Newsletter 07.2008

Dear Readers,

There is a monumental and enduring quality about him: in 30 years' successful work as a designer Michele De Lucchi has not just created genuine classics - his provocative designs from the Eighties also wrote design history. We met him in Milan for an inspiring interview.

It probably required a certain time interval before the colossal bunker structures of the Second World War could be looked at in an objective way. In our Newsletter we present some successful examples of the alternative uses to which these concrete mammoths have been put.

After their presentation at the Salone Satellite 2007 and the subsequent commission they received from a prestigious American furniture manufacturer it seems that the two appealing young designers 'HansandFranz' have really made it - a mini success story.

Be inspired.

Your Architonic Team

Zurich | Frankfurt | Berlin | Barcelona | Copenhagen | London
"The style has always been the problem"
An interview with the Italian architect and designer Michele De Lucchi
For 30 years now Michele De Lucchi has vitalised and influenced the international design world with his convention-challenging ideas and working methods. He studied architecture in Florence before his friendship with Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini took him to Milan at the end of the Seventies, where he became one of the main activists in the provocative designer group Memphis. Although by his own admission he does not create his objects with an eye to specific demand or marketing requirements, he is nevertheless responsible for lasting bestsellers like the Tolomeo lamp for Artemide. In addition to his design professorships and responsibility for the design department at Olivetti, he also established the Studio De Lucchi at the end of the Eighties. Here he and his inter-disciplinary team have dedicated themselves to the entire range of design operations, ranging from graphics, products, exhibitions and interiors right down to architecture. Since the early Nineties he has, under his Produzione Privata label, also created small series of his designs featuring exquisite craftsmanship.

  "The style has always been the problem"  
Michele De Lucchi with one of his countless handmade wooden houses

Mr. De Lucchi, you have been working successfully as a designer for more than thirty years now, and have experienced a number of different eras. Where does design stand today?
Design is truly a kind of witness to history. Design documents the spirit of the age. Today we are at a very exciting stage, because there is no specific style. To me that's great, because as soon as a style develops there's no longer any progress.

After your architecture studies you worked for Alchymia, together with Ettore Sottsass, Andrea Branzi, Paola Navone and others. Alchymia is regarded as the predecessor group for Memphis, the group which in the Eighties created an international sensation with its projects.
Alchymia was something special, because it was the first design movement which based itself on the conceptual art of the late Sixties and the Seventies. That was a period when artists put down their paintbrushes and began a debate on their activities, their tasks and the significance of art. This movement also had an influence on architecture and design, instigated in particular by Peter Cook and Archigram. You could say that there was no design for almost ten years.

What exactly did you and your colleagues do during this time?
We debated, we staged happenings, developed metaphors. An attempt was made to approach architecture and design once more in an interdisciplinary manner. This was a fundamental development, because it describes the social idea of the architect. All at once our role as architects changed radically. We were no longer just technicians whose job it was to produce drawings and build houses - the intellectual debate became more and more important.

First Chair and End Table by Michele De Lucchi for Memphis, 1983

Did you never have the wish to work as an architect?
I actually planned only a few buildings, because I completed my studies right in the middle of this phase. However, I don't make a distinction between design and architecture. The two disciplines are very similar. Of course there are differences, but fundamentally the main aim is to create surroundings in which people can live and to design these surroundings in a way which stimulates their lives, which is very different from stimulating the market.

Today there are schools of architecture and schools of design, in other words we differentiate between these disciplines. Is this reflected in the work which results?
Oh yes, very much so. Designers often fail to take into account the dimensions of the space. Architects on the other hand neglect the dimensions of the objects. When I was studying architecture we used a different method from today. Architecture was created from the inside outwards. Today it's precisely the other way round. Present-day architecture makes this very clear. I like these projects, too, but they often produce strange internal spaces.

Giona by Michele De Lucchi and Alberto Nason for Produzione Privata

After Alchymia you established the Memphis group with people like Ettore Sottsass. Memphis stood for protest. What were you protesting against?
Memphis developed from the conceptual phase of Alchymia. With us it was less a matter of protest than of provocation. We looked for ways to break with convention, to call into question everything which was already established.

What was the convention?
The style. The style was always the problem. The style at the time was described as the "international style". For years this style had dominated design and architecture. However, it's very rare for an established style to lead to innovation. In contrast it's the task of a designer, artist or architect to present new views and perspectives. Creating new fields of vision also means imitating and perfecting what already exists. After all, we still continue to design cutlery, crockery and tables, although there's already no shortage of tables. The fact is that we want these objects to surprise us again and again. That's why we design new ones.
When we had our last Memphis exhibition in 1987 it turned out to be a very painful experience, because we realised that the provocation had been so successful that we had developed a style with Memphis. All at once people were copying us, and the Memphis style was appearing everywhere you looked. This was a positive sensation on the one hand, but on the other we were aware of the fact that we would have to put an end to it if we wanted to start anything new.

When is a product something "new"?
For me the objects which function really perfectly are not the most interesting ones. I'm more interested in all those which show me that there is ongoing development. This is the way in which innovation is generated. Ettore Sottsass, for example, didn't work for the market or for established furniture businesses. Nobody wanted to buy the objects he created, above all because they were too eccentric.

I like almost all of his projects.
But you've never bought one, have you?

I'm afraid they're outside of my price range.
Exactly. Sottsass products aren't sold as consumer goods. They're sculptures. And in spite of this Sottsass has had an enormous influence on the design of several generations. I like his projects because they show me that there is a future. They open the door for an optimistic look forwards.

Go by Ross Lovegrove for Danerka, Canova by Michele De Lucchi for Produzione Privata

Do any younger designers occur to you?
I admire Ross Lovegrove. His design seems to me to be very instinctive. He obviously knows how to operate in an analytical and rational manner while at the same time connecting his technical talent with an emotional response. This ability is what distinguishes good design.
In other respects there are a number of talented young designers. However, what I often find missing is curiosity. I've even observed this at the design schools where I teach.

Why do you think these young people don't have the necessary curiosity?
This is a problem of our age. Nowadays we have far too many possibilities. It has become much more difficult to take decisions. Industry, electronics, the internet - we're constantly faced with an enormous supply of things and as a result we lose our feeling for what is really essential. Instead of consciously analysing a matter, many decisions are taken at random and intuitively. However, the design process favours deliberate, well thought-through decisions. I believe that this is too much for many young designers.

After Memphis you founded your Produzione Privata studio, in which you design and produce limited editions. What were your reasons for this?
After Memphis I felt an urgent need to work together with my friends from old-established crafts - glassblowers, stonemasons from Carrara, these are all wonderful people and probably the last generation who will possess this kind of craftsmanship. In addition it goes against the grain with me to operate in a large company.
The limited editions of my products give me the freedom to experiment and to make mistakes. If you make a mistake in mass production it costs you dearly. It's a completely different process.

Macchina by Michele De Lucchi, Alberto Nason and Mario Rossi Scola, Trelissi by Michele De Lucchi and Aya Matsukaze for Produzione Privata

However, many designers want to concentrate fully on the design process, and are happy to leave the production side to a good manufacturer.
That's true. But when I am given a detailed briefing, telling me for example to design a table of wood with four legs, it completely paralyses me.

But mass production and a market-oriented approach are still a significant part of the job of a designer, or do you disagree?
There are products and there are projects. Products are made for the market and projects are visions. Both are important types of design. However, good projects rarely turn into good products.

Why do you believe that Italian design continues to be the most prestigious in the world?
Here in Italy we're in the fortunate situation of having lots of highly qualified craftsmen and small workshops which do a lot of the preliminary work for industry. This cooperation has a long tradition. Much of what you see at the Salone del Mobile consists of prototypes, and only few of these ever reach the production stage. At the same time, however, these prototypes form the foundation for the things which will be presented as new products the year after.

Thank you very much for talking to us, Mr De Lucchi.

The interview was held by Nora Schmidt
Indestructible Remembrance
The conversion of European bunkers
As if their indestructible presence wanted to make sure that we don't forget the past. As if they wanted to tell us that war is present everywhere - for many years now the bunkers which had for the most part survived the Second World War without major damage were regarded as an ugly remnant, without much thought being given to their historical and architectural background.

  Indestructible Remembrance  
"Reichsbahnbunker Friedrichstraße" in Berlin Mitte

In 1958 the French architect and philosopher Paul Virilio spent a number of years looking for traces of these bunkers during an archaeological journey of discovery in his home region along France's Atlantic coast. In the early Nineteen Forties the German occupation troops build the so-called Atlantic Wall here, consisting of 16,400 concrete defensive structures.
The impressions which these gigantic remnants of former warfare, now functionless, made on him are recorded in the photos and texts which make up his famous 'Bunker Archaeology.'

"The bunker [...] is less a warning about the opponent from the past than about the war of today and tomorrow: about total war, the risk which is present everywhere, the immediacy of the danger, the great amalgamation of what is military and what is civilian, the homogenisation of conflict."

Santiago Sierra at the Boros Collection. Some of the works had to be modified especially for the unusual exhibition location

In spite of their historical and architectural significance many bunkers have been used as storage facilities or cowsheds. It is not least thanks to the influence of Paul Virilios that these colossal late forms of European fortress architecture have received greater attention in recent years. As a result they have been analysed in depth and put to more suitable use.

The dome of the Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, now on top of the submarine-bunker in Saint-Nazaire

Before the art collector Christian Boros acquired the 1942 tall bunker in central Berlin in 2003, the former 'Reichsbahnbunker Friedrichstraße' during the war years served as an air raid shelter for civilians. After the German capitulation it was used by the Red Army as a prison. During the GDR years this historic building was nicknamed the 'banana bunker' by Berliners because it was used by the fruit and vegetable cooperative for the storage of fruit. Then, after German reunification, a number of legendary parties took place in the 13-metre high rooms.
In this centrally located monolith Christian Boros found suitable surroundings for his extensive collection of contemporary art. After the four-year conversion by Jens Casper from the Berlin firm of architects Realarchitektur, the approx. 500 works by artists such as Damien Hirst, Wolfgang Tillmans, Olafur Eliasson and Tobias Rehberger were able to take up residence. The regularly changing exhibitions are presented over an area of 3000 square metres. Some ceilings and walls were removed, but for the building's owner it was important to keep the building as authentic as possible. Shell holes from the war and traces of former walls on the floor document the eventful history of the bunker.
On the roof of the colossus there is a glass penthouse which doesn't just serve Christian Boros and his family as a home but also transforms the solid substructure into the base of a throne.

LED illumination inside the bunker, designed by the german-french architecture studio LIN

A further example of successful use of bunkers is the design of a cultural centre by the German and French architects LIN - Finn Geipel and Giulia Andi - in Saint-Nazaire, Brittany. The massive former submarine bunker is located at the port, on the edge of the town centre which was rebuilt after the war. Since 1996 it has been rebuilt in several stages to accommodate a range of cultural facilities which have revived its existence - the 295 metre long, 130 metre wide and 19 metre high monster consists of 480,000 cubic metres of concrete and can't be demolished.
A Successful Partnership
The cooperation between Architonic and
The partnership between Architonic and, the newly conceived property and design portal of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, is an important step in the ongoing development of the Architonic vision - linking extensive product data bases with editorial content.
The portal, which was created by Metadesign, is aimed above all at upmarket private customers. In addition to advertising highly-priced properties and new building projects NZZdomizil provides a daily updated overview of new international design ideas and living trends. For this purpose Architonic supplies trend know-how and editorial topics, supplemented by a limited selection of products from the Architonic data base which match the specific topic.
Thanks to the successfully launched cooperation with a prestigious partner like the NZZ it will be possible for Architonic to expand its international network and multifaceted online presence.

  A Successful Partnership  
Combination of editorial articles and the Architonic-database on
Success by design
Two young Munich designers conquer America
'HansandFranz' is a name which couldn't be more German (apart from the 'and' instead of 'und'), and perhaps it's an omen of the fact that they would head in the direction of America - known of course as the land of unlimited possibilities.

  Success by design  
Konstantin Landuris and Horst Wittmann alias 'HansandFranz'

In fact the names of these appealing young designers are not Hans but Horst, and not Franz but Konstantin. I had the opportunity to get to know them last year at the Milan furniture fair as two students of interior design at the Academy of Visual Arts in Munich. At the Satellite they had displayed an innovative arc lamp and a series of prototypes for a beautiful standard lamp called 'Three'. This was also what prompted the invitation to the ICFF in New York and their trip across the Atlantic.

Standard lamp 'Three'

In other words, a classic success story. For their very first major presentation at Satellite 2007 they received a special award for their 'Troja' arc lamp. At the following ICFF in New York they attracted the interest of 'Bernhardt Design, one of the largest US furniture manufacturers, and were promptly given a commission to design a collection specially for the company. "They are such amazing young designers and so talented, that I gave them an entirely free hand to design what they wanted", says Bernhardt's creative director Jerry Helling. "Their work is all about simplicity and purity, and that is what we strive for". The result was a group of stools and benches entitled 'Cycle', enabling Horst Wittmann and Konstantin Landuris early entry to a distinguished list of names such as Ross Lovegrove, Pearson Lloyd and Arik Levy, who have all already worked for the American giant.

'Cycle' for Bernhardt Design

On top of all this the pair's success then spread back to Europe, because the partnership with the Danish manufacturer 'Danerka' has in turn enabled 'Bernhardt Design' to gain a foothold in Europe with its current European collection 'Global Edition'.
More Articles of "News & Trends"
Investigating the nature of things
  More Articles of "News & Trends"

For the past twenty years Hannes Wettstein has had a decisive influence on Swiss design while himself, however, staying very much in the background. In the night from Friday to Saturday 5 July the 50-year old designer died of cancer.
2008 Pavilion for the Kivik Art Centre

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Licht und Farbe im Berliner Untergrund (Light and colour in the Berlin subway)

When we consider the architectural spaces through which this grimy line travels it becomes clear that the U8, a linked ensemble of 15 stations, is unjustly neglected as an unloved stepchild...
New Fritz Hansen showroom in Milan

The historic Danish brand forcontemporary design, opens its first showroom in Milan, designed by the architect Stefano Tagliacarne, as a strategic platform able to reach the international market.