Rhizom, by The Fundamental Group (Photo: The Fundamental Group)

The Fundamental Group, an up and coming Berlin architecture and design studio started by Gunnar Rönsch and Stephen Molloy, was named after the concept from algebraic topology that describes complicated 3D surfaces.

The Fundamental Group’s mathematically inspired approach to design would appear to be in opposition to the way I work and paint. But there is a mysterious roundness operating in the world of ideas that can bind the two extreme ends of a spectrum into a continuum. The Fundamental Group has posted its precepts on its site, and this is just about the best manifesto I’ve ever read. So much of what they are describing maps to my own inner directed creed of how to see, conceive, invent, make.

THE FUNDAMENTAL GROUP is a collective making mathematically inspired architecture, furniture and artefacts. We are motivated by a passionate belief that objects trancend the physical, that they reflect rules of geometry and space, and that they engage the mind. We play with scale and repetition to draw out the abstract qualities of well loved materials such as oak, and explore the possibilities of new materials like polystyrene and expanded steel mesh. At THE FUNDAMENTAL GROUP there are things we believe and principles we hold dear. These drive our output. Everything we make is an epistle. Now go ahead and read our manifesto.

#1
LOVE PATTERNS AS THEY LIVE & GROW IN THE MIND
Children look at things for a very long time, One never forgets the curtains in the playroom or the pattern on the tiles on the floor at church. Seeing part of a pattern one begins to subconsciously grasp the rules that lead to the arrangement of the whole. The pattern develops in the mind, growing beyond the unique. When information is arranged into a pattern, it opens up the source of its logic, allows the observer to plug in, gives access to the rules, and invites development beyond the static. It is through processes like these that we lean in close to nature, which is nothing if not a clamorous a symphony of growth patterns.

#2
PARDON YOUR MISTAKES FREELY
Do not attempt to overcome your animal instincts. When we shelter, we are building a nest. It is a sort of bricolage, you gather things that provide comfort, convenience, and that have a sentimental value. Things from your childhood, those teraccotta tiles that trigger memories of your first independent thoughts, are part of that. Accidents of personal history a very important. When it comes to giving form to the world around us, it is important to honour your mistakes. True beauty is when you can forever complete the incomplete, for yourself. Curate your mistakes, be proud of them, and arrange them for maximum effect. If you have a wooden leg, wave it.

#3
HEAVENLY ORDER ESCAPES EARTHLY FORCE
Minimalists would have you believe that order is an absence of clutter. This is not the whole truth, it’s more like giving up half way. Order is a word that has very many meanings. When we design, we order elements. This means giving each element a role in a hierarchy, exploring and defining the relationship of the parts to each other and to the whole. Beauty is attained when the relationship of the parts to the whole is in harmony, but beauty without force is a bore. There is a theory that the nearness of chaos, but it’s avoidance, gives force. We subscribe to this, and we also propose the inverse – that it is the nearness to order, but it’s avoidance, that gives beauty.

#4
HAPPINESS IS THE LONGING FOR REPITITION
Learning and growth occur in repetition. It is beacuse repetition is sometimes mindless that it is valuable. Every time you read a sonnet or play a sonata it is different. Small flaws occur which can change everything. When we compose our pieces, we are driven by rules. But it is important to pull back from a total expression of those rules. We believe that it is the role of the beholder to draw the principles of a piece to her own conclusion. While care is taken to balance elements, and we usually come very close to symmetry in our work, we leave room for active engagement, rewriting the ending, allowing for the integration of personal narratives. A valuable posession is more interesting the thousandth time you look at it than on the day you bought it.

#5
HEAL AND TRANSFORM
You haven’t really owned anything until you have fixed it. Trans-form: Beyond the form. This does not mean change in the binary sense, left rather than right, but it means going beyond. The attainment of perfection, were it possible, would be a sort of death. We seek perfection, we are driven to excel, but it is the process through which perfection is sought that ennobles us and elevates our state. Escape the cycle of tiredness, ennui and dissillusion by embarking on a life long transformation.

This is powerful language, and it is also language that is poetic, clear, inspiring, scintillating. What a find.

You can see more of The Fundamental Group’s products here.

Thanks to my smart and savvy friends Rachel Levi and Jessica Bridger for bringing The Fundamental Group into my awareness.

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