Dutch Design Week is strengthening Eindhoven's position as a design destination on the world map. Tapping into the annual crop of graduates from the local Design Academy, the furniture fair has helped nurture a community of like-minded and inventive thinkers, making the city a veritable hotbed of creative talent.
The yearly design week is - of course - the best time to see it. Eschewing the classic exhibition hall, the fair's offerings are found in one-off venues across town, such as old factory buildings and warehouses that were once connected to Philips' manufacturing heritage, making it unique proposition from the outset.
One such example is Sectie C, an industrial complex of design studios and workspaces brimming with independent creatives, located in the eastern part of the city. Established by Rob van der Ploeg, a club owner turned restaurateur, who always dreamed of setting up a freethinking creative community, Sectie C is home to 81 designers - including designer and artist Nacho Carbonell - who opened their studios to visitors during the event.
Instead of presenting new products, the design village's diverse tenants showed off works in progress and disclosed their methods of working. Carbonell's studio featured half-built chairs and models relating to his 'Communication Line' installation - a line of meandering chairs in the centre of Eindhoven.
Another highlight in Sectie C was 'Objects for Sale', an exhibition that ingeniously showed how a simple concept for a product could be developed in three different directions with ascending values: under 50€, 50-500€ and over 500€. Design duo Os and Oos created a series of wooden MDF tables that increased in price with the introduction of metal and then marble, successfully attaching a monetary value to their time invested and material costs in visual terms, while keeping form and function largely unchanged.
The emphasis on process and care in manufacturing proved to be a strong theme throughout the city. Even away from Sectie C, there were designers aplenty opening their workspaces and welcoming visitors into their worlds. The shared warehouse of Kiki van Eijk and Joost van Bleiswijk featured live demonstrations of the making of their new designs, including a clock, cupboard and a vase, being handcrafted out of wire.
Piet Hein Eek's headquarters, which bring his studio, factory, a café, gallery and boutique all under one roof, were also a hub of activity. The Dutch design heavyweight presented the fruits of his collaboration with Belgian wardrobe specialists Kewlox; a standard cupboard available in 24 eye-catching variations of zinc, copper, mirrored glass and painted MDF sliding doors.
This year's event could not have reflected Eindhoven's unique brand of design better. From the thoughtful, concept-driven projects at the Design Academy's graduate show, which offered solutions to modern social problems - including an aging population, natural disasters and death - to the Mini cars with design pieces strapped to their roofs which ferried visitors around, Dutch Design Week is a true celebration of creativity that's been honed to a T.