David Hanauer The Concept Is the Concept

David Hanauer, The Living Structure
David Hanauer, The Living Structure | © David Hanauer

He hasn’t even graduated yet from the College of Design in Karlsruhe, but David Hanauer, 30, is already gaining international attention. With his conceptual designs, he investigates not only the essence of things, but our perception of them.

David Hanauer David Hanauer | Photo: Franziska Beyer Among the design schools in Germany, the Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe (Karlsruhe College of Design) is considered a hotbed of freedom where one can barricade oneself off from the homogenisation of bachelor’s and master’s degrees, where open boundaries between disciplines are taken for granted, indeed are part of the programme. “You have the freedom to do what you want,” says David Hanauer, one of those who consistently live out this training concept. “That’s a good thing if you know what you want and don’t want.” He himself, for example, decided not to work at all with 3-D software, even though this has long since been standard otherwise. The 30 year-old, who plans to obtain his diploma at the HfG in product design, develops his projects not from the respective material, as many other designers currently prefer. He does not derive his products’ form from new production techniques, and he does not alter traditional typologies in such a way that new forms emerge. No, for Hanauer all that matters is the concept.

“The first step is the concept,” he says. And it determines the finished product in the end, as well, because Hanauer tries not to make any compromises in the design process itself. Thus it was with his second college project: a candlestick that moves when the candle burns. One inserts the candle at an angle in a silicon form that is tilted sideways, and lights it.

David Hanauer, candleholder Superflux_1 David Hanauer, candleholder Superflux_1 | © Wax drips onto the floor. At some point the weight shifts, gravity takes hold – and the flexible material slowly straightens itself up. He had experimented for an eternity to get the hollow silicon form into the right shape, says Hanauer; a metal plate inserted as a base finally provided the necessary stability.

WorldWide Carpets

David Hanauer, WorldWide Carpets, installation David Hanauer, WorldWide Carpets, installation | © With conceptual designs such as these, Hanauer has already caused one or the other sensation: time and again, blogs and design magazines report on his latest projects. To date, WorldWide Carpets, which in the beginning he generated by means of Google Earth, has brought him the most attention – until Google at one point sent him a cease-and-desist order. He made screenshots of satellite photos of American cities, rearranged these image sections and had them printed on polyester carpet pile by a commercial printing company. At first glance, the symmetries resulting from the reflections, the repeated motifs and patterns, hark back to the tradition of Persian carpets, although Hanauer has oriented his carpets to the present. “Screenshots are nothing but photos,” says Hanauer. “I don’t need to run around on the street with a camera.” Many notice the unaccustomed bird’s eye view on the carpets they are walking on, but only when they take a closer look.

Modular structures

David Hanauer, The Living Structure David Hanauer, The Living Structure | © One of Hanauer’s other projects, “The Living Structure,” is often straight-away perceived as an art installation. The geometric framework of squared lumber can be mounted on the wall or stood on the floor, and can thus define the space it is in. It truly is reminiscent of Minimalist Art installations, such as those by Donald Judd, but equally of the utopian design ideas of the ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies, when fundamental considerations were posed: How do the subject (a human being) and the object (furniture) relate to each other in space? Can the world be assembled with uniform modules? Similar ideas are to be found in Hanauer’s “Living Structure,” a structure beyond the pale of existing furniture typologies that specifies no particular function. “Before you use it, you have to think about how,” says Hanauer. A black metal sheet that can be placed on the structure helps. And Hanauer has produced a video specially for the purpose that shows how one might use the “Living Structure” as a coat rack, mini office, DJ set or dining table.

Objet trouvé

David Hanauer, Redblack David Hanauer, Redblack | © Finding a customer for such designs is not so easy. To date, Hanauer has sold only individual pieces to private persons, but in the future he wishes to cooperate with design galleries, concept stores and hotels, to be able to produce editions in larger quantities. His goal is to remain independent even after graduating, although he sometimes asks himself the question, “whether I can take the risk of continuing to work conceptually.” Be it as it may, the potential contained in his previous projects has by no means been exhausted. For instance, the ceiling lamp “Redblack,” for which he sewed together four tennis racquet cases. It struck him that they were lined with a reflecting thermo-foil to protect the racquet from extreme solar radiation exposure – and that now serves as a silver reflector inside a huge lampshade; on the outer surface the manufacturer’s logo produces a repeating pattern. David Hanauer has lent this object of everyday use a new identity as an objet trouvé. He has already shown it this year at the Milan Furniture Fair, the world’s most important international design event.