‘metalworks – designing & making’
Konschthal Esch presents an exhibition exploring the impact of metal on design and its historical significance in the post-industrial city.
Konschthal Esch, Luxembourg
18th June to 4th September
WITH THE ADVENT of the industrial revolution in the early 19th century, metal blast furnaces helped propel innovation and mass production. New industrial cities emerged across Western Europe – from the English Midlands to Germany’s Ruhrgebiet. In Luxembourg, the city Esch-sur-Alzette was made famous throughout Europe for its early 20th century steel and iron production. The exhibition ‘metalworks – designing & making’ at Konschthal Esch, hosted as part of Esch2022 European Capital of Culture, uncovers the town’s forgotten industrial past by drawing parallels with contemporary metal design.
Running all summer at Konschthal Esch, the show brings together internationally-recognised talents that work with this influential, yet socio-politically charged material from diverse vantage points, cementing Esch’s historical relevance and giving meaning to its architecture and urbanism.
“Design has historically been intertwined with industrial production and furniture manufacturers,” says the exhibition’s curator Georges Zigrand. “Today, however, designers take part in a renewed interest in raw materials, with production in series or in limited editions, unique or custom-made objects. Much like art and architecture, design is a way of interpreting ideology, a way of thinking about our daily lives.”
In this exhibition, 40 or so statement pieces by 20 designers, arranged into 16 themes, survey different approaches and lines of inquiry – from artisanal techniques (such as casting, hammering and cutting), to advanced technologies (like machining, superforming and digital fabrication). “Each object was carefully chosen for its intrinsic qualities and strong visual expression,” Konschthal Esch assistant curator Charlotte Masse explains. “They explicitly illustrate the manufacturing process by way of their form or finishing.”
Many exhibitors – including Max Lamb, Studio Swine, Jakob Jørgensen, Joris Laarman and Oskar Zięta – have pushed the properties and processes of metal to new heights. Others like Linde Freya Tangelder (destroyers/builders), PELLE, Sigve Knutson and Ron Arad have challenged the conventions of assembly.
Like many of her contemporaries, Brussels-based Tangelder seeks to reinterpret archaic forms and architectural archetypes in carefully-crafted sculptural works that question our understanding of function. New York-based PELLE created the ‘DVN Table’ using a single sheet of solid aluminium and precision-milling to achieve exact cuts, reflecting Japanese joinery that requires no additional fasteners or adhesives. Other pieces on view include Knutson’s ‘Hammered Aluminium Cloud’, Lamb’s ‘Ali Bar Chair’, Thomas Heatherwick’s ‘Extrusion [Billet 6, Extrusion 3]’ and Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec’s ‘Officina collection table’, 2015.
Bringing together an eclectic and exhaustive array of designs and with a comprehensive accompanying catalogue, ‘metalworks’ explores existing and emerging techniques and reveals the potential of creative and critical thinking in innovating the medium.