Andreas Diefenbach, Managing Partner of PHOENIX, was keynote speaker at the Designblok in Prague as well as guest lecture in the Department of Architecture at the Technical University (CTU), Prague. Extracts from his lectures can be found here >>>
ESSENTIAL MINIMALISM. Welcome to the abstract world of designing authenticity – a world of individuality as a common sense of standardization.
"What do individualization and standardization mean to us today? And what challenges and opportunities arise for designing a new product experience? Perhaps the key is having both: common sense as a standard, and individuality as a must.
Bauhaus shaped standardization and the attitude “form follows function” 100 years ago. The idea of form following function goes back to the American Louis H. Sullivan, the main representative of the Chicago School. Louis H. Sullivan was regarded as one of the first great high-rise architects, and he famously stated: “It is the law of all organic and inorganic, all physical and metaphysical, all human and superhuman things, all genuine manifestations of the head, the heart and the soul that life is recognizable in its expression, that form always follows function.”
We have certainly BUILT in the circle of competence from 1919 into our practice today in 2019, in which we regard HUMANS as individuals in cultural, environmental, and ecological spheres as a central element of our everyday work. And in this framework we call our vision simply, SMART LIVING. Through this, we pride ourselves in the knowledge of construction, engineering, and materials that are going to be completed with dignity and with a deep debate around humanity. In the age of the artificial, the natural becomes exponentially more important for the agenda of mankind. However, this poses bigger questions of how do assembly line products fit in with the desire for individualization, 100 years later, now in the 21st century?
We need to think of systems and intersections of constants and variables, or perhaps of parts of products which have to be worth preserving, and with proportions of flexible elements. With which, when adjusting the product to the context and individual taste, product family AXOR MyEdition is an excellent example of these theories, especially for how thinking is timeless. Yet with an individual product that’s been designed aesthetically, and without a doubt in an authentically sustainable way.
Innovation and design have always been based on the principle of differentiation. The cultivation of the world is advancing, it is full of comparable things. A large part of our work therefore deals with the desire for difference, difference in the better? Difference in perhaps the format of simply less and better in the way we design, do we think this is a lot to ask for? What is certainly expected more and more is not the normal, but the truly special. The hopes of many people are not attached to the standardized, but to the unique – the singular.
Reduction and perfection in PHOENIX perspective have always been the main goals for both craftsmen and inventors because avoiding the irrelevant means emphasizing the important. In this aspect we want to achieve the maximum level of expressivity with minimal expression. We try to balance the visual, the tactile, and the sensual to create an unusual but harmonious experience. We bridge the masculine and the feminine with an obsessive attention to detail. We are working with nuances and not with colours. This in many ways is what we mean by ESSENTIAL MINIMALISM. Living a life based on essentials is less about minimalism and more about celebrating what we value most, as our personal relationship to products gives them significance, an essence that goes beyond their physical properties.
Human needs are increasingly no longer satisfied by form and function, but by multi-sensory experiences and individual meaning. Physical health is developing into mental, pure function into meaning. Significant moments get deeply engrained into our memory and coalesce into a unique identification with the product and the brand, which is not stimulated top-down by advertising, but rather bottom-up from the sum of everyday moments of interaction with the product, the service, or a community within a constantly changing context.
For both material goods and services, the mass production of uniform goods is replaced by experiences and things that are not the same nor identical for everyone, but which simply want to be unique. The emancipated consumer in the post-growth era develops a differentiating sensibility towards standard products. A case in point: bread and water are tasted and savoured in ways that used to be reserved for wine connoisseurs. The trend towards individualization will drive change in the economy and in society, especially in terms of sustainability. If we want to design authenticity, we need to understand what makes an experience meaningful for human beings – as it were: looking at the future in the rear-view mirror. We need to empathize with the individual, we need to know who they truly are, where they come from, what they need, expect, and wish for. Designing authenticity means designing essentials with the possibility of individualization, especially to fight against time in order to keep the product relevant for as long as possible." ... Abstract from Lecture by Andreas Diefenbach.