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About Florian Lechner

Florian Lechner is essentially a border-crosser. This is clearly evident in a biography notable for its protagonist's move from Germany to France and a career that has seen him progress from painting to sculpture and architecture, from the surface to volume and space, and ultimately turn to glass, a material that is as enduringly novel as it is ancient. That Lechner's intellectual independence probes in many directions is also shown in his interest in the interaction between fine art and music - also in relation to the elapse of time and the power of written or spoken word. (Helmut Ricke)

Interview with Florian Lechner

Florian Lechner ("FL") interviewed on Friday, 24 May.

Could you please tell us about your experience as a designer, artist, architect or creator?

FL : As the son of professional musicians, the subject of art has been with me since my childhood, and meanwhile for more than 80 years. In the 1950s I studied art education and painting at the Werkakademie Kassel with Fritz Winter. In this context I travelled to France in 1958 to study painting with Joseph Lacasse in Paris. Lacasse opened a new world for me there and constantly confronted me with the subject of "light". On his advice, I undertook a student pilgrimage to Chartre, where I had a key experience in the cathedral:when I arrived in the completely empty cathedral, it was completely filled and flooded with light. This light, which was produced by the sun's rays through the artistic glass windows, was literally transferred to man and space.This contact with medieval glass art prompted me to begin research into how this "materialization of light" could be achieved through a technology appropriate to the times. In order to investigate this, I went to numerous workshops, but found nothing. In my search, however, I met an open-minded glass technician who was willing to explore these new ideas with me. In the most primitive furnaces in Holland I developed the fused glass technique which made it possible worldwide for the first time to create large-area glasses without the use of lead rods. Resulting from this research my 1st larger design object, the 7m high light column in the University of Regensburg, was created a short time later. A multitude of objects and architectural projects followed.

How did you become a designer?

FL : I come from a family with a musical-artistic background. My parents were both professional musicians and I grew up in an environment of artists, musicians, writers and publishers. At the age of 18 I was awarded the art prize of the Neubeuern castle for my early paintings. This award motivated me to study art. In the course of my very varied studies, I took numerous opportunities to train and further my skills in various workshops. This versatility still accompanies me today.

What are your priorities, technique and style when designing?

FL : When developing a design, it is first of all elementary for me to grasp the space (private or public) on which I work or for which a sculpture is intended, and the meaning of light in space (as centre, concentrated or spread out). From this I develop forms of the glass melting process, so that the optimal refraction of light is created for this room. The glass column or glass surface thereby becomes my field of work. I work exclusively with hand sketches and drafts, sometimes - although rarely - with digital assistance. My design decides between transparency/openness and mural-like density/closeness. In the next step I produce the moulds for my glasses from metal and sand and melt the glass with the fusing technique I have developed. I carry out all the manufacturing processes myself in my studio, where I have the possibility to process glass panes up to 3m in size in my special furnaces.

Which emotions do you feel when designing?

FL : When I develop a design, I literally feel myself into the space I'm working on. I want to enhance, enliven and valorize the room, which can be done both through accentuation and contrast. So I create either a balance or a contradiction. The design is the first step and therefore decisive and just as important as the result. As a rule, I am not only commissioned with the design, but also with the realisation of the design. In contrast to many colleagues who only develop the design and then hand over the implementation to external workshops, I am involved in all steps with full energy myself. Especially when working with glass, it is indispensable to pay the same care and full attention to all steps. One mistake and the work of hours or sometimes even weeks is ruined. So in my work I am always in a tense, concentrated and at the same time invigorating state.

What particular aspects of your background shaped you as a designer?

FL : I have been shaped by the experience of the wholeness of the world: this means that the space in which we live is not only architecture, but also sound and light. I have the mental openness to perceive this as a whole. When I walk into a room, I not only perceive what it looks like, but also how it sounds, how it smells. I can really feel the space in its entirety.

What is your growth path? What are your future plans? What is your dream design project?

FL : I was awakened to light by Joseph Lacasse. Since then I have been looking at the world with an "Indian look", that is, as a whole. Within the last decades I have created a multitude of objects and projects. All projects that were really important to me have always been implemented directly. I therefore do not have an explicit dream project that has not yet been implemented. Nevertheless, of course I still have plans. For example, I am currently working on my exhibitions, which will take place next year. I want to be remembered as an artist of materialized light.

What are your advices to designers who are at the beginning of their career?

FL : Complexity and practical experience in many different (!) areas are immensely important in my opinion. Thus one receives an open view and a holistic perception. For this reason, I deliberately chose art education as a subject of study at that time, as I could then not only educate myself in a single workshop and a single profession, but in many different ones. My mother's advice was also very helpful in this context: she recommended to constantly expand my knowledge through change, e.g. by learning from different teachers and actually deepening the knowledge in practice.

You are truly successful as a designer, what do you suggest to fellow designers, artists and architects?

FL : As already explained, I advise everyone to have the broadest possible range of skills and the greatest possible variety. I also warn against vanity of any kind. Vanity is usually paired with prejudice and this closes the view for the whole. Even today, I still consciously orient myself, trying - privately as well as professionally - to face everything without prejudice.

What is your day to day look like?

FL : In the morning I always start with the concentration on "connecting thoughts", thoughts between me and the world. For this I use sound and light as a medium. This can be by means of music or e.g. by 49 beats on the gong or the conscious observation of the rising sun. Then there are physical exercises (physical relaxation). Afterwards I work in my sketchbook, but for me this is more like playing. Until about noon I am busy organizing projects and my correspondence. Depending on the task, the afternoon, the evening - and often also the night hours - are filled with work on the furnace, the production of moulds and material experiments.

How do you keep up with latest design trends? To what extent do design trends matter?

FL : External trends are not of paramount importance to me. The important thing is that my design seems to me to be coherent. However, the technological possibilities and their further development are elementary for me. An example of this is, for example, the much simpler and improved exposure of my light glass objects through the invention and spread of LED technology. An object like "COSMOS" would not have been possible without LED technology in this form.

How do you know if a product or project is well designed? How do you define good design?

FL : It's a question of " tuning". The whole must be in tune, like the well tuned violin in an orchestra. That the internal echo is harmonious. I determine this e.g. by confronting the object with different spaces (light space and also sound space). For example, not only in the living room, but also in the bathroom or outdoors, with or without music. In addition, my experience has shown that a good design should not be overloaded. You shouldn't bring in too much and you don't want to do justice to everyone by hook or by crook. That's not easy, because a customer also has certain requirements. One should respond to this as far as possible, but not "bend" oneself or one's body.

How do you decide if your design is ready?

FL : Every form has a certain vibration and my goal is that this vibration should continue down to the last detail. Whether I have succeeded in this, I perceive - consciously and unconsciously - with many senses. I experiment with the senses. For example, I test how I perceive an object with this or that scent. How it works in another context or in interaction with certain sounds. If all this is "coherent" as already described above, the object is finished. That I then improve the object again at a later point in time happens when actually only in an executive way, e.g. through improved exposure. A very good example of this is my large glass column in the Gare et Métro in Rouen, France. I exposed them - according to the state of the art at that time - with glass fibre. Today this would be comparatively simple and enormously effective with LED technology. Such a subsequent modification would completely change the effect of the column. Unfortunately, I have not yet received a request from Rouen for such a modification. But perhaps those responsible will read these lines and get in touch with me.... The effect would be overwhelming in any case!

What is your biggest design work?

FL : The church in the monastery Ettal. The design includes several objects, as well as interventions in the room and in horizontal and vertical design. For example, a column leads down over different levels into the crypt. Colour is particularly important in this design, as is the connection to the cosmos. A special aspect of this project was the connection of the trades, i.e. the different craftsmen with each other. For example, glass particles are incorporated into the terrazzo floor, or glass is integrated into concrete. The whole project is described in great detail in my book "Florian Lechner und Glas" (published by Arnoldsche Art Publishers, ISBN 9783897903715). This room shows very well how important design is especially where rituals can be served and realized.

Who is your favourite designer?

FL : The craftsmen and artists of the Middle Ages, all "designers" of their time fascinate me very much. I would have liked to talk to them about how they made their windows. Also Le Corbusier, in the Middle Ages I would have liked to have spoken to many craftsmen and artists who made windows. Le Corbusier also inspires me very much. His "Notre-Dame-du-Haut de Ronchamp" is so incredibly complex. And the sound there is almost overwhelming!

Would you tell us a bit about your lifestyle and culture?

FL : From the very beginning my life was filled with music, art and great variety. That gave me a very open and free view of the world. Nature inspired me again and again. My studio is located a little off the beaten track, in Urstall in southern Bavaria, very close to the river Inn. Around me I have a lot of free space, green meadows, mountains. I can see the rising sun, how the day develops with it and I see its setting, often in the most splendid colours. For me and my work with light, this freedom and spaciousness is extremely conducive.

Would you tell us more about your work culture and business philosophy?

FL : I like to work alone, but also in a team. I don't think it's easy to work with me, because I have high expectations and I'm not easily satisfied in my work, because I always question all contexts. At the same time, I am very open to criticism as long as this is done in a value-free and well-founded manner. The exchange with other people is very important to me for the realization of ideas. The production of ideas often happens explosively. Especially then it is important for me to have people around me who ground me and who support me in directing these ideas and their implementation into organisational channels.

What are your philanthropic contributions to society as a designer, artist and architect?

FL : My work is the attempt to make spiritual aspects visible in the matter of glass. For me, the phenomena of light, space and sound point beyond the material level of our world. I hope to expand people's consciousness so that there is a "spiritualization of matter" beyond the matter we are familiar with, so that people are able to perceive the "cosmic" and enrich their lives with it.

What positive experiences you had when you attend the A’ Design Award?

FL : Already in the application phase I noticed what a positive image and international appeal the A' Design Award has! Everyone I told about my application was enthusiastic about my participation and many followed my work even more attentively than before. The demands on the competition entries and the information to be provided are very high, but absolutely justified. This design award requires the applicants to make a sincere effort and to intensively deal with the submitted work (and also with their personal development). The knowledge gained is a great opportunity for self-reflection and further development. After announcing the results, I received excellent international feedback. Especially my existing customers and long-time companions felt that the award confirmed that they had rightly given me their attention. I also had the impression that for some this also led them to reflect on themselves and the object as well as on questions of design. Shortly after the announcement of the result, I also received a request for a large solo exhibition. I am very proud to have received the A' Design Award and am overwhelmed by the positive effects I have already experienced.

Florian Lechner Profile

Lichtglas Lamp Sculpture

Lichtglas Lamp Sculpture design by Florian Lechner

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