A supernormal exhibition by Jasper Morrison – on show at Kölnisches Kunstverein as part of his being made A&W Designer of the Year. Photo © Adeline Seidel, Stylepark
As time goes by
by Adeline Seidel
Jan 22, 2016

The Cologe trade-fair razzmatazz started this year supernormal. On the premises of the Kölnisches Kunstverein, Jasper Morrison was awarded the “A&W Designer of the Year” prize – and Morrison chose to design the show of his works himself and as a simple line of products that invariably conveyed a slightly timeless feeling. The latter is definitely innate in Morrison’s designs, which the one or other time resist the temptations of the zeitgeist. Jasper Morrison was correspondingly restrained in his word as was the no less restrained young Swiss designer Michel Charlot whom he had nominated for the “A&W Mentor Prize” – which ensured the awards ceremony was exceptionally interesting.

It was all the more refreshing that the “support band” had already tired out the audience and listeners were hardly able as a result to resist the feeling they were stuck in a time trap. In this case, the German Design Council was the “support band”, which this year for the first time and in the same setting presented its “Best of Best” of its “Iconic Awards 2016” in the category “Interior Innovations”. The ritual’s monotony resembled one of those eternal phone wait loops, with the phone announcement forever remaining the say: announcement of the winners, presentation of the trophy, photo opportunity, and exit stage left, with the sequence never changing. The felt duration of the process certainly exceeded the actual time by a multiple, as the Iconic Awards are at times like an amateur sports day where just about everyone wins.


While the Council continues strictly to make awards for “Innovations”, in 2016 in the trade-fair halls and at the Design Post things are long since less agitated. In fact this year visitors were largely spared all the latest hype, the super megatrend, the oracles of the trendsetters, the things the lifestylers crave for and which the one or other manufacturer takes its cue from. Hardly anything from the wealth of things on show can be easily pigeonholed. And the one or other thing that has blossomed over the last two years has now ebbed: For example, the return of metals such as brass and copper or their combination with high-grade woods or marble – often in simple geometrical shapes. What remains is a far more pleasant space, liberated from the clutches of zeitgeisty design, a trend-free emptiness that offers an occasion for reorientation and space of experiment – or at least could.
Initially, however, the view is backward into the past and the archives. Here, repeatedly designs can be found that perhaps only 50 years ago were all the rage, and therefore successful – and evidently now fit the bill again.

Yesterday’s good

For example, Walter Knoll has pulled the “Votteler Chair” out of the drawer. Designed 60 years ago by Arno Votteler, the armchair with its angled volume rests on light metal feet – and has been rejuvenated with a new fabric called “Anni”. In honor of Anni Albers and inspired by “the living world of the 1950s”, or so we read, and outfitted with a metal yarn. The result: a chair that is as familiar as it is elegant. With the “Sadi & Neptun Ozis Collection” – consisting of the “Fishnet Chair”, the “Burgaz Chair” and “Rumi” – Walter Knoll has also re-issued those three products which are said to be among the very first modern furniture designs made in Turky, and celebrated their debuts back in the 1950s and 1960s.

Gubi, forever taking its cue from history, brings back to life Louis Weisdorf’s multifunctional “Multi-Lite Pedant Lamp” dating from 1972 and Mathieu Matégot’s “Pendant Lamp” (1953) and his “Lounge Table” (1950). That’s also the year when Franz Hero and Karl Odermatt designed the modular “Trio” settee for Cor. And then there are other revivals. Such as Müller Möbelwerkstätten’s relaunch of Rolf Heide’s “Sofabank” (1969), Norr 11’s re-edition of Verner Panton’s “Relaxer Rocking Chair” (1974) and fabric makers Rohi the upholstery textile “Sera” from the 1970s. The latest and most voluminous scion among the re-issues: the solid foam “Plumy” seats developed by French designer Annie Hieronimus in 1980 for Ligne Roset. Not only do you sit comfortably on these sedate looking babes, but you can really lounge around on them.

The Better – the enemy of the New

Hard to tell from the fair why there’s so much joy in revivals. For the most part, the manufacturers say they simply rediscovered the designs, remembered them somehow. Perhaps it will also be the generation of designers born in the 1930s through to the late 1940s (if we exclude Panton and Matégot) whose fame will soon fade, but whom one can draw on still for a re-edition. Parallels between the zeitgeist back then and that today are few and far behind. Cold War and economic reconstruction, future optimism and social upheavals? But there’s less of that about. Perhaps it’s simply the belief in the new that is dwindling and we are refining our standards as regards what is? Improving and refining what is may not be quite as eye-catching, but it is enjoyable to decipher these subtle re-codings, something that brings even greater joy to the hearts of the connoisseurs.

Same, same, but different

Possibly the simplest form of product cultivation is the expansion of the range of colors and materials. However, the greatest danger is of course to simply try and surf the wave of what is in. Vitra, for instance, is bringing out some of its most popular products in an “All White Edition” for the summer: such as Jasper Morrison’s “HAL” and other “Vitra Classics”. By contrast, the String shelve is now available entirely in black and Thonet is launching new color combinations entitled “Thonet All Seasons” – from a strong red to a muted midtone green – of tubular steel classics for indoor and outdoor uses. Even the young Berlin label New Tendency is fielding its superbly finished and marvelously sober metal wall shelf “Click” in gold and vibrant colors chosen by Luis Barragan.

For Richard Lampert Steffen Kehrle has fundamentally revised his steps-cum-stool “Mono”, after all even the smallest tweak to a shape now requires completely new production tooling. And only insiders will know where to look to spot the differences. The idea was to improve the product, the Munich-based designer explains, as when using the stool the one or other point had caught the eye suggesting that “Mono” could be fine-tuned that little bit to make it perfect. Now you can stand or sit on this versatile and practical item all the better.

Very much in the here and now

A furniture fair can of course not survive completely without new products, or at least extensions to existing collections. For example, e15 is supplementing its collection with furniture designed by British architect David Chipperfield to include a solid wood couch table called “Leighton” and a sideboard called “Drayton”. Both pieces are based on the structural principle underlying the “Fayland” table. We can now imagine that the next thing will be a “Protestant” camp-bed of single bed. But who knows. Formally quite the opposite of the heavy architectural furniture: Jaime Hayon’s new “Pallette Desk” for &Tradition, the big bro of a couch table called “Pallette Table”.

Pedrali is taking a cutting edge where new products are concerned: “Nemea” is the name of the fresh wooden chair by Italian designer trio Cazzaniga Mandelli Pagliarulo. The chair proves to be exceptionally light and practical for contract uses, because you can click its curved backrest into a table top, such that it floats slightly above the ground making the latter easier to clean. Which would be inconceivable with “Throne” by New Tendency: Made of aluminum, it’s a chair O.M. Ungers would have loved. And it does what its name promises: You can enjoy sitting casually but in a dignified manner on it. Rather than lounging about.

What is also noticeable: A surprising number of innovations were devised for the corridor. In modern times, the corridor was degraded to that of functional passageway but can now be more inviting again – despite its usually more modest dimensions. Steffen Kehrle’s “Bazar” clothes stand for Richard Lampert is a polymath in steel wire. Müller Möbelwerkstätte offers a space-saving “Shustack”, a tower of a shoe rack. And at Schönbuch Martin Hirth has created a chest called “Chest” with any amount of storage and sitting space. Another new item at Schönbuch is a somewhat more bland clothes stand called “Slot” – a simple mirror, with a rod on the back where you can hang your jacket and coat from a hanger – and console table “Tub”. Both are the brainchildren of Sebastian Herkner.

On the matter of Sebastian Herkner. His achievement in presenting a total of 19 innovations at the imm cologne is pretty impressive in quantitative terms. Moreover, the Offenbach designer this year has created the most beautiful trade-fair booth and all the makers of pop-up and concept-stores should take a careful look at it: It’s called “The House” and provides many an idea on how to skillfully place products in a temporary architecture.

>> See all the new products presented at the imm cologne 2016 in our database

Giulio Cappellini and Jasper Morrison. Photo © Adeline Seidel, Stylepark
Walter Knoll has re-issued Arno Votteler’s 1956 “Votteler Chair” and by adding the “Anni” fabric given it a new gleam. Photo © Martina Metzner, Stylepark
Louis Weisdorf’s “Multi-Lite Pendant Lamp” of 1972 has been rediscovered by Gubi. Photo © Adeline Seidel, Stylepark
And another revival: Cor’s soft, modular “Trio” also exudes the spirit of the 1970s, and likewise boasts new fabric covers. Photo © Martina Metzner, Stylepark
Left just the way it was when Rolf Heide designed it in 1969: His “Sofabank” for Müller Möbelwerkstätten. Photo © Müller Möbelwerkstätten
And the old is the new when it comes to textiles, too: “Sera” by Rohi. Photo © Adeline Seidel, Stylepark
At first sight “Plumy” looks pretty staid, but you can actually lounge around on it in any number of different positions. The settee was designed in 1980 by Annie Hieronimus for Ligne Roset. Photo © Adeline Seidel, Stylepark
Hang out: “Nemea” by Italian designer trio Cazzaniga Mandelli Pagliarulos for Pedrali promises to become a contract world star. Photo © Adeline Seidel, Stylepark
New colors: At New Tendency the wall shelf called “Click” glows in Luis Barragan’s colors. Photo © Ubin Eoh, Bureau N
Only a connoisseur will notice: “Mono” by Steffen Kehrle for Richard Lampert is not just available in new colors, but its shape has also been subtly revisited. Photo © Adeline Seidel, Stylepark
David Chipperfield has now applied the structural principle underpinning his furniture for e15 to a sideboard named “Drayton”, too. Photo © Adeline Seidel, Stylepark
Jaime Hayon’s “Pallette Table” now has a big brother: the “Pallette Desk” for &Tradition. Photo © Adeline Seidel, Stylepark
Thonet has refreshed its tubular-steel classics – with new colors. Photo © Thonet
New Tendency has developed a “sophisticated” chair: “Throne” is not something for those seeking comfiness. Photo © New Tedency
Hang it up with Steffen Kehrle: The refined wall and or standalone clothes stand called “Baza” he has created standing for Richard Lampert is as versatile as it is well conceived. Photo © Adeline Seidel, Stylepark
This year, Sebastian Herkner masterminded “The House” and in so doing created by far the most beautiful trade-fair booth at the imm cologne. Photo © Koelnmesse
Hard to top: Herkner presented no less than 19 new products in Cologne. Photo © Koelnmesse