Konstantin Grcic reinvents everyday items, breathing new life into old designs. Chairs, tables, kitchen-ware, even pens and garbage bins perk up under the magical Grcic touch. And to think that he began his career as a cabinet-maker…
In the world of industrial design, Konstantin Grcic’s name is up there in lights. Born in 1965 in Munich, Germany, Grcic (pronounced GER-chich) trained to be a cabinetmaker in Dorset, England. He also studied design at the Royal College of Art, London. In 1991, he set up his own studio – Konstantin Grcic Industrial Design (KGID) and went on to do more than design – he is known as a master of redesign.
His first few commissions were simple, every-day pieces: laundry baskets and buckets (for Authentics, a German company), a work-desk, coat-stands and the well-known Mayday lamp (1999 for FLOS), which also won the prestigious Compasso d’Oro award.
Grcic’s designs range from the simple, the sublime, to the experimentative. He created a range of seating from colourful folding tables, to the ‘Osorom Seating Element’ which can seat 6-8 people and looks like a futuristic ottoman. The manufacturer Moroso calls it an “environmental sculpture, a skilful combination of emptiness and lightness”. Made out of white polymer composite, the Osorom is tough, but looks delicate like thin strands of lace.
Grcic does not limit himself to designing for just the home or workplace. His jewellery designs are very novel too. The Gran Prix necklace for Biegel is made of chain links and is a simple elegant accessory which can be worn by itself or combined with other jewellery.
In 2004, Grcic created the unusual ‘Chair One’ for Magis. This innovative chair was “constructed like a football” and is made out of red, flat-paned aluminium. The design was intriguing enough to make it to the 2007 London Design Museum’s exhibit called “25/25 Celebrating 25 Years of Design”.
In 2008, Grcic designed the Karbon Chaise Lounge – a “resting place for warriors”, yet it looks incredibly comfortable and relaxing. This juxtaposition of industrial material and strong feeling is increasingly characteristic of Grcic’s design. The ‘Crash’ chair is yet another example – a tubular steel frame with fabric draped over it “like a jumper”. The result? A very welcoming piece of furniture that makes you want to curl into it with a good book.
More recently, Grcic has been involved with a project to improve seating in schools. The ‘Pro’ School Chair (for Flototto) incorporates a round seat, a slim backrest to allow movement sideways and an S-shaped backrest that “takes strain away from the lower back and pelvis”. The chair is eminently recyclable as well.
After years of working with plastics and metal, Grcic recently went back to designing with wood for Italian furniture manufacturer Mattiazzi. The Medici chair is a low reclining chair made out of wood planks and can be used on its own or in groups.
Grcic is not only a designer, but an illustrator too. His website has several examples of witty drawings that comment on other designers, the industry and life in general.
Konstantin Grcic’s designs have found their way into the permanent collections of several museums. The bird-like Miura (a bar stool) and the MYTO, a cantilevered plastic chair (both created for PLANK) are part of the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MoMA) in New York. Among the numerous awards to his name are Red Dot Award for the Pro Chair (2012), “Designer of the Year” (2010, Design Miami) and Royal Designer for Industry (2010, Royal Society for the Arts, UK).
Grcic has curated a number of important design exhibitions such as DESIGN-REAL for The Serpentine Gallery, London (2009), COMFORT for the St.Etienne Design Biennale (2010) and BLACK2 for the Istituto Svizzero, Rome (2010). Solo exhibitions of his work have been shown at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam, 2006), Haus der Kunst (Munich, 2006) and The Art Institute of Chicago (2009).
It is a testimony to his lifelong commitment to excellence and curiosity about new materials and technology that Grcic not only designs complicated seating systems and exquisite jewellery but continues to work on simple objects like pens, scarves garbage bins and pressure cookers.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy Konstantin Grcic Industrial Design