Raven Row is undoubtedly one of my favourite galleries, located in east London near Spitalfields Market in two adjoining eighteenth century townhouses on Artillery Lane (aptly known as Raven Row until 1895). It is eccentric without being pretentious, large enough to get lost in but still feels intimate, and always host to something curious. Its current exhibition ‘The Ulm Model’ is no different, educating visitors about the lesser known German school of design which only operated for a short period between 1953 and 1968. This exhibition was exactly what I wanted from my Sunday afternoon… a relaxed cultural fix without feeling protracted or contrived. The curation is simple and uncluttered, and specially designed display structures showcase items ranging from weighing machines to crockery, electric razors, traffic lights and petrol cans. As well as the objects themselves, the exhibition also includes drawings, models and prototypes created by the schools’ students as well as sections dedicated to some of their more progressive work for corporate clients, namely Braun and Lutfhansa. The key pieces that captured my attention include Dieter Raffler & Peter Raacke’s multi coloured plastic shell suitcases, Hans Roericht’s TC 100 stacking set of teapots, cups and saucers, as well as Hans Gugelot & Dieter Ram’s record player designed for Braun. The original wooden floorboards, fireplaces and other period features of the building juxtapose against the modernist design of these objects nicely, and exploring the various rooms and corridors of this gallery unsure what you might find around the next corner adds another element. Whether you are a design geek or neophyte, I’d suggest taking advantage of this exhibition and paying a visit before mid December while these German works’ are collectively on display in London.
MUDE Museum – The Museum of Design and Fashion in Lisbon – is well worth exploring. I have to admit I knew nothing about it prior to visiting and was enthusiastic to discover that it is housed in the old BNU headquarters. The museum has done an admirable job of preserving the original banks’ features, most visible in the basement where the vast vaults, chunky Chubb locks, safety deposit boxes and maximum security measures remain in situ and showcase temporary exhibitions to great effect. The ground floor is dedicated to their permanent collection (Francisco Capelo’s collection) which draws out design highlights from each decade of the 20th century. This display is accompanied by recognisable music from each era and an information board comprising bullet-point history and politics of the decade, helping add context to each design. The first floor again encourages investigation and looks at design from an unusual perspective; displaying portrait photographs of architects alongside architectural drawings, quotations about, or images of their buildings and somewhat provocatively questions the culture of “design celebrity” as the majority of architects had instantly recognisable names yet the majority of their faces alluded me (and other visitors). The top floor contained an exhibition dedicated to local design produced over the last sixty years – pertinent given the fact that Portugal did not have a museum dedicated to design where designers could develop a collective awareness until this century. The exhibition is entitled ‘How do you pronounce design in Portuguese?’ and again explores topics from an unusual angle, discussing the idea of a collective national design and how the country’s geography, heritage, traditions and culture have shaped and influenced this. The whole building has an unfinished, ramshackle charm to it which encourages exploration, and in conjunction with its inspiring exhibitions made for a very satisfying visit.