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Via Milano in Amsterdam

The best of Dutch design exhibited this year in Milan was presented last week in Via Milano in an exhibition that always promises to include the best names to watch in the next few years.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 05-10-2009

The Via Milano held every year in Amsterdam is the best way to see what Dutch design offered during the previous Salone Internazionale del Mobile.

Seen together, the designs build a strong image of where Dutch design is at.  One of the strongest showings came from Aldo Bakker and his tableware series.  Many of the other notable showings came from recent graduates who have been trained in the highly conceptual breeding grounds of the country’s best academies.

Rogier Martens presented his “Wheelbench” , an ingenious wooden bank that can be wheeled around like a wheelbarrow.  In 2006 the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ commissioned Martens to build benches.  He visited the music hall and was struck by how the musicians managed to carry around their huge instruments. “I like the idea that you bring something to create something,” he says.  “So I wanted to make a bench that you could take with you and do something with.”

Unfortunately, the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ liked the idea, but didn't find it practical and asked Martens to design something else. “I disagreed and was disappointed so I put it away and forgot about it,” he says.  Then last year he took the bench out again and realized he still really liked it.  Showings followed both at Dutch Design Week and at the Spazio Rossana Orlandi in Milan.  

The “Wheelbench” is now being produced by the Weltevree label.

Since 1987, Maria Blaisse has been working with the rubber inner tubes of car tyres.  Inspired and challenged by the shapes and potential of the products, she has evolved over the years to create some lyrical and beautiful objects.  She has collaborated with Issey Miyake and various dance companies.  In Milan she presented “Lazy Love” a series of irregular glasses that tilt like the Tower of Pisa and are, like all her works, inspired by the inner tubes.

Lotty Lindeman presented  “Tassenkast,” travel trunks that double as shelving and hang on the walls. “I wanted travel equipment to become furniture the moment it enters a hotel,” says Lindeman who started with this idea back in 2008 for Inside Design Amsterdam’s refurbishment of the Lloyd hotel. “It's a transformation of how we see things.”

Laurens Manders’ graduation project from the Design Academy Eindhoven last year looks like a small house on a tilt.  It was not actually present at Via Milano, but it was there in both pictures and spirit.  “We left it at the Spazio Rossana Orlandi in Milan this year,” Manders explains.

Struggling to come up with a good idea for his project, Manders discarded some early works and decided to focus on his real interests – playing the guitar and singing.  The struggle then was to visually capture his emotions, the way he felt when he played.  “I started drawing and eventually I came up with a pop-up book,” Manders says.

Each of the nine pages in the pop-up book represents an emotion.  The house is a giant version of one of the images in the book – a house sinking into tears.  When he first exhibited this, Manders performed live in the house, but as the piece became more popular, his presence was replaced with a flat screen TV beaming his performance.

Freshwest’s anglepoise lamp, “Brave New World” was designed for London Design Week last year and then put into production by Moooi.

“We came up with the design after looking at pictures of a lot of chaotic scaffolding in Asia,” says Marcus Beck, one of Freshwest’s designers.  “And we wanted to limit ourselves to using just one size of wood to notch out and peg, a traditional method of joining wood.”

When Moooi saw the piece, they asked the boys from Freshwest to come to Amsterdam for a meeting.  “It all went very smoothly,” says Beck.  “We had to make some minor changes to do with the electrics and then they sent it to China to be produced.”

Moooi is renowned for its excellent production and Beck is thrilled with the results.  “The factory is amazing,” he says.  “We couldn’t believe that anyone could produce that lamp and just assumed it would end up as a limited edition.  But they managed to make it from 300 pieces of wood and they did it very quickly.  If anything I think theirs is even better than the original.”

Images: main Laurens Manders sinking house, Aldo Bakker's tableware series, Rogier Martens' "Wheelbench", Maria Blaisse's "Lazy Love" glasses, Lotty Lindeman's "Tassenkast", and Freshwest's "Brave New World" lamp.

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