in winter 2002, while probably taking a break from nothing, the phone rang on my oversized desk and on the line was the politely determined voice of a young woman, just graduated from interior design school in germany, who had heard of our little dog and pony show in manhattan and wanted in for a summer internship. the apartment, having just been invented out of thin air a couple of years at that point, it never dawned on me that we could teach anyone anything, let alone offer “internships,” those were for “real” companies i thought, but my interlocutor that day reassured me that she would pay her way from germany and do whatever we asked, for free, as long as she could learn our trade… our what?! i didn’t know we had a trade, i thought until then that what i had been doing was pushing back the date when i would have to put my film degree to good use and be a waiter at dojo’s. i tried to tell this young woman that i would not want to take advantage of her and could not have her waste her time so i said that there wasn’t a position available at this time but to please stay in touch because, you know, yeah… and stay in touch she did, by email, voicemail and, about a week later, getting me on the line again and now saying that she was going to book a flight to come meet me for an interview because, obviously, the telephone was too poor a means of communication to convey her intention to never be told no to anything she wished. i was dumbfounded by her persistence to fill a non-existent position that i felt would be of no use to anyone but i couldn’t let her spend her money for a transatlantic flight just for an interview, that was crazy! so, defeated, i said ok. after all, it would just be a summer internship and by september, she’d go back home, disappointed, and i would put on my apron, filled with guilt, as things should be…
but i had underestimated ms. pia richter…
from the time i set up her [email protected] account on july 5th 2002 to her last love letter to us on june 24th 2007, she performed above anyone’s expectations, at first as a dutiful intern and soon after, a full-fledged and shiny part of the apartment’s design team with david lefkowitz and myself, and in charge of so many of our best projects like the flatiron apartment, swich and st. saviour’s among others. to my great sadness, she left to go work for tiffany’s as a retail designer for a couple of years and is now ready to launch her own practice, something i always knew was exactly what she really wanted to do the day of that first phone call. #proud. so i thought now was the right time to catch up with pia and introduce her to you all…
stefan: so, pia, who are you and why are you here, on earth?
pia: i am a creator. i create spaces and environments. i am here to provide my services to people who appreciate considered and beautiful design.
stefan: you are now launching your own agency in the cruel, cruel stratosphere of design. what do you offer that i don’t?
pia:good question – in a nutshell: ME! my education and experience – and my constant need for efficiency. i understand all sides of a design process. i have a very holistic eye for the design and construction procedure. not only do i offer great design, i also realize that design. i pride myself into understanding my clients sub-conscious aesthetic desires and help them turn them into a design reality… and i have better hair than you.
stefan: for you, what should design do well, above all else?
pia:it should awake an emotion, an immediate response to the viewer. it should function. it needs to have soul, it needs to make the intangible – tangible.
stefan: i love your new website, piarichter.com, and especially the questionnaire that really gets quickly to what we need most from clients: communication and information! i know, that’s not really a question…
pia:thanks, it’s a great tool and first step to start the design process and people get an immediate sense of my approach. i also hope people feel less intimidated by just clicking boxes on their own time and they can think about what it is they really want.
stefan: can you link to 5 of your favorite works in design?
pia:1. Barcelona Pavillion, Mies Van der Rohe.
2. gun light by philippe starck.
3. hans wegner shell chair.
4. the macbook
5. and I am kind of loving Charlotte Olympia ‘s shoes right now.
stefan: and now to 5 design aberrations?
pia:things that upset me is overly ambitious design where the context of an object or building doesn’t fit into its surroundings or is a poor reflexion of its purpose.
1. the New Museum on bowery.
2. the facade of Frank Gehry’s starwood hotel (i just don’t get it.) (ed. note: no shit.)
3. the Butterfly chair from Karim Rashid
4. alessi’s otto dental flos dispenser.
5. general road design, why are roads always grey?
stefan: when you worked at the apartment, can you confirm that YOU came up with the tradition known as “lap-time” during which you would come sit on david’s and my lap for a moment? (my lawyer needs to know for his files.)
pia:stef, this is so inappropriate! yes, i did come up with lap-time as to alleviate the stress of a hard day’s work. it was more like my version of a time out. what can I say: I was young and foolish (and I needed the money.)
stefan: what did you learn while working in the design department at Tiffany’s that is helping in your new venture?
pia:multitasking, detailing and understanding the importance of brand recognition. it truly was an amazing school. Tiffany is fascinating and has so much history. while working on the new store design concept i was locked into their archives for days going thru hand sketches of old jewelry, old store images, letters, packaging – it was beautiful. it was also great to be part of corporate america for a little while and get behind the curtains of such a big operation.
stefan: you now have a blog and a twitter account i see… what can we expect from you there?
pia:for now the blog and twitter is really a tool for me to keep track of my favorite design pieces and items i use in my projects. so many of my friends always ask me: what is your favorite lamp, your favorite chair etc. this is my answer to them. I am hoping it will grow into a “go to” for other designers and creatives.
stefan: how would you describe your style as a designer?
pia:modern, minimal, functional and timeless.
there you have it, this is pia richter. but there’s so much more and it is up to you to find out what that is by connecting with her for your next project, call, send smoke signals, do whatever you have to and get to know pia, she’s worth it!