Christoph Fahle
March 12, 2012

Member of the Week: Le Van Bo

Enter Le Van Bo; architect, designer, and initiator of the Hartz IV Möbel project. Named after the national welfare system, Hartz IV Möbel is a DIY movement, centred around a series of basic, practical furniture pieces that are both simple and affordable to construct, making use of commonly-available, low-cost materials. Le has recently published a book, the Hartz-IV Möbel-Buch, which not only contains instructions for all the furniture projects, but also provides tips on cost-effective living in small spaces, as well as features on prominent members of the DIY community in Berlin.

Shopping for furniture, clothing, and other things we need in our daily lives, can be costly, time-consuming, and, above all, creates waste and supports wasteful industrial practices.

Enter Le Van Bo; architect, designer, and initiator of the Hartz IV Möbel project. Named after the national welfare system, Hartz IV Möbel is a DIY movement, centred around a series of basic, practical furniture pieces that are both simple and affordable to construct, making use of commonly-available, low-cost materials.

Le has recently published a book, the Hartz-IV Möbel-Buch, which not only contains instructions for all the furniture projects, but also provides tips on cost-effective living in small spaces, as well as features on prominent members of the DIY community in Berlin.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, what is the Hartz-IV Möbel project all about? 

Hartz-IV Möbel is a social design movement, and I am its initiator. The basic idea is that I try to create construction plans for furniture inspired by classic Bauhaus-era pieces, which are normally very expensive. For instance, a chair, which would typically cost around four or five thousand Euros, can be made, using one of my designs, for 24 Euros, in just 24 hours. I call it the ’24-Euro Chair’, and you can even find one in the betahaus café – just look for the green “Build Me!” sticker.

What inspired you, as a trained architect, to start such a 'social-design movement'?

It started out as a bit of a coincidence – I had constructed a chair for myself for the first time after attending a basic carpentry course at the local Volkshochschule (community centre). I had been designing wooden furniture, yet despite that, I had never even held a saw in my hand before - I had, as you might say, two left hands. So of course, this made me really proud. I then blogged about this chair, and told all my friends about how I built it. That was the beginning of the movement – I was so inspired by just how easy it was to build something so useful, and so were others.

DIY lamp, found at Open Design City

I am neither a product designer nor a carpenter – I had never even held a saw in my hand before making my first 24-Euro chair, and I’m still a complete amateur even today. When I created the 24-Euro chair project, I wanted to inspire those who are not only not designers, but who may not have enough money to buy all of their furniture, to simply create their own instead.The name and its reference to the welfare system is a deliberate provocation; to make it clear that this is not a project about design, form, or materials. For me, chairs and other basic pieces of furniture are a social issue, and not one of design, because the way in which one furnishes their home defines their wealth in a way. This project is intended for those who may be short on money, but who have good taste which they wish to express.

Has the Hartz-IV Möbel project been applied, or attempted, in any other cities, besides Berlin? Do you see this becoming a movement worldwide – somewhat in line with other “DIY-revival” trends (e.g. sewing, gardening, etc.)?

I know that there is definitely an increasing number of DIY projects like this one happening throughout the industrialised world. A lot of people are simply fed up with capitalism, and are starting to reconsider the actual value of products we normally buy at large-scale stores like Ikea or H&M - questioning why everything is so cheap. It doesn’t help that many of these companies cannot say just how, where, and by whom their products are made. Nowadays, more and more people are trying to regain power, particularly over what they consume. We see it with the Occupy movement, with guerilla gardening – the conversion of public green spaces into community gardens, and with something I organise called Guerilla Lounging, where unused public spaces are turned into “lounges” for the general public.

Le Van Bo's "Hartz-IV Office", Open Design City

The book is a very special project because it is not carried out in the normal way in which a book is published. Normally, one writes content, finds a publisher, and then publishes the book. What we are doing instead is finding readers, asking them to finance the book through donations on StartNext, collecting their stories, illustrations, and other content they submit, and then finally finding a publisher.

The fun thing about this project is that, because it's a collaborative effort, everybody can contribute to it in some way. This raises the question of quality control – many people wonder if this method would perhaps result in a patchwork of varying styles and quality. However, what this process revolves around is something called “crowd-storming” – a collective form of brainstorming, in which an idea is displayed to a public forum, and is open to feedback from just about anyone.

As for content; this book will contain not only all of the construction plans, but also some tips and advice on how to organise a small space in the best way possible. There’s one chapter, called ’99 ideas from the 99%’, in which we have collected 99 of the best ideas for various kinds of DIY projects. Another chapter is called the ‘Karma Economy’, where I try to summarize the things I’ve observed at companies who can successfully motivate people to do good with something other than money – something I call the “karma credit”.

We have a small number of copies available, and if you donate to the project on StartNext, you'll receive one. We’re hoping to find a large-scale publisher soon, though we'll try not to publish too many copies, as that would create waste - the one thing we're fighting against.

Le Van Bo will be holding a '1m² house' workshop on 31.03 at Open Design City, where you can learn how to build the smallest, fully-functional house imaginable!

Cost is a big one here. In regards to total transportation costs, the last mile comprises up to 53% of those - making it the least efficient part of the supply chain. Expectations of free shipping and next day deliveries add up to this.

Due to increasing digitalization and convenience services in every area of people's lives, the smooth and flawless process of getting the delivery to one's doorstep is exceedingly becoming what customers care most about. On top of that, for companies that package being delivered is an extension of their brand. The consumer is basically coming face-to-face with the brand, which makes it the biggest opportunity to heighten customer satisfaction.


If you live in a city and have even slightly observed your urban surroundings you’ve probably witnessed it first hand - urban congestion and crowded cities make it pretty tough to satisfy the growing demand and rising expectations of super quick deliveries. Add unpredictability in transit (like weather conditions), an incorrect address or remote locations, just to name a few, and you can see where this is going.

The worst part is, all those delivery trucks and vans that also produce a fair bit of emissions, are often only half full when they roll out for deliveries. This is mostly due to low drop sizes and stops along the route that are far and few between.

It’s not all hopeless though - Where there is a problem, there are solutions.


Same old, same old - isn’t always all that bad. Sometimes, all that’s needed are some new perspectives! The city of Utrecht, for‌ ‌example, implemented a zero-emissions electric barge nicknamed the “Beer Boat”. 

Since 2010 it’s carrying beer and food to the city’s downtown restaurants by using waterways. Other electric barges in Amsterdam not only deliver but even collect organic waste, which is then turned into biofuel in processing plants! Isn’t that cool?

It becomes clear that cities, logistics, as‌ ‌well‌ ‌as‌ ‌urban‌ ‌planners, are equally part of solving the inefficiency of the last-mile. Tackling this mountain of issues calls for teamwork!


A centralized platform, hub or network for similar companies, could do the trick to fill up the delivery vans & trucks that are barely loaded. Parcels could be distributed more efficiently between different companies and their delivery vehicles.

Like a big pool of parcels from different companies with every single parcel going into that one van with the same route!


Delivery Driver Experience and Smart Delivery Vehicles are also areas with huge potential for improvement and innovation.


Ellie: Two years ago we adopted a new legal structure for Jolocom GmbH according to the purpose model of ownership, manifesting our commitment and dedication to building a self-sovereign organization. That means we can’t take VC funding or sell public shares of the company. 

Volker: Jolocom is a community driven organisation – both in a tech sense but also much further beyond. We’re hugely involved in the DWeb community where we organize and attend events for the decentralized community. Every year we also help organize and attend the DWeb Camp in San Francisco, which brings together all kinds of creatives so this technology of tomorrow is built in a collaborative way.


Next to that on-demand experiences have become firmly embedded into people’s everyday lives - be it a mobile app to book a ride, send flowers to your loved ones or order lunch to your office. It’s all possible and has made premium features like real-time tracking a standard.  The online consumer expects nothing less and certainly doesn’t like to wait.


Making that quick and instant gratification happen is another story though. Groundbreaking ideas and innovations are needed to tackle all these factors. Does your startup have one? 

Then head over to our Future Logistics Challenge! Applications are still open until September 23rd.

Volker: There is this really nice place, called Green Rabbit with salads and baked potatoes where I like to go to. Sometimes I just keep it simple and go to Lidl.

Ellie: I eat a lot in west.berlin cafe which is here around the corner and I love the Matcha Lattes from Starbucks.

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