Transforming the Haus

Upside down with Dick Spierenburg

A background in manufacturing and exhibiting has done much to inform the all-encompassing views of imm’s newest art director, who presents a decided change of atmosphere, transmitting a current of good energy throughout the halls of this Cologne fair. Up until now the event has focused on furniture, but Dick Spierenburg is bent on extending the concept into full-blown interior design. This year sees the introduction of 'Das Haus', adding an avantgarde touch and thus promptly providing a weighted highlight to signify this new approach...

DAM: As an architect and designer, how did you come to be art director of a trade fair?
That is a long story, which I need to make shorter. For a long time, I was a manufacturer myself and developed my own furniture collection. So I held exhibitions in Cologne in the 1980s and 1990s. I've had close associations with the Cologne trade fair ever since. Also, as a designer I've always organised exhibitions. Now, as an ar t director, I have the chance to combine architecture, design and exhibitions. That is a great challenge – my objective is to turn these three areas into a successful

DAM: What can visitors to this year’s imm cologne expect?
The fair has been in the process of transforming itself from purely furniture-focused to interior design. This year we are going one step fur ther in this direction. It will also be even more international and interesting, because many of the exhibitors are returning to the Rhine.

DAM: Bathroom, flooring, kitchen and lighting manufacturers are also exhibiting at the fair. Which core concept is the Cologne trade fair pursuing by opening itself up to the entire interior design sector?
Our visitors are interested in interior design in general. Although furniture is an important part of this, it is only a part. This is why we are attempting to put together an interesting mix of all products relating to interiors and mixing the themes.

DAM: The number of foreign exhibitors has increased by 18% compared to last year. How do you see the role of imm cologne in the international furniture market?
I think it has a very important role. It is not just the German market and those of the neighbouring
countries that are important in this respect. As a design and business fair, imm cologne carries significance for the whole of Europe. Furthermore, we have received a great deal of feedback from the USA and Asia; their interest in visiting imm cologne has increased considerably. Of course, there is also the fact that a great deal happens during the furniture fair in Cologne, and many new developments are revealed.

DAM: This year the fair is showing 'Das Haus' for the first time. What are the thoughts behind this new design event?
It has been traditional in Cologne to not just allocate floor space and let the exhibitors do all the work. We also design programmes, investigate trends, organise exhibitions, and show what is happening in living spaces. With 'Das Haus' we want to encapsulate interesting developments in living spaces, daily routines and life. We have consciously invited a young, avant-garde designer duo, namely Doshi Levien, to take a look at the developments in living spaces and to reflect on materials, colours and products. In this respect, 'Das Haus' is a type of research study that is exhibited at the fair.

DAM: Is it more a case of the current situation or future concepts?

'Das Haus' is a kind of laboratory and workshop that provides an insight into how designers reflect on living spaces and perhaps what their own dreams are. It combines professional and personal views of living spaces and can put future perspectives up for discussion.

DAM: For two years now, Pure Village has constituted a hall with a special, specifically interlinked architecture. What has proved successful about this format?
What is special is the interlinked hall design and the more uniform stand constructions, which are extremely variable. Pure Village gives exhibitors the opportunity to exhibit their products without great expense. We can therefore showcase a colourful mixture of small and large businesses and create an exciting atmosphere at the exhibition. The feedback is mostly positive, as are the number of visitors. We will also integrate 'Das Haus' into the Pure Village platform.

DAM: Young designers also have the possibility of presenting their ideas, prototypes and small furniture series at the trade fair. How do you rate this opportunity for newcomers to the industry?
There are two options for young talent at imm cologne. On the one hand, they can take part in the 3D Design Contest. This is a good opportunity for attracting press attention and making contact with manufacturers. The second option is to exhibit at one of the roughly-30 stands that we have set aside for young independent design studios. We thus offer young professionals an excellent opportunity to access a larger audience. As we want to provide better links overall between young talent and the market, we have integrated them into the normal fair instead of putting them in a separate hall, as was previously the case.

DAM: Can any tendencies or trends be detected yet?
A trade fair always gives a large overview of new developments. I prefer to call trends developments.
The trend book that previously existed was reduced to four themes. In my eyes that is too few by far; after all, there is a whole spectrum of developments. Overall, the fair shows that interiors are becoming more flexible. They must be able to adapt to changing circumstances and requirements simply and without delay. For furniture this means that it is becoming less for-mal and accommodating several functions. This flexibility in use is noticeable in many areas.

DAM: Do you have a personal highlight for imm cologne 2012?
For me, it is of course always difficult to distinguish something from the many highlights that imm cologne has to offer. However, at this point I must also confess that I have grown particularly fond of Pure Village because I played a part in shaping and designing it. And this year I collaborated with Doshi Levien too. I found it great fun to see these two designers approaching 'Das
Haus'. /

Interview: Sandra Hofmeister

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