Snobs visit DMY Berlin

Since we, architecture snobs are not only interested in good architecture, but also in good design, we just had to visit the DMY international design festival in Berlin. Also, we were invited there by Design Silesia, an association we have been cooperating with for a long time.

DMY International Design Festival is a festival that doesn’t need advertising. It is visitor-friendly and laid back in nature, as is Berlin itself. It is not a high-budget and super-serious event, like the one in Milan. Here, you will most probably meet young and promising designers, adventure-seeking artists and a wide selection of design schools from all around Europe. All gathered in what seems garage space. Although, in this case, more hangar-like – since, for several years now, the festival has been situated at the former Tempelhof airport site (how about he fascist architecture?!).

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This year, Poland was extensively represented, mainly due to the Polish Design Focus exhibition. Our country was the main guest of the festival. Never before had Poland any opportunity to provide such a vast presentation with our western neighbor. Over 40 design studios, school and producers showcased in Berlin. Some of the former ones were, i. a. Ola Mirecka, Kabo&Pydo, Tabanda, Malafor, or Kafti (greetings to Monika Brauntsch of Kafi, who would hang out with us around Berlin). When it comes to design companies, we have good memories of the pavilion of our befriended Design Alive magazine, whose editorial staff we met at the spot. Pavilion is the wrong word though – the Cieszyn editorial created a recreational zone inside the hangar – which turned out to be a good idea after all this sightseeing and walking.

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The Polish section made a great impression on everyone; compared to the representatives of other countries, we had impressive objects and inventive interior designs. The very poster advertising Polish Design Focus presented our biggest assets – innovative ideas and confidence in tradition. The poster featured two stools: Plopp by Oskar Zięta, a true high-tech wonder in the world of design, and a Ribbon stool by Jan Lutyk, made of bent plywood, looking as if made of one wood plank.

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At first glance at the airport site, the black and yellow Design Silesia container stood out immediately. The container housed a mobile exhibition titled Mobile Design Container presenting major projects in the latest history of Polish design in a nutshell. 17 most interesting products designed by Polish designers and manufactured in Poland were presented in two shipping containers adapted for exhibition purposes.

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As usually, we did notice some things we didn’t quite like. Although Polish design was thoughtfully and innovatively presented, we were not impressed with the overall curatorial concept for the festival. Two hangars showcased nearly five hundred exhibitors, arranged in what seemed to be an organizational mess. Sometimes we even felt that what was missing was any selection whatsoever; we saw some disappointing products and unconvincing pavilions, where people would show their garbage designs on several scraps of paper.

Although DMY features a friendly atmosphere, almost picnic-like, we were disappointed with its … small size. The festival’s PR staff announced the biggest event in the world of design, whereas what we saw were two hangars and several events all around the city. Compared to this, the Lodz or Gdynia design festivals have nothing to be ashamed of!

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However, what was the most disappointing was the lack o fan overall leitmotif. When it comes to the Polish representation, we also missed a few names. We saw the same products from the same designers, as usually. We love Zięta, but he is everywhere now. If Berlin is betting on new and promising designers presenting unique prototypes, why was Poland represented by the standard set of names? We lacked courage or… proper research.

Fortunately, the exhibition is not all there is. As it turns out, apart from us, Design Silesia invited a group of entrepreneurs, designers and clerks from the Silesian Voivodeship for a study trip. Fortunately, we got along very well and spent a fine time in Berlin

Thanks to DS, we had an opportunity to visit several institutions promoting design, and forming a network connecting designers and producers, including Planet Modulor. We were pretty impressed with our visit at the Betahaus in the very center of Kreuzberg – co-working space created in a former GDR office building. A user-friendly space was established to allow young, creative people from various disciplines to rent a working space at a low price and work in an atmosphere resembling a combination of a café and an office at home. Even the back yard is creative here – a place for growing fruit and vegetables is here, everyone can use it.

Yet another interesting point of our journey was our visit at the main office of Nemona, a pilot project forming a network connecting Berlin-based fashion designers with seamstresses or handicraftsmen. Thanks to Nemona, unemployed women from the Turkish community got a job where their crocheting or embroidery talents were fully used to help young designers. Nemona representatives took us to several newsrooms, which resulted in our wallets getting thinner and thinner by the minute. However, our closets got bigger by some limited-series clothes.

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One of the strongest points of our trip was one of DMY events – the Night Shift. For one night in the year, we could visit design studios spread all over Berlin. It was an opportunity to witness how Belin designers, fashion designers, architects and graphic designers work. Of course, as time went by, we remembered less and less, since the trip was an ongoing party. The evening culminated in the IXDS studio, where the biggest party took place! Marcin got his hands on a 3D printer he wanted to use to print out our logo, but the computer wouldn’t work and produced something resembling a heart. We made a hit instead – we pretended to be Zaha Hadid’s team. Using sticky tape, people would stick their names and company names to know each other better (and to receive free drinks in the bar). With Zaha Hadid’s name in the back, we were constantly surrounded by fans. Suddenly, everyone loved us (greetings to the UK’s Shakira – yes, that’s her real name, she even showed us her ID). After having a couple of Moscow Mules, Tomek would even pretend he knew Iraqi, which was supposed to authenticate our contacts with Zaha.

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What else will we remember from our Berlin trip? Our night bike trips around Kreuzberg, a visit at the Gropius kebab house, a feast at the Katz Orange in the Mitte, accompanied by Ola Czapla-Osliso, a brilliant gourmet, Ania Kubica welcoming, dancing in Miami, where it suddenly turned out that the majority of bartenders were Polish, night escapades for currywurst, “Szybki” Starszek behind the wheel and many more, which we had to censor.

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Summing up, DMY is still a young event, so that explains a lot. It can be disappointing at some points, but it also gives us a powerful kick – as Berlin itself. We are going there the next year, for sure!