Dick Spierenburg in the studio of Lucie Koldova, designer of this year's "Das Haus".

Let’s talk about trade fairs!

In the last nine years imm cologne has changed appreciably under its Creative Director Dick Spierenburg. Fabian Peters spoke to the designer about innovative concepts, talented young designers and his "side job" at the Museum of Applied Art Cologne (MAKK).

When Dick Spierenburg, Creative Director of imm cologne talks about his year’s “Haus”, it is impossible not to notice his enthusiasm. “Das Haus” is a mock-up, a scale model presented in one of the fair halls, and which is conceived each year by a different designer. In 2018 it is the young Czech designer Lucie Koldova. It is just one of the successful projects with which Dick Spierenburg has changed imm cologne since he began working there in 2009. In modernizing the traditional trade fair, the architect and designer was able to draw on considerable experience: After all, he has been conceiving and organizing design events since 1995, initially in Amsterdam, and as of 2006 in Design Post in Cologne. In addition to his trade fair projects with Spierenburg Studio he also develops architectural projects and exhibition and presentation spaces for museums such as the Museum of Applied Art Cologne (MAKK) and brands like Thonet and Linak.

Fabian Peters: Tell us a little about the early days of your collaboration with Koelnmesse. How has it changed, and indeed how have you changed imm cologne since then?

Dick Spierenburg: When I began working for Kölnmesse in 2009 our most important goal was to transform imm cologne from an outright furniture fair into a home furnishings fair. We wanted to bring together all the issues relating to furnishing and design. And every year we worked gradually but consistently on turning the fair into an experience for visitors. And of course you create experiences via content.

For a while imm cologne was stuck with a reputation of not being very open to modern design, but that has since changed immensely. How did you manage to achieve this turnaround?

Dick Spierenburg: Among other things by creating new entry formats. We began with “Pure Village”, a landscape of design stands – compact, but attractive. This concept not only enabled young brands to take part in the fair, but also those brands whose product range did not fit in with the old concept of imm cologne.

Moreover, I gradually altered the hall layouts. Nothing is more boring than a pure “Manhattan style” grid of “blocks” and “streets”. We tried out the new layout for the new, design-oriented part of the fair that we called “Pure Editions”. First it was just Hall 3, but later we added Hall 2.

The “Pure” section has expanded constantly over the past years. This year it will also feature the new format “Pure Architects”.

Dick Spierenburg: Yes, absolutely. After “Pure Village”, we developed “Pure Editions”, where creative and innovative brands present themselves in a totally new, much more open stand structure. In addition, we teamed up with Stylepark to organize “Featured Editions” and encouraged exhibitors to submit installations for this special exhibition. Then we showcased the installations on pedestals between the stands.

And this year we are adding “Pure Architects” – an entire hall, where we address topics that actually precede furnishing, come before putting up furniture: Bathrooms, floor coverings, wall coverings, technical light. And we will also install a smart home there.

"Das Haus" under construction: Visitors can explore Lucie Koldova's design from January 15 on.

As Creative Director you essentially determine the impression visitors have on entering the fair. What are your aims in this respect?

Dick Spierenburg: It was always important to me for people to talk about trade fairs. Two things are decisive: Firstly, you need exhibitors who really present something new, who really develop ideas. But that also makes it vital that the exhibition concept is to a certain extent variable, such that you are able to not only offer 1,000 square meter stands, but also open stands measuring 200 square meters or even platforms of just 20 square meters.

Secondly, the fair must also provide information on how homes, home furnishings, and life is going to change in the future. This is why from the outset I have worked towards imm cologne presenting its own topics and opening up new perspectives, say with the “Featured Editions”, the new “Smart Home” and, naturally “Das Haus”.

Every year another designer is allowed to conceive “Das Haus” at imm cologne. What criteria do you apply in choosing a designer?

Dick Spierenburg: In “Das Haus” we aim to show a complete set of furnishings, something that is inspiring. Since the premier in 2012 we have always looked for designers who are largely unknown by the public at large. To our mind, these are precisely the people who still have ample ideas they can surprise us with. Every year we set aside a few weeks to search intensively for possible candidates. In recent years there was a stronger emphasis on pushing individual topics. It began with Sebastian Herkner, who explored the topic of “Textiles” intensively in his design. And this year with Lucie Koldova we have a designer for “Das Haus”, who is a real specialist when it comes to light.

For imm cologne 2018 you have taken on a minor additional task and designed the lounge and bistro area for the exhibition “Stylepark Selected imm cologne 2018” in the Museum of Applied Art Cologne (MAKK)? How did you go about that?

Dick Spierenburg: First of all: To my mind it is really important that during a trade fair there is also a lot happening in the city. After all, visitors are keen to experience something of the city, too, away from the fair halls, to go out, and meet other people – and they want to do all that in a pleasant environment. With Stylepark Selected at MAKK we have created a pleasant location where fascinating topics are presented, you can have interesting conversations, can eat and drink something, and which is ideal for evening events.

This is why I have not only created an area for relaxed meetings over a drink – a comfortable landscape of armchairs and sofas, but also a section for eating and drinking – either seated or standing. After all, you talk differently when sitting from when you are standing. Standing, sitting and relaxing, those are always the areas I consider important for a lounge.

imm cologne 2018
Cologne Fair Ground

January 15-21, 2018

Opening hours

Monday, Jan. 15 to Saturday, Jan. 20
9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 21
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Public days Friday to Sunday

Stylepark Selected imm 2018 at MAKK
Museum of Applied Art Cologne (MAKK)
An der Rechtschule
50667 Cologne

January 15-21, 2018

Opening hours:

Monday, Jan. 15
10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 16 to Saturday, Jan. 20
10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 21
10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.