This year, BMW released the BMW Concept 8 Series, which combines peerless design with breathtaking speeds for an unparalleled driving experience. This unabashedly modern and athletic model is slated for a 2018 release. To celebrate, SLEEK will be profiling a series of innovative designers and artists who work with the idea of speed. In this instalment, we’re interviewing Berlin architecture duo June 14.
June 14 are a young Berlin-based architecture practice. Their works are sumptuously modern, faultlessly intellectual and super sexy at the same time, and they have a fascinating relationship to speed. Despite working in one of the creative disciplines that lasts the longest, they’ve worked on everything from desk-lamps based on cranes to galleries that vanish after the exhibition closes, and bridges that move with the water level. Based in a studio just around the corner from Sleek, they are architects building for the changing world. Because if you’re building today, can you even know what tomorrow looks like?
Vehicle design involves making objects that move on their own. So who better to discuss the subject with than an architecture studio? Moreover, June14 felt like incredible people to discuss in the context of the BMW Concept 8 Series, a radical car that’s built around the idea that acceleration is the ultimate luxury. The BMW car is designed to seam aggressively, seamless fast – it looks like it’s speeding even while stationary. Yet this propulsion is also built around the luxury of silent control – serenity through speed. Though just as intellectual and aesthetically appealing June14’s designs are the inverse – stationary objects that invoke change and motion.
We spoke to them in their atelier in Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 11. Though built during the last years of the GDR, the space is very “now”, incorporating as it does shopping on the ground floor, a level of small work-spaces, and apartments above. Overlooking the TV Tower, it’s almost as though the Communists designed the present, which is a good vantage point to discuss how architects can design for a world changing ever faster.
Is Berlin a fast city to work in?
Sam Chermayeff: In a really practical way, people are casual here about time.
Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge: And generous, which is also nice sometimes. Generous about time. If you do something, people come, people always have time. To view or to come, or to listen, or to do whatever, so that’s actually I consider a nice thing, especially compared to New York, where everything is meeting for exactly one hour or 45 minutes.
Sam Chermayeff: I think people are also flexible with their time. Like we can ask people to stay up all night here in a way that you can’t in NY. You can be like, I really need this thing by Friday and you can find someone to do it.
Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge: It’s not really “slow,” it’s just more flexible and more generous again. It’s not so set.
You work at several different sizes and timescales, from a desk lamp to an interior restoration to a full apartment block. Do you prefer working on short or long-lead projects?
Sam Chermayeff: Let’s put it like this: the most fun thing to do is to finish something. So, the smaller, the better. Because you get to see it. I’s really satisfying to have a really beautiful table that people are using. It’s much more satisfying than even working something out, like a much larger building when it’s still a couple years from completion.
Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge: I think it’s not so different, especially the process of designing it. You can spend as much time as thinking about a lamp as a corporate headquarters. When it comes to being realised, then, of course, it’s very different. It’s more complex, you have to deal with more people, and a bigger team. But the starting point of thinking about it is the same.
Can you talk me through your composition process?
Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge: One process that we learned from our former bosses at Sanaa, in Tokyo, was to be willing to work with other options. One important thing is to not be content too quickly. It is absolutely a luxury to do that, because in architecture you’re paid by the project, not by the hour. So at the beginning, when you just start your practice, you just take the luxury because you don’t have anything else to do, and as it develops, you get a little bit faster at understanding what works and what doesn’t. But not being content is a super-power.
Architecture has a weird relationship to speed, and time, because unlike almost any other creative field, you have to think about how the product will work today, and also how it will work in the far future. You’ve becoming known for temporary or adaptable buildings, like the pavilion or the inflatable bridge.
Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge: The bridge isn’t inflatable, but it is very changeable because it’s floating: if the water is high, it can go float, if not, it doesn’t. It’s basically not a fixed thing, and maybe that’s a good symbol for what we’re trying to do. Things are changing, but if the buildings are there for 400 years, we also need to build them for a long time. But I don’t think the solution is to make inflatable buildings that you can pack them away every time – I think the solution is to make buildings that can adapt to different uses, so mainly spaces that can be used in different ways. I think is important for us to never design in a way that there’s only one way to use it.
Sam Chermayeff: There’s a balance to that, and those things change the space, but they’re almost hyper particular or specific. So that you can find some balance between endless flexibility and real specificity. Specificity is also the root of story-telling and when it comes to the really the good part of life, it’s always the particulars.
Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge: There are two different ways of flexibility: one based on total neutrality, one based on total specificity. We’re interested in the second.
We live in a rapidly changing world, from geopolitics to technology. How do you as architects navigate this increasingly uncertain future?
Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge: For me, the answer is to create building that can adapt. In a it’s always better to make a really good building that can adapt to the use of the change of time. All really good buildings can do that, whether you’re working today, or 100 years ago, or 100 years from now.
Sam Chermayeff: We’re interested in making relatively inexpensive buildings so we’re not super precious about it at the same time. I don’t mind if it’s nicked up a little, I don’t mind that. Like corners smashed in a little. I don’t mind that it’s not this thing that lasts forever that’s super secure. I think Germany has this thing of making everything as if it’s really going to last forever, but I have a different feeling about it. It’s nice to be an architect and not take yourself too seriously all the time, because you have to take yourself really seriously sometimes to get people to spend a lot of money. You have to state, “I’m sure about this,” when really how can you be sure about anything, right?
For more information on the BMW Concept 8 Series, watch BMW.com