“Design is invisible”, wrote sociologist Lucius Burckhardt almost 40 years ago. Design doesn’t merely apply to objects, graphics, user interfaces or spaces, but also refers to social processes and complex systems. Democracy is one such a system: it is not a given, but rather a structured process. The 5th edition of the exhibition series Design Display examines how design and democracy intersect in order to effect change in society. On the basis of two different democratic processes, the exhibition presents a spectrum of creative possibilities: from hands-on participation in urban development to new digital technologies that can fundamentally alter the face of democracy. On one side of the two-fold exhibition, the Hamburg-based group PlanBude focuses on promoting public participation in city planning and explores how design can become more inclusive. Shaping and implementing participatory processes is a crucial step to ensuring democracy isn’t just a formal act, but a vital part of everyday life. This means giving voice to those not normally consulted during the stages of development. Architects and city planners are made aware of the residents’ knowledge, desires, and needs, so that site-specific features can be incorporated into their designs. PlanBude advocates moving beyond designing for the people toward designing with the people. The second element of the exhibition turns to the digital world and, in particular, the innovative technology of blockchains and its various applications within the infinite World Wide Web. Blockchains store information in small units, in blocks that aren’t stored on one, but on many different servers connected to each other. This form of storage is extremely secure against hacking and manipulation and thus utilizable for democratic processes. Among other things, this new technology makes it conceivable to cast secret ballots on the Internet, to make management transparent, or to provide tools that promote direct democracy or economic autonomy. Across the world, blockchain solutions are prompting administrative processes to become more transparent and citizens to get involved more directly.
In 2017, the Swiss Design Competition celebrates its 100th edition. Since then, the promotion has pursued two objectives: on the one hand, direct economic support, which gives designers a boost from prototype to production that pays into the quality and the reputation of Swiss design. On the other hand, it allows an indirect freedom, financially and temporarily, that enables the designers to create new and extraordinary solutions to be worked out and tested. In the exhibition Swiss Design Awards, around 50 works from designers in the fields of graphic design, photography, fashion and textile, products, scenography and mediation are presented to a broad public.
As a consequence of “post-modernization” at large, the city seems to have lost its authority as the sole territory we look to for the source of quality existence. Contained within the title of the 25th Biennial of Design, FARAWAY, SO CLOSE, are many topics of the ensuing debate: could we re-occupy distant places, activate remote territories, re-enact ancient relations through our urban habits? Can new frictions between distant conditions emerge, and produce new scenarios for a different present time? Slovenia, with its specific geographical condition, will perform as a paradigm to stimulate, discuss and test the status of this global shift. Rather than an exhibition of existing projects, the biennial is conceived as a production platform where groups of designers develop different scenarios as alternatives to established systems. Seven Slovenian individuals, known for their work outside of the design field, were paired with seven international creative figures, chosen for their ability to use design and architecture as tools for investigating contemporary issues – Studio Formafantasma with Andrej Detela; Matali Crasset with Matej Fegus; Point Supreme with Iztok Kovac; Didier Faustino with Mojca Kumerdej; Studio Mischer’Traxler with Klemen Kosir; Studio Folder with Renata Salecl; Odo Fioravanti with Marin Medak. The resulting collaborations are shown at the Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO) in Ljubljana, which organises the Biennial, as well as seven sites across the Slovenian environment, ranging from the wild forest of Kocevje to the subterranean world of the Mayor’s Cave.
From a period of political upheaval and rebellion against existing societal structures, a diverse set of stylistic trends emerged in the 60s and 70s. For the exhibition ‘Experiments’ Jochum Rodgers combines unusual design objects of the two decades in question selected by numerous architects, designers and artists. As the title implies, what acted as a driving force for the creation of the objects was not merely functional necessity but the actual pleasure derived from experimentation. Among the iconic exhibits, there are pieces by Joe Colombo, Pietro Cascella, Gianfranco Fini, Pier Giacomo & Achille Castiglioni, Frank O. Gehry, Piero Gilardi, Hans Gugelot, Gruppo Archizoom, Gruppo A.R.D.I.T.I., Ennio Lucini, Hans von Klier, Angelo Mangiarotti, Gino Marotta, Casati Ponzio, Gino Sarfatti, Ettore Sottsass, Studio Tetrarch and Superstudio.
Since 2007, in addition to the Swiss Design Awards, the Federal Office of Culture has presented the Swiss Grand Award for Design to individual designers or established firms that contribute to the renown of Swiss design nationally and internationally. Having originated as a means of encouraging, supporting and ultimately honouring the Swiss design scene, the prize communicates and indicates the traditions of Swiss design. This year the disciplines of the three laureates range from graphic design to jewellery and illustration; all of which have played a key role in the cultural fabric of Switzerland. David Bielander translates simple, everyday objects into items straddling the line between jewellery and artwork. His contemporary pieces open up unexpected lines of communication and discreetly narrate underlying stories for both the wearer and the perceiver. Another mode of storytelling is found in the work of Thomas Ott whose dark, meticulous comics don’t contain words yet manage to be universally comprehensible. As Ott’s work becomes more layered and complex, it gives rise to kaleidoscopic narratives and painstaking detail. This marked the first time that the award goes to a comic artist. Similarly following a precise optical language and consistent set of tools, Jean Widmer, one of the first Swiss graphic designers in Paris, produces clear designs ahead of their time. Among others, he’s created the visual identity for such institutions as Musée?d’Orsay and Centre Georges Pompidou – where his emblematic logo still remains.
“Museums should be invisible. With an imaginary museum you can do whatever you want.” –
What does the term anti-art encompass? It’s shaped by an array of concepts that reject prior definitions of art and question the art system and how it functions. “The Anti-Museum“, an extensive anthology by Mathieu Copeland and Balthazar Lovay, addresses the idea of anti-art through numerous contributions by renowned artists and writers. From interviews and historical reprints to manifestos and commissioned essays, the 794-page encyclopaedic tome presents the first comprehensive exploration of the radical and paradoxical concept that is the ‘anti-museum’ – a term so present in art history and yet one that has never been the object of detailed investigation. The museum has always been a target for criticism, whether it comes from artists, thinkers, curators, or even the public. Dedicated to all forms of “anti” such as Anti-Art, Anti-Technology, Anti-Design and Anti-Philosophy, the publication features numerous texts from the 60s until today – including newly commissioned as well as never-before-translated pieces – to define the idea of anti-art in a broad sense, evoking attempts to disrupt rules and customs in artistic disciplines.
With the aim to stimulate discussion on the social dimensions of design, the 4th edition of the Design Display series at Autostadt Wolfsburg (Konzernforum) takes Mexico as its main point of departure. Inside the exhibition’s characteristic 20-metre-long glass display, an intercultural bridge between Mexico and the US is figuratively built through two contemporary designer projects. On the one side is Vestido Cobra, a dress created by Mexican fashion designer Carla Fernández who explores how fashion can uphold traditions and still point the way to the future. By bringing Mexican styles and manufacturing techniques into contemporary fashion, she draws attention to the cultural heritage of her homeland within a modern context. The unisex “snake dress” questions gender roles and embraces craftsmanship. On the other side of the glass display is a multimedia installation dealing with the US-Mexican border by architect Fernando Romero. Conceived as an ideal metropolis with multiple urban centres, Romero’s Border City is a bi-national future city designed to straddle the controversial border, serving as a model for new cities around the world. Romero’s visionary project explores the potential to create organized growth and multiple urban centres in sprawling regions lacking infrastructure.
The exhibition’s accompanying magazine On Display continues the discussion through features on the work of the two participating designers, a detailed piece about the border area between Mexico and the United States, and an essay on the influence of traditional craftsmanship on modern Mexican design.
Placed on a high pedestal at the heart of Frankfurt Alt-Sachsenhausen’s new bar Bonechina is a night-blue, porcelain elephant. Coincidentally, it is also your bartender: tonic water splashes from its mouth. Guests are invited to mix their own drinks, gathering around the sculpture to fill their cups, choose between a sandalwood or Vetiver aromatic ice cube, possibly exchange some names and stories. Developed by the Lindenberg Group, Bonechina is less of a bar than what a bar may dream of. Absent are the bartenders (though two hosts are present to prepare drinks if desired), and gone are the counter, the stools. With a visual concept designed by Studio Aberja, the whole interior glimmers across ceramic tiles called Frankfurter Fliese, diamond-cut and painted in the same shade of blue as the elephant-fountain. The blue continues onto the curtains and upholstery, and above the light limbs of pear-wood furniture, aromatic diffusers let out puffs of yuzu and bergamot throughout the evening. With all of this housed inside a baroque building from the wooden-shingled 18th century, the 20 lucky guests for a night at Bonechina may start to think they’re dreaming too.
Galerie Berinson newly housed in an apartment of a historic Gründerzeit building in Charlottenburg. Gonzalez Haase AAS, which designed the interior of the former gallery in Kreuzberg, has travelled west with them. With its parquet floors, stucco-work molding around the ceilings, and a pre-modern floorplan, the new venue is a radically different space than Berinson’s open loft-format from before. To contrast the old-fashioned feel, the architects have remodeled the space with a sense of rigor, simplicity, and clarity. All the built-in walls that weren’t a part of the building’s load-bearing structure were removed, creating an even circulation through the gallery. At the head of its main hallway is an office space with an exposed storage area; along the hall’s other side are entrances to the three exhibition spaces. In line with the architectural concept, the original connections between these exhibition rooms – double doors in the middle of the walls – have been closed up and replaced by neutral openings. Finally, a system of cool lighting from bold, metallic track fixtures is installed in strict parallel to the main axis of the apartment, two in the hallway and two running through the exhibition rooms. These additions are of a characteristic style for Gonzalez and Haase, and serve to unify Galerie Berinson’s new home: the fixtures become a part of the architecture itself, separating and organizing space through their form, size and design.
When science fiction scenarios are applied to reality: How is robotics changing our lives and what is design’s role within that spectrum? As these technological advancements have found their way into our everyday environs, design has a central responsibility in this process, for it is designers who shape the interfaces between humans and machines. The exhibition Hello, Robot at the Vitra Design Museum examines the current robotics boom from the scope of various disciplines in extensive detail for the first time. Comprising more than 200 exhibits, the exhibition includes robots used in the home, in nursing care, and in industry as well as computer games, media installations, and relevant examples in films and literature. Through this sweeping analysis, the show broadens our awareness of the associated ethical, social, and political issues that arise. As our environment is becoming ever smarter and more autonomous, Hello Robot initiates a necessary discussion on how design cultivates the relationship between human and machine. Accompanying the exhibition, an extensive programme of talks, films, performances, and workshops further illuminates the topic in question from a number of different perspectives.