“Enduring, not ultimate form”: from “Industrieform” to Red Dot (1954 - 1979)

Still until 23 August 2015, the Red Dot Design Museum and the Ruhr Museum in Essen, Germany, are presenting the exhibition “Enduring, not ultimate form” under the patronage of the President of the German Bundestag, Prof. Dr. Norbert Lammert. It tells “60 years of design history in Essen - from ‘Industrieform’ to Red Dot” in Hall 5 at Zollverein UNESCO World Heritage Site. The center of the exhibition is the development of the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen which is organising the world’s largest design competition, the internationally accepted Red Dot Award.

The title of the exhibition “Enduring, not ultimate form” is a quote by journalist Clara Menck which stems from the time of the first Industrieform exhibition. It describes design as a permanent task to optimise the environment created by us and thus to secure our existence going forward. In the same way that design has constantly changed and developed further, so too has today’s Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen stayed close to the pulse of time in the past sixty years.

In 1954, the association “Industrieform e. V.” is founded at the initiative of the industry. Its aim is to promote quality in design even for industrial products. The association continues the efforts surrounding artistic design that has a tradition in Essen and in the Ruhr region since the beginning of the 20th century. The Folkwang idea of Karl Ernst Osthaus, the Margarethenhöhe artist colony and the beginnings of the present-day Folkwang University of the Arts are all elements of this time of great change. Over a period of 60 eventful years, this has culminated in the development of “Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen”. This new organisation does not demand a final ultimate form, but offers a platform for competition for good design and its continuous improvement. With the label “Red Dot”, it has over the years gained international repute. Its home is in Essen, Germany, but its outlook is global.

Early years in Villa Hügel (1955 - 1961)

On 30 July 1954, the association Industrieform e. V. is founded at the initiative of the head of Krupp’s PR department Carl Hundhausen, and from 1955 the association presents the “Ständige Schau formschöner Industrieerzeugnisse” (Permanent Show of Elegant Industrial Products) in the “Kleines Haus” (Small House) at Villa Hügel. The exhibition is part of Krupp’s new post-war image, but primarily directs the attention of German business to the topic of design. The location is full of prestige, and a reputable jury guarantees quality. The glamorous opening ceremony highlights its major significance. For the companies involved, the exhibition provides a platform and an incentive for competition for design quality. The rent they pay finances the exhibition, and the recognition by the jury is seen as a distinction of honour.

Old Synagogue (1961 - 1979)

When Krupp plans an exhibition on the history of the company in Villa Hügel in 1961 to mark its 150th anniversary, Industrieform e. V. receives offers from lots of different cities to relocate: Essen manages to hold on the association, with the city redesigning the Old Synagogue, which has stood vacant since the arson attacks of the Reichspogromnacht in 1938. There is intensive debate surrounding the new use of the Jewish sacred building, which ultimately gives way to broad consensus. The modern staircase in the hall gives Haus Industrieform its unmistakable design. The focus of the exhibitions becomes more global, for example with special events on design from Italy and Finland. German design is displayed in Stockholm shop windows. In 1979, a short circuit leads to a fire that destroys the exhibition and the interior.

How the development after the fire in the Old Synagogue and the further history from “Industrieform” to Red Dot in the years 1980 - 1997 continued will be told in short in part 2. The complete history is narrated in the exhibition “Enduring, not ultimate form” until 23 August 2015 in Hall 5 at Zollverein UNESCO World Heritage Site: The exhibition presents current and historical exhibits, reconstructs elements of past presentations, and documents eyewitness accounts alongside posters and photographs from 60 years of design history.

"Enduring, not ultimate form"
60 years of design history in Essen - from "Industrieform" to Red Dot
A joint exhibition of Ruhr Museum and Red Dot Design Museum Essen

Exhibition duration
Until 23 August 2015

Exhibition location
Zollverein UNESCO World Heritage Site
Areal A [Schacht/Shaft XII], Hall 5 [A5]
Gelsenkirchener Straße 181
45309 Essen