A New Design Gallery in Berlin Gives a Long-Overdue Platform to Up-and-Coming German Studios

In my 15-year tenure as a part-time resident of Berlin, I’ve always puzzled over its design scene, or lack thereof. Despite being a renowned haven for artists and creatives — with its (formerly) cheap rents and surplus of accessible studio and exhibition spaces — Berlin never really made any sort of cohesive mark on the contemporary furniture-design world. The best studios in the city didn’t exhibit together, collaborate, host showcases in Milan during Salone, or even take part in Berlin’s own fairly inconsequential design week, hence why it felt inconsequential. Everyone just kind of kept their head down and worked, with a couple exceptions here and there. Partly it made sense, seeing as their focus primarily lay outside Germany anyway, or at least outside Berlin, which has never been a wellspring of moneyed clientele. But still, I always thought the city deserved more, even to the degree of making my own fledgling attempt a few years back at putting together a German design survey inside a Mies van der Rohe house museum, which failed miserably for bureaucratic reasons I was never privy to. This is all to explain why I got so excited recently when I heard about Forma, a new pop-up design gallery on the Spree river showing mostly contemporary work by mostly German or Germany-based designers, like Nazara Lazaro, Carsten in der Elst, and Haus Otto — as well as why its founder, Vanessa Heepen, almost didn’t go through with it.

Heepen has a burgeoning interior design practice that’s seen her create spaces for Mercedes Benz and the iconic department store KaDeWe, but had long had the same nagging feeling that I did about wanting to help make things happen in Berlin’s design scene. And yet she couldn’t stop talking herself out of it, unsure about whether it made sense in such a financially unreliable environment. It was real estate that ultimately helped her take the plunge — the opportunity to temporarily inhabit a raw space with panoramic river views in a still-under-construction building — as well as inspiration from the recent success of other nomadic design galleries like MASA. Forma’s launch exhibition, shown below, opened on June 15, its edgy new chairs, clocks, and hanging stars supplemented with a few key pieces from another of my Berlin favorites, the vintage showroom Moho. The show will stay open through July 15, or possibly longer, and afterwards Heepen is planning to figure out a second edition, though she’s taking it one day at a time. If you’re in Berlin this summer, go check it out at Mühlenstrasse 63, and buy something if you can, in the hopes that Forma’s success can help pave the way for more projects like it.

PHOTOS BY MATTHIAS LEIDINGER Nazara Lazaro (chair), Studio Kuhlmann (stars), June Fabregas (stool)Studio KuhlmannHaus Otto (green chair), Cainelliklaska and Mark Bohle (console), Studio Kuhlmann (sconces), Carsten in der Elst (vessel on console shelf), Pinasaan (vessels on top of console), Reidar Mester (lounge), Lotto Studio (tall shelves)Natalia Ramos (vases), Eiserne Jungfrau Sofa from Moho (sofa)Nazara Lazaro (coat stand), Atelier Axo (lamp), Gerlach & Hellig (leather weights), Freia Achenbach (shelving unit), Cure.tain (latex curtains)MohoMoho (cabinet), Maija Fox (textile)Moho (coat rack), Cure.tain (hanging textile) Pegasus Product Moho Nazara Lazaro (chair), OOUS (bench), Freia Achenbach (organic shelves), Cainelliklaska and Mark Bohlea (transparent shelf tower) Veronika JanovecAnima Ona (wall hanging)Gerlach & Heilig