Known for outstanding vision and execution, Stuttgart-based architecture and design firm is behind a host of influential structures, products, and interiors throughout the world. Be it a hospitality chain, corporate headquarters, political building, boutique, or furniture line, managing partner Peter Ippolito (along with business partner Gunter Fleitz) encourages dialogue and seeks out new challenges. Here, Ippolito shares his take on university stints, Parisian glamour, and the future of office dynamics.
ID: Your firm has so many irons in the fire, what’s the team dynamic like at Ippolito Fleitz?
PI: We have a very beautiful studio, which is essential. A good friend of mine once said that big ideas need big spaces; ours is generous, with enough space for everyone. Luckily, we’ve never grown too dramatically in size, so the team is really familiar and we’ll all go out to eat or drink together after work. Everything happens extremely fast—accelerating every year—and the social part is important because trust is really important. Most proposals for the projects that come to us have to be delivered within two weeks.
ID: What are some of the projects keeping you busy at the moment?
PI: I love to have a whole variety—from the small to the very large; low budget to luxury—and a number of projects are quite exciting at the moment. We’re hoping to sign a contract for a four-star- hotel very soon, and we’re doing a shopping mall in Stuttgart, which is quite large. Last fall we finished the flagship boutique for Bork, a very high-end kitchen supply chain, in downtown Moscow, and are currently working on a manual for a roll out to their other locations.
ID: What’s satisfying about working in Stuttgart?
PI: Stuttgart is a little hidden gem within Germany, and is a very good base. It may not have the bubbly atmosphere like Berlin, but it’s a hardworking, no bulls*** place. We have a lot of interesting projects, a lot of industry, and a good economy.
ID: Is there a city that’s always inspiring to you and helps you feel creative?
PI: I love most of the capitals in the world, though I’m regularly in Paris, just because Paris is Paris. It’s one of the most sensual cities, and I always forget just how sexy it really is. Of course, I love New York for the energy, though Manhattan has become a little commercial for my taste. Everything has become so cleaned up.
ID: You’ve recently established an office in Seoul, South Korea; what does that location provide you?
PI: I enjoy Asia a lot, and that city in particular. A large part of that choice came by chance. We were working a good bit in China, but stopped for a while because we felt if we really want to achieve something in terms of quality and execution, we needed to set up an office there. I was invited to a workshop in Seoul, and had a beautiful experience. I’m really thrilled about their building culture, which has an exciting dialogue between heritage and new influences. They have their own way of treating material and interesting spatial set-ups of their good buildings. I also just like the people, and it happens that the Korean architectural design press covers us extensively.
ID: What was significant for you as a young man coming into this career?
PI: When I finished school, I didn’t know what to do with my life. I took four years and tried everything that I was scared of. I worked on a construction site, I worked in a wine shop. One day, I moved to Paris out of the blue, and within a week or two of just doing the typical stuff, I started walking and paying attention. For half a year, I walked in Paris and soon I knew I had to study architecture. I started theorizing about it and sketching, and began my education.
ID: And now, you’ve taught students and lectured at top universities. What’s gratifying about teaching for you?
PI: Aside from getting me out of the regular routine of my studio, it’s just fun working with students, engaging in that conversation about architecture and design. You learn a lot from them and they from you in the right atmosphere. I was very fortunate to have really excellent teachers in my life, and it’s something I like to give back to the next generation.
ID: Are there ever projects that simply aren’t right for you?
PI: Most of our jobs come to us either by recommendation or by reputation, so we rarely go “this is not the client for us.” That provides a good filter as to who’s coming to us with a problem. Ninety-percent of our clients know why they’re coming to us and have a feel for what we’re doing.
ID: What are the greatest needs of corporate clients these days?
PI: The workplace is changing quite drastically, and in the last few years, communication has taken a much stronger role in the work environment. People are moving away from cell offices to open spaces, so we have to look at the notion of “privacy” and “concentration” in new ways. Clients seem very willing to try things out.
ID: Is there a really gratifying moment in the planning process for you?
PI: What pushes me with every project is to learn a new business idea, a new take on how to lead one’s life, a new cultural experience. It’s all a reaction between the team and the guy in front of us. Sometimes you know exactly what you need to do from the first moment, and sometimes it takes months of rethinking. At the end of the day, it’s really a “people” business. I get most excited when it’s something I haven’t done, or in a place I haven’t been. Our project in Uzbekistan [the interiors of the Uzbekistan International Forums Palace, completed in 2009] was very complex, and had the energy we love most.