The Porsche Design Principle

Renowned design from Zell am See

Zell am See has been home to Studio F.A. Porsche for almost 50 years: now the internationally renowned design studio is showing a cross-section of its work in the special exhibition "The Porsche Design Principle" in the medieval Vogtturm tower. In an interview, Design Director Christian Schwamkrug reveals which favourite pieces are presented in the exhibition, how to accommodate roof tiles, kitchen appliances or watches, and what sentence he has heard at least a hundred times. 

Even die-hard Porsche fans are surprised by what is being designed here: Apart from the fast cars of the eponymous brand,  (almost) everything from residential towers to roof tiles and kitchen appliances, from luxury yachts and laptops to trams in Vienna or Bangkok  is designed at Studio F.A. Porsche in Zell am See. The studio was founded by Prof Ferdinand Alexander Porsche (1935 - 2012): The grandson of Porsche founder Ferdinand Porsche worked in the family business himself, even designing the legendary 911 Porsche, until he set up his own design studio. He set up shop in Zell am See, the family's adopted mountain home. The studio has been firmly rooted here since 1974.


The region as inspiration

"To me, the location has the advantage of absolute tranquillity. You are not distracted and you are inspired by the peace and serenity that the region exudes. You can concentrate on your work," says Christian Schwamkrug. The design director of the Porsche studio moved to Zell am See with his family in 1987. "For a small family, the region was fantastic," he says. "We also have offices in Shanghai or Berlin, the most urban space you can imagine. There, of course, you have inspiring influences, especially culturally. Equally, though, I think the peace and quality of life you have here are unique."


What does Studio F.A. Porsche actually do?

Despite its long history, the fact that one of the most internationally renowned design studios creates concepts for projects of clients all over the world in Pinzgau is still a bit of a secret. And thus, the design director smiles when asked if the locals know what is being worked on here: "Definitely not! I always find - even at the opening of our exhibition in the Vogtturm tower - that there was a lot of surprise and nobody knew what we were up to."  

"The company is most likely to be associated with Porsche brand sunglasses or writing instruments, but the vast majority of our work has nothing to do with the brand. We offer design services for external clients, we design yachts, we have created concepts for houses," says Christian Schwamkrug, who has worked for the Porsche Design Studio for more than 35 years. "We often have visitors here, fan clubs and Porsche enthusiasts, and one statement can be heard time and again: "I would never have imagined what you guys do!" I've now heard that hundreds of times, and I will surely hear it again in the future."


Worth a visit: the special exhibition

This is another reason why Christian Schwamkrug is particularly pleased to have the opportunity to present the most important cornerstones of the studio in a large special exhibition "The Porsche Design Principle": Until April 2023, visitors to the Museum Vogtturm in Zell am See can gain a comprehensive insight into the design studio's work on 400 square metres. "The exhibition is designed in such a way that you can see chronologically from the very beginning how everything has developed," explains Schwamkrug, who was involved as curator. The highlights of the exhibition include the "Chronograph", the world's first black wristwatch from 1972, the visionary "Alternative Motorcycle Concept" (1980), the "Alpha Grand" electric piano made especially for pop star Prince, but also more recent projects by the studio. Schwamkrug cannot even quantify how many designs have been created over the past decades. "But we have managed to reflect a good picture of our range of services."



How to combine roof tiles and design

When Christian Schwamkrug talks about his favourite recent projects, it quickly becomes clear how complex and diverse the tasks are for the design team: His favourites are the kitchen appliances designed for Siemens and - roof tiles. "Many people also ask us: houses, roof tiles, technical appliances, how does that work? But I don't think it's that difficult. As a designer, you have a certain basic creativity, otherwise you wouldn't have become a designer. And then you try to make the best out of every task you are given.“


Schwamkrug sees the advantage of bringing a design studio on board primarily from an outside perspective: "If you keep doing the same thing all the time, you will eventually have a restricted view. We start with an open mind, without blinkers, and think about how something can be reinterpreted. We succeeded quite well with the roof tiles. This is actually an incredibly traditional product made from the original material, clay. The framework conditions are indeed very tight, but we still managed to offer a new aesthetic and function," the designer says happily. Schwamkrug and his team worked on the project for almost one and a half years - with great success. In 2020, the design studio received, among others, the German Design Award for the roof tiles.


Honest design as a guiding principle

The approach of designing products that create relevance is also reflected in the credo of Studio  F.A. Porsche: "Design must be honest", this quote from studio founder Ferdinand Alexander Porsche still characterises the work almost fifty years after opening. "We want to design products that will stay with us for as long as possible. We currently live in a time when product cycles are extremely short. And if you then produce something that lasts, that is in a way also a contribution to sustainability," says Schwamkrug. At the same time, the quote also alludes to the materials used. "We don't want to fool the customer into believing something that ultimately isn't, neither in terms of quality nor in terms of materiality. This is what is meant by 'design must be honest': honesty from A to Z."


The Porsche Design Principle: a special exhibition

For those who are curious about what the design studio from Zell am See has already created, we recommend the exhibition "The Porsche Design Principle". The exhibition shows the exciting development and provides an insight into the diverse work of F.A. Porsche Studio. The exhibition takes place in the medieval Vogtturm museum in Zell am See (Stadtplatz 8) and can be visited until April 2023 from Wednesday to Sunday from 2 pm to 6 pm. On weekends from Friday to Sunday, the museum also invites visitors to the exhibition in the morning from 10 am to 12.30 pm (on request).


A designer piece for home

Projects by Studio F.A. Porsche can also be discovered in the Zell am See-Kaprun region: The gondolas of the Schmittenhöhebahn lift were designed by the design team. In addition, and now for the second time, the studio has created a carafe exclusively for Zell am See-Kaprun - a designer piece for home. The Porsche Design carafe set consists of a Porsche Design carafe 2.0, four glasses and a tray and can be ordered for € 79 via e-mail.