Designing your Desk
Text: Claudia Wanninger (email@example.com), Fotos: Andreas Körner (www.a-koerner.de)
What does a creative workplace look like? On the following pages renowned designers show us their desks and describe how they fitted out their office – in the process revealing their work philosophy.
Stickler for order or messy, technology freak or purist – what desks look like tell us a lot about the species office worker. Whether banker, journalist or designer, we all have our own individual work style, one that is determined by what surrounds us and by our actual creative or productive work. Whereas there are some who need calm and a relaxed atmosphere to be creative, others can only operate under pressure; some people work continually on an assignment, while others stare for hours at a blank sheet of paper, drink tea and stroll around the place before they get a grip and in a fit of activity forget everything around them. Differences of this nature leave behind traces at workplaces. And the same is true the other way round: Different methods of working require specific workplaces, large or small work surfaces, swivel chairs or straightforward stools, lecterns or desks, behind which one can barricade oneself. Behind Philippe Starck’s BaObab desk one can even feel cozily protected; laptop users may well pre-fer a sofa; and the Kant desk designed by Patrick Frey and Markus Boge (Nils Holger Moormann) unites both those who love order and those who detest it, as the folded-back section mercifully takes not only project files but also everyday rubbish. However, the aesthetic qualities of the surroundings also influence on the work: Light, colors, lighting, materials and seating arrangements are characteristic of people and their personal working style. The following statements and descriptions by well-known designers reveal precisely this. In each case the pictures were taken during the interview. And by the way: Philippe Starck says that he does not work at a desk but in bed.
For me the desk is of particular importance, just as the office in general plays an important role for me as a place of work. I can really only work in the office. I am not someone who opens up a sketchbook on a plane – that is something I just cannot do it. That only happens, where I sit in the office: and that is my desk. It stands on its own in the room, as the architecture dictates. On other office levels here in the building walls were put up. Our studio is quite deliberately open plan. I have the privilege of sitting in a corner, which for me is something like a place of retreat – not quite so exposed, but nonetheless open and in the thick of things. I like this mayhem, everybody hears everything, and I think that if anything this background of voices, sounds and music is even conducive to concentration. That is almost better than if it were so quiet you could hear a pin drop, because when someone sharpens a pencil or a sheet of paper rustles that is far more annoying. At my desk I can concentrate in a way that is only possible in surround-ings that are really personal. And though I share the office with my colleagues and they have access to everything, most things are mine and for this reason there is something very personal about them. This atmosphere is important to me. The desk itself is certainly a place of retreat. It represents a form of barrier, the way it stands there in the room, and it cannot be used from both sides, for the simple reason that the sofa is right in front of it. If we want to sit together we use a different table. There is something untidy about my desk – fortunately I am the only one who has to use it. I have the luxury of it being relatively large. It could even be bigger but would ultimately be just as cluttered as it is now. It is cold and made of metal, which gives it something very formal. Overall, if anything, it is uncomfortable rather than comfortable, just like my desk chair, a rather hard, upright plastic chair, actually a kitchen chair. That was quite deliberate, I like it. The fact that I feel comfortable here has more to do with the things that are here.
I see my office as a “home outside of home”. It is on the top floor of our building, which is in a very quiet, narrow residential road in downtown Milan. My desk is bathed in natural daylight from the left and right. A pomegranate tree on the balcony on the right, a bamboo tree on the balcony on the left. I feel as if I am at home because I am surrounded by things, books and objets d’art that are part of my life. I sit on my Visavis cantilever chair I designed for Vitra a few years back and which I find extremely comfortable. My desk luminaire is a Kelvin, which I designed for Flos. To my left there is a La Chaise armchair by Charles and Ray Eames, who were a major influence on me when I was training. As a student I reproduced all the Eames’ works by putting them together piece by piece, which taught me that you can only develop an extreme minimization of design language if you have a fundamental understanding of industrial production techniques. And there is an Arco floor lamp by Achille Castiglioni for Flos. To my right, next to the Diesis sofa I designed in the 1970s for B&B Italia, there is a wooden footstool designed by my wife Terry Dwan for the Italian company Riva 1920. In the right-hand corner of the room there is a small, private kitchen, where I can make a cup of coffee for myself and my guests, for which I use a traditional Italian Mocca. I enjoy spending my working hours in my office, particularly if I have to concentrate. But I also enjoy working on drawings with my colleagues at their workplaces. I enjoy working!
My desk is a black Eiermann frame with a white laminated, 30-millimeter thick multiplex top meas-uring 180 x 80 centimeters. It is flanked by the desks of the other two Managing Directors in Munich, Claude Toussaint and Nico Michler, and a sideboard by USM Haller in black and chrome. A Tolomeo by Artemide provides sufficient light on my desk. My chair is an Aluchair by Ray and Charles Eames with a higher backrest and leather upholstery. On the desk there is a Siemens OpenStage telephone we designed, an Asus notebook with an additional Sony flat screen, an external keyboard and mouse and a huge pile of design and other specialist magazines and – most important – at all times a sketch pad and pen and pencil. One small luxury I allow myself at my workplace is an iPod Touch, which comes into its own when I want to concentrate on something and not be distracted too much by my surroundings. However, as one of the owners and MDs a large part of my work is communication: internally with our employees and externally with our clients and partners. As such the telephone and Outlook are the most important tools in my everyday work. But I still prefer personal discussions and developing fresh ideas for successful products together with our designers.
“A tidy desk” – that could be my main statement. And every day, if you don’t mind. If possible I only work when it is light – nice big corner windows increase the opportunity to do so. I am not a fan of desk lamps, so in the dark winter months I use an overhead light. The large white desk has enough room for everyday business, and in the evening I leave it tidied up, for fresh ideas when I arrive in the morning. You can only have clear thoughts in a clear environment. No knickknacks, no family portraits, no awards. An iMac in white – with a white screen saver is allowed. And dynamic seating is best on the Vitra classic by Mario Bellini, also without all the trimmings – the simplest version is perfectly adequate. For short meetings in between the movable drawer cabinet and a cushion are used.