Performative Design: Shylight by Studio Drift

Shylight is a Performative Sculpture by Studio Drift that has recently been added to the Rijksmuseum’s permanent collection in Amsterdam. Inspired by movement and patterns in nature, Dutch designerduo Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta conceived this kinetic installation in which handcraft, natural materials and advanced technology merge into an engaging performative design piece. It almost seems alive in it’s movement, graciously unfolding it’s layers of silk like blooming flowers before they retreat shyly into closed position. The Rijksmuseum’s architectural surroundings of an 18th century baroque staircase couldn’t have been chosen better; when climbing the stairs you become involved into a theatrical experience of object, architectural space and movement. Don’t miss the making of video and enjoy the full story!



Contemplative Design

Daily Poetry is the name of a series of “toys for contemplation to balance our rushed digital lifestyle”. These magic objects designed by Ingrid Hulskamp, invite you to play. Touching them requires your full attention, presence and care, since they are made of fragile materials like glass, liquids, silk and wood. This mindful experience is meant to slow you down and instantly brings you back to your senses. Having one on your desk will help you to relax and forget about time for a moment of sheer wonder.

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Another example of contemplative design is the installation of Nao Tamura shown in Milan last year. This delicate installation is composed of translucent discs referring to the shape of a Japanese fan. When set in motion by gently touching it or by the air movement when passing by, it shows the interconnectedness of the system. The designer intended to raise awareness of how we affect our surroundings beyond ourselves. She finds inspiration in nature where everything is interconnected and nothing exists on it’s own.

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To focus on the present moment by shifting attention to the body, as we know from yoga and mindfulness, gives relieve from stress and might even help to prevent diseases. Why not integrate this mindful, contemplative quality into our daily environment? Why not include it in the design program of offices and workplaces to keep our worklife more balanced and healthy?

Form follows poetry instead of form follows function might just be the right cure for it…….

The End of Sitting?

Intrigued by a newspaper article with the headline: “the end of sitting” I visited the workscape installation by RAAAF in Amsterdam last month. This installation sprouted from the minds of the Rietveld brothers after medical research concluded that people who sit too much risk life threatening diseases and die earlier. The sculpture (or is it a landscape?) invites you to get physically involved, but it’s not a gentle invitation. It feels like camping on a difficult site and is a critical response to the ergonomic comfort of the modern office chair. RAAAF promotes standing as the new norm.

When I started to explore it’s sloping surface and angled caves, it was not entirely without danger; I had to be very alert not to fall into gaps and holes or lose balance. I unwillingly remembered the basement in the Jewish Museum in Berlin by Libeskind, where the architect used a sloping floor as a metaphore for the desorientation one feels when migrating to a foreign country. This sculpture in a way does the same; all familiar notions of a work environment are turned upside down.
Because it is hard to find a comfortable position, you have to keep trying and moving. You can hang-out, climb, stand or lie down on this sculpture and I wondered; is this the future of how our work environment will look like? It certainly stretches ones mind and muscles but the end of sitting should be interpreted in this phase as a research project, a testing model, a mindscape.

What about sitting? Is it to be abandoned at all?
Sitting is dangerous if you do it as extensively as we do today. We sit at work, travel home sitting and end our day sitting, before going to sleep. The body is not involved into action and yet movement is what we are made for! Immobility seems to be the center of the problem, being stuck as we are staring at our screens all day. This challenged Govert Flint, graduation student at the Design Academy Eindhoven 2014. At the Dutch Design Week he introduced his exo-skeleton chair which makes computerwork more dynamic. He studied the movements of ballet dancers who inspired him to use physical action, instead of mouseclicks, to give commands to a computer.

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NDSM Art City is a succesful example of how a bottom up initiative of local creatives, alternative groups and artists, revitalised an abandoned industrial area in the northern part of Amsterdam. Today the area is a vibrant part of the city where establishment co-exists with the more experimental creative class. Here you find good restaurants, a hotel in a hoisting crane, headquarters of leading companies and organisations next to vintage markets, festivals, temporary events and structures, workshops and ateliers.
The creative heart of the area; NDSM Art CIty, is to be found inside and around the former ship assembly hall, the monumental NDSM loods, where seven years ago creatives started to build their own studios and workspaces. Utrecht based Dynamo Architects designed a steel and concrete casco, providing a gridstructure with basic utilities. The grid is cut diagonally which makes a reference to a real city like Barcelona or New York, just to mention a few famous examples. The bare structure was devided in lots and completed by the inhabitants of Art City; photographers, theatregroups, filmmakers, architects, artists, designers and more. The result is a stunning unity in diversity with exeptional shapes where the diagonal cuts through. Each individual studio has it’s own appearance, color, amount of windows, expression and texture.
The raw industrial atmosphere is still left untouched at Art City, keeping it’s history alive and tangible. Due to the economic recession the area has developed slowly. Let’s hope that planners, the city council and investors will cherish and respect this raw unfinished and undefined character in the future. These may just be the most precious qualities of the NDSM area, leaving space for experiment, dreams and imagination, unexpected encounters and innovation.


Playground Office

There is a trend in designing the office as a playground. This may seem childish at first, but if you give it a second thought maybe it’s not. Isn’t it from a past era to design the workspace determined by functional criteria and technical specifications only? Clean projectinteriors, preferably photographed without people, we all know them. Do these abstract workspaces, which in the end all look alike, still meet the needs of today? And is it true that efficient design leads to better performance; how do you get the best out of people anyway?
During Worldcup 2014 the Dutch soccercoach Van Gaal became very popular by his “total human principle” by which he meant that players were not soccer-machines, but human beings who would benefit from spending time to relax with their loved ones in between matches. He believed that: “happy players are better players”. Brazilian enterpreneur Ricardo Semler has a similar vision on getting the best results. Hammocks are hanging in his factory and his workers are free to take a nap when they feel like it. His leadership is based on trust instead of control. As a result, his people are more committed to the job and revenues have increased.
The Playground Office offers us a range of opportunities to relax and break away from the routine. Why is this so important? How do we benefit from it? Leading innovative companies seem to realise that to relax is part of the job. Physical experiences keep us connected to our bodies, to our feelings; to our being human. Playful interventions like the slide, the merry-go-round or the treehouse, taking a bike to the other end of the office or playing dj, keep our imagination alive and invite us to relax and interact. These are supposed to be crucial conditions to stimulate creativity; when we relax and reflect, we get the best ideas. If we share them they become even better (Examples shown: Google office, The Yellow Building London, Facebook office).





Natural rowing experience at work

At Stoas University of Applied Sciences and Teacher Education they are convinced that learning is not just a matter of gaining knowledge. Their holistic view on learning and development implies another approach. On these beautiful wooden waterrowers you can do relaxing physical exercise after a long day of meetings and study. Others start their day rowing away, some actually prefer the waterrower above the meetingroom to discuss their agenda. Extra feature of the waterrower is that it actually uses waterresistance which gives you a real rowingexperience. The natural sound of water doesn’t spread disturbing noise to it’s surroundings which makes them very suitable for office environments. The icecubes on the wall show the beauty of natural crystallisation but also tricks the mind to keep you cool.

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Design & Community Building

For Stoas University of Applied Sciences and Teacher Education a concept for a new type of furniture was introduced. The design is a modification of an existing designpiece; the Utopa by Studio VanDen from the Ecoluxury series. The Reflective Workspace asked the designer if he could invent a cocoonstool & couch which would be affordable for the school. When we discussed the idea to introduce a naked version of the Utopa piece with the straps still visible we also immediately saw a chance to use this as a connective community building item. Because the straps can be applied in different ways, each object will be unique. This selfbuild activity is coördinated by the designer but the application of the straps by hand will be done by the members of the organisation themselves. The activity and the result will add a sense of place and ownership to their new surroundings. Collaboration also helps to dissolve the separation between different educational departments and playfully stretches the minds of those people who still identify with that. Staffmembers, students and teachers will all be invited to participate.