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!

CloudMade (United Kingdom)

With 6 locations globally, CloudMade leverages cutting edge artificial intelligence to revolutionise the automotive industry. Their focus is on processing data to optimise and personalise the driving experience of the future. 


High-Mobility (Germany)

High-Mobility builds a data platform for applications working with personalised car data. Users can test their applications in a simulation environment, and get verified to access data from multiple car makers using a standardised connected car API.


Kiwi Last Mile (Spain)

Using a new multi-modal delivery platform, Kiwi offers an efficient, profitable and sustainable last mile delivery solution. Kiwi operates its own fleet, basing its operations in a new ‘cellular delivery model’. It has dubbed itself the ‘future of the last mile’! (Germany)

BRIVE reduces fleet and vehicle costs by rewarding good driving behavior. Better driving translates into savings on fleet costs and higher salary bonuses for drivers. It already comes with a BRIVE credit card!


German Autolabs (Germany)

The Automotive Voice Assistance platform from German Autolabs is a customisable conversational assistance solution for mobility. German Autolabs leverages deep domain knowledge; bypassing lengthy development cycles to build groundbreaking voice products.

Autofleet (Israel)

The Autofleet platform enables the transformation of fleet managers to vehicle-as-a-service providers. It innovates fleet management, using machine learning to predict demand, price dynamically, automate in-/de-fleeting, and optimise demand-supply matching in real-time.

Neohelden (Germany)

Neohelden is developing a digital AI-assistant for enterprise use-cases. You can think of it as Alexa, but for business. Users can customise the Neo platform intuitively via Drag & Drop, to tailor the AI-assistant to any possible needs.

Parkbob (Austria)

Parkbob organises the world's parking related data, and transforms it into actionable information for better mobility decisions. By creating a dynamic demand prediction model, it provides customers with an end to end solution that increases fleet utilisation and revenue.

VISCOPIC (Germany)

VISCOPIC leads in 3D data processing and worker guidance solutions, focusing on 3D sensing technology and augmented reality. It aims to guide companies into the future by showing them what technologies they need in order to be optimally efficient and productive.

Transmetrics (Bulgaria)

Transmetrics delivers predictive optimisation software for the logistics industry. Designed for express, parcel, pallet, and groupage businesses, the AI-driven software forecasts customer demand to calculate the most efficient linehaul plan for the entire transport network.

Have any of these brilliant ideas made you curious about the challenge? Follow us on LinkedIn for updates on the competition!

To be honest, I sort of fell into it. I was always working somewhere between content marketing and the music industry and around seven years ago a friend of a friend was searching for someone to help him curating music for his boutique surf spot on the beach in Costa Rica. The owner was a big music fan, but he just didn't have time to keep all the music up-to-date. So I got introduced to him, we shared similar tastes, and agreed that I would do the music for his space - curating it and updating it with new music on a regular basis.

This for me was a dream come true. I could finally work with music all day, and at the same time, I could help create an awesome experience for the guests. I saw people's reactions when they heard a song they liked. I saw them dancing, getting a little closer to each other at the bar and that for me was really rewarding.

This was the moment when I realized that there is something special about this idea and I got interested if there is actually market out there. I did some market research, and a lot of interviews with different hoteliers people in the industry trying to get more feedback. And the idea started growing more and more. 

People in beta Clay Bassford Bespoke Sound



Interesting is the story of the last years winner in the category “Creative”. Hamburg based headraft literally took music experience to the next level by creating the world’s first AR Music Video for the German band “die Fantastischen Vier”. Designed for their song “Tunnel”, the cited app unfolds a virtual story world once the track starts playing, giving fans the opportunity to go on an interactive journey with the band rather than being a passive viewer. 

Applications are now open! Finalists will be awaited by a curious jury of five leading industry experts. Among others, Kathleen Cohen who was already taking part in the first year will be in the panel of judges again. With a 25-year multiplatform career history under her belt, she is one of the most regarded in the field. As a digital experience expert, she has successfully implemented projects for DreamWorks Interactive and IBM Innovation, to name a few.

Needless to say, the yearly AUREA Award is definitely the place to be. Apply and become a member of the community bringing together all the promising products and solutions in the AR/VR sector.

Photo by AUREA Award

OKAY BUT HOW IS BESPOKE SOUND DIFFERENT THAN PLAYING MY "DISCOVER WEEKLY’’ OR ANY OTHER AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED PLAYLIST ?

Well, both. Currently we offer the following two options: shorter publicly available Brand Playlists and long-form private Soundtracks for spaces. For both of them we work closely with the client to understand how sound fits into their brand DNA and what their audience is like.

We believe that the guests’ experience with a particular space doesn’t have to begin and end with their stay. The idea of the Brand Playlist is to be a public brand playlists designed to engage the customers before, during, and after their visit at a space. It’s always accessible for them and serves as a new, dynamic marketing channel.

The Soundtrack is slightly different. It takes sometimes up to weeks of work and is designed by a world-class artist, DJ, or tastemaker. For it we first work with you to develop a deep understanding of your business and style. Then we match you with the perfect artist, DJ, or tastemaker to create unique, always fresh playlists, custom tailored to match your brand. 

In both cases, we update them regularly based on guest habits and clients’ needs. 

People in beta Clay Bassford Bespoke Sound



The way we engage with the music community is something really important for us and honestly, what makes us different than other background music providers. A lot of the background music providers out there have internal teams of maybe five or six DJs that do all of the music for their clients. We aim to connect with the local scene and always work with local DJs. There's some kind of magic in finding the exact right artists for the brand.

And on the flip side of it, when we hire artists, we make sure that the project is also inspiring for them and that they would be interested in participating. We always make sure to pay them well. The whole project creates for them a new income stream that they wouldn't have otherwise.

People in beta Clay Bassford Bespoke Sound

Yes! This was really fun. The objective with the betahaus "betabeer sounds" playlist was to showcase the community side of betahaus. There are so many cool, interesting people in the betahaus community and we thought a playlist could be a perfect way to not only help bring the community together but also show the diverse funkiness of the communities of Berlin and Neukölln, which is why Hazy Pockets, a longtime local Berlin DJ known for his eclectic mixes, was perfect for this project.

This playlist moves from bluesy 60s rock into surf and tropicalia, picking up momentum into Motown and onwards through some laid back disco tunes. Perfect for the betabeer events betahaus hosts monthly!


YOU’RE CURRENTLY ENJOYING THE SUN FAR FROM BERLIN. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE PLACES in berlin that YOU MISS THE MOST?

Oh, there are just so many! Like the Imren Grill for instance where you can find the best homemade Turkish food or Das Gift and Gordon which are both run by great music people. Kohelenquelle in Prenzleuer Berg is my favorite local bar (or rather kneipe). To satisfy my  techno / electronic records needs I always go to Hard Wax and one of my most special places is the Zions Kirche steeple, which has an awesome view of the city and a great Weinerei close by. 


You can see me around betahaus. Online, you can always check out my website and listen to our public playlists on Spotify. We’re also currently working on a collaboration with betahaus, so a special Playlist curated by is will very soon sound around the spaces in Kreuzberg and Neukölln. 

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