Talk and Action in equal measure from Dutch participants during this year’s London Design Festival. Design.nl attended two talks: one examined the future of the design hotel and the other discussed issues of Global Industry. We also check out an installation designed by Tord Boontje and RCA students in response to colour studies.
The second part of our LDF coverage takes us to two lectures featuring two of the biggest names in Dutch design and we drop into the gallery of Established and Sons which hosted an installation fashioned by Tord Boontje and six of his RCA students.
As part of this year’s London Design Festival (LDF), the Dutch Embassy sponsored a panel discussion entitled The Exchange, held at the V&A Museum. Chaired by Ken Pratt, curator of the NL Dutch Cultural Pop-Up Space in London, the theme centred around the future of the design hotel and the role of design within a hotel. The speakers were Suzanne Oxenaar, Artistic Director of The Lloyd Hotel Amsterdam, Leslie Holden, Head of Fashion & Design at Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI) and Arnaud de Saint-Exupéry, General Manager of The Andaz Hotel Liverpool Street, London.
Arnaud de Saint-Exupéry expanded on the hotel’s projects for LDF, including Simon Heijdens’ Branches lighting installation for Gallery Libby Sellers, in the hotel foyer. He commented on how the hotel sees itself as an active part of the community and aims to involve local creatives. Suzanne Oxenaar and Leslie Holden are collaborating on a new project – a hotel in Amsterdam called The Exchange. The hotel is located centrally, immediately in front of the city’s landmark Central Station, which is in an area that the city desperately wants to rejuvenate. Cutting-edge fashion brands have been invited to have a presence in the neighbourhood via projects like Red Light Fashion, so a tie-up with AMFI seemed a natural fit.
With Oxenaar as Artistic Director, and Holden as AMFI project leader, the idea was hatched to commission ten AMFI students to each design a bedroom. Oxenaar and Holden explained how when the students started the project, they worried about interior details such as electricity plugs and as the project evolved, became consumed by the more conceptual side, turning their first thoughts into sophisticated textiles or imaginative lighting ideas. Holden finished by commenting, “They wished guests to have an experience beyond that what they normally have in a bedroom!”
Tom Dixon’s Global Industry at the Dock was a pop-up exhibition and shop curated by UK designer Tom Dixon, featuring an international mix of designers alongside his own work. As part of the event, an informal discussion was hosted between between Tom Dixon and Marcel Wanders and Piet Hein Eek about the issues of the Global Industry. With two well-known Dutch designers present, it was not surprising that the discussion alighted on the importance (or lack of importance) of national identity – is there such a thing as Dutch design and/or designers? Both Wanders and Eek were quick to stress the individuality of designers. Wanders noted that “design is an international language” and that “design should be something that we bring from ourselves, it (the design) could only have to come from me.” Eek said that he felt that “borders limit ourselves” and that by stereotyping nationalities, we could lose out on designers who do not fit the pattern.
Eek recalled his experience working on an assignment to design a series of fair trade products for non-profit organization (Dutch design in Development) in Vietnam. The series of wooden baskets and trays made by artisans who are specialists in this type of wood work, “gave us the opportunity to make something different” and in larger quantities too; normally everything is produced in Eek’s own studio.
Tom Dixon discussed his Flash Factory project in Milan this April, where Etch lamps were assembled on site by his team. Dixon spoke of how this reflected his theory of how manufacturing will evolve; the improved flexibility of digital machinery will make it increasingly possible to manufacture locally. The conclusion of the panel was that the consumer is now looking to buy less and better quality and that designers needed to catch up to understand the mentality of today’s consumer.
In another part of town, Established & Sons presented Design Against the Clock in its London gallery, whereby designers were invited to participate in a series of design performances to create installations within a limited period of time. Tord Boontje, Professor and Head of Design Products at the Royal College of Art (RCA) brought six students to the gallery for a project on colour theory, exploring how colour was often the first concern of the designer or the key aspect of the design. A series of eight-foot wooden sticks were painted in different colours and patterns and hung in the centre of the gallery. Boontje, who got his hands dirty alongside the students, experimented with the sticks to create an abstract study, exploring how different colours work next to each other. The finished piece now twirls from a wire suspended from the ceiling and is on show at the gallery until 6 October alongside work by designers such as Richard Woods, Committee and Gavin Turk.
Main image and image 4: Tord Boontje and RCA students at Established and Sons
Image 1&2: Piet Hein Eek at the Dock
Image 3:The Exchange
Click on the images to enlarge
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