Their hobby has evolved into the “Paulsberg” corporation which is named after a vineyard in Radebeul bearing the same name.
In a garage, Knut Krowas and Mark Offermann drew their first designs for the “Spurt” lounge chair in 2009. Its unusual shape is modeled after a sprinter about to start a race. Two years later, they founded their own company together with Lars Schmieder; currently, the team has grown to six people. “Concrete lives” is their motto. With the help of TUDALIT®, a composite material made from a carbon textile and finegrain concrete that was developed at the Technische Universität Dresden [Dresden University of Technology], they create furniture with thin walls, low weight, and unconventional design. “The TU Dresden worked on the material for twelve years. We got the exclusive right to use it in the furniture sector,” notes architect Mark Offermann. It’s actually a win-win situation for both sides: “Paulsberg” has the foundation for its existence, and the university benefits from the dissemination of its invention.
Handmade One Layer at a Time
Finished furniture and models, including the original fiberglass mold of the “Spurt,” stand in a gray-tiled factory hall located in Southeastern Dresden. A roll of carbon gauze lies in a corner next to bags of cement. A golden cement mixer catches the viewer’s attention. It’s not for work, but decoration explains Offermann. At trade shows, cotton flows out of it – it’s supposed to symbolize light and airiness. An old kneading machine from a large bakery stands next to a countertop with different plastic containers. That’s the real cement mixer at “Paulsberg.” While Knut Krowas and Mark Offermann are constantly developing new ideas and creating new designs in an office located in the city center, the workshop is the place where the abstract becomes concrete and the prototypes are created. Mass production has been carried out by external partners for a while now – naturally, at the highest quality standards. They apply thin layers of concrete onto the models by hand, spread the carbon textile on top, and cover this again with another layer of concrete. The advantage of the material is that it doesn’t rust. While steel as a reinforcement element has to be encased by at least four centimeters of concrete to prevent air from reaching it, textile only needs to be covered by a two millimeter layer to solidify it and at the same time make it flexible.
Frost and moisture cannot harm the furniture. They also pass the muster on patios and squares just like they recently did in front of the Saxon State and University Library (SLUB). In May 2013, the first SLUB lounger was installed there. More are to follow on the entire campus of the Technical University with the help of sponsors.
“It took us some time to understand the material and to optimize production,” says Knut Krowas. With his school friend Mark Offermann, the designer experimented with the composite material ini tially on the weekends. At some point, though, the time was right for founding the company “Paulsberg” and establishing a real production hall. Foil divides a corner of the room provisionally from the rest. The humidity is higher here so that the furniture can dry slower. “This prevents cracks,” explains Krowas.
After drying, the tables, benches, and chairs are sanded and waxed. Combined with wood and leather, interesting contrasts are created. If so specified, the boys will also add color pigments; thus, breaking with the notion that concrete has to be gray. Material induced lime efflorescence turns the pieces into a one of a kind item. Depending
on the piece of furniture, production takes about four weeks. That comes, naturally, at a price: The 30 kilogram “Spurt” costs, for example, 2,100 euros. “The price is only secondary for those who know how the pieces are produced,” says Mark Offermann. The desire for individuality favors the “Paulsberg” team. “People want to be different from their neighbors, also when it comes to interior design,” notes the 32 year old. The cool and minimalistic style is particularly popular in Northern Europe. Inquiries have come, though, from all over the world. (Excerpt)
Marita Lau and Claudia Kaesler