different takes on the office chair.

In addition the new Prouvé collection includes the Bureau Métallique desk, the Fauteuil Direction visitor chair, Petite Potence wall lamp and the table lamp Lampe de Bureau, an absolutely delightful piece of work. And a genuine reminder that good design is often the simplest solution, and that there is no alternative to having a good command of basic craft skills and a good understanding of scale and proportion if you want to create objects that are going to remain relevant for generations to come.

Leave “style” and “trends” to the fashion industry. Focus on your work.

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Vitra Jean Prouve Lampe de Bureau

Lampe de Bureau by Jean Prouvé through Vitra, as seen at Orgatec Cologne 2014

The third major workstyle installation, the so-called Innovation Workstyle Atelier, is devoted to Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec‘s Workbay family; not a new product, but in many ways a concept that grows on us the more the Bouroullecs add to it. There is an intrinsic logic in such a system and the way the Bouroullecs design it not only makes this logic visible but takes away all arguements for alternative systems.

Beyond the Workstyle installations Vitra are using Orgatec 2014 to present Charles and Ray Eames Soft Pad Chairs in new colours and new premium leather covers, the new Grand Executive office chair from Antonio Citterio, a work developed from his Grand Repos Lounge Chair and, and since we started this quick review with Jasper Morrison, Super Fold Table by a Jasper Morrison, a cafeteria table which can be collapsed with one hand and which is aimed directly at the contract market.

A few first impressions from Vitra at Orgatec Cologne 2014…..

(smow) blog compact Milan 2014 Special: Artek @ Salone del Mobile

If we’re honest, we really, really, should have seen it coming. We didn’t.

Having been acquired in 2013 by Vitra, Artek have now begun working with leading designers from the Vitra roster.

Specifically, in Milan Artek launched a new chair from Konstantin Grcic and new colour and textile schemes from Hella Jongerius for the classic Alvar Aalto 400 and 401 armchairs and Stool 60.

We just hope no-one is tempted to over egg this particular pudding.

In the Milan press release Artek CEO Mirkku Kullberg expresses her delight that through Vitra Artek have become part of an infrastructure that allows the company to focus on product development and the expansion of the distribution network, in the words of Kullberg “the core elements for growth”

Judging by the easy, almost natural way, the Vitra sales reps crossed from the Vitra stand to the neighbouring Artek stand to show their customers the Artek collection, Artek should have no major problems growing through the new distribution possibilities. And certainly it makes perfect sense for both companies to fully utilise the new realities to optimise their sales, marketing and distribution structures.

For us however in terms of products, product ranges and product development Artek must remain focused on its core competence: Alvar Aalto as designed by Alvar Aalto. That is what it does best. Nothing against new collaborations and new products, and indeed over the years Artek have regularly – and very successfully – co-operated with new designers and brought new blood into the company, perhaps most famously with Tom Dixon as Creative Director. Which is obviously all positive and helps keep the company fresh and competitive. But one shouldn’t get too distracted. Just because one has easier access to leading contemporary designers doesn’t mean one should take up the option.

That said, the two new collaborations presented in Milan have, we believe, been completed in Artek’s best interest.

With Konstantin Grcic Artek have cooperated with a designer who understands the soul of Artek and understands where Artek come from. A fact demonstrated, perhaps a little too elegantly, by a work in progress prototype from Grcic being presented in Milan by Magis. At this juncture all we shall say is, had Alvar Aalto been a keen skier he too may have arrived at such an idea.

However for Artek Grcic has also poetically demonstrated his understanding of Aalto and Artek and has developed a new swivel chair christened, somewhat curiously, Rival and intended for home office use, but which in our opinion is much better suited to bar, restaurant and conference room use. Or possibly co-working spaces. Crafted from birch Rival comes with either a high or low backrest, a choice of seat padding and in a range of colours.

Hella Jongerius meanwhile has not created a new product but has refreshed three Aalto classics, in that she has developed four new wood colours – silver birch, honey, walnut and charcoal – for Aalto’s Stool 60, Armchair 400 and 401, and introduced new textiles for the 400 and 401. Developments that will almost certainly help make the objects interesting and accessible to a wider audience than was perhaps the case until now.

While we full understand the background thinking behind the changes, and would agree that Hella Jongerius has achieved her aim of adding more depth and warmth to the objects, for us, and for all with the designs for the 401 we just feel that she has gone a little too close to a “generic Jongerius” aesthetic. The 401 would, for example, look every bit as good and every bit at home on the Vitra stand as on the Artek stand.

And that is exactly what the two companies need to make sure they avoid. Vitra and Artek come from different backgrounds, their identities, philosophies and understanding of design originated at different times, from different motives and in different contexts; consequently they must travel different paths. Must maintain that what makes them unique.

A fusion of the two traditions would benefit neither.

As we say, the start is positive, but it’s going to be interesting to observe how things develop!

A few impressions from Artek in Milan.

Milan 2014 Artek Rival Konstantin Grcic

Rival by Konstantin Grcic for Artek, as seen at Salone del Mobile Milan 2014

Milan 2014 Artek Alvar Aalto 400 Hella Jongerius

Alvar Aalto Armchair 400 by Hella Jongerius for Artek, as seen at Salone del Mobile Milan 2014

Milan 2014 Artek Alvar Aalto 401 Hella Jongerius

Alvar Aalto Armchair 401 by Hella Jongerius for Artek, as seen at Salone del Mobile Milan 2014

Vitra Design Museum Talk: Raumlabor – Temporary Architecture

As part of the accompanying fringe programme to the exhibition Konstantin Grcic – Panorama, the Vitra Design Museum is hosting a talk on Thursday April 17th by Berlin creative collective Raumlabor.

Established in 1999 as a loose association of architects and artists Raumlabor have spent the past fifteen years exploring issues around urban renewal, interactive environments, the borders between public and private spaces. Cityscapes, to use the vocabulary of Panorama.

For their Vitra Design Museum talk members of the Raumlabor team will discuss their vision of the “city of tomorrow” in context of the collective’s past and current projects, including – we would assume – the Eichbaumoper, which transformed the Eichbaum metro station in Mülheim into an open air opera house; the 2009 Spacebuster intervention in which they “re-planned” various locations across New York with a vast, mobile, inflatable, temporary space; or the “World is not Fair” mini World’s Fair they staged at Berlin Tempelhof in 2012.

And while we can appreciate that for many of you such projects may sound like messing about rather than getting some proper work done; one of Raumlabor’s first projects in 1999 involved a re-imagination of Moritzplatz in Berlin, including an urban forest. The Prinzessinnengarten community allotments that now stand on the site might be a very, very small-scale forest, but is not only one of the more interesting and important urban intervention projects in Berlin, but a project that shows alternative urban futures are feasible if communities seize the initiative. Just as Raumlabor sought to demonstrate in 1999. And will no doubt seek to do at the Vitra Design Museum.

Raumlabor – Temporary Architecture takes place at the Vitra Design Museum, Charles-Eames-Strasse 2, 79576 Weil am Rhein, Germany on Thursday April 17th 2014. The talk will be held in German, and entry is free.

The 2009 Spacebuster project in New York.

Konstantin Grcic – Panorama @ Vitra Design Museum

One of the first telephone calls Mateo Kries and Marc Zehntner made upon assuming leadership of the Vitra Design Museum in 2011 was to Konstantin Grcic to discuss the possibility of an exhibition. Grcic was, in principle, open to the idea, but, “I didn’t want a static exhibition, something that froze my work in time, rather I wanted something dynamic”

That “something dynamic” is the exhibition Konstantin Grcic – Panorama which opened at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein on Friday March 21st 2014.

Konstantin Grcic Panorama Vitra Design Museum Netscape Swings

The dynamic Netscape installation by Konstantin Grcic in front of the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein

Presenting some 200 objects divided across four thematic sections, Panorama is, in effect, two exhibitions in one. The first, staged downstairs in the museum, addresses design themes of particular importance to Konstantin Grcic. And which Konstantin Grcic believes should be of importance to us as all. The exhibition opens with Life Space, a look at Grcic’s considerations on the future of domestic arrangements before moving over Work Space, an exploration of Konstantin Grcic’s own work process which doubles up as a discussion on the contemporary design process in general, and on to Public Space, which addresses the future of our urban spaces. The “second exhibition”, staged upstairs under the title Object Space, looks at Grcic’s oeuvre in more detail, presenting examples of Grcic’s works, be they products for manufacturers as varied as Moormann, Magis, ClassiCon or Flos, objects created in cooperation with galleries or projects that have never had a life outwith Konstantin Grcic’s Munich studio. Grcic’s own work standing juxtaposed to and in context of other, third-party, objects that have a particular relevance to Konstantin Grcic, his understanding of and approach to design and which have inspired and motivated his own creativity.

The separation is not just spatial and conceptual but also stylistic. Whereas the first three sections are presented true to Grcic’s position that “my designs do not immediately reveal themselves” and require the visitor to first identify the issues involved and then consider their own position to the questions raised, the final section is a classic example of dry, perfunctory, museal presentation.

Both Konstantin Grcic and Vitra Design Museum Chief Curator Mateo Kries speak of the fourth section as an exhibition within an exhibition. And of it having been deliberately conceived in such an immediate and unchallenging manner.

We can’t help feeling it is meant ironically.

“Look at the Grcic retrospective. How cute!”, the designati will no doubt squeal…..

It is a delightful, clearly structured presentation from which we learned a lot about Konstantin Grcic and how he works, but which we cannot, and honestly never will be able to, take seriously.

A state of affairs we thoroughly approve of.

Konstantin Grcic Panorama Vitra Design Museum Object Space

The Object Space section of Konstantin Grcic – Panorama at the Vitra Design Museum

As with the exhibition Lightopia for us the biggest problem with Panorama is the lack of space in the Vitra Design Museum.
Konstantin Grcic speaks about Frank Gehry’s building as being a challenge, of if it having a character, rough corners and how he likes that. In a building and in an object.

But there is no escaping the fact that one of the Vitra Design Museum’s characteristics is a lack of space. It may suffice for the conservative exhibition format as represented in the Object Space section, but an ambitious project on the scale of Panorama simply needs more space.

Each of the four sections can make a valid claim to be an exhibition in its own right – in our time we’ve viewed exhibitions hung on much thinner premises – and despite the scaling back that has obviously been undertaken in the development of the exhibition concept, one still feels occasionally cramped, or at least a little unwelcome. As if you should read a text about the exhibition rather than trouble the aching, distended space with your bulk.

The Life Space section, for example, should, indeed must, be a display that one can walk around and explore, touch, sit on, inhabit, not just view at a distance from the comfort of a Bench B. While Work Space needs to offer, well, space to work, which it currently doesn’t. The layout making it more reminiscent of a warehouse than a workshop; dormant rather than dynamic. And that not because the curators lacked the nous to think up anything else. But because of space issues.

None of which should be seen as criticism of the exhibition itself. Far from it.

Panorama is not an exhibition that is going to necessarily bring you any closer to Konstantin Grcic’s work per se. Grcic himself yes. But not his work. But then that isn’t the point. It is not really an exhibition about Konstantin Grcic’s work. It is an exhibition about contemporary design and the contemporary designer. Konstantin Grcic is merely the conduit.

Design today is inflationary. There is ever more “design” because ever more aspects of our daily life are presented, sold and understood as design. Even if they patently aren’t. Consequently the term “design” and the function of the “designer” become unclear, confused, contradictory and ultimately meaningless and irrelevant. Panorama helps focus the mind on what design really is. Or perhaps better put what contemporary design should be.

What is truly important for the home of the future? How can new technologies be best employed, rather than just employed? What forms will new technologies allow? And which are desirable? Sensible? What does it mean today to “live” some where? What is “work”? Are we prepared to sacrifice our privacy for domestic convenience? How can design help us achieve what we want and require? What, and how much, responsibility do designers carry in such processes?

Such questions are extended by a series of boards featuring snippets from articles and academic papers that approach and tackle related social, cultural and economic issues: Can deserts power the earth? Is a world without businesses and factories conceivable? Is the cloud polluting the air? The virtues of squatting……

The exhibition doesn’t do anything especially deep nor does the exhibition tackle all issues in contemporary design far less raise any new ones, but also doesn’t intend to: it is an exhibition by Konstantin Grcic about those things that matter to Konstantin Grcic and which Konstantin Grcic wants us all to consider more carefully.

And it does that very effectively, with very simple means and in a very accessible, if challenging, fashion.

Panorama also makes perfectly clear that the future is also about each one of us personally accepting our own share of the collective responsibility. And one can only take responsibility seriously when one appreciates and understands the world around you. Something made singularly clear in the exhibition segment Public Space. Housed in the largest space in the Vitra Design Museum Public Space is dominated by a 30 meter long, 4.5 metre high fantasy cityscape by London based artist Neil Campbell Ross. In front of this cityscape have been scattered a few Chair Ones on concrete pedestals and Grcic’s experimental 2007 project Landen. That’s it. There is also a fence. Which we thought was just for decoration, a 3D extension of the painting if you will, the actual thinking behind its inclusion is however depressingly clichéd. And so we’ll ignore it. And in any case, the focus of the room is the cityscape and the questions it allows about the current state of our urban environments and how we want them to develop. On the information panels Grcic poses questions concerning, for example, ownership of urban spaces, the requirement for humane urban forms or future urban mobility. What do we want from our future cities? How each of us responds and reacts to such challenges will ultimately affect the nature of our cities, and so determine if we become the future we want. Do we really want to leave such considerations to designers? Who is actually paying designers? And so once again, do we really want to leave such considerations to designers?

Konstantin Grcic Panorama Vitra Design Museum Life Space

Life Space. Konstantin Grcic – Panorama, Vitra Design Museum

Conceptual exhibitions such as Panorama always run the risk of becoming an intellectual emperors new clothes: the curators stare long and hard in their navels and devise a big concept composed of the finest theories elegantly stitched with doctrines and ideologies, the masses flock and announce themselves overwhelmed by the majesty of the spectacle. But ultimately all one has created is a vast excess of narcissistic pomp.

Panorama avoids such a fate by avoiding answering any questions, far less presenting a vision of the future. That’s your job. “I hope”, so Grcic, “visitors take the exhibition as the beginning of a discussion and reflect on what is presented and decide if one agrees with our positions. Or not.”

Which all of course makes one thing very clear, Konstantin Grcic – Panorama isn’t an exhibition for lazy Sunday afternoon with a hangover. Or at least the first three sections aren’t. The fourth almost invites such a condition. But, and in all seriousness, if you want to get anything useful out of the exhibition you need to invest time and mental effort.

Or perhaps better put, if you want to get anything useful out of the exhibition you need to view it as dynamically as Konstantin Grcic conceived it.

Konstantin Grcic – Panorama can be viewed at the Vitra Design Museum, Charles-Eames-Strasse 2, 79576 Weil am Rhein, Germany until Sunday September 14th 2014. Full details including opening times, ticket prices and information on the accompanying fringe programme can be found at

5 New Design Exhibitions for March 2014

The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He’ll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
And hide his head under his wing, poor thing.

Or, and much more sensibly, take himself off and visit one of the new design exhibitions opening during March. And so not only keep himself warm but also informed, entertained and inspired.

Our selection from the new, robin friendly, openings in March features an homage to East German concrete architecture in Stuttgart, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec in Tulsa, Henry van de Velde in Zürich, Ray Eames in Pasadena, and Konstantin Grcic’s vision of the future in Weil am Rhein.

“Ray Eames: In the Spotlight” at the Williamson Gallery at the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California, USA

In our 2013 post celebrating Ray Eames’ 100th birthday we encouraged “you all to investigate the works and talents of a remarkable artist and designer.

The Williamson Gallery in Pasadena are now offering that chance.

Curated by Eames’ granddaughter Carla Hartman “Ray Eames: In the Spotlight” promises to display letters, sketches, films, furniture, photographs et al that present an honest and deep glimpse of Ray Eames, and so introduce and illuminate the life and work of a woman who far too often and far too unfairly is presented as merely having provided the aesthetic accent to Charles Eames technical genius. Particularly exciting for us is the promise of sketches and drawings from the years before she met Charles, objects that could/should help explain how the New York abstractionist Ray Kaiser became the Californian modernist Ray Eames.

Ray Eames: In the Spotlight opens at the Williamson Gallery at the Art Center College of Design, 1700 Lida Street, Pasadena, California, USA on Tuesday February 25th and runs until Sunday May 4th

Ray Eames In the Spotlight at the Williamson Gallery at the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California, USA

"Ray Eames: In the Spotlight" at the Williamson Gallery at the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California, USA

“Henry van de Velde – Interieurs” at Museum Bellerive, Zürich, Switzerland

One of the problems with all round talents such as Henry van de Velde is presenting exhibitions of their work. There is simply too much of it. And it is too varied.

As a consequence reducing down to explore one aspect, and so deciding to ignore all inevitable complaints about a lack of context, is the only realistic solution.

The Museum für Gestaltung Zürich’s Museum Bellerive dépendance have taken this sensible step and are hosting an exhibition devoted to Henry van de Velde’s interior designs. Presenting furniture, cutlery, crockery and textiles, complemented by photographs and planning sketches, “Henry van de Velde – Interieurs” promises to present not only an insight into van de Velde’s approach to his work but also explain how he helped move our understanding of interiors from the dark, heavy days of the late 19th century and onto the lighter, reduced style of the early 20th century.

Henry van de Velde – Interieurs opens at Museum Bellerive, Höschgasse 3, 8008 Zürich, Switzerland on Friday February 28th and runs until Sunday June 1st

Henry van de Velde Leidenschaft Funktion und Schönheit Klassik Stiftung Weimar

A Henry van de Velde interior, here as seen at "Leidenschaft, Funktion und Schönheit", Klassik Stiftung Weimar

“Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec – Album”  at the Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

When the Vitra Design Museum Gallery opened the Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec exhibition Album it felt somehow, well, odd. An exhibition of drawings, sketches, shapes, colours. By designers.



Since then the foresightedness of the project has become apparent and ever more texts, books and exhibitions are devoting themselves to the analogue creative process and for all the role of drawing and sketching in design.

Presenting over 300 sketches by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec complimented by photographs and models Album provides not only a delightful insight into the brother’s creative process, but much more underscores the importance of having a firm understanding of what you want to do, what the aim of your project is, before you begin to form your design, your product. And that for such a process computers aren’t always the best solution.

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec – Album opens at the Philbrook Museum of Art, 2727 S. Rockford Road, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA on Sunday March 2nd and runs until Sunday May 11th

bouroullec album vitra design museum weil am rhein

"Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec - Album", here at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery, Weil am Rhein

“Ulrich Müther – In Beton Gegossen” at the Architekturgalerie am Weißenhof, Stuttgart, Germany

Walk from north to south along the beach at Binz on the German Baltic Sea island of Rügen and you will eventually come across something that will make you stop. And stare. And possibly panic.

A U.F.O.

Created in 1981 by the East German civic engineer Ulrich Müther the Binz U.F.O. is, in actual fact, a lifeguard station constructed from a thin concrete shell.
And one of the most gloriously beguiling examples of Ulrich Müther’s craft.

Introduced to the “International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures” while a student in Dresden Ulrich Müther was to go onto become one of the leading protagonists of the use of thin concrete shells in architectural structures.

A career development no doubt helped by his nationality. On the one hand his thin, almost weightless structures provided a welcome aesthetic contrast to the solid architecture of the DDR, thus allowing for a bit of variety in the cityscapes: but they also used less resources. Something which could only appeal to the notoriously stretched DDR regime.

In addition to the Binz U.F.O. further Ulrich Müther highlights include the so-called Teepott restaurant in Warnemünde, the Café Seerose, Potsdam and the Zeiss Planetarium in Berlin.

Quite aside from the historical importance and aesthetic elegance of many of the projects, the construction principles explored and developed by Ulrich Müther during his career are more relevant than ever today. And worthy of an exhibition.

Ulrich Müther – In Beton Gegossen opens at the Architekturgalerie am Weißenhof, Am Weißenhof 30, 70191 Stuttgart, Germany on Thursday February 27th and runs until Monday April 7th

Ulrich Müther Binz

The Binz U.F.O., sorry lifeguard station by Ulrich Müther, a project featured in "Ulrich Müther – In Beton Gegossen" at the Architekturgalerie am Weißenhof, Stuttgart

“Konstantin Grcic – Panorama” at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany

A museal design exhibition can, in principle, have two perspectives: a look back or a look forward.

“Konstantin Grcic – Panorama” at the Vitra Design Museum aims to do both.

Part of the exhibition promising an overview of Grcic’s canon, the second part his vision of the future.

And this vision is, for us, the most enticing aspect of the exhibition.

Despite the obvious reduced clarity and easy comprehensibility of his designs Konstantin Grcic’s work is largely not about the object itself but the route taken, the objects raison d’etre and its context. As such Konstantin Grcic’s work is often underscored by a conceptual complexity that belies its visual simplicity.

We’re looking forward to seeing in how far Konstantin Grcic can and has transformed this design understanding into a coherent vision of the future.

Konstantin Grcic – Panorama opens at the Vitra Design Museum, Charles-Eames-Str. 2, 79576 Weil am Rhein, Germany on Saturday March 22nd and runs until Sunday September 14th

Konstantin Grcic - Panorama at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany

"Konstantin Grcic - Panorama" at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany

(smow) blog compact: Man Machine by Konstantin Grcic at Galerie Kreo Paris

By way of unwinding ahead of his forthcoming solo exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum, German designer Konstantin Grcic is currently presenting an absolutely beguiling collection of glass furniture objects at Galerie Kreo Paris.

We’ve not actually seen the objects, we’ve only seen the press photos, and as any fool know press photos are not the most reliable media for assessing design objects.


Created in collaboration with a sadly unnamed Frankfurt glass workshop – why must the workshop remain unnamed, have Grcic and Kreo not achieved what they achieved thanks to this company’s skill and experience? Were they not part of the creative process? – the fascinating aspect about the Man Machine collection is less the material and more the fact that each object has been endowed with a mechanical functionality.

The lounge chair is a reclining lounge chair.

The height of the shelf in the vitrine can be adjusted.

The side table is collapsible

Or in the, for us, stand out object of the collection the vertical supports in the bookcase can be be moved horizontally thus allowing for storage space of differing widths.

This functionality is achieved through a less than diplomatic pneumatic piston, yet despite this in your face industrial reality the objects retain a fragility, an accessibility and for all a beauty that is as charming as it is engaging.

The last “transparent” furniture objects with a deliberate, visible, industrial chic we saw were part of the Tools for Life collection by OMA for Knoll. Many of them however had a graceless, nouveau riche, arrogance about them that the Man Machine collection simply doesn’t have. The Man Machine objects posses that self-concious subtly that all good furniture designs, and indeed people, understand.

But as we say we’ve only seen the press photos.

Should we make it to Paris before the show ends on May 17th we will let you know how they hold up “in the flesh.”

Or should you visit the show, please let us know what you thought.

Man Machine by Konstantin Grcic runs at Galerie Kreo, 31, rue Dauphine, 75006 Paris until Saturday May 17th 2014

Full details can be found at

Man Machine by Konstantin Grcic at Galerie Kreo Paris

Man Machine by Konstantin Grcic at Galerie Kreo Paris (Photo: Galerie Kreo Paris)

Man Machine by Konstantin Grcic at Galerie Kreo Paris bookcase

Man Machine by Konstantin Grcic at Galerie Kreo Paris: Bookcase (Photo © Ingmar Kurth courtesy of Galerie Kreo Paris)

Man Machine by Konstantin Grcic at Galerie Kreo Paris Lounge Chair

Man Machine by Konstantin Grcic at Galerie Kreo Paris: Lounge Chair (Photo © Ingmar Kurth courtesy of Galerie Kreo Paris)

Milan Design Week 2013: Mattiazzi

For us one of the highlights of Saloni Milano 2013 was/is Italian manufacturer Mattiazzi.

And not just because they have managed to eke a chair out of Jasper Morrison that, in our opinion, is one of his better, and certainly more interesting, of recent years.

Milan Design Week 2013 Mattiazzi

Milan Design Week 2013: Mattiazzi

Established in 1978 Mattiazzi is, if we correctly understand, essentially a network of woodworking facilities in Udine. For three decades the company served as a supplier of wooden parts for other furniture manufacturers before deciding in 2008 to invest in their own brand.

The investment has obviously been very heavy, or better put, very, very heavy.

But has also been very successful.

Mattiazzi first reached an international audience with the 2011 Osso Collection from Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec.

The positive echo generated by Osso was not just on account of the media friendly connection with the Bouroullec brand, but because, simply put, it is a mighty fine piece of work.

As a project Osso allowed Ronan and Erwan to seriously develop a new dimension to their work, a challenge they met head on and with a result that demonstrates a wonderful degree of technical finesse and aesthetic clarity.

Since the launch of Osso in 2011 the Mattiazzi portfolio has grown steadily and in Milan the company presented the latest results of co-operations with with Sam Hecht, Konstantin Grcic and the aforementioned Fionda by Jasper Morrison.

Effectively a wooden frame with an interchangeable fabric sling, it is really hard to call Fionda a chair, at least in the classical sense.

Apparently inspired by a folding camping chair Morrison bought in Japan, Fionda doesn’t do anything that much different from either “regular” camping chairs or design classics such as the globally copied Butterfly / Hardoy Chair.

Fionda however presents the concept with a rarely seen lightness and assured calm. And as we say with a liveliness that we have missed in much of Morrison’s recent chair work.

In addition, by removing the canvas sling the frames can be easily stacked, thus making Fionda a fairly straightforward outdoor seating option for cafes, ice cream bars and their ilk.

Milan Design Week 2013 Mattiazzi Fionda Jasper Morrison

Milan Design Week 2013: Fionda by Jasper Morrison for Mattiazzi

Equally impressive is Medici by Konstantin Grcic. Originally presented at Milan 2012 Medici is a lounge chair that takes all Konstantin Grcic‘s association with reduced down, unassuming, form languages, picks it up by the scruff of the neck and throws it out the  window.

Yes Medici is a very simple wood construction, a very simple wood construction in many ways reminiscent of the Rood-Blauwe Stoel by Gerrit T. Rietveld.

But it’s not an object you’d want to meet in a dark alley late on a Saturday night.

Much like Waver for Vitra, Medici is not something we know from Grcic. And while the motivation with Waver was largely to define the Vitra outdoor range with a form language far removed from the classic Eames dominated interior furniture; at Mattiazzi Konstantin Grcic had a clean slate. Which means the design comes from somewhere deeper. And indeed reading his comments on Medici you sense the real personal joy he got from developing the project.

Milan Design Week 2013 Mattiazzi Medici Konstantin Grcic

Milan Design Week 2013 Mattiazzi Medici Konstantin Grcic

Ultimately what attracts us to Mattiazzi is the effortless simplicity of their furniture.

You currently can’t move in the European furniture market without bumping into a manufacturer with a new wood chair.
A lot of them very similar. Very generic. Very dull. And very “Scandinavian”

Developments in the furniture industry clearly mirroring those in the TV crime drama world where every station needs a moody Scandinavian detective in a quirky knitted jumper.

And indeed one young designer we spoke to in Milan was quite open that their current works are largely geared towards such a market. And you can’t blame them for that.

What however for us sets Mattiazzi apart is that they obviously care not only about the physical appearance but also the function, the origin, the craftsmanship and the attitude of the piece.

Older readers will associate such with the concept of “character”, an archaic term that is so outdated the Oxford English Dictionary are planning removing it from their next edition.

Mattiazzi obviously still have an old edition at home.

It will be interesting to see how the Mattiazzi brand develops in the coming years. If the investments made can bring a return.

Excellent and interesting as the current collection is, it isn’t necessarily a collection that is guaranteed to guarantee long term financial sustainability. The fact that they have secured Herman Miller as their North American distribution partner is no bad thing. Similarly the agreement with Aram in the UK.  But again these developments alone are no guarantee of sustainable success.

That comes from a product portfolio that is successful across various market sectors and that can keep reaching and exciting new buyers.

And that takes time.

We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the situation.
And will of course keep you informed.

Milan Design Week 2013 Mattiazzi Collection

Milan Design Week 2013: The Mattiazzi Collection

Milan Design Week 2013 The Mattiazzi Collection

Milan Design Week 2013: The Mattiazzi Collection

(smow) summer tour 2011: Burg Giebichenstein Halle

Following our visits to the Bauhaus University Weimar, Fachhochschule Potsdam, Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee and  Universität der Künste Berlin the final stage of our 2011 summer tour was Burg Giebichenstein Halle.

It may just be us, but we are firmly of the belief that Burg Giebichenstein students complete more, and more varied, seminars than students at any of the other schools we visit.

At least based on the presentations at their end of year show.

Be it designing record sleeves, creating items based on the characteristics of fruits/vegetables or designing the lamp that Isamu Noguchi would design if he were still active today – every room of every building seems to house at least one exhibition.

If not two.

Among those that most caught our attention were “eine Bank für zwei” and “Bodenreform”

Eine Bank für zwei set students the challenge of designing a bench for two prominent “creatives” – be they designers, architects, musicians, actors, whatever. The aim being that the benches should represent both the character’s of the users and their relationship to one another in the form language and material choice.

A lovely little project that allowed the students the chance to explore how they understand the work and character of those people they have as references, which should then help them improve their own  techniques.

And allowed us the chance to enjoy the results.

Aside from delightful solutions for Gerrit Rietveld and Charles Eames or Konstantin Grcic and Dieter Rams the highlight for us was Elias Betka’s bench for Charles and Ray Eames: a double seater RAR. An idea that not only blew our socks off, but much more got us thinking about in how far Vitra can – or perhaps better put would – ever consider further developing the work of the Ray and Charles Eames.

Elias Betka's bench for Charles and Ray Eames, Burg Giebichenstein Halle 2011

Elias Betka's bench for Charles and Ray Eames, Burg Giebichenstein Halle 2011

Although Bodenreform was officially concerned with floors, floor-coverings and exploring the role of such in architecture and design, the project from the seminar that most appealed to us didn’t really seem to fit the remit.

As far as we could see.

A fact which of course didn’t detract from the genius of Hobo by Julian Heckel.

Reminiscent of some Victorian adaption of a painters easel for wandering poets, Hobo is, for us, a small table that folds flat to be carried as a backpack, and when opened can be lent against a tree or other free standing structure.

And used to help you ease your tortured soul by comparing your rejected love to a chaffinch struggling to open seed. Or similar

There is also a small seat. That didn’t appeal to us so much.

The table however is a delightful piece of work.

Elsewhere we really liked Ausgewachsen by Annika Marie Buchberger – with one small proviso.
Created for her masters thesis Ausgewachsen is a series of kids furniture where different elements can be placed on a universal base.

Nice idea, well executed.

Except as far as we could see the base comes in three sizes – and the legs aren’t exchangeable. Which means if you want to vary the heights of the objects, you have to have all three bases.

For us the better trick would be to have interchangeable legs.

Our view, and not one that distracted from our enjoyment of the project.

Another child centred project – and there were a lot of them on show, not sure if Halle is a particularly child heavy town or if Burg Giebischenstein students are just particularly fertile – was Igi by Constanze Hosp.

Igi by Constanze Hosp, Burg Giebichenstein Halle 2011

Igi by Constanze Hosp, Burg Giebichenstein Halle 2011

Parents wanting to travel with a young baby on a bike are limited to a trailer. Or the somewhat risky business of a conventional, body hung, child carrier.

Igi is in essence a hard case child carrier that allows you to cycle with your child securely strapped to your chest.

And not just cycling. Also for travelling in over crowded public transport Igi gives new parents that little bit more security an confidence.

Despite the many highlights at the Burg Giebichenstein exhibition one irritation did cloud our day – where was the product design Graduate show?

OK we’d already seen it at DMY, but had still arrived in Halle looking forward to getting a second chance, and maybe a little more time, to explore some of the products.

But high and wide there was neither sign of the Graduate show nor any one who could direct us to where it was.


However despite that fact the 2011 Burg Giebischetsein exhibition was a more than fitting end to our summer tour – and set us us up nicely for our Autumn marathon.

As is traditional we’ve created  a small facebook gallery at

And can anyone help us identity this ⇓ ?

An unidentified chair - a regukar sight on the Burg Giebichenstein Halle campus

An unidentified chair - a regular sight on the Burg Giebichenstein Halle campus

Dark Lime Vitra Panton Chair Cocktail Competition: Eckart Maise’s Caipirinha

Until July 31st we are giving readers the chance to win a limited edition Dark Lime Panton Chair.

In effect we are swapping a Dark Lime Panton Chair for a summer cocktail/mixed drink recipe.

The best wins!

In order to give you some ideas and inspiration we have asked several Vitra VIPs for their favourite recipe.

Today Vitra Chief Design Officer Eckart Maise shares his Caipirinha recipe

He obvioulsy can’t win – but he can share a recipe!!!

As the man who commissioned works such as Tip Ton by Barber Osgerby or Waver by Konstantin Grcic, Eckart Maise obviously has taste. And we can assure you his Caipirinha is no exception.

If you want to be in with chance of winning the Limited Edition Dark Lime Panton Chair, simply tell us your favourite summer cocktail/mixed drink recipe.

Full details on how you can enter can be found here

Eckart Maise’s Caipirinha Recipie:

– 6 cl Cachaça
– White cane sugar
– 1 Lime,  unsprayed, unwaxed


Wash the lime and remove the ends. Quarter the lime and place in a long glass.

Add 2 or 3 teaspoons of sugar and mash the sugar and limes together.

Fill the glass with ice and pour in the Cachaça.

Stir and serve with a straw.

Win a Vitra-verner-panton-chair-dark-lime

Win a Dark Lime Panton Chair from Vitra


Perfect for the balcony or garden

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