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.
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.
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.
Adam Pendleton: A woman on the train asks angela davis for an autograph, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Pace Gallery, New York / IF THE FUNCTION OF WRITING, 2017, detail. Courtesy the artist and Galeria Pedro Cera, Lisbon
Adam Pendleton‘s multi-disciplinary practice engages with language and the reframing of history, and he follows Hanne Lippard as the second of three artists to present exhibitions reflecting on the work of Ian Wilson. Beginning his practice as a painter, Wilson increasingly took on communication, abstraction, and the nature of knowledge as subjects, and used dialogue as a form. As a response, Pendleton stages an intervention to the entire third floor of KW. Cutting across the exhibition space is a diagonal wall, across which is printed the first sentence of Ron Sillman’s poem “Albany” – “If the function of writing is to ‘express the world.’” This statement, or question, is met with an arrangement of posters, collages, and other archival materials from Pendleton’s practice, pasted in successive layers and constrained to a black-and-white palette. And Wilson’s voice is present in the midst: shot him in the face includes one of his monochromatic paintings, with which the artist aimed for producing an object devoid of referential content and touching true abstraction. As part of KW’s The Weekends agenda, three of Pendleton’s film works will also be showing at the Babylon cinema. All showcase Pendleton’s focus on the themes of portraiture, artistic exchange, and methods of representation – filmic and otherwise.
WE (we are not successive), 2015. Courtesy the artist and Pace Gallery, New York
Yonezawa, »Directional Robot«, 1957. Private collection. Photo: Andreas Sütterlin
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.
Shawn Maximo, »Going Green«, Vinylprint 2016 © Shawn Maximo / TRNDlabs, »SKEYE Nano 2 FPV Drone«, 2015 Fernsteuerung und Nano-Drohne © TRNDlabs
Das Numen Meatus, 2016, courtesy Das Numen and Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Berlin
After relocating to a more spacious venue right behind the Volksbühne, the Dittrich & Schlechtriem gallery inaugurates its new home with an installation by the Berlin-based artist collective Das Numen, made up of artists Julian Charrière, Andreas Greiner, Markus Hoffmann, and Felix Kiessling. The collective’s practice is premised on the methodological primacy of experimentation and the significance of engaging with their surroundings and the present moment. Entitled Das Numen Meatus, the exhibition focuses on sonic compositions and the importance of atmosphere for their existence. Something intangible and ephemeral fills the gallery’s rooms: sounds emerge, produced by an array of pipes suspended in the space. Das Numen feed readings—wind velocities and directions—from twenty weather stations into a computer program that converts the data into impulses. The latter in turn control valves that allow compressed air to pass through the pipes, which begin to sound. Scientific data that, due to its enormous quantity, often goes unused is transformed into sensual sounds and a curious aesthetic experience.
Exterior view Schaudepot, located at the Vitra Campus adjacent to the Firestation by Zaha Hadid © Vitra Design Museum, Julien Lanoo / Exhibition view of main hall © Vitra Design Museum, Mark Niedermann
With the opening of Schaudepot in June 2016, the Vitra Design Museum more than doubled its exhibition space. Designed by Basel-based architects Herzog & de Meuron, the new addition functions as a venue for presenting key objects from the museum’s extensive collection to the public. Holding the first permanent exhibition of the institution’s sprawling collection, the brick building includes over 7.000 pieces covering all significant epochs and protagonists of design from 1800 to the present, and the estates of designers such as Verner Panton and Charles & Ray Eames. The central focus is a selection of more than 400 key objects of furniture design, including rare works by such designers as Gerrit Rietveld, Alvar Aalto, Charles & Ray Eames, or Ettore Sottsass, but also lesser-known or anonymous objects. What the collection aims to achieve is to document the past and present of interior design, and foster research in a broader context. Schaudepot combines the simple appearance of an industrial warehouse with the complex requirements of a walk-in museum repository. To the outside, the structure presents itself as a monolithic volume constructed from hand-broken bricks, characterised by a completely windowless facade and a simple gable roof. With its understated and dignified appearance, the edifice’s architecture reflects the cultural value of the objects stored within. Through this new expansion, the Vitra Design Museum is addressing the characteristic development in the sphere of design and museums today, as well as communicating the significance of design through discussions, the demonstration of social correlations and the presentation of references to other fields. Now in operation, Schaudepot is one of the world’s largest permanent exhibitions and research facilities on modern interior design.
installation view, photo: Michael Jungblut
According to theorist William Myers, a designer should also be a kind of translator, shaping material and visual elements into something that makes sense as part of our daily lives. Designers transfer research into everyday use; they work on objects and systems. So what is our understanding of design research? How can it be practised as an experiment and in turn produce knowledge pointing to the future? For the third edition of the exhibition series Design Display at the Autostadt in Wolfsburg, Julia Lohmann and Petra Blaisse transfer scientific examination into the world of design. Delving into the subject of material research, the two designers present their in-depth investigation and distinct outcomes inside the exhibition’s characteristic glass display. On one side we find Julia Lohmann’s work which primarily addresses the question of how design can deal more sensitively with natural resources. In her mobile research station, the “Department of Seaweed”, she develops new methods for how seaweed can replace fossil fuels, as well as how it can be be pressed, cut, sewn, and applied to objects. The other side of the display is occupied by Petra Blaisse’s “Solar Curtain”, an aesthetic, ecological product that shows how previously unused surfaces can be discovered as a resource and then utilized. The 3D curtain, equipped with solar cells capable of producing electricity, is the interim result of a long-term research project that the designer has initiated after collaborating with textile experts and engineers.
To order a copy of the magazine On Display that accompanies each exhibition and delves deeper into the chosen subject, head over to form.
Petra Blaisse, Solar Curtain & Julia Lohmann, Department of Seaweed
© Design Display. photo: Noortje Knulst
Coney Island in 1904; Joan Littlewood and Cedric Price’s designs for the Fun Palace from the 1960s; Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi’s analysis of 1970s Las Vegas — these are just a few examples that assert the relevance of utopian ideas in the conception of amusement parks in the last century. What they all have in common is the integration and interplay of diverse forms of art — be it visual arts, film, music, literature, design, or architecture — while throughout concerned with inventiveness, a display of the latest technologies, and reanimations of the past via visions of the future.
The development of an art- and culture-focused concept for the Spreepark, a former amusement park, builds on this legacy, raising the interesting question of what entertainment can be today. The potential for further expansion and reinterpretation of the term “amusement park” or “amusement” via cultural development lies in the establishment of a structure that transfers the link between the nostalgic and the present-day onto a forward-looking culture and topography of amusement. Taking the nostalgic aura of the Spreepark and building upon it with integrations of art, architecture, design, and technology, a simultaneous interweaving takes place between that which has been left behind and the sights, activities, and experience now available. Following the principle of collage, the idea was to superimpose over the preexisting structure a linking system creating fluid transitions between the extant and the new. This new structure creates a unified narrative space accommodating the spatial and the temporal, the dormant and the interactive. Realised in collaboration with Hager Partner, Holzer Kobler Architekturen, Tourismus Plan B and Runze & Casper Werbeagentur.
All collages by Holzer Kobler