DIMITRI BÄHLER — Interview
Dimitri Bähler, Swiss industrial designer.
Hello Dimitri, how are you?
I am working on different new projects for next year, so yes I am very fine!
Can you introduce yourself?
I am Dimitri Bähler, I grew up in a 250 years old family house and live and work not so far from there, in Biel, downtown. I studied at ECAL from 2006 to 2010 and have been working there for two years as an assistant while developing my own projects and working in different collaborative projects. After a year of work experiences abroad (European ceramic Centre, Design Parade 8, Camper Workshop, Hors Pistes Workshop) in 2013 I started my own studio in 2014.
Where does your interest in product design come from?
I don’t really know. I had no idea of this word before I started ECAL. Even in the foundation year at school I wasn’t sure I would continue, but as soon as I started the first year, it came very naturally to me. I knew it would become my thing. I am very sensitive to the power of objects and images they produce. But it’s mainly when I build things, draw and meet people involved in the project that I am the happiest.
Now I see my job (and my life) more like a fabulous everyday adventure. It is a big journey, sometimes also like an extreme sport, when you know you have to go to your limits to give the best of you. That is what I like a lot as well. I think it is the whole enterprise that I really love!
Can you tell us more about your projects Volet and UU, which are produced by HAY?
Volet was produced first for LA VAGUE, a platform for auto-produced objects that operated mainly in 2012. Now the brand is almost vintage (we still have some pieces). Unfortunately, we were not able to follow this adventure in a commercial approach. After 2012, all the members dispersed around Europe and it was too hard to continue… for now. Anyway. Last year, when I was in Den Bosh, at the EKWC (European ceramic centre), I applied to the Design Parade 8 and I had the chance to be part of the 10 finalists. There, I met Rolf Hay (who was member of the jury). That’s how it started for Volet.
Before that I think, we sent some projects to HAY with Linn Kandel and Ismaël Studer with whom I am sometimes working with. After the Villa, HAY told us that they decided to produce it as well. The idea behind it was to have only one step to produce it.
What’s the idea behind the PAD stool?
PAD stool has a total different approach. It was designed when I was still studying at ECAL. Our teacher at the moment was Cecilie Manz whose assignment was: Challenge (which could be a theme for every project!) I remember I wanted to use chemistry to design something. I started pretty soon to use polyurethane foam that everybody knows. I did tests in textile shapes and then I started to design this stool, in a way to give it as much structure as possible. Indeed, no hard structure at all is hidden inside. I was then, driven by the materials and the techniques I was using.
It is a very crafty project and it is going to stay like that with Moustache, as they will basically produce it the same way I did (more rationalized of course). According to the last talk I had with them in October, they will start to sell it from beginning of next year.
What are the key features of your design?
Maybe the relation with handwork and materials would be the more obvious. A kind of naivety and spontaneity is also an important ingredient for me. It is also really important to me to have these two different approaches in my work: one product orientated and the other one more unique piece, one influencing the other.
Do you follow a manifesto in your approach of design?
“Not being afraid” is wide enough to mean many things that I like.
Let’s say that, yes.
Is there any designer you appreciate a lot?
Many! (Bouroullec brothers, Pierre Charpin, Bertjan Pot, Achille Castiglioni, Martin Szekely, Le Corbusier, …).
Which books are on your bedside table?
“Kafka on the Shore” by Murakami and “ Du côté de chez Swann” by Marcel Proust (really hard to follow when you are tired…).
The last word …
Thank you very much and hope to meet you soon!
Interview : Dennis Moya & Tiffany Baehler — 12.14
Portrait by Anja Fonseka, UU — HAY collaboration with Linn Kandel and Ismaël Studer — photo by Simon Rimaz and Myriam Ziehli, Pad — Moustache photo by Charles Negre.