Wellen Wogen Wirbel. Water as a source of inspiration, Galerie Handwerk, Munich

Earth Centered Design. An Exhibition, Hochschule München, Munich Creative Business Week 2024

Established in 2012, so a good three and half years after smow Blog, just sayin’, Munich Creative Business Week, MCBW, is today, according to its own claim, “Germany’s largest design event”. A claim we see absolutely no reason to doubt, but also haven’t tried to verify. Primarily because we see so little reason to doubt it. Despite our famed cynicism.

Initiated by bayern design, Bavaria’s “international design competence centre”, and from the very beginning known as Munich Creative Business Week… which, and digressing slightly, is a perplexing decision for an English title in the normally so Heimat fixated Mia San Mia Bavaria; a corner of the contemporary Germany that, in many regards, is still smarting that it was forced to join Prussia in a unified German Empire rather than remain the independent Alpine nation many Bavarians still believe it to be. Having not yet heard the result of the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. Most odd.

And while over the years the MCBW format has altered, as these things tend to do, it has generally always featured talks, conferences, seminars, workshops etc alongside exhibitions, showcases and presentations. A format that although at times can get a little too ‘brand’ focussed for our liking, often, for our taste, focusses a little too heavily on the ‘business’ of its title rather than the ‘creative’, can at times forget that the ‘business’ is but necessary in order to allow the ‘creativity’, to enable the ‘creativity’ to develop and evolve, and not a ‘creativity’ that is the basis for a ‘business’, the ‘creative’ isn’t a commodity, and can also have an unfortunate hang to typography, yet despite such thoroughly subjective, and arguably unfair, positions on our part, especially as concerns typography, MCBW always offers a varied programme across the city which invariably integrates a pleasingly wide variety of institutional and industry and civic partners. And, certainly of late, a varied programme staged in context of an over-arching theme; not a theme all components need must respond to or correspond with, but which does set the tone of the event: following Moving Horizons in 2022 and Why disruption unleashes creativity in 2023, in 2024 MCBW is being staged under the banner: How to co-curate with nature. There’s that English again. Most, most, odd.

A MCBW that over the years we have always enjoyed and learned from, has always been entertaining and instructive to visit; if, admittedly, a MCBW we have been but infrequent visitors of, and that for no other reason than calender clashes: MCBW used to be in March, and we tend to be busy in March. And only rarely in the vicinity of Munich in March. Since 2022 it’s been staged in May. We’re assuming not because of our calendars. But May is more convenient.

And in 2024 we did indeed make. A bit late. But we did make it.

In the coming days and weeks we will bring you some of our thoughts and reflections on some of those works and projects and positions experienced, and some of our thoughts and reflections on Munich Creative Business Week 2024 as an event. Munich Creative Business Week 2024 as a co-curation with nature.

Full details on Munich Creative Business Week 2024 can be found at www.mcbw.de

Munich Creative Business Week 2024

Amongst the great many delights of the exchange, the interplay, between German and English is the word ‘Gift’:

German English
Gift Poison
Geschenk Gift

 
An interplay that, apart from all the other joys it brings, allows one to rephrase Virgil’s “timeō Danaōs et dōna ferentēs” ‘Beware Greeks bearing gifts’ as ‘Beware Germans bearing Gift‘.🤣

With the exhibition The Gift. Stories of Generosity and Violence in Architecture the Architekturmuseum der TU München explore architecture as a Geschenk and architecture as a poison…….

The Gift. Stories of Generosity and Violence in Architecture, Architekturmuseum der TU München

Edition 33 as seen at Passagen Interior Design Week Cologne 2024

The Augenwohl felt lamp by Dorothee Becker for Design M from the early 1970s, as seen at Dorothee Becker – aus dem persönlichen Nachlass, Passagen Interior Design Week Cologne 2024

“One day in the midst of a burning July,
When meadows were parched and the rivulets dry,
A cluster of Bees in extreme……. anticipation,
Flew towards…… a design exhibition”1

(With apologies to Sara Coleridge)

Our five welcoming, stimulating, retreats for bees, or anyone or anything, from the parching burning of July 2022 can be found in Munich, Metz, Tulsa, Vienna and Bordeaux…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for July 2022

Following smow Turin’s thoroughly unexpected, if in no way undeserved, victory in the 2021 smow Song Contest, it’s off to Piemonte for the 2022 edition.

A 2022 smow Song Contest being held very much in context of events 20 years previous…….

smow song contest 2022 smowblog

“November’s night is dark and drear, The dullest month of all the year”, opined Letitia Elizabeth Landon in 1836, however, ’twas not all doom and gloom, for, as she continues, “the November evening now closing in round Mrs. Cameron’s house was of a very cheerful nature.”*

A cheerfulness in Mrs. Cameron’s house/school occasioned by the gaiety associated with the rapidly approaching annual school prize-giving and ball; and a cheerfulness to banish the dreary darkness of a November evening that can also be achieved through the intellectual stimulation of an architecture and/or design exhibition.

Our five recommended distractions from November 2021 can be found in Frankfurt, Basel, Dresden, Miami Beach and Munich…..

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for November 2021

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……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for July 2021

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!

smow song contest 2021

“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

And today?

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…….?

Imaginary Architecture by Otto Beckmann (l) and Plotter Drawings by Günter Günschel (r), as seen at The Architecture Machine. The Role of Computers in Architecture, the Architekturmuseum der TU München

“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

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for October 2020

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…..

smow song contest 2020

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…..

5 Online Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2020

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.

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for January 2020

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…..

Ingo Maurer intim. Design or what?, Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum Munich

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…..

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for November 2019

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……

#campustour 2019: Germany - Bavaria

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……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for June 2019

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.

Thonet & Design, Die Neue Sammlung - The Design Museum, Munich

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….

smow song contest 2019

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……..

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2019

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.

Die Neue Heimat ­(1950–1982). A Social Democratic Utopia and Its Buildings, the Architekturmuseum der TU München

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…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for February 2019