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How to combat design standardisation

Craftsmanship and traditions were on show at Vienna Design Week with an exhibition entitled Tangible Traces created by the Netherlands Architecture Institute.

By Katie Dominy / 15-10-2008

Five Dutch designers try to tackle the issues of design standardisation in the age of increasing globalisation.

The Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) was invited by Vienna Design Week to showcase the exhibition Tangible Traces that explores the significance of design and architecture in an age of increasing globalisation, where products can quickly become standardised and commercialised.

One response to this challenge is to revalue craftsmanship and tradition within a modern framework and this is a common feature found in the work of the five Dutch designers chosen for this exhibition, Hella Jorgerius, Alexander van Slobbe, Claudy Jongstra, Frank Havermans and studio Onix.

Located in Vienna’s Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art, the exhibition aims to show how the individual designers have reworked tradition, for example by rediscovering forgotten craft techniques or by allowing us to appreciate the beauty of everyday materials in a modern way. Randomness and improvisation are also a deliberate part of the process, as is the juxtaposition of nostalgia with the latest industrial technologies.

The exhibition was designed by Jurgen Bey as a series of five separate spaces with hand drawn backdrops by illustrator Yke Schotten that show the designer’s studio space back home in the Netherlands. Bold graphic signage come courtesy of designer Hansje van Halem.

Hella Jongerius exhibited her Polder Sofa designed for Vitra, that references through its low-lying form the Dutch tradition of reclaiming land from the sea. Collage and embroidery techniques are featured in the cushions and the large buttons - made of natural materials such as horn, bamboo and mother of pearl and sewn with cross stitch in contrasting thread - are each chosen at random by computer-controlled machines. Claudy Jongstra brought her unique felt fabrics which are created using a mix of traditional craft skills and new innovative techniques invented by the designer herself. She has over 500 recipes for creating fabrics. Fashion designer Alexander van Slobbe, known for his use of new materials and reworking of tradition shapes, selected nine outfits from his label orson + bodil. Studio Onix displayed two architectural projects and architect-designer Frank Havermans built a room installation.

The exhibition was created with the support of the Mondriaan Foundation and the Dutch Embassy in Vienna.

Tangible Traces runs until October 18 at the Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art in Vienna.

All images courtesy of Kramar for Kollektiv Fischka
Main image: Hella Jongerius
Image: Frank Havermans
Image: Claudy Jongstra

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