Photography: Peter Guenzel
For the opening of Hem's new Stockholm Headquarter, Hem commissioned design studio Soft Baroque to create a custom-made counter, to serve as a centre-piece to the spaces entrance area. The sulfur yellow counter stands in contrast to the offices raw, cold, concrete space, blurring lines between hard and soft, bright and dark.
Soft Baroque is a London-based design studio, founded by Nicholas Gardner and Saša Štucin in 2013, working simultaneously in art and design. “I come from the image making background, while Nicholas studied Furniture Design. The intersection of those two disciplines is often represented in our work” describes Saša. “Most importantly, we are both interested in similar subjects: our relationship with the natural world, digital production, surfaces, materials and our cultural perception of them.”
Following the previous collaboration with Hem for the project of the Hem London Pop-Up Shop in 2018, Hem now asked Soft Baroque again to make a one-off piece. “We were excited to work with Hem again and to get to improve both our process and product” says Nicholas.
The idea for their signature technique Puffy Bricks the pink counter is made of was born a few years back during a trip to Naples, Italy. While walking the streets, Saša and Nicholas noticed an old arch holding up a stone seawall; washed by the waves, the material around each stone had softened up, becoming round, almost cartoon-like. “It was a rational object that became decorative, almost comical. It got stuck in our heads as the representation of an unintentional piece of progressive architecture,” describes Nicholas.
To make the bricks for the counter, balloons are filled with jesmonite with the help of a large syringe pump, then, placed into the gaps from the top of a temporary formwork. After curing, the balloons are taken apart from the mould, numbered and glued back together. Lastly, painted in glowing sulfur yellow. The outcome conveys the essence of Soft Baroque’s work: a bubblegum look juxtaposed with the sturdy silhouette, challenging the senses and offering a unique experience to the Hem’s Headquarter's visitors.