Newsletter 10.2008

Dear Readers,

With the slogan «The office is a success factor» this year's Orgatec presented a range of high-quality manufacturers of furniture for offices and buildings, with an extensive framework programme aimed above all at architects and office equipment retailers. In our Newsletter we have collected a number of impressions for you, while an overview of new Orgatec products and developments will follow in the next issue.

His designs are already familiar, and the name is worth remembering. Until the end of last year Marc Krusin had spent ten years as head of the design department at Lissoni Associati. We talked with him about his own studio, the office of the future and what designers should learn from architects.

Your Achitonic Team

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Orgatec 2008

On 25 October the Orgatec fair in Cologne came to an end and only three days later the success figures were officially reported: 62,500 trade visitors from 113 countries, an increase of 10 % on the last fair two years ago. At a time when a global recession is on its way this is a pleasant surprise.

In fact on the first day it was possible to sense the feeling of suspense among the exhibitors. During the weeks running up to the fair the banking collapse had led to the loss of the previously big-spending and prestige-conscious finance industry as major customers for the Orgatec exhibitors. However, from the middle of the first day of the exhibition sighs of relief could be heard everywhere and surprisingly enough there was hardly any talk of a coming recession. Retailers, architects, facility managers and the press were, against all expectations, present in large numbers. A further positive sign were the numerous trade visitors from the booming markets of the Middle East, India and the Far East.

  Orgatec 2008  
fair's stand from Gubi

Nevertheless it should not be overlooked that visitors to trade fairs are faced with a steady rise in the number of such events taking place. New up-and-coming brands inevitably lead to a shift in trade fairs as market places to new locations. Whereas only a few years ago fairs in Dubai or Moscow were insignificant, they are nowadays playing an increasingly powerful role in the travel plans of the exhibitors and trade visitors. The competition for the target group consisting of architects and interior designers is particularly strong among the various exhibitions. Any architect wishing to visit all the leading fairs which are relevant to his field of operations would be travelling from fair to fair nearly 365 days a year.


This trend is giving the fair organisers a serious headache. It is becoming more and more difficult to acquire architects, planners and interior designers as visitors, but the exhibitors themselves measure the success of the event by the presence of precisely this target group. Trade fair organising companies are increasingly being forced, in addition to the exhibition itself, to offer real added value in order to attract the right target group.


However Orgatec, too, has unfortunately shown once more that many manufacturers take the easy way out and leave everything to the exhibition organisers. This is a mistake because the producers themselves can do a lot to make the fair attractive to all target groups by the way they present their products. If the presentation of the manufacturers is uninspiring and dull, even the most interesting accompanying programme can do little to improve things. The exhibitors themselves are the main protagonists in the fair and will remain so. This year, too, there were real highlights and worldwide innovations, but unfortunately in the case of the majority of the exhibitors the subject of space and design did not go beyond the products themselves.

Degenhardt for Wilkhahn

The briefing for «Velas» was to develop furniture at which informal discussions could take place after the conference , especially in semi-public rooms such as lobbies and foyers. Degenhardt has succeeded in this spatially-related project: «The furniture should enter into a dialogue with the surrounding architecture, not declare war on it», is how he explains his idea. Accordingly the new lounge seat supports the spatial effects of the kind of modern architecture which is suffused with light.

Fotos: Wilkhahn

The programme has been supplemented by a three-legged table and a foot stool, while a headrest on the collar-shaped top of the backrest is still in the planning stage. «Velas» is not just used statically, and the high and low versions create a sense of playfulness. In order to enable positioning anywhere in the room the back of the chair has been made just as attractive as the front.

As material Degenhardt makes use of tubular steel, which has been popular since the classical modern period, but he has his own way of interpreting the Sixties principle of a supporting metal frame structure with upholstered seat and backrest. The use of the filigree base as a fluent transition between front legs, side sections and rear cross member creates an expressly relaxed but at the same time orderly impression.

Office chairs experience a wave of innovation
A selection of new products from Orgatec 2008 in Cologne. All pictures by Nora Schmidt.

Here we'd like to present to you a number of interesting new products which caught our eye at Orgatec 2008 in Cologne. So in your imagination you can lean back on these office chairs and experience their quality.

  Office chairs experience a wave of innovation

Michele De Lucchi for Caimi Brevetti. The chair consists of a special and highly confidential blend of synthetic materials which give rise to a striking and unusual moiré effect.


Mario Ruiz for Dynamobel: the angular office chair reveals the main activity of this industrial designer, who normally specialises in the design of technical equipment.


Herman Miller: a range of contact points with the seating frame and a divided seat make the backrest highly flexible.


Ben van Berkel for Walter Knoll: the armchair is the formal extension of the sofa which Walter Knoll produced specially for the Mercedes Benz Museum designed by van Berkel.


Hannes Wettstein for Dietiker: one of the last works produced by the designer, who died this summer.

Understanding Architects´ criteria
An interview with the British designer Marc Krusin

Until the end of last year Marc Krusin had spent ten years as head of the design department at Lissoni Associati. Now he concentrates on the work in his own studio. We met him in London during the 100%Design

You moved to Milan just after you finished your studies. In recent years the British furniture industry seems to have been developing. Why did you leave the UK?
Marc Krusin: Well, British design has a long tradition and an outstanding reputation. However, when I left the UK you could count the manufacturers who were really design oriented on the fingers of one hand, although I believe that this has changed in recent years. From what I hear some British firms seem to be re-defining themselves, which is a good thing. In spite of this British manufacturers probably still don't have the skills to produce innovative furniture with the degree of flexibility and creativity that is enjoyed by producers in Italy.

Why are the Italians so good at this?
I think there are cultural reasons for it. I could give you a list of the faults of the Italians right now, but their biggest talent is for producing things like furniture, fashion, cars and so on. And this capacity is based on production conditions which are rich in tradition - I mean small batch producers who work closely with designers and produce objects because they like them and find them beautiful, and are prepared to accept the risk which is connected with this. This concept is not something which is anchored in the British mentality, as far as I can judge. It seems that UK producers are put off by such risks and this hesitation suppresses any kind of creativity. This sounds very critical, but it's the way I see it.

  Understanding Architects´ criteria  
WA office system by Piero Lissoni and Marc Krusin for Knoll

You worked for Lissoni Associati for ten years until December 2008 and you became head of the design department pretty rapidly. What do you think qualified you in particular for such a position of responsibility.
Oh, that's a difficult question for me to answer. Perhaps it was my ability to get on with people and to put together a team of people who would approach their work with motivation and enthusiasm. In addition I find myself naturally aligned with Piero's way of designing, which is of course fundamental to such a position. This is why we still work together, for example for Knoll.

What kind of office/working-situation did you see as precondition for your design? 
For sure we had concepts of what an office should be, how people should work and what they should need. This was also to be combined with Knoll's and the known market requirements for an office system.
With this project we considered very closely the user and specific unresolved problems that arise from working all day at a desk, such as aches and pains deriving from using a mouse - hence the "arm-rest-mouse-pad", and arm ache from forearms resting on hard, sharp desk edges - hence the "soft arm pad". 
I personally believe that part-time freelance work is, in many cases, a very positive thing as it allows people to organise their own time, to focus on certain tasks and work intensively and with motivation on them, rather than waste time in the office at times when perhaps there is actually nothing to do! This style of working improves the quality of life for the worker and allows more freedom to spend time with family, friends etc.
Thankfully, increasing numbers of people are working temporarily, freelance or as consultants and therefore may have more temporary positions on a larger "bench type" structure, or may spend much time out of the office. Considering this we also focused on personal space within a bench system and created the pin board and writing mat as well as a series of acessories for personal use and a storage system which may be ordered in small modules to provide larger, lockable space for personal documents.
Another design angle was of course re-use. All the WA sytem can be very easily set up and taken down again and re-used in other ways and configurations. This means that the system can grow and adapt as a company grows and adapts. The system can even move buildings with it's owners.

Reception and entrance lobby interiors at the Traversi building, Milano, designed by Marc Krusin

So far you have designed things mainly for industrial, more or less large scale- production. Would you also like to produce things for smaller series?
Industrial production is fascinating to me, but of course not everything needs to be produced in that way.
For me the preservation of local craftsmanship is very important. It's great when countries look after their traditions of craftsmanship for a specific type of product. This is a wonderful feature especially when they use this basis to innovate and discover new possibilities.
The kind of limited editions of many namable designers we have seen recently on the art market are something different. They mostly serve the purpose of experiment. This is of course an important part of the design world, but that's not my part. I could imagine designing small-scale series for a specific type of architecture. For example a very complete and satisfying project would be to design a building and everything in it - that is, furniture intended specifically for that building.

Rugs Tiptop, Lines for Gandia Blasco, by Marc Krusin

The dialogue between architecture and design seems to play a decisive role in your work. Is that the result of years spent working together with an architect?
Definitely. Piero is an architect himself and he has passed this point of view on to me. A fundamental difference between design and architecture is that design is normally produced on a mass basis. This means that you design a chair which has to fit into a variety of environments. At the majority of design colleges you are taught how to design an object, but they often forget to include the space in which the object is to find its home. As a result many designers have never designed a room or selected furniture for a room. They therefore have trouble understanding the criteria which an architect uses in selecting a table or a chair. In my opinion this often restricts the capabilities of the designer.

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