Design Lab #12 sheds light on the traditional material of metal from its soft side. Contemporary cast iron and bronze objects by design students reveal the potential of the material in art casting. The works enter into dialogue with historical pieces from the collection and form a new narrative between tradition and today. Design Lab #12 has been created in cooperation with the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences under the guidance of Claudia Banz, Wibke Bornkessel and Hermann August Weizenegger.
A young generation of designers has rediscovered handcraft in recent years. They are able to draw on old craft traditions while also having a good deal of leeway for experimentation. The particular challenge facing students at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences was to develop a project opening a dialogue with the historical objects in the Iron Art Cast collection while also presenting ideas pertaining to contemporary design of the material iron and traditional iron-casting techniques.
The goal of retaining complete control over the production process was fulfilled by choosing two regional art foundries. Both art foundries – the Kunstgießerei Lachhammer, founded in 1725, and the Kunstgießerei Altglienicke – could be secured for the exhibition project.
Lachhammer looks back on a long tradition of iron casting. From designs by renowned artists and designers, it has produced high-quality objects for everyday use and decoration, including lamps, bowls, containers and mirrors, as well as sculptures, fountains and architectural latticework. The foundry continues to produce series of objects by Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841).
The Altglienicke art foundry – formerly the Kunstgießerei Flierl – is a fairly young bronze foundry that has dedicated itself to collaborating especially closely and creatively with clients and artists. The spectrum of their work ranges from small sculptures to large objects, such as the cupola crowning the new Humboldt Forum in Berlin.
In the early 19th century, iron experienced an economic, political and aesthetic heyday, especially in what was then Prussia. The decades of the struggle for liberation from Napoleonic dominance in Europe were regarded as an Eiserne Zeit, or iron age. Accordingly, iron came to be viewed as a patriotic material. Economically, iron production was vigorously promoted by King Frederick William III. With the Königliche Eisengießerei (Royal Iron Foundry) founded in 1804, Berlin developed into an important production site and creative centre for iron art casting.
Industrialisation had a lasting impact on traditional metal crafts: new alloys, more effective working methods and higher productivity led to greater sales and profits. Many everyday items, furniture and candlesticks were cast in large numbers and sold on the European market. Among that period’s important innovations was iron jewellery produced in Berlin, known as Fer de Berlin because of its international reputation.
Product design: Alan Philippe Bietenholz, Constantin Schmidt, Djamal Okoko, Fritz Rahne, Hannah Fischer, Jasmin Kappler, Jonathan Wellmann, Levi Kollwitz, Lisa Sperber, Milan Friedrich, Toni Fluegel, Yasemin Walter. Graphic design: Ricardo Mayer
Since 2019 the exhibition series Design Lab has invited various design labs, students, and researchers 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).
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