Minimal is Not Necessarily The Minimum

KONSTANTIN GRCIC discusses the process behind the BARBICAN sofa, why minimalism doesn’t have to be the bare minimum and the importance of working with manufacturers who understand collaboration.

EST: Barbican doesn’t look like a traditional sofa. How did this form come about?
GRCIC: When Sebastian approached me, the first idea was really to revisit the Cape sofa and expand its possibilities. I have always liked revisiting existing projects – it is actually an opportunity that a lot of companies are missing out on because we’re always focused on doing new stuff. So I found that idea very tempting. And then we realised it wasn’t that easy: what we did wouldn’t make the existing sofa better, it just made it more complicated or even diluted the strength of the original design. Nowadays, sofas can be landscapes and have different formations and constellations, and that is what we wanted to get to. This realisation made this new kind of sofa happen. Then it was a process of learning and making decisions, and looking at how the different elements play together and where they lead. Kind of like fine-tuning a little system.

EST: Is this kind of collaborative process with a manufacturer important?
GRCIC: People like Sebastian, they are the reason why we work with certain clients because we want to work with people that we trust, where there is kind of mutual interest, passion, understanding and a chemistry. The best partnership is always with someone who does not always agree with you on everything. That creates a discussion, a dialogue and a search for something. I find projects boring when the solution is obvious.

EST: How did you develop the key design elements of Barbican?
GRCIC: The Cape sofa is kind of a base sofa with a cover. This new sofa was also conceived as a base, a firm volume with a loose cover. That loose cover then turned into what I call the ‘jumper’. We chose a very particular fabric from Kvadrat called Galaxy, it’s a very stretchy fabric so the cover has a different kind of fit, like a jumper. So we had this firm foam volume, the cover, and some lose cushions – the kind of box-shaped cushions that so many sofas have. Something didn’t feel right about it so we turned the cushions into pillows and then created the toppers. In American Hotel beds you have a mattress and a topper. I don’t like them in that context, it makes the bed too soft, but for a sofa, I thought that would be really nice – this thin layer of extremely comfortable material became really interesting. These two elements, the pillows and the topper, are really the interface for the user, and allow us to play with the sofa in terms of colour. Beautiful fabric is expensive, and so this has also become quite an intelligent way of using the material.

EST: That combination of fabrics and block colours in the pillows and toppers makes it feel very bold…
GRCIC: It gives it a lot of character. We deliberately made it something quite fashionable. Maybe in five years you would choose completely different fabric. There is a strange kind of notion that furniture shouldn’t be fashionable. Furniture is of course a much slower industry than fashion, but why shouldn’t furniture be fashionable, especially when it is something that is upholstered and uses fabric? You are dressing a piece of furniture.