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Interwoven with the future

The Dutch designer Hella Jongerius combines the traditional with the contemporary, the latest technologies with ancient craft techniques. In an interview, she explains why her design philosophy could be more important than ever today.

© Laura Fiorio

Interview: Silke Roth

stilwerk: How do you describe the current zeitgeist from a designer’s perspective?


Hella Jongerius : We are at the beginning of an industrial revolution. The various systems are in transition, the climate crisis is the main issue for us as designers to work on.


stilwerk: You have been advising major interior design brands for years. Why is it so difficult to change the industry from within?


Hella Jongerius : Companies should finally follow the political rules on climate change, reduce their footprint and take active action. They need to change production methods and work towards a zero carbon footprint. 80% of materials will be redesigned in the future, which will change our entire profession. The designers are not the focus of this process. Companies must act at all levels within their industry. The main task lies with management and the decisions of the boardroom. A new political model, with changed materials and production processes, will change the possibilities for designers and we will develop exciting ideas and applications.




stilwerk: We see a lot of pastel colors and natural materials in modern living spaces. Are we all becoming nature-loving softies in our homes?


Hella Jongerius : I'm not interested in trends.


stilwerk: You like to swim against the current, or more importantly, ahead of it. While the entire furnishing world was thinking about home office solutions, you opened an exhibition in Berlin's Gropius Bau in the summer of 2022 that focused on large weaving and spinning installations. What did you want to show with it?


Hella Jongerius: With a traditional craft like weaving, you learn about materials. A craft never travels alone, but is part of a geopolitical agenda. Weaving is a cultural phenomenon, it is social, political, anthropological and metaphorical. Weaving involves the looms, the materials and the technology. Equally it is linked to crafts, folk art, industrial design and art. As we live an increasingly digital life, a life where everything is flat and efficient. We must keep our physical lives alive by celebrating the tactility and imperfection of daily life, using materials and manufacturing processes as a means to understand who we are.


stilwerk: Can a 3D loom solve the problems of the design world of tomorrow?


Hella Jongerius : Woven structures are the strongest and lightest constructions available. Therefore, the 3D weaving process has great potential to replace heavy and resource-intensive construction methods such as brick or concrete. It's also about creating volume with a minimum of material. We wanted to research in this area because, although there are engineers working on this new technology in industry, there is still no creative and aesthetic hand involved.


stilwerk: What responsibilities and challenges do you have as a designer to redesign the world in the future?


Hella Jongerius : I started as a designer, but my working method is that of an artist with a social and political agenda - as a writer. My work is always based in current times and reflects what is happening in our society and questions my profession. I also question the use of materials and production systems. There are many limitations when working in the field of industrial design, but each limitation is a new challenge to be creative. I keep my values and my own agenda as a compass and follow my own intuition. I wanted to work in the design world to make a bigger difference.


stilwerk: What exactly would you like to do?


Hella Jongerius : I want to bring individuality, imperfection and humanity into the processes of standardized industrial production. We need to heal the sick relationship we have with our environment by changing the way objects and materials are made. I have always felt responsible and tried to overcome boundaries.


stilwerk: What do design and humanity have in common?


Hella Jongerius : After 30 years of working as a designer, it feels like you have a great knowledge of materials and processes as a strong foundation. My research is always rooted in the love of the manufacturing process. An understanding of raw materials and colors is my personal starting point. Because I believe that the materials contain an important key to understanding the relationship between people and objects and thus the cultural meaning of objects.

© Laura Fiorio

The interview was conducted by Silke Roth and first appeared in the stilwerk magazine “ReFraming” in August 2022.


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