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Five minutes in Milan - Piet Hein Eek

We caught up with Piet Hein Eek at Spazio Rossana Orlandi where he showed his new pieces including a ping pong table and lamps made of vintage tie fabrics found in the attic of the gallery.

By Jeanne Tan /asdf 23-04-2009

Piet Hein Eek

What's the idea with the collection, actually is it a collection really?
Well, it's never really a collection but afterwards when you think about it you find similarities. We have play, tradition and back to basics. There's chairs that we designed for a social centre which had no budget so I designed a chair that they could make themselves. So I just gave them the plan. Now we also make them ourselves but you can also take the drawing and make it yourself. We'll put it on website, people can download it, and make it with simple tools.

And the fabric lamps?
The lamps are made because of the fabrics at Rossana Orlandi's place. It used to be an old tie factory so there were thousands of roles of fabric leftover in the attic.

I see there's a few cupboards in your new 'collection'.
These cupboards are called the 99% cupboard, because they use almost 100% materials. We made it by cutting and punching a standard metal sheet. The 3m cupboard is even better. It's the same concept but bigger, so it uses more materials, in fact 99.13% materials. So there's almost no loss in the product. I try to design products that use as much material as possible, I reuse waste materials but in this case there is no waste material. It's definitely the theme for this time, it becomes more clear now that we have to take care of the sources, waste as little. Make it optimum.

These sofas are a new version of your scrapwood concept..
The sofas are made from scrapwood but we do it in a more sophisticated way with thinner wood, high gloss and we've added the pillows. The original idea came when I was restoring an old mill which was a ruin. There were rotten wooden panels which you normally throw away. I collected them, dried them, and put them together. This is the most luxurious version of the scrapwood series.

And here we have the play tables. Which is your favourite and which do you play at the most?

Definitely I play most at the ping pong table and I also love the way it occurs. It's a traditional ping pong table which never existed. The table has always been modern, it has no fixed tradition. So I had this thing in mind with the mahogany wood, and that I wanted to make a new traditional ping pong table in a new way. So it became the other way around.

The fussball table is a total classic.
The fussball table actually started with the player. I first thought about how to make the player and then, now I had to make the table for it as well.

And the mirror lights?
The mirror tube lights are very much about the sandwiched mirror. The lamp reflects the light but also the environment around it. It behaves very specifically in the space. The mirrors didn't exist yet when I designed this product, so they made it specifically for this product.

You spoke at the Premsela forum on Repairing. What is the concept of repairing for you? Why is important?
For me, it has to do with awareness of the value of products, materials and energy. Repairing itself is just one component. It also about consciouness, doing things in a normal way instead of exaggerating. It's part of a wider discussion about taking care of materials and good design.

And do you take this philosophy into your own personal life?
It's so natural for me to be doing this. I never through away materials, I don't feel comfortable doing that. I collect absolutely everything you would normally throw away!

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