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Posts Tagged ‘Moormann’

smow Interview: Nils Holger Moormann – We desperately need a new revolution!

In our post from the exhibition Schrill Bizarr Brachial. Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre at the Bröhan Museum Berlin we noted that, for us, the two most important legacies of the Neues deutsches Design movement and 1980s German Postmodernism are and were the number of protagonists from then currently teaching at German design schools, and those manufacturers who arose from the heady, damp haze of the period. Manufacturers such as Nils Holger Moormann.

Established in the early 1980s from the youthful design experiences of the bored but otherwise upstanding law student Nils Holger Moormann, the eponymous company has evolved over the past three decades to establish itself as one of Europe’s most interesting and challenging contemporary furniture producers.

At the 2015 Ambiente interiors fair Nils Holger Moormann will be awarded the “Personality” lifetime achievement award by the Rat für Formgebung – the German Design Council. Much as we have an innate mistrust of design awards, and for all of lifetime achievement awards for the living and lively, the combination of the award and the exhibition offer the perfect excuse to speak with Nils Holger Moormann about furniture design and the furniture industry then, now and in the future, but we began by asking how he found his way to furniture design……

Nils Holger Moormann: Pure chance. I’d studied law for 8 semesters, wasn’t really enjoying it and then, and as so often happens, through chance and acquaintances I was introduced to this world of contemporary design, and was immediately enthralled. There were terrible things, fantastic things, high-tech creations, Bauhaus and more traditional furniture mixed with objects which had been completely ripped out of context, and I found that all absolutely fascinating. I didn’t really understand any of it, but the spirit of adventure and freedom allowed even those without a relevant academic or professional background to get involved and simply through learning by doing to find your own way.

smow blog: And were you aware of what one could call a “scene”, or how did you experience the situation?

Nils Holger Moormann: I wasn’t aware of a scene as such. It was a relatively small, informal community, and one simply drifted through it. You met people, were subsequently invited somewhere, were introduced to new people, heard that they were doing this or that and from that work learned of other designers. For me it was like a huge festival with a 1000 surprises, everything was possible, you were puzzled, dumbfounded, surprised, didn’t understand; one was simply aware of being part of something new and invigorating.

smow blog: Does the fact that you found your way to design via Neues deutsches Design mean you had no interest in the more functional design, for example the so-called gute Form, that up until then had largely dominated German design?

Nils Holger Moormann: No, no not all. For me this Neues deutsches Design was wonderfully shrill and bizarre and one was aware of celebrating a revolution; but what principally interested me was a reduced design that had an added value, a design which contained an idea, an idea that caught my imagination. And much as I would often fall in love with shrill and wacky objects, I was only a true proponent of the more reserved design objects

smow blog: And were you designing yourself in those days?

Nils Holger Moormann: Initially no, I set myself up more as a sales rep, and would travel through Germany and Europe meeting designers and architects who were producing their own designs and would take on the distribution for them; the idea was to become similar to a publisher for extraordinary books.

smow blog: The only object from that period still in production with yourselves is the Gespanntes Regal from Wolfgang Laubersheimer, is that the only “extraordinary” book that has survived the ravages of time, or perhaps better put, why has it survived the ravages of time?

Nils Holger Moormann: When one looks back to that period the Gespanntes Regal is in general one of only very few pieces that are still in production. The Gespanntes Regal is one of those pieces that fascinated me from the first moment I saw it: an unstable construction that can’t support itself but which then receives its tension, stability and functionality from a simple steel cable, and it is a piece that not only remains as fresh and relevant for me today as back then but is an object which still stands for our philosophy.

smow blog: Which of course poses the obvious next question, is there anything from the spirit of then to be found in the contemporary German furniture industry?

Nils Holger Moormann: Unfortunately not. It was a protest and a revolution and an attempt to forge something new, but that is history and now we have a situation where we’re largely driven by industry; many of the current manufactures don’t even have owners but rather are part of larger concerns, exist in effect simply to generate profit, and the result is the furniture that is being offered all looks the same. Everything has become very homogeneous, so much so that sometimes I have the feeling that if you were to go to IMM Cologne at night and mix up the furniture, take pieces from one stand and place them on another, hardly anyone would notice. And that is a shame because it means the esprit, the curiosity, the aspiration is missing. Sometimes I have the feeling that the only passion that is there is to make sellable products, and that’s not the the way forward. Yes you have got to have the luck to make a profit and remain financially stable, but you also need to search for new ideas and new approaches and for me that currently occurs too infrequently. For me there is too little protest, too few attempts to try something new, even when you know that it might not work, to at least try. In my opinion we desperately need a new revolution!

smow blog: Need, but will we get?

Nils Holger Moormann: I’m of a naturally positive disposition and I believe that it will come. Not least because the young designers today must increasingly take everything into their own hands and so will be forced to find new ways, new solutions and new systems. And much like in the 1980s through that searching will come the changes.

smow blog: We sense however the spirit of then still forms a key part of who you are and how you operate?

Nils Holger Moormann: Yes, Gott sei dank! The moment the youthful searching, the curiosity and the passion stops that’s the moment you become pragmatic and start to optimise things on a purely economic level. But before the financial must always come the exploration, the esprit and the passion.

Nils Holger Moormann

Nils Holger Moormann.Designer. Entrepreneur. Publisher. (Photo ©Dirk Bruniecki)

Schrill Bizarr Brachial Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre Bröhan Museum Berlin Pentagon Wolfgang Laubersheimer Detlef Meyer Voggenreither

Gespanntes Regal by Wolfgang Laubersheimer (l) and Mai '68 by Detlef Meyer Voggenreither (r), as seen at Schrill Bizarr Brachial. Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre, Bröhan Museum Berlin

(smow) intern: G’day (smow) Australia Blog

For many, the darkest, furthest removed edge of the (smow) universe is (smow) Chemnitz.

(smow) however reaches further.

Much further.

To Manly, New South Wales, to be precise and (smow) Australia.

More of a cousin than a member of the immediate (smow) family, (smow) Australia offer products by leading European manufacturers including Nils Holger Moormann, Richard Lampert, LoCa, Jonas & Jonas and Kabré-Leipzig to the good people of Sydney and, through their online shop, beyond. And now have their own blog: (smow) Australia Blog.

In addition to regular posts on the wonderful world of Nils Holger Moormann the (smow) Australia Blog also aims to document and cover themes of relevance, importance and interest to all passionate about high quality contemporary furniture, architecture and interiors in Australia.

We obviously recommend it. And for our part, we’re looking forward to “borrowing” ideas from our antipodean cobbers.

G’day (smow) Australia Blog!

smow australia

(smow) Australia: A new star for a new country......

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

(smow) blog 2013. A pictorial review: February

IMM Cologne kept us busy into February, but the month also saw the opening of an Eileen Gray retrospective in Paris, a visit to the Louis Kahn exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum and the sad passing of James Irvine….

Antonio Citterio pivot orgatec vitra

Pivot office chair by Antonio Citterio for Vitra, here at Orgatec Cologne 2012

IMM Cologne 2013 PS 07 Bureau by Delphin Design for Müller Möbelfabrikation

IMM Cologne 2013: PS 07 Bureau by Delphin Design for Müller Möbelfabrikation

eileen gray Dressing table screen Centre Pompidou Paris

Dressing table screen by Eileen Gray

IMM Cologne 2013 Wilde+Spieth Egon Eiermann SE 68 SE 42 Le Corbusier Les Couleurs

IMM Cologne 2013: Wilde+Spieth present Egon Eiermann's SE 68 and SE 42 in the new "Les Couleurs" range from Le Corbusier

Vitra Design Museum Louis Kahn The Power of Architecture National Assembly Building in Dhaka

Louis Kahn The Power of Architecture @ Vitra Design Museum

James Irvine

James Irvine 1958-2013

Watn Blech by Bernhard Osann for Moormann

Watn Blech by Bernhard Osann for Moormann

(smow) intern: welcome (smow) cologne


It’s not always good.

Waistlines. Overdrafts. Weeks since you last phoned your mother.

For example wouldn’t be good.

Business expansion is however good.

And the best news is that (smow) continues to expand.

Following on from the “original” (smow)rooms in Leipzig and Chemnitz, the (smow) online designer furniture store opened its virtual doors in 2008 before in 2012 (smow) Stuttgart joined the family.

2013 has already seen the launch of (smow) Erfurt, and since early October 2013 (smow) Cologne has been trading in a 230 sqm showroom in the city’s historic Waidmarkt.

Offering a full range of products from leading contemporary furniture manufacturers including USM Haller, Vitra, LoCa, Belux and Nils Holger Moormann, (smow) Cologne is run by Anett Ahlefeld and Guido Eichel, a management team who join (smow) from Vitra where for the past 15 years they have advised and assisted customers in Cologne, Bonn, Aachen and environs. Experience and product competence that is now available to all, private and business customers alike.

If you are in Cologne do drop by and say hello. And if you say “Kölle Alaaf! (smow) blog sent us”, you can claim your free apple. As in a piece of fruit. Obviously. Not a computer. That would be daft.1

(smow) Cologne can be found at Waidmarkt 11, 50676 Köln.

And at

A few impressions:

1. Free apples strictly subject to availability. No cash alternatives. But possibly citrus alternatives.

With Nils Holger Moormann at the Leipzig Baumwollspinnerei Spring Rundgang 2013

As we noted in our designer barbecue post “… summer is bidding its final farewells

And with autumn’s impudent chill invading ever more our pastoral calm the time for our hibernation approaches. And so we’re currently exploring accommodation options.

Fortunately it’s been a bit of a “small house year” in these pages with, for example,  Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Vitra’s Diogene or Jean Prouve’s Maison des Jours Meilleurs occupying our thoughts.

Our first contact with reduced room accomodation however came in May when (smow) made their debut at Leipzig’s premier contemporary art showcase, the Baumwollspinnerei Rundgang, a debut ably supported by a small Moormann house.

Back in 2006 Nils Holger Moormann released Walden, a sleek, unobtrusive outdoor construction inspired by the book “Walden; or, Life in the Woods” by Henry David Thoreau.

Featuring storage space, a barbecue, seating and even a sky lounge, Walden offers everything you could possibly require for a few relaxed days out of doors. Be that in the woods as Thoreau recommended, on the side of a lake or simply at the bottom of your garden.

At the 2006 “The Design Annual” trade fair in Frankfurt, Moormann celebrated their new product with a specially adapted, and anything but unobtrusive, version of Walden as their fair stand: and a couple of years ago that very stand was, legally, acquired by (smow)

And so it came to pass that for the 2013 Spring Rundgang the former Moormann fair stand was selected to provide the central focus of the (smow) (self)presentation.

It just had to be constructed.

Before the act the warnings were of a building process of biblical proportions, weeks would be required boomed the Gods of Doom, the service of a veritable plaque of Bavarian engineers was prophesied.

In the end it took a little over two and half minutes…..

Milan Design Week 2013: Moormann tuttavia presente!!

Back at Saloni Milano 2010 Ronan Bouroullec told us about his feeling that the internet and new technology could, perhaps even should, eventually, replace the resources and time invested – and ultimately wasted –  every year in an event such as Milan Furniture Fair.

In 2013 everyone’s favourite German conceptual contemporary furniture manufacturer Moormann, have made the start.

And in doing so proved that even from the pastoral calm of Aschau im Chiemgau, one can still be part of the Milan madness.

In our conversations with Moormann ahead of Milan they told us we could “look forward” to what they were organising in place of their regular Saloni Milano stand.

Which is a nice line in modest understatement one dosen’t normally associate with Moormänner…..

For rather than investing in the faltering Italian economy, Moormann have created a celluloid masterpiece!

To make things easier we’ve embedded the film here. The original can be found at:

Milan Design Week 2013: Moormann non è presente

In little under a week the Doors of Hell will once again open to release Milan Design Week on our unsympathetic, unapologetic world.

The normally pleasant, quiet and reasonably priced Lombardian metropolis will be overrun by molten rivers of corporate greed and naive student hope, transforming the canals, parks and former industrial sites into burning pits of contradiction, imitation and pure gold.

Survival is a question of ignoring reality and convincing yourself that everything is brilliant and that you are having a really, really good time.

Technically, the same procedure as every year…..

….. only this year one of the saner heads in the madness will sadly be missing: Moormann ain’t going.

Milan Design Week 2013 Moormann non è presente

Milan Design Week 2013: Moormann non è presente

Essentially the reason is dissatisfaction with the stand they were offered at the furniture fair and a general unhappiness with the way the whole process was/is organised and communicated.

When we spoke to Nils Holger Moormann in 2011 he commented on the problems of the stand distribution in Milan.

And in recent conversations with senior managers from other contemporary furniture producers we know how infuriating and drawn out the stand distribution system in Milan is.

The majority however see no alternative and so endure what they must endure to ensure their presence.

Presumably with 2013 the Moormann camel has finally had one straw too many placed, roughly, on its back.

For us the bitter irony is that the vast majority of Hall 20 – which is where the contemporary manufacturers are housed – will be Italian producers who not only are presenting nothing even vaguely innovative, but whose “new” objects are not even destined to see production and are only on display to catch attention.

Wasting space for show rather than using the opportunity to allow the industry to grow and develop.

While we’ll obviously miss Moormann, we do find the resistance good. Milan’s monopoly needs to be broken, and while that will be a long process the more people who make the conscious decision not to go, and publicly justify it, the quicker we will have the alternatives the contemporary designer furniture industry so badly needs.

The one, very, positive fact in Moormann’s decision is of course that when faced with a challenge, Moormann tend to respond in the most glorious, creative, off-beat fashion.

The Bookinist Cup being one of the better examples.

We know that Morrmann have new products. We know Moormann want to show them.

We can’t wait to find out where and how that is.

Naturally, what with Moormann being Moormann, they didn’t announce their Milan absence with a simple press release.

No. Moormann developed a board game.

And we, having as ever far too much time on our hands, managed to play a quick round….

Watn Blech by Bernhard Osann for Moormann

In the past couple of years we have often referred to, but never actually shown, the shelf “Das Brett” by Belgian designer Kaspar Hamacher.

A shelf that is one of our abbiding memories of Milan 2010.

That and nearly drowning…..

The release of Watn Blech by Bernhard Osann for Moormann however provides the perfect opportunity to right that wrong.

kaspar hamacher das brett

Das Brett by Kaspar Hamacher as seen at the showcase "Le Belge", Milan 2010.

What attracted us to Das Brett, and has always remained with us, was the very simple principle behind the piece.

By gently inclining the shelf towards the centre one creates a surface that provides greater stability than the traditional “flat” book shelf.

The secret of the design is in the angle of the inclination: just enough to be functional without compromising the proportions.

Watn Blech by Bernhard Osann for Moormann applies a similar principle.

Though with Watn Blech the “stability” attained is primarily not in context of the objects on the shelf. But the shelf itself.

If we remember correctly from what we learned at school “Magic” and “Physics” are synonyms.

So let’s say that through the dark beauty of magic, gently bending a piece of sheet metal increases its stability.

The secret of the design is in the angle of the bending: just enough to be functional without compromising the proportions.

In addition, through the gentle incline one creates a convenient, and inherently stable, storage surface that subtly subverts the, invariably, linear homogeneity of a room.

And because it’s a Moormann product you get a convenient, and inherently stable, storage surface with an inbuilt piece of innocent, childlike, fun…. The shelf look like it’s been incorrectly hung!!

Just delightful.

Watn Blech by Bernhard Osann for Moormann

Watn Blech by Bernhard Osann for Moormann



Watn Blech by Bernhard Osann for Moormann

Watn Blech by Bernhard Osann for Moormann


From Bookcases to Corporate Identities. Moormann – Your One Stop Shop.

On Friday last week we were at a discussion in Potsdam where Nils Holger Moormann spoke as eloquently and convincingly as ever about the advantages of long lifecyles for furniture and the continual development that is possible when one understands furniture as an evolving entity and not as a quick, profit generating, commodity.

Referring, for example, to the FNP shelving system he commented, something along the lines of: even after 25 years one always finds new ways of extending and developing the system.

And it’s not just the company’s own products that are continually reworked and developed.

Inspired by the (smow)graphic department’s sensitive yet unsentimental reworking of Moormann’s former, as one now must correctly say, square logo, the good folks in Aschau put aside the pre-Christmas workload stress to help (smow) achieve a more fitting, modern corporate identity.

One of the new logos they created can be found at the top left of this page.

And indeed so happy are the (smow)bosses with the work delivered thus far, they are currently considering if they shouldn’t ask Moormann to create a logo for the new (smow)room Stuttgart. The question is, if that isn’t asking too much of the Chiemgau creative forge…..

An early attempt by (smow)blog to elongate the Nils Holger Moormann logo.

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