Rolf Benz ADDIT
Genesis of a Favourite Place
With Rolf Benz ADDIT, Tina Bunyaprasit and Werner Aisslinger have developed a progressive, modular sofa system with iconic potential and once again demonstrated their visionary spirit and technical expertise. The innovative sofa landscape opens up completely new perspectives for individual living and shows the Rolf Benz brand from an unusually playful side without losing any of its characteristic clarity. Working closely together with Rolf Benz, the two designers from Berlin have succeeded in formulating a response to our hyper-individualised times in the form of a sofa, if you will.
We spoke to the two designers about the creation process from their assignment to the sofa’s première at the Salone del Mobile 2019.
Phase 1: from the briefing to the design
Ms Bunyaprasit, Mr Aisslinger, how do you as designers approach such a task? Where do you start?
W. Aisslinger: First of all, we received an extremely detailed and really good briefing from Rolf Benz – with precise specifications but enough leeway for our own ideas at the same time. That’s the basis of our work. Ideally, you would then leave the briefing to sink in for a while. The initial idea sketches follow on later.
T. Bunyaprasit: It can help to think about what you would actually like. What’s still lacking perhaps in this sofa world and what you would like to bring into that world. Ultimately, such a commission is always a great opportunity to fulfil your own wishes.
What inspires you?
W. Aisslinger: We travel a great deal. Naturally, this is also reflected in our different commissions and projects. We also live in a very inspirational city. Every day is an inspiration in Berlin. It’s often enough simply to walk through the neighbourhood. As a designer you soak up your environment and what you see or experience flows into your own work.
T. Bunyaprasit: Inspiration can be many things, including looking back on the past. Childhood memories, for example. You can reminisce and question what you previously experienced. When it comes to sofas, well-being and this feeling of security play an important role. That’s where looking backwards can be really useful.
What was the idea behind Rolf Benz ADDIT?
T. Bunyaprasit: It was about developing a sofa system that serves as a universal favourite place, taking all facets of modern everyday life into account. The system sees itself as a type of modular system. You can combine different types of components as you like. This special flexibility gives the whole thing something really personal.
W. Aisslinger: We wanted to create a favourite spot. A collage world. Your own personal cabinet of curiosities. A place where things accumulate that originate from your own life or are part of the modular system. We’ve been thinking about collages for a while. We’re not trying to build monochromatic style collections, but bring together different materials, worlds and surfaces. As designers, we think of ourselves as a kind of DJ who mixes the whole thing up so that it works both for end customers and for the Rolf Benz brand.
Phase 2: from paper to implementation
How does the idea materialise?
T. Bunyaprasit: We draw a lot of sketches. We create them not just in the traditional sense at our desk in the studio, but also spontaneously on a serviette during lunch in a restaurant, for example. At the start everything is pretty scrawly. But then we go relatively quickly to the 3D program to outline pretty realistic proportions. Everything is created digitally on the screen first of all and then implemented analogously using real models.
W. Aisslinger: Since a sofa is usually free-standing in a room, it has to look good from all angles. Including from the back. We can use our software tools to check that carefully. Rolf Benz then builds the samples on that basis. So actually everything moves relatively quickly from the 3D computer phase to real volume models.
How do you proceed when selecting materials? What do you look for in particular?
T. Bunyaprasit: We collect lots of materials and have a large materials warehouse accordingly. This gives us the opportunity of combining different materials as the fancy takes us and experimenting with their look and feel.
W. Aisslinger: Honest, authentic materials are particularly important to us. Nothing artificial. Glass, stone, fabrics, leather – and beautiful textures. The finishes are very important, so whether something is matt or shiny. Or grainy. It’s a mix. And, of course, the know-how and world of Rolf Benz plays a crucial role as well. In specific terms, that means: Which materials are available? What does the latest fabric collection look like?
Phase 3: team work on the prototypes
What happens in the prototype phase?
W. Aisslinger: It’s a really exciting and symbiotic moment. There’s a reconciliation between the Rolf Benz brand and us as the design team. During the prototype phase, we sit down together with the engineers and developers and carefully examine everything. Where does the visual appearance take priority and where does construction count? Are there any possible savings potentials without impacting the quality? Questions like these need to be answered in the team during the prototype phase.
T. Bunyaprasit: For me, the prototype phase is the most exciting phase. You finally have the real sofa in front of you, you can touch it and sit down on it. You can often see lots of potential for optimisation immediately.
Which tests does the prototype have to withstand?
T. Bunyaprasit: First of all you walk around the sofa and assess it from top to bottom. You touch it. Sit on it. You also let yourself fall onto the sofa to see if it feels good. And then you also consider whether it’s the right size.
W. Aisslinger: It has a lot to do with ergonomics and seating comfort, of course. But in the case of ADDIT, it was about showcasing effortlessness and further development. However, Rolf Benz did explicitly ask for something progressive and bringing all this together was a considerable challenge. But after all, that’s precisely what makes our job so appealing.
Phase 4: from prototype to production
What’s special about the production phase?
W. Aisslinger: What’s exciting at Rolf Benz is that everything is entirely made in Germany. We’re talking here about the highest processing quality. Ultimately, it’s a matter of implementing this high quality requirement down to the last detail. Each individual seam is considered carefully: Is this the right and best-possible solution? Where does the seam start and where does it end? Then you look at the construction elements such as metal intersections and shaping. This is where you finely tune the design and it’s especially fun. Particularly with a top-class partner such as Rolf Benz who is extremely well-versed in this regard and places great store on ultimate perfection.
T. Bunyaprasit: Handcrafted perfection is becoming increasingly important. It’s great when one has the opportunity to achieve this high quality craftsmanship consistently right down to the smallest detail, as was the case here with Rolf Benz.
Phase 5: the finished product
What are the design highlights of Rolf Benz ADDIT?
W. Aisslinger: Rolf Benz ADDIT offers a whole range of great highlights. The superbly manufactured cushions with their great seams and their pleasant volume for excellent seating comfort. Or the elegant platform that makes the sofa look like it's floating. Then there’s the underlying frame with its plug-in options for small side tables or shelving, for example. After all, ADDIT isn't just a sofa. It’s a whole landscape. A big, well thought out modular system that is playful, friendly and inviting.
T. Bunyaprasit: Another special feature is the system’s effortlessness. It’s a relatively light piece of furniture with comfortably soft cushions. It doesn’t just look cosy, it is cosy. It’s a landscape that can grow progressively. There’s nothing static that could prevent personal growth. The whole system has a pleasing sense of airiness that enables its owners to think in a different light.
Rolf Benz ADDIT consists of which components?
W. Aisslinger: Rolf Benz ADDIT is made up of the sofa, armchair, small side tables, plug-in trays, free-standing side tables, shelving options and a finely coordinated rug collection. It will be followed by additional elements. The modular system will continue to grow and offer new possibilities. We want to continue building on the ADDIT world together with Rolf Benz. It’s an exciting project.
At the end of this long development process, what was your greatest challenge? What was the most fun?
W. Aisslinger: Interpreting the high Rolf Benz quality in such a light and airy and relaxed way was a challenge that was unbelievably fun at the same time.