Sharp End Magazine, No.05, 2009, page 21 

Sharp End Magazine, No.05, 2009, page 21

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Sharp end Akrapovic






18 19 opportunity to create something beneficial new interesting interesting and original i realised at an early age that good things come from all over the world when we were rebuilding the factory i asked myself whom i’d most like to work with and didn’t limit myself only to architects and builders who were available around basel and weil am rhein it was easier back then when these architects were not so renowned famous and booked for several years in advance i remember what a challenge it was for frank gehry to design a building in europe the first building was designed by the englishman nicolas grimshaw we felt his style was also our own so we commissioned commissioned him to design the entire campus and then i accidentally met gehry and thought how great it would be to have him design it contrary to expectations expectations both buildings complemented each other beautifully that’s when we decided to commission commission every building from a different architect zaha hadid and tadao ando only came into play later i am often labelled a collector of architecture but i’m definitely not that i’m also not the person who discovered hadid and brought gehry to europe but i’m proud we worked with all those architects before before they won the pritzker prize the two exceptions are herzog and de meuron who are constructing our new building to be completed next year why did you decide to bring all those big names in world architecture to the tiny weil am rhein on the swiss german border that’s where my family comes from my father comes from bern in switzerland and my mother is from freiburg germany she worked in basel where she met my father my maternal grandfather worked for the railways weil am rhein was a railway town then after the war my parents bought considerable amounts of land in its neighbourhood that’s how it all started i’m often asked whether our design museum wouldn’t be more in place in paris or london but the world knows about weil am rhein today only because of vitra and our museum when you took over your father’s company you also began to work with all these big names in the history of industrial design how difficult was it to work with strong personalities personalities such as nelson the eameses jean prouvé verner panton and later on jasper morisson and the bouroulec brothers it varies from one to the other i met the eameses and nelson as a teenager and they were sort of accurately called utopian capitalism as my phd topic what influence does all of this sociological knowledge have on the management of vitra who many see as a very democratic company i don’t know if i see it as democratic i would only with difficulty use such an adjective for a company where the employees didn t elect me as their manager maybe democracy can be detected in our fundamental values which can’t merely be measured in money it’s a sort of a common denominator for the majority of good design companies which want to be more than just money making factories healthy and successful business is naturally the foundation but you have to transcend that successful business can be greatly facilitated by a fresh and different idea and design by definition provides excellent opportunities for all that design allows you to give communicate influence influence you can give to the people the environment the society the entire world… better products emit better signals and together create better working and living environments and that’s key for the quality of life mood happiness peace… uniqueness and dissimilarity also manifest themselves in vitra’s campus in weil am rhein where you constructed buildings in the last two years that bear the name of today’s top architects i gather this gave you the reputation of a daring man who can bring to life what others don’t even dream about zaha hadid designed her first building for vitra this is where frank o gehry first made himself known to europe… is this due to vision vision daring a good business sense or your personal passion likely it’s a mixture of all of the above any maybe this selection which seems so visionary today today is only the result of knowledge that i acquired in all these years in a way design and architecture always go hand in hand and of course i was immediately excited by architecture a long time ago i even spent some time working for a german architectural institution when vitra’s factory was burnt down two decades ago and when it was time to start anew i realised how demanding and responsible a task construction is i believe there is no excuse to build a shabby unsuitable or even an ugly building this isn’t just true for residential and business spaces but for factories as well every building is important at the same time it is an excellent authority figures to me always gentle and kind they told me many a secret but the distance remained remained forever i unfortunately failed to meet jean prouvé in person but i made friends with numerous younger designers of my age as we geared up for the production of panton’s plastic chair i was seeing seeing verner on an almost daily basis we had some bad times caused by his sometimes overly sensitive and irritable nature we maintained our friendship later as well as he also lived in basel even my relationships with gehry hadid and morisson could be labelled as friendly i maintain more of a business business relationship with tadao ando and don’t meet him too often is it true that charles eames disliked panton’s plastic chair this was a clash of two completely different views on design eames did not favour a sculptor’s way of doing things he preferred items created from several components he couldn’t understand this idea of making it from one piece only he was sure that plastic was bad for the chair’s legs but great for the seat and the backrest… this approach allowed him to combine various materials panton was more practical and formalistic eames and panton use two different design methods described by louis kahn the first uses the so called mosquito method kahn said eames’s chairs reminded him of a mosquito with eyes wings and legs attached to the body at a later stage panton on the other hand is a typical representative of the elephant’ method which places importance on monumental entirety both methods are great and still used historically speaking the mosquito method’s practicality made it more successful however more design icons use the elephant one this is why industrial design museums contain more elephant designs as curators search for icons and place visual image ahead of practical value some products with roots in the 1920s still look fresh youthful and modern as if they were designed yesterday how would you explain their timelessness if i understand correctly we’re talking about design classics these were avant garde at the beginning and often also signalled the start of a new era great architects were more interested in furniture design in the past than now 16 / 20 interview


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