We visited Berlin-based architect Thomas Kröger for a shared feature with Architectural Digest. Thomas Kröger has been running his own studio for twelve years by now. With his twelve-strong team, he predominantly designs private houses from façade to interior; he also creates bespoke furniture, should the client so wish. Since 2009 he has taken part in a design competition every year in order to win work on larger projects. Currently a museum that he has designed is under construction in Portugal. He finished his architectural studies at the Universität der Künste Berlin in 1998, and after stints working in London and Berlin, he started his own practice with a project in Italy and in Frankfurt am Main.
His own home in Prenzlauer Berg was originally designed for a friend, but became vacant when her family expanded and the space was rendered too small. His furniture there is a farrago of that collected while travelling, that given to him by designers he knows, and that from dealers, such as the lamp from Hans-Peter Jochum Rodgers’ gallery in Berlin’s Mommsenstraße. “I find objects with charisma great. Things that make people think ‘what is that?'” The snakeskin clad to the ceiling originates from an uncle in Africa; he sourced the converted tablet table in Turin.
He often finds inspiration on long trips abroad. He has been to China several times, and he speaks feverishly of his stays there. He has also been to Japan, Africa and South America. In Ahmedabad, India he discovered the traditional Haveli wooden houses to great fascination, and in China he came across round Tulou clay structures, in which people live like nothing comparable in Europe. In drafting his own projects he also studies the landscapes, vernaculars and typologies of the surrounding area before even beginning to plan the design. “You have to ask yourself how you can actively contribute to the beauty that exists already,” he says. The hopes that the clients harbour, the necessary spaces that the project entails. Characteristic of his designs is the concealment of storage spaces, bathrooms, kitchens and even living rooms. “I am convinced that people function like dogs in search of their favourite spots”, he says. In his apartment we realise that the comfortable sofa disappears into the wall to achieve a perfect, quiet haven. Thomas Kröger wants to create a frame that accommodates – yet is simultaneously characterised by – the occupant of the space.
Today the houses he designs are spread across the globe. But his ‘heart projects’ – those he holds closest to his heart – are in the Uckermark region of northeast Germany, to which he often escapes, drawn by the uninhabited landscape, and where once or twice he has slept in the boot of his car in field. And not infrequently does he wake up the next day to the sight of the farmer, on whose land he has parked, knocking on his car window and offering coffee, breakfast or just company. So a connection develops that can be influential on many levels, not least on a design project that he is working on there, and which counts among his favourite. He is currently working on the redevelopment of a cattle shed into a holiday home in the region. For Thomas Kröger it is always a special moment when you can ‘gift’ the project to the owner, as he describes it.
He also feels inspired by his obsession for sailing. In a boat, so he says, every centimetre is planned through and every space serves at least two functions; so the cupboard is also a shower, or the table can be turned into a bed. Kröger says: “When it works out like it should, it is like a glove that fits perfectly and looks good too. That is the feeling when everything slots into place.”