The fact that fiber cement can be shaped while in a still wet state during the manufacturing process is a constant source of inspiration for designers. The Swiss design firm Estragon is currently launching sideboard modules and loudspeakers under the label Vonschloo.
Estragon is the name that Dirk Fleischhut and André Lüthy gave to their design office, which they founded in the charming Swiss business and design metropolis Zurich in 2001, to beguile the senses with intense taste, like the spice. Their field of work comprises all types of product design, from water bottles to dish scrubbers. In the design process, they always begin from the users’ needs and desires. As they explain, this is crucial for a product’s success.
We meet in their spacious studio, in front of the models and discuss the prototypes of their most recent creations: sideboard modules and loudspeakers, handmade from fiber cement. The projects came about from their own initiative. They were tantalized by the task of developing products that do justice to the material’s properties. In addition, the rough haptics and cement-gray optics are a good fit for residential interiors. Fiber cement’s outstanding acoustic qualities led them to first design loudspeakers: initially a smaller one, then a larger one. Both are elevated from the floor, slightly tilted, and conically tapered like a trumpet. In a second step, they created quadratic and square modules, which can be combined in different ways as sideboards. All of these launched products share a sovereign independence and clear alignment, derived from the approximately ten-millimeter-thick fiber cement.
Why did you choose fiber cement for designing furnishings?
At first, it was based on a feeling; we liked the material. We searched for applications to use the available properties of fiber cement, and wanted to put it into a new context. So, the material is to blame.
What do fiber cement’s material properties mean to you?
That’s the key issue: we wanted to optimally exploit the material qualities. We wondered how the material behaved and what it was suitable for. Fiber cement can be easily shaped and has good acoustic qualities. It operates independently and has a presence, but doesn’t push itself to the forefront. It has a certain warmth and naturalness. For that reason, it integrates well into the living space. We discovered these potentials bit by bit. Suddenly, the possibilities of the material and our intentions came together like the pieces of a puzzle.
What functional demands do the materials fulfill?
With both pieces—the loudspeakers and sideboard modules—there is no unattractive backside. Thanks to the 360-degree design, the object looks pleasing from all sides. That’s necessary in today’s architecture, as the spaces of a home often blend together. All-around furniture can be used structurally here. On the other hand, we have never understood why there are any products at all that have ugly sides.
Read the full interview in our Swisspearl Architecture Magazine. Order it now for free:
estragon, Zurich, Switzerland
Year of design