Searching for the simplest form
with interior designers, Ries.


Design Buenos Aries
Words Hey Vito and Marcos Altgelt
Photographs Hey Vito and Javier Agustin Rojas

Three years ago Marcos Altgelt and Tasio Picollo started studio Ries. It began as friends experimenting with scrap materials in a tiny garage. Now it’s grown into a modern furniture and object design studio with clients all around the world. Their works fuse steel, glass and marble. Minimalist angular structures often formed from rotating and repeating a singular shape. A nod to their backgrounds in architecture. Hey Vito caught up with Marcos at the Ries workshop in Chacarita, Buenos Aires.

So what’s your background? Both you and Tasio are architects no?

Yeah we both studied architecture but we met while we were working. I was at an art studio which is called Normal which did like experimental installations. Tasio was working at La Feliz which is a lighting and furniture studio. So our bosses were friends and sometimes they did projects together. So that’s how we met. I guess we got on well and we always wanted to do something together, but it wasn’t until a few years later that we actually got together, rented a place, bought some machines and started.

Your designs definitely have an architectural feel.

Yeah, that’s right. There’s a really perfect architecture like vision in which our pieces are conceived. We don’t think of them as industrial designers; and I say that because in our team, we have 2 or 3 industrial designers and they think in a totally different way. It’s funny. We think about structure and skin and things that are more related to architecture. We don’t think of them as objects that have to have a meaning. It’s like building a model in a small scale for us.

It must have been kind of scary when you first started the business. Feelings like: is this going to work? Do we have enough money?

Yeah, it was and still is because as you get bigger, you have bigger challenges. At the beginning, we were in a really small garage that Tasio had. It was tiny and we had everything in there. Materials, our pieces, the machines. It was a mess. We didn’t have a computer and didn’t keep records of accounting. We didn’t worry at the beginning about having success in terms of the business. We just wanted to do what we liked and see where that could take us. Well, now after almost 3 years, we can say that we have a real studio with real people working on real projects. I guess we are kind of okay. It works.

When you’re starting a new project, how does it begin?

Most of the works we have done come from really different places. Sometimes it can be a commission. For example the moon coffee table. The client wanted a table that had different heights. We designed it and liked it as a product so included it in our catalog. Alpina came from some sketches that I made on paper, then we refined and produced them. The Bee Side Tables were an experiment really. We went to a steel factory and bought like all kinds of scraps, metal. Different shapes, circles, hexagons. We started messing around with it; like designing as we made them. We made some really crazy experiments until we got to the point where we simplified everything. I couldn’t say it’s always like this way or that way. It’s diverse how things are conceived.

I think it's all about building environments; a place that makes you feel a certain way and furniture completes that space. ries
How have you marketed yourself? How do people know about your designs?

I guess we had some luck at the beginning because our first collection was shared on most of design blogs. That was a really good kick start. Then we had to maintain that which was the most difficult part. I think having a local business, but also having an ongoing conversation internationally helps to get you known. Then it was just work, work, work. Being present and getting in contact with people of our medium: architects, designers, fashion people. Also of course in these times of the internet, social media helps a lot.

So where are most of your customers from, the people that buy your products?

Well, it really depends. We create things for different organisations. For example Wework the co-working space company. We met them in New York and got on well. They were about to open their first building in Latin America. Now we do a lot of work for them, they’re probably our main client. We collaborate with architects. Sometimes they will ask us to furnish their projects. We also work a lot with fashion brands. Three or so major brands here in Argentina. We design their storefront or place some pieces inside the stores.

You work a lot with steel. How has that come about?

At the beginning it was really easy for us to go from the sketch to a final piece with steel. It’s very practical and quick because you weld and its ready. We’re now shifting to working with other materials such as wood, not just like the tops but the structure too. We’re kind of shifting, we don’t want to be labeled as the studio that only makes steel furniture. We also work with stone, with marble, with glass or mirrors, but they’re complementary to the main structure.

So where did the name RIES come from?

Oh, it really has no meaning at all. I remember we finished our first collection and I was like we need to send this to a blog, but we didn’t have a name. We needed to have a name. We just wrote some letters that we liked and messed around with them. Ries has no meaning in Spanish or in English. It’s just 4 letters that are in some form. We wanted something that really didn’t have any meaning so that we could give the meaning to it.

Where would you like the business to go? Just keep growing organically?

We’re now designing projects that are to do with the greater space and not with just the piece. So we’re doing a whole kitchen and the furniture for the entire house which is like defining the space. I think it’s all about building environments; a place that makes you feel a certain way and furniture completes that space. We would like to do more interior design projects; having control of everything; not just the furniture, but what the floor is, what the wall is, what the lighting is, and building environments. That’s where we would like our business to go.

You've recently started Quick Tiny Shows. Could you tell us a little about that venture?

It is a collaborative exhibition program we created with Juan Garcia Mosqueda, director of Chamber Projects. He left his gallery in NY, came back to live to Buenos Aires, and contacted us to design the furniture for a project he was working on. We got on really well and saw there was an opportunity to showcase design in a way that we feel didn't exist in the city. So we dove in to it and put on our first exhibition to see how people would react. It went on really well. A lot of people came, and it suddenly grew into more shows, international participants, workshops, press, etc. It's amazing to see how much it has grown in such a short time •