Gallery: DUTCH DESIGN: Sustainability and Interactivity


This morning we’ve been discussing the environmental friendliness of Dutch design. Like Tejo Remy’s rag chair (shown above), a lot of Dutch design uses reappropriated objects and recycled materials, challenging users to think about waste, materials, and consumption. However, very few Dutch designers approach their work from the framework of environmental activism. Instead, what seems unique to Dutch design is a passionate concern for engaging the user emotionally and intellectually. It is, in fact, this concern for human interaction which makes much of Dutch design so engaging – and what often also makes it eco-friendly by default.

Maartje Steenkamp’s Highchair, for example, begins as a long-legged chair for young infants, allowing the child to sit eye-to-eye with their parents. As they grow older, the chair’s legs may be shortened at specific intervals to accommodate a growing child. A simple wooden design, the chair is an ideal example of the Dutch designers’ consideration of product lifespan and engagement with the user, both actively and emotionally, who must do the actual leg-trimming in order for the piece to remain relevant and size-appropriate. The users, both parent and child, literally age with the chair.

Similarly engaging is the Do Create series, whose products would not be possible without the user’s initial activity. The Do Hit chair by Marijn van der Poll arrives as a hollow metal cube with smashing device, requiring the user to channel his pent up aggression and literally hammer the chair into shape. Jurgen Bey’s Do Add Short-Leg chair is incomplete without a user’s books, magazines, or other stackable material to transform the sad looking, three-and-a-half-legged chair into a fully functional seat.

Such products are so engaging, so clever, that they have an almost anthropomorphic quality. Their personalities are palpable. Their life spans are long, and their aesthetic friendly. We are aware of and genuinely enjoy their presence. And isn’t that the mark of good (and sustainable) design? To not only serve the user’s needs, but to provide interesting and dynamic elements in our physical environment? To be sustainable not only in their materiality, but in our active and long-term commitment to them as users?

As poetically put by Gils Bakker and Renny Ramakers, two of the Droog pioneers, “Now it is the turn of small stories, rooted in everyday reality. Stories that tell of products capable of aging fracefully and allowing the user to bond with them, of the value of things that already exist, of personal ecology, of uncertainty, dreams, passion, and pleasure.”

If you are interested in Dutch design, make sure to check out our most recent interview with Reluct’s Joost Van Brug – all about Dutch design, design blogging and sustainability.


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  1. Jonathan November 17, 2007 at 10:20 am

    I enjoy reading and learning about Dutch and green deign, it seems true that the Dutch can effortlessly combine Fashionable products and eco friendly design in a unique ‘Dutch’ language, better than most other countries.
    However, the pieces seem to contradict their original design focus. Tejo Remy’s ‘rag chair’ is incredibly expensive to own despite being manufactured largely from old rags. The majority of this conceptual Dutch design unfortuantly sits in museums, art galleys and in rich people’s homes.
    I suppose this is the consequence when good design becomes ‘designer art’ and when it is designed under the brilliant Droog.

  2. Helen August 20, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    I really like the chair design, It’s really cool, who would of thought of that????

  3. Inhabitat » TEJO ... May 10, 2007 at 2:30 am

    […] big fans of Dutch design here at Inhabitat for its thoughtful approach, user engagement, and cheeky humor, and Mr. Remy is […]

  4. Inhabitat » ̵... April 23, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    […] seen this type of customization-amidst-mass-production approach in Dutch design before, and we’re interested in its unique approach to green design (it’s a more user- […]

  5. Lynn August 18, 2006 at 8:07 pm

    I particularly love the adjustable high chair. At least parents won’t need to buy several different chairs for their kids. It’s also really cool if this chair was designed to still be able to accommodate kids in their toddler years.

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