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.

Johannes Knoll, Runtastic, Pasching and San Francisco

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 spoke with Johannes Knoll about his work as Head of Marketing at the extremely successful Austrian start-up Runtastic. He told Angelika Molk what’s important in the start-up business – and what it’s like to work with really good friends.

Runtastic was founded in 2009 and, with over 60 million downloads and more than 25 million users on Runtastic.com, is considered today to be the world leader in mobile fitness apps. The company headquarters is in Pasching, in Upper Austria, as well as in the US, where they opened an office in San Francisco.

With the help of Runtastic, you can track athletic activities like your morning run, a hike or a classic workout, then analyse them and share the information with friends on social media platforms. Also available: mobile nutritional advice, an app to exercise your abdominals and "Story Running" audio books that tell stories specifically tuned to jogging. Johannes Knoll was part of Runtastic’s rise to the top from the beginning. In the meantime, the economist coordinates the international marketing for the successful start-up.

Mr Knoll, Runtastic was founded in 2009 as a small start-up and has since become an internationally recognised and successful company. Can you tell us how Runtastic was started? Where did the idea come from?
Runtastic originated from a student project at the Hagenberg University of Applied Sciences. At the time, the task was to track rally cars and sailboats. After the project was completed, René Giretzlehner decided the idea had potential for an independent company. With Christian Kaar, Alfred Luger and Florian Gschwandtner he soon had three co-founders. That was back when the first iPhone with a built-in GPS module had just hit the market – and this is exactly where the four young entrepreneurs saw their chance. As you can see today, barely four years later, we really jumped on the right train.

What was the first Runtastic office like? Did Runtastic even have an office?
After working day and night in the founders own homes, there was finally a very comfortable Runtastic office for a team of 6-8 people. That first office definitely fit the typical "start-up style": we were coding and programming for all we were worth.

Architecture & Design

Designing Toguna Circle

PearsonLloyd by Mark Cocksedge

At the beginning of the collaboration between PearsonLloyd and Bene it was evident that there was a desire to develop a completely new unconventional furniture system able to foster spontaneous communication and collaboration as well as usher in a new era of office life. PARCS is the response to the growing importance of knowledge work, which is the main driver of demand for a new generation of furniture products and inspirational workplaces.

PARCS has already won a number of international design awards and is already established as one of the most important and successful ranges in the Bene portfolio.

The idea and name Toguna originates in Mali, West Africa. There it describes a meeting place where the village elders meet to make important decisions. The PARCS Toguna is a semi-enclosed, free-standing capsule and is the most distinctive product in the range, a place for brainstorming, short meetings or private conversations which people can do while sitting, standing or leaning. Toguna is the most compact meeting room in the world. Now the latest development is the Toguna Circle.

What were the most important considerations in the development of Toguna Circle?
Since it was launched in 2009, Toguna has enjoyed a great deal of positive feedback from architects, designers and end-users. The starting point of PARCS is the idea that people are productive when they are away from their main place of work. Toguna represents a new step in this direction: towards an informal, semi-private meeting room within an office to encourage the exchange of ideas, cooperation as well as creativity and innovation. These are the most wellestablished contemporary demands in the market.

Jeanette Müller, Vienna and Koh Chang, Thailand

Work and living environments at the cutting edge: In discussions with contemporaries we review the assertions, clichés and ideals which circulate around work environments. This time round, conceptual artist and political scientist Jeanette Müller answers our questions. She tells Désirée Schellerer why she became interested in trust, and how a studio, a laboratory and an office can all fit into a rucksack at the same time. And why.

Jeanette Müller is a conceptual artist and political scientist. She lives in Vienna and Asia and works on transitions between science and art - with a focus on designing cross-cultural communication spaces and global learning. Jeanette Müller graduated from the University of Vienna with a degree in political science and Jewish and Arabic studies. She also studied at the University of Applied Arts and the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Trust and creativity. The Importance of Trust for various Players in Innovation Networks is the title of Jeanette Müller’s dissertation and publication. She was awarded the Theodor Körner Prize for science and art in 2008.

Jeanette Müller, one focus of your work is on the issue of trust – both for your artistic activities as well as for scientific projects. You also wrote a thesis on this subject. How did this come about?
I realised something as a teenager: we can think, decide, act and design either based on trust or motivated by fear. And this has consequences for us and our environment. My decision was a clear one: I wanted to be guided by trust in myself, in other people and the world.

The topic accompanied me through my studies and my artistic work. My thesis then dealt with the issue of the importance of trust for cooperation and social and technical innovations in a society characterised by diversity.