Berlin: Museum der Dinge (Museum of Things)

Our Folkwang guide told us not to miss this museum, and she was right! An incredible documentaion of the apt attention which was paid to Design in 20th C Germany. Centered on the Deutcher Werkbund,

Since summer 2007 the museum has shown a significant part of its large and rarely exhibited collection of design and everyday culture of the 20th century in an "Open Storage" presentation. On the one hand the objects are arranged in a display of exemplary objects and supply information about the polarizing program of the Deutscher Werkbund and on the other hand give basic information about function, using-history in the 20th century and contemporary product culture. The objects face a very controversial constellation: objects designed by famous artists are confronted with anonymous design, functional and puristic objects are placed besides "bad taste" or "Kitsch" while substantially "honest" things encounter surrogates, branded articles face no-name products. This museum laboratory aims at directing the visitor’s attention - starting from today’s product culture - to visualize and re-experience 20th century’s  history of things.

The Museum holds the document collection Deutscher Werkbund (see below)– diverse entire or partial bequests of Werkbund members, Werkbund publications and other materials – reconstruct as multifaceted as possible the history of the organization Deutscher Werkbund. Beside original documents – publications, annual reports, records, circular letters, correspondences and more – the collection also comprises copied fragments of bequests kept elsewhere and archive materials, giving essential information about the development of the Werkbund. The documents relate to the period from before the foundation, e.g. the Dresden Arts & Craft Exhibition of 1906 to the present.

The Deutscher Werkbund (German Work Federation) was a German association of artists, architects, designers, and industrialists. The Werkbund was to become an important event in the development of modern architecture and industrial design, particularly in the later creation of the Bauhaus school of design. Its initial purpose was to establish a partnership of product manufacturers with design professionals to improve the competitiveness of German companies in global markets. The Werkbund was less an artistic movement than a state-sponsored effort to integrate traditional crafts and industrial mass-production techniques, to put Germany on a competitive footing with England and the United States. Its motto Vom Sofakissen zum Städtebau (from sofa cushions to city-building) indicates its range of interest.

The Werkbund was founded in 1907 in Munich at the instigation of Hermann Muthesius, existed through 1934, then re-established after World War II in 1950. Muthesius was the author of the exhaustive three-volume "The English House" of 1905, a survey of the practical lessons of the English Arts and Crafts movement. Muthesius was seen as something of a cultural ambassador, or industrial spy, between Germany and England.

The organization originally included twelve architects and twelve business firms. The architects include Peter Behrens, Theodor Fischer (who served as its first president), Josef Hoffmann, Bruno Paul, and Richard Riemerschmid. Other architects affiliated with the project include Heinrich Tessenow and the Belgian Henry van de Velde. The Werkbund commissioned van de Velde to build a theatre for its 1914 Cologne Exhibition in Cologne, the theatre which turned out to be his best work, and which only stood for one year before being destroyed as a result of World War I. Eliel Saarinen was made corresponding member of the Deutscher Werkbund in 1914 and was invited to participate in the 1914 Cologne exhibition. Its most famous member was the architect Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, who served as Architectural Director.