Skip to main content

Posts Tagged ‘Milan’

smow blog compact Milan 2016 special: Studio Daphna Laurens – Prototipi

Unbelievably, Eindhoven based design studio Daphna Laurens have never, ever, participated at Salone Satellite, that section of the Milan furniture fair devoted to young design talents.

Unbelievably because they are unquestionably talented, and are equally unquestionably young.

Even if the works displayed in Milan suggested a maturity beyond their years.

Studio Daphna Laurens present Prototipi @ Salone Satellite Milan 2016

Studio Daphna Laurens present Prototipi @ Salone Satellite Milan 2016

Presented under the title Prototipi Daphna Isaacs and Laurens Manders a.k.a Daphna Laurens used the opportunity presented by their Salone Satellite début to showcase the full spectrum of their creativity and capabilities. Presenting works such as, and amongst others, the Inutile Lights collection created in context of the 2015 Dutch Invertuals’ Body Language exhibition, Stool 01 and Chair 01 created for the 2012 Vienna Design Week Passionswege programme or the Greta Light, an object we first saw as a, more or less, working model in Daphna Laurens’ Eindhoven atelier in 2014, and one which greatly impressed us then and continues to greatly impress today now that it has been further developed and refined, Prototipi perfectly underscored the graphic purity of Daphna Laurens work, how they imbue their work with a tenacious fragility that only very few manage with such consistency and how their work is often more about the development of a shape than product design in the classic sense, yet invariably results in a functional object.

Something very neatly demonstrated by objects such as the Art Deco-esque Cirkel Wall Light or the new Tre Stool. Crafted from powder coated steel Tre unquestionably makes more than a passing formal reference to Sori Yanagi’s 1954 Butterfly Stool; yet whereas the Butterfly began with a (mass) production question and owes its endearing organic form to the chosen plywood moulding process, Tre began with an economic question (the brief called for a design with limited, as in basically no, production costs) and owes its deceptively geometric form to a graphic investigation by Daphna Laurens into simple, easily produceable, stool forms: an investigation which came to the conclusion that a stool need be no more than three lines. Three lines became three components became Tre, all you Italophones will have worked it out by now, and in the subsequent, physical, development phase Daphna Laurens realised a very simple, very intelligent construction principle which allows the two upper seating elements to be stored within the lower base element and thus allowing for a compact parcel size and associated optimised shipping. A solution which very nicely reminds of Charles Eames assertion that the details are not the details, they make the design.

As we believe we’ve said before, quite aside from the aesthetic and functional qualities of Daphna Laurens work, one of the things that has always attracted us to them is the fact they take the conceptual approach of Design Academy Eindhoven and use that to create very practical, logical, almost too obvious, designs which rarely, if ever, betray their conceptual genesis. The result is products which are freed from any temporal, contemporary, context, and thus timeless. And of course ageless.

Full details on Studio Daphna Laurens and their work can be found at:

A few impressions from Daphna Laurens – Prototipi at Salone Satellite 2016 Milan.

smow blog compact Milan 2016 special: Belgian Matters

As we believe is now traditional at this time of year…..

….. every year at Milan Design Week the Belgian Design authorities proclaim that Belgium is Design. And every year we respond, that it isn’t.

But is a country with an awful lot of very talented designers………

The “Belgium is Design” claim is however the principle reason we decided to investigate contemporary Belgian creativity in a little more detail, to investigate as it were how much truth stood behind it, and to be able to better comment on it. Our interviews with Jean Angelats a.k.a. Ateliers J&J and Thomas Lommée are already online, others are on tape and in processing if not, yet, in print.

Amongst the numerous Belgian showcases at Milan Design Week 2016 was “Belgian Matters”, a project which paired seven Belgian designers with one of seven Belgian companies and asked them to develop a joint project: the sort of design project of which we invariably approve and which equally invariably produces some very enjoyable results.

As was the case with Belgian Matters.

For us the true stand out work at Belgian Matters was the Board Sofa and Board Chair by Brussels based designer Julien Renault in collaboration with the Walloon furniture manufacturer TimberGroup. We first came across Julien Renault’s work when he contributed to the exhibition Objects for the Neighbour during Passagen Cologne 2013, his Park Chair, we noted, “genuinely impressed us with its very self-confident form language”, and the Board family left a similar impression on us. Self-confident and very well proportioned objects, with both the Board Sofa and the Board Chair all the lines flow in logical directions, the curves make sense, the joints are implied more than proven, and all-in-all they emit a very harmonious, untroubled aura. If there was one slight irritation about the project it is that the wood used is salvaged wood from Canada. Obviously using salvaged wood is an eminently sensible idea. But why from Canada? Why can’t we leave salvaged Canadian wood in Canada for Canadians, and use salvaged European wood in Europe? It would appear to be not only the elegant, but for all the environmentally responsible, solution. The comments in the exhibition catalogue concerning the “…charm and warmth of the natural colour, matured with age…” remind us of all those European restaurants who proudly boast that their steaks come from Argentina. Obviously. Because there is such a shortage of cows in Europe! We don’t need Argentinian beef, southern hemisphere wine or salvaged wood from Canada; we do need to think a lot more about how, where and for all why we use our finite resources. Apart from that an absolutely inspired project and one whose subsequent development we are thoroughly looking forward to following.

In addition we very much taken by Thomas Lommée and Christiane Högner’s OS Plumbing system and by Kaspar Hamacher’s Low Chair and Stool realised in cooperation with Tannerie Radermecker.

Devised as an extension/further development of the OpenStructures concept OS Plumbing is a family of metal tubes, both straight and with a variety of curvatures, which thanks to a specially developed connecting system can be effortlessly and quickly combined into a myriad of forms and thus used as the basis for an equal myriad of furniture objects. And disassembled and reconfigured as, when and if required. In Milan the presentation was a table, but that should be considered more a suggestion than an instruction. With a diameter of 2 cm and the fixing points separated by a distance of 4 cm, the OS Plumbing tubes remain true to the dimensional ideals of the OpenStructures system and thus, we assume, are compatible with all other OpenStructures components. Aside from being a very elegant system in its own right what is perhaps most interesting about OS Plumbing is that it offers a more market orientated variation of the OpenStructures system than was hitherto the case, it is an a way less conceptual, more tangible, universally accessible, and thus would appear to offer what Thomas Lommée referred to as a way “to bring it from research to realisation, to produce parts so that it can spread, as a project it needs to spread to exist.” For our part we certainly hope they find partner who has the good sense/bravery/blind faith to allow it to do just that.

Kaspar Hamacher was one of the first contemporary Belgium designer’s to attract our attention, seeing his wooden shelf “Das Brett” at the 2009 [Les Belges] showcase remaining one of our defining Milan moments, and for Belgian Matters Kaspar Hamacher once again did that which he does with an unnerving and unassuming grace, implicitness and consistency: carved wood. And then added a very pleasing second dimension in the form of a leather sling seat, or in the case of the stool a leather sling seat/foot rest/table top. Brutal and imposing objects, both the Low Chair and the Stool also have a propriety about them which quietly whispers to you that the brutality is just show, invest a few minutes and you’ll get to know my real character. Sadly we didn’t get to try them and thus cannot confirm if they deliver the comfort promised. But let’s just assume they do.

As was to be expected Belgian Matters didn’t prove that Belgium is Design. Because it isn’t. But Belgian Matters did ably demonstrate that Belgium Matters, and that as a country Belgium has a very pleasing and unexpected depth of creativity.

Something we are planning to continue to explore, chart, but principally enjoy. And a journey we can heartily recommend.

Full details on Belgian Matters and all the projects realised can be found at

smow blog compact Milan 2016 special: Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart present Più di Pegoretti

Every time we are in Milan, be it for the Design Week or simply to enjoy the city without the inconvenience of the Design Week, we invariably find ourselves strolling past the Rossignoli bicycle shop on the Corso Garibaldi. An emporium with a history stretching back to 1900, and which positively oozes such, the Rossignoli store has long fascinated us, long fired our imaginations, and yet remains an address we have somehow never managed to enter: this year the perfect excuse was delivered by students of the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, ABK, Stuttgart with their showcase Più di Pegoretti.

Realised in conjunction with the Verona based master bicycle constructor Dario Pegoretti, Più di Pegoretti saw students from Professor Uwe Fischer’s Industrial Design class and Professor Hans-Georg Pospischil’s communication design class develop 15 cycling related products, products which during Milan Design Week 2016 were presented in context of, and in the windows of, Rossignoli Milano.

As with all student projects the works realised represented a healthy mix of hit and miss, and also as ever with such student projects the end results are much less important than the way the individual students approached the brief, how they researched the subject and subsequently developed their idea into a product. And of course the experience of doing such.
Despite such considerations there was obviously one or the other product which particularly caught our attention, perhaps most notably, the handlebar bag by Louis Michel and Silvio Rebholz, the handlebar lock by Leonie Schimmeyer and Patrick Nagel and Marvin Unger’s Bike Stand, an object which brings a delightfully overblown aura of post-modern monumentalism to the simple, uninteresting, and thoroughly trivial process of storing your bike.

As older, more dedicated, readers will be aware, we don’t buy into cycling cult; a bike is neither fashion accessory nor trend. A bike is a mode of transport, and one that has not only been around for centuries but which has been democratising society for almost as long.

Thankfully that also appears to have been the way the ABK students approached the brief and thus the result is and was a collection of clothing and accessories which yes, while all aiming to be contemporary and to be objects cyclists would desire to own, were, or at least largely were, primarily about improving the cycling experience, be that through improved functionality, through the use of contemporary technology, or in the case of David Gebka and Freia Achenbach’s Wind Jacket through bringing a touch of humour and showmanship to the daily commute: and an object which magnificently takes the wind out of the cycling fetishists’ sails, “No”, it screams, “you don’t look cool. I do!!”

Full details on Più di Pegoretti and all the resulting projects can be found at:

smow blog compact Milan 2016 special: kkaarrlls

It’s been a good long while since we last posted about the Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe’s kkaarrlls collection, and thus ambling down Milan’s Via Palermo towards the kkaarrlls 2016 Edition showcase we inevitably found ourselves querying why that should be……. Not least because ever since we stumbled by chance across the first kkaarrlls showcase at Milan 2009 it has been a project we have liked, enjoyed and followed. If latterly only from afar.

Given how much we admire kkaarrlls, we reasoned, our (un)enforced absence from their annual Milan exhibition couldn’t possibly be attributed to us, and thus we choose instead to blame the pressure of time during Milan design week. One simply cannot see everything!

A cowardly excuse, and one which kkaarrlls 2016 Edition quickly reduced to shreds………

Established in 2009 as a platform to promote both the students capabilities and the school’s strengths, kkaarrlls presents selected projects by Hochschule für Gestaltung, HfG, Karlsruhe students either as prototypes or as limited edition series, however as kkaarrlls co-founder and HfG Karlsruhe Professor for Product Design Volker Albus was keen to underscore in our 2013 interview, “we call the objects “Editions” but the gallery market isn’t our aim”, much more the aim is “to present the school and for all the students work better and in a more professional manner”

Something the 2016 showcase did with particular finesse.

The swing As High As Best by Oliver-Selim Boualam & Lukas Marstaller, table Traum by Max Negrelli & Dip LED lamp by Anne-Sophie Oberkrome, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

The swing As High As Best by Oliver-Selim Boualam & Lukas Marstaller, table Traum by Max Negrelli & Dip LED lamp by Anne-Sophie Oberkrome, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Selected, as ever and as only, by Volker Albus and kkaarrlls project manager Stefan Legner, the 2016 kkaarrlls collection presented twelve student projects, and a selection of objects from the Old World – New World cork collection as previously exhibited at Tendence Frankfurt 2015, a slightly cheeky decision in our opinion, but we see where they are coming from. And given the overall quality of the cork pieces eminently sensible.

As ever with such student showcases, they ain’t no beauty pageant, there ain’t no winners, there ain’t no egos, that said there were a couple of projects which particularly caught our attention.

The Bockbank project by Max Guderian takes the familiar trestle but rather than use it as the basis for a table, uses it as the basis for a bench and a chair. Particularly pleasing is the way that has been achieved, namely two wood panels are joined with a hinge, hung between two trestles and fixed with rope, thus creating a collapsible, easily storable, formally elegant and unchallenging seating solution which has something of the feel of a porch swing, albeit without the false graces. For us just as applicable for indoors as out, in addition to the obvious use as garden furniture, in the catering/hospitality/event branch or as an informal office bench, we don’t see any reason not to use it in a domestic situation: a few cushions and/or throws and Bockbank would work in any kitchen, bedroom or, and assuming there is space, hallway. All in all a very well conceived and realised project.

Bockbank by Max Guderian, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Bockbank by Max Guderian, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Normally we’d hurry past an object such as Fetter Schrank by Anne Tönsmann, invariably muttering something unrepeatable about student flats, that we didn’t isn’t because there wasn’t any space to, but because something about the construction, or perhaps better put, the composition, appealed to us; it posses an unexpected and charming harmony and controlled authority. And then having noticed it, we began to appreciate its functionality. We wouldn’t necessarily insert an umbrella at that angle chosen in Milan, but otherwise as an object for the permanent storage of plants, as demonstrated, or temporary storage of newspapers, clothing, books, umbrellas (vertically), mail, info flyers, flags, dog leads, etc, etc, etc… why not? Particularly as an alternative to a coat rack/shelf system in an office or shared work space. Yes, we’re also sensing a potential long-term dust problem, but that is then a question of the chosen textile and cleanliness routine.

Fetter Schrank by Anne Tönsmann, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Fetter Schrank by Anne Tönsmann, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Only post Milan did we discover the background to the Fetter Schrank project: works by the Finnish photographer Iiu Susiraja in which she unashamedly exploits her excessive weight, and exaggerated figure, to transform her body into a multi-functional storage system.

Proof that design needn’t always start with a problem.

Or indeed a qualified designer, as eloquently proven by Clemens Lauer and his project “Design is 10 Years Old”, in which a group of ten year olds were asked to sketch a piece of furniture, four of which Clemens subsequently realised.  The results range from an abstract door handle, over a curious, almost baroque, lamp/side table and onto a dining table with legs at but three corners.  You’re thinking “nice playful take on classic table design”, we’re saying “barrier free table for unproblematic wheel chair use or ease of access for vacuuming. If, on account of the necessary counterweight, not so mobile.”

The highlight of Clemens Lauer’s project however was without question the Peanut Coat Rack, an object which transports the eternal “My child could do that!!!” criticism of Modern Art into the world of Readymades and Post-Modern misappropriations. Which is of course more or less the genre(s) where Volker Albus’s professional career began. Which kind of amuses us. As in, a lot.

Design is 10 Years Old - Peanut Coat Rack by Clemens Lauer, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Design is 10 Years Old – Peanut Coat Rack by Clemens Lauer (and an unidentified child), as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

The truth behind the old adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is questionable, the Irish band The Corrs, for example, recently announced a comeback following a ten year hiatus, our collective hearts barely missed a beat at the news; that said, having not seen a kkaarrlls showcase for a couple of years we had forgotten what an excellent platform it can be and what a good example it is of what can be achieved when a design school curates their students’ projects rather than simply exhibiting them.

And also made us understand that if you don’t do something, you’ve not only got no-one to blame but yourself, but ultimately it is you who misses out……..

More information on the kkaarrlls 2016 edition, all previous editions and the project in general can be found at

And for all who missed it first time round, here our 2013 interview with Professor Volker Albus on five years of kkaarrlls

Design is 10 Years Old - Lamp/Side Table by Clemens Lauer, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Design is 10 Years Old – Lamp/Side Table by Clemens Lauer, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Pong lamp by Simon Diener & Yurt Market 800 chair by Max Guderian & Clemens Lauer, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Pong lamp by Simon Diener & Yurt Market 800 chair by Max Guderian & Clemens Lauer, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Design is 10 Years Old - Table by Clemens Lauer, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Design is 10 Years Old – Table by Clemens Lauer, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Bockbank and Bocksessel by Max Guderian, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

Bockbank and Bocksessel by Max Guderian, as seen at kkaarrlls 2016, Milan

smow blog compact Milan 2016 special: HAY

Established in 2002 Danish label HAY have quickly risen to become an important player in the European furniture and home accessories market, and in many ways have also served as the archetype for the innumerable new labels that have sprung up across the continent in the last five to six years. Yet to judge by the scale, breadth and obvious cost of their presentation at Milan 2016 HAY are clearly not planning resting on their laurels any time soon: here is brand, we were informed, moving up a level and prepared to throw everything at the expansion.

For us they may be throwing a little too much, trying too hard to be all things to all men at all times; however, regardless of such considerations there were a few absolute gems to be found in the depths of Milan’s former La Pelota swimming pool where HAY launched their new 2016 collection.

Dapper and New Order from HAY, as seen at Milan Design Week 2016

Dapper Lounge Chair by Doshi Levien and New Order shelving system by Stefan Diez for HAY, as seen at Milan Design Week 2016

For us the genuine highlight of the 2016 HAY collection is and was without question the Can sofa and armchair by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. Sold as a flat pack kit to be assembled at home, both the Can sofa and armchair feature a steel tube frame with fulsome, inviting, cushions held in place by exterior textile walls, in addition the Can sofa doubles as a makeshift bed. Very easy, accessible objects, the Can family are contemporary yet conservative, casual yet disciplined and for us formally, constructionally and in terms of the underlying spirit of mobility, lightness and temporality are very reminiscent of the Cuisine désintégrée kitchen or Lit clos room-within-a-room concept from early in the Bouroullec’s careers. A state of affairs we thoroughly approve of.
Aside from such formal aspects an important factor behind the Can concept is the, relatively, low price, something achieved largely through a concentration on and optimisation of the number of components and production steps, and something which for Ronan Bouroullec lies at the heart of the brothers cooperation with the company, “With HAY you have passionate people who want to succeed between IKEA and more exclusive design companies”, he explains, “I like this approach, and it also means we have a platform where we can try to solve basic needs, to create what in the fashion industry would be the white t-shirt, so simple, everyday objects which don’t cost a fortune and appeal to a broad range of people.” With Can we believe they have achieved just that. A belief which, not entirely unsurprisingly, is shared by Ronan Bouroullec, “I am quite proud of the fact that with the sofa and chair we succeeded in creating something which provides an elegant answer for basic needs”, he concludes. Proud they all may be.

Can by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for HAY, as seen at Milan Design Week 2016

Can by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for HAY, as seen at Milan Design Week 2016

As more loyal readers will be aware, back at IMM Cologne 2015 we noted an unmistakable popularity amongst independent design studios for relatively low chairs featuring what we referred to as a “deliberately overproportioned upholstered seat and back rest”; among the more interesting examples we cited to back up our case being the Bridge armchair by Rui Alves, the Pocket Chair by Jesper Junge and the Lenz Lounge Chair by Bartmann Berlin, Silvia Terhedebrügge & Hanne Willmann. We obviously shied away from using the evil “T” word, but there was, we opined, definitely something in the air; and a bug that obviously also infected London based studio Doshi Levien. Their new Dapper Lounge Chair for HAY doesn’t ride as low as the three works mentioned above, and is thus perhaps better intended as a dining chair or an occasional chair in, for example, the conservatory, hotel bedroom or office waiting room, than a out-and-out lounge chair per se; does however emit the same warm glow of Hans J. Wegner in a 1980s post-disco melancholy and thus is every bit as appealing. Not least because as a work it is self-confident, very well proportioned, aesthetically charming and thus eminently inviting.

Elsewhere the modular New Order system by Stefan Diez continues to impress us as much as it ever has, and frankly always will, we simply cannot imagine a time when it doesn’t excite us, while the Bouroullec’s new outdoor Palissade collection offers everything it promised. And a little more. Which is always pleasing.

With the additions to their portfolio we have little doubt that HAY will take the obviously much desired step to the next corporate level; it is however to be hoped that once they do they remember that in design quality and quantity are rarely the best of chums, and that too much of the latter can, invariably will, adversely affect the former. Yes one must develop, but, and as in all aspects of life, one must always remain true to oneself.

A few impressions from the HAY 2016 Collection showcase in Milan.

Milan Furniture Fair 2016: High Five!

To the casual observer selecting five outstanding products from the Milan Furniture Fair is a neigh on impossible task, so great is the number of potential candidates. “How”, asks our casual observer, “are you going to select just five?!?!”

For the seasoned attendee selecting five outstanding products from the Milan Furniture Fair is a neigh on impossible task, because the vast majority of articles on show are anything but outstanding. And those which are are invariably older, established products, and thus for the purposes of this column not applicable.

Milan Furniture Fair 2016 was an excellent example of just that: the majority of the new products were, for us, underwhelming, while many of those producers from whom one would/could have expect a shudder of illicit exhilaration mustered little more than a friendly, if knowingly apologetic, smile.

Which isn’t to say what was on display wasn’t good, wasn’t interesting, wasn’t valid. It often was. Just rarely outstanding.

There was however outstanding, and here our High Five! from Milan Furniture Fair 2016*

Officina Lounge Chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Magis

At Milan 2016 Magis unveiled an extensive extension of the Officina collection by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, including what we’re referring to as the Officina Lounge Chair: and for us an object which represents the ultimate expression of the ideas contained in the Officina Armchair. Don’t get us wrong we’re huge fans of the Officina Armchair, but with the extra width, the exaggerated proportions and the combination of leather and wrought iron the Officina Lounge is for us a much more natural, harmonious construction than the compact Armchair and one which has something primal, almost bestial, about it, albeit an unashamedly domesticated beast, and which makes it for us a very logical and appealing piece of work.

Officina Lounge Chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Magis, a sseen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

Officina Lounge Chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Magis, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

Stool 01 by Studio Daphna Laurens

Created as part of Eindhoven based design studio Daphna Laurens’ contribution to the Passionswege programme at Vienna Design Week 2012 the subtly named Stool 01 is by no means a new design, but is one which for us remains as fresh and exciting today as when we first saw in Vienna. And one which we passionately believe more people should have the opportunity to experience. For us the attraction lies in the ambiguity inherent in the object. In essence a very simple stool, Stool 01 is anything but; presenting as it does no clear guidelines as to how or where it is to be used. That is up to you. A situation intensified by the fact that as an object Stool 01 not only invites interaction but continually reveals new facets of its character and new possibilities depending on the conditions under which you approach it. Over the years we’ve seen Stool 01 on numerous occasions and in numerous locations, yet still have no idea how one should sit on it. That isn’t a simple stool, but is a very pleasing and rewarding piece of product design.

Stool 01 by Studio Daphna Laurensas seen at Salone Satellite, Milan Furniture Fair 2016

Stool 01 by Studio Daphna Laurens as seen at Salone Satellite, Milan Furniture Fair 2016

866 F Rocking Chair by Lydia Brodde, Thonet Design Team for Thonet

As a genre the rocking chair is largely defined by the classic “Windsor”, spindle, form or its more quadratic cousin, as to be found per auto-stereotype on your average American porch. Or it is some horrendous contemporary abomination of the sort that makes you wish for a new law punishing those responsible with long prison sentences. Between the two there isn’t a great deal of note to be found. The new-ish Thonet 866 F Rocking Chair offers just such an alternative. An extension of the Thonet 860 programme by Lydia Brodde from the Thonet Design Team, the 866 F benefits not only from the well considered and excellently proportioned form of the 860 collection, but also from Thonet’s long experience with rocking chairs: Michael Thonet was responsible for numerous rocking chair designs, whereby in addition to investing time and effort in developing filigree bentwood structures he also paid careful attention to the radii of his rockers. Detailed research in the Thonet archives and workshops has thus resulted in a curvature based on this tradition and which allows for a stable, secure and for all very pleasing rocking action.

866 F Rocking Chair by Lydia Brodde, Thonet Design Team for Thone, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

866 F Rocking Chair by Lydia Brodde, Thonet Design Team for Thonet, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

FRAM3 by Anna Weber

FRAM3 was for us one of those classic trade fair experiences. Walking around the stand where Burg Giebichenstein Halle Anna Weber was presenting her work, our attention kept coming back to it, yet we couldn’t explain why. And thus couldn’t decide if we liked it. Thought we probably did and so took a few photos. Away from the intensity of the fair and with the time and space to think about things we decided that, yes, we did and do like it. Or specifically we really liked/like one configuration of FRAM3. As an object FRAM3 is, as the name suggests, a metal frame which can used in one of three positions, and as a rectangular frame that means it can be used in any one of three heights depending on which edge is used as the base. A series of exchangeable inserts turn FRAM3 into a practical sideboard, table, etc….. and it was the metal insert with the indentation and thus an open invitation for book storage which especially caught our attention. We know, we know. Dust. Leave a book there for too long, it’s going to get dusty. Then don’t leave books there for too long. Life is that simple. Use it as space for temporary book storage, for example in the hall, kitchen, conservatory or office. And not just for books. The rim around the upper surface means that small items can be securely placed on top with the indent providing temporary ad-hoc space for scarves, jute bags, small packages, dog leads etc, etc, etc. Or books. In addition to the pleasing functionality FRAM3 is also an aesthetically pleasing piece of work; reduced without being unnecessarily filigree it has a robustness of character which it isn’t afraid to transmit and which it does without appearing uncouth.

FRAM3 by Anna Weber, as seen at Salone Satellite, Milan Furniture Fair 2016

FRAM3 by Anna Weber, as seen at Salone Satellite, Milan Furniture Fair 2016

Ulisse Daybed by Konstantin Grcic for ClassiCon

One of the joys of Konstantin Grcic’s work is you never know where it will take him next: something unashamedly, if competently, commercial; an artistic diversion; something that explores new formats, pushes horizons and thus expands the vocabulary of furniture design; or something that presents Konstantin Grcic the carpenter. The Ulisse Daybed for ClassiCon is a wonderful example of the latter. Presenting itself in an uncomplicated, reduced formal language, the real joy of the piece is the reclining mechanism; in essence a very simple, almost elementary, carpentry solution to a functional problem, yet one with a logical efficiency that is undeniably industrial. An excellently realised piece of carpentry, Ulisse, as with so much of Grcic’s oeuvre, references numerous historic objects while offering a new interpretation of the elegance and functionality for which they are acknowledged and beloved.

Ulisse Daybed by Konstantin Grcic for ClassiCon, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

Ulisse Daybed by Konstantin Grcic for ClassiCon, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

* with the proviso that:

(a) Given the 8,000,000 manufacturers presenting their wares in 20,000 halls and across three time zones, no we didn’t see everything, and invariably missed one or the other outstanding piece of work. We’ll catch up with them eventually though.

(B) This list only features works seen at the Milan Furniture Fair, Milan city isn’t the fair. It’s the city. Even if ever more producers try to muddy the waters and convince us otherwise.

5 New Design Exhibitions for April 2016

If the etymologists are to be believed “April” has its origins in the Latin verb “aperire”. To uncover, to open.
Our ancient forefathers and mothers were unquestionably referring to nature’s habit of “opening” at this time of year; our thoughts however turn more to the derivation “aperol”, and that most pleasing of summertime refreshments, and one who’s season opens in Milan every April. It is thus no surprise that our five new design exhibition aperitis for April 2016 take us to Milan ….. in addition to Düsseldorf, Helsinki, Dresden and Amsterdam.

“Jean Tinguely. Super Meta Maxi” at Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, Germany

Born in Fribourg, Switzerland, in 1925 the artist Jean Tinguely is unquestionably best known for his innumerate kinetic sculptures; works some denounce as being unsightly piles of discarded metal. And which in many cases are. A fact perhaps best demonstrated by one of Jean Tinguely’s most famous works, his 1960 “Homage to New York” built in the sculpture garden of the MoMA New York from, amongst other components salvaged from New York city dumps, “80 bicycle wheels, parts of old motors, a piano, metal drums, an addressograph machine, a child’s go-cart and enameled bathtub.”* And all in a machine designed to destroy itself over the course of a thirty minute performance. As it transpired the performance didn’t go exactly as planned, but the consumer culture criticism was made and Tinguely reached a global audience. Organised by the Kunstpalast Düsseldorf in cooperation with the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam Super Meta Maxi promises a chronological journey through Jean Tinguely’ oeuvre including many of his interventions and creative cooperations and thus aims to provide a comprehensive portrait of a artist who generally worked against the portrait as a genre.
And on a side note, Super Meta Maxi isn’t Düsseldorf’s first meeting with the Dadaist Tinguely: in 1959 the city hosted Jean Tinguely’s first solo exhibition in Germany, an exhibition which culminated with Tinguely scattering his manifesto “Für Statik” – “For Statics”- from an aircraft over the city: “Everything is in motion. Nothing stands still ….. Stop “painting” time. Stop building cathedrals and pyramids that will crumble. Breathe deeply, live in the now, live for and in the moment. For a beautiful and absolute reality”

Jean Tinguely. Super Meta Maxi opens at Museum Kunstpalast, Ehrenhof 4-5, 40479 Düsseldorf on Saturday April 23rd and runs until Sunday August 14th

* MoMA Press Release, March 18th 1960 (pdf)

Jean Tinguely, Große Méta-Maxi-Maxi-Utopia (Photo Christina Baur, © Museum Tinguely, Basel, Donation Niki de Saint Phalle © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015, Courtesy of Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf)

Jean Tinguely, Große Méta-Maxi-Maxi-Utopia (Photo Christina Baur, © Museum Tinguely, Basel, Donation Niki de Saint Phalle © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015, Courtesy of Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf)

“Eero Aarnio” at the Designmuseo Helsinki, Finland

With his Ball Chair and Bubble Chair the Finnish designer Eero Aarnio not only gave the 1960s spirit of revolution, freedom and unlimited opportunity a physical form, but he also created new genres of furniture and helped forge new understandings of materials and production processes. More recently creations such as Puppy for Magis or the Rocket Stool for Artek have brought Eero Aarnio’s creativity into a new generation, and in context of the wooden Rocket Stool, a new material. Yet ubiquitous and instantly recognisable as his works are, Eero Aarnio himself remains largely unknown. With their retrospective the Designmuseo Helsinki aim to change that. Promising a mix of furniture, lighting and small objects, of mass produced products and one-off works from the 1950s to today and all complimented and extended by drawings, sketches, prototypes and personal objects the exhibition promises to be the most exhaustive exploration of Eero Aarnio the man and Eero Aarnio the designer ever staged.

Eero Aarnio opens at the Designmuseo, Korkeavuorenkatu 23, 00130 Helsinki on Friday April 8th and runs until Sunday September 25th

Eero Aarnio at the Designmuseo Helsinki

Eero Aarnio at the Designmuseo Helsinki

“Living in the Amsterdam School” at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Holland

Much like the German Jugendstil/Arts and Crafts movement fragmented in the inter-war years into the more traditional Werkbund and the avant-garde Bauhaus movements so to is the development of contemporary architecture and design in Holland characterised by a bruising fission: on the one side the brash young things of De Stijl and on the other the more conservative Amsterdam School. Whereas De Stijl in its numerous carnations and creative genres, and the architecture and architectural legacy of the Amsterdam School have been extensively researched, according to the Stedelijk Museum Living in the Amsterdam School presents the first museal exploration of the furniture and furnishings which accompanied the Amsterdam School’s architecture; and promising as it does some 500+ items certainly sounds like being extensive enough to ensure that the visitor can understand both the connection between the architecture and the interiors, but also why there was so much antagonism between the Amsterdam School and the De Stijl protagonists.

Living in the Amsterdam School opens at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Museumplein 10, 1071 DJ Amsterdam on Saturday April 9th and runs until Sunday August 28th

Armchair and coffee table by Liem Bwan Tjie, ca. 1930 (Photo Erik & Petra Hesmerg, Courtesy of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam)

Armchair and coffee table by Liem Bwan Tjie, ca. 1930 (Photo Erik & Petra Hesmerg, Courtesy of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam)

XXI Triennale International Exhibition: “21st Century. Design After Design”, Milan, Italy

For the 21st Milan Triennale the organisers have chosen to look at the 21st century and for all to ask what the future holds for designers and design as both a profession and as a notion. Featuring over 20 exhibitions at 11 locations in and around Milan the 21st Milan Triennale aims to explore questions such as how best to respond to the increasing conflict between our reliance on mass production and proliferation of new production processes, how should/will our cites and communities transform to reflect changing realities, what is the role of the designer in all this, what will the role of the designer become and for all what will “design” actually mean in the near future…. so after design?

The XXI Triennale International Exhibition, 21st Century. Design After Design, takes place at numerous locations in Milan from Saturday April 2nd until Monday September 12th

XXI Triennale International Exhibition: 21st Century.Design After Design, Milan

XXI Triennale International Exhibition: 21st Century.Design After Design, Milan

“Self-Propelled. Or how the Bicycle moves us” at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden, Germany

Much like our relationship to photography is a purely functional, practical, one, so to our relationship with cycling. We simply don’t buy into all this “bike as lifestyle” nonsense.
Get on bike. Go to baker. Come home. Eat cake.
Get on bike. Go to cinema. Watch film. Get back on bike. Go home.
Get on bike. Go for long cycle. Narrowly avoid getting hit by bus. Come home. Feel fitter.

But this bike as a “cult” object ….. not with us.

And we suspect not with the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden.

With their exhibition Self-Propelled. Or how the Bicycle moves us the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden aim to explore the development of the bicycle in its cultural, social and technological context, of which the first two sound potentially the most interesting, promising as they do to explore how the bicycle as a democratic and universal tool has accompanied, defined and even enabled, numerous cultural and social movements. And no we don’t mean tattooed urbanites with racing caps.

Self-Propelled. Or how the Bicycle moves us opens at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Schloss Pillnitz, Wasserpalais, August-Böckstiegel-Straße 2, 01326 Dresden on Saturday April 30th and runs until Tuesday November 1st

Typical Hipster! Littering the countryside without any consideration for the deeper cultural and social consequence of their actions, typical......

Typical Hipster! Littering the countryside without any consideration for the deeper cultural and social consequence of their actions, typical……

smow blog 2015. A pictorial review: April

Just as January means Cologne, April is Milan. And normally only Milan. In 2015 however we managed to spice things up with an interview with Michael Geldmacher from Neuland Industriedesign on the method by which designers are paid and organising a survey of designers attitudes on how they are paid. Didn’t change the world. Made us feel a little better however…..

USM Privacy Panels

USM Haller Privacy Panels, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2015

Michael Geldmacher Eva Paster Neuland Industriedesign

Michael Geldmacher and Eva Paster a.k.a Neuland Industriedesign

Designer Survey Do you normally request development payments for furniture lighting projects

Designer Survey 2015 Results: Do you normally request development payments for furniture or lighting projects? Some do…..

Dutch Invertuals - Body Language, Milan Design Week 2015

Dutch Invertuals – Body Language, Milan Design Week 2015

Belleville Chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2015

Belleville Chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2015

5 New Design Exhibitions for December 2015

December can be a trying month: always having to think of others; always having to patronise bars and restaurants you’ve spent the rest of the year wishing would return to the parallel hell from whence they came; eating, eating and eating as if trapped in some culinary Groundhog Day.

Do yourself a favour, gift yourself a few hours and visit one of the following new design and architecture exhibitions opening in December 2015. We can’t guarantee they’ll be good, but can guarantee they’ll be more pleasurable than a visit to the Christmas market…..

“The New Map” at the Nationalmuseum Design, Stockholm, Sweden

As any clear thinking individual knows the existing global trade model isn’t sustainable: socially, economically nor environmentally and must be changed.

As any clear thinking individual knows the existing global design industry model isn’t sustainable: socially, economically nor environmentally and must be changed.

And so, wonders any clear thinking individual, could we change both simultaneously and to the benefit of all?

The New Map is intended as an exploration of how that might be possible.

Organised by the Nationalmuseum Design Stockholm and the Form/Design Center in Malmö The New Map paired designers with local business in the Skåne region of southern Sweden with the brief of developing a new product.

In itself nothing new, the idea behind The New Map is a much loved and well used tool, yet a tool which is never boring because it must always produce completely new experiences, and with every new experience comes new insights and the realisation that where will meets creativity sensible results can occur and that high quality, local production and distribution is possible. And is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.

The New Map opens at Nationalmuseum Design, Kulturhuset Stadsteatern Sergels torg, Stockholm on Friday December 4th and runs until Sunday February 14th

Items from the exhibition The New Map

Items from the exhibition The New Map (Photo Andreas Kurtsson, © Nationalmuseum Design Stockholm

“Josef Frank. Against Design” at the MAK Vienna, Austria

Unquestionably one of Europe’s finest classic residence cities Vienna is also one of Europe’s most interesting cities in context of modernist housing experiments; projects such as the Heubergsiedlung, Winarskyhof or the Werkbundsiedlung helping advance and cement ideas of modernist house construction and urban planning in the inter-war years. One of the leading protagonists of this movement was the architect Josef Frank, notable also as the only Austrian architect invited to contribute to the 1927 Weissenhofsiedlung project in Stuttgart. Following his Nazi enforced emigration to Sweden in 1933 Josef Frank, in effect, began a second career as a product designer, concentrating for all on furniture, textiles and household accessories. Under the title “Against Design” the MAK in Vienna aim to present not only a comprehensive retrospective of Josef Frank’s oeuvre but also analyse his philosophy of good design being as little design as possible and of creating objects geared towards the comfort of and practicality for the end user rather than striving for constant innovation or meeting the abstract demands of an all-encompassing design philosophy or design concept. A furrow that Josef Frank largely trod alone, and a philosophy which today makes him one of the more interesting architects and designers of his generation

Josef Frank. Against Design opens at the MAK, Stubenring 5, A-1010 Vienna on Wednesday December 16th and runs until Sunday April 3rd

Josef Frank, Sofa, Stoffbezug Celotocaulis, 1940er Jahre © Svenskt Tenn, Stockholm, Schweden

Josef Frank, Sofa, covers Celotocaulis, 1940s (Photo © Svenskt Tenn, Stockholm, Sweden, Courtesy of the MAK Wien)

“Community: Italy Architecture, city and landscape from the postwar period to 2000” at the Triennale Design Museum, Milan, Italy.

Museum’s aren’t just there to collect, store and display the past, but also to critically analyse the contemporary and thus force us to face up to the realities of our age. The Italian architecture tradition isn’t something that stopped with the end of Rococo but is something which is continually evolving, developing and is as contemporary and relevant for Italian society as corruption, questions surrounding the relationship between church and state, or corruption; consequently it is only sensible that a museum presents a critical exploration of contemporary Italian architecture. Promising some 120 works from the likes of Ludovico Quaroni, Renzo Piano or Arturo Mezzedimi Community seeks to explore the development of Italian architecture from the end of the second World War until 2000 and in doing so explain how Italian architecture has developed in the five decade since the war and thus help us understand where Italian architecture finds itself today. And why.

Community: Italy Architecture, city and landscape from the postwar period to 2000 opened at the Triennale Design Museum, Viale Alemagna, 6, 20121 Milan on Saturday November 28th and runs until Sunday March 6th

"Community: Italy Architecture, city and landscape from the postwar period to 2000" at the Triennale Design Museum, Milan, Italy

Community: Italy Architecture, city and landscape from the postwar period to 2000 at the Triennale Design Museum, Milan, Italy

“Wild sites . Thomas Rustemeyer: Wilde orte in Rotterdam und Stuttgart” at the Architekturgalerie am Weißenhof, Stuttgart

In addition to formal, political, architecture and urban planning programmes our towns and cities are also subject to architecture and urban planning interventions of a much less formal, if often ever bit as political, nature. Presenting examples of such autonomous, grass roots projects from Rotterdam and Stuttgart Wild Sites….. well we don’t know. So sparse, vague and generally confuse is the available information. However a combination of experience of and with the protagonists and a lot of good stomach feeling tells us it will be worth viewing should you find yourself in Stuttgart.

Wild sites. Thomas Rustemeyer: Wilde orte in Rotterdam und Stuttgart opens at the Architekturgalerie am Weißenhof, Am Weißenhof 30, 70191 Stuttgart on Wednesday December 2nd and runs until Sunday January 24th

Wild sites . Thomas Rustemeyer Wilde orte in Rotterdam und Stuttgart at the Architekturgalerie am Weißenhof, Stuttgart

Wild sites . Thomas Rustemeyer Wilde orte in Rotterdam und Stuttgart at the Architekturgalerie am Weißenhof, Stuttgart

“Prototypes and Experiments VIII” at The Aram Gallery, London, UK

The eighth edition of The Aram Gallery’s “Prototypes and Experiments” exhibition series promises in many respects exactly the same as the previous seven. Which is of course exactly why it is to be recommended. Presenting works from design studios as diverse as, for example, Mischer’Traxler, Tomoko Azumi or Custhom, Prototypes and Experiments promises to present commented explanations of how products are developed – if you like, to show the workings and thinking on the long development path and thus help explain how products arise, the work that goes into creating a product and that yes design is work. And because each and every product has its own unique story to tell no two exhibits, nor exhibitions, can be the same, rather each is a, potential, gem of its own.

Prototypes and Experiments VIII opens at The Aram Gallery, 110 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5SG on Monday November 30th and runs until Saturday January 16th

Prototypes and Experiments VIII at The Aram Gallery London, UK

Prototypes and Experiments VIII at The Aram Gallery London

Inaugural Memphis Exhibition, Milan: Reprise

In our design calender post on the inaugural Memphis Exhibition in Milan we noted that although important for the development of design and architecture, the Memphis group was never that successful commercially.

Which is not to say that Memphis furniture wasn’t bought and used to furnish homes.

According to Artemide co-founder Ernesto Gismondi, who also served as Managing Director of the Memphis trading company, there are, or at least were, two homes furnished exclusively with Memphis.

And both of them belong to Karl Lagerfeld.

Not that we can necessarily recommend following Lagerfeld’s example for your own interior decoration, for according to Gismondi, and lest we forget he supported Memphis from the beginning “When one has spent three minutes in them, one gets an urge to shoot oneself through the head, because the objects they contain are incongruous. Practically all of them are individual pieces, works of “art appliqué” as they would say in France, unique specimen which you should display in the home like sculptures”1

Which aside from being an expression of an opinion diametrically at odds with the aims of Memphis and for all the stated intentions of Ettore Sottsass, is an excellent illustration of the fact that styling doesn’t create comfortable spaces, only a unforced, natural, organic, development can achieve such. In addition Ernesto Gismondi’s comments reminds us greatly of the story former Vitra Managing Director Rolf Fehlbaum tells of the time Verner Panton designed the interior of his Basel flat. According to Rolf Fehlbaum every room was monotone – one black, one red, one orange, etc, etc – and not just that walls, floor and ceiling in a room were all one colour, but all the furniture, fixtures and fittings. Everything.

Can I move an object from one room to another?, queried Fehlbaum

Why would you want to?! the confused answer from Panton.

According to Rolf Fehlbaum after a few harrowing weeks he redecorated.

We have no information as to the current condition of the interiors of Karl Lagerfeld’s homes.

Are however planning declining all and any invitations we may receive to visit him.

1. Poul ter Hofstede, Memphis 1981 – 1988, Groninger Museum, 1989

Top of page