Design critique • Zurich

A shop window into Swiss design

As official meeting places within the respective host country, Switzerland’s diplomatic missions abroad also represent the Confederation’s creative output. Many such buildings and their interiors were and are designed by Swiss architects and designers. The Federal Office for Buildings and Logistics (BBL), which is responsible for diplomatic mission construction projects, wants Switzerland’s physical presence abroad to emanate values such as innovation, precision, quality and open-mindedness.

Today, embassies and their residences are not only used for diplomatic purposes but also for exhibitions, concerts, readings or meetings for business associations. That includes the Swiss embassy in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, where designer Jörg Boner redesigned the rooms used for official receptions. The designer set up this workplace as a tasteful “shop window into Switzerland”, giving visitors an idea of the current consumer goods culture and creative economy of Switzerland. A long main room for dining and working is flanked on both ends by two lounges, while the enclosed veranda, similar to a side aisle, serves as a spatial barrier to the outdoor area. Featuring more than 30 designers and design companies, Boner curates a mix of work by everyone from Margrit Linck, Kueng Caputo and Max Bill to Baltensweiler, Christoph Hefti, Big-Game and Adiren Rovero. Boner was also given carte blanche to show a selection of his own work as a product designer for companies such as Oluce, Schätti Leuchten, Wittmann or Sitzfeldt – including custom-made wooden pieces developed specifically for the site and produced by Tossa.

Boner’s selection frames Swiss design as the product of exchange: all the creative minds and companies represented in Khartoum are developing their thoughts and actions for new solutions in the international context. Just as the Confederation cultivates cultural, scientific and economic ties with their host countries, design is the definition of networking. If you take the knowledge transfer between countries as a common theme, the canon of Swiss classics can be read differently in Boner’s interior design. His selection exemplifies the work of artists who have been successfully combining provenance and internationality since the 1940s. And it includes contemporary voices who have the potential to continue writing the history of design.

This text was originally published in Hochparterre architecture magazine, Vol. 11/2020.

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