Taste and Place

A new kind of book for Design Hotels™

studio_lovell’s conceptual rethink for the Design Hotels™ book series starts with a new volume dedicated entirely to food. Containing specially-commissioned essays from respected writers – including LinYee Yuan, Gisela Williams, Ursula Heinzelmann and Nicholas Gill – “Taste and Place” is an editorially-led circular journey exploring the connectivity between food and locality, provenance, production, people, landscape and architecture, all from a big-picture perspective. Editorial concept and editors-in-chief: Sophie and Orlando Lovell.

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Hotels are unique storytelling hubs. They are defined by travel, but also by locality. Hotels are the first ports of call for the traveller to encounter first-hand new places, people, produce, cultures, tastes and techniques. And what better way to experience a visceral connection—a “taste of place”—than through food?

So Taste and Place: The Design Hotels™ Book is a food book with a difference. It takes the reader on a global journey with contributions from leading food writers, upcoming chefs and culinary innovators through examples of forward-looking ideas and inspirational practices. And all of this from a different perspective: a widening of the beam of focus to help show that if you pull on one string, you move all the others.

The book’s broad and inclusive embrace of food is richly illustrated with surprising examples found in and around selected Design Hotels™ locations. The stories in this volume go beyond the dish, the kitchen and the dining room. They explore the connectivity between food and locality, provenance, production, people, landscape and architecture from a holistic perspective. They are the binding agents for sharing new encounters with Design Hotels™’ readers, guests and hoteliers.

From regional terroir through the kitchen to the community, the stories gathered from special people behind the scenes, include tales and methods of self-production, social engagement, collaborative work practice, respect for cultures and ingredients, rethinking food waste and visionary big-picture hospitality.

From a big picture perspective, the mother and daughter team Sophie and Orlando Lovell of studio_lovell developed and edited this book for Design Hotels to encompass connective storytelling by respected writers, including LinYee Yuan, Gisela Williams, Ursula Heinzelmann and Nicholas Gill alongside newer talents such as Carla Bragagnini and Jake Potashnick. The journey through the chapters is designed to be a cyclical one of nourishment and renewal.

The themes are visually brought to life with specially commissioned photography from Marina Denisova, Vivek Vadoliya, Robbie Lawrence, Arnaud Montgard, Yuna Yagi, Stephanie Füssenich, Daniel Lober and Maureen Evans, with illustrations by Hanni Pannier. This book is a journey through food and culinary understanding from the terrain of Swiss and Japanese mountains and valleys, via the ancient island of Crete, Umbrian olive groves and the Oaxacan coast, dropping in on young kitchen teams in Ukraine and the Peloponnese along the way as well as exploring innovative practices in the Caribbean, Mexico and Indonesia.

How can we travel responsibly? How can we give back more than we take? As we look for ways to transition from a high-carbon to a low-carbon world, the ecosystem of a hotel seen through the lens of food provides a perfect microcosm to better understand bigger system changes. With this book, we at Design Hotels™ reflect on what we bring to these processes in terms of the hospitality we support and want to see in the future.


The Common Table

A platform for food futures and systemic change by studio_lovell

thecommontable.eu is a publishing platform for food futures and systemic change founded and edited by Sophie Lovell and Orlando Lovell where we share stories and ideas about food from around the world by people who are searching for ways to fix it. Our goal is to understand how systems of production, distribution and consumption can be changed – and to help identify the people and projects forging ways towards a better, fairer food future.

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The Common Table is a publishing platform for food futures and systemic change founded and edited by Sophie Lovell and Orlando Lovell.

Through The Common Table, we share stories and ideas about food from around the world by people who are searching for ways to fix it. Our goal is to understand how systems of production, distribution and consumption can be changed – and to help identify the people and projects forging ways towards a better, fairer food future.

As a mother-daughter creative duo, living together in Berlin, we have many years of experience in all things design, architecture – and food. Our home has always been a place where we have cooked and hosted many meals and fed heated discussions with wonderful guests. Now we have extended our kitchen table and turned it into something bigger: a virtual workplace and a platform for change – through food.

We are starting this platform by inviting as “dinner guests” to our virtual table people we love, people who inspire us, people we would like to know more about and people we believe should be heard. Together we will ask, share, gather, investigate and exchange.

If you have inspiring stories or thoughts to share about changing the food system, feel free to reach out, we’d love to hear from you. All are welcome at The Common Table.

Email us at hello(at)thecommontable.eu


Objects Connected by Head and Heart

An interview with Hans-Gerd Grunwald for Vitsoe Voice issue no. 4

Hans-Gerd Grunwald is a true design aficionado who, parallel to and following a demanding career in the automobile industry, has devoted more time than most postgrads deep-diving into his chosen field of investigation: German post-war design. An interview by Sophie Lovell for Vitsœ Voice magazine.

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Hans-Gerd Grunwald is a true design aficionado who, parallel to and following a demanding career in the automobile industry, has devoted more time than most postgrads deep diving into his chosen field of investigation: German post-war design. His dedication and expertise led him to become a tour guide for one of the world’s leading applied arts museums, where he shares his delight in industrial design and stories about what happens behind the scenes in the creation of everyday appliances.

Grunwald was born in 1960 in Leverkusen, West Germany. His visual memories from his youth, like many of his generation, were marked by the powerful, democratic German design expressions of the time, as exemplified by the 1972 Munich Olympic Games and Braun household products. After leaving school, he went on to study technical drawing and technical product design. Much of his working life since has been spent at BMW, where he worked as a quality engineer accompanying all areas of the design and development process of automobiles up to production. BMW Group’s parent plant is located in Munich and so for the last 25 years, this city in Bavaria has also been Grunwald’s primary home.

Three years ago, Grunwald had the chance to take early retirement from the automobile industry and focus completely on his first great love: design. He had always had a keen interest in the history of design and product development and became something of an expert in the field in his own time through correspondence courses and his own research. After BMW he was able to turn what was essentially his hobby of giving guided design tours of the area and museums to friends and acquaintances, into becoming a specialist tour guide at Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum in Munich, which is one of the largest and most important museums of applied art in the world.

Grunwald’s particular area of interest is in the HFG Ulm (Ulm Design School), which operated from 1953-68. It was founded by Inge Aicher-Scholl, Otl Aicher and Max Bill (a former Bauhaus student). During its short existence, the school was ground-breaking in its rational and systems-thinking approach to industrial design and visual communication. It is also where most of the designers came from that pioneered the revolution in design that took place at Braun in the mid-1950s, and strongly influenced a young Dieter Rams in his design approach. One of the first products that really made Rams’ name at Braun was the SK 4 Radio-Phonograph from 1956 that he collaborated on together with Hans Gugelot, who was a tutor at HFG Ulm and a key designer of many Braun products at the time.

Hans-Gerd Grunwald moved into his current, modest, two-roomed apartment in the Schwabing district of Munich in 2016. It was almost a matter of course that his keen interest in the rational, functional, modular design of the “Second Modernism” as practiced at the Ulm School led him to choose Dieter Rams’ Universal Shelving System to house his extensive industrial design collection. “I developed an interest in having good furniture and started to collect things with a design approach around 25 years ago”, he explains, “that was when I bought my first Wassily chair by Marcel Breuer. Then came scale models of cars, and an AEG electric kettle by Peter Behrens from 1909 that I found at a local flea market (see image L7). I also have a collection of 1:6 scale miniature furniture pieces from Vitra. I don’t have the space in my two-roomed flat for all the furniture that I like, so sometimes I buy a model instead.”

Through his work doing the guided tours for the museum, Grunwald also moved towards buying vintage Braun products, such as hairdryers, cameras and shavers. “I have all their shaver models from 1950 up to the ‘Sixtant’ of 1962”, he says, “because it is interesting to see, through them, the development of a product. Sometimes when I do a tour I take a shaver with me and open it to show how it is made and the intelligence of the design.”

A new favourite piece of Grunwald’s is a 1953 compact Rangefinder Werra camera made in VEB Carl Zeiss Jena in the GDR. (see image L5 on right hand side) “What I like about it is that the design is really, really simple. It looks like a Braun object – like it could have been designed by Dieter Rams or Otl Aicher or Hans Gugelot –but it was designed two or three years before the start of the design studies at HFG Ulm by Rudolf Müller. For me, its extraordinarily clean, puristic form, the golden section of the front and the shutter release as just a single control element on the top – kind of like a ‘home button’ – make it a thing to fall in love with. The rest of the controls are protected from the rain and visually tidy on the underside and the protective cap can also be used as a lens hood.”

The story behind Grunwald’s fascination with this camera started with a new app introduced by the Neue Sammlung last year called “The Sound of Design” [“Der Sound des Wirtschaftswunders”], which allows visitors to listen to the sounds of appliances from the 1950s and ’60s on display in the museum. In this collection, there are about ten different objects from the GDR and the Werra camera is one of them. “It came as quite a shock to me”, says Grunwald, “I was born 60 years ago in West Germany and for the first 30 years of my life I lived in a divided Germany. After a further 30 years of living in a united Germany, I realized I could tell you a lot about Scandinavian or Italian design but knew next to nothing about GDR design and production. So I did some research in the museum library and found out more, also about this camera, and thought ‘I must have it, it’s a really important object’.”

It’s not just objects that are close to Grunwald’s heart, but their context too: the stories and circumstances that surround them. Through context, objects acquire meaning and the user greater understanding. When the Neue Sammlung asked him to do his tours, they liked the idea of having someone from industry to explain industrial design from a completely different point of view from that of an art historian, he says. “When you talk about objects there is the big story relating to the historical style on the one hand, but there are also a lot of small stories from the people who designed and made it on the other. With art, for example, you have one artist that painted a particular picture. With design it doesn’t work like that. An industrial design object is never invented by one person alone. Take the Braun Sixtant shaver I mentioned earlier, which is famous for its black and silver colour combination. It has this colour because Ewin Braun and Fritz Eichler [Rams’ predecessor as head of design at Braun] really liked some Scandinavian cutlery design from the 1950s that was silver with black plastic handles. So Eichler suggested to Hans Gugelot, the ‘designer’ of the SM 3 Sixtant, together with Gerd Alfred Müller, to try that combination with a shaver. After Müller left Braun he went to work for the pen-makers Lamy where he used the same colour combination for his designs there. A product never stands alone. This is what I try to share with my tours.”

The arrangement of Grunwald’s collection throughout his home is very specific and clearly a lot of thought has gone into where each object is placed. “When you start your professional life with technical drawing, you have to be precise, so yes part of me does like precision”, he says, adding: “It’s a gift but also a burden sometimes. It’s about how I see things and aesthetic compositions. I was always fascinated by Wassily Kandinsky’s work – not so much his paintings as his theoretical works on form such as Point and Line to Plane – because it showed me that there was a concept behind why things work one way and not another. So over the years I have developed an eye for arrangements. Graphic design for a book, for example, is all about how you arrange things. It’s the same exhibits in a museum or for the contents of your shelves at home.”

Although some of the objects in his collection look factory-fresh, despite their age, others bear the marks of years of use. Dieter Rams is very keen on the traditional Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, which is all about transience and imperfection – it is the idea that an object becomes beautiful through time and use. It might seem a contradiction to apply this term to an industrial object, as against one that is crafted by hand, but what they have in common is that they are both tools for the user. Grunwald explains: “My SK 4 radio-phonograph, for example, is old but it looks new, like fresh from the factory, because it has been repainted over the years. I chose this one because it is a big piece and I wanted to have the same feeling that people must have had in the 1950s about having what was really the first technical object, as against a piece of furniture, in their living spaces. On the other hand, I have a 1955 Braun SK 1 radio, designed by Fritz Eichler and Artur Braun, where you can really see the traces of use over the years and the plastic has discoloured in places. I like this too, precisely because it has been used. It’s 65 years old and has done what it was made for. For me it is a balance, I can live with both of them.”

The precision curation of the contents of Gerhard’s shelves extends to his kitchen as well. Even the food packaging appears to be a considered part of the aesthetic. “I did actually buy a whole bunch of Bärenmarke condensed milk cans, which have a distinctive light blue graphic design on the tin, because they contrasted so nicely with the orange wall behind”, he admits. His kitchen shelves are also home to a collection of coffeemakers, including the Moka Express first designed by Alfonso Bialetti in the 1930s, as well as Richard Sapper’s 9090 Espresso maker for Alessi alongside some Braun kitchen appliances, like the coffee grinder by Reinhold Weiss. “All of them look really new”, he says, “but I use them, they are not just for display.”

There are two designers in particular whose work runs like threads through Gerhard’s collection and his research. The first of them is the aforementioned Hans Gugelot (1920-1965), one of the least-known greats of his profession and professor at HFG Ulm, who was stopped short in his prime by a heart attack at the age of 45. “If he had lived longer I think we would have known much more about him and he would have achieved so much more” says Gerhard. He was incredibly important for the Ulm Design School. The product design there was much more impressive than that of the Bauhaus in my opinion –­ much purer, much more methodical – and he was responsible for that. He also influenced many students of product design, including Reinhold Weiss and Richard Fischer who went on to Braun. Gugelot was certainly known for his contribution to Braun design, but I think it is a pity that he is not more known more for it. The SK 4 again is a good example for context in this respect. The design is not just Rams, it is not just Gugelot, and it is not just Rams and Gugelot either. It also an idea by Fritz Eichler, it’s a system from Wilhelm Wagenfeld and Gerd-Alfred Müller, it’s a layout from Otl Aicher…there are seven or eight different people who made their contribution to it. That is how industrial design is. Nobody mentions my name when talking about a BMW, or the name of the engineer who designed part of the engine.”

The other important person in Gerhard’s life is the graphic designer and typographer Otl Aicher (1922-1991), so much so that the entire colour scheme of his apartment derives from his work. “As a child I remember Otl Aicher’s designs for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich being pretty much omnipresent, but it wasn’t until much later that I learned the story behind them”, explains Gerhard. Aicher was a school friend of Werner Scholl, the brother of the German anti-Nazi activists Hans and Sophie Scholl, who were executed by the Nazi regime in 1943. Aicher too was strongly opposed to the Nazis and deserted the army and went into hiding at the Scholl’s family home towards the end of WWII. He later married their older sister Inge Scholl and they both, together with Max Bill, founded the Ulm Design School. “When Aicher became the lead designer for the 1972 Olympics he wanted to create something as far as possible from the Berlin Olympic Games of 1936 under the Nazis, so the colour scheme does not include red, for example, which he felt was the colour of dictators.

“What really fascinated me about his work for the games was this combination of his knowledge and skill in graphic design and the content, or intention behind it – that his decisions were not just aesthetic ones. The 1972 Olympic Games were about showing another kind of Germany to the world. I spent a lot of time researching Otl Aicher, looking through the HFG Ulm archives and talking to people who had worked with him. So when I moved into my apartment, which incidentally is only a few hundred metres away from where Aicher’s design studio was and from where Hans and Sophie Scholl used to live, I decided to make the connection I also have in my heart to his work to the walls of my home by painting each room one of the colours from the Olympic Games: orange for the kitchen, blue for the living room, green for the bedroom/office and silver in the hallway. Silver was the celebratory colour used instead of gold. I also have pictures of some of his early designs on the walls, including one of the Olympic torch relay that I like very much because on one hand all the colours meet in it and in the other hand because he took this thing that the Nazis introduced (the torch relay) and completely changed its representation, stripping it of all the mystification and symbolism the Nazis tried to imply with it.”

So Grunwald’s choice of domestic colour scheme was not just an aesthetic, but a political and ethical one as well.  It’s an unusual way to choose the paint for your apartment. But it brings in a lot of layers of context, which is totally in keeping with this design expert’s ethos:  the colour scheme, together with the furniture and the objects on display, complete the interior decoration of his flat as a collaboration across time with most of the greats of German post-war design in a precisely perfect way.

Directions magazine: Odyssey

Sophie Lovell is Editor-in-chief of Design Hotels travel magazine no. 17

How do you make a travel magazine during a lockdown? By choosing a theme that is both universal and empathic: “walking”. By working with local correspondents and photographers. By aiming for a better diversity of viewpoints from all over the world. By reassessing what “travel” and “luxury” mean. By thinking contextually and holistically.

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How do you make a travel magazine during a lockdown? By choosing a theme that is both universal and empathic: “walking”. By working with local correspondents and photographers. By aiming for a better diversity of viewpoints from all over the world. By reassessing what “travel” and “luxury” mean. By thinking contextually and holistically.

With her editorship of the 2021/22 issue of Directions magazine, Sophie Lovell brought a new, more contextual approach. She brought contributions from poets and artists in from all over the world; introduced a piggy-back system for writers and photographers to work together on a story despite being thousands of miles apart; used only local contributors; wrote a ten-point “Good Traveller” manifesto; suggested a walking app collaboration for walking routes local to Design Hotels’ 300-odd partner hotels and encouraged the team to make the entire issue without a single flight being taken for it. The result was so good, they gave it two covers.


This issue of Directions was made under extraordinary conditions in an extraordinary moment for travel, but with a great deal of care—and with hope. Our aim has been to make it a travellers’ companion, a healing, positive, timeless space. At the same time, it is the space where we push boundaries, feel our way into the future, and represent the evolution in our thinking.

With the whole world feeling out of step, it seemed natural to take walking as the anchor for this issue. Walking is an act and culture older than humanity itself, one that binds us to the land, and lets our imaginations take flight. The steady beat of putting one foot in front of the other also grounds us, connects us, and carries us forward into change. In our opening essay, the author and veteran walker Jini Reddy looks at great journeys made by foot—known and less known—and bring them in step with the times in an uplifting paean to walking.

Walking also sets loose so many new ideas. In My Own Private Odyssey, we asked 11 creatives to take and document journeys of their own from where they happened to be in the moment, and share with us their inspirations gathered along the way. The incredible gallery that resulted really blew us away, as did the wealth of multimedia material our invited artists and poets shared with us—some of which you will be able to experience on our digital platform as well.

A trip to discover the fruits of foraging and 4,000 years of farming know-how in the Andean high-altitude biospheres can bring us closer to the land and cultural practices that sustain us. But how do you do a story about the people and plants of Peru’s Sacred Valley during lockdown? Thanks to the wonders of technology, our author Carla Bragagnini was able to virtually piggyback along with photographer Antonio Sorrentino as he hiked up and down mountains and waded through fields. At one point the crew for this story was coordinating live on location from four different continents without a single flight being taken for the purpose.

This new buddy system proved so effective that we intend to use it as a model in the future as we endeavour to bring more local reporting by contributors with a genuine connection to place and culture (and also reduce our environmental footprint by doing so). This fits with our promadic view that travel should be proactive and purposeful. In that vein, with The Good Traveler, we share our new checklist of good principles for travelling: no dogma, no rules, just a work in progress, one step at a time.

There is no point in having good ideas if you don’t share them. The core of this issue of Directions has been about rediscovering the genuine joy and solace to be found in the simple act of walking. So while producing this magazine we reached out to all our 300+ member hotels and asked them to share their most picturesque, challenging, and inspiring walking routes and turned them into the brand new Design Hotels Walks, highlights of which you will find here in the Locator, and yet more online.

Finally, we cannot be sure what the coming year will bring in this great odyssey we all share, but we can be sure that when we move around our beautiful planet, the need to be more conscious of each other, of our communities and our environment is universal. So let us choose our paths together with care, with love—and with a spring in our step.

Archifutures volume 6: Agency

A field guide to reclaiming the future of architecture

“Now is not a time for metaphorical sticking plasters or vanity projects, it is a time for change and a time for action.” With essays, interviews, projects and original works by young practitioners and more established figures, the sixth volume in the Archifutures series for the Future Architecture platform is a call to action for architects, urbanists and designers alike.

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“Now is not a time for metaphorical sticking plasters or vanity projects, it is a time for change and a time for action.”

Archifutures Volume 6: Agency, A field guide to reclaiming the future of architecture is a call to action for architects, urbanists and designers.

With essays, interviews, projects and original works by young practitioners and more established figures alike, this sixth volume in the Archifutures series for the Future Architecture platform is the most activist to date.

The mandate of architects and urbanists today goes way beyond designing buildings, it includes changing behaviour, influencing and impacting policy, and building bottom-up agency with new understandings of value, justice and cultural production. This task is best achieved by sharing not just strategies but also practice – completely openly and freely. This sixth volume of Archifutures, therefore, focuses on emerging narratives and strategies that can help architects adapt their practice towards more effective agency in order to meet the greater, more universal tasks that are upon all of humankind.

It is sometimes hard to have hope in the face of the enormous problems the world is currently facing, but the projects and practices featured in this and the five previous volumes of Archifutures indicate that we already have the ideas and skills to make the necessary changes – but the means for achieving them are unevenly distributed. These projects show ways forward in addressing ecological destruction, racial injustice, housing inequality and landscapes of conflict. They point to new modes of design practice, rethinking what it means to be “an architect” in a world of spatial injustice.

Contributors: 45°, Architects Climate Action Network, Thomas Aquilina, Architekturos Fondas, ateliermob, BC Architects and Studies[BE], Coloco, Critical Practice, Dark Matter Labs, Arturo Franco & Ana Román, Institute for Linear Research, Will Jennings, Constantinos Marcou, Mies. TV, Office of Human Resources, Recetas Urbanas, Jason Rhys Parry, Point Supreme, Proyecto Colectivo, Recetas Urbanas, Marie-Louise Richards, Unfolding Pavilion, Un-war Space Lab, Marina Otero Verzier.

Flughafen Tegel

Essay for a book by photographers Felix Brüggemann and Robert Rieger

Sophie Lovell’s homage to Berlin’s Tegel airport based on an interview with the architect Volkwin Marg, for a photographic book shot during the lockdown in 2020 by Felix Brüggemann and Robert Rieger.

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“During the spring of 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, Berlin Tegel ‘Otto Lilienthal’ Airport looked like a stranded spacecraft. Once a symbol of the fluid mobility of the West and an hommage to both the automobile and the aeroplane, the crowded airport was suddenly completely empty, offering unobstructed views of its singular architecture and myriad of improvised structures…”

TXL The Drive-in Airport

When writing about buildings in Berlin, one is always very conscious of their place in the historical fabric, whether they were damaged or destroyed during the WWII and then rebuilt or repurposed; whether they fill a gap crated by bombs or policy; whether they have a compromised historical past; or whether they had some particular additional representative function when the city was divided between 1946 and 1989. The story of Berlin Tegel “Otto Lilienthal” Airport, to give it its full name, or TXL, to call it by its IATA code, is a classic Berlin city planning and architectural tale in this respect.

After WWII and up until 1989, West Berlin was an island in Cold War Europe that was predominantly connected to the West through the umbilical cord of an “air corridor”, through which people and provisions got in and out to other Western states by air. There was a road route, but it meant travelling through GDR-controlled territory and submitting yourself to checkpoints. Since many residents of West Berlin were refugees from “the East”, this meant their only safe route in and out was by plane. This air route had mythological status from early on thanks to the Stalinist Soviet blockade, which forced the three Western Allies (France, USA and Great Britain) to supply the entire city of two million residents by air alone between June 24, 1948, and May 12, 1949, in an endeavour that became known as the Berlin Airlift.

By the time the 1960s arrived, along with the Berlin Wall, the Jet Age was in full swing and civil traffic was of increasing importance despite no end to the Cold War in sight. It became clear that the air route into Berlin was in need of modernising. West Berlin needed a new international airport: a modern gateway to the rest of the West. But, West Berlin was tiny and suitable location options were in very short supply.  There was only one big, high-capacity airport in West Berlin: Tempelhof Airport, which was close to the city centre. But Tempelhof’s runway was now too short for increasingly modern aircraft and long-haul or fully-laden flights could not land and take off there. It was also built by the Nazis and looked like it, so it was not really the ideal new face of international travel for Berlin.  There was another smaller airbase in the British sector in the South West of the city but its runway was also too short. In the Tegel district, in the French sector, in the northwest of Berlin, however, was a long enough runway to take big international jets. The runway itself was an extraordinary feat of building in its own right: it was constructed mostly by hand in 1948 during the Soviet blockade in just 90 days by tens of thousands of Berliners, half of whom were women.

A suitable runway had been found, now all that was needed was an international airport to go with it. So in the mid-1960s, an international competition was held to design it. Architecture practices from all over the world entered their designs, but the winners of the competition were a pair of young German architects barely out of grad school who had not built anything of any significance to date and barely had a proper office: Meinhard von Gerkan and Volkwin Marg. It was quite a sensation at the time. Today they are better known as Gerkan, Marg and Partners (gmp), and their firm has 13 offices worldwide and over 300 employees. They have designed a myriad of important buildings since, both worldwide and in Berlin, including two other great transport gateways to the city:  the massive multi-level Hauptbahnhof (central station) and the infamous new Berlin Brandenburg Airport “Willy Brandt”, International Airport, known to all as BER (Bay-Ay-Air) built to replace TXL and opening nine years behind schedule – but that is another story.  But back in the mid-sixties, when they won the Tegel competition, they were terra incognita.

“It was our first big project”, explains Volkwin Marg, now 84. He and Gerkan had studied together in Braunschweig and earned money to support themselves by doing competition drawings for other architects. After graduating, they rented a room together in Hamburg and continued doing competition drawings with other architects, but this time under their own names and as project partners. It turned out to be a winning combination, “Basically, we shot from the hip and hit the target”, explains Marg, “We won seven of them in total that first year, which was sensational, and the largest of these was the international architecture competition for Tegel Airport.”

As luck would have it, Gerkan had just finished his university thesis on a new design for Langenhagen airport in Hanover and had therefore intensively studied the theme of airports for his final year project. So they already had a great deal of research on this highly specialised architecture topic under their belts. Nevertheless, they could not believe their luck: “It was, of course, a huge surprise and a great joy”, remembers Marg, “a unique chance for us and for Berlin at the time – epochal”.

Since they had somehow managed to award this commission to a pair of unknowns with no other airport references whatsoever, instead of to a large, experienced, high-capacity practice, representatives from the airport company decided to visit von Gerkan and Marg (and another university friend Klaus Nickels, who was in on the project too) in their office in Hamburg and gain an impression of who they were working with. “We were a tiny office!” recounts Marg. “So we very quickly upgraded the rented apartment we were working in with lots of tabletops, that we made white covers for. Then we brought in lots of T-squares and lots of friends that we dressed in white coats, who then stood there moving rulers around and drawing, all to give the impression of a functioning architecture office.”

Gerkan and Marg brought in another partner architect for the project, called Rolf Niedballa, who had experience in managing contracts and bids. “He had the advantage of being a bit older than us and already experienced as a construction supervisor”, says Marg. They also had the good fortune of having a highly experienced client: “The airport company were of course just the users, and they were smart enough to hand over the actual building of the airport to the Berlin Hochbauamt [Department for Building and Housing]: a public authority that really understood how to build and was qualified to be the client”, he adds, “This is a great difference to just letting planning happen – as was the case with the BER airport that we planned [much] later. There it was the airport operator, who was not at all qualified [to be the client].”

Nevertheless, the Tegel project, completed in 1974, was huge and the client wisely commissioned the airport terminal and all the ancillary buildings from Gerkan, Marg and Partners in stages, “one on top of the other: first the terminal, then the front end of the terminal, then the separate power station, the hangars,  then the whole frontage development: baggage, customs, fire brigade etc., – everything that belongs to an airport.”

For passengers that have travelled via the original terminal building at TXL (not the later, tacked on tin-clad hangars added when capacity was bursting at the seams because completion of its new replacement, BER, was interminably delayed), it is a surprisingly unstressful experience. Many of my frequent flier colleagues profess a great affection for Tegel because it is “so easy” but few stop to think about why. It certainly does not have much to do with looks. TXL is as brutalist as they come, horizontal, low-slung and fixed firmly on the ground. There are no light and airy allusions to flight in the design whatsoever. But behind that impression of easiness is deliberate intent: Tegel Airport is completely dedicated to the passenger.

Designed as it was in the mid-sixties, TXL is also an airport that is geared towards the age of the automobile – as the ultimate representation of freedom. A popular slogan in Germany back then was: “Freie fahrt für freie Bürger!” (free driving for free citizens). The genius of this airport design is that it creates essentially the thinnest feasible interface between car and plane. If you look at an aerial view, you can see clearly that its form is designed to bring two sides together with the shortest possible distance in between. There is an “air” side for the movement of the airplanes, including take-off, landing, taxiways, apron and parking positions Marg describes as “just like ships at a quay –  but nose-in”.

On the other side of the interface, which is the gates, is a building for cars. When it was built, you could drive right up to your check-in. “In other airports you had to park your car, enter the terminal and then cover long distances per pedes to your aeroplane”, says Marg. For him and his partners, the greatest imaginable luxury would be to drive directly to where your plane is parked and there check in your luggage, show your passport, get your boarding pass, walk through the gate and get straight onto the plane. So that is what they designed: “A totally decentralised checking-in system with the shortest distances that had ever been built.” The distance between the drop off point with the car and the counters is indeed no longer than 30 metres. TXL is a drive-in airport.

With this aim of a decentralised, slim interface in mind, the logical solution was to create a ring-shaped design. To make it efficient, the ring was turned into a polygon, which led to the architects choosing an overriding hexagonal geometry to facilitate routing and configuration of the approach roads, “since it is easier to drive through forks than T-junctions”, says Marg. The original plan had a large hexagonal car park in the middle that was only partially realised.

“There was also another reason for that form”, adds Marg, “the design was made before we had computers and the architect’s main tools were the parallel ruler and the set square. If you use the triangle which has a 60 degree and a 30-degree angle, you can design hexagonally very quickly. If you were trying to design a free form back then like [Hans Scharoun’s 1963] Berlin Philharmonie, then nothing repeats itself and it is infinitely more complicated in every respect.” The young architects must have been very aware of the older architect’s struggles to build and complete his iconic and highly experimental concert-hall-in-the-round at the time they were creating their airport design.

When the airport was completed in 1974 there was no end to the Cold War in sight and hence no expectation of any change in territory size for tiny West Berlin. Nevertheless, the architects had designed TXL with expansion in mind. The idea was to double capacity by building a second hexagonal ring joined to the first by the main building with its tower, like a pair of spectacles. But the second ring was never built and Tegel remained a monocle that later gained provisional extensions that had nothing to do with the original decentralised principle.

The decentralised design of the TXL terminal was all about how to save the passengers time; how to save them from walking long distances and long waiting times. Instead of the passengers doing the walking, the airport staff had to walk to them and their gates to attend to each plane-load as they embarked or disembarked. The terminal’s primary function was to get people from their cars to their planes and planes to cars as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Mass transport on the land side was never really a big consideration. You can travel by bus to Tegel Airport, but there are no train or underground lines to it. The thinking was probably that if you could afford a plane ticket, you could afford to pay someone to drive you to the airport or to pick you up. And anyway, who didn’t have a car?

Since TXL was built, almost half a century ago, much has changed in the global economy, air travel and airport design as well. The subsequent rise in neoliberal capitalism has meant that travel hubs are no longer just for getting from A to B, but have primarily become retail opportunities. Since 9/11 too, anti-terrorist security controls have also massively changed airport structures. In today’s generic international airport, passengers are funnelled into central security areas where they and their luggage are screened for potential hazards. Instead of the customer being king, they are essentially treated as walking danger zones that could be carrying, bombs, weapons or disease.  Once the screened and tagged passengers are all through the queues and discomfort of central security control, they are then squeezed again through a large retail area in an attempt to relieve them of as much of their money as possible by encouraging them to buy things largely unrelated to their journey. There they wait, in the shopping mall, until being told where to board their planes, whose gates are often a (very) long walk away.

This is exactly what did not happen at Tegel Airport and this is why passengers, however subconsciously, loved it. It was an airport experience where you were not treated like cattle. “It was never done as perfectly again as it was in Tegel”, says Marg. “The times have sadly changed. We now stand under the dictatorship of consumption, and airports stand under the tyranny of having to earn their money through retail because the airport fees are not sufficient. And on top of that terrorism has forced total control.” Air travel will never be the same again. And perhaps that is also why many mourn the passing of TXL as an airport. COVID-19 and global pandemic control is a new factor that is not going to go away in the foreseeable future. And with the climate emergency, it now looks the Jet Age is well and truly over. Flying in the future will be something completely different and architects will need to design completely different buildings for it. Hopefully though, whichever form they take, those buildings will be primarily in the service of the passenger, as TXL was: a beautifully designed, drive-in airport for a bygone age.

Sophie Lovell, November 2020


Eisfeld 100: Ritzma Feintechnik Harry’s

Custom publication for Harry's Inc.

To celebrate the centenary of their razor blade factory in Thüringen, Germany, the shaving company Harry’s asked Sophie Lovell to make a custom, in-house book. The result is a story about survival, determination, about adaptability, about people and one of the publications we are most proud of to date.

+ Full text and information

To celebrate the centenary of their razor blade factory in Thüringen, Germany, the shaving company Harry’s asked Sophie Lovell to make a custom, in-house book. The result is a story about survival, determination, about adaptability, about people and one of the publications we are most proud of to date.

“Incredibly, in the century that has passed since its founding, this factory has weathered the Great Depression the Nazi regime, two world wars, Soviet occupation, two more regime changes and four changes in ownership. It is still there, still making razor blades, and is very much flourishing. The company that was once called Ritzma-Werk, then VEB Feintechnik, then Feintechnik GmbH, which was bought in 2014 by the American startup Harry’s Inc., has continued to keep production going through many turbulent changes. The primary reason for this survival is an unbroken thread of workers, managers, engineers and owners who have grafted, fixed, patched, taken risks, updated and invented their way through good times and bad.”

This book is for them.



lovell_studio becomes studio_lovell

Sophie Lovell and Orlando Lovell join forces as an intergenerational, interdisciplinary team.

studio_lovell are four-dimensional thinkers offering consultation in transformative strategic context building through the medium of digital and print publication. They use their interdisciplinary experience in the fields of design, architecture and food to help reposition brands towards a regenerative, ethical, big-picture future.

+ Full text and information

studio_lovell are four-dimensional thinkers offering consultation in transformative strategic context building through the medium of digital and print publication.

studio_lovell use their interdisciplinary experience in the fields of design, architecture and food to help reposition brands towards a regenerative, ethical, big-picture future.

studio_lovell combine their holistic approach with their worldwide network of collaborators, enabling them to develop sustainable solutions across a range of media.

Sophie Lovell was born in London and first studied Biology at Sussex University before going on to study Public Art and Design at Chelsea College of Art & Design. She moved to Berlin in 1994 and has been the Germany Editor of ‘Wallpaper’ magazine since 2000. Sophie was formerly editor-in-chief of uncube magazine; executive editor of ‘form’ magazine; architecture and design editor of ‘Qvest’ magazine, and editor-in-chief of ‘Directions’ magazine. She has written and edited a number of books on design and architecture and is the author of the monograph ‘Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible’.

Orlando Lovell was born in London and raised in Berlin. After her foundation course at Central Saint Martins College in London, she studied at the Design Academy Eindhoven, visiting Hyperwerk at FHNW in Basel for an exchange semester in between. She worked at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, for the eating designer Marije Vogelzang and was editor of The DIFD (Dutch Institute of Food and Design). She has exhibited in Austria, Portugal, Netherlands and more.

They are both co-founders and co-editors of The Common Table, a platform for food futures and systemic change.