The future is uncertain, and in the times we live in, even more. Drastic changes that could affect our lives may happen tomorrow, even today. Nevertheless, our inherent curiosity makes us think what will it look like. The book This Will Be The Place, which celebrates Cassina’s 90th anniversary by talking about the future, is a beautiful example that focuses on the years to come for houses and furniture. We talk to its editor, Felix Burrichter, an architecture and design editor curator.
Cassina defines the publication as a “monograph that explores contemporary social behaviour and its possible impact on the future of interiors”. But it’s even more than that. The volume reflects on this through five main categories or sections – Free Flow, Artful Living, Playground, Back To The Roots, and Bed Time – along with five interviews to architects, designers, and even a historian: Konstantin Grcic, Beatriz Colomina, Arnold Brandlhuber, Zhao Yang and Martti Kalliala. If you want to know what may your home look like in a few decades, keep reading.
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Artful Living. Giuseppe Brancato
For those who don’t know you, who is Felix Burrichter?
I’m a German-born, New York-based architecture and design editor and curator. I’m also the founder of the magazine PIN–UP, a magazine for architectural entertainment. I’m one hundred and ninety-four cm tall, I have blondish hair (slightly balding), I’m forty years old, I’m a trained architect, and speak three languages. My shoe size is forty six (European).
You’re multifaceted: architect, designer, creative and editor. What do you identify with the most and why? And how do you think your multi-skilled personality have helped you become who you are?
Even though I studied architecture and I also run a business, I mostly consider myself an editor simply because that’s what I like doing most. By editor I (not only) mean the process of editing texts, but perhaps more importantly, editing content, creating unexpected juxtapositions and adjacencies of stories, images, narratives, and thoughts. To be able to provide a platform for that, whether it’s digitally, through video, or in good old print, is what I enjoy most.
This Will Be The Place has been published because of Cassina’s 90th birthday. But in addition to the emblematic date, what do you think is the genesis of this monographic? What questions, concerns and motivations sparked the fire to make this happen?
The challenge for the book’s conceptual conceit was to celebrate a legacy by looking into the future. To reconcile the two seems anachronistic at first, but when you look at a company with such a rich design heritage like Cassina, you find the entire avant-garde from the 20th century combined in its back catalogue. Most of the pieces we today consider classics were considered radical when they first came out, whether they were by Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Frank Lloyd Wright, Gerrit T. Rietveld, etc. And even more recently, Cassina was among the first to introduce designs by Zaha Hadid, Konstantin Grcic, and of course, Mario Bellini, who created some of the company’s most iconic pieces. This Will Be The Place reminds us that to understand the future, to understand the future of living in this case, we have to also look at the radical solutions of the past. In that sense, the book is also a reminder to Cassina itself, to always be at the forefront of innovation when it comes to design, and to not rest on its laurels.
This Will Be The Place explores new ways of living in the future from a starting point: Cassina. What does this house/brand mean to you and what’s your relation with it?
Cassina produces to this day some of the most iconic and radical design classics created during the 20th century and continues to do so in 2018. My role as a design editor is to pay respect to that, to encourage this attitude of continued formal, material, intellectual innovation. The worst thing would be for the company to content itself with the status quo. I think with Patricia Urquiola as the art director it has a very energetic, new direction.
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Bed Time. Charles Negre
How would you say that Cassina’s storytelling relates to the new ways of living mentioned in the book?
Unlike other design companies, Cassina does not try to prescribe a ‘total look’ to its customer. The Cassina client is educated and knows how to experiment – or at least is willing to learn how to combine periods, styles, designers, etc. At first it’s more challenging but it’s a huge benefit because it prevents it from ever being out of style, or looking dated – innovation never looks dated, no matter when.
The volume is divided in two parts. The first one poses questions about the future spaces we’ll inhabit and the relationships we establish with them through five architecture and design experts: Konstantin Grcic, Beatriz Colomina, Arnold Brandlhuber, Zhao Yang and Martti Kalliala. Felix, as a curator, why did you choose them and how was the selection process like?
It was important to us to also interview architects rather than only designers, because they sometimes have a better overall, 360˚ vision of the built environment, from the micro to the macro. Arno Brandlhuber, Martti Kalliala, and Zhao Yang are very interesting practitioners because they challenge the status quo in their respective cultural contexts: what does it mean to be comfortable? How do we redefine the concept of luxury in the 21st century? What makes a perfect dwelling? They have very different answers to these questions that touch on all aspects, from the urban scale down to the furniture.
Beatriz Colomina, as a historian, was key to put everything we accept in a historical perspective. It is fascinating to follow her trace the historical arch between Sigmund Freud’s daybed to the working realties in the digital economy where the bed becomes a social platform. Konstantin Grcic is one of the most successful and perhaps more importantly, most influential industrial designers working today. In his interview he discusses the challenges of projecting the future in a formal way, reconciling the ‘slow’ nature of furniture design with the speed of development in a digital age.
In this first part, Beatriz Colomina’s point of view aroused my curiosity the most. The architect and historian thinks of a world that revolves around the bed – a place where we no longer just sleep, but also work, create, read and even eat – a theory with which many people (specially the younger generations) can relate to. What do you think about it? Will we really be able to do everything when laying on the comfort of our beds? Or is human’s innate social nature something that will make us go outside? Is it more generational or a matter of identity?
Colomina’s thoughts on the contemporary generations of the bed were first laid out in her essay The Century of the Bed, which led us to approach her for this project. In it she describes how paradoxically our lives have expanded digitally, but physically our living spaces are getting smaller and smaller – at least for most people in the world. As a result, we are increasingly confined to the one room in the house that cannot be rationalized away: the bedroom. It is from there that we go out into the world, via various social media platforms, video-telephony apps, or even through virtual reality. As a result, the time we actually spend outside diminishes.
However, it probably doesn’t mean that we’ll never go outside again. There is also a counter-trend of people moving to rural areas to live a different life, away from claustrophobic urban confines. And then there still are many people in the world who don’t even have the privilege of owning their own home, who might share a room with an entire family, or even with strangers. So it’s a fine line where being able to stay in bed is both an incredible privilege and a debilitating factor for social and societal community.
The second part of the book is mainly visual and shows the possibilities of how the houses of the future (or the future of houses) might look like divided in five sections: Free Flow, Artful Living, Playground, Back To The Roots, and Bed Time. Each of them shows a very different vision. For example, Free Flow makes references to space’s fluidity, while Playground talks about a home with which one can play, feel with all senses. Why did you decide to categorize them in these specific five sections? Are these classifications something that our present times already reveal about the future?
These five themes were derived from things we talked about with Konstantin, Arno, Zhao, Beatriz, and Martti – different thoughts that manifest themselves in one way or another in these beautiful environment that the Cassina team created around the furniture. Again, the Cassina customer is intelligent, educated, so these are not prescribed aesthetics of a certain taste, but rather idealized interpretations, suggestions, speculations of what our lives can or will be – I say idealized because having a house exclusively furnished with beautiful Cassina pieces is, of course, a privilege not everyone can afford.
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Artful Living. Giuseppe Brancato
There are many different ways to live with what’s surrounding us, and that’s why I’d like to ask you about your own: how is the place you live in, what’s your relationship with it, and how has it evolved over the years?
My personal taste has very much been formed by having studied architecture and so my apartment in New York is almost the cliché of an architect’s home: very sparse, mostly black and white, a few key pieces by designers I admire, such as Gae Aulenti, Gino Sarfatti, Mario Bellini, Ward Bennett, Ilmari Tapiovaara, etc. And a lot of books, too many books than I have room for. It’s not the cosiest place on earth, but I also don’t feel like I am in a position in my life where should be getting too comfortable anytime soon.
And what about your ‘future’ homes or the future for your homes? Do you identify with or relate to any of these five categories of the book abovementioned?
The one I probably most aspire to – although not in the near future — is Back to the Roots. I love the presence of water in this house on the Sicilian coast, which is very minimalist, designed by Arno Brandlhuber. After having lived for more than half of my life in big cities like Paris or New York, I can very well imagine to retreat one day to a place very rural, away from the hustle and bustle that fills my life now.
What elements are a ‘must’ in your own space? Something you can’t live without?
My bed – closely followed by a dishwasher.
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Bed Time. Charles Negre
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Back To The Roots. Giuseppe Brancato
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Back To The Roots. Giuseppe Brancato
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Artful Living. Giuseppe Brancato
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Back To The Roots. Giuseppe Brancato
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Playground. Photo: Leonardo Scotti. Artwork: Fausto Fantinuol
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Artful Living. Giuseppe Brancato
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Playground. Photo: Leonardo Scotti. Artwork: Fausto Fantinuol
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Bed Time. Charles Negre