Stephen pounds down the stairs from the design studio into the kitchen, scrambling to catch his flight with half hour to go. We assume it’s a mad dash to meet a client. In contrast, Gunnar languidly disappears for milk to make us some coffee. THE morning necessity taken care of, GabrielDesigns is then introduced to the lair of one of the hottest upcoming designers in the Berlin scene: TheFundamentalGroup. The belief that design is as much a part of daily life as breathing is evident from their lovely creations jutting out of walls, climbing out of corners, and peeking out curiously from behind half opened doors.
With a solid history of design experience, this duo just recently teamed up to form a “collective making mathematically inspired architecture, furniture and artefacts.” Undaunted by any scales no matter how small or large, they tackle each project with “rigorous interrogation.” But not without humour. Interestingly we deduce their own Altbau studio-apartment to be a reflection of this growth or investigation of scales; Objects and samples sit within frames or containers within shelves within rooms within TheFundamentalGroup, sparks of inspiration, ordered yet allowing for the occasional exceptions.
Gunnar eventually pads upstairs into their attic-turned-studio to wrap up some work, giving GabrielDesigns the freedom to start setting up the tripod. Taking a swing of coffee and nearly burning my throat, the camera finally goes to work.
See INTERVIEW BELOW for what Stephen and Gunnar have to say regarding the future of TheFundamentalGroup. No doubt, you Berliners will be hearing much more from this growing name soon!
+ So let’s start at the more important details. It’s 7pm, work’s done, what’s your drink of choice?
– Stephen | It depends, if there is a sunset to watch, I’ll get sentimental and have a campari. In winter it’s more likely to be a scotch, with a dash of soda.
– Gunnar | I’d have a Bloody Mary – a leftover from our last event a week ago where we launched ATLAS, a new furniture piece we have designed.
+ What would you say is your favourite spot in Berlin?
– Stephen | The roof terrace that I do not yet have.
– Gunnar | Anywhere outdoors – Berlin turns into an instant holiday during summer when the weather is nice. If I need to impress my tourist friends from abroad, I’d choose to go to the Spree canal down in Kreuzberg.
+ Why Berlin as the headquarters? Will the Fundamental Group always stay in this city or move town?
-TheFundamentalGroup | There’s space and time for everything here. It’s definitely a place to grow. I think we are quite woven into the fabric of this town. It, to a degree, allows us to come up with designs and concepts that would not be possible the same way in NYC or London.
+ The Fundamental Group just recently opened shop. What’s been some of the challenges?
-TheFundamentalGroup | With The Fundamental Shop we were lucky to have rolled out during a time when the internet became more and more important as a marketplace for design. I guess we have profited from it and continue working on expanding into new forms of online distribution. It’s been such an exciting time, a real rollercoaster.
+ How do you see your work expanding in the future?
-TheFundamentalGroup | We’re gradually getting projects in larger and larger scale, both architecture and furniture design. It still is the greatest achievement to create architecure that serves the spatial needs of our contemporary society – to build a church would be one of the greatest challenges in my eyes.
+ Please describe your hottest project in the works.
-TheFundamentalGroup | At the moment we we work on several interesting projects, for example in the medical sector and art related spaces. Apart from that we have also just released a manifesto that desicribes the what, how and why of our design approach (you can find it on www.thefundamentalgroup.com). It’s all about growth for us, not just our own development, but how you can take the amazing and beautiful concept of growth and capture it in space and furniture.
+ From what I understand you guys have a diverse area of expertise ranging from product design to urban planning. How do you keep track of it all?
-TheFundamentalGroup | Any scale we work in, we always use the same set of tools that you have as an architect. And no matter what scale you work in, it all has an impact on what surrounds you. You look at what you’re working with, whether it’s a 60×60 cube of oak, or a whole street, and ask yourself, ‘what does this guy want to do – where does he fit in with the whole scheme?’ It about a rigorous interrogation of the material, speculation, testing and combination.
+ What are your backgrounds? And how do you think that’s influenced you into becoming TheFundamentalGroup?
– Stephen | I trained in the UK as well as here in Germany, gathering experience at David Chipperfield, Jürgen Mayer H and Graft before striking out on my own.
– Gunnar | I trained as an architect and have spent the last years abroad in the UK and the U.S. before I came back to form The Fundamental Group together with Stephen – I couldn’t wait to come back to Berlin and start up as the time seemed right. Our first architectural jobs we received from friends and then built up from there.
+ And lastly what’s the origin of the name “theFundamentalGroup”?
-TheFundamentalGroup | Apart from being an awesome design collective, the Fundamental Group is also a mathematical concept. Our dear friend Paul von Bühnau, a passionate mathematician with the TU Berlin suggested it to us after seeing our work and what our design relates to.
First defined by Henri Poincaré in 1895, the name fundamental group is a group that records information about the basic shape, or holes, of the topological space. Catching the tiniest glipse of a world so full of questions, and a mindblowing way of understanding surfaces and spaces, we decided to honor this realm of endeavor with the name of our collective, hoping that in our own messy little way, we challenge our own notions of space and surface.
+ Thanks to TheFundamentalGroup and all the best!