The little regarded undersides of chairs....
June 2nd, 2016 by smow

With the opening of the Vitra Schaudepot the Vitra Campus has not only grown by a further building, but the Vitra Design Museum has realised a long held dream, that of an exhibition space in which to present their collection in its full extent; or at least in a much fuller extent than has currently been possible.

Vitra Schaudepot by Herzog & de Meuron

Vitra Schaudepot by Herzog & de Meuron

The Vitra Design Museum collection traces its origins back to 1981 when the then Vitra CEO Rolf Fehlbaum began buying historic examples of works by Charles & Ray Eames, Alvar Aalto and Jean Prouvé for his own interest; and has developed into a collection of some 20,000 objects, including around 7,000 chairs and 1,000 lamps from across genres, generations and geographic divides. And thus into one of the most extensive and important collections of 19th, 20th and 21st century furniture.

Yet was a collection which remained shut away in the cellar of the Vitra Design Museum office building, save for those rare moments when pieces were required for an exhibition.

A state of affairs with which no one was happy.

With the appointment of Marc Zehntner and Mateo Kries as joint directors of the Vitra Design Museum in 2011 a natural moment arose to rethink the museum’s direction, function and presentation concept, and for all to start new projects, one such was the creation of a space for a permanent exhibition of the Vitra Design Museum collection.

Rolf Fehlbaum’s original plan had been to create an underground exhibition space, next to and adjoining the existing storage space, acting as it were as a natural extension of the existing space, just into the public sphere; and he approached Basel’s local global architects Herzog and de Meuron to ask if they would be interested in creating an “entrance” to the new space. At which point one must add that Rolf Fehlbaum has the honesty and humour to admit that he can only approach the likes of Herzog and de Meuron with such ideas because he has known them for so long.

Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron however persuaded Rolf Fehlbaum that it would be more viable to build above ground, especially as a former steel storage building next to the Vitra Design Museum offices was no longer in use and thus offered the perfect, ready-made, solution. Or would have had it not been in such poor structural condition that a renovation was not possible. Consequently Herzog and de Meuron created in its place a building of the same size and volume, and one in which the connection between public display space – the “show” as it were – and the non-public Vitra Design Museum storage – the “depot” – is via an opening in an internal wall which allows the visitor to gaze from above to below.

Vitra Schaudepot by Herzog & de Meuron

Vitra Schaudepot by Herzog & de Meuron

Kept deliberately closed and windowless, as Mateo Kries is keen to point out, from a conservational perspective in a museum depot every window is one to many, the Schaudepot is constructed from brick – bricks broken by hand on-site and used with the rougher, broken, edges protruding outwards; a device the practice have used in the past and which as Jacques Herzog says creates an effect which is less masonry and more textile. And a feature which in many ways reminds us of the so-called Quetschfuge that Egon Eiermann used to give a physical, 3D, structure to the exterior of his 1937 Wohnhaus Matthies project in Potsdam – and which similarly creates a charming effect with a minimum of fuss, resources and money. And is a feature which may also have something to do with the way the building reflects the light: under the warm June sun we felt as if we were on a set of a Western, the Schaudepot emitting the familiar, strangely welcoming, charm of a slowly disintegrating New Mexico Finca. We suspect that under the grey Weil am Rhein winter sky it will feel very, very different, we’re expecting Scandinavian noir, if every bit as inviting and enticing.

Featuring a gable roof and thus not only resembling the “home” it is but also referencing Herzog and de Meuron’s VitraHaus, the Vitra Schaudepot building is a quietly unassuming beast, easy to miss, yet almost impossible to ignore, very neatly compliments and contradicts the neighbouring Vitra Design Museum offices, Zara Hadid’s Fire Station and Nicholas Grimshaw’s Factory Building, and thus represents an excellent new addition to the Vitra Campus.

In addition the new Schaudepot opens up the Vitra Campus, Rolf Fehlbaum talks of the project giving the Campus a new character. Back in the day we demanded that Rolf Fehlbaum pulled down the fence which surrounds the Vitra Campus and thus make the architectural exhibits more accessible; Vitra haven’t, but in erecting a new fence to more closely constrict the industrial part of the complex they have allowed for direct access to the Fire Station and its new neighbour the Schaudepot…. and finally we understand the Álvaro-Siza-Promenade. When it was opened in 2014 we thought it was nice enough path but… now we understand it, understand the greater thinking behind the project and the way it connects the Campus physically and conceptually, and that without being an overly dominating feature itself. Or as we noted in our original post, “Yes, it’s a path.

The Vitra Fire Station by Zaha Hadid and the Vitra Schaudepot by Herzog & de Meuron

The Vitra Fire Station by Zaha Hadid and the Vitra Schaudepot by Herzog & de Meuron

Inside the name is programme, it’s a depot; some 400 furniture objects from over a 100 years of design history arranged chronologically in units three shelves high and which present changes in understandings of aesthetics and form, changes in technology and materials, evolutions in the function and cultural relevance of furniture. It’s mainly chairs – principally we imagine because there is little in our material world which reflects such changes as well and as clearly as the “humble” chair. However tables, shelving and sideboards also feature. Yes, the three high shelving unit concept does make viewing the top row in any sort of detail difficult, when not impossible, and thus as a display concept is probably not ideal; especially for objects which are often as interesting technically as formally, culturally and historically. Spatially however it is important as lower shelves would be lost in the space, and it does in addition mean that the museum can display around a third more objects than would otherwise be the case, something which is important in realising the concept. And allowing the concept to work as well as it does.

It’s a compromise. But then so is life.

The use of glass shelves does however mean that the undersides of those objects on the top shelves are clearly visible, and the underside of a piece of furniture can be every bit as important and interesting as the tops and sides. We endure regular insult and mockery on account of the amount of time we spend looking at the undersides of chairs, especially in restaurants and bars. Hopefully if more people get the chance to do such, and understand the wonders that can await one there, that we will be met with more respect and understanding in the future. The somewhat awkward presentation format is in addition eased by the new digitalisation of the Vitra Design Museum collection, a catalogue which is freely available in the museum either via smartphones, or for hardcore analogists like us via rentable hand held devices, and a catalogue which provides in-depth information on all objects and their creators and thus allows each and every visitor to learn to the depth and breadth they want and need.

The Vitra Schaudepot

The Vitra Schaudepot

Once one gets over the initial “what” as in “where am I?”, “why?”, the presentation does provide for a very well structured, realistic, honest and informative stroll through the history of furniture design, and not just the popular classics but also curiosities, rarities, conceptual dead-ends and objects that will become popular classics. But yes it is a lot of furniture on shelves, and so you do have to be interested in such to get the full benefit of a trip to the Vitra Schaudepot. So, like us. We would quite happily pitch a tent in the Schaudepot and spend our summer holidays there. And we might just. For others it will remain a lot of chairs on shelves, but then again one must assume that those who choose to visit the Vitra Design Museum are interested in such.

Downstairs the “show” becomes “depot” as visitors are allowed an insight, literally, into the depths of the Vitra Design Museum’s collection; glass panels separating you from views along rows of objects divided into four groups: Scandinavian design, Italian design, lighting design and Eames design, the latter being supplemented by a presentation of Charles Eames’, actual, office. In addition the downstairs section features a chance to explore, and for all touch, various types of materials commonly used in furniture production, while upstairs features space for a changing programme of “showcases” highlighting aspects of the museum’s collection and thus the (hi)story of furniture design, the first such showcase focuses on 1960’s Radical Design.

As already stated we’d happily holiday in the Vitra Schaudepot, and have indeed started googling “indoor tents”, for the majority of the population a visit to the Vitra Campus solely to visit the Schaudepot probably makes little sense, for that the subject matter is too specific; however, as an extension to the existing possibilities on the Vitra Campus, and for all as an extension of the exhibitions in the Vitra Design Museum’s Gehry Building, the Vitra Schaudepot is an excellent development as it explains not only the subject matter in hand, but also the Vitra Design Museum, how it works, what it does, how it understands itself, how it understands furniture design and why it wants to transmit all that to as wide a public as possible. Or put another way, helps the Vitra Design Museum in the words of Mateo Kries, “become a much more vibrant location that doesn’t just present exhibitions exploring the most important design themes and topics but much more asks question of the visitors and so becomes more of an experience.

As such we’d recommend the Combi Ticket. And of course the Vitra Slide.

Full information on the Vitra Schaudepot, including opening times and ticket prices can be found at www.design-museum.de

Posted in Architecture, Producer, Vitra, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , , , ,

Fabric print by Ērika Iltnere
February 28th, 2016 by smow

“All in the wild March morning I heard the angels call,
It was when the moon was setting, and the dark was over all;
The trees began to whisper, and the wind began to roll,
And in the wild March morning I heard them call: “Stop romanticising and visit a design exhibition!!!!”

(The May Queen by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. With apologies)

Were Alfred, Lord Tennyson around in March 2016, here’s five new design exhibitions we could recommend…..

Alexander Girard. A Designer’s Universe at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany

Our first inkling that something was afoot came at Milan 2014, the Vitra stand and branding was all very much in the spirit of Alexander Girard. For all there was no escaping the eyes. “Someone has been in the Girard archive”, we remember thinking. Before being distracted by the Colour Wheel Ottoman…… Following Alexander Girard’s death in 1993 his personal archive was entrusted to the Vitra Design Museum, Alexander Girard. A Designer’s Universe is the result of the first systematic, academic exploration of that archive. As a designer it is very easy to align “Sandro”, as he was affectionately known by his contemporaries, to the second row of 20th century American designers. Yes he may have lacked the star allure of a Charles Eames, the self-confident, self-promotion of a George Nelson, or the cosmopolitan assurance of an Eero Saarinen, but Alexander Girard was an important influence on those around him, an important source of ideas and inspirations, a confidant with whom the designers, architects and manufacturers of the day could discuss their plans and develop ideas. In addition Alexander Girard was a skilled exhibition designer who helped organise, curate and design many of those exhibitions which helped establish and popularise design in 1950s and 1960s America. As such the Vitra Design Museum’s retrospective is a well overdue exploration of his life and work. And a well exciting prospect. Not least because it runs until the end of January 2017! Under normal conditions the exhibition should end in late summer so that in autumn the next exhibition can open. We’re hoping the decision to give the world ten and a half months of Alexander Girard is an indication of the importance the Vitra Design Museum attach to the man, his work, the exhibition, and as such the scale, depth and enjoyment contained therein.

Alexander Girard. A Designer’s Universe opens at the Vitra Design Museum, Charles-Eames-Str. 2, 79576 Weil am Rhein on Saturday March 12th and runs until Sunday January 29th

vitrahaus alexander girard

For old times sake, and in anticipation of Alexander Girard. A Designer’s Universe at the Vitra Design Museum …. VitraHaus, if Alexander Girard had been responsible for the exterior colour scheme.

On the Track of Great Life. Graphic Language of the 1960s in Latvia at the Mark Rothko Art Centre, Daugavpils, Latvia

That the 1960s were a decade of genuine revolution in design is widely accepted: new materials and new production processes met a society for whom the second world war was a subject for history lessons rather than a personal memory, and for who the future was electrified by thoughts of rapidly developing technological change and space exploration. Each country obviously dealt with and responded to these changes and opportunities in its own way, and according to its prevailing social, political and economic conditions. In the exhibition On the Track of Great Life the Mark Rothko Art Centre aim to explore such in terms of Latvia. We have no idea what to expect. Nothing. And that is what makes the prospect so tantalising. What were Latvian designers doing in the 1960s, why were they doing it, how were they doing it and what can we learn from what the did? Not because Latvia is particularly relevant for global design, but because through understanding design history we can better understand the possibilities of contemporary design, and those who venture into areas of design history outwith their own, gain the deepest understanding.

On the Track of Great Life. Graphic Language of the 1960s in Latvia opened at the Mark Rothko Art Centre, Mihaila ielā 3, 5401 Daugavpils on Friday February 26th and runs until Sunday April 10th

Fabric print by Ērika Iltnere

Fabric print by Ērika Iltnere, part of On the Track of Great Life. Graphic Language of the 1960s in Latvia at the Mark Rothko Art Centre

WE transFORM Kunst und Design zu den Grenzen des Wachstums at the Neues Museum, Nürnberg, Germany

Published in 1972 “The Limits to Growth” presented the results of a research project undertaken by academics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on behalf of the so-called, Club of Rome international think tank. One of the first attempts to develop a computer simulation of the effects of man on his environment the report’s authors came to the conclusions that the earth’s resources were finite and that if we wanted to avert environmental, social and economic disasters, change was needed. And the quicker the better. The rest as they say is four decades of inactivity, squabbling and provincial politics. As such the themes explored in “The Limits of Growth”, and the risks contained therein, remain as current as ever. In WE transFORM projects from over 30 international artists and designers will be presented which for the exhibition organisers either highlight problems associated with, for example, water shortages, vanishing resources, waste, social inequality….. or which offer alternatives.

WE transFORM Kunst und Design zu den Grenzen des Wachstums opens at the Neues Museum, Klarissenplatz, 90402 Nürnberg on Friday March 18th and runs until Sunday June 19th

The idea of a tree by mischer'traxler, part of WE transFORM Kunst und Design zu den Grenzen des Wachstums at the Neues Museum, Nürnberg (Photo Studio mischer'traxler, courtesy of Neues Museum, Nürnberg)

The idea of a tree by mischer’traxler, part of WE transFORM Kunst und Design zu den Grenzen des Wachstums at the Neues Museum, Nürnberg (Photo Studio mischer’traxler, courtesy of Neues Museum, Nürnberg)

Safe and Sound. How designers and artists deal with the obsession of security at the Musée de design et d’arts appliqués contemporains, Lausanne, Switzerland

For the American design pioneer George Nelson “The best designs realised by mankind are related to survival”, because “they are concerned with life and death not markets”.* Not that Nelson’s considerations included purely objects designed to protect us from direct risks or to ensure that, for example, aircraft didn’t fall out the sky, Nelson also considered weapons and measures of military defence as part of his survival design. Similarly today “security” and “safety” often have as much to do with control, power and surveillance as they have to do with minimising the risk of personal harm. Featuring works by international designers and artists the mudac in Lausanne aim to explore current “”design for safety” through a focus on four central themes: security, fear, protection and monitoring.

Safe and Sound. How designers and artists deal with the obsession of security opens at the Musée de design et d’arts appliqués contemporains, mudac, Place de la Cathédrale 6, 1005 Lausanne on Wednesday March 23rd and runs until Sunday August 21st.

* George Nelson, Zum Design von Sportgeräten, Du: die Zeitschrift der Kultur, Heft 7, 1976

Poumon by Superlife, a pen pot/desk tidy with integrated filter and which can thus be used as breathing aid in event of fire, part of Safe and Sound. How designers and artists deal with the obsession of security at the mudac, Lausanne (Photo courtesy mudac, Lausanne)

Poumon by Superlife, a pen pot/desk tidy with integrated filter and which can thus be used as breathing aid in event of fire, part of Safe and Sound. How designers and artists deal with the obsession of security at the mudac, Lausanne (Photo courtesy mudac, Lausanne)

Switch – Dutch Design on the move at the TextielMuseum, Tilburg, Netherlands

Because objects such as the Rag Chair by Tejo Remy or Rody Graumans’ 85 Lamps chandelier appear so fresh, so “contemporary” it is easy to forget that they are over 20 years old. Or that such objects were, in many respects, the starting point for where contemporary Dutch design currently finds itself; the conceptual, playful, untroubled approach taken by droog and their cohorts in the early 1990s spreading through and via the Design Academy Eindhoven and giving Dutch designers the creative freedom that they enjoy today. The freedom to develop concepts which may or may not result in products but which invariably provide alternative perspectives on situations and as such alternatives to accepted norms. Presenting an overview of 25 years of contemporary Dutch Design, including works by Dutch based, non-Dutch designers, the TextielMuseum in Tilburg promise a comprehensive exploration of the subject and of how Dutch design has developed since 1990. Given the location we assume the exhibition will be textile heavy, but then textiles is a branch of design in which Dutch designers have been particularly active and through which they have explored the world around them with a singular competence….. And as such is a perfectly appropriate medium for such an exploration

Switch – Dutch Design on the move opens at the TextielMuseum, Goirkestraat 96, 5046 GN Tilburg on Saturday March 19th and runs until Sunday March 12th 2017

Labyrinth by Studio Job, part of Switch – Dutch Design on the move at the TextielMuseum, Tilburg (Photo Joep Vogels, courtesy of TextielMuseum)

Labyrinth by Studio Job, part of Switch – Dutch Design on the move at the TextielMuseum, Tilburg (Photo Joep Vogels, courtesy of TextielMuseum)

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

Vienna The Pearl of the Reich. Planning for Hitler at the Architekturzentrum Wien
February 28th, 2015 by smow

March is a month for caution.

Yes, the sun shines.

Yes, the days are getting longer

Yes, one can smell spring in the air.

But March has a temper. Meteorologically March is fickle with a hang to petulance and so it takes bravery and fortitude to expose oneself to March’s harsh, unforgiving vagaries.

Snowdrops risk it. And often regret it.

The following five museums have also taken that risk…. and we feel should be rewarded and applauded for their bravery.

“Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design” at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany

When Vitra Design Museum Chief Curator Mateo Kries held his keynote speech at the Designtage Brandenburg 2013 Design Conference he made a few references to contemporary art and design in Africa. We thought nothing about it at the time, other than it occasionally seemed that the digital infrastructure in Africa was better than that to be found in rural Brandenburg. Now we understand why he was so well informed on all things African. For their major 2015 summer exhibition the Vitra Design Museum will present an exploration of the current state of African creativity. Featuring examples of contemporary art, fashion, graphics, architecture and design, Making Africa promises to explain how a new generation of young creatives are using the freedom and power offered by digital technology to accompany, encourage and drive change in 21st century Africa.

Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design opens at the Vitra Design Museum, Charles-Eames-Str. 2, 79576 Weil am Rhein on Saturday March 14th and runs until Sunday September 13th

Making Africa A Continent of Contemporary Design Vitra Design Museum

Vigilism, Idumota Market, Lagos 2081A.D. from the Our Africa 2081A.D. series, illustration for the I kiré Jones Heritage Menswear Collection, 2013 (Photo © Courtesy Olalekan (vigilism.com) and Walé Oyéjidé (ikirejones.com))

“Do It Yourself Design” at the Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich, Switzerland

What used to be a negation, a refusal to help, has become a battle cry. Do it yourself!

Be it as a reaction to the pressures of contemporary consumer culture, a longing for more sustainability or through a sense of empowerment generated by modern digital technology, Do It Yourself is increasingly infiltrating and dominating ever more cultural and creative sectors. Including design. Do it yourself and design are of course not new bedfellows, the (hi)story of design is littered with DIY projects, the current movement however not only has its roots in thoroughly modern conditions which are worthy of closer analysis, but also has more potential to produce lasting change than its predecessors. Divided into four sections focussing on “What is do it yourself?” , “Design for do it yourself” , “Consumer & Prosumer” and “Sustainability” Do It Yourself Design will seek to both explore the background to the current movement and also investigate how the Do it yourself ethos is influencing design and what that could mean for the future of design, the design profession and the design industry.

Created in collaboration with the MAK Wien Do It Yourself Design? is a reworked and refocussed version of the 2013 MAK Wien exhibition Nomadic Furniture 3.0. New Liberated Living?

Do It Yourself Design opens at the Museum für Gestaltung – Schaudepot, Toni-Areal, Pfingstweidstrasse 96, CH-8005 Zürich on Friday March 20th and runs until Sunday May 31st

Do It Yourself Design" at the Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich

Do It Yourself Design at the Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich (Image © ZHdK)

“IN-Possible by Alessi” at the Design Museum Holon, Israel

As we’ve often noted in these pages, the development of a design project is often more interesting than the resultant product. And the development of a design project that doesn’t end in a resultant product is even more interesting. Why didn’t it work? Who stopped the project? How far advanced was it? Did it later evolve into something else? As part of an exhibition series to mark the museum’s fifth anniversary the Design Museum Holon will present a series of 50 projects by designers such as Ettore Sottsass, Philippe Starck, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec and Patricia Urquiola which were planned for Alessi, but  which never reached completion. As a sponsored, cooperation exhibition curated by the Alessi Museum, we aren’t expecting it to be particularly extensive in scope, and would imagine it will also be somewhat corporate heavy; however, if it is honest about why the projects were stopped and who made the decisions then it could provide some very interesting insights into both the product design process and product design industry. And we really hope it does.

IN-Possible by Alessi opens at the Design Museum Holon, Pinhas Eilon St. 8 Holon on Wednesday March 25th and runs until Saturday June 6th

"Cyclepedia, Iconic Bicycle Design" at Design Museum Holon, Israel

Design Museum Holon, Israel

“Fast Fashion. Die Schattenseiten der Mode” at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Germany

At the risk of repeating ourselves, and of getting involved in ever more arguments, fashion isn’t design. It’s styling. And styling isn’t design. That said, fashion is very closely related to product design in that the creations need to be produced. And just as the conditions under which many consumer products are produced are anything but fair and sustainable so to does the reality of clothing manufacturing often contrast heavily with the carefully managed and controlled PR glamour of the finished garments. Everybody knows that, but a majority of consumers actively chose to ignore the reality so as not to spoil the enjoyment of their new clothes. Exploring themes such as, for example, fashion & victims, poverty & affluence, new fibre technologies or garments & chemicals Fast Fashion at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg aims to cast a light into these dark corners. Hopefully a light ever bit as bright as those which illuminate the catwalks of Paris, New York, London, Milan, et al. In addition to looking at the current situation Fast Fashion also promises to look at alternative models and possible new modi operandi for the fashion industry.

Fast Fashion. Die Schattenseiten der Mode opens at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Steintorplatz 20099 Hamburg on Friday March 20th and runs until Sunday September 20th

Fast Fashion. Die Schattenseiten der Mode at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Women cut up jumpers, jackets and coats using traditional vegetable cutters (Photo © Tim Mitchell, 2005)

“Vienna. The Pearl of the Reich. Planning for Hitler” at the Architekturzentrum Wien, Austria

That Adolf Hitler planned to transform Berlin into Welthauptstadt Germania and emphasise the power, authority and supremacy of his Nazi horde through monumental architecture and urban planning is well known and well researched. That Hitler also had big plans for Vienna is less well known. And much less well researched. Until now. Presenting previously unseen plans, documents and photographs largely garnered from the Klaus Steiner archives which passed into the Architektuerzentrum Wien’s possession in 2011, “Vienna. The Pearl of the Reich. Planning for Hitler” promises to explain and explore Hitler’s plans for Groß-Wien as the second city of the Third Reich, as the leading cultural centre of the Reich, a sort of cultural conduit if you will between east and west, but also as the administrative gateway to the regions of southern Europe. In addition to looking at Hitler’s plans for Vienna, the exhibition also aims to provide new perspectives and impressions on the role of architecture and urban planning in Nazi philosophy and propaganda as well as asking why the Nazi years have until now been generally omitted from discussions on Vienna’s architectural history and heritage.

Vienna. The Pearl of the Reich. Planning for Hitler opens at Architekturzentrum Wien, Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Vienna on Thursday Mach 19th and runs until Monday August 18th

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

Building model of the redesign of Vienna with the Gauforum and the “Baldur von Schirach” Island, 1941(Photo  © Architekturzentrum Wien, Sammlung)

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

NOMOS Metro watch by Berlinerblau for NOMOS Glashütte
January 31st, 2015 by smow

Much as the hardest move in yoga is unrolling your yoga mat, so to is the most challenging facet about most design and architecture exhibitions actually getting round to visiting them.

Especially when it involves going out into February’s cold air.

The following five however seem well worth the effort.

If unrolling your yoga mat is worth the effort is of course another question. And not one we have any intention of ever trying to find an answer to………………..

Architecture of Independence. African Modernism at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery, Weil am Rhein, Germany

In March the Vitra Design Museum will open their new exhibition “Making Africa. A Continent of Contemporary Design”; by way of a foretaste the Vitra Design Museum Gallery is presenting an exploration of the architecture that developed post-independence in nations such as Zambia, Kenya, Ghana, Ivory Coast or Senegal. Based on a research project undertaken by Basel based architect Manuel Herz the exhibition will present some 50 buildings constructed in the 1950s, 60s and 70s and which according to the curators represent the sense of freedom and spirit of hope which existed immediately following independence: a freedom and spirit which were often accompanied by an economic stability that allowed for the development of fittingly adventurous buildings.

Architecture of Independence. African Modernism opens at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery, Charles-Eames-Str. 2, 79576 Weil am Rhein on Friday February 20th and runs until Sunday May 31st

Architecture of Independence. African Modernism at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery

Accra, Ghana - Independence Square, 1961. (Photo © Manuel Herz, Courtesy of Vitra Design Museum)

Architecture in the Museum. A Fortieth Anniversary at The National Museum – Architecture, Oslo, Norway

Since its establishment in 1975 the Norwegian national architecture museum has not only helped promote an understanding of the role, history and cultural importance of architecture in Norway but has also continually documented the development of Norwegian architecture and collected relevant material. To mark its fortieth anniversary the museum is presenting an exhibition in which they aim not only to explain in more detail how they work, where their focus is and what an institution such as a national architecture museum can offer wider society, but which also aims to explain and explore the development of architecture in Norway over the past four decades.

Architecture in the Museum. A Fortieth Anniversary opens at The National Museum – Architecture, Bankplassen 3, Oslo on Friday February 6th and runs until Sunday April 26th

Architecture in the Museum. A Fortieth Anniversary at The National Museum – Architecture, Oslo

Architecture in the Museum. A Fortieth Anniversary at The National Museum – Architecture, Oslo

Good Design Awards 2014 Exhibition at the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, Athens, Greece

On January 16th 1950 the first Good Design Award exhibition opened at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Conceived by the MoMA New York in co-operation with the Merchandise Mart – a sort of one-stop shopping centre for architects and interior designers – the Good Design Award was the first professionally marketed design award and an event which sought to recognise design which was “… intended for present-day life, in regard to usefulness, to production methods and materials and to the progressive taste of the day.” Initially organised thrice a year – summer/autumn and winter/spring showcases in Chicago followed up by a Christmas “Best of” in New York, the current Good Design Award is an annual award organised by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design and in addition to an awards exhibition in Chicago the winning designs are also presented at the Chicago Athenaeum’s outpost in Athens.

The 2014 winners include projects such as the Analog Table by Jaime Hayon for Fritz Hansen, the NOMOS Metro watch by Berlinerblau for NOMOS Glashütte and Konstantin Grcic‘s Rival Task Chair for Artek

As a general rule we’re not keen on design awards, what however makes the Good Design Award for us so interesting is on the one hand its scale and number of categories, and on the other the fact that many of the Good Design winners are anything but.
Most are. But some aren’t; or at least aren’t according to our definition. The exhibition therefore offers an excellent opportunity to form your own opinions as to what “good design” actually is. Or indeed what “design” actually means, especially in context of the original aims of the Award.

The Good Design Awards 2014 Exhibition opens at the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, 74 Mitropoleos, 10563 Athens on Friday February 6th and runs until Monday April 6th

NOMOS Metro watch by Berlinerblau for NOMOS Glashütte

NOMOS Metro watch by Berlinerblau for NOMOS Glashütte. A worthy winner of a Good Design Award 2014

Fresh Talent at the National Craft Gallery, Kilkenny, Ireland

As already noted, the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland has designated 2015 the year of Irish Design. Under the banner “Irish Design 2015” a wide range of events are being organised both in in Ireland and overseas; including the exhibition Fresh Talent being staged at the Irish National Craft Gallery. Focussing on projects realised since 2011, largely student projects or those by recent graduates, Fresh Talent promises projects from across a range of creative disciplines including product design, set design and architecture and as such aims to provide an overview of the current state of creative crafts in Ireland as well as introducing some of the younger, up and coming, protagonists.

Fresh Talent opens at the National Craft Gallery, Castle Yard, Kilkenny on Friday February 6th and runs until Wednesday March 18th

Fresh Talent at the National Craft Gallery

A "Shelf Portrait" by Darragh Casey (Photo Moira O Brien, Courtesy National Craft Gallery)

Pop Art Design at the Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Espoo, Finland

Although for many Pop Art was, and indeed is, just about bright colours and misappropriating everyday objects to provoke the established art world; for the original protagonists it was more about how one viewed the modern world and how one reacted, or should react, to the evolving and changing nature of society. It should therefore come as no surprise that 1950s/60s design and Pop Art were very closely linked. Premièred at the Vitra Design Museum in October 2012, Pop Art Design seeks to explore the nature of the dialogue that existed between Pop Art and design in the 1950s and 1960s, explain the similarities between the genres and presents the proposition that art and design should be considered as equal partners.

In addition to objects from the original Vitra Design Museum exhibition the Espoo Museum of Modern Art are also promising Pop Art and contemporary design from Finland, thus bringing a regional accent to a global phenomenon.

Pop Art Design opens at EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, The WeeGee Exhibition Centre, Ahertajantie 5, Tapiola, 02070 Espoo on Wednesday February 18th and runs until Sunday May 10th

vitra design museum pop art design

Pop Art Design, as seen at the Vitra Design Museum

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

aram gallery future stars
August 29th, 2014 by smow

The inescapable chill in the morning air and the deep-seated boredom in the eyes of school aged children can only mean that summer is, ever so slowly, coming to an end.

And just as spring beckons life to return in the natural world, so to does autumn herald a revival of activity in the unnatural world of museums and galleries.

Consequently, whereas in August we only managed to find three architecture and design exhibitions to recommend, for September we have seven!

A Magnificent Seven who not only help us keep our recommendations average at five per month, but also, hopefully, will provide some stimulus and hope at a time of year when despondency can so often have the upper hand.

“Crafting Narrative” at Pitzhanger Manor House & Gallery, London, England

London is by no stretch of the imagination a city short of notable galleries and museums, yet despite the apparent museal saturation a smallish gallery in the west London suburb of Ealing is slowly but surely making a name for itself as one of the leading London addresses for design exhibitions. Following on from the cross-media exhibition “Reason & Intuition: Alvar Aalto & Ola Kolehmainen in Soane”, the Pitzhanger Manor House & Gallery present Crafting Narrative, an exploration of storytelling in design. Organised by the UK Crafts Council and curated by London based designer Onkar Kular, Crafting Narrative is a touring exhibition which aims to demonstrate how contemporary designers use the process of designing and making to create narratives incorporating cultural, historical and social themes. Featuring works by creatives as varied as Hilda Hellström, El Ultimo Grito or Martino Gamper and presenting projects such as Zhenhan Hao’s “Imitation, imitation” clothing collection or “The Welsh Space Campaign” by Hefin Jones, Crafting Narrative has all the potential to be a highly entertaining and thought provoking exhibition.

Crafting Narrative opens at Pitzhanger Manor House & Gallery, Walpole Park, Mattock Lane Ealing, London W5 5EQ on Wednesday September 10th and runs until Sunday October 19th

Hefin Jones The Welsh Space Campaign Crafting Narrative

Hefin Jones - The Welsh Space Campaign, part of Crafting Narrative at Pitzhanger Manor House & Gallery (Photo © Dan Burn-Forti, Courtesy Craft Council UK)

“100 Years of Swiss Design” at the Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich, Switzerland

In September 2014 the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich open their new depository in the city’s Toni-Areal district. In addition to providing space for the museum’s collection the new Schaudepot offers a new exhibition gallery; a gallery which will be inaugurated by the exhibition 100 Years of Swiss Design. Presenting projects ranging from the mundane everyday such as light switches and vegetable peelers over furniture design classics from the likes of Le Corbusier, Max Bill or Willy Guhl and on to clothing and more conceptual design, 100 Years of Swiss Design features over 800 objects, prototypes, models, sketches and advertising films and thus promises to be one of the most inclusive and wide ranging studies of the Swiss Design tradition ever undertaken.

100 Years of Swiss Design opens at the Museum für Gestaltung – Schaudepot, Toni-Areal, Pfingstweidstrasse 96, CH-8005 Zürich on Friday September 26th and runs until Sunday February 8th

100 Jahre Schweizer Design Willy Guhl Scobalit-Stuhl mit abnehmbaren Sitzschalen

The Scobalit chair by Willy Guhl. Part of the exhibition 100 Years of Swiss Design, Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich

“Le Labo des héritiers” at Le Grand Hornu Images, Hornu, Belgium

There is, we assume, we have no direct experience, nothing more infuriating than attempting to establish a creative career as the offspring of an internationally renowned creative. People are either accusing you of riding on your parents coattails. Or viewing your work in the context of your parents, stubbornly refusing to accept you as an independent individual. Consequently many children and grandchildren don’t even bother. But some do. With success. Taking four “creative dynasties” as examples Le Labo des héritiers aims to explore questions such as how do younger generations relate to the oeuvre of the older generations, how do older generations relate to the oeuvre of the younger generations, is the desire to contradict a loved one greater than the instinct to follow, are family members more relevant to a career than teachers, critics, colleagues and other non-family influences? Presenting objects, sketches, photographs and texts Le Labo des héritiers investigates such questions in the context of Gijs Bakker/Emmy van Leersum and their son Aldo Bakker; Pieter, Lowie, Tinus and Robin Vermeersch and their father Rik and grandfather José; Tobia Scarpa and his father Carlo Scarpa; and David Van Severen and his brother Hannes, the children of Maarten Van Severen and grandsons of the Belgian abstract painter Dan Van Severen.

Le Labo des héritiers opens at Le Grand Hornu Images, Rue Sainte-Louise, 82 7301 Hornu, Belgium on Sunday September 21st and runs until Sunday January 4th

Le stock d’atelier de muller van severen Le Labo des héritiers

"Le stock d’atelier de Muller Van Severen" (Photo: Fien Muller, Courtesy of Le Grand Hornu Images)

“Copper Crossing” at the Triennale Design Museum, Milan, Italy

Copper can in many ways claim to have been the bridge between the technical advancement of the neolithic age, when our ancestors started forming tools, and the bronze age when this increased technical capability could be coupled with a new, hard yet pliable, material. The Chalcolithic period may only have lasted some 3000 years but is and was critical in the story of man’s cultural, social and intellectual evolution. Subsequently the Romans used copper as one of their earliest currencies; the pliability of copper allowed it to be used in construction, for all roofing and cladding; the development of copper water pipes helped protect from the negative effects of the original lead piping; while copper’s conductive properties have allowed for the increasing electrification of our daily lives. Where would we be without copper! In their exhibition Copper Crossing the Triennale Design Museum Milan bring the story up to date and reflect on the use of copper in contemporary art, design, architecture and technology. Featuring over 250 copper based projects by artists such as Joseph Beuys or Anselm Kiefer, architects including James Stirling and Renzo Piano over design objects by, amongst others, Tom Dixon, Ron Arad and Oskar Zieta, and on to a final section looking at more technical uses of copper, including IT and communications applications in addition to copper’s anti-bacterial properties, Copper Crossing will seek to explain the contemporary relevance of this most ancient of materials.

And while yes it all sounds like some expensive and decadent promotional campaign for copper, does copper really need promoting? Of course not, it needs celebrating!

Copper Crossing opens at the Triennale Design Museum, Viale Alemagna, 6, 20121, Milan on Tuesday September 16th and runs until Sunday November 9th

Oskar Zieta Plopp Copper

Plopp Copper by Oskar Zieta, part of Copper Crossing at the Triennale Design Museum, Milan

“Spatial Positions 8: Kooperationen. Diener&Diener in Zusammenarbeit mit Martin Steinmann und Josef Felix Müller / Peter Märkli und Josephsohn” at the Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel, Switzerland

In 2014 the Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel celebrates its 30th anniversary and as part of the festivities is hosting an exhibition curated by the institutes very first Director, Dr. Ulrike Jehle–Schulte Strathaus. Architecture and art often cross over into each others territories, yet it is invariably an artist getting all architectural or an architect getting all artistic. For Spatial Positions 8 the Swiss Architecture Museum paired up architects and artists to work on a joint project, joint projects that explore what happens when the two disciplines collaborate. Thus the Basel architect Roger Diener was teamed up with St. Gallen based artist Josef Felix Müller while Zurich based architect Peter Märkli collaborated with Zurich sculptor Hans Josephsohn. In addition to presenting the results of their collaborations and the associated prototypes, sketches and development works the exhibition will, we hope, provide a few clues to help us better understand in how far architects are just artists with a sense of order and in how far artists are architects who don’t believe space should be confined by walls.

Spatial Positions 8: Kooperationen. Diener&Diener in Zusammenarbeit mit Martin Steinmann und Josef Felix Müller / Peter Märkli und Josephsohn opens at S AM Swiss Architecture Museum, Steinenberg 7, CH-4051 Basel on Saturday September 6th and runs until Sunday October 19th

Spatial Positions 8: Kooperationen. Diener&Diener in Zusammenarbeit mit Martin Steinmann und Josef Felix Müller / Peter Märkli und Josephsohn" at the Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel, Switzerland

Spatial Positions 8: Kooperationen. Diener&Diener in Zusammenarbeit mit Martin Steinmann und Josef Felix Müller / Peter Märkli und Josephsohn" at the Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel

“Future Stars?” at Aram Gallery, London, England

Established in 2002 by Zeev Aram, proprietor of the Aram contemporary furniture store and holder of the exclusive global rights to the furniture design works of Eileen Gray, the Aram Gallery hosts exhibitions dedicated to contemporary art and design, exhibitions which more often than not are of an experimental, conceptual nature. As part of their contribution to the 2014 London Design Festival the Aram Gallery are presenting new works by seven young designers, designers the Aram Gallery are tipping for a bright and glorious future. Featuring product design by Maria Jeglinska, Kim Thome, James Shaw and Lola Lely, fashion/footwear from Cat Potter, jewellery by Sophie Thomas and, we presume, we’ve not seen it yet, something more conceptual from Arnhem based Thor ter Kulve, Future Stars? doesn’t just promise to be a fascinating show but would also appear to offer everything that all the more corporate London Design Festival events don’t. Indeed can’t.

“Future Stars?” opens at The Aram Gallery, 110 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5SG on Saturday September 13th and runs until Saturday October 25th.

aram gallery future stars

Future Stars? at Aram Gallery London

“Alvar Aalto – Second Nature” at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany

Alvar Aalto stands like no other for the easy accessibility of 20th century design. The man who questioned for whom “functionalism” should be “functional” Alvar Aalto not only helped us understand that modernism could be humane and so helped guide post war design and architecture along the path we’ve all come to know and cherish, he was also the man who taught us to mould plywood and that designers can also be producers. In the first major retrospective of Alvar Aalto’s oeuvre this century the Vitra Design Museum exhibition promises to explore not only Aalto’s most important architectural and design works but also examine the wider influences on the man and his canon, including his correspondence with artists such as Hans Arp and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and his contact with and relationship to the leading international architects of the day. We can’t however guarantee they will repeat the epic tale of what happened when Alvar Aalto met George Nelson.

Alvar Aalto – Second Nature opens at the Vitra Design Museum, Charles-Eames-Str. 2, D-79576 Weil am Rhein on Saturday September 27th and runs until Sunday March 1st

Alvar Aalto on his boat Nemo Propheta

Alvar Aalto on his boat Nemo Propheta, 1960s.... And obviously enjoying the memories of his adventures with George Nelson....(Photo Göran Schildt © Schildt Foundation, Courtesy Vitra Design Museum)

Posted in 5 New Design Exhibitions, Architecture, Artek, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Producer, Product, Vitra, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weil am Rhein City of Chairs Shiro Kuramata Apple Honey Rheinpark
August 12th, 2014 by smow

Any self-respecting modern conurbation needs a moniker. An evocative tag line on which to hang its city marketing strategy and attract tourists.

Paris is of course the City of Love, Rome the Eternal City, Prague the City of a Hundred Spires while Edinburgh, whether advisable or not, regails as simply Auld Reekie.

In 1998 the southern German town of Weil am Rhein re-christened itself “City of Chairs”

If we’re honest the reason why escapes us, for aside from Vitra there is, as far as we are aware, no further chair manufacturer in the town.

Nor can Weil am Rhein by any stretch of the imagination be considered the cradle of contemporary chair design.

But then when did facts play a part in such naming decisions. The Polish city of Wrocław calls itself the City of Hundred Bridges when it has, at most, forty; Tel Aviv likes to be known as The City That Never Stops, a patent lie as anyone who has visited over Yom Kippur can testify; while in these pages we have often highlighted the, let’s say curiosities, associated Chemnitz’s claim to be the City of Modernism.

And so, why not Weil am Rhein – City of Chairs. With the Vitra Design Museum Weil am Rhein can at least rightly claim to host one of the most complete documentations of contemporary chair design to be found anywhere.

By way of visualising, and cementing, Weil am Rhein’s claim in 1999 the town’s marketing authority started positioning over-sized models of important and interesting examples of chair designs around the town. Each of the so-called Maxiaturen are produced in a scale ranging from 1.5:1 up to 8:1 and have all been realised in collaboration with the Vitra Design Museum – thus ensuring that just as with the Vitra Design Museum miniatures collection the Maxiaturen remain true to the originals.

Each Maxiaturen is sponsored by a local business or institution and from an initial collection of nine chairs has now grown to 21, and extended geographically beyond the towns boundaries to neighbouring communities.

And so one can enjoy, for example, Jasper Morrison‘s Wingnut Chair on Lindenplatz in Altweil, the Zig Zag chair by Gerrit T. Rietveld on Weil am Rhein Hauptstrasse or 3:1 copy of Michael Thonet’s Chair Nr. 14 in the nearby village of Ötlingen. Further Maxiaturen present works by designers as varied as Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Mart Stam, Michele de Lucchi, Ron Arad or Shiro Kuramata, in addition to two copies of Robert Mallet-Stevens’ 1920s stacking tubular steel chair. One big. And one even bigger.

Although each chair is accompanied by a plaque saying what it is, by whom it is and who paid for it, there is, sadly, no further information available to help the viewer place the work in a historical or creative context. However that aside, the presence of the chairs does make a stroll though and round Weil am Rhein a little more entertaining than would otherwise be the case. But much more allows one a moment of calm to consider both the development of chair design over the decades and also the state of contemporary chair design and the role of the contemporary chair designer. As such should you visit the Vitra Campus do try to find a bit of time to discover the Maxiaturen. And should you decide to photograph any of them – try not to look too much as if you might be from the police, customs and excise, immigration, social work or any similar official body.

Full details on the location of all chairs can be found at: www.w-wt.de

We’ve still not found all 21, but here a few impressions of those we have…..

Posted in Design Tourism, Designer, smow blog compact, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , ,

Vitra Campus Vitra Slide Tower
June 19th, 2014 by smow

Back in 2011 we took umbrage at the fence surrounding the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein and so, taking up Ronald Regan’s mantle, issued a challenge to Vitra’s Chairman Emeritus Rolf Fehlbaum  “Mr Fehlbaum! Tear down this wall” we demanded, “Or at least move it a little. Please”

And Rolf Fehlbaum listened. And has indeed moved it a little. Thank you!1

However, being a much more enlightened man than us, Rolf Fehlbaum thought further and not only took the opportunity thus created to invite Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza to landscape a promenade linking the Vitra House with Zaha Hadid’s Fire Station building, but also engaged artist Carsten Höller to develop an installation for the newly liberated space. The result is the Vitra Slide Tower, an object that does pretty much what it sounds like it should.

Vitra Campus Vitra Slide Tower

Ding-Dong! The fence is gone! To paraphrase the Munchkins. In the background the Vitra Slide Tower.

The decision to invite Álvaro Siza to landscape the promenade was, according to Rolf Fehlbaum, no random decision, rather was made on the basis of Siza’s previous landscaping projects including his swimming pool complex in Leça da Palmeira and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santiago di Compostela. Winding some 500 metres around the western edge of the Vitra Campus the Álvaro-Siza-Promenade is lined with hornbeam hedges, the neat row occasionally opening to reveal green spaces, views across the Vitra Campus and seating areas ringed with granite benches. On its way it passes Renzo Piano’s Diogene and the new Vitra Slide Tower before passing through a narrow gap in a brick and granite wall from where a vista opens at the end of which stands the Fire Station.

Yes, it’s a path.

No, there was no need to hire a Pritzker Prize winning architect to landscape it.

However.

Álvaro Siza has created a promenade that takes the chore out of walking a path. Much like a football referee has done his job well if no-one can remember what they did during a match, so to should such a promenade be undertaken without you having the feeling your walking somewhere. Álvaro Siza has achieved that with a path in which nature and architecture don’t blend effortlessly but one in which they are forced to compete with one another, to fight for their position. Something both components successfully achieve with more than a modicum of charm.

Vitra Campus Vitra Slide Tower

The view from the top of the Vitra Slide Tower

The structure that makes the least effort to blend in or otherwise adapt is without question Carsten Höller’s Vitra Slide Tower. Standing some 30 metres high the Slide Tower is not an especially attractive piece of work, extruding as it does the aesthetic charm of your average electricity pylon. It does however have something unquestionably 1950s trash American retro about it. We’re not saying a touch of the Las Vegas in Weil am Rhein, but at night when the rotating clock is illuminated there is something satisfyingly trashy about it. Like the Manic Street Preacher’s first album. We appreciate we’re probably supposed to say it reminds us of Russian Constructivist architecture à la Tatlins Tower,  which it does, but….

The visual appearance of the piece however is of less importance, what is important is what it is. The process leading to the tower began when Rolf Fehlbaum considered how one could integrate more art into the Vitra Campus site. A sculpture garden didn’t appeal to him, then the contemporary art curator Theodora Vischer suggested he ask Carsten Höller. From the ideas Carsten presented the concept of a tower with slide caught Rolf Fehlbaum’s imagination the most: on the one hand an art instillation but an art installation with elements of architecture and play. And did Charles Eames not implore us to “Take your pleasure seriously”.  The 38m long perspex covered slide allows you to do just that. While from the viewing platform one can enjoy a delightful, and much more sedate, panorama over Weil am Rhein, north Basel, the Tüllinger hills and of course the Vitra Campus.

All in all an excellent addition to the Vitra Campus and something which genuinely adds an extra dimension to any visit.

The Álvaro-Siza-Promenade can be freely enjoyed by all 24/7. The Vitra Slide Tower is open daily from 10am to 6pm, it is free, but be prepared to explain to younger children that use is restricted to those over 6 years old and/or 1.3 metres tall. Which is something we suspect will cause one or the other tantrum this summer. “But it’s a SLIDE mum!!”

In addition to the additions to the Vitra Campus the Vitra Design Museum Gallery is currently presenting the exhibition “Álvaro Siza – Visions of the Alhambra“. It is the same exhibition as previously shown at the Aedes Architecture Forum in Berlin. And so we refer interested readers to our previous post. And until Sunday September 14th the exhibition Konstantin Grcic – Panorama can be enjoyed at the Vitra Design Museum itself.

1. There may be a certain degree of dramatic licence in these opening sentences…..

Posted in Architecture, Producer, Vitra, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , , ,

Verner Panton Visiona 1970 Revisiting the Future at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery
April 19th, 2014 by smow

Parallel to the exhibition Konstantin Grcic – Panorama, the Vitra Design Museum is revisiting perhaps the daddy of all explorations of our possible futures, Verner Panton’s 1970 Visiona 2 exhibition.

Lacking a three story Rhine cruiser on which to present the complete exhibition, the Vitra Design Museum are instead presenting a recreation of the fabled Fantasy Landscape installation from Visiona 2 in the Vitra Design Museum gallery.

A recreation which one can enter and so experience with all your senses. Not that we recommend licking it.

In addition “Visiona 1970 Revisiting the Future” at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery presents original plans, sketches, inventories and other documentation to help one fully understand the scale and variety of the original 1970 Cologne exhibition.

Visiona 1970. Revisiting the Future can be viewed at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery, Charles-Eames-Str. 2, 79576 Weil am Rhein, Germany until Sunday June 1st 2014.

Entry is free and full details can be found at www.design-museum.de

A few impressions:

Verner Panton Visiona 1970 Revisiting the Future at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery

Verner Panton - Visiona 1970. Revisiting the Future at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery

Verner Panton Visiona 1970 Revisiting the Future at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery

Verner Panton - Visiona 1970. Revisiting the Future at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery

Verner Panton Visiona 1970 Revisiting the Future at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery

Verner Panton - Visiona 1970. Revisiting the Future at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery

Verner Panton Visiona 1970 Revisiting the Future at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery

Verner Panton - Visiona 1970. Revisiting the Future at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery

Posted in Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, smow blog compact, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , ,

Ulrich Müther Binz
February 28th, 2014 by smow

The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He’ll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
And hide his head under his wing, poor thing.

Or, and much more sensibly, take himself off and visit one of the new design exhibitions opening during March. And so not only keep himself warm but also informed, entertained and inspired.

Our selection from the new, robin friendly, openings in March features an homage to East German concrete architecture in Stuttgart, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec in Tulsa, Henry van de Velde in Zürich, Ray Eames in Pasadena, and Konstantin Grcic’s vision of the future in Weil am Rhein.

“Ray Eames: In the Spotlight” at the Williamson Gallery at the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California, USA

In our 2013 post celebrating Ray Eames’ 100th birthday we encouraged “you all to investigate the works and talents of a remarkable artist and designer.

The Williamson Gallery in Pasadena are now offering that chance.

Curated by Eames’ granddaughter Carla Hartman “Ray Eames: In the Spotlight” promises to display letters, sketches, films, furniture, photographs et al that present an honest and deep glimpse of Ray Eames, and so introduce and illuminate the life and work of a woman who far too often and far too unfairly is presented as merely having provided the aesthetic accent to Charles Eames technical genius. Particularly exciting for us is the promise of sketches and drawings from the years before she met Charles, objects that could/should help explain how the New York abstractionist Ray Kaiser became the Californian modernist Ray Eames.

Ray Eames: In the Spotlight opens at the Williamson Gallery at the Art Center College of Design, 1700 Lida Street, Pasadena, California, USA on Tuesday February 25th and runs until Sunday May 4th

Ray Eames In the Spotlight at the Williamson Gallery at the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California, USA

"Ray Eames: In the Spotlight" at the Williamson Gallery at the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California, USA

“Henry van de Velde – Interieurs” at Museum Bellerive, Zürich, Switzerland

One of the problems with all round talents such as Henry van de Velde is presenting exhibitions of their work. There is simply too much of it. And it is too varied.

As a consequence reducing down to explore one aspect, and so deciding to ignore all inevitable complaints about a lack of context, is the only realistic solution.

The Museum für Gestaltung Zürich’s Museum Bellerive dépendance have taken this sensible step and are hosting an exhibition devoted to Henry van de Velde’s interior designs. Presenting furniture, cutlery, crockery and textiles, complemented by photographs and planning sketches, “Henry van de Velde – Interieurs” promises to present not only an insight into van de Velde’s approach to his work but also explain how he helped move our understanding of interiors from the dark, heavy days of the late 19th century and onto the lighter, reduced style of the early 20th century.

Henry van de Velde – Interieurs opens at Museum Bellerive, Höschgasse 3, 8008 Zürich, Switzerland on Friday February 28th and runs until Sunday June 1st

Henry van de Velde Leidenschaft Funktion und Schönheit Klassik Stiftung Weimar

A Henry van de Velde interior, here as seen at "Leidenschaft, Funktion und Schönheit", Klassik Stiftung Weimar

“Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec – Album”  at the Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

When the Vitra Design Museum Gallery opened the Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec exhibition Album it felt somehow, well, odd. An exhibition of drawings, sketches, shapes, colours. By designers.

?

???

Since then the foresightedness of the project has become apparent and ever more texts, books and exhibitions are devoting themselves to the analogue creative process and for all the role of drawing and sketching in design.

Presenting over 300 sketches by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec complimented by photographs and models Album provides not only a delightful insight into the brother’s creative process, but much more underscores the importance of having a firm understanding of what you want to do, what the aim of your project is, before you begin to form your design, your product. And that for such a process computers aren’t always the best solution.

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec – Album opens at the Philbrook Museum of Art, 2727 S. Rockford Road, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA on Sunday March 2nd and runs until Sunday May 11th

bouroullec album vitra design museum weil am rhein

"Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec - Album", here at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery, Weil am Rhein

“Ulrich Müther – In Beton Gegossen” at the Architekturgalerie am Weißenhof, Stuttgart, Germany

Walk from north to south along the beach at Binz on the German Baltic Sea island of Rügen and you will eventually come across something that will make you stop. And stare. And possibly panic.

A U.F.O.

Created in 1981 by the East German civic engineer Ulrich Müther the Binz U.F.O. is, in actual fact, a lifeguard station constructed from a thin concrete shell.
And one of the most gloriously beguiling examples of Ulrich Müther’s craft.

Introduced to the “International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures” while a student in Dresden Ulrich Müther was to go onto become one of the leading protagonists of the use of thin concrete shells in architectural structures.

A career development no doubt helped by his nationality. On the one hand his thin, almost weightless structures provided a welcome aesthetic contrast to the solid architecture of the DDR, thus allowing for a bit of variety in the cityscapes: but they also used less resources. Something which could only appeal to the notoriously stretched DDR regime.

In addition to the Binz U.F.O. further Ulrich Müther highlights include the so-called Teepott restaurant in Warnemünde, the Café Seerose, Potsdam and the Zeiss Planetarium in Berlin.

Quite aside from the historical importance and aesthetic elegance of many of the projects, the construction principles explored and developed by Ulrich Müther during his career are more relevant than ever today. And worthy of an exhibition.

Ulrich Müther – In Beton Gegossen opens at the Architekturgalerie am Weißenhof, Am Weißenhof 30, 70191 Stuttgart, Germany on Thursday February 27th and runs until Monday April 7th

Ulrich Müther Binz

The Binz U.F.O., sorry lifeguard station by Ulrich Müther, a project featured in "Ulrich Müther – In Beton Gegossen" at the Architekturgalerie am Weißenhof, Stuttgart

“Konstantin Grcic – Panorama” at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany

A museal design exhibition can, in principle, have two perspectives: a look back or a look forward.

“Konstantin Grcic – Panorama” at the Vitra Design Museum aims to do both.

Part of the exhibition promising an overview of Grcic’s canon, the second part his vision of the future.

And this vision is, for us, the most enticing aspect of the exhibition.

Despite the obvious reduced clarity and easy comprehensibility of his designs Konstantin Grcic’s work is largely not about the object itself but the route taken, the objects raison d’etre and its context. As such Konstantin Grcic’s work is often underscored by a conceptual complexity that belies its visual simplicity.

We’re looking forward to seeing in how far Konstantin Grcic can and has transformed this design understanding into a coherent vision of the future.

Konstantin Grcic – Panorama opens at the Vitra Design Museum, Charles-Eames-Str. 2, 79576 Weil am Rhein, Germany on Saturday March 22nd and runs until Sunday September 14th

Konstantin Grcic - Panorama at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany

"Konstantin Grcic - Panorama" at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany

Posted in 5 New Design Exhibitions, Designer, Exhibitions and Shows, Product, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

happy birthday verner panton
February 13th, 2014 by smow

It is almost certainly more by chance than design, but in the week that Verner Panton would have celebrated his 88th birthday the Vitra Design Museum Gallery opened an exhibition devoted to his inimitable Visiona 2 exhibition from 1970.

Presented as part of the warm up to the forthcoming “Panorama” exhibition from and by Konstantin Grcic, “Visiona 1970: Revisiting the Future” explores the background to and realisation of the Visiona 2 showcase, including an accessible, usable, sitonable recreation of the “Phantasy Landscape” element: arguably the best known component of Visiona 2, one of the clearest expressions of Panton’s ideas and one of the most enduring memorials to Verner Panton.

And as such one of the most fitting ways to celebrate the birthday of a designer and architect who has given us so many reasons to be thankful.

By way of our contribution to the festivities: a cake composed of miniature Panton Chairs as presented during the celebration of 20 years of the Vitra Design Museum Miniatures Collection at Hugo Boss Milan in 2012

Happy Birthday Verner Panton!

happy birthday verner panton

Happy Birthday Verner Panton (Cake courtesy of the Vitra Design Museum and Hugo Boss Milan)

25th January 1970 Visiona 2 Verner Panton Cologne

Phantasy Landscape by Verner Panton as presented at Visiona 2, Cologne in 1970 (Photo: © Verner Panton Design)

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

January 20th, 2014 by smow

Aside from the ability to accurately focus light, Richard Sapper had a further motivation in designing his Tizio lamp:

“Another problem was that I am a very disorganised person. On my desk there is no space to place a lamp, or at best one is forced to place it on the very edge, the rest of the table being covered with things that I probably don’t need, but which I can only store on my desk. In such a situation one needs a lamp with a long boom arm. To effortlessly move such a lamp one has the mechanical problem of finding a structural system, a mechanism, that allows a small diffuser to be moved without any resistance. There are two possible systems: a boom with a spring or one with counterweight. For me it was clear that an arm with a counterweight was the better option, the more natural.” Richard Sapper “Der Design-Prozeß” in Uta Brandes “Richard Sapper. Werkzeuge für das Leben” Steidl Verlag, Göttingen, 1993

A further piece of evidence to support the truly excellent research paper by Prof. Kathleen D. Vohs: “Physical Order Produces Healthy Choices, Generosity, and Conventionality, Whereas Disorder Produces Creativity”

Lightopia Talk. Richard Sapper – Lifetime Oeuvre takes place at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein on Thursday January 23rd at 6pm.

As before if you can make it, do.

Posted in Artemide, Designer, Producer Tagged with: , , , ,

Richard Sapper Tizio Artemide
January 16th, 2014 by smow

With the winter solstice behind us and the days growing noticeably longer, the Vitra Design Museum exhibition Lightopia draws slowly towards its natural end.

But before the lights finally go out on March 9th there are still a few genuine highlights in the Fringe programme to be enjoyed, including on Thursday January 23rd a talk with and about the Milan based designer Richard Sapper.

Born in Munich in 1932 Richard Sapper has worked with and for companies as varied as Daimler-Benz, Kartell, Siemens and Alessi, has created televisions, telephones, chairs, espresso machines, bookcases and telephone boxes, in addition to perhaps his best known work – and unquestionably the basis for the invitation to the Vitra Design Museum – the 1972 lamp Tizio for Artemide.

The idea behind Tizio is as simple as it is egoistic “When working or reading I like it when the light only shines on the piece of paper in front of me, with the rest of the room in half-darkness. Under such conditions I feel myself more at ease and and can better concentrate.”1 That such a lamp didn’t exist, Richard Sapper designed it. And, fortuitously, Artemide were impressed enough to manufacture it.

Making use of a double articulated arm concept, the ingenuity of Tizio lies in the fact that the balance and movement of the two arms is regulated by a counterweight system. No springs, no steel cables, no screws to tighten. As such Tizio can be effortlessly moved into practically any position. With one finger if need be. This freedom of movement is aided by the lack of wires: the electricity flows through the frame, the mains electricity having first been converted to low voltage through a transformer in the base.

In addition, and appropriately given the part focus in Lightopia on the effects on lighting design of the EU’s decision to ban conventional light bulbs, Tizio was one of the first lighting objects to make use of a halogen lamp – a light source that in the 1970s was almost exclusively used in car headlamps. Or as Richard Sapper told the German Newspaper Die Zeit in 2010 “If you needed a new bulb for your Tizio, you went to the petrol station to buy one.”2

Unconventional as it is ingenious it took a while before the public were ready to accept the object. According to Artemide founder Ernesto Gismondi, in its first year on the market Tizio sold only 1000 examples, in the second year just 500.3 However in the intervening four decades Tizio has not only advanced to become one of the more popular and commercially successful lighting design objects, but also one of the most copied, and according to Gismondi Artemide pay a small fortune every year taking on the plagiarists. Wherever they find them.

In the course of the evening Richard Sapper will no doubt expound in more detail on all these aspects of Tizio, as well as talking more generally about his 60 years as an industrial designer and presenting his views on the current state of the design industry.

If you can make it, we would recommend you do.

Lightopia Talk. Richard Sapper – Lifetime Oeuvre takes place at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein on Thursday January 23rd at 6pm. Entrance is free.

1 Hans Höger “Die Tizio-Leuchte von Richard Sapper” Verlag form, Frankfurt am Main, 1997

2 Tillmann Prüfer, Designer Richard Sapper. Der Weltverbesserer. Die Zeit 09.04.2010 http://www.zeit.de/2010/15/Richard-Sapper-15/ Accessed 15.01.2014

3 Uta Brandes “Richard Sapper. Werkzeuge für das Leben” Steidl Verlag, Göttingen, 1993

Richard Sapper Tizio Artemide

Tizio by Richard Sapper for Artemide

Posted in Artemide, Designer, Producer, Product, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , , ,

October 11th, 2013 by smow

When we spoke to Marc Zehntner and Mateo Kries, the joint heads of the Vitra Design Museum, they told us that they hoped to make the institution “… a much more vibrant location that doesn’t just present exhibitions exploring the most important design themes and topics but much more asks question of the visitors and so becomes more of an experience.

The fringe programme to the current Vitra Design Museum exhibition Lightopia wonderfully demonstrates just what they meant, featuring as it does a series of talks, films, installations and excursions that explore light in more ways than you thought possible.

And in more locations.

For whereas normally the fringe programme contends itself to events at the main Vitra Campus base, for Lightopia the Vitra Design Museum have joined forces with the Haus für elektronische Künste Basel, the Literaturhaus Basel and the Mulhouse theatre La Filature to instigate the event series “Lichtlandschaften” , a programme of events throughout the Three Country Region of France, Switzerland and Germany.

The opening event was/is the light and sound installation California Sunshine by Alexandre Joly at HeK@Keck Kiosk Basel. Over the coming months the Lichtlandschaften programme features events as varied as “fire studies”, a light inspired audiovisual show by Hamburg-based electronic duo incite/ in the Haus für elektronische Künste Basel; “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse” a light installation by Parisian artists Berger & Berger; and an evening of “Light in Literature” presented in the unique atmosphere of Carlos Cruz-Diez’s installation “Chromosaturation”, one of the Lightopia exhibits.

A further highlight, and indeed central component, of the “Lichtlandschaften” programme is and promises to be regular presentations of Canadian artist Chris Salter’s light and sound installation “N_Polytope: Behaviors in Light and Sound After Iannis Xenakis” in the Buckminster Fuller Dome.

Among the talks organised as part of the Lightopia Fringe Programme particular highlights for us include “Inventing Tolomeo” with Michele De Lucchi on Thursday October 17th, in which the background to one of the most ingenious, and instantly recognisable, pieces of lighting design will be explained by its creator; “Flames and Fashion” on November 14th in which light designer Moritz Waldemeyer discusses the role and importance of light in creating atmosphere and mood; while on Thursday January 23rd 2014 Richard Sapper looks back on his, not inconsiderable, light design canon.

Further highlights of the Vitra Design Museum Lightopia Fringe Programme include the workshop “ReDesign – Lights from Recycled Materials”, a tour through the exhibition with Vitra Design Museum Chief Conservator
Susanne Graner in which the specific problems of restoring and caring for lighting will be discussed and a visit to CERN in Meyrin and their particle accelerators where Prof. Jürg Schacher will answer the question “What is light?”

Which is of course something anyone planning viewing the exhibition should really know.

Full details on the Fringe Programme to Lightopia at the Vitra Design Museum can be found at www.design-museum.de

And as before a visit to Lightopia can be thoroughly recommended.

vitra design museum lightopia carlos cruz-diez chromosaturation

Chromosaturation by Carlos Cruz-Diez ... location for an exploration of Light in Literature.

vitra design museum lightopia

Vitra Design Museum Lightopia

Posted in Architecture, Exhibitions and Shows, Producer, Vitra, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , ,

Triennale Design Museum Milan Made in Slums Mathare Nairobi Koroboi
September 28th, 2013 by smow

“My, my, my, Delilah! Why, why, why, Delilah!”

The morning of Friday September 27th 2013 was one of those misty autumn occasions that cause SANAA’s immense new Vitra Factory Building in Weil am Rhein to merge, almost unseen, with the grey background. Even Herzog & de Meuron’s new Basel Messe complex was reduced to nothing more grand than a continuation of the uncaring monotonous sky. The glitzing, shimmering palace of high summer just the weak shadow of a memory.

And so it was perhaps fitting that the Vitra Design Museum choose this dank September morn to open their latest exhibition, “Lightopia”, an exhibition devoted to light.

For today was a clear warning, in the coming months we will all be in need of a little light.

vitra design museum lightopia

Vitra Design Museum Lightopia

“She was my woman. As she deceived me I watched and went out of my mind”

Presenting some 300 objects, around a third of them lamps, lights or other illumination objects, Lightopia is an exploration of light, not lights. The difference is important.

One is a physical object. The other is an intangible matter. The designer’s job is transforming the latter into the former.

In his opening notes Vitra Design Museum Chef Curator Mateo Kries underscored the difference and noted both the cultural importance of light through the ages and also the increasing importance, relevance and standing of light design, thanks in part, though obviously not exclusively, to the EU’s decision to ban conventional light bulbs.

And such thoughts form the core of Lightopia. Organised into four sections the exhibition opens with “Living in Lightopia” which presents light in contemporary cultural and social contexts, including light pollution, the history of the light bulb, new lighting technology and new uses for light beyond illumination. The second section then presents “Icons of lighting design”, an exploration of 100 years of lighting design, starting with works by Gerrit T. Rietveld and Wilhelm Wagenfeld before moving over, almost, all the famous classics of the genre, including, George Carwardine’s 1932 Anglepoise, Tizio by Richard Sapper, Artichoke by Poul Henningsen and various works by Verner Panton before reaching 85 Lamps by Rody Graumans through droog.

Having set the scene the second half of Lightopia explores light in more detail.  “Colour, Space, Motion” explores light’s role in helping defining our world – positive and negative  – before in the final section “Light for tomorrow” contemporary experimental, future orientated lighting design projects are presented.

Throughout the exhibition the displayed objects are complimented by documents, videos and photographs which help set the works in context of time and place.

vitra design museum lightopia chris fraser slant

Slant by Chris Fraser. As seen at the Vitra Design Museum, Lightopia

“I could see that girl was no good for me. But I was lost like a slave that no man could free “

Aside from the wealth of objects on display, the real joy of Lightopia is that it isn’t just objects on display. They are a means to an end. A way to make accessible a subject that is as abstract as it is ubiquitous. Whereas in the past lighting design was generally about creating aesthetic, playful, functional, innovative objects for home and office the future of lighting design lies, as with all design genres, elsewhere.

And Lightopia is brave enough to tackle this “elsewhere”

Sadly for us this exploration of where the future of lighting design lies was one of the weaker parts of the exhibition. Laid out as a sort of laboratory on the upper floor of the Vitra Design Museum, the “Light for tomorrow” section was for us a little too busy. Too much. One could say not so well illuminated. It was for us unclear exactly what we were supposed to take from all the objects, projects and ideas on display: other than lots of contemporary designers are doing a lot of clever things with lights. Which was nice to see, but just as we say, for us a little to crowded. An overflowing cup as it were.

And much as we adore projects such as Fragile Future by Lonneke Gordijn & Ralph Nauta or Vase by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, we really couldn’t understand why they were on display. Maybe we missed something, we often do, but for us the organisers would have been better advised to have reduced the number of modern applications covered. And to have covered them in more depth. Less famously being more.

“I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more. My, my, my Delilah. Why, why, why Delilah “

The central question, as so often, is what future role will and should designers play?

Light installations or the playful use of new materials in expensive design gallery projects and the like are all well and good, but don’t help those living in urban slums or isolated rural locations with no ready, reliable access to the electricity required to enable a standard of domestic lighting necessary for a meaningful, humane existence.

One of the objects on display is the “Light-Space Modulator” by László Moholy-Nagy. In 1944 Moholy-Nagy wrote: “To be a designer means not only to be a sensible manipulator of techniques, an analyst of the present production processes, but also to accept the social obligations connected with it. Thus design is dependent not alone on function, science and technological processes, but upon social implications as well.”1

And just as “Light-Space Modulator” makes no real positive contribution to social development, we didn’t see very much in Lightopia which showed exactly how contemporary designers are harnessing the potential of our modern technological and scientific understanding to either increase access to light or to encourage more responsible use of light. The social implications.

Yes there were and are projects, yes one can follow what is being presented, but we just somehow missed real examples of the transfer of research into practice. Or perhaps better put, a concentration on examples of the transfer of research into practice. Because only when someone benefits from research is research truly valuable.

vitra design museum lightopia carlos cruz-diez chromosaturation

Chromosaturation by Carlos Cruz-Diez. As seen at the Vitra Design Museum, Lightopia

“Forgive me Delilah I just couldn’t take any more. Forgive me Delilah I just couldn’t take any more”

The Smiths famously sang “There is a light that never goes out” and while such a lamp would unquestionably be a prime example of really, really bad design and so would rightly have no place in such an exhibition, the fact that light will always be required, and thus won’t/can’t be extinguished, is inescapable. Lightopia doesn’t, can’t provide all the answers as to how our future needs can or should be met. But then it doesn’t set out to. What it sets out to do is to present an exploration of the story of light and for all the role of design in the development of our contemporary relationship to and utilization of light, how lighting design has influenced modern living spaces and how it could influence such in the future, and the curators have achieved that in a well considered, well curated and very well realised show. If, as we say, at times one is a little swamped and overwhelmed.

And so with winter approaching should you find yourself in or near Weil am Rhein a visit to the Vitra Design Museum might just be the thing you need to lift your spirits.

And Delilah ?

As we were viewing the exhibition we were aware of a continual background soundtrack courtesy of Tom Jones. Wherever we went, Tom Jones was in the vacinity. We were unsure why until we reached what for most visitors is the middle of the exhibition; but, given the curious and unique way we view such shows is for us the end.
On the ground floor the organisers have reconstructed Cesare Casati, Emanuele Ponzio and Gino Marotta’s Bolzano nightclub “Il Grifoncino” as it was in 1968. Complete with music of the day. Three whole tunes: Delilah, Lady Madonna by the Beatles and that Italian tune everyone knows, no one can name and which sounds a bit like Eviva España.  Three songs on constant loop. Nice idea: we’re just glad we don’t have to spend all day every day working in the Vitra Design Museum exhibition space. The two hours that we were there being enough to lodge Tiger Tom’s account of a jealousy fuelled murder in our ever softening brains…..

We just felt duty bound to bring you a full impression of the exhibition experience.

Lightopia can be viewed at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein until Sunday March 16th 2014.

Full details can be found at www.design-museum.de

1. Moholy-Nagy, L “Design Potentialities” in New Architecture and City planning. A symposium. Ed Paul Zucker New York 1944.

Posted in Architecture, Belux, Designer, Droog, Exhibitions and Shows, Louis Poulsen, Producer, Product, Tecnolumen, Vitra, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Panton Chair
March 19th, 2010 by smow

On Saturday 20.03.2010 the latest Vitra Design Museum exhibition “The Essence of Things. Design and the Art of Reduction” officially opens.
An exhibition very much after our own hearts.

“The Essence of Things. Design and the Art of Reduction” explores the logic that “it is in the nature of human beings to seek the simplest solution” Although admittedly this is a logic that – despite its logic –  all too many designers somehow manage to ignore, there are thankfully enough examples of good, reduced, design to prove that simple really is best.

The exhibition features works from, for example,  Michael Thonet, Le Corbusier, Charles and Ray Eames, Jasper Morrison and naturally the doyen of “less is more” Dieter Rams.

In addition to featuring items dating from a Stone Age stone axe, over the  Thonet Chair No. 14 and up to the iPod, the designer furniture is complemented by photos from the fields of architecture, fashion and art.

The Essence of Things. Design and the Art of Reduction” runs at the Vitra Design Museum until 19.09.

Our tip: visit in April, combine it with a trip to the VitraHaus and enjoy the wonderful cherry blossom in the orchard between the VitraHaus and the Vitra Design Museum.

A stone axe, good, simple, design

"The Essence of Things. Design and the Art of Reduction": A stone axe, good, simple, design (foto: Andreas Sütterlin, copyright Vitra Design Museum)

Eames Chairs

"The Essence of Things. Design and the Art of Reduction": Eames Chairs good, simple, design (foto: Copyright Vitra)

Panton Chair

"The Essence of Things. Design and the Art of Reduction": Panton Chair good, simple, design (foto: Andreas Sütterlin, copyright Panton Design, Basel)

Posted in Exhibitions and Shows, smow offline, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

VitraHaus om Vitra as a homage to Charles and Ray Eamesfr
February 23rd, 2010 by julius

As many of you will be aware, the construction of the VitraHaus was not without it’s controversy.

For all the decision to paint the outer walls black.

We at (smow)blog can however exclusively reveal that other options were considered.

And below we publish exclusive pictures of the rejected colour schemes.

VitraHaus in Hella Jongerius Polder sofa look

VitraHaus in Hella Jongerius Polder sofa look

Berlin based, Dutch designer Hella Jongerius has created the Vitra Colour Laboratory to help encourage VitraHaus visitors to be more imaginative and creative in their use of colour. One version of the VitraHaus colour scheme played with Jongerius’ Polder Sofa colour scheme.

VitraHaus with an Algue by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec finish

VitraHaus with an Algue by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec finish

Breton brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec‘s classic Algue room divider was also considered as a possible colour scheme for the outer walls of the VitraHaus. Was however rejected owing to the number of Bouroullec items that are on display inside the VitraHaus.

VitraHaus a la Kast by Maarten van Severen

VitraHaus a la Kast by Maarten van Severen

Belgian designer Maarten van Severen is one of the real “in house” favourites at Vitra, and a man whose time came far too soon. As a tribute to one of the true legends of Belgian design a colour scheme was created that paid homage to Maarten van Severen’s Kast shelving unit.

VitraHaus in Verner Panton Panton Chair classic red

VitraHaus in Verner Panton Panton Chair classic red

The cooperation between Vitra and Danish designer Verner Panton opened a whole chapter in the Vitra story; the creation of specially commissioned pieces in collaboration between Vitra and the designer. In honour of the life and work of Verner Panton the possibility of painting the outer walls of the VitraHaus in Panton Chair classic red was considered.

VitraHaus om Vitra as a homage to Charles and Ray Eamesfr

VitraHaus from Vitra as a homage to Charles and Ray Eames

No two people are more intimately associated with the Vitra story than Charles and Ray Eames. And so it was no surprise that one of Ray Eames’ classic textile designs – namely small dot pattern – should be considered for use on the outer walls of the VitraHaus.

In the end, black won through as the outer colour of the VitraHaus…. but it could all have been so different…

VitraHaus in Millerstripe multicolored bright by Alexander Girard finish

VitraHaus as it could have been: In Millerstripe Multicolored Bright by Alexander Girard finish

Posted in Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The less-spotted wooly Vegetal graze on the VitraHaus Cafe Terrace
February 20th, 2010 by julius

If a picture really does paint a thousand words; a dozen VitraHaus photos here saves us an awful lot of typing.

Below a few of our favourite images. And if you have any of your own photos that you would like to share with us, please email them to blog@smow.de Full credit will naturally be given for any photos used.

VitraHaus: The media await the start of the press conference

VitraHaus: The media await the start of the press conference

VitraHaus: Rolf Fehlbaum, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron

VitraHaus: Rolf Fehlbaum, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron

VitraHaus: Rolf Fehlbaum in the media focus

VitraHaus: Rolf Fehlbaum in the media focus

Vitrahaus: As seen through a Living Tower from Verner Panton

Vitrahaus: As seen through a Living Tower from Verner Panton

VitraHaus: Spiral staircases are an important feature

VitraHaus: Spiral staircases are an important feature of the VitraHaus

Akari lamps in the VitraHaus

Akari lamps in the VitraHaus

VitraHaus cloakroom: Obviously with Eames Hang it Alls

VitraHaus cloakroom: Obviously with Eames Hang it Alls

Maarten van Severen and Verner Panton in VitraHaus

Maarten van Severen and Verner Panton in VitraHaus

Fourth floor of the VitraHaus by

Fourth floor of the VitraHaus by Herzog and de Meuron

Amoebe by Verner Panton in the VitraHaus

Amoebe by Verner Panton in the VitraHaus

A House of Cards by Charles and Ray Eames in the VitraHaus

A House of Cards by Charles and Ray Eames in the VitraHaus

VitraHaus by Herzog and de Meuron: Orgnaic forms

VitraHaus by Herzog and de Meuron: Organic forms

Vitrahaus: Vitrine

Vitrahaus: Vitrine

One of the last remaining Eames Mamoths has taken up residence in the VitraHaus

One of the last remaining Eames Mammoths has taken up residence in the VitraHaus

The less-spotted wooly Vegetal graze on the VitraHaus Cafe Terrace

The lesser-spotted woolly Vegetal graze on the VitraHaus Cafe Terrace

Posted in Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Vitrahaus and Vitra Design Museum
February 20th, 2010 by julius

Some 285 journalists were present for the press preview of Herzog & De Meuron’s new VitraHaus in Weil am Rhein on February 12 2010.

285 journalists who were then obliged not to breath a word about what they had experienced until Saturday 20.02.2010……

Vitrahaus by Herzog and de Meuron

Vitrahaus by Herzog and de Meuron

Lets get the obvious point out the way first.
The VitraHaus is magnificent.

We approached Herzog & De Meuron’s construction on foot from Mühlheimerstrasse and the first view over the car park was every bit as wonderful as we had expected.

Like 10 year olds on a school trip we spent the first two hours photographing the VitraHaus from outside, driven part by fear that it would vanish and part wanting to avoid that stomach sinking feeling of getting back to the office and realising that we really should have taken that shot.

Walking around the outside of the VitraHaus, however, it is easy to understand from where the complaints originate.

Vitrahaus next to Richard Buckminster Fuller's Dome

Vitrahaus next to Richard Buckminster Fuller's Dome

The building stands not only on the very edge of the Vitra Campus, but also on the very edge of Weil am Rhein. And so just as the town gives way to the gentle, rolling countryside one is confronted with this huge, chaotic, brooding, dark structure.

Herzog and De Meuron may claim that “[t]he charcoal colour of the exterior stucco skin unifies the structure, ‘earths’ it and connects it to the surrounding landscape”. For us that is architect speak; the building is immense and we can well imagine it will take a lot of getting used to by those motorists who drive past or those “Weilers” out walking their dogs.

Which isn’t to detract from the architectural splendour of the construction.
As we say. Magnificent.

Then after failing to find any further angles from which to photograph the VitraHaus …. we went inside.

And found it good. But not as good as outside.

Inside looks like a Vitra showroom.

Which is of course what it is.

Just we didn’t expect it to look so much like a Vitra showroom.

The longer we spent inside the less it felt like a Vitra showroom. But it still looked like one.

VitraHaus. View from fourth floor over

VitraHaus: View from fourth floor over the Tüllinger Hill

Not being the brightest peas in the pod, we viewed the VitraHaus in the wrong direction…. We started at the bottom.
Only later on the train to Aschau im Chiemgau and Moormann, did we realise that you are supposed to start at the top … and work down.

Had we started at the top our first impression would have been an absolutely gorgeous view across the immediately neighbouring vineyards and orchards, over the Tüllinger Hill and on towards the Black Forest.

And of a Spin Table Candelabra by Tom Dixon. A product not produced by Vitra.

We were very impressed to regularly find items on display that aren’t made by Vitra, and can only express our admiration to Vitra for taking the brave step. But then those who have studied, if not personally followed, the “careers” of Rolf Fehlbaum and Vitra know that for them the quality of the work is always, always, more important than any potential financial gain. In addition to the Tom Dixon Candelabra we also spotted “non-Vitra” works by Konstantin Grcic and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec.

Vitrahaus: A serie sof different styles in one building

Vitrahaus: A series of different styles in one building

Each “room” in the VitraHaus is given over to a different style of room design/room usage. Room layouts that will hopefully change with the seasons to best optimise the light and backdrop in each location.

For as you move through the VitraHaus – downwards in the correct direction – you are presented with continually changing views of the surrounding landscape; not just new views, but the same views from different perspectives. We cant agree with Rolf Fehlbaum when he said that he had received wonderful new perspectives of the views over Weil am Rhein and surroundings countryside thanks to the VitraHaus.

But that’s only because we haven’t seen Weil am Rhein as often as the Vitra Chairman.

That said as one moves through the VitraHaus, the borders between inside and outside really do melt into one another and the surroundings do become part of the building.

It’s an old architectural trick, but a good architectural trick. And an architectural trick that makes the VitraHaus a truly wonderful experience.

Vitrahaus. Vitrine, the only part of the VitraHaus that is a "museum"

Vitrahaus. Vitrine, the only part of the VitraHaus that is a "museum"

As you move through the VitraHaus – downwards in the correct direction – you are also actively encouraged try out all the products on display. Despite offering a true journey through post-war furniture design, the VitraHaus isn’t a stuffy furniture museum. Rather visitors can sit in the chairs, lean on the desks and wrestle with the Eames Elephants. More practically you can also examine quality of the craftsmanship and experience the haptics of the articles.

Something which we found good.

What we didn’t find so good was the fact that the press conference took place in the from Hella Jongerius designed Vitra Colour Laboratory.

Vitrahaus: Prototype for Hella Jongerius Vitra Colour Laboratory

Vitrahaus: Prototype for Hella Jongerius Vitra Colour Laboratory

To judge from the amount of coverage Ms Jongerius has received, the Vitra Media Moles have clearly been very busy placing the Vitra Colour Laboratory in the international, for all the American, press. But then with over 250 journalists and photographers in the VitraHaus, not only can no one see and experience the Vitra Colour Laboratory. But there is also no information on it in the press kit.

Rolf Fehlbaum did make mention of the Vitra Colour Laboratory and his hope that it would encourage people to be braver in their use of colour, if not as brave as when Verner Panton furnished one of Herr Fehlbaum’s previous flats…. but at that moment the laboratory was packed away and we all sat on elephant stools not really knowing what to expect.

Which was a real shame.

Otherwise we had no other real complaints.

Vitrahaus: A secret world of space, light and designer furniture

Vitrahaus: A secret world of space, light and designer furniture

Architect Jacques Herzog stated that for him the user experience is more important than the architect’s description of how the building functions and what it should be.

And we couldn’t agree more.

VitraHaus is not for everyone.

A lot of people will just find immensely dull and pointless.
We didn’t.

Nor is it particularly worth the trip to Weil am Rhein just to see the VitraHaus.

However, as an extension to the Vitra Campus and as a further reason to spend time in and around Weil am Rhein, the VitraHaus is fantastic.

And personally we can’t wait for SANAA’s new production building to be finished later on this year.

Vitrahaus and Vitra Design Museum

Vitrahaus and Vitra Design Museum

Some 50 years ago Rolf Fehlbaums mother, and Vitra co-founder, Erika Fehlbaum bought the land on which the Vitra Campus now stands, and so in effect created the conditions which have allowed not only Vitra to expand, but have given Vitra the space on which to create their homage to modern design.

It is therefore more than fitting that the new VitraHaus is dedicated to Erika Fehlbaum.

The VitraHaus opens for the public on February 22nd 2010 and is open Monday – Sunday from 10am to 6pm

Posted in smow, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , , , ,

Charles Eames Three legged side chair from 1944 (photo via http://www.moma.org/)
February 17th, 2010 by julius
Weil am Rhein Rathaus

Weil am Rhein Rathaus

When we were still young, fit and healthy, towns and cities existed.

Just existed.

These days in order to exist a city needs to be the city of something.
And so  as one drives along a German motorway, every ten metres or so comes a large brown sign announcing the next conurbation as “Chemnitz – City of the Modernity”, “Pied Piper City Hameln” or “Prien am Chiemsee – City of the criminally lazy taxi drivers”.

Not wanting to be the outsider in this age of claims making, Weil am Rhein has decided to call itself “Weil am Rhein – City of Chairs”

And what could be more appropriate for a city that uses an image of the Vitra Design Museum to illustrate the “Economy and Tourism” section of their homepage and which welcomes 100,000 tourists a year to the Vitra Campus in the Charles Eames Strasse.

And it’s certainly a lot catchier than “Weil am Rhein – City of the huge goods train station”

There’s just two things that bother us.

Trifling, small,  things, but you know us….

Apple Honey by Shiro Kuramata in Weil am Rhein

Apple Honey by Shiro Kuramata in Weil am Rhein

In front of the modernistic and inspirational “Rheincenter” stands a huge statue of a chair.

A chair that isn’t, wasn’t and never will be produced by Vitra. Rather by Dutch producer USM Pastoe.(Obviously not to confused with Swiss producer USM Haller)

Apple Honey by Shiro Kuramata is a wonderful chair.

Shiro Kuramata did partake in the very first Vitra Editions, alongside the likes of Frank Gehry and Ron Arad.

Vitra even produced Shiro Kuramata’s equally delightful “How High The Moon” chair.

But not Apple Honey.

Much more confusing is the image painted onto the side of one of the four tower blocks that “tower” over the Vitra Campus and the new VitraHaus.

Next to the text “City of Chairs” is a picture of a chair.

A most curious, three leggeed, chair.

Weil am Rhein City of chairs ... but which chairs

Weil am Rhein City of chairs ... but which chairs

Our initial reaction was that it was a DCM by Charles and Ray Eames. And very fitting we found that too given the close ties between the the Eames’, Vitra and Weil am Rhein.

Except the DCM is of course a four legged chair.

And try as we might we simply cannot think of a single three legged chair that Vitra produce.

Our next guess was that it was an “Ant Chair” by Arne Jacobsen…also an excellent representative of 20th century chair design. But in the Ant Chair the seat and the back are formed from one piece of wood. And the single leg is at the front.

Then we really thought we had it: SE 69 by Egon Eiermann. But no the SE 69 also has the single leg at the front.

Egon Eiermann’s SE 42 does have the single leg at the back, but is made of wood.

Indeed the longer we stood in the middle of Römerstrasse, holding up the traffic and irritating the good folks of Weil am Rhein, the more we struggled to think of a three-legged chair which has a steel tube single back leg.

Principally on account of the instability factor.

Only once we were back in Leipzig could we track it down, thanks to the MoMA New York archive.

Charles Eames Three legged side chair from 1944 (photo via http://www.moma.org/)

Charles Eames Three legged side chair from 1944 (photo via http://www.moma.org/)

Three-Legged Side Chair by Charles Eames for the Evans Products Co from 1944.

A chair which may or not have been taken on by Hermann Miller when they acquired the Eames rights from Evans in 1946. And so which may or may not be part of those Charles and Ray Eames products to which Vitra the European production rights posses.

Which is a long way of saying, Weil am Rhein appears to celebrate it’s “City of Chairs” status with two chairs which have nothing to do with it’s status as one of the most important centres of contemporary European designer furniture production.

Visitors to the new VitraHaus can ponder this paradox from the fourth floor window.

Or simply enjoy the wonderful view over the Vitra Design Museum and the orchard meadow.

Posted in smow, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Liesmichl by Nils Holger Moormann
February 10th, 2010 by julius
Moormann Haus, Aschau in Chiemgau

Moormann Haus, Aschau in Chiemgau

Following our visit to the #VitraHaus this coming Friday, the (smow)wintertour 2010 then proceeds, by ski, along the alps to Aschau im Chiemgau, Bavaria and a visit to Nils Holger Moormann and the, so-called, Moormann Haus.

Constructed in 1859 by the Bavarian star architect/stage designer team of Christian Jank and Eduard Riedel, who later went on to find wider acclaim with the construction of Schloss Neuschwanstein, the Moormann Haus was built to commemorate the presentation by Maximilian the Second of Bavaria to the citizens of Aschau of the rights to produce “ye olde mdf and veneer plywood furniture in ye olde colors red, white and black”

Built using traditional Bavarian carpentry techniques, the Haus initially carried the name “Kampenwand Haus” after the mountain at whose feet it stands.

Following the death of Ludwig the Second in 1886 the population of Aschau were so overcome with grief that production of the mdf and veneer plywood furniture ceased. In 1992 the rights were acquired by Nils Holger Moormann who restarted the production of quality designer furniture in Aschau. As a token of the towns gratitude the “Kampenwand Haus” was renamed “Moormann Haus”.

In addition to serving as an inspiration for the new VitraHaus, the Moormann Haus also served as inspiration for one of Nils Holger Moormanns most successful designs; the Liesmichl.

Liesmichl by Nils Holger Moormann

Liesmichl by Nils Holger Moormann

One of the most innovative and functional of all Moormann products, Liesmichl beautifully combines the two traditional strands of the so called “Aschau School”; veneer plywood and the colours red/white/black with modern hot rolled steel into a delightful reading/bedside table.

The form of the Liesmichl is based on the shape of the internal supporting structure of the Moormann Haus. Just as the inside of the Statue of Liberty is, more or less, the Eifel Tower.

We will provide not only regular (smow)blog posts and (smow)twitter tweets from our journey to and time in Aschau, but will also report a little on the “behind the scenes” daily reality at Moormann and for all the technology behind the ingenious Moormann webmic communication system.

And from the Moormann Haus, Aschau im Chiemgau the (smow)wintertour 2010 goes further …. but more later.

Moormann webmic

Moormann webmic communication system

Posted in Design Tourism, Designer, Moormann, Producer, Product, smow, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

VitraHaus in evening light ... at night the effect is even more enhanced
February 6th, 2010 by julius

As announced yesterday we sadly cannot attend this years Stockholm Furniture Fair – because we have to go to Switzerland, and then quickly back over the border to Germany, or better put: The Official Preview of the Vitra Design Museum complex in Weil am Rhein’s newest attraction. The VitraHaus.

VitraHaus

VitraHaus

Designed by Swiss star architects Herzog & de Meuron – perhaps best known for the Beijing National Stadium or the extension of the Tate gallery in London – the VitraHaus is principally conceived as an exhibition space for Vitra’s Home Collection, combined with general exhibition and conference space.

VitraHaus in evening light ... at night the effect is even more enhanced

VitraHaus in evening light ... at night the effect is even more enhanced

Resembling several houses built on top of one another, the real majesty of the construction is initially only visible at night; as with, for example,  Herzog & de Meuron’s Alliance Arena in Munich where the illuminated outer panels transform an otherwise unspectacular building into a true art of work.

With VitraHaus the effect however is created by the combination of dark outer walls and 100% glass end facade: when the inside is illuminated the construction is transformed from one building into a collection of houses floating above and around one another in the night sky.

From what we’ve seen so far and form what colleagues who have been there have reported, we think we’ll like it.

The (smow)blog cameras being delivered in Weil am Rhein in preparation for the VitraHaus preview

The (smow)blog photo equipment being delivered in Weil am Rhein in preparation for the VitraHaus preview

On Friday evening, however, you can read here what we actually think after we’ve seen the VitraHaus for ourselves; or if you can’t wait that long follow our tweets live from the VitraHaus, Weil am Rhein on the (smow)twitter.

And then on Saturday the (smow)wintertour 2010 continues … but more on that later.

Posted in Design Tourism, smow, Weil am Rhein Tagged with: , , , , , , ,