Photos: Ingo Mittelstaedt
Two objects facing each other in a glass display case like two protagonists in a state of momentary inertia right before delivering their lines on stage. The objects’ potential functions, and aesthetic qualities encourage the viewer to further dissect their characteristics and initiate a dialogue. And that’s precisely Design Display’s objective: the exhibition series at the Autostadt in Wolfsburg seeks to demonstrate the role design plays in our daily lives and to proliferate discussions about its social and political dimensions. Every four months, Design Display presents a new exhibition featuring two design projects, and releases an accompanying magazine that mimics the duality of the setting while delving deeper into the chosen subject through essays and opinion pieces. Starting in July 2016, the new exhibition’s pervading theme is “simplicity”—an underlying design principle that for many is the key to happiness in objects, embodied through abstinence, reduction and focusing on the essentials. For this iteration, the glass case is inhabited by Jasper Morrison’s cutlery for Muji and Rafael Horzon’s Modern shelf. A constant conceptual thread in Morrison’s work, the act of simplifying is evident in his designs for the Japanese company. Cutlery should first and foremost feel good in the hand—the simple and simultaneously elegant form is not an end in itself but instead derives from its use. On the opposing end of the glass rectangle, we find a shelving unit that suggests a different kind of simplicity, one that’s based on the notion of quick, easy and inexpensive design. Horzon’s Modern shelf stands as an ode to material reduction with hints of humour and irony. Albeit ordinary and unremarkable, Horzon’s storage unit puts emphasis on the importance of the basic and the narrative behind its creation. For more information on the exhibition series visit Design Display’s website.
Following its opening to the public in February 2016, Dusseldorf’s Wehrhahn line is now in full use and worth revisiting to dissect its singular aspects in more detail. Fifteen years in the making, the recently acquired U-bahn expansion is a refreshing approach to inner-city mobility and a nod to the future possibilities of public transport aesthetics. Collectively designed by artists, architects and engineers from the very outset, the ambitious project offers an unparalleled art and architecture experience to commuters who are invited to immerse themselves in soundscapes, geometric animations and sculptural installations. Here art is not merely showcased on the walls but it has deeply infiltrated the entire structure—each of the line’s six stations have become pieces of art complete with their own thematic character but also seamlessly incorporated in an all-encompassing system. And that’s certainly not the norm when it comes to public transport—the line’s overarching concept initiates a dialogue between disciplines that’s visually perceptible throughout. From acoustic impulses, sound bites and interactive installations to a planetary underworld dedicated to outer space and poetic texts transformed into sculptures, the line’s stops highly elevate the long-neglected notion of the subway. At the Heinrich-Heine-Allee station, artist Ralf Brög designed the three entrances as visual and acoustic venues for the performance of changing sound compositions—an “Auditorium”, a “Theater” and a “Laboratory”. Each of the three model spaces boasts a high-quality sound system, enabling the most wide-ranging acoustic interventions possible.
Space is the place at Benrather Strasse where sculptor Thomas Stricker embedded the vastness of the universe with its tranquility and weightlessness into the confined space of a subway station. To achieve the impression of flying in outer space, stainless steel panels cover the walls and lend the station a futuristic dull, metallic sheen. Like droplets, the dots stamped in the panels fall from the walls, forming a matrix or a kind of Braille that can be identified as encrypted letters while media walls act as windows to the universe.
At Schadowstrasse, Ursula Damm has created an interactive installation featuring a large screen displaying the real-time movements of passersby on the city surface transformed through a computer program into visualised data. The constantly shifting dynamic of the ‘outside world’ is presented to those waiting for the next train below. Small virtual creatures build a temporary, fluctuating architecture from the kinetic energy that emerges and vanishes with the city’s daily rhythms.
Another crucial element of this feat is the complete absence of advertisements and any sort of commercial placement. Thus, the individual stations become calm public spaces that alleviate commuting stress, render urban movement more pleasurable, and slow down the frenetic pace. Admittedly, exemplary underground stops are nothing new in the map of so-called “art stations”—in Naples the Toledo stop covered in blue-hued mosaics pays tribute to the aquatic world; Stockholm’s Solna station emits the ambience of a villain’s lair complete with a cavernous interior; while in Moscow the Komsomolskaya stop competes with the theatrical flair of opulent palaces. What’s unprecedented about Dusseldorf’s Wehrhan line is that these “art stations” are not merely stand-alone architectural projects but are part of a holistic network that seamlessly connects all six stops under one conceptual direction, creating a multifarious experience.
In a special edition published by Kerber Verlag, the impressive undertaking in public transport is thoroughly presented through photos and text elaborating on the project and the visions of the people involved. The Wehrhahn line is also accompanied by a newly launched website that delves into the line’s concept, process and distinctive characteristics—have a look here.
The Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO, Ljubljana) has launched an open call for participation in FARAWAY, SO CLOSE – 25th Biennial of Design, curated by editor and curator Angela Rui and MAO curator Maja Vardjan. The open call is dedicated to designers, architects, filmmakers, graphic designers, interaction designers, illustrators, writers, animators, photographers, researchers and other interdisciplinary agents who see the biennial as an experimental, collaborative platform for testing, developing and sharing their own approaches and expertise around the issues and structure of the new biennial format. From 25 May to 29 October 2017, FARAWAY, SO CLOSE will present seven local interventions under the main exhibition umbrella. For this, seven creative figures from Slovenia have been selected for their projects outside the field of design and paired with international designers to form a team. Selected participants will work within these teams and together they will use design and architecture as tools for investigating contemporary issues.
Read more in an interview with the two curators on Domus.
Application deadline: 10 July 2016
Kick-off event: 15 September 2016, Ljubljana
More information and application: www.bio.si/en
In reference to this year’s graphic and thematic superstructure focusing on migration, we asked the Swiss Art Awards participants to express how their trajectory has altered their perception and how they define the notions of “Heimat” and “identity”. Constantly evolving, the term “home” can be seen as an abstract entity that has procured a number of meanings and is undoubtedly embedded in human consciousness. Even though our introduction to the idea of home is usually situated within a specific topographic context, down the line, it’s denuded of geographical connotations and acquires a much more social and emotional basis. Home ceases to be synonymous to habitat as it assumes a more existential character that demands to be redefined incessantly. In a way, seeking something that you can identify as home is seeking your own identity, something you can genuinely identify with. Much like Homer’s Odysseus who, upon losing track of what he considers home, begins to lose track of himself too. Is home a notion that defines our existence and the extension of our inner selves?
“Both notions are too unstable and dynamic to allow for a clear answer. I can just say that ‘Heimat’, and therefore any understanding of the ‘I’, are in constant mutation, much like our social milieu is. In other words, the constitution of an ‘identity’ is closer to a permanent migration than to any abused values of safety and stability.” —Pascal Schwaighofer is an artist who sees metaphors as a conceptual tool to unfold specific subjects, and ultimately to enquire the interconnections between aesthetic concepts and economic regulatory cycles.
“Migration as a fever. A symptom of the state of the world.” —Chri Frautschi is a curator and the founder of Lokal-int, a space for contemporary art and experimental happenings in Biel.
“The earth belongs to everyone. Everyone is welcome home. Fuck the concept of homeland and all populist parties stirring up hatred between peoples, just for their little personal benefit. My art is a cry of rage against conformism.” —Hayane Kam Nakache is a painter who favours recycling and the concept of DIY. According to Hayane, the quality of the finish is not important, the important thing is to do it yourself.
“In contrast to ‘fatherland’, which is linked to a geographically defined place, the word ‘home’ is more abstract idea and, to a certain extent, is related to impermanence. The possibility of change and migration has altered its meaning—now several locations or communities may constitute a ‘home’ at the same time.” — In her sculptures, video installations and performances, Dominique Koch deals with the communicative and referential limits of language and uses the voice as a communication tool.
“The word ‘Heimat’ doesn’t really mean anything to me anymore – it’s a ceaselessly moving place. Home is an institution without walls, whose architecture is not still or limited.” —Jeanne Graff, an independent curator and writer, is constantly trying to develop new contexts to show art in a way that’s engaging for both the artists and the audience.
“We are not just because we think, we are because of our human and physical context. Migration abandons pre-consolidated ideas of affection and home—that’s why I consider it particularly painful and moving.” —Martino Pedrozzi develops architectural, urban and landscape concepts and works as a consultant for infrastructural projects.
“After several generations of relative safety and stability, we often tend to lose our sense of history, and then we come to see the current crisis as a somehow distant phenomenon. Therefore, we fail to perceive that these events are at the core of our very existence. We have to take into account that identity is a process and not a fixed principle, otherwise it can be a dangerous notion.” —Aurelien Gamboni develops a practice of critical investigation by means of art, often involving field research and collaborations, and leading to multiple forms of installations, texts and lectures-performances.
Credits: House of Mixed Emotions by Jeanne Graff / Sceru, 2015, Photo: Pino BrioschiAurélien / Gamboni, Les corps attrapés par le discours, étagère encastrée, livres et autres objets (detail), 2015. Courtesy the artist
nothing at the moment by Humboldtbooks, Milan
What started as a platform for experimental publishing and singular editions straddling the line between art object and reading material, has now become an integral part of the annual Art Week Basel. The art book fair I Never Read, Art Book Fair Basel now in its fifth edition, invites more than a hundred publishers, authors and artists from numerous countries to display their printed matter spanning the fields of art, photography, graphic design and architecture. An ever-growing selection of exhibitors introduces visitors to artists’ books, monographs, periodicals and zines, as well as out-of-print editions and collector’s items. Showing how the print world can evolve and thrive instead of dissolving into the shadow cast by the digital world (as many pseudo-evangelists were too quick to proclaim), the fair is an ode to the book as a democratic art form and an approachable medium for creative expression. What’s thoroughly explored here is the role of contemporary publishing in an increasingly on-screen era and how the art book provides a haven for artistic practice and how it builds a less market-driven community.
On the occasion of the 2016 Swiss Design Awards, BUREAU N launched a series of interviews with all the participants of the design competition – organised annually by the Swiss Federal Office of Culture – in the run-up to the exhibition in Basel. The interviews aim to dissect the participants’ personal concept of utopia in relation to their practice, methods and strategies. Selected designers express their definition of utopia and their opinion on whether design is capable of changing societal systems. Is utopia the truth of tomorrow, as Victor Hugo has suggested, or merely an ideal conviction that ultimately pushes us towards a different reality and set of constructs? Utopia. The word celebrates its 500th anniversary this year: Thomas More’s influential and radical text on the term was first published in 1516. The British Renaissance humanist was the first to give a name to an idea that has triggered and empowered imagination ever since—the creation of a better world is possible. Utopia refers, in the original meaning of the Greek word, to both a place with positive connotations and a non-place. It invites us to a traveller’s log portraying an ideal society on a fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean. More’s work continues to inspire us and offers frameworks for innovation today, stressing the importance of the process of imagination as well as dreaming in the here and now.
“Having an element of utopia in one’s work is very important. The constant search for something that may not ever exist can potentially lead to new ideas, pushing projects and boundaries further and further.” — Simone Cavadini is a photographer who in his current project RES PVBLICA analyses the relationship between performance and power in the Italian media.
“Without the utopian idea which influences my actions in the here and now—and paves the way, so to speak—I would constantly repeat myself artistically.” — Fashion designer Sandro Marzo is a firm believer in the idea that design is everything, and everything is design. In his opinion, design is in fact capable of effecting social change.
“Utopia is looking for an undetectable answer that motivates you to keep working on different projects. In my work, the word utopia relates to a certain hyperreal aesthetic. Through this particular aesthetic, I refer to the hyper-commercialist codes that surround our visual society through advertising, but also internet aesthetics that subtly direct our desires and dreams. Utopia is omnipresent in my creative process. This imaginary element frees me, it allows me to create without limits or restrictions. Then I can see further, beyond the known.” — Maxime Guyon’s work oscillates between research on the constant evolution of technological functions in our current society and the role of a photographer in a post-internet era.
“Utopia represents a stage at which design annihilates itself, which consequently means that design is not capable of changing society. This may sound dystopian but this is exactly what pushes me to come up with both innovative and critical graphic patterns.” — Dan Solbach has established a practice almost exclusively focusing on graphic design for artists and contemporary art institutions.
“The role of the designer is not just to think about an object’s form and function. I see the designer as an antenna capturing moments, moods and needs. The designer helps create new ways of thinking. New approaches encourage a continual renewal essential to any development. Each creation is an interpretation of what surrounds us; a singular vision, a new view of the world. It is vital for our societies to knowingly reinvent themselves and recognize the impact of our collective choices on our future.” — Lucy Authié aims to strengthen the bonds between luxury and sustainability in product development.
Read more interviews and find out more about the participants here.
Studio visit with Iris Roth in Milan
On the occasion of Salone del Mobile 2016, we paid a visit to ceramic and interior designer Iris Roth to gain insight into her working space and creative practice. In her charming apartment, located in the well-known architects’ building complex Cascia 6, the Italian-German artist hosts dinners, grows olive trees on her sunny terrace and works away in her compact studio. We also got a chance to peek inside her production space – a traditional ceramics atelier that has been supervised by an Italian couple since 1976. Iris Roth combines traditional craftsmanship with contemporary elements: simple forms, warm tones and traditional processes involving the potter’s wheel as an essential tool. The artist uses white clay coated in natural white or grey glazes, as well as the widely used red clay – prevalent in her nude collection. Small, intentional imperfections on the surfaces of handmade objects, such as the artisan’s fingerprints, give each item a unique character that distinguishes them from mass-produced ware. But aesthetics aside, it’s all about functionality: All objects are suitable for everyday use and are dishwasher-safe. For Louis Pretty in Berlin and the restaurant oTTo in Milan, Iris Roth has designed and produced their entire ceramic lines. Each of the pieces is unparallelled but the designs can be produced in large numbers. In addition to oTTo’s dinnerware, Iris also designed the interiors of the cosy, greenhouse-like bistro, which arguably offers the best sandwiches in town. Soon, Iris Roth’s pieces will be available online – till then make sure to follow her dolce vita on Instagram.
Top gate: Felix Torkar; Man at door: Offenbach, Portrait: Arthur Seitz Foto ©Jessica Schäfer; Flowers: Dong Xuan Center, Berlin Foto ©Kiên Hoàng Lê; Breakthrough: ©Kirsten Bucher; Houses: Quinta Monroy, Iquique, 2004, Architekt: Elemental, Chile Foto ©Tadeuz Jalocha; Mosque: Moschee in der Sandgasse, Offenbach Foto ©Judith Raum, 2010
For the 15th Venice Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, the German contribution cuts into the walls of the historic pavilion building in order to address the acute refugee situation. A powerful metaphor of opening emerges and encourages a discourse on new ideas and reliable approaches to the integration of asylum seekers. Walls are being broken in Venice as a commitment to the inviolable dignity of humankind. There will be no closed doors, day or night. The pavilion is open. Germany is open. The current refugee situation is part of a massive worldwide flow of migrants. What are the challenges facing cities with incoming refugees and migrants? How, in the future, can Germany’s “arrival cities” such as Offenbach respond, hypothetically shaping the conditions that create a good “Arrival City”? And how can architecture and urban design contribute to this process? The team of the Deutsches Architektur Museum (DAM) examines these questions at this year’s International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. With the exhibition Making Heimat. Germany, Arrival Country the DAM uses examples from Germany’s Arrival Cities to pose for discussion a series of theses developed in collaboration with the Canadian author Doug Saunders. His book Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History is Reshaping Our World has inspired a shift in perspective on immigrant districts – a shift that is also applicable to Germany. Although these districts are typically characterized as “problem areas,” they offer residents and new arrivals the most important prerequisites of an Arrival City: affordable housing, access to work, small-scale commercial spaces, good access to public transit, networks of immigrants from the same culture, as well as a tolerant attitude that extends to the acceptance of informal practices. The design concept, developed by the architecture office Something Fantastic, underlines the strong statement of this year’s German Pavilion.
For the 15th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Goethe-Institut has created Performing Architecture, a programme which brings the interfaces between architecture, choreography and the performing arts into focus. Picking up cues from the exhibition at the German Pavilion Making Heimat. Germany, Arrival Country and the Biennale’s motto Reporting from the Front, the programme transforms the urban space of Venice into a stage for artistic encounters, visions and explorations: How do we sink into the experienced and built reality of our cities? How do we encounter other people in this reality? Which values do they negotiate, which living spaces, which experiential spaces? What ideas of Heimat do they carry? Five events were created for the time of the exhibition: In Act and Thought – A Score for Six Performers, ARCH+ features #50, Culinary Lessons, The Veddel Embassy: Representing Germany and Conviviumepulum / Culinary Lessons.
How will social conditions shape the built environment in Germany? Which factors trigger urban and regional changes? The publication Speculations Transformations addresses pending spatial transformations in Germany and speculates about their consequences for Baukultur: What is it like to live in a city that no longer pays in euros but in watts? What happens, when roads are no longer used by cars? What would the consequences be, if Germany were to measure its economic success in terms of civic wellbeing? Speculations Transformations was conceived within the framework of the “Baukulturatlas Deutschland 2030/2050” research project and commissioned in 2011 by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR). With an emphasis on “thinking in alternate futures”, the book reveals the triggers and drivers of spatial developments, while identifying the societal negotiations leading to specific built environments. This involves currently conceivable futures, already manifest in the present, yet subject to highly diverse evolutions.