The show looks at the decades after the Second World War, when the two super powers were locked in a constant battle of one-upmanship. Not content with just having bigger and better missiles, they tried to outdo each other in every area - leading to an explosion of fantastic art and design. As the blurb from the show points out "Modern life after 1945 seemed to promise both utopia and catastrophe".
The major strength of the exhibition is its sheer breadth. It pulls in Dieter Rams's beautiful designs for Braun (which still exert a powerful influence on the some modern day classics); paintings by Gerhard Richter, Robert Rauschenberg and Richard Hamilton; Archigram's Walking Cities; Otl Aicher's lecture posters; as well as bits from Eames, Corbusier, and Buckminster Fuller. Deeply brilliant.
The show runs until 11 January, but heck, why wait?
They've led us a merry modern dance, which even took us via the classified ads of a London newspaper. Sometimes it felt like we were getting warm, but more often it felt like we were getting cold. But they made us smile in the process, so we're not gonna get too grumpy.
We could tell you who they are and what it's all about, but if you're still caught up in the game, it would rather spoil things.
And we're looking forward to seeing what happens next - we've fallen under their sphere of influence, and heck, we like it.
One minute the trees and shrubs are just beginning to make with the shoots and buds, and then two seconds (and a billion gallons of rain) later, it's practically Autumn.
And one of the heralds of Autumn is almost upon us again - the wonderful Open House London takes place on 20 and 21 September.
Open House is an annual event where you get to wander about inside buildings old and new, and often get to meet the architects and/or owners too. There's a huge range of buildings that participate, from small residential homes to full-on skyscrapers. Though unfortunately 30 St Mary Axe (also known as the Gherkin), pictured above, isn't one of them this year, which is a damn shame.
You can get the full programme from the Open House online shop, either snailmailed to you or downloadable as a pdf.
You may need to book for some events; and if you do, be sure to cancel your booking if you can't make it, otherwise they're going to ban you from all future events. Scary!
Living in a city like London, where there's constantly another show opening to attend, another private view to check out, another must-see product launch to go see, it can be easy to find yourself never venturing outside of Zone 6. If the world is on your doorstep, why go for a walk?
But, heck, there's a wealth of incredible stuff outside the M25 if you just take a look.
So we were dead excited when the good folks at Design Event recently got in touch to invite us up to take a look at Newcastle's design scene. So, come with us as we take you on a journey up north…
China Design Now opened recently at the V&A, so we made our way over there this weekend to check it out.
The show is divided into three sections, each representing one of China's major cities: Shenzhen (population: 10 million; average age: 27), Shanghai and Beijing. Each of those sections loosely represents a particular area of design, so that the Shenzhen section mainly features graphic design, Shanghai is all about fashion, and Beijing gets busy with lots of new architecture (much of it by some familiar western names).
Given the staggeringly vast subject the show is covering, it can naturally only offer an itsy-bitsy little taster; but if you view it as just that, it does its job brilliantly.
And there's some great stuff in the gift shop. We picked up a Hi Panda vinyl toy by Shirtflag (that's its box up top).
The show is, as you can hardly have failed to notice, sponsored by Brit Insurance. They've stuck their name right in front of it. The awards that go with the show are sponsored by them too. They're called the Brit Insurance Design Awards. And frankly, that's just rubbish. Instead of being mutually beneficial, it's mutually detrimental. It makes the Design Museum look cheap, happy to bend over, grab its ankles and get its elegantly shaped butt branded by its corporate master; and it makes Brit Insurance look greedy and egomaniacal. Instead of making the event and awards the most important thing, they've made their sponsorship the important thing. And that doesn't make us like them much.
This is a grim trend that's been happening wherever sponsorship occurs (Carling Academy anyone?). Don't get us wrong, it's a very good thing that corporate sponsorship exists. It makes stuff happen, in bigger and better ways than would otherwise be possible. But, please, let's restore some sense of modesty, elegance and sophistication to the way it's done. Wouldn't the Designs of the Year show, as supported by Brit Insurance, sound far better? Patronage, not prostitution*.
The show itself is a great mix of work arranged by discipline: Architecture, Fashion, Furniture, Graphics, Interactive, Product and Transport. You might question some of the entries, but it's a really valuable opportunity to see what's being going on across the design spectrum in the past year. It's also great to be able to play with some of the entries, including the Nintendo Wii, Toshio Iwai and Yu Nishibori's TENORI-ON digital musical instrument, and Ross Phillips' Replenishing Body Kiosk (pictured above, being used by some kids in a much looser way than intended).
In the graphics section, we were particularly pleased to see the Butt Book nominated - it's a compendium of Butt Magazine (that link is not at all safe if you're at work), designed by Jop van Bennekom, and we've noticed it being the 'inspiration' for rather a lot of work recently.
Winners in each section, and one overall winner, will be announced in March.
* The fact that Peter Saville's "THIS IS NOT A BROTHEL THERE ARE NO PROSTITUTES AT THIS ADDRESS" sticker is one of the graphics entries feels deeply ironic.
While we were out in Paris just before Christmas, we managed to make some time to see the retrospective of architect Richard Rogers (and his practice) that's currently on show at the Centre Pompidou.
And damn, we're glad we did. It's a fantastic show.
Normally architecture exhibitions leave us a bit cold: you're just looking at little models of the buildings, rather than experiencing them for yourself. But this show takes place in one of Rogers' most famous creations, and it makes the whole thing come alive. Here's a bit from the exhibition guide:
Thanks to the three glass facades of the Galerie Sud, the exhibition is open to the city and visible from the street, respecting in this the basic principle of the builiding that Rogers designed with Renzo Piano. On the fourth side the only solid wall offers a comprehensive chronological presentation of 40 years of professional activity, taking in hundreds of projects and completed buildings. The 50 or so projects selected for the exhibition itself are presented on tables, abundant natural light being supplemented by that from the fittings designed by Rogers' practice.
The exhibits are grouped into key architectural themes, and there are a huge number of incredibly detailed models; including Lloyds of London, the Bordeaux Law Courts, the Leadenhall Building and Terminal 4 at Madrid Barajas airport. One in particular stopped us in our tracks - a fantastic model of the (unrealised) masterplan for the development of the Lu Jia Zui district of Shanghai, which lit up to show huge amounts of information. That's a terrible description. Here's a picture instead:
In the middle of the exhibition there's a large (and very pink) soft seating area, where you can lounge about and read a selection of books about Rogers' work.
We left with a much better understanding of his buildings, and a real sense of respect for the practice as a whole.
If you get the chance, do make the trip. You won't be disappointed.
So, cheerio to 2007, and hey there 2008, how you doing?
With the predictable glut of articles and features about the year ahead currently littering every magazine and newspaper you pick up, kudos to The Guardian for deciding to run with a pre-emptive review of the noughties, and particularly so for designing the article (in the G2 section) so beautifully. We highly recommend you nip out and pick up a copy.
We wanted to link out to the whole feature from here, but interestingly the Guardian Unlimited website has chopped it up into separate segments, and has also somehow forgotten to provide a link to it from their homepage.
Which is odd.
But as such, it rather neatly demonstrates how print media can still do some stuff far better than online media. Don't get us wrong, we love the Guardian site; but it can't (yet) present an article with the same pace and elegance as the newspaper.
And here's hoping that the parts of the Guardian site still wearing their old clothes (as all the articles above are) soon switch into their shinier threads. (Compare and contrast: the soundtrack article above in old clothes and in new clothes.)