Design Academy Eindhoven 2011 09.08.11

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This year felt like the start of a new road map," says the Anne-Mieke Eggenkamp, chairman of Design Academy Eindhoven, of the school's graduation show this year. "Students were asking what a designer can be in the future – it wasn't just about surface treatment."

Sure enough, fewer market-ready products appeared in this year's show than we've seen previously; the emphasis was on ideas. "We saw the designer as activist, the designer as nutritionist," says Eggenkamp. "There was a real sense that designers wanted to show the world the many roles they can take."

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Sometimes this meant working on a very small scale. Roel de Boer focused on mice. "A mouse in a cage is a pet, whereas we call it a pest when we find one in a crack or a cellar," he says. Fixed on blurring this boundary, de Boer erased the cage, creating instead an elaborate hanging sculptural piece, all platforms and walkways, on which the rodents can live. "De Boer makes us question why we need boundaries and doors – his is a humanitarian approach," says Eggenkamp. "The mice don't jump off because they like it. I likened the piece to this school."

Other designers were inspired by machinery. Dirk van der Kooij gave a "pensioned-off" robot (fresh from a 140,000-hour shift on a Chinese assembly line) new software so it could build chairs. Incredibly, it uses broken domestic products as raw material: put a refrigerator in one end and it's crushed, melted and dribbled out of the arm into a product dot by dot.

Borre Akkersdijk used machinery for making mattress covers to make stuffed fabric which can be turned into DIY clothing. Sleeves, trousers legs and hoods come off his machine in the stuffed duvet-like material as complete parts that are ready to stitch together thanks to the pre-shaped sewing edges that the machine provides.

Also feeding the DIY trend is Bart Bekker's wooden boat. It needs no tools to construct, the parts just slot together. "Assembling something together and then using it will strengthen the bond between parents and children," the designer says. Maaike Seegers, meanwhile, applies the DIY approach to tableware. She thinks "the production process for tableware is at least as interesting as the end product is". Her graduation project consists of a stoneware bowl, jar and spoon and some Carnauba wax (a hard, natural and waterproof material) – if you suddenly need another plate, simply heat the wax and pour it into the mould. Better than fun, it offers the potential for consumers to make just what they need, when they need it.

Interestingly, the first project on the shop floor is Kees Peerdeman's graphic novel. The previously super-shy designer is from West-Friesland, an area of the Netherlands with a reputation for introversion. "Because of this [reputation], young people who are experiencing problems are especially vulnerable to becoming isolated," says Peerdeman, so he put down his experiences in words and images. "The health insurer that published the book has found it is helping young people to talk," says Eggenkamp.

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Image

Astrid Zuidema, Vincent van Gurp, René van der Hurst

 

Words

Anna Bates

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We saw the designer as activist, the designer as nutritionist

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