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The Graduates Win for their Innovation and Daring

Lots of hits and a few misses at this year's Inside Design Amsterdam, but it is the graduates who have the best ideas.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 12-09-2008

Fresh out of school, three of the best offerings at this weeks Lloyd Hotel metamorphosis project are bright young graduates, Nienke Sybrandy, Ontwerpduo and Maren Hartveld.

Tucked away in the basement corner is a small space devoted to the work of Rietveld Academy graduate, Nienke Sybrandy.

“My work is not about designing new things,” Sybrandy says. “But rather, investigating what’s already here more directly.”

That investigation takes the form of questions asked by the designer of her household objects. Through analyzing possible answers, she ends up establishing a very close relationship with those objects, which in turn become her materials.

And it is a relationship in the organic sense because Sybrandy’s materials are or were alive. Flowers, seed, leaves and their assorted paraphernalia are both muse and matter.

In one piece Sybrandy probed the fourteen-day lifecycle of a bouquet of flowers. Rather than depict the stems in their various states of demise, she moulded fourteen vases. The first is upright and sturdy and from there the objects dishevel and disintegrate until finally nothing but a rough lump of clay remains.

For another piece Sybrandy collected the leaves from windowsill plants as they fell. Using a surgery knife she carved facial expressions into each leave that reflected her mood that day. Then she pinned each dead specimen onto a board writing specific date details of its fall underneath.

As the leaves further dried, the carved facial expressions become more extreme and sometimes even scary, as a decomposing body might.

“The board works like a family tree,” Sybrandy says. “The whole plant, or the whole family is preserved here together and is dated.”

Sybrandy’s preference for living things conflates the dark and the beautiful. “I’ve always had plants in my house,” she says. “And even when they die and grow ugly, I never want to throw them away because they tell a story.”

Tineke Beunders and Nathan Wierink are graduates of the Design Academy Eindhoven. They opened their own studio, Ontwerpduo, in their second year of college. “When you are a student you have so many great ideas,” explains Wierink. “It’s a waste to not start working with them straight away because it can take years before they are actually produced.”

For Inside Design Amsterdam they worked with a room that was already fitted with a six-person bed - an ideal match given the direction their work is taking. “We like to create objects and spaces for children where nothing is forbidden,” says Wierink.

In front of the bed, which is smothered in bright colours to encourage jumping and pillow fights they placed Marbelous, a long carved table, which doubles as a marble track. Drop a marble into any of the four corner holes and it starts on an elaborate maze that wraps the table legs and traverses the length of the tabletop.

“We wanted this to work for adults and children,” Beunders says. “I’ve noticed that even the most serious person can’t walk past without giving it a go.”

The inspiration was childhood memories, and reminiscing about hours spent under dull tables playing games of make believe. “If you look closely, the most interesting part of the table is the underneath,” Beunders says. “It’s such fun for a child to be under a table. It’s a safe haven, there is a roof and the adults never go there.”

The room also has a series of low tables sprawled with drawing equipment and edible playdough (marzipan). Lining the windows are perforated curtains and baskets filled with strips of coloured felt. “An adult can thread the strips to create a colour palette for a season and a child can make crazy shapes and animals,” Wierink explains.

Wierink and Beunders share a working relationship that is based on open criticism. “It’s fantastic,” Beunders says. “He can tell me if my idea is shit and I accept it … every designer needs that sort of harsh and honest feedback.”

Maren Hartveld only graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven two months ago. Her graduation piece was the Zacht Bad, (or tender tub in English) which sets about to challenge the take-for-granted acceptance of baths as cold, ceramic and static objects.

“I started with the question, why can't you sink into a bath like you can into a couch?” Hartveld says.

“Baths are hard and water is soft and I wanted to minimize that contrast and make the bath more fluid.”

The result is a free standing, off-white bathtub beautifully styled in an abandoned corner of the Lloyd Hotel. It is made from foam rubber and coated in polyurethene (a material used for hospital mattresses) with a powder coating.

Right now the piece is just a prototype and Hartveld’s next step is to conquer the technical hiccups like how the bath will connect to the water supply and ensuring that the powder coating it is durable.

“But I think these are all solvable,” she says. “I’d really like to produce this and I definitely think it is possible.”

See these and more at the Lloyd Hotel during Inside Design Amsterdam. Runs until 15 September

Image: main, Tender Tub by Maren Hartveld. others, Marbelous by Stdio Ontwerpduo

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