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Interview with Dick Spierenburg: “All-round architects are coming back on the scene.”

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Part of the principle behind the imm cologne design event “Das Haus – Interiors on Stage” is that a new designer is invited to make his or her mark on the interior design platform every year. For the 2015 edition of the project, the Cologne trade fair has brought the Shanghai-based Neri&Hu Design and Research Office on board. The two architects are one of the hottest creative teams in the world right now – and the imm cologne is bringing them to Germany. In our interview, the imm cologne’s Creative Director Dick Spierenburg explains the background to this development.

In future, will new design be coming from the other end of the world?
In a globalised world, that’s relative. In the case of Lyndon Neri and Rosanna Hu, for instance, they didn’t just study in the USA, they worked for Michael Graves for a long time too, so it’s more as if they embody a fusion of cultural influences. It wasn‘t the distance we were interested in; it was all about getting a different perspective.

How did you hit on Neri&Hu?
Well, to start with, the designers we had at the imm cologne for the first three editions of “Das Haus” were from London, Italy and Scandinavia – regions that have been playing a big role in the creative development of interior design in recent years. This time we were looking for an outside perspective, for a view of Europe. And we believe the strongest influences are coming from Japan, Korea and China right now. But there’s another aspect too: first and foremost, Lyndon Neri and Rosanna Hu aren’t designers, they’re architects.

But isn’t the format primarily about interior design?
Yes, of course. But “Das Haus” is meant to keep showing new approaches to the subject and keep surprising us. Up until now we’ve invited product designers to broaden their vision by including an entire interior and the complete architecture. Now we’re turning that approach round: we’re asking architects to define the interior as living space and make their own mark on it – using the means of interior design and their own products.

Aren’t the days of designer-architects à la Arne Jacobsen over?
That’s precisely the point: all-round architects are coming back on the scene. And that’s definitely partly due to the dynamism of cities like Shanghai and other hubs in the Far East. When architects have the necessary freedom and the right projects, they’re able to create holistic, integrated works of art. Like in the days of Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe or Rietveld, there is now a growing number of architects like Norman Foster, Jean Nouvel, Ben van Berkel, Zaha Hadid or Rem Koolhaas who are designing the furniture for their building projects themselves. That’s having a considerable influence on the overall development of design.

Neri&Hu have already designed several interiors for hotels, galleries, restaurants and stores, but never a project like “Das Haus”. Aren’t you afraid you might end up talking at cross purposes?
No. “Das Haus” is intended as an experimental platform, after all. It’s meant to be equally inspiring for professionals and consumers. It’s only when the creatives use their “Haus” to make their own first statement on a holistic, exemplary interior design – when they themselves tread new ground – that something really new originates.

What do you think it is that makes Neri&Hu stand out?
For some time now, they’ve been experimenting with the idea of giving their buildings a characteristic inner dimension as well by using furniture and fittings they’ve designed themselves. And we love the way they do it: it’s both atmospheric and understated, with sophisticated details and some surprising twists. There’s probably no other place in the world right now that offers as many opportunities for the kind of top-class, integrated work that Neri&Hu do as the urban centres of China. So it’s no coincidence that we’ve invited Chinese creatives to be part of a project like “Das Haus”, which takes such an integrated approach. We’re delighted that they’ve accepted our invitation to the imm cologne. As a result, “Das Haus 2015” looks set to be even more of an interdisciplinary global project!

Photo: Koelnmesse

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