German Industrial design in the holy land was quite unthinkable after 1945. But since the 1960s designers from Israel and Germany came again in touch. In this short overview I will discuss the relations of the West German Industrial designers to Israel from the 1960s to the 1980s. I will argue, that personal relations were much more important than institutional connections, as one might think.
The beginning of the diplomatic relations between Israel and the FRG in the year 1965 was a kind of a breakthrough. After the Shoah relation with Germany, as the country of the enemy, was a controversial topic in the Israeli society. With the first steps of the Reparations Agreement from 1952, Adenauer and Ben Gurion laid the basics for diplomatic relations in the future. They came thirteen years later by a diplomatic agreement between Bonn and Tel Aviv. With this it became easier for privates or economical connections between West Germany and Israel. It is also important to mention that East German design was hardly unknown, because the GDR had no connections to Israel. East Berlin supported the so-called PLO, like the USSR and other countries from the Eastern Block did, and had no diplomatic relations to Tel Aviv.
Industrial Design was far away from being the post important point at the cultural or economical relations between the two countries. But anyhow, in the 1960s the design connections started growing. They are an interesting point for a transnational design history to study, how the relation between two states came in touch. I will show in the following two parts, that the relationship between these two countries was more based on personal than on institutional connections.
First a lot of West German politicians, industrialists, and designers in the 1960s were very much interested in a connection. Looking into the historical sources, the national socialism, the Shoah or the Second World War, were neither not used as a references nor even mentioned. The Germans as well as the Israelis were much more interested in a design exchange of ideas and goods, bounded with an economical connection. Even after Israel became a member of the International Council of Industrial Design Societies in 1969, the industrial designers of both countries came regularly together.
But after the Six-Day-War in 1967 things went more difficult for German design in Israel. After that, many West German companies were frightened to present their consumer goods in Israel, because they expected as a result a boycott by Arabian states. The Yom Kippur War from 1973 made things even worse, so West German companies and authorities became more careful with their engagement in Israel.
This is also example to show, that a design network had not to go via institutions but can use the personal networks. Because the personal than the institutional connections characterized more the design relations between Israel and the FRG. For example the German Design Council – as state founded institution – planed to show an exhibition in Israel since the end of the 1960s.1 The financial support should come from the Federal Foreign Office in Bonn. In particular Gustav Stein – managing director of the German Design Council and member of the West German Parliament – pushed the idea of a design exhibition in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem forward. But the idea was postponed many times. The background was the fear of a boycott by Arab countries, if companies would present their goods in Israel. So they asked the authorities in Bonn and the German Design Council to postpone the exhibition until the idea was dropped. Till the end of the Berlin Wall, there was no Israel or German design exhibition, it first changed after the German reunification.
Now in the second part, I will give some example how a personal network between Israel and the FRG brought the industrial designers from the two states together. This is important, because as I would argue, most of the connections between Israeli and West German since the 1960s came on a personal way via designers themselves. In the following I will give three examples from each decade to visual this.
In the year 1965 the “form” – the most important West German magazine at that time – published a first reportage on Israeli design. In it Moshe Kohen described the current status of industrial design in Israel. The country was characterized by a lot of migration, thus the Israeli authorities had to build fast but with quality a new livelihood for newcomer in the Holy Land. Following the author design had a very strong position in fulfilling this task. Beside that, the reportage informed the West German readers about the institutions, universities, and the economical situation, the Israeli designer were dealing with in the 1960s.2 It was remarkable, that historical references of design history – one might immediately think about the Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv or German architecture sights in Jerusalem or Haifa – were not mention in this article or else where later.
The design connection between Israel and West Germany put on current issues and not reflection history. For example, the article author Moshe Kohen was part of the most important design school in the FRG. Kohen graduated in 1963 at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm. His diploma thesis in the field of product design was on dishes, supervised by Gert Karlow, Leonard Bruce Archer and Horst Rittel.3 Thus Kohen was an design expert, who was trained in Southwest Germany and worked later in Israel. So Kohen is one example for the personal network between both countries. It is a pity, that his binational design biography is not in the focus of the design history till today.
Another prominent example is the visit of 1973 by Julius Posener – by this time head of the German Werkbund – together with Wend Fischer – director of the Neue Sammlung in Munich – and Wilhelm Wagenfeld – a famous German product designer.4 The three important German designers were invited to an exhibition vernissage in Jerusalem, where the design by Wagenfeld was shown to an Israeli audience. All three were also guests at the new permanent exhibition on Israel design in the Israel Museum. Posener wrote fascinated about the welcome address by Teddy Kollek, the famous major of Jerusalem by that time. Especially the biography of Posener could be worth to have a look at, because he was forced to emigrate after 1933 to Palestine due to the National Socialism in Germany and later came back to Germany. Via Posener there could be a strong connection between i.e. the German Werkbund and Israel, but this needs more archival research in the Posener Archive in the Academy of Arts Berlin.
The last example is the personal exchange in design education. The Siemens designer Jens Reese gave in the end of the 1980s a design seminar series at the famous Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. In these seminars he taught his ideas of creativity methods. Especially his visual permutation methods – a kind of elemental design method – were widely asked by the Israeli design students. Reese was also interviewed by the “form” on his impressions about Jerusalem, Israel and the design there. He gave an interesting overview on Israel design education, difference between continental Europe and the Holy Land as well as his experiences from the design courses at Bezalel.51 Rat für Formgebung, Tätigkeitsbericht 1970, pp. 15.
2 Kohen, Mosche (1965): Briefe aus Tel Aviv – Design in Israel, in: form (31), p. 10-11. Very similar to that was the article Steiner, Simon D. (1966): Design in Israel, in: Industrial Design (5), pp. 68-71.
4 Posener, Julius (1973): Besuch in Jerusalem, in: Werk und Zeit (7), p. 7.
5 See Unknown (1986): Spinner gesucht, in: form (114), p. 78 and Reese, Jens (1988): Mit traumwandlerischer Sicherheit gestalten… in: form (121), pp. 23-25.
This summer I was able to make a research in the Design Archives at the University of Brighton. After attending the conference on the 50s anniversary of the Design Research Society (see my report), I stayed longer in Brighton to visit the Design Archives.
This institution is one of the most important, paper based archives for design history. It was founded in the 1990s and contains of about twenty different archives, which cover aspects of graphic, furniture and industrial design. Financed by the government and private foundations, the archive is collecting different types of documents related to design. And it is not a coincidence that Brighton keeps such a great institution. One hour far away from London at the channel, the University of Brighton is one of the leading institution in Great Britain within the field of the design histories.
As in every other archive, you have to ask for an appointment and as well for a permission, to see contemporary material. Via email or by phone it is easy to contact the very helpful staff of the archives. As a finding aid the archival items are listed in the online hub of UK archives. They store the description from about two hundred institutions in Britain, that keep historical documents. By this service it is quite easy to search and especially prepare your visit at an archive. I am asking myself why isn’t that possible for Germany or whole Europe?
Furthermore in the Design Archives it is allowed for users to take photographical notes from documents. This is not a reproduction, because you have to use your own camera and must cover the document with a plastic foliage with a good visible remark from the Design Archives. But anyway you have a picture of the document, so you can work on it at an later moment back at home. In my point of view it is a very good way to help the user and give security again right abuse for the archive. Again, why isn’t that possible in Germany?
My interest were the files in the ICSID archives, which came in 2007 from the University of Compiègne, where it was held on behalf of ICSID. In these papers I could see how the West German institutions – like the VDID, Rat für Formgebung or the IDZ Berlin – interacted with other industrial designers. And as a special German perspective it came clear to me that the ICSID was also an important battlefield in the Cold War. The delegates from East and West Germany i.e. at the conference 1975 in Moscow hand many discussion about the problems, how was allowed to come with which wording of the own state. Nevertheless this changed, and again Moscow was – in my point of view – the turning point. Because here it was the first time that industrial designer from East and West Germany came together. Keeping on this, I am arguing in my thesis that in the 1980s there was no iron curtain for some parts of the industrial designer at the inner German border anymore.
The Cold War is fortunately over, but parts of its memory are stored in the Design Archives. In Brighton, they do not only „store“ documents, they also conserve them. In an inspiring blog the staff is writing about their doings, so everybody can follow what a great job they do. Beside this a lot of thesis are written with sources from the Design Archives by many PhD students. The most important one for my research field is the project from Tania Messell about the history of the ICSID. I am really looking forward to that publication.
The Design Archives at the University of Brighton also work on different exhibitions, i.e. about the history of the Design Research Society, that was presented parallel to the DRS2016. And it would be totally wrong calling the Design Archives old fashioned. They are open for digital tools on the internet – not like so many archives or museums in Germany. For example the Design Archives make a lot of documents online accessible, as well as many pictures in the VADS database. Furthermore the staff of the archive use a Flickr-account to give their masterpieces a stage on open access. It is also less surprising that the Design Archives use social media like twitter @design_archives to communicate.
To sum up: Visit to the Design Archives at the University of Brighton, for design historians it is really worth to go there!
Der Industriedesigner Robert Gutmann wurde am 18.04.1910 in Augsburg geboren. Er studierte Architektur und Innenarchitektur an der Kunstgewerbeschule Stuttgart und war dort Meisterschüler bei Adolf Schneck. 1935 ging Gutmann nach Berlin und wirkte bis 1937 als selbstständiger Innenarchitekt. Bis 1939 arbeitete er in dem Berliner Büro von Fritz August Breuhaus de Groot. Im Juni 1939 flüchtete Gutmann und seine jüdische Frau nach England vor den Verfolgungen in Deutschland. Gutmann arbeitete dann viele Jahre in der Planungsabteilung des Automobilunternehmens Jaguar bei Conventry. Nach dem 2. Weltkrieg schloss sich Gutmann der Design Research Unit um Misha Black in London am Royal Collage of Art sowie dem „Studio 2“ in Wien an. Er wurde später in Großbritannien wegen seiner Verdienste als Industriedesigner und Hochschullehrer zum „Fellow of the Society of Industrial Artists“ ernannt (SIA).
Gutmann führte in London und später ebenfalls in Stuttgart – in Zusammenarbeit mit Arno Votteler – ein selbstständiges Design-Büro, das auf die Inneneinrichtung von Läden, Restaurants, Büros, Ausstellungsräumen und Sitzungssälen spezialisiert war. Er kam seit 1953 immer wieder in die Bundesrepublik Deutschland und engagierte sich bei westdeutschen Designinstitutionen. Neben seiner Arbeit als Produktdesigner war er ebenfalls als Designberater für viele verschiedene Firmen in Westdeutschland, der Schweiz, Österreich und Schweden tätig. Beispielsweise entwarf er für die planmöbel GmbH.
Von 1968 bis 1973 war Gutmann fachlicher Leiter des Rats für Formgebung. Daneben war er von der Gründung 1969 bis Ende 1973 der fachliche Leiter des Internationalen Design-Zentrums in (West-)Berlin. Beim Rat für Formgebung hatte Gutmann u.a. dem Bundespreis „Gute Form“ 1969 eingeführt und zu dem zentralen bundesdeutschen Designpreis geführt. Parallel dazu entwarf er von 1969 bis 1971 zusammen mit Arnold Bode das Konzept einer international Design-Ausstellung, die als „Design-Expo“ 1972 parallel zu den Olympischen Spielen in West-Berlin hätte gezeigt werden sollen, von der sowjetischen Militäradministration jedoch verhindert wurde. Gleichzeitig zu solchen Aktivitäten war Gutmann Dozent am Royal College of Art in London, Gastdozent am Farbpsychologischen Institut in Salzburg und hatte einen Lehrauftrag für Gestaltungslehre an der Technischen Hochschule Wien.
Robert Gutmann war ein Industriedesigner, der nach dem 2. Weltkrieg verbindend zwischen bundesdeutschen und britischen Gestaltern agierte. Sein Bericht von 1954 „Aus dem Tagebuch eines Designers in England“ (Bauen + Wohnen [9/3], S. 135-136) ist nur ein anschauliches Beispiel hierfür. Da er sowohl in Großbritannien als auch in Westdeutschland in Fachkreisen erfolgreich vernetzt war, bildete er eine – bis jetzt von der Designhistoriographie – unterschätze ,Brücke‘ zwischen beiden Ländern. Für den Austausch von Fachdebatten war Gutmann einer der zentralen Persönlichkeiten. So orientierten sich beispielsweise die ersten VDID-Mitglieder bei der Verbandsgründung 1959 zuerst an der britischen Design-Definition, die über Gutmann zu Votteler und damit zu der Gründungsversammlung kam.
Gutmann verstarb am 22.08.1981 im Alter von 71 Jahren in London. Zu seinem Andenken wurde 1982 für einige Jahre der „Bob-Gutmann-Förderpreis für junge Designer“ an Teilnehmer der Design-Börse des Hauses Industrieform Essen vergeben.
This year in summer the British Design Research Society celebrated its 50th anniversary with a big conference in Brighton. About 600 designer and researcher from Great Britain, Europe, and the world came together at the DRS2016 in the lovely seaside city, one hour south of London. The main theme of the conference was „Future-Focused Thinking“, which related to the popular designer self-understanding, designing the future and especially being the right profession for that task.
The conference was well organized and soon fully booked, although the registration fees with more about 400£ for three days were anything but cheap. Nevertheless I was really appreciated about the use of digital infrastructure at the whole event. The conference program was mainly organized via an online tool – what is not a real innovation nowadays. Anyhow this was combined with all the papers, the referents handed in before. In a pdf file and with a CC-BY license – I find that really refreshing – it was possible for me to prepare myself in advanced (all papers are online). In this way it was easier for me to listen the specific details more precisely than just trying to understand it, because your read the paper already before. Unfortunately the time at all sessions was planed very short, so there hadn’t been enough time for questions to the presenters. And further I still have a question about the digital persistence, because I am worried about the long-term storage of these research data.
What I also really appreciated was the decision not to give a keynote lecture. Instead there was on every day a podium discussion as a „starter“ with four experts from different fields about burning issues in design. The audience was able to ask questions via the Twitter hashtag #drsdebates. At the whole conference the hashtag #drs2016 was the digital code to share information to everybody. By using Twitter in this manner, all papers published online and an additional online exhibition about the history of the Design Research Society, it was also possible for people who weren’t in Brighton, to follow the conference from far away. Sharing the information in this way worked excellent and I would wish to see such an active use of digital tools also more on German conferences – may be at the Historikertag 2016 in Hamburg.
From the greatest interest for me was one session on design history, that lasted the whole first day in the Old Courthouse. These panels from the 29th June was called „History, Theory, Practice – Histories for Future-Focused Thinking“ were led by Maya Oppenheimer (Royal Collage of Art, London) and Harriet Atkinson (University of Brighton). This was organized in cooperation with the British Design History Society chaired by Jeremy Aynsley (University of Brighton). The main aim was to reflect what happened since the famous Design Method conference from 1962.
After the lunch break Tania Messell opened the next section with her paper about „International Norms and Local Design Research“ at the ICSID and its engagement in Latin America in the 1970s. Messell, a PhD candidate at the University of Brighton, supervise by the professor for design history Jeremy Aynsley. She gave convincing ideas about how design was used as a development topic between the so called first and third world. By looking at this, it became clear how western focused the ICSID was as structured. Messell’s PhD thesis will close a big „research gap“ in design history and help to understand the globalized network of the industrial designers since the late 1950s. I am really looking forward to her book.
After that Sylvia (Technical University Berlin) and Christian Wölfel (Technical University Dresden) presented some of the results (see Wölfels paper), which they published 2014 within their book about Martin Kelm and the „good“ GDR design. This publication was – part time for reasons – criticized by German design historians (i.e by the design historian Siegfried Gronert or the eyewitness Günter Höhne). But nevertheless it was commendable the save Kelms story of his work as a design manager in the totalitarian system of the GDR. And it was also a enriching step further by the Wölfels to bring up questions about the GDR on the“radar“ of the no-German speaking design historians.
The third presentation in the section gave Ingrid Halland Rashidi from the University of Oslo – so she’ll be one of my colleges when I am as a visiting PhD fellow in Norway’s capital in fall this year. In her paper she followed the path of her PhD thesis by presenting thoughts and a re-reading of the exhibition „New Domestic Landscape“ about Italian design at the MoMa 1971 (see Ingrids paper). Her main question was if a work would always operate within the framework of human intention. By asking this she questioned the agency beyond human intention in an museological context, and the audience was very pleased about this.
The section was completed by the paper from designer Isabel Prochner (Université de Montreal) on current question about feminist work in industrial design (see Prochners paper). Her point was that in the 1980s and 1990s there was much more feminist critique than it is today. So Prochner claimed for a rebuild of feminist work in industrial design. Her paper was widely discussed in the follow conversation between presenters and the audience.
After the tea break the session on design history was re-opened by Kees Dorst (University of technology Sydney and Eindhoven University of Technology) (see Dorsts paper). He asked in a quite refreshing manner, if design practice and research would finally find together. Dorst emphasized in his presentation, that the ambition to create a „science of design“ in the past can be criticized for being too disconnected from design practice. With that he claimed for a new way of thinking „academic design“. This last session on design history was finalized by the papers from Tao Huang (Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, USA) with an advertisement on contemporary Chinese design, Adam de Eyto’s (University of Limerick) short history of Irish design and Joyce Yee’s (Northumbria University) appraisal of the current situation of the so called design research.
So when I resume, even if „only“ one whole day was focused on design history, there weren’t that many papers on this special part of the history. This is not surprising, because the Design Research Society has its major focus on current design questions and not on the past – like the Design History Society. Looking at this I had the whole conference the impression, that the way of arguing, presenting a thesis and coming to new topics set apart from the historians on the one side and the designer on the other side. But even thou this was one of the great strength of the DRS2016 to bring these both groups together. Because the possibility to listen to papers that were not from the own research field, can be enriching and build new bridges.