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Making Design Work

5 Questions for Stilwerk’s Alexander Garbe
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    Stilwerk Berlin

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    Stilwerk Düsseldorf

  • Greenwich Hotel

    Greenwich Hotel

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  • Greenwich Hotel

    Greenwich Hotel

  • Stilwerk Wien

    Stilwerk Vienna

  • Greenwich Hotel

    Greenwich Hotel

QUICK LOOK:
WHO

Alexander Grabe, CEO of the German design shop stilwerk.

WHERE

You can find stilwerk in Berlin, Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Vienna.

WHAT’S NEXT

Alexander Garbe is one of those people who has already had a hundred ideas before the rest of us have had our first sip of coffee in the morning. He’s creating a Christmas market for design junkies, launching stilwerk’s own newspaper, developing the perfect hotel bar…. The list goes on.

January, 2014

Alexander Garbe

The impact of design is everywhere. But what, exactly, makes one design good and another bad? It’s a hard question, and we’ll be the first to admit that we don’t have a definite answer — and yet it’s a question we can’t help coming back to. With that in mind, we reached out to Alexander Garbe, CEO of the German-based design shop stilwerk. It turns out — no surprise — he knows a thing or two about style, design and the hotel world’s ever-changing trends, and he was kind enough to spend some time talking shop with us.

How do you experience design in your own life, and why does design matter?

Design is our constant companion; it’s simply everywhere. But it’s not just about creating things. It influences our lives in all areas, whether it be in the kitchen, in our interactions with people, in architecture and in products of all kinds — from the clothes on our backs to the cars we drive to the food we consume. Good design is much more than pretty décor. It shapes our lives. That’s why it’s so important that we, as a society, become more aware of it.

Is designing something well primarily a question of having good taste, or is it more about having a plan and making a concerted effort?

I think you have to differentiate here. Design doesn’t have to be planned. A good idea can come to you spontaneously, but to realize an idea, a thought-out plan is helpful, even necessary — though spontaneity is still important to overcome obstacles that arise during the process. So I think it’s both: a combination between spontaneity and planning makes great design. If the idea is good, it doesn’t necessarily mean the product will be — and solid planning alone won’t get you far either.

As someone who is constantly traveling, what do you think makes a well-designed hotel?

Spirit. In hotel design, I appreciate a certain feeling for the building, the space and the people. The character of the environment, the setting and the culture should be reflected in the hotel’s design, but not in a way that’s artificial or too perfect. A mixture between tradition and innovation, surprise and the familiar — and a dash of humor can’t hurt either!

A lot of the best urban hotels are putting the focus back on communal spaces, where guests can socialize and connect. Even some business hotels are starting to get in on the trend. Is there a way to make these spaces work well, to loosen up the atmosphere at the bar or in the breakfast room?

Of course. The main thing these hotels have in common is that the atmosphere comes naturally to them; it’s not forced. That’s also the greatest challenge. Personally — and I think a lot of people feel this way — I don’t want to be obligated to interact or communicate with my fellow travelers. I want to be seduced. Great hotels seduce you. They give you the irresistible feeling of being special. And that’s as much about the service as the design.

Do you have a favorite hotel?

There are a few, but Robert de Niro’s Greenwich Hotel in New York is one where I have especially fond memories.

QUICK LOOK:
WHO

Alexander Grabe, CEO of the German design shop stilwerk.

WHERE

You can find stilwerk in Berlin, Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Vienna.

WHAT’S NEXT

Alexander Garbe is one of those people who has already had a hundred ideas before the rest of us have had our first sip of coffee in the morning. He’s creating a Christmas market for design junkies, launching stilwerk’s own newspaper, developing the perfect hotel bar…. The list goes on.

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