Stylepark Rolf Benz
On the mats

For a bar Werner Aisslinger designed in Zurich Rolf Benz contributed customized sofas that bring to mind the one or other hard landing back in your school days.

Did Werner Aisslinger like sports at school? Or did he hide away in the store room next to the gym while his classmates sweated it out doing circuit training? Perhaps he then reclined leisurely on the trolley with the gym mats and enjoyed his marvelously calm retreat. At any rate, the Berlin designer quite evidently has a nostalgic relationship to those old gym mats made of thick brown leather. Because when he looked around for inspiration for the sofas for the Cinchona Bar in Zurich he remembered just how comfortable those old-fashioned padded floor coverings were.

The Cinchona Bar is an intimate meeting place, hangout and informal work place rolled into one. Aisslinger designed it as one of the carefully calibrated public spaces in the Hotel 25hours Zurich Langstrasse. The hotel is situated on one of the most exciting and contrasting interfaces in downtown Zurich. On the one side the Europaallee quarter that has arisen in recent years on the grounds of the former Mail Rail Station – cubic volumes by renowned international and Swiss architects such as David Chipperfield, Gigon/Guyer, Caruso St John or Max Dudler. On the other, the “wild” Langstrasse, where hip meets red-light, and the stones fly on May 1. On the line dividing these two worlds, Aisslinger has placed what he terms a “pocket universe”, alluding to the album of the same name by Swiss band “Yello”: a small world of its own that tells its own stories. Including ones about brown gym mats that by resting on low metal frames morph into lounge sofas. Arranged in horse shoes their high backrests shelter guests from their surroundings. These niches only open out onto the brass-clad counter and bar top.

To manufacture the sofas, which thrive so strongly on the materials and shape of upholstered leather, Aisslinger turned to one of the most famous German makers of upholstered furniture, namely Rolf Benz in Nagold, in southern Germany. Rolf Benz has for decades been a synonym for high-grade leather sofas and hardly any of its rivals are as prestigious when it comes to leather-clad seating. Even if the firm is now just as successful with fabric-upholstered sofas. Since Rolf Benz produces its sofas completely in Germany, the company was convinced it could realize the designer’s proposal in a perfectly crafted piece of furniture. The thick light brown leather, the seams (they intuit the quality of the leather), the minimalist tubular frames – all of this attests to the fact that here modest master craftsmen brought their skills to bear, people who have no need to be brash and boastful. And instead prefer to tell a story, about their schooldays, sports halls and brown, leather gym mats.

The sofas for the Cinchona Bar are one-offs, but both Werner Aisslinger and Rolf Benz found the collaboration so inspiring that they immediately decided to continue with another project. The result of this renewed collaboration, a multifarious interior design concept with lounge elements, will premiere in April at the Salone del Mobile in Milan, to great acclaim no doubt. (fap)

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by Rolf Benz

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