Michiko Wemmje: You once worked in Rem Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture, OMA for short. Are floor coverings a consideration at all there?
André Schmidt: At the TVCC building in Beijing, the little brother to the large CCTV building, where I was the architect in charge, the floor was part of the overall spatial concept. It was important that the materials used in the rooms, which are stacked up like building bricks, are congruent within one room. The overall master plan is an abstract, graphic realization of Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s historic plan of Rome. It was pixelated and translated into a pattern of dots that extends across the entire surface – on the roofs of the CCTV, the forecourts and the roads leading up to the TVCC building. Consequently, the outdoor space gets drawn into the building itself and continues seamlessly on its ground floor. At the same time this graphic served as a design catalyst to generate spatial bodies, which in their complex arrangement represent the multilayered nature of a city.
You have been able to gain experience around the world – do cultural differences emerge in the choice and design of floor coverings?
André Schmidt: It is easier to employ materials that are unfinished or appear untreated in a Western environment – that not only goes for faced concrete walls, but also for, say, concrete floors as opposed to a polished granite floor. There’s a totally different approach – and naturally that also has to do with the wishes of the client and his culturally shaped aesthetic sense. It’s important to consider: What setting do the surroundings provide? It’s easier to put a faced-concrete building in the Alps than, say, in the center of a rapidly growing metropolis. Because the environment is attractive, people are more prepared to accept the raw quality of the concrete. But if the environment itself is not particularly attractive then we evidently tend to wish for the opposite: a well-tended or green oasis in the middle of the city.
What is your personal favorite when it comes to floor coverings?
André Schmidt: An undulating pattern in a wooden floor I came across in a hotel by Kengo Kuma in Beijing. You get a real sense of what sets floor coverings apart from walls or ceilings: you feel the floor in a very special way. There is something very memorable about walking on this floor.
You are responsible for designing the Innovations@DOMOTEX Areas at the DOMOTEX trade fair. What did you find especially fascinating about this project?
André Schmidt: I found it especially fascinating to design three halls and be able to develop such different concepts. The fundamental difference to what I’ve done before lies in the fact that you see and walk on the result within a short space of time. Naturally, the downside is that such room installations disappear again after a short time.
Hall 17 is the location of the Innovations@DOMOTEX Area in which modern handmade carpets are presented. How did you proceed here?
André Schmidt: First we approached the topic analytically and considered very practical issues. For example, how much fits in a single area? Then you almost automatically continue in the vertical. After that we developed an overarching concept for all three areas – the transformation of the surface to the three-dimensional. Then for Hall 17, where handmade carpets are presented, we opted for a wave. The wave is created by pushing together a surface to a raised point at chest level so that visitors are still able to enjoy views of the surrounding booths. Thin ropes reminiscent of weaving looms are suspended above the wave.