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“Harmony with the environment”: An interview with Jeannette Altherr

Jeannette Altherr © Lievore Altherr

Together with Alberto Lievore, Jeannette Altherr heads one of the most renowned design agencies in Spain. The graduate product and industry designer from Barcelona is a member of the jury for this year’s trend show at spoga+gafa. We talked with her about the various requirements of outdoor design, inspirations from nature and special furniture qualities.

Jeannette Altherr, you are a member of the jury of this year’s trend show of spoga+gafa. Which basic developments do you observe with regard to the design of outdoor areas?

Fewer cool materials like stainless steel, more haptic and natural seeming materials like cords, fabrics, wicker work; more colour.

Which qualities do you especially appreciate for outdoor design?

There are entirely different outdoor areas – urban spaces, very contemporary architecture or, on the other hand, historical buildings, but also gardens, parks and patios close to nature, a variety of climate zones. These are supplemented by entirely different social areas and usages, from the luxury hotel through the small city patio to the bench in a public square. Or interior spaces that imitate outdoor areas, like SPAs and artificial indoor gardens (e.g. in Asia). Good outdoor design must offer a variety of responses to these very different circumstances. There is no uniform quality here, except perhaps that of a harmony with the environment.


Leaf for Arper © Marco Covi

With which approach have you designed your own outdoor area?

I have a house with a small garden near the Collserola nature park behind Barcelona. We let ourselves be inspired by the environment: most plants are at home here and can deal well with dryness and heat. And a lot of different types of grass, not too orderly, more natural – a bit wild and rank. The garden changes with the seasons, many different shades of green with a few (aromatic) blooms like jasmine, lavender and wild roses. The house has three storeys, each of which exits onto a patio or the garden, everything is connected; indoor and outdoor areas transition into one another. Bamboo screen pergolas provide lively shade. A small amount of flexible furniture in quiet, natural colours that often transform the space, and seek sun or shade depending upon the season.


Trenza for Andreu World © Salva Lopez

You grew up in Germany, but have already been working for a long time in Barcelona. What cultural influences characterise your work method?

On the one hand a proximity with nature – in Barcelona one is actually outside year-round, in various places and in various ways. We have even had Christmas dinner on the patio. For me this life close to nature at the same time means necessity and respect (and sustainability), the wish to integrate myself harmoniously, to achieve equilibrium, to not force my ideas on the environment; grounding and a certain “physicality” – a balance with the urban and the digital. From Germany, on the other hand, I brought the culture of immersion and analysis. Why does one do something? How? For whom?


Zebra collection for Fast © Salva Lopez

What do you expect with regard to the outdoor design for the future?

Hopefully it will become more sustainable – less teak furniture, with other materials instead, which are at the same time warm, robust and easy to care for. More extreme weather requires more resilient materials. There will also be lighter and more flexible furniture, as apartments are getting smaller and people will move more often. LED will continue to change lighting.


Jeannette Altherr is a partner in the renowned design studio Lievore Altherr. The Barcelona-based agency has designed many outdoor furniture items for well-known international manufacturers. Jeannette Altherr is a member of the jury of this year’s trend show of spoga+gafa 2018.


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