The office reimagined in Kontorhaus

Textile designer Nadine Goepfert on her new series of installations for our first building in Germany

Berlin-based textile designer Nadine Goepfert has never worked in an office, so she’s breaking new ground with her first commission for The Office Group. Just as TOG works to redefine the modern workplace, Goepfert has played with traditional business dress; shirts, suits and ties, to produce four unique artworks for TOG’s first flexible work space in Berlin, Kontorhaus. 

Inspired by TOG’s original approach to office design, Goepfert’s installations challenge conventional office aesthetics and test own her techniques – a little like a chemistry project. From nostalgic motifs associated with formal office style, to collaborating with her father, we delve into Goepfert’s influences and processes for ‘The Office Reimagined’ installations.

Nadine, how did the project come about?

Nasim (Head of Design at TOG) was looking for Berlin-based artists to collaborate with on the interiors for Kontorhaus. I think the fact that I work with textiles as a medium interested her, as did my way of working. Her brief was to “reimagine the office” and my work examines both the function and use of materials – breaking conventions to develop new design perspectives – so it felt like a natural project to work on together.

What inspired the works? 

I was inspired by the structures in an office building, which is an unfamiliar place to me, given I work in an atelier. I’ve never worked in a ‘professional’ environment, surrounded by computers. So, I started to explore common working processes and the materials in an office; like paper, computers, pens and even doodling. One of the most creative things you do in an office is a brainstorm, which can also end up looking like a deliberate pattern or drawing.

I was also influenced by what happens when an old office computer screen glitches and pixellates. It doesn't happen much anymore, but I liked the idea of taking a motif that actually represents something bad and using that as inspiration for a graphic pattern – turning it into something positive.

The works that I made for TOG comment on and imitate these elements in a subtle way, and I decided to make the works predominantly out of recycled clothing for men.

Textile designer Nadine Goepfert with Head of Design at TOG Nasim Köerting at Kontorhaus

TOG’s ethos of collaborative, flexible working is unlike conventional offices, did this inform the works?

Absolutely, it’s something I relate to as my own work is very collaborative. I collaborate with artisans or craftsmen for most of my projects; especially when they work with different, complimentary techniques. Flexibility and networking are really important.

How did Kontorhaus inspire your process?

The building’s interior design was the natural starting point for me, both in terms of colour and materiality. In Kontorhaus, TOG’s design team have transformed an old building into a new, contemporary space while still respecting its history. I tried to bring this idea into the installations too; bringing in some nostalgia, but keeping things modern at the same time. There are elements in both the building and my works that relate to the old Kontorhaus, like the cafe space that was there before the war.

Can you tell us about your processes, or any new techniques you created for the works?

Well, some are my little secrets! But for Hardware, I hardened some recycled garments using my own unique formula and then varnished them with car paint. I collaborated with my father on this process – he develops different varnishes for commercial use. In Shredded Material, a piece inspired by office paper shedders, the technique I use is a type of cutting and quilting.

I find combining traditional textile techniques with a contemporary aesthetic interesting. Hardware is also an example of textile design, but it's different and completely new, and I've also never worked with embroidery, so there was lots to learn about it. I mainly sourced the materials from secondhand stores and leftovers from my previous collections. For me, sustainability and recycling is very important in my work.

There are some surprising elements in the pieces, was that always the plan?

Yes, absolutely. I like it when people see something new and don’t take-in the complete thing at first sight. Maybe from afar, the Hardware piece could look like a crashed car. But as you move in closer you see, “Ah! It’s actually garments that are crumpled.” The works move with you and change as you engage with them.

Can we touch the works?

I’m always open to people touching my works because they’re textiles, but of course you need to be careful as they can get dirty! But, as with pieces like Interwoven, you can only really see the detailed structure of each piece up-close.

And finally, what do you think your creations add to Kontorhaus?

Textiles lend atmosphere to a space. They are helpful to have around in terms of warmth and sound softening, too. Above all, I hope these pieces might encourage members to rethink some their working habits, and get them to try out new things. The works are really different, but they get along together in the space and are part of one family.

Learn more about Kontorhaus here

Sujata Burman is a journalist specialising in design and culture. She recently co-authored her first book, An Opinionated Guide to London Architecture, published by Hoxton Mini Press