After five years, Tord Boontje returns to design education and London.
Tord Boontje’s career has been interwoven with education since he studied Industrial design at Design Academy Eindhoven and then for his MA at the Royal College of Art, (RCA) London. Boontje returned to the London college in 2000 to teach Design products, leaving in 2004 to launch Studio Tord Boontje. He has recently been appointed Professor and Head of Design Products at the RCA taking over the position from Ron Arad who will step down in July.
Design.nl spoke to Tord Boontje about the move:
Since you left the RCA in 2004, do you think that now the priorities/focus for students on the MA Design products course has changed?
Compared to when I was teaching at the RCA in 2004, I think quite a lot has changed in the department. At that time design was very much developing into an authorship practice, which came to a height with the Design Art gallery pieces that started to be auctioned for significant amounts of money. This is fine, in my opinion, if this concerns, for example, a historically important Eames prototype but it is different if it becomes a career option to produce work for this market. Especially for students, I believe a much more grounded approach to design is preferable. I believe that this Design Art market has collapsed now and that fortunately the main interest of students has returned to design for the real world. This also coincides with my own interest in ecological and humanitarian issues, which I hope will become more important in design. I believe that we can achieve this and at the same time maintain the pluralistic character and culture of experimentation in the department.
How do you think your ability to work between the media of craft, design and technology will broaden the parameters of the RCA's Design Products course?
I believe that the Design Products department already has these broad parameters. What I can offer is a good understanding of this mix and be encouraging towards this. In addition to this, I believe that also the relation with the fine arts and critical theory is important for designers and will enrich the course.
Between 2000 and 2004 - which students made the most impact on you?
The students who showed a good maturity in their work already before joining the course made a lot of impact on me. It is great to see young designers, who know what their interests are, at work. As a tutor you can then help them to refine their own approach and broaden their references. At the same time, it is very impressive when you see students getting lost, confused, taking on a creative struggle with their profession and themselves, on a very personal level, and finding a way out of this and improving themselves. This is a great process to go through and wonderful for a tutor to make contributions to. Part of being creative is having self-doubt and questioning everything, this is why changes and originality happen.
What qualities do you admire most in the RCA culture?
The sheer dedication of people and the seriously creative experimental attitude.
Can you tell us more about your upcoming exhibition Anima Animus at the Glass Museum Ebeltoft in Denmark?
This is a joint exhibition: both my work and that of my partner Emma Woffenden. A large part of the pieces are retrospective and there is also a lot of new work, some collaborative new pieces. We are showing the work in such way that it juxtaposes our sometimes different, sometimes similar interests, ideas, references etc. And through the exhibition we try to deal with the question of what it means to be in a relationship as man and woman and make creative work that is very different from each other and at the same time shares a lot of thinking behind the work. The majority of the work is in glass (as it is a glass museum) but it goes well beyond this material or craft.
Anima Animus is on show at the National Glass Museum in Denmark, 2 October 2009 until 14 March 2010.
Image: Fig Leaf cabinet, Meta 2008
Image: Summer Trees, Digital Memories, Bisazza 2009
Image: Allegro-Crescendo, Metropolitan Works' landmark exhibition Digital Explorers, 2009
Image: Flower Table, Moroso 2009
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