We go in withering July,
To ply the hard incessant hoe;
Panting beneath the brazen sky,
We sweat and grumble, but we go…..1
…..alternatively, skip the panting, sweating and grumbling with a visit to an air-conditioned museum.
Our recommendations for escaping the brazen sky of withering July 2021 can be found in Munich, Aalborg, Eisenhüttenstadt, Wrocław and Karlsruhe.
And as ever in these times, if you are planning visiting any exhibition please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious……
After a long, challenging, year the smow Song Contest finds itself exactly where it was: Rotterdam.
Not just the location, but the stage, the decoration, the costumes, even the bier en frieten exactly as they were twelve months ago.
The decisive, defining, difference between the 2020 smow Song Contest and the 2021 smow Song Contest being the new understandings, the new perceptions, the new perspectives, the new vitality, the new passions, the new desires, the new old new, articulated by the contest’s motto: Open Up!
“How far can we entrust the machine to design?” asked the American architect Louis I. Kahn in context of the 1968 conference Computer Graphics in Architecture and Design.
In his opinion, not much.
“The machine can communicate measure, but the machine cannot create, cannot judge, cannot design. This belongs to the mind”.1
With the exhibition The Architecture Machine. The Role of Computers in Architecture, the Architekturmuseum der TU München explore the (hi)story of the computer in architecture, the (hi)story of architecture in the computer and considers the question, if the course of those (hi)stories has seen the computer take control of architecture or architecture tame the computer…….?
“Last night the waiter put the celery on with the cheese, and I knew that summer was indeed dead”, opined once A.A. Milne, continuing that, while there may be other indications of autumn’s arrival, “it is only with the first celery that summer is over.”
And the first celery appears, or at least appeared in early 20th century England, in October.
Not that one should fear the celery, for in its crispness, freshness, tenderness, sweetness celery, so A.A. Milne, reminds us that winter isn’t only about the cold, wet, dark and dreary, but is a season which brings its own pleasures and joys, is a season of “crisp and sparkling days, long pleasant evenings, cheery fires” and to which we’ll add lingering visits to architecture and design exhibitions. Our recommendations for new showcases opening in October 2020 can be found in Munich, Milan, Rotterdam, Philadelphia and Brussels.
And as ever in these times, if you do feel comfortable about visiting any museum, please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious….
“Here’s to October—and, waiter, some more celery.”1
In a year in which the familiar glow of many a beloved cultural event is missing, one beacon continues to shine.
As a virtual, and in many regards virtual, event the smow Song Contest is one that can be staged regardless of prevailing physical social distancing regulations and physical travel restrictions.
And while virtual closeness and virtual travel can never, and must never be allowed to, replace the physical, the 2020 smow Song Contest does allow us all an opportunity to cross great distances, to come together, to stay safe, to stay responsible, but for all to stay dancing…..
While we’d all much rather physically visit architecture and design museums, our current enforced virtual patronage does allow us all an excellent opportunity to begin to understand architecture and design museums as more than just an exhibition space with shop and café, and to begin to learn to interact with them, and for all their collections, in new, proactive, manners. To understand architecture and design museums as tools as much as institutions.
And while a virtual visit can never replace a physical one, it can help us extenuate and expand our understandings and thereby allow us to take even more from that physical visit. And those physical visits will return.
Until then, volume two of our online recommendations takes you from your sofa to Berlin, Hamburg, Bloomfield Hills, Mumbai, München, and hopefully and awful lot further…..
Off late, and certainly in a European context, January has become a month of forgoing, eschewing and general abstention, with campaigns such as Dry January and Veganuary extolling us to utilise our guilt at our dangerous, decadent, gluttony of late December as an impetus to radically alter our behaviour, as a catalyst for reduction.
And while less is unquestionably more, and thus worth striving for, fundamental change is invariably more sustainably and meaningfully achieved through better understandings rather than by sudden, extreme, knee-jerk, changes; that more information can lead to less harmful choices. More information and better understandings such as those an architecture or design exhibition can provide.
We can’t promise the following five will necessarily change your (unhealthy) relationship to alcohol or food, they should however allow for new perspectives on the world around us, new perspectives which should allow for new reflections on your relationship to that world, and, potentially, a healthier, happier you. And a healthier, happier world. Potentially.
In context of the 2013 exhibition Lightopia at the Vitra Design Museum a point of particularly intense illumination, pun intended, was the difference between light and lighting, and that the craft of the lighting designer is to bring a tangible form to an intangible material.
With the exhibition Ingo Maurer intim. Design or what? Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum Munich celebrate, and remember, one of Germany’s leading designer’s of light…..
On November 1st 1512 Pope Julius II celebrated the All Saint’s Day Mass in the Sistine Chapel. The first public presentation of Michelangelo’s frescos, and thereby the opening of a permanent exhibition still on show today. And still attracting a public.
And while permanent exhibitions are good and important, for all in allowing an overview and an introduction to a subject, it is those ever changing temporary exhibitions that, should, ideally, allow for new insights and deepening of understandings.
Our recommendations for five new, temporary, architecture and design exhibitions opening in November 2019, and which promise such insights and depths, can be can be found in Munich, New York, Vienna, Esslingen and Gotha…..
If the recent history of Germany is one of East and West, the longer history is one of North and South; a history which, and simplifying to the point of falsehood, saw the rivalry and conflict between the Hanseatic League and the traders of the southern states become a rivalry and conflict between Prussia and the realms of Baden, Württemberg, Hessen and Bavaria: the latter being the most reluctant to ratify the 1870 November Treaties and join the new Deutsches Reich. A reluctance expressed not only by the then Bavarian parliament’s protracted deliberations on, and initial rejection of, the Treaties, but Bavaria’s then King, Ludwig II, he of the fairytale castles, absence from the formal proclamation of the Kaiserreich in January 1871.
Yet despite Bavaria’s long, deep, and (arguably) continuing, resistance and hostility to the union, it is Weißbier, Lederhosen and FC Bayern, and fairytale castles, which stand representative for many a non-German’s understanding of German identity.
Conversely, while Bavaria has contributed much to the development of contemporary design in Germany, not least through the efforts of, and amongst many others, the late 19th/early 20th century Vereinigte Werkstätten für Kunst im Handwerk, Die Neue Sammlung as one of the oldest and largest dedicated design museums, the Munich born and based designer Konstantin Grcic or Stuttgart born but Chiemgau based design publisher Nils Holger Moormann, the popular understanding of “Designed in Germany” lies outwith the Freistaat, in the realms of gute Form, largely developed in Ulm and arguably most popularly understood through Braun; in Stuttgart’s Porsche or Wolfsburg’s Volkswagen; or, and this year of all years, by Bauhaus, an institution which as we noted in context of our 2019 smow Song Contest coverage, was very, very Prussian in its make up, students from Bavaria being outnumbered by those from Mars. More or less.
But what can Bavaria’s design schools contribute to altering such a position? To raising the profile of Bavarian design? We can’t offer any concrete prognosis, or at least not here, logistic realities meaning that we only visited two Bavarian design schools, technically three but we’ll get to that, at length; however, from the two (three) we did visit……
According to the old saying “Human spirit and the June wind often change swiftly”, and while we can undertake only little to influence the wind, a visit to an architecture or design exhibition should help strengthen, enhance, embolden and thus stabilise the human spirit. In June, or at any time of the year.
Our five recommendations for new exhibitions opening in June 2019 can be found in Ulm, Hornu, Munich, Gothenburg and Boston……
The German town of Boppard sits on two of the most pronounced and prominent curves on the Mittelrhein.
Can it be a coincidence that Boppard’s most famous son, Michael Thonet, is most popularly known for his curving bentwood chairs?
Can it really be a coincidence?
Possibly. Almost certainly.
What is less contentious is that the flow and meandering of first Michael Thonet’s creativity and vigour and subsequently that of the company Thonet has carved its mark not only on
the Rhenish Massif furniture design and on understandings of furniture, but also the furniture industry, from production to sales and distribution.
With the exhibition Thonet & Design the Neue Sammlung Munich embark on a voyage along some 200 years of Thonet design (hi)story.
For all the controversy surrounding smow Tel Aviv’s victory in the 2018 smow Song Contest, not least the question if there even is a smow Tel Aviv, the staging of the 2019 Contest in Israel does allow for a very nice reinforcing of the central theme of the 2019 smow Song Contest….
While the shortlist of exhibitions for this column is regularly long, that for May 2019 was particularly so.
And particularly tricky. Perusing it we saw no realistic chance of getting it down to five, all made good claims for inclusion, none deserved to be ignored……
Then we noticed that, with a little bit tweaking, we could get two lists: one featuring those exhibitions directly connected with Bauhaus/Inter-War architecture and design, and one featuring those less directly connected.
The Bauhaus/Inter-War architecture and design list will follow, but for all keen to explore architecture and design in a wider context, five new exhibitions opening in May 2019 in Munich, New York, Berlin, Basel & Villingen-Schwenningen, you may like to consider visiting……..
How do we ensure there is sufficient, affordable, healthy, practical, accommodation for our contemporary population and their needs?
Not just a question for today’s society but arguably one that has been posed, considered and approached by architects and urban planners since the late 19th century.
If, admittedly, without anyone ever solving the conundrum. Or at least not unequivocally. Or sustainably.
With the exhibition Die Neue Heimat (1950–1982). A Social Democratic Utopia and Its Buildings, the Architekturmuseum der TU München review the (hi)story of the Neue Heimat housing corporation and its efforts to ensure sufficient, affordable, healthy, practical, accommodation for West Germany, and in doing so add to the contemporary discourse.
According to US gonzo journalist, Hunter S Thompson, “the human animal needs a Good Reason to get out of bed on a wretched morning in February.” 1
May we humbly suggest…….
While a Chair of Politics is a long established academic principle, the chair as politics represents a much more contemporary understanding of, not just chairs, but all those artefacts with which we share our world and our daily lives.
With the exhibition Friedrich von Borries. Politics of Design. Design of Politics Die Neue Sammlung Munich explore, or perhaps more accurately, give architect and design theorist Friedrich von Borries free hand to explore, the intersection(s) of design and politics.
The fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot……
Thus begins the traditional song commemorating, and urging us all never to forget, Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators attempts to overthrow the English parliament of the day, their plotting to install a new parliament, one more in line with their ideological position, for all one more in line with their ideological understanding of the English parliament’s future relationship to the dominant extra-governmental power of contemporary continental Europe.
That however was Westminster in November 1605. Such treachery and plotting would be unimaginable in Westminster in November 2018.
And so we can all relax and sing,
The five smow blog architecture and design recommendations of November,
Ditzel, von Borries, Japan, Latvia and Duchamp.
According to Germanic lore, “ein guter Septemberregen kommt nie ungelegen“, a good rain in September is never inopportune.
This year arguably more so than ever.
Similarly a good architecture and design exhibition in September is never inopportune.
And, and keeping with rain metaphors, while we can all remember what rain is, September 2018, sees a proper downpour of new architecture and design exhibitions. A downpour that is particularly opportune. Following July’s drought and its meagre 4 recommendations we have a ongoing deficit of one in our annual quota, the current deluge however means that for September 2018 we can present 6.
And so grab your umbrellas and take yourselves to an architecture and/or design exhibition this September. Our recommendations can be found in Kolding, Munich, London, Herford, Moscow and Weil am Rhein……..
Following smow Lisboa’s surprise victory in the 2017 smow Song Contest, the Portuguese capital is preparing to host the 2018 song contest: a contest being staged very much in context of the contemporary relevance of smow’s historic connections….
The only FAQ not answered by the smow FAQs is the one that begins, “What is smow……..?”
And as smow grows and grows so too does the F with which the Q is A’d.
The answer in one sense is very simple, smow trade in furniture, lighting and home/office accessories through a series of showrooms and online shops. But that only partly explains “smow”. Doesn’t explain the how, who, why and wherefore. Nor the richness. Explaining the true smow is in many respects best achieved by exploring another trading institution whose superficial simplicity hides its true depth of character ….. The Hanseatic League.
In front of the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich stands a Futuro House by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen, a work realised in 1968 as his response to considerations on questions concerning our future society.
And an object which resembles a flying saucer. And arguably does so more now than it did then. Then it was a bright new future enabled by contemporary technology: now it is a piece of late 1960s science fiction.
Inspired by the Futuro House 28 students from the Industrial Design and Architecture Master’s degree programs at the Technische Universität München undertook their own considerations on questions concerning our future society.
The results of their deliberations are presented in the exhibition 50|50. Die Welt 2068.
In context of the renovation of the historic Falkenhütte alpine hut, Munich based StudioFaubel were commissioned to develop a formally appropriate, contemporary lighting solution.
During Munich Creative Business Week 2018 the Alpines Museum Munich are presenting with Gentiana Alba – Tradition und Design, not only the result of that commission, but an insight into the development process.
Vicis (latin, f.): Change, variety, alteration
VICIS (Munich Creative Business Week 2018): An invitation to consider such.
It is arguably just us, but we firmly believe that there are ever more design students studying ever more design degrees in ever more design schools, which (potentially) means ever more designers. In itself no bad thing: assuming that is that what they learn is relevant for the ever evolving nature of not only the design profession, but the society they will/should serve.
To better gauge the current situation of design education in Europe we embarked in 2017 on our #campustour, an ongoing exercise which involves not only visiting design schools but for all speaking to some of those responsible for teaching the coming generation of designers.
Among them Professor Florian Petri from the Department of Design at the Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaften München.