by Salvatore PelusoNov 17, 2021
The beauty of Dutch design goes far beyond minimal aesthetics and great functionality – at the core of their design language lies an exploration and inherent value for humour, honesty, technology and innovation. In the fifth chapter of Made In:, a series that looks inward to celebrate native design from all over the world, Wendy Plomp, Founder, Curator and Design Director of Dutch Invertuals, brings to us futuristic, circular and intelligent product designs from the Netherlands.
After graduating from Design Academy Eindhoven, Plomp founded Dutch Invertuals in 2009, to analyse Dutch culture and zeitgeist, to 'innovate, stimulate and surprise'. “We curate, create and hold collective exhibitions, along with sharing knowledge and work for and with clients, to tell stories: from research to end product. Dutch Invertuals, which has grown from nine to more than 90 designers since its inception, continues to work with talents and voices that look at contemporary issues from an original, playful and new perspective,” she shares.
Because our country has to deal with great natural forces, we have learned to shape it. This process is part of us, to design the land. The practicality and the necessity to do so has ensured that Dutch people always think ahead and are very innovative; it is embedded in our DNA. – Wendy Plomp
Following the same thought, the design collective launched Dutch Invertuals Academy in July this year, an intensive online programme for young professionals around the world interested in developing their skills and careers, to ‘discover new ways of working, exchange knowledge, get inspired, explore new materials, and experiment'. Their Circle exhibition (2019 and 2020) brought together an inspiring selection of emerging and established designers who revealed thought provoking redesigns of the mother of all forms: the circle. Their Design Transfigured / Waste Reimagined exhibition for Georgetown University (Washington DC) and guest curator, c2-curatorsquared displays an ‘extreme and inventive kind of upcycling’, with an aim to address the dismal state of our depleted and polluted environment.
Plomp raises pertinent questions for designers and makers across the world: “This worldwide sabbatical has presented us with time to pause and think. How can we effectively move away from careless, money-driven systems of ‘hunting and consuming', towards a more 'community driven and caring' design approach? We need to look at what is available within our surroundings, not only in terms of resources, but also in terms of materials, techniques, craftsmanship and traditions, and question ourselves about what truly matters. This is what I was primarily searching for when curating this selection for STIR. More than being creators, these designers are true innovators, questioners and change makers.”
In no particular order, here are the selections of designers and their works representing the inventive product design industry in the Netherlands, works that give us hope for a better, greener future.
Marjan van Aubel
An award-winning solar designer, van Aubel’s innovative practice spans the fields of sustainability, intelligent design and technology, in constant collaboration with scientists and engineers. She has won several international awards such as the Wallpaper Design Award and WIRED’s Innovation Award, and her work has been exhibited at MoMA, New York, the Vitra Design Museum, Germany and Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam. “I work with the sun!” Aubel reveals ecstatically, pointing at the window behind her, as we connect over video call on a breezy August evening.
“I am looking toward a future where there exists solar democracy - where we simplify solar energy, make it transportable and easily accessible to all and integrate it directly as an ubiquitous building design feature".
Van Aubel employs solar cells that mimic the process of photosynthesis in plants in a domestic setting, creating products that live and breathe clean energy. This can be seen in the sleek Current Table whose glass surface is engineered from integrated dye-sensitised solar cells (DSSC), which use the property of colour to generate electrical currents. “The solar cells work efficiently even under diffused light, making Current Table the first piece of furniture to harvest energy indoors. The energy is stored using an integrated battery, from which you can then charge your devices at any time,” she states. Her stained glass Current Window follows suit, directly generating electricity from daylight, which can then be used to power small appliances via USB ports incorporated into the window ledge. “The larger the surface area, the more efficient this window will be as a power source,” explains van Aubel.
Along with designer James Shaw, van Aubel learnt that a “curious chemical reaction occurs when mixing timber waste with bio-resin - it expands into a strong, foam-like material almost twice its size". They applied this knowledge to create the gravelly Well Proven Chair, by collecting a variety of waste wooden shavings from workshops and mixing them with coloured dye, and proceeded to form a colourful, lightweight and moldable material that expands around the chair’s legs. Van Aubel’s Dutch Biotope, created for World Expo in Dubai (2021), is a “circular climate system where energy, water and food solutions are connected". The pavilion’s stained glass solar roof is created from lightweight, modular panels made of PET, coloured light reflections bouncing off the modern cathedral’s insides.
Founder of Earnest Studio, Griffin is an America-born, Netherlands-based designer whose strikingly restrained work merges soft graphics, materiality, and function. Griffin’s background in graphic design led to an interest in sterile and bold silhouettes and in modular pieces finished in solid colour palettes.
“I am most inspired by themes of modularity and multiplicity; I prefer simple, flexible structures that do more with less.”
Griffin says that her work is not tied to one material, design process or production technique; she likes to juggle between mediums and inspirations. This can be observed in the Fragment tableware series that looks almost unfinished; the irregular texture, colour and shape of each piece lends to their unique and rugged identities. This began when Griffin realised that much of the waste generated by the natural stone industry ends up in landfills, and a very small percentage gets reused or upcycled. “These rough pieces have a beauty of their own and need not be discarded. Fragment is a series of bowls and lids produced from such offcuts,” she notes.
The periwinkle blue and off-white porcelain form of the smoothly rounded double-mouthed Kink vase presents a lively contrast to the asymmetrical Fragment series. The perky Wavy Trays are produced from corrugated aluminium sheets, “its graphic ripple form both playful and practical, creating separate compartments for storage and organisation". The all black Mill table lamp is inspired by the dexterity of a sphere, made with two elements – a ball resting on a cone and gravity – creating a balanced joint that offers the lamp a wide range of motion. “These kinds of specific discoveries that emerge from getting to know a shape or material are at the core of my designs,” concludes Griffin.
Eric Klarenbeek and Maartje Dros
From creating bioplastic from algae and sprouting chairs out of mushrooms, Klarenbeek and Dros are no strangers to ingenious, sustainable design, and describe themselves as ‘Designers of the Unusual’. Hailed globally for their ever experimental design processes, their work strives for ecological material development and durable objects, which they create by connecting with universities, high-tech companies as well as farmers and local producers. Their ground breaking research work has been included in the permanent collections of Center Pompidou in Paris, MoMA New York and Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam. “We aim to create products and materials that are recyclable, compostable and circular, in a powerfully eco-friendly design production,” Dros observes.
Studio Klarenbeek & Dros are the first in the world who have 3D-printed mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, combining the threadlike network of the living fungi with powdered straw and water to create the Mycelium chair, which has a negative carbon footprint. “We used this infinite natural source as a living glue for binding organic waste. Once it is mature and dried, it turns into a structural, stable and renewable material, comparable to cork or wood. The results are astonishing; we can look at building entire houses in the future with this!” Klarenbeek exclaims. The fungus keeps growing inside the chair, lending it strength during its life.
“We need to think beyond reducing carbon footprint; instead of zero emissions we need to aspire to create designs that have 'negative' emissions.”
"In the recent decades, enormous amounts of fossil fuels that lay buried in the ground for millions of years have been extracted for use. In this process, a vast amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) has been released into the atmosphere. It is crucial to clean this CO2 from our atmosphere as quickly as possible, and we can do this by binding that carbon to biomass,” explain the Dutch designers. Studio Klarenbeek & Dros have been developing a new seaweed production chain, the Algae Lab project, for about five years now, with an aim to achieve this CO2-binding and create biocompatible materials that restore ecology, stimulate biodiversity and break the current destructive cycle of production.
The research and subsequent production at the Atelier Luma in Arles demonstrates solutions to multiple issues - CO2 reduction, use of single use plastic, Nitrogen problems and excessive algae growth that choke open waters. The algae is dried and processed into polymers that can be 3D printed to create objects like cutlery, tableware, shampoo bottles and bins, essentially replacing non-biodegradable plastics completely. “The algae grow by absorbing the carbon and producing a starch that can be used as a raw material for bioplastics or binding agents. The waste product is oxygen, clean air,” they relay.
Joel and Kate Booy
Founded by the husband and wife design duo, Rotterdam-based Studio Truly Truly creates industrial design objects comprising products, lighting, furniture, textiles and spatial installations as well as art direction. With backgrounds in graphic design, Joel and Kate Booy combine function and sensuality in their uncluttered, minimal design vocabulary. The studio has produced designs for the Netherlands Textiel Museum, IKEA’s PS 2017 collection, Rakumba, and the National Glass Museum Netherlands amongst others.
“We have a growing interest to investigate future furniture typologies, and in this, question form in relation to function. Truly Truly is a manifesto: make things properly, honestly and artfully.”
Finished in black and gold aluminium and glass, the nimble Typography floor lamp for Rakumba is a mix and match decorative lighting system that can be configured in numerous ways. The sculptural glass of the Glimpse Mirrored Screens (created for Das Haus, IMM Cologne, 2019) draws from the ‘fleeting tangibility of a mirage’, expressing a subtle play of soft colour and transparency and is designed to be used as a room divider, mirror and display shelf. The wispy Madrid table has cloudy white paint trapped on its laminated transparent glasstop, the blend of hand painted and unpainted glass revealing glimpses of the layers. The limited edition Seismic Table, made with hand-woven steel and polyester coating with a hardened glass top is inspired by the seismic waves of an earthquake. “Bent metal rods woven in three dimensions create a strong and dynamic structure,” says the studio.
Pott believes that for a designer, making and tinkering with things is the best route to understand a material and its properties. He is deeply influenced by the works of Gerrit Rietveld, the revolutionary Dutch designer and architect associated with the De Stijl movement, whose radical design approach pop up in his creations frequently. The Dutch designer is a fan of rawness and intuitiveness, condensing materials he employs primarily – wood, stone and metal - to their very essence, and staying away from unessential, flamboyant elements.
“My work is not distracting. I don’t dictate a dialogue; I wholly converse with materials and try to optimise their voices, fashioning with them objects that combine form, function and dollops of fun."
Grabbing eyeballs online for their quirky persona are the Twist candles that stand, rather twist, drawing from wax's property of flexibility. “Candles are usually straight and therefore need a base. With Twist, we tried to combine both base and the candle in a singular shape, resulting in this fun, straight-lopsided, double ended candle!” Pott chuckles. Inspired by African weaving patterns, the handwoven, multi-coloured checkered chairs are made from wood and nylon straps, producing diagonal lines and squares across it, as a playful, less serious interpretation of Rietveld’s iconic Red Blue chair. Commissioned by Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, Milan, the earthy Per Annum platter and side table draw from the rings of a tree, eternalising this poetic passage of time in design. The tree is cut in such a way that its annual rings are entirely visible, which is followed up by casting the reassembled piece in solid bronze.
Curated by Amit Gupta and Pramiti Madhavji, STIR X Script presents Made In: an original series that features curated selections of product designers across countries, showcasing modern, sustainable, homegrown design.
Combining beauty and intelligence, SCRIPT, part of Godrej Group, makes multifaceted furniture and accessories that are luxurious, interactive and refreshing. Furniture that cares for the smallest details, the planet, as well as the user. The brand’s products are purposeful and aesthetic, designed entirely around and for the user, to give them a fluid living experience that SCRIPT calls ‘Freedom of Living’.
Know more on www.scriptonline.com