Sky-Frame – Swiss specialists in frameless sliding window and door systems – continue their ‘My Point of View’ series of video portraits with architect and designer Stephan Hürlemann, who shares his perspective on design and its role in a sustainable future.
A progressive outlook and an appreciation of the need to build a better future are common traits amongst the most inventive and influential designers of the past century. Today, as we seek to confront the unprecedented peril of manmade climate change and respond to threats posed by deadly viruses, it is imperative that designers take a long-term view of the challenges facing society and seek to make a positive contribution. As the visionary 20th-century inventor-philosopher R. Buckminster Fuller put it, ‘We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims.’
For Swiss designer and architect, Stephan Hürlemann, every project begins with a thorough assessment of its potential value and impact. Rather than following trends or designing for the sake of novelty, his studio approaches its work for brands such as Vitra, UBS, Sky-Frame and Hermès in a holistic way and with a focus on the need to design for a more sustainable future.
For Swiss designer, Stephan Hürlemann, every project begins with a thorough assessment of its potential value and impact
Hürlemann has said, ‘I want to create lasting value – that is what is most important to me. I want to create products and rooms that stand the test of time.’
And it is this desire to create things that are useful, honest and worthwhile that has prompted some of the world’s biggest companies to ask him to help shape their own futures.
Hürlemann studied architecture at ETH Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and worked for several years alongside designer Hannes Wettstein. After Wettstein’s death, Hürlemann reinvented the Studio – and himself. Since then, he has gained a reputation for creating objects and spaces that prioritise everyday practicality and display a timeless sense of style.
These projects range from the simplistic yet exceptionally detailed collection of door handles he designed for Glutz, to the refurbishment of the UBS headquarters in Zurich, completed in partnership with EM2N Architekten. He has also designed modular furniture systems for de Sede and Vitra, as well as high-end speakers for Piega, window displays for Hermès and an open-plan workspace for PwC.
Hürlemann points out that his background in architecture enables him to work at different scales and to appreciate how various elements combine to form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
The designer talks about his approach in a new film made by Swiss frameless sliding window specialist Sky-Frame as part of its ‘My Point of View’ series. The film offers an insight into Hürlemann’s lifestyle and inspirations, showing him at his studio in Zurich’s Albisrieden neighbourhood, and hiking in the nearby mountains.
In the commentary, he talks about needing to take a step back from a problem to fully understand its complexity and gain a clearer perspective of the context he is designing for.
The studio’s holistic, contextual approach is evident in projects including several collaborations with Sky-Frame, for whom it developed all the exhibition stands and showroom concepts
In this way, he is able to tackle projects more systemically – first exploring the wider societal and ecological implications before refining the form and details of particular objects. ‘I really love to figure things out,’ he enthuses. ‘I love to find solutions – simple solutions to complex requests.’
The studio’s holistic, contextual approach is evident in projects including several collaborations with Sky-Frame, for whom it developed all the exhibition stands and showroom concepts. In 2018, he created the art installation ‘A Piece of Sky’, which was presented at Clerkenwell Design Week in London and reimagined in Milan in 2019. The hexagonal mirrored funnel immersed the viewer in a sphere of light that shifted in hue, creating an effect that Hürlemann said ‘conjures up images of the sky, the universe, the earth and its very creation.’
Looking to the future, Hürlemann remains optimistic that design can play a leading role in combatting climate change and supporting the necessary shift towards more conscientious and sustainable models of production and consumption. ‘I’m really sure that the way from industrialisation up to a sustainable world is happening now,’ he points out. ‘As architects and designers, we can be part of this change. It’s a huge opportunity to develop new products and new architecture.’