Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Spirit of Dutch Design

Here are some highlights from the always delighting Dutch Design Week for this year.

Many projects revolved around 'green' design thinking, and in general you could see a development towards introducing natural elements into our living spaces.

Philips Design took this philosophy to the next level in their new future probe 'The Microbial Home'. This home would minimize energy usage through biological processes. In their vision, methane gas can be gathered from human and vegetable waste, and biogas can be produced from other organic substances. Food should be kept alive and fresh inside the home by having it grow around structures attached to furniture. Bioluminescent bacteria provide moodlight, and waste is converted into edible mushrooms through special fungi that can digest plastics. Philips' proposal makes the living room look a bit like a science lab, but I think it's a good start towards true green living, on the physical plane.

The highlight of this design probe on an aesthetic level may well be the Urban beehive. It is basically a honey vending machine that incorporates the actual living bees. The bees enter the hive at one side of the device, and out comes the honey on the other side. Behind a transparent shell are several softly illuminated disks that the bees can use to build their hive, while being watched in admiration by their human customers.

Jeanine Kierkels, a master student Industrial Design at the university of Eindhoven, has taken the soothing aesthetics of natural growth and implemented this in a very specific human context: giving birth. She envisions an animation of a tree branch on the wall of the room where somebody would be giving birth. This animation is coupled to the occurance and length in time of each contraction, which makes the process interactive and personalized. In the end, the tree branch beautifully visualizes the event as a story to take home.

Another student created this lovely and intriguing accessoire. Embedded into it is a system that senses its wearer's physiological arousal. This value is then translated into the movement of scales on the sleeve, more or less like enhanced goosebumps. By externalizing our underlying physiology this way, then, people are invited to connect to each other on a deeper and more intimate level.

Floris Wubben directly translates the aesthetics of natural form into his designs by blending state-of-the-art technology with natural elements. This gives his products a very alive character.

We see a playful wink towards unification with nature in the work 'Digital Portraits.' One item is a shirt that incorporates the head of a wolf into the three-dimensional structure of its fabric.

Some interesting new ideas have also sparked up at the Design Academy. Within the theme of finding new ways to mass-manufacture objects, one student had an intriguing idea to blend human craftsmanship with the crude approach of the machine. He envisioned the human craftsman as being directly guided by a machine, for example through tools that are attached to robotic arms. This would enormously speed up manual work, while retaining a unique human touch. This may be a pioneering project into a future of cyborg production processes.

The supreme highlight of the Dutch design week is an art installation that is genius in its technical simplicity, and stunning in effect. It completely transcends the paradigm of our existence and our technology as material, it has the potential to bring about a peak experience that brings us beyond a perspectival existence of having one point of view, and approaches a unification with the cosmos (yes!). It is called Plane Scape, and is installed in the 5MM (five minutes museum). Watch the video here or go experience the installation yourself. And stay more than five minutes to let it work its way into your system and open your doors of perception.

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