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Interview Dick Spierenburg:
Five houses with five perspectives


As part of the concept of the imm cologne design event “Das Haus – Interiors on Stage”, a new designer is invited each year to set the stage of this international interior design platform. Cologne is proud to announce that Sebastian Herkner will take on this role in 2016. Dick Spierenburg, the imm cologne Creative Director, explains in interview the selection process, comparing all five sharply contrasting editions of “The House”.

Mr. Spierenburg, imm cologne 2016 presents the fifth edition of “Das Haus” realised under your auspices. What have you learned about the home from this project?
Looking at the previous interpretations of “Das Haus”, it becomes apparent] that each designer has found completely new solutions and different spatial plans. And yet, all of these concepts are nonetheless difficult to implement in most modern apartments due to the prevalence of unmovable walls and connections. This is the designers’ call for freer, more customisable planning options. With the three European design teams we have seen here so far, walls were not such a big issue because they implemented relatively open living plans, usually organised around a central courtyard. Sebastian Herkner’s concept follows this approach as well. Only Neri & Hu from China have defined the different zones inside the house using walls. For me, it was great to see that the utmost planning freedom, which we kept deliberately open, has led to visionary alternatives, and which at the same time have been demonstrated to be achievable.

Do you have a favourite house? What were the highlights in your opinion?
The four houses of the past years have each shown characters of their own. This makes them all equally important to the significance of the project. In addition to the widely contrasting design concepts, some fascinating discoveries have struck me in particular: the Doshi Levien (2012) shop window, used to sell homemade products on the street; the louvered green façade of the Luca Nichetto Haus (2013); the kitchen “workshop” and the giant guest bed by Louise Campbell (2014). Because architecture is my personal passion, it will come as no surprise that I found the Haus by Neri & Hu extremely fascinating: I was very impressed by their fortress with its strong, harmonious façade, very conceptual design and its stage-like, almost theatrical setting.

Are designers given a specific task, or do they have free reign?
The task leaves the designer a lot of freedom. The overarching motif is that all aspects of living are included in the overall design, so that the visitor can interpret and compare. It is equally important that there is a connection between the exterior and the interior. So far, all designers have appreciated this breadth and depth and have sought it out themselves.

How do you choose the designers or architects? Is the nomination also a nod for the industry?
An interesting, broad and up-to-date portfolio is essential for a nomination to design “Das Haus”. For the designer this is an opportunity, a challenge, an honour, and naturally it is also a signal for the industry. For the designers this is an opportunity, a challenge, an honour, and naturally it is also a signal for the industry. The nomination is both a statement and a forecast: this highly talented designer will only grow in renown! It is important that each edition of “Das Haus” is able to surprise, that it stands in contrast with the previous version and is capable of inspiring professionals and end users time and again. We look for personalities that reveal different perspectives on the subject of living. The designers of the first three editions came from London, Italy and Scandinavia, regions which are currently making a strong contribution to the creative development in the furnishings world. Next, we looked beyond the borders of Europe and selected the two architects from China. For the Fifth Edition, it seemed right that with Sebastian Herkner, a talent from Germany can prove himself.


Why him? What do you appreciate about Sebastian Herkner?
We have noticed Sebastian Herkner earlier in the circle of internationally successful, “upcoming” German designers. Beginning as one of the participants in the junior competition at imm cologne’s Pure Talents Contest in 2008 and 2010, at a time when it was still called the D3 Award, he has moved on and realised a wide range of products with many reputable companies. He convinced us both with his designs for furniture, accessories and lamps, as well as with his exhibition concepts. His interest in materiality and in local, traditional modes of production especially appeals to us. We look forward to what will surely be a very original vision of the always current and appealing topic of living.

In 2016, “Das Haus” will be round! You are also responsible for the design of the hall – is the round shape really suitable for fairs? Round fair stands are quite rare…
The contrast between the two is important for “Das Haus” as well as for the hall: this is an example of visionary, holistic design in the form of a complete house at the centre of the new, pared-down architecture of the Pure Editions format “Platforms” presenting high-profile brands! This will probably work even better with a round pavilion than with a rectangular one. It is anyway very novel and exciting!

Can you imagine building “Das Haus” at another location?
For some time now, I have had the dream that “Das Haus” could be built and shown on other continents. Actually, it’s a shame that the results of so much creativity, input of energy and considerable resources are shown only once, just for a week and at one event. We are currently looking for partners for “Das Haus” to show it more than once and intabroad – for example in the USA. Maybe we can already achieve this with Sebastian Herkner’s Haus. That would be a new milestone!

Guido Schiefer
Lutz Sternstein

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