Raising 21st century design to fine art status, Dutch designer Joris Laarman has risen through the ranks in record time to become the Netherlands' new star.
Ironic, or iconic? Designer Joris Laarman pushes design parameters and disproves traditional dogmas, producing effusive objets d'art that belie their functional foundation.
Since Dutch collective Droog revolutionized contemporary design in 1990s the remarkable group have spawned a new generation of unique talent. Joris Laarman is the latest in this great lineage. The 27 year-old graduate of Holland's famed Design Academy Eindhoven first came to prominence in 2003 with the lauded Heatwave, recently produced by Droog Design and UK heating manufacturer, Jaga. Going against the grain of traditional radiator design, the highly ornate Heatwave contradicts and challenges design dogmas with bold, exhuberent form which enhances rather than compromises its functional role.
Laarman's latest project, Bone Furniture once again displays the designer's sense of conceptual rebellion. While 21st century vanguards exploit new possibilities with a "Design for all" affordable, off-the-shelf approach to design, the young creator capitalizes on the boundless possibilities of computer technology, to create templates for contemporary examples of artisanal excellence.
How did you get involved with Droog?
I was a student at the Academy Eindhoven back when Droog was still really influential in the academy. Gijs Bakker was one of my teachers, plus everybody knows each other – it's a small country.
What are you working on at the moment?
With Droog Design I'm working on ceramic products as well as something for the Salone del Mobile in Milan in April. I'm creating new lights for Flos, which will also be launched in Milan, and I'm working on a complete body of work which is based on the process of the Bone furniture, so there are going to be all kinds of new designs based on that. I'm also working on industrial products for the kitchen.
The design world is your oyster, with whom would you like to work and what would you create?
First of all, I like to have my autonomy on one hand; I like to create work that's really experimental maybe to be sold through galleries. I want to make things like airships, and even architectural gestures; but on the other hand, for instance a company like Flos which is the best lighting manufacturer in the world... there are just so many good companies that I don't know. Right now I'm just trying to write my story. I've got a lot to do.
With what do you attribute the incredible interest in design and the talent that is emerging from the Netherlands?
A lot of people ask me that, but to be honest I'm not really sure. I think that the education here is the biggest draw. The Design Academy Eindhoven is really an astonishing place. In Holland we have this really conceptual approach in the design academy and there's a lot of freedom. There's also a difference in mentality of how we approach design.
What is the Dutch mentality to design?
That not everything is based on what is already possible in industrial design, or that not everything is based on only making profit, but that actually the quality or the difference of the products or a new way of viewing or recycling a product; it's more of a conceptual mentality, I guess that's how you could say it.
Who are the great Dutch designers, in your opinion?
I don't know, I appreciate so many designers. I really like what wxx and Jurgen Bey do. On the other hand, to create a business like what Marcel Wanders is doing is incredible, he has lifted Dutch design to a new level. There are some people that I collaborate with like Marcus vans(?) who I really enjoy.
And in general?
I can name a hundred I think! I enjoy people who are genuine and challenge the establishment somehow. I really like Castiglioni for instance.
In a period where many designers are embracing technical processes, such as rapid prototyping for mass production, for your latest project, Bone Chair, you chose to use hi-tech methods at the outset, but reverted to traditional manufacturing techniques at the manufacturing stage. Why?
The technology that I used for the Bone Chair was made and developed by General Motors and a German professor who studied growth of trees and bones for 15 years; it's a sculpting tool. I sculpted with the engineering that they use for the lightweight car parts. The problem with producing with rapid prototyping is that it's kind of like a synthesizer in the case of music. You press a key and get a piece of music that you probably couldn't play on a piano, but you need to have a good story and a good idea about the design, so I use rapid prototyping more as a tool, not as a final design, plus it is always just with the materials that are compatible. For instance, you always find nylon and epoxy, but they are not like aluminium or stainless steel. This system allowed me to create the shapes of rapid prototyping but with the quality and the finish of the material that we know from traditional craftsmanship.
What other processes are you interested in?
I would love do to some really cheap injection moulded but with super high quality materials, that's something I really want to do some time, but also I really want to work with new innovations - really high technology, working together with universities and institutes.
What do you think is happening in design right now?
There's really something happening, people are becoming more interested in quality design and will pay more for something that is maybe more expensive, but also is of a higher quality. This is something that I find really exciting, because as a designer you can make smaller editions that are not so mass produced, and that creates a certain quality that we aren't able to do with furniture that is supposed to be made in large quantities. I think it's really interesting. There are also lots of people interested in experimental design.
What is your definition of luxury?
Freedom - that is luxury.
If luxury were a moment, when would it be?
Going to the cinema if I'm really busy, just escaping from all the chaos. One and a half hours of doing nothing, that's nice.
If it were a place?
Between the clouds