Taking design to extraordinary new levels of precision, Konstantin Gric redefines the most humble household objects, bringing humanity to design.
German designer Konstantin Grcic takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary with dexterity and a pragmatic approach to contemporary classic.
His name may not role off the tip of the tongue, but Konstantin Grcic (pronounced grr-chick) is the man behind what are destined to become design greats of the 21st century. Stemming from an arts background, and with a formal training in furniture craftsmanship at the illustrious John Makepeace institution Parnham College, and design under the tutorage of Jasper Morrison and Vico Magistretti, Grcic has established an impressive name in his own right. At this year's annual design fair, Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the designer presented a host of new products and prototypes, from Plank's Miura table, a new office chair for Magis (currently at prototype stage), as well as a continuation of the lionized Chair One, which first captured our attention in 2003 for its instantly recognisable complex geometric form. These are just some of the latest accompaniments to Grcic's incredibly impressive roster of works, from the Miura stool, which has taken up residency in the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection, to the aforementioned Chair One, and the award-winning Mayday lamp, presented in 1998 - one of the designer's earliest successes. Since setting up his own Munich-based design studio just over a decade ago he has become a leading light in the industry. In 2005 Phaidon published a monograph of Grcic's work, which now stands as a best selling title on product design. Earlier this year he was named Designer of the Year by the German magazine Architektur und Wohnen.
Konstantin Grcic's definition of luxury:
If luxury were an object, what would it be?
A piece of furniture.
If it were a person, who would it be?
Somebody to travel with.
If luxury were a place?
If luxury were a moment?
Which stage of development do you find most interesting as a designer?
The most interesting stage of course is creation, from that you make a beginning, but that's the hardest too. I get very worried at the beginning of a project. There's so much expectation and also so much freedom, and what you do with it, but it's also stimulating too. In retrospective it is the most exciting, but what I really enjoy because it is something so easy is in a way a clear direction once I'm past the stage of 'what am I going to do' and then it's resolving problems and figuring out to turn it into a reality, the development, talking with engineers, the whole trial and error, it's a phase I thoroughly. There's two parts, the one that worries me and the creation, which I just really enjoy.
You were mentored by Vico Magistretti and Jasper Morrison, what did you learn from these 20th century masters?
They were quite different. Vico was one of those pioneers of Italian design. He was very cool and he was very passionate about design, but he always had a nice approach, he was not too serious. He always thought that design had to come from observing everyday life. He saw the beauty in the world around him, Jasper is similar but for me he is the more intellectual designer. From him I learnt more about the intellectual side of design, the thinking and the conceptual approach.
In a market flooded with chairs, you have managed to unique models for which you are famed, what is the secret to a good chair design?
If I had an answer I would have the formula. It's very exciting designing chairs because certainly its more interesting than other things that we design, certainly in one's furniture, because it's the thing that has the most character in a sense that chairs become creatures, almost like pets that you have around you. There are some chairs that you just like because they look nice. I think a nice chair is something that people respond to...it's also about psychology, because people who like a certain chair because of its looks will always claim that it is also comfortable, but if they were blindfolded and seated on the same chair, they may not find it so comfortable.
Do you know when something is going to be a success?
No. I think it's very difficult sometimes, because there's no formula. It's good that there is no formula because everyone would make successful things. There's a nice constellation of all the right things happening at the right time, there's a good moment and sometimes that gives me a feeling that it's going to be a good project, but sometimes you really work against the odds but they turn out a success in the end and it's good because you never lost the faith in it. Sometimes these things really fail and you realise that along the way there were all these signals. The whole thing is such a process. For example the plank stool, what makes it a success is probably the things that I put into it that I learnt from other projects which were less successful.
You presented many of your own designs at the recent Milan Furniture Fair? What caught your attention at this year's show?
To tell the truth I was really impressed by the work of Starck this year. I'm a great fan of Philippe Starck, he's the best, or one of the best, but he just gets such a bashing because he's so good and just does so many good things, but this year was a very strong year with a lot of interesting pieces.
Is he a favourite?
You know when people ask me who my favourite designer is I almost forget him because he's so obvious, but he is one of the best. I always enjoy seeing what he's doing, even now that it's like 20 years or something.
Designers are now such celebrities, do you think this works an advantage or disadvantage to the industry?
Generally I think this is ok. It's something nice, and certainly part of the whole image. I'm interested in knowing who designed something. I actually enjoy reading an interview with a designer, an architect or an artist, whose work interests me. I think that if stardom puts a face to an object and gives me more of a story then I think that's fine. However, there are some that I find a bit too much.
You specialize in industrial design, but there have been rumours of a collaboration with architectural heavyweights Herzog & De Meuron and Rem Koolhaas. Do you see yourself expanding into the realm of architecture?
I'm starting a collaboration with Herzog & De Meuron for a project in Long Island. I 'm not doing architecture, just working with them on the building. I don't think that it is something I'll go into. Architecture and building large structures only interests me in a sense of an ephemeral building but not really in a true sense of building something to last.