Marie-Theres Böhmker & Tina Henkel

Juli / July - 2019

Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg

Bachelor of Arts


'Anti-Amt' - advice furniture for Café Exil in Hamburg, which is being used for providing advice and guidance to migrants and refugees. The furniture was co-designed with volunteers from the café.

What is the Topic?

The starting point for the design process was the café’s identity as an independent, anti-racist advisory centre that supports migrants and refugees find their way through German bureaucracy, assists with legal matters and provides translations. The main focus of the centre is on showing solidarity and offering practical help. Creating a sense of privacy and confidentiality is a crucial part of the advisory service provided at the centre. This proved to be a considerable challenge in an open space that is used as a place to socialise often in many different languages, to warm up and enjoy a cup of coffee. How can you create a quiet place that allows you to discuss difficult topics in a room where you have to compete with road noise, mobile phones going off and loud conversations?

Why does it look like this?

An advisory session usually involves three people. The triangular shape of the furniture facilitates conversation and ensures that any hierarchical or confrontational atmosphere often created in government offices is avoided. The size of the table draws the participants in, creating an intimate and calm atmosphere.

What is special?

The intention of the design was never to be a luxury product, but a practical solution for the specific problems that arise in a place like Café Exil. It is the result of a participatory design process: conversations, analyses of every day advisory sessions, workshops and frequent discussions around the creative process shaped the process. The lack of (acoustic) privacy was tackled through creating spatial and social proximity.

What is new?

For the first time the café underwent a creative consultation process to develop a concept for its facilties. The design creates a new level of spatial encounters and the furniture, consisting of 12 advisory desks, a counter and a side table, enable many different set-ups that can respond to the café’s requirements.