SPOLIA received the official certificate for WIEN PRODUCTS membership at the beginning of this year. I am curious about this company, plan a visit and make my way to the 3rd District. This is where I meet Roland Hemedinger, the head of this project. A young, modern start-up, the company is based temporarily at ‘Das Packhaus’ – a coworking space hub. We sit in a conference room, surrounded by material samples and objects created by SPOLIA.
All-knowing Wikipedia tells us that:
“Spolia (Lat. ‘spoils’) is repurposed building stone for new construction, or decorative sculpture reused in new monuments. The result of an ancient and widespread practice whereby stone that has been quarried, cut, and used in a built structure, is carried away to be used elsewhere.”
A tradition that was already used quite early on in history – many architectural monuments from Istanbul to Venice were built using spolia. Nowadays, designers call this practice “upcycling”.
Roland Hemedinger, who is a trained architect and has worked in in the art trade, tells me how Spolia came about: “There are all these buildings that are torn down and which still have excellent, fully intact parquet floors, for instance. Either you can save them yourself, or you buy them from specialized traders. Vienna is quite well known for its fancy parquet floors.
Often it is only a few square meters that will be re-used and reborn as a modern dining or conference table or office desk. I do this together with designers, special craftsmen and restaurateurs.”
I had already noticed the FOUR TO THE FLOOR table when I entered the open workspace. The warm wood of the parquet – it was part of a Viennese ballroom and installed in 1863 – is the perfect contrast to a table frame made of metal and imitates the shape of a wooden puzzle. A great idea!
“Sometimes we abstract the entire thing” – Hemedinger laughs – in the Bologneser, Tino Valentinitsch has used the basic shape of a diamond and made a new composition of old parquet made of walnut, oak and maple, creating optical illusions. After removing the parquet floor from a villa in Bologna, Italy, it came to Vienna where it was restored thoroughly and used for something new.
Or Scattered Servant – in which Kim+Heep combined vintage oak parquet with classic brass to make cool new tables and trays…also a fantastic design.
This is actually a great way to use resources – good material was not only valuable in Ancient Rome – today, we should also try and think about sustainability and act accordingly – Roland Hemedinger describes his ambitions – in which both beauty and purpose play a role, of course.
I would like to know whether he only works with wood and old parquet flooring…
“No, no – meanwhile, we have already created a few editions and have also gathered experience with slate slabs and special glass.”
He shows me pictures of lamps, the shades of which are made of slate – a project with Carl Auböck in Vienna. Roof tiles have gotten a completely new purpose here.
At the moment, Hemedinger is working on an exciting concept with bronzed glass – he is currently working on the prototype. He shows me the designs, which he still draws by hand and keeps developing on paper. “I must fall in love with a material,“ he says, “This is when the ideas start bubbling to the surface.”
Who buys the Spolia designs, I would like to know. “This is very different – there are people who come here, see the objects and want to have them – on the other hand, a lot is done via online selling.”
Speaking of global – the designs by Spolia were already being admired at joint WIEN PRODUCTS stands at design fairs in Paris and Shanghai and have already found new fans there.
Architects and design-loving customers quickly recognize the materials in the products and usually have a knack for new interpretations. It requires a lot of work and specialized knowledge to develop such products – you have to handle the limited resources carefully and aim for the best result possible. Otherwise the materials are lost forever.
I am impressed by what I heard and saw. After I said goodbye to Roland Hemedinger and took another look at the SPOLIA products through the window as I leave, I am certain – the quality and the design by SPOLIA are definitely worth a walk to the Packhaus.