S32 by Marcel Breuer for Thonet (Artistic Copyright since 1932, Mart Stam)
June 1st, 2016 by smow

“…the strict, logical lines which avoid anything unnecessary and which with the sleekest form and through the simplest means embodies the modern objectivity”1, with this, glowing, description of his design the Supreme Court of the German Reich in Leipzig awarded on June 1st 1932 Mart Stam the artistic copyright of the cubic, quadratic, cantilever chair, and thus settled arguably the very first legal dispute over the copyright of the form of a piece of furniture intended for industrial mass production.

mart stam W1 weissenhofsiedlung stuttgart vitra miniature

Mart Stam’s “Weissenhofsiedlung Cantilever” (here in  the Vitra Design Museum Miniature version)

The story begins in Dessau in the mid 1920s and the development of tubular steel furniture, a process in which Marcel Breuer unquestionably played a major, if not the major, role. Aware of the commercial possibilities of the genre Marcel Breuer established in late 1926/early 1927 the company Standard-Möbel in Berlin with fellow Magyar Kálmán Lengyel, the first dedicated manufacturer of tubular steel furniture. 2

In early 1928 Standard-Möbel came to an agreement with a certain Anton Lorenz that he would manufacture the company’s chairs and assume the position of general manager. 3 Anton Lorenz was, somewhat inevitably, also of Hungarian origin, and had moved to Germany in 1919 when his opera singer wife took up a position in Leipzig. Although according to the popular Lorenz biography he had been a history and geography teacher in Budapest, in Leipzig he established himself as a locksmith before subsequently relocating his business to Berlin. Shortly after taking over at Standard-Möbel Lorenz persuaded Breuer to transfer the rights to his furniture to Standard-Möbel.

In July 1928 Marcel Breuer began cooperating with Thonet 4, by January 1929 Thonet were marketing the first Breuer works, and in the course of that year the first Thonet tubular steel furniture catalogue was published, a catalogue featuring exclusively Breuer’s designs5. Thus in early 1929 one had a situation in which both Standard-Möbel and Thonet were selling Breuer tubular steel furniture. Albeit different designs. Consequently, and in what must be considered the only logical option, in April 1929 the successful and globally active manufacturer Thonet bought the small, struggling Berlin manufacturer Standard-Möbel and thus secured the rights to all Breuer’s tubular steel designs, giving them what Mathias Remmele refers to as “the world’s largest and most diverse range of tubular steel furniture”6

And that is where the story really should end.

But it doesn’t.

mart stam house weissenhofsiedlung stuttgart

The houses designed by Mart Stam for  the Weissenhofsiedlung Stuttgart (1927) and where he first presented his cantilever chair design

Shortly before the sale of Standard-Möbel to Thonet Anton Lorenz registered patents for his own tubular steel chair designs and also secured the rights to all Mart Stam’s cantilever chair designs: Stam having famously presented his first cantilever chair design as part of the 1927 Weissenhofsiedlung exhibition in Stuttgart, since when it had had no producer. Anton Lorenz was however of the opinion that the cantilever represented the future of chair design and having failed to come to an agreement with Mies van der Rohe concerning his, equally at Weissenhof premièred, cantilever, Lorenz approached Stam.

According to Otakar Máčel, in the contract between Stam and Lorenz the latter received “the sole and exclusive rights to produce, allow to be produced, to distribute and make commercially available the cited “invented objects”, 7 and following the sale of Standard-Möbel Anton Lorenz established the company DESTA as a vehicle to achieve just that.

In addition, Lorenz was in possession of four prototypes which although built in Standard-Möbel’s workshops, he hadn’t handed over to Thonet with the rest of the Standard-Möbel inventory; Lorenz arguing that they related to his patent and the contract with Stam and thus were not part of the Standard-Möbel deal. Something Thonet blithely, if not naively, accepted.

Sadly the mists of time have closed in to shroud the exact dates of when what subsequently occurred, but in essence, in 1929 Thonet released the model B 33 and B 34 cantilever chairs by Marcel Breuer, his first cantilever chairs, and works which bare a formal similarity to Mart Stam’s Weissenhof cantilever chair; and in 1929 DESTA released the ST 12 and SS 32, both variations on Mart Stam’s 1927 Weissenhof cantilever chair and related to the aforementioned prototypes.

The B 33 and ST 12 are essentially the same chair.
The B 34 and SS 32 are essentially the same chair.

Lorenz sued Thonet for copyright violations.

In April 1930 the 16th Civil Chamber of Berlin County Court decided in Lorenz’s fvaour, Thonet appealed and in April 1931 the 10th Civil Chamber of Berlin County Court rejected the appeal. Thonet appealed, and on June 1st 1932 came the final decision of the 1st Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of the German Reich in Leipzig in favour of Lorenz 8

In essence there were two disputes.

In terms of the B 34 and the SS 32 the dispute involved a technical construction which Lorenz had developed and patented in 1929. In the interests of space we’ll leave that story here. Save to say, Lorenz won.

In terms of the B 33 and the ST 12 the question was the form, that which Alexander von Vegesack refers to as the “Gradlinigkeit der Form und den Kubismus”9– the  linearity of the form and its cubism – that rigid quadratic form we all know.

Lorenz’s argument was that as a work of creativity the form of the cubic cantilever which Stam had developed for his Weissenhof chair, and on which Breuer’s B 33 was clearly based, was protected by the 1907 Kunst-Urhebergesetz, [Artistic Copyright Law], KUG. According to Sebastian Neurauter the 1907 KUG covered “not only the typical manifestations of the high arts, so paintings and sculptures, but also objects of the decorative arts”10, including works of architecture and appled arts. This addition of architecture and “design” works representing an extension of the scope of the act in comparison to the previous version from 1876. And thus is an obvious indication of the importance already attached to architecture and decorative arts at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s all too easy to think Art Nouveau and Art Deco just concerned the, relatively few, artists involved, but clearly the politicians, lawyers and businessmen were also heavily involved. And were actively shaping laws to reflect the new/coming reality.

Not that everyone appeared to have grasped that.

As Neurauter notes, Lorenz’s use of the KUG stood in direct contrast to Bauhaus who made no use of the law in respect of their workshops’ products; Lorenz, so Neurauter, should have been an excellent example for Bauhaus in such respects.11 He was about to demonstrate why.

Bauhaus Archiv Berlin Stühle ohne Beine mart stam gas pipe chair

A recreation of Mart Stam’s Gas Pipe Chair, as seen at 2012 exhibition Stühle ohne Beine in the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin

The decision to sue on the basis of artistic copyright rather than a technical patent almost certainly has its origins in the number of patents for various forms of cantilever chairs which existed at that period. Proving technical originality could have been difficult. But, and more importantly, Stam hadn’t actually developed anything technical. Just bent a piece of steel tubing of appropriate thickness in appropriate places. Stam’s cantilever chair is a classic example of a design process, of taking a material, a concept and developing something through the intelligent combination of the two. Stam designed something, he didn’t invented anything. Or as the Supreme Court phrases it:
“Mart St… [in the court publication all names apart from Marcel Breuer’s are redacted] has created with this chair an independent, idiosyncratic, creation. There is no technical necessity which prescribes an object of tubular steel furniture such a specific form. For the construction of a chair from tubular steel, many possibilities are conceivable”12 – the decisive in the chair is the form, and while it may have followed function it didn’t follow material necessity, rather Stam’s understanding of design.

In addition, and in a remarkable demonstration of an openness for and understanding of contemporary culture that we would never have assumed a German court would or could posses in 1932, they noted that, “at present an art form is considered as being especially valuable, which presents its purpose in a very clear, simple form. For a product of the arts and crafts it corresponds that an object of daily life is given an aesthetic form which is pleasing on the eye.”13

Further the court rejected as wholly irrelevant the Thonet defence that the two chairs were of different materials and also a submission on behalf of Breuer by Walter Gropius that Mart Stam’s Weissenhof cantilever was simply a further development of Marcel Breuer’s, non-cantilever, B 5, “St..’s chair represents at most a free interpretation of Breuer’s models, in the course of which an idiosyncratic creation was realised.”, so the court, continuing, “Mart St.. has thus acquired for his chair as a handicraft product an artistic copyright”14. Later the court would rub some salt into the wound with the assertion that “In artistic development the way from Breuer’s model B 5 to the defendant’s model B 33 leads over Mart St…’s chair”.15 Or put another way – without Mart Stam Marcel Breuer wouldn’t have been in a position to develop his B 5 into the B 33.

That’s gonna hurt.

What the court, and obviously Thonet’s lawyers, didn’t consider was the very clear difference between the B 33 and ST 12: although very, very, similar, and both clearly a further development of Stam’s Weissenhofsiedlung chair, with the DESTA ST 12 the backrest is angled slightly backwards, running in a straight line, the backrest of the Thonet B 33 is angled slightly backwards, but has a “knick”, and thus, theoretically, a higher level of seating comfort. Otakar Máčel argues that such would have made no difference16, the case being about similarities with Stam’s original work not directly between the ST 12 and B 33. With all respect to Otakar Máčel, we beg to differ, and consider that the formal development of the backrest through the “knick” is a design development in its own right. And with all respect to Thonet’s 1930s lawyers, we see it as little more important than the “nickel plated tubes” argument with which they hoped to win.

They didn’t, and the outcome of the case was not only that Mart Sam was formally credited with the artistic copyright of the cubic cantilever chair, and thus became the first designer of the modern period to be awarded “ownership” of a form rather than a technical innovation, but owing to his contract with Stam Anton Lorenz was awarded the rights to those cubic cantilever chairs designed by Breuer.

Thus giving Anton Lorenz a monopoly position as regards cubic cantilever chairs.

A month after the judgement Anton Lorenz licensed his newly acquired rights exclusively to Thonet. Which you kind of get the impression was his intention all along. Much like with today’s hip young Start Ups, one has the unmistakable feeling that Anton Lorenz’s motivation was the well paid “exit”

And that is where the story really should end.

But it doesn’t.

S32 by Marcel Breuer for Thonet (Artistic Copyright since 1932, Mart Stam)

S32 by Marcel Breuer for Thonet (Artistic Copyright since 1932, Mart Stam)

In addition to licensing the DESTA and the Stam rights to Thonet, and in a truly epically, grotesque, textbook, example of poacher turning gamekeeper, in July 1932 Anton Lorenz was appointed head of Thonet’s, we presume newly formed, “Abteilung für Gewerblichen Rechtsschutz” – Department for the Protection of Commercial Right- a position he held until 1935 and from which he vigorously and consequently oversaw the protection of Thonet’s rights, which were of course in effect his rights, and thus played a key role in helping strengthen Thonet’s position and reputation in and with tubular steel furniture.

And that is where the story really should end.

And does.

Except for the unanswered questions.

The biggest and most important of which for us is who designed the DESTA ST 12? The chair which, effectively, started the process, a process which somewhat paradoxically was actually about Stam’s 1927 cantilever and in which the ST 12 played only a cursory role. We can’t find any evidence that Stam himself developed the ST 12, Remmele considers it unlikely that Breuer was involved17, Wilk in contrast sees the B 33, and so by extrapolation the ST 12, as “deriving logically from Breuer’s earlier work”18, Máčel goes further and opines that the ST 12 was “probably the work of Breuer or Lorenz”19. But if Breuer was involved, why does he appear to have remained silent in court? Where are the sketches and plans? And if Breuer wasn’t involved with the ST 12. Was he aware of it? The question is important because on account of the backwards leaning backrest the chair represents a clear break with the strict geometry of Mart Stam’s earlier work. It’s still quadratic, but makes a concession to sitting comfort. The B 33, as already noted, even more so. The answer to the question may have played no role in the case, but is important for completing the (hi)story of post-war chair design.

Despite the central role Mart Stam’s Weissenhof cantilever chair played in the proceedings and thus in the (hi)story of contemporary furniture design it was never really produced and marketed. For all its aesthetic elegance, formal innovation and cultural relevance it was a very rigid piece of work, cumbersome to produce and by all accounts very uncomfortable. Thus today it is survived by more technologically advanced, arguably more elegant and certainly more comfortable works such as Mart Stam’s S 43, or Marcel Breuer’s S 32.

What does remain however is the leading position in terms of steel tube cantilever chairs, and tubular steel furniture in general, which Thonet acquired through the process. A position which is arguably justified. In the late 1920s there were numerous companies producing tubular steel furniture – a great irony of the period is that although the Weissenhofsiedlung marked a high-water mark in the public acceptance of tubular steel furniture, and presented works by several manufacturers, Thonet were represented with their bentwood furniture, and doubly ironically most famously thanks to the Grand Modernist Le Corbusier who used Thonet wooden chairs for his interiors – however Thonet were the first company to invest heavily in the necessary machines and infrastructure, both in Germany and France, and the first to hire a designer of Breuer’s talents to complete a collection and this all despite, as Mathias Remmele notes, the “initiative was comparatively risky because there were no relevant market for this type of furniture, and none which could guarantee a speedy profit”20. Thonet took a huge chance on tubular steel furniture. And it worked out. Even if some dilettantish legal work meant it cost them a lot more time and money that it really should have……

A Mart Stam Cantilever Chair before the Supreme Court in Germany, and not for the first time......

A Mart Stam Cantilever Chair before the Supreme Court in Germany, and not for the first time……

1. Gewerblicher Rechtschutz und Urheberrecht. Zeitschrift des Deutschen Vereins für den Schutz des gewerblichen Eigentums, Vol 31, Nr 8 August 1932, Vol 31, Nr 8 August 1932

2. Mathias Remmele, Marcel Breuer: Design und Architektur, Vitra Design Museum, 2003

3. Christopher Wilk, Marcel Breuer: furniture and interiors, Museum of Modern Art New York, NY, 1981

4. Otakar Máčel, Der Freischwinger – vom Avantgardeentwurf zur Ware, Delft TU, 1992

5. Christopher Wilk, Marcel Breuer: furniture and interiors, Museum of Modern Art New York, NY, 1981

6. Mathias Remmele, Marcel Breuer: Design und Architektur, Vitra Design Museum, 2003

7. Otakar Máčel, Der Freischwinger – vom Avantgardeentwurf zur Ware, Delft TU, 1992

8. ibid

9. Alexander von Vegesack, Deutsche Stahlrohrmöbel : [650 Modelle aus Katalogen von 1927 – 1958], Bangert Verlag, Munich, 1986

10. Sebastian Neurauter, Das Bauhaus und die Verwertungsrechte : eine Untersuchung zur Praxis der Rechteverwertung am Bauhaus 1919 – 1933,Mohr Siebeck Verlag, Tübingen, 2013

11. ibid

12. Gewerblicher Rechtschutz und Urheberrecht. Zeitschrift des Deutschen Vereins für den Schutz des gewerblichen Eigentums, Vol 31, Nr 8 August 1932, Vol 31, Nr 8 August 1932

13. ibid

14. ibid

15. ibid

16. Otakar Máčel, Der Freischwinger – vom Avantgardeentwurf zur Ware, Delft TU, 1992

17. Mathias Remmele, Marcel Breuer: Design und Architektur, Vitra Design Museum, 2003

18. Christopher Wilk, Marcel Breuer: furniture and interiors, Museum of Modern Art New York, NY, 1981

19. Otakar Máčel, Der Freischwinger – vom Avantgardeentwurf zur Ware, Delft TU, 1992

20. Mathias Remmele, Marcel Breuer: Design und Architektur, Vitra Design Museum, 2003

Posted in Design Calendar, Designer, Producer, Thonet Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Ulisse Daybed by Konstantin Grcic for ClassiCon, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016
April 17th, 2016 by smow

To the casual observer selecting five outstanding products from the Milan Furniture Fair is a neigh on impossible task, so great is the number of potential candidates. “How”, asks our casual observer, “are you going to select just five?!?!”

For the seasoned attendee selecting five outstanding products from the Milan Furniture Fair is a neigh on impossible task, because the vast majority of articles on show are anything but outstanding. And those which are are invariably older, established products, and thus for the purposes of this column not applicable.

Milan Furniture Fair 2016 was an excellent example of just that: the majority of the new products were, for us, underwhelming, while many of those producers from whom one would/could have expect a shudder of illicit exhilaration mustered little more than a friendly, if knowingly apologetic, smile.

Which isn’t to say what was on display wasn’t good, wasn’t interesting, wasn’t valid. It often was. Just rarely outstanding.

There was however outstanding, and here our High Five! from Milan Furniture Fair 2016*

Officina Lounge Chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Magis

At Milan 2016 Magis unveiled an extensive extension of the Officina collection by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, including what we’re referring to as the Officina Lounge Chair: and for us an object which represents the ultimate expression of the ideas contained in the Officina Armchair. Don’t get us wrong we’re huge fans of the Officina Armchair, but with the extra width, the exaggerated proportions and the combination of leather and wrought iron the Officina Lounge is for us a much more natural, harmonious construction than the compact Armchair and one which has something primal, almost bestial, about it, albeit an unashamedly domesticated beast, and which makes it for us a very logical and appealing piece of work.

Officina Lounge Chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Magis, a sseen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

Officina Lounge Chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Magis, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

Stool 01 by Studio Daphna Laurens

Created as part of Eindhoven based design studio Daphna Laurens’ contribution to the Passionswege programme at Vienna Design Week 2012 the subtly named Stool 01 is by no means a new design, but is one which for us remains as fresh and exciting today as when we first saw in Vienna. And one which we passionately believe more people should have the opportunity to experience. For us the attraction lies in the ambiguity inherent in the object. In essence a very simple stool, Stool 01 is anything but; presenting as it does no clear guidelines as to how or where it is to be used. That is up to you. A situation intensified by the fact that as an object Stool 01 not only invites interaction but continually reveals new facets of its character and new possibilities depending on the conditions under which you approach it. Over the years we’ve seen Stool 01 on numerous occasions and in numerous locations, yet still have no idea how one should sit on it. That isn’t a simple stool, but is a very pleasing and rewarding piece of product design.

Stool 01 by Studio Daphna Laurensas seen at Salone Satellite, Milan Furniture Fair 2016

Stool 01 by Studio Daphna Laurens as seen at Salone Satellite, Milan Furniture Fair 2016

866 F Rocking Chair by Lydia Brodde, Thonet Design Team for Thonet

As a genre the rocking chair is largely defined by the classic “Windsor”, spindle, form or its more quadratic cousin, as to be found per auto-stereotype on your average American porch. Or it is some horrendous contemporary abomination of the sort that makes you wish for a new law punishing those responsible with long prison sentences. Between the two there isn’t a great deal of note to be found. The new-ish Thonet 866 F Rocking Chair offers just such an alternative. An extension of the Thonet 860 programme by Lydia Brodde from the Thonet Design Team, the 866 F benefits not only from the well considered and excellently proportioned form of the 860 collection, but also from Thonet’s long experience with rocking chairs: Michael Thonet was responsible for numerous rocking chair designs, whereby in addition to investing time and effort in developing filigree bentwood structures he also paid careful attention to the radii of his rockers. Detailed research in the Thonet archives and workshops has thus resulted in a curvature based on this tradition and which allows for a stable, secure and for all very pleasing rocking action.

866 F Rocking Chair by Lydia Brodde, Thonet Design Team for Thone, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

866 F Rocking Chair by Lydia Brodde, Thonet Design Team for Thonet, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

FRAM3 by Anna Weber

FRAM3 was for us one of those classic trade fair experiences. Walking around the stand where Burg Giebichenstein Halle Anna Weber was presenting her work, our attention kept coming back to it, yet we couldn’t explain why. And thus couldn’t decide if we liked it. Thought we probably did and so took a few photos. Away from the intensity of the fair and with the time and space to think about things we decided that, yes, we did and do like it. Or specifically we really liked/like one configuration of FRAM3. As an object FRAM3 is, as the name suggests, a metal frame which can used in one of three positions, and as a rectangular frame that means it can be used in any one of three heights depending on which edge is used as the base. A series of exchangeable inserts turn FRAM3 into a practical sideboard, table, etc….. and it was the metal insert with the indentation and thus an open invitation for book storage which especially caught our attention. We know, we know. Dust. Leave a book there for too long, it’s going to get dusty. Then don’t leave books there for too long. Life is that simple. Use it as space for temporary book storage, for example in the hall, kitchen, conservatory or office. And not just for books. The rim around the upper surface means that small items can be securely placed on top with the indent providing temporary ad-hoc space for scarves, jute bags, small packages, dog leads etc, etc, etc. Or books. In addition to the pleasing functionality FRAM3 is also an aesthetically pleasing piece of work; reduced without being unnecessarily filigree it has a robustness of character which it isn’t afraid to transmit and which it does without appearing uncouth.

FRAM3 by Anna Weber, as seen at Salone Satellite, Milan Furniture Fair 2016

FRAM3 by Anna Weber, as seen at Salone Satellite, Milan Furniture Fair 2016

Ulisse Daybed by Konstantin Grcic for ClassiCon

One of the joys of Konstantin Grcic’s work is you never know where it will take him next: something unashamedly, if competently, commercial; an artistic diversion; something that explores new formats, pushes horizons and thus expands the vocabulary of furniture design; or something that presents Konstantin Grcic the carpenter. The Ulisse Daybed for ClassiCon is a wonderful example of the latter. Presenting itself in an uncomplicated, reduced formal language, the real joy of the piece is the reclining mechanism; in essence a very simple, almost elementary, carpentry solution to a functional problem, yet one with a logical efficiency that is undeniably industrial. An excellently realised piece of carpentry, Ulisse, as with so much of Grcic’s oeuvre, references numerous historic objects while offering a new interpretation of the elegance and functionality for which they are acknowledged and beloved.

Ulisse Daybed by Konstantin Grcic for ClassiCon, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

Ulisse Daybed by Konstantin Grcic for ClassiCon, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2016

* with the proviso that:

(a) Given the 8,000,000 manufacturers presenting their wares in 20,000 halls and across three time zones, no we didn’t see everything, and invariably missed one or the other outstanding piece of work. We’ll catch up with them eventually though.

(B) This list only features works seen at the Milan Furniture Fair, Milan city isn’t the fair. It’s the city. Even if ever more producers try to muddy the waters and convince us otherwise.

Posted in ClassiCon, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Fuorisalone, Fuorisalone Milan Design Week, Magis, Milan Design Week, Producer, Thonet Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vis-a-vis by Glen Oliver Löw & Antonio Citterio for Vitra
April 10th, 2016 by smow

Born in Leverkusen Glen Oliver Löw initially studied Industrial Design at the University of Wuppertal before moving to Milan in 1986 where he completed a Masters degree at the Domus Academy. Following his graduation from the Domus Academy Glen Oliver Löw remained in Milan where he took up a position with Antonio Citterio, becoming a partner in the practice in 1990, and developing a wide range of projects for companies as varied as, amongst others, Vitra, Kartell and Flos.

In 2000 Glen Oliver Löw returned to Germany where he took up a professorial position at the Hochschule für bildende Künste, HFBK, in Hamburg and established a design studio in the city from where he has realised projects with clients such as Thonet, Steelcase and Knoll.

We met up with Glen Oliver Löw to discuss contemporary product design, 1980s Milan and the HFBK Hamburg, but began, as ever, by asking why design?

Glen Oliver Löw: As a child I had a strong affinity with design, was always building and creating, and so when it came time to decide on a direction industrial design was an obvious choice. What I especially enjoy is working as part of a team to develop meaningful, functioning products.

smow Blog: And why Wuppertal?

Glen Oliver Löw: It was a Hochschule which had a very good reputation, particularly in terms of practical skills, which at that time was what design was, creating objects for industrial production and at Wuppertal one received a very good basis in areas such as materials or production processes.

smow Blog: After Wuppertal you switched to the Domus Academy in Milan, which sound likes a dictionary definition of “culture shock”, why the decision for Milan?

Glen Oliver Löw: For me it was necessary, and important, after a fairly dry, technical, German education to see and to understand design in a cultural context, and I was lucky enough to get an Europa-Stipendium which enabled me to attend Domus. That was 1986 which was a very exciting, motivating time, Memphis, for example, were very present with their functionalism criticism and their anti position in terms classic product design. I was clearly on the side of the functionalists, and despite the influences I remained a functionalist, always form follows function, but it was a wonderful, exciting, environment to be in.

smow Blog: Interesting you say that because you were a student in Wuppertal as the neue Deutsche Design Welle was breaking across West Germany, did that leave you cold, did what was happening not interest you, or…..?

Glen Oliver Löw: I couldn’t stand all that, I found it gruesome – it never appealed to me. The Memphis aesthetic was however something which I found more interesting

smow Blog: You said that Milan in the mid 1980s was an exciting environment to be in, how is it when you visit Milan today, do you still feel a sense of energy, or has city and its design community changed, evolved with the years?

Glen Oliver Löw: Personally I don’t find it so exciting, that could however be to do with me! However in general I don’t find the contemporary industrial design discourse especially interesting. Back then completely new things were being created, new ideas advanced, there was genuine innovation, these days its more show, to make things different but not necessarily better. And specifically in terms of Milan in the 1980s it was an El Dorado for designers, there were a relatively large number of small and medium sized furniture producers and they all needed something innovative and creative in order to be competitive, and so there was a lot of possibilities for designers. Today I see a lot less innovation and creativity, and for all fewer companies prepared to take a risk and let a designer try something experimental, all prefer to play safe, to focus on that which has already proved itself, or more commonly what competitors have in their programme, rather than risking an investment in something new, and the consequence is that it is always the same designers who are commissioned to produce the same ideas over and over again.

smow Blog: Can you explain why that should be, is it because of a changed understanding of design, has the design market altered….?

Glen Oliver Löw: I have always been of the opinion that design begins with a problem. Today however a lot of design is self-involved – design for design’s sake. In many respects design has become similar to fashion, with the repetition of shortsighted trends. And on the other hand the affinity to objects is not there as it once was, the interest in an object. Everything today happens in media, and how things look is of secondary importance, the object as a physical entity is not so important today, functionality is much more understood in terms of usability. Man-Machine interaction.

smow Blog: And can we therefore assume that you also have the feeling the term design is becoming more vague, less defined?

Glen Oliver Löw: Absolutely, total ambiguous. Today everything is packaged under the term design, if, for example, someone works in a social context then one designs society or social processes. Today everything is design.

smow Blog: Having gone to Milan to study for a year, you remained for neigh on 15 years, principally cooperating with Antonio Citterio, how did that partnership arise?

Glen Oliver Löw: At that time he was looking for a German speaking designer to be responsible for the contact with Vitra. He asked at Domus, they suggested me and as Antonio Citterio was one of the few designers in Milan in those days who’d remained true to functionalism and hadn’t been seduced by Memphis, everything fitted perfectly. For me personally it meant that I started travelling to Basel, to Vitra, once a week and that was then when I truly began to understand how a design process functions and what it means to design in an industrial context.

smow Blog: And how was the design process with Antonio Citterio, was it the case that you developed a project and he said good or not good or was it a more joint approach?

Glen Oliver Löw: From the very beginning we worked very closely together, and then after I became a partner I was much more independent in what I did, but always in close cooperation with Citterio. I think we always had similar approaches and a similar understanding, I would say that I was probably always more interested in innovation and invention, so doing something new or different, whereas Citterio has a very good hand to take things that are already there and to reconfigure in a new and meaningful fashion.

smow Blog: In 2000 you left Milan, was that just a case of new millennium, new perspectives, or….

Glen Oliver Löw: After 13 years cooperation with Citterio the time was right to establish my own office, and the position here at the Hochschule offered the perfect opportunity. There were also personal, family, considerations, but at that time everything just seemed to indicate that a return to Germany was the correct decision, and so I took up the position here and established my own studio.

smow Blog: When we look at the HFBK the Design Department is, let’s say, very experimental, and then there is Professor Glen Oliver Löw as the representative of a more traditional form of design…

Glen Oliver Löw: I’m the dinosaur here, a remnant as it were of Industrial design. In the fifteen years that I’ve been here the design department has changed a lot. When I first came it was much more focussed on the forming of objects, so classic product design, it was understood that design was products, these days I have to fight my position a little harder. The new direction is much more social design, and objects are much more a peripheral aspect.

smow Blog: And what does that mean for the practicalities of the education here, can one for example still design a chair here as graduation project?

Glen Oliver Löw: The HFBK is an art school and all students study for a Bachelor in Fine Arts, within the course there is a focus Design and in terms of the practicalities it isn’t the case that the teaching staff stand at the front of the class and explain how things are, rather each student should find their own way. The aim is that every student develops their own theme, their own attitude and finds a subject in which they work and develop over the three years, and that could yes be product related, for example a chair. One of the great advantages of the HFBK is the fantastic workshops and workshop staff, facilities which mean that all our students have the opportunity develop a design into a functional object; but that is an opportunity that is not taken up as often as it once was, or at least not so often at a high level. When I first arrived here students were building, for example, functional solar aircraft in the workshops, today there is much more dilettantism: Gaffer tape is considered sexy and is regularly used in place of a refined technical detail.

smow Blog: Which we take to mean that not only has the design department changed over the years, but also the design student……?

Glen Oliver Löw: Their interests are certainly different, and they are also much younger, these days they often come straight from school, which is often too early. One regularly has the feeling a student doesn’t really know themselves what they want here, other than this all encompassing “design”, that they need a bit more experience, that they should first of all complete an apprenticeship to get a better understanding of things, because a four year course isn’t that much time to discover what you want.

smow Blog: When we speak to recent graduates they often articulate a wish that there had been more business elements in die education, how is the situation here, are such things taught?

Glen Oliver Löw: No, no, and that deliberately so! We are art school and as designers we are not interested in aligning design with economic aspects! Here, for example, Open Design is a big theme, everyone places their designs online and others can change them, adapt them, and that is obviously a completely different mentality to my generation where we all thought we’d invented something, sought to protect it and to earn money through licence fees.
Occasionally students do come to ask questions and I happily give tips and advice from my own experience on, for example, what is important with a contract or where one should take care when speaking with a client, and in such ways business elements do become part of the student’s education here. In principle I recommend all students undertake an internship or work in a design office in order to learn those elements of the profession which aren’t covered in the college in a professional context.
smow Blog: But were you taught such things at Wuppertal?

Glen Oliver Löw: No, we weren’t taught such things either, if I remember I think we had a course in copyright, but otherwise it was all learning by doing.

smow Blog: And does the situation arise that students come and say, I’ve got a chair design, would like to find a producer….. can you help me?

Glen Oliver Löw: That does occur, yes, and several projects developed here at the college are now in serial production. However often students over-estimate the potential of an academic, student, project. The primary aim of the education is not specific object but rather the gestaltende Individuum, the personal development.
I am in any case firmly of the opinion that one should always develop a project together with a producer. Personally I have never designed something and then looked to place it with a manufacturer, that rarely functions. However as a student or young designer you often have little other choice to try to draw attention to yourself and to attract the attention of a manufacturer.

smow Blog: In addition to your teaching work here you are also still developing furniture projects, is that something you still enjoy?

Glen Oliver Löw: Very much so, it is something which gives a great deal of satisfaction and which shows that classic product design is not dead, and that there is still an interest in a good functional product which functions globally and across cultural borders, and that despite everything functional design is still in demand.

smow Blog: Changing tact slightly, you’ve been in Hamburg for 15 years now, is Hamburg a creative city? Are there options for students here after graduation?

Glen Oliver Löw: Creative yes, but not one with much in terms of production or companies who can realise designs. As a city Hamburg is much more geared towards, for example, media or trading. However in our contemporary global economy designers don’t necessarily need to be based near to manufacturers.

smow Blog: And to end, is there one piece of advice you would give your students?

Glen Oliver Löw: To be successful as a designer requires a great passion for objects, the design process and an unconditional creative will. Design students who have to force themselves to create something, I would advise to consider a different path.

Think by Glen Oliver Löw for Steelcase

Think by Glen Oliver Löw for Steelcase

S 60 by Glen Oliver Löw for Thonet

S 60 by Glen Oliver Löw for Thonet

S 1070 by Glen Oliver Löw for Thonet

S 1070 by Glen Oliver Löw for Thonet

Battista by Glen Oliver Löw & Antonio Citterio for Kartell

Battista by Glen Oliver Löw & Antonio Citterio for Kartell

Vis-a-vis by Glen Oliver Löw & Antonio Citterio for Vitra

Vis-a-vis by Glen Oliver Löw & Antonio Citterio for Vitra

Posted in Designer, Interview, Kartell, Knoll, Office Furniture, Producer, Thonet, Vitra Tagged with: , , , , ,

KUULA by Uli Budde for Thonet & Oligo, as seen at IMM Cologne
February 5th, 2016 by smow

In the famous Thonet Card Catalogue from 1930/31 the image of the B 9 side table and B 25 lounge chair is augmented by a small lamp atop the B 9.

Whereas the Thonet B 25 and Thonet B 9 are credited to Marcel Breuer, there is no credit for the lamp. But then it isn’t a Thonet lamp. Thonet don’t do lamps. Thonet do tables, chairs, shelving and other furniture. Thonet don’t do lamps.

Or at least didn’t.

In 2010 Thonet released the LUM reading lamp by Ulf Möller as a floor version, adding a desk version in 2015, in April 2015 came the pendant lamp Linon by Andrea Scholz and at IMM Cologne 2016 Thonet officially unveiled the latest addition to the Thonet lighting programme: the table lamp KUULA by Berlin based designer Uli Budde.

KUULA by Uli Budde for Thonet & Oligo

KUULA by Uli Budde for Thonet & Oligo (Photo: Courtesy Thonet)

For us their is a delightful irony in the fact that Uli Budde is the designer. Not because Uli Budde can’t design lights. He most definitely can. As he has proven with works such as Hazy Day for Marset or Balloon for Vertigo Bird. But because in our recent interview with Uli Budde he told us that, much as he enjoys the challenge and speed of technological change in contemporary lighting design and while he doesn’t want to give up lighting design, he didn’t “want to be considered just as a lighting designer”

It was however this experience as a lighting designer which led to the commission.

“We’ve been in contact with Uli for a three or year years without ever discussing concrete projects”, explains Mirko Nordheim, Head of Product Development at Thonet, “normally when we start working with a designer I prefer to work on a side table, chairs are always judged subjectively, so do I find it comfortable, but with a table it’s all about hard facts, size, weight, price and so you get to know one another and to learn to work together on a more rational basis. With Uli however I like a lot of his existing lighting designs and for all the ideas behind them, and so we decided to ask Uli to consider how a Bauhäusler would design a lamp today, something which could be a functional but also decorative Thonet lamp”

The question was posed at Milan 2014, Uli Budde, somewhat unsurprisingly, found the offer “fantastic” and accepted the challenge, but where does one start when developing a lamp according to such a brief?

“First of all I researched Bauhaus lamps”, explains Uli Budde, “in general one associates Bauhaus with reduction, geometric forms and that was then where I stated. Clearly the first thought one has when one thinks about Bauhaus table lamps is the Wagenfeld Lamp and so that was then also an obvious starting point”

Was there, we venture, not a temptation to ignore what was already there, to avoid as it were the risk of being unduly influenced by existing objects?

“No, on the one hand Bauhaus is sill very relevant today and then on the other Bauhaus is so deeply burnt into our consciousness that ignoring Bauhaus wasn’t an option”, replies Uli Budde, “and so having researched the subject I decided to focus on trying to reduce the Wagenfeld design even further and to bring it more up-to-date through modern technology.”

The result is a lamp which is as reduced formally as it is materially.

Formally KUULA is a lot less ornate, less cluttered, than Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s lamp, much more reminiscent in many ways of Luciano Vistosi’s mushroom-esque Onfale lamp from 1931, if less fragile, less ornamental. This uncluttered feeling is aided and abetted by the decision to do away with both an on/off and a dimmer switch; both functions being combined in and with the cable inlet, thus not only allowing for a more reduced form but also saving on material and production steps. A resource reduction enhanced by the sober aluminium base.

If there is a hint of luxury and of excess about KUULA it is without question the manually sand-blasted, mouth blown glass globe, a true piece of craftsmanship and the defining, visual, element of the lamp. The decision for sand blasting over other, potentially less involved, processes being made to ensure an exact edge between the opaque and clear sectors of the globe and thus highlight the contrast and maximise the effect.

KUULA by Uli Budde for Thonet & Oligo, as seen at IMM Cologne

KUULA by Uli Budde for Thonet & Oligo, as seen at IMM Cologne

Taking its name from the Finnish word for ball/sphere, KUULA was developed in a cooperation between Thonet and the German lighting manufacturer Oligo – the former being responsible for the formal and aesthetic development the latter for the technical and functional, of which there is much contained within KUULA’s unassuming form.

Aside from the aforementioned combined switch/cable inlet, which as well as contributing to the aesthetic appeal of the lamp is also a very refined and logical functional solution, and thus a further nod to the Bauhaus tradition, the LED light source is located in the foot of the lamp and is precisely focussed by an internal lens so that it that only illuminates the sand-blasted section of the shade, thus guaranteeing a glare free light. In addition KUULA comes in three different light temperatures – homely warm white, warm white or neutral white – thus allowing for a luminescence fitting for any room, be that living room, hallway, bedroom, wherever.

And certainly a very fitting lamp to accompany a B 9 and B 25.

Further details on KUULA, and Uli Budde’s other projects, can be found at: http://ulibudde.com/

On/Off/Dimmer & cable inlet/outlet unified in KUULA by Uli Budde for Thonet & Oligo

On/Off/Dimmer & cable inlet/outlet unified in KUULA by Uli Budde for Thonet & Oligo (Photo: Courtesy Oligo)

KUULA by Uli Budde for Thonet & Oligo

KUULA by Uli Budde for Thonet & Oligo (Photo: Courtesy Thonet)

KUULA by Uli Budde for Thonet & Oligo

KUULA by Uli Budde for Thonet & Oligo (Photo: Courtesy Thonet)

Posted in Designer, Producer, Product, Thonet Tagged with: , , ,

Thonet @ IMM Cologne 2016
January 19th, 2016 by smow

As we noted in our post from the 2015 Garden Unique Youngstars competition, the contemporary outdoor furniture market is a largely forgotten world as far as quality design is concerned. And as we also noted, it needn’t be. At IMM Cologne 2016 Thonet are presenting with the new All Seasons collection their alternative vision.

Thonet @ IMM Cologne 2016

Thonet @ IMM Cologne 2016

The (hi)story of Thonet furniture is, as with the wider (hi)story of furniture design, essentially one of indoor furniture. Although not exclusively so. Thonet’s first foray out of doors came in 1935 with the B 33 g by Mart Stam: essentially Stam’s classic B 33 cantilever chair the “g” stood for Garten – Garden – and the object featured slats of beech in place of the more familiar solid plywood seat and backrest. Post war, rising financial standards combined with improved housing provision and changing social behaviour encouraged Thonet to release in 1952 the TF 82 folding garden chair by Kurt Felkel before in 1955 launching a series of garden chairs by Günther Eberle, none of which survived into the 1960s. In 1959 Thonet launched the ST 458 garden chair and ST 459 garden armchair by Hanno von Gustedt, chairs which as with those by Günther Eberle were only to remain the briefest of periods in production and which were to be, effectively, the company’s last outdoor chairs until in 1999 a re-edition of Stam’s B 33 g, renamed S 40, represented Thonet’s most recent foray into the world of outdoor furniture.

Not that the new All Seasons collection is a purely outdoor collection, as the name implies, and as everyone at Thonet is at great pains to point out, underscore and generally impress upon you: the collection is intended for “all seasons”, indoors and out. That which brings comfort and style to balmy spring/summer evenings in the garden, terrace or balcony, can be brought indoors in autumn and winter to bring comfort and style to cold afternoons and misty Sunday mornings in the living room, kitchen, conservatory, wherever.

And that the All Seasons chairs can be used indoors and out is not just because the Thonet sales team tell you they can, but because the All Seasons collection presents new versions of the S 33, S 34, S 35 & S 533 chairs – established Thonet classics and all originally intended for indoor domestic use.

S 33 N, from the Thonet All Seasons Collection, as seen at IMM Cologne 2016

S 33 N, from the Thonet All Seasons Collection, as seen at IMM Cologne 2016

The decision to re-work established classics for the All Seasons collection was not, as one could easily assume, a decision inspired by Mart Stam’s reworking of his B 33, but rather the result of a methodical analysis of status quo and challenge.

“Initially we undertook a research project on outdoor furniture” explains Miriam Püttner from the Thonet Design Team and project leader for the All Seasons collection, “in addition to looking at what was currently available and what already existed in the Thonet archive we also constructed numerous scenarios as to where one uses outdoor furniture and considered, for example, if we should develop single products or if a family of objects was a more sensible solution.” The results of this research project encompassed some 120 pages and came to the conclusion that the company should begin its new foray into outdoor furniture – yes, yes we know, all seasons furniture, but as objects they will, we feel, primarily be of interest for outdoor use – should start with a family of bent tubular steel classics, not least because they are objects with which many are familiar, which enjoy a large degree of popularity and which over the decades have proven their value in a range of settings.

“The initial task”, explains Miriam Püttner, “was to investigate which classics were potentially relevant, which were suitable for adaptation, in which context it was important for me that we made no structural changes to the pieces. The decision for the S 33, S 34, S 35 & S 533 was ultimately made on the basis that they are self-contained in their construction, with, for example, the S 32 the frame requires the wooden backrest for its stability, with the All Seasons collection we have exclusively steel tube chairs with a woven synthetic mesh for backrest and seat.”

S 35 N with, and without cushions, from the Thonet All Seasons Collection, as seen at IMM Cologne 2016

S 35 N with, and without cushions, from the Thonet All Seasons Collection, as seen at IMM Cologne 2016

Just as the decision for the classics came as a result of sober analysis so to the decision for the Batyline mesh seats and backrest. As a material Batyline is not only widely used in the furniture industry but also in construction as a façade covering; the decision to use it in the Thonet All Seasons collection being made on account of its durability, surface stability, UV and salt water resistance, factors which make it suitable for a wide range of outdoor uses, including yachts. Or perhaps more realistically, for sea front verandas. Similarly the specially developed ThonetProtect system via which the steel tubing is subjected to a multi-stage coating process, provides a level of protection akin to that offered by contemporary automotive lacquer, ensures a universality in the chairs use and deployment. Including yachts. In addition the selected Batyline collection offers a wide range of colour options, both bright and more reserved, colours which compliment and contrast nicely with the colour options for the frames, which aid and abet the indoor/outdoor usability and which as Miriam Püttner explains formed a central component of her deliberations on the direction the project was to take, “for me it was important to create for Thonet a new, fresh concept, and in context of furniture intended for outdoor use, colour plays a crucial role. They must be so selected and coordinated that they fit into the environment, function harmoniously together and also represent the brand.”

In addition to the chairs the Thonet All Seasons collection also includes new versions of the B 9, B 97 and S 1040 tables, including the option of a concrete table top; an option which not only provides a nice material contrast to the steel frames but much more, and being as it is a material which develops a patina and individual character through use, allows for outdoor furniture objects which will age and mature with you, and your kids, and their kids, their kids kids, etc, etc, etc… The Thonet All Seasons collection being, as with all Thonet furniture, objects for generations not seasons.

 S 34 N, from the Thonet All Seasons Collection, as seen at IMM Cologne 2016

S 34 N, from the Thonet All Seasons Collection, as seen at IMM Cologne 2016

That the new All Seasons collection has been developed in-house is very much in the tradition of Thonet garden furniture: the aforementioned Günther Eberle & Hanno von Gustedt both belonged, indeed led, the Thonet product development team, and both helped the company recover following the upheavals of the war years. Miriam Püttner is a more recent addition to the Thonet Design Team, having joined in 2015 following her graduation from the Hochschule Coburg; the All Seasons collection is the first project for which Miriam was responsible, which of course raises the question how is it as a young, relatively inexperienced, designer to be asked to re-work such established design classics by the likes of Breuer, Stam or Mies van der Rohe?

“At the beginning it was very difficult for me, they are classic designs, everybody knows them and I was very aware of the fact I can ruin them, I can damage the reputation of the objects and so I had a lot of respect for the commission”, explains Miriam, “however the nature of Thonet is that one has a lot of support, not only here in the design team where we have a lot of experience and where I can gather feedback when required, but also throughout the departments be that the upholstery workshop, the metal workshop or wherever, at Thonet there is a great sense of unity and togetherness and that makes such a job much easier.”

IMM Cologne 2016: Thonet All Seasons Collection

IMM Cologne 2016: Thonet All Seasons Collection

That the job was also made easier thanks to the objects already existing is undeniable, but not self-explanatory.

If we accept that “form follows function” was one of the guiding principles of those men and women who developed the first pieces of steel tube furniture, then we must also accept that “function” is subjective, respective, and very occasionally temporal. With his B 33 g Mart Stam demonstrated that the creation of good, functional, outdoor furniture requires a different design approach than that used to develop good, functional, indoor furniture. And with the All Seasons collection Miriam Püttner and the Thonet Design Team have demonstrated that the creation of good, functional, indoor and/or outdoor furniture requires yet a different approach.

We would concur with Miriam that it is very easy to ruin an object such as the S 33, very, very easy indeed. That the All Seasons collection doesn’t ruin the originals and works so effortlessly both as individual objects and a collection is not just because the objects are familiar but much more because in adapting them for outdoor use Miriam Püttner and the Thonet Design Team have demonstrated a respect for the originals, an understanding of the demands of contemporary furniture use and for all a comprehension of the task they were presented. The All Seasons collection doesn’t do anything revolutionary, but then it didn’t have to, no one was expecting it to redefine outdoor furniture for the 21st century; what it was expected to do was provide a family of contemporary furniture objects that can be used indoor and out, in a range of settings and contexts, and that it does with an effortless charm and grace which adds an extra dimension to the original objects.

If we have correctly understood the plan, and as ever we may not have, the All Seasons collection is but the start of a wider collection of Thonet outdoor furniture, a wider collection which is intended to include new, specially commissioned objects, as a start the All Seasons collection is not only functionally appropriate and aesthetically pleasing but very fitting for the Thonet tradition.

Full details on the Thonet All Seasons Collection can be found at www.thonet.de

 S 35 N & S 35 NH, from the Thonet All Seasons Collection, as seen at IMM Cologne 2016

S 35 N & S 35 NH, from the Thonet All Seasons Collection, as seen at IMM Cologne 2016

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, imm cologne, Producer, Product, Thonet Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

January 1st, 2016 by smow

Normally October is all about design festivals, October 2015 wasn’t. On the one hand we weren’t at that many this year, and on the other those we were at didn’t impress us that much.

What did impress us was the new collection by Ateliers J&J. Oh yes!

In addition October 2015 saw us consider questions of housing provision at Wohnungsfrage at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin, the oeuvre of Charles and Ray Eames at the Barbican Art Gallery in London and Art Nouveau at the Kunst und Gewerbe Museum in Hamburg.

Ateliers J&J, Brussels

Ateliers J&J – Collection 01 Evolution & Collection 02

Berlin Excavation by Lara Almarcegui, as seen at Wohnungsfrage, Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin

Berlin Excavation by Lara Almarcegui, as seen at Wohnungsfrage, Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin

KUULA table lamp by Uli Budde for Thonet & Oligo

KUULA table lamp by Uli Budde for Thonet & Oligo

A world of moulded fibreglass, as seen at The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Art Gallery London

A world of moulded fibreglass, as seen at The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican Art Gallery London

Nietzsche and Nudity. Two pillars of Art Nouveau

Nietzsche and Nudity. Two pillars of Art Nouveau, as see at Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

WA 24 Bauhaus Lamp by Wilhelm Wagenfeld Tecnolumen

smow blog Interview: Walter Schnepel, Tecnolumen – It is the reduction of a lamp to its basic elements that fascinates me most about the Wilhelm Wagenfeld Lamp.

Depot Basel Forum for an Attitude

Depot Basel Forum for an Attitude

Posted in A pictorial review, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Producer Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

December 21st, 2015 by smow

January being what it is we spent most of the month in Cologne attending the 2015 IMM Cologne Furniture Fair and the parallel Passagen Design Festival. The undisputed highlight of Passagen 2015 for us was the show case MAD ABOUT LIVING – 24 Designers from Brussels, which introduced us to numerous interesting Belgian creatives, and Ateliers J&J, who we feel certain will crop up a couple of times in the course of our review of 2015. In addition we were very impressed by the Objects in Between showcase, the Michele de Lucchi exhibition at the Kölnerkunstverein, the results of the Köln International School of Design project Die Metamorphose des Lagerfeuers at Kunstmuseum Villa Zanders and the new Thonet 808 lounge chair. smow Cologne meanwhile used the opportunity afforded by IMM to present dining tables from the portfolio of German manufacture ASCO.

Away from Cologne January 2015 also us saw us discover Piet Klaarhamer in Utrecht and explores borders of design and biology in Eindhoven

MAD ABOUT LIVING 24 Designers from Brussels

Passagen Cologne 2015: MAD ABOUT LIVING – 24 Designers from Brussels.

SYSTEM DESIGN Über 100 Jahre Chaos im Alltag at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln Thonet

Marcel Breuer for Thonet, as seen at SYSTEM DESIGN. Über 100 Jahre Chaos im Alltag, Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln

Klaarhamer according to Rietveld. Craftsman, frontrunner and innovator Centraal Museum Utrecht

A Piet Klaarhamer chair from 1928. No honest, it is Klaarhamer…… Honest! As seen at Klaarhamer according to Rietveld. Craftsman, frontrunner and innovator at the Centraal Museum Utrecht

Passagen Cologne 2015 Objects in Between

Passagen Cologne 2015: Objects in Between

Die Metamorphose des Lagerfeuers Villa Zanders Transacess Kitchen Kentaro Morita

Transacess Kitchen by Kentaro Morita, as seen at Die Metamorphose des Lagerfeuers, Villa Zanders

Passagen Cologne 2015 A&W Designer of the Year 2015 Michele De Lucchi The Exhibition

A&W Designer of the Year 2015 – Michele De Lucchi. The Exhibition

Matter of Life Growing new Bio Art Design at MU Gallery Eindhoven Common Flowers Flower Commons Shiho Fukuhara & Georg Tremmel

Common Flowers – Flower Commons by Shiho Fukuhara & Georg Tremmel, as seen at Matter of Life. Growing new Bio Art Design at MU Gallery Eindhoven

IMM Cologne 2015 Thonet relax

IMM Cologne 2015 – the new Thonet 808 Lounge Chair… and relax

Posted in A pictorial review, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Producer Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Unfold by Uli Budde for A.E. Koechert, Vienna
October 27th, 2015 by smow

We were first introduced to the work of Berlin based designer Uli Budde when we saw his “Reading Table” project at Designers Fair 2010 in Cologne. A delightfully simple object Reading Table combines table top and magazine/newspaper storage space in a manner that is as painfully obvious as it genial. An easily accessible, contemporary object the fact that no producer has seen fit to take it into production is one of those design mysteries which often keep us awake at night.

Having begun his design studies at the FH Potsdam Uli Budde moved to Eindhoven in 2003 to undertake an exchange semester at the Design Academy, a semester that extended into a six year stay in Holland, including two years in Rotterdam with Hella Jongerius, initially as an intern and later as a full staff member. While in Holland Uli Budde also established the studio Officeoriginair with Dutch designer Ivan Kasner, a vehicle through which the pair have realised numerous product design projects, mainly, though not exclusively, small household accessories.

In 2009 Uli Budde returned to Germany and established his own studio in Berlin from where he has realised lighting design projects for, amongst others, Vertigo Bird, Marset and most recently the lamp KUULA created in cooperation Thonet & the German lighting manufacturer Oligo. A particular highlight for us from Uli Budde’s portfolio is and was the necklace Unfold which he created for A.E. Köchert in context of the 2011 Passionswege programme at Vienna Design Week. Seeking a new representation of the classic jeweller’s diamond, Uli Budde created a moulded 18 carat gold impression of an unfolded out diamond; and thus transformed that most permanent and mystic of luxury objects into something transient, fragile and denuded.

We met up with Uli Budde to discuss Eindhoven, the current design market and Berlin as a creative city, began however, as always, by asking what led him to design….

Uli Budde: I think it was the desire to work creatively, to produce things and for all to translate something from an idea into something solid. From a relatively early age I was interested in product design and architecture, applied to study both, was accepted for both, but ultimately decided for product design because I considered the proportions, the dimensions, more pleasant, practical and interesting.

smow blog: You initially studied at Potsdam, however spent your final semester at, and ultimately graduated from, Design Academy Eindhoven, can we deduce that Potsdam was not to your liking, or…..?

Uli Budde: No, Potsdam was very good, however I was keen to spend a semester overseas. I investigated which schools were attracting positive attention, and the concept at Eindhoven interested me, largely because it was so different to the approach on Potsdam. And then once I got to Eindhoven it became clear to me that there was more than one way to study design, more than one perspective on the subject and that was a very positive experience for me. And in retrospect I’m glad I had both experiences and think I have assimilated and combined aspects from both.

smow blog: And did you experience Eindhoven as a creative city or…..

Uli Budde: Yes, I found it a very creative city and believe it is now more so than it was then because the city has successfully managed to retain the students once they graduate. That process began round about the time I was there, when the city began to actively question why they were letting all this creative potential leave, asking how can we keep them here, stop them moving to Rotterdam or Amsterdam, and subsequently decided to make ateliers and flats available at affordable, realistic, prices and that had the effect that many more graduates remained in the city and I believe that the city has profited from that fact.

smow blog: You are of course one of those Eindhoven graduates who moved to Rotterdam. Was that decision principally linked with the internship with Hella Jongerius Lab, or what convinced you to stay in Holland after your graduation…..

Uli Budde: The principle reason was that in Eindhoven I found in Ivan Kasner a colleague with whom the cooperation functioned excellently, on both a personal and professional level we understood one another very well, and so we decided to open a joint studio, Officeoriginair. In addition I found it a very interesting challenge to remain longer in Holland, not simply to return to Germany as soon as I had finished, and then there was of course the Jongerius Lab, and so because everything fitted it was a fairly easy decision to remain.

smow blog: You returned to Germany in 2009, Officeoriginair is still based in Holland, are you still involved, or is that something you have moved on from?

Uli Budde: Officeoriginair still exists, we still work together, still develop new projects, but my focus has moved to my own work and under my name. It does sometimes arise that I have an idea which I subsequently consider is more suitable for Officeoriginair than Uli Budde, but my focus is my own work.

smow blog: In that context, you’ve been active as a professional designer for, more or less, ten years, in your opinion have things got easier or harder over that decade?

Uli Budde: In my view it has become more difficult largely because today many companies are simply not prepared to invest in projects and co-operations, are not prepared to pay for the work of a product designer. In addition there are currently too many designers for too little work which all leads to a situation of undercutting: there is always someone who will do it for less, or nothing. And as a consequence the development process of designers slows because rather than concentrating on developing their own projects, and developing as designers, ever more designers have to look elsewhere for a source of income.

smow blog: And is that do you think a market problem, and industry problem or……?

Uli Budde: In my opinion the problems experienced by many firms became more serious after 2008, 2009, where everything was falling apart. It was very apparent that many companies became insecure, were unsure how best to proceed and consequently it not only became much harder for designers in terms of securing sensible licensing fees, but many producers decided to save completely on new developments and thus the associated risks.

smow blog: Interesting that you say that because our impression is that there are ever more manufacturers. However more manufacturers doesn’t mean more market, or…….?

Uli Budde: Not necessarily. A lot of the new manufacturers were founded after 2008 and my impression is that in many cases designers have established their own labels as a response to the general market situation, and for all the lower fees, and decided that rather than rely on the couple of percent the existing manufacturers were offering is it not more sensible to establish your own label and so retain a larger proportion of the pie.

smow blog: In your case with Officeoriginair you only cooperated with partners, also as “Uli Budde” all your works are released in cooperation with manufacturers, were there ever considerations on your part to go into self-production? Are there still?

Uli Budde: There were considerations in context of Officeoriginair, and also with with my own work there were recurring phases when I considered if it might not be a sensible route, but ultimately I have decided to concentrate on co-operations with producers because my strength is in creative processes and not marketing, distribution, purchasing etc

smow blog: And returning briefly to the current market, how do you see the future development?

Uli Budde: I think that, and as always with such situations, there will inevitably be changes in the market, some producers will survive and others will either vanish or will be taken over. In addition one must add that the willingness to take risks is slowly increasing, I think many firms have realised that stagnation brings nothing and that they need to find new approaches and develop new ideas in order to set themselves apart and so survive. I don’t think the situation is a positive as before the crisis, but there are I believe positive signs.

smow blog: And so does that mean that it is perhaps more important as a designer to have fewer products with one producer who you know sells, sells consistently, and thus pays, rather than have numerous products with a large number of partners?

Uli Budde: I think so, but is was potentially always the case that working with only one or two manufacturers over a long period was the more secure option, but that is clearly a luxury situation and in the reality one is sometimes forced to take on something with a smaller, newer producer and risk that something comes of it and that the product actually stays in production for a prolonged period and isn’t discontinued after a couple of years. But I would definitely say it is better to work with only a few, good, producers where there is a professional basis based on mutual respect.

smow blog: Changing tact a little, from your time in Potsdam and the past five years in Berlin, have you noticed changes in the Berlin creative community over the past decade or so?

Uli Budde: It has definitely become more professional. Not only are there more designers in Berlin but ever more who are working with large international partners. Ten years ago that wasn’t the case, then there were maybe two or three studios who worked with good, renowned companies, and that is now significantly higher, and that is a situation which without question benefits the Berlin creative community as a whole because if more people are looking to Berlin more often that can only be good for us all.

smow blog: In terms of your own work you said that the focus is now your own work, until now that has, at least in terms of commercial products, been lighting, can we expect more furniture work in the future?

Uli Budde: Yes, definitely, albeit without wanting to lose touch with lighting, because it is something I enjoy and which on account of the speed at which technology is evolving is a very interesting subject where one is always challenged to find new solutions, however I don’t want to be considered just as a lighting designer and there are furniture projects currently in development, with good, reliable producers and which should be released in the not to distant future.

More information on Uli Budde and his work can be found at http://ulibudde.com

Posted in Designer, Interview, Producer, Thonet Tagged with: , , , ,

thonet 214 chair 14 Michael Thonet
July 10th, 2015 by smow

“The essence of the Thonetschen invention is that when bending a steamed piece of wood the neutral layer is relocated to the upper, convex, surface of the curved wood. If any cylindrical or prismatic body is bent, the upper layers are extended, the lower, concave, layer compressed, so shortened, and only one layer, namely that which passes through the centre of mass of the cross section, remains in the original length. Thus in this type of ordinary wood bending the upper, convex, lying part is stretched and tends to splinter. Thonet firmly attaches to that side of the not yet bent piece of wood which should ultimately be outermost, a sheet-metal strip; that the metal strip undergoes but a negligible extension during bending, the wood situated directly below the metal strip is forced to compress, to shorten. Therein alone exists the essence of the Thonetschen invention.”1

So surmised in 1875 Professor W.F. Exner from the Technologisches Gewerbemuseum Vienna the nature of the warm 3D wood bending process for which Michael Thonet received a patent on July 10th 1856. And which is still practised by Thonet to this day.

Or put another way:

Or yet another way:

Thonet 214 by Michael Thonet, (originally known as Chair 14)

Thonet 214 by Michael Thonet – originally known as Chair 14, and produced since 1859 via the process patented by Michael Thonet in 1856

1. W.F. Exner, Studien über das Rothbuchenholz, Wien, 1875 quoted in Peter Ellenberg, “Gebrüder Thonet – Möbel aus gebogenem Holze”, Verlag Theo Schäfer, Hannover, 1999

Posted in Design Calendar, Designer, Producer, Thonet Tagged with: , , ,

The 360° Stool by Konstantin Grcic for Magis (2009) and the Nelson Perch by George Nelson through Vitra (1964)
June 2nd, 2015 by smow

On March 10th 2015 a jury at the Central District Court of California in Los Angeles concluded that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke had relied a little too heavily on Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up” when composing their track “Blurred Lines”. For infringement of Gaye’s copyright the court ordered Williams and Thicke to pay Marvin Gaye’s estate $7.4 million dollars.

Responding to the judgement Pharrell Williams mused in the Financial Times that “the verdict handicaps any creator out there who is making something that might be inspired by something else” and that in his opinion the case could lead to creative industries “frozen in litigation”1

And to a degree he has a point.

The history of music is a history of taking concepts developed by one composer and developing them further, of being inspired by other musicians. Those who go their own way either being lauded as genii or damned as fools.

Which of course got us thinking…..

For just as the history of music is largely built on inspiration, homage and developing the ideas of others, so to is the history of furniture design.

Michael Thonet Boppard Bench 1836 1842

The so called Boppard Bench by Michael Thonet from ca. 1836

As a prime example of furniture design’s traditions, the father of the modern furniture industry Michael Thonet began by re-creating established forms of the day; a training which helped him develop his own understanding of form, aesthetics and functionality, before with his 3D steamed bentwood forming he created not only a new process for industrial chair production but with the subsequent Chair 14 one of the most successful and popular chairs of all time. In a similar vein the Godfather of Danish modernism, the architect and furniture designer Kaare Klint, was firmly of the opinion that historic furniture models provided everything that one needed for developing modern, functional furniture, one just had to develop them further and in context of the modern age. A position his pupils, including Hans J Wegner and Børge Mogensen, more than eloquently demonstrated in many of their own works. And which is continually demonstrated by contemporary designers. Konstantin Grcic‘s 360° Stool for Magis, for example, must be considered more as a development of George Nelson‘s 1964 Perch in a new material and for a new age, than a new product genre per se, while according to Italian manufacturer Mattiazzi Jasper Morrison‘s Fionda chair is inspired by a Japanese camping chair owned by Morrison: a quick look at Snow Peak’s Take! chair being sufficient to understand what is meant. And where would contemporary design be without the Shakers? A religious sect they may be, but their simple approach to architecture and furnishings has inspired, and continues to inspire, untold designers and architects.

Aside from being inspired by individual objects or product genres, designers are also regularly inspired by the way their contemporaries use production processes, just as musicians are regularly inspired by the way their contemporaries use new technology or new understandings of rhythm and composition. Michael Thonet’s 3D steamed bentwood process, for example, owes more than a passing note of gratitude to boat building, while Alvar Aalto was famously introduced by his business partner Otto Korhonen to a plywood moulding process used by Tallinn based manufacturer Luterma for the production of tram seats. Recognising the potential of the process Aalto took the Estonian methods and developed them further – technically and formally – applied them in context of site specific commissions and created something new, and something which itself went on to provide inspiration for the likes of Marcel Breuer, Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen, Egon Eiermann, Arne Jacobsen and neigh on every designer since.

Børge Mogensen FDB Chair Danish Museum of Art and Design Copenhagen

On the left a 1940s chair by Børge Mogensen. On the right an 18th/19th century English Windsor style chair

A further parallel with the music industry is that just as most commercially successful musicians generally arise from a scene of artists doing very similar things, so to does one regularly find several designers working on similar concepts at the same time. Some with more lasting success than others. Such can be considered the case with, for example, the cantilever chairs of Mart Stam, Marcel Breuer, Mies van der Rohe and the Brothers Rasch. All knew one another, yet all developed their own projects according to their own understanding of aesthetics and how best to solve the problem at hand. Similarly, Hans Knoll allegedly almost didn’t release Harry Bertoia’s Diamond Chair because of the similarities to the Eames DKR Wire Chair and his fear that people would accuse Knoll and Bertoia of copying the Eames’s and Herman Miller2. Even though there was no suggestion that they had. Egon Eiermann and Wilde + Spieth had no such qualms with the SE 3 from 1949, a work known today as the SE 42, and a work that bears a more than passing similarity to the Eames DCW, yet which was, as with Bertoia’s Diamond Chair, developed independently of the Eames’s, if with knowledge of what they were doing; and where importantly, and as Arthur Mehlstäubler is at great pains to point out, when one looks at details such as the way seat and frame are connected, the formally more open Eames construction compared with the more compact Eiermann chair or indeed simply the number of legs, the differences can be considered to outweigh the otherwise apparently obvious similarities.3

Then of course there is genuine homage, works which don’t claim to be anything but a loving eulogy to an existing work. Franz Volhard‘s table Egon through Nils Holger Moormann, for example, is a cheeky, self-confident solid wood reinterpretation of Egon Eiermann’s classic tubular steel table frame: and one which through its unmissable, almost overly obvious, simplicity serves to underscore just how good Eiermann’s original idea is and was. Or Rudolf Horn’s 1962 Conferstar Club Chair, a chair developed because Rudolf Horn found Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair so uncomfortable, and was so disappointed by the sitting experience, he felt almost honour bound to improve it.

mies van der rohe barcelona chair rudolf horn conferstar club chair

The Barcelona Chair by Mies van der Rohe (1929) and the  Conferstar club chair by Rudolf Horn (1962)

Pure plagiarism is, naturally, another thing altogether. Not only because plagiarism denies creatives the rightful rewards of their work, but, and at least in terms of furniture if not music, the copies are often not only inferior quality, but potentially dangerous, as our smow Australian cousins recently demonstrated with their Tolix stool tests.

However, as all the above examples indicate, the line between inspiration/homage and plagiarism is very, very fine.

Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke continue to argue that they haven’t crossed that line and have formally requested a retrial. Their lawyers see hope for a successful appeal based on the fact that the jury were only supposed to asses the sheet music versions of the two compositions, were however played both tunes and so, potentially, formed their opinion based on what they heard not what they read. A small but important difference, also in context of the furniture industry.

The score is how a song is constructed, contains the musician’s intentions, explains the relationships between the various components and gives an indication as to how competently, or otherwise, the composer masters the essentials of their craft: the audio version is how it is subsequently styled, a process generally not undertaken by the songsmith alone but rather in cooperation with a producer, engineer and record company.

Similarly with furniture what one generally buys is the styling; only very rarely is the final market version an exact 1:1 replication of the designer’s original version, but is invariably an industrial producible adaptation created in conjunction with the manufacturer. And, yes, and as with music, when the publishers intention is profit over content this tweaking can all to often be aimed towards creating an end result that conforms to a current standard and/or a particular lifestyle t***d.

However, and ignoring for the time being such unpleasantness and the monotony that results, the construction principle on which the project is based, the choice of material, the intention and inspiration behind the original idea and the competence, or otherwise, with which that is then developed into a finished model, that is the real work that a designer undertakes: and ultimately is the difference between a copy and an original.

A copy lacks any sense of authorship, any semblance of character, being as it is simply a soulless generic construction conferring the visual impression of a successful designer piece and an object created purely to confuse the unwary into believing they are buying something other than that what the ultimately receive. A cynical ploy to blur the lines and make profit at the expense of others.

And so, and to come back to our original question, what if Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke designed furniture?

No, let’s not, let’s just be grateful they don’t…….

1. Matthew Garrahan, “Pharrell Williams warns of copycat litigation wave” Financial Times March 19th 2015

2. George Nelson, The age of modern design, Architectural Record Mid-February 1982

3. Arthur Mehlstäubler, “Egon Eiermann – der deutsche Eames?” in Sonja Hildebrand & Annemarie Jaeggi, “Egon Eiermann (1904 – 1970). Die Kontinuität der Moderne”,  Hatje Cantz, 2004

The 360° Stool by Konstantin Grcic for Magis (2009) and the Nelson Perch by George Nelson through Vitra (1964)

The 360° Stool by Konstantin Grcic for Magis (2009) and the Nelson Perch by George Nelson through Vitra (1964)

The DCW plywood chair by Charles and Ray Eames through Vitra (1945) and the SE 42 by Egon Eiermann for Wilde + Spieth (1949)

The DCW plywood chair by Charles and Ray Eames through Vitra (1945) and the SE 42 by Egon Eiermann for Wilde + Spieth (1949)

Self inspiration: The Uncino chair Mattiazzi by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Mattiazzi and the Officina chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Magis

Self inspiration: The Uncino chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Mattiazzi (2013) and the Officina chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Magis (2015)

Posted in Designer, Knoll, Magis, Moormann, Producer, Product, Vitra, Wilde + Spieth Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Programme S 830 by Emilia Becker for Thonet, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2015
April 22nd, 2015 by smow

Back in the hazy mists of 2014 the Grassi Museum for Applied Arts, Leipzig presented Sitting – Lying – Swinging. Furniture from Thonet, an exhibition which provided a leisurely stroll through 150 years of Thonet chair design and helped explain the evolution of the company’s designs over the decades, including why Thonet lost their way in the 1980s and how from the late 1990s onwards they regained their position as one of Europe’s leading contemporary furniture producers.

And an exhibition which for Thonet became the motivation to explore their extensive back catalogue in more detail.

And it is an extensive back catalogue. So extensive that we suspect no one really knows just how deep and wide and tall it is.

Re-working the back catalogue isn’t a new concept for Thonet, recent years having seen in addition to occasional limited edition versions of archive pieces the release of the S 1520, S 1521 & S 1522 hat rack/coat rack/shoe rack family, a complete re-working and updating of a 1930s product range. In the wake of the Grassi exhibition however Thonet undertook a more critical evaluation of the catalogue, and rather than simply re-working and updating existing products worked much more conceptually with the aim of creating functional, contemporary objects from the spirit of the collection past.

To this end three projects were undertaken, one looking at sofas, one at steel tube lounge furniture and one at solid wood lounge furniture, each under the leadership and guidance of a member of the Thonet Design Team and all unveiled at Milan Furniture Fair 2015.

Thonet Programme S 650 Sabine Hutter, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2015

Programme S 650 by Sabine Hutter for Thonet, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2015

For us the highlight of the new projects is and was the S 650 programme. Developed by Sabine Hutter from a 1950s concept the S 650 is an impressively reduced sofa/armchair family, the individual seating elements of which can be combined and joined via a table element to create a unitary seating system. Although unashamedly quadratic the S 650 is a very svelte and unobtrusive object whose classic lines and mix of steel tubing and generous upholstery give it an accessible, welcoming character. A contemporary product family which we suspect will find much more use in commercial/office/object situations than domestic, a particular joy of the S 650 is the elegantly nonchalant armrests; armrests which despite their functional and formal importance, really don’t seem to care. An offhandedness which expunges all sense of gravitas from the chairs and so adds to the programme’s easy charm.

Formally much more imposing is the S 830 armchair programme by Emilia Becker. Based around a more or less tear drop shaped seat shell, albeit a tear drop shaped seat shell which has been brutally and unforgivingly rectilinearly cut, the S 830 makes it very clear where and how you should sit. Yet follow this less than subtle invitation and you will discover an excellently proportioned and formally well considered lounge chair which provides for a very pleasing, supportive, relaxing seating experience. It’s a bit like good cop/bad cop – but where both cops have, despite their differing, conflicting natures, hearts of gold. Being a programme rather than product the S 830 comes with a choice of bases, specifically a steel tube frame or a standing swivel foot. Particularly effective for us being the coloured steel tube version with the two tone upholstery.

Programme S 830 Emilia Becker Thonet, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2015

Programme S 830 by Emilia Becker for Thonet, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2015

Thonet however do more than bent tubular steel, they also do bent wood. And unbent, solid, carpentered wood. Yes they do! And while you admittedly do have to be very familiar with the current Thonet portfolio to know that, a quick flick through the Grassi exhibition catalogue confirms that solid wood chairs have more or less always been an integral part of the Thonet (hi)story. And perhaps it is this popular unfamiliarity that makes the S 860 family by Lydia Brodde initially so striking. Get over the initial shock of seeing such a product in a Thonet collection and you quickly appreciate not only the attention to detail in the design but the quality of workmanship and materials. Combine such construction factors with a formally very open yet robust optic and you have a contemporary lounge chair which does nothing more spectacular than provide a comfortable and practical place to sit. And as already noted, as an end customer that is all we want. If we can do it with the degree of carefully considered grace afforded by the S 860, so much the better. The matching ottoman meanwhile adding not only an extra level or three of comfort, but also functioning as a stool, thus giving you a delightful two for one deal.

Thonet Programme 860 Lydia Brodde, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2015

Programme 860 by Lydia Brodde for Thonet, as seen at Milan Furniture Fair 2015

Back in context of the Leipzig exhibition we noted “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”.” The new S 830, S 650 and S 860 programmes achieve just that, functionally, formally and aesthetically.

And also ably prove that furniture producers don’t always need to do “new”.
That said, we do feel obliged to repeat an observation we made in relation to the S 1520, S 1521 and S 1522; “Fortuitously just as Iceland’s fisherman don’t try to maximise profit by catching as many fish as possible as quickly as possible, so to do Thonet choose not to raid the archive every couple of months in the hope of cashing in, rather treat it with great respect

One can over egg a pudding, over fish an ocean and over revive a back catalogue. New products are also important, and especially for Thonet if they are ever to lead a third furniture design revolution!

The new sofa 2002 by Christian Werner which Thonet also unveiled in Milan isn’t that new revolution, but is a fascinating new addition to the Thonet portfolio.

Even if to be honest we’re still not entirely convinced by it.

On the one hand we’re captivated by its ease, simplicity, honesty, straightforwardness and the way it references almost the complete 150 years of Thonet.

On the other hand, we can’t help feeling it is too obvious, too easy, too straightforward and ultimately an object that has too little distance to the rest of the Thonet portfolio to be able to fully develop its own, autonomous, identity. Or is that just us, cynically, looking for problems? A reason to criticise?

Fortunately we have a lot more time to reflect and consider.

For furniture isn’t about instant gratification, that’s clothing. Furniture, like music, should be a relationship that develops, matures and deepens over the years, decades, or in the case of Thonet, centuries.

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Fuorisalone, Fuorisalone Milan Design Week, Milan Design Week, Office Furniture, Producer, Product, Thonet Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

IMM Cologne 2015 Thonet relax
January 29th, 2015 by smow

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

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, imm cologne, Producer, Product, Thonet Tagged with: , , , ,

December 25th, 2014 by smow

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

Posted in Artek, Designer, Producer, smow, Thonet, Vitra Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

December 24th, 2014 by smow

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

Posted in Architecture, Bauhaus, Designer, Producer, smow, Thonet, USM Haller, Vitra Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Thonet Orgatec Köln S 160 S 170 S 180 Delphin Design
October 28th, 2014 by smow

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

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Office Furniture, orgatec, Producer, Product, Thonet Tagged with: , , , , ,

smow thonet wagenfeld promotion
May 6th, 2014 by smow

“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.com

smow thonet wagenfeld promotion

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

Posted in Designer, Producer, Product, smow, Tecnolumen, Thonet Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

1875 Swivel Ofiice Chair by Gebrüder Thonet Vienna Grassi Leipzig
May 1st, 2014 by smow

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.

Posted in Designer, Producer, Product, smow blog compact, Thonet Tagged with: , ,

Sitzen Liegen Schaukeln Möbel von Thonet Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst Leipzig
April 16th, 2014 by smow

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 www.grassimuseum.de

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Producer, Product, Thonet Tagged with: , , , ,

Hans J Wegner and Johannes Hansen JH550 PP550 The Peacock Chair
March 31st, 2014 by smow

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)

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

The Kramer Principle Design for Variable Use Museum Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt am Main undated prototype upholstered cantilever chair
March 28th, 2014 by smow

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 www.museumangewandtekunst.de

Posted in Bauhaus, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Office Furniture, Producer, Product, Thonet Tagged with: , ,

(smow) blog compact IMM Cologne Special Thonet S 1200 desk Randolf Schott Thonet Design Team
January 24th, 2014 by smow

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

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, imm cologne, Producer, Product, smow blog compact, Thonet Tagged with: , , , ,

IMM Cologne 2014 Stylepark Featured Editions Zoom Loris & Livia Wogg
January 17th, 2014 by smow

When in our preview of IMM Cologne 2014 we referred to it as marking the opening of the European design circus, we had no idea that it was a circus with a fairground.

Sadly the carousel incorporating Zeitraum’s Pelle chair seat shells was not there to provide adrenaline rushes.

Only visual thrills as part of the 2014 Featured Editions programme.

Premièred as a concept at IMM Cologne 2013 and curated by the online portal Stylepark, Featured Editions is a collection of installations in which designers/artists/architects present a design object in a playful, conceptual way. Some of the installations attempt, and indeed achieve, a genuinely artistic discourse with the objects; others suggest a creative under time pressure and an organisation prepared to accept anything just as long as the presentation is ready on time.

A mix which doesn’t in anyway distract from the fun of the concept.

In addition to the Pelle carousel other works include a diving Sharky chair from Kristalia, a String ladder and the most bestial evisceration of the Charles and Eames DKR Wire chair, or indeed any chair, we’ve ever witnessed

Aside from providing a pleasing distraction from the high-glare of the companies stands and the all to often uninspired and dry presentations to be found thereon, the Featured Editions installations also provide a handy place to have a seat and relax for a few minutes.

All good clean fun and an excellent addition to the IMM Cologne package.

Our gallery:

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, imm cologne, Producer, Product, Vitra Tagged with: , , , ,

Thonet S 1200 IMM Cologne 2014
January 6th, 2014 by smow

On Monday January 13th the European design circus rolls into the new year with the opening of IMM Cologne 2014 and Passagen 2014, and against our natural inclinations we’ll be there, or as Ride so nearly put it;

“If we’ve seen it all before,
Why’s this train taking us back again?
If we don’t need anymore,
Why’s this train taking us back again?”

Yes, the rent has to be paid. But there are easier ways to earn a living than spending a week in January on the banks of the Rhein questioning your own existence as you’re confronted by yet another piece of soulless furniture whose singular raison d’être is to fill a perceived gap in a company’s portfolio. Regardless of what that means for the environment or global social harmony.

Yes, (smow) now have a shop in Cologne, but they also have a shop in Chemnitz and we’ve never felt any great need to spend time in the wilds of south Sachsen.

However, and much like Milan, although we don’t “need” anymore, we want more. We know that amongst all the dross, junk and criminally unnecessary we will find one or the other project that restores our faith in the design profession. A project that genuinely excites and challenges us. And we want that. We want those moments.

And although we’re not expecting to find such moments at IMM Cologne itself, a few of the new products that have been publicised in advance certainly appear to be worth closer inspection. In particular the new S 1200 desk by Thonet.  Formally it does remind us of the PS 07 Bureau by Delphin Design that Müller Möbelfabrikation launched at IMM Cologne 2013; however the wooden desk top and the split level storage space make it an object that can be more easily used in domestic situations. And it has a footrest bar. An underrated yet so simple feature of a good, practical, user-friendly desk.

Artek meanwhile are promising, amongst other new additions, a re-release of Yrjö Kukkapuro’s 1964 Karuselli lounge chair and the tables 907B and 915 by Alvar Aalto. A further foci for us is seeing how Wilde+Spieth follow up 2013’s successful launch of the CU! chair by Avinash Shende, and then of course there are those delightful, unannounced, unexpected discoveries. Which as we all know are often the best. Most satisfying.

Thonet S 1200 IMM Cologne 2014

The new Thonet S 1200. To be unveiled at IMM Cologne 2014

Away from the fair ground the Passagen design festival looks a bit weaker, more sparse, than in previous years, but still promises some interesting shows. For all country specific shows. Italian Style at the Italienisches Kulturinstitut, Dutch Design at the Handwerkskammer zu Köln, Modern Japanses Design at the Japanisches Kulturinstitut and in the Belgisches Haus Flanders design as represented by Cas Moor and the ever amiable Atelier Bonk.

Elsewhere we’re delighted to see the organisers of last years Objects for the Neighbour are back this year with a slightly larger show under the title Objects and the Factory; the exhibition Alle Metalle/all metal promises to present contemporary and classic metal design objects, could fall flat on its nose, but looks well worth checking out; Jack in the box e.V. are hosting a couple of interesting looking presentations – and some urban gardening boxes; and we’re really looking forward to Stefan Wewerka: Denkmöbel at Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft. Ungers Archiv isn’t the roomiest exhibition space in Cologne, but looks like being one of the more thought provoking and educational.

And then there is the USM Haller exhibition Facetten at (smow) Köln, “Mit Grüßen aus Istanbul” featuring works by design students from the FH Dortmund created in Istanbul’s craft quarter Sishane and of course Werner Aisslinger’s inauguration as A&W Designer of the year 2014 with accompanying exhibition(s).

As we say there are more pleasant things to do in January than travel to Cologne, but it does always throw up those brief, magical, moments that make the otherwise unbearable bearable, that make us appreciate just how privileged we are that we can experience such and so, ultimately, “the circus lights you see, is where you have to be”

Reports and photos to follow…..

imm cologne

IMM Cologne 2014 at Cologne Messe

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, imm cologne, Producer, Product, Thonet, USM Haller Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Jens Risom Lounge Chair Knoll
December 30th, 2013 by smow

Those still looking for a New Year’s Resolution could do worse than to promise to try to maybe visit more design exhibitions this year.

And January 2014 offers a few wonderful places to start.

That January is once again IMM Cologne and the accompanying Cologne Design Week we make no apologies for having selected two Rhein-side exhibitions, in addition we have an investigation of the production process and a brace of exhibitions devoted to Denmark’s more important design “old masters”…..

“BKULT Featuring Van Bo Le-Mentzel: Konstruieren statt Konsumieren” at AIT Architektursalon Cologne, Germany

Older readers will be aware that we long had huge problems with Berlin architect Van Bo Le-Mentzel’s decision to call his “breakthrough” project Hartz IV Furniture. Delightful project. Appalling name. Having spoken to Van Bo on a couple of occasions over the past couple of years we now at least understand why the project is called what it is called.

We still find the name truly appalling.

We still find the background thinking behind the project truly delightful.

And from Thursday January 16th the AIT Architektursalon Cologne is giving you the chance to make up your own mind. In collaboration with Berlin based platform BKULT the AIT Architektursalon is hosting an exhibition, workshops but for all a discussion around Van Bo Le-Mentzel’s central theory – Build More Buy Less. Can we create a better, fairer society if we kill off consumer culture? Does building your own furniture make you happier? Is Hartz IV Furniture a good name? What is Karma Economy?

Answer to none, some or all of these and similar questions will be searched for and discussed in the course of the event(s)

BKULT Featuring Van Bo Le-Mentzel: Konstruieren statt Konsumieren opens at the AIT Architektursalon Cologne, Vogelsanger Strasse 70, Barthonia Forum, 50823 Cologne on Thursday January 16th 2014 and runs until Thursday February 20th 2014.

Van Bo Le-Mentzel Hartz IV Moebel - Build More, Buy Less

Hartz IV Moebel - Build More, Buy Less. The book.

“Rolf Sachs “typisch deutsch?”” at Museum für Angewandte Kunst Cologne, Germany

For their major winter/spring 2014 exhibition Cologne’s Museum für Angewandte Kunst will present London based designer and artist Rolf Sachs’ take on popular German stereotypes. A take that if we’ve correctly understood the accompanying press material promises to be a little more humourful than your average design exhibition. Tackling traits such as industriousness, tidiness, sociability or wistfulness “typisch deutsch?” promises to present a series of objects and installations intended to not only reflect on the truth about the nature of “Germanness” but which also encourage us to view the objects around us in a new light. And so by extrapolation ourselves.

Rolf Sachs “typisch deutsch?” opens at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst, An der Rechtschule, 50667 Cologne on Monday January 13th 2014 and runs until Monday April 21st 2014.

Rolf Sachs typisch deutsch Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln

Rolf Sachs' interpretation of industriousness....

“”In the Making” an exhibition curated by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby” at Design Museum London, England

One of the curious aspects of the design world is that for the designer the finished, on the shelf, ready to buy product is thunderingly uninteresting.

The creative process, the prototyping, form-giving and the production process(es) are what really interest designers. And if most could get away without ever having to produce anything sellable they probably would.

For the London Design Museum Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby have curated an exhibition presenting 20+ familiar objects in various stages of production. Ranging from a coins over tennis balls and onto Thonet chairs, “In the Making” aims to make the charm and wonder of the production process visible, and so the designer’s fascination with production processes comprehensible. In addition there is nothing like getting to know a production process to make you appreciate a product – and of course the difference between a diligently produced product. And cheap tat.

“In the Making” an exhibition curated by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby opens at the Design Museum, Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD on Wednesday January 22nd 2014 and runs until Friday May 4th 2014

Auf Biegen und Brechen Thonet

The hot wood bending process developed by Michael Thonet. And still practised today.

“The Answer is Risom” at Silvermine Arts Center, New Canaan, Connecticut, USA

Although the story, and indeed success, of Knoll International is without question closely associated with Mies van der Rohe, Harry Bertoia and Eero Saarinen, it all began with a Danish designer who came to America looking to understand contemporary American design. And ended up helping to define it.

Born in Copenhagen Jens Risom studied at the Danish School of Arts and Crafts under teachers such as the great Kaare Klint before in 1939 he travelled to America. In 1941 Jens Risom was introduced to Hans Knoll and in the same year created the first commissioned pieces for Hans Knoll’s fledgling furniture company. And so the very first Knoll Collection. A collection that confirmed Knoll’s commitment to modernism and on which the early success of the company was unquestionably based. In 1943 Jens Risom was drafted into the US Army and post-war established his own Jens Risom Design studio.

Always one of the more underrated proponents of mid- 20th century design Jens Risom’s importance goes far beyond the works he created and can be found in his approach to design and his understanding of his materials.

The exhibition in New Canaan promises to present not only examples of Jens Risom’s furniture but also of his advertising/graphic design work. And will hopefully help a lot more people understand the true majesty of Jens Risom.

“The Answer is Risom” opens at the Silvermine Arts Center, 1037 Silvermine Road, New Canaan, CT 06840 on Wednesday January 8th 2014 and runs until Sunday February 16th 2014

Jens Risom Lounge Chair Knoll

Jens Risom's 1943 Lounge Chair for Knoll

“Børge Mogensen” at Trapholt – Museum of Modern Art, Applied Art, Design and Architecture, Kolding, Denmark

On April 13th 2014 Børge Mogensen, one of the true giants of Danish furniture design, would have celebrated his 100th birthday. And to mark the occasion the Trapholt Museum of Modern Art, Applied Art, Design and Architecture in Kolding have organised an exhibition devoted to the man and his singular approach to the problems of his age.

As one of the first Danish designers to adopt industrial production Børge Mogensen was able to combine his fine understanding for the traditions of Scandinavian, English and American furniture with mass production to create cheap, affordable furniture.

And in doing so unwittingly played an important role in helping define the ubiquitous as it is mythical concept of “Danish Design”

In our 2012 introduction to Børge Mogensen we wrote that he “…has never reached the same level of public fame, far less acknowledgement, as a Poul Henningsen, Arne Jacobsen or Verner Panton.”

And while the show at Trapholt wont substantially change that, it will hopefully introduce a lot more people to Børge Mogensen’s life and work.

“Børge Mogensen” opens at Trapholt – Museum of Modern Art, Applied Art, Design and Architecture, Æblehaven 23, DK-6000 Kolding on Wednesday January 22nd 2014 and runs until Sunday October 5th 2014

Børge Mogensen FDB Chair Desk

A 1944 FDB catalogue featuring Børge Mogensen's chair and desk designs.

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

December 24th, 2013 by smow

January 2013 was, as every January, dominated by IMM Cologne, and all that that entails. In particular IMM Cologne 2013 brought us Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec‘s investiture as A&W Designers of the year and a delightful Alvar Aalto Stool 60 exhibition at Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft.

January 2013 was in addition the opening of the exhibition “Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things” at the Design Museum London…..

Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things Design Museum London

Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things at Design Museum London

London Design Museum Collection Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things British

Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things at the Design Museum London. Photographing a motorway sign in a museum. Very British!

IMM Cologne 2013 Thonet S 1520 S 1521 S 1522

Thonet launch the S 1520, S 1521 & S 1522 coat racks/shoe racks at IMM Cologne 2013

A&W Designer of the year 2013 Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec

A&W Designer(s) of the year 2013: Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. As we know them, considering their work.

A&W Designer of the year 2013 Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec A Collection Hay

The A-Collection for Copenhagen University through Hay by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, as seen at the A&W Designer(s) of the year 2013 exhibition.

IMM Cologne 2013 Stool 60 by Alvar Aalto at Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft

IMM Cologne 2013: Stool 60 by Alvar Aalto at Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft

IMM Cologne 2013 Stool 60 by Alvar Aalto at Ungers Archiv für Architekturwissenschaft

The production steps for the Stool 60 legs

IMM Cologne 2013 Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln Isn’t it romantic Contemporary Design balancing between Poetry and Provocation

"Isn’t it romantic? Contemporary Design balancing between Poetry and Provocation", Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln

IMM Cologne 2013 Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln Isn’t it romantic Contemporary Design balancing between Poetry and Provocation Makkink Bey Birdwatch Cabinet for a girl

Birdwatch Cabinet for a girl by Makkink & Bey as seen at "Isn’t it romantic? Contemporary Design balancing between Poetry and Provocation", Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln

Posted in Artek, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, imm cologne, Producer, smow, smow am rhein, Thonet Tagged with: , , , , , ,