Black Flag at Kurfürstenstraße 142
Photography by Oliver Helbig
Berlin’s Kurfürstenstraße 142 designed by June 14 Meyer-Grohbrügge & Chermayeff, is a communal living concept that redefines the idea of home for the 21st century.
Inside, spaces merge, each double-height unit varying in size and interconnected with its neighbours. In this ecosystem of domestic architecture we test the possible applications of Black Flag, Konstantin Grcis’s latest design for Flos.
Black Flag is an extendable wall light that offers flexibility of illumination thanks to the expanding aluminium arm reaching up to 3.5meters from a wall-mounted frame of the same material.
Black Flag nods to American Punk Rock the lamp’s narrative potential expanding beyond that of a traditional product. We ask Grcic to unpack the lamp’s cultural significance as well as its design concept.
Its use is also not straightforward, I’d perhaps call it a hybrid lamp, its functionality is so multifaceted. It’s a lamp that’s attached to a wall but it’s not a wall lamp, it’s a statement lamp but also functional. It’s hard to define.
KG: That was an interesting turn that the product took: an object that I initially conceived as raw and a bit brutal became a very sophisticated lighting tool. It offers a lot of interesting lighting technology, different modes, but the mechanism also allows this lamp to change the mood according to your needs inside a space. And then when you come back to the name Black Flag, it was really unexpected that the lamp in this totally closed position resembles a flag. The black flag is a protest tool and it’s unexpected and unusual that a lamp becomes that. At Euroluce, we played with the idea of the protest flag in the exhibition. There was one lamp that carried the words ‘ACT NOW’ on it. In its closed position, you see one of the words (depending on which side you approach it from), and when the lamp unfolds, it dissolves. But I thought it was interesting to play with a domestic object; it's not a political lamp but I wanted to see what happens if you put words like that on a product. It’s about this moment in time. ‘Act now’ is really something that could be true for so much of our current world situation. We need to act. And also, this is a lamp, but it needs the user to act with it. It doesn’t work unless you have a very physical interaction with it.
Interview by Rosa Bertoli
‘All the internal boundaries of my house are really flexible,’ says Sam Chermayeff, who worked on the building as part of architectural practice Meyer-Grohbrügge & Chermayeff. Conceived by a group of like-minded individuals, the building consists of six asymmetric towers with glass facades. ‘Rooms are not rectilinear, they’re folding into each other and are able to accommodate different situations. You start out with a flexible space and then change it over time. The home gets a little bigger when you have neighbours suddenly present. It allows for a slightly expanded field of home. I like that Black Flag can expand in its own field: at first, you can just illuminate a wall, or a small corner, but you can also make a bigger space. The way it grows, that works really well here’.
Art critic Noemi Smolik was looking for a loft space in Berlin when she came across the group’s project and joined in. ‘In my apartment, I don't have many objects: a table for writing, a dining table in the kitchen where I host my friends, and a place where I can sit down and read. I asked Sam to build me a mezzanine for my bed.’ In her apartment, Black Flag is able to illuminate the entire space in a few sweeping gestures, from sneaking over the dining table to reaching over the bookcase and reading corner.
‘We, who built the house together as a "construction group", have known each other for a long time, as the planning started back in 2012’, says Oliver Helbig, who also captured Black Flag in the space to create the images across these pages. ‘The production with Flos and Black Flag was interesting because I photographed it in the three flats, and they all have a very different floor plan. The different room heights in particular are exciting and depending on how you place the lamp you get very different moods. I like that it can look around the corner like a curious animal’.