An Interview with the Designers
Matthias Waschek: Jennie and Yvonne, at the beginning of 2012, you came to Worcester to explore with us new seating for the Museum’s Chapter House. Can you comment on the process – ours and yours – that led to the wonderful result we can now see in situ?
Jennie and Yvonne: Following the initial e-mail contact and photos we received of the Chapter House, we immediately (a mere two weeks later) visited Worcester, where we were given a very warm welcome and were able to get an initial impression for ourselves. We had the opportunity to talk to people involved and to start working on first designs.
Back in Germany we designed the chair and the bench constellation, and tried out the designs in a 3D model of the Chapter House. The fine details of the construction took a lot of time. For this we worked closely with the chair factory and the craftsmen, checking on progress and the quality of the work in the factory itself.
Throughout we were in constant e-mail and telephone contact with WAM team members.
Using CAD data, we came up with an initial model made of beech, then a second with corrections, and finally the first model in walnut.
MW: You pay a lot of attention to the material – in our case wood. What makes you use one material rather than another one? Is this dictated by the function of the work, by your personal preferences or other factors?
J+Y: The choice of material is an important aspect of our design work. We tend to use traditional rather than high-tech materials and try to expand the areas of use of classic materials and the way they are handled.
Wood is a living, highly expressive material, for which we certainly have a preference. Our choice of material depends, however, on various factors,
in particular an object’s function and purpose.
In the case of the Chapter House benches the wood and the choice of the type of wood underline the animate quality of the chair constellations. On the one hand, there is a marvelous contrast between form, color, and finish, and the stone used for the Chapter House, while on the other the benches blend in harmoniously with the location, forging a link between the present day and the era of the Chapter House.
MW: The model for the Chapter House was Stuhlhockerbank (chair stool bench). This work has had quite some success in the museum world – I actually contacted you after I saw this work in Rolandseck, at the Arp Museum. Could you comment about the history of this work?
J+Y: The Stuhlhockerbank was conceived as seating for the public domain. The concept is about “sitting down” and the relationship created between people while they are sitting. The boundaries between individual types of furniture (chair, stool and bench) are dissolved by their melding. Unalterable constellations emerge.
The first Stuhlhockerbank model was an independent project that represents our design approach very well. It goes beyond an object’s actual function and takes on a narrative component. It seems familiar and surprising at one and the same time, enriched with a sensual and poetic dimension. When Klaus Gallwitz, then director of the Arp Museum, came across the Stuhlhockerbank at an exhibition, he asked us to design new constellations for the Museum’s new building, which at the time was still just a shell. We were able to be involved from the outset and specifically take into account the architecture, the way the art was hung, the works of art themselves, and the way visitors behave, and as such have an influencing role as well.
Since the opening in 2007, various Stuhlhockerbank constellations have been on permanent display throughout the entire exhibition space in the new Richard Meyer Building.
MW: Seating is a very important part of your work. Any thoughts you would like to share about seating in museums? What is the ideal seating for you in a gallery space?
J+Y: Seating in museums is an important element in an exhibition, though it must not “steal the show” from the exhibits, but rather be restrained, and at best support the exhibition. Not infrequently it seems like a necessary evil, to give tired exhibition visitors a chance for a short rest or an opportunity to take a longer look at a work of art. Sometimes design and positioning even seem awkward.
The same goes for ideal seating –it should be inconspicuous and purely functional. Seating can also create further levels of meaning between the visitor, artworks and architecture. Museum furniture is in direct contact with the visitor and, from the background, can tell its own “story” and forge a link between the visitor and the art, or the museum world and the outside world.
MW: What do museums mean to you? Are you omnivores or is it only one thing – such as design – that attracts your attention?
J+Y: We are omnivores. We don’t think in categories, either with regard to museums or our way of working. We’re open to any “discipline” that is capable of delivering enrichment and inspiration.
MW: Could you talk about how you work as a team, why you chose to work in tandem, and what the problems are in a world that is more focused on individuals? Does it matter that you are two female designers – is there such a thing as “female” design?
J+Y: Every designer has a different approach, regardless of whether he or she works on their own or in a team, and in which country or environment. We wouldn’t generalize or talk of “female design”, especially not as far as our designs are concerned. We don’t think in categories. The works should speak for themselves.
MW: You are part of a generation of Germans that have lived formative years before and after the iron curtain came down. Is that pertinent for your design practice at all?
J+Y: It influences our everyday design life inasmuch as the world has become more open and it is possible for us to exchange views with countries and people where previously contact would not have been possible.
Learn more about the designers: http://www.kraud.de/en/