● First of all, we would like to know about you. Can you please tell us about your design career and how did you get into it?
Gunter Fleitz: My interest in art and art history began at an early age. I was fortunate to travel around Europe a lot as a child and teenager. The architectural treasures I saw on my travels made a lasting impression and were a formative influence on me. I eventually realized this is the path I want to pursue.
Peter Ippolito: I tried out various things after graduating from high school. I worked as a wine merchant for a while and also on a construction site. Then practically overnight I decided to move to Paris, without really knowing what I wanted to do there. The freedom of not having to do something gave me time to explore the city for myself. I walked its streets, discovered its hidden places and drew what I saw. At some point I realized, I’m going to be an architect.
We set up our own business straight after graduating. We had this idea to look at things not only from an architect’s perspective. And we wanted to work in an interdisciplinary way. We initially set off down this path with two other partners. Then in 2002, the two of us founded Ippolito Fleitz Group. Our core business values remain the same today as they’ve always been an interdisciplinary approach, lateral thinking, admitting ideas, no matter how fantastic, being identity architects.
● What does interior / interior design mean to you?
No matter what we design, it is always communication. We understand every space as constructed communication. The interaction of sender and recipient, which impressions create a particular attitude, how is it perceived…These are key themes of our work and all have to do with communication.
● How is your approach to an interiors project at the begining? How do you start?
We first attempt to understand what the project is really about. What motivates the client, what is the world like in which he operates? This results in a multifaceted picture with a whole range of parameters. The next stage is to formulate a strong idea that will be the starting point for our work. We often don’t stop at formulating a single idea, however, but present our clients with several ideas from which to choose. The client can then opt for a specific direction, which allows us to enter into a new dialogue. Then we verify the result and start asking questions all over again if need be.
● You have designs for architecture, interiors and products. At first glance all these seem to be a little bit different from each other. What kind of a relationship exists between industrial design practice and architectural practice? How are they affecting each other?
Our company developed the term ‘Identity Architects’ to encompass a broad, lateral thinking approach. Yet over and above a concept-oriented approach, the quality of our work derives from the quality of our employees, who are each highly specialized in their own discipline. This dialectic is what makes our company so special. The ability to perceive the bigger picture, while having an exceptional grasp of fine detail.
● Office projects take an important place in your portfolio. Which points you take into consideration when designing workplace in order to increase eficiency in the office?
The miniaturisation of our digital working tools leads to a multitude of consequences: Workstations become smaller, our work more mobile. Today many of us are no longer bound to our desks. Instead we can work in different places – in the department, the building, in a coffee shop, at the airport. Moreover, the ubiquity of telecommuting and the home office have made the workday much more flexible. Some companies have responded to these changing conditions by doing away with the traditional allocation of individual workstations in favour of a non-territorial desk system. And because not every employee is physically present in the office at all times, a reduced number of workstations will suffice. Actual space requirements are reduced further still as technology continues to shrink in size and employees limit the amount of physical things they require to ensure greater mobility. Spaces are thus employed in a much more efficient way. At the same time, designing the workstation to cater to each respective user in an individually adaptable and scalable way is an important challenge here. All this changes how we conceive the built environment of work. On one hand space can be used more efficiently, which results in many fantastic responses from the real estate side. On the other hand, we need to develop new typologies that suit the changing demands of our work.
● You have also designed quite number of restaurants. What do you think about the latest trends of worldwide restaurant space design?
In an era in which design has long become an integral part of everyday culture and trends come and go at an ever-faster pace, it has become increasingly difficult to stand out. So, it’s even more important to endow concepts with a highly consistent attitude and personality, which make the space something that can be directly experienced, is immediately memorable and worth talking about. In our accelerating world, the desire for authenticity and storytelling in the third place has become increasingly crucial. Innovations are engaged in a tug of war between grounding and mechanization. On one hand the sensual and emotional translation of the food on offer within the space, a staging of the preparation process, as well as the continuing development of sustainability concepts that are by no means at an end. On the other hand, processes and experiences that are becoming increasingly digitalized.
● Can you tell us what you have been working on recently?
At the moment we’re especially excited about the Asian market, and China in particular. We are in charge of the Corporate Architecture of international brands such as Adidas or Walter Knoll there. But we’re particularly excited about the Chinese brands Bolon, dada or Keer, that we’re developing for local target groups. We are also working on a new shopping mall in Moscow, designing the Headquarters for the German discounter Lidl and developing various restaurant concepts for the Swiss-based brand Marché.
● What advice would you give to the young designers?
Keep your eyes open and look around yourself. Enter into discussion, admit other ways of thinking, be self-critical. And finally: Just do it.