Helmut Newton - SUMO (1:1 scale model)

TASCHEN´s #1 Fan - Turning TASCHEN books into stunning models —Sexy-book editor Dian Hanson interviews Philipp Strafehl (TASCHEN catalog Fall 2004)

Several months ago I received an email tricked out in hot pink lettering sorrounded by hearts and flowers. I spottet it as a fan letter, but as I read how he enjoyed Naked as a Jaybird and the Roy Stuart volumes, the writer revealed himself as more than a fan, devoted not just to my books, and not just to TASCHEN books, but to TASCHEN the company and the concept. For the last year Philipp Strafehl has been expressing his admiration for TASCHEN by building precise 1:1 scale models of our greatest books. The first was Helmut Newton´s SUMO. Using only photographs from TASCHEN´s website and catalog, Philipp build his dream book. He emailed me photos that look so much like the real thing I thought it was a joke. He assured me he had never been near a real SUMO, though it was his greatest desire to own one. He added that he was finishing the Philippe Starck display table, and shortly thereafter I received a jpg of the completed masterpiece. A couple of months later I clicked on an email and there was the familiar pink text. It seems Philipp had a new dream book, the magnificent Muhammad Ali tribute, GOAT. This was a bigger challenge, because GOAT came in two editions, included signed photographic prints and a spectacular piece of original art. Philipp was undaunted. Philipp kept me updated with photos through the production of the two GOAT editions, the prints, and the Jeff Koons sculpture. I forwarded some on to Benedikt, saying we must make Philipp a TASCHEN star for his devotion and artistic obsession. Benedikt agreed and I sent Philipp a list of questions about his life, his models and his love of TASCHEN. He chose to answer in his native German, which we have translated and present here along with photos of his amazing models for the pleasure of all TASCHEN fans.

Dian Hanson: Philipp, tell us all where you live, what your occupation is and how you learned to build such amazing models.

Philipp Strafehl: I live in Herford, a small town in North-Rhine-Westphalia, I´m 26 years old, and in a few days I´ll be finishing my training in retail sales at a building supplies outlet. Before that, I worked for a well-known model builder who made warships and cruise ships in 1:100 scale for museums and private clients. One of my favorite models was the Titanic on which I got to bring in a lot of my own ideas, for example adding the famous stairway to the model, which was very tricky. My boss always left the extremely fine work to me. That´s where I learned my enthusiasm for creative work.

DH: How and when did you bacome aware of TASCHEN books?

PS: I first noticed TASCHEN in 2001 because of my fondness for Helmut Newton. I still remember how excited I was the first time I saw SUMO. Unfortunately, up to now, I have only seen pictures of the book, but I can imagine how thrilling it must be to leaf through the book itself. I was fascinated by the size and quality of the images. Images by Helmut Newton are great even in 20 x 30 cm format, but when I imagine seeing them in 50 x 70 cm, even stretching across both pages…Wow! That is how I first bacame acquainted with the world of TASCHEN and I then began to wonder what else the publishing house did. I did some internet research, had a catalog sent, and bacame more and more fascinated by TASCHEN. That´s how it all began.

DH: What is your favorite of the TASCHEN books you own?

PS: I would say Roy Stuart 1-3 and then Roy Stuart: The Fourth BodyNaked as a Jaybird and Helmut Newton: Work. These are the favorites of mine that I like looking at again and again

DH: What TASCHEN book would you most like to own?

PS: SUMO! For me, this is the greatest and most beautiful book. It would be the heart of my Helmut Newton collection and would receive a special place of honor.

DH: What makes TASCHEN, the books and the company, different from other books and publishing houses?

PS: First the quality. I think no other publishing company values quality as much as TASCHEN does. Second, the themes. TASCHEN is very diverse and publishes lots of interesting books, for example on photography, art, architecture, sex…There is something for everyone´s taste and I like that. And through the books I have became interested in themes that I have never before paid attention to, for example the book on Leonardo Da Vinci — I happened to see it in a shop window and was totally fascinated! Thanks to TASCHEN I am more and more interested in art, architecture and also design, for example Philippe Starck. Third, the elegant and stylish ambience of the TASCHEN stores, especially the one in Beverly Hills. I´d really like to browse around in there and soak up the atmosphere. I have to admit that I can´t say this about other publishing houses. There is no other publishing house that I´m interested in as TASCHEN.

DH:  What inspired you to make your models of the SUMO and GOAT books?

PS: Everything began with SUMO. I saw it and I wanted it. But it cost a lot of money and I tried to force it from my mind, but without any luck. At some point, I had the idea of building a model of it in 1:1 scale. If I didn´t have the money to buy the real thing, then I would simply build myself my own copy. The same was and is the case with GOAT. I saw it and was totally thrilled and when I´m thrilled by something, then I´m thrilled 200%! So I had to build it too, I just wanted to see what it was like when I had it right in front of me. So I first build the Collector´s Edition and was totally overwhelmed. It lay around for a while until I had the sudden idea of bulding the Champ´s Edition too. At first I wanted to build just the books, but that wasn´t enough, so I also built the boxes the books come in, right down to the smallest detail. Everything had to fit or else I would have flung it in the corner. Luckily, everything did fit and I´m satisfied with the final result. At the moment, I´m still working on the complete Champ´s Edition, including the artwork by Jeff Koons and the four silver gelatin prints, everything you can get for $10,000! (Philipp has now completed the Champ´s Edition)

DH: Explain how the models were made, the materials used and where you obtained dimensions.

PS: Unfortunately, to the present day I have never seen either SUMO or a GOAT in the original. I´ve made everything only on basis of pictures and the catalog descriptions, and everything with simplest of means. I build SUMO from a 6 cm thick polystyrene sheet, for the Jacket I enlarged a 50 x 70 cm image and glued it to the polystyrene. That was for the first version, but It was not perfect so I ordered an original replace dust Jacket for my dummy. Then I was happy with it. The biggest problem was the designer table by Philippe Starck. After long consideration, I built it out of metal broom handles and aluminum bars. I did all the dimensions by eye since unfortunately I didn´t have any concrete descriptions. But I think the result is quite okay. With GOAT I went a little crazy and wanted to feel what it was like to lift a 34 kg book, so I forgot about the polystyrene and build the book entirely from wood. It is made of three 28 mm thick pieces of kitchen countertop, two 4 mm plywood sheets, and a 15 mm wood panel that I used for the back of the book. All of these pieces glued together made up the base. Then I scanned in the cover, enlarged it, and attached it. For the gilt edges I used selfadhesive gold foil, then sprayed the back of the book and the lettering in pink, and my GOAT was finished. And I think the weight is just about right on target! I build the boxes from 8 mm chipboard, a closed version for the Champ´s Edition (I´ll keep it on the footstool) and an open version for the Collector´s Edition, including the lithograph by Jeff Koons.

DH: Are you a great fan of books in general?

PS: I have leafed through a few other art books, but since getting to know TASCHEN for me there are no more beautiful and better quality books. If I am interested in an artist, I first check to see if there´s a book about him from TASCHEN.

DH: Are you a fan of Benedikt Taschen the man?

PS: I respect Benedikt Taschen for everything that he has accomplished. When you think about how he startet and where he is today, that´s something not a lot of people achieve. From the first comic to a store in Beverly Hills…yes, I´m a fan of Benedikt Taschen. He sets an example.

DH: What would you say is most inspiring about his work in publishing?

PS: Every book by TASCHEN is a small work of art. People are offered the chance to get close to something special and out of the ordinary, and I think it´s possible to learn a lot from that. This is what I find so fascinating about the books and what makes them so different from other books. 

Helmut Newton - SUMO Stand (1:2 scale model) for TASCHEN

Helmut Newton - SUMO Stand (1:2 scale model) for TASCHEN

David LaChapelle - Artists & Prostitutes (1:1 scale model)

TASCHEN Store Beverly Hills (model)

Planned, but not published second Interview between Dian Hanson and Philipp Strafehl.

Fabulous Philipp Strafehl, TASCHEN´s Fan of All Fans, has really topped himself this time. Seeking a palate-cleansing respite from his hobby of building exact scale models of his favorite TASCHEN books (see his SUMO and GOAT models in the Fall 2004 catalog), Philipp switched to architecture. The results are stunning, as evidenced by his just completed model of Philippe Starck´s marvel of Franco/American design, the TASCHEN bookstore in Beverly Hills, California. To collect the intimate details on this newest monument to the TASCHEN empire Sexy-book editor Dian Hanson once again interviews Philipp at his design studio in the romantic village of Herford, Germany.

Dian Hanson: Phil, you wacky genius, why build a model of the TASCHEN Beverly Hills store?

Philipp Strafehl: I wanted to do something completely different. After building models of the biggest, most expensive, heaviest, and most dazzling TASCHEN books, I just had to try something else. But what? I thought about it for a long time and wondered how to do something even better and show how much TASCHEN books and everything to do with them mean to me. I had always liked the stylish ambience of the TASCHEN stores in Paris and Beverly Hills, but especially Beverly Hills, so I decided to build a model of this store, exact to the last detail. I´m fascinated by Philippe Starck´s design and think the store is the classiest and most dazzling “bookstore” ever created.

DH: Are you a fan of Philippe Starck´s other, nonarchitectural, design?

PS: Yes, I like a lot of things about Philippe Starck. I first became aware of him through SUMO. I find that Newton´s book and Starck´s table go together perfectly, virtually merge into one another resulting in a fantastic artistic synthesis. I wanted to know more about this artist and bought STARCK, a truly interesting book with a lot of things I really like. He is very versatile and it´s astounding how a man can come up with all of that. Among my very favorites are his clocks and a vast variety of furnishings.

DH: How long did it take you to build this incredible model?

PS: I needed about three months to do it.

DH: And so the readers can better imagine it, what are the exact dimensions of this model?

PS: The model is 1.7 m long, 57 cm wide, and 36 cm high. It takes up a really large amount of space here at the STRAFEHL / VISUALS Studio.

DH: How many reference photos did you use to get it so perfect?

PS: I basically  build the entire model using only three photos from the TASCHEN catalog. For areas where I wasn´t  one hundred percent sure, I used pictures from the website. For example, in the case of the Albert Oehlen collages that decorate the walls and ceiling of the store, I needed additional research. Because I´m a perfectionist, they had to hang in exactly the same place as in the original space and for that I needed various perspectives not available in the catalog. But that´s all I needed.

DH: Those appear to be real TASCHEN books on the shelves. How did you manage this?

PS: In the case of the books, they are made up of exactly 308 individual book covers that I scanned from the catalog and reduced in size. After cutting them all out I pasted them into the shelves. If you look very carefully, Dian, you can see that at the front right in the first row of shelves, all of your books have been included. That was simply a must.

DH: You are too kind, Philipp. I notice there is only one figure in the store. Who is this gorgeous woman? A fashion model? A Hollywood film star?

PS: For all those who have not yet realized it, that good-looking woman is none other than Dian Hanson! But then you should know that, Dian, since you sent me the photo…

DH: Ah, yes, how silly of me to forget…Moving on; does having this beautiful model substitute for actually visiting the amazing Beverly Hills TASCHEN store?

PS: I really enjoyed building this model and and it turned out really well, but it´s still my greatest desire at some time to visit the real TASCHEN store in Beverly Hills.

DH: Hard to imagine anyone not wanting to visit Philippe Starck´s grandest design, this modern artwork as functional space. Whenever you, Phil, or any TASCHEN fan, is in Southern California they´re welcome to experience the original at 354 North Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. Phil, I´m sure someone out there is looking at this incredible model and wondering if you would ever consider selling this, or any of your other amazing TASCHEN-inspired models.

PS: The models mean a great deal to me, but how did Helmut Newton once put it, “As far as I´m concerned, everything is for sale, it´s only a matter of the price.” That´s also how I see it.

DH: Well put. It´s been a pleasure visiting with you again Phil, and I know TASCHEN fans, and your own fans, would never forgive me if I didn´t get some hint from you about your next project. More architecture, or more books?

PS: At the moment I´m working on a very special model. Benedikt Taschen´s Chemosphere House. More infos coming soon!