A conversation with Nicola Stattmann, OMC°C
6th of July 2023
Photos: Ingmar Kurth
"It's the outcome of a collaborative effort involving many experts who did not act as individual players but instead contributed their expertise and grew together as a team."
Malte: Nicola, the VERD°SYSTEM by OMC°C - Office for Micro Climate Cultivation has been launched, and the first two prototypes of the series are now at the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt.
Our collaboration with the vertical greening project started when you invited me as a jury guest at Saarbrücken University during your visiting professorship, where we discussed urban greenery with students. Now, we find ourselves surrounded by the lush outcome of our partnership. At Just Architekten, we were entrusted with the architectural dimension of the projects as experts within the OMC°C network. What led you to select us? And on a personal note, what does this collaboration mean to you?
Nicola: Why choose you? I'm more than happy to address that question – there are multiple reasons why it had to be YOU. Just Architekten has earned my admiration as an architectural firm for its willingness to take on a diverse range of projects, rather than pigeonholing itself into a single theme. What stands out to me is your generalist approach, which involves tackling each new task with a unique and tailored perspective, always mindful of its specific use and seeking inventive solutions. You exhibit a readiness to reinterpret challenges and address them in innovative ways.
This is precisely why I extended the invitation for you to join me in Saarbrücken. I was in search of an architect who I knew would approach my students' proposals with an open mind, offering valuable insights owing to their extensive expertise. I've encountered other architectural firms that maintain a strict and inflexible approach to their subject matter, which doesn't align with my background as a product designer.
Similarly, I invited you and Just Architekten to accompany us at OMC°C because I believed your vast knowledge in architecture and urban planning would be invaluable. You're a team player who actively participates in discussions, takes initiative, and thrives in collaborative settings. Over the course of our two-year collaboration, both Carlotta and I have come to highly appreciate your and Nils' contributions as conversation partners.
As product designers, we oversee the conceptualization, organization, and leadership of the entire project. We recognize that without your expertise in statics, spatial considerations, and construction realization, we wouldn't have been able to execute the project in the same manner. Furthermore, I've observed your proficiency in strategy and communication, and your strategic insights regarding how topics can be approached, promoted, or initiated from an urban structural perspective have consistently proven enlightening.
Malte: Being a part of this project's development from the very beginning has been an incredibly enriching journey. Witnessing its evolution and coming to life alongside the entire team, including the engineers from Bollinger+Grohmann, has been truly rewarding. The collaborative workshops were a standout moment for all of us.
Additionally, this project holds significant political relevance. While the construction industry often discusses Green Building and sustainability, it's not always evident in practice. However, in this project, these themes take center stage and become palpable: We're here, sitting beneath this installation on a hot, sunny day, enjoying the shade it provides.
This project is the result of a collective effort where numerous experts didn't operate as isolated individuals but rather pooled their expertise and formed a cohesive team. This is where the competence truly lies, and Nicola, your orchestration of this collaboration was masterful. You brought together skilled individuals in a way that allowed this project to thrive, and I haven't experienced anything quite like it before. It has truly been an exceptional journey for all of us.
Nicola: What's truly remarkable is that we haven't encountered any significant obstacles in this endeavor. The subjects of greenery, biodiversity, climate resilience, and shading are undeniably of climatological and societal importance, and it's precisely this social significance that motivates all of us to engage fully. This isn't about individual egos; it's about collectively devising the best possible solutions for the greater good.
We are essentially crafting a series of products, not just a single solution. As product designers, we come from a background deeply rooted in series production and serial thinking. This concept represents a new frontier for you as architects, as well as for the structural engineers and steelworkers on our team. We've frequently pondered, both amongst ourselves and with you, the essence of this series product and why we've passionately advocated for every centimeter and every kilogram.
"It is exactly this exchange that makes the collaboration in our large interdisciplinary team so exciting."
This project is a tremendous gift. To have the opportunity to contribute to it and witness its transformation into a startup within such a short span is truly remarkable. The support and backing of the city of Frankfurt, driven by its recognition of the project's political relevance, owe a great deal to you. You, as an individual, have been consistently approachable and supportive right from the start, always open to discussions. Furthermore, your office comprises an exceptionally reliable and dedicated team that actively collaborates and pragmatically nurtures ideas. This team dynamic has played a pivotal role in our success.
Malte: We enjoy seeking out challenges and developing things. The gratifying aspect lies in witnessing our ideas evolve, harmonizing diverse disciplines until every detail aligns seamlessly. Despite initial concerns, everyone has recognized the project's significance. Even for Stahlbau Wurst, though it may be a smaller project for them, their contributions have been instrumental in swiftly bringing it to fruition.
Nicola: I remember that we discussed at some point that we needed to extend the team. From my point of view, it was evident that we required nothing less than the utmost expertise from every field. Given the substantial effort, dedication, enthusiasm, and, naturally, financial investment devoted to this project, mediocrity simply wasn't an option. You introduced Bollinger+Grohmann, and I brought in Stefan Diez. Both firms made substantial contributions, greatly enhancing our discussions and project development, ultimately facilitating the realization of the prototypes.
Malte: Yes, absolutely. Stefan Diez has a very constructive way of thinking. I initially thought that designers mainly focus on the aesthetics, but I was impressed by his incredible drive for the constructive and optimized aspects. Many parallels between us became evident, and during the workshops, our ideas interlocked seamlessly – it was a lot of fun. We quickly came to a good result, which served as a basis for challenging the engineers to further optimize their work. I haven't experienced such an intense, productive, and constructive work process often. Being free from any DIN building standards, we could concentrate on achieving the best possible outcome and developing something entirely new – it was fantastic and a profound learning experience across disciplines. I noticed that you took the lead, not just within your individual disciplines, and that was absolutely the right approach for coordinating everything.
Nicola: This reaffirms what I've learned from my experience in product development. The most efficient and easily understandable solutions emerge when teams collaborate effectively. Our project's rapid and precise execution would have been impossible without the strength of our team. We must maintain this approach and pass it on to students and young employees, "Don't fall in love with your own work and your own project. Incorporate the best expertise from various fields and work with clear goals and outcomes, but always with great openness."
Malte: I agree. Diverse viewpoints frequently yield innovative approaches during the work process, resulting in distinctive dynamics and customized solutions for projects. Going forward, we intend to collaborate more extensively within our established network. Architectural processes invariably entail numerous stakeholders, and it's only by working together that we can attain the most optimal overall outcome.
Additional information about the project:
For more details about OMC°C and their work, visit their website: www.omc-c.com
You can also listen to the
DDC Cast 150 episode featuring Carlotta Ludig and Nicola Stattmann titled "Designbäume für kühlere Städte" (Design Trees for Cooler Cities)
on the German Designer Club's podcast.