Now on show at the Cologne Museum of Applied Arts (MAKK) is a unique exhibition inspired by a symbol which is at once simple, complex and perfect: the circle. Curated by the design collective Dutch Invertuals, The Circle exhibition features new work by 20 creative talents trained in the Netherlands and Germany, who went on a journey to reinterpret ‘the mother of all forms’. The results range from the expressive to the experimental, with many using design to investigate what the circle signifies when it comes to addressing social, cultural, political and environmental issues.

‘As one of the most recognisable shapes, the circle has had various meanings throughout human history,’ reads the introduction to the exhibition, which runs from 17 January to 24 April 2022. ‘Used to describe the shape of our planet and our understanding of time, the circle can also symbolise how we come together as a community, standing together around a fire or sitting around a table to share knowledge and collaborate.’ It also brings to mind the lifecycle of all creatures and objects, and the closed loop of the circular economy. Can it also be the basis for designs that take us further into a more just and sustainable future? With so much fodder for exploration, The Circle promises a compelling show. Here, we pick out four of our favourite projects currently on display.

Circle Bench

By Germans Ermičs x The New Raw

Netherlands-based, Latvian designer Germans Ermičs teamed up with design duo The New Raw to develop the Circle Bench project. You might know the former for his playful experiments with light, space and colour, and the latter for their award-winning research into 3D-printing with upcycled plastic waste. Together, they have created an eye-catching spiral sculpture inspired by the infinite nature of the Möbius strip, as a testament to the layered character of digital craftsmanship and its potential to create value.

Soft Space

By Elena Blazquez

For her Soft Space project, German designer Elena Blazquez uses the circle as a way to facilitate better understanding of mental health issues. Her installation is all soft curves and playful patterns, and aims to provide comfort in a time of prolonged social isolation. It consists of a suite of stuffed and unstuffed textile elements that can be used as pillows, blankets and body extensions. ‘Together they assemble as a safe space for someone in need of solitude,’ the project statement explains.

Passage to the Lake

By Moon Seop Seo

For South-Korean designer Moon Seop Seo, circles inspire a meditation into the rhymes and rhythms of nature. Her spatial project Passage to the Lake emulates the cyclical patterns of water, with the aim of bringing serenity back to our busy lives. Here visitors are invited to watch as a drop of water falls from a tube, dances along a semicircle, splashes into a puddle and ‘comes to life again.’ 


By Johanna Seelemann

In her practice, German designer Johanna Seelemann seeks to explore the mundane objects and materials of our everyday lives and reveal more about their origins. For Hortulanus, she has created a series of compostable furniture pieces using low-embodied energy resources such as straw, corn, and loam. Her goal is to re-envision our relationship with natural, local materials, while ‘simultaneously questioning the aesthetics that have long been associated with high-tech design and ‘green’ design.’

All images by Ronald Smits for Dutch Invertuals and MAKK, except second last image by Johanna Seelemann.