At the 2012 Dutch Design Week

It’s been a tough two years for Dutch design. First a newly elected right-wing government slashed the tiny country’s legendary arts funding, causing seemingly irreparable damage to its institutions and grant programs, and then a series of high-profile resignations called into question the inner workings of Eindhoven’s hallowed Design Academy. But even if there are signs that the fairy-tale may not last — that creativity and experimentalism can’t elude the death-grip of capitalism forever, even in a place where designers still benefit from squatters’ rights — we still look forward to Dutch Design Week as a reminder of the happier consequences of those values. While we couldn’t attend this year ourselves, we asked our faithful contributor Marco Tabasso, who’s second-in-command at Rossana Orlandi gallery in Milan, to report back on his experiences at the festival — from his mixed feelings about the Design Academy show to the paella dinner he and Rossana shared with Nacho Carbonell in the designer’s studio, above. Click here to get Nacho’s personal recipe, then scroll down to check out Tabasso’s DDW diary.“When we go to fairs these days we always hope to finally find something new and interesting. In the last couple of years that’s been really hard, as it seems all the young design we’ve seen has been a bit low-key. When we got out of the train station in Eindhoven, the first thing we saw was Maarten Baas’s van flipped on its side, with a broken windshield and its lights blinking. For a minute we really thought something bad had happened to Maarten — it took a while for us to understand that it was an installation. The joke worked, but it wasn’t such a good start if we were searching for a new hope in design.”
“We come to Eindhoven not only to check out the up-and-coming designers, but also to meet with our ‘old’ ones. Our first stop was at Piet Hein Eek’s wonderful shop-showroom-factory-restaurant-village. From the showroom there are big windows facing the factory, so you immediately connect the product with the production process — typical Piet Hein Eek.”
“In the Piet Hein Eek café, everything’s for sale, almost like at our restaurant Pane E Acqua.”
“Another of our designers is Nacho Carbonell. This year he was commissioned to do a huge installation in front of a Church, called Communication Line. It was all made in concrete — and in less than a week! The view of the white line of chairs was quite fascinating at night.”
“Dutch design is sometimes known for its improvisational skills; here’s proof, directly from a designer’s toilet.”
“Eindhoven isn’t one of the most exciting and charming cities, but it does have one good point on its side: Autumn here is quite beautiful, due to the large quantities of trees with tones of red, brown, and yellow on their leaves.”
“The Design Academy Eindhoven. Usually one of the highlights of DDW is the graduation show here, but this year the quality was a bit disappointing compared to the higher standard we were used to seeing in past years. The first three designers we talked with were saying proudly that their projects were not functional. Again: Not a good start. This project by Shirley Van Piere was one of the things I liked more. At least she was playing with perspective in an interesting way.”
“One of these cases where the process is more interesting than the result. Commercially difficult, but at least a different approach: Designer Bram Amendt invented a machine that creates vases in shapes that follow any sound source. Different sounds generate different shapes.”
“I honestly forgot the name of this one, but it’s Korean or Japanese, and uses hundreds of little armchairs to create a big one. It sounded a bit like a joke, but the smile didn’t last so long.”
“In the Strijp S studio complex we saw this nice collection of pendant lamps made of recycled plastic parts by Kuiken & Volkers. Nice, inexpensive, and clever.”“Another brilliant guy we always visit is Dirk Van Der Kooij. Here you can see Rossana with Dirk discussing his new chairs. We were surprised that they were cheaper than the old ones: Good sign.”
“One of the most clever ideas ever: Mini running around the city and transporting the visitors to one design spot to another. Each car is differently ‘dressed’ and the drivers are volunteers. Impossible during Salone del Mobile in Milan, what a pity.”
“Another typical Dutch thing: An ugly car used to produce snacks. Not sure if it’s eco-friendly.”
“One nice element of DDW is the opportunity to have a look at designers’ studios. It’s almost an anthropological experience. In this case it was the really nice workspace of Kiki van Eijk and Joost Van Bleiswijk.”
“Kiki showing us her new moving cupboard.”
“Near Kiki And Joost there was another exhibition that was really well curated, called ‘On the Road.’ This was the part of it that we liked the most, a collection of lamps by Doreen Westphal made of copper and concrete. They can be adjusted in different positions thanks to magnets in the base and the lamp.”
“Eindhoven isn’t known for delicious food, but we did try a brand new restaurant where the food was excellent and the ambience really cool, called Radio Royale.”
“It’s crisis time, and we’ve seen this scene many times, students hitting the streets asking for justice and struggling against Capitalism. No, it wasn’t Occupy Eindhoven, but a design procession, which was basically made to pay a visit to a series of on-site installations in the city made by designers.”
“This one was by Kiki and Joost, and it was like a hunting blind, but for those brave enough to climb up the structure the surprise wasn’t guns but binoculars, to spy on the Dutch in their own homes.”
“Open since last year, Sectie C is becoming one of the highlights of DDW. An old industrial area has been turned into a sort of design community. Nacho Carbonell is probably the most famous resident. A brilliant idea: Each studio has a restaurant corner run by the Sectie C management, so clients can have the unique experience of dining in a designer’s studio.”
“This was a really nice concrete chair by Martin Schuurmans.”
“In the same studio was a ‘working process’ by Paul Heijnen.”
“This strange system of desk-seats-cupboards-shelves reminds me a bit of Brazilian Favelas, but looks quite interesting. It’s by Sander Wassink.”
Niels Hoebers is a stop-motion filmmaker. He was there when I took this picture, explaining to us how it works.”
“Hoebers’s workshop.”
“Nacho Carbonell has designed this collection of limited-edition LED bulbs in rubber for BOOO.”
Victor Sonna with one of his weird bycicles.”
“Nacho trying one of Victor’s bycicles.”
“Simple and elegant, these rocking chairs made of steel are by Max Lipsey.”