Werner Aisslinger is always looking ahead. As a visionary designer, his works are on display at MoMA, the Victoria & Albert Museum, Neue Sammlung and the Vitra Design Museum. Now he’s created a new shop design for Silhouette.
A commitment to innovation
Living and working in Berlin, Aisslinger creates products for Vitra, Thonet, Porro and Kaldewei. After studying at the Berlin University of the Arts and working in the offices of Jasper Morrison, Ron Arad and Michele De Lucchi, he founded Studio Aisslinger in Berlin in 1993. Today, his focus is on interior design. His new shop design for Silhouette is marked by a high-tech mix of ultra-light material and smart styling.
We sat down with Aisslinger to talk about renewable raw materials, the power of beauty and the need for lightweight construction.
Where do you think design is headed right now?
Any discussion of the future of design has to include new production techniques and materials. Otherwise, you’re just copying things that have already been done, and changing their proportions here and there. We realize that things can’t go on like this and have to change. That’s why you see this incredible development right now, both in materials and use of energy.
So, where does that lead us?
Sustainability is the key issue. It means fundamentally rethinking how we develop and manufacture products or build buildings. Where does the wood come from? Or the wool? How much concrete is used in a house? We can’t just build wooden houses in the future, because then we would have to clear all the forests. Being more mindful of our environmental impact causes us to act more responsibly. We have to work more with resources that are available locally. And we have to use these resources much more consciously than we did in the past.
What does this mean for product design? Is the focus shifting from form to craft? To what’s hidden behind the scenes?
I believe that design will continue to be very diverse in the future. But we’ll find new ways to upgrade things. Maybe new products will be structured more selectively and less decadently when it comes to the way we use materials.
So, lightness and lightweight construction will play an important role. In other words, how to pare the design down to its true essence.
That’s a good point. The more delicate and minimal the production, the less material needed. This is clearly going to be a prerequisite in the future. Lightness about a new aesthetic.
It’s already possible to make plastics out of food scraps or plant fibers, for example. What are some other new materials you expect to see?
We’re living in a fascinating age. I expect to see a lot of exciting new materials being developed in response to the climate crisis. If you look back on the history of design, then you see that the greatest developments often emerged in times of social and industrial upheaval. That’s exactly what we’re experiencing today.
One exciting idea is the “Chair Farm” project you developed. In that project, you train plants to grow along a frame, so they gradually take the shape of a piece of seating furniture. Where does the symbiosis of nature and design lead?
This early project was about how to replace industrial production with naturally growing structures; cultivated chairs and tables, in this case. It’s quite exciting to think about radically trimming everything down to a plant basis. What used to be produced in factories could be grown in greenhouses in the future. Suddenly there are farms for chairs. Who knows? There will always be more transformation processes, with certain industries dying out and others emerging.
With all the discussion about sustainability, does beauty still play a role?
I think we need to extend the usable life of every product we create. Every production process generates a certain amount of emissions and consumes resources. It’s always smarter to use products for years or even decades instead of constantly buying new things. This brings us back to the issue of good design. If people form an emotional bond with a product, they want to live with it for a long time. They won’t be so quick to just throw it out. So, the question is: How do you create a strong, classic design that stands the test of time? That’s every designer’s mission. To design things that people will love and want to use for a long time.
Studio Aisslinger’s shop system for Silhouette uses modules that are made from recycled plastic, as well as fiberboard from FSC-certified wood. For every tree used, a new one is planted. Why not discover them today?