The Windmills of Cologne
by Thomas Wagner | Jan 12, 2010
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It will always be a mystery to me why, every year, consumer goods fairs think they have to commit themselves to chasing trends when ultimately all this turns out to be is a chimera, the assessment of which unfortunately neither startles nor amazes interested observers, but merely makes them yawn. But be that as it may! If we do not like the windmills projected on the present-day horizon by sad followers of trends, at least there are windmills on beer mats in Cologne. On a visit to the Malzmühle at the latest, the presence of the brewery will triumph over all innovative images of an innovative future.

Given the circumstances, however, let's stay serious. Whether imm cologne succeeds in heightening its international profile or, in contrast, the trend towards an, if anything, regional and national trade fair, with an accompanying program geared to the general public continues, will be the subject of special attention this year. Reading between the lines of the announcements, however, there is little sign of security. One reads, for example, that the organizers of the Cologne fair are hoping for consolidation in this year's particularly difficult circumstances if anything thanks to the presentation of "marketable ideas for the home", i.e., tried-and-tested programs, rather than from a striking display of innovative products. For years now, these have been on display in Milan anyway, a fact of which the Cologne organizers are only too well aware.

Unfortunately the fact that design is to be accentuated by means of "innovative exhibition architecture" as part of the new format "Pure Village" in Hall 3.2, hardly has an innovative ring to it. Things are not much different as regards the promised bundling of premium products under the motto "Pure" in Hall 11. It could well be that ultimately Hall 3.1, where young design talents (with the addition "d3", pronounced "d to the power of three" are to be found) is once again where the most action is and first and foremost where the new ideas are.

Let us have a closer look, though, at what we can expect from the title "Pure Village". According to the announcement, this is a presentation format that deliberately seeks to move away from isolating products. In Dick Spierenburg's "modular exhibition architecture" (which, as a whole, is meant to be reminiscent of a market square place), "first-rate objects from all important areas of interior design and complete furnishing concepts" are combined, or so we read. Putting products such as furniture, fabrics, luminaires and even new trends in the bathroom segment in context can never do any harm. So let's wait and see if this contextualization succeeds in the purist village, and just how convincing it is.

Even Lichtenberg knew that things do not improve when they change but that they need to change in order to improve. There was no need to explain to him that language plays an important role in this. However, as long as we keep regurgitating empty phrases and prefabricated language when extolling design trade fairs instead of calling things by their names, it comes as no surprise that those who have nothing to with design, furniture and trade fairs in a professional capacity are put off. How else should we interpret the fact that the German cover of the newly designed trade fair magazine (with the rather parody-laden title "Visions") speaks of "discovery space for innovations" and that inside the magazine the "Pure Village" is referred to as "development space for new living concepts")? And then there is the "business space for sound transactions" (if anything we recommend the Malzmühle, see above) and the "meeting place for international decision-makers"). Even the smallest of brochures seem to offer a lot of space. However, it is only when reading the English translation that German readers understand what this is all about. There the "meeting place for international decision makers" is simply referred to as "The place where decision-makers meet". And it is probably best not to comment when on top of this - in order to explain "Begegnungsraum" (encounter space, which does not sound like design at all - there is a list of nine reasons why one should visit imm cologne in the first place.

So what about "Passagen"? Overall, they do not have sufficient clout to make up for the trade fair's shortcomings. Once again, the Museum für Angewandte Kunst avoids addressing the present day, focusing instead on rocking sculptures - "Montags beim Papst" - and objects from the estate of the designer and futurologist Walter Papst. Museum Ludwig exhibits Franz West, naturally, Kartell features Kartell and as always A&W presents the A&W designer of the year at Gerling Quartier - this time in the multiple form of the FRONT designers. By all accounts, in his flagship store at Spichern Höfe Boffi is exhibiting a "tropical" installation by French architect and designer Patrick Nafeau; as part of the "Dornbracht Edges" in the Cologne Factory Mike Meiré is curating an installation by the Interpalazzo group entitled "Revolving Realities", which is brimming with real virtuality, and in addition features Vorwerk carpet works by Hadi Teherani as well as "threshold products" by Siedle. And, as it should be, Dyson is exploring volcanic wind. Those, however, who have no wish to follow trends and their hangers-on from showroom to showroom, leave for Ehrenfeld which (despite handmade everyday objects and all sorts of mixed products) with the "3rd Design Course" once again tries its luck as the Zona Tortona à la Colognia, or they choose to linger at the "Designers Fair" in the RheinTriadem or, as you've already probably guessed, fences with windmills and fights them with a cool light beer.

imm cologne
The international furniture and interior design fair
from Jan. 19-24, 2010
daily, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Koelnmesse, Cologne

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