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Dutch (social) Design Week: not all about chairs, lamps and 3D printing

28 October 2015

Design must reflect the practical and aesthetic in business, but above all good design must primarily serve people - Thomas J.Watson

Keeping this quote in mind, for the Dutch Design Week of this year I decided to brutally ignore chairs, lamps, watches, foldable bicycles, distorting mirrors and improbable clothes of the future. These are just some of the projects that caught my eye (and my heart) instead.

“Why not lend my Italian citizenship to someone who needs it as long as I am in Eindhoven?”. The project Universal unconditional by Stefania Vulpi considers all the benefits that her official papers could bring to an immigrant in Italy, for example the right to health care and education. In return, she could use the privileges of a Dutch legal status during her time in the Netherlands.

Dear Joop Van Den Ende by Esmee Weijand. Esmee has a talented sister, Naomi. Naomi has everything going for her to become a grand musical star, except for one thing: her Asian look. To break free from the traditional white casts, her sister Esmee has initiated the campaign ‘Asian Spray’. Noami’s face pops up as the lead in famous musicals posters, like Mamma Mia!, Memphis and Hairspray. In an additional letter to musical magnate Joop van den Ende, Esmee asks him to support her destigmatizing campaign and to consider multicultural productions.

In places like Nepal, unsorted waste is a major problem, which has resulted in diseases, a polluted environment and a huge loss of valuable material. With hisHoly Crap Pim van Baarsen has created an incentive scheme to promote waste separation. Differently coloured bags for different types of recyclables, with every bag earning families in Kathmandu credits to purchase products or services, like credit for their phones.

People living in restricted environments, such as prisons or clinics, cannot go outdoors whenever they want, although experiencing contact with nature might be beneficial for them. Room to grow by Karen van der Perre and Closer to Nature by Carlijn Valk try to solve this problem in two different ways. Karen developed a scheme for growing house-plants, with seeds planted indoors in pots, a colour code indicating how much sunlight is needed and a system for keeping track of the water level. Carlijn designed an installation especially for people with dementia living in a care facility. By means of a functioning water pump and a high definition screen that continuously sends a live feed of a rural location, people with dementia living in care facilities can achieve back lost tactile interactions, and gain implicit information about the weather, time of day and season of the year.

And finally, my personal winner, Refugees [Judge - Experience - Share] by Tove Elfferich. This interactive exposition is part of a broader project, 59.5 million and you, on refugees seeking nowadays asylum in the Netherlands. At some conversation tables, you could meet inhabitants of the refugees center Orangerie, or debate with local politicians, or simply hear the stories of volunteers who help refugees in Eindhoven. Like the one of Marlene, a Dutch woman living in close contact with Syrian refugees in one of the neighbourhoods of Eindhoven. Marlene, with her breath-taking blue eyes, her big heart and her intelligence is the real example of how educated women can seriously change this world, with simple actions, every day.

Picture: Bart van Overbeeke