Quite independently of his work as a designer, his major contribution is doubtless to have made the (English) word ‘design’ a household word in Germany. Although hardly acknowledged by the serious German design media – or if at all, then only with very bad grace – he has succeeded, thanks to numerous television appearences and countless articles in daily newspapers and weekly magazines, in making himself the personification of the designer. As a result, criticism of Colani can only mean criticism of the media. When he thunders: “Colani has murdered the Bauhaus”, the words stick.
Thus were born objects such as the shark-inspired “Megalodon” passenger aircraft of the future, or the model of the ocean-going sailing yacht whose exemplar was the plankton-eating whale. That the technical facts did non always accord with his enthusiastic expectations, and that Colani himself bothered little or not at all with the technical problems of production, seems to have done nothing to impair the attractiveness of his sculptural, nature-inspired and occasinally dramatic ‘biodesign’ among broad sections of the public. Logically, Colani describes what he does not as design, but as 3-D philisophy.
His popularity has always stood in stark contrast to the massive criticism of his designs which he had to take the whole time from other designers and design associations. His spherical kitchen, for example, which is reminiscent of certain designs by Joe Colombo, eas described as ergonomic nonsense, with which no one could be happy (Michael Conrad), and there was probably no-one who had not yet burnt their fingers on his tea-pot (Ludwig Walser). One of the most popular accusations was that Colani might produce sensuality, but had long since producing sense. Time again it was calimed that while he had popularized the term ‘design’. he had at the same time made it difficult to take seriously.
According to Colani’s ideas, the head of this town-planning utopia will contain the administration, while the heart will accomodate a power-station. The lungs will be parks, while the arteries will house staircases, elevators and tramways; the arms, held away from the body, will be runways. The feet of this monumental fantasy are conceived as towers several hundred metres tall.
Particularly in Japan, where Colani’s influence is most palpable, there have appeared on the market in the last five years a whole series of consumergoods which come surprisingly close to this language. How visionary should we consider the 1972 training-shoe prototype to be, against the background of current training-shoe design? In view of the complexity and contingency of current technological developments, it does nevertheless seem as though all this had passed Colani by and left no traces. Against the background of information technologies, his work looks like a very old and romantic idea of the future.