Although the etymology of “April” is lost in the mists of time, one of the more likely, and more satisfying, theories as to its origins is to be found in the Latin verb aperire, to open, which itself can be considered as being, possibly, related to the ancient Greek ἄνοιξις, ánoixis, opening. And thus the very obvious connotations to spring springing forth in April, to the natural world opening for another season.
What is much better recorded are the new architecture and design exhibitions apertio and ἄνοιξις in April 2023. Springing forth in April 2023.
Our five recommendations from those many new springtime blooms can be found in Zürich, Weil am Rhein, Paris, Hasselt and Dresden…….
An Île; A Commune; A Context
In the 1880s design in France stood, in many regards, at the threshold of Art Nouveau, with the likes of, and amongst many others, Louis Majorelle, Émile Gallé or Hector Guimard beginning to start to question the production of, the formal expression of and our relationships with, our objects of daily use in context of the early years of the Third Republic and a rapidly rising industrialisation with all the associated social, economic, technical and political et al developments of the age.
And design in 1980s France?
With the exhibition Années 80. Mode, design et graphisme en France the Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris, undertake a revue of creativity in that very recent, but somehow very distant, decade…….
Autumn is once more upon the Northern Hemisphere, that season of not only “mists and mellow fruitfulness”, but as a John Keats also reminds us the season of harvest, be that vine fruits, apples, gourds or hazelnuts.
Or the architecture and design exhibitions Keats didn’t mention. If, to be fair to him, they would have been largely unknown in 1819.
Unlike today; a today where after a long summer of waiting patiently, of observing from afar, and hoping, autumn traditionally presents a bountiful crop of new showcases to be consumed with gay abandon. And with plentiful thanks for the unseen work that led to their creation.
And Autumn 2022 is no exception. After a summer of growth and development and careful tendering the global architecture and design museums are once again brimming and overflowing with fresh, invigorating, nourishing delights to suit all tastes.
Our pick of the new crop in October 2022 can be found in Paris, New York, Brussels, Helsinki and Rome…….
According to the Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro February 7th marks the first day of spring.
Which strikes us, as we’re sure it does you, as a little early; however, there was reason in Varro’s bold claim, for Varro further sets February 7th as the start of the year, and for all links February 7th with the rising of the west wind, a favourable, warming wind, whose arrival indicates the need to start cultivating your land and crops, specifically Varro advises, “these are things which should be done in the first period, from the rising of the west wind to the vernal equinox: All kinds of nurseries should be set out, orchards pruned, meadows manured, vines trenched and outcropping roots removed, meadows cleared, willow beds planted, grain-land weeded.”1
But not just the cultivation of your land and crops is important from the rising of the west wind to the vernal equinox, the cultivation of mind and spirit and character is of equal importance.
Our five non-agrarian cultivation tips for February 2022 can be found in Halle, Garðabær, Paris, Stockholm and Zürich…….
In 1922 the Scottish novelist J.M. Barrie told the undergraduates at St. Andrews University “you remember someone said that God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December”, an allusion to the summer of your life filling your darkening winter days with colour and aroma, and an analogy he neatly reinforces a little later with a, “you have June coming”.1
But that was 1922. Roses were seasonal. Today roses are available all year round, which is not only symbolic of the short-sighted idiocy with which we’re intent on destroying our planet, but also means the rose has been reduced from a metaphor that can be so poignantly and joyously employed as Barrie did, to a cheap, stereotypical, derivative trope devoid of real meaning.
Not that a century later we can’t all do things to ensure that as we progress down life’s highway, as we all approach our own, personal, December, we do so with our emotional and mental capacities fully stimulated and finely honed. Amongst the most rewarding method of which is the regular visit to architecture or design exhibitions: spaces, experiences, whose intellectual and cultural stimulation and nourishment mean that it can be forever June.
Our five new Junes blooming forth in the non-metaphoric December 2021, can be found in Vienna, New York, Düsseldorf, Kanazawa and Paris.
And as ever in these times, if you are planning visiting any exhibition please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious……
In days of yore October was known in Germanic lands as Weinmonat, Wine Month, Month of Wine, whereby thoughts were, unquestionably, less with the drink as with the grape and the harvest, and thus the promise of the new wine.
And in many regards our exhibition recommendations can be considered a monthly harvest of the new crop of architecture and design exhibitions; specifically, and staying in Germanic registers, an Auslese, a considered selection of those well ripened concepts and premises it is hoped will most excite an invigorate the palate both experienced and novice. Or the viewer, experienced or novice.
Our quintet of, possible, new, memorable vintages from Weinmonat 2021 can be found in Ulm, Stockholm, ’s-Hertogenbosch, Paris and Tokyo…….
In 1956 the Dutch electronics conglomerate Phillips asked Le Corbusier if he would be interested in designing their pavilion for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels.
Le Corbusier was.
Albeit, “je ne ferai pas de pavillon; je ferai un Poème électronique avec la bouteille qui contiendra“, “I will not create a pavilion; I will create a Poème électronique with the bottle to contain it.”1
And a pavilion/bottle/Poème électronique which offers an apposite starting point to approaching a differentiated image, a differentiated composition?, of Le Corbusier…….2
A Ronan; An Erwan; An unassuming, poetic, connection.
The fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot……
Thus begins the traditional song commemorating, and urging us all never to forget, Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators attempts to overthrow the English parliament of the day, their plotting to install a new parliament, one more in line with their ideological position, for all one more in line with their ideological understanding of the English parliament’s future relationship to the dominant extra-governmental power of contemporary continental Europe.
That however was Westminster in November 1605. Such treachery and plotting would be unimaginable in Westminster in November 2018.
And so we can all relax and sing,
The five smow blog architecture and design recommendations of November,
Ditzel, von Borries, Japan, Latvia and Duchamp.
Qu’est-ce que le design?
What is design?
A question as old as the word itself, arguably older. But one with an answer?
In an attempt to approach one the Musée des Arts Décoratifs Paris asked Charles Eames, Verner Panton, Roger Tallon, Joe Colombo and Fritz Eichler, Qu’est-ce que le design?……
If Jean-Claude Juncker gets his way October 2018 could see the clocks of Europe turned back an hour for the final time.
And thereby bringing to an end the long tradition of local newspapers publishing bi-annual articles documenting the curious tales and legends of town clocks, stories from the Schwarzwald on the largest and smallest cuckoo clocks, and photographs of horologists surrounded by the 350+ clocks and watches they need to reset.
For our part, we’ll miss them.
It will also mean you won’t have that extra hour the last Sunday in October to enjoy an extra leisurely visit to an architecture and/or design exhibition, so take the chance while you can…..
Our five recommendations for using that extra hour in October 2018 can be found in Hamburg, Weil am Rhein, Zürich, Paris and Helsinki.
The metal wire chair is such a well established seating genre it is hard to imagine it is possible to do anything new with it. Far less anything exciting.
It is a universal rule of life that some of the most pleasing things occur unplanned, and that is certainly the case when visiting a design week, events where the disappointment that invariably arises visiting shows you intended to, is quickly offset by something you stumble across per chance.
So too was it as we turned into the Rue des Coutures-Saint-Gervais, our thoughts less concerned with where we were or where we were going as with where we had been and for all why we’d been where we’d been, then we passed number 14. Stopped. Went back…..
The advantage the autumn edition of Maison et Objet has over the spring edition is Paris Design Week, a chance to not only explore French creativity in a wider context than can be found in the trade fair halls, but also to explore the French capital without the distraction of the city’s history.
A central component of Paris Design Week is Le Off, a platform for young designers and which for its 2018 edition was based in the Ground Control event and creative centre, tucked away behind Gare du Lyon.
Although for us it quickly became much more Gare du Nord…….
The biggest disappointment at Maison et Objet Autumn 2018 was that Announcement Lady wasn’t broadcasting across the halls, and so this year there was no continual “Mesdames, Messieurs”, and so we had no continual Sash soundtrack to carry us though our visit.
We just hope Announcement Lady’s absence wasn’t on account of us, we hope she didn’t quit because she felt we were mocking her, being cheeky, or otherwise making fun of her. We weren’t. It was genuinely one of our highlights at Maison et Objet Autumn 2017. One of the reasons we went back.
Fortunately, and as much as we missed her, there were a few other highlights to distract us in Paris this September.
And so with a hearty Encore une fois for auld lang syne, a Maison et Objet Autumn 2018 High Four!
Established in 1897 as an institution for pure and applied arts the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum in Krefeld was, for all through the person of its founding director Friedrich Deneken, an important protagonist in the discourse concerning the relationships between art, craft and industry at the turn of the 20th century
With the exhibition From Idea to Form. Domeau & Pérès: Design and Craftsmanship in Dialogue, the contemporary Kaiser Wilhelm Museum Krefeld continue this discourse.
Ukrainian designers haven’t featured often in these pages.
And may never have, had it not been for the exhibition Transformation staged at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre during Paris Design Week 2017
As regular readers will be aware, for us there is little more elegant and logical than the modular shelving system.
And in the variety of systems developed, little which better illustrates both the multitude of options available for the seemingly most simple of functionalities, and thereby the talent required, or perhaps function, of the designer in developing something meaningful, interesting and, ideally, attractive.
Of late we have seen several interesting new modular shelving propositions, Arronde by Camille Ravanel being one of the more pleasing.
Having grown up near Quimper, Brittany, Ronan Bouroullec moved to Paris in 1989 to study industrial design; since when the French capital has not only witnessed him complete his studies, but establish a studio, achieve his first commercial success and together with his brother Erwan develop projects for a roster of international clients including, and amongst many others, Vitra, Magis, Flos, Kvadrat and Samsung, in addition to realising numerous collaborations with Galerie kreo.
We met up with Ronan Bouroullec to discuss Paris, his experiences in, and relationship with the city, but somehow the conversation kept drifting outwith the city limits…..
Paris Design Week is largely about brand in-store and similar PR driven presentations. An extension if you will of Maison et Objet into the city, and thus predictably prosaic.
Throughout the city there are/were stimulating and challenging presentations to be found and interesting designers and manufacturers to be discovered and enjoyed.
Among the new discoveries we made at Paris Design Week 2017 was Paris based studio woodmade.
If Milan marks the start of summer, Paris marks the end: the gentle warmth of the Lombarden sun and the fresh alpine breeze blowing over the Saloni ceding as it invariably does, nay must, to the brisk crispness of Maison et Objet.
C’est la vie!
The September 2017 edition of Maison et Objet was a disconcerting mix of baroque revival and picturesque, fantasy, Scandinavian, as if late 1980s Philippe Starck discovered hygge.
And over large stretches Maison et Objet 2017 is/was just as terrifying as that sounds. Our only consolation being the certainty that those responsible are but blindly chasing the shadow of a fashion, ’tis but a trend, and trends always, but always, fade.
Fortunately some objects on show arose from more honest origins. As ever we didn’t see everything, apologies to all we missed, but here our Maison et Objet Autumn 2017 High 4!! And some poppy, late ’90s dance…
While it’s hard to feel anything even vaguely resembling joy in a month which sees the UK start its senseless and cowardly, withdrawal from the European Union … life goes on!!
Our five top distractions for April 2017 features new design and architecture exhibitions in Berlin, New York, Paris, Dessau and Milan.
For George Orwell nothing heralded spring quite like the re-appearance of toads, emerging from their subterranean hibernation and setting off, once again, on life’s great cycle.
Our toads are the flurry of new design and architecture exhibitions which open globally every March, as the international museum and gallery community awake from their winter slumber.
Our highlights for March 2017, featuring new exhibitions in Bielefeld, Helsinki, Weil am Rhein, Utrecht and Paris
Slowly but surely September is becoming Europe’s summer. Whereas July and August increasingly fail to produce anything even vaguely “summery”,