A surprising spring day in autumn. The sun by no means shines on nothing new, and all of Langenthal is sucking up the warm air, spreading their arms and bidding welcome to everyone interested in design and how it can be staged. And verily, in six different venues spread across town you can really enjoy things. Precisely in an age of virtual presentations and wobbly trade-fair stands in poorly ventilated and artificially lit halls, it is a great advantage to be able to experience products in real, and in part auratic rooms. Here, among the hosts in the production facilities of Création Baumann, Girsberger Sitzmöbeln, Glas Trösch, Hector Egger Holzbau and Ruckstuhl as well as in the Mühlenhof and the Ruckstuhl City, you can experience chairs, luminaires, furniture, carpets, curtains, office systems, floor coverings, fittings, ceramic tops, wallpapers and much more besides in a quite unprecedented way.
Places for products
Wonderland wherever you look, life everywhere, be it next to the work bench, on a cutting table, behind a weaving loom or a spinning machine, in the cellar between the tanks and on pallets, the rays of sunlight dancing between the rolls of yarn and the sewing machines, in the high-bay warehouse, or outside a long line of rolls of carpet - at each place, you have the feeling you are in the midst of production, and locked into the process of designing, testing, developing and manufacturing - also, or specifically because you imagine things that are not actually produced here. And before traveling on by shuttle bus to the next stop, one visit following hard on the heels of the next, you can taste delectable dishes and refreshing drinks. In short, at the 12th Designers' Saturday in Langenthal design is rendered very tangible, and can be experienced almost first hand. No product is remote, nothing isolated, but instead inserted into the local design industry's workshops as part of a manufacturing culture.
Course for those wanting a stroller
In this tried-and-true way, a course was created for those who enjoy a stroll - and this time diversity was emphasized by dispensing with a central theme or leitmotif. And another things has changed, too: The selection process for participants went through two rounds. Participants first had to be nominated by the Board of Designers' Saturday, and then an international jury consisting of experts in product design, interior design, architecture, and architectural critics judged them.
Alongside all the novelties, it is primarily the numerous installations, and many are very refined and lovingly designed, that ensure joyful feelings awaken on arriving in the countryside here. It is impossible to enumerate and describe all the amazing things here waiting to be discovered - and that is not something you can say often. Often, what counts is not really the novelty factor, and sometimes it does not even matter whether you like the product or not. If the staging of the product itself is good, then this energizes the object in question. And thus if you simply wander around, wide awake, do not bother about some pre-set route or other, you will gain a feeling of how original and varied the things that Langenthal has to offer, from one room to the next, from one factory to the next. Raise the curtain and let the potpourri begin.
Dance of the lanterns
Up above our heads in the dark gorge that is the gangway in the high-bay warehouse at Création Baumann lanterns created by Aqua Créations sway, bringing a touch of Japanese beauty to Switzerland and imbuing the profane space with a poetic feel. And that means, although they may seem a bit kitschy, the dancing shapes transform the space as a whole into an entrancing ambience.
The narrow pathway contrasts with the broad valley. At Ruckstuhl, where in the basement you can enjoy marvelous natural materials and colors en route to high-grade carpeting, there is a quite different equivalent. There, between hundreds of rolls of carpets an inviting terrain awaits you, and it is here that Wogg presents its Wogg 46 desk among white, brightly illuminates fabric cylinders - the height-adjustable frame is shrouded in elastic material behind which all the cables and peripherals disappear. And directly behind, Foscarini conjures up a light installation using luminaires from its Mite and Mega-Kite series, demonstrating that you can shape solutions for quite special interiors from nothing other than standardized products. Imagine both installations in a trade-fair hall: What would seem over-done, if not trivial there is strong and full of character thanks to the far from neutral surroundings.
The route takes us through corridors, halls and cellars. And suddenly you find your own image before you, shattered in a mirrored walls, and at bigla Office learn that a myBox is a hybrid castor-based container and lectern. Or be thrilled at Hay by how Oskar Zieta's stool is inflated metal as if it were soft plastic: It inflates with an audible "plop". Meaning you really sense the production process proper here. As you do at arwa Keramik Laufen AG, where you enter a dark room with a confusion of luminescent hose pipes that move like tentacles, and Dornbracht builds a bridge from Classical Antiquity to the present-day bath culture with reproduced bathing scenes and fragrant amphora made of colored soap.
Chairs can grow
Vitra used Designers' Saturday for a veritable premiere and presented "Vegetal" (the new chair by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec) in a kinetic installation, in which many chairs seems to defy gravity, hanging over a large bright surface and swiveling now this way, now that, resembling a miniature slow-motion chair ballet. It was not just the two brothers preference for organic shapes but also their knowledge of a strange technology used back in the 19th century in North America to persuade trees to grow in chair shape while still young that spawned the idea of designing a chair that looked as though it had grown naturally. Even the structure, namely polyamide dyed through, was intended to seem as organically natural as possible. It took four years of intensive work to turn the initial idea into a finished product. And now the vegetal result shimmers in refined autumn colors, a thing somewhere between floral ornament and artificial blossom, both first and second nature.
Students in the Interior Design and Scenography Dept. at Basle's Academy of Art and Design successfully show that design as a déformation professionelle can be approached quite casually. Simply take an uncomfortable wooden chair, subject it to deconstruction, i.e., cut or saw it into pieces, give it a new seating function, and hey presto, you have a new and innovative chair. "ichair" is what Fabiana Dondiego calls her laptop armchair complete with headrest, "Sitting Bull" the name Mario Thomas gives his seating item that takes the laptop on its horns. And the wit of the other designs means we should really be talking of déformation productive. And such wit was to be encountered at numerous points on this Saturday in November, somewhere next to a work bench or mechanical loom. Only once, despite the feeling of spring in the air, did autumn come into its own. Inside, not outside. In the dark, horgenglarus, Switzerland's oldest chair and table makers, had assembled lampshades from wooden seats, and beneath them dry leaves rustles. The poetic setting was created by Studio Hannes Wettstein - the first piece produced since the founder died. And in it we can sense his spirit living on. Well beyond the autumn.