An Assembly of Little Sages: Interview with Jeannette Altherr
This year, the theme of Arper’s stand at the fair is “lifelong learning”. Is learning more fun with well-designed furniture and spaces?
Jeannette Altherr: Absolutely. Learning results are verifiably better as well. A study carried out by the Australian Ministry of Education examined the influence of the built environment on the learning experience. The result surprised me: it is not only the expected factors such as temperature, acoustics and light that either support learning or make it more difficult. Symbolic factors are even more important. When students like their environment, or better yet are proud of it, they are much more motivated and animated. They also protect it from vandalism.
Arper is approaching “the trend towards lifelong learning with flexible, diverse and emotional solutions.” Do today’s products increasingly have to be able to do everything?
JA: Nowadays, learning happens in many places - in the classroom, in a company’s or institution’s further education rooms, at the office, at home, in the cafeteria, in the auditorium, at the library, outdoors and so on. For all this, we need various types of seating, for instance something light and stackable like Stacy, comfortable like Planesit, or flexible like Cila Go.
But learning itself is changing: teachers are transforming from pure conveyors of data into coaches who accompany the learning process. Classrooms must be able to respond to this in a flexible way, for instance with grouping rearrangements. Sometimes students learn better on their own or in smaller groups, but sometimes they learn better all together in a large group that includes the teacher. In that case, tables just get in the way and are not even necessary because books have been replaced with laptops or tablets. This is why Cila Go has castors and a writing surface on a swing arm.
How exactly can we envision your newly developed products Paravan and Cila Go in practice? How do these two products stand apart from comparable solutions?
JA: Cila Go is not the first chair with castors, a writing surface and a basket for a backpack, but it may be the first that has addressed these symbolic requirements right from the start.
Most existing chairs have a practical, functional concept: often, an existing chair is simply upgraded. On the other hand, with Cila we were inspired by the archetype of the sage, an archetype known in both Western and Asian culture, one familiar to youth culture thanks to characters such as Dumbledore (Harry Potter) or the Jedi (Star Wars).
It’s the idea of an unspecialized sage, of soft skills like self-awareness and independent thinking. In Cila, we have taken up the image of the robe. We imagined how the chairs would form a circle, like an assembly of little sages…
Paravan is a partition system whose few basic elements allow an astounding breadth of expression. Unlike most other comparable products on the market, which are offered in just a couple of different fabrics, Paravan is available in all the fabrics from Arper’s fabric collection. Furthermore, there are various possibilities for composition - linear, with various angles, as a space with a coatroom or shelving element, and two different heights. We are excited to see what interior designers make of it.
The interview with Jeannette Altherr was conducted by Peter Popp on the occasion of Orgatec 2018 in Cologne.