After successful showings in India, China, Germany and the Netherlands “Connecting Concepts” opens in Istanbul this month as part of the Istanbul Design Week. We have met up with Ed van Hinte before so this time we meet to talk more about his position on so-called “conceptual design” as well as what new objects have been included for the Turkish chapter of the show.
What drives Ed van Hinte is a desire to understand lightness and lightweight structures. Using this as a start point, he curated “Connecting Concepts” to reveal something of the Dutch approach to design – how ideas flow and how an emphasis on the sharing of ideas, technology and materials can create a complex design culture.
The curatorial process for “Connecting Concepts” was very natural and Van Hinte didn’t have to artificially seek out “proof” that this idea is alive and flourishing within Dutch design.
“Not at all,” he says. “It was actually very simple. Most of what has been included is already on the market, which is proof enough that there is a good reason that it exists. Of course lightness is not important in every field of design so I had to stretch the theme to make it work more broadly.”
Lightness can, for example, lead to higher speeds of production, but it might also be understood in terms of fastness of ideas.
I call it “intelligent laziness,” says Van Hinte. “By this I mean designing in such a way that things end up moving along almost independently.”
A good example is the Sand Engine by Province Zuid Holland – a way to create a preservation system for man-made coastlines that lets the sea do all the work. The idea directly relates to the process of building dykes and pumping away water with windmills, which began 500 years ago.
“I think this basic idea of connecting ideas whether it be via materials, process or technology can be seen throughout the exhibition, “ Van Hinte says.
Van Hinte also has some interesting ideas about “conceptual design” the term used to brand what was coming out of the Netherlands in the 90s and is keen to point out that that is not what this exhibition is about.
“I think the term ‘conceptual design’ was probably originally borrowed from the field of art,” he says. “The thing is, design has always been conceptual. A concept is simply a set of rules that determines how something ends up – it can apply to form or function or building properties. But here in the Netherlands this notion of concept became so pumped up that it turned into a reason for being in and of itself. It was very fashionable.”
By the mid 90s this focus on “concept” led to a design approach that was very much focussed on context and functionality. “It was all about narrative and finding an unorthodox way of defining what you want to create,” Van Hinte says. “And then of course it was discovered by economic affairs as a way to sell Dutch products and ideas.”
In “Connecting Concepts” the focus is quite different – it is on the flow of ideas and how Dutch design through this shared safe-haven of experimentation has lead to one of the most important design cultures in the world.
Van Hinte is happy that as it travels, new objects can be added to the exhibition. “While it is true that certain conditions in the Netherlands make this flow of ideas possible, it is not only unique to here.”
For the Istanbul edition, Van Hinte has added works by the Turkish jewellery designer Burcu Büyükünal and by Emre Arolat Architects
“Büyükünal is fascinating,” Van Hinte says. “She is busy contemplating what jewellery means and how far people are willing to go to change their appearance. What she does is more closely related to cosmetic surgery.”
Apart from these editions the exhibition will stay in tact: there is the airplane “Flying Lite” that proposes radical changes to air travel by using a wing-shaped cabin that expands and contracts; and also work by Ted Noten. “I like the impact Noten has,” says Van Hinte. “He is trying to make people angry, but they never are because they end up liking the work too much.”
Marcel Wanders’ “Knotted Cahir” is also included. “It is so famous and iconic that I think people have forgotten why,” Van Hinte says. “What it shows is how experimenting with new materials and traditional techniques can lead to better uses.”
“Connecting Concepts” is curated by Ed van Hinte and is a joint project of Premsela, the Netherlands Architecture Institute, and Design Cooperation Brainport. The exhibition is part of the Dutch Design Fashion Architecture programme.
Images: Top main Knotted Chair by Marcel Wanders (image by Lizzy Kalisvaart), small from top Büyükünal (image by Firat Akarsel), the Sand Engine and the Santakya Museum Hotel HR by Emre Aralat Architects.
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