Homes & gardens: Design for living

183 Platten_bau shelving
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So much of Dresden was devastated by British bombers in 1945, that there was a dramatic housing shortage after the war. The Soviet solution came in concrete. Huge, Identikit apartment blocks called Plattenbau were hastily stacked up all over the city, architecturally suppressing the individuality of those lucky enough to find shelter in one of the two million new units.

Most have now been demolished, although those that remain are increasingly sought after by young Germans with a nostalgic affection for Communist kitsch. Now, however, the buildings' influence has leaked over to London through a Plattenbau-inspired shelving system that has just been erected in the window of Thorsten Van Elten's Warren Street shop. Its white, solid core laminate lines crisscross with Teutonic precision and you can buy as much or as little as you require; and it all clips together satisfyingly and without the use of tools.

Berlin-based Florian Petri (left, born 1973) designed the "Platten_bau" system for Kaethe & Weise, which wanted a product to take its new manufacturing gear out for a spin. "I enjoy a technical challenge," says Petri, "and Kaethe & Weise has this modern CNC cutting machine that works with data from the computer. One has to create the data, in 2-D or 3-D, in a technical drawing program and send it to the machine which then cuts out the specified form without any more handwork." So the new system is made entirely by machines, but can be reconstructed in your own home without any.

Petri created the product to be practical and playful. "I wanted shelving that you could take home in a normal car. I also wanted people to play with it - like a game."

A cheery Van Elten thinks this could be the year that the British get into Deutsche design. "We've done Scandinavian style now," he laughs. "I realise that there has been a cultural distaste for German ideas, but the scene there is really flourishing now for the first time since the 1960s." And while much of the background philosophy conforms to the stereotype of ruthless efficiency, that has been balanced by far more fun than many Brits may have realised.

Platten_bau shelving is available from Thorsten Van Elten, 22 Warren Street, London W1,