Pour les Alpes

'Pour les Alpes’ is first of all an interesting liaison between traditional craft and contemporary product design. The background of the project is rich and proves that designing and producing furniture is much more than the output of creative gadgets – it allows to tell stories, to share ideas and values and contribute to the crucial discourse about a sustainable handling of resources. Tina Stieger and Annina Gähwiler, two young product designers, both living and working in Zurich, direct the project 'Pour les Alpes'. Initially an award-winner of the ‚echos’ competition by the Swiss Arts Council ‚Pro Helvetia’ in 2008, their collection is a furniture series, consisting of three cabinets. All three have been created in close collaboration with different artisan craftsmen from the Swiss regions of Grisons and Appenzell; shingle-making, wood-carving and lace-making, artisanal techniques, as they are still present in the Swiss alpine region. We are not the first to spot this exceptional series, it has been presented for example here (http://www.dezeen.com/2009/01/02/echos-by-pour-les-alpes/), and here (http://3rings.designerpages.com/2009/01/17/echos-by-pour-les-alpes/), and here (http://www.designboom.com/snapshot/cat/33/view/1171/pour-les-alpes.html). But 'Pour les Alpes' is going to be exhibited during the London Design Festival (19.09. - 27.09.2009), at the Mint Gallery, 2 North Terrace, London SW3 2BA. It will be part of the Mint Escapes series. Please join the designers for their reception on Thursday 24 September from 6:30 onwards at mint, 2 North Terrace, London SW3 2BA (www.mintshop.co.uk)

How – What – Why – Where – etc.

When did you start 'Pour les Alpes' and is it an ongoing collaboration?

Pour les Alpes is an ongoing collaboration which started in 2008 with the 'echos' collection. It all started with the interest in the traditions rooted in the Swiss Alps. Our aim is to create new objects with a recognisable cultural identity.

Why did you decide to reduce the series to one particular piece of furniture, the cabinet?

The simplicity of the cabinet in its function as a storage unit offered the perfect base to show a variety of different craftwork and materials. All three cabinets have a similar formal language (archaic shape) but have been worked out in three different traditional techniques. The characteristics of a cabinet (inner space and outer skin) offered us to play with contrasts in material and color.

At what stage in the design process did you contact and involve the local craftsmen and -women? Were they involved in the actual design of the piece?

After the research and sketch phase we contacted different craftsmen. It was very important for us to find equal partners with a profound knowledge of their craft but also with an open mind for new ideas and concepts. The final design of the furnitures was influenced partly by their inputs.

Not so long ago, in the 60s, 70s, still 80s maybe, young people from Switzerland would preferably look for trends in Paris, London, New York – why did you decide to do the contrary, go back to the roots and work with traditional techniques and styles?

We think that going back to the roots and to discover traditional techniques and styles is a long-lasting trend from todays generation. In a time of global massproduction of anonymous objects, the need for products which trigger emotions is essential. Sustainable production (regional resources) and durability of products are self-evident. We are fascinated by the richness of traditional craft in the Swiss Alps which is still underestimated. The goal of 'Pour les Alpes' is to discover traditional techniques and integrate them into new objects.

Is this mergence of tradition and the contemporary a style and will soon be forgotten like for example the fascination for orange plastic furniture did?

No. We are convinced that this is not only a temporary trend. We hope that people will emphasize and appreciate the quality of products through local characteristics and longevity in the near future.

Is it luxury?

Sadly, the todays 'disposable society' is not able to esteem the value of products (either handcrafted or industrial) and hardly has no knowledge of their origins. This we want to change with the objects of 'Pour les Alpes'.

Pour les Alpes