Dutch designer Dick Spierenburg travels to Germany every week to work with the team of imm cologne. DAMNº met up with the creative director of the interiors fair at Messehochhaus, to get his inside view on the challenges, changes, and creativity that are crucial for imm cologne to be relevant to exhibitors and visitors, both of whom are redefining the way business is done in the design world.

DAMN°: What is your role as creative director of imm cologne?

Dick Spierenburg: I’m responsible for making the event even more attractive...to enhance the quality of the time people spend there during the show. That involves working with all the departments involved to generate new formats and ideas, as well as providing impetus for what content imm cologne should focus on in any given year. In our team, I’m the only real outsider. All the others work for Koelnmesse and imm cologne on a permanent basis. I try to bring in information from outside, but I also aim to see the show’s impact on exhibitors and visitors. I always orientate towards three groups: the exhibitors, the visitors and the show organisation. I want to stay permanently in touch with all of them.

Kate and Joel Booy (Studio Truly Truly), Dick Spierenburg (Creative Director imm cologne) Photo: Lutz Sternstein; Koelnmesse

DAMN°: You’ve been working with Koelnmesse since 2009, what were the main challenges back then?

DS: When I was asked to come to the imm cologne team, the fair had lost some power because of the slow economy and decreasing exhibitor budgets. It’s important for a show to have the major innovative brands in the house, in combination with its own unique content to inspire professional and consumer visitors. imm cologne has been focusing on that for a long time, but we had to accelerate and do it even better. Existing and new exhibitors have very different needs, which is why we can now offer them a very diverse trade fair architecture with everything from compact formats with predefined booth architecture all the way to a very open, creative booth. That’s unique in the field of interiors shows and very much appreciated – not just by exhibitors but by visitors as well.

DAMN°: How did imm cologne become stronger over the la decade?

DS: Let’s take Das Haus as an example. When I had to think about what brings people to a show and what they take home with them, I remembered a format from before my time as creative director: the Ideal House. It showed two living areas by designers or architects like the Bouroullec brothers or Zaha Hadid, very free installations. With Das Haus, we introduced the next step: it surprised people and made them think, but it’s also more realistic so that consumers can relate to it as well. In this format, we ask designers to deliver an example of how they could imagine living. In 2019 Das Haus will be designed by Truly Truly, a Rotterdam-based studio run by an Australian couple, Joel and Kate Booy.

Kate and Joel Booy (Studio Truly Truly), Dick Spierenburg (Creative Director imm cologne) Photo: Lutz Sternstein; Koelnmesse

It’s important to bring in young designers. A lot of designers who are now very famous launched their careers in Cologne this way. Patricia Urquiola, Sebastian Herkner, neri & hu or, most recently, Lucie Koldova – for all of them, it was imm cologne that really got things moving. We have an instinct for new talent – as we’ve been showing with the Pure Talents Contest since 2003. However, we are going to be even more active in the upcoming years. And: there are many new brands developing fast. They can be found at imm cologne too and provide some interesting input for visitors, along with the established brand names.

Pure Talens contests finalists Matthieu Muller and Pierre Alexandre Cesbron present their project Liga: a series of metal storage furniture, comprising of a box, a bedside cabinet and a coffee table. Photo: Muller, Cesbron/Koelnmesse

DAMN°: Which developments are currently influencing the fair?

DS: Well, there are a lot of influences, but it has always been that way. A show has to watch changes very closely – both in the sector and in society. First and foremost, imm cologne is still a business fair. But today, a lot of exhibitors are redefining the way business is done – especially in the design sector. It’s all about telling ‘stories’, about placing content with visitors and then generating business from that. What’s important to us is ensuring a consistent brand experience. The visitor experience is having an increasing impact on how a brand is perceived, and that’s one of our most crucial USPs as compared to our competitors in the trade fair business.

The future of the kitchen: Alfredo Häberli’s installation in Hall 4.2 is one of the highlights of the new supporting programme for the international kitchen event LivingKitchen 2019 in Cologne.

DAMN°: Many products can be found in online stores. But aces for dwelling and living are also being created and aged on Instagram, and virtual reality concepts are developing fast. What is the role of a fair like imm cologne today, given that all these offerings can be accessed from anywhere in the world at any time? 

DS: It’s true, more and more is happening online. Information is easier to access and the normal business – consumers buying in shops – is going down. A fair has to focus on other dimensions. For me, a show is about the emotions of meeting people and products. Here you can really experience a product. A fair also gives you a complete overview of what’s new and what is actually in the offering. That’s why such a complex, yearly show like imm cologne is unique. The exhibitors show what’s here now and what will be here tomorrow. And we as a show focus on the perspectives. We are researching which direction things could be going in, and we do this with our mind and our emotions. The designs of Das Haus are purely emotional, for instance.

The simple architecture of Truly Truly’s “Das Haus” at imm cologne 2019, bathed in a warm colour palette, is composed of just three elements: walls, fabrics and plants.

Photo: Truly Truly; Koelnmesse

DAMN°: In 2019 you’ll also be introducing a new concept. How will it look and what will it feel like?

DS: We’re launching Pure Atmospheres in Hall 11. The sub-brand Pure was already there when I started working with imm cologne. Pure was the sector showing the high- end design, and it was mainly located in Hall 11. However, since 2010 we’ve been working on new concepts in other halls, with different looks and each with its own focus, but all within the Pure sector. We hadn’t changed Hall 11 up until now. But with all the new sectors like Pure Editions and Pure Talents in other parts of the fair, we have to move forward with the concept for Hall 11 so as to update it and make it stronger.

Pure Talents contest: A collaboration between the designers Alejandra Perini, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lollano and Raúl Arribas de Miguel, the metal stool Cétoine. Photo: Perini, Sanchez de Lollano, Arribas de Miguel /Koelnmesse

DAMN°: How do you aim to strengthen it and what’s the difference as compared to Pure Editions?

DS: The exhibitors in Hall 11 are major brands and they show fabulous interiors. They often aim to prevent any visual interference with their presentations. That’s why there are a lot of closed boxes, and when you walk along the aisles you see nothing but walls. We’re now asking them to open up their stand concepts – by using plant windows or beautiful curtains, for example – and to send us drawings, something we’re already doing with Pure Editions. We have invested a lot in Das Haus and special themes in Halls 2 and 3, and we’ve installed cafés and lounges there. In Hall 11, we’re going to introduce a trend show and a long cocktail bar where you can round off the day over a drink with clients or colleagues. Pure Atmosphere has a lot to do with design concepts. The brands in Hall 11 have all the furniture, accessories and lighting for making complete interiors. In Pure Editions, the focus is on special products. Here, every product tells its own story, and there can also be a mix of different styles. So whereas there are lots of contrasts in Pure Editions, everything in Pure Atmospheres comes together in a more harmonious way.

Dick Spierenburg in conversation with DAMN° near Messehochhaus on the challenges, changes and creativity that are crucial for imm cologne. Photo: Tasya Kudryk / DAMNº Magazine

imm Cologne: from 14 January until 20 January 2019