02.12.13 Van de Velde Ausstellung in Brüssel



Stoffe (und Fotos) aus dem Schloss werden neben einigen Möbelstücken (z.B. der Schreibtisch aus dem Salon) in der großen Van de Velde Retrospektive im “Koninklike Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis” in Brüssel. gezeigt. Die umfassende Werkschau ist noch bis 12.01.2014 geöffnet.

01.12.13 DLW Armstrong Interview

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„Ignoring functionality for once“ 

An interview with the designer Claus Lämmle

The designer Claus Lämmle lives in Schloss Lauterbach, a chateau whose interior remodelling in 1906-1908 was done by Henry van de Velde, a Belgian designer and Art Nouveau pioneer, as one of his first commissions in Germany. Himself an expert on van de Velde, Lämmle has been renovating the premises since 2004, mostly on his own initiative and with a great eye for detail. Since May 2013, he has been receiving unusual assistance from the architect and professor Mark Phillips, along with his architecture students from the Coburg University of Applied Sciences. Lämmle offered them a room at Schloss Lauterbach that they could develop with their own interpretation of the van de Velde style.

Let’s start by going back a step: how did this collaborative project with Prof. Mark Phillips come about?  We’d known each other for a while already. He came to visit me in Lauterbach, and I had just been entrusted with designing an exhibition marking the 150th birthday of Henry van de Velde, to be shown in Weimar and Brussels. That was when we got the idea to do a workshop on van de Velde. It fit his lesson plan perfectly, since it covered the subjects of “Design”, “Implementation” and “Historical Studies” – and for me, it sounded like an exciting experiment.

Did this experiment also require some courage on your part? After all, the students will ultimately leave after finishing, while you actually live in the Schloss…  I wouldn’t call it so much “courage”. Naturally, you have to be open to every result. But I have a certain level of basic trust in the work of these students – also because I myself work in that sector. I’m giving them an opportunity to leave their creative mark on this chateau. It’s quite different from the classroom, where many designs end up collecting dust in their portfolios, or even land in the rubbish bin – for me, this is about creating a piece of moulded reality. This high-responsibility assignment has automatically provoked a great deal of respect from all the participants, which means I didn’t really need to be extra “courageous”.

What kind of guidelines did the students have to fulfil in designing this room?  There were almost no rules – the room just had to remain accessible. This castle already has around twenty-five rooms, so this one didn’t need to serve a specific purpose. Quite the opposite: this room was to be designed without concern for any particular functionality. That in itself was the biggest challenge.

How so?  Functionality, especially with questions like: For what will it be used? By whom? How often? My answer was always the same: “I don’t know.” Of course, all this freedom caused a lot of confusion at first.

How did the students nonetheless manage to harmonize with the style of Henry van de Velde?  I think the important thing was the two days we spent together in the chateau. This let them experience its atmosphere intimately, exploring every angle and reflecting upon what they’ve seen. We discussed the technical details in a relaxed setting. This is how van de Velde’s signature style was gradually revealed, allowing the students to gain a better understanding of the complex design principles that he developed for his holistic room schemes.

The practical implementation phase will begin soon. What do you think of the proposed designs?  I’m delighted! I’ve followed the entire design phase, going to visit Coburg several times – most recently for the big final presentation. The final results of each workgroup, covering textiles, plasterwork and flooring, turned out so wonderfully that we decided to implement all the designs, and not just the best ones.

What will that look like?  There are five individual strips, all around 1.5 metres wide. Together they form a ribbon encircling the entire space, from floor to wall to ceiling – completely in tune with van de Velde, who also didn’t separate floor from wall and ceiling in his designs, but instead created more of a shell for the interior space. At some points, the individual sections even form furniture pieces. That really looks fantastic! So the floor ribbon bulges up to provide seating, and a wand segment swells out into a sculptural table. Of course, the technical construction is now much more complicated than originally expected – for example, the interfaces between the various strips need to be considered. This means that during this workshop, we can only just start with creating limited portions of each segment on location. Later I’ll complete the rest of the installation bit by bit – possibly with future collaborations with the students.

What do you hope the students will have learned about Henry van de Velde?  For one, if you really attend to every small detail, which is what van de Velde did with remarkable rigorousness, then a design can achieve enormous dimensions. On top of that, a design that is completely free of concrete guidelines – so that you completely ignore the functionality for once – can also turn into an artwork.

As of next year, you will have been renovating Schloss Lauterbach for a full decade. Is there any end in sight?  For us, it’s more like an exciting “never-ending story”! We’ve already refurbished several rooms to their original condition or else true to style, but there’s still lots more to do. And the chateau has a few more rooms that are equally free from historical preservation orders – meaning there’s enough room for new experiments.

So the exciting times will continue?  Definitely!

Then we wish you even more success in the future and thank you for this fascinating interview! 

Photo 1: © Kristin Schmidt