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Metaphors in Public Design

Guy Königstein, one of the Design Academy Eindhoven's top students, chats about his award-winning projects that employ metaphor to tell stories.  Touching and humane, his work shines for its interesting adherence to empiricist principles whilst still managing to resonate across national and linguistic borders.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 10-12-2009

Originally from Israel, public space designer Guy Königstein started his studies in Germany before switching to the Design Academy in Eindhoven, which he found to be a good fit. In Germany he says he found the approach to be too straightforward and rational, and prefers how in Eindhoven he learnt to ask not just why, but why not ...

“My focus has always been research,” Königstein says.  “I spend a lot of time thinking about things and then start with a very small detail.  This means that my answers and solutions can be more poetic."  

For his graduation work, Königstein won the Melkweg Prize awarded to the most promising student for personal and original work.  For one piece he explored the use of language in design by starting with two words “public” and “space”, translating them into various languages and coming up with random juxtapositions between the results.  That lead him to the idea of paradoxical spaces, which he found many real-life examples of throughout Eindhoven - benches that can’t be used, roads that lead to nowhere and pathways that lead up to windows.  His conclusion was that weird things in public spaces contain historical narratives that impact positively on the way people interact with their surroundings.

For his stand-out work, “Family Stories” Königstein explored the themes of moving, familial bonds and the home.  “I am from Israel,” he says,” so I mapped the whole movement of my family over the last four generations.  They all left Germany before the war and moved to England and Palestine, which later became Israel.”

On the “map” Königstein allotted one roll of cotton to each family member and then using geography and time plotted their routes.  He then made “Home Feeling”, a movie with a voice-over providing a narrative for the spools.  Spools depicting relations who disappeared in the holocaust come to an abrupt stop.

“I think I really found a metaphor for people moving through time,” Königstein says.  “When a person dies, he can not roll anymore.  This project is so abstract but yet it is very easy to identify with the rolls.”

Next Königstein investigated the metaphor further by exploring the relationships within his family and made a second movie, “Moving Family”, that went somewhere to defining what the home means for each member.  “In Hebrew the word for knot and relationship is the same,” he says.  “When we are knotted we are connected.”

Using loose and tight knots he explored his own family’s personal narrative, tribulations, break ups and emotional traumas.  “I really wanted to visualize my own path of leaving the family unit and how that freedom can redefine and even strengthen bonds with certain people,” he says.

Königstein discovered that his family home is a center for old and new memories.  “As long as the house is still there, we can create and revive memories based on fragments of old ones,” he says.  “And for my family, our home will always be the basis for comparison for everything we experience.”

Both of Königstein’s films were recently presented at the Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam.

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