Talking Interiors at the RCA: Konstantin Grcic

As part of the Talking Interiors lecture series promoted by the Interior Design department of the RCA, this week saw international design’s fast-rising star Konstantin Grcic as the coveted guest speaker in front of a large audience of eager listeners, students and fellow design enthusiasts.

A 1990 graduate of the prestigious RCA school, and one of the leading figures of the contemporary industrial design world, Grcic didn’t spare his energy in keeping listeners engaged and alert throughout the hour-and-a-half talk that saw a tightly packed room reverently anticipating every word – and joke – he delivered. Introduced as an “original thinker” as well as a “decisive designer”, the Munich-based designer started by sharing a few works of art that embody his work philosophy and aesthetic. These pictures are all connected by the concept of space, of environment design and how artificial – or authentic – spaces can be to both the designer and the viewer.

This culminated at the core of the conference, when Grcic unveiled, for the first time, some sneak peeks of his upcoming exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum, opening March 21st. The images shared at the beginning also represent the main inspiration for the spatial design of the show, and it was interesting to see how subtly they come back in the settings and the rooms.  Now finally named ‘”Panorama“, initially its title was “2025 Future Perfect”. The change occured because the Architecture Triennale of Lisbon used the same wording as the theme of one of their events, and Panorama also poetically wraps up the display choices of the exhibition. Grcic also wanted this retrospective to be everything but “boring”; instead, he decided to present his products and his path through an exhibition that actually investigates a not-too-distant future. It is set 11 years from now, in a time when most of the people viewing the show will still be alive and able to compare this view of 2025 to the real thing.

Grcic explained how in his first phase when developing this concept he acted as a movie director, thinking from object to environment to people and bringing it all together as one – a big change from being an industrial designer! As he stated, the complex architecture of the museum quickly brought him back to reality as the layout of the rooms needed quite structured and defined decisions to concretise all that research and mood. The show will take over the four main spaces of the building, raising from main floor to top floor. And following its development, the displays will be grouped into 4 main environments, accompanying the visitor from private space through work space to public space.

The first room is called “Life Space” and explores modern nomad living. It will consist of a full-scale space with a window overlooking a fictional airport. As in every room, his products are non-invasive protagonists and blend smoothly into the design. In his own words, these spaces are flip spaces, meaning they can be read as both positive or negative views of the future, and all interpretation is left to the visitor. Following the private space, the “Work Space” is next, showcasing a futuristic view of the work place in 2025. “Public Space” follows, which the designer found the most challenging to set up since he admits never having (yet) been commissioned to design public space projects. His solution to avoid falling into artificiality was to commission someone else to contribute to the show: a 28 by 4m digital painting was realized by London-based Neil Campbell Ross, depicting an astounding panorama of a futuristic urban landscape. Grcic’s designs are cleverly merged into the setting as the room feels like a concrete terrace surrounded by a metallic fence, scattered with his iconic Chair One for Magis where the visitor can sit and contemplate the fictive panorama.

Last but not least, the exhibition moves upstairs with a show inside the show – his “Object Space” dedicated to his path as a designer, his projects and his inspirations. The room is outlined by a vitrine where the objects follow each other seamlessly, linked by a very personal and subjective connection that belongs only to Grcic. Because in the end it is him, as a designer, a thinker and a creative, the true final protagonist of this oneiric exhibition. We left inspired and motivated, not to mention grateful for being such a pleasant speaker and a non-pretentious, (almost) human design icon.

We can not wait for the “Panorama” exhibition to open, in the meantime please visit Vitra Design Museum’s as well as Konstantin Grcic’s website for further information. Below is an overview of a few of the artworks cited by the designer as his inspiration. – Gemma Riberti

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