Five Floors of Design
In the middle of Lana’s busy industrial zone—affectionately called the “Zone” by locals—stands a tall concrete tower. It’s a former silo that was once used to store tons of sawdust. But for some years now, the woodworking remnants have disappeared to make way for the extraordinary vertical studio of designer Harry Thaler: He completely restructured and redesigned the interior space. Through the large tower windows, we have a captivating view of the mountain landscape with meadows and Alpine pastures all around. And yet, it’s the spiral staircase that impresses us step by step with a quite unusual ascent to the heights of the tower, taking us past chairs, bicycles, sketches, drawings, lamps, and other impressive design projects—all of which were conceived by this creative Merano native.
Thaler, born in 1975, is a trained goldsmith. During his apprenticeship, he travelled a lot, to Vienna, Sri Lanka, and finally studied jewellery design at the School of Design in Pforzheim, Germany’s “Golden City”. His constant curiosity and the creative design environment have sharpened his vision and led to his decision to explore a new creative field. Harry Thaler returned home, studied at the Faculty of Design and Art in Bolzano (where he also taught a few years later), and finally ended up at the renowned Royal College of Art in London. There, he dedicated his thesis to his first product design project: the famous “Pressed Chair”, produced by Nils Holger Moormann, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2020.
"The basis of every inspiration is functionality"

Imagine a large, two-dimensional sheet of metal—shaped into an abstract, human figure with arms and legs stretched out as if it were doing a cheerful star jump. Now imagine that the four limbs and the head of the above-mentioned happy little guy are bent and buckled into four legs and a backrest. Voilà: the Pressed Chair. The chair that catapulted Harry Thaler into international design stardom. Simple yet sophisticated down to the smallest detail, the idea is based on an extremely high level of understanding and expertise in materials, shapes, and production methods. Based on the same principle, the product designer designed the innovative Pressed Bike for the South Tyrolean brand Leaos a few years later.
The rest is history: Harry Thaler spent ten years researching and experimenting in London’s design world. This open and vibrant place has strongly influenced his style and vision. Eventually, he returned home a few years ago, started a family, and revived an abandoned tower silo in Lana. And this is exactly where we return, to this vertical studio. Climbing the stairs is a bit like diving into Harry Thaler’s world of thought to follow his creative processes—like the tower—upwards. On the 24-square-metre first floor—at the foundation, so to speak—we encounter all the extraordinary prototypes of the objects he has designed over the many years of his career. Everything started with them; they are the basis of every design, whether it be a chair, a bicycle, an interior design project, or a lamp—and some designs for hotels in the area, for example, the Ottmangut in Merano, the Miramonti in Hafling, and the Schwarzschmied in Lana. For Harry Thaler, all inspiration is based on the functionality of things, which is also to be tested thanks to these first experiments exhibited here. 
The second floor, meanwhile, is a treasure trove of fabric and material. Samples and catalogues are a constant source of inspiration and can be studied and examined in this room. Because often, the material itself determines the shape and subsequent development of a concept—as is the case with wood, a main material for South Tyrolean creativity and an important element for many of Thaler’s interior design projects. Examples include private homes, the Museion Atelier House in Bolzano, a renovated pharmacy in Klausen (where another local material is used, namely, white Lasa marble), or the business premise for Pur Südtirol, the market for South Tyrolean quality products, which after Lana (just a few metres from Thaler’s silo), Bolzano, Bruneck, and Merano, has recently opened in Brixen. We climb higher up to the two floors with offices for staff and the designer himself—in the latter, a large table dominates the room and in its simplicity highlights another decisive dimension of Thaler’s creativity: naturalness. Harry Thaler always has a smile on his face both in his professional and private life, his mannerisms are polite, and his handshake is sincere. To sit down at a table with his colleagues, to exchange ideas, to discuss or think about new ideas together is, therefore, the most natural thing and can only be counted as a strength for a designer who places more value on relationships than on egocentrism. This is also testified by the cosy kitchen on the fifth floor of this South Tyrolean creative centre. This room is also open, simple, and casual, where ideas and meals are prepared, shared, and enjoyed in good company. Now, having arrived at the top of this tower, which reflects itself and its interior, the world around it, and beyond, we descend the steep spiral staircase again. On our way down, we let the sketches and drawings, prototypes, lamps, chairs, and bicycles sink in once more—perhaps with a different perspective—and take a suitcase full of impressions with us from this journey to the centre of Lana’s “Zone” and into the heart of design. 

Photos: Franziska Unterholzer, Davide Perbellini, Jäger & Jäger
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