Playful and inspiring
After Langenthal is before Langenthal. This old adage from the world of soccer is entirely fitting for the feeling that prevails on the day after returning from the Swiss design mecca. Delight in a once again magnificent and inspiring overall experience gives way to excitement about the next edition (which, it’s worth mentioning, is two years away). One can’t help but ask oneself what exactly it is that makes up the fascination of this hybrid of trade fair, curated special exhibition, site visit and networking event.
So what exactly is it that lures thousands and thousands of visitors time and again – from young children to pensioners – on a gray November weekend to this small and rather unremarkable town to the north of Bern? First and foremost it seems to be a wonderful mix of Swiss precision, hospitality and a playful, laid-back attitude that draws people under its spell.
Thus, for example, at the city-center station visitors are greeted by the presentation of the Swiss barbecue manufacturer Feuerring and surprised by their steel components that are put together to form a huge variety of sculptures. There’s grilling and music created using the steel rings, and steel as a material is reinterpreted in a poetic way. In short, the result is an atmosphere that goes far beyond a conventional product presentation and which gives the visitor a look behind the company’s façade.
Overall here it’s less about the products themselves and more about the attitude and philosophy that form the DNA of the company. The best presentations create precisely this, sometimes in an entirely playful way as with Dietiker, which has hung its chairs from the ceiling, inviting visitors to swing (an idea for which it was rightly awarded first prize for the best presentation), or Horgenglarus, for which Hürlemann AG (formerly Studio Hannes Wettstein) created mythical creatures using cut-offs of wood and chairs. At Intertime you find yourself in a circus world complete with popcorn and carousel, all created by atelier oi, whilst Dornbracht and Alape have balls of foam rising from columns (Simon Husslein), and at Bauknecht two washing machines converse about the curse and the blessing that is modern technology.
Playful lightness with a touch of tongue in cheek – a description that applies to many of the presentations. Visitors can swing (not only at Dietiker but also at Sattler Lighting) and marvel (at the wonderfully poetic world of light, textile and film at Création Baumann or at the inspiration island of Ruckstuhl). You can delve into new worlds (the room-in-a-room by Moritz Schmid for Kvadrat), wind your way through labyrinths (Rolf Benz) or take a look behind the processes of the product (Ribag and Inchfurniture). Another highlight is the cooperation with the country’s important design universities. The creative involvement of up-and-coming designers has been particularly successful at Ruckstuhl, where ECAL Lausanne offers its very particular and spectacular interpretation of the raw material that is textile.
In between these adventures visitors can refuel amongst weaving looms and high-bay storage units in improvised pop-up restaurants in which the hosts’ employees potter around with visible pride. The result is informal yet focused discussions – and, not least for the specialist visitors (most of whom are architects and interior designers), diverse sources of inspiration for their own creativity.
In the end what remains is a combination of amazement, euphoria and a feeling of happiness – and not least anticipation of the next edition.