Burkhard Remmers, Wilkhahn


Work and lifestyle on the cutting edge. In discussions with contemporary figures we review the assertions, clichés and ideals which circulate around work envi-ronments. On this occasion we chat with Burkhard Remmers, spokesman for the German furniture manufacturer Wilkhahn, about ergonomics, motion and office trends.

Wilkhahn specialises in the design of high-quality, ergonomically designed chairs and related furniture. What developments have you observed in the last few years? What have been the noticeable trends and most important innovations in the world of work, and how has Wilkhahn responded to these?
Working cultures change much more slowly than people generally think. A good example is the paperless office, which people have been predicting for over 20 years now. It is only now that the internet allows us to work practically from anywhere that the paperless concept has gained real practical relevance and led to a decrease in demand for storage furnishings. It is important to distinguish between narrowly focused, often marketing-driven fads targeted to a very small minority and actual long-term trends. Digitisation with smart technologies is one of these trends that has an impact on all of our lives. It is exciting to see smartphones, tablets and related technologies being brought out of the world of consumer electronics and into the office — even with the related security concerns and the headaches for staff in IT departments. A second trend is related to this first one: the boundary between a person’s private life and their job has grown murkier. This in turn leads to a demand for offices to be more in tune with the way people live, warmer and more liveable. Furthermore, these new technologies, and the changes they have brought in terms of how and where people work, have forced people to rethink the key strengths and competences when it comes to office buildings. These have increasingly become places for communication and cooperation, especially since focused individual work can theoretically be done anywhere you like now. And this means, too, that it is all the more important that people come together in one place for cooperative work.

It is unhealthy to spend too much time sitting down. In spite of this, we spend hours every day sitting in front of our computers. What should a good office chair provide to prevent the user from developing back pain?
We have spent the last five decades researching this very topic and transform what we have learnt into constantly updated product standards. Back in the 1970s, the first Wilkhahn study advocated a transition “from stationary sitting to mobile sitting”. Since then, it has broadly been recognised that a lack of active physical movement plays a role in almost all illnesses associated with the developed world. On the other hand, when it comes to micromotor work, sitting is an absolute necessity in ensuring the concentration and efficiency required. And finally, sitting, along with standing and lying down, is a basic natural position for our bodies to take. It is not the fact that we are sitting that is the real problem, it is how we are sitting.

Thomas Fundneider, Markus Peschl, TheLivingCore and University of Vienna

Thomas Fundneider, Markus Peschl

Work and lifestyle on the cutting edge. In discussions with contemporary figures we review the assertions, clichés and ideals which circulate around work environments. This time Désirée Schellerer und Angelika Molk asked Thomas Fundneider and Markus Peschl, the Knowledge and Innovation Architects, some questions. In this interview, they tell us about spaces which allow innovation and the fear of the new. Furthermore, they show us what makes an office into an oasis in the wilderness.

DI Thomas Fundneider, MBA
is Managing Director of theLivingCore and an expert for innovation and strategy. He uses his varied experience in setting up innovation culture within organisations to create sustainable impact for his clients. He also teaches at several European universities.

Univ. Prof. Dr. DI Markus F. Peschl
is Professor for the Philosophy of Science and Cognitive Science at the University of Vienna. His research focus is in the interdisciplinary area of creating knowledge in cognition, science and organisations, knowledge management, enabling spaces and (radical) innovation.

Our magazine deals this month with the topic of "New". On the one hand, "new" has a positive connotation and stands for progress, change and improvement. On the other hand, there is always also a bit of scepticism. How do you see it, specifically based on your research work?
Markus Peschl: It is a curious thing with the "new". It gives us awe and joy, yet at the same time it triggers a certain basic fear since we are suddenly confronted with something that does not fit into any of the categories known to us. You then often reach the point where you have to make a decision: Do I pursue this new thing or do I rather leave it alone. Innovators, entrepreneurs or more artistic people want to track and experience this new thing. The initial awe leads the way to more questions. This brings you closer to an understanding but also to the insight that certain things simply have to remain open, they cannot be explained. And this is exactly where the potential can be found for creatively handling these insights and making way for potential innovations.

Is there a difference between innovation and "new things"? And if so, how would you define it?
MP: Innovation is when something new is implemented into something that shows success and effect. New things that have success in their environment are innovations.

Jacob Holm, CEO Republic of Fritz Hansen, Allerød, Denmark

© Republic of Fritz Hansen

Work and lifestyle on the cutting edge. In our conversations with contemporaries, we examine the claims, clichés and ideals surrounding our workplaces. This time we speak with Jacob Holm, President and CEO of Fritz Hansen. In an e-mail interview, he talked about Fritz Hansen’s design DNA, explained why Danish design is so popular and told us what makes employees creative.

Founded in 1872 by the carpenter Fritz Hansen as a carpentry workshop, today the Republic of Fritz Hansen is known all over the world. The Republic of Fritz Hansen works with internationally selected designers and architects. Thanks to creative partnerships with visionaries such as Arne Jacobsen, Hans J. Wegner and Poul Kjærholm, Fritz Hansen has created a number of trendsetting, technically revolutionary and functional furniture classics which became classics. New creations also demonstrate the innovative power of the brand: The success of the models FAVNTM and RoTM by Spanish top designer Jamie Hayón or the series minusculeTM by Cecilie Manz are testimony to their flair for design and materials.

Fritz Hansen is famous for a number of iconic design classics, but you also work with contemporary designers a lot. How do you connect past and future? How can one move into the modern world without breaking with the past?
I wouldn’t distinguish between design classics from the past and new design for the future – at Fritz Hansen we are keen to ensure there is a common thread running through our “design DNA”. It is important for us to design new things that can stand next to pieces that are 50 years old – for example, take our combination of a new table by Jaime Hayon with a 55-year-old Arne Jacobson design!

What do you like most about your work?
I really like to work in a highly internationally-orientated environment and with Fritz Hansen exports at 80%, it means I am travelling a lot. At the same time I really like the combination of business and design – it is a privilege to work with design and innovation.

Ulli Ehrlich, Sportalm, Kitzbühel


Work and lifestyle on the cutting edge. In discussions with contemporary figures we review the assertions, clichés and ideals which circulate around work environments. This time we had a conversation with Ulli Ehrlich. The Head of Design and Managing Director of the Sportalm family business resides in Kitzbühel. She spoke with Marlon Schuhfleck about sources of inspiration, daily challenges and the exciting effect of the colour white.

Since the 1990s, Ulli Ehrlich has given the Sportalm collections their distinctive character. The broad spectrum of their creations ranges from sports clothing to stylish wardrobe staples and playful traditional fashion. She always knows how to bring the regional roots of the family business into an international, modern context. And success has been on her side: By now, Sportalm is one of the most successful companies in the Austrian fashion world.

Traditional, functional, regional, and yet always modern, stylish and international - Sportalms' range bends boundaries.  Ms Ehrlich, how did this very unique company positioning come about?
Traditional dress has always been part of Sportalm's portfolio. When we bought Franz Kneissl, the product range was complemented with ski fashion and then about 10 years ago we took the plunge into fashion. We believe that our alpine lifestyle can be successful anywhere, not just in the mountains. In the meantime, this has developed into a very fashionable clothing collection which we can sell worldwide.

What is a typical day like for a creative designer at Sportalm?  Or is there no such thing as daily routine in your work?
Of course, there is  a daily routine of office work and meetings, but every day is definitely exciting, because we always work on a collection, prepare a trade show or photo shoot. There is always something new to do.

Marino Formenti, Conductor and Pianist, Vienna

Marino Formenti credit Los Angeles Times

Work and lifestyle at the cutting edge. In discussions with contemporaries we review the assertions, clichés and ideals which circulate around work environments. This time,we spoke with Marino Formenti on the phone. The pianist and conductor (born in 1965) lives in Vienna; he spoke to Désirée Schellerer and Angelika Molk about the importance of the pause in music, ceaseless toil and the carrot and the stick.

Marino Formenti is seen as one of the most interesting musical personalities of our time thanks to his unusual combination of intellect and emotionality. Praised by the Los Angeles Times as "Glenn Gould for the 21st Century", Formenti has made his name in contemporary music and with his quest to combine old and new. Formenti's preference for new, unexpected connections can be seen in the different projects which often experiment with the concert form (Missa, Piano Trips, Nothing is Real, The Party, Piano Integral, Kurtág’s Ghosts, Sieben Letzte Worte). He will shortly appear in the documentary "Schubert und ICH" (Schubert and I), in which Formenti will teach Schubert songs to five musical amateurs in a private setting.

Mr Formenti, the summer edition of our magazine has the theme of "pause". In music, the pause can sometimes have great importance; one only has to think of John Cage. What importance has the pause in your work?
A pause is probably the most important feature in music. Stillness is part of music, similar as it is in life: You need moments to revive yourself. This is, however, sometimes hard in today's world as it has become so much more hectic.

Has the life of the artist also become more hectic?
Even a classical artist is travelling more today as opposed to just two or three generations ago. You can only master this by using routine - but routine is totally uninteresting, it's a bit like playing the same piece over and over again. It is much nicer to look for new ways. This can be very tiring. I don't want to complain though as it is a wonderful life.

Susie Wolff, Ermatingen and Oxford

Work and lifestyle on the cutting edge. In discussions with contemporaries we review the assertions, clichés and ideals which circulate around work environments. This time we spoke with Susie Wolff, development driver for the Williams Martini Racing Team. She told us about her way to success, the role teamwork plays in the F1 and that daily dose of adrenalin on the track.

Born in Scotland, Susie Wolff discovered her love for motorsport at an early age. After 16 years of race experience, she had her debut in DTM, one of the most popular touring car championships in the world. After seven successful seasons for Mercedes Benz it was time for a new challenge: driving a F1 car. This dream came true in April 2012, when “the fastest woman in the world“ was appointed development driver for the Williams Martini Racing Team.

What is a typical work day like for Susie Wolff? Or is there no such thing?
Everyday is different for me depending on the time of year which I relish as I'm not someone who likes routine. At the start of the F1 season we are away for nearly 5 weeks as the first 4 races are fly away. During the middle of the season it gets easier as most races in Europe but then we finish again with fly away races. In the winter I am more focused on fitness training and my simulator work. During the season there is a lot more traveling and PR/marketing work for the team.

Could one say that your car is your workplace? Which other places are part of your working life?
Well because testing is banned in F1 (to keep costs down) there is very limited track time for me. This season I did one test day at Barcelona and will do two free practice sessions at the British and German GP therefore I would say the simulator back at the Williams F1 factory is more like my work place.

Karin Krobath, IDENTITÄTER, Vienna

Work and lifestyle on the cutting edge. In discussions with contemporaries we review the assertions, clichés and ideals which circulate around work environments. This time we are speaking with Dr Karin Krobath about employer branding and employees as brand ambassadors.

Having been on the front line of communications in the financial industry for years, Dr Karin Krobath knows the highly charged environment in which leaders and companies can often find themselves. She has combined work in brand and organisational development for the past ten years for both big names and smaller entities, and she has published continuously on the topic. She co-founded the IDENTITÄTER agency in 2004 and is also a partner in wortwelt®.

IDENTITÄTER is Austria’s first agency dedicated to employer branding and internal branding. Can you explain what those are for us?
It’s actually quite simple: We turn employees into brand ambassadors. The idea behind this is that a brand promise is first and foremost a function of people. That means it makes quite a large difference whether I see only my communications and marketing staff as responsible for my brand or whether it is all of my employees who are responsible. And so it is not a matter of 3, 10 or 25 people anymore, but 400, 2,500 or even 10,000, depending on the company.

Employer branding has become a real buzzword over the past several years. Why has the awareness of this concept of an employer brand become so important right now?
The Austrian labour market will reach a turning point in 2015. For the first time, more people will retire than will enter the job market. It is already difficult in some industries and professions to find good employees. Given this “shortage”, companies are now seriously thinking about their attractiveness when it comes to the labour market and they are consciously positioning themselves as employers.

Bene News

A whiteboard for advanced users: An interview with Jakob Leitner

Bene Nice Wall powered by we-inspire

we-inspire is a spin-off of the Media Interaction Lab based at the University of Applied Sciences of Upper Austria and was established in 2013. Bene and we-inspire jointly developed and sell the Bene Idea Wall powered by we-inspire, a large interactive wall for creative media-supported teamwork. The system combines furniture components as well as IT hardware and software to create a unique overall package that has been perfectly created for innovative working. We spoke to Jakob Leitner, CEO of we-inspire, about the application options and the innovative strength of the Idea Wall.

Jakob Leitner, can you briefly explain to us the basic idea behind the Idea Wall?
The Idea Wall is an interactive wall which can be up to 8 metres long and is based on close range projectors. Up to 7 people can draw, present, brainstorm and interact with a wide range of software applications using the Idea Wall. The Wall is the centrepiece of a range of IT tools that facilitate and improve collaborative working methods with analogue and digital content. In addition to the interactive Wall, the overall system also offers, for example, seamless integration of traditional paper and personal devices such as laptops and smartphones. A wide range of working methods are supported by this combination of different technologies and matching room concepts. We also want to actively pursue this multi-functionality and extendibility of the system and of the room concepts in future, and to ensure that existing and new services and technologies such as a wide range of Cloud services can be integrated with ease. The objective is for digital cooperation to work as easily and naturally as possible.

How did the idea come about?
We-inspire was not established until the summer of 2013, but we’ve been working for 10 years on research and development in the area of interactive systems, furniture and rooms.

Robert Pfaller, Oskar-Kokoschka-Platz, Vienna

Robert Pfaller © Jeff Mangione

Work and lifestyle on the cutting edge. In discussions with contemporaries we review the assertions, clichés and ideals which circulate around work environments. This time we talked with Robert Pfaller, a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Among other places he has been a visiting professor in Amsterdam, Berlin, Chicago, Toulouse and Zurich. The topics covered in his publications include the role of common sense in present-day culture, the pleasure principle and the “good life”. His most famous books include “Wofür es sich zu leben lohnt” (What it’s worth living for) published by Fischer in 2011, and “Die Illusion der anderen. Über das Lustprinzip in der Kultur” (On the Pleasure Principle in Culture: Illusions Without Owners). Robert Pfaller spoke to Désirée Schellerer about his everyday working life, philosophical friendships and the pleasure of concentration.

Robert Pfaller, your research deals a lot with the issue of what makes a good life and what it is worth living for. How significant should daily work be in a good life in your opinion? Doesn’t a lot of work actually stand in the way of the pleasure of a good life?
First of all, drawing on philosopher Georges Bataille, I would like to point out that you work to live. You do not live to work. We should not overlook this difference – particularly as work presently, for example in the so-called creative industry, is generally burdened with high expectations in terms of fulfilment. The demand to have a good and fulfilling job is also legitimate – but only in relation to work and not to life itself. However, many of our contemporaries appear almost unable to lead a fulfilling life unless they work like the devil. Admittedly there are lots of social functions in our society which are linked to work, e.g. related to social contacts, respect, contemporary life, taste, political participation, etc. This is why you can barely lead a good life these days without a reasonably decent job. But the same is true when you have one, as work can threaten to leave no room for a good life.

Christian Horner, Vienna – Waidhofen/Ybbs

Work and lifestyle on the cutting edge. In discussions with contemporaries we review the assertions, clichés and ideals which circulate around work environments. This time we talked with designer Christian Horner. In an interview with Désirée Schellerer and Angelika Molk he spoke of the office as a public space, the importance of communication and the spatial depth of open space.

Designs by Christian Horner are characterised by elegant lines and a love of detail. He is able to reinterpret classic shapes. Born in Starnberg near Munich in 1968, the designer grew up in Italy and studied in Ron Arad’s master class at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. He has worked with renowned design agencies in Paris and Milan. In addition to his work for Bene since 2000, together with Nada Nasrallah he has designed objects for companies such as MDF Italia, Rapsel, Ligne Roset and Wittmann Möbelwerkstätten.

Christian Horner, you design products both for residential as well as office areas. Do you always have the same approach, even when you are working on entirely different categories of product, or does the design process change depending on the task at hand?
The process can actually be very different. The systematic and repetitive character of office furniture requires convergence above all in terms of the overall consideration of the area. The start of the process involves working out possible floor plans and furniture and material combinations, with the details developed at the end. However, these finer points then become hugely significant. Don’t forget that once defined, a surface or shadow gap can then be repeated hundreds of times throughout the area.