Good Connections

Along with his students from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Stefan Diez has addressed the topic of fittings and joints. In the run-up to the semester show in Milan we took a tour of it at the institute.

Joint projects involving design students and manufacturers usually lead to exciting prospects for both sides involved. Young designers benefit from the manufacturing experience they encounter, which takes them beyond the quality level associated with making prototypes. Companies can draw on fresh ways of thinking that potentially persuade them to go down paths untrodden. At the University of Applied Arts Vienna, last winter semester Stefan Diez persuaded the Blum corporation to team up with his students. Since spring 2018 the Munich-based designer has been Professor of Industrial Design here in Vienna. In the wake of a project with Zumtobel, the collaboration with the Austrian fittings maker is now the second joint venture of this kind on which Diez’s class has embarked.

Student Georg Adam and his hinge system “PPS 180”
The component is intended for tool-free assembly of shelf doors.

“It’s really worthwhile concerning yourself with these small unobtrusive things,” comments Stefan Diez when touring the uni workshops with us. “Because if you even change the one or other detail of a customary object, at times with fittings and connectors you might change the whole thing.” Manufacturers tend to stay for a long time lodged with their customary product lines. While the fold-out, hinge and drawer systems for furniture – and Blum is an acknowledged specialist maker of them – now look more refined than in the past. However, product development and its innovations are mainly limited to making fittings increasingly invisible. The semester project on “Fittings and Joints” went much further: What if, for example, you completely rethink the point of contact between the cupboard door and the body of the cupboard? Which role do fittings play in architecture and fashion? What methods from completely different areas can perhaps be brought to bear?

One of the students, Nina Melbinger, developed a combination of hinge and handle, for example. For her “Rio” product she relied on almost all the different workshops the university has to offer: starting with plaster molding and the metal-working unit to wood processing and lacquering. She molds the actual invention from red silicone. Thanks to the new system and a door that runs on a rail, the cupboard can be opened from both sides.

Student Nina Melbinger during the making of her product “RIO”

“In this project, students have the opportunity to venture into the subject of product development and engineering and come into contact with many manufacturing methods and materials that most students have known only from theory until now,” Diez reports. While the one or other product is more technical in nature, such as Philomena Strack’s folding/slot-in shelf system “Flip Shelving System”, other designers-to-be such as Jakob Niemann opt for an almost poetic approach. For “Timber to tree”, he inverted the manufacturing process for wooden boards: His bench stands on legs that are aligned exactly to the angles of the knotholes that have been drilled clean, and the seating thus emphasizes its prior existence as a tree. (mh)

Jakob Niemann on his bench “TIMBER TO TREE”

At the coming Milan Design Week a total of 12 products from the senior years as well as several smaller items from the sophomore year will go on display. Stefan Diez is happy about the enthusiasm of the students, with which they bring the quality of the objects within a few weeks to a whole new level on the occasion of the exhibition. “After 4 months of a semester project one is often satisfied with a good concept, a mock-up and a photorealistic rendering. To make the parts usable for our exhibition, some really good ideas have emerged especially on the last meters.”

“Fittings and Joints” is on show from April 9-14, 2019 in Zona Tortona: Studio, Via Novi 2, 20144 Milan; Tues. – Sat. 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

The projects in overview

Nina Melbinger: “RIO”, handle and hinge made of silicone
Juliane Fink: “VOLUME BAGS”, extendable bags
Dejan Ivkovic: “O-TRI”, extendable screen
Anton Defant: “CABLE GRIP”, pendant lamp
Georg Adam: “PPS 180 / 360”, hinge system
Benjamin Nagy: “NODUM”, clothes without sewing
Johannes Mensshengen: “BAGITIZE”, universal carrying system
Julian Gamper: “T MONO”, jumpsuit
Philomena Strack: “FLIP SHELVING SYSTEM”, shelving system
Jakob Niemann: “TIMBER TO TREE”, wooden bench
Kerstin Pfleger: “LIVING SURFACE”, variable table surfaces
Robert Volhard and Stefan Diez looking at the model of the exhibition
Dejan Ivkovic
Nina Melbinger
Stefan Diez with student Juliane Fink
The mock-up of the exhibition “Fittings and Joints” in Milan