Husband Wife

Crafting Comfort: The Journey of HUSBAND WIFE

Founded in 2015 by Brittney Hart and Justin Capuco, Husband Wife is a New York City-based design studio known for its sophisticated yet playful and eclectic interiors. Throughout our conversation, we explored the profound connection between “comfort” and contemporary design, delving into a nuanced discussion that intertwined social and cultural analyses of the concept.

To start our conversation, I’m intrigued to learn about the journey that led to the establishment of Husband Wife.

Our name sort of started as a joke. We bought the domain name for our wedding in 2010 while we were still working for other designers. As life went on we realised we wanted to have a bit more control over our lives and express our own design visions. We realised we already had a website….and then a name. It felt a bit tongue-in-cheek but also mildly anonymous, which we like. More importantly, it led to us thinking about what it meant to do this together, and that design can be about duplicity and negotiation. Although we share so many common interests, like our guiding light of sci-fi and antiques, we’ve realised that it’s more our differences that are our strength. We have the respect and capacity to see each other eye-to-eye, but we want there to be differences in opinion. Now that our team has grown, we have built this into our mantra.


Describe Husband Wife in just three words.

Romantic, restrained, considerate.


Given your New York base, how do you perceive the city artistically, and what changes do you anticipate in its artistic landscape?

We both come from a very specific music scene that has a strong DIY ethos and for us that is a nostalgic detail we hold on to. Simultaneously, New York seems to balance on this tightrope of time where everyone pushes forward while still having nostalgic concepts of the past. We’ve accepted this and bred it into our thinking about projects. For many artists and creatives in NYC, some of these notions of time are coming to the forefront in different ways. For instance, we are already seeing our generation grow companies that reject prescribed notions of the future, most noticeably embracing craft (seeming of shoot of the DIY-ethos) and narrative (in varying ways, see Bode, TIWA Select, Studio Giancarlo Valle). For us, we see this manifesting in our own way; always searching for a thorough line of modernity where this layering of time creates a framework for real life. We hope that the people that occupy our spaces have a voice.

Could you elaborate on your definition of “comfort”? 

In the same way that the city seeps into an artist’s perspective, every gesture within a home imprints on the person experiencing it. To us, when you’re truly aware of your space and everything in it, you’re engaging in the present moment in a way that keeps you emotionally awake. We see our spaces as a bespoke response to the outside world and take the time to study our clients’ lives. For us comfort is this attention to the users movements and feelings. These can be small moments that feel personal and considerate. Observing the weathering of a wooden cabinet or the patina of a brass bowl; the comfort that comes with this idea is almost meditative to us.

Building on the idea of comfort, what societal and cultural needs do you believe people are seeking to fulfil ? 

Connection. We believe in the power of local communities, from our home in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, to subcultures in music, to the NY design scene – we’ve seen how these relationships affect life positively. New York City, in particular, shows how these different groups can interact and, we believe, was a real reason for acceptance and cultural change in the 21st century. Sadly, many of these smaller scale communities are disappearing. We believe homegrown communities create a sense of comfort and belonging and we don’t want to see them disappear. 

We try to express this in our work by embracing our communities and supporting others’. We design our spaces to foster connection – sometimes it’s the smallest acts like a refurbished piece of furniture or art from a local gallery that reinforce this notion. We believe most people seek a sense of place, grounded in comfort, and crafted through meaningful connections.

Your work often explores the interplay of volume, scale, and form. Can you delve into how you leverage these elements in your designs?  

Everything we do is an expression of tension layered in research. A brutalist building may inform the design for a piece of furniture. A vintage picture frame might influence paneling applied to a dressing room. There are so many lessons we can glean from historical codes, interpreting them in subtle ways, and tailoring to our clients’ lives. Ultimately we try to use unexpected interplay in volume and form as a tool that transports our clients (and perhaps resets) their perspective 

Something we refer to often is Marina Abramović and ULAY’s ‘Rest Energy’ art performance piece  where each person is responsible for holding the other in steady balance with what’s happening in  every moment. Abstractly, this is how we go about every project – holding mirrors up to each other’s instincts. Practically, we believe moments of tension in design (the unexpected) create  follies that allow engagement in the moment.

Can you share some of the most emotionally resonant projects you’ve undertaken and what made them particularly memorable? 

Every project is emotional in its own right because each contains a completely idiosyncratic charisma that’s tied to the character of its residents, the minutiae of the building’s architecture, and the research that went into every object sourced for the space. This astute awareness of the relationships that are fostered with every brief – through our clients, collaborators, vendors, and team – is something we hold dearly. It’s a dance of challenge and joy, of puzzle-piecing and of letting go. It’s an immense privilege to be a part of people’s interior lives. 

That being said, one project that has been long important to us is a residence we are developing in Ohio for a lovely couple and their growing family. This is a large historic home on the National Historic Register with an incredible, beautiful, and weird composition. This is a gothic mansion with true historical craft and a wild history of ownership. Details include a repurposed chapel with original confessionals, limestone wrapped gardens, and a vaulted dining room on the top floor of the property. We have been working on the project for five years, slowly creating a space that reconciles our clients’ grand property with their humble and family-oriented lives. This was a client that took a risk on us quite early in our studio’s existence – so in a sense, we feel that we have all grown together.

Looking forward, what aspects of Husband Wife’s future are you most enthusiastic about, and can you give us a glimpse of any upcoming projects or collaborations? 

Having completed our first hospitality project earlier this year, we’re curious to explore more eclectic mediums of space moving into the future. The infusion of residential beauty into commercial settings can be an intriguing test of design’s malleability in which the intimacy of private space is translated for public consumption. At this moment in time, we are working on an eclectic residence for a well-known contemporary artist, composer partner, and two children. They bring their own sensibilities to the conversation. Finding our common ground – or more specifically – negotiating a design language has been a rewarding challenge. Here we are blending historical codes with modernity to create a vibrant, engaging space for her family to play, love, host parties, relax, and in New York – find as many places to hide storage as possible. In her words the result is “blade runner meets art nouveau”.

In order of appearance

  1. Steinway Tower, Residence, New York, 2022. Photography by Nicole Franzen. Courtesy of Husband Wife.
  2. One Hanover Square Offices, New York, 2023. Photography by William Jess Laird. Courtesy of Husband Wife.
  3. Orange Barrel Media Office, New York, 2023. Commercial Project. Photography by Nicole Franzen. Courtesy of Husband Wife.

In my thirties, I questioned the essence of kindness.

What does the word “kindness” really mean? And how can art, in its various forms, promote kindness in life? These questions have often occupied my thoughts since childhood. 

Throughout my upbringing, my mum always emphasized the importance of kindness as the key to everything. The concept of kindness, as she taught me, extends beyond simple interactions with people and is woven into the fabric of everyday actions. While studying art, I was often criticized for the gentle and delicate nature of my aesthetic, characterized by soft, pastel colors and strokes intentionally devoid of harsh shadows. This aesthetic was a reflection of the emphasis on kindness instilled in me.

Now, as I approach my 30th birthday, I have decided to embark on a research and cataloging project on kindness. To seek answers to these questions, I enlisted the support of different artists. Through their lenses, they captured moments of kindness, illustrating them in various contexts—whether with people, objects, places, or memories. Together, their stories form a cohesive visual narrative of navigating life with kindness at its core.

Toby Coulson

When reflecting on the concept of kindness, I often recall a project I undertook some time ago. It involved documenting the efforts of a man who organised a weekly tea dance for elderly individuals in the community. What struck me most was the profound impact it had on those who attended, many of whom had experienced the loss of their partners and were grappling with feelings of isolation. 

Through this simple yet heartfelt initiative, people were brought together in a space of warmth and companionship, offering solace and connection to those who may have otherwise felt alone.”

Jaime Martínez-Cabrera Huidobro

Kindness is like a dance between two people, where we share moments and understand each other. It grows when people interact and understand each other. It’s like when we get goosebumps, a natural reaction to our surroundings. Kindness works the same way, responding to how we feel together. It shows how we’re all connected.”

Annika Kafcaloudis

Kindness manifests in the simplest of gestures, like rising to prepare a steaming cup of coffee for someone still nestled in bed. It’s the gentle inquiry, “Would you like a cup?” as soon as someone enters your space.

Kindness is sliding a warm mug across your coffee table, offering comfort in its aromatic embrace. It’s the invitation to stroll together, hand in hand, to the local cafe for a shared moment of caffeine-infused camaraderie. Indeed, coffee serves as a conduit for these acts of benevolence and consideration, weaving a tapestry of warmth and connection in our daily lives.

Adam Friedlander

The focal point of the image is a strikingly pristine fork, adorned with a delicate red thread gently looping through its tines. This juxtaposition presents the fork as both an object of allure and anticipation, poised for use yet untouched. The imagery evokes the act of sharing a meal, a timeless gesture of generosity and kindness, while the thread symbolises the myriad reasons that may prompt our hypothetical guests to gather around the metaphorical table.

The scale of the fork and the absence of human touch imbue the scene with a sense of longing, prompting viewers to envision themselves reaching for the utensil and leaving their mark upon it. This image is the result of a collaborative effort between myself and Selena Liu, an artist, designer, and prop stylist. Despite forging a friendship early in our respective careers, it wasn’t until years later that we embarked on our first joint project together.”

Kurt Bauer

Kindness is not just an act but the sincerity that lies behind this, the authenticity of the intention that speaks to my own authenticity, there’s something expansive about being and receiving kindness. A smile, a genuine “How are you?”, sharing something of yourself – there’s a generosity that expresses itself in big and small ways. 

For me, nature is ultimately kind as it provides enough space to live our lives and be touched by its beauty; there’s connection in kindness, a feeling of not being alone, and that we belong to something bigger.

I may not remember all the ways I’ve received kindness, but I know each one has an affect that is both known and unknown.

Nicolò Panzeri

In early 2023, I made a deliberate choice to capture the essence of this church—a remarkable creation by Alvar Aalto—as my own visual representation of kindness and ethereal elegance.”

Garrett Naccarato

“Kindness in my photography goes beyond capturing a beautiful image; it’s about the empathy, consent and respect I show towards my subjects and their space. Respecting the autonomy of my subject means seeking their permission before
taking their photograph, especially in intimate or vulnerable moments. It’s about acknowledging their space and allowing them to be comfortable in how they are represented. Kindness also involves empathy towards the people we photograph.
Whether it’s a portrait of a stranger on the street or in a studio, taking the time to understand the context and emotions behind the image can result in more meaningful and respectful portrayals. extends to the physical space in which the image is captured.

Isaac Calpe

“For a person to be kind, they must first know themselves very well, know their good and bad things, what they can do well and what they cannot, and improve in their daily lives.
That person who surpasses himself every day is the one who will treat others equally and show the most kindness.

Studio MK27

Brazilian Architecture: A Poetic Exploration with Marcio Kogan

Architect Marcio Kogan, a native of São Paulo, brings a fresh perspective to Brazilian modernist principles through his minimalist design approach. Established by Kogan in the early 80s, Studio MK27 has emerged as a prominent player in contemporary Brazilian architecture. Situated in the vibrant atmosphere of São Paulo, the studio seamlessly integrates traditional building techniques with innovative design concepts, providing refined and elegant solutions. Kogan’s remarkable achievements extend to his status as an honorary member of the AIA, his role as a professor at Escola da Cidade, and his recognition among Brazil’s top 100 influential individuals.

Marcio Kogan, your accolades are as impressive as they are extensive. From being an honorary member of the AIA to your contributions to esteemed institutions like Politecnico di Milano and MASP. Could you share shortly with us the journey of Studio MK27 from its inception to its current stature?

It’s been practically a lifetime dedicated to architecture and a body of work built slowly and consistently, with the help of an excellent team.

The studio was founded in the early 80s, right after my graduation, and turned into a collaborative practice in the beginning of the 2000s and today is composed of 60 collaborators internally. Since 2010, Studio MK27 has constantly grown and globalised its activities, creating a larger and more diverse group of consultants and partners around the globe. The team members are great admirers of the Brazilian modernism generation and seek to fulfil the task of rethinking and giving continuity to this iconic architectural movement.

I like to think that Studio MK27’s architecture represents attention to detail – we give the same importance to a master plan as we do to a doorknob – and the effort to create a flawless architecture. This quest for perfection fascinates me.

If you had to describe Brazilian architecture with a poem, what would it be?

Instead of a poem about Brazilian architecture, I will choose a phrase from a Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, which is my motto: life is more important than architecture.

Speaking of poetry, we were fascinated by Casa Azul. What were the main challenges in designing the house amidst the lush and protected nature of Serra do Guararu?

Because Serra do Guaruru is an environmentally protected area, there was a tight delimitation of where the house could be deployed. This demand led the architecture to raise the house on pilotis, generating a 12-meter span and with 3 meters cantilever.

The newly configured terrace became the main social and leisure area of the house. Also, by raising the house, the living area could linger amidst the treetops and enjoy the sea view. I visited this house last week, and I was happy to confirm that it’s still one of my favorites.

Could you provide further insights into the Casa Na Mata project, which appears to be another compelling case study? Looking forward, how do you envision the relationship between architecture and nature evolving in future projects, considering the success of this organic integration in the current design?

The Jungle House clients, a couple with four kids, wanted a house to be used on weekends and holidays, as the plot is located on Sao Paulo state’s coast. They also wanted a nice social space to gather friends and family. The site is in a rainforest region and has a mountainous topography with dense vegetation, the idea was to insert the house into the landscape as unobtrusive as possible while maintaining the connection to the existing vegetation surrounding it and allowing for the sea view.

The placement of the house, in between trees and in such topography was a great challenge, but what at first appeared to be a limitation, actually, prompted us to seek a bolder and more creative architectural solution. In that sense, nature never limits us, it always drives us. We always seek to give maximum importance to the site. How to get the maximum feeling from the space? How to extremely integrate the landscape? How to be delicate with which surrounds us? These are constant concerns of our team.

What makes C+C House unique, and what motivated the choice to integrate revolving windows into the facade design as a significant feature? 

The C+C house is one of our urban houses, and as São Paulo is a very dense city, the plots are mostly narrow, so we need to get creative when developing the architecture. No matter the size of the plot, there is a constant search for enlargement of spaces.

In this house, the upper volume appears to float, supported by a linear wall that extends throughout the plot, connecting all living areas. A white-painted mashrabiya makes up the freestanding façade system, with pivoting windows that are totally imperceptible when closed. It also works as a light filter, allowing for a controlled transparency. These camouflaged openings balance the notions of empty and full. The entire project revolves around this dilution of limits between the interior and exterior, creating an intense and spatial dynamic.

What aspects of working on private homes have fascinated you the most? 

When I graduated I wanted to work with social housing, which was challenging, because they are mostly governmental projects, and here in Brazil everything was poorly made, with no desire to do better. I ended up migrating by coincidence to the opposite side, extremely luxurious houses, which gave me the possibility of doing something that I really like, deep detailed, and the possibility of doing everything with perfection, from the architecture to the interiors, from the large to the small scale, and sometimes, even contributing to the house’s soundtrack.

Marcio Kogan, your contributions extend beyond design practice to academia, where you inspire future generations of architects. How do you see this mentorship aspect influencing the studio’s legacy? 

For me it is very clear that teaching is a two-way street. Every time I go to workshops in Mantova, Italy, the mission is to teach, but end up learning just as much.

What are the challenges and opportunities faced by young architects in Brazil today, and how do socio-political factors influence their work? 

São Paulo is currently undergoing a huge transformation due to an enormous  boom in civil construction, and this unrestrained onrush upon the city profoundly disturbs me. The restaurant where we used to have lunch near Studio MK27 was demolished so that a building could be raised. And so was the bakery, the café and the florist’s, which means the destruction of what I hold dearest in my neighbourhood. Everything is disappearing. On the one hand, we have a lot of work ahead of us, but on the other, the city’s history is fading.

The ethos of Studio MK27 is deeply rooted in formal simplicity and meticulous attention to detail. How do these principles translate into your approach towards sustainability and environmental consciousness in architectural design?

We are always pursuing sustainability goals. For us, sustainability reflects a cultural deepening, an improvement of values and an understanding of our performance in space – the environment itself.

In order of appearance

  1. Blue House (Casa Azul), Guarujá, São Paulo, Brazil. 2015-2020. Architecture Studio MK27. Architect Marcio Kogan. Co-Architect Samanta Cafardo. Interior Design Diana Radomysler. Photography by André Scarpa. Courtesy of Studio MK27.
  2. Jungle House (Casa Na Mata), Guarujá, São Paulo, Brazil. 2009-2015. Architecture Studio MK27. Architect Marcio Kogan. Co-Architect Samanta Cafardo. Interior Design Diana Radomysler. Project team Carlos Costa, Eline Ostyn, Laura Guedes, Oswaldo Pessano,  Fernanda Neiva, Mariana Simas and Ricardo Ariza. Photography by Fernando Guerra. Courtesy of Studio MK27.
  3. C+C House (Casa C+C), São Paulo, Brazil. 2011-2015. Architecture Studio MK27. Architect Marcio Kogan. Co-Architect Samanta Cafardo. Interior Design Diana Radomysler. Project team Carlos Costa, Eline Ostyn, Laura Guedes, Mariana Simas and Ricardo Ariza. Photography by Fernando Guerra. Courtesy of Studio MK27.
  4. Hotel Fasano Itaim, São Paulo, Brazil. 2018-2023. Architecture and interiors Studio MK27. Architects Marcio Kogan and Diana Radomysler. Co-architect Luciana Antunes. Project team André Sumida, Carolina Klocker, Giovanni Meirelles, Gustavo Ramos, Letícia Lacerda, Luísa Vicentini, Oswaldo Pessano, Regiane Leão, Renato Périgo and Ricardo Ariza. Photography by Fran Parente. Courtesy of Studio MK27.

Luca Werner

Embracing Lightness: A Dialogue With Luca Werner

Sharing one’s history is a challenging task. Yet, German photographer and filmmaker Luca Werner has skillfully and sensitively unveiled fragments of his past, capturing fleeting moments of youth, delving into the intricacies of relationships, and exploring the depths of his inner being. Transitioning seamlessly between photography and video, he showcases his expertise in both technical precision and narrative storytelling. With his recent project, “Pools,” garnering widespread attention, we were curious to interview him, not only to delve into the details of this latest endeavour but also to trace the roots and progression of his career.

I’d like to begin from the genesis, what sparked your interest in photography and filmmaking initially?

At the beginning, I wanted to become a professional snowboarder. However, my journey was cut short at the age of 16 after breaking my collarbone five times in a row. My doctor advised me to stop snowboarding for at least two years. Everyone made such a fast progress that I knew I will not keep up with a two year long break so I felt like my world collapsed and that my dream just faded away.

Somehow during my recovery, my interest in extreme sports continued. I watched a lot of GoPro and Red Bull films and I felt very connected to them. Their films embodied this feeling of being alive, they created this impression in their five-minute videos of “flying“ or being able to do whatever you want.

So after my recovery I convinced my parents to let me travel to Hong Kong with a roofer I met on Instagram. I think this ten day trip was basically the moment I understood I really loved photography and filmmaking. Being so young in a city that felt like a different world, climbing on rooftops, escaping from police, there were so many feelings coming up for the first time that I felt I needed to document everything to not forget it. On top of this, I had a very ill mother at that time, which made me reflect a lot, so I felt like after my snowboarding dream ended, I now had found something to hold onto again.

This is actually a link to the film I did in Hong Kong 9 years ago. 

Which project holds the most significance for you, and what makes it particularly meaningful?

I think it is probably one that I have not released yet. This February I have directed a film for a Japanese art collective called ME that will be shown in Tokyo this autumn, in the form of a three channel installation. It includes three different human stories of everyday life in Paris.

It was a project that is really close to my heart as it includes a message that is very important for me and to the art collective. I felt that for the first time in form of an actual installation we will hopefully tell something to an audience who will take the time to listen.

What does Italo Calvino’s quote, “Take life lightly, because lightness is not superficial, but it is gliding over things, not having burdens on your heart,” mean to you personally?

I am always coming back to this quote because somehow our western society is so good in making you believe that certain things and values are important and those are actually so incredibly unimportant. Everyone is so good in creating stress and making you rush. I am always surprised how easily cars start honking in Paris.

I like the idea of being light in life and not taking everything so damn serious, at least not things that are superficial and don’t mean anything to our world or life around. 

To what extent have the experiences you had in your youth influenced the approach you take in your current projects?

I am surprised that the moment I sit down, listen to music and try to catch a next glimpse of an idea, it so often leads back to my youth. I think when I am “fishing“ for ideas, I try with music to bring myself in an emotional state, where sometimes just for a few seconds a certain feeling comes up. Most of the time it is related to some kind of memory I had in my teenage days. As I mentioned before I believe it is because it was a period where we felt so many things for the first time, we were less rational and that somehow made these feelings so much clearer. That’s why I take a lot inspiration from this period of my life, it feels the purest to me.

When discussing youth, one of your recent projects, “Pools,” inevitably comes to mind. Could you share more details about this project?

The project was shot last year at the Barcelona olympic pool. We casted two swimmers and group of friends with whom we spend one full day at the location.

The idea was to rebuild Bel’s feelings and mine towards the ritual of jumping and swimming. We built a script but on location mostly followed our own feeling of what is essential to shoot. None of the cast had to play a role, everyone was just him or herself. The way we wanted to shoot was to recreate a real life situation at the pools so that Bel and I can observe and then pick the pieces that are the closest to our memory and feelings.

Could you share with us how your collaboration with Beltran Gonzalez came about and how you both embarked on creating the film together?

Beltran once assisted me on shoot in Greece 4 years ago. We had a lot of fun and became friends from this time on. Beltran started to make more and more films and as we both are in love with cliff jumping which again comes back to this feeling of being alive, we decided to make a film together at Bels home pool in Barcelona. At first the jumping part should play more of a significant role but during the process somehow the swimming part became an image that carried the strongest feelings for us. As it was all self funded, it gave us the freedom to do whatever we want. 

Same way jumping and swimming works, no rules and a lot of improvisation.

In one of your recent posts, you mentioned the “Pools” project and described swimming as something that now has become valuable. Could you elaborate on the significance behind these words?

I think swimming was always valuable but I feel when you were younger you were not so aware of it yet. I believe the older you get the more you need to plan your day etc. meaning you now understand more and more what gives you joy throughout the day and what not. Back in your childhood I feel a lot of things just happened to you, like swimming to me, you obviously didn’t overthink it as you often lived from hour to hour anyways and not like most of us now from week to week. 

I was in a swimming club for a few years and I never really liked it so much at least the pressure of it, but I still remember after I finished the class I always felt very good. Like you are in balance. I came home, I was allowed to have frozen pizza and watch my favorite films. The class became kind of a ritual.

I now also understand that breathing rhythmically which you are forced to do in swimming just calms you down so much. 

When you swim for an hour surprisingly your head often just goes blank and follows the rhythm. 

You are more likely to live from hour to hour again at least while swimming.

When discussing the ‘Pools’ project, I’m intrigued to understand the significance of water in your life.

I think there are two components to the meaning of water for me: one is completely personal which is again connected to my swimming practice in my childhood as well as the cliff jumping in my adolescence and I believe the feeling of holiday and leisure time in general. The other one is a visual aspect.

I was always in love with images of Herbert list, Olivier Kervern and Sergio Purtell, who in my opinion, all captured so well how it feels to spend a day at the ocean. There is this image connected to water which most of the times only comes with a positive connotation. When you see these images, it sometimes gives me the feeling that everyone can be themselves in water. The beach or the grass in front of the lake becomes a big living room. It’s the only time were people comfortably lay half naked next to strangers. Most of us know how it feels to completely submerge in water; even in a bathtub when you float, it becomes reminiscent to the start of it all.

I appreciate your time today, and as we conclude our conversation, I’m curious: Where do you see yourself and what are you doing in the year 2034?

I would love to create more “art films“ and installation works, I feel that it’s a kind of medium unfortunately not really often reachable as you are always limited by space and huge costs for video projectors or screens. In my eyes watching a video installation can really transform the way you look at things or can create a certain feeling in a way that poetry works, something that you cant explain but only feel.

This is the type of filmmaking I love and I will try to pursue.

Tobias Spichtig

Born 1982 in Lucerne, Switzerland, Tobias Spichtig lives and works in Berlin. Spichtig draws inspiration from the world of fashion, theater and music, and works in a variety of media including painting, sculpture, installation and photography.  His practice reflects upon the role of the icon in contemporary society, the idea of idolatry, as well as the gaze. Using everyday items such as sunglasses or depicting popular figures from the fashion world, Spichtig explores the intersection between the private and the public, the intimate and the glamorous,  inquiring how society and the individual engage with the idea of seeing – and being seen. His works have been exhibited internationally at the Kunsthalle Basel, Basel; Lafayette Anticipations, Paris; the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; the KINDL – Centre for Contemporary Art, Berlin; the Swiss Institute, New York; the Boros Foundation, Berghain, Berlin; the Kaleidoscope, Spazio Maiocchi, Milan; the Centre d’art contemporain – la synagogue de Delme, Delme; the SALTS, Basel; the Museum Folkwang, Essen; the Dortmunder Kunstverein; the Malta Contemporary Art, Valetta; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade, Belgrade; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; the Ludlow 38 (Goethe Institute), New York; the Ursula Blickle Foundation, Karlsruhe and the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam.

Looking through the different exhibitions you held across time your body of work seems very rich, in both media and style.  Recently it looks like you are focusing mostly on painting as a medium and how it intertwines with installation in the same space.

Yes, I’m mainly painting.  I guess it’s about moods, feelings and what not. Drawing and photography is part of it. It’s the material I work with. It’s quite simple in terms of media. Painting and sculpture. I like to sing. That ends up to be a performance sometimes. I write once in while. I like to think that my material is everything important to me, both in immaterial material and physical material. But in the end it might be simply about some kind of beauty. I usually dream about works and then a show. 

I daydream a lot. 

Looking at past shows, ’hi Is just another word for hello’ for instance, compared to your most recent one ‘everything no one ever wanted’, the difference in both style and artistic choices is very striking. I wonder, do you conceive your practice as a progression? 

I think it’s pretty much the same. These artworks were combining photographic prints with painting.

What I see as a fil rouge in all your different shows is the idea of the Icon. It’s a very interesting element to analyse. The icon is vastly explored in early Christianity, I think for example of the Coptic images of figures with staring eyes, but also beyond it, large part of Christian or religious imagery is dedicated to the icon and its symbolic value. Transposed onto contemporary society, we could think of public personae as sorts of icons. You often depict famous figures of the fashion world, for example. Is this something you think about? Do you see them as contemporary holders of iconic status? 

I think certain people are iconic. and I think all my friends and people I admire are that. And then situations, moods and other things can be iconic. I’m not interested in the general Christianity or coptic images. Quite the opposite. They don’t speak to me at all. But I believe that anything that is made with great admiration and passion has the character of an icon.  Andy Warhol is my favourite and was the first Artist I fell in love with.  And I grew up catholic.

This aspect of the icon is strictly related to two other things that are recurrent in your practice. The portrait, as a pictorial genre, and the idea of the gaze. Can you tell me more about these two pivotal topics?

I guess the gaze and the glance is where it all happens.

Also interesting about your work is the employment of everyday items. They can be seen as vestiges of everyday life, often reminiscent of specific trends or times. In this sense your work reflects a lot about contemporary society and its customs. 

I work with the material that surrounds me. And I love beautiful things. So it’s simply the material I work with.

Coming back to the use of everyday objects, sunglasses are a recurrent theme in your work. This connects back to the idea of the gaze and the icon, previously explored. I am curious to know your idea about it. 

I think that’s true. Yes.

Last question I have for you concerns the idea of scenography, which I find particularly suitable for your practice because of the way you play with the space you inhabit, and also the versatility of environments you have worked in, like the Balenciaga store for example. Is theatre a source of inspiration to you?

I love theater and opera. But more because of the story and the drama. And the music of course. But that’s what every exhibition has or does. Everything has a scenography. But I’m not into sets or stage decoration. My work is about beauty, love and passion, life and death and other so called big or small things.

In order of appearance

  1. Tobias Spichtig, Sam (Reclining Nude), 2023 Oil on canvas, 210 x 260 cm. Courtesy the artist; Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin / Basel; Jan Kaps, Cologne; and Meredith Rosen Gallery, New York. Photography by Philipp Hänger.
  2. Tobias Spichtig, Izzy Spears, 2023
    Oil on canvas, 120 x 80 cm. Courtesy the artist; Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin / Basel; Jan Kaps, Cologne; and Meredith Rosen Gallery, New York. Photography by Philipp Hänger.
  3. Tobias Spichtig, Sorat, 2023.
    Oil on canvas, 120 x 80 cm. Courtesy the artist; Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin / Basel; Jan Kaps, Cologne; and Meredith Rosen Gallery, New York. Photography by Philipp Hänger.
  4. Tobias Spichtig, Pretty and Ugly, 2023
    Oil on canvas, 210 x 140 cm. Courtesy the artist; Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin / Basel; Jan Kaps, Cologne; and Meredith Rosen Gallery, New York. Photography by Philipp Hänger.
  5. Tobias Spichtig, Model Sitting, 2023
    Oil on canvas, 200 x 125 cm. Courtesy the artist; Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin / Basel; Jan Kaps, Cologne; and Meredith Rosen Gallery, New York. Photography by Philipp Hänger.

Norm Architects

Designing Across Borders: A Conversation with Norm Architects’ Founding Partner Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen

As humanity and nature grow closer, we’re witnessing a renewed connection between man and the natural world. This shift towards a deeper bond prompts a captivating exploration of how architecture will evolve in the next decade.

In collaboration with Norm Architects, a Copenhagen-based firm dedicated to improving spaces for people since 2008, we delved into their unique approach to design. Our discussion ranged from their holistic design philosophy to the intriguing concept of timelessness.

Thank you for joining us, let’s dive right in. Could you share with us how your 15 years of international experience have influenced your approach to design and architecture?

In our 15 years of creating architecture and design, we have learned that just like the weather, the atmosphere of our built environment has a profound effect on how we rest, think, feel, work, eat, and socialize. Spaces and objects must certainly be functional, but if they are to truly serve us, they must also attend to our bodies and emotions. At this moment in design history, we believe it’s necessary to go beyond strict rationalist and modernist doctrines to re-sensualize the built environment with a hapticity that embraces the whole human being; that addresses our perception of space and all of our sensory faculties. This requires slowing down the process to consider design from the perspective of human experience. To us, good design transcends utility and aesthetics to become a sensual and social exercise: to create a framework for the essential human needs of safety, identity, belonging, and purpose. 

Our practice starts from this point. Guided by the body and mind rather than by trends or technology, we aim to create designs that not only look good, but also feel good. It is about accommodating people through empathic design, rather than treating them as mere spectators of an aesthetic creation. We consider our work as a facilitator of well-being, as a distillation of aesthetics that resonate with the given person and place, and as a system that supports universal human needs. Each project—whether architecture, interiors, or design—is imbued with this intrinsic quality: a simplicity that carries bigger ideas. We have dedicated the last 15 years to the pursuit of human-centric architecture and design and, project by project, we have honed a philosophy and international design approach that we call “soft minimalism.” With humility, we have built our ideas on thousands of years of aesthetic evolutions, and on the incredible insights of master architects and designers working before us and beside us. These lessons merge with those we have learned along the way and with the influences of our Scandinavian context. Our hope is to offer a chapter in the story of good design that will continue to be written far into the future.   

Founded in 2008, Norm Architects has become synonymous with minimalist design that seeks to enhance the human experience. Can you tell us more about how you aim to achieve this through your work?

In an effort to think holistically about our built environment, soft minimalism cross-pollinates concepts from the fields of design, philosophy, psychology, biology, and anthropology. We believe that each mode of thinking plays an important role in good design. We have found solutions to the problem of aesthetic overstimulation in texts on evolutionary psychology. Neuroscience has guided our curation of earthy color palettes and orderly compositions. Investigations into biology and physiology have strengthened our embodied understanding of solid and void. Philosophy has inspired our thoughtful approach to narrative design, and sharpened our understanding of the meanings embedded in certain forms. 

Patterns emerge from these combined studies to reinforce our conviction that design must be functional, personal, and multisensory. Through our reading, thinking, and work, we have sharpened our ability to find the balance between richness and restraint; order and complexity; that leads to meaningful design. Our Danish heritage provides us with an uncompromising standard of craftsmanship and a sense of history, as well as optimism for the future of our industry. Underscoring all of this is perhaps our greatest influence of all: nature. We find ourselves returning again and again to the natural world—the primordial home of the human race—for guidance in the pursuit of timeless beauty, simplicity, and connectivity. In this realm we have found particular value in universal aesthetic truths derived from human nature, which, when combined with culture, context, and expertise, can give rise to profound outcomes. 

Norm Architects is well-known for its holistic approach to design. Can you elaborate on how this philosophy guides your projects and the overall impact it has on your work?

Today, many thinkers agree that this desensitization has contributed to feelings of isolation; to a spiritual void and the prevalence of illness in contemporary societies. The situation charges architects and designers with the urgent task of re-sensualizing our relationship with the world; of using space and matter as mediators between body and mind, ultimately nurturing the whole organism. 

Our surroundings move us deeply. Contemporary neuroscience confirms that it is the senses, with their acuity for pleasure and pain, that teach us how to navigate the world. Our senses are inextricably linked to our existential experience; our feeling of being in this exact place, right now, with these particular things. Working in concert, the skin, eyes, ears, nose, and tongue decode thousands of stimuli, forming an immediate interpretation of, and reaction to, the environment they meet. After taking in the whole atmosphere, perception narrows its focus, using the collaborative insights of the senses to explore details of shape, surface, density, light, sound, and so on. A holistic understanding of the world derives from these inputs resonating through body and mind. The interdependent system merges stimuli from different senses, cross-pollinating a smell with a memory, an image with a movement, or a texture with a certain emotion. It’s a skill we practice from birth, and one that strengthens our awareness of internal and external realms and their boundaries. We learn to feel pleasure when our bodies resonate with a given substance or space, while others make us feel uneasy. A lifetime of these embodied encounters become embedded in our memory, and form our unique senses of comfort, protection, and home.

For human-centric architecture and design to reconcile our relationship with the world and enhance quality of life, they must engage all senses holistically. We ask ourselves, “How should this space or object make someone feel?” The answer guides the selection and arrangement of interrelated design elements, each with a sensory role to play in their cumulative aim. The process requires that we, as designers, draw on our own embodied experience of space and matter, as well as practicing empathy for the human who will encounter the work. We combine our own sensory memories with curiosity about those of others, and through imagination, we envision spaces and objects that will hopefully feel sublime.

In striving for a re-sensualised built environment, how do you see the role of natural materials and the integration of nature in your projects?

Throughout human history we have evolved to survive and thrive in the natural realm and are consequently dependent on its elements. These deeply embedded preferences haven’t progressed as quickly as urban technology, creating a disharmony between us and our new, built environment. After all, we have inhabited nature far longer than we have occupied man-made structures. Sunlight, water, air, and plants still give us life. Regardless of progress, our physiology chooses the natural over the artificial. We instinctively enjoy the feel of wood more than that of plastic, and find views of the sky or a lake more pleasing than skyscrapers. We need sunlight to give way to darkness so we can wake, eat, and sleep, whereas artificial light unbalances our system. Deep down we know these natural elements are nourishing, and they therefore evoke safety and well-being. Nature is so embedded in our psyche that we have also evolved a habit of projecting human, animal, and plant forms onto the environment. By overlaying our modern world with natural animations, we can read and relate to it as we did eons ago, in the wilderness. Rather than suppressing these primordial instincts, architects and designers can delve into behaviours learned over millennia, and harness evolutionary psychology to create good design. We can find solutions in form, scale, and materials that breathe life back into the urban, rewinding our man-made habitats.

We listen to nature’s story of artistry, optimism, imperfection, and impermanence, and bring these poignant qualities into the work. We create spaces and objects with natural materials and organic forms that feel of this world; that help us transition through the stages of life and connect us with the continuum of time. Such profound understandings are suggested by a humble stone plinth—unearthed from the deep, speckled with ancient sediment and fossils that have grown faint after years of use. We sense the age of the earth and watch as the materials slowly return to dust. We can relate, and we can take comfort in knowing that we are part of something greater than ourselves. In this way, bringing natural elements and their inevitable patina into our modernised lives can remind us of our place in nature. 

As the bond between humanity and the natural world strengthens, we’re witnessing a profound resurgence of our primal connection. Looking ahead architecturally, how do you envision this symbiotic relationship evolving over the next decade?

Living in a modern urban society often means living with constant noise: consumerist city streetscapes fill our view with layers of advertisements for objects of questionable value, while the digital space vies for our attention with endless streams of content and a cacophony of notifications. Life moves fast, and it accumulates complexity, things, and data along the way. Existing in this environment leaves us overstimulated, exhausted, and gasping for breath. We may recognise a correlation between a growing material wealth, and a declining state of physical and mental health as we suffer from chronic cognitive fatigue. 

Having arrived at this perhaps paradoxical junction, we seek ways to muffle the noise, declutter our vision, and carve out corners of stillness. We find ourselves wishing to be freed from the weight of too many things and too much information; wishing to live only with what is essential for well-being. At this moment the question becomes selective and reductive: “What can I live without?”  

This realisation can arrive at any point in life, and the idea is far from modern or unique. Many ancient cultures across the globe have preached the notion that simplicity leads to inner peace and contentedness—that the human mind needs quiet to focus on what is truly meaningful and joyful. In the highly developed metropolises of today, this idea feels out of reach. Over thousands of years, the steady progression from modest village life to populous and hierarchical civilisations has increased the value of the material, arguably at the expense of the spiritual. We’ve been taught to prioritise temporary pleasures and acquisitions, repeatedly, until our lives are anything but simple. This path has led to the minimising of fundamental, immaterial human needs such as connection to others, a sensory relationship with nature, a feeling of security as well as autonomy, and clarity about our role within the wider community. 

Essentialism, or soft minimalism, as we refer to it in architecture and design projects, can be reached through this kind of deep reflection on what matters; by adding and reducing elements until equilibrium emerges; and by remaining attuned to the atmospheric and autonomous potential of space. As engagement with nature is essential to human well-being, natural materials and forms, natural light, and quiet acoustics become synonymous with haptic design. We use sensory materials that remind us of nature and therefore calm us. An essentialist mindset also urges us to create well-made materials and spaces that last, rather than succumbing to passing trends or construction shortcuts. If the design reduces itself to its essence and nothing more, and if it is made intentionally, we’re choosing a more sustainable path for the future.

Can you share a recent project that exemplifies Norm Architects’ commitment to re-sensualizing the built environment?

Designed to fit seamlessly into the vibrant spirit of the Japanese Oku-shibu district, our new TRUNK(HOTEL) YOYOGI PARK boasts a relaxed, human-centered ethos. While aesthetic choices harmoniously reflecting the laid-back, yet sophisticated, vibe of the neighborhood, the concept of ‘Urban Recharge’ is at the heart of the project – a pivotal theme weaving together the city and nature, tradition and modernity, leisure and festivity, as well as the local community and visitors. 

Drawing inspiration from Tokyo’s varied hues and moods, the project encapsulates the interplay of contrasting yet harmonious elements. It mirrors the relaxed Yoyogi Park, the surrounding city blocks, and the famed Shibuya Crossing. It’s the epitome of modern and traditional lifestyles converging. From the raw and refined to the melting of Japanese and European craft traditions, the design embodies this delicate balance. The verdant embrace not only enriches the exterior aesthetics but also symbolizes the commitment to offering a sanctuary amidst the city’s bustling energy. So, as you wander through this retreat, you’ll discover a place to find both solace and stimulation, forging a path to enduring vitality.

Another recent project is Sjöparken in Southern Sweden –  a sanctuary of understated luxury immersed in the embrace of nature. Drawing inspiration from the elegance of Nordic simplicity, the timeless traditions of Japanese design, and the tropical allure of resort living, this architectural gem emerges as a hybrid – a blend of distinct influences that converge seamlessly within its walls. Each corner tells a story of simplicity, unity, and the spirit of the place, creating an experience where thoughtful design and nature come together in perfect harmony. 

Nestled in the serene beech forests of Halland, Sweden, Sjöparken redefines the essence of tranquility and luxury. With an architectural vision to create the ideal setting for intimate rituals of self-care and harmonious living amidst nature’s embrace, these lakefront retreats exude an honest simplicity without sacrificing warmth and tactility. 

At the heart of the concept are seven villas, perched delicately on the lake. Each villa seamlessly intertwines four hotel rooms through glass corridors, offering a poignant homage to the site’s history by creating the sensation of strolling through an open-air village. The intentional design blurs the boundaries between interior and exterior spaces, amplifying the intimate connection with the surroundings. 

Whether taking a refreshing dip in the private bathing jetties nestled in the lake, unwinding in the in-room saunas, or indulging in the tranquility of lying in bed and gazing through expansive windows, each moment unveils an unparalleled communion with nature. As integrated architectural elements and bespoke design optimize space, the minimal, peaceful rooms create a framework for immersive experiences, focusing on stillness, togetherness, and well-being.

Timelessness is a key pursuit in your projects. How do you balance modern innovations with the timeless aspects of design to ensure your works remain relevant and enduring?

We can say it is an imperative for good architecture and design to work with time, rather than against it. The created works must connect with their users and evolve with them, remaining relevant as time passes. Beyond this, design can also help us connect with the passing of time itself by keeping us in sync with the days, seasons, and eras that make up our lives, keeping us simultaneously present and aware of the finite nature of existence. 

Conversely, architecture, interiors, and objects whose sole aim is to parade the ideas and styles of a brief, specific moment in time are unlikely to remain relevant in the long term. Once its initial novelty has worn off, the trend-based design is in danger of becoming a relic. If design should exist to serve its user—and to serve society overall—it is necessary to consider the culture of the day as well as the timeless needs of the human being. This way, we can offer works that are aware of time. They contribute to the evolution of design and to the betterment of the people who will engage with it.

If our aim is to create timeless design that outlives passing fashions, we need to dig a little deeper to find aesthetic inspiration and value. Good design must feel good to live with and it must age gracefully. Otherwise, it won’t matter that it exists or ages at all. We can find the basis for many feel-good designs in the natural world—which is, after all, our evolutionary birthplace. The soft, organic shapes of the animal and plant kingdoms provide familiar forms and materials that speak to the senses and place the body within its broader environment. They transcend the visual—the realm that trend-based designs momentarily satisfy—to instead attain enduring relevance through multisensory virtues that are instinctively appreciated. We rarely tire of experiences that make us feel secure, comforted, and connected, such as the soft texture of wood in our palm, the stability of stone underfoot, the peaceful sound of falling water, or the warm embrace of wool around our bodies. We could return to such sensations year after year, regardless of what is in fashion—perhaps experiencing more pleasure with each encounter. 

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for the future of Norm Architects? How do you envision the studio evolving in the years to come?

Looking ahead, our hope is to continue our path and vocation to re-sensualize the built environment and hopefully create ripples in the water, as part of a larger movement to create high quality human-centric design. We could maybe even go further and create sustainable bio-centric design, that was not solely focusing on human needs, but on the well-being of nature as such. If we want to change ourselves, we change the spaces around us. Architecture and design must facilitate us in all aspects of our lives—it must be dependable and useful, but it must also be empathetic. By understanding that spaces shape us as we shape them, we can create sensitive works that offer safety, stimulation and sustainability. 

Credits

  1. Norm Architects. Sjöparken. Halland, Sweden, 2023. Photography by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen. Courtesy of Norm Architects.
  2. Norm Architects. Fjord Boat House,  Southern Denmark, 2020. Photography by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen. Courtesy of Norm Architects.
  3. Norm Architects, AIM Architecture. K House. Southern Province, Sri Lanka, 2018. Photography by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen. Courtesy of Norm Architects.
  4. Norm Architects, AIM Architecture. K House. Southern Province, Sri Lanka, 2018. Photography by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen. Courtesy of Norm Architects.
  5. Norm Architects, AIM Architecture. K House. Southern Province, Sri Lanka, 2018. Photography by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen. Courtesy of Norm Architects.
  6. Norm Architects, AIM Architecture. K House. Southern Province, Sri Lanka, 2018. Photography by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen. Courtesy of Norm Architects.
  7. Norm Architects, Keiji Ashizawa Design. TRUNK(HOTEL) YOYOGI PARK. Tokyo, Japan, 2023. Photography by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen. Courtesy of Norm Architects.
  8. Norm Architects, Keiji Ashizawa Design. TRUNK(HOTEL) YOYOGI PARK. Tokyo, Japan, 2023. Photography by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen. Courtesy of Norm Architects.
  9. Norm Architects, Keiji Ashizawa Design. TRUNK(HOTEL) YOYOGI PARK. Tokyo, Japan, 2023. Photography by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen. Courtesy of Norm Architects.
  10. Norm Architects, Keiji Ashizawa Design. TRUNK(HOTEL) YOYOGI PARK. Tokyo, Japan, 2023. Photography by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen. Courtesy of Norm Architects.
  11. Norm Architects. Sjöparken. Halland, Sweden, 2023. Photography by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen. Courtesy of Norm Architects.
  12. Norm Architects. Sjöparken. Halland, Sweden, 2023. Photography by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen. Courtesy of Norm Architects.
  13. Norm Architects. Sjöparken. Halland, Sweden, 2023. Photography by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen. Courtesy of Norm Architects.
  14. Norm Architects. Sjöparken. Halland, Sweden, 2023. Photography by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen. Courtesy of Norm Architects.
  15. Norm Architects x Brandt Collective LEAF hardware collection. 2024. Photography by Christian M. Andersen. Courtesy of Norm Architects.

Paul Cournet

The Genesis of CLOUD

Paul Cournet, an architect and researcher based in Rotterdam, has carved a unique path in the world of architecture. From his formative years studying in Bordeaux and Paris to his tenure at OMA, where he played a pivotal role in diverse projects, Paul’s journey is one of exploration, creativity, and innovation. In 2022, he founded CLOUD, an international architecture, research, and design studio, marking a new chapter in his career. We had the privilege of sitting down with Paul to delve into his experiences, insights, and the fascinating intersection of architecture, education, and research.

Paul, thank you for joining us. Can you share with us the inspiration behind founding CLOUD, and what drives your vision for the studio?

Right after COVID I felt the world was in a different place. Honestly, COVID was a wake-up call for me. The world has been changing so rapidly in the past few years and I felt it was time for a different approach to architecture. An architecture driven by a new generation. I was also having so many conversations with so many inspiring people that, after a decade working at OMA*AMO, I thought it was the right time to start a new project – a multidisciplinary practice, at the intersection between architecture, research and design. This is how CLOUD was born. At CLOUD our interest lies in the materiality of architecture, both for its intangible as well as its tangible aspects, and the tension between them. We work on buildings as well as many other projects such as books, curation, scenography, and objects. We are currently working with clients such as the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam for which we are renovating the public areas of the museum, furniture pieces for galleries and brands, a modular timber housing concept in Belgium, as well as self-initiated research projects exploring innovations in materials.

It’s fascinating how interconnected our paths can be. For six years, I had the opportunity to collaborate with AMO on several fashion projects while working through a creative studio. I’m intrigued to learn how your experience in that realm has shaped your perspective on architecture and research.

Originally I come more from the art side of things. When I was a teenager I used to spend my time painting murals in abandoned factories and train stations. This got me interested in architecture and cities. I then studied architecture in France in the early 2000s and it was a moment of cultural explosion thanks to the internet where all of a sudden it was really easy to download any kind of movie, music and book online from across the world. This really opened my mind. At this moment, Rem Koolhaas had just published his new book ‘Content’ (2004) and AMO was developing all kinds of research-based projects with exhibitions, lectures, and installations which appeared to me so inspiring as a practice, and radically different from the architecture scene in France at that time. So as soon as I could, I applied for an internship and started working there at the end of 2010. Today I am still very interested in the possibility of working at different scales. I see architecture in everything and I believe that you can make a point with a building as much as with a chair.

When discussing Rotterdam, a city I once called home, I always admired its ongoing social evolution and its uniquely pragmatic approach, distinct from other European cities. How do you envision Rotterdam evolving over the next decade?

Rotterdam has changed a lot in the last decade that is for sure but for me, it has been the perfect place to start an architecture studio for different reasons: It is still the largest harbor of Europe which has made the city truly embracing diversity in its history. The city is also still relatively affordable and is not yet overly-saturated compared to Amsterdam or other larger European cities. In short, it is still pretty easy and affordable to start a studio here. Our studio is located in one of the ‘antikraak’ buildings which allows us to rent a space way under the market value. There is also a lot of industry around the city making it easy to produce things with manufacturers locally. And to finish, Rotterdam is pretty much in the center of Europe which makes it central and well connected to Paris, Milan, Brussels, Amsterdam, London, for work. Also overall I love to be in Rotterdam because it is a city pretty much under the radar, and we can simply focus and work without being too distracted. But yes, indeed, the city is changing rapidly and I bet in 10 years the city will be very different.

Could you elaborate on the ‘Datapolis’ research project? I’m interested to learn more about its objectives and how it fits into the current architectural landscape.

Datapolis is a project I initiated at the architecture faculty of TU Delft in 2019 as a research and design studio with Negar Sanaan Bensi. The central question was trying to understand what the ‘CLOUD’ is and how it operates. You know, the ‘CLOUD’ is this thing that we talk about every single day when we send emails and photos to each other, order online, use social media platforms and work from home; but that we can’t grasp how it truly works nor where it is or what we should share or not with each other online regardless of time zones or political borders. The ‘CLOUD’ is a metaphor but also a reality. Our intuition was that this immaterial CLOUD is indeed made of a tangible infrastructure with a vast physical footprint on our planet – think for instance data centers, connected satellites, automated distribution centers, undersea internet cables and humanoid robots. This intriguing complexity made this project an urgent research for us considering the discussions on climate change and ecological footprints of this data infrastructure. As the university studio grew into a bigger project and we expanded the conversation outside of the school, we then turned the research into a DATAPOLIS book in June 2023. The project now continues in different forms and we are now working on a series of DATAPOLIS exhibitions that will open later in 2024.

The recent design week showcased your involvement in numerous activities. Although we didn’t get a chance to chat, I expressed my gratitude to Sabine, with whom you collaborated on the scenography for promoting design and culture during the AlUla opening. Could you share more about your role in this endeavour?

Sabine and I were invited to curate and design the scenography of Design Space AlUla for Salone del Mobile 2024 in Milan. The show presented the outcomes from the latest design initiatives in AlUla. Here we wanted to create an immersive experience to translate some of the magical features that one can find while visiting the oasis: the stargazing and the moonshine in the desert, the visit of the old town and the historical Hegra sites that we translated in different features for the exhibition, respectively: a suspended light box changing colors during the day, the ‘urban carpet’ painted on the floor of the basilica that organized the exhibition layout and the monumental entrance that opened the exhibition to the streets of Milan.

We also visited Capsule Plaza during design week, now in its second edition. What distinguishes this unique concept?

This year we unveiled the second edition of CAPSULE PLAZA, the design festival that I have co-curated with Alessio Ascari, and launched the third issue of CAPSULE, the design magazine. A hybrid between a fair and a collective exhibition, Capsule Plaza brings together designers and companies from various creative fields, bridging industry and culture with a bold and multi-sensory curation that spans interiors and architecture, beauty and technology, innovation and craft.

This year the event took over two iconic Milanese locations: Spazio Maiocchi and 10 Corso Como. What is really exciting is to be able to create projects between all of these different industries and create a collective experience under a single roof. On top of the exhibitions, we also curated a dense program of live activations with talks, dinners, performances, workshops etc during the whole week which allows us to program both the hardware as well as the software of the event. This year the event was sub-titled ‘Radical Sensations’ as for us design is much more than a bunch of chairs and sofas, and design should call to activate all our senses.

As a guest teacher and lecturer across various universities in Europe, how do you approach educating the next generation of architects?

The world is changing rapidly and therefore education should also rethink completely how it operates more than ever. I have seen so many schools that claim to think outside of the box and promote a free and utopian thinking for their students but when you look at academia, they operate in a complete echo chamber. At the end of the day, they are the box. The relationship of ‘master and slave’ between students and professors should completely be abolished and schools should operate in a more collaborative process. There are some great examples in the past, look at Black Mountain College for instance. Education should be horizontal. We should also impose on anyone with a professional activity to go back to school every 5 years for a semester for instance. It would really change the dynamics for the better I think.

It might seem like a straightforward question, but I believe that our deepest passions often drive us to explore research and undertake projects. Can you share a situation or project where your emotions played the most significant role?

Just quit the job that you had built for over a decade with a stable position and all the benefits that goes with it. Call it quit on Friday and jump into the void. Start your own studio with no masterplan in mind, just because you have this feeling this is the right thing to do that day and that you believe something positive will come out of it. Focus on creativity and surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. Just take that risk …

Fifty-two years ago, the Club of Rome issued its seminal report, ‘The Limits to Growth,’ alerting the world to the finite nature of our planet’s resources. As an architect and researcher, could you share your perspective on what has been achieved in the past five decades and what remains to be addressed? Most importantly, what steps should we be taking now?

Architects are probably the best at giving lessons, but also probably the worst at taking them. Over the last 100 years, the modern movement embraced industrialization in the name of standardization and cost efficiency without taking into account the costs their actions would have on our planet. Today, the construction industry is one of the most polluting industries. If you look at any city in the world today, we still build architecture using almost exclusively concrete and steel. We are so short sighted that any of our buildings are fully climatized and contemporary architecture has become disposable in 90% of the cases. Architecture has lost any meaning for our society. We need to create a world based on new radical regulations where architecture has become non-extractive, where our cities produce more energy that they consume and where our society truly coexists with the environment. We also need less things and focus on quality instead. Only then we will be able to claim that we have properly read the Club of Rome’s report and learnt our lessons …

In order of appearance

  1. CLOUD / Studio Sabine Marcelis. Design Space AlUla. Milan Design Week 2024. Photography by Alejandro Ramirez Orozco. Courtesy of CLOUD.
  2. Paul Cournet. Photography by Nikola Lamburov. Courtesy of Paul Cournet.
  3. Datapolis: Exploring the Footprint of Data on Our Planet and Beyond, Paul Cournet, Negar Sanaan Bensi. Published by nai010 publishers, 2023. Photography by Riccardo De Vecchi.
  4. CLOUD / Studio Sabine Marcelis. Design Space AlUla. Milan Design Week 2024. Photography by Alejandro Ramirez Orozco. Courtesy of CLOUD.
  5. CLOUD / Studio Sabine Marcelis. Design Space AlUla. Milan Design Week 2024. Photography by CLOUD. Courtesy of CLOUD.
  6. niceworkshop. Capsule Plaza. Milan Design Week 2024. Photography by CLOUD. Courtesy of CLOUD.
  7. Panton Lounge. Capsule Plaza. Milan Design Week 2024. Photography by CLOUD. Courtesy of CLOUD.
  8. LC2 Chair. Paul Cournet. Photography by Titia Hahne. Courtesy of CLOUD and Titia Hahne.
  9. Barcelona Foam. Paul Cournet. Photography by Titia Hahne. Courtesy of CLOUD and Titia Hahne.

Chanel Beads

The Feeling Remains

What is a feeling? neither us nor Shane Lavers from Chanel Beads might have a correct answer for it. That being said, NR spoke with him about navigating fleeting emotions through music, internal contradictions, and what drove —and bothered— him one week prior the NYC band’s debut album Your Day Will Come would see the light.

Hi Shane, how’s it going?

I just woke up, I’m in the middle of moving, so it’s been.. chaotic, but I am good!

And, most importantly, your first LP is on the way! How do you feel? How have the last weeks leading up to it been?

Yeah, it definitely feels like something new, but I try not to have any expectations, really. And then everything’s a happy surprise.

I’ve known about your work since fairly recently, actually. I’ve gotta come clean. I listened to your music for the first time in Paris, around November.

You were at the Bagnolet show, right?

Attending that show was a great moment for me, as it had been more than a couple of months since seeing someone play live –I came there being so curious about the whole thing..Your setup, and the way you guys performed felt refreshingly different. One thing I am wondering ,now that things are maybe starting to change, is about the shift from smaller, intimate venues to larger ones, like the recent gig you did at SXSW. What I loved about your show was its intimacy, and maybe some of it might be lost in bigger settings. How do you feel about this potential change in how your music is experienced? Are you adapting to it?

Settings like SXSW are complicated –We played a couple of outdoor daytime shows, and that’s just not a great fit, at least for what I’m trying to do. That show you just mentioned, if i’m not mistaken, the place was almost a gallery or a studio, it didn’t have a stage, but was still loud enough: That felt like an ideal place to perform. I’m uncertain about adjusting to formats where there’s a significant distance between me and the audience. Most of the live performances I’ve done are just kind of this weird act. It’s not acting per se, but it’s a really naked moment –Me trying to embody my music really plainly, really close to people. So yeah, I’m kind of nervous, and I don’t really know what to do if there’s like a gate and, you know, 20 feet between me and people. But I guess we’ll cross that bridge.

You maybe lose that conversational element that your music possesses.The Bagnolet show was the first time ever I listened to your music –I didn’t know anything about your work prior to that. A friend invited me to the show telling me it would be a good one so I decided to go in blindly, without listening to anything beforehand. I just wanted to be surprised by something new. Maybe that’s why I perceive this presence of a conversation between you and your listener, and that is something that an intimate live experience embodies better. Do you consider the relationship between your music and its audience, allowing space for their interpretation alongside your own narrative? Or do you primarily focus on expressing your own story, regardless of the presence of a stage or audience?

It’s kind of complicated. I mean, it’s definitely closer to the latter. It is always a bad idea to try to imagine what other people are thinking, and that is sometimes because you can never really picture a stranger’s mind. I don’t purposefully try to not-think of what other people will think, and I feel very lucky at the moment because that kind of distinction doesn’t even cross my mind because I am too focused on myself as the listener, or trying to have a conversation with myself.

It feels very insular, though, and sometimes after a songs’ made, I’ll kind of notice that I think that I’ve written something very specific and detailed, but then I am like “wait, there’s only like four or five lines in this song and not that much of a context for them.” Even I may not fully know what the song is about as it shifts as you write it. However, as long as it means something to me, I’m happy, I am excited. 

Your songs often present two distinct voices or perspectives, a sense of internal conflict or contradiction. This duality seems particularly pronounced in some of the songs from your upcoming record, especially now that yours and Colleen’s singing alternate and layer more substantially, perhaps reflecting this conversation or dialogue within yourself you just mentioned. I had a question in that sense, but I guess you’ve already touched on this aspect, acknowledging the presence of two voices conversing or two parts of yourself engaged in dialogue –An interplay between different perspectives allowing abstract feelings to resurface and attempting to give them tangible expression.

Yeah. Context always changes in what I write, but it’s almost like..the feeling remains the same, there’s a consistency of an emotion lingering through and through. It’s akin to moving from one scene to another, seemingly unrelated, yet still connected by a common thread despite the shifting of time and space.

Without the need of a specificity.

Yeah. [pauses] The feeling remains.

It’s intriguing how your composition process seems to mirror this idea. I’ve noticed a very distinct style, and sound, in your music, even from the first time I encountered it. Despite this being your debut LP, your consistent approach to composing and shaping sonic palettes over the years has been evident. Was this new record an opportunity to crystallise and refine that style further, or was you just going for an experimental take on longer narrative possibilities or a more cohesive output of material?

It’s both of those things really, it kinda just felt like, “Okay, now I’ve got an album.” But I definitely was trying to match an emotional and lyrical sentiment with the sonics. I always felt kind of frustrated with the way I composed in the past and I know that a lot of musicians or artists might feel like they’re aspiring to something, but they’re kind of stuck making something else. It’s kind of a cliche, so I try not to think about it too much, like the one of sitting down with the guitar and then getting really into it, making beats or something like that. I think such things are kind of boring, and self mythologizing in a weird way.

Industry tricks 101: The creative journey’s sentimentalisation..

I’ve been talking about this with friends a lot. I felt really free with this project, I finally was able to let the floodgates open and release stuff because I felt in a position where I’m not interested in distinctions anymore, and whatever i do is just gonna exist as it is and I’m not gonna give a shit If people think it’s rock music, electronic music, or whatever. I’ve been having interviews where people keep asking me about Coffee Culture, because it’s kind of the record’s outliner, but I actually feel like I make more music similar to it than, let’s say, Police Scanner. And I guess this kind of feels like a cliche too –To be like “Fuck the listener, I don’t even care about the listener.” But yeah, I didn’t really like thinking about distinctions like “who’s listening to it? Am I listening to it or is someone else listening to it,” I am kind of practicing ignorance almost as a virtue, lately, in that regard. [laughs] 

Have you been putting things out because you just finally felt really like it?

Yeah. And I try to stay away from distinctions and intellectualising stuff. It’s way more interesting to go back before those lines were drawn.

I get it! Sometimes, as I interview people, it’s almost weird because when I come there, I have all my stuff prepared, questions, notes. I’ve been reading, listening, informing myself on the artists’ work, weaving narratives around and intellectualising it. It all feels a tad funny sometimes, because I think of myself first and foremost as a listener and sometimes I think that maybe I should just focus on enjoying the music and, as you said, it is simpler, and maybe more interesting. How do you feel then when talking about music, your music specifically? 

Well, I think it’s fun to over intellectualise things, I just don’t want to do it to myself. [laughs] It’s flattering to talk about your music with people, but it also feels weird sometimes –And don’t get me wrong, I’m getting good at PR training. If someone asks me a question, I’ll just be like “next question,” if I don’t want to say anything about it– The strange thing with talking about my own music is that, often, the whole point of it is that I’m not able to just talk about the things i want to communicate with it. If I could, just talking about them would have been fine, but because I don’t feel like I can do that via simple words, I resort to music. Whatever you’re trying to express, I feel it has to come out via the best channel you can express it through, so a complicated feeling or a complicated thought can come out with all the nuances it deserves. What I like about the way I’m approaching music is that it allows me to work with stuff that I’m still parsing through –It’s me trying to figure out how I’m feeling, and what I’m thinking or what the world is, in an external and internal way at the same time. 

How long do you feel this record has been growing within you? A part of you may still be processing the themes woven into this record, and while you may have physically composed the record recently, it feels listening to you like its inception and development may have been with you for much longer. 

A lot of what I do, not only with music but with visuals too, I approach it with a “waiting to strike” attitude, kinda like getting really prepared for something that is going to happen so that you can move quickly about it. It’s not improvising. It’s more like operating in real time, that’s why maybe I am so fond of playing live shows. Things always happen quickly and impulsively, but at the same time thought out and prepared. I’m not really interested in super constructed music, but rather in quick bursts that then are shaped from there. I have this kind of motto, “Never let them see you sweat,” which is like..You can think about stuff and prepare it, but ideally you shouldn’t be in control of all the variables, so then you can kind of discover new stuff in that moment. I don’t know if that answers your question, but that’s a complicated answer to give you, because I wrote the album pretty quickly, but there’s one song on it called Urn that I wrote, like in 2018, and it kind of came out way different when I finally recorded it again, so timelines are, let’s say, variable.

Like with Idea June, you released two different versions, very similar in their underlining, both songs’ sentiment feels the same, but they still are very different, maybe two sides of the same narration? It’s interesting that you decided to release both. The bit about not wanting the artifice behind things to be seen really resonated with me. When I saw you live, it felt..digital, electronic maybe, in a way. Your setup was hybrid, a computer playing the record and you playing over it, singing over it and adding vocal and sonic layers to it..but it felt very different from listening to the record versions of your tracks, because you don’t just execute the song, i feel it varies from set to set and is closer to what you said about doing the prep in order to be ready to change things on the fly.

Zach and Maya make their own guitar parts, and we just play the whole song front to back, they improvise a little but usually just once, and we get stuff like 90% locked in. As we refine it, especially during tour runs, it becomes less about improvisation and more about solidifying the structure. Still, there’s always this sense of recreating the song each time we perform it, even though the tracks remain consistent. It’s like discovering how the song should function anew with each rendition. Also, we’re not the type of band that heavily engages with the audience too much, like I’m not trying to crack jokes too much, which is what I do when I get nervous. I tend to funnel any nervous energy into the performance itself, though it’s more of an internal dynamic rather than trying to rile up the crowd. The live show is crucial because it feels like an ongoing dialogue with the audience about the sound and atmosphere of the music. We’ve encountered various venues with unique setups, like a show in Seattle held in an old drugstore, where our sound ended up heavily distorted due to the setup. It was mostly just kind of like shoegaze and punk bands playing, technically, like a festival –You just weren’t supposed to hear the vocals anyway, so they had a setup that was really not ideal for what we usually do. Rather than fighting against it, we embraced the challenge and improvised, adapting to the space on the spot. There was no respect or adherence to how the songs sounded initially, we just blasted the sound, fully screamed our lungs out and got over it, using it to our advantage. It’d be such a nightmare to just try to be like “Oh, this is not supposed to sound like this,” and fight with that. It’s way more interesting and compelling to just try to adapt to the room on the spot.

Are you aiming to maintain the same approach when performing in more standardised venues or supporting bands like Mount Kimbie? It’s a different dynamic, with different expectations and preparations for the show. How do you plan to stay true to your style and maintain some level of absence-of-control in these more controlled environments? It’s an essential aspect of what you do. Initially, when I saw you play, I found myself wishing for a full band and a more elaborate, proper, setup. But as I became more familiar with your work, I began to appreciate your approach to live music more and more. It really started to make sense and felt refreshing, new. How do you plan to maintain this chaos-theory approach to live music as your career progresses?

Our current approach is highly adaptable and, despite occasional suggestions to add a drummer –mostly from drummers themselves –I’m intrigued by its current possibilities. I’m not focused on delivering what people expect, so I’m not inclined to follow traditional paths. Mount Kimbie are an amazing band, they’re fantastic musicians, but as for myself, I’m currently not interested in playing an instrument onstage. Singing without any other responsibilities allows me to fully immerse myself in the moment, embracing any awkwardness that may arise. I’m just going to go with it and enjoy the experience.

Fuck it we ball.

It’s nice talking about the live shows and setup so much in this interview because it really provides a lot of the backstory behind our process. Most of the songs were written specifically for the way we play live right now –So many of the songs have multiple layers of singing in them because I got really into melodics and rhythmics that are fun to reproduce and alter during a live show. It’s compelling when we’re like in SXSW, a real, proper capital-R Rock festival..we’re in the belly of the beast, the beast being people telling us we need a drummer and stuff like that, but we still come out and do the show regardless and win people over.

It can be a great selling point, you have your way of doing things, that’s what won me over anyways. If you get, you get. If you don’t, you don’t. I think you don’t need a drummer, personally..for all that matters. [Laughs] A slight detour towards intellectualization: What served as the primary inspiration or driving force behind this record? Was it a specific narrative or theme you wanted to explore through your writing, or were you more focused on crafting a particular sonic palette and incorporating specific musical elements? 

It’s definitely about the sound. While I was writing the lyrics, I did worry that I might end up with similar songs. Ideally, they all serve as cohesive glue, but I understand if someone were to criticize that aspect. When I begin a song, it’s usually because I have a particular sound or energy in mind. Then, I sit down and think about what’s been bothering me.

What has been bothering you?

I often think of the inability of things, or maybe myself, to change. I’m kind of in a pessimistic era these days. I mean everybody is, so..

It’s not like the world is in a great state, pessimism makes perfect sense. But your record still feels full of hope, in a way. It has mixed feelings and even tender undertones at its core –Like being very pessimistic about certain things, but still hoping to be wrong about it.

Well, I think there’s freedom in acknowledging how fucked things are, because then you are not deluded, but then you don’t wanna delude yourself about thinking that you are more fucked than you actually are. That’s maybe the real frustration for me..trying to find a point that feels good enough between these two extremes. 

Maybe, life is just a pendulum swinging between deluding yourself and bringing yourself back towards a sense of reality. Chanel Beads’ take on Schopenhauer’s pendulum.

I guess we’ll find out.

Credits

Photography, Art Direction and Styling · Jack Pekarsky
Featured Artworks · Michal Alpern
Special thanks to Matthew Fogg and Olivia Larson.

studioutte

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.

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