A magical moment: A makeshift bistro has been installed at the heart of carpet manufacturer Ruckstuhl’s production hall in Langenthal. An ensemble is playing classical music, while a machine toils away producing a complex carpet design in the background, at booths dotted around the room students from ECAL University of Art and Design Lausanne (as part of this year’s Carte Blanche program) present and talk to visitors about their works. Marveling, discovering, learning, laughing and casually chatting to other visitors, it all seems so simple and effortless. It is moments like these that make Designers’ Saturday such a special event on the design world calendar, arguably unparalleled the world over.
Our time spent in the Swiss town of Langenthal is suffused with such moments, moments that quite literally leave one lost for words. Take the Sky-Frame presentation in Ruckstuhl: Studio Hannes Wettstein’s design has visitors navigate their way through a swarm of “glow worms” and was quite rightly bestowed with the Designer’s Saturday Gold Award. Or the joint stand by Wogg, Baltensweiler & Co, which Benjamin Thut covered entirely in sheets of newspaper; the wonderfully poetic “... und was bringt’s?” (…and what’s the use?) installation by design studio greutmann bolzern for Lista Office; and not forgetting the recipient of the Audience Award, Création Baumann’s space and sound installation, which was also designed by Benjamin Thut. But that’s far from everything, for at Hector Egger Holzbau the tables by Bigla Office are dancing a jig and Atelier Oï’s designs for the Betonmanufaktur and Ruckstuhl leave us smitten with amazement as do the “Purzelhäuser” (cute little houses) by Bauwerk Parkett, where the visitor suddenly finds the walls and ceiling beneath his feet. Horgenglarus’ installation in the Alte Mühle is as much a musical experience as a poetic one, as is the (in my opinion prize-worthy) presentation by Licht + Raum held in the basement at Ruckstuhl, where new carbon lamps illuminate 19 tables displaying objects washed up on the shores of Europe’s beaches. Furthermore, one should not overlook the winner of the Bronze Award, Jörg Boner’s design for Schätti Leuchten, which transforms the basement at Glas Trösch into a 28-meter Glarus Alp panorama; nor the hanging plant sculptures by Hydroplant; nor the Silver-Award-winning display by young talents Gregory Brunisholz and Anaïde Davoudlarian for radiator manufacturer Runtal, whereby the warm air from the radiators is used to fill large balloons, which together create a roof over the entire stand.
Those presentations that opted for an ambient display of just one product proved to be no less accomplished – such as Belux with their new U-Turn luminaire, the new architect collection at Corian, the steel kitchens by Forster or the ERY seating concept by Andreas Sayer for Dietiker. I could go on and on…
The various universities in attendance also demonstrated particularly high-quality content in their presentations. In addition to the previously mentioned University of Art and Design Lausanne (ECAL) a special mention is owed to the filigree wooden models produced by USI Academy of Architecture and presented around the city center, the chair designs by students at the Zurich University of Arts at Glas Trösch and the “Pappmaschee – Lampen-Labor” (papier-mâché – lamp laboratory) by students of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland at the Girsberger stand.
But despite such praise and high quality one should not neglect to point out a number of surprises at the fair, especially from companies from which one would have expected a little more. Without naming names, next year the jury should try to summon up the courage to stick to their otherwise clear line when it comes to the quality of the presentations. And of course shuttle buses were far too full again, but what would there be left to write about were everything to run without even the smallest hitch.
This event, which brings an otherwise somewhat unspectacular place fully to life every other year, is in fact a small wonder. Perhaps it is precisely this element of surprise that casts a spell over us each and every time, perhaps it is the modesty and lack of flamboyance coupled with a precision that is Swiss through and though that paves the way for something really special. The employees from the participating companies, the army of volunteers on hand, the shuttle-bus drivers, they all join forces for a common cause, and are highly motivated at that. And that is it; that is the secret to Langenthal’s success.
After finishing our last espresso at Langenthal train station, the waiter, proudly sporting a D’S sticker on his lapel, calls after us: “See you in two years!” It goes without saying that we are already looking forward to 2014.