The Manual Sketch

in conversation with Ania Rosinke and Maciej Chmara (chmara.rosinke studio)

Ania Rosinke and Maciej Chmara were both born in Gdynia, Poland and studied interior architecture, interior and design strategies and architecture in Gdansk, Linz and Vienna. Their designs are remarkable for their simplicity, ecological awareness and a poetic language of forms that traces the objects back to their archetypes. Different sensory aspects are quite consciously linked together in their ideas — haptics, sense of smell, acoustics — and pose the question as to how much simplicity, humour and sensuousness an object needs. It is often only after interaction that their still creations become utility objects and thus a dynamic experience. The studio projects are always embedded in the differentiated context of design, art and architecture and are formed on the basis of functional as well as socio-cultural aspects.
Their focus currently lies on the design of kitchens and its context. Besides their design work they are also engaged in research on kitchens and their future. Delight, design and the social context are the keywords concerning the projects around the kitchen. Their studio is based in Vienna and Berlin.

In your work you focus on the translation of socio-cultural aspects into the objects you are creating. What did you observe during your time as an artist in residence here in the Bregenzerwald that found its way into your design?

The main inspiration for our project is the image of the table set in the kitchen. In this region, the kitchen table serves as a social hotspot. People at this table are coming and going and the door is always open.
I find it very interesting that this almost archaic idea of sitting in the kitchen — a meeting space that’s always open, the center of the house where we find warmth and food — still plays an important role in contemporary architecture. Here, we find a very linear development from the early days to contemporary versions without the modernist interruption of trying to separate the kitchen from social life and transforming it into an efficient workshop. In form and content we incorporated and mixed shapes and materials that we found in the nature of the Bregenzerwald and in the region’s crafts and architecture.

Creating something that is durable and sustainable and functional takes time, it can take years from idea to prototype to final product. Due to this exhibition’s very restricted timeframe, we, together with the craftspeople of Werkraum Bregenzerwald, came up with the idea of the manual sketch. Can you describe the meaning of this term and the production process?

Sketching is the most interesting part of the creative process, whether it is in applied or in fine arts. In the history of fine arts it took quite a while until historians and collectors started to appreciate the quality of sketches. In the discipline of design we still have mixed feelings about sketches, especially when they are three dimensional. And I don’t mean mockups or the like. I am talking about physical sketches with their very own character, beautiful in their early-stage imperfection. We work like this on a regular basis when an idea comes up. We quickly throw it on paper, then go directly to the workshop and build it the same day. This is also about skipping the process of development and showing the initial idea. Let’s say we are talking about a chair: It will likely not be very comfortable or perfect in detail, but it will always have its very own appeal. Since craftspeople are rather used to repeating techniques until they reach perfection in manufacturing, we tried to show them a bit of how we work sometimes and encouraged them to mix techniques or use them in a different context and be playful. The role of the designer changed a lot in the last two decades, and the role of craftspeople is changing as well and will continue to do so.

Since craftspeople are rather used to repeating techniques until they reach perfection, we tried to show them a bit of how we work sometimes and encourage them to mix techniques or use them in a different context and be playful.

One aspect of your work is to pay special attention to the emotions that objects and spaces conjure up in people. First of all how do you incorporate these moments of emotion? And which ones did you pay special attention to in the work created here in the Bregenzerwald?

We do not perceive objects and spaces only visually. The first impression of a space is perceived by our brain through the acoustic sense. Acoustics are a topic in architecture, but they are always treated secondary, meaning that only very few architects or designers really think of acoustics when designing a space. Instead they try to correct their mistakes at a later stage by, let’s say, acoustic panels. We often forget that even the geometry or choice of the finishing of a chair or a table can influence the acoustics of the space. Obviously, haptics are also very important in furniture design, but one sense we also forget very often when we think about designing a space is the olfactory sense. I am not talking about interior perfumes. I am talking about the smell of the wood, of an untreated table, of oily metal or the the complex smell of an old hut up in the Alps, where you have wood, sometimes clay, a patina created by smoke from the oven… When reading these descriptions of smells, probably most of us will have a very clear olfactory image in their head and many will also remember in a very precise way situations from their past that are connected to these smells, interiors, materials. Taste and smell are the senses with the closest connection to the emotional sector of our brain. We often forgets about these things. We are trying to include these memories and emotional connections when we choose materials and finishes.

You say that aesthetics are an important aspect of sustainability. What do you mean by that and how does this influence your practice as a designer?

People throw away functional and ugly things rather than impractical and beautiful things. Some of the greatest pieces of modernist architecture did not really work; actually, some have even been disastrous for their users. But these buildings survived because they are incredibly beautiful and have consistent design. Don’t get me wrong, we need to design functioning things, we have to design ecologically perfect and perfectly working objects. But when it’s about function or sustainability, it seems as if designers often forget about the importance of beauty and the function of beauty itself.

Helping each other, sharing machines, spaces, and knowledge is so important in times in which craft processes and production methods are getting more complex.

Besides being a designer, you are also a trained craftsperson. How does that change your approach to the creation of objects of use?

I don’t have a real education as a craftsman. I took some metal and wood classes at university. But my father’s practice and his business probably had a huge impact on me. He runs a small company that employs craftspeople like metal workers, carpenters, electricians and many more. I was in a very comfortable position that allowed me to go and ask these people whenever I had a problem, wanted to learn about crafts or just use the workshop facilities. These options and possibilities changed my design approach very much. I abandoned a strictly formal-driven form of design. You can’t truly design things if you don’t know exactly how they work or if and how they can be produced. If you look closer you will find that’s it’s quite common among designers to have some sort of background in crafts.

I abandoned a strictly formal-driven form of design. You can’t truly design things if you don’t know exactly how they work or if and how they can be produced.

The craftspeople here, as members of the Werkraum Bregenzerwald, decided 20 years ago to replace competition by collaboration and cooperation. This builds the very core of the association. In this sense, co-creation as an integral part of a cooperative and collaborative approach, plays an important role in creating new objects and innovative products while still keeping up traditional modes of production and craft processes. How does this influence the way you work on the MADE IN project?

I have known the Werkraum Bregenzerwald for years now and I have always found the collaborative approach both very logical and impressive. Helping each other, sharing machines, spaces and knowledge is so important in times in which craft processes and production methods, like many other things, are getting more complex. We tried to integrate this idea as far as that no object in the MADE IN exhibition was made by one craftsperson alone. We mix materials and finishes in a way craftspeople wouldn’t normally do. These objects would look very differently if they were made by one craftsperson only, if she or he would have done it on their own. At the same time, things can get quite tricky to coordinate when people from different fields are working on the same object.

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