Architecture is not necessarily an activity whose sole purpose is construction, but rather a field for intellectual research and speculation that encompasses an arsenal of numerous disciplines. The emerging generation of the most talented architects and urban professionals in Europe joined forces during the Future Architecture Festival in Ljubljana organized by the Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO). The purpose? To break down walls. Not just physical walls, but also those of imaginary, professional and ideological nature. Through critical approach, architecture is perceived as a means to address the most pressing social and political issues of our times. Essentially, the common aim of all the ideas taking part in the festival is to observe, analyze and change the world we live in. Some of the stimulating topics discussed included James Taylor Foster’s (archdaily) lecture and panel discussion “What is Attention Economy? Why Should I Care?” which unpicked the designed intention behind social sharing and the state of the Internet in 2017 – a reality both fascinating and disconcerting in equal measure. Focusing on future materials, Esen Gökçe Özdamar presented the Bioplarch workshop which proposed new bio-degradable plastic made out of edible components and how it can be realistically used and widely applied in industries and daily life. Of course, one of the fervent topics throughout the whole festival was the reclamation of public space and strengthening communal initiatives. Among others, Kosmos Architects proposed to turn Basel’s underground river into a linear botanical garden, open for the public year-round.
Bureau N’s involvement
As a member of the Future Architecture Platform, Bureau N was invited to host a talk during the festival. We decided to focus on a common thread between our field of expertise — cultural communications — and the overarching theme of architecture. It was quickly obvious that the shared ground we were after was storytelling. Within our practice, stories are an indispensable device that helps us convey messages, if not the underlying protagonist of all our projects. Giving shape to narratives that others can empathize with, or are curious to explore further, is the bedrock of every worthwhile creative project seeking to transmit information that’s understood by more than one person in a powerful manner. In this case here, taking storytelling as a point of departure, we aimed to touch upon the relationship between architecture and narrative, and how space can be perceived through that particular scope. Our talk, entitled “Tales Only Architecture Can Tell” was joined by two theorists and two practitioners: futurist Ludwig Engel whose work deals with urban utopias and future cities; Victor Cano Ciborro of the architectural collective and radical research group Arquitectura Subalterna; scientist and researcher Ana Jeinic who engages in how architecture will adapt to post-futuristic states of culture; and Adrianna Pablos Llona who questions borders, nations and monolithic disciplines. All presented lectures and workshops will be soon available online on videolectures.net
Images: Bioplarch,starch-based bioplastic as construction material by Esen Gökçe Özdamar, Ahmet Bal, Schermin Schentürk / Hidden Park, Kosmos Architects / Tempio di Minerva. Sonic Impression or Architecture as Instrument”, FAKT Architects in collaboration with MAXXI
With their inexhaustible supplies of imagination, intelligent sense of humor and iconic creations, Charles and Ray Eames had a major impact on 20th century culture that extended well beyond design and architecture. Throughout their careers, they focused primarily on finding answers to the simple question of how the basic human needs for living space, comfort and knowledge could best be met. Rather than a luxury, they understood design as a solution. Nowadays, the duo’s name is synonymous with timeless aesthetics and technical precision, embodying the synergy of form and function. In celebration of these two enduring creative forces, the Vitra Design Museum is presenting four parallel exhibitions that offer an unprecedented view of the work created by the ever-referenced designers. From medical splints and airport seating to films and children’s toys, visitors will be invited to explore an all-encompassing spectrum of the Eames’s vision taking over the entirety of the Vitra Campus. The exhibition sequence’s major retrospective will be accompanied by the designers’ cinematic oeuvre of more than 60 films, children toys as well as the full scope of the collection of the Eames Office that is with the museum since 1988.
Credits:Charles and Ray Eames selecting slides / Ray Eames with an early prototype of »The Toy« in the patio of the Eames House, 1950 / Charles and Ray in the living room of the Eames House, 1958 / Installation view of »Glimpses of the U.S.A.«, American National Exhibition, Moscow, 1959 / Photo shoot of the Aluminum Group with Charles Eames, 1960 / Charles and Ray Eames, Film still »Powers of Ten: A Film Dealing with the Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding Another Zero«, 1977. All pictures: © Eames Office LLC
“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.
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.
top picture: TOVAGLIA coffee table (Studio Tetrarch), 1969
bottom pictures: Prismar lamp (A.R.D.I.T.I.) / Rampa , design by Pier Giacomo & Achille Castiglione, 1963 / „You’ll come back“ chair by Ceretti, Derossi, Rosso, Torneraj 1969
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.
book cover and Marcel Broodthaers with camel in front of Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles © Maria Gilissen
“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.
Vestido Cobra. Photo: Edgar Aguirre © Carla Fernández / Border-City © FR-EE
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.
Photos: Steve Herud