Judith Haase and Pierre Jorge Gonzalez are the founders of Berlin-based architecture studio Gonzalez Haase AAS. We interviewed them about their work – and the exclusive playlist they put together for us
I’ve always been impressed by Gonzalez Haase AAS architecture studio’s portfolio. Their list of clients reads like a wish list of the creative industries’ best names – Balenciaga, Ernst restaurant, Andreas Murkudis, Birkenstock – and, from project to project, their spatial design speaks for itself. An essential component of their artistic signature lies in their ability to make spaces appear modern, yet never cold. As does their capability for cementing the position of their own brand while commissioned to implement the DNA of another. Neither are easy tasks, but the architecture studio Pierre Jorge Gonzalez and Judith Haase founded in 1999 has succeeded at both. In this interview, they give insights into how they approach their practice and share a personal playlist with us.
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How important is music during your working day?
Judith Haase: As a rule, I don’t listen to music when I’m working. We’re working on several projects at the same time and we really need to concentrate. That has a lot to do with communication: email, telephone calls, meetings. We jump between speaking German, English, and French throughout the day, and music in the background would be a distraction. However, music is very important to me when I’m at home or in the car on my way to work. Then I’m listening to the news or jazz radio.
Pierre Jorge Gonzalez: For me, music is reserved for concentrated work at home. At the office, all of our time and space is filled with calls and meetings and you can’t have music playing, not if you take it seriously. I’m not into background music. I listen or I don’t.
What’s the story behind the songs you chose for your playlist?
JH: I associate the songs with certain situations in life and I mostly listen to them when I’m on vacation or driving through a beautiful landscape.
PJG: They’re our classics, the ones you’ll always come back to at a certain point – but none of them are too charged with the feeling of being a “souvenir,” which, at certain point, could become a song you reject.
What was the last project you finished? What was special about it?
JH: Our last project was the mobile container for Birkenstock that stood in front of the Andreas Murkudis store, which he curated. We hadn’t worked with containers before, therefore this project was an entirely new experience – at least in that the shell was made of steel and constructed to protect the inside and keep daylight out. We very carefully considered how to bring daylight into this closed container and let it become a space – “without light, no space.”
PJG: Ernst Restaurant in Wedding, which was for an amazing young team – it’s the best experience with food and wine I’ve ever had, and luckily we designed their venue.
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What project of yours from the last six months was the biggest pleasure/most fun to work on, and why?
JH: It was a lot of fun to design the office space for a large agency. We could let our ideas run wild and use materials and colors in a very playful way. The client was just as excited and euphoric as we were, so we could think about all of the possibilities together without either side putting the brakes on the other.
PJG: We are lucky enough to select our clients and our latest project is always the one that engages us fully. Recently we designed Balenciaga’s new look for all of the stores, Fischer Appelt and Galerie Berinson in Berlin, the Holzweiler store in Oslo – and, of course, Ernst restaurant – all of which were a pleasure.
How would you describe your approach to your work? And how is it different than other architects?
JH: Pierre Jorge and I are a team, but we have very different cultural backgrounds. Pierre Jorge is a scenographer, has Spanish parents, and studied in France. I’m an architect, have German roots, and studied in Germany. Our respective educations – we were both at art schools – taught us different approaches to space, as well as how to create space. Our work is interdisciplinary and brings different ways of thinking together, which creates a wealth and pool of possibilities.
PJG: All architects have their own identity and the diversity is great. We believe that when clients choose us, they know why. They identify with our designs.
You’re based in Berlin. How does the city influence your work?
JH: For us, Berlin was the only city where we could be self-employed. We grew up alongside Berlin and many other people who built their careers here. We feel like a part of a city in flux. Berlin has influenced us a lot in that we also sought out ways to realize beautiful projects with little money behind them. That shapes aesthetics.
PJG: We’ve been working in Berlin for almost 20 years, and the city has been growing very slowly. In the beginning, there was almost no budget to build, and our strategy was to develop space through artificial lighting. That has many advantages: Berlin gets dark quite early in winter; light is a fundamental way to show new art like photography; light comes from above and is not obstructed by people; and a few other reasons. The quantity of light is not dependent on a budget, and that is an exception in architecture. It became a part of all our work.
Do you have a (dream) project you’ve always wanted to make happen?
JH: For me, dream projects are the ones with open-minded clients who trust our work. Any project can become a dream project when timeframes and budgets take a backseat to special materials and thought-out details.
PJG: To buy a plot of land with a group of close friends, create a nice building to put on it, and then for all of us to live there. But, that’s not a dream anymore – we just recently made it happen with the vGGG Building.
The “AAS” in Gonzales Haase AAS stands for “atelier architecture and scenography” and shows that this Berlin company is about more than just design – they create full spacial concepts. Judith Haase and Pierre Jorge are specialized in realizing art installations, creating the store interiors for prestigious luxury brands and designing living spaces, as well as converting or completely transforming industrial spaces into exhibition spaces. Their early work with Richard Gluckman and Robert Wilson for the Watermill Center in New York was the first of many notable projects they carried out with contemporary artists, museum directors, and collectors.
Translation: Melissa Frost
Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.