Less can do more.
Magazine Contact #13
Like a good sauce that has to be boiled down to an essence: what does neunzig° design stand for?
Rainer: Function is the bedrock of our work, the very basis. Only when this obligation is fulfilled do we really get started. Making a chair isn’t only subject to hard requirements; there are lots of “soft” factors involved as well. It has to be inviting, so people really get the urge to sit on it; it has to have sex appeal and be desirable. We are looking for codes that make our products capable of being related to.
Barbara: Our approach is one of play. One that leaves things open to chance. We see chance as an aesthetic moment. We just have to look at nature – ant paths for example: there’s no sign of a rectangular grid in an ant path. The insects organise themselves freely and in infinitely new formations. This chaotic system has led to the design of the “macao” table. We want our furniture to develop its own persona in a space, start its own life and roam every day to wherever it’s needed. The quantity and alignment of chairs to tables play no part in this. Random grouping is actually what makes everything seem so natural.
By their design you shall know them … What is “typical neunzig” design”?
Rainer: It’s not a matter of self-fulfilment for us. It’s not important that people recognise us, but our partner. We develop a specific image for the partner and this makes him and her recognisable.
Barbara: I think our design is restrained but has personality. We like to talk about lyrical minimalism. This means: we work with few and frugal means, but at the same time are looking for properties that breathe charm and life into the products. This is a poetic moment for us.
Are you bothered that the concept of “design” is disparaged and worn out?
Rainer: Of course we are! Culture is more visible in design than in anything else. It’s the same in architecture, and more than in art. How do we live, how do we organize ourselves, what do we think about ...
Barbara: But the discourse on design is also very highlevel. Today design has become self-evident in all fields.
Visits to museums, music, baking bread, sex – what are your sources of inspiration?
Rainer: I’ve never made bread myself. Museum visits are very rarely inspiring – otherwise you’re spot on! And there’s still architecture. Above all the architecture of nature; it’s so immensely diverse.
Who are you fighting against, or what for?
Barbara: Many manufacturers are nervous about letting go of what they’re accustomed to. They see the risk but not the opportunity. And we also have to fight for the quality of a design. This often means sleepless nights.
Have things ever happened in your life that you could never have dreamed of?
Rainer: Not for me… and you?
Barbara: Of course.
Has your approach to design changed over the years?
Barbara: We live in and with the time, shape the time, while time shapes us. Fifteen years ago we made things that would look quite different now… so what!
Rainer: I certainly hope so. I love change, everything static bores me.
Your house is on fire. You can save one object. What would it be?
Rainer: My computer! It holds everything that’s important. Apart from which, it would take days to reinstall everything, not to speak of my nerves.
What’s on your night table?
Barbara: “In Arabian Nights” by Tahir Shah. A wonderful trip to the storytellers of Morocco, the guardians of wisdom.
Rainer: “Christoph’s Buch der Entdeckungen” (Christoph’s Book of Discoveries) from the children’s programme on German TV “Die Sendung mit der Maus” (The Programme with the Mouse). It’s fascinating! Now I know how one can tell if the moon is waxing or waning.
You could have asked me, then you wouldn’t have had to read a whole book. Please finish the following sentence: “Did you know that …“
Barbara: A-ha, we’re supposed to say something really clever here, aren’t we? Come on Rainer, you take this one.”
Rainer: ... my mind is completely blank?“