Summer 2018 the historic Neutra VDL Studio and Residences in Silver Lake became the home of the Paris and Berlin-based design studio BLESS (Desiree Heiss and Ines Kaag) in a project curated by Douglas Fogle and Hanneke Skerath. Responding to the unique architectural environment of Richard Neutra’s Los Angeles home and work space, BLESS brought their own contemporary design ethos to this icon of Californian mid-century modernism. Living and working separately in Paris and Berlin, this project brought the two designers and their families together in the same place for the first time for an extended residency. In a project that was equal parts installation, artist residency and model home for alternative ways of living, BLESS transformed the Neutra VDL House into a design laboratory and a site of conviviality. Originally known as designers of wearable fashion, BLESS has spent many years exploring unusual design solutions for everyday life. They have defined their own personal take on the design profession by developing unique motivating concepts such as “stylefree,” “themelessness,” and “design relativators” all of which underscore their iconoclastic approach to design and their commitment to opening our eyes to fresh perspectives on contemporary living. Contrary to the dictates of the fashion industry, BLESS takes a stand against the desire for fast fashion by creating a timeless wardrobe of their own everyday classics which are made available every season. More recently BLESS began to define how they themselves would like to live and work in projects such as BLESS N°56 Worker´s Delight in which they playfully reimagined our relationship to the stultifying dictates of contemporary office life with design innovations such as a computer keyboard that has been replaced by punching bags. In their minds, the ultimate BLESS product is their own highly adaptable and hybrid design practice which escapes any kind of predefined category as it tunes into the present moment and its ever-changing circumstances. In the end, BLESS doesn´t serve any market but follows strict personal needs.
BLESS No. 63 Neutra Dasein (“Dasein” being the German word for “being”), follows in the footsteps of Worker´s Delight and included several architectural and design interventions into Neutra’s house that meshed the architect’s ideas about health and modern living with their own philosophical take on living in the present moment. Looking at the optimistic architectural vision that was offered by Neutra’s modernism and reinterpreting it through their own contemporary lens, BLESS investigated and expanded on the architect’s ideas about the house as a therapeutic structure. The project’s name, Neutra Dasein, flows naturally from the influencing presence of Neutra’s work and his approach to design which valued architecture’s psychological support of the human being over its outward appearance. BLESS shares this outlook in their work.
For this project BLESS collaborated with the textile manufacturer Kvadrat and VS, the current manufacturer of Neutra’s original furniture designs, in order to “dress” the VDL House with textile interventions and new BLESS-ified versions of Neutra’s furniture. These new experiments were shown alongside existing BLESS designs such as their classic N°56 Carpethammock, N°56 Neckrestdesk, a massage chair that can also be used to read and work in different positions, and N°60 Chairwear B fur, a series of stools that double as furniture pets.
As much a residency and workshop as a design installation, the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences became a social space where the public was invited to spend time exploring and participating in BLESS N°63 Neutra Dasein, interacting with the designers and their cohorts from many different creative fields including industrial design, literature, film, architecture, health, food, sport and contemporary art. The project was accompanied by a salon program and workshops devoted to questions of design in relationship to the challenges of living in our contemporary world. This interactive public aspect of the project is a fundamental motivating philosophy of BLESS.