Magazine Contact #16 - Magazine - About us - Concept Wiesner-Hager

Good ideas take time to ripen

Magazine Contact #16

greutmann bolzern is an award-winning designer duo who found each other 28 years ago when they were both studying at university. Since then they have been together both professionally and privately. For Wiesner-Hager, the likeable Swiss have designed four furniture series so far, among them veron and n_table. We met them in their studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where we talked about offices, their teaching activity, and designer dreams that have not yet come true.

In your work, you concentrate on the world of offices. What is your own experience with this topic?
Carmen: I've not yet managed to design the perfect office for us. We've been working in a makeshift solution all the time - but that's good, it leaves room for new ideas.
Urs: In Zurich, we have a large loft where we arrange the furniture just the way we need it at the moment. It is our laboratory for experiments. If necessary, we can move everything aside to put up a large prototype.

So you set great store by flexibility?
Urs: Yes,  and that's what I don't like about other offices. Everything is so statical .... while modern technology easily permits non-territorial working!

Can good design be a motivation factor for employees?
Urs: Well, maybe not one single item, but certainly an integrated overall concept. Good design is a form of showing appreciation to employees. And in today's "war for talents" overall concepts play an important role, with interior design being an integral part.
Carmen: What's important is that all workplaces are equal. The design has to radiate quality and ergonomics, it must be reliable. Otherwise people won't like to use it.

Talking of motivation: since 2003, you've been teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where this interview is taking place. What is the special appeal you find in teaching?
Urs: Here we meet an army of young, creative people, and we're allowed to accompany them in their development. Help them to get good ideas off the ground. You give a lot of personal input and get so much more in return.
Carmen: Suddenly you have to explain why you're doing something, and what's working or not under which circumstances. Teaching opens up a new perspective on your own work.

You two studied in the 80s. Comparing that time with today - what has changed?
Carmen: We had no computer and no Internet back then. We went to the library, we drew on sketch-pads, and we had more time to develop ideas. A lot has changed since then.
Urs: Time was not this fast moving. Today, many things are more superficial. Customers have grown more impatient, and globalization has made competition more fierce. Indeed, I see certain things go wrong, at the expense of creativity and quality.

You've already implemented some projects for the Zurich Airport and for Swiss. A special challenge?
Carmen: Absolutely, this is quite a different league when you can design check-in areas and whole airport lounges. This combination of interior design and product design, from the individual piece of furniture to an entire hall. And everything under more difficult circumstances, such as fire safety regulations, entrance restrictions, or also the fact that you work for two principals - the airport proper, and the airline as its subtenant.

Are you still working together at the moment?
Urs: Yes, we've just won a competition for designing the new tableware and cutlery for on-board catering in the business class. The prototypes are finished. Now they are testing it for two years during the flights. It sounds funny, but that's how it is. Space is limited, and everything has to be done quickly and has to be functional - but it should look good anyway.

What have you always wanted to design?
Urs: [Laughs.] The plane going with the tableware.
Carmen: [Laughs too.] I guessed you'd say this. Yes, the big picture, the complete thing, that's what's still missing for me, too. Something like a hotel, from A to Z. Or a plane.

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