Q&A with Sanna Völker / KM ZERO

KM zero is a design project that was born out of a quarantine scenario in Spain, in which the designers lived for several weeks in lockdown and with limited access to work resources. This project, based between Barcelona and Madrid, invites Spanish-based object and furniture designers to reflect upon time spent in quarantine and to produce a design piece with the exclusive use of materials and collaborators found within one kilometer of their homes. We had the chance to speak with Sanna, curator, and founder of KM Zero to get to know a little more about this project.

Through Objects: How did the idea of creating KM ZERO start? Sanna Völker: The idea of Km Zero emerged during the strictest part of the lockdown in Spain, referred to as phase 0. After spending several weeks at home I slowly started going back to the studio. And with most of my creative projects on hold, I felt a desire to create and to connect with others. I was trying to adapt to a digital world but the longing for physical connection and creation was growing. I wanted to express the feelings of calm, worry, and hope that had emerged during quarantine and I was curious to know about the experiences of other creatives. I felt a desire to document this unique moment in time and in our history. And an aspiration that perhaps things could be different.

Through Objects: KM ZERO began during the Spanish quarantine due to COVID 19 spread in Spain. What’s the main philosophy behind this project? Sanna Völker: A wish to slow down and to truly see the people and opportunities that are right next to us. Producing and consuming locally has been on our minds for years, but sometimes, until we’re not forced to act upon an idea we don’t really fulfill it. Many of us felt a bigger appreciation and care for our neighbors and local businesses and were afraid that we would lose them due to the difficult times. It felt necessary to show support for them and to convert the philosophy of proximity to reality. It was a matter of now or never. 

 Through Objects: ‘Designers were to produce their piece with the exclusive use of materials and collaborators found within one kilometer of their homes’. Could you share with us some challenges that arise from this situation? Sanna Völker: Within the project, we refer to the same phases that we went through during the lockdown. The transition from Phase 0 to Phase 1 was a very special and emotional moment for all of us since this allowed us to go for walks in our immediate neighborhoods. We couldn’t exceed the one-kilometer limit put upon us but we could stroll around our closest streets during a few restricted hours each day.

I wanted to invite designers based in the two largest cities, Barcelona and Madrid since we had experienced all this under similar conditions. This would also assure us that we would all be able to find something within our neighborhoods that we could use. Through inviting the designers to explore their own neighborhoods and share those insights we would get to know the areas through the eyes of each designer. Km Zero is a very intimate project, born during an emotional time with personal insights and reflections. For many of the designers, the limitation of the brief was something they found interesting and inspiring. They needed to scan their neighborhoods in detail and their piece would, therefore, be born from those personal discoveries. This naturally limited our range of options and materials and I feel that the collection has a humble and natural feel to it, which I believe is partly due to those limits but also to what many of us were reflecting on during this time – that maybe we don’t really need that much.

Through Objects: …and what kind of insights can we take from this experience? Sanna Völker: Many of us discovered workshops and artisans located just a few hundred meters away from our homes and studios. I think it’s very important to preserve and to appreciate the cultural value of craft, to acknowledge the work of the artisan and the stories – old and new – of the neighborhoods. Km Zero is a celebration of locality, of collaboration and of the people in our neighborhoods. It’s a wish to look after each other and the realization of how much we need one another.

Through Objects: Are there any special pieces from the collection that you want to highlight? Sanna Völker: I’m very happy about the fact that the pieces work really well both individually and together as a collection. The project is about telling different stories and perspectives. And through the unity of the different pieces, we gather stories of social distancing, mental health, old and new crafts, cross-cultural design movements, the usage of industrial remnants, the human effect on the city and how the city affects us as human beings. 

Through Objects: How do you imagine the future of local design after this lockdown experience?  Sanna Völker: I believe that this crisis has made us all reflect on the way we live and what kind of society we wish to live in. And at least for some time ahead, we will have to make use of our local resources and opportunities, and hopefully, we will see the positive advantages of this and continue to do so even afterward. I feel hopeful for a positive change.

Interview with Sanna Völker, Curator of KM ZERO | Participating designers: Isaac Piñeiro, Júlia Esqué, Marta Ayala Herrera, Omayra Maymó, Paula Clavería, Sanna Völker, Turbina Studio | Visual communication and photography by David Leon Fiene.