Traditional vases are disguised behind trunks of bronze; their ceramic base manipulated to resemble feather-clad creatures. A dining room table and chairs transforms into a scene out of Where the Wild Things Are—complete with fur and cast bronze to match. Since founding the Haas Brothers back in 2010, Nikolai and Simon Haas' creations are as innovative as they are absurd. Their most recent project, Afreaks, was included in this year’s Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, signaling the brothers' autonomy from aesthetic and functional norms.
The Haas Brothers' philosophy is that their pieces eradicate the notion that a division between art and design could exist in the first place. There is little sense in the works, as functionality is maintained at its minimum threshold.
Many of their works carry an obviously sexual aesthetic, deviating from the home decór status quo. Titles such as Fungus Accretion for a series of vases, and a daybed named after Anna Nicole Smith give the audience room to take the pieces seriously or not.
A few short years after launching, the team is a perfect storm of technical experience, ingenuity, and Hollywood connections and has partnered with the likes of Lady Gaga, Versace, and Peter Marino.
Raised in Austin, Texas, the fraternal twins grew up learning traditional stone carving methods from their father. After leaving home, the two parted ways; while Nikolai pursed music, Simon studied dance and culinary arts before landing at the Rhode Island School of Design. The twins developed complementary talents, which have proven to be a major asset since formally establishing their company.
A lot has happened since the brothers’ early Los Angeles days. During a recent visit to Cape Town in South Africa, they were inspired by the work of a local women’s beading collective in the Khayelitsha Township. The Haas Brothers partnered with the collective quickly for the collaborative Afreaks series, later renaming themselves the Haas Sisters.
With the widespread success of Afreaks, the Hass design team has begun developing an intricate mathematical beading process, an experiment that incorporates theories from linguistics and the natural sciences.
There is a deep social mission embedded in their designs. In conversation with Interview Magazine, the brothers explain that they, “really believe that every single piece we make has potential to change people's minds about what's acceptable.” Their openness transcends the physicality of the pieces, creating a space of greater freedom beyond their immediate reach. Their designed works change how we look at an object as simple as a chair.
The Haas Brothers and The Haas Sisters series Afreaks is taking part in the Beauty—Cooper Hewitt National Design Triennial at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum through August 21st. To see more of the Brother’s work, visit their website, Facebook, and Instagram.