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Design in the castle
In the remote, evocative setting of the medieval Hollenegg Castle near Graz, Alice Stori Liechtenstein has developed a new creative platform for design, running from June to October.
Hollenegg is a delightful town in the Austrian region of Styria, half an hour by car from Graz, epicentre of “Designmonat”, where the Kunsthaus Graz (the city art museum), created by Peter Cook and Colin Fournier in 2003 to celebrate Graz’s year as European Capital of Culture, stands out in all its magnificence.
In the Schloss Holleneggfor Design (a castle built in 1163 and now entirely converted to be a creative platform), amid green meadows and knee-high snow when the weather is harsh, lives Alice Stori Liechtenstein, a masters-level design teacher at the nearby FH Joanneum, who has opened the castle doors to create an unusual research laboratory. This involves a series of residences (the first of its kind in Austria), each two weeks in length, from June to October, which culminate in a more than enticing experience for a designer who wants time and space to concentrate on a single project, conceptualising, developing and creating it on site.
This theme of this first season is time, or how it is possible to distil its essence within an evocative, fascinating (and certainly unusual) place like this in such a remote setting. “Since the Industrial Revolution, the rhythm of time has undergone an incredible acceleration – for each generation, the past has been experienced as slower than the future,” says Alice. The illustrious history of the Liechtenstein family (who have lived here since 1821), the feel of the rooms with their silk-embroidered tapestries, the majestic carved wooden doors, and the line of mullioned windows around the perimeter of the complex are all part of the atmosphere of this fairy-tale paradise. Alongside the Renaissance entrance courtyard there is a second, the product of a series of extensions to the main medieval block. This original part houses a Stations of the Cross carved into the ancient stone of the gallery, which faces onto the Baroque church, still in use on Sundays, when the large front gate is left open and the community of the area around come to celebrate mass.
The collective show, entitled “Slow”, presented by Stori Liechtenstein consists of a series of works that prompt us to reflect on the theme of time in a slower, more considered manner. They elicit a more languorous enjoyment of the final object, prompting us to pause and pay closer attention, and underline the meditative process, both on the creative level and in terms of the freedom of the discipline, leaving it to the materials to evolve and reach a final form, to merge and transform. There are ten designs in the show, with exhibition layout design by Ksenia Eross, one of Stori Liechtenstein’s students, who has turned to the circularity of the clock, producing a slender wooden structure with niches to emphasise once again how time here at Hollenegg has undergone a drastic, and wholly subjective, reinterpretation. Here design – amid the family coats of arms, cannons and frescoes – is an anticipated guest who cannot but add another layer to the age-old history of the Liechtensteins. Forming part of “Slow” are famous names like Formafantasma, Philippe Malouin, Liliana Ovalle, Vittorio Venezia, Lex Pot, alongside the younger BCXSY, Federico Floriani, Hilda Hellstrom, Martina Lassinger, Lucia Massari, Roos Meerman, Ariane Prin, Klara Sumova and Nel Verbeke.
The design created by Ariane Prin, originally from France but now living in London, stood out. Ariane has worked with ceramics, blending them with the dust from rusted keys. She collected the reddish powder left by these discarded objects, mixing this with ceramics and plaster-based materials to create a small collection of bowls and vases, with an unpredictable finish produced in each case by the oxidation of the iron residue. Beyond the main body of the exhibition – enclosed in a single room with a breathtaking view – “Slow” extends to a small adjacent terrace, where beaten iron suspension lamps by Venezia Martinelli are displayed. There are also three unusual designs, the products of the most recent work at Hollenegg: the residences of miscehr’traxler, Dean Brown (from Scotland), and the Italian duo Dossofiorito (who featured in our coverage of Milan’s Salone del Mobile – it was a pleasure surprise to re-encounter them in the hills of Austria).
The first couple – mischer’traxler – who are based in Vienna, have responded to the “Slow” brief with Isochrone, one of their intelligent machines that are hard to watch and simple to understand. Having created a blend of glue, additives and colour, the two extended this with layers, adding a pendulum machine above; this inexorably wears them away, creating ever-different surfaces. The result is a set of small tables where the work of the machine and the regular marking of time take centre stage.
The second design is the product of a chance event: after Brown’s arrival in Graz, Alice took him to visit a backroom which had become a kind of storeroom for the occasion. There were endless books among the ceramics, remnants of family history, and (fake) elephant feet used as ashtrays or left as hunting trophies. This “junk room”, which sooner or later would have to be sorted out, inspired Brown’s The Archive and the Rumpelkammer, a wooden geometrical structure with pre-set shelves for the objects chosen as most representative of the place. It is completed with a desk at a height of two metres (equipped with steps) where Alice can work.
Lidia and Gianluca of Dossofiorito looked instead to the Liechtenstein family tree and the life of the princess Ludmilla (1908–1974), the Bohemian grandmother of Alice’s husband, Alfred. Her love of gardening has inspired a series of three dual-container vases (Ludmilla’s Vases) in different sizes and shapes which take their lead from the family’s collection. Bulbs can be immersed in them so that the developing roots are themselves a decorative feature – the slow effect of the water allows you to observe the growth of the roots. The crystal vases were blown in Bohemia, naturally. The design immerses itself in this famous family’s past to reinterpret it in a contemporary key.