After traveling east again we arrived in Cape Town sunday morning but actually have never arrived! What a tired limbo state, we dont seem to get out of.
We spent the last two days in the office of Haldane Martin, a beautiful space, a former church in the area of Woodstock.
Haldane is not only a designer, but he is manager of his furniture company as well. That does change the spirit of the place in some ways, even so the Campanas produce too and their craft people work in the same building. Some of the people working for Haldane have a craft background, but might be in charge for the quality control of the furniture, that is being assembled and packed in the back of the office.
Once in a while people come by, like today a woman from Norway buying some pieces. The Zulu Mama Chair seems to be a best seller here in Cape Town and abroad, we have seen the chair at many places like in the airport and city. Actually according to numbers the Weightless diningchair is the best selling product. Haldane is very well known in South Africa, but is getting to get known in Europe as well, I recently tripped over his work published in a book by Gestalten, called Desire.
What can I say about time? Since there are other things which surprise us more, like the fact, that you don’t ever seem to walk, walking is simply no good idea, even the shortest distance - at least that is our impression. The light is superb and there is a lot of wind. The cloud hovering on top of table mountain is spectacular in the morning.
The office of Haldane consists of two worlds in a way, there is the admin staff in the front of the bulding and the workers in the back. The two places do have a different atmospheres, in speed and noise, still all people are really nice and the pace is easy and relaxed all over. People like to stop and chat with each other. They seem to chat more and have more fun, when the boss is out ;-)
Haldane pointed out, that this country has two time zones, two different rhythms and economys, first and third world in one country. Maybe that is why it is so difficult to sense a special pace, as it seems to be caught in between. But the multitude of culture and backgrounds give this place a special feeling too - actually this multitude is very well represented in Haldanes office, as you will see. It is funny to listen to the different languages and different accents, rhythms of english and other dialects.
Also we feel very welcome and the people here at Haldane’s are open and curious about what we do and why we are here, the place and even more the city of Cape Town seems very reserved. It is tempting to come up with speculations and comparisons now, but the research isn’t over yet. Next stop is the office of Konstantin Gcic in Munich the coming week.
In the meantime we spent our second day at the studio of Fernando and Humberto Campana. Here are some images of our ways through the city the night of the 26th and the day of the 27th - only a fraction of what this city is about!
From the loud and noisy city retreat back to the peaceful place in Rua Barao de Tatui.
We arrived quite early in the morning, some people were in the office already, like Cristina the secretary and the guys of the workshop. I feel embarrassed because I can’t spell or even less pronounce their names. Humberto came around 9.00 and after taking a joint walk in the neighbourhood, we had a long conversation about time. The interview with Humberton ( later I spoke to Fernando as well) will be in the exhibition, so I wont get into details, but while writing I am just realizing, that this blog helps me to sort my thoughts. Humberto for example would talk about the importance, that each project get’s the time it need’s to develop, or Fernando would talk about the right time for certain projects. Both of them talked about chaos and efficiency in a very interesting way. They embrace chaos and still they are very organized. And they love their country, I wasn’t aware that they really want to give Brazil a new position just as much as they have this need and wonderful creativity to express themselves. They both know how much there is to discover here. Humberto suggested, that Guta should rather do an Experimenta here in Sao Paolo then in Amsterdam! I agree and would volunteer to be part of that adventure.
Actually the studio of the Campanas is really near to a beautiful residential area with a lot of modernist buildings, so no, they are not in some kind of favelas!
These public phones have a wonderful name which means something like little ear! And that is what they are.
I think I was very lucky, because I met them in a very peaceful moment, working in the studio on their very own pace, with a couple of meetings in the city, but not much. Humberto was making sketches and drawings and once in a while he likes to go down to the workshop and work with his hands, while Fernando has different methods of expressing his ideas, maybe faster, only that is no category. Right now he is working on lovely collages.
After having a delicious lunch with the two, and after talking to Fernando as well, they both left for the weekend.
Eva and I stayed in the office, with became more and more quiet, people leaving one after the other - depending on when they started they left between 5.30 and 7.00 or even later. And before they left, they had a great little snack chat time downstairs. Then the big garage door downstairs was closed, the interns left, it gets dark early.
In the end it was Leo and Lelia left, when Eduardo took us to our hotel around 7.30.
What probably struck me most is, that the brothers have set up a very organized structure with great young people working for them, dedicated to them and at the same time free to work in their own pace. The brothers trust their team and I think they did a great job, because this team gives them the freedom to move in their own pace as much as they can.
The place is simple but beautiful, because everybody really cares about the studio and about each other. Sorry for sounding like a silly sentimental Hippie but that is what you walk away with!
Later we had another great evening in the city with Lelia and Leo taking us out and today we are of to Cape Town, meeting Martin Haldane.
SOUVENIRS OF CHINA
Two weeks excursion with students in China.
Again a time change, a physical but also a cultural one. A “Lapse in Time” in definite. Within one day we plunged into a new world of images,noice and smell.
I organized a one week workshop project “Souvenirs of China” with 45 students from Germany and China searching for a new way of souvenir interpretation with less stereotypes, and kitschy repetitions. By mixing the diversified ethnics we reached more complexity and polarisation in communication and execution. Both factors led to controversial results and raised the “limit of pain”.
TWO DAYS IN LISBOA
scouting for best venues in best company. Inspired by unusual temperatures. Winged by sublime exhibition sites. Left with melancholy
How do I sum up my visit in San Francisco? Tuesday was different from monday, so how would wednesday have been and how will friday be? Maybe I should reschedule my whole trip and always visit the studios monday and friday? :-)
To be on the Lunar moon was special - and at the same time it was so clear, that I was in the USA. In the meantime I changed the place to be for some place more on the southern hemisphere. After a dreadful flight with United (like with airports, luckily this is not a comment on airlines…) we arrived in Sao Paolo. Another sainted city, I realized, while writing the titel. San Francisco and Sao Paolo! There is no Heiliges Wien….
We went straight to the office of Fernando and Humberto Campana and got happily lost there. This place, hid behind a simple garage door, ist peaceful and happy, concentrated but still relaxed.
You hear birds and good music, people talking and laughing, hammering and (can’t hear it) sewing…. it is a peaceful place with a lovely court and a loving heart. The office space, built two years ago, is simple, decent even humble, I would say, but it is a great place to be. Yes, there is a upper floor and a lower floor, design/ admin and craft, but that doesn’t mean that there is any kind of evaluation between the two.
You can see the entrance above, more after tomorrow Tulga
21st of March, leaving Vienna: I did travel a lot in my life, but still this trip makes me nervous. What am I going to experience? How are the design offices going to react, when we are hanging out at their work place observing what they are doing? Will we find any differences in the design-pace at the different studios around the world? Or has globalization hacked us all?
About the project:
“Pace of Design” is the title of the exhibition I am curating for ExperimentaDesign, which tries to convey the different working processes in seven different design studios around the world. How much are culture and the location itself influencing the pace of design? Is there a difference in rhythm and speed in the working processes? Are there special rituals connected to this specific culture, country, city, or just the specific design studio? When does an average day start, when does it end? Do they have lunch together? A coffee break? How formal or informal is the daily routine organized? How controlled or how free?
My attempt is to come as an outsider and try to observe as much as I can, through watching the people working, asking questions, spending two days at each place. A young Austria photographer, named Eva Engelbert, is joining me. Both of us will try to blend in and observe and absorb as much as we can. This blog is about my experiences. The outcome and our interpretation will be seen at the exhibition in September.
Our first trip will take us from Vienna via Dublin to San Francisco - then from there via Chicago to Sao Paolo, after that via Johannesburg to Cape Town, and via Munich back to Vienna. Later in April I will be in Munich again and in May will do Delhi, Hong Kong and Tokyo.
Leaving Vienna you can see an ugly airport, only Dublin isn’t any better too. Neither is San Francisco – so if this would be a survey about airports, it wouldn’t be too exciting aesthetic wise. I met Eva at the airport in Dublin, next morning we continued our trip to San Francisco, where we visited Lunar Design.
22nd of March
Leaving Dublin and arriving in San Francisco.
We travelled okay and the city of San Francisco welcomed us with a pristine, sunny and crisp weather! What a lively city, beautiful architecture, steep hills and great views. Later we had a rather strange Chinese dinner in China Town, but it was fun. Went to bed very early, woke up very early as well. Actually it is strange, that I am doing a project about time and will be more or less constantly out of the local time zone, because I am either late or ahead, with the schedule of travel we chose. Two days at each place don’t give us much time to adapt, or maybe we will develop our very own pace?
23rd of March
9am arriving at the office of Lunar Design., which is one of the most successful industrial design consultancies in the USA, next to Ideo, Frog or Fuse maybe. All of them are based in the bay area in or around San Francisco. What is probably special about Lunar, is that they always tried to work on non client projects, next to doing great design jobs with clients like hp, Oral B, Sandisc and many more. There are about 40 to 50 people in both the offices in San Francisco and Paolo Alto, the majority based in San Francisco. They have two other offices, one in Munich, one in Hong Kong.
What struck me most about our first day, was the atmosphere of a very focused concentration at all the desks. It stayed peaceful and quiet all day, some people actually almost never left their desk and their computer. Spontaneous meetings around a desk disrupted the quietness for a moment, meetings at the kitchen are used for a brief chat. For lunch each person brings in some sandwich or such and eats it at the mutual table in the kitchen, sometimes at his desk. Nobody seems to take more time off, than it takes to eat his meal. Special meetings happen in the meeting rooms to discuss a project. One of the two founders, Jeff Smith, and the Creative Director Ken Wood came in from Paolo Alto to work on a project with the team and it was interesting to watch the very informal and relaxed way of working between the group of four. But otherwise it was a very concentrated Monday here in the office of Lunar Design.
First people came in around 8am, late arrivals around 9.30 / 10.00 maybe. Some came much later, because they had meetings outside. The studio consists of Industrial Designers, Graphic Designers, Interaction Designers plus the biggest group – the engineers. Are you interested in the relation male female? Like in all design studios traditionally heavy on the male side! Most females in graphic and Interaction, less in ID, none with the engineers, even so Lunar is paying a lot of attention to have more female employees.
Most of the people left between 6pm and 7pm, some stayed late until around 7.30 / 8.00.
24th of March
We started really early this time, coming to the office with the first engineer. If you are dissapointed, that I am not showing any images of the studio - well I dont want to destroy the surprise at the exhibition. Eva was very busy taking a lot of images. But before publishing we have to get back to Lunar due to confidentiallity. This office is working an exciting projects with big clients. That means we have to be very carefull.
However: our second day was interesting as well. To me it seemed more relaxed than the first day, which was monday… maybe that is the reason? More chatting, more informal meetings around work desks or in the kitchen, was my impression.
Yesterday I talked to a South Korean designer, Junggi, working at Lunar for years (?). It was interesting to listen to him and his perception of the studio - which he likes very much - and the USA, with a horizontal hierarchie (which he likes again) and the fact, that people are working 8 hours straight (and many more if necessary) but take almost no time to have lunch, like they do in Korea, also the working days are much longer usually. Sandrine, a french senior industrial designer I talked to today, said something similar, about her first shock, when she saw people eating their salads next to their computer, never taking a break, changing the surroundings, breaking the day in two halfs. Even so the afternoon might be longer in France, after lunch break. So my first two days leaves me with the impression, that the Americans are very focused and dedicated to work. More details in the exhibition, more facts to compare this impressions to, when I arrive at the studio of the Campana brothers in Sao Paolo!
And I promise to blog every day from now on, so nobody has to read such a long text anymore.
A couple of years back, when we were discussing our theme It’s About Time on a sunny summer’s day in Lisbon, we went out for a walk and saw this woman making bracelets for tourists. She would typically weave the name of a person into the fabric and we thought, why not use this nice little crafty thing as our sign of commitment to our cause? So, while others show their engagement with bland plastic red, yellow or green bracelets, we combine all of these colors. We’re for all good causes – It’s about time! ;-)
ExperimentaDesign Lisboa/Amsterdam is challenging editors of leading design, architecture and lifestyle magazines from around the world to take part in a project that aims to foster insightful design criticism today.
The need for thorough design criticism exists beyond academia. Designers and their audience profit from critical analysis that surpasses mere journalistic reporting. We need not only to know what’s out there, but also want to ask why? The current obsession with discovering the latest product, showcasing the freshest talent, reviewing the next event, and highlighting the newest buildings demonstrates that magazines often race for previews instead of reviews, and for short paragraphs instead of the big picture. Serious criticism, which looks beyond the product and the producer to the cultural contexts for which design is essentially made, is under pressure.
We invite editors and critics within the cultural and design field to do two things: first help us in developing shared criteria for in-depth design critique, and second to apply these criteria to identify subjects in need of scrutiny and formulate clear briefs for authors.
This blog will mainly serve the first purpose: to discuss what we consider good design criticism and to sharpen our criteria. Ideally, the discussions here should result in a series of state-of-the-art essays which together will provide a benchmark for current design criticism. We invite editors to publish their contribution to this discourse in the September issues of their magazines, and will collect the essays into a book which will be published at a later date.
During the opening week of EXD09 – It’s About Time, we will organize a special event in which the participating magazines will present or preview their issues containing the Stop&Think essays, and publicly discuss the reasons for joining our project.
Please post your commentary and ideas on design criticism as comments to this post!
This blog is named after the theme of the forthcoming edition of ExperimentaDesign Lisboa 2009, taking place in the Portuguese capital from 9 September till 8 November 2009. It serves the purpose of providing the biennale’s curators and collaborators with an on-line platform to develop their ideas and share their findings. And we invite the audience at large to contribute to the evolving debates around the Biennale’s theme and program.
We intend this blog as an easily accessible democratic platform for an international community concerned with design’s urgent topics and challenges. So that means you too, dear reader. Please do not hesitate to share your opinions with us and don’t spare us your critique.