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Posts Tagged ‘Thonet’

IMM Cologne 2015: Thonet

January 29th, 2015

If you’re of a certain age, and of a certain background, you’ll be familiar with the Roland TR-808 drum machine.

If not, introduced in 1980 the Roland TR-808 was one of the first programmable drum machines, was, as such, a major influence on the development of electronic music in the 1980s….. and is infamous for sounding absolutely nothing like real drums, far less real percussion.

Consequently, on account of its universally acknowledged auditory failings, the TR-808 was only produced for three years before being replaced by drum machines which sounded like drums.

We were greatly reminded of the story of the TR-808 on seeing the first publicity and press photos of Thonet’s new 808 lounge chair.

If we’re honest, we had our doubts.

Formally very reminiscent of a lot of Scandinavian lounge chairs of the late 50s and early 60s, we feared on viewing those first images that much like the TR-808 did everything a drum machine should do, just not very well, so to would the Thonet 808 physically resemble a lounge chair more than it functioned as one.

We shouldn’t have worried.

We really, really shouldn’t have.

Developed for Thonet by Bavarian design studio Formstelle a.k.a. Claudia Kleine and Jörg Kürschner the 808 lounge chair is not only a remarkably comfortable chair but has a much warmer, more personal, aura than the photos do justice.

Based around a rotation moulded thermoplastic shell the 808 cuts an impressively slight, svelte, figure while the angle at which the lugs have been set allow for a degree of perceived privacy without fully excluding the rest of the room. We suspect they also provide excellent head support should you fall asleep.

IMM Cologne 2015 Thonet 808 Lounge Chair Formstelle

IMM Cologne 2015: Thonet 808 Lounge Chair by Formstelle

A delightfully constructed and intelligently formed object, the only disconcerting aspect for us was the leather toggle protruding from the seat.
We assumed it was some sort of ejector seat-style ripcord and so when a member of the Thonet Design Team suggested we try it out we were a little suspicious.

We know the mischievous sense of humour they have in Frankenberg.

However, you’re only young once. We are no longer, and so having nothing more to lose, we tried it.

The leather toggle activates the reclining mechanism, or better put the synchronisation mechanism – the seat raises slightly as the backrest tilts thus maintaining the sitting comfort.
It did admittedly take us a couple of goes to get the hang of the system, however once we mastered it we were very impressed, not only account of the smoothness of the action but also by the fact that through the toggle one has a reclining lounge chair with no unsightly levers, thus allowing for a much more harmonious aesthetic.

Perhaps just as interesting as the chair itself is the fact that it represents one part of an upholstered furniture collection that Thonet will be rolling out over the coming months.

As we all know Thonet do reduced down bentwood and reduced down bent steel tube furniture very well, and do soft furnishings less so. A state of affairs they are obviously very keen to change.

One could, possibly should, query in how far they have to move into the soft furnishings market, that they are doing so with a coordinated programme rather than individual products is however to be welcomed.
We’ve been promised four further products in Milan. We’ll keep you updated.

In addition to launching the 808 lounge chair Thonet also used IMM Cologne 2015 to present new ash versions of the classic 209, 214, 215 and 233 bentwood chairs – ash, in contrast to the traditional beech, has a more open, expressive surface and so can be used without the, generally, dark stains used on the beech versions, thus giving more prominence to the the natural beauty of the wood. As part of the Thonet “Pure Materials” collection the chairs are also now available with leather seat cushions.

A few impressions from the Thonet stand at IMM Cologne 2015:

IMM Cologne 2015 Thonet relax

Relaxing after a hard fair day in the new Thonet 808 Lounge Chair by Formstelle

IMM Cologne 2015 Thonet Pure Materials

IMM Cologne 2015: Thonet - Pure Materials

IMM Cologne 2015 Thonet coloured bentwood

The colourful world of Thonet bentwood furniture

IMM Cologne 2015 Thonet 808 Formstelle

IMM Cologne 2015: Thonet 808 Lounge Chair by Formstelle

smow blog 2014. A pictorial review: April

December 25th, 2014

As all old thesauruans know “April” is merely a synonym for “Milan”

And lo despite all promises to the contrary April 2014 once again found us in Lombardy, where, amongst other objects and exhibitions, we were very taken with the Alexander Girard reissues revealed by Vitra, the exhibition of Meisenthal Glassworks at the Institut Francais and the new Rival chair by Konstantin Grcic for Artek. Away from Milan April 214 saw us get to know the work of Pascal Howe at the DMY Design Gallery Berlin, experience the full depth of the Thonet chair design history at the Grassi Museum Leipzig, the work of Ola Kolehmainen, Okolo Offline at Depot Basel and wish Hans J. Wegner a happy 100th!

Haus am Waldsee Berlin Ola Kolehmainen Geometric Light Hagia Sophia year 537 III Untitled No 6 2014

Hagia Sophia year 537 III, 2014, and Untitled (No. 6), 2005, by Ola Kolehmainen. As seen at Ola Kolehmainen - Geometric Light, Haus am Waldsee Berlin

Okolo Offline at Depot Basel

Okolo Offline at Depot Basel

Sitzen Liegen Schaukeln Möbel von Thonet Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst Leipzig 02

Sitting – Lying – Swinging. Furniture from Thonet at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, Leipzig

Pascal Howe VDI 2860 at the DMY Design Gallery Berlin

Pascal Howe - VDI 2860 at the DMY Design Gallery Berlin

Milan 2014 Artek Rival Konstantin Grcic

Rival by Konstantin Grcic for Artek

Milan Design Week 2014 Special Le Feu Sacré Designers and glass blowers at Institut Francais 02

Le Feu Sacré Designers and glass blowers at Institut Francais, Milan

(smow) blog compact Milan 2014 Vitra Alexander Girard Colour Wheel Ottoman

Colour Wheel Ottoman by Alexander Girard through Vitra, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2014

WEGNER – Just one good chair Christian Holmsted Olesen Hatje Cantz Verlag

WEGNER – Just one good chair by Christian Holmsted Olesen through Hatje Cantz Verlag

smow blog 2014. A pictorial review: March

December 24th, 2014

According to our pictorial review of March 2013 it was “a month of travelling: Stuttgart, Chemnitz, Weimar, Dessau….. its amazing we found time to actually write anything…….”

March was 2014 was the same. Just replace “Stuttgart, Chemnitz, Weimar, Dessau” with “Frankfurt, Münsingen, Berlin, Weil am Rhein”

It also explains the large number of half-finished drafts from March. Obviously we didn’t find time to write everything!

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin New Architecture Modern Architecture in Images and Books Erich Dieckmann

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin: New Architecture! Modern Architecture in Images and Books

USM powder coating facility Münsingen

The new USM powder coating facility in Münsingen

Playboy Architecture 1953 1979 Deutsches Architekturmuseum Frankfurt am Main Designs for Living

Playboy Architecture, 1953-1979 at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt am Main

Konstantin Grcic Panorama Vitra Design Museum Public Space

Public Space. Konstantin Grcic - Panorama, Vitra Design Museum

The Kramer Principle Design for Variable Use Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt am Main Chair B 403 Thonet

Chair B 403 for Thonet by Ferdinand Kramer, as seen at The Kramer Principle: Design for Variable Use, Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main

Orgatec Cologne 2014: Thonet

October 28th, 2014

For just about as long as Thonet have been producing furniture one of the company’s most important designers has been “Thonet Design Team”, a description we’ve always considered to be a rather disparagingly sterile and unnecessarily nebulous description for Thonet’s team of in-house designers.

Every serious contemporary furniture manufacturer has an in-house design team who are responsible for both helping adapt external designers works to the company’s production patterns and also creating new products and/or product families. Traditionally the in-house designers remain quietly anonymous in the background; however, a couple of years ago Thonet decided to start giving credit to those team members who realise their own designs in context of Thonet Design Team projects, without forgetting the contribution made by the rest of the team. Among the first products to benefit from the addition of a designer’s moniker were the S 290 shelving and storage system by Thonet Design Team: Sabine Hutter and S 1200 secretary by Thonet Design Team: Randolf Schott as unveiled at IMM Cologne 2014.

At Orgatec 2014 one of Thonet’s key new launches was the S 95 conference chair programme by Thonet Design Team: Randolf Schott. Available as either a cantilever chair or a swivel chair, and in two backrest heights, all S 95 chairs feature a characteristic opening between backrest and seat, an opening which is more than a just formal nod to the construction principle of the classic Thonet cantilever designs from Mart Stam or Marcel Breuer. “For me the rear side of such a conference chair is the most important side, because that is always the side you see when you enter a room,” explains Randolf Schott, “and here we have created a very transparent chair, which emits a feeling of lightness and openness, and that was important for me.” Equally important in this respect is the form of the cantilever chair foot. The S 95 cantilever chair frames are made from quadratic steel, an unusual but not unknown material for Thonet, and one which comes with its own specific challenges. When you bend round steel tubing you get a nice, smooth curve. When you bend quadratic steel tubing you don’t. Therefore you can either utilise a relatively unaesthetic quadratic joint which makes such a chair less pleasing to approach, or invest the time and effort creating something that flows and gives the chair a much more sympathetic aesthetic. And which of course also gives a visual clue as to the chairs provenance. Only very few manufacturers can achieve such a competent, controlled bending of steel.

Available with either textile covers in a range of colours or Thonet’s new perforated leather covers the Thonet S 95 is a nice new addition to the Thonet programme offering as it does a chair family that is more robust and has a more physical stature that that which was previously available, yet without forcing itself on you. And which retains both an unequivocal Thonet optic and the “quiescent vertical and horizontal lines” and cubic form that Heinz Rasch considered so critical for the success of a cantilever chair.

Thonet Orgatec Köln s 95 chair

The new Thonet S 95 collection, as seen at Orgatec Cologne 2014

In addition to the S 95 collection a further major new project being launched by Thonet at Orgatec was also a direct result of the concentrated work of the Thonet Design Team, yet in a much less spectacular context. If every bit as important.
Originally developed in 2001 by Kassel based design studio Lepper Schmidt Sommerlade the A 1700 table family is a central component of the Thonet contract office furniture division, is however over a decade old and in the fast paced world of office furniture due for an overhaul. To this end the Thonet Design Team have now updated the system, principally the leg. As we said spectacular it ain’t. In short the A 1700 table leg has not only received a new tear-drop form, a new cable duct and a new, patented, system to connect legs with table tops, but one can add inlays to the front edge of the new tear drop leg form thus allowing an individual accent to be set and allow the easier integration of the system into a room.

Elsewhere at Orgatec 2014 Thonet presented the S 8000 conference table by Hadi Teherani in a new round version, a version which despite its new curvature loses none of the bombast of the quadratic original, while the S 160, S 170 and S 180 multi-purpose chair families by Delphin Design are now available in eight new colour tones; a new palette which although intended to increase the options available to architects when organising chairs for cafeterias etc, also offer interesting possibilities for the private cafeteria. Or kitchen, as we believe they are more typically referred: and it goes without saying, responsible for the new colour tones was the ubiquitous Thonet Design Team.

Breaking with tradition, and indeed our principles, we use the Thonet press photos of their new products. The reasons are purely technical….

Thonet Orgatec Köln S 96 S 8000

Thonet at Orgatec 2014, including the new S 96 conference chair and the round S 8000 conference table.

Thonet Orgatec Köln S 95 swivel chair

The new Thonet S 95 Swivel Chair

Thonet Orgatec Köln S 160 S 170 S 180 Delphin Design

The Thonet S 160, S 170, S 180 by Delphin Design in their new colour tones

Thonet Orgatec Köln A1700 Evo Inlay

The new Thonet A 1700 Evo table leg, with inlay

Thonet Exhibition Special: Buy Four Thonet Chairs. Recieve a Free Tecnolumen Wilhelm Wagenfeld Lamp

May 6th, 2014

“When”, we asked in context of the Grassi Leipzig exhibition Sitting – Lying – Swinging. Furniture from Thonet, “does an exhibition about Thonet chairs become a sales promotion for Thonet chairs?”

In the case of the Grassi exhibition, we concluded, it doesn’t.

When however does a blog post about a Thonet exhibition becomes an advertisement for Thonet chairs.

Round about now.

For by way of celebrating the Sitting – Lying – Swinging, an exhibition on “home turf” as it were, (smow) have teamed up with Thonet and Bremen based manufacturer Tecnolumen to organise an exhibition special offer: Purchase four Thonet S 32 or S 64 chairs and receive a free Tecnolumen Wilhelm Wagenfeld WA 23 SW, WA 24, WG 24 or WG 25 GL lamp.

Our gift. Your choice.

The Thonet Exhibition Special is valid in all orders placed through (smow) online until Sunday September 14th 2014, as long as stocks last.

Full details and order information can be found at:

smow thonet wagenfeld promotion

Thonet Exhibition Special: Buy Four Thonet Chairs. Recieve a Free Tecnolumen Wilhelm Wagenfeld Lamp

(smow) blog compact 1st of May Special: Frères Bouroullec versus Gebrüder Thonet

May 1st, 2014

By way of a 1st of May, International Workers’ Day, special…… in Milan Ronan Bouroullec told us that the brother’s new chair Uncino for Italian produce Mattiazzi was inspired by and loosely based on the very first wooden office chairs.

An excellent example of what he meant can currently be enjoyed at the exhibition Sitting – Lying – Swinging. Furniture from Thonet at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, Leipzig.

A comparison: Uncino by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Mattiazzi vs. an 1875 Swivel Office Chair by Gebrüder Thonet Vienna.

Uncino by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Mattiazzi

Uncino by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Mattiazzi, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2014

1875 Swivel Ofiice Chair by Gebrüder Thonet Vienna Grassi Leipzig

An 1875 Swivel Office Chair by Gebrüder Thonet, Vienna, as seen at Sitting – Lying – Swinging. Furniture from Thonet at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, Leipzig.

Sitting – Lying – Swinging. Furniture from Thonet at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, Leipzig

April 16th, 2014

Standing in the Leipzig Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, surrounded by 150 years of Thonet chair history, Peter Thonet, x-times-great grandson of company founder Michael Thonet and until his recent retirement company CEO,  is clearly a very satisfied man, “It makes one proud to be able to look back on a collection of objects that have not only been important for the company, but which have also, occasionally, written design history”

Few visiting the new Grassi Museum exhibition “Sitting – Lying – Swinging. Furniture from Thonet” could or would argue.

Sitzen Liegen Schaukeln Möbel von Thonet Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst Leipzig 02

Sitting – Lying – Swinging. Furniture from Thonet at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, Leipzig

Established by Michael Thonet in “the 1840s”, Thonet grew from the backyards of Vienna to become one the world’s largest and most commercially successful furniture manufacturers. Success with bent wood – ask any Thonet staff member and they will happily confirm that between 1859 until 1930, around 50 million of Thonet’s pioneering Chair 14s were sold worldwide – was followed by success with bent steel tube, for all through works by designers such as Mart Stam, Marcel Breuer or the Parisian triumvirate of Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand & Pierre Jeanneret, before, as so often in European biographies, the war years got in the way.

From the seven Thonet production facilities that were in operation before 1939 only the base in Frankenberg (Eder) near Kassel in Germany remained after 1945. The rest either destroyed by war or nationalised by socialist regimes.

Frankenberg was also badly damaged by allied bombs, but there was enough standing to allow the Thonet family to begin again.
And begin again they did.

Today Thonet employ around some 170 staff in Frankenberg producing a mix of classic Thonet products and more contemporary designs.

Presenting some 150 objects, Sitting – Lying – Swinging explores the story and history of Thonet chairs with a special, though not exclusive, focus on those works realised since 1945.

Organised by thematic, material and functional criteria rather than presenting the works purely chronologically, Sitting – Lying – Swinging freely mixes historic with contemporary objects and established Thonet classics with little known pieces; a curatorial decision that helps one to understand and follow the story of Thonet seating.

In the first half of the exhibition each section is arranged around a central, illuminated island, an arrangement that gives one the impression of visiting a hotel sushi bar: but an arrangement which does greatly aid the viewing. The second room, with its views into the Grassi courtyard is arranged in a more conventional museum style, but is sparsely enough populated to allow one to ignore the presentation and enjoy the objects.

As more regular readers will know we like to say that Thonet were responsible for two furniture industry revolutions, bent wood furniture and bent steel furniture. And that we’re all still waiting for third. Sitting – Lying – Swinging doesn’t provide any great hope that the third is coming any time soon, but demonstrates if it doesn’t arrive, that isn’t because Thonet as a company have been sitting back on their laurels.

For all since 1945 Thonet have worked with an impressive roster of German and international design talent including, for example, Ferdinand Kramer, Verner Panton, Gerd Lange, James Irvine or Naoto Fukasawa, designers who have not only helped keep the company portfolio fresh but who have introduced new ideas into the company’s philosophy.

Those of you who read our thoughts on Artek in Milan will no doubt now be asking why we feel it’s OK for Thonet to work with new designers, but Artek should just keep putting out the works of Alvar Aalto?

Those who read our thoughts on Artek in Milan properly will understand that we’ve nothing against established firms such as Thonet or Artek working with new designers, they must just keep focussed on their core competence. On those things they do well.

With Konstantin Grcic and Hella Jongerius Artek have worked with two designers who have utilised and extended Arteks’ core competences, and viewing Sitting – Lying – Swinging one sees clearly that Thonet’s most impressive, convincing and successful post-war creations are and were those where the designers have understood Thonet and have attempted to do something new, yet something that is still “Thonet”.  It sounds ridiculous, but a company must be comfortable with what they are doing if they are to break new ground. From Thonet’s most recent collaborations special mention in that respect must go to those with, amongst others, Läufer + Keichel, Delphin Design and Stefan Diez.

And for us the reverse is one of the reasons why the company lost their way a little in the 1980s. In our opinion too many of the chairs from that period were conceived with the aim of reinventing the Thonet brand, rather than advancing chair design. And such can never work.

Sitzen Liegen Schaukeln Möbel von Thonet Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst Leipzig 19

Sitting – Lying – Swinging. Furniture from Thonet at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, Leipzig

Viewing Sitting – Lying – Swinging there comes an, inevitable, moment when the question arises, when does an exhibition about Thonet chairs become a sales promotion for Thonet chairs?

A question that given that we see a Thonet trade fair stand every six months or so probably comes quicker to us than to most normal visitors.

The answer is, it doesn’t. If, as in the case of Sitting – Lying – Swinging the commercial interests have no influence over the museal content.

Sitting – Lying – Swinging has been curated by the Grassi Museum alone and all aspects organised by the Grassi Museum alone, Thonet merely allowed the Grassi team access to the archives to research.

Thonet is a very valid subject for a museum exhibition, Sitting – Lying – Swinging is the first exhibition ever to place a focus on Thonet’s post-war production and is one of the most comprehensive Thonet exhibitions ever staged. The Grassi Museum with its history going back almost as far as Thonet’s and being an institution that helped propagate the fledgling Bauhaus, is a fairly logical place for such an exhibition. And not mentioning Thonet in such an exhibition would be a little difficult. And daft.

One must also understand that the the majority of the chairs on show aren’t currently in production, and in all probability never will be again. They are, in effect, historical artefacts being presented in a curated museum environment.

And should be enjoyed as such.

Sitting – Lying – Swinging is a very simple exhibition that doesn’t attempt to do anything very complicated. Something it achieves with great competence.

Obviously if you don’t like chairs, don’t go, you’ll not enjoy it. It’s two large rooms full of chairs.

If however you do like chairs, or at least want to learn how chair design has developed over the past 150 years, how little chair design has developed over the past 150 years, and for all where Thonet  fit into the history of chair design, then do go.

You will enjoy it.

Sitting – Lying – Swinging. Furniture from Thonet runs at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, Johannisplatz 5-11 04103 Leipzig  until Sunday September 14th 2014.

Full details can be found at

5 New Design Exhibitions for April 2014

March 31st, 2014

April 2014, as every April we can ever remember, means Milanese purgatory.

Apparently it is meant to cleanse the soul, purify our thoughts and generally mitigate for the sins of the past, and so allow us to proceed to higher plains and greater virtues.

And boy must we have sinned. We can’t remember exactly when, far less how. We just hope we enjoyed it at the time. Because now we are paying.

When, if, we return these are the new design exhibitions we’re planning on visiting to help us recover.

“Sitting – Lying – Swinging. Furniture from Thonet” at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, Leipzig, Germany

As we have repeated on numerous occasions in the past, the back catalogue and archive of German manufacturer Thonet is of the kind to make the soul of even the most hardened design critic melt with longing. As one would, should, expect from a furniture manufacturer who have helped usher in two furniture design revolutions: the industrial production of furniture through mass-scale wood bending in the late 19th century and the use of bent steel tubing in the early 20th century.

The Grassi Museum for Applied Arts in Leipzig however have chosen to, more or less, ignore these moments, and so the first 130 years of the company history, and focus instead on furniture produced since the end of World War II in the company’s Frankenberg (Eder) base.

A decision that is as brave as it is commendable.

Presenting some 130 items the exhibition promises to present well known, lesser known and unknown works by the likes of Stefan Diez, Konstantin Grcic, Sir Norman Foster, Verner Panton or Alfredo Häberli.

The first ever major presentation of Thonet’s contemporary output Sitting – Lying – Swinging not only promises to allow a chance to place the more modern works in the company’s tradition and history but also to understand the role Thonet continues to play in the development of contemporary furniture design. We suspect it will also illustrate how, and why, the company lost its way a little in the wake of the the cultural and aesthetic rethinking of the 1980s, before regaining ground in the past decade.

Sitting – Lying – Swinging. Furniture from Thonet opens at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, Johannisplatz 5-11, 04103 Leipzig on Thursday April 17th and runs until Sunday September 14th.

Sitting – Lying - Swinging. Furniture from Thonet at the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, Leipzig, Germany

The bar stool 404H and chair 404 by Stefan Diez awaiting lacquering at Thonet's Frankenberg (Eder) production facility.

“Otl Aicher – Ordnungssinn und Dolce Vita. Fotografien der 1950er Jahre” at the HfG-Archiv Ulm, Germany

Although best known as a graphic designer, and for all through his work for Braun, Lufthansa and the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, Otl Aicher was a classically trained sculptor and so was, unsurprisingly, active in other artistic fields. Including photography.

The first exhibition of Otl Aicher’s photography for many a long decade, Ordnungssinn und Dolce Vita is, in effect, two exhibitions in one skin.

The Ordnungssinn – Sense of order – is explored through a presentation of some 50 original prints from a recently rediscovered collection of Otl Aicher photographs from the 1950s. Largely depicting landscapes and “structures” the exhibition organisers promise that the displayed works will allow both a glimpse into how Aicher perceived and understood the environment around him and also document the spirit of change/chance of the 1950s.

In addition to the rediscovered works the exhibition will also (re)present an exhibition of Otl Aicher’s photos that was originally shown in the Ulmer Museum in 1959 and which, and assuming we’ve understood the exhibition information correctly, largely presents studies from a tour of Italy undertaken by Aicher, and which present the Dolce Vita of the 1950s that still dominates German impressions of Italy. A particular highlight, if you think like us, promises to be an image of a non-leaning tower of Pisa – an image that unifies Ordnungssinn and Dolce Vita.

Otl Aicher – Ordnungssinn und Dolce Vita. Fotografien der 1950er Jahre opens at the HfG Studio, HfG-Archiv, Am Hochsträß 8, 89081 Ulm on Friday April 11th and runs until Sunday October 12th

Otl Aicher Ordnungssinn und Dolce Vita. Fotografien der 1950er Jahre at the HfG-Archiv Ulm, Germany

Otl Aicher - Ordnungssinn und Dolce Vita. Fotografien der 1950er Jahre" at the HfG-Archiv Ulm (Photos: Otl Aicher © Florian Aicher / HfG-Archiv/Ulmer Museum, Germany)

“Okolo Offline” at Depot Basel, Basel, Switzerland

After what feels like an eternity, everyone’s favourite Basel based design collective finally return with a new exhibition. An exhibition devoted to everyone’s favourite Prague based design collective, Okolo.

Established in 2009 by Jakub Štěch, Matěj Činčera, Adam Štěch and Jan Kloss Okolo have spent the past five years designing, curating exhibitions and publishing – online and offline.

Okolo Offline promises to give 25 Okolo blog posts from the past five years a physical, tactile form and so – hopefully – help explain the group, their approach to and understanding of contemporary creativity and so introduce the collective and their work to a wider audience.

In addition to the exhibition itself Okolo Offline also marks the launch of MINUTE a series of short films on design history produced by Okolo.

Okolo Offline opens at Depot Basel, Voltastrasse 43, 4056 Basel on Friday March 28th and runs until Sunday April 27th.

Okolo Offline Depot Basel

Okolo Offline at Depot Basel...... Basel

“Ola Kolehmainen – Geometric Light” at Haus am Waldsee, Berlin, Germany

“I use architecture as a starting point and source of inspiration, not as the ultimate final result. In fact my work is an examination of space, light and color, which reflect and question our way of looking at things.”

So explains the Finnish photographer Ola Kolehmainen his approach to his work. An approach that is as structured and methodical in its preparation as it is abstract and deconstructed in its result.

Until May 17th the Berlin gallery Haus am Waldsee is presenting Ola Kolehmainen’s latest project “Geometric Light” a series of photographs in which he ignores the buildings even more than before and concentrates on the light and shadow within and around the works.

Inspired and initiated by and during a tour of Spain in 2013 Geometric Light includes works from that Spanish tour in addition to photos originating, for example, in the Hagia Sophia.

Originating in. Not necessarily “of”……

Ola Kolehmainen – Geometric Light opens at Haus am Waldsee, Argentinische Allee 30, 14163 Berlin, Germany on Saturday April 5th and runs until May 17th

Ola Kolehmainen Konstruktivizm Infantil XII 2013

Ola Kolehmainen, Konstruktivizm Infantil XII, 2013 (© Ola Kolehmainen, Courtesy: Gallery Taik)

“WEGNER – Just one good chair” at the Designmuseum Danmark, Copenhagen, Denmark

Hans J. Wegner is one of the most important representatives of Danish modern design. We know this because it is invariably the opening sentence of any given Wegner biography.

Yet he remains a designer about whom there is a genuine dearth of reliable, insightful information. And certainly a subject of much fewer books and exhibitions than most of his contemporaries.

And so punctually to his 100th Birthday the Designmuseum Danmark Copenhagen are presenting the largest, most in depth exhibition devoted to Hans J. Wegner and his oeuvre ever staged.

Presenting some 150 exhibits, including original furniture, drawings, models and photographs, Just one good chair promises not only to explain Wegner’s life and work, but also through analysing Wegner’s contribution to the Danish design tradition also explain how Danish Modernism and Organic Modernism in general developed. And how that all led to the abiding myth of Danish Design as a style in its own right.

In addition to the Wegner objects, Just one good chair promises to round the history by juxtaposing Wegner’s work with that of his contemporary such as Charles & Ray Eames, Finn Juhl or Arne Jacobsen and contemporary designers including Jasper Morrison or Konstantin Grcic.

WEGNER – Just one good chair opens at the Designmuseum Danmark, Bredgade 68, 1260 Copenhagen on Thursday April 3rd and runs until Sunday November 2nd

Hans J Wegner and Johannes Hansen JH550 PP550 The Peacock Chair

Hans J Wegner (l.) and Johannes Hansen (r.) inspect a JH550/PP550 "Peacock Chair" (Photo: Designmuseum Danmark, Copenhagen)

The Kramer Principle: Design for Variable Use @ Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main

March 28th, 2014

If we were to be completely honest we would have to admit that although we were aware of the name “Ferdinand Kramer”, it wasn’t until Frankfurt based manufacturer e15 launched a series of Kramer re-editions at Milan 2012 that we actually paid any serious attention to the man and his work.

Something we are very thankful for.

Born in Frankfurt in 1898 Ferdinand Kramer undertook a foundation architecture course in Munich before joining Bauhaus Weimar in 1919. Disillusioned by the lack of a formal architecture course at Bauhaus, Kramer returned to the Technical University Munich from where he graduated in 1922. In 1925 Kramer began a position in Frankfurt in the office of the city’s then Building Director Ernst May, a position which brought him into the heart of the “Neues Frankfurt” urban regeneration and house building programme: after the Weissenhofsiedlung arguably the most important Modernist architecture project realised in Germany. If not Europe.

Under the Nazi dictatorship Ferdinand Kramer, as an acknowledged Modernist, was banned from working as an architect, and so in 1938 he emigrated to America where over the next decade and a half he developed and realised numerous architecture, interior design and product design projects. In 1952 Kramer was invited to take up the position of Buildings Director of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in his native Frankfurt. A position that largely involved re-building the war damaged institution, and a position Kramer immediately accepted and which he held until his retirement in 1964. Ferdinand Kramer died in Frankfurt on November 4th 1985.

In addition to buildings Ferdinand Kramer also designed furniture, fixtures and fittings – often for his buildings, though not exclusively – and this aspect of Kramer’s oeuvre forms the principle focus of the exhibition “The Kramer Principle: Design for Variable Use” currently showing at the Museum Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt am Main.

The Kramer Principle Design for Variable Use Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt am Main

The Kramer Principle: Design for Variable Use @ Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main

Divided into three chronological sections covering the three major periods in Kramer’s life and career – 1924-1938 in Frankfurt, 1938-1952 in America and 1952-1985 in Frankfurt – The Kramer Principle presents some 115 objects including chairs, tables, wood burning stoves, umbrellas and examples of Kramer’s numerous furniture systems.

If we were to continue the streak of honesty with which we began this post, we would have to say that The Kramer Principle isn’t the sort of exhibition you will leave with a feeling of having, necessarily, learnt more about Ferdinand Kramer. And, at least for us, the exhibition doesn’t live up to its billing of being a “comprehensive retrospective”

For that the objects are presented too lifelessly. Far too uncritically.

It is however an excellent introduction to the design work of a man who helped develop many concepts of furniture design that continue to dominate the industry today, including for example, modular furniture systems and in-store sales systems.

In addition The Kramer Principle offers a nice insight into the ideals of 1920s German social design as represented by Kramer’s furniture designs for “Neues Frankfurt” and is an opportunity to enjoy some truly delightful, thought provoking, and rarely seen, design objects including, Kramer’s B 403 bentwood chair for Thonet, an undated prototype for an upholstered cantilever chair and the deliciously simple “Three-in-one” combined extendible stool/side table from 1942.

And so while the exhibition may not live up to its aims, it is well worth viewing.

The Kramer Principle: Design for Variable Use is on show at the Museum Angewandte Kunst, Schaumainkai 17, 60594 Frankfurt am Main until Sunday September 7th 2014.

Full details can be found at

(smow) blog compact IMM Cologne Special: Thonet

January 24th, 2014

Our coverage of IMM Cologne 2014 may be reaching its conclusion, but we still have a few gleaming gems to bring you, the brightest of which was to be found on the Thonet stand: the new S 1200 desk by Randolf Schott from and with the Thonet Design Team.

While classic Thonet desks such as Marcel Breuer’s S 285 can work very well in a contemporary home office and/or as an informal place of work in a living room, they do bring with them a certain formal heaviness owing to their abstraction from the more traditional, quadratic, wooden furniture that Marcel Breuer and his Bauhaus cohorts were moving away from, but couldn’t quite free themselves from.

With the S 1200 Thonet and Randolf Schott have moved the genre on and developed an object that bequeaths bent steel tubing a new lightness, a new informality.

While unquestionably owing its provenance to Marcel Breuer’s innumerate bent steel tube tables, the S 1200 is much more accessible, largely we feel on account of the gentle gradient of the inward leaning front leg, a feature that makes the S 1200 less rigid, less dominant. Warmer. Coupled to the practical foot rest bar and even more practical double level desk top, this formal accessibility make the S 1200 a very inviting place to sit and work. Or, if you’re like us, to just sit. Looking out the window. Dreaming your brilliant career away.

Although the S 1200 frame could, theoretically, have been bent from one single piece of steel tubing, it has been formed from two. The simple reason is that chrome-plating one massive piece would have been all-but infeasible. The foot rest, somewhat naturally, was always intended as an extra piece and has been attached to the frame via a specially developed joint – not welded as we initially thought, but carefully and exactly attached.

All in all a very impressive object and a very welcome addition to the Thonet family.

Complimenting the desk Thonet have created a series of accessories; a bookrest, filing tray and what Thonet refer to as a pencil box, but which in reality is a multi-purpose storage box that has been designed to ensure that should you want to use it to store your phone while charging it, the cable passes unobtrusively and neatly through a slit the corner. And in terms of cable management a special mention must go the – patented – magnetic clip cable management system that attaches to legs. For who wants to ruin the simple beauty of bent steel tubing with the wires that haunt our modern, oh so mobile, reality.

Being a contemporary product the S 1200 comes in a range of pastel colours; as now do further bent steel tube objects from the Thonet portfolio including Mart Stam‘s S 43 classic chair and Marcel Breuer’s B 9 and the Thonet B 97 side table series. Not available in coloured steel tubing, yet every bit as appealing, are the new glass versions of the B 9 and B 97 series – objects that add a dignified decadence to the reserved charm of the wood versions.

Elsewhere a more than notable mention must go to the new S 290 programme by Sabine Hutter from and with the Thonet Design Team. A free standing, steel tube, sideboard system, the S 290 programme is composed of four base elements which can be used individually or joined to create an extended unit. That the units cannot be stacked vertically the S 290 is not modular in the formal definition of the term, but is if you prefer a more relaxed interpretation. And regardless how one defines it, as a flexible sideboard system for home or office the S 290 is an important, and worthy, addition to the Thonet programme.

Its not easy being Thonet. Having revolutionised furniture design twice, everyone is waiting for the next. IMM Cologne didn’t provide that, but did delightfully show that in design further development is always possible. And often desirable. In our Orgatec 2012 interview with Antonio Citterio he told us that he likes to continually develop his projects, to tinker as it were, create something new from something existing, however he emphasised, “I don’t want to develop something so that the previous version becomes old or outdated. It should just be another option.

This spirit was very much in evidence on the Thonet stand at IMM Cologne 2014.

And we liked that.

A few impressions:

(smow) blog compact IMM Cologne Special Thonet S 1200 desk Randolf Schott Thonet Design Team

The S 1200 desk by Randolf Schott / Thonet Design Team for Thonet, as seen at IMM Cologne 2014

(smow) blog compact IMM Cologne Special Thonet Mart Stam S 43 colour

The S 43 Classic by Mart Stam through Thonet – in colour, as seen at IMM Cologne 2014

(smow) blog compact IMM Cologne Special Thonet S 290 by Sabine Hutter Thonet Design Team

The S 290 programme by Sabine Hutter / Thonet Design Team for Thonet, as seen at IMM Cologne 2014

(smow) blog compact IMM Cologne Special Thonet S 290 Sabine Hutter Thonet Design Team

The S 290 programme by Sabine Hutter / Thonet Design Team for Thonet, as seen at IMM Cologne 2014

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