The bespoke work of Berlin-based design studio New Tendency aims to engage the senses beyond just the visual. The studio has crafted its internationally recognized name by championing the key principles of Bauhaus design, one of the most influential design movements from the early 20th century. We spoke to creative director Manuel Goller, one third of the studio, about their new collection and subsequent catalog ‘Raw Essentials’, the importance of tactility in our increasingly virtual environments, and making decisions to challenge the status quo.
There is perhaps no more important name in the design world than Bauhaus; and although debate over the name’s ownership has continued over the decades—with many enterprises across the world acquiring it to suit their establishment’s own corporate agendas—to any art,architecture, or design aficionados, the name refers to one thing only: the German applied arts and design school founded by revered architect Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919. After its closure by Nazi-occupied Germany in 1933, the school’s legacy lived on, morphing into a subsequent movement that, one hundred years later, is more prevalent than ever. In Berlin specifically, the movement’s functional and industrial aesthetic remains an essential element to many facets of German life. In every corner of the city one can find traces of its influence, from high-rise architecture and modular furniture to exhibitions, museums, and events that celebrate its genius.
Yet in the 1960s, a German home improvement conglomerate trademarked the name ‘Bauhaus’, taking out multiple cases of legal action to protect it—most notably quashing the official Bauhaus Archive from claiming its morally befitting proprietary rights. In 2012, this same retail chain threatened a group of young design students with a lawsuit, over their own collective which was titled ‘My Bauhaus Is Better than Yours’. Manuel Goller was one of the founders of this collective; its facetious name was a tongue-in-cheek response to the enormous responsibility the students felt they had, in upholding the school’s epic worldwide reputation. Goller made the decision to rebrand his collective as New Tendency, choosing the name for its optimistic associations to a fresh start with new beginnings. “When I founded New Tendency back in 2012, it was a difficult time for me,” he admits. “It was a time of change—I needed the name of the studio to react to the situation with a sense of strength and confidence. Something uplifting and robust in times of trouble.”
"I needed the name of the studio to react to the situation with a sense of strength and confidence. Something uplifting and robust in times of trouble”
“For the collection, we wanted to show the excellence of pure material in all its versions”
Since then, the studio has gone from strength to strength: applying the principles of Modernism to their contemporary objects and furniture: sleek, minimal pieces made for everyday use in home or work spaces. “In regards to design philosophy, New Tendency is notjust a name but a guiding principle for us to continually remind ourselves to keep on challenging the status quo,” explains Goller. The new collection ‘Raw Essentials’ takes many forms—from a polished porcelain plate to side tables, bar stools, and shelves. What ties these disparate items together is their clean aesthetic and their raw materiality. “For the collection, we wanted to show the excellence of pure material in all its versions,” says Goller.
“Today we spend most of our time in virtual environments, leaving sliding our fingertips above smooth glass surfaces, as our only tactile experience”
‘Raw Essentials’ is characterized by its geometric, functional shapes and mostly monochrome color palette, but with pops of bold color. The ‘Standard Sofa’ is anything but; its matte powder-coated aluminum frame is upholstered with Kvadrat fabric designed by Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons. Curved and sharp lines are welded together to comprise the iconic ‘THRONE’ armchair, while the ‘META Side Table’, their signature piece, is handcrafted from steel and comes in a range of vibrant colorways—lime green, pale pink, and bright orange and yellow. New Tendency has invested much research into the tactile experience, and has designed each product with the concept of touch in mind. “We’ve definitely developed our designs to be experienced by all of the senses, and specifically touch,” Goller says. “Our clients are often surprised by the tactile experience when they see them for the first time.” Accompanying the collection is a quote from an essay written by American-German textile artist Anni Albers from 1965, which essentially surmises New Tendency’s rationale:
“All progress, so it seems, is coupled to regression elsewhere. We have advanced in general, for instance, in regard to verbal articulation—the reading and writing public of today is enormous. But we certainly have grown increasingly insensitive in our perception by touch, the tactile sense.”
Goller says that he believes this essay, albeit written in 1965, is more relevant than ever before. “Today we spend most of our time in virtual environments, leaving sliding our fingertips above smooth glass surfaces, as our only remaining tactile experience,” he laments. “For me personally, it’s important to train the tactile sense, such as by browsing through materials and capturing them by touch rather than just visually.” We build personal connections with objects far more than we realize, and for New Tendency, creating items that facilitate this connection is imperative to the studio’s ethos. “Touch is essential,” concludes Goller, as is our need to think critically about why that is the case.