Much as with “Bauhaus”, “Memphis” is all too often popularly reduced to a “style”, something one can “recreate”.

As with “Bauhaus” that it is not only disingenuous, and erroneous, but hinders development of understandings of the (hi)story of design, understandings of the path taken to our contemporary design that are important for considerations on where we are and how best to progress.

With the showcase Memphis: 40 Years of Kitsch and Elegance the Vitra Design Museum Gallery issue an invitation for us all to delve a little deeper, to look below the plastic laminated surface.

Memphis: 40 Years of Kitsch and Elegance Vitra Design Museum Gallery

In the final decades of the 19th century the lands of the, then, German Empire, established themselves amongst the leading protagonists in the developments of contemporary applied arts as they moved towards that which we today term design. A leading position which, in certain regards, became a European dominance in the course of the 1900s, 1910s and 1920s through the contributions made to the evolving practices, processes, expressions and understandings of the period by institutions such as, and amongst many others, the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau, the Deutsche Werkbund, the Frankfurt city building authorities and, and perhaps most famously, the Bauhauses.

Then, as so oft in 1920s Europe, came the 1930s, the War and subsequently the establishment within (part of) the lands of the, former, German Empire two new nations: West Germany and East Germany.

And what became of the design understandings and approaches that had developed and evolved in that region over the previous half century?

That, to misquote Hamlet, is one of the questions the Vitra Design Museum pursue in German Design 1949–1989. Two Countries, One History.

German Design 1949–1989. Two Countries, One History, Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein

Following the declaration of the French Republic in 1792 a new calendar was introduced in the realms of France: the Revolution had washed away France past and the Republic marked the start of a new reality for mankind, one of universal Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, and therefore demanded a resetting of the collective clock, a new measuring of time, and thus out went the Gregorian calendar and its historic associations with church and state, and in came le calendrier républicain, the French Republican Calendar.

And while, yes, one can consider the belief amongst the new republicans in the eternal gloriousness of the coming future as somewhat naive, one must remember that we can reflect on their optimism with the benefit of over 200 years hindsight and experience.

The argument for a new calendar appears however as compelling and self-evident as it must have done at its adoption on October 24th 1793. Or 3 Brumaire II, as we believe le calendrier républicain would date the day of its adoption.

Aside from its ten day week, an early attempt at bringing decimalisation to our time keeping, and the bequeathing of every day its own unique name, the principle difference between the Gregorian and Republican calendars is the move from the 12 months of varying lengths inherited from the Romans to twelve months each comprising thirty days, three ten day weeks, and the renaming of the months to give them a connection to nature rather than to Romans: the period between 19/20th February and 19/20th March, that period in which we find ourselves at the time of writing, being known as Ventôse, from venteux, windy, and was preceded by Pluviôse, rainy, and followed by Germinal, germination

Which all strikes us as particularly apposite as we move towards the next phase of our post-pandemic society; as a fresh wind blows the global rain clouds away and ushers in a period of re-birth and springing forth. Yes, such optimism may be as naive as that of the French revolutionaries, but we have a much better understanding of history today, and for all a much better understanding of the sense and logic in, utter necessity of, making use of the myriad lessons of history in order to avoid the pitfalls and follies of the past, and to allow us to chart an untroubled course forward……oh…..hang on……

Although, now is as good a time as any to start. The theory is known, we just need to move into the practice. And so given that all nations and all peoples have had their Corona tribulations should we not think about re-setting our global clocks, starting afresh at a new global year zero for a new global society?

We’ll leave others more qualified than us to work out the practicalities and technicalities, and decide on the basis of the nomenclature, and instead recommend here four new exhibitions scheduled to open in Germinal CCXX, and thus, one hopes, once the winds of Ventôse have begun to do their job, and also recommend a radio station that’s been online since the rains of Pluviôse….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for March 2021

Alongside the Chinese and Korean New Year celebrations one of the most popular observances in any given February is, arguably, the Feast Day of Saint Valentine on February 14th; St Valentine famously being the patron saint of greetings card manufacturers, lovers, but less famously, if just as importantly, also offering protection from the plague.

Now while the misanthropes amongst you will query whether love and plague aren’t synonyms, and a pox upon you for that; this February 14th we could all do with not only a little love, but a goodly dose of plague protection. And so rather than the traditional veneration of St Valentine through the distribution of hurriedly purchased and poorly considered flowers and chocolates, how about we all agree to celebrate the life of St Valentine through taking a little more care of one another, spreading a little more communal love and a little less plague, taking the weight of his shoulders for a few hours………….?

Beyond offering protection to lovers and from the plague, and protecting beekeepers, St Valentine also offers protection to travellers, which sadly no-one is these days. But those days will come again.

Until they do we continue with our hybrid exhibitions recommendations lists: that for February 2021 featuring a trio of offline exhibitions in Weil am Rhein, Hamburg und Falkenberg, and while they in all probability wont open as planned, will open, and before they do offer impetus for a little self study, and also two online highlights to explore, research and, for all, enjoy at your leisure.

Perhaps on February 14th, for as we all know, the couple that develop and deepen their design understandings together, stay together……

5 (New) Architecture & Design Exhibitions for February 2021

“It’s not possible to define a style in my work”1, opined once the Italian architect and designer Gae Aulenti.

With the exhibition Gae Aulenti: A Creative Universe, the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot don’t contradict that opinion, but do provide for a framework for considerations on its validity……

Gae Aulenti: A Creative Universe, Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot

“What is the goal?” asked Elsie de Wolfe in 1913 in context of domestic interior design.

“A house”, she answered, “that is like the life that goes on within it, a house that gives us beauty as we understand it and beauty of a nobler kind that we may grow to understand, a house that looks amenity.”1

How Elsie de Wolfe understood such, and how over the intervening century and a bit understandings of life, beauty, nobler beauty, amenity, the goal(s) of domestic interior design have developed and expanded are explored and discussed in the Vitra Design Museum’s exhibition Home Stories: 100 Years, 20 Visionary Interiors.

Home Stories: 100 Years, 20 Visionary Interiors, Vitra Design Museum

According to Goethe,

Without the Fastnacht’s dance and masquerade ball
February has little to offer at all.1

Rubbish! Absolute rot!

Our recommendations for new architecture and design exhibitions opening during February 2020 in Weil am Rhein, New York, Vienna, Houston and Kerkrade which ably demonstrate that February has much more to offer than carnival, and for all that February can provide for a greater degree of cerebral gratification than sensual………

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for February 2020

Birthday’s are not only an occasion for celebration, but also for reflection on the year past, and on those milestone birthdays, for all the decadal birthdays, to reflect wider on the lives you’ve lived and the experiences you’ve enjoyed/endured, reflect on what you’ve gained, what you’ve lost, in those decades past.

So, or similar, the Vitra Design Museum, who celebrate their 30th birthday in November 2019 and are marking the occasion with reflections, when not necessarily on their own three decades, but the past three decades in design…….

After the Wall. Design since 1989, Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot, Weil am Rhein

“After you have settled yourself in a place as favorable as possible to the concentration of your mind upon itself, have writing materials brought to you”, so begins Secrets of the Magical Surrealist Art – Written surrealist composition, part of André Breton’s 1924 Surrealist Manifesto, “Put yourself in as passive, or receptive, a state of mind as you can. Forget about your genius, your talents, and the talents of everyone else. Keep reminding yourself that literature is one of the saddest roads that leads to everything. Write quickly, without any preconceived subject, fast enough so that you will not remember what you’re writing and be tempted to reread what you have written. The first sentence will come spontaneously, so compelling is the truth that with every passing second there is a sentence unknown to our consciousness which is only crying out to be heard.”1

Ready? Here goes, a Surrealist, automatic, blog post……………….

 

….no, not really.

Although we did consider it, as in genuinely, seriously, hired staff to bring us our writing materials and everything; but we did and do have a preconceived subject: the exhibition Objects of Desire. Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today at the Vitra Design Museum.

And so with apologies to André Breton and his Surrealist cohorts, we’ll consider their work and their influence on/interaction with design at our accustomed tempo, and with regular re-readings, re-formulations and very conscious re-framings……

Objects of Desire. Surrealism and Design 1924 - Today, Vitra Design Museum

July was once known as Quintilis, and was the fifth month of the Roman calender. The fifth of ten. “Winter” being but an ill-defined cold and dark period between December and March.

And sensible as such as an arrangement sounds, and much as we could live with such an arrangement today, with the rise of the Roman Republic the wise decision was made to divide winter into January and February.

Wise not least because it means our contemporary year has 12 months: and thus two extra months in which to enjoy even more architecture and design exhibitions, and thereby to allow us all to even better understand the world which surrounds us.

Our quintet for Quintilis 2019 can be found in Stuttgart, San Francisco, Weil am Rhein, Melbourne and Dresden……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for July 2019

“Form should not be finite but should be amorphous, so that the experience within is loose, meandering and multiple” – Balkrishna Doshi1

With the exhibition Architecture for the People the Vitra Design Museum explore Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi’s understanding of, belief in and approach to realising the amorphous, the social, the humane, in architecture.

Balkrishna Doshi. Architecture for the People, Vitra Design Museum

According to US gonzo journalist, Hunter S Thompson, “the human animal needs a Good Reason to get out of bed on a wretched morning in February.” 1

May we humbly suggest…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for February 2019

If Jean-Claude Juncker gets his way October 2018 could see the clocks of Europe turned back an hour for the final time.

And thereby bringing to an end the long tradition of local newspapers publishing bi-annual articles documenting the curious tales and legends of town clocks, stories from the Schwarzwald on the largest and smallest cuckoo clocks, and photographs of horologists surrounded by the 350+ clocks and watches they need to reset.

For our part, we’ll miss them.

It will also mean you won’t have that extra hour the last Sunday in October to enjoy an extra leisurely visit to an architecture and/or design exhibition, so take the chance while you can…..

Our five recommendations for using that extra hour in October 2018 can be found in Hamburg, Weil am Rhein, Zürich, Paris and Helsinki.

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for October 2018

Victor Papanek’s contention that “There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a very few of them”, remains one of the most pertinent considerations on the design profession, because it succinctly underscores that in what they do designers directly and indirectly impact not only the user/consumer of that which they design, but also on all those involved in the production, distribution and disposal of that which they design. And thereby, directly and indirectly, on our environment.

A pertinence that remains relevant despite the opinion being voiced in 1971.

With the exhibition Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design the Vitra Design Museum not only present the first major retrospective of Victor Papanek, his life and work but also investigate his wider contemporary relevance.

And indicate how designers could be less harmful, more useful…..

Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design, Vitra Design Museum

According to Germanic lore, “ein guter Septemberregen kommt nie ungelegen“, a good rain in September is never inopportune.

This year arguably more so than ever.

Similarly a good architecture and design exhibition in September is never inopportune.

And, and keeping with rain metaphors, while we can all remember what rain is, September 2018, sees a proper downpour of new architecture and design exhibitions. A downpour that is particularly opportune. Following July’s drought and its meagre 4 recommendations we have a ongoing deficit of one in our annual quota, the current deluge however means that for September 2018 we can present 6.

And so grab your umbrellas and take yourselves to an architecture and/or design exhibition this September. Our recommendations can be found in Kolding, Munich, London, Herford, Moscow and Weil am Rhein……..

5 new Architecture & Design Exhibitions September 2018

Writing to his friend Heinrich Köselitz in August 1881 Friedrich Nietzsche remarked, “My dear friend! The August sun hangs over us, the year drifts by, it is quieter and more peaceful on the mountains and in the forests. On my horizon thoughts have arisen, the likes of which I have never known….”

We like to imagine that those thoughts arose through his having visited an architecture and/or design exhibition. Were he still with us, we’d suggest he visited the following vista extending showcases opening in Saint Petersburg, Weil am Rhein, Rostock, London and Hasselt….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for August 2018

Nightclubs and discos are not only about entertainment and sensory overload, but also provide a society with means of expression and reflection.

With the exhibition Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 – Today the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein explore five decades of club culture.

Night Fever. Designing Club Culture 1960 - Today, Vitra Design Museum

With the exhibition Hans J. Wegner: Designing Danish Modern the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot explores the oeuvre of one of the Grand Doyens, and arguably one of the most widely misconstrued protagonists, of 20th century Danish design.

Hans J. Wegner: Designing Danish Modern, Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot

Arguably because Passover/Easter is early this year, every, but every, museum is opening a major exhibition in the course of March 2018, in preparation for the unofficial start of the tourist season in April.

A situation which leaves us with the daunting possibility of creating 5 such Top 5 lists. And still having some exhibitions left over.

Faced with a similar situation back in November 2017 we referred to the abundance of options which lay before us as being akin to “gardens mottled with the vibrant leaves of autumn”, here it is much more the case of lawns bestrewn with the tantalising hues of Easter Eggs. And while some will unquestionably be those disappointingly hollow ones, the majority look like being solid lumps of architecture and design endorphin loaded goodness into which to sink your teeth, and thereby celebrate the end of winter’s paucity and the coming spring.

In that sense, our top 5 new architecture and design EGGsibitions for March 2018 …. Bon appétit!!!

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for March 2018

The September architecture and design exhibition recommendations are arguably the cruellest to write: the fact that the majority of the exhibitions end in the depths of the European winter meaning that as we sit here hoping that summer keeps going just a little, little, longer…. we’re forced to think about winter jackets and gloves.

And so before things get that far, best get out there and visit an exhibition!! Our five recommendations for September 2017 feature new exhibitions in Weil am Rhein, Los Angeles, Utrecht, Frankfurt and Malmö…….

smow blog 5 New Design Exhibitions for September 2017

Our picks from the new architecture and design exhibitions opening in February 2017, featuring showcases in Weil am Rhein, Falkenberg, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Berlin and Groningen.

five new design exhibitions february 2017

The little regarded undersides of chairs....

With the opening of the Vitra Schaudepot the Vitra Campus has not only grown by a further building, but the

Fabric print by Ērika Iltnere

“All in the wild March morning I heard the angels call, It was when the moon was setting, and the

Vienna The Pearl of the Reich. Planning for Hitler at the Architekturzentrum Wien

March is a month for caution. Yes, the sun shines. Yes, the days are getting longer Yes, one can smell

NOMOS Metro watch by Berlinerblau for NOMOS Glashütte

Much as the hardest move in yoga is unrolling your yoga mat, so to is the most challenging facet about