Just exciting: Trademark Publishing offers this winter an illustrious potpourri of books. Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Design like a rock
by Thomas Wagner
Dec 12, 2014

Completely focused on today, the way we all are, we spoiled contemporaries tend to like complaining during those leisurely chats with friends about the diversity and mixed misery of the present. And we find reason enough to believe an aperçu by philosopher Peter Sloterdijk who would have it that: “One does what one can was the word once. Today everyone thinks they have to do what they can’t.” Enough said. Because what we’re talking about here are not any old books, but examples of what you get if someone nevertheless does what he or rather she really can – and then presents us the mixed diversity at least of a cropped version of the world that we can study with amazement.

Stone and design

After the great success of the first two volumes, “Hamelner Töpferei” and “Alle Metalle” in the “Objects” series, with her customary precision Antonia Henschel has now addressed what is definitively a topical phenomenon in product design: the use of stone. What was to be seen in recent years at the relevant trade fairs becomes manifest here and is served up in almost encyclopedic fashion. And the name of the book is the agenda: “Rock on”.

In her introductory essay on the rediscovery of rock in contemporary design, Eva Steidl cites numerous examples while trying to answer the question why stone in general and marble in particular is no longer regarded as “too conservative, mannerist, bulky” and is therefore returning to homes that want a polished style. Thus, the volume, and it is pretty heavy all round, parades all the things that designers have recently formed from what is by no means an easily handled material.

Revival or evergreens?

As is to be expected, the range of what the book presents is correspondingly large. It extends from Aldo Bakker’s enigmatically beautiful objects and the Scholten & Bajing “Solid Patterns” to Toni Grilo’s “Marie Lamp” and Bethan Gray’s “Herringbone Table”. Needless to say, e15’s small table with the marble top and James Irvine’s little item made of black marble that is so reminiscent of a double-T-beam are included, as are the specimens Konstantin Grcic made for Edizioni Marsotto from blocks with marvelously pronounced seams. And on leafing through the book you soon notice that the revival of marble, terrazzo, and lava made have first set in with the new millennium, but there were outstanding antecedents, such as Shiro Kuramata’s terrazzo table of 1983 and Poul Kjaerholm’s table series of 1968/1979. Or should one turn things round and consider marble, for example, historically, meaning that interiors have been rocking ever since Classical Antiquity and the age of plastic and tubular steel is merely a brief episode?

Now no two stones are ever the same and it is well worth playing with unusual combinations, as silversmith David Taylor shows when he creates vessels and candelabras using profile metal and slurry such as accumulates when smelting ore. Or, to offer another of the many examples in the book, as does designer duo Formafantasma, who experiment with cold lava from Sicily’s Etna volcano. It goes without saying that a book published by Antonia Henschel boasts superlative illustrations of all the objects and great graphics. So, to put it in a nutshell, “Rock on” makes you want to go down the stony path. Because if you strip away the pathos, then the aura of the permanent is also a great basis for contemporary design. As long as one has the requisite skills.

Bubbling up

The new books this fall from Trademark Publishing include other gems, too: Far more effervescent and certainly not heavy: volume 9 in the “Picnic” series. “Counterpoint” is what photographer Takashi Suzuki calls his voyage of discovery into buildings. In his series with the consciously German title “Bau”, Suzuki (he studied under Thomas Ruff in Düsseldorf and worked as assistant to Thomas Struth) consciously focuses in a witty, ingenious and insightful manner on juxtaposing the light and the heavy. So views of the built urban jungle, dense with surfaces and volumes alternate with playful architectures and sculptures made of colorful detergent foams. Visually a lot of fun and a joy to behold.

See it, saw it

Quite different views of the urban confusion, but just as exciting ones, are to be found in the photographs that Antonia Henschel took in Venice, Tokyo, all round Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, in London, Taipei, Shanghai, Marrakesh, Seoul, on the banks of the Mosel, and in Odawara. “See Saw” is the name she has given the volume, which is not just a play on past and present vision, but also on how your gaze wanders and tries to find a point of orientation in a foreign world – coming to rest among the opulent mosaics and carpet patterns of North Africa, barriers made of little rabbits in Tokyo or clothes horses in the streets of Seoul.

Zero-carbon paper?

Another book by Antonia Henschel is vol. 4 in the “Isola” series; here forever the graphic designer she doffs her cap to the legendary Insel library series and their patterned covers – here it is not the poets or authors who have a say, but only images, patterns and symbols. “Carbonated” is the title of the latest volume in the series, which brings together geometric drawings on carbon paper. Frank Hatami-Fardi waxes somewhat overly poetic on carbon paper in his introductory text, enthusing about the “joy of a text to be written” and somewhat over-exaggerates the original importance of carbon paper. Anyone who remembers the days of mechanical typewriters knows full well that you needed dexterity and a lot of tenacity as a secretary and not as the author to produce a letter or a list in up to seven legible copies. Antonia Henschel’s drawings themselves need no such exaggerated commentary as they are so stunning in their self-referentiality. They always outline a space that suddenly becomes paradoxically three-dimensional and geometric, and yet the illusion of space is forever being undermined. The only thing missing with the reproductions is that tender blueish black skin and the rustle of the thin, fine and sensitive carbon paper.

All that remains to be said is: Anyone who likes things a bit more conceptual should go for the double volume “Über Sehen”, one black, the other white. They contains photos by Daliah Ziper, who focuses now on luminaires and then on the light that street lamps cast by night in cities only at times to be as good as engulfed by the darkness.

Objects: Rock On
Edited by Antonia Henschel
320 pages, hardcover
EUR 32.00

Picnic # 09
Kontrapunkt by Takashi Suzuki
76 pages
EUR 17.00

See Saw
Photography by Antonia Henschel
117 color illustrations
240 pages, hardcover, cloth binding
EUR 32.00

Carbonated by Antonia Henschel
64 pages, Hardcover
EUR 14,00

Über Sehen
By Daliah Ziper
57 color illustrations
Double volume, 124 pages, softcover
EUR 17.00

What was to be seen in recent years becomes manifest here: “Rock on”.
Photo © Trademark Publishing
For every book a stone: "ECAL/Pétrifications" by Krzysztof J. Lukasik.
Photo © Trademark Publishing
With marble uphill: “Vita Side Table“ by Uncontrollable Urge for Goodd Ltd.
Photo © Trademark Publishing
“Seesaw“ – the travel diary by Antonia Henschel guides us to ten locations all over the world. Photo © Trademark Publishing
For „Kontrapunkt“, Japanese artist Takashi Suzuki set two series of photographs together. The series „Built“ show sponges. Photo © Trademark Publishing
The next series without special name shows little frames of Japanese city lifes.
Photo © Trademark Publishing
For „Carbonated“ Antonia Henschel has made sketches on coal paper.
Photo © Trademark Publishing