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Futile Beauty

With so many new products being designed each year, recent graduate Pieter Boutkan decided to take a different route with his product design, creating products that at a glance seem to have no function.

By Cassandra Pizzey / 22-11-2012

Fascinated by ‘today’s Haste society’ as he calls it, School of the Arts Utrecht (HKU) alumni Pieter Boutkan has designed a series of products which focus on intervals, those moments in which we do nothing.

“Many aspects of modern life are too fast,” states Boutkan. “Because of this a lot of quality is lost. We seem to have set our course towards the horizon and only focus on getting there as fast as possible, without taking time to look at our surroundings.”

This fascination is what led to Intervals, a graduation project inspired by a passage from Joke J. Hermsen’s book Stil de Tijd (Stop the Time): ‘Only in times of rest, the interval between two actions, can we reflect upon ourselves.’ From this, a series of products was designed each with an endlessly repetitive yet conscious function.

Four products in total have been fashioned from messing and mahogany, objects which for some reason wouldn’t look out of place in a Catholic church and which convey a sense of craftsmanship. There is a cylinder filled with liquid that challenges the user to keep balance, a nut and bolt that can endlessly be turned and a play on the theme of ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ in which the user picks not flower petals but wooden petals.

Each of the products has a certain aesthetic quality about it, it’s simple shapes strengthened by the minimal mix of materials. But still, at a glance their purpose is not immediately visible. 

“It’s precisely this uselessness and surrendering to your senses which is important. My products create calm and a sense of timelessness. Because they don’t have a function necessarily, they keep you focused on the here and now. In reality these products have a clear function, that is to take a step back and see the moment as an eternity.”

Strong words for one surrounded by technological advances, fast-paced lifestyles and ever-more online communication. But as a designer Boutkan feels it is his role as a designer to encourage dialogue and allow people to take a critical look at their surroundings. “The best reward for me as a designer is for people to hold one of my products and immediately understand what it was meant for.”

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