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Magazine paper 02

The starting point: considerations of the structure of our lives

»The starting point: considerations of the structure of our lives.«

Together with Naber, the Nordhorn-based family company specializing in kitchen accessories, Bureau Kilian Schindler has developed a modular kitchen system.
With its flexible, open design the Concept Kitchen is causing a stir at specialist trade fairs and was awarded the renowned design prizes »Plus X Award 2011«, »Interior Innovation Award 2012« and Gold in the Home Interior category of the »German Design Award 2012«.
Sophia Muckle spoke to product designer Kilian Schindler in his office in Karlsruhe.
» Your Concept Kitchen design is like a radical counter-design to the classic fitted kitchen. Was this your intention from the start, Mr. Schindler? «


No, that idea was not at the front of my mind. The project began much better—namely with a fundamental consideration of life, work and, indeed, cooking. We thought about how often we move house during our lifetime. What do we take with us? What do we leave behind? The kitchen always presents a problem, in every move. Given that it is very common in Germany to buy and install your own kitchen in a rented apartment, as an owner of a fitted kitchen, you can count yourself very lucky if, on moving out, the tenant coming in after you is willing to buy the kitchen units off you. The term »fitted kitchen« already makes it clear that the kitchen is integrated into the architecture—and your new apartment is guaranteed to have different dimensions. That is why it was important to us that the Concept Kitchen adapts to the user’s circumstances and personal preferences. We have designed the system such that it can be assembled easily and without the need for tools. In this way the kitchen becomes furniture you can simply pick up and take with you. Another question that interested us was: Where do we need a kitchen? For we don’t just eat and cook at home, but also at the office, in the workshop, at exhibitions or in the allotment garden. For these mealtimes however we don’t need all the equipment we pile up in our cupboards at home. So the Concept Kitchen is not so much a counter-design to the fitted kitchen, but more an alternative—the practical solution for a variety of situations and needs.
» How did your collaboration with Naber come about, which left you so much space for fundamental considerations? «
The starting point: considerations of the structure of our livesOur collaboration with Naber resulted from an entirely different project. I had been looking into allotment gardens when working on the design of a coatrack. I am fascinated by the little huts you find in allotment gardens, which are often a collage of prefabricated elements and the owner’s own solutions. Miniature worlds emerge—sometimes rustic, sometimes Mediterranean, tidy or chaotic. And always authentic and lively.
So my coatrack design featured a metal frame based on the trellises you use in the garden. The design provides a framework, and the owner decides what the rack should look like—orderly, reduced and minimalistic, or exuberant and completely overloaded. This design approach intrigued Mr. Naber, senior chief of the company, upon which he contacted me.
» In addition to the numerous design awards, what in your opinion characterizes the project, Mr. Schindler? «
The awards are naturally a great acknowledgement of the design. But what makes the project so special for me is not even visible at first glance! For instance, I thought it extraordinary that a company was willing to try out something completely new and invest in extensive research. Naber is actually a kitchen accessories specialist and has thus entered virgin territory with the Concept Kitchen. So for everyone involved, including field sales staff, the project represents an intensive learning process. It was this willingness to learn together and our close collaboration with product developer Martin Staaks, who hammered out the details with me, that made it possible to develop a new approach in the first place. This new approach consists in deliberately supplying the kitchen only as a frame, which the user fills with life. Moreover, the modular structure enables the user to buy only those things he needs. If as a young man I only cook rarely in my first apartment, I don’t want to buy an entire kitchen. Nonetheless I don’t want to invest my money in future refuse. I am looking for a solution I can take with me when I move, extend or convert and that is produced in Europe under decent conditions. If I move to another place or my circumstances change, I can take my module with me and extend it, for example with another module or even with my girlfriend’s fitted units. The design does not hide this flexibility behind cupboard doors, but highlights it. This kind of development is only possible if you can think about the structures at the start and discuss how we actually live with these things. It really is some-thing special if you can implement such ideas in the design process!
» What is most innovative about the Concept Kitchen is the formal approach and the structure, which at first glance seems very simple. Would you agree? «
If something seems simple or self-evident, that is a real compliment. Yet I can say from experience that for that you need to spend a long time working on the details. The metal frame of the Concept Kitchen is designed for heavy loads—so that for example you can install the oven at the required height. To keep the bases light, we integrated crossbeams into them to reduce the amount of material used and ensure stability. A similar amount of thought went into the clip system that enables users to adjust the height of the bases. And they are just two of the technical details. But that is something that makes me really happy: You buy something because it looks good or could be practical—and then when using it you discover that it is really ingenious into the bargain.      


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