A concept and its materialisation - Interview with red dot winning designer Rainer Mutsch
In 2009, Rainer Mutsch was awarded the red dot design award for the concept "Linea". The project is a modular outdoor seating system made of Eternit, a cellulose-fibre reinforced cement used for roofing and panelling. The project has since been renamed as "Dune" and was presented at Vienna Design Week 2010.
Why did you decide to submit Linea/Dune to the red dot award: design concept?
For me as an author-designer, who likes to develop projects on his own even without concrete assignments by manufacturers, my main interest for participating the red dot award: design concept was to show a fresh, rather experimental concept to a professional jury and audience.
What was your inspiration for Linea/Dune (in terms of motivation/form/material etc.)?
I actually started to sketch concepts for public space when I was sitting at a park in Vienna, looking at the traditional cast iron park-benches.
I was fascinated by the idea to create a durable, modular furniture - entirely made out of one material - which you can leave outdoor during the whole year and which fits various spatial situations.
At this time I was also busy developing a flowerpot for the company Eternit, so I had the opportunity to become acquainted with fiber-cement.
When I first saw the soft consistency and the smoothness of the material during the production process I immediately fell in love with it.
So I started to think of fiber-cement because of its unique capabilities like its durability, its recyclability and the fact that the last chair made out of it dates back to more than fifty years...
We heard you are working with Eternit to realize Linea/Dune into a commercial product. Can you tell us more about how this opportunity came about?
When I heard about the red dot design award, the first person I called was Mr. Stefan Berger, the Head of Design at Eternit Austria. I showed him my concept and luckily he immediately felt the same passion about the project as I did.
So when I was at the Eternit Production in Payerne (CH) for another project, I simply brought my first handmade 1:1 styrofoam-mock-up of a Dune-lounger with me, and asked a guy at the production if they could try to form a sheet of soft fiber-cement over it. At first they were very skeptical about the idea, but after we took hold of the dried fibercement-form of the mold, everyone was amazed. The rather complex geometry worked well with the capabilities of the material and the stability was exceeding all expectations.
This was actually the real start of the cooperation.
What particular challenges did you face in realizing of the concept?
The history of the material and its technical potential were mainly the parts which fascinated me. At the same time it was a huge challenge for me to work with a material that it is, with its roughness and its primary use as a building material. It is not necessarily associated with furniture design in the first place. But, to quote the Swiss designer Willy Guhl (1915-2004), who also designed a chair in the 1950s made out of Eternit fiber-cement, “there is no 'good' or 'bad' material, what makes the difference is its right and adequate use.”
And it was exactly this adequate usage, to get the maximum out of the material, that was a very important point for me.
Of course the technical development was very challenging, and it would not have been possible without the help of a company like Eternit, who have more than 100 years of experience with fiber-cement.
Was any part of the design concept modified in the process of realizing it into a commercial product?
Of course we had to adapt the concept to a serial product, especially to achieve all the technical regulations for public spaces.
One major part was definitely the durability and stability. We had to optimize some radii and angles to attain the maximum stability (which by the way is nearly 1000kg...), but the general concept of the modularity and the typologies of the several objects stayed the same.