Corpus Studio

Lava stone, Sand cast aluminum

Paris, France

Interview

corpus.studio

@corpus.studio

For Konrad and Ronan of Corpus Studio, design is the vehicle to present the brutalist and monolithic structures they are inspired by with an air of poetry, as evident in their BB and Apollo collections. Each collection is the product of a deep exploration of its materials, shape, and scale, and whose functional pieces are a perfect blend of their worlds of architecture and design. We spoke with Konrad to hear about the approaches and process behind their work.

Tell us about your background and about how Corpus Studio came to be.

After studying in Berlin and Sydney, I had an internship opportunity with Lina Ghotmeh and Tsuyoshi Tane, two fantastic architects who shared an office with another Italian architect named Dan Dorell. We worked on some really cool projects, mainly focused on competition work, and it was a very creative environment.

I was unsure of what direction I wanted to take with architecture at the time, and Lina, who had become a great mentor to me, encouraged me to apply to Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture because the director at the time was Odile Decq, who was an intriguing figure and was trying to push the boundaries in architecture, which was something that was really important to me as I was looking for something more than just architecture.

Around the same time, I met Ronan, who is also an architect who studied abroad, and we shared similar experiences and aesthetic references. During our studies, friends would ask us to design set design elements or small-scale ephemeral architecture. I also worked for creative studios with clients like Louis Vuitton, Nike, and Hermes, focusing on scenography. These experiences were crucial in expanding my understanding of architecture beyond the more rigid confines of academia. After completing my studies and working together on several projects, we decided to join forces and establish Corpus Studio.

The name “Corpus” is significant to us for a couple of reasons. Firstly, “Corpus” comes from Latin and relates to the body, emphasizing the connection between the human body and the built environment, a concept echoed by architects like Le Corbusier and Vitruvius. Secondly, “Corpus” also refers to a body of work, akin to a musician’s oeuvre or a composer’s symphony, symbolizing our collective output and evolution as architects. This name encapsulates our approach to architecture, emphasizing both the process and the product of our work at Corpus Studio.

How would you define Corpus Studio’s approach to design?

In the beginning, we were pretty young and naive, and I think we still are, which is good because we find naivety inspiring and something that brings ideas to the table.

Right now, we’re doing design and architecture and drawing parallels between the two, interested in creating timeless designs without falling into cliches. While we were focused on image rather than our impact on design and the world to start, we’re at a point where we want to contribute to the contemporary architecture and design communities by creating dialogue through considered development and critique on the current and past context.

What kinds of questions are you asking in your work?

I think there are two parallel conversations that we have. We often discuss what interests us, whether it’s society and its infrastructure or current events. These discussions contribute to an overall zeitgeist and understanding of the world. Then we sit down with pen and paper, sketching a chair or designing a house, and ask how the broad conversations funnel down into something tangible. We don’t always know how to answer those questions, but I believe that as long as we’re having those conversations, it boils down to curiosity. The more questions we ask about political movements and societal trends, the more they subconsciously influence our direction in design.

To me, there isn’t a direct translation from how we see the world to what we design, but rather design being a craft, an artistic expression of today. So asking questions about the world naturally contributes to the design process.

Both you and Ronan have a background in architecture and worked in architecture and interior design before venturing into design. What was the experience like going from architecture to design? Were there elements from your previous work and background that you carry into your design work?

Architecture, for me, was an incredible field of study. It’s so wide and vast, encompassing sociology, psychology, urban planning, engineering, mathematics, art, sculpture, literature, and much more. It’s hard to define because of its sheer breadth. When I was at a crossroads in my life, unsure of what direction to take in architecture, I realized I wanted to focus on a more sculptural and artistically oriented approach.

Initially, after working on set design projects, we started getting requests for apartments and interior design. However, I felt like I was leaving behind something I truly enjoyed—the artistic and experimental side of architecture. This led me back to design, where I could develop ideas and test concepts related to form, shape, and materials that inspired me daily.

Architecture has undoubtedly influenced my design process. It provided me with training in planning, documentation, and working with artisans. The designs we create have architectural elements as well and almost resemble mini architectural models, being an extension of our exploratorive process in architecture. While I appreciate organic and free design styles, my architectural background influences my tendency to find order and structure everything logically. In this way, architecture informs my design process and I am able to work in the way that I know how.

We see a lot of different ideas in your work, such as architectural influence, while also having a playful or poetic tone. What kinds of themes drive your creative process when designing?

We’re striving to create something contrasted. There’s richness in the gray zone between two contrasting elements, and that’s where the magic happens. With the BB collection, for example, it’s serious yet has a sense of humor, not taking itself too seriously. We don’t want to be burdened with design that is mono-directional or get stuck with one signature style. Working with contrast is liberating, exploring two opposite directions and finding balance. It’s very personal in how we are as people too; one side is fun, while the other takes our work seriously, giving our all every day.

In terms of themes, they’re influenced by what appeals to us visually. Brutalism, expressionism, and the enlightenment period of architecture inspire us a lot. We have a bank of references, including architects and designers like Boullée, Gio Ponti, and Carlo Scarpa, and many others, whose work we find inspiring. Learning from the masters of architecture and design broadens our knowledge and influences our process. However, we’re not necessarily creating designs as homage to specific designers; our process is about considering achievements of the past and modifying and reusing their core principles in new ways.

We notice an emphasis on the materials used in each of your collections, both in the pieces themselves as well as in the unique techniques used to work with them in the process. How do you select the material for your collections and learn what’s needed to work with them?

Generally, the first designs we come up with are just rough sketches. We start with a sketch and the material becomes apparent to us as we go, so we already have an idea of what material we want to use during the design process. For Apollo, the material spoke to us strongly even before we started sketching.

Once we have the material figured out, we roughly know what we want to do and how to do it will involve the artisans in the conversation early on. We speak to the artisan, present the design and our thoughts, and it becomes a back-and-forth process. They give their feedback, suggesting what might not work and why, which we try to understand. Sometimes, we bring ideas that challenge theirs, making it a collaborative and iterative process.

We have designed 3 collections and worked with 3 different materials, and I’d like to keep exploring new materials for every piece of art and every collection we do. It would be an amazing experience to get to know all these different materials and build that knowledge database. We could then use that knowledge for other projects, like architecture or interior design.

How do the two of you collaborate on your work?

When we start sketching, there might be a sketch that one of us has drawn that sets the tone for the series. We’ll talk about that and generate other ideas. For example, if I sketch an idea, I’ll show it to Ronan and we’ll point out what’s interesting or discuss and critique it. It’s important to have those kinds of conversations.

Once we figure out the general DNA of the design, we’ll both design around that and come up with different variations. If it’s a collection with multiple pieces, we might divide the design work. When we come back together, again we’ll discuss what we’ve created, piece things together, and make adjustments. In other instances, if I’ve designed something and need a fresh perspective to make progress, I’ll give it to Ronan to take a look and refine it. Collaboration is important to us because we design and think in different ways, so you can see the differences in how we approach various subjects as well.

The BB collection was Corpus Studio’s first collection and is one that really caught our eye. Could you walk us through the process of creating this first collection?

Initially, the idea was just that—an idea. It started as a sketch, something we played around with but then set aside for a while. It wasn’t until around 2022 that we decided to take action on it. We fleshed out the concept and before actually developing it, we wanted to explore where it could go. That’s when we applied to participate in Collectible, the design fair in Brussels, where to our surprise, we were selected for the curated section. Suddenly, we were faced with the realization that we had to bring this idea to life. So once accepted, we dove straight in, with just about four months to complete it—a relatively short timeframe. The process was very steep, where we had two failed prototypes that didn’t meet our expectations, prompting us to reassess our approach. For instance, our initial attempt involved welded joints for the chair, but it didn’t align with our vision. We wanted clean, sculptural lines—a refined look that welding couldn’t achieve. So, we reevaluated our assembly technique, opting for a combination of bolting and gluing. It was a process of working with artisans to figure out how we were going to actually assemble it and put it together in a way that would aesthetically respect the essence of the design.

What are some particular takeaways from designing a collection for the first time?

Trusting the process has been significant for us. We had to learn to allow the design to evolve naturally while also recognizing when to assert our vision. In that sense, listening to artisans and empathizing with their perspectives was something we had to learn very quickly. Another thing that became apparent after the first collection was having a better understanding of production costs, prompting us to factor it into our second collection and be even more mindful in our third. We’ve also learned to integrate standardized measures and consider logistical aspects like shipping pallet sizes, which we initially overlooked.

However, while such considerations are crucial, sometimes creative vision takes precedence over logistical constraints. For instance, I have a grand floor lamp design in mind that may not fit standard pallet sizes, but that’s a challenge I’m willing to tackle later to preserve the integrity of the design.

You have a really unique description of the BB collection pieces. How did these ideas come to you?

The idea for the BB collection struck in a conversation with someone. It was as if the design idea came out of nowhere, almost intuitively. The basic principle revolves around an aesthetic act of assembly, utilizing repetition and some rationing, employing poetic devices in its design concept. When the design took shape on paper, there were discussions about its resemblance to a baby bell cheese, with its half-wheel shape and voluptuousness. This led to conversations about what language could describe the form, which is where Brigitte Bardot’s nickname, BB, came in—paralleling the form’s characteristics. Additionally, as our first design collection, it felt like our “baby,” hence the name. Everything just fell into place, making the name evident from the beginning, reflecting both its design and concept.

Could you walk me through the Apollo collection and how it came to be?

The material itself was the genesis for the Apollo collection. We had been thinking about how we could use glazed lava stone in our designs for a while, and when we went to Greece and saw a temple that was crumbling and falling down, it prompted a reflection on time, the seemingly eternal presence of architecture on this planet, and the fragility of humans as a civilization. To us, this duality seemed to align with the very nature of lava stone, being so robust yet having a poetic fragility owing to its ceramic glaze. After making this connection between time, material, and decay, we had a fairly clear direction in mind to design a monolithic collection that would also speak for a refined-fragility.

How did you discover and choose to use lava stone for this collection?

We had come across glazed lava stone previously in a few different contexts, mostly used in signage and hospitality fit outs, and it was something that always struck us as being really beautiful. It has a very fragile nature to it, where it’s both crackled and reflective, giving it a brittle appearance. What we like particularly about lava stone is the fact that it is so strong and robust compared to clay ceramics.

Did you face any unique challenges or learnings from creating this collection?

The challenges we encountered with the Apollo collection mainly revolved around the size of the kiln. The artisan we collaborated with had a decent-sized kiln, which was good for our purposes, as we wanted to experiment with larger dimensions to observe the impact it would have and experience the monumentality of the pieces. Up to that point, most glazed works we’d seen by other designers were small objects or tabletops without feet.

Part of the process involved working with the artisan to develop a technique for glazing multiple surfaces at once. Typically, artisans only glaze one surface due to kiln constraints. However, our artisan devised a new method to glaze all of the surfaces simultaneously. It resulted in a harmonious, uniform appearance, with the glaze covering not only the top surface but also the sides and underside, creating a dipped-in glaze effect. This scale and approach were unprecedented for us, and the collaborative effort was challenging but hugely rewarding.

What are some things you’re currently exploring, and what’s coming up for Corpus Studio?

We’ve been commissioned to design a new collection by a boutique Parisian furniture brand called Mono Editions. The collection will feature around five or six pieces that interpret the rigor, balance, simplicity, and materiality of the Swedish Grace movement through a contemporary lens. It’s entirely crafted from wood and is set to launch later this year. Simultaneously, we’re collaborating with another brand on a separate project that is very exciting however it is still in the early stages, so I can’t reveal details yet, but we’re hoping for an end-of-year release with that one.

Finally, apart from our interior design and architecture projects that we have ongoing, we have also been commissioned by online platform Monde Singulier to design a collection. We are really excited to have been invited to design for them as they are working with many inspiring designers we look up to and they have been instilling a strong sense of community among the artists and designers they support by hosting events like dinners and drinks. It creates such a positive and nourishing atmosphere.