In Conversation With… Thomas Feichtner

The talented Thomas Feichtner is a man driven to design experiences that break down the status quo of traditional workspace furniture. And he started with his latest collection for Bene, titled STUDIO. The designer was in Dubai for its launch in d3, and we jumped at the chance to meet him and dig into his design psyche.



The versatility of this Brazilian born, Austrian product designer is represented by the mega brands he has collaborated and worked with, such as Swarovski, Bene, Adidas, Absolut, Augarten, J&L Lobmeyr, Neue Wiener Werkstätten, TON and Carl Mertens. He has also realised projects in cooperation with manufacturers such as Vitra, Thonet, and FSB. And his work is placed between mass produced products and one-of-a-kind works of art. Add to these amazing design credentials  and collection of international awards, is his written work, Edge to Edge and Design Unplugged, both released and honored by the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts.

The range and flexibility of Thomas Feichtner’s design portfolio is truly astounding. For example, the pandoretta° with the optional base°, is a 360 degree wireless sound system designed for POET Audio. Using steel and timber, and staying away from plastic, the pandoretta° offers deceptively high quality build and a sculptural aesthetic, with exceptional sound.

The pandoretta° with the optional base° for POET Audio Sound Systems

On the other hand, the Carbon Chair is one of his most quintessential offerings in experimental design, This contemporary masterpiece is a limited edition collection, composed of only eight pieces, each sculpted from carbon fibre sheets.

The Carbon Chair composed of only eight pieces that are sculpted from carbon fibre sheets

The man and his journey…

To be able to describe myself better, one must have been to Vienna at least once. It’s my favorite design city and, of course you cannot compare it to London or Paris, nevertheless, Vienna is very inspiring for me. It has the advantage that it does not suffer from a certain expectation, like the classic Italian, German or Scandinavian design cities. Plus everything is open in Vienna. Not infrequently, I look into old doorways, behind old Jugendstiel entrance gates into hidden courtyards, and always find a surprise – an old manufactory, a dilapidated castle, or a small craft business. It’s become almost an obsession now, if I see an open door I have to look into it.

During my career, I remember that at the turn of the millennium, there was an almost Far East euphoria in the design world. Every known design bureau started a branch in Shanghai. After a trip to China in the nineties, I realised that I would like to do exactly the opposite and look for collaboration with companies at my doorstep in Vienna. This was possibly one of the most important steps in my career.

What I found were workshops and factories with extremely exciting and quality manufacturing possibilities, such as Bene with their production in Waidhofen in the middle of Austria. Therefore I feel very authentic in my work.

STUDIO Desk System by Bene

Tell us about the birth of STUDIO by Bene.

Furniture today can be adjusted to get the right posture and comfort level, and is designed for people like us to work at maximum efficiency, almost like robots. To me, that’s not freeing and fluidity. I wanted to design a product that showcases how I work with my team. We’re creatives and we simply enjoy what we do so, quite often, we don’t see the boundaries between work and private life… the lines tend to get blurred. With that in mind, the process just flowed as soon as I started working on the design concepts.

While developing this range, especially the desk, I wanted to make it clear that this was a piece of furniture designed for the new generation of workers – a generation that is liberal and open-minded, and does not see any borders in education, culture or religion (but still loves furniture from the 90s!). The world is changing. Now, people want to share ideas. It’s not about owning things, it’s about experiencing things together, and furniture should reflect that.

Another key highlight of this desk is accessibility, shared spaces and freedom of movement. There’s also a privacy angle to it that I encourage users to explore.

Today, having privacy is akin to living in a utopia. Before the age of digital technology, people were much less aware of the world and the happenings around them. But now that our lives are ‘digitalised’, the line that defines our private from our professional life is blurring. It’s getting harder to make that distinction. The Studio desk almost offers two levels of privacy – the second level is private and helps you hide your personal life from your co-workers as it allows you to organise yourself in a completely different way.

Has this launched a tidal wave of deconstructive thought? Can we expect more designs from you in the same vein?

Considering all the positive feedback we have received for STUDIO, I’d say yes! Traditionalists have responded with: “What happened, and where’s my office furniture?!” While the younger generation has been more embracing. There is a very clear contrast between the older and the younger generation when it comes to opinions about office furniture.

What are you working on at the moment?

Many of my projects are still in development and can’t be communicated yet. But let’s just say that there is hardly any topic in the future that will change as rapidly as the world of work.

Within the STUDIO range, there is definitely more to look forward to. Just take one element – the Shelf – and you’ll see how big the range is already. There are no borders for your creativity and customers have been demanding a product like this for a while now.

Your design inspiration …

Great question! I’m from Vienna, Austria. On a map, you can see that it is located between Germany and Italy. In Germany, the concept of design is plain and dry, but very clear. On the other hand, the design mentality in Italy is flowerful, open and vibrant. My inspiration comes from somewhere in between those two design styles, much the same as my geographic location (Austria).

If you could travel back in time…

I’d love to visit the age of the Renaissance. In my opinion, that was Europe’s, if not the world’s, most transformative era because the art and cultural products had such a great impact on the world. Without the Renaissance, just imagine our society today. During that time, Europe took a step back out of its religious bubble and confronted people with hard facts.

Thoughts on the future of design…

Over the years, design has become a way of life for me. I understand design as an alternative – a kind of attitude fundamentally questioning objects and processes. In our globalised world, design is also the search for a piece of autonomy and identity.

It gives people new perspectives and a different way of interacting with objects. It needs more people to question why things are the way they are, and why they can’t be made differently.  If I had all the time in the world and no need for money, I’d put everything under a design lens and re-examine products and opportunities from a new perspective.

If I wasn’t a designer I would be unhappy, because this is something that comes so naturally to me. Just as a musician thinks in tones and a cook in tastes, so I think in forms.

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Date added:

13 November, 2018

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