A total of 166 entries from 13 countries vied for the 2010 Halle Design Prize. An exhibition showcased 19 of the submitted works that the jury nominated in an historical tram depot illuminated solely with UV light. Jury member Thomas Edelmann spoke to the curator Vincenz Warnke.
Burg Giebichenstein in Halle an der Saale is one of the artistic training centers in Germany with the longest standing tradition. What prompted Halle to instigate an international design prize?
Vincenz Warnke: The Halle Design Prize offers young designers a forum for their ideas and initiates a dialog between the university and business, which supports the creation of networks and in addition stimulates artistic discourse with questions about the future.
The Halle Design Prize was awarded for the second time this year. After "Current" in 2007, this time you chose "Travelling ". How do you come up with these topics?
Warnke: The motives are obvious: As everybody likes travelling the topic will appeal to lots of people in terms of both content and emotion; that includes those taking part in the competition as well as visitors to the exhibition. In its various forms - vacations, educational and business trips, or pilgrimages, research expedition or even virtual journey - travelling is able to produce diverse design approaches and questions. 19 possible answers to some of these questions were selected by the jury, took shape in the form of models and prototypes and were exhibited. The diversity in the designs submitted bears witness to the fact that the topic this time is highly relevant for young designers.
For the exhibition showcasing the works by the prize winners you chose special venues. Last time it was a former substation, and this time you went for an old tram depot, in which historical trams are restored and exhibited. Is a tram ride a special type of journey for you?
Warnke: Not really, I am even a little scared of them, at least when I'm on foot or cycling here in Halle. I come from Hamburg, where the tram was got rid of ages ago. What was brilliant, though, was the trip through the entire city to the prize giving ceremony together with all the exhibitors in an old carriage. We were all really shaken about. Every time we turned, the points were even changed manually. I really did enjoy it! The historical trams have so many design details you hardly ever find in modern ones.
This time it is not exactly easy to fathom out the prize-winning works on display, and quite high demands are made on visitors to the exhibition, as the tram is only lit with UV light. You and your team laid kilometers of shining adhesive tape and bright wire. The individual objects are on show either on computer screens or in small display cases in the historical tram depot, illuminated by LED torches. For you, why is that part of the concept?
Warnke: Going to an exhibition with a curious mind ought actually to be a matter of course. The articles in the competition were presented in the old carriages and, by way of contrast positioned in a yesteryear interior, quite deliberately. Juxtaposed in this way exciting new design references emerge time and again. Precisely because the visitors initially find themselves in a black box, and cannot immediately everything, they need to be attentive and show interest. One visitor wrote that, "like when traveling" to begin with one is disoriented in the almost pitch black room, but that one ultimately develops a feeling for it. This "journey into darkness" requires one to take time before making things out. It requires one to proceed slowly, immerse oneself in the works and experience them with all one's senses.
The winning works deal with the topic set very freely. In the short film "Travelling Back", Guy Königstein, who was born in Israel and trained at the Design Academy Eindhoven tells the story of his family. Second-placed Erik de Nijs, from Utrecht, puts unusually decorated rolling suitcases together to form mobile seating. A conceptual work from Dortmund takes an ironic look at supposed German travel habits abroad. If you look at the results of the Halle Design Prize you would be forgiven for thinking that nowadays there is less demand for traditional design virtues. Are young designers avoiding objects and realistic product design?
Warnke: While we are on the subject of trends: Recently the habit of embellishing all objects would appear to have ebbed. That fewer examples of traditional technical design were submitted to the Halle Design Prize may well have something to do with the fact that brief was deliberately formulated in a very open, free way. However, a well thought through and well produced conceptual work, which concentrates not on a perfect, marketable product, can be just as relevant as, for example, a high-quality drill with intelligent new ideas. I certainly would not want to rule out something like that. I think it's a good thing that designers have strategies that involve taking an ironic, critical look at our readily designed world. However, what counts first and foremost is quality. In order to recognize them you need an open-minded jury that does not make premeditated judgments but instead engages in committed, open discussion.
The bilingual catalog "Designpreis Halle 2010 - Reisen / Travelling" can be ordered for € 8 from the following address: