Culticycle by Green Tractor Farm through Farm Hack Tools (Photo: By Farm Hack)
August 31st, 2016 by smow

Slowly but surely September is becoming Europe’s summer.

Whereas July and August increasingly fail to produce anything even vaguely “summery”, we can always rely on September to deliver long balmy afternoons, and even longer, balmier, nights. Often juxtaposed with crisp, misty mornings under a fresh blue sky. It’s almost as if September knows that once it is gone, autumn will grasp us by the shoulders and drag us, selfishly, into winter. As if September knows it is our last refuge. “Get out into the world and enjoy yourselves”, is what September is telling us, “for as long as you can….”

Our five architecture and design exhibition recommendations for September 2016 should allow you to do just that in Stuttgart, Johannesburg, New York, Falkenberg and Paris.

“[un]expected: The Art of Chance” at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Germany

If beauty lies in a perfection of form, and if that perfect form follows function, then to be optically and practically pleasing an object must be created with the greatest of care and attention to detail.


Or ?

In recent years numerous designers have undertaken projects in which a degree of randomness, or at least an uncontrollable unpredictability, has been included in the creative process. And often with very charming and impressive results.

With the exhibition [un]expected: The Art of Chance the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart aim to explore works by artists either where randomness is the primary creative process or which themselves give rise to randomness.

Promising some 120 objects in an exhibition which starts in the 1920s with works by Hans Arp and the Surrealists and continues up to contemporary 21st century works, [un]expected covers a century of random art and in doing so not only promises to be a very entertaining and informative art exhibition, but an exhibition which, hopefully, also demonstrates that by letting go of the reins a little, relinquishing control over a process or situation, one can achieve results every bit, if not more, rewarding than those possible in a fully controlled state. And that would, we feel, be an important lesson in our contemporary world.

[un]expected: The Art of Chance opens at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Kleiner Schlossplatz 1, 70173 Stuttgart on Saturday September 24th and runs until Sunday February 19th

Grätenwald by Max Ernst, 1926 (Photo: Reni Hansen, Kunstmuseum Bonn, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016)

Grätenwald by Max Ernst, 1926 (Photo: Reni Hansen, Kunstmuseum Bonn, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016)

“Perfect Futures” at the Museum of African Design, Johannesburg, South Africa

As we’ve regularly noted in these pages, part of any museum’s remit must be the promotion and nurturing of local talent. And the more competently an institute achieves a mixed local, national and international programme the more successful and relevant it will be. Now we’re not going to get all colonial on you and claim that Togo is South Africa, but as a museum of African design, it is for us logical that the Johannesburg based MOAD takes a lead in promoting African designers. Such as Togo’s Kossi Aguessy. Who yes lives in London, but who’s work is generally based in Africa: and by which we don’t mean hackneyed notions of a “spiritual” base, but actually physically, as in, for example, helping establish Benin’s first FabLab and thereby helping local creatives realise local projects. With a solo exhibition of what Kossi Aguessy refers to as his “functional art” the MOAD offer a chance to explore and understand work by a contemporary African designer in context of his complete canon rather than as individual pieces presented as part of an “African Design ” exhibition. And thus help establish and confirm the idea that African designers can be every bit as creative, artistic, critical and innovative as their non-African colleagues. Or every bit as clichéd, generic and stale. That decision is, as ever, one for each and everyone of us to make individually. And you should always take the chance when it is presented.

Perfect Futures opens at the Museum of African Design, 281 Commissioner St, Johannesburg 2094 on Friday September 16th and runs until Sunday December 18th

Useless Tool Chair by Kossi Aguessy (Photo courtesy of Museum of African Design Johannesburg)

Useless Tool Chair by Kossi Aguessy (Photo courtesy of Museum of African Design Johannesburg)

“By the People: Designing a Better America” at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, USA

Despite being one of the birthplaces of industrial production, despite being one of the birthplaces of republican, parliamentary, democracy, despite being home to some of the leading scientific and engineering research facilities and despite the wealth of the nation, there can be fewer lands where inequality is so obvious, and so blithely accepted, as America. And thus fewer more depressing nations. Where in the heyday of industrial production many of the cracks in the nation’s social fabric could be papered over by the unifying call to honour the “American Dream”, the contemporary global industrial decline makes the inequalities all the more visible. And acute. Thus the question natural arises, what can be done to counteract such?  Such, or similar, was the motivation behind the exhibition By the People: Designing a Better America, an exhibition whose preparation saw Cynthia E. Smith, the Cooper Hewitt’s Curator of Socially Responsible Design, tour America looking for examples of local, collaborative, design projects which sought to create more inclusive, fairer and sustainable communities. The result is 60 projects which the Cooper Hewitt, presumably, feel represent possible visions for a future America worthy of that much referenced and misappropriated Dream.

By the People: Designing a Better America opens at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 2 East 91st Street, New York, New York 10128 on Friday September 30th and runs until Sunday February 26th

Culticycle by Green Tractor Farm through Farm Hack Tools (Photo: By Farm Hack)

Culticycle by Green Tractor Farm through Farm Hack Tools (Photo: By Farm Hack)

“Folkhem Form – Swedish furniture 1949 – 1970. An exhibition on the unknown designers” at Falkenberg’s Museum, Falkenberg, Sweden

In any field of creative endeavour it is inevitable that a few particularly talented, lucky or otherwise chosen individuals are held as epitomes, while the names of others drop off history’s dining table, are swept up and disposed of. Normal and unavoidable it may be, but such is still highly regrettable because one needs to be exposed to as many voices and positions as possible in order to develop not only a full picture of a subject but also to set the popularly acclaimed works in context. And thus decide if they are worthy of the plaudits. Ungainly as the title of Falkenberg’s Museum’s new exhibition unquestionably is, as a presentation of some of those “unknown” designers and manufactures who helped shaped post-war Swedish furniture design, Folkhem Form promises to be an important exploration of what one could describe as one of the many “missing links” in the evolution of both European and Scandinavian furniture design. Not least because of the promised focusses within the exhibition on female designers and experimentations with new materials.

Folkhem Form – Swedish furniture 1949 – 1970. An exhibition on the unknown designers opens at Falkenberg’s Museum, Skepparesträtet 2, 311 74 Falkenberg on Saturday September 10th and runs until Sunday November 27th

A loung chair by Alf Svensson for Dux, 1952 (Photo: Bukowskis, Courtesy of Falkenbergs Museum)

A loung chair by Alf Svensson for Dux, 1952 (Photo: Bukowskis, Courtesy of Falkenbergs Museum)

“Roger Tallon, Design in Motion” at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, France

Something is stirring in the French design conciousness. Obviously very aware that the rest of Europe tends to look somewhat pityingly on the apparent lack of French design talents of true international standing, the national pride is starting to boil, and following Le Centre Pompidou’s Pierre Paulin retrospective, comes a major retrospective of another Grandseigneur of French industrial design, Roger Tallon. Initially trained as an engineer Roger Tallon began his design career as a consultant for the US firms Caterpillar and DuPont before joining the French design agency Technès with whom he cooperated for some 20 years before establishing his own studio in 1973. In addition to creating numerous white goods for US manufacturer Frigidaire, industrial robots for Peugot, furniture collections for Sentou or Galerie Lacloche and designing the route maps for Paris’s high speed RER rail network, Roger Tallon created objects across all manner of domestic, commercial and industrial genres. And the TGV Atlantique, TGV Duplex and Eurostar trains. In addition to his own design work in 1963 Roger Tallon was appointed founding Professor of the then newly inaugurated Industrial Design department at the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs in Paris, a design school whose alumni include one Bouroullec, R. Promising a fulminate trip through Roger Tallon’s oeuvre Design in Motion has all the makings of being a very welcome introduction to one of the major figures of France’s post-war industrial design tradition. And a reminder that such exists.

Roger Tallon, Design in Motion opens at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 107-111, rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris on Thursday September 8th and runs until Sunday January 8th.

The Module M400 staircase by Roger Tallon through Gallery Lacloche (© ADAGP, Paris / Courtesy of Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris)

The Module M400 staircase by Roger Tallon through Gallery Lacloche (© ADAGP, Paris / Courtesy of Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris)

Posted in 5 New Design Exhibitions, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Berenice Abbott PhBerenice Abbott - Photographs at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlinotographs at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin
July 1st, 2016 by smow

“Photography is the medium par excellence of our time. As a visual means of communication, it has no equal.”1 So wrote the American photographer Berenice Abbott in 1941.

How she set about proving such can be explored in the exhibition Berenice Abbott – Photographs at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin

Berenice Abbott PhBerenice Abbott - Photographs at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlinotographs at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin

Berenice Abbott – Photographs at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin

Born in Springfield, Ohio in 1898 Berenice Abbott initially, and only very briefly, studied journalism at Ohio State University before moving to first bohemian New York in 1918 and subsequently avant-garde Europe in 1921, where, and following a period in Berlin, she ended up in Paris working as an assistant to Man Ray; the two knew each other from New York days, and according to Gaëlle Morel, Abbott was hired “because she had no prior experience in photography, and Man Ray could train her to print in accordance with his own methods”2 Obviously a quick learner, in 1926 Berenice Abbott established her own studio in Paris, largely concentrating on portrait photography; in addition to the largely interchangeable fashionable Parisian party people, her subjects included leading cultural figures of the day such as James Joyce or Jean Cocteau.

In 1929 Berenice Abbott returned to New York in search of a publisher for her book about the French documentary photographer Eugène Atget, and was so overwhelmed by the way the city had grown and evolved in the intervening eight years she decided to bid au revoir to Paris and return to New York. And for all to photograph the evolving city, in its pre-depression blooming – very much in the way Eugène Atget had once documented evolving, post Haussmann, Paris.

After several unsuccessful attempts to find a backer, in 1935 the Federal Art Project, a programme of the depression era Works Progress Administration, WPA, which sought to support artists, agreed to fund her project to photograph New York and thus to document the changing urban environment. The culmination of this work was some 300 negatives, the 1937 exhibition “Changing New York” at the Museum of the City of New York and in 1939 publication of the book “Changing New York”: but for all the project resulted in a collection of photographs which remains one of the defining documents of 1930’s New York architecture and an archive not only interesting for shots such as Abbott’s portrait of the Flatiron building in Manhattan, but for the fact it covers the whole city with a self-evident parity, presents the suburbs, rich and poor, with just the same concentration, interest and critical distance, as it does the new downtown skyscrapers.

Berenice Abbott - Photographs at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin

Berenice Abbott – Photographs at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin

Despite being arguably best known for “Changing New York” and her other documentary works of the 1930s, Berenice Abbott is and was much more than just New York and the 1930s, and Berenice Abbott – Photographs also includes examples of her portrait photography, of works created on a 1954 road trip along the so-called U.S. Route 1 – a 3,800 km highway running down America’s East Coast from the Canadian border to Key West – and, and arguably representing one of the high-points of Berenice Abbott – Photographs, examples of her scientific photography. Began in 1939 principally as a means by which to help explain the laws of science and the nature of nature to as wide a lay public as possible, scientific photography would occupy Berenice Abbott until the early 1960s, led her to invent new pieces of photography equipment, saw her briefly appointed as Head of Photography at Science Illustrated magazine, and has left us with the most delightful, endearing and utterly fascinating images of ball bearings, waves, body parts and soap bubbles. Yes, in their naivety and two dimensionality they all scream analogue. No we wouldn’t swap a single one of them for a modern digital impression.

Exampes of Berenice Abbott's 1920s portrait photography by Berenice Abbott, as seen at Berenice Abbott - Photographs, the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin

Exampes of Berenice Abbott’s 1920s portrait photography by Berenice Abbott, as seen at Berenice Abbott – Photographs, the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin

There is, when all is said and done, an awful lot of high-faluting nonsense written about Berenice Abbott’s photography. For all her architecture photography. Unquestionably well composed, well considered and technically correct works, they generally aren’t anything “spectacular”. That said we have long found ourselves strangely attracted to them. Only ex post facto did we learn one possible reason: as an advocate for “straight” photography Berenice Abbott was fiercely against any artistic manipulation of photos, what you saw was what the photographer saw and was able to catch. Something that isn’t necessarily always the case, for as we noted in our post from the exhibition New Architecture! Modern Architecture in Images and Books at the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin, architecture photographers have long been inclined to retouch and rework their photos, Photoshop et al just made it easier. For Bernice Abbott such thoughts didn’t come into question, “[Mathew] Brady’s Civil war photographs could not make their intense emotional appeal if we had any idea in looking at them that they were doped-up fakes like Hearstian war “atrocity” pictures…..  Because of [photography’s] value and usefulness, we would be very bigoted and even irresponsible to seek to legislate a narrow perfectionism for the medium….Is not photography good enough in itself, that it must be made to look like something else, supposedly superior?…. What makes art is the man who feels, thinks, labors, sweats, dreams, hopes. This is true with photography as with any other medium”3

By practising this attitude Berenice Abbott created works that exist on and through her interpretation of a scene. And for all the moment of conception; rather than as an essay of an idealised location built up over time. In addition Berenice Abbott’s New York photos are largely about the buildings and the urban environment, this is no “street photography”, yes there are people to be seen but they are generally in context of the setting and not the principle focus. Nor are her works a social and cultural documentation à la Jacob A. Riis’s “How the Other Half Lives”. The principle focus is the buildings. Where they are. How they are constructed. How they are used. And in our ever evolving world of ever more temporal architecture and the often necessary, often unnecessary, demolition of buildings, honest documentation is important if future generations are to be able to learn from the mistakes we invariably make, as well as from the brave decisions that may regularly be condemned as barbarism at the time.

Presenting around 80 photos by Berenice Abbott, backed up by letters, magazine articles, books and a video, Berenice Abbott – Photographs is a concise exploration of Berenice Abbott’s canon, if a very satisfying, very well conceived exploration, and as such is not only a good place for all unfamiliar with her work to become familiar, but a nice, untroubling, summer holiday season, rainy day Berlin, reminder for all who are familiar with her work to reacquaint themselves with some key aspects.

Berenice Abbott – Photographs runs at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin, Niederkirchnerstraße 7, 10963 Berlin until Monday October 3rd

Full details can be found at

1. Berenice Abbott, A Guide to Better Photography, Crown, New York 1944

2. Gaëlle Morel, Berenice Abbott (1988 – 1991): Photographs, exhibition catalogue, Jeu de Paume, Paris & Ryerson Image Centre at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Paris 2012

3. Berenice Abbott, A Guide to Better Photography, Crown, New York 1944

Posted in Architecture, Exhibitions and Shows Tagged with: , , , ,

Pleasureground am Bad from Hermann Fürst von Pückler-Muskau's book, Andeutungen über Landschaftsgärtnerei 1834 (Courtesy of the Bundeskunsthalle Bonn)
April 29th, 2016 by smow

Whereas April showers tend to make you wet, grumpy and late, May showers are much more agreeable – or more precisely, the Eta Aquarids meteor showers are much more agreeable: a celestial showcase which reach their peak in early May and which, and in a wonderful example of the democracy of nature, are visible from anywhere on the planet.
For all who prefer to do their star gazing in the comfort of a museum or gallery, and without having to scan the evening sky for Aquarius, here our recommendations for new architecture and design exhibitions opening in May 2015. And in a break with tradition their are six, not five. If only five venues…..

“Parkomania. The Landscaped Gardens of Prince Pückler” at the Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, Germany.

What to the rest of the world is “Neapolitan” ice cream is known to Germans as “Fürst-Pückler-Eis”, in honour of Hermann, Fürst von Pückler-Muskau for whom the first tri-layered vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream* was, allegedly, created. The good Fürst Pückler was however not just an avid fan of frozen deserts but a traveller, bon vivant, writer, statesman and garden designer. Inspired by late 18th/early 19th century English garden architecture Fürst Pückler began in 1815 with the transformation of the grounds of his estate at Bad Muskau, a community on the modern German-Polish border not far from Cottbus, into his interpretation of the contemporary English garden; albeit in comparison to the majority of the English gardens of the day one which was freely open to all. Covering some 830 hectares Park Muskau was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004 with the organisation’s website noting “the park pioneered new approaches to landscape design and influenced the development of landscape architecture in Europe and America. Designed as a “painting with plants”, it did not seek to evoke classical landscapes, paradise, or some lost perfection, instead using local plants to enhance the inherent qualities of the existing landscape.” In addition to Park Muskau Hermann, Fürst von Pückler-Muskau also created landscaped gardens for his estate at Branitz and for Park Babelsberg near Potsdam, gardens which were amongst the most modern and innovative of their time and thus belong to some of the finest examples of both 19th century garden design and also of the possibilities of landscape architecture. And which also form the focus of Parkomania. Presenting some 250 objects including original plans, historic photographs and a first edition of Fürst Pückler’s 1834 book “Andeutungen über Landschaftsgärtnerei” – Deliberations on Landscape Gardening – the exhibition promises to provide an excellent introduction to an important protagonist of a genre we all appreciate but which, and if we’re all honest, only very few of us give the respect it deserves. In addition to the exhibition itself Parkomania features a garden à la Pückler on the roof of the Bundeskunsthalle. We sadly can’t find any information as to which ice cream flavours are/will be available in the Bundeskunsthalle cafe……

Parkomania. The Landscaped Gardens of Prince Pückler opens at the Bundeskunsthalle, Friedrich-Ebert-Allee 4, 53113 Bonn on Saturday May 14th and runs until Monday September 14th

* We know, we know, yes, there are all sorts of versions, but let’s just pretend we’re correct.

Pleasureground am Bad from Hermann Fürst von Pückler-Muskau's book, Andeutungen über Landschaftsgärtnerei 1834 (Courtesy of the Bundeskunsthalle Bonn)

Pleasureground am Bad from Hermann Fürst von Pückler-Muskau’s book, Andeutungen über Landschaftsgärtnerei 1834 (Courtesy of the Bundeskunsthalle Bonn)

“Olivetti: Beyond Form and Function” at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, England

There can be few companies who better represent the development of post-war European industrial design, and for all Italy’s importance to such, than the typewriter, computer and telecommunications company Olivetti. Established in 1908 Olivetti was/is in many ways the European pendant to America’s IBM: a company who very early on understood the advantages of taking a holistic design-led approach to not only their products but also their production processes, administration, interior design and communications. And who knew how to manage and optimise such. Cooperating with an enviable roster of international designers and architects including, for example, Studio BBPR, Le Corbusier, Mario Bellini or Michelle de Lucchi the Olivetti legend was largely written with typewriters such as the 1959 Lettera 22 by Marcello Nizzoli or the Valentine by Ettore Sottsass from 1969. Organised by the Associazione Archivio Storico Olivetti and focussing largely on the post-war years when Olivetti’s star was arguably rising faster than that of any other European industrial concern, the Institute of Contemporary Arts’ exhibition promises objects, photographs and films which explore the company’s spatial design, graphic design and architecture. If not the product design per se. But then, for Olivetti product design was always part of a wider, universal, and integrated, corporate philosophy.

Olivetti: Beyond Form and Function opens at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London SW1Y 5AH on Wednesday May 25th and runs until Sunday July 17th.

Olivetti. Beyond Form and Function at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London

Olivetti. Beyond Form and Function at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London

“Bent, Cast & Forged. The Jewelry of Harry Bertoia” and “Atmosphere for Enjoyment. Harry Bertoia’s Environment for Sound” at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York City, New York, USA

Although arguably best known for his furniture design work Harry Bertoia wasn’t a furniture designer: he was an artist and metalsmith for whom furniture design was but one expression of his creativity. Something we imagine that the New York’s Museum of Arts and Design will underscore in a double-header of Harry Bertoia exhibitions this summer. Originating from Harry Bertoia’s alma mater Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bent, Cast & Forged represents the first museal exploration of Harry Bertoia’s jewellery design. And thus the first museal exploration of a central aspect of Harry Bertoia’s oeuvre; jewellery design was one of the earliest genres in which Harry Bertoia experimented, something he developed upon taking charge of the Cranbrook metal workshops in 1939 and in which his experiences with form, space, material and reduction were to be important for his later sculptural and furniture design work. And his musical works. From the 1960s onwards Harry Bertoia began exploring the possibility of creating sculptures which everyone, regardless of talent, could play as musical instruments; and over the next two decades created around 100 sound sculptures with which he recorded 11 albums. Under the title Atmosphere for Enjoyment the Museum of Arts and Design will not only display some of Bertoia’s sound sculptures, but also promises original recordings, a sound installation by John Brien created from Bertoia’s original recordings and a series of concerts.

“Bent, Cast & Forged. The Jewelry of Harry Bertoia” & “Atmosphere for Enjoyment. Harry Bertoia’s Environment for Sound” open at the Museum of Arts and Design, MAD, 2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019 on Thursday May 3rd and run until Monday September 25th

Harry Bertoia’s gravesite, Pennsylvania. With the most delightful gong. (Photo by John Brien, Courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design, New York City)

Harry Bertoia’s gravesite, Pennsylvania. With the most delightful gong. (Photo by John Brien, Courtesy of Museum of Arts and Design, New York City)

“Pierre Paulin” at Le Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

The name Pierre Paulin may not mean that much to that many, but his chair designs will, for all works such as the Oyster Chair, Orange Slice, Little Tulip or Ribbon Chair. Born in Paris in 1927 Pierre Paulin studied at the city’s École Camondo before going on to work for first Thonet and subsequently the Dutch manufacturer Artifort for whom he realised the majority of his important, and most popularly enduring and endearing, furniture works. Marking a clear break from the strict quadratics and austerity of inter-war functionalists Pierre Paulin’s furniture however maintains the reduction in materials, reduction in volume and experimentation with construction principles, but in objects which are much more homely, domestic and universally inviting than the more subjective functionalist works. And as such Pierre Paulin helped pave the way for many of the developments in contemporary furniture design. In addition to his furniture design work Pierre Paulin was also a much requested interior designer, and in addition to creating interiors for the private Élysée apartments for two French Presidents – Georges Pompidou in 1971 and François Mitterrand in 1984 – he was also responsible for creating the interior design for the Denon Wing of the Louvre Museum. Pierre Paulin died in 2009 and with their forthcoming exhibition Le Centre Pompidou promise to present not only the familiar Pierre Paulin but also the unfamiliar Pierre Paulin as expressed through little and lesser known works, models and prototypes. Presenting around 100 items the exhibition isn’t large but does promise a tour through Pierre Paulin’s 50 years of creativity and thus should not only honour one of the most important 20th century French designers but also help explain why Pierre Paulin is one of the most important 20th century French designers.

Pierre Paulin opens at Le Centre Pompidou, Place Georges-Pompidou, 75191 Paris on Wednesday May 11th and runs until Monday August 22nd.

Furniture by Pierre Paulin (Image courtesy of Le Centre Pompidou)

Furniture by Pierre Paulin (Image courtesy of Le Centre Pompidou)

“Big Plans! Modern Figures, Visionaries, and Inventors. Applied Modernism in Saxony-Anhalt 1919-1933” at Bauhaus Dessau, Dessau, Germany

Without wanting to appear cheeky, travelling through the contemporary Sachsen-Anhalt, as we often do, it does seem remarkable, if not ridiculous, that one of the most important movements in the history of European architecture and design was partly rooted in such a region of eastern Germany, situated as it is a little south of Berlin but just far enough away to be untroubled by the German capital. But it was. Not only from 1925 onwards in the form of the Bauhaus school in Dessau, but from much earlier: Burg Giebichenstein College in Halle, the Junkers Factory in Dessau, the architectural innovations of Bruno Taut in Magdeburg or the experimentations in the chemical and rocket industries, among many other examples, made Sachsen-Anhalt one of the creative hotspots of inter-war Europe. As we said, we don’t want to appear cheeky, but travelling through …….. To celebrate the region’s contribution to international modernism, and by extrapolation contemporary architecture and design, the Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau has organised under the title “Große Pläne!” – Big Plans! – an exhibition programme which extends beyond their own Gropius walls and features events and exhibitions in locations as diverse as Halle, Quedlinburg or Leuna. Modern Figures, Visionaries, and Inventors is the Bauhaus Dessau’s own contribution, and in many ways the programme’s opening event. Focussing on four major themes – Ascending, Systematic Settlement, Practising Learning and Advertising Mechanism – the exhibition promises to explore through a combination of documents, photos and films the relevance and legacy of the developments in aeronautics, mechanics, housing, urban design, education and advertising which occurred in Sachsen-Anhalt in the course of the 1920s. In addition to the exhibition in Dessau Große Pläne! features some 17 exhibitions throughout the region and summer. Full details can be found at

Big Plans! Modern Figures, Visionaries, and Inventors. Applied Modernism in Saxony-Anhalt 1919-1933 opens at Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau, Gropiusallee 38, 06846 Dessau-Roßlau on Wednesday May 4th and runs until Friday January 6th 2017.

Big Plans! Modern Figures, Visionaries, and Inventors. Applied Modernism in Saxony-Anhalt 1919-1933 at Bauhaus Dessau, Dessau

Big Plans! Modern Figures, Visionaries, and Inventors. Applied Modernism in Saxony-Anhalt 1919-1933 at Bauhaus Dessau, Dessau

Posted in 5 New Design Exhibitions, Architecture, Bauhaus, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Karl Gräser Sessel
September 30th, 2015 by smow

We’re fairly certain most museum curators aren’t inherently nocturnal, it is however noticeable that the longer the nights become, the more activity one registers in museums globally. And so with autumn slowly giving way to winter it should perhaps come as little surprise that October 2015 offers such a richness of new design and architecture exhibitions……

Art Nouveau. The Great Utopia at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Germany

An important role in the (hi)story of contemporary design was unquestionably that played by the Art Nouveau movement of the late 19th/early 20th century: for although only existing for a relatively brief period, Art Nouveau moved aesthetic ideas on from the romantic historicism of the 19th century and inspired characters such as Henry van der Velde, Peter Behrens or Eliel Saarinen to question accepted norms, propose alternatives and thus pave the way for modernism. For their major review of Art Nouveau the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg argue that as much as its historical relevance, Art Nouveau also has a contemporary relevance: issues such as, for example, the conditions under which goods are produced, relative benefits of new materials or ecological considerations in production and distribution being just as relevant then as now. Promising some 200+ objects from international creatives as varied as Emile Gallé, Richard Riemerschmid, William Morris or Louis C. Tiffany, Art Nouveau The Great Utopia in addition aims to present the movement as much as one of social reform as aesthetic change and thus provide a new perspective on a familiar topic

Art Nouveau. The Great Utopia opens at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg on Saturday October 17th and runs until Sunday February 7th

Karl Gräser Sessel

A chair by Karl Gräser in the style of his work for the Monte Verità Reform Colony, Ascona, Italy (ca. 1910)

Ó at the National Craft Gallery, Kilkenny, Ireland

According to the exhibition curators “Ó” is Irish for the preposition “from”. As far as we are aware it is also the Irish for the expression “Oh!” The curators have chosen the title to refer to the fact the presented works originate from Ireland. We suspect visitors may use it the expressive sense of “Oh! Look! Ireland can do more than Aran jumpers and carved walking sticks!” Presenting works by some 20 contemporary Irish creatives Ó promises to be one of the highlights of the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland’s self-proclaimed “Irish Design 2015” programme and promises a mix of genres including furniture, ceramics, glass and textiles. But for all it promises an impression of contemporary Irish design beyond the accepted stout and craic clichés.

Ó opens at the National Craft Gallery, Castle Yard, Kilkenny on Friday October 9th and runs until Sunday January 10th

Cillian Ó Súilleabháin Courtlands

Courtlands by Cillian Ó Súilleabháin, part of Ó at the National Craft Gallery, Kilkenny

The World of Charles and Ray Eames at the Barbican Art Gallery, London, UK

“Bringing together over 380 works.” That was the phrase that primarily grabbed our attention in the Barbican Art Gallery’s announcement of their forthcoming Eames retrospective. Over 380. A figure that strikingly demonstrates the scope of Charles and Ray Eames output and the high productivity of the Eames Office. What it sadly doesn’t do is confirm if the exhibition will provide insights into the creativity of Charles and Ray Eames that go beyond the familiar. Or simply repeat what is already available. For despite the central role the pair played in the development of 20th century design, the philosophical base that underscored much of their work and the continuing popularity of their designs, the story of Charles and Ray Eames is a remarkably narrow narrative. It may be that there is genuinely no more to be told. If there is, the Barbican exhibition would appear to be an excellent opportunity to present it.

The World of Charles and Ray Eames opens at the Barbican Art Gallery, Silk St, London on Wednesday October 21st and runs until Sunday February 14th

The World of Charles and Ray Eames at the Barbican Art Gallery

Charles and Ray Eames. Designers trapped by their chairs. There is a metaphor in there somewhere…..

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec: 17 Screens at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel

There is something very agreeable about the way Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec pop up in the most unexpected places with the most unexpected projects. Not least because, and as a general rule, the more unexpected the location and the more unexpected the project the greater the chance of experiencing something that expresses the true nature of the Bouroullec’s understanding of design – rather than simply an object created in response to a commercial brief. Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec have no real need to create an original installation of 17 partitions for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. By which we mean no disrespect to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, far from it; however, as an institution it is outside any normal field of reference one would ascribe to the Bouroullecs. That they have chosen to accept the commission, and have promised a series of modular partition elements crafted from a range of materials and linked by a specially developed joint and hanging system, bodes very well. Very, very, well indeed.

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec: 17 Screens opens at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 27 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard, Tel Aviv on Saturday October 31st and runs until Saturday March 26th

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec 17 Screens

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec: 17 Screens

Jacob A. Riis: Revealing New York’s Other Half at the Museum of the City of New York, USA

With his 1890 book “How the Other Half Lives” Jacob A. Riis not only exposed the brutal reality of life in New York’s slums but also ably demonstrated that as a general rule slums exist through bad planning. Born in Denmark Jacob A. Riis emigrated to America in 1870 and after trying his hands at various jobs became a police reporter for the New York Tribune, accompanying officers, and venturing alone, into some of the worst, darkest, slums the new world had to offer. With his camera permanently at hand Riis diligently documented the conditions he encountered and the squalor in which the, largely migrant communities, lived. In addition to “How the Other Half Lives” Riis published numerous texts and also advised Theodore Roosevelt, initially in his role as President of the New York City Police Commissioners and subsequently as US President, and while Riis’s work didn’t directly lead to any major infrastructural changes it did make the reality in the slums visible and unavoidable to even the most ardent sceptic, and thus unquestionably hastened the speed with which the authorities introduced changes. In what the Museum of the City of New York claim is the first retrospective of Jacob A. Riis’s work since 1947 Revealing New York’s Other Half promises not only a presentation Riis’s photographs but works by his contemporaries in addition to original texts, journals and letters and thus promises to be an important repetition of a very simple truth: as a general rule slums exist through bad planning.

Jacob A. Riis: Revealing New York’s Other Half opens at the Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue (at 103rd Street), New York, NY 10029 on Wednesday October 14th and runs until Sunday March 20th.

Bandit's Roost by Jacob Riis

Bandit’s Roost (1888) by Jacob A. Riis

Posted in 5 New Design Exhibitions, Architecture, Designer Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

kyle bean mobile evolution
March 31st, 2015 by smow

“Who’s the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?” asks Obi-Wan Kenobi, more or less rhetorically, in Star Wars.

Chewbacca understood.

And the Wookie warrior also understood that foolish as the fool who follows the fool is, he is less foolish than the April fool who misses the following five new design and architecture exhibitions opening in the coming weeks…………..

“Somewhat Different. Contemporary Design and the Power of Convention” at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, Riga, Latvia

In context of his Autoprogettazione project Enzo Mari argues, more or less, that, in essence, every object only has one perfect form. Functionalists continually change the form to confuse us and so justify commercial, industrial production and by extension the furniture industry. Following similar logic the Postmodernists began corrupting the products of industrial production, or as Jasper Morrison so eloquently put it, “Marcel Breuer seeing a pair of bicycle handle-bars decided to make chairs using the same industrial process. The new world constructor seeing a pair of bicycle handle-bars decides to use them as they are and save himself the trouble and expense of bending the tube.
The exhibition Somewhat Different. Contemporary Design and the Power of Convention takes this idea of misappropriation as the starting point for an exhibition of objects which deviate from the norm, challenge popular convention and so, hopefully, makes us realise that conventions exist as guidelines rather than laws and that only by thinking beyond conventions can we achieve real change.
Organised by the German based Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen e.V. (ifa) and curated by Prof Volker Albus, himself of course one of the young bucks of the 1980s Neue Deutsche Design German Postmodern movement and an acknowledged master of misappropriating objects, Somewhat Different is a touring exhibition which has been travelling the globe since 2009 and has now landed in Riga. In addition to presenting a “standard” collection of 148 objects from 67 international design studios, including, for example, Pin Coat by Oliver Bahr for Moormann – positioned in the exhibition as “conventional coat rack: a bunch of rigid pins, different coat rack: a bunch of loose pins”; Algue by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra – “conventional: floral décor, different: floral module”; Re-tire & Re-babe by e27.BERLIN – conventional: “mother stands, baby rocks”, different: mother rocks, baby rocks”; or the polyurethane Pushed Washtub by Hella Jongerius – “conventional: hard and cold, different: soft and warm” the Riga show will also present works by 8 local Latvian designers: Māra Skujeniece, Jānis Straupe, Aldis Circenis, Artūrs Analts, Rūdolfs Strēlis, Zane Homka, Rihards Funts, Ieva Kalēja, Māra Skujeniece, Aldis Circenis and Jānis Straupe.

Somewhat Different. Contemporary Design and the Power of Convention opens at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, 10/20 Skarnu Street, 1050 Riga on Saturday April 11th and runs until Sunday June 14th

nils holger moormann patrick frey markus boge kant

Kant by Patrick Frey & Markus Boge for Nils Holger Moormann, Conventional: storage space beside, under, behind a table Different: storage space inside a table

“What is Luxury?” at the V&A, London, England

There can be little in life that is so fiercely and universally coveted as luxury. But what is luxury? What was luxury? What will luxury become? Given the size, depth, age, range and value of their collection, the V&A London is perfectly placed to analyse such questions. Produced in collaboration with the UK Crafts Council the exhibition “What is Luxury?” promises some 100 objects ranging from handmade watches over fine tailoring and a diamond and emerald encrusted crown to more abstract pieces such as the truly monumental Time Elapsed by Philippe Malouin, the less monumental but no less interesting Hair Highway project by Studio Swine or Gabriel Barcia-Colombo’s DNA Vending Machine and thus aims to explore luxury in all its manifold facets and, we would hope, focus each individual visitors attention to what is truly luxury. And what is just an expensive waste of time and resources.

What is Luxury? opens at the Porter Gallery, V&A, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL on Saturday April 25th and runs until Sunday September 27th

Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden WerkStadt Vienna Design Engaging the City Philippe Malouin Time Elapsed J & L Lobmeyr

Time Elapsed by Philippe Malouin with J & L Lobmeyr, here as seen as part of WerkStadt Vienna Design Engaging the City at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden

“Le Corbusier. Mesures de l’homme” at Le Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

Aedium compositio constat ex symmetria, cuius rationem diligentissime architecti tenere debent – The design of Temples depends on symmetry, the rules of which Architects should be most careful to observe – so wrote, nay demanded, the Roman author and architect Vitruvius in his 15 BC work De architectura, before continuing that, “For without symmetry and proportion no temple can have a regular plan; that is, it must have an exact proportion worked out after the fashion of the members of a finely-shaped human body.”
And pretty much since then architects have attempted to use human proportions as a basis for their planning and construction decisions; perhaps most famously Le Corbusier with his Modular theory. Developed throughout the 1940s and published in 1950 as “The Modulor: A Harmonious Measure to the Human Scale, Universally Applicable to Architecture and Mechanics”, Le Corbusier’s theory envisaged a future in which all construction decisions were based on a grid derived from the proportions of a man of a standardised size: 2.20 metres with upraised arm. And being Le Corbusier he didn’t just leave it as a theoretical discussion but built houses according to his measurements, including his 1947 Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles and the Unité d’Habitation Berlin from 1957. Using Le Corbusier’s fascination with human proportions as their curatorial focus Le Centre Pompidou promise a presentation of some 300 objects through which the organisers aim to explain and demonstrate the full breadth of Le Corbusier’s oeuvre rather than the usual focus on his more familiar architecture and furniture projects.

Le Corbusier. Mesures de l’homme opens at Le Centre Pompidou, Place Georges-Pompidou, 75191 Paris on Wednesday April 29th and runs until Monday August 3rd

Le Corbusier Unité d Habitation Berlin

Unité d Habitation Berlin by Le Corbusier

“Pathmakers Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today” at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), New York, New York, USA

The old adage teaches us that if you want to ensure you are never unemployed become a chef or undertaker: people will always need to eat, people will always die. To that list one can now comfortably add gender studies; past decades having seen sociologists manage to extend the study of gender to every but every aspect of contemporary culture. There is it would appear no end to the creativity with which they can find ever newer niches to explore. And so no shortage of work for gender studiers.
Naturally this also includes architecture and design, thankfully, for over the years female creatives have generally had a bad deal. Or indeed a very bad deal. In these pages we’ve often discussed, for example, the subservient roles the likes of Ray Eames, Lilly Reich or Charlotte Perriand were forced to accept or the lack of real opportunities offered to female Bauhaus students, despite the institutions self-proclaimed gender equality; and so while yes there were exceptions, for every Eileen Gray or Marianne Brandt there are an awful lot of Edith Heaths, Ruth Asawas or Alice Kagawa Parrotts – to name just three of the creatives featured in Pathmakers. In addition to looking at the work and careers of designers from the 1950s and 60s the exhibition will also present works by current female designers and artists, including, for example, Magdalene Odundo, Hella Jongerius and Front Design and will thus seek to extend the discourse on the role, influence and position of female creatives from the historical to the contemporary.

Pathmakers Women in Art, Craft and Design, Midcentury and Today opens at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), 2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019 on Tuesday April 28th and runs until Sunday September 27th

Design Miami Basel 2014 Hella Jongerius Coloured Vases Priveekollektie

Coloured Vases by Hella Jongerius

“Hamster Hipster Handy. Under the Spell of the Mobile Phone” at the Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany

That the first “mobile” telephones were anything but is something only those of us of an “older semester” can appreciate. Try explaining it to today’s kids.
And then explain that back then nobody could have foreseen just what a central component of everyday life the mobile phone would become.
Blank stares will ensue. And then the question if we oldies aren’t also a bit thick.
Exploring the cultural phenomenon that is the mobile phone and for all the unique and singular role the mobile phone plays in defining and shaping both our modern society and the modern “I”, Hamster Hipster Handy focuses on the two poles of our dependence on mobile phones: the negative as exemplified by radiation tests carried out Hamsters to assess the safety of mobile phones, and the positive example of the mobile networked, globally active Hipster. The Handy in the exhibition title is the German word for mobile phone: and keeping it in the title provides a handy alliteration. In addition to a collection of photographs, art, video and interactive installations by over 50 international artists, including, for example Anne de Vries, Ai Weiwei and Peter Boettcher, Hamster Hipster Handy also promises a presentation of related articles from everyday culture through which it is intended to place the development of the mobile phone in a cultural context, and also a collection of mobile phones from down the years by way of explaining the history of such to those cheeky young scamps we met at the start of this text.

Hamster Hipster Handy. Under the Spell of the Mobile Phone opens at the Museum Angewandte Kunst, Schaumainkai 17, 60594 Frankfurt am Main on Saturday April 25th and runs until Sunday July 5th

kyle bean mobile evolution

Kyle Bean, Mobile Phone Evolution 1, 2009 (Photo © Kyle Bean Photographer: Kyle Bean Courtesy of Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt)

Posted in 5 New Design Exhibitions, Architecture, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Postmodernism 1980-1995 Designmuseo Helsinki Jouko Jarvisalo
December 31st, 2014 by smow

Nothing scares us quite like January.

It wouldn’t be so bad if convention didn’t insist on the additive progression of the year.

If the number could just remain the same we’d be fine with January.

But no.

Come the first of January comes further confirmation of our inevitable mortality.

Thanks January!

To comfort us, five particularly promising sounding new design and architecture exhibitions opening in January 2015……

“SYSTEM DESIGN. Über 100 Jahre Chaos im Alltag” at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Cologne, Germany

As every diligent schoolboy and/or schoolgirl knows, our world is nothing more than a collection of carefully planned, balanced and integrated systems.

Break the systems and we break our world.

It is therefore little surprise that some of the most important, and indeed most popular, objects in the history of design have been systems: we intrinsically understand systems. For their major winter/spring 2015 exhibition the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Cologne, MAKK, are promising a closer look at the role and importance of systems in design – and so of design systems – as exemplified through works by the likes of, for example, Peter Behrens, Egon Eiermann, Verner Panton, Oswald Mathias Ungers or Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. In fact the only name that appears to be missing from the list of designers represented is that of Fritz Haller. A man who lived systematically. But then Fritz Haller was also overlooked in context of the MAKK’s 2012 exhibition “From Aalto to Zumthor. Furniture by Architects” Which could lead one to the conclusion that the MAKK have “issues” with Fritz Haller. Or possibly with USM…….

SYSTEM DESIGN. Über 100 Jahre Chaos im Alltag opens at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst, An der Rechtschule, 50667 Cologne on Tuesday January 30th and runs until Sunday June 7th.

Milan Design Week 2013 Workbay Office by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra

Workbay Office by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra. Contemporary system thinking for contemporary office spaces

“Noguchi as Photographer: The Jantar Mantars of Northern India” at The Noguchi Museum, New York, USA

Isamu Noguchi is without question the more interesting figures in the story of mid-20th century American furniture design. Because he simply didn’t belong there. He was an artist, a sculptor, aesthete …. and chum of George Nelson. And so talented a designer as he was, and much as we adore his Akari light sculptures and Freeform Sofa, we do believe that it is important to focus more on Noguchi’s artistic canon rather than his design works, for there one finds the true spirit of the man. In 1949 Isamu Noguchi was awarded a fellowship from the Bollingen Foundation and used the associated financial grant to travel through Europe, India and Asia to explore sacred sites and study the local communities relationships with such. From the photographs he took on this trip The Noguchi Museum are presenting an exhibition devoted to the so-called Jantar Mantars, a collection of eighteenth-century astronomical observatories in Delhi and Jaipur. Photography may not have been central to Noguchi’s artistic output but through his photographs one sees how he saw and understood the world and his place in it.

Noguchi as Photographer: The Jantar Mantars of Northern India opens at The Noguchi Museum, 9-01 33rd Road (at Vernon Boulevard), Long Island City, NY 11106 on Thursday January 8th and runs until Sunday May 31st

Noguchi as Photographer: The Jantar Mantars of Northern India

Noguchi as Photographer: The Jantar Mantars of Northern India (Photo © and with courtesy of, Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum.)

“Sustainable Shelter: Dwelling Within the Forces of Nature” at the Museum of Design Atlanta, USA

Slowly but surely the Museum of Design Atlanta, MODA, is evolving into one of our favourite museums, even though we have never visited and know next to nothing about it. Following on from their 2014 exhibition “Design for Social Impact” the MODA are presenting “Sustainable Shelter” an exhibition which promises to explore techniques employed by human and non-human animals to construct shelters in extreme environments and the corresponding energy and resource balances and as such offer suggestions for more efficient, resource-sensitive construction – and indeed living – futures.

And that, as ever with MODA exhibitions, is all we know. Still sounds like an exhibition worth visiting.

Sustainable Shelter: Dwelling Within the Forces of Nature opens at the Museum of Design Atlanta, 1315 Peach Tree Street, Atlanta, GA 30309 on Sunday January 18th and runs until Sunday April 5th.

Sustainable Shelter Dwelling Within the Forces of Nature

Sustainable Shelter Dwelling Within the Forces of Nature (Photo courtesy of Museum of Design Atlanta)

“Design from the Country of The Potato Eaters – designers meet van Gogh” at Het Noordbrabants Museum, ’s-Hertogenbosch, Holland

Yes we were initially attracted by the title.

And, yes, also by the chance to write about ’s-Hertogenbosch, the only town we are aware of whose name begins with a punctuation mark. A grammatical affectation we firmly believe is far too seldom employed these days.

Fortuitously “Design from the Country of The Potato Eaters” also appears to be a very easy exhibition to recommend. Organised in context of the year long, Holland wide, celebration of the 125th anniversary of Vincent van Gogh’s death – why his death anniversary we’re not sure, especially given the messy nature of his death and the fact he was living in France at the time, but hey an anniversary is an anniversary – “Design from the Country of The Potato Eaters” takes its title from van Gogh’s 1885 painting “The Potato Eaters” and promises to present designs that reflect three central features of van Gogh’s canon: the simple life, farmland and nature. Curated by Eindhoven based design studio Yksi Ontwerp the exhibition promises in addition to works by established Dutch designers such as Piet Hein Eek, Maarten Baas and Studio Job objects by younger design talents.

Design from the Country of The Potato Eaters – designers meet van Gogh opens at Het Noordbrabants Museum, Verwersstraat 41, ’s-Hertogenbosch on Saturday January 24th and runs until Sunday April 26th

Erik Klarenbeek Veiled Lady Mycelium Project

Veiled Lady by Erik Klarenbeek (Photo © Benjamin Orgis, courtesy of Het Noordbrabants Museum)

“Postmodernism 1980-1995” at Designmuseo Helsinki, Finland

For their major winter/spring 2015 exhibition the Designmuseo Helsinki are promising an exploration of postmodernism from a Finnish perspective: a perspective which we are certain will be new to most visitors. It certainly is to us.
Focussing not just on design but also looking at architecture, the arts and what the curators call “popular culture” the exhibition aims not only to explain the development and influence of postmodernism in and on Finland but also compare and contrast the political and social conditions of the 1980s and 1990s with those today and so explore in how far contemporary creative philosophies and movements are related to postmodernism.

In addition to presenting works by Finnish talent such as Stefan Lindfors, Leena Luostarinen or Vesa Varrela the exhibition also features contributions from international creatives such as, for example, Aldo Rossi or Philippe Starck.

Postmodernism 1980-1995 opens at Designmuseo, Korkeavuorenkatu 23, 00130 Helsinki on Friday January 30th and runs until Sunday May 17th

Postmodernism 1980-1995 Designmuseo Helsinki Jouko Jarvisalo

Postmodernism 1980-1995 at the Designmuseo Helsinki. Including this chair by Jouko Järvisalo (Photo courtesy of Designmuseo Helsinki)

Posted in 5 New Design Exhibitions, Architecture, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

moma good design
November 7th, 2014 by smow

“The belief that New York needs a Museum of Modern Art scarcely requires apology. All over the world the rising tide of interest in the modern movement has found expression not only in private collections but also in the formation of great public galleries for the specific purpose of exhibiting permanent as well as temporary collections of modern art. That New York has no such gallery is an extraordinary anachronism. The municipal museums of Stockholm, Weimar, Düsseldorf, Essen, Mannheim, Lyons, Rotterdam, The Hague, San Francisco, Cleveland, Providence, Worcester, Massachusetts and a score of other lesser cities provide students, amateurs and the more casual public with more adequate permanent exhibits of modern art than do the institutions of our vast and conspicuously modern metropolis.”1

So announced the trustees of the future New York Museum of Modern Art their intentions in August 1929.

And just three months later on Thursday November 7th 1929 the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, formally opened its inagural exhibition presenting 100 works by Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh and Seurat.

A quadruplet who indicate that at the institution’s opening the MoMA backers’ definition of “modern” had only little to do with the spirit of change sweeping 1920s Europe and more to do with the spirit of change that had swept Europe some 40 years earlier.

But then winds of change take a long time to blow across the Atlantic. At least from East to West.

But arrive it did. On January 18th 1930 the MoMA opened its third exhibition, Painting in Paris, a showcase of contemporary French painting that featured works by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Marc Chagall and the Paris based Catalan Joan Miró; and a showcase which proved so popular with the New York public it forced the MoMA trustees to begin, reluctantly, charging entry to the museum. The first two exhibitions and the majority of Painting in Paris had been free; however, two weeks before it was due to close the MoMA announced that on account of the unexpected popular success of the show they had received “innumerable complaints from visitors” who had “come intending to look at pictures and have instead been trampled, with no better compensation than a view of other visitors’ necks.””2

A fifty cent entry fee between 12 noon and 6 pm was considered the best solution.

moma new york 1929

The original New York Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, home in the Heckscher Building, corner of Fifth Avenue and 57 Street.

Just as it didn’t take the MoMA long to discover European modernism it also didn’t take long for the MoMA to expand its horizon and to embrace modern film, music, architecture and design.

On February 10th 1932 the MoMA presented with Modern Architecture: International Exhibition its first architecture exhibition, quickly followed by Early Modern Architecture: Chicago 1870-1910 in January 1933 and in April of the same year a show looking at some of the more promising and notable young mid-western architects of the day. This passion for contemporary, modern architecture was unquestionably attributable to the hiring of Philip Johnson as the first Director of the institution’s Department of Architecture: and it was Johnson who also curated the New York Museum of Modern Art’s first dedicated design exhibition “Objects: 1900 and Today” which opened on April 5th 1933 and which, as the name implies, presented objects produced between 1900 and 1933. Some 100 in total. And which according to Paola Antonelli contained many objects from the curatorial team’s own homes, and even items from Philip Johnson’s mothers house.3 Which gives an indication of the level of personal interest the MoMA staff had in the subject. And the limited resources the fledgling museum had available.

This inaugural design exhibition was quickly followed by Machine Art in 1934, an exhibition arguably as important as Modern Architecture: International Exhibition and an exhibition which not only established the New York Museum of Modern Art as an important location for presenting, discussing and exploring contemporary design but also marks the establishment of the MoMA design collection.

Curated, somewhat inevitably, by Philip Johnson, Machine Art presented objects “produced by machines for domestic, commercial, industrial and scientific purposes”4 and demonstrated, according to the museum, “a victory in the long war between the craft and the machine.”5 No mean boast. And one they underscored with a display of some 400 objects including ball bearings, propellers, kitchen units, glass vases, copper tubing, steel springs and Poul Henningsen’s PH Lamp from Louis Poulsen, an object listed as retailing for the princely sum of $24.50.

Philip Johnson resigned from his post as Director of the Department of Architecture and Industrial Art shortly after Machine Art closed, being succeeded by first Ernestine. M. Fantl and then in 1937 by John McAndrew. And while under the tenure of these two directors the commitment to contemporary architecture remained unshakable, design, or “Industrial Art” as the MoMA insisted on referring to it, was limited to the occasional handicraft exhibition or as an occasional, additional, feature of an architecture and/or art exhibition; until that is 1938 when the MoMA presented first, Furniture and Architecture by Alvar Aalto, an exhibition in which Aalto’s moulded plywood furniture was given just as much, if not more, prominence than his architecture, before on September 28th 1938 the Museum of Modern Art began what would become their most influential and enduring contribution to American design, the Useful Objects exhibition series.

moma new york 1939

The New York Museum of Modern Art's first permanent home at 11 West 53 Street

Premièred in 1938 with the exhibition “Useful Household Objects under $5.00”, the Useful Objects series, effectively, grew out of a conversation between Philip Johnson and the MoMA’s founding Director Alfred H. Barr in which they discussed their joint desire for an industrial design show “which would discriminate between “good modern design and modernistic cosmetics or bogus streamlining””6 A desire which in our books makes both men very sympathetic. Running nine years and formally ending with the 1947 showcase “100 Useful Objects of Fine Design (available under $100)” Useful Objects was ultimately about selling products, something it did very successfully, if the reports of the day are to be believed. Which we do.

Not that the MoMA was selling directly. The MoMA presented the objects in hands on, interactive exhibitions, and provided a list of retailers from whom visitors could purchase those products which interested them. And as such was, if you will, a forerunner of public consumer goods trade fairs. And provided many American consumers with their first contact with contemporary design, a contact which established the notion of “modern culture as modest, down-home, democratic housewares.”7 And thus arguably accelerated and anchored the popular acceptance of post-war American design, and so paved the way for the commercial success of designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson or Alexander Girard.

Despite the clear commercial focus of the Useful Objects exhibition inclusion was based on a strict set of criteria; for example when compiling the inagural 1938 exhibition John McAndrew selected objects on the basis of their functionality, material and production processes.8 And this combination of usability and contemporariness was to define the Useful Objects shows under McAndrew’s successors; Eliot Noyes, who in 1939 was appointed the first Director of the newly created Department of Industrial Design, and subsequently Edgar Kaufmann Jr. the man who more than most was to establish the MoMA’s position at the vanguard of what would become known as Mid-century modernism.

A scion of the Philadelphia based Kaufmann department store dynasty, Edgar Kaufmann Jr first began cooperating with MoMA in 1938 as a consultant to the Useful Objects exhibition before in 1940 helping conceive the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition. In 1946 Kaufmann took over from Eliot Noyes as Director of the Industrial Design department and one his first projects was the now legendary Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design, a competition which of course ultimately gave us the Charles and Ray Eames plastic chair collection.

Edgar Kaufmann Jr was also responsible for transforming the Useful Objects exhibition series into the Good Design programme, an exhibition series which ran from 1950 – 1955. And which took the commercial connections initiated with Useful Objects to whole new levels. Organised in conjunction with the Merchandise Mart in Chicago – an immense shopping centre geared towards the wholesale and contract trade – the Good Design exhibition featured three showcases a year: in January and June in Chicago and then in winter in New York. The MoMA showcase presenting selected products from the two Chicago shows and thus being, in effect, a “Best of”. As well as of course a museum presentation of the Chicago “in-store” presentation. One could argue an affirmation.

However one must also add that as with Useful Design, and despite the clear commercial nature of the shows, inclusion to the Good Design exhibitions was via a selection process. They were curated shows in a museal sense. Ahead of each Chicago exhibition Kaufmann and two external judges selected exhibits from new products launched in the previous six months and according to strictly defined criteria. Yes Kaufmann unquestionably viewed objects as one with experience in retail, and yes one must query, for example, the predominance of furniture by Herman Miller and Knoll Associates in the Good Design exhibitions; however, as a devotee of Frank Lloyd Wright and a man who busied himself with design and architecture theory, Edgar Kaufmann Jr also had a clear understanding of what contemporary design is, was and should do.

Nor were the MoMA were alone in mixing museal presentation with economic interests, of blurring the lines if you will between the curated and the commercial presentation. The Good Design concept was, for example, greatly influenced by the For Modern Living exhibition Alexander Girard had organised at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1949, and throughout the 1950s similar shows were being staged in museums and cultural institutions across the USA.

However, and aside from the scale and regularity of the shows, what made the MoMA Good Design shows so important was that in addition to presenting objects and advising where they could be purchased, the Good Design shows also awarded prizes and allowed all selected objects to market themselves as having been in the exhibition. Not only the start of the branding of “Good Design” but also the start of the maxim “MoMA = Good Design”. An association that many producers, designers and retailers still happily and openly play with.

moma good design

The MoMA Good Design logo.

In 1956 Edgar Kaufmann Jr left the museum and was replaced by Arthur Drexler, who would guide the MoMA’s Architecture and Industrial Design department for the next 30 years.

Three decades through which, and as with the years under Fantl and McAndrew, although the reputation of the MoMA’s architecture exhibitions continued to grow, its design department began to wane, becoming an institution much more associated with reflecting on the past than the present and/or the future. In the early 1980s, for example, as the first seeds of postmodern design were being planted in Milan and the Neue deutsches Design movement was starting to break through in Germany, the MoMA presented retrospectives of Eileen Gray and Marcel Breuer. Both valid themes for a design museum. But not exactly cutting edge. Almost as if having caught up with European Modernism in the 1930s the MoMA felt obliged to remain there while the rest of the world moved on.

Although to be fair, and without wanting to sound jingoistic, the years from 1960 onwards were not golden ones in terms of American design, nor did the new design movements sweeping Europe necessarily reach America. And despite its unquestionable international view the New York Museum of Modern Art, rightly or wrongly, tended to focus on themes of interest to America and Americans.

What did however continue was the growth of the museum’s collection, with works by the likes of Enzo Mari, Verner Panton, Jasper Morrison or Maarten Van Severen being added over the decades. Yet these works were never presented in thematic, contemporary exhibitions; instead design became something presented as “Recent Acquisition” or “Design from the Museum Collection” exhibitions rather than in context of current developments, current thinking, current ideas. Modern design.

Of late that has changed with exhibitions such as Contemporary Design from the Netherlands in 1996, the 2008 show Design and the Elastic Mind or the current Design and Violence demonstrating that the MoMA is capable of presenting interesting exhibitions that do explore contemporary design thinking and issues.

However in context of design the MoMA remains largely a place of reflection, a location for grand retrospectives, and, ultimately, in the words of Wolf Von Eckardt the place “which introduced and nurtured” modern American design9

Which to be honest, is no bad claim.

And something for which we should all be thankful.

1.”Publicity for Organization of Museum”, Museum of Modern Art Press Release, New York, August 1929 Source: Accessed 07.11.2014

2.”MOMA to charge admission during last 2 weeks of Painting in Paris because of unexpected crowds” Museum of Modern Art Press Release, New York, February 17, 1930 Source: Accessed 07.11.2014

3.Paola Antonelli “Design: die Sammlung des Museum of Modern Art. Objects of design from the Museum of Modern Art” Prestel, München, 2003

4.”Exhibit of machine art opens” Museum of Modern Art Press Release, New York, March 3, 1934 Source: Accessed 07.11.2014

5.”Machine Art” in The Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art, Vol. 1, No. 3, November 1933

6.Mary A. Staniszewski, “The power of display: a history of exhibition installations at the Museum of Modern Art” MIT, Cambridge, Mass., 1998


8.Paola Antonelli “Design: die Sammlung des Museum of Modern Art. Objects of design from the Museum of Modern Art” Prestel, München, 2003

9.Wolf Von Eckardt, Forms That Follow Function, Time, Vol. 122 Issue 18, p89, 1983,

Posted in Architecture, Design Calendar, Exhibitions and Shows, smow Tagged with: , ,

Tom Vack Tom Vac
October 31st, 2014 by smow

It’s now been twelve months since we decided to start recommending upcoming architecture and design exhibitions based on nothing more substantial and reliable than a press release or a PR agency text. A year in which we have recommended 60 exhibitions which sounded good, sounded worth visiting, sounded entertaining. Most of those that we subsequently visited were. A fact that has encouraged us to continue. And so to celebrate “5 New Design Exhibitions” first birthday, 5 New Design Exhibitions for November 2014.

“Oskar Schlemmer – Visionen einer neuen Welt” at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany

It’s probably fair to say that very few exhibitions have been quite as long in preparation as the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart’s forthcoming show “Oskar Schlemmer – Visionen einer neuen Welt.” The fact that the museum, and for all the exhibition’s curator Dr Ina Conzen, have spent the best part of a decade working on the show dedicated to the German painter, designer,choreographer and former head of the mural, sculpture and theatre workshops at Bauhaus has nothing to do with the work ethic in Stuttgart, and all to do with conflicts amongst and with Oskar Schlemmer’s family. Conflicts which meant displaying any Oskar Schlemmer works would inevitability be followed by legal action on grounds of violating rights to the works and their use. On January 1st 2014 the copyright on Oskar Schlemmer’s works expired and so the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart can finally present their retrospective, untroubled by threats of legal action. Featuring some 250 paintings sketches, sculptures and photos in addition to the original costumes from Schlemmer’s famous Triadic Ballet, Oskar Schlemmer – Visionen einer neuen Welt promises to be one of the most comprehensive explorations of a genuinely fascinating character ever staged. And because we’ve all had to wait so long, it promises to be even more enjoyable.

Oskar Schlemmer – Visionen einer neuen Welt opens at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Konrad-Adenauer-Str. 30–32, 70173 Stuttgart, on Thursday November 20th and runs until Monday April 6th.

Oskar Schlemmer - Visionen einer neuen Welt

"Der Abstrakte" - "The Abstract" - from Oskar Schlemmer's Triadic Ballet. As to be seen in Oskar Schlemmer - Visionen einer neuen Welt (Photo courtesy of Staatsgalerie Stuttgart)

“How do we pronounce design in Portuguese” at the MUDE – Museu do Design e da Moda, Lisbon, Portugal

We always thought the answer was [pɾoʒeˈtar]; however, in their forthcoming exhibition the MUDE in Lisbon will attempt to highlight and explain the essence of Portuguese design since 1980. And so demonstrate that pronunciation is always a question of dialect. Focussing on traditional genres and materials, such as, for example textiles, ceramics, glass and, inevitability, cork, “How do we pronounce design in Portuguese” aims to present not only a complete review of contemporary Portuguese design but also examine the differences and similarities that exist between the two main centres of Portuguese design: Lisbon and Paredes. We’ve said before and we’ll say it again, and keep repeating it, Portugal is home to a fascinating, and very amiable, design community who not only understand the tradition of the region but also how such can be applied in our contemporary world. They often just need a stronger voice. And that we all understand the numerous ways one can pronounce design in Portuguese. Did we really just write that….? We believe we did.

How do we pronounce design in Portuguese opens at the MUDE – Museu do Design e da Moda, Rua Augusta, nº 24, 1100-053 Lisbon on Thursday November 27th and runs until Monday March 30th

spore vase Paulo Sellmayer eindhoven

Possibly our favourite piece of Portuguese design: Spore Vase by Paulo Sellmayer, here @ Made Out Portugal, Eindhoven

“Constructing Text. Swiss Architecture Under Discussion” at the Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel, Switzerland

The pen is famously mightier than the sword. In architecture however the photo is mightier than the pen.

Or is it?

Following on from the 2012 exhibition “Building images”,”Constructing Text. Swiss Architecture Under Discussion” will seek to explore the role the written and the spoken word plays in architecture; principally the role architectural criticism plays in how projects are both developed and also received and perceived by the specialist and the lay public. And so by extrapolation seek to investigate how relevant architecture criticism is. To this end the exhibition explores 15 projects from the past 40 years, including the Kaiseraugst nuclear power plant, the Europaalle area development in Zurich, and the Roche Tower Basel (Bau 1), which stand as examples of the interaction between words and architecture.

And although as the exhibition title succinctly explains the focus is Swiss architecture and Swiss architects, the conclusions reached and arguments presented will of course be globally applicable. We assume.

Constructing Text. Swiss Architecture Under Discussion opens at S AM Swiss Architecture Museum, Steinenberg 7, CH-4051 Basel on Saturday November 1st and runs until Sunday February 22nd

Constructing Text. Swiss Architecture Under Discussion opens at S AM Swiss Architecture Museum

Roche Tower Bau 1 (Photo: Marcel Rickli, Courtesy of S AM Swiss Architecture Museum)

“Making Music Modern: Design for Ear and Eye” at the Museum of Modern Art MoMA, New York, USA

Not only have design and music always enjoyed a very close and mutually beneficial relationship but the parallels between the two are remarkable: a variety of genres which you are free to like or not, regardless of your position on other genres; regular development of new movements which challenge existing norms; adoption of previous styles but younger generations; a dangerous hang to kitsch; a completely uncritical acceptance by a mass of the public of a few widely known works as being the most important and genre defining “classics”; their ubiquity. We could go on. In fact just about the only perceivable difference between the two is that where as music is a strictly reactive medium that can comment on a given situation and suggest that an alternative may be required, design allows one to not only comment but pro-actively react to and create an alternative. To celebrate these fraternal bonds the New York Museum of Modern Art have plundered their own archives to curate an exhibition exploring designs contribution to music in context of, for example, instruments, marketing, auditoriums, phonographs. etc, etc. In addition to works by the likes of Hans Poelzig, Dieter Rams, Hiroshi Ohchi and, somewhat inevitably, Sir Jonathan Ive, the exhibition also promises works by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Lilly Reich. No idea what, but certainly very intriguing.

Making Music Modern: Design for Ear and Eye opens at the Museum of Modern Art MoMA, 11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019 on Saturday November 15th and runs until Sunday November 15th. That’s twelve months. Not a typo.

Hans Poelzig. Concert Hall Project, Dresden, Germany, Interior perspective of preliminary scheme

Hans Poelzig. Concert Hall Project, Dresden, Germany, Interior perspective of preliminary scheme (Photo courtesy of Museum of Modern Art MoMA, New York)

“Vanity of Object: Tom Vack – Design Photography” at Neuen Sammlung – The International Design Museum Munich, Germany.

Much as in the 1950s and 60s Aldo and Marirosa Ballo helped establish the enduring tradition of commercial furniture photograph, so to has Tom Vack helped shape and define product, and for all furniture, photography since the 1980s. Yet whereas for the likes of Aldo and Marirosa Ballo the object was the focal point of the photo and the aim of the work was to set that in the most opportunistic light, Tom Vack’s focus is the photographic composition itself. The photos happen to contain a product, often one feels more by chance than intention, and indeed in many cases one has to look twice to actually see the product in question. Following his move from America to Milan in the 1980s Tom Vack quickly found himself collaborating with the likes of Michele De Lucchi and the experimental, postmodern Milan scene of the period, before beginning a ten year collaboration with Philippe Starck as his personal photographer: a collaboration which in many ways was responsible for establishing Philippe Starck’s medial success. In addition Tom Vack has cooperated closely with designers such as Ron Arad, lngo Maurer and Marc Newson. The result is a portfolio ranging from shots with the sober fantasy of Romantic art over works endowed with the experimental freedom of the early computer age and onto images that look more rendered than photographed; and an enviable client list that includes manufacturers such as Magis, ClassiCon, Flos, Thonet and Nils Holger Moormann. And yes Tom Vack has photographed a Tom Vac. We’re not going to claim to be the biggest fans of all Tom Vack’s work: however, we do have a lot of respect for the work he has produced, the artistic and aesthetic ideas he has developed and for all the influence he has had on the genre. Presenting as it will some 200 Tom Vack photographs from the past three decades “Vanity of Object” promises to offer a wonderful opportunity to better understand and appreciate Tom Vack’s oeuvre and importance.

Vanity of Object: Tom Vack – Design Photography opens at the Neuen Sammlung – The International Design Museum, Barerstrasse 40, 80333 Munich on Saturday November 8th and runs until Sunday January 25th

Tom Vack Tom Vac

Tom Vac by Tom Vack (2004, for Ron Arad)(Photo © Tom Vack, courtesy Neuen Sammlung – The International Design Museum Munich)

Posted in 5 New Design Exhibitions, Bauhaus, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Product Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

O M Ungers Morphologie City Metaphors Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft Köln
September 7th, 2014 by smow

Following the assimilation of the Cooper Union Design Museum in New York into the Smithsonian Institution as the Copper-Hewitt Museum, founding director Lisa Taylor wanted an opening exhibition which reflected and celebrated not only the museum’s new status but also its new direction and which visually translated the “philosophy of the Smithsonian Institution’s new National Museum of Design”1

To this end in 1974 selected designers and architects, including Richard Saul Wurman, Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson, were asked to submit exhibition proposals; the commission ultimately being awarded to the Austrian architect and designer Hans Hollein and his MAN transFORMS concept which opened on October 7th 1976. According to Hans Hollein MAN transFORMS was conceived not only as an exhibition which presented design but which in itself was “a statement about what Design is” and above all was intended to be “a show on life and situations of life”2

Aside from the main exhibition which included, amongst other exhibits, a table presenting different types of bread, a room presenting different forms of hammers and a detailed look at the multitude of uses for a simple piece of cloth, MAN transFORMS presented specially commissioned contributions by Peter M. Bode, Arata Isozaki, Ettore Sottsass, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Richard Meier, Nader Ardalan/Karl Schlamminger and Oswald M. Ungers.

In context of the Plan 14 Architecture Festival the Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft in Cologne will present a paired down version of Oswald M. Ungers’ contribution: Morphologie – City Metaphors. Transforming a corridor on the ground floor of the Copper-Hewitt museum into an idealised street, Morphologie – City Metaphors juxtapositioned cityscapes, urban plans and built environments with natural organisms, natural networks and images of everyday life; the two images united under one common term, for example “Intersecting”, “Regularity” or “Backbone”. With his installation Ungers hoped to motivate and inspire visitors to new perspectives on not only the world around them and how that was to be understood, but also the ways and means by which things could be created, styled and realised.

Themes that fit in very nicely with Plan 14’s central motto: Architektur im Kontext – Architecture in Context.

In addition to a scale model of the original New York installation the exhibition in Cologne will feature a selection of the original photos and presentation boards, and thus hopes not only to inspire and motivate as the original installation once did but also help elucidate on the way Oswald M. Ungers thought and worked.

O.M. Ungers – Morphologie – City Metaphors can be viewed at the at Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft, Belvederestrasse 60, 50933 Cologne from Friday 19th until Friday 26th September 2014.

Full details can be found at

1. Hans Hollein Design MAN transFORMS Konzepte einer Ausstellung Concepts of an Exhibition, Löcker Verlag, Wien, 1989

2. ibid

O M Ungers Morphologie  City Metaphors Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft Köln

O.M. Ungers - Morphologie - City Metaphors at Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft Köln (Photo courtesy UAA)

Posted in Architecture, Exhibitions and Shows, smow blog compact Tagged with: , , , , ,

Pierre Charpin at L'Appartement 50, Marseille
June 30th, 2014 by smow

Tradition being the predictable beast that it is, July and August tend to be quiet months in the design universe – most everyone taking themselves off to their Gîtes, Dachas, Ferienwohnungen, Vakantiehuis and lakeside bungalows for a few weeks of quiet reflection ahead of the autumn trade fair and design week season.

Most. But not all.

A few hardy souls remain, stocking the furnaces of creative culture with architecture and design based exhibitions intended to inspire, excite and entertain.

Our five hot coals from the new offerings opening during July 2014………

“Disobedient Objects” at the V&A, London, England

In recent years “social design” and “critical design” have become increasingly present as ever more people realise that design isn’t a profession, but a way of thinking, and a force for change. Or at least can serve as an impetus for change. And something that is much more effective than songs or poetry. Such concepts however are nothing new and from July 26th, and as far as we are aware in the first exhibition of its kind, the V&A in London is presenting an exploration of the role of art and design in social and political change. Looking at, for example, objects created in context of direct action and solidarity protests, the architecture and planning of protest camps and methods of communication designed to avoid censorship, Disobedient Objects also promises to present case studies of specific protest actions including Guerrilla Girls masks and an action by the Barbie Liberation Organisation in which GI Joe and Barbie voiceboxes were switched to highlight gender stereotyping. Especially interesting is that many of the items on show have been loaned by activist groups themselves, making Disobedient Objects not only a unique exhibition but an institutional acknowledgement of the activists efforts.

Disobedient Objects opens at the Porter Gallery, V&A, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL on Saturday July 26th and runs until Sunday February 1st.

Disobedient Objects at the V&A London

Inflatable cobblestone, action by Eclectic Electric Collective in co-operation with Enmedio collective during the General Strike in Barcelona, 2012 (Photo: © Oriana Eliçabe/

“NYC Makers: The MAD Biennial” at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, USA

In a similar vein to the V&A’s exhibition the New York Museum of Arts and Design is devoting its summer 2014 exhibition to 100 New York “Makers”: that sub-genre of creative who ignore traditional rules, institutions, definitions and models and simply……. make.

The 100 Makers presented in the exhibition were selected by the museum’s Director Glenn Adamson and exhibition curator Jake Yuzna from a long list nominated by a “selection panel” comprised of 300 figures from the New York cultural and creative scenes. At this point we should really write something along the lines of: “Featuring a who’s who of the New York maker scene…..”; but we recognise hardly any of the names on the list.

Which is one of those things that makes the exhibition so interesting for us: the chance to explore, discover, not like, learn, not understand, adore….

And to discover exactly how Gaetano Pesce, the Metropolitan Opera and Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band fit into the melee.

In addition to a presentation of projects by the 100 Makers the exhibition also features an accompanying fringe programme of performances, culinary events and fashion shows, and thus promises to provide an interesting, informative and for all accessible introduction to the current maker scene in New York.

NYC Makers: The MAD Biennial opens at the Museum of Arts and Design, 2 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019 on Tuesday July 1st and runs until Sunday October 12th

NYC Makers The MAD Biennial at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York

NYC Makers The MAD Biennial at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York

“The Good Cause: Architecture of Peace – Divided Cities”, at the Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität München, Germany

Much like sports officials never tire of telling us how positive their particular sport is for the development of a peaceful, healthy, stable society, so to are architects always available for a quick quote about how their constructions make the world a better place. But how much truth exists behind such sound-bites? And given the nagging suggestions that war, famine, suffering and poverty may in fact be rife on our planet, what can architecture actually do for society?

No honestly, what?

The TU Munich Architecture Museum’s exhibition may not directly answer such a question, but does aim to show the positive that can be achieved when projects are developed in close co-operation with the local community, their needs, histories and traditions. Rather than just parachuted in by a headline hungry st*r architect.

The first part of the exhibition presents examples of reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, South Africa, Israel, Palestine, Rwanda and Kosovo which in the curators opinion show the positive, healing, powers of architecture. The second part of the exhibition is more specific, looking as it does at the problems associated with divided cities, in particular Belfast, Nicosia, Mitrovica and Mostar.

Sounding very much like a conflict specific version of the excellent Netherlands Architecture Institute exhibition “Testify! The Consequences of Architecture”, The Good Cause promises to provide some interesting perspectives on the role of professional planning and architecture in post conflict situations.

The Good Cause: Architecture of Peace – Divided Cities opens at the Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität München, Pinakothek der Moderne, Barer Straße 40, 80333 München on Thursday July 17th and runs until Sunday October 19th

The Good Cause Architecture of Peace Divided Cities at the Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität München

Visitor Centre, Pamir-i-Buzurg, Afghanistan (Photo: AFIR Architects / Anne Feenstra)

“Pierre Charpin” at L’Appartement 50, Marseille, France

In 1952 Le Corbusier completed construction of his La Cité Radieuse project. A 165 m long, 24 m deep and 56 m high block of 337 apartments in the southern quarter of Marseille, La Cité Radieuse represented Le Corbusier’s vision of the future of urban living.

In 2008 Jean-Marc Drut, resident of Apartment Number 50 invited Jasper Morrison to furnish said apartment with a selection of his works, and works by others which Morrison felt complemented his own works, the apartment and Le Corbusier’s intentions with La Cité Radieuse. And then opened the display to the public.

A sort of positive antithesis to George Orwell’s (in)famous Room 101.

In 2010 Jean-Marc Drut repeated the exercise with Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec and in 2012 with Konstantin Grcic.

The 2014 edition of the L’Appartement 50 Biennale, as we believe it now deserves to be called, sees Paris based Pierre Charpin take on the challenge.

Promising a representative collection of Charpin’s works for clients as varied as Galerie Kreo, Ligne Roset, Post Design and Venini, and thus an excellent opportunity to get know more about the designer and his oeuvre, the exhibition is also a wonderful opportunity to get to know, and understand, one of the most interesting moments in the story of European modernist architecture.

Pierre Charpin at L’Appartement 50 opens at Unité d’habitation Le Corbusier, Appartement 50 / 5ème rue, 280 Boulevard Michelet 13008 Marseille on Tuesday July 15th and runs until Friday August 15th

Pierre Charpin at L'Appartement 50, Marseille

Pierre Charpin at L'Appartement 50, Marseille

“Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus”, at Ampelhaus, Oranienbaum, Germany

If Berlin’s star as the most creative centre in Germany is waning. And if Leipzig’s star as the most creative centre in Germany is ascending. Then Oranienbaum, positioned as it is half way between the two, is obviously the celestial source of all creativity in Germany.

A fact we suspect the Oranienbaum based galley Ampelhaus will ably prove this summer.

Following on from 2013’s King Size: Art and Design fit for a King, and 2012’s Use it Again, Ampelhaus’ 2014 exhibition sees them explore the underbelly of contemporary art and design. Or at least their own cellar. The artistic intervention that last year saw the first floor of the gallery be transformed into an exhibition space despite strict fire regulations restricting public use to the ground floor, being inverted to allow access to the cellar. Thus turning the gallery, in the organisers words, into een levensgrote kijkdoos, “a life-size diorama” in which the presented objects are largely viewed from afar through gaps and openings.

Which sounds more like een levensgrote Zwitserse kaas to be perfectly honest.

And that, at the moment, is all we can say about Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus. For we have no further information. Other than it will feature works by Dutch and German artists and designers. But something in the bottom of our collective stomach tells us it will be well worth visiting.

Unter Zwischen im Ampelhaus opens at Ampelhaus, Brauerstraße 33, 06785 Oranienbaum on Saturday July 12th and runs until Saturday September 20th

King Size Art and Design Fit for a King Ampelhaus Oranienbaum

Ampelhaus, Oranienbaum

Posted in 5 New Design Exhibitions, Architecture, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Bad tempered chair by Ron Arad through Vitra.
August 4th, 2009 by julius
Bad tempered chair by Ron Arad through Vitra.

Bad tempered chair by Ron Arad through Vitra.

Since Saturday the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York has been showing their new exhibition Ron Arad: No Discipline.

Until October 19th visitors have the opportunity to view a varied selection of Arad’s work.

Or in the organisers words:

“…celebrate the designer’s interdisciplinary and “no-disciplinary” spirit. Physical concepts are traced through works in different materials and scales, and objects are grouped in families based on a shared form, material, technique, or structural idea. The exhibition culminates in Cage sans Frontières, Arad’s giant structure that cradles all the other works.”

Bookworm by Ron Arad for Kartell

Bookworm by Ron Arad for Kartell

No Discipline includes, in addition to Ron Arad’s designer furniture and sketches, impressions of his architectural and sculptural works.
And perhaps most impressively the whole exhibition is housed in one, huge Arad creation Cage Sans Frontièrs.

Full details of the exhibits can be found in the checklist pdf.

For all who are or will be in New York this autumn the show looks like being worth the trip. We’ll be back in New York in September and will certainly report back on how we found it.

Tom Vac by Ron Arad for Vitra (Here at CeBIT)

Tom Vac by Ron Arad for Vitra (Here at CeBIT)

For those of you not in and around NYC, at you can get a taste of what the “Ron Arad: No Discipline” curators call Arad’s “daredevil approach to form, structure, technology, and materials” in work such as Bad Tempered Chair, Tom Vac or his truly iconic Bookworm. All of which are featured in the exhibition.

Ron Arad: No Discipline runs at MoMa New York from 2nd August through October 19th 2009 . The accompanying monograph is published by The Museum of Modern Art and is at for $45.00

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Piggyback by for agis
June 21st, 2009 by julius
The NYC Post Police - tailed our every move and word

The NYC Post Police - tailed our every move and word

Your (smow)blog team didn’t become the internationally feared and monitored crew we are simply because we travel the world fearlessly attending opening night parties.
Oh no! We achieved our notoriety on account of our excellent network of contacts among designers, producers, critics and delivery drivers. Nothing but nothing passes us by.

As observant readers may have noticed, during our visit to the ICFF we did spend quite a lot of time complaining about the lack of tables in the press room.

And now we must admit that during ICFF we did solve the riddle.
Magis had of course delivered tables for the press room.

Piggyback by for agis

Piggyback by Thomas Heatherwick for Magis

In addition to supplying Chair First by Stefano Giovannoni Magis also supplied their wonderful Piggyback tables by Thomas Heatherwick.

Magis are serious and reliable partner, why would they not supply tables?

Only the Piggyback tables became damaged during set-up and spent the show stowed in a store room deep in the bowels of the Javits Centre.

And no-one from the ICFF organisation sought to seek replacements.

Behind the scenes there was a lot of talk of unions and “official processes”, but for us the fact of the missing press room tables summed up ICFF beautifully and underlines why for us it was the weakest and worst organised of the events we attended as part of the smow design spring.

Which isn’t to be interpreted as direct criticism of those who are responsible for the press work, they are also merely a partner of the organiser, and it is they who carry ultimate responsible for the shoddiness: Along with the Javits Center management.

Tints by Jason Miller - one of the true stars of ICFF 2009

Tints by Jason Miller - one of the true stars of ICFF 2009

The word on the street in New York was that next year ICFF may do away with the press room all together, which is truly a sad indictment on the show and how seriously it is taken. In addition to the established critics amongst the traditional media – alone the vicinity to the New York Times must, must count – America is home to some excellent design blogs, we name alone Core 77 and design milk as two that we follow and read with interest and which amuse and entertain.

When we think of, for example, Milan where from early morning to late evening texts are written, interviews carried out, pictures edited and videos cut in a dozen languages. And then New York where all too often we sat alone on the floor, or when we had company it was inevitably executives from some B2B publication deciding who to sell advertising space to.

Tablefights  - we know just how they feel

Tablefights - we know just how they feel

Instead of further discouraging reports the ICFF should be actively recruiting those who can bring the products to the masses and so encourage other producers to book space. Or should that ugly, dirty and unkempt space at the back of the hall grow even larger?

We will be back in New York next year, not least because we  want to kick Ami timber at the 2010 Table Fights Championships – if we attend ICFF, however, remains to be seen.

We made a few fantastic discoveries at ICFF not least Jason Miller, Blu Dot and Iglooplay; three discoveries that more or less justified the air fares. But if that alone is worth struggling with a barely functioning Internet and inadequate facilities to promote an event run by an organisation who lack the ability to place two tables is a room – and that despite having rented some 145,000 net square feet to furniture producers – that remains to be seen.

Posted in New York Tales, smow design spring Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Not the (smow)blog garden ...
June 14th, 2009 by julius
Summer on the balcony ... unbeatable

Summer on the balcony ... unbeatable(Photo: Christin Bargel)

Before we start slowing down and head outdoors to enjoy the summer we want to take the opportunity over the next couple of weeks to look back on the smow design spring; namely our trips to Milan, New York, Brühl, Basel and Berlin … as well as to start looking forward to the forthcoming smow design autumn.

And no we won’t just be re-visiting old ground, we have saved a few treats from USM Haller, Vitra, ICFF, DMY Berlin and Salone for those long summer evenings on the balcony with a good beer.

smow design spring adieu ...

smow design spring adieu ...

With the experience of the five very different trips, and the slight pause afforded by the summer, we want to take stock, analyse a little more deeply and for all highlight  those innovations and products that really caught our attention and which we believe are of interest.

There may also be some really, really  weak humour … but we hope not.

In addition we want to  preview a little of what can be expected during the smow design autumn

Not the (smow)blog garden ...

Not the (smow)blog garden, and that with good reason. Details later (or at flickr)....

We will certainly be at the London Design FestivalDesigners Open in Leipzig, Design September in Brussels, Copenhagen Design Week and we also fancy the Cardiff Design Festival, if they ever get round to confirming the dates :)
Further shows, trade fairs and especially trips to smow partner producers and designers may follow.

But don’t think we’ll be slacking off over the summer … although there may be a couple more posts about outdooor furniture, barbecues and seat coverings that are good for sun-burnt backs than normal, we will still be actively searching for – and finding – the very best in designer furniture.

Posted in smow design spring Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thonet 214 - collapsable, though not recommended
June 11th, 2009 by julius

To celebrate the 150th birthday of Michael Thonet’s “chair of all chairs” Thonet are running a photo competition: 214×214.

The rules are ridiculously simple; whoever submits the best photo of a Thonet 214 wins a 3 day trip to New York. For the second best there is a trip to Thonet in Frankenberg and the chance to build your own 214.

If you don’t own 214, you could always buy one – or more – from smow.

Alternatively, keep your eyes open when your out and about, 214’s crop up a lot more often than you’d think.

All relevant information can be found at on the Thonet homepage.

Thonet 214 - stable and well balanced

Thonet 214 - stable and well balanced

Thonet 214 - seating and decoration in one

Thonet 214 - seating and decoration in one

Thonet 214 - collapsable, though not recommended

Thonet 214 - collapsable, though not recommended

Posted in Design Competition, Producer, Product, smow offline Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Abfallprodukt by Bastian Müller, Burg Giebichenstein
June 9th, 2009 by julius

Every month Jasper Morrison sends a photo to the Vitra Magazine. And every month Vitra publish it.

Every month we send a photo to the Vitra magazine. And every month they don’t.
Whereas the good Jaspers photos are always entertaining, this months entry was a lot more thoughtful and thought provoking.

PET Chandalier in Pondicherry, India. Photo: Jasper Morrison

PET Chandalier in Pondicherry, India. Photo: Jasper Morrison

Taken in Indian Pondicherry the photo shows a chandelier made from old PET bottles and Christmas lights. “If this was an exhibit at the Salone del Mobile in Milan I wouldn’t give it a second look” comments Morrison, before adding “but far removed from the temptations of designer dreams in Pondicherry, it holds a very different meaning and purpose.”

We don’t know how often Jasper Morrison was out and about in Milan, but we saw at least two lamps made from recycled bottles in Italy, then a couple in New York and yet another at DMY Berlin (in addition to the re-appearance of one we’d already seen in Milan)

Not only that but in Berlin we also found a lamp made out of broken umbrellas.

Discarded consumer goods as lighting is a current topic in contemporary design.

Pendant Lamp made from umbrellas

Pendant Lamp made from umbrellas

Except of course the materials aren’t discarded; rather, they’ve been used out of context to create the impression of a recycled product and so make a statement about first world consumption.

Only the product themselves automatically become an abuse of the uncontrolled consumption we in the north practice. We just call it “the temptations of designer dreams” in order to justify the unjustifiable.

For everyone who knows how much natural resources and energy goes into making one PET bottle also knows that tying it to another dozen to create a lamp is irresponsible waste.

And those who don’t know, should consult the videos by MSLK or check-out the film Tapped

And so where Morrison focuses on the Pondicherry Chandelier as demonstrating the intrinsic quality of good design, for us the more important message is: Stop pretending your recycling. Please.

If you live and work as an industrial or product designer in Europe you have almost limitless possibilities as regards raw materials and production processes. If you genuinely care about creating “green” or “sustainable” design make sure your materials and production processes reflect that concern and minimise impact.

Or actually use recycled products such as with Abfallprodukt by Bastian Müller from Burg Giebichenstein University in Halle.

A PET bottle lamp at DMY Berlin

A PET bottle lamp at DMY Berlin

And if you don’t care about creating “green” or “sustainable” design, then build a chair from asbestos.

When Morrison states “…in Pondicherry, it holds a very different meaning and purpose” he means, and we believe understands, that it is “genuine”. Isn’t created as an artistic exercise by someone with access to libraries, internet, machines and materials in a scale beyond the grasp of most people; rather, by someone who needs to solve a problem, and that with the limited resources that physically lie before him.

There’s a verse in “Holiday in Cambodia” by the Dead Kennedys that goes:

Play ethnicky jazz
To parade your snazz
On your five grand stereo
Braggin that you know
How the niggers feel cold
And the slums got so much soul

The world doesn’t need designers demonstrating to the the worlds poor how clever one can be with a few old plastic bottles and a bit of electric cable. As the Pondicherry Chandelier beautifully demonstrates, the skills exist, the innovation exists, the understanding exists.

And the unfair global distribution of resources exists.

The world needs designers who improve our situation and who understand that PET bottles are part of the problem and incorporating them into designs doesn’t actually help.

We need fewer PET bottles, not more.

Abfallprodukt by Bastian Müller, Burg Giebichenstein

Abfallprodukt by Bastian Müller, Burg Giebichenstein

Sustainability and fairness don’t mean puritan abstinence; they can be fun, aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. And as far as we’re concerned should be. We positively appeal to the designers of the world to make the future for comfortable and safe; and that for all of us from Tipperary to Pondicherry and from Copenhagen to Harare.

Just don’t pretend your recycling for the benefit of the over-fed and the over-paid. And especially not with PET bottles.

And so thanks to Jasper Morrison for the photo, and more of the same please.

More weak, and potentially unfunny, humour about dogs driving delivery vans tomorrow :)

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