The immovable arrangement of long benches between the restaurant and the rest of the café meant that it was hard to combine the use of these two spaces. So I was asked to create six metres of benches, that could be removed in an instant,with seats on both sides. I came up with benches on wheels with seats that you can fold up, making them easy to store compactly. The hinge and pivot points are made of brass, but are not weighed down when someone sits on the bench, which is important for the stability of the bench and durability of the hinges.
It is quite an honour when you are asked to design boxes for Ruinart, the oldest champagne house in the world (established in 1729). They were the first to use the stone quarries deep under the ground in Reims to age their wines, the first to re-establish the use of the old bulbous bottle shape, and the first at the end of the eighteenth century to package bottles in wooden boxes. This spherical bottle was originally necessary because the regular bottles were unable to withstand the pressure of the bubbles. Once regular bottles could be used, all of the champagne houses took advantage of this revolutionary possibility.
With this historical understanding in mind, I accepted the commission to design new wooden boxes. Incidentally, this project is in perfect keeping with Ruinart’s tradition of working with artists. The first such collaboration took place in 1895. Since this concerned huge quantities, I hoped that we would not have to make them all ourselves. But it quickly became apparent that the boxes did indeed have to be made from scrap wood and perfectly finished, so we would clearly be delivering a 100% in-house produced product. I could write an instructive book about the making of these boxes and the tremendous efforts and problems encountered along the way.
Thomas Klüber had visited us several times. The first time was even back in our last premises in Geldrop. The reason for this was to let him check out the feel of the place, and to lay the foundation for a project of his. He wanted to start a restaurant, under an old crane, in the eastern harbour in Frankfurt, at the foot of the high-rise ECB head office, and we were to do the interior. Much later, when the dust of moving premises and renovating began to settle here, the commission was confirmed.
Chunky Upholstered Beam Benches
As opposed to a classical restaurant set-up, we wanted to go for a more provocative and unexpected solution. The idea of a chaotic set-up was born; a huge beam bench, but made of cushions, covered with old fabric from army tents, would form the centre point of a mad, chaotic number of tables, chairs and lamps placed in the space. This way, guests could choose where and how to sit, and assemble their furniture. Naturally, the reality was more difficult than anticipated, but an advantage of the concept was that we could easily keep making changes, as long as the seat satisfied the criteria.
Smaak department store
Youp van 't Hek
At a time when there was no reason to believe that the Huttenfestival would actually take place, I agreed to make a number of objects with an almost nonexistent budget. So I was well and truly lumbered when I heard that the festival was going to take place. My solution was the steel-tie-down-strap-beam-benches and tables. A number of beams were stacked and then, in a really easy way, pulled together by steel tension straps to form a table or bench. It cost little effort, and moreover, the tables and benches could be dismantled again after the festival, meaning that the materials did not have to be calculated into the costs. Luckily, we later sold the furniture to André Amaro for what in the meantime had become a nicely inflated material price. Because of that, the project ended up not running at a loss after all. I also took advantage of the festival to realise a long-cherished dream: an alphabet of beams, a ‘beamabet’. Edwin of Studio Boot helped with the graphic design of the ‘beamabet’.