Exploring the roots of studioutte: a conversation with founders Guglielmo Giagnotti and Patrizio Gola

In the heart of Milan’s Central Station area, the modern charm of rationalist architecture is experiencing a renaissance under the touch of studioutte. Led by the dynamic duo of Guglielmo Giagnotti and Patrizio Gola, who established the studio in 2020, studioutte is not just about architecture—it’s a multifaceted practice that delves into interior design, decoration, and the creation of collectible designs.

Deriving its name from ‘hütte’, a term that evokes images of huts, cabins, and shelters, studioutte’s ethos is rooted in a blend of distinct Italian tradition and harmonious, integrated design principles. The studio’s approach is informed by a deep engagement with vernacular architecture and varied regional influences, striving for a design language that eschews redundancy and extremity for clarity and expressiveness.

Guglielmo and Patrizio, nice to meet you. It’s exciting to learn more about studioutte, which you established in 2020. To start, could you tell us what inspired the founding of your Milan-based practice?

We were led by the idea of restoring a certain cultured and gentle minimalism that have always been present in the Italian history but recently disappeared in favour of an eclectic ultra – decorative approach. 

If I asked you to show me a place uniquely Milanese, where would you take me?

We are truly fascinated by the powerful presence of the Angelicum by Giovanni Muzio in Piazza Sant Angelo.

The name “studioutte” is quite unique. Can you explain the meaning behind it and how it reflects your approach to design?

Hütte means hut, shelter. We are always linking the idea of architectural composition to a sense of protection and retreat.

Your work emphasizes a hybrid design of architecture research and influences from various regional practices. How do you incorporate these diverse elements into a cohesive design language?

It is a kind of spontaneous digestion of an infinite accumulation of images, observations, travel experiences that naturally flow towards the final object. Always guided by a precise research of proportions and materials.

What does the idea of a “waiting room” evoke for you?

A sense of suspension and tension towards something assertive and definitive, that for us means timeless Architecture.

I understand that studioutte aims for a design aesthetic that reaches beyond simple forms to express a primitive essence. Could you expand on what this means in your creative process?

It is an instinctive path towards simplicity  and mute forms of a space or an object. It is taking a lot of energy and time while aiming to reach a balance of shapes and material that leads to a sense of metaphysical anonymity.

Lastly, how do you envision Milan’s evolution over the next decade as a cultural hub for designers and artists?

Milan is a great hub, the challenge will be being more and more open to different cultures and paths intersection without loosing its own rational introvert dark and magnificent identity 

In order of appearance

  1. Milan Design Week 2023, studioutte x district eight. Photography by Vito Salamone. Courtesy of studioutte.
  2. Bedroom, Viale Brianza Apartment, Milan, studioutte. Photography by Paolo Abate. Courtesy of studioutte.
  3. Entrance, Viale Brianza Apartment, Milan, studioutte. Photography by Paolo Abate. Courtesy of studioutte.
  4. Rootine Wellness Club, Munich, studioutte, , Photography by Romain Laprade. Courtesy of studioutte.
  5. Master Bedroom, Antwerp House, studioutte. Courtesy of studioutte.
  6. Stair View, Moncucco House, studioutte. Courtesy of studioutte.
  7. Steel Lamp, Milan Design Week 2024, studioutte. Photography by Romain Laprade. Courtesy of studioutte.
  8. Milan Design Week 2024, studioutte. Photography by Romain Laprade. Courtesy of studioutte.
  9. Bathroom, Via Volturno Apartment, Milan, studioutte. Photography by Vito Salamone. Courtesy of studioutte.
  10. Entrance, Via Volturno Apartment, Milan, studioutte. Photography by Vito Salamone. Courtesy of studioutte.

Studio HAOS

Through the Lens: From Photography to Design with Studio HAOS

Sophie Gelinet and Cédric Gepner didn’t have formal training in furniture design, but they shared a passion that led them to create their first lamp. That lamp became the foundation for a collection, and in 2017, Studio HAOS was born.

They believe in keeping things simple, using materials like oak plywood and sheet metal to create thoughtful furniture and lighting. They focus on clarity and proportions, avoiding unnecessary complexity. Now based in Lisbon, their work is recognised worldwide, and they’re represented by galleries in major cities like Paris, New York, and London.

Sophie and Cédric, thanks for being here with me. Could you narrate the journey of Studio HAOS, from its inception with the creation of your first lamp to evolving into a fully-fledged design studio?

We had the desire to work on something together, on the side of our regular jobs. We had a shared interest in photography, and that led us to a few personal projects in France and in the north of India. At some point I wanted to try something new and started working on the prototype of a first lamp, and Cedric soon joined me. It was just something we were doing for fun on the side of our regular jobs. From what was initially a single lamp we made a small series, we then reached out to the press, got some publications, started getting some orders, etc. It started like that, quite randomly. We created the studio in 2017, and a couple of years later reached the point where we could both work full time on HAOS. 

How did your previous exploration in photography inform or shape your approach to design?

Looking back at it I think it helped in three ways. The first one was learning how to collaborate on a creative endeavour, which is not simple especially when you are also partners in life. The second was that it helped us develop our understanding of what makes a good picture: just as much as in photography, design is about arranging shapes, finding harmony, playing with light, shadows, shades, textures… The third and maybe most important is that it’s usually fruitful to be exposed to as many fields as possible. It’s often at the intersection of seemingly unrelated interests that cross pollination or creativity happen. Trying to understand and replicate the appeal of pictures by Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld or Alec Soth, to name a few, that must have permeated into our practice of design in many positive ways that we don’t necessarily understand.

Your design ethos revolves around elevating humble materials such as plywood and sheet metal. What attracts you to these materials, and how do you integrate them into your designs?

One key feature of photography is that the most vernacular subject matter can be transformed into singular, poetic images. And this kind of transmutation can be achieved with the most basic equipment. All that is required is an understanding of colour, form, and composition. We believe design should work in the same way. Very intricate and time-consuming savoir-faire applied to opulent materials, that’s where craftsmen can shine. In our view the focus of designers should be on shape and form. The more accessible the materials and techniques, the better, as it is the thinking process that then takes center stage. If a piece is thought-out, it doesn’t need to be loud to catch attention. On the contrary, we believe there is a particular form of elegance that lies in the ability to express or evoke emotions with restraint and with purposely limited means. It’s not exactly a new idea, it has been exemplified by many designers and artists for more than a century, just think of Gerrit Rietveld and his crate chair, Achille Castiglioni’s floor lamp based on a car headlight, or the works of minimalists such as Donald Judd or Charlotte Posenenske. But this conversation is not over and it’s especially relevant today.

What does the concept of “slow design” signify for you, and how does it manifest in your creative process and final products?

Actually our practice tends to go in the opposite direction. We are now trying to experiment faster, because the more experiments we undertake (with new processes, new materials, etc.) the more chances we have to stumble upon something worthwhile.

How has the environment and atmosphere of Lisbon influenced your creative process and the direction of your designs?

Lisbon happened by accident. The initial plan was to relocate to Tangier in Morocco, but as the pandemy picked up again late 2021, we decided to make a stopover in Lisbon until things settled. It’s a city that’s hard not to like, and the stopover turned into a long-term installation. Being here enabled us to open a large-scale workshop, where design, prototyping and production can happen side-by-side. We can go from an idea to a finished piece in a matter of weeks instead of having to wait months for a first prototype. And we now have a lot more freedom to play with materials, processes and finishes. 

Studio HAOS is known for embracing simplicity while eschewing unnecessary complexity in design. How do you navigate the delicate balance between minimalism and functionality in your creations?

It can be tempting to free oneself from the “functionality” constraint, and make pieces that have more value as a work of art than as a functional object, and some do it very well. As for our way of practicing design, we feel it’s important to keep it because ultimately constraints are essential to the process of creation. Paradoxically the more constraints you have and the more creative you have to be, and besides functionality, we don’t have that many of them. We indeed have to balance this with quite a minimalistic approach, but they are not necessarily opposites. Minimalism for us is not about stripping everything out, it’s about achieving the desired effect with restraint, trying to be subtle rather than loud, leaning away from frivolous complication. In that sense ornament can be necessary, and functionality is not a cross to carry.

Reflecting on your journey so far, what advice would you offer to yourselves when you were first embarking on this path?

We were quite self conscious when we started, not having a product design background, and we would spend way too much time on each object. It usually doesn’t make them better, quite the opposite in fact. Looking back I would tell myself to be more confident, build more pieces, because with each new piece we make mistakes, learn, and get better at what we do. In other words, “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”.

As Studio HAOS continues to evolve, what are your aspirations and goals for the future of the studio?

I hope we’ll always have the curiosity to experiment with new ways of doing things, and that we will keep doing so surrounded by a team of talented and fun people. And above all, I hope that we always get to keep the immense privilege of being allowed to spend our days making beautiful things, and be paid for it. 

In order of appearance

  1. ANTIMATIÈRE Exhibition, 2024, Paris. Photography by Depasquale and Maffini. Courtesy of CONTRIBUTIONS Design
  2. Aluminium Side Table. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  3. Aluminium Dining Table. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  4. Grid Chair. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  5. Leather Chair. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  6. Aluminium Lounge Chair. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  7. Aluminium Arm Chair. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  8. Aluminium Bench. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  9. Steel Lamp 3. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.
  10. Steel Lamp 1. Photography by Inês Silva Sá. Courtesy of Studio HAOS.

Frederik Fialin

From Denmark to Berlin: Frederik Fialin’s Unique Approach to Furniture Design

Today, we have the pleasure of sitting down with Frederik Fialin, a designer hailing from Denmark but based in Berlin, specialises in crafting bold yet whimsical minimalist furniture using durable, frequently recycled materials. He enjoys playing with contrasts, blending elements like sturdy construction steel with vibrant velour upholstery. Despite his traditional training as a cabinet maker, Fialin consistently challenges conventions and explores new possibilities in his work.

Frederik, your furniture pieces are characterized by their bold yet playful aesthetic. Can you tell us more about your creative process and what inspires your designs?

I’m usually content with my work when it makes me laugh and wonder at its oddness. I aim for it to be disproportionate or unexpectedly shaped, yet maintain a clear and simple structure. I find great beauty in simplicity and honesty, and I strive to infuse these qualities into my furniture. I often make only minor tweaks to the original concept, mainly to address functionality and overcome technical hurdles. I enjoy exploring extremes and using the full range of sizes available, whether from ready-mades or custom fabrications. Why stick with a 50mm pipe when you can use a 270mm one? It might be unnecessary, but it’s decorative and adds a touch of humour.

How does your background influence your approach to furniture design and craftsmanship?

Clearly, my background as a classically trained cabinetmaker must have some importance, but never in any directly noticeable way. If anything, not having a theoretical background has probably benefited me in some ways and has potentially given me a more naive approach, which I think is clear when you look at my furniture. Starting out not knowing design history, theory and the mere fundamentals has both been challenging and rewarding. I think not taking it all that seriously is probably the main one. After all, it’s just furniture, and theorising on a particular piece or subject is generally pointless. Either you like it or you don’t.

Your pieces often challenge the notion of industrial design. What other design categories or influences do you draw inspiration from?

Do they? I don’t see it like this at all. My furniture makes use of very well- known and often basic materials. I usually try to simplify as much as I can and remove all unnecessary elements. I don’t take inspiration from anyone or anything in particular and I work based almost solely on gut feeling, but almost always to make myself happy. I like the framework that using mainly common geometric shapes gives me though. For me, it’s about combining these well-known shapes and placing them in unusual ways, adding or decreasing thickness, changing the diameter, or something else that can turn a simple circle or cylinder into something interesting, aesthetically pleasing, and most importantly, a functional piece of furniture.

How has Berlin’s dynamic cultural scene influenced your creative process and the development of your designs?

I doubt that Berlin has had any particular influence on my work. It’s more a place I happened to be while maturing and realising how I want to spend my time professionally.

Could you tell us about any specific challenges you’ve encountered while experimenting with materials or pushing the boundaries of design?

As with everything; finding the balance between beauty, functionality, humour and self-interest.

What role does sustainability play in your work, particularly considering your use of recycled materials?

I haven’t used recycled materials in quite a while; instead, I try to make use of materials that are not transported thousands of kilometres and should they eventually be thrown out, it would probably be aluminium (which is infinitely recyclable) or wood. I don’t believe that what we do in my studio has any particular influence on the status of the world. We produce furniture in very small quantities, sometimes in exotic materials, sometimes not. It doesn’t matter in the greater scheme of things and is not something I worry about.

Looking ahead, what are your goals or aspirations for your furniture studio, and how do you envision the evolution of your designs in the future?

At the moment, we are planning the next year. There will be some shows and design festivals as well as further developments of already existing pieces and new ones. I simply hope to be able to continue doing what I do and have fun with it.

In order of appearance

  1. Flagpole Lamp, Elephant Tripod Table, AC01 Dining Chair, Spaghetti Shelf System, Monteverdi Daybed. Courtesy of Frederik Fialin.
  2. Flagpole Lamp, 2023. Courtesy of Frederik Fialin.
  3. Elephant Tripod Table, 2023. Courtesy of Frederik Fialin.
  4. Springloaded Light, 2024. Courtesy of Frederik Fialin.
  5. Hefty Table, 2024. Courtesy of Frederik Fialin.

Isaac Chong Wai

Performance, Politics, and Perception: The Art of Isaac Chong Wai

In the midst of a changing world, Isaac Chong Wai brings his unique artistic vision to the Venice Biennale. Born in 1990 and working between Berlin and Hong Kong, Chong’s art transcends borders, exploring themes of power and human vulnerability. Through various mediums like performance and photography, he captures the essence of our interconnected world. As he prepares for the Biennale Arte 2024, curated under “Foreigners Everywhere,” Chong’s work promises to inspire reflection and unite us in our shared humanity.

Memories seem to be a recurring theme in your work. I’m curious, are there any specific memories or moments from your childhood that continue to inspire your artistic process today.

In Hong Kong, it has been common for kids to learn art in some sort of centre. When I was 3 or 4 years old, I took drawing classes. I still vaguely remember drawing a stuffed animal resembling a rabbit, a mouse, and a monster. The tiny stuffed animal stood still in the center of the table while all the kids sat and drew in a circle of chairs. I patiently drew every hair on the stuffed animal. The teacher was amazed by my work. That was the first time I felt like a small famous artist. This practice of drawing has stayed with me. I often draw to articulate ideas. Meanwhile, I see drawing not only as using a pencil to outline a stuffed animal but as a gaze through which an object, a movement, or a feeling maintains its familiar form but is altered.

How do you manage to strike a balance between drawing from personal experiences and delving into broader conceptual explorations within your work?

Sometimes, certain personal experiences lead me to create works. In 2015, a stranger abruptly hurled racial insults and then bludgeoned my head with a glass bottle in Berlin. I went to the hospital afterward. In the same year, I was sexually assaulted by a man on the street in Berlin who forcefully kissed me at a tram station. I pushed him away, shouted at him, and ran away. I then remembered that I was in a running team in middle school. I ran fast. You know, it’s like the bad luck all show up at the same time without advanced notice. All these violent incidents happened in a blink; it feels like it’s less than a second of human interaction. The speed of violence makes me think, if there would be a way to slow it down through artistic practice.

I really needed to do something. I felt bad and useless. I then created a series of works looking into the moments of falling and if by any chance, support can be there when one falls. I don’t think my personal experience has to connect to broader conceptual explorations, but things often happen within a system. By looking into the problematic system, I imagine, through my artistic practice, and my imagination sometimes finds ways to resist those inherent violence.

How do you push against conventional limits of the body, both in terms of physicality and theoretical frameworks?

I would say that I imagine the impossible, and I question why it is impossible? For example, in Falling Carefully (2020), a sculptural piece, I created three copies of myself capturing a simultaneous fall. When the sculptures fall at the same time, they get stuck and freeze the moment of falling.

Sculpture has the quality of stillness. Integrating stillness and the collective body as a means to stop time and fall, I was interested in looking at the external forces that create the choreography of many fallen individuals in our societies and how falling myself, or “repeatedly” making myself fall could be a way to rehearse in order to prevent or resist dominant powers. It is impossible to duplicate myself in order to get some help (I wish I could) when dangers come, but it is important to know that I am not an individual who might encounter violence, but someone who can offer help when others are in need.

How do you manage the equilibrium between individuality and collectivity in your artistic expressions? 

It is an ongoing question. Sometimes it is a struggle, but oftentimes it is natural. In a video piece that I created, The Silent Wall (2014), I used my hands to touch the bullet holes in Sarajevo and later tuned the volume of the city’s sound from loud to silent in every clip, every wall that I touched. It was my first time seeing bullet holes in my life. I remembered seeing the memorial Sarajevo Rose where mortar holes were covered by red resin resembling a rose.

I was with other master students from MFA Public Art and New Artistic Strategies led by Professor Danica Dakić at the Bauhaus University Weimar. During this research trip, I listened to stories about the bullet holes and how local people perceive them. I questioned my presence in the traces of the war. I was not there, but I should remember.

It was clear to me that I wanted to do it myself as my personal approach to remember and archive all those “insignificant” bullet holes, according to many locals. While it seems personal, it does lead me to think in a wider context, especially about what it means when it comes to the idea of collective memory.

Could you elaborate on how you view the importance of physical space in your site-specific performances? Additionally, could you share which performance you feel best utilised or complimented the space in which it was held?

When present at a site, one cannot avoid its history and context. In 2015, I invited numerous people to stand as “memorials” and talk about their personal stories in a square named Weimarplatz (previously Gauforum). This square was built by Hitler with the intention of people gathering there to live out Nazi principles. The square has been renamed several times in history and was called “Hitler’s Square” by some. Nowadays, it is an empty green area that looks out of place in the city, as it is large and rarely visited. The dominance of history often neglects the voices of individuals, including those whose houses were destroyed to build this square. I wonder how our personal stories could weave our voices together and write a new collective narrative consisting of different moments in time that we share from the past, contrary to the dominated discourse which actively silences people’s stories. It was a very special performance. Many people came to my studio to share what they talked about during the performance. (During the performance, we couldn’t really hear what other people were saying, as each of us was at a distance, and when speaking, we couldn’t hear the others). Some people cried, and some complained about the weather (it was very hot). It was both personal and collective.

Do you perceive your work as primarily reflective or proactive in its engagement with social issues?

They are often a reflection of experiences. Sometimes, I perceive my work as an autonomous body, a free being. The audience encounters the “body.” Those emotions and reflections might shape how we engage with social issues, but they might not as well.

Which recent social changes and global phenomena have you tackled in your artistic endeavours?

I often feel powerless when confronting social issues. For example, the anti-Asian racism that has worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic. There are so many emotions and tensions in public spaces. These years, the world is full of tears, with many deaths and much suffering. The profound sadness is so close that it sometimes leaves me speechless. I am not an activist, but I find my own way to tell my stories and help others. I always say that I hope I can help, because I might or might not be helpful. Recently, I have been looking into how mourning could be a way to deal with the powerlessness that individuals hold in everyday life. 

In 2022, I worked with composer and singer Dagmar Aigner, who has been working with mourners for over a decade. Her voice heals me. I collaborated with her to create a two-channel video piece where one can see a group of performers moving in a circle while singing mourning songs and lullabies in a loop.

The title of the 60th edition of the Biennale, ‘Foreigners Everywhere,’ conveys a distinct message. How do you interpret the concept of being a foreigner?

It is a celebration, but also a struggle at the same time. Working at the Biennale, there were “foreigners everywhere.” I encountered artists, technicians, specialists, assistants, and curators from different parts of the world. We sat at the same table, ordered the same food and drinks. It was a big celebration of our encounters in Venice.

Being foreign sounds objective, but in my opinion, objectivity is always a lie. It is important to recognize differences. I often say that if we are all the same, we are not okay. No one is the same. If we do not point out the differences, we lose them. Being different, being foreign, is something beautiful.

As we look forward to the upcoming Biennale, I’m genuinely excited about the chance to witness your project in Venice. Could you please share more details about the project?

Falling Reversely (2021/2024) is a seven-channel large-scale video installation and performance created specifically for la Biennale di Venezia, “Foreigners Everywhere,” curated by Adriano Pedrosa. 

I conceived the work Falling Reversely in 2021, during the Covid-19 pandemic, when many of my friends who are Asian diaspora living in the US and Europe, including myself, encountered verbal and physical assaults in public spaces. We shared our fear and told each other our stories, trying to find ways to protect ourselves and voice out against these attacks. 

Many individuals fall when an attack happens. Some of them were alone in public spaces. I then imagined, what if we could rewind those falling movements through artistic practice. This is an imagination possible in art but impossible in reality, as a fall cannot be reversed. 

I worked with Asian diasporic performers. We studied CCTV footage of Asian individuals who fell due to physical assaults in public spaces. In the large-scale video installation at the Venice Biennale, the screens are sometimes on and off, creating an immersive experience as if a performance or an event is taking place in the blink of an eye.

What upcoming projects or themes are you currently delving into in your artistic journey?

The past few years, I have been exploring how human interactions and emotions transform into bodily movements and materials. My current series of work is called Breath Marks. The idea originated from a video work of mine called Neue Wache, where I use my breath to leave traces on a window facing the memorial Neue Wache, in an attempt to cover/blur its image.

In the ongoing series Breath Marks (since 2022), I use my breath marks as a “paint brush” to depict images. In Breath Marks: Queen Elizabeth II and Crying Hong Kong Girl (2023), comprising a photographic print and a glass sculpture, I use my breath marks to depict an image circulated amongst Hong Kong social media, of a crying young girl holding a framed photograph of the late Queen Elizabeth II.

I believe I will continue following my works, as they always lead me to future projects.

In order of appearance

  1. Portrait of Isaac Chong Wai. Courtesy of Innsbruck International/ Mia Maria Knoll.
  2. Falling Carefully (2020) Isaac Chong Wai. Courtesy of Asia Society, Blindspot Gallery and Zilberman Gallery.
  3. The Silent Wall (2014) Isaac Chong Wai. Video. 10’43’’. Video still. Courtesy of the artist, Blindspot Gallery and Zilberman.
  4. The Silent Wall (2014) Isaac Chong Wai. Video. 10’43’’. Video still. Courtesy of the artist, Blindspot Gallery and Zilberman.
  5. Falling Reversely (2021-2024) Isaac Chong Wai. Venice Biennale 2024. Photography by Atsushi Kakefuda.
  6. Falling Reversely (2021-2024) Isaac Chong Wai. Venice Biennale 2024. Photography by Atsushi Kakefuda.
  7. Falling Reversely (2021-2024) Isaac Chong Wai. Video still by Isaac Chong Wai, Julia Geiß and Lana Immelman. Courtesy of the artist, Blindspot Gallery and Zilberman.
  8. Falling Reversely (2021-2024) Isaac Chong Wai. Video still by Isaac Chong Wai, Julia Geiß and Lana Immelman. Courtesy of the artist, Blindspot Gallery and Zilberman.
  9. Falling Reversely (2021-2024) Isaac Chong Wai. Installation view. Photography by Riccardo Banfi. Courtesy of Blindspot Gallery and Zilberman.
  10. Breath Marks: Queen Elizabeth II and Crying Hong Kong Girl (2023) Isaac Chong Wai. Courtesy of the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Nicolas Schuybroek

Minimalism with soul: a dialogue with architect Nicolas Schuybroek

In 2011, Nicolas Schuybroek started his own practice in Brussels, Belgium. His goal was simple: to design spaces and objects with great care, skill, and a warm feeling. Nicolas focuses on timeless minimalism and simplicity, using natural materials to bring his designs to life. His work is elegant and understated, appealing to those who appreciate subtle beauty.

Today, we have the pleasure of sitting down with Nicolas Schuybroek, the architect and designer behind the eponymous studio based in Brussels. Nicolas, thank you for joining us. What inspired you to start your own practice in Brussels in 2011?

The purpose was well defined: create and produce architecture, interiors and objects characterised by an acute sense of detail, craftsmanship and intuition, while retaining a feeling of warmth. The search for timeless minimalism and apparent simplicity have always been central in our work, as well as the love of unassuming, tactile, and raw materials. There’s no straining for effect, just a muted elegance. The essence is to conceive serene and pure, yet warm, comfortable, and authentic spaces. 

What is your perspective on the relationship between the socio-cultural system and design/architectural initiatives in Brussels? Could you share also a particular location in Brussels that holds a special significance for you?

Overall, Belgian architecture over the past few years has been enjoying a creative renaissance, thanks to a generation of talents who excel at blending earthy palettes, natural materials, and curated interiors. This philosophy has helped establish a contemporary Belgian architectural identity, which is more and more celebrated abroad.

Brussels is a city you need to discover, preferably with locals, due to the many gems hidden in a complex urban grid. Personally, I do enjoy most of the contemporary art galleries and love an early morning stroll through the royal galleries of St-Hubert in the city centre.

Your multicultural background and extensive travel seem to play a significant role in shaping your design perspective. How do these experiences inform your work?

International projects and the relationships which comes with it, deeply nourishes our work: it broadens our perspective in terms of cultural differences, languages, religion, local habits, craftsmanship etc. to name a few. Belgian remains a fairly mall country, and we feel lucky and humbled to be able to work on so many projects around the globe.

Could you discuss the inspiration and creative journey behind the Aesop Salone del Mobile project in Milan for this year?

The scenography is inspired by the Minimal Art movement from the 1960’s and 1970’s, including artists like Donald Judd, Carl Andre and Richard Nonas, whose works are reduced to the essential minimum. This movement has served as an inspiration for many years now and and shaped the base for this scenographic project for Aesop, known for its uniform and minimal packaging’s, accentuating the content of the bottles, rather than the bottles itself. The inspiration of Superstudio’s 1970s iconic grid structures is a hint to timeless Italian design. To emphasise the minimal character of the installation, we conceptualised a grid shaped screen wrapping the perimeter of the shop, only interrupted when needed for circulation.

Entirely built up with Aesop soap bars – used within a vertical brick pattern– the screen creates a soft, matte, and reflective installation. A strong serenity exhales from the design by limiting the walls to monochromatic materials and textures. The restricted use of using something simple as a soap bar – “a daily functional household item” – resonates yet to another art movement, the Arte Povera, which fits perfectly in this context. Within the screen, small rectangular cavities are shaped by removing soap bars, to generate viewing portals to small, intimate hidden boxes showcasing Aesop’s products at the centre of the installation sits a large silicon block, wrapped in a matte silicon envelope. The central island stands out without taking away attention of the soap wall and will be the centre stage to skincare performances and massages where spectators can gather around.

The structure takes its form from the regimented rows of Aesop products, following the formulation-first logic central to the brand’s philosophy. Within the assembly, small rectangular cavities are created by removing soap bars, generating portals through which to enter—via film—the sensorial world of Aesop’s products. This way of working is a good match between Aesop and my office. In our office we always kick-off with concept, context, and research before digging into designing. In that way we develop a clear formulation before creating. I think this is important to avoid losing yourself in later stages of design. Of course, this formulation can change during the process, which is another important stage. But for us formulation works as a compass during a project. 

What does “muted elegance” mean to you in the context of your work?

The essence of our work is to conceive serene and pure, yet warm and authentic spaces. Muted elegance is in my perspective the true definition of luxury today.

Few years ago premiered a Signature Kitchen for Obumex at Salone del Mobile. Can you tell us more about this project and your collaboration with Obumex?

In this first collaboration with Obumex, we designed a unique Kitchen which exhales a sense of profound serenity and yet, feels warm and authentic due the singular material used throughout the concept. It is also the first contemporary kitchen design finished with tin.

As a starting point for this design, we rethought the block-like typology of a kitchen island and transformed it into a dynamic shape, resulting in carefully proportioned shifts between the sculptural blocks. The design has been conceived as derivative of our studio’s architectural typologies and grants different views and perspectives around all four elevations, reinforcing the concept of a kitchen island as a functional sculpture.

The tin cladding, wrapping the entire volume, offers a high level of tactility paired with softness, which contrasts beautifully with the minimal geometry of the island. As tin gains a unique patina, the aesthetics of the kitchen will beautifully evolve over the course of time, resulting in every kitchen to be unique.

MM House in Mexico City, completed between 2014 and 2017, caught my eye with its intriguing design. Could you delve into the details of this project and share what inspired its creation?

While the main brutalist concrete structure was kept, we transformed it by adding new layers to the house: we came up with the idea of an interior patio with a small reflecting pool and a minimal spout to add a sense of calm to the space.

The sound of the water feature echoes throughout the house, linking the floors and rooms together, as is customary in many Mediterranean countries. We tried to create a very cozy and warm scale in a house for one and relied on the lessons of the potential found in augmenting a sense of balance through proportions. The placement of artworks, such as Terence Gower’s black-and-red steel sculpture The Couple that appears to float on a reflecting pool, provided a sense of drama that conceptually and materially resonated with other elements of the house, such the exposed raw steel staircase that created a similar juxtaposition of weight with a perceived sense of weightlessness. 

Through a great transnational collaborative process, we were able to transform the house from a closed-off heavy bunker into a home where air and inspiration could freely circulate. One way we achieved this was by leaving the ground floor partly open. Alberto had the brilliant idea to extend the concrete slab that was on top of the old entrance to create a garage and a suspended garden on the second floor, allowing us to close off the house from the street and create a small, secret, and secluded landscape within. The effect was similar to what we love in Belgium, where the exterior of a building can bely, the magic found within it. Alberto also added thoughtful landscaping to ground our project to the land of Mexico with a design scheme based entirely on native plants. A restrained material palette spanning the entire house, from polished concrete floors to cement finishes on walls and ceilings, Arabescatto marble for the kitchen and bathrooms, and locally sourced Parota wood for the millwork creates a sense of timelessness to frame a contemporary art collection that celebrates ruptures with tradition.

What are some upcoming projects or collaborations that you’re particularly excited about?

We are handing over three exciting projects right now, a private house/museum for an art collecting couple outside of Antwerp, a concrete “tropical” bunker on the west shore of Bali, Indonesia as well as an extensive townhouse renovation in NY (Larry Gagosian’s former house).

Finally, what advice would you give to emerging architects and designers?

Your education in architecture has hardly begun: work, stay curious, humble and most importantly by persistent and tenacious in all your endeavours.

In order of appearance

  1. NM House, Mexico City, Mexico, 2014-2017. Nicolas Schuybroek Architects. Photography by Nicolas Schuybroek Architects.
  2. Aesop, Lyon France, 2023. Nicolas Schuybroek Architects. Photography by Romain Laprade. Courtesy of Aesop.
  3. Aesop Salone del Mobile, Milan, 2024. Nicolas Schuybroek Architects. Photography by Romain Laprade. Courtesy of Aesop.
  4. Obumex Signature Kitchen, Milan, 2022. Nicolas Schuybroek Architects. Photography by Eric Petschek.
  5. NM House, Mexico City, Mexico, 2014-2017. Nicolas Schuybroek Architects. Photography by Nicolas Schuybroek Architects.
  6. NWJ House, Antwerp, Belgium, 2015-2018. Photography by Nicolas Schuybroek Architects.

    All images courtesy of Nicolas Schuybroek otherwise stated.

Snow Strippers

Like for Andy on The Merv Griffin Show in 1965, silence is sexy for Snow Strippers. NR explores the US band’s universe, one made of sound, images, and few words.

You just got back from your very first European tour, and have ahead of you the NA one.. Are you currently recharging the batteries or went straight back into work mode?

We’re always working cause we love what we do.

During the last couple of months you had an incredibly upward trajectory: Media coverage, web exposure, some pretty big collaborations, and the tours and dates are bringing your music to a wider-than-usual audience. How are you handling it?

Doesn’t feel that much different honestly we are grateful though.

You always describe your ethos as free styling. Now you are quickly moving away from the underbrushes and more towards the spotlight: are you planning on keeping things “DIY” or are you thinking of scaling? I’ve read that you were thinking of releasing clothes, which you started doing by now, curating other artists’ images and artistic direction, and dropping films via your Label, Nice Bass Bro.

Everything we do will always be our own vision and yes we said we were going to and we did.

You seem to have a very dedicated fanbase! I did a reddit check: it was impressive, and very informative –Loads of very interesting threads deep-diving on the Snow Stripper lore. It is almost as if your fanbase aliments your myth, how’s your relationship with them? Do you think of it in terms of image-construction?

We love talking to our listeners cause we like our music too and they changed our life and we are forever grateful.

Speaking of reddit: I quote “It’s just banger after banger after banger… never knew anything like it ..Is it just me that feels that this band has more hits than any other artist ?” Which is very true, your sound is very consistent and your production very cohesive, even though you’ve been around from relatively little..You drop a lot of music, but it always stays fresh and coherent. What are your plans moving forward? Keeping the recipe as it is or thinking of experimenting in new sonic territories?

I think we’ll always experiment or try fresh shit that just kinda comes naturally why wouldn’t we wanna try and make some new shit.

Since we mentioned hits: what defines a hit, today, for you, in the midst of infinitely available content?
A song a lotta people can fuck with or even a few people fuck with it a lot idk.

I am curious to hear your take on sped up Tik Tok songs, remixes and mash-ups. There’s a parallel between the controlled-chaotic nature of your sound and how the platform allows users to sample and repack aesthetics and sounds. It is by now, becoming almost industry-defining, with some mainstream powerhouses adapting to it. Thoughts?
I love the sped up and slowed down tik tok songs

You have experimented with different stylistic coordinates and made them yours, to the point where one cannot subtract your aesthetic stances from your sound..what comes first? Music or Visuals?
We like both !

Fave style icons?


Photography · Marc Souvenir
Creative Direction · Aina Marcó, Marc Souvenir
Art Direction · Marc Souvenir, Rita de Rivera
Hair and Makeup · Venus Hermitant
Special thanks to Good Machine PR

MOCK Studio

The Art of Furniture: Insights from MOCK Studio

Upon encountering the products of MOCK Studio, a palpable aura of tranquility enveloped me. The seamless blend of wood and aluminium spoke volumes of the meticulous craftsmanship behind each piece. Specialising in bespoke furniture and interior installations, MOCK Studio boasts a diverse portfolio that spans from individual items to entire interior environments.

What sparked MOCK Studio’s foray into crafting furniture and interior installations?

We are architects who wanted to create a furniture line for our commissioned projects that follows our design ethos, we simply wanted to extend our design thinking into furniture that was rooted in simplicity, proportion and material selection. Once we started making our own pieces we received an overwhelming response and so we decided to launch a furniture brand. Our focus has always been on accessible and easy to manufacture furniture.

MOCK: each letter an adjective.

Modest, Obvious, Clean, Kind

Could you walk us through the process of ideating and crafting your pieces?

We tend to start with a material we like and think of ways that it can be manipulated with the least amount of effort, our process is very intuitive but we are always striving for effortlessness. We are constantly questioning our processes and how they can be simplified to achieve the most satisfying results with the least amount of physical effort. 

Given the shifts in the human-home dynamic observed during the recent Milan Design Week, how do you foresee the role of furniture and interior installations evolving over the next 5 years?

We feel like this is both overdue and inevitable as the design community struggles with notions of sustainability and resource scarcity. Where it will go in the next 5 years is anybody’s guess however we can only hope that it only continues to grow in prominence because it is an ethos that really resonates with us and the way we approach design. 

If you had the chance to gather three influential personalities for a dinner soirée, who would you extend the invitation to, and what draws you to them?

Donald Judd because we are so inspired by his work and how it was able to make such simple things be so iconic. Dieter Rams because of his commitment to intentional design thinking, functionality and reason. David Attenborough because of his ability to engage our curiosity about the natural world. 

Could you spotlight a project that serves as a prime example of MOCK Studio’s guiding principles and ethos?

There are moments that embody our ethos on a project called TBSP and some more in our 2023 NYC X Design installation but we are still evolving as a practice and there is still a lot left unexplored which we are very excited about.

Peering into the future of MOCK Studio as it strides into 2034, what visions do you behold?

We behold a strong vision of life in the Mediterranean, we mean that both metaphorically and literally, as we are starting to shift our focus towards Europe, specifically Greece, and we are continuously drawing inspiration in the way we design from aspects of life in that part of the world.


Photography · Sean Davidson
Courtesy of MOCK Studio

Mount Kimbie

Before Sunset

On the eve of Sunset Violent’s release, Mount Kimbie’s fourth studio album, the first one featuring Andrea Balency-Béarn and Marc Pell to join the band, founding members Dominic Maker and Kai Campos discussed with NR new beginnings, shared languages, rediscovering ways of being artistically together, and The Sunset Violent’s genesis.

Tomorrow is the day The Sunset Violent will finally be out in the world, how are you feeling?

Dom: We are very excited about it. Later tonight we’ll have a listening party with a few friends but it’s still all quite surreal when it finally comes down to the album release day, and it’s always a special feeling. It marks the beginning of an exciting and active time for us. So, yes, we are pumped up and very excited. We’re just gonna have some beers and, and take a second to actually, like, I don’t know, enjoy it. 

This is the first record produced by the new Mount Kimbie. Did that feel different, writing and recording with Marc and Andrea officially on board? 

Kai: It didn’t feel completely new, as Marc and Andrea previously worked with us on Love What Survives live adaptation and tour. We performed together for several years, morphing the songs from previous albums into something quite different on stage, imbuing them with a different energy. The Sunset Violent is really the result of those years of collaborating with Marc and Andrea and performing extensively on stage. It’s been a gradual process, it didn’t happen overnight..but we feel fortunate to work with them because we have been able to develop excellent chemistry as a group –each of us brings something different and complementary to the table, Marc and Andrea have unique perspectives on music that blend well with ours, and together we’ve developed a shared language that works seamlessly for us.

I mean, over these seven years, both of you experimented and pursued your own mediums —Kai with DJing and electronic music, and Dom with producing in more classically-mainstream environments, while Andrea is a trained classical composer, and Marc has vast experience as a sound designer. What felt particularly interesting to me was the record’s cohesiveness despite coming from such a diverse set of experiences and possibly very different musical inputs. You just mentioned a shared language: How did you manage to find it?

D: We’ve been unable to get into the same room together for quite a few years, because of COVID, travel restrictions, US Visa issues, and all that kind of stuff. So there was a lot of outside interference happening. Finally, when all the outside-noise ceased, we found a moment to do a short but very focused writing session. I guess we kind of rolled the dice a little bit with it, we weren’t sure if it was going to work, we were wondering if maybe we just didn’t have anything to say together anymore, or maybe our paths weren’t crossing in a certain way we traveled to the desert with an open mind and, as with our previous records, everything started falling into place. We both became excited about guitars as a primary focus, Kai sending me riffs and me focusing on writing lyrics and vocal melodies on top of those. We spent about five to six weeks in the desert, just churning out initial sketches and ideas without a specific goal in mind. Kai returned to England and shared with Marc and Andrea the material we produced. They rented a studio intending to refine and re-record the demos with better equipment, but the essence of the demos was lost in the process, so I would fly over for extended periods, and we’d work tirelessly on the album day in and day out. Gradually, the album took shape and gained cohesion. We brought in Andrea and Marc as needed and also worked at Press Play in South London, Andy Ramsey’s studio. These sessions were insightful. Dilip Harris served as the executive producer, guiding us with optimism and openness, curating our ideas. From there, the record neared completion.

It’s interesting that you were initially dubious that you’d be able to find a way of meeting each other again, artistically, after both have branched-out. In some ways The Sunset Violent feels close to Love What Survives but in some other ways, it goes very much beyond that and how it sonically played out. Were there elements that you consciously wanted to keep of what Mount Kimbie has been up until this point for a record that still signals a new era for the project? And, conversely, what were some things that maybe you wanted to leave out and move past?

D: We always consider the elements we want to retain from record to record. Over the years, we’ve noticed that finished pieces often have a certain characteristic that sounds like us. While we may attempt to move away from it, there are aspects that always seem to come back. With Love What Survives, I was particularly drawn to 80s influences in production, such as cold wave and post-punk aesthetics, an interest carried into our latest record. However, there was a significant shift in our approach to songwriting. Previously, I focused on production first, letting the songs emerge naturally. This time, we started with the songs themselves and made production decisions afterward. During the demo phase, we used limited equipment like the Linndrum and a Casio CZ 1000 synth. The idea was to ensure the songs stood strong on their own, with production details to be refined later. Surprisingly, the sounds we created in the desert became the backbone of the record. While we intended to replace them later, we found the simplicity of the equipment appealing. This approach resulted in a different type of record, although it still fits within our sonic journey.

It feels like a very warm record, at least to me, which I think is characteristic of Mount Kimbie’s sound. I’d say that, after revisiting your entire catalog, I find a consistent warmth and melancholy in our sound, accompanied by a tenderness underlying it all –But maybe it’s just my personal interpretation. Did you ever think about what defines your style and sound, after 15 years of career, or are you really not that much preoccupied with it?

K: I don’t think we consciously think about style in that way. It emerges from the decisions we make, sure, but it’s not pre-planned. You’re right about the feeling of tenderness in our music; it seems to come through regardless of our intentions. Generally, when you’re working on something, feeling surprised or even slightly embarrassed about what comes out can be a sign that you’re expressing your true self. It’s like you don’t have a choice in what you put out; certain pieces just resonate on a deeper level. It’s akin to describing your personality or appearance—it’s something that develops naturally over time.

Yeah, I get it, It’s something you can’t really control, in a way. And were there, particularly from a lyrical standpoint, any specific influences shaping the songs? Did you aim for an overarching narrative, or were you going for more of a freeform approach?

D: It was definitely more freeform. Each song and instrumental piece inspired something different, I let the music dictate the direction, while drawing inspiration from short stories, something I’ve been obsessing over lately. One particular influence was the lyrics of “Where Is My Mind” by the Pixies. I always loved the song, but never paid much attention to the lyrics until I read an interview where they described a scene of scuba diving in the Caribbean. There was something about the simplicity and playfulness of describing a scene that resonated with me. It helped me realize that I was overthinking my approach and inspired me to be more playful with my words. Naturally, many of the more emotional lyrics are more personal, reflecting the struggle to find happiness and maintain stability in life, touching on aspects of my upbringing and personal growth. Overall I’d say I went for vivid imagery and painting a picture with as few words as possible.

Another interesting narrative element are the visuals accompanying each single release. You’ve always collaborated with various artists across different mediums, including past collaborations with Tom Shannon, or the ever-evolving collaboration with Frank & Tyrone Lebon. Are visual elements an integral part of the Mount Kimbie world-building and storytelling? 

D: Every visual project we’ve undertaken has involved placing our trust in talented artists we believe in. The directors we collaborate with are highly accomplished and have a wealth of incredible work behind them. Duncan [Loudon], the Lebon brothers, are deeply embedded in a network of creative individuals they trust. Tegen [Williams], who worked on the Fishbrain” visual, and Duncan, who created our latest Shipwreck visual, are examples of this. We have full confidence in their abilities, knowing whatever they produce will be exceptional. Tegen, in particular, had to work under tight deadlines, yet managed to produce incredible work with intricate charcoal drawings. She brought her own unique vision to the project, taking it in directions we had never imagined. This is precisely what we hope for from the creative collaborators we engage with—a fresh perspective and interpretation of our ideas.

K: The beauty of working with smaller budgets is that the quality of each person’s contribution becomes more apparent. Great work doesn’t necessarily require a large budget; it stems from good ideas. While ample funding can sometimes compensate for a lack of creativity, without good ideas, you’re at a disadvantage. Everyone we collaborate with is motivated by a genuine interest in the work rather than financial gain. We typically work until we feel we’ve created something compelling, then reflect on the overarching themes of the project: Through conversations with our collaborators, we uncover surprising elements that enrich the story.

And how are you guys approaching the upcoming tour? Prepping something special?

D: I mean, in a similar vein with what we’ve been doing with the videos, we’re collaborating with Duncan on something special for the stage. We’ve just finished four weeks of rehearsals as a band, and we recently did a pretty terrifying live session two days ago. It was our first time performing live as a five-piece, playing the new songs, and it went really well. It was a high-pressure situation, but we came through. We’re always focused on the music, but we also have this exciting project with Duncan that I won’t spoil.

K: Shipwrecks video itself was a result of our discussions with Duncan about stage design. We’ve been closely working together on stage setups, tackling budget constraints and logistical limitations.. And I gotta say we’ve arrived at an exciting concept that we’re eager to bring on the road –It complements the music and the album’s themes well. You can find some hints in the Shipwreck video, as both are part of the same conversation.

The way you approach things feels extremely personal yet open..

D: It’s like having a good conversation with a friend –Sometimes, you allow yourself to realise things that have been there all along. For us it’s always been like that: You need to have a back-and-forth for things to reveal themselves. 


Photography · Angelo Dominic Sesto
Movement Direction · Sem Osian
Styling · Meja Taserud
Hair · Chrissy Hutton
Grooming · Tina Khatri
Photography Assistant · Cameron Pearson
Styling Assistants · Johanna Crafoord and Ella Coxon
Location · Indra Studios


  1. Marc is wearing knitwear and bracelet OUR LEGACY, trousers MSGM, shoes Marc’s own. Dominic is wearing shirt TOOGOOD, trousers BRAIN DEAD, shoes BRAIN DEAD x OAKLEY FACTORY. Andrea is wearing shoes REJINA PYO, dress, tights and belt Andreas’s own. Kai is wearing trousers OUR LEGACY, shirt TOOGOOD, jacket and shoes Kai’s own
  2. Marc is wearing hooded jacket JAMES MONTIEL, trousers MSGM, shoes Marc’s own. Dominic is wearing shirt TOOGOOD, trousers and shoes BRAIN DEAD. Andrea is wearing top, jewellery and tights her own, pedal pushers stylists own, shoes REJINA PYO. Kai is wearing jacket and trousers OUR LEGACY, shirt TOOGOOD, shoes JAMES MONTIEL
  3. Dominic is wearing shirt TOOGOOD, trousers BRAIN DEAD, shoes BRAIN DEAD x OAKLEY FACTORY
  4. Kai is wearing jacket and trousers OUR LEGACY, shirt TOOGOOD, shoes JAMES MONTIEL
  5. Marc is wearing hooded jacket JAMES MONTIEL, trousers MSGM, shoes Marc’s own
  6. Marc is wearing hooded jacket JAMES MONTIEL, trousers MSGM, shoes Marc’s own. Domininc is wearing jacket OUR LEGACY, trousers BRAIN DEAD, shoes BRAIN DEAD x OAKLEY FACTORY
  7. Andrea is wearing shoes REJINA PYO, dress, tights and belt Andrea’s own. Kai is wearing jacket and trousers OUR LEGACY, shirt TOOGOOD, shoes JAMES MONTIEL
  8. Marc is wearing knitwear and bracelet OUR LEGACY, trousers MSGM, shoes Marc’s own. Dominic is wearing shirt TOOGOOD, trousers BRAIN DEAD, shoes BRAIN DEAD x OAKLEY FACTORY. Andrea is wearing shoes REJINA PYO, dress, tights and belt Andreas’s own. Kai is wearing trousers OUR LEGACY, shirt TOOGOOD, jacket and shoes Kai’s own

Nifemi Marcus-Bello

Crafting Contemporary African Design

Nifemi Marcus-Bello, a Nigerian designer based in Lagos, specializes in product, furniture, and experience design. Celebrated for his talent in crafting sustainable products that originate from local ecosystems while making waves in international projects, Nifemi is the creative force behind nmbello Studio. He is at the forefront of shaping Africa’s design landscape with his innovative and unconventional designs. His work seamlessly blends historical perspectives with contemporary influences, resulting in conceptual products that marry artistic expression with practical functionality. Nifemi Marcus-Bello’s approach to design aligns with the emerging trend that explores the intersection between producing individual pieces and small series. His creations are deeply rooted in culture and often serve as vessels for profound meanings.

Hi Nifemi, thank you for joining us for this conversation. Can you share more about your childhood experiences that sparked your interest in product design and manufacturing?

My story into design is a bit of a cliche to people who eventually chose a path of creativity. As a kid I was curious and got excited around dismantling any object I could, so at the age of 13 my mum introduced me to a welder who I would have an apprenticeship with for a few years after school. Even with all of this, I never thought of design as a career path, I gravitate more towards art and architecture because contextually, they were a lot more familiar at the time. After staying back home for a few years after high school, my mum eventually would be able to send me to school in the United Kingdom. Here I stumbled on to design as a practice and profession and it was love at first sight. 

Looking back, what advice would you give to your younger self as you embarked on your design journey?

I have been described to be a “cynic optimist”, a trait I had in my younger years and still have till now. For me I think all good designers possess an energy of optimism when creating any piece of work in the sense that you are presenting an idea into the world with the thought of changing what or how the world currently sees itself. So my advice to my younger self would be to remain optimistic and hopeful. 

In today’s society, what role do you believe design should play in addressing contemporary needs?

I think design is already playing a very important role in contemporary society and is helping to enhance experiences within technology and even the analogue world. I think it’s easy to forget that everything around us and that we use in our daily lives has to be designed by someone or people, from the chair you sit on, to the laptop you use, to the medical devices you use. So we as a people wouldn’t survive without design, it’s everything to us. I just hope that pushing forward design plays a role in the consideration of ethnography, where design solutions are culturally considerate to users and systems. 

In your view, how does the concept of “the society of fatigue,” as described by German-Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han, manifest in contemporary design, where there’s a growing emphasis on hyper-productivity and efficiency?

I think that design as a practice is and will evolve within the coming years. I think a bigger shift (which is already happening) will see design and designers take greater consideration of systematic, ecological and human sustainability approaches to creating products and design solutions. A good example is a hyperlocal approach to manufacturing, scope of work and distribution. 

What initiatives or partnerships have you engaged in to promote African design globally?

I think the easiest thing to do is to be true to yourself and be as authentic as possible when it comes to your design approach and context. As the studio grows, with both a commercial and artistic approach and collaborations with brands in North America and across Europe. I sometimes have to educate clients that yes, the studio is based in Lagos and the work we do is contextual but we actually live in a global village, where everyone uses an iphone, practically see the same movies via Netflix so consumption of aesthetics and information has become global but with a hint of local context, for example, Kids love Stussy in Lagos, Nairobi, London and New York. 

What motivated the establishment of nmbello Studio, and how does it align with your vision for the future?

Before established nmbello Studio, I did my rounds as a junior and then lead designer for various companies, designing mobile phones, phone accessories, medical devices and furniture across the continent. I decided to start the studio for many reasons but the one that kept me curious was understanding and documenting material evolution and production availability of modern day Africa through a design practice. 

For me the future is in Africa, we have all the resources and with the youngest population in the world, we have the numbers so it is important for us to dictate our on futures and tell our own stories by creating our own products that will eventually dictate how we live and our future aesthetic.    

Can you provide an example of a manufacturing process or technology that has inspired your work?

As a lot of my work is contextual to availability I try not to have too much of an emotional attachment to one material. But one material and process that inspired my way of thinking approach to designing within my studio will have to be sheet metal and laser cutting. I know this might and usually comes as a shock for most designers but a great deal of this process is readily available in Lagos due to the production of electrical products such as generators, and they have become the norm in the streets of Lagos, a few indigenous manufacturers who need to produce casing for such items, popularised the process in the early 2000s.

Looking ahead, what aspects of your practice and the potential impact of your designs excite you the most?

I am very happy to be getting busier and being able to have work that resonates with a large audience. A great deal of the commercial work coming out of the studio sells on the continent and outside the continent as well. With this, I think there is untapped potential when it comes to strategic brand partnerships and special projects and a lot of discussion is being had around these possibilities.  With my artistic practice via the gallery shows getting a lot of museum acquisitions and discussions around the documentation of my work, I am deliberate in taking the right steps to communicate and archive my work effectively when it comes to the design process via mediums as film and photography, which has helped bring another layer into my design practice as a whole. 

In order of appearance

  1. Nifemi Marcus-Bello. Photography by Stephen Tayo
  2. Selah Lamp, nmbello Studio. Photography by Kadara Enyeasi.
  3. Friction Ridge, nmbello Studio. Photography by Kadara Enyeasi.
  4. Waf Kiosk, nmbello Studio.

All images courtesy of Nifemi Marcus-Bello

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