Rethinking surfaces
Interview with Jürgen Mayer H.
Dec 5, 2013
One example would be using carpets on walls. Jürgen Mayer H. and his exhibition architecture for “Innovations@Domotex” 2014. Photo + Rendering © Jürgen Mayer H.

Jürgen Mayer H. is one of the “Innovations@Domotex” team. This new platform is destined to showcase the latest product innovations at the upcoming Domotex (January 11 –14, 2014). To this end, a jury has selected 62 items from four product categories. The architect, whose visionary designs and penchant for new materials and technologies shot him to fame, has masterminded the “Innovations@Domotex Areas”, which are located in Halls 6 (Resilient Floor Coverings and Carpets) and 17 (Modern Handmade Carpets). Oliver G. Hamm spoke with him about exhibition architecture and how the 1970s have influenced his output as a designer.

Oliver G. Hamm: You designed the 2014 “Innovations@Domotex Areas”. Can you tell us a little bit about the project? How did it come about and how did it develop?

Jürgen Mayer H.: In summer 2013 a bunch of exhibitors attended a Domotex workshop in Berlin. We discussed a potential exhibition format that would reach beyond the scope of the actual trade fair and would appeal above all to architects by showcasing innovative floor coverings. It was these initial ideas paired with the initiative from Stylepark that spawned our collaboration with the trade fair. We had several platforms at our disposal to serve as the basis for creating a kind of innovations forum that offers a first-hand experience of new products, materials and production methods.

You had a specific brief. How did you come up with the magnificent idea of using modular displays that can be multiplied and arranged to suit changing requirements, giving the dedicated zone in Hall 6 its special flair?

Mayer H.: Our firm is very experienced in the development of exhibition formats. The brief for the “Innovations@Domotex Areas” was special in that, on the one hand, the elements had both to be visible from afar and to work well on a smaller scale. The agenda therefore centered on creating themed platforms that brought several manufacturers of various products together with trade-fair visitors. The architecture we designed for these areas may initially seem unusual in a trade-fair setting, but it does precisely what it is supposed to do, namely kindle visitors’ interest and present the exhibits attractively.

How attractive are trade fairs like the Domotex for you as an architect?

Mayer H.: I was first introduced to the Domotex in the context of Contractworld, a congress that hosts discussions and presentations of product innovations and which specifically architects find tremendously interesting. Such formats, and “Innovations@Domotex” is one of them, have the advantage that they address architects more specifically than do trade fairs.

The 2014 Domotex is set to showcase 62 innovations which a jury selected specifically for this purpose. In your daily work as an architect, how important are such new products in providing orientation? Do you draw your inspiration from products that are already on the market or do you scout for materials at a much earlier stage?

Mayer H.: Sometimes I see a product and just wait for the right opportunity to use it. That said, very often the architectural concept is there first and the question of suitable materials does not come up until much later in the process. I love the opportunity of using a product in a manner that deviates from its original intention because it inspires us to rethink our perception of surfaces. One example would be using carpets on walls.

In your understanding of architecture you delve deeply into the area of research and product development. I am thinking here, among other things, of “Metropol Parasol” in Sevilla (2011), which featured a bonded timber structure that had not been witnessed on such a scale before. As a designer, do you make a conscious effort to blaze trails that no one has dared to tread before? Or is this something that evolves naturally from the complexity and uniqueness of particular projects?

Mayer H.: In the design process the material tends to play a minor role in the early days. However, things can get complicated when the project involves spatial concepts. Following a phase of tentative toying with things, and it is one which can be quite a naïve or ignorant process even, once the engineers and companies get on board utmost attention is required of the architect, who has to come up with real-life scenarios for implementing the plans. This approach helps us to keep a freshness in our capacity for innovation.

Some elements in your architecture seem very 1970s, allowing of course for the fact that today the technological possibilities and materials are far more advanced. Or is this impression completely wrong?

Mayer H.: No, you are quite right. I am a keen advocate of the theory that in adulthood we keep working through our own childhoods and that primarily the experiences from that period tend to shape our later lives. In my generation this means the 1970s, the creative forms found in architecture and in art, in music and in fashion. One particular aspect I have adopted from the 1970s is that for a time back then people were extremely experimental, with regard to technologies and materials of course, but also in music and as regards new social relationships, people started living together outside of the bond of the traditional family, and overcame certain hierarchical structures as a result. The two decades that followed, i.e., the 1980s and 1990s, had a strong focus on the past once again – think “Postmodernism”. However, society today has moved on and thanks to the remarkable progress in technology much is possible now that wasn’t feasible in the 1970s. Some of the things envisaged back then are now serving as preliminary studies for contemporary projects.

And where is the road taking us in the near and not so near future?

Mayer H.: I believe that architecture, indeed society on the whole, will soon experience a massive shift as a result of the social media.

"Innovations@Domotex Area“ in hall 6, designed by Jürgen Mayer H. , where it will be shown resilient and textile floor coverings as like as a location for talks. Rendering © Jürgen Mayer H.
"I am a keen advocate of the theory that in adulthood we keep working through our childhoods.” "Metropol Parasol“ in Sevilla by Jürgen Mayer H.. Photo © Nikkol Rot for Holcim