Passions can be ignited by many different sparks. The passion of Danish architect Anders Toft for designing furniture made of concrete started off with a keen interest in experimenting and playing around with the heavy, and sometimes clumsy, material. Clumsiness is, however, not the best word for describing the products of the design company Tonton, which was founded by Toft some two years ago.
“When I began using concrete in my designs, I did not think commercially, because my background from the architecture school, was characterized by a quite theoretical approach – it was a kind of poetic escapade for me,” says Toft, when we visited him in Tonton’s small basement shop in the middle of Aarhus’ Latin Quarter.
Tonton’s concrete products are not a big seller, but more like a niche product, according to Toft. If he made his designs out of wood, a lot of manufacturers could produce his products. The fact that he designs products in concrete makes it harder to find someone who can produce Tonton’s products.
Usability as a vital parameter
Toft trained as an architect at the Aarhus School of Architecture in the 1990s. At the time, there was a crisis in the building sector, so a lot of architects lost their jobs. At the same time, at architecture school, future architects began embarking on theoretical journeys through dozens of text books. According to Toft, this was partly due to insecurity in the job market. Another focus at the architecture school was also important, at least to Toft:
“Usability has always been a crucial aspect of architecture and was certainly also vital back then. The building and products you designed had to be useful in order to ‘be approved’. That aspect has had a huge effect on my professional life,” Toft states, and continues:
“My approach to my concrete designs has been to act kind of stupid and playful – to be narrowly focused on aesthetics. In this way, I gave myself a starting point. And to me, aesthetics is also a function, like, if you enter a room that is aesthetically pleasing, it will affect your mood, so aesthetics has a function. The design process is about combining a lot of different parameters to a meaningful whole, including aesthetics.”
Where does your inspiration come from?
“If you over-contemplate where your design inspiration comes from, you can be overwhelmed by the many possible ways different designs derive form. It can be your upbringing, your surroundings or something completely different. What I can say, and what is perhaps different to most designers today, is that I usually don’t necessarily strive to remove all excess. It’s a ‘design game’ or process that insists on giving priority to what looks and feels good,” states Toft.
When asked more about his design language, Toft says that designers can make a decision about a certain design language, but he believes that they have to view it as a language that can change over time. Regarding Tonton’s future direction, the business has to break even, Toft states.
When asked if he has thought of expanding the business, he says, “it would be nice to have a shop in Copenhagen.” A mixture of a small shop and a design company could be nice. As a designer, Toft states, he navigates in a field of his own integrity and serves different business purposes, including meeting budgets and so on. In addition to dreaming of a Tonton shop in Copenhagen, Toft is also considering the contract market, as long as he can stay in control of the design and manufacturing process.