BAU 2015 Team Building No. 4: Sophisticated surfaces
What´s the secret behind creating a breathtaking building that sets new standards in form and function? A house like the “SU House” in Stuttgart, an aesthetically beautiful three-floor villa that combines amazing aesthetics with a unique spatial experience. Clearly good planning is essential for achieving this kind of a result. But in this project, the choice of surface materials also played a big part in the overall effect.
In the next in our BAU Team Building Interviews, we present the strong team behind the “SU House”: Architect Alexander Brenner, and processor Rolf-Dieter Kellner, responsible for the design of the surfaces in the interior. Read on to find discover how close partnership can result in something really special.
Participants of the BAU Team Building No. 4:
Kellner Farbgestaltung Beck,
Alexander Brenner Architekten,
Your cooperation has resulted in a superb building, the product of an excellent partnership between architect and processor. How would you describe this cooperation in general?
Very open and always in a spirit of partnership. Always searching for new solutions, but never losing track of feasibility. A good exchange at a very human and honest level.
We see the building trades with whom we work not just as the ones who carry out the job, but as real partners with whom we discuss the design and technical options in a project, sometimes engaging in experiments with them. The aim is always to achieve the best possible results.
Had you worked together on other projects before this one – can you tell us how this cooperation came about?
We had worked on two projects with the architects before, in Stuttgart, in which we were involved in designing creative surfaces. In the first project, as an introduction, it was about the surface finishes on concrete, then more and more new ideas and suggestions followed, and the extent of our involvement grew.
As with all the building trades we are always on the look-out for “the best” and a few years ago our attention was drawn to Kellner Farbgestaltung. We started them with a few smaller jobs first, and I am happy to say that we do almost all the high-quality surfaces now with this firm.
Mr. Brenner, can you describe how you convey your ideas on the design to the processing firm or the building workers?
Of course we have an idea of how, say, a particular surface design should look, but in general our client, as we ourselves, are happy for the building trades to give us the benefit of their creative and craft skills. Indeed we expect them to. I like to compare this with an orchestra, in which I am the conductor, but without excellent musicians and soloists, I would not be able to put on a concert.
What are the criteria you look for when you are engaging tradesmen or processors to work with you on projects?
An open, honest and respectful way of dealing with each other is very important to us. I think that is an absolute must if you want to achieve outstanding craft quality. Also, the building firm itself must be just as keen as we are to do the job to the client´s utmost satisfaction.
In your view, up to what point in the planning process are all options still on the table as regards feasibility and implementability of an idea? For example in terms of choice of products.
As we lay such great emphasis on the actual execution side, implementability is always a key point for us. So if an idea can´t be made to work, for reasons of design or technology, then we prefer to work out other possibilities together with the tradespeople.
Mr. Kellner, at what point in the planning are you normally brought on board?
When I am brought in for color design or consultation, I get involved very early, often when the shell of the building is still being erected. Other key factors are the base onto which the finish is applied and the materials to be used. I am also involved in coming up with and developing ideas for the spatial design—and that makes the whole job even more interesting. Often, however, we painters, designers and craftspeople are called in too late. Then our job is simply one of decoration or covering over errors. With Brenner architects, happily, this is not the case. With them we start swapping ideas early on in a project.
What kind of ideas or visions do architects and planners approach you with? And how often do you find that those ideas have to be treated as a special case?
In our case the architect generally knows that we are not just “ordinary” painters. Many architects therefore come along to me with their clients in search of inspiration and to find out what new and interesting ideas are now possible. These ideas often lead to very good design suggestions. And the client´s own ideas make the whole thing even more exciting. When we work through samples and plans, the overall vision then takes shape almost by chance, but in the end it turns out to be a winner.
What qualities do you most like to see in an architect?
I like architects to have resolve in their dealings with the client, and not let themselves bow down to cost pressure if they really want to achieve beautiful solutions. And I value a long-term working relationship where the architect values the input of the tradespeople.
Let us return to your joint project, the “SU House” in Stuttgart: How does the building react to the different conditions?
The building reacts on the one hand through its outer form to the urban context and it meets in full the requirements of the future occupants and in particular the way they live.
What was the brief and what solution did you come up with?
Surfaces that bear a special signature and that are made from authentic materials. The color and the materials had to fit in with the character of the building. All the surfaces we do are pure hand-craft work, each surface is unique, and the materials used are mainly lime-marble plaster, wax, oils and metal powder.
The aim was to build a house to meet the client´s needs. At the same time, the house had to be a calm “backdrop” for the many sculptures and pictures. What we did was to integrate the art into the living space, not present it.
How did the project change from initial design to completion?
In the beginning only a few surfaces were intended to have a special accent, but over time the client became more and more interested and ever more ideas were developed between us, the client and the architect; we then tried them out and adopted them.
For me the planning stops only when the house is finally completed. The basic framework -the structure- remains in place over the entire planning process, but through working with the client and the building trades, developments do take place – above all as regards the interior and here in particular the surface designs.
Did the current trends in energy-efficiency, construction and design influence the project?
We are guided in particular by “non-current” trends. We try to design projects that are modern and contemporary, but not a product of the latest fashion. Which is why valuable and lasting materials and surfaces are so important for us. And of course, for us as well as our clients, it is important to explore the options for generating energy without using fossil fuels.
What special considerations applied to the use of the material on site?
The techniques used above all on the many built-in cupboards and wall claddings require the utmost precision. The coordination between the various trades was excellent and it played a big part in the quality of the finished result. That is also thanks to the efforts of the architect Alexander Brenner, because he tends to use the same tradesmen each time and the benefits of that are seen in the construction processes and the finished result.
And finally, are there any anecdotes you would like to share with us about your cooperation?
When the team from Brenner Architects first visited our showrooms the young colleagues of Alexander Brenner were so excited that they kept taking photos and dictating notes into their cameras. The boss caught on to what was happening and he then also came down to join us.
Project: SU House, Stuttgart, D
Architect, landscape architect, lighting planner, interior designer: Alexander Brenner Architekten, Stuttgart, D
Processor: Kellner Farbgestaltung Beck, Stuttgart, D
Photography: Zooey Braun, Kellner Farbgestaltung Beck