His bi-cultural childhood and upbringing played a fundamental role in shaping his creative approach. Kurt Merki Jr. creates dreams in the form of versatile products that offer solutions for all manner of lifestyles. The Vero complete bathroom collection that he designed speaks volumes with its timeless elegance, and has been the recipient of three awards in quick succession.
Kurt Merki Jr.
Kurt Merki Jr. was born in 1978 in Accra, Ghana, as the oldest son of Kurt Merki Sr., a Swiss master joiner, and his Ghanaian wife, a fashion designer who studied in London in the 1960s. He trained as a joiner in his father's furniture factory. He moved to Switzerland in 1997, and it was here in Lucerne that he passed his examination to become a master furniture joiner in 1999. From 2001 to 2008 he worked as an interior designer for a variety of architectural firms in Zurich, after which he went to Milan in order to expand his knowledge of design at the Scuola Politecnica di Design. After receiving his master's degree in interior and product design here, in 2009 he worked at the Studio Antonio Citterio in Milan before soon returning to Zurich, where he opened his own design studio in 2010. His best-known products include the iPhone Pure and the iPro Desktop Workstation for Apple. For Duravit, he has designed the bathroom furniture range for the Vero ceramic range and the tap fittings for the C.1 range.
Iconic Awards - Vero
Reddot best of the best - Vero
iF Product Design Award - Vero
Who is Kurt Merki – the person and the designer?
I do not see myself as a designer. I see myself more as a person that creates new things and transforms dreams into reality. As a person, I am also an optimiser and a problem-solver, and I strive to think outside the box. As a result, I do not start off thinking about the end product, but rather about the creation process as a whole, and try to determine the materials and technologies that will allow me to achieve the best-possible result. My bi-national origins are a great help in this regard.
To what degree does this influence your work?
Both cultures have always been a major presence in my life. In Ghana I went to a Swiss school that was very international, and my experiences with these two cultures made it clear to me that there is no single culture in which everything can be found. The biggest challenge lies in finding solutions for all manner of lifestyles in the form of versatile products. This is why I always try to find the right balance, where the best of various worlds is brought together.
Is there a particular leitmotif that inspires you as a designer, or as an optimiser?
When I undertake a project, there are three approaches that are particularly important for me: culture, purpose and life. Depending on the type of project, each of these approaches can supply different answers. When I’m starting the process of developing answers, I work like a little boy who’s running around with his arms in the air, shouting: “I can fly.” While my feet may remain firmly on the ground, my thoughts roam free. It is in this phase, where one moves between reality and euphoria, that the most creative ideas arise, but if inspiration is to lead to concrete results, it is necessary to drive it forward. Otherwise, one will be left with nothing more than a dream or a thought.
You were born in 1978. What distinguishes the new generation of designers today?
In order to create something that is truly good, one needs a great deal of dedication, diligence and time. In my generation, a good designer is distinguished by the time they invest in the entire creative process, from the initial idea for real added value to the end result in which something great is created. Beverly Sills once said something that describes this perfectly: “There are no short cuts to creating something that is truly worthwhile.”
As a young designer, what is your experience of working with Duravit, a company that is 200 years old?
Duravit is like a homecoming for me. Communicating in my mother tongue quickly made me feel at home, and the friendly collaboration is something that inspires me each and every time. That is why I am always happy to come to the Black Forest. Even though Duravit is a 200-year-old company, we always adapt to the constantly changing requirements in the marketplace. Our latest development, the C1 tap fittings programme, is perhaps the best example. Its form and function are a perfect fit for all modern, linear and architectural ranges, making it ideal for individual bathroom design.