Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven is undoubtedly one of the absolute highlights of the design year, a kaleidoscopic vision for the future of design. One of the most popular events of the week is the graduation show at the Design Academy Eindhoven aka DAE with people lining up outside well before the doors open to de Witte Dame.
Design Academy Eindhoven has become an institution for unconventional wisdom known for its interdisciplinary methodology and practice. Students routinely set out to challenge the norms and boundaries of design and we have come to expect explorations of unorthodox themes, unexpected materials and methods of production. The graduation show of 2015 doesn’t disappoint in any of these regards from the social design projects of Manon van Hoeckel and Marta Sif Olafsdottir to the conceptual works by Marlies Kolodziey and Nel Verbeke, from textile works by Bori Kovacs and Charlotte Jonckheer to the interior objects of Ward Wijnant and the suggestive piece by Bastiaan Buijs, be sure to check them all out.
The interior landscape presented at the show is quite unlike anything today. Already known for his knitting projects from a few years back, Andrea Brena is now graduating with Domestick Landscapes, a modular and adaptable interior concept, anticipating future living and working scenarios. Domestick Landsapces consists of textile modules with magnetic connectors allowing the modules to be arranged in any number of ways, constructing various types of furnitures or as yet unforeseen spatial arrangements. Or as for the purpose of this exhibition – room dividers with acoustic qualities. Similarly Tis Gilde has developed a modular system with a strong graphic identity for dividing and defining open and fluid spaces. Lamenting the disappearance of ornamentation and traditional inlay techniques in furniture, Laurids Gallée has developed a method combining laser cutting and ink-dying to create complex patterns reminiscent of marquetry. For the graduation project Gallee has designed a tabletop with a polychrome pattern inspired by ancient Georgian textiles. Meanwhile Simone Post has used a point of departure closer to present times, children’s drawings. Post invited children to draw various interior objects and came up with a pendant lamp with different colored glass layers.
Jongha Choi’s unassuming stool/side folds into an isometric projection of itself. An understated and clever design, the piece was presented in a light aluminum version and a sturdier stainless steel version. Wout Wolf Stroucken’s wall clock does not indicate time with hands or numerals but indicates the passing of time by lighting up concentric circles as each hour pass. The purpose is not to accurately indicate objective time (chronos) but to illustrate another concept of time, that which the ancient Greeks called kairos.
Many of DAE’s projects tend to focus on studio or small scale production and one such project is Olivier van Herpt’s large scale 3D printer, a quintessential dutch design piece. By modifying and building on existing technology van Herpt has created a 3D printer able to produce large scale ceramic objects with an exceptionally high level of detail. RPM by Eduard Auffray on the other hand attempts to automate part of the design process by rotating the raw materials in starting from their fluid state until they harden. The shape of the finished object will be decided by the properties of the raw materials and the rotational speed. For the graduation show Auffray has created a series of bowls and trays of varying sizes and forms, examining the limits of the process.
It has become almost a standard practice for students of DAE to source unusual and overlooked materials, like DAE alumni FormafantasmaJasper Rombouts has explored basalt, creating tiles and a coffee table. Saraimte Polakova has used pine tree bark, usually considered a byproduct, to develop a soft material flexible with a leather-like appearance. For her graduation project she has specifically used the bark from a single tree to create a collection of various products such as gloves and containers suggesting a multitude of uses for the material. The project also contain a holistic aspect because the material can literarily be returned to the soil when it wears out or start to decay. Alex Cashmore has chosen a quite different approach for his collection of furniture, opting for a highly processed source material – MDF.By drilling channels and then adding hot water to the MDF elements, the various parts of the furniture interlocks because of the swelling and expanding materials. It’a a kind of clever subversion of the material in the tradition of anti-design based on simple principles and readily available materials – a sort of contemporary autoprogettazione.
Technology is arguably one of the main shortcomings in the academy’s curriculum, few student projects show a strong tech side. On the contrary, several project make a point of hardware hacking and reframing old techniques such as Moritz Pitrowski-Rönitz’s update of the cyanotype technology and Quentin Pechon’sLightOrchestra, using an oscilloscope to translate electronic signals of a music source into a “lo-tech” light show. Jeroen Heeren and Lola Gielen have both come up with new designs for making music, Heeren’s primitive looking keyboard contain both advanced self-tuition software as well as hardware and is developed for prison inmates. The purpose of Gielen’s Neo on the other hand is to access the spontaneous and irreverent aspects of music making. Neo is a circular synthesizer that instead of a keyboard use connectors that are activated, or played, with small metallic balls. Notes are mapped out in circles and are played on a loop with additional effects plugged in externally.
Several projects deal with the imprint of technology on daily life and the consequences of technology. Francesca Biagiotti illustrate the accumulation and spill of data from cloud technology with a data fountain of printers cascading printouts. The fountain constitute a sort materialization of big data and information pointing to the possible social fallout of internets of things. Louisa Zahareas ponders the increased importance of the screen as interface to the external world and social relations. Zahera explore these themes by designing everyday objects that intersects with this social surfaces. The result is Screen Mutations, a series of anamorphic tableware that appear proportional when viewed through the lens of a laptop camera (while skyping for instance) but in realty are distorted. Zahera has made both 3D printed dummies as well as proper porcelain versions.
But perhaps the most radical rethinking of the relationship between technology and humanity is manifested in Hongjie Yang’sOneness of Being. The project is a biotechnological speculation into a not to distant future when tissue engineering enables us to derive objects (such as furniture) from our own genetic code creating a new category of classification – semi-human objects. This prospect raise some mind-boggling and possibly disturbing ethical and philosophical questions. Hongjie Yang however, has with this project researched the aesthetic implications of such a technological development. For the graduation show he has presented a collection of furniture that elaborates on how such an aesthetic might manifest itself.
Nel Verbeke’s Embracing Melancholia also pursues a philosophical idea rather than a strictly utilitarian, in fact her project might almost seem counter initiative from the point of traditional design thinking. Today melancholia is often conflated with clinical depression or similar diagnosis but Verbeke wants to create a contemporary context for melancholia and recognize this state as a contemplative and fundamentally human activity. For this purpose Verbeke has among other things designed a mirror with an integrated hourglass, a sort of momento mori.
Another showstopper is Vera du Pont’sPOP-UP, a radical rethinking of fashion and garment that use no seems or sewing. The collection of five brightly colored textiles are simply cut with scissors and put on without any further steps. Using a particular type of yarn prevents du Pont’s pieces from fraying.