Sascha Arnold and Steffen Werner's collaboration began in the 1990's, in Munich's hot underground scene. The two architecture students teamed up to throw art exhibitions and parties in a spacious loft hidden within a decommissioned industrial site. In 2005, collaboration firmly established, they founded architecture and design firm . Today the duo is behind increasingly high-profile projects—ranging from nightclubs, to a hotel, to affordable student housing—making a mark on Munich and beyond. A holistic ideology embracing sustainability, urban context, and economical use of resources, materials, and energy—all at a cost-effective price tag—ties each project together.
Docservis sat down with Arnold to learn more about Arnold/Werner's unique vision, which includes recycling a bar into elevator walls, collaborations with DJs, artists, and designers, introducing farm-to-table eating to Germany, and student living in Berlin at just over $300 a month.
Docservis: What are you currently working on?
Sascha Arnold: We're all over Germany. In Munich we're renovating three different penthouses. At about 200 square meters, they're very exclusive high-end, private projects.
We are also working on student apartments in Berlin and several coffee shops for coffee brand .
The project's location, the neighborhood, the history of the building, and of course the owners or the people we collaborate with are always important. They give us the input. Having a strong partner is really important -- it is a game of working together.
ID: Can you describe your student housing for Berlin?
SA: It's a new building, about 200 rooms for students in Berlin's center, the Mitte district. Any student can live there. It's designed as a new definition of student living, with cool areas to hang out, a coffee corner, and a lounge. People play together, watch soccer, and hang out on the ground floor area at the entrance, and then there's also an interior garden.
The rooms are very small, only about 200 square feet, but only about 250 euros and built with very nice materials. Each one is private—you don't share. They're very functional, with a small bathroom and a big window, and a small kitchenette. You also have a small winterized building in the garden, with a big kitchen, a table seating 20, and a lounge where you could meet—have a birthday party or cook together. There's also a small roof terrace where you can sit in the summer.
ID: We heard you recently completed your first hotel partnership, the in Munich. What makes it standout from a flooded hotel market?
SA: The idea was to make one of the two floors with artists, actors, designers, and musicians—some of them are friends—for something unique, something special. We could have done it all on our own, but we thought it would be more interesting. So now we have 11 different rooms on that floor. All of these people travel around the world, so they expressed what is important for them in a hotel room and their personal way of what they like in terms of design.
ID: Can you fill us in on a few more of Arnold/Werner's completed projects?
SA: On the ground floor of the Flushing Hotel, we opened , a green smoothie and cold pressed juice shop. It's just 160 square feet and you go up to the window which opens like a garage door. The plan is to open more of them.
The which opened in 2010 in Munich is internationally known, with DJs coming from all over the world. It has a new-dimensional acoustic because we designed the space like a concert hall and developed the sound with an acoustic specialist. There are 10,000 holes in the wooden walls and no wall is parallel, so you get the best sound. Plus we have very good sound equipment from Swedish firm .
In March we finished a cafe called , which has Roland Rainer chairs and tables with a brass edge veneer around the tops made by a carpenter, and this past fall we opened , our own restaurant-canteen project. Both are in Munich.
ID: What's special about Cantine Cantona?
SA: Cantine Cantona is a mixture of a canteen and a restaurant in the student and art area of Munich called Maxvorstadt. It's a very vibrant area of Munich, with many people living there and going out. For lunch Cantine Cantona is self-service, and then in the late afternoon it changes to a restaurant. 'Keep it Local' is our tagline—food is local, seasonal, and fresh. It's like the farm-to-table concept that's now very popular in America, with about 70 seats, open kitchen, front cooking, and good music. During the day there's house music and in the evening it's a little bit smoother, jazz or French for dinner. After 10 p.m. it is more of a party restaurant.
ID: You mention on your website that you conserve resources, use local materials, and try to keep energy and costs down. Can you give a few examples from your projects explaining how you do this?
SA: Conserving resources is very important in our time. You can't wait for the resources to run out. If it works, we think about using LEDs. It doesn't work every time—in a guest room you can't work with LEDs because you need a warm light —but if it works, then we save energy.
With walls, we try to use natural materials and we don't want to use too much plastic. If it works without plastic, even better. We also work with materials from the area, and not from Asia or somewhere else. Everyone should work like this, and not waste energy if possible.
In the Flushing Hotel, most of the furniture is oak. Then we used a material called Tombac, a mixture of brass and copper, to surface the elevator. It's recycled from a bar we had to close. People like it, and some know it is the old material from that bar.
ID: Can you mention a high-tech design solution that your firm has conceived?
SA: The new Dallmayr Academy München is a school for baristas, for that guy who makes a perfect coffee. We made a very big technical steel table out of a material called Edelstar. From an aesthetic point, it's special because you don't have a foot. It's around 13 feet without a foot. From a technical point, it has four integrated coffee machines.
ID: How do you start your creative process?
SA: I travel a lot so I see things from the past, from the 1950s or 60s, and everything can influence me—nature, materials, details, a car or a bike.
ID: Have you gone recently to a place that inspired you?
SA: I really like South America—Argentina, Uruguay, there are great old buildings in Buenos Aires—and am also a fan of Japan. Perhaps they don't have the money to renovate, so there you have more original, historic places.
I also really like these old cafe houses from the 1950s. I found one in Stockholm last week, which was really original with Hans Wegner chairs and all the original wood walls from 1954. I really like these details. They're really powerful—you have to be a good woodworker to have these details. Now today's craftsman, most don't have the quality that they had 50 years ago.
Then there's Paris, where you have the old places, coffee shops and restaurants and so on.
ID: Sounds like you are really busy. What do you do when you are not working?
SA: I have a house at a lake in the Bavarian Alps for hiking and biking and swimming.