The brutalist designs of Berlin-based studio Vaust
Multidisciplinary Berlin studio Vaust digs deep into the German capital’s weighty brutalist legacy to create impactful designs and interiors
Vaust’s Joern Scheipers and David Kosock do not want to be known as the ‘Berlin marble guys’. ‘Berlin aggregate concrete guys’ could be OK, since much of their recent work explores the creative potential of the cheap industrial material. But really, trying to come up with any kind of pithy summation for Vaust would be a fruitless endeavour.
The studio, founded in 2018, has never worked within the confines of disciplines: its work so far has spanned interior design for retail spaces, restaurants and private homes, capsule collections of furniture, sculptural art pieces, and creative brand direction. Yet all of these projects are united by a distinctive visual language that the pair have carefully honed over the past four years. It traces its roots to Berlin, where looming brutalist architecture belies a culture pulsating with vibrant eccentricity. The city’s penchant for weighty, monolithic forms and unexpected juxtapositions are reflected in Vaust’s work, which often blends blocks of rough quarried stone with polished pieces of metal and glass.
Vaust’s recent project, ‘Total Exposure’, is a case in point, defined by simple, solid forms drawn directly from Berlin’s brutalist architecture. The seven-piece collection, which includes functional side tables and floor vases alongside purely decorative tabletop and floor sculptures, combine the roughly hewn, washed aggregate concrete commonly used in the city’s Cold War-era buildings with shiny brushed aluminium.
Aggregate concrete was a common fixture in Germany in the 1980s. ‘When you think back on the buildings you were confronted with during your school days, there was a lot of this washed aggregate concrete,’ says Kosock. ‘It’s a typical German thing for cheapish architecture that we saw a lot of in our youth.’ Perhaps because of its ubiquity, aggregate concrete has fallen out of favour in recent years, and concurrently has fallen into Vaust’s work. ‘When we decided to go for aggregate concrete, we couldn’t deny the fact that no one was using it and most people hate it by now,’ says Scheipers. ‘It’s a material that you won’t find in a contemporary context anymore.’
Vaust has long been interested in the secret histories imbued within materials. Its Berlin Perceptions sculptures, which won a Wallpaper* Design Award in 2020, are a precursor of this, using stacked washers of different materials to evoke a particular moment in Berlin’s varied history. For instance, Berlin Perceptions I tells the story of the city’s opulent 18th century through a combination of lacquered ivory, oak remains of the old Berliner Stadtschloss palace, leather and grey glass discs stacked on a brass base. Meanwhile, Berlin Perceptions II combines polished stainless steel, black marble, latex and foam to represent the spirited hedonism of the city’s nightclubs.
Aggregate concrete allows Vaust to tell stories in a similar way, since the gravel used to create the final mixture varies according to geography. ‘So this surface looks different in different areas of the world,’ explains Kosock. ‘We thought it was really interesting that if you have washed aggregate concrete in Munich, it’s different than in Berlin, or in Stuttgart. So we thought, why not take a deep dive into this whole recipe thing?’
The studio’s upcoming retail space project on Schulstrasse, Stuttgart, is intended as a showcase for various brands and the duo were given carte blanche to design its layout and interiors. The stripped-down space features stands filled with black granite, as well as Vaust’s signature hunks of rough stone – this time made from Styrofoam and painted with a special trompe l’oeil technique. ‘We wanted to create a retail canvas for all kinds of products,’ says Scheipers. ‘The whole structure of the store can be broken down to arrange any kind of floor plan.’ The end result is nothing less than a ‘brutalist diamond’.
Next, the pair wants to bring the creative potential of concrete to new extremes. ‘How cool would it be to have an interior project where the whole floor is weathered aluminium or aggregate concrete?’ says Kosock. ‘We’re just waiting for the one client that is perfect for that idea.’ Any takers? §