Favouring Materialism in Design. Interview with VAUST.

This week we shared an insightful dialogue with VAUST — a Berlin-based design duo composed of David Kosock and Joern Scheipers. If you’ve ever enjoyed a meal at Rosenthaler Platz’s JIGI Poke restaurant, shopped at REALTALE’s Hannover Concept Store or gone for a meeting at Navarra Agency in Kreuzberg, then you’ve already been lucky enough to experience VAUST’s unique dialect of spatial design. But if you haven’t — well, that’s why we’re here. It was a real pleasure to learn more about their material-driven approach, how they navigate a collaborative practice across a variance of disciplines, and how they cultivated their unique design language.

How would you define your work?

D: I think our work can be broken down into three parts: creating concepts for spaces, our collectable design objects, and then brand development.

J: We’re working at an intersection in these three fields under the umbrella of an interdisciplinary design studio. We’re not a classical architectural studio and we're also not a furniture brand. Everything is connected through creativity and it's about building concepts — whether it's the connection between a human and an object or space, or a human and a brand. 

Our conversation then led to the nature of designing commercial environments.

D: When you start doing retail spaces, you quickly find out that it’s connected to more than just space — it’s connected to the brand cores. And so our task is to translate those into a space and then place the right objects within the right interior design. The more you can define all those little particles, in the end, it comes to a bigger picture.

JIGI Poke Restaurant / Photo by Robert Rieger.

Something quite striking about VAUST is that despite the broad variance of disciplines they explore, they’re somehow able to maintain consistency in the feeling their work emotes. I was interested to hear more about how they’d come to define the design language that enables this.

J: We’re always working on our handwriting and we form our design language while we go. I think it’s very important to let this happen.

D: We're pretty open to extending our fields of creative work to whatever is needed — but one word which could describe our design language is Materialism. We’re both crazy about materials and about surfaces.

We went on to discuss a project that exemplifies this fascination with materials.

J: We planned a series of objects with the basic idea to go back to a material called exposed aggregate concrete — which was mainly used in the 60s to 80s in brutalist architecture. Somehow we had a fascination with this material for quite a while, and when you research, you find that most buildings with the exposed aggregate concrete cladding are still part of the city picture — but they’re ashamed of those buildings and they kind of do everything to get rid of them — they dislike the material. But David and I see a lot of beauty in the material.

D: We think it’s not the right approach to ban this material from the public picture — but rather to redefine it. So we went back into its structure and changed the recipe. We wanted to evoke a renaissance for this material. We transformed the material into a new form of language and now show [these pieces] in our spaces. The whole idea of that story was material driven from the start.

I wondered what exactly goes through their minds at the earliest stages of developing new concepts.

J: We always try to create strong emotions. We take a lot of time to ask questions and always try to avoid just being decorative. There’s so much good design out there so we just try to get to a point where we surprise ourselves and surprise people who come in contact with our work — whether it’s a good or bad emotion that it forces.

D: I think it would really be the worst if someone would describe our work as average. You can really dislike it or you can love it — but describing it as average… that’s the worst.

Photo by Nike Martens.

We then explored how they negotiate their collaborative dynamic.

J: It’s not a business concept where we have two disciplines and we connect and share clients. We’ve known each other for 11 or 12 years now, from when we were both studying in Berlin, and so it’s purely based on friendship.

D: Whenever we start a project, we can align with each other conceptually very much, and it can be very fluent, as we have the same design language, similar ideas, and crave the same artistic principles. But sometimes, our execution can be 100% different. But we kind of fish in the same sea, you know? So that’s pretty nice.

I was curious if the material-driven design duo had any favoured materials, or if the material selection process was purely dependant on the project at hand.

J: If you’d have asked that question one and a half years ago you would have got a totally different answer — and I think you'll get another answer next year. It's just about deep diving into materialism, rather than just working with one material. 

Our conversation naturally flowed to inspiration; the unique places they seek it and the unexpected places it finds them.

J: I think it’s really important to cross-link things that are happening in your bigger field of interest. For example, Balenciaga re-inventing the space for a fashion show from physical to digital, and interconnecting with the gaming industry. There’s so much contemporary thinking involved.

We talked then of spatial influences; how their practice interacts with Berlin, but also cities more broadly.

D: When you go to a certain city you take the energy that the spaces give you. Every city gives you a different vibe and has different values and different people and cultures and energies.

J: You meet so many interesting characters here in Berlin. And these days, since I’ve lived here for 10 years, I never really meet 100% new people — all people I meet these days are somehow connected to others. 

D: I think Berlin has a very international flair — it’s still kind of low key, and even though the summers are beautiful — it’s still somehow rough. And I’d say maybe you can find some of this roughness in the aesthetics of our work.

Thank you to VAUST. You can find their links below.

Website -- Instagram

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Words by Ewan Waddell.

Photography by Dominik Odenkirchen.