Werner Aisslinger Between Retro-Futurism and State-of-the-Art Recycling Concepts

Werner Aisslinger
Werner Aisslinger | © Mirjam Fruscella & Daniele Manduzio

From futuristic residential cubes to kitchens as greenhouses and chairs that grow: Werner Aisslinger is a pioneer in form and material.The Berliner is considered one of the most innovative German designers with a high international profile.

A white cube stands on a green meadow in western Berlin, right on the shores of a lake. Its rounded-off corners and airplane-like stairs suggest a flying saucer – a building about six metres long standing on high stilts. A closer approach reveals the object behind large window panes shaded by horizontal wooden slats, as a mobile living unit for urban nomads.

“Loftcube”, 2013 “Loftcube”, 2013 | © Mirjam Fruscella & Daniele Manduzio Werner Aisslinger first realised this housing vision in 2003. The futuristic Loftcube could first be viewed on the roof of a former cool-storage egg warehouse in the eastern part of the city as a prototype during the first Berlin Design Festival. Ten years later it could be examined once again - though this time it hadn’t landed on the roof of a factory building, but in the garden of the exhibition centre, Haus am Waldsee.

House of the future

“ADD”, Flöttotto, 2013 “ADD”, Flöttotto, 2013 | © In this Berlin exhibition centre, Werner Aisslinger’s first retrospective show offers insights into the German designer’s projects and visions. And as the title “Home of the Future” suggests, they revolve around the future and the question of how it can be shaped in meaningful and responsible ways. Not without reason is Aisslinger, born in 1964 in Nördlingen (Bavaria), among Germany’s most visionary designers and has won numerous international awards.

“Kitchen Farming”, Home of the Future, Haus am Waldsee, 2013 “Kitchen Farming”, Home of the Future, Haus am Waldsee, 2013 | © Mirjam Fruscella & Daniele Manduzio In the old villa, Werner Aisslinger interpreted the individual functional areas of a residential house. Thus, tomorrow’s kitchen is a greenhouse-like biotope where we will not only cook, but farm as well. The centrepiece is an aquarium: the fish living in it produce fertiliser for the adjoining vegetable beds. Next to them, edible mushrooms are growing on old coffee grounds. And in the bathroom, plants and innovative materials also play an important part: here, Werner Aisslinger makes use of a high-tech steam-absorbing textile inspired by a desert-dwelling, “fog-drinker” beetle.

New and unusual

Werner Aisslinger has often demonstrated the courage to embrace the new and unusual. In this, he is one of those designers who are intervening in technological advances in new materials and introducing them into the world of product design. He often works on his own initiative, does a lot of experimentation and develops the majority of his ideas in this way. In cooperation with the chemical corporation BASF, he created the Hemp Chair, now produced by the Italian furniture manufacturer Moroso.

“Hemp Chair”, Moroso, 2012 “Hemp Chair”, Moroso, 2012 | © Alessandro Paderni The chair is produced in a single work step from a composite made of hemp and kenaf (a plant belonging to the hibiscus family), and offers an alternative to plastic. The chair is given a particularly high level of resilience through the addition of a water-based resin binder. Unlike conventional resins, no toxic substances are produced while the chair is setting, only water. This long-fibre technology is already finding many applications in the auto industry, but is still revolutionary in furniture manufacturing.

“Chair Farm”, 2012 “Chair Farm”, 2012 | © A further project of his that has attracted considerable attention is the “Chair Farm,” for which Aisslinger selected a material that indeed exists in nature: plants. They grow directly into the chair’s framework, and the finished chair need only be harvested. According to the designer, plants such as bamboo, which grow up to 30cm a day and quickly lignify, are especially well-suited for cultivating furniture on a plantation basis.

“Urban Jungle”

Nature is also the central theme of a big project in Berlin: the interior design of the Bikini House, a landmark building from the ‘Fifties next to the Berlin Zoo.

“Michelberger Hotel“, 2009 “Michelberger Hotel“, 2009 | © It is not his first hotel project in the German capital. Werner Aisslinger previously designed the Michelberger Hotel – famous for its eclecticism – in Berlin-Friedrichshain. “A collage,” as he puts it, “and not some squeaky-clean, overly-designed world.” The Bikini-Haus hotel’s moniker is Urban Jungle.

“Bikini Island”, Moroso, 2013 “Bikini Island”, Moroso, 2013 | © Nonetheless, this has nothing in common with a catchy Disneyland style with stuffed tiger heads and zebra hides. He aimed instead to develop a narrative that functions in subtler ways and transports guests to an unfamiliar, perhaps even slightly raddled place – and this through plants, once again. Vegetated concrete structures, lifts inspired by trees, and even a restaurant located in a kind of greenhouse create a jungle-like atmosphere in the city. The hotel is being watered and fertilised – and above all, lived in – since february 2014.