Designer Konrad Grcic: Between the Chairs

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Of: Ingeborg Ruthe


Konstantin Grcic, “New Normals”, 2021. © Florian Böhm

In Haus am Waldsee, industrial designer Konrad Grcic shows a balance between form, meaning and purpose that is as excellent as it is subtle.

Seating has never amused me so much. And never have I left a design exhibition so thoughtful. Zehlendorfer Haus am Waldsee in Berlin has invited industrial designer Konstantin Grcic. Today, the man is considered one of the most famous industrial designers made in Germany. His prototypes are in the collections of the New York MoMA, the Paris Center Pompidou and the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein. Gric’s “Chair One” created in 2003 is now almost an icon, almost like the cantilever chair by the Dane Verner Panton from 1960. However, Grcic’s “Chair No. 1” is not made of colored plastic, but of fireproof and weather-resistant die-cast aluminum with titanium-treated, polyester lacquered and anti-theft thanks to a concrete base. Two essences of modernity are united: light and heavy.

The robust classic is now also available on four legs for the home. In Haus am Waldsee he stands on a bench with concrete feet and bolted to it. Number one appears elementary and manneristic at the same time, with a touch of subtle madness of grandeur. The seat is just a template-like skeleton of what you can expect from your butt. Only small people sit on it artistically and gracefully.

Konstantin Grcic calls all his ideas, which he has spread over two levels in the house, as a furniture carnival, “New Normals”. What interests him, he says, is how design is connected to life. So he designs for our respective new realities. After all, they are constantly being changed by technical innovations and the behavior associated with them.

The 56-year-old has made an excellent balance between form, meaning and purpose. His chairs, recliners, candles, clothes racks and tables are filled with humor, sometimes on the verge of irony. As if to confirm, Grcic marked all showrooms with readymades of the mobile phone lamp “Mayday” from 1999. It looks like a megaphone funnel, the lamp is strapped to the head on a bright red bracket. You should probably think of a fire alarm. It is rumored that this is the favorite bedside lamp for Berlin bohemians.

Not to be overlooked is the mustard yellow leather chaise longue called “Traffic”. Grcic has attached five black metal rods with smartphone and tablet holders that protrude into the air like tentacles, on the sides of her. Is this the modern offer for multitasking that you can do comfortably lying down? So the new normal? Like the black plastic bucket seat attached to one of these new street furniture, called the Leaning Bracket, with a bright orange bike lock. Ambiguous as anti-theft in Berlin, record holder metropolis for bicycle theft. At the same time, this strange still life also refers to the situation of outdoor gastronomy in good weather – due to the boring Corona situation. Or because of the often bad weather.

The designer presents his creations as beautiful as they are curious. Two colored plastic chairs dangle upside down from the ceiling on accordion-like brackets. So it is not possible to sit on it. At least not here in the showroom. What is a chair in our imagination? Now it becomes clear what Grcic means when he says unfinished things are beautiful and things that are too perfect are pretty sad. He is a thoughtful optimist, friends say. Before studying at the Royal College of Art London, the designer first learned the carpentry profession at the John Makepeace School in Dorset, England. In 1991, he founded his studio for industrial and furniture design in Munich. There he was praised as a “Munich design miracle”. It alienated him, Grcic says. So he moved to Berlin: Here he has a small, young team in the studio in Tiergarten.

It is his solutions that are as radical as they are logical that made him so in demand. Grcic wants his works to tell of the changes of our time, that these “New Normals” refer to a future in which other constellations of living and working together will be tested.

And so the models he himself arranged on the premises of the show at Haus am Waldsee seem sometimes utopian and sometimes almost absurd. There are two armchairs hanging behind a car window from the ceiling. In the next room, two sofas pushed together in a trampoline, over which dangles a black safety net, which of course has no function as a safety net. Dada and surrealism peek out of industrial design.

house by the forest lake, Argentinische Allee 30 in Berlin: until 8 May.

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