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Design Lab #11

21.01.2022 to 03.04.2022

Design Lab #11 is taking place in cooperation with the Idar-Oberstein Campus of Trier University of Applied Sciences. As one of the most important centres for gemstones in Europe, Idar-Oberstein represents a central hub in a worldwide network of hardstone trading and working. Students from across the world come together here to work creatively and artistically with the material. For Design Lab #11. LithoMania, they have been invited to explore the complex ambivalence of gemstones extending beyond their use in jewellery design.


Precious and semi-precious stone collections, small sculptures, and jewels made of gems fascinate people and rouse desires, sometimes leading to greed and criminal acts. Their mining destroys landscapes and has led to bloody conflicts. On the other side of the coin, the trade and processing of these stones have united people from the world’s most remote regions for thousands of years and led to interaction and innovation. A social community’s identity can be anchored in very special individual stones, with them being considered sacred or integrated into objects that play an important role in identity-constituting rituals. While gemstones used to be accessible to only a select few, they have now become easily obtainable to consumers on the mass market. Nonetheless, the sensory perception of the stones’ characteristics – their patterning, colouration, and hardness – allows a symbolic approach to the material and to a world of ideas and imagination that often evokes a deep emotional bond.

Decorative Arts Museums as Material Archives

Decorative arts museums are intrinsically also material archives, because their collections have been structured and presented according to the materials and origins of their holdings since their foundation in the 19th century, with some museums still following this model. Until now, however, the collection presentations have rarely offered us much information about the political dimension. The focus is instead on artisan virtuosity and artistic design. Over the centuries, noble and – from a Western perspective – exotic and unknown materials served to represent social status and political influence. (Gem)stones, in particular, were also regarded as magical objects and used in religious worship, as evidenced above all by examples of medieval church art. During the Renaissance and Baroque periods, when the art of hardstone cutting reached its zenith, the artist was considered to be a master of nature and shaped the stones contrary to their physical properties. Artistically worked stones from different epochs and with very different forms and functions can be found in the Kunstgewerbemuseum’s (Museum of Decorative Arts) collection as objects or as jewellery.

The Idar-Oberstein Campus

Idar-Oberstein is the name of a unique town in Germany that has semi-precious and precious stones as a material inscribed in its DNA. One of the world’s most important hardstone centres, it constitutes a central hub in the global network of hardstone trading and processing. Conversely, the stone has shaped the region and its people for centuries. Since the 19th century, specialists in cutting and engraving precious stones have established themselves in Idar-Oberstein and transformed the place into a vast workshop for specialised artisan cultural techniques – a knowledge that is unfortunately increasingly lost.

The Idar-Oberstiein campus of Trier University of Applied Sciences has set itself a goal that is nothing short of reactivating the cultural techniques and knowledge interwoven with the history and traditions of Idar-Oberstein, while drawing on a contemporary appreciation of art and expertise to guide the town into the globalised present..

Publication and experimental cooperation

A publication (Reading sample online as PDF, 5,5, MB) by Arnoldsche Verlag accompanies the exhibition.

The following students are exhibiting: Ana Bellagamba (MX), Natascha Frechen BFA (DE), Sandra Hartman (NL), Mana Jahangard (IR), Biljana Klekachkoska (MK), Sophia Kron (DE), Felicia Mülbaier (DE), Gina Nadine Müller BFA (DE), Elias Neuspiel (AT), Helena Renner (DE), Constanza Salinas (CI), Miriam Strake (AT),  Nioosha Vaezzadehangoshtarsaz (IR), Luisa Werner (DE), Lisha Wang (CN) und Ye Wang (CN) as are the artists Peter Vermandere (BE) und Cornelia Wruck (DE).

An experimental cooperation and special exhibition of the Kunstgewerbemuseum – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin with students of the Idar-Oberstein Campus of Trier University of Applied Sciences.

The Design Lab Series

Since 2019 the exhibition series Design Lab has invited various design labs, students and activist to present their current projects and to enter into dialogue with the Kunstgewerbemuseum collection. The series has been curated by Claudia Banz, Curator of Design at the Kunstgewerbemuseum and funded by the Kuratorium Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Board of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation).

10785 Berlin

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U-Bahn: Potsdamer Platz
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Bus: Potsdamer Brücke, Potsdamer Platz Bhf / Voßstraße, Kulturforum, Philharmonie

Sun 11:00 - 18:00
Mon closed
Tue closed
Wed 10:00 - 17:00
Thu 10:00 - 17:00
Fri 10:00 - 17:00
Sat 11:00 - 18:00

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Publication (PDF, 5,5 MB)