Whilst browsing Instagram one day I came across some stunning lighting products that are not only made in Berlin, but made primarily from concrete. The strong lines and smooth, angular surfaces combine to create products that are both stylish and minimalistic. As well as pure concrete lamps, they are available in a combination of materials such as concrete and oak, or concrete and copper, and there is also a range of porcelain lamps. I paid a visit to the workshop and studio of GANTlights to speak to the man behind it all, Stefan Gant, about the products he creates and his relationship with the city.
Could you tell us a bit about who you are and your background?
I’m originally from Bavaria, and after finishing school I started studying architecture in Munich. It wasn’t anything I had planned to do at the time, I just wanted to do something where I didn’t need great marks. It was an easy way to test some creative things I wanted to do.
You never planned your whole life to be an architect then?
Exactly. I was always creative though. In my youth I made my own furniture and built many things from wood. It was always something I loved. And then during my architecture studies I realised that I wanted to do something creative in the future, to build things and make nice things. I worked in a lot of architecture offices and I really enjoyed it. After that I came to Berlin in 2010 and did my masters degree in architecture, and it was during this time that I started to make these concrete lamps.
Ok, so you started working on these lamps when you were doing your masters?
Yes, I started it for myself really. I made two or three lamps for my kitchen, and then I thought they must be sold otherwise it would be too expensive and too much work. And so I tried a little bit harder and the lamps got better and then I started selling them on DaWanda and Etsy.
So during my studies I made the lamps and sold them to finance myself. Then after finishing my masters degree at TU Berlin my professor offered me a job at his Berlin office. During the day I was working on architecture competitions and at night I made my lamps. After one year I couldn’t work on both anymore so I had to make a decision between the two. I earned more money from the lamps than with the architecture job, so I decided to leave in 2014 and just focus on making my lamps.
Is that when you got this studio space here? I guess you renovated it yourself?
I bought it at the beginning of 2015, renovated it, and then opened it last October. But I’m also still doing some other small architecture projects with my girlfriend. For example this year we renovated an old bakery in Berlin and made it into two flats. These are the things I love to do — architecture and designing new things.
So obviously the main material you use to make your lights is concrete. What is it that you like about working with concrete?
I’ll try to explain it in English but it’s hard! It’s a material where you start with just water and this concrete powder, cement, and then you mix it and you can put it in any mould you want to, any form. It’s a really true material, because once you mix the two ingredients and it’s ready, you don’t have to sand it down like wood for example. It just comes out of the mould and looks great.
Who or what inspires you in your work?
Not so much other designs or designers, but more simpler things like, I don’t know, riding my bike through the city and seeing a certain corner of a building or something. It’s mainly the environment around me and real life things.
What is it in particular that you like about Berlin, do you find it more of an inspirational place than Bavaria?
Of course, much more. All the people are crazy and just live their lives. Nobody judges people here and it makes the city really special. No other city is so crazy, and there are so many different parts of the city which are so unique to each other. So if I want to experience something like Munich I go to Charlottenburg, or if I want to go to a Turkish city then I go to Karl Marx Straße.
There are so many areas like this one [Rixdorf] that hardly anyone knows about. Not many people who live more than a few kilometres from here know this place. It’s such a nice area and the people are really nice here and come and talk with you and that’s really cool. It’s a small community.
I saw you also make a necklace. Obviously the form is very similar to your lights but it’s kind of different to the rest of your product line, so I was wondering what inspired you to make that?
Well that’s an easy story. I met my girlfriend in university, and she wanted to have some lights from me and I thought this is so cool, this hot girl wants to have lights from me! So I made the lights for her, and then we got to know each other better and now we’ve been together for three and half years.
For her birthday I designed this small necklace because she loves the minimalist design of the lamps, and the gold and concrete style. After I gave it to her for her birthday, she said it’s so nice you have to put it on the website. Although I said I didn’t want to because it was just for her, she insisted, and so I put it on the website. I tried to integrate the story into the name though. It’s called the P1, as her name is Pia.
So is that just a one-off thing or do you think you’ll start making products other than lighting?
I’m thinking about a furniture series, but right now I’m just working on making everything really professional and to focus on these products and make them as perfect as possible. Once everything is running perfectly I can hand this over to another person and have more time to focus on a small furniture series, to start with. A table, perhaps a chair or something. With this, I would like to mix the materials like the C1 lamp which is made from wood and concrete, or perhaps concrete and steel.
That’s great how you have this focus on making these perfect before you will move on to something else. Coming back to Berlin a bit, as you’re an architect I was wondering if there are any buildings in Berlin that you particularly like?
Yeh that’s really easy. The Neue Nationalgalerie by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Do you know it? I think it’s the best building in Berlin, and it fits my style I think. It’s genius, architecturally. It’s a really crazy building. It’s just this big steel plate which sits on two natural stone columns, and the whole place is free and open.
Yeh it’s a really beautiful building! So if you had to sum up GANTlights in just a few words, what would they be?
That’s hard. But I think the few words that are on my website: architectural influenced minimalist design.
Words and photos by James Fancourt.