The 2015 edition of the pan-European startup contest Idea Challenge sees an increase in variety and internationality. The series of events re…
Photo credit: chmara.rosinke
The space is filled with the sounds of cutting, tightening of screws, and sweeping. Chipped woods lie on the concrete floor, and the remainder of a cardboard box. On the big wooden table, which takes up about a third of the room, there is a pile of papers, brochures, ideas. It’s cold; only one of the wooden chairs has a seat cushion. And still, it is homey somehow: A cracking sound is coming from the small oven in the furthest corner, and the light from the brass luster bathes the room with its brick lined walls in a warm light. The studio of Ania Rosinke and Maciej Chmara in the 16th district in Vienna used to be an old carbon bearing, which was empty for many years until the two designers discovered it. That was last summer.
„We were looking for a room that allowed us to start from scratch. That way, we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted. Step by step,” says Maciej. Although the 29-year-old in a white button-down short and a blue bow tie, matching the bright blue work apron he has tied around his hips, is referring to the work place of the duo, he might as well be talking about the overall oeuvre of the two designers – an oeuvre that is dedicated to simple and clear conceptual design based on a strict conception of aesthetics that takes socio-cultural and ecological aspects of design seriously.
But let’s start at the beginning.
The couple went to an architecture and design university in Gdansk in Poland, and later spent an Erasmus year in Linz, where they met curator Adolph Stiller. He encouraged them to work on a book about Poland, which is how Maciej and Ania ended up in Vienna, where they opened an office for conceptual design in 2010. Their breakthrough, however, took place in the western part of Austria, in Vorarlberg. As the winners of a competition they implemented art installations in the mountains about sound and silence.
Whenever the two Poles speak about their creative work, they use the words “freedom“ and “fun“. Almost as often as “consequent” and “strict”. What, on the surface, seems contradictory, on closer look, turns out to be the most natural expression of the duo’s work ethic and philosophy.
“We try to do only things that we have lots of fun with,” says Maciej. “We are very strict about that,” adds Ania. The 28-year old with oversized glasses has her hair up, wears a work apron, and underneath, a dress. “With this consistency, we make sure that the clients who approach us know exactly what we stand for.”
“We simply don’t see the point in designing the millionth chair,” says Maciej. Not when it’s just for the sake of designing. “For us, objects are the result of deeper thought processes.”
Photo credit: chmara.rosinkeThus, the idea for one of the most successful projects of the two designers – that of „mobile hospitality“ – was also born out of a broader consideration. Three years ago, the duo received the assignment from Art Design Feldkirch to plan and conduct projects in urban spaces. „Our main thought and objective was to introduce us, to meet people, and to encourage people to spontaneously spend time together,” says Maciej. To bring people to the table – literally. And what is more self-evident than achieving this through culinary delights?
To realise the idea of mobile hospitality, the designer duo thus built a folding wooden table, 12 matching chairs, and a mobile kitchen with a foot-pump, an herb bed, and a yellow watering can. With that, they chugged first through Vorarlberg and then all over Europe.
Setting the table
On their mobile hospitality tours, the two hobby chefs dish up a variety of different three-course menus, consisting of a soup, a main course, and a dessert. “To us, it’s important to use regional and seasonal food. That’s why we usually plan our recipes on the spot,” says Maciej. That way, you can easily be served crayfish in saffron sauce one day, and Käsknöpfle (a regional specialty from Vorarlberg) the next.
Around Christmas, Maciej and Ania cooked for homeless people in Paris. “Many of them hadn’t eaten together at a table in a long time,” says Maciej. “But that’s exactly the role of design: to bring people together,” adds Ania. “Communication and the social aspect of design are important to us.”
Thus, the designer duo doesn’t need a license for their mobile kitchen. “We’re not doing this commercially. The project is called mobile hospitality. A host would never ask his or her guests to pay, so we don’t either,” says Maciej. “As a thank you for our food, sometimes our guests bring us wine or jam the next day.”
Even though the designer duo doesn’t make any money with their mobile hospitality tours, they have at least found several sponsors, such as Neue Wiener Werkstätte, Design Feldkirch, and departure, who time and again pay for their transportation and food costs.
When it comes to selling their objects, the two also stay true to their principles. “Whenever someone wants to buy one of our objects, we first ask: Who is this? What does the company do? What does the potential buyer want to do with our object? We are very strict with that,” says Maciej.
That’s why the two don’t want to come up with a marketing strategy for the mobile kitchen. “The project is so specific that it’s simply not fit for mass production,” says Maciej. “Also, it’s just not our thing. We don’t want to unnecessarily sell products.“
Photo credit: chmara.rosinkechmara.rosinke also doesn’t accept projects that don’t fit their portfolio. “That would bring in a lot of money, but it would go against our personal understanding of design,” says Maciej. Sticking to this rule, the two have created a brand for themselves over the years.
“If you are 100% behind your work, you will always find someone who can feel your passion and who will share it with you,” says Maciej. Thus, the two designers only work with selected partners, like an urban chef from Zurich who focuses on herbs, or with Caritas. With the charity organisation, chmara.rosinke is currently working on a co-cooking project in an old bread factory in the tenth district. And here, too, the social aspect of designing – and cooking – plays a central role. For example, people will have the opportunity to build furniture together in workshops.
Do it yourself
„If you build something yourself, you create a completely different connection to the space and to the furniture,“ says Maciej. „Only when you’ve built something yourself, you realise how much work goes into such an object. Low-budget furniture from Ikea is simply not feasible in a fair ecology. People should think about whether or not they really want a piece of furniture that has been shipped twice around the whole world,” says Maciej. In that sense, chmara.rosinke’s work also has an awareness raising aspect to it. “We wouldn’t necessarily call ourselves awareness raisers, but we do seek to communicate something,” says Maciej. Namely, a logic and an understanding for furniture.
Can there even be a business model for such entrepreneurship? “Actually, we don’t have one,” says Ania. The designers work more according to their personal philosophy than rules and principles of business management. “But we do have a rough plan about what we definitely want to do in a particular year. We also look at which exhibitions and projects we need to do so we can pay for our apartment and our studio,” says Maciej.
They also want to keep developing their food theme, with meals and performances for larger groups set to take place in their studio. And on the side, Maciej and Ania want to expand their financial buffer, so they can initiate some of their own projects. Projects that will be a lot of fun. Logically.
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