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The Caged Voyeur
In conversation:

Lyndon Neri und Rossana Hu


1/12/2015

Trade-fair visitors who in recent years have enjoyed a bit of rest and relaxation in the “Das Haus – Interiors on Stage” installation at imm cologne will have to think twice this year. As Shanghai-based architects Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu of Neri & Hu Design and Research Office want to tempt visitors out of their comfort zones – in the form of “Memory Lane”, the name they have given their house. And thus kindle a discourse on rituals of living. Adeline Seidel spoke to Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu in Shanghai about their installation and the symbolism it possesses.


Adeline Seidel: How did you go about addressing the task of designing “Das Haus”?

Rossana Hu: For “Das Haus” we felt there were two main issues: We have always asked ourselves whether a house is also a cage. And how to bring an abstract version of the place in which we live to Cologne. Another goal we had was to challenge the normal commercial consumer exhibit. We are the first non-European designers to tackle “Das Haus” – and the first architects. And I think architects traditionally are encumbered with the burden of wanting to save the world. But we cannot do that here, so we wanted to transfer a little bit of the architectural mindset to the people who encounter us – and that is also always an architect’s wish.

So we live in cages?

Lyndon Neri: Many people today want to be inside rather than outside – there’s not much motivation to leave. The line dividing the notion of freedom from the notion of being released is blurred today. And when we look at the furniture we have and the houses we live in, a lot of the space and a lot of the furniture is not used – both tend to be just showcased. If you don’t really use them, what’s the sense of all this beautiful furniture and these beautiful accessories? So our installation “Memory Lane” for “Das Haus” sets out to question: What are these products for, and do we really need all these things?

Why have you opted to show a reminiscence of the narrow Shanghai lanes?

Lyndon Neri: The lanes in Shanghai are an urban memory and they also create personal memories. They somehow always remind me of the Hitchcock movie “Rear Window” and there is this kind of voyeurism we wanted to have – as a spatial aspect – for our design. Public and private are completely fused nowadays and that is also typical of the lane houses in Shanghai. Where Rossana and I live, if I’m not careful in the morning, my neighbor, three meters away, can see me naked in the bathroom. In our design for “Das Haus”, you can enter the cage, but there will be mirrors capturing you. In other words, the installation is meant to remind you of an urban situation and the “lane” in our installation is a choreographed path that gives the visitor different perspectives on space and the furniture the installation showcases– and is also intended as a critical eye onto a commercial platform.

How important is for you to incorporate Asian design traditions in your design?

Rossana Hu: I think it is very important because that’s who we are. What we like to do is to use a different way of representing culture. Asian culture has long been represented by symbols and motifs, maybe even by color. But we are interested in ways of abstracting that kind of cultural interpretation. What we have learned, for example from the Dutch, is the way how they infuse their products with wit. And we instill some of our design products with certain hidden meanings and wit, too.

Could you give us some examples?

Rossana Hu: Take our ashtray “Shanshui”. When you lay a cigarette on the “mountains” the smoke becomes the cloud surrounding them. This relates to a Chinese poem about a student who was looking for the wise teacher on the mountain and when he walked in the cloud he could not find anything. The clouds in the mountains make everything blurry. That is the kind of symbolism we want to carry. People may not know the poem but than they can experience it when they are using the ashtray. It is the idea of the sublime embedded in an everyday object. I don’t think you really need to know it, but you experience certain moments of it – and that what we like. For us, that’s a different way of culture than just putting dragons or symbols or a Chinese character here or there.

And what symbols have you hidden in your installation for “Das Haus”?

Rossana Hu: Take the mirrors we use in the installation for example. We like the fact that they reflect and through the reflections – I think – we recall our past. In a lot of our projects, the direct and the indirect view are very important. The mirrors in the installation can undermine a clear perception of space and reflect the space, and that’s what we want at the imm cologne. The installation in “Das Haus” is meant to be an abstract of viewing, redirecting and orienteering. This should also invoke thinking about the places we call home.

Lyndon Neri: The cage is provided by metal and the wood on the pathway creates small windows to allow a focused view. We like contrasts, such as the juxtaposition of these two materials: one is cold, one is warm. One is hard, the other softer. We also want to use recycled material to introduce traces of history into our installation. We hope these references to the past will bring to the surface the different memories that people have when engaging with them. The whole space should create debate about how we live and what furniture we use – and not just about perfect materials and details. When you leave “Das Haus”, you should question the meaning of a home today – and that includes in China.


Das Haus – Interiors on Stage
at the imm cologne trade fair
January 19-25, 2015,
Hall 2.2/ booth M020/ N029
www.imm-cologne.de


MORE ARTICLES ABOUT THE IMM COLOGNE 2015

Rossana Hu and Lyndon Neri designed at this years imm cologne "The House". Photo © Adeline Seidel, Stylepark
The idea behind the installation: Using a wooden path the visitor receives unusual views of living situations and furniture which are arranged in the metal structure. Photo © Koelnmesse
The installation “Das Haus” is meant to be an abstract of viewing, redirecting and orienteering, so Neri and Hu. Photo © Koelnmesse
The architects from Shanghai have an ambitious goal: With their installation "Memory Lane" they want the visitors to think about the importance of the home at the present time. Photo © Koelnmesse
The ashtray "Shanshui" Neri and Hu tells the story of a student who was looking for the wise teacher in the mountain, but – because of the clouds – missed everything.Photo © Neri & Hu
The streets of old Shanghai were the model for the path through "The House". Photo © Adeline Seidel, Stylepark
Shanghai today: the are no lanes anymore - traces of history can often only be guessed. Photo © Adeline Seidel, Stylepark

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