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Alejandro Cerón for Atelierdorp

During Dutch Design Week, Alejandro Cerón shone at Atelierdorp's Strijp X "Chaos/Order" exhibition.  He stood his ground conceptually alongside seasoned designer Nacho Carbonell.  Here he talks about the benefits of working in a collective.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 29-10-2009

One of the most interesting collectives to start up in the Dutch design scene over the last few years is Atelierdorp which presented some of the most inspired work during Dutch Design Week.

Comprised of mostly Design Academy Eindhoven graduates and based in Eindhoven, the collective is loose and involves designers who work separately and on projects that traverse mediums, but which somehow remain inspired by a unified vision.

“I think a collective is the best way to work,” says 24 year old Alejandro Cerón from Spain. Cerón gave up an internship with Richard Hutten in favour of working alongside Nacho Carbonell who along with Julien Carretero heads up Atelierdorp.

When talking about Carbonell, Cerón’s enthusiasm is infectious.  “He is amazing,” he says.  “At Richard’s studio in Rotterdam I was working behind a computer, but with Nacho there is constant brainstorming and a lot of dialogue and sketching.  In the workshop I really got dirty and properly worked with all sorts of materials and ideas that turned into end products. I was involved with the whole process.  Nacho just has so much energy and it draws you in to the point where you really feel like you are a part of something special.

“In an individual studio you just don't get enough feedback which isn’t healthy considering even the best graduates still have a lot to learn,” Cerón continues.  “At Atelierdorp we work separately, but we talk and eat together.  We are influenced by one another.  We can get advice about tools and processes.  I think we make some invaluable connections and our work is all the more richer for it.”

Atelierdorp is based in a church converted to an open plan studio and currently 31 designers are based there.  The common motivation that draws the disparate group together is a love of materials and an emphasis on experimenting with new combinations and textures.  

“Everybody working here has a different approach,” Cerón says. “Some of us are industrial designers and others are more experimental, but we all appreciate a strong concept, which I think is the most important thing when it comes to developing processes. How I work is to focus on an idea that via the design process graduall becomes richer.”

Cerón and a lot of his colleagues spend seven days a week from morning till night in the church perfecting their projects.  “And I think it shows,” he says.  “The work in this current exhibition looks so alive. People say they can feel it.  I think it is almost spiritual and definitely very abstract and emotional.”

Chaos/Order, Atelierdorp's exhibition in Strijp X was indeed a fresh and innovative collection of objects that resonated for their poetic concepts and unpretentious appeal.

Cerón’s own “Play With Animals” was a wire puppet installation designed to break through the loneliness of modern life.  “The sort of individualism we face today causes widespread depression and a sense of alienation,” he says.  “I don’t think people care enough about others or put enough emphasis on social relations.  We tend to live by periods.  There is the ‘At Work’ period where we have colleagues, then the ‘At Weekend’ period where we have completely different connections and conversations.  We are in touch with people from all over the world, but nothing ever really goes very deep.”

“Play With Animals” is an attempt to stimulate social interaction between strangers.  The object works by encouraging users to join in – once one person starts to interact with the piece, another user can start, thus forming a connection with the original user.

Carbonell’s own piece for the Chaos/Order exhibition was an object that fits well with his Evolution Collection that has garnered him so much attention recently. The piece is a one-man desk with chair fashioned from one continuous piece of concrete, paper and glue.  Perched at the far end of the desk is an empty frame that works to literally frame the user's view.

“I think it is good for inspiration,” Carbonell says.  “You can sit and look out but feel protected.  I also like that it looks prehistoric, and that you just walked along and stumbled across it here.”

Like a physical frame for a writer’s mental space, the desk at first doesn’t seem like it could hold up when used - the fourth leg of the desk is actually the leg of the chair.  “At first I thought it would topple, but I played around a bit with the proportions and now it’s fine,” Carbonell says, plonking down into the space and putting his head in his hands on the desk as if to muddle through his latest creative blockage.

Images from top of Cerón's "Play With Animals".  Bottom Carbonell's desk.

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