Interview with Oliver Müller


Who are you?
My name is Oliver Müller. I live and work in Berne.

What’s Azimut?
Azimut is my label, under wich I design and build foremost furniture. I established the label in 2009 and I don’t have any employees. All is done by myself, customers get everything from one single source.

Where does the name „Azimut“ comes from?
In navigation the “azimuth” indicates the direction of the location of a star.

How ist this related to furniture-design?
Originally the word meant direction or way. When designing furniture I’m on a journey, with each initial draft I show a possible direction to go. Just as on a sea journey careful navigation is crucial here as well so you keep track and won’t loose the essential out of sight.

What’s essential to you – „form follows function“ perhaps?
The in design and architecture widely spread quote “form follows function” represents the spirit of the Bauhaus, an academy who aimed to bring art and craft together. I absolutely admire sophisticated craftsmanship and beyond  that creating something artful is what I’m passioned about. There is beauty in simplifying and reducing to the function because it respects the essence. Things that are designed that way are pristine and pure and therefore always appealing to the human eye. In general they are instantly understood by everyone because, if turned around, one can understand the function by looking at it’s form. This concept can be found in mother nature throughout everything that was grown. Nature has optimized form for specific purposes by using evolutionary processes and it’s been doing it in the most beautiful and fascinating way. “form follows function” is a good basic recipe and I tend to add a touch of dynamics, contrasts or bold structural statics to it without being any contra dictional to the above said. Doesn’t pastry taste better when it looks good?

Is there anything else that is important to you when creating?
Aside from the functionality which always has to stand above everything I like to explore and play with the remaining possible leeway. For example I tend to add my furniture a sculptural value. Oftentimes those furniture become a space object that really influences and changes the room in a substantial, upgrading way. It’s surprising how a single furniture can change not only the room but the state of the people in it. I’m fully convinced that what surrounds us matters a lot. Everything has an impact on the human being and that doesn’t only count for furniture of course.

How looks your typical workflow?
It mostly starts off with a meeting at the customers place, right in the room where the new creation will take place. There we discuss the customers needs. Sometimes the customer has specific ideas himself, then this leads to a more conventional furniture makers job but usually people approach me, because they want me to find a special and artful solution for their furniture and that’s where I really can make a strong point.

How are you proceeding then?
The parameters of the customer is what inspires me – drafting phase has set in. Sometimes it’s a wished function or it’s a detail of the conversation with the customer that acts as a catalyst. I then check my first ideas by hand sketching. Some ideas get to be sorted out while others remain and get refined, that’s how I drive the creating process until, eventually, the ultimate version has taken shape. It has to be a product that’s not only functional but pleasing to the eye and foremost and often underestimated it has to be buildable. To account for the buildability is crucial without this the design is worthless.  If you’ re looking for the extraordinary appearance and if you’re exploring new materials you usually end up leaving conventional ways of constructing and building which often leads to static experiments or the need of building dedicated jigs to accomplish the build. It’s a great advantage that in my case the designer also is the builder and considered the building process already in the designing process.

Is there an example where the realization of a design was problematic or unusual?
With each of my furniture I seek to explore new territories in one or the other way. A notable example though are the mail organizer shown in the projects of this website. Structurally they consist of a thick bent aluminum sheet. While my workshop is capable for woodworking I’ve decided to commission a company for the bending part. At the end I had sent out about 20 inquiries to companies that are specialized in sheet metal bending. Neither of them showed capable for doing the required bending. One of them even said I’d better forget about it cause no one could do it. This statement fired my sense of inventing and I felt challenged because I sensed it could be possible even tough the bend wrapped all around and literally closes up the piece.
I then actually was able to build a bending device to successfully accomplish the task where no specialized company was able to. To overcome difficulties like this of course requires great effort, it’s highly uneconomical but after all it’s a wonderful challenge and in retrospective deeply satisfying.

How do you let your customer know about your draft?
Finally I model my design in CAD where everything gets the right dimension and proportion. I then render a customer presentation film. This way the customer get to experience his object in virtual space which allows for a precise imagination of his future piece. At this stage it’s still possible to make changes and to adapt. The customer eventually approves with a down-payment from 60% this legally forms a contract for building and allows me to by materials to beginn the build. The final payment takes place after the delivery and the complete satisfaction of the customer.