According to the Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro February 7th marks the first day of spring.

Which strikes us, as we’re sure it does you, as a little early; however, there was reason in Varro’s bold claim, for Varro further sets February 7th as the start of the year, and for all links February 7th with the rising of the west wind, a favourable, warming wind, whose arrival indicates the need to start cultivating your land and crops, specifically Varro advises, “these are things which should be done in the first period, from the rising of the west wind to the vernal equinox: All kinds of nurseries should be set out, orchards pruned, meadows manured, vines trenched and outcropping roots removed, meadows cleared, willow beds planted, grain-land weeded.”1

But not just the cultivation of your land and crops is important from the rising of the west wind to the vernal equinox, the cultivation of mind and spirit and character is of equal importance.

Our five non-agrarian cultivation tips for February 2022 can be found in Halle, Garðabær, Paris, Stockholm and Zürich…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for february 2022 smow blog

One could be forgiven for thinking that little would be as pointless as a Le Corbusier colouring-in book.

So singularly achromatic is the popular understanding of Le Corbusier, a lack of colour reinforced by the dour, austere, round bespectacled, persona which so universally defines Le Corbusier: what, one asks oneself, could there possibly be to colour in a Le Corbusier colouring-in book?

Yet in contrast to the popular Le Corbusier image, Le Corbusier’s career was one undertaken in colour. A career accompanied by, informed by, arguably driven by, considerations on and the study of colour.

An (oft overlooked) aspect of his work, of his understandings and approaches, and persona, explored in the exhibition Le Corbusier and Color at the, appropriately kaleidoscopic, Pavillon Le Corbusier, Zürich.

Le Corbusier and Color at the Museum für Gestaltung, Pavillon Le Corbusier, Zürich

According to Germanic folklore Mairegen bringt Segen, Rain in May brings blessings.

It also brings an excellent excuse to visit an architecture and/or design exhibition.

Our five recommended shelters from the showers in May 2021 can be found in Ulm, Stockholm, Baruth, Zürich and Hasselt……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for May 2021

Back in May we were faced with the decision as to whether to remain with the online exhibition recommendations we’d been carrying throughout the spring, or, given that ever more museums were re-opening, move back offline for our June recommendations.

And decided to move back offline, not least because “viewing an exhibition in a museum is the more satisfying experience, the more rewarding experience, the more enduring experience. And an important experience.

Ahead of our November recommendations we faced a similar choice. Travel, certainly international travel, is not only becoming increasingly difficult and of questionable responsibility, but in many regions the official advice is not to travel unless absolutely necessary; meaning while most museums are open, they are, in a purely practical sense, inaccessible for many. And so is compiling a list of offline exhibitions a meaningful undertaking? Is such a list sensible? Should we move back to online recommendations?

Yes. Yes. No.

And not just because museums are important cultural spaces, but primarily because most all museums are open……

…..or were while we were writing this. However, the rapidly developing nature of contemporary society meant that just before publishing this post it became clear that two of our five November openings will not be opening in November.

We’ve kept them in the list. Not because we couldn’t change the list, not that we couldn’t have substituted them for two others. We could. We’re smow: quick, uncomplicated solutions is what we do, flexibility and spontaneity are our best friends, there is never a Plan B but always alternative options, no job is too big, no pup is too …. no, hang on, that’s Paw Patrol.

We could have substituted them.

But didn’t see why we should. Every month we scan hundreds of museums and galleries around the globe looking for interesting, relevant, recommendable architecture and design exhibitions, the five we present are those we consider to be the most interesting, relevant, recommendable. And no temporary lockdown closure changes that. And all going well, come December, all five will be open.

And now, returning to where our ready-for-posting text was on Friday morning……

……and also with the reminder that such a recommendations list shouldn’t be understood solely as suggestions of locations to physically visit, but also as an impetus for your own study and research, for voyages of cultural discovery from your own sofa and/or desk. Most museum websites have in-depth descriptions of their exhibitions and the themes therein, often components of the exhibition are available online, and there will, almost always, be a catalogue that goes into more depth and detail than the exhibition; and so if an exhibition interests you, and you physically can’t get to the respective museum, why not use the long autumn and winter evenings to explore on your own.

Our five recommendations for new exhibitions opening in November 2020, and five recommendations for a meaningful use of the long autumn and winter evenings, can be found in Frankfurt, Zürich, Jyväskylä, Oslo and Hamburg.

And as ever in these times, if you do feel comfortable visiting any museum, please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for November 2020

Given the very close connections between Le Corbusier and France, one could be forgiven for, occasionally, forgetting that he was born in Switzerland.

With the exhibition Le Corbusier and Zürich the Museum für Gestaltung allow not only an insight into the Le Corbusier biography as charted by Switzerland’s largest city, but also of his not always easy relationship with the country of his birth.

Pavillon Le Corbusier, Zürich

We thought long and hard as to if we should continue our online exhibition recommendations series, or go back to offline exhibitions…… and decided for a return to offline.

We fully appreciate that in a lot of countries museums are still closed, as indeed are the international borders that you would normally and naturally criss-cross for a short city break to visit those that are open; however, many museums are open, many more are planned/planning to open in the course of June, and interesting and informative as online presentations can be, viewing an exhibition in a museum is the more satisfying experience, the more rewarding experience, the more enduring experience. And an important experience.

As we oft opine, museums aren’t just about collecting and preserving the past, nor just additions, adornments, to cafés and gift shops; rather they are locations for discourse, contemplation and reflection. Locations in which not only subjects which, in the overhyped, overheated marketplace of contemporary media may never find an audience, can be allowed to tell their story, can in many cases be allowed to reclaim their place in our (hi)story, but locations where subjects can be approached not only from a multitude of perspectives simultaneously, but from new, contradictory and often otherwise unachievable perspectives, and that without prejudice, bias or a commercial necessity to conform to some preconceived narrative.

Admittedly not every exhibition manages that, many do succumb to an egoistic desire to be a “blockbuster” and thus present an accepted, tourist gaze, presentation of their subject; but there is no reason why every exhibition cannot discuss lesser illuminated subjects without fear or favour.

And when museums do such, and do such well, do such with honesty and impartiality, they become locations which invite, encourage and enable you to extrapolate on that which is presented and to carry your thoughts and arguments over into other arenas and areas, and thereby helping us all approach better understandings of ourselves, individually and collectively, and of the world around us, the innate natural and that which human society has created. While also improving our knowledge of the subject at hand. Clarifying that you may not have understood a subject as completely as you believed you did.

And that’s not an experience and opportunity that one should ever undervalue or neglect. And certainly never stop searching for.

While specifically in context of design exhibitions; for all that online exhibitions can and do offer, there is simply no substitute to being in the presence of a physical object, nor can we imagine there ever will be.

And so while all museums remain virtually open 24/7, and we’d encourage each and everyone of you to use museums’ online services as tools and resources; the fact that many are physically open is much more important. And something to be treasured and made use of.

If made use of with appropriate awareness and sensibility at this moment. Therefore, if you feel comfortable visiting a museum, please before doing so (a) check in advance to ensure that it is actually open, short-term changes can occur and (b) familiarise yourself in advance with ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, etc rules and systems. And during your visit stay safe and responsible. And receptive for new ideas, new opinions, new names, new perspectives, new connections, new understandings……

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for June 2020

The museums may be closed, travel restricted and leaving your home, when possible, unadvised….. but that’s no reason to restrict your cultural uptake, far less neglect the development of your architecture and design understandings.

Or put another way, if you can’t get to the museum….. let the museum come to you.

Five online architecture and design exhibitions and museum collections to explore from your sofa, bed, garden, balcony, wherever…..

5 Online Architecture & Design Exhibitions for April 2020

“This house is a work by Le Corbusier” announces a yellow and white sign on the edge of the Zürichhorn park, “I commissioned it in his honour, and as a location from which to spread his ideas amongst a wider public”

With the exhibition Mon univers the Pavillon Le Corbusier Zürich attempt to do just that via an exploration of the Swiss architect, artist, designer, author, et al, through a very specific filter: that which he collected.

A Spanish Tinaja, ships cowls, and furniture by Le Corbusier/Jeanneret/Perriand, as seen at Mon univers, Pavillon Le Corbusier, Zürich

Alongside Switzerland’s most important contributions to contemporary society – bobsleigh, Dada and muesli – a trio we regularly combine on a Wednesday evening, Switzerland has also contributed much to the (hi)stories of architecture and design: quite aside from creatives such as, and remaining for reasons of brevity in recent history, the likes of Max Bill, Le Corbusier, Susi Berger, Fritz Haller or Sigfried Giedion, organisations such as the Schweizerische Werkbund were every bit as important as their German and Austrian counterparts in disseminating inter-war ideas, similarly the retailer/manufacturer Wohnbedarf, established in Zürich in 1931 was one of the more proactive commercial protagonists in the popularising of interior understandings of the pre/post-War decades, while, and as we learned from the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich’s permanent collection exhibition, ’twas in Switzerland that aluminium smelting was developed. A metal which has contributed much to the (hi)story of design and society.

Charged with ensuring that Switzerland remains relevant in coming decades are the country’s architecture and design schools, a collection of institutions with a wide range of foci and formats: the logistics of an undertaking such as a #campustour meaning however that we only made it to Basel and Zürich…… Apologies to all others, it wasn’t lack of interest which kept us from your doors. Yet although we visited but a fraction of the Swiss design school cheese, it was to two exhibitions that represented different approaches to the design school summer showcase: the graduation show and the review of semester projects…..

#campustour 2019: Switzerland

According to our old friend Roget possible synonyms for “August” include great, noble, impressive or worshipful.

We can’t promise the following quintet of exhibitions will exactly meet such qualities; however, they promise to be anything but frivolous, undignified or flighty explorations of their subject, and therefore certainly should be tending to the August in August 2019…….

5 New Architecture and Design Exhibitions for August 2019

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

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

For our part, we’ll miss them.

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

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

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for October 2018

Whoever thinks of Switzerland thinks of Swiss clockwork, Swiss railways, Swiss chocolate, Swiss precision.

It’s therefore all the more surprising that Dada has its European origins in Switzerland, and for all in the legendary Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich.

But would the 2018 Zürcher Hochschule der Künste graduates prove as anarchic, confrontational, spirited and revolutionary in their creativity……..?

Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, Toni-Areal, Zürich.

Following three years of renovations and redesign the principle house of the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich is once again open for visitors.

Three years which have not only seen the physical structure renovated and redesigned, but also the presentation concept and foci.

Museum für Gestaltung Zürich

Summer traditionally sees a fall off in the number of new exhibitions opening, the 2017 drought is however especially hard, so much so that we can only find four recommendations. Either the global museum community assume we’re all at the beach, and thus not interested, or expect the world to end in September and so don’t see the point in new exhibitions.

It is a little unclear.

However, not only are we interested, but it takes a little more than the threat of an imminent apocalypse to keep us away from an interesting exhibition ….  our recommendations for August 2017 with new exhibitions in Zürich, Copenhagen, Moscow and Weimar.

5 New Design Exhibitions for August 2017

Rocking Chair by Jacob Müller, as seen at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich

Amongst the objects Jasper Morrison selected from the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich’s archive for the “MyCollection” section of his Thingness

Thinking Mans Chair by Jasper Morrison, as seen at Thingness, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich

On February 5th 1916 Cabaret Voltaire opened in Zürich; consequently, 2016 sees the city celebrate the 100th anniversary of arguably

"Please touch!" at the Museum für Gestaltung – Schaudepot, Zürich

In the complete interview with Matylda Krzykowski ahead of the Depot Basel exhibition Forum for an Attitude, there is a

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

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

aram gallery future stars

The inescapable chill in the morning air and the deep-seated boredom in the eyes of school aged children can only

Ulrich Müther Binz

The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow, And what will poor robin do then, poor thing? He’ll

Just as the Man in the Corner Shop was famously satisfied with his life until the Boss from the Factory