Martin Steininger, head of STEININGER Designers, viennacontemporary’s long time partner, about design, the influence of minimal art on his work, and Vienna.
What is good design for you?
Timeless classics that leave you breathless, for example masterpieces like Vitra’s ‘Eames Chair’.
As a designer, you have to always watch out for the past, don’t forget the present, and have a keen eye and nose for the future. Especially in Vienna, tradition and innovation determine the cadence of the city. In my opinion, design has to be uncompromising: the utmost economy in the use of formal means and virtually archaic intensity of artistic expression. Puristic modernity – or luxurious simplicity as some would call it – that’s what we are searching for.
Vienna is very famous when it comes to Jugendstil, is it still on the world map when it comes to design and interiors?
There is a huge creative climate in Vienna. In the 2015 Innovation Cities Index – the world’s largest city ranking aimed at measuring innovation – Vienna came third out of 500 cities worldwide, behind London and San Francisco – San Jose. Austrian artists are extremely active in product and interior design, some labels have developed their own unmistakable famous styles. That’s why we have showrooms and distribution partners all over the world, from Vienna to Milan, to New York.
Your main office and production is still based in the Upper Austrian small town St. Martin. Why so?
The manufacturer STEININGER is based in St. Martin now in its third generation, since 1933. All pieces of furniture are still manufactured there, that means that our experience of manufacturing, project management, assembly, and supervision take place in-house under my – and I learned about carpentry from the bottom up – or my designers responsibility. For the individual or business customer this means simply the highest possible quality at all stages of the project.
Which artists influence your work?
Our kitchen ROCK, having been awarded the German Design Award 2016 by the German Design Council, is based on the master of minimalism, Donald Judd, who grouped cubes and cuboids together in his work in order to investigate the interplay between open and closed spaces. In their most radical form, our four kitchen-cubes based on Judd’s “Minimal Myth“ are placed beside one another with spacing of a few centimeters, like an art installation in the room.
Which Austrian artists do you follow?
Adolf Loos and Josef Hoffmann.
What is contemporary Vienna for you?
There is a special time for contemporary design and art in Vienna. During fall, “Blickfang“, Austria’s largest design fair for furniture, fashion, and jewelry at the MAK draws around 150 international exhibitors from 14 countries each year. During the Vienna Design Week, the spotlight is on product, industrial, and furniture design. This event, held at various locations throughout the city, boasts a great spectrum of exhibitions, projects, and panel discussions for design fans. And the Vienna Art Week shifts the focus to contemporary art and sales.
What is your favorite building in Vienna?
I can’t single out just one – that’s why I love this town… “Museumsquartier“, designed by Ortner&Ortner, the Nouvel Tower… Looking back in time and because I am impressed by the work of the Modernist movement and especially by Adolf Loos, I think my favorite is his famous piece of architecture, the Loos House on Michaelerplatz. He regarded art as completely separate from articles of daily use… and I really like staying at Loos Bar, where you can get a more close-up view of the work of Loos – while enjoying some of the best cocktails in town.
If you bring someone who is interested in contemporary design with you to Vienna, what are your recommendations? What are the “musts”?
The MAK is my first stop for design collections in Vienna. The permanent collection brings together applied arts, design, architecture, and contemporary art with a focus on the Wiener Werkstätte. And, naturally, then I would invite everyone to our new STEININGER showroom at the Schubertring, which is not that far away.
Vienna has been selected as the most livable city for the 8th time this year. What makes it the best place to live in in your opinion?
Vienna has been a melting pot for different people of all ages, backgrounds, and nationalities since forever. The dialogue between old and new is always on the agenda, and perhaps that’s why it has always been a great place with a creative atmosphere for artists and designers. Even today it has this permanent clash of worlds. It’s famous for its Viennese charm and coziness, for good food, great apartments, for it’s feeling of music in the air and it’s been becoming very open mindend in the last few years. Everything happens less speedy, compared to other cities – like Gustav Mahler said: ‘Wenn die Welt einmal untergehen sollte, ziehe ich nach Wien, denn dort passiert alles fünfzig Jahre später.’