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Future Finds

Where the Milan furniture fair has long functioned as the venue to present your latest piece of furniture, a new wave of designers is creating experiences, not just products.

By Cassandra Pizzey /asdf 18-04-2012

Today saw the opening of Studio Zeta in Milan and the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague (KABK), part of the Salone del Mobile. Zeta is a wonderful space just east of the centre where the Design Academy Eindhoven (amongst others) presents its show curated by Ilse Crawford. The KABK finds home in Zona Tortona, an underground space dedicated to the college’s show. 

It was school director Annemieke Eggenkamp who opened the DAE exhibition this morning, followed by a speech from exhibition curator Ilse Crawford. It was clear from looking round that she had not gone just for great-looking products, but had focussed on what it meant to be a designer in today’s climate.

Projects by recent graduates were chosen for their ability to “help real needs”. For some reason many designers choose not to design a better walking frame for the elderly or a great swimming aid for children, yet aren’t these just the groups we should be catering to?

As Crawford shows, designing for the ‘needy’ need not be boring. Take Jo Szczepanska design for bed linen which approaches being ill in a positive way. Patient and visitor can engage in a fun activity by colouring on the sheets in an otherwise sterile hospital environment.

Or take My Knitted Boyfriend by Noortje de Keijzer, what better way to solve loneliness than through a pillow with a personality? Also on show were a series of toilets by Theo Brandwijk, Feike de Jong and Michiel Martens. Maybe not the first thing you think of when contemplating design, but definitely interwoven into everyone’s daily life.

Over at KABK in Zona Tortona two areas are filled with a select number of works for the show named The Shepherds of Stuff. As the college doesn’t have a large product design department (only some 15 students each year), many projects balance on that thin line between design and art.

The KABK exhibition focusses on the concept of nature in our mostly man-made environment and shows various pieces which illustrate that idea. What seems like a growing organism is actually a series of wall tiles by Jian Kotalikova, made after a study into the complex rythms found in nature.

Made especially for the exhibition is Foam Party by Martijn Rigters, a furniture collection in which the user literally dictates the form of the seat. During the performance, visitors are invited to take a seat on the foam-filled mould. When dry, the chair has the exact contours of the user’s body.  

Delicate chairs of aluminium are the work of Marlies van Putten, who uses sand-filled boxes, sticks and molten aluminium to create the somewhat plant-like objects. Once dry, the chairs show the grain produced by the sand. Through controlling and letting go in her projects, Van Putten allows her objects to be different every time, giving them an organic feel.

After visiting both shows it is evident that our future designers are looking way past the latest chair or cabinet and are designing for change. Do look out for a remote-controlled boulder whizzing past at KABK.

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