Interview conducted by Désirée Schellerer for Bene Austria
Konstantin Grcic was born in Munich in 1965. He studied industrial design at the RCA in London and worked at Jasper Morrison in London in 1990/91. In 1991 he founded his design firm, Konstantin Grcic Industrial Design, in Munich. KGID is active in several areas of design, from furniture to architecture projects.
Konstantin Grcic designs industrial products that are often described as essential, simple and minimalistic. He prefers the term simplicity. His definition of function is tailored to people and is achieved with a mix of formal rigour, intellectual ingenuity and a certain irony.
Mr Grcic, I realised when we tried to schedule our interview that you are frequently on the road. Do you have a “primary workspace”, and – if so – where is it?
My office, and that’s very important to me. I try to spend as much time here as possible. I need my own environment for concentration. There’s something introverted about that. For me, this concentration and focus are what work is all about. The place to do it is here in my office in Munich.
Does that mean that you prefer to be in your office above all?
Yes, but travel is still important. This has to do with the alternation between quiet and stimulation. It is a great illusion, however, to believe that you can go the airport, open your laptop and immediately start working – that’s doesn’t work for me at all. When I travel, I find it difficult to concentrate on my work. Work is something very personal. The popular idea that “we are all nomads” is rather too much of a cliché in my view. When travelling I prefer to spend my time reading, sleeping or listening to music – in other words finding time for leisurely activities.
Where is your office located?
In the city centre, close to the train station. It’s quite a busy area, but our office is cut off from all the noise because it’s located in the second interior courtyard inside the building. You can step out directly into the life of the city, but it’s also possible to be free of distractions. It’s so quiet that in the summer I can leave the windows open. Our office team is relatively small; there are six of us, a small group.
What type of office do you like – an open office or a cubicle? Do you prefer to be alone or to be in a room together with other people?
The whole office is just one room, about 120 square metres, a very open, light space that we all share. This exposure forces me to work even harder to achieve concentration. You hear noises and music playing. I like this environment – that’s work. It’s also movement. Working means physical movement for me; like building models, the hum of the drill. So you can sense the work process, and I find that motivating.
My work is somewhat introverted, but only to the extent that I am the only person who can do certain things. Constant brainstorming is a cliché.
What is your favourite activity in the context of work?
Building models. We build 1:1 models of a chair or table. Those are the happiest moments; in fact, they are the reason why I became a designer: to be able to build things. Today, my assistants do the construction work, but I hear the drill. That arouses my curiosity and makes me enjoy my work. It was a crucial discovery for me to realise that you can make a career out of a passion for building things.
Do you have the feeling that your office makes a statement about you?
Yes, it’s connected to my life, like my biography.
Are there places where you would especially like to work?
No, not really. Of course there are wonderful places. For example, Istanbul is one of my favourite cities. Sometimes the question comes up: Why don’t I just move my office over there? But that’s only playing with ideas.
Are there places that you have to work but would rather avoid?
That seldom occurs. For example, I particularly like our manufacturers’ factories. It would be worrying if that was not the case. I like the smell of reality in the production halls. It’s important to come into a relationship with things at the place where they are produced. We create our designs whilst keeping in mind the people who have to build them. They are a very important consideration in the design.
Do you find your office a place of inspiration, of creativity?
Certainly. A familiar environment is important. It means that you don’t have to think about certain things. My books are there, and my records. Lots of them. It is like a universe of my own. These things are my reference points for inspiration. They create a very powerful atmosphere. And there’s evolution through constant change. The positive energy that emanates from this place is important for me and for my colleagues. The mood is natural.
What is the most important object for you in your office?
A yellow plastic chair: the Box Chair by Enzo Mari. It’s about 15 years old and will always be my chair. Because it helps me to concentrate.
What’s your most personal object?
There are lots of personal things; for example, a postcard. It changes. I don’t collect things – things collect themselves.
What is your most important tool for your work?
Paper, DIN A4 size, 50 grams per sheet. We always use it for notes and sketches. And it’s a simple everyday thing – this familiarity is important.
Are there any rituals that are important to you?
The daily routine in the office has a relatively clear structure. We start at nine o’clock. I’m already here at eight o’clock; this hour alone is important to me. At 1:30 pm, we take our midday break, and everyone is supposed to leave. We stop working at 7:00 pm. This clear structure permits a much greater level of freedom.
Every day at 11:00 am, there’s a brief break for tea and Brezen, the popular Munich pretzel. I adopted this habit during my time in England. The office has a small terrace; whatever the time of the year, we stand outside at 11:00 am and eat our pretzels. Our internal clocks are synchronised to this schedule. It’s about us all being together. We don’t talk about work.
Is Munich the ideal location for your work?
There are personal reasons why I ended up here. Originally, I thought it would be a temporary stopover. That was 18 years ago. I like the city and the people. Munich is in a good location for travelling within Europe. You have much greater mobility in smaller cities. In London, for example, everything centres around the city itself; you’re in London, but you can’t get out of London. In Munich, however, you can get out into the countryside and the outdoors very quickly.
Above all, Munich has a good infrastructure for work: good crafts-people and manufacturers. Munich is two things at once; an industrial city and a city of the arts.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, even though you’re about to head out the door.
Yes, I have to leave for Milan now for the furniture fair