Newsletter 03.2010

Dear Readers

'The Essence of Things: Design and the Art of Reduction' is the name of a new exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum. In conversation with the show's curator Mathias Schwartz-Clauss, Architonic has discovered the thinking behind this wonderfully presented selection of pared-down everyday objects and design classics.

From window to glass wall. We present a number of projects whose glazing systems offer architectural transparency.

For the two forthcoming design fairs light+building in Frankfurt and the Salone del Mobile in Milan we've once again put together our super-handy Architonic Guides. You can either pick them up at the fairs themselves from all the stands listed in the guides, or download them from this newsletter.

Let yourself be inspired!

Your Architonic Team
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Going, going, (almost) gone
The Vitra Design Museum's latest exhibition examines the idea of simplicity in design, be it in terms of form, material or method
Rather than being a recent development in response to global economic and environmental concerns, 'The Essence of Things: Design and the Art of Reduction' suggests that the desire for a pared-down product culture is nothing new. Architonic visits the show and talks to its curator, Mathias Schwartz-Clauss.
  Going, going, (almost) gone  
From hand axe to Multipack Carrier: objects in the exhibition's prologue. © Collection Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, photo by Andreas Sütterlin

'Simplicity does not just happen. The evolutionary trend is the other way round.' For Edward de Bono, the author who has made a career out of telling us how to think (it was he who invented the term 'lateral thinking' in 1967 with his book 'The Use of Lateral Thinking'), the further society progresses, the more complex its systems become. His manifesto-like book 'Simplicity', published in 1999, functions as a call-to-arms to rationalise the way that we imagine our world, both in terms how we think about it and the way in which shape it materially. Complex ideas can always be expressed simply, he asserts. (I'm not so sure. Sometimes tricky ideas require complex language to do them justice.)
Carrier box (1m³) containing 36 disjointed Thonet chairs 'No. 14', © Vitra Design Museum, photo by Thomas Dix

A new exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum entitled 'The Essence of Things: Design and the Art of Reduction' suggests that, when it comes to design at least, there is and has always been a desire to do things as simply as possible. Featuring such diverse objects as Vernon Panton's 'Barboy' drinks trolley, a scale model of André Waterkeyn's 1958 'Atomium' structure for the Brussels World's Fair, an iPod Shuffle and a Maggi stock cube, the show attempts to show how the idea of reduction, be it visual, material, technical or discursive, can be identified across a number of authored and authorless designed products.

The organisational structure of the exhibition (the objects are displayed under a series of headings that include 'Compaction', 'Lightness', 'Geometry' and 'Abstraction') works to communicate the plurality of means of reductive expression in design. Naturally, given the current economic and environmental times we're living in, the idea of material simplification is an appealing one. If ever there was a need for a bit of the old Miesian 'less is more', isn't it now?

I put this to the exhibition's curator Mathias Schwartz-Clauss. 'The economic crisis and the subsequent professional and public discourse about lasting values and the longevity of certain designs was the initial reason we thought of this exhibition,' he says. 'Cheap economic solutions in terms of production and well as for the consumer.'
'Mezzadro' (No. 220), A. & P. Castiglioni, 1954-57 © Vitra Design Museum, photo by Thomas Dix

Mies van der Rohe's axiom of 'less is more' was, Schwartz-Clauss tells Architonic, the working title of the show. Does that mean that there's some political motivation to the exhibition? 'I don't think so,' answers the curator simply, before going on to qualify his statement. 'Here and there there are points where you could easily detect a slight political statement, but in general the subject is of such broadness, historically as well as geographically, that I could hardly say the show is making a political statement.'
The windows of the world
From the window to the glass wall
In ancient times, windows would be covered with animal skins or fabrics to keep the elements at bay. It was only from the 12th century onwards that glass was used in windows. Large expanses of glazing have only been possible, however, in the industrial age, during which time the technological development of glass has been closely linked with architecture.
  The windows of the world  
Vitrocsa sliding window, Centre funéraire régional à Nyon by Aeby & Perneger SA, photo by Thomas Jantscher

New materials, such as steel and reinforced concrete, and modern methods of construction, namely skeleton construction, have allowed the possibility of large areas of glazing. The classic window as simply an opening in a wall was displaced by the glass as a wall element in itself: the glass façade became the epitome of modern architecture.

Glass as a buidling material is no longer unthinkable. Modern types of glazing offer an uninterrupted view, which blur the boundaries between inside and out. Prerequisites for this architectural transparency are narrow sections and frames, whose limits are continually tested. Panes of glass measuring 3m x 6m are easy to realise these days, but their weight and how they are to be installed call for new systems. Architonic presents some innovative companies who have solid answers.
Panoramah! window in the Casa Bom Jesus, Braga, Portugal, Architects: topos atelier de arquitectura, photo by Juan Rodriguez

Vitrocsa is a company with headquarters in French-speaking Switzerland, whose guiding principle must be music to the ears of architects who like Modernism: 'Our window sections are derived from our passion for Californian architecture of the 1940s and equally for Modernist architecture.' In projects where Vitrosca windows have been used, it's as if the extremely elegant series of Case Study Houses have been brought back to life.
Meet Architonic at Light+Building in Frankfurt and at the Salone del Mobile in Milan!
...and find your way though both trade fairs with our well-tried Architonic Guides
Two key events in the international design calendar are just round the corner: Light+Building, one of the most important trade fairs worldwide for lighting and building technology, gets underway in Frankfurt in a couple of weeks' time; three days later, the design fair to end all design fairs, the Salone del Mobile, opens in Milan.

Once again, we've published our (almost) indispensible Architonic Guides to both fairs, which, as your trusty, easy-to-use companions, will lead you through the exhibition jungle to where you want to be. This means you can plan your visit to the fair in advance, saving valuable time.
  Meet Architonic at Light+Building in Frankfurt and at the Salone del Mobile in Milan!
Architonic at Light+Building: Hall 1.1. / G30
We warmly invite you to visit us at Light+Building in Hall 1.1. / G30. Here you'll discover our stunning and innovative Concept Space III, designed by renowned architect and process designer Oskar Zieta. Drop by for a chat and let our team show you the lastest product offerings from Architonic.

Architonic at the Salone del Mobile: Corso Italia / Box 45
Our Architonic design scouts will also be scouring the Salone del Mobile for the best new products. Visit us at our stand in the Corso Italia / Box 45, by the entrance to Halls 9-11.

We look forward to seeing you.
New Projects from 'Architecture & Design'
C18 Architekten BDA
  New Projects from 'Architecture & Design'  
Photo by Brigida Gonzalez, Stuttgart
Photo by Kenichi Suzuki
Murphy / Jahn
Photo by Rainer Viertlböck
Karhard Architektur + Design
Photo by Stefan Wolf Lucks
Photo by Roland Tännler
More Articles from 'News &Trends'
Bamboo: the design material that just keeps on giving
  More Articles from 'News &Trends'

Bamboo's rapid growth in popularity as a viable material for product design seems to mirror the speed at which this iconic plant, lauded for its contribution to sustainability, grows. Architonic takes a look at some recent examples of bamboo-based creative projects, as well as work that engages with...
'Snøhetta Works' von Snøhetta

Architonic hat für Sie einen Blick in die neue Werkmonografie des norwegischen Architekturbüros 'Snøhetta' geworfen und entdeckte dabei, was sich unter einer Schneekuppe so alles befinden kann...(only in German)
Anatomy of a Chair

Architonic dissects Luca Nichetto's striking new 'Robo' chair for Swedish manufacturer Offecct, examining the process beyond the product.
2D - Now in 3D!

Graphic designers are giving architects a run for their money as the creatives who cross disciplinary boundaries. Here, Architonic takes a look at some examples of two-dimensional specialists who've channelled their creative talent into product design and space-defining projects.