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Trix + Robert Haussmann: A Retrospective

The Log-O-Rithmic Slide Rule. Playing with perspective with Trix + Robert Haussmann

Last week NDA Tutor, Stephen headed to the Nottingham Contemporary to visit the UK’s first retrospective of the Swiss Architects and Designers Trix + Robert Haussmann. The couple, who’s notable works spans decades, covers projects from buildings to product design and furniture.

Trix + Robert Haussmann describe their work as ‘disturbed reality’ embracing ambiguity and illusion. They blend historical design principles with pop culture and traditional techniques to create spaces and pieces that challenge not only norms, but perspective. The pair have worked on over 650 projects across the world, including Zurich’s railway station and interiors of bars and fashion boutiques. Some of the Haussmann’s designs take the form over function rule to the extreme, many items in fact totally for aesthetics. Take the famous neon chair for example, it would crumble under the weight of anyone say on it, but it makes for a stunning focal point of a room.

See what NDA Tutor, Stephen thought of their work in his review below.


Stephen’s Review

A warm summer afternoon might not seem the obvious choice for a trip to the Nottingham Contemporary, however, the allure of an air conditioned space is not to be ignored and neither is the wonderful opportunity to take in their current retrospective on Trix and Robert Haussmann.

I, like many designers have come across their work from time to time, without giving them too much thought.  So this was a genuine pleasure to really take in their catalogue of work and understand some of their truly remarkable concepts.

Split across two of the galleries, gallery one introduces you to probably their most seminal works, the ‘Log-O-Rithmic Slide Rule’.  What is this you may ask? Well, put simply, it is an architectural game.  A system of manipulating established architectural vocabulary and positioning key terms against an unfamiliar partner.

For example, you might start with the word geometrically, then sliding the rule to an adverb and get the word kinetic.  Meaning you arrive at the phrase, geometrically kinetic.  Words that usually would not be associated, suddenly open up numerous opportunities to develop all kinds ideas and concepts, a truly unique and dynamic way to generate ideas, or to quote the Haussmanns themselves, to deal in a ‘disturbed reality’.  What they created, allowed them to compile around 10,000 possible combinations.  A wonderful tool in which to exploit the irony and illusion that they are so often fond of.

Amongst the many different artefacts and drawings on display at the exhibition, of which there are too many for me to extol about here, there is a collection that I wish to pay some significant praise to.  The collection known as ‘Lehrstucke’, these magnificent pieces challenge the viewer on a number of levels.

The first, is what they actually are?  When confronted with the initial piece, it would appear to be nothing more than a very ornate, large scale model of a classical roman bridge.  Odd, you might think, however get beneath the surface of the Haussmanns sense of ambiguity and you will actual see that it is a fully functioning desk.  Look closer still and you will find that it is specially selected burr oak, to give the illusion of marble.  This is quite a common theme amongst their work.  You do have to pay close attention to this type of detail, because other parts of the collection will give the appearance of marble, only to turn out to be carefully selected paint techniques, which completely fool the eye.

I could go on ad infinitum about their blend of the surreal and historical, mixed with their playful innovations, however I feel the best way for anyone to truly appreciate the rareness of Trix amd Robert’s style, is to make the visit yourself.  One thing you can be sure of when leaving, will be the uncertainty of how you thought you perceived form as well as function.

What do you think?

What do you think of this approach to design? Could you be influenced to approach your designs in the same way?

If you’d like to visit the exhibition for yourself, it is open until 7th October 2018 at the Nottingham Contemporary. For more info, click here:

Thanks for reading!


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