Repost: Schloss Hollenegg for Design

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Because I am taking a week off to recharge the batteries, I will be reposting some of my favourite blogs of the past months. 

I am not one to think long and hard about things; I usually just start and figure it out along the way. So when six months ago two friends suggested I start a residency programme at home, I did not waste much time. Hugely exciting, the program Schloss Hollenegg for Design has begun. Last week  I had the first in house designer(s) working on a site specific project: Dossofiorito came over from Italy and stayed with us for five days working on a brief and a theme. The skeleton of the idea is already formed, the rest will take shape over the next six months and will be presented in a collective show at the next Designmonat.

The next designers in line for the residency are Dean Brown and mischer’traxler who will be coming in autumn and working on the same theme and brief. A couple more designers are selected for 2016. Lot’s of work ahead so keep following, it is going to be quite a ride! 

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Repost: Museo del Design

Because I am taking a week off to recharge the batteries, I will be reposting some of my favourite blogs of the past months. 

The Salone has started! And there is no better way to inaugurate the most important design event of the year, than with a history lesson. At the Borsa, in front of Maurizio Cattelan’s raised finger, a private design collection of over 120 furniture classics has found a temporary home.

Spanning from 1880 to 1980 the pieces – some of which I had never seen anywhere else – were from the start part of a very careful curatorial project wanted by Raffaello Biagetti. In the mid ’80s he founded, outside Ravenna, one of the very first design museums. Housed in a building designed by Ettore Sottsass it is one of the hidden secrets of Italy.

In Milan there is no permanent design collection so you cannot miss this opportunity to revise the past: it helps to understand the present. To be fair, I must add, that I worked on this exhibition as head of production. What I love about it, is how in the suggestively dark setting, the colours and shapes of the objects light up.

A little update: the Museo del Design has reopened its doors in via Borsi 9, near the Navigli. It will be for the duration of EXPO, until end of October. 

Oracles of Design

Let’s face it, you can’t be everywhere and see it all. Sometimes though it just sucks! Lidewij Edelkoort is a dutch trend forecaster living in Paris. She also curates thematic exhibitions and her latest one – Oracles du Design – is at the Gaîté Lyrique in Paris running until the 25th of August. Edelkoort has collaborated with the Centre National d’Arts Plastique, choosing from its extraodrinary collection objects of design capable of shedding light on our moods and our relationship to the world.

Divided in ten themes communicating a lifestyle and a desire for self-expression (Simple, Humble, Curious, Inflated, Abstract, Naïve, Nomadic, Mutant, Organic, Archaic) each object tells a story, literally. As the visitor approaches the objects on show, a voice “speaks” for the object.

The next best thing to seeing the exhibition is buying the catalogue. But if you di make it to Paris in time, drop me a line!

A New Material Called Karuun

My knowledge in the field of new materials and technological research is to say the least patchy. Of course it all stems back to my science lessons – and as hard as I try, I just cannot get excited over the topic as I know I should. After all, form is purely an exercise, and the game changing innovations are all material related.

One innovation I discovered recently is a process to improve rattan. Rattan is in fact a type of palm and ubiquitously used in decorating country and summer houses. It is not however ideal for outdoor use. On the other hand it is light, elastic and sustainable. Out for Space, a german collective of engineers and designers, have patented a technology by which through injecting various bulking agents in the capillaries of rattan they change its properties. The new material is called karuun and it is firmer, harder, weather-resistant and coloured! The cherry on the cake is that the Out for Space team isn’t just smart about technology; their forms and designs are great to. Now that is something to get excited about.

Second Life to a Vase

When Dossofiorito where in Hollenegg working on a new project, they noticed a rather peculiar vase: some great-uncle had covered a whole gluing a postcard to the interior. We were all very intrigued.

The unorthodox intervention brought to mind the vases designed by Daniel Hulsbergen. Made with fragmented Delfts Blue vases, the missing parts are filled in with hand crafted wicker braiding. The contrast is optically strong but in fact both techniques have a long history in the Neatherlands. Somehow the match works smoothly.

We are all aware of how swamped we are with objects, and often I have to battle with my guilty conscience. So hip hip hurray for any designer (genuinly) working with existing artefacts.

Statistics as Tool

On of my biggest challenges is to see things early enough, so that when I write about them, you can still check them out yourself. Alas, it is a race against time and sometimes time wins. My students at the Exhibition Design Master in Graz put on a great exhibition, which I saw last week, on its last day.

Aptly called JakOH!mini it tried to describe an area of town, which despite renewed investments, and concerted efforts, remains undervalued and sadly, unappealing. With statistics and observation, the 17 students captured, through as many installations, different aspects of the Jakomini street. We get noise charts, sun and shadow schemes, paths and colour maps. Clearly I love all my students and consider them all exceedingly bright. But without being partial, the exhibition was clear, well thought out and – most rare – betrayed a sense of humour. What I enjoyed most, was how I was reminded of the importance of observing, analysing and counting data. I tend to be too deductive but deep knowledge is empirical. Long live statistics!

An American Designer in Italy


You know I have a weakness for ceramics and in Amalfi I have recently discovered a most amazing artist I had not heard of before. Ernestine Virden Cannon was american and came to Italy soon after the war. She discovered the Costiera Amalfitana, met the architect Matteo D’Agostino and decided to stay. He had a ceramic factory and she painted watercolours. Together they started making incredibly modern ceramics with new delicate and transparent colours. The patterns varied from two tone graphics to delicate flowers. 

Ernestine was not just an artist, she embodied the figure of the modern designer. Together with the german ceramic engineer Horst Simonis, Ernestine brought about important innovations also on the technical side of the manufacture, discovering the procedure for making mew colours and successfully removing asbestos. The production lasted less than twenty years but the sheer variety of designs and patterns is astounding. They were a huge success, especially abroad. If you bump into an Ernestine piece anywhere in the world, you have a gem in your hands so don’t let it go!