Switch | Dutch Design on the move

Switch | Dutch Design on the move

19 March 2016 till 12 March 2017

A rag chair or a chandelier made from lightbulbs and a bundle of black cables: these unconventional designs were the hit of the 1993 Milan Furniture Fair. In the years since, the conceptual, humorous designs presented by Droog Design have been an international sensation. Switch | Dutch Design on the move 1990-2015 offers an inspiring and varied overview of 25 years of Dutch Design. Based around the themes of sustainability, craftsmanship & innovation, poetry & stories and design-based research, the exhibition presents textile products, furniture and installations, many now regarded as iconic, by acclaimed designers including Tejo Remy, Marcel Wanders, Hella Jongerius and Jurgen Bey. Wanders’ 1995 ‘Knotted Chair’ – a macramé construction of high-tech rope – is one of the best known examples. A younger generation of designers, many of them trained at the Design Academy Eindhoven, has intensified the research into materials and techniques, thereby putting textiles as a discipline back on the map.


Sustainability has become a permanent theme in the past 25 years. Given the environmental damage and social ills associated with textile production, designers have explicitly prioritised the issue. Besides the ‘Rag Chair’ by Tejo Remy and his more recent work with recycled textiles, the exhibition includes ‘the Yarn Machine’ by Atelier NL. This illustrates how biodegradable yarn can be manufactured from beans and potatoes. Respect for nature also exemplifies the work of Claudy Jongstra, who came to prominence in the late 1990s with felted interior fabrics. Not only does she own a flock of sheep and grows her own plants for dyes, but she also has a specially developed robot for felting. In this way, she maintains control over the entire production process.

Title: The Garenmachine, by Atelier NL. Photo: Joep Vogels

Craftsmanship & innovation

The cross-pollination between craft and innovation is another feature of Dutch Design. This can be seen in the collaboration between textile designer Christie van der Haak and product designer Piet Hein Eek. The modular wooden ‘Damsel Bench’ by Eek is covered with 25 metres of woven upholstery. Representative of innovative materials is the ‘dry tech’ project by Droog Design from 1995, in which a small group of designers experimented with technical yarns and textile composites. ‘Knotted Chair’ by Marcel Wanders was one of the outcomes of the project, while Hella Jongerius would go on to use her materials knowledge in the design of her ‘Kasese Sheep Chair’. The folding chair is made from carbon-reinforced plastic with a seat of felted sheep’s wool, produced by Claudy Jongstra.

Poetry & stories

Also characteristic of Dutch Design is the narrative and poetic quality of products. Designers such as Ineke Hans, Wieki Somers and Kiki van Eijk take personal stories and cultural symbols as their starting point. Van Eijk’s graduation project ‘Kiki carpet’ attracted widespread media attention. The floral carpet resembles an enlarged embroidery and was inspired by the décor of 19th-century dollhouses. Studio Job similarly references and repurposes familiar motifs. ‘Labyrinth’, for instance, comprises household and interior textiles, the tufted carpet, woven table linen, and woven and printed interior fabrics all bearing the same green-and-white maze pattern.

Title: Labyrinth by Studio Job. Photo: Joep Vogels

Design-based research

The early years of Dutch Design were characterised by design with a clear, conceptual signature. Building on this conceptual approach, the past decade has seen the emergence of a new form of design-based research, in which the documentation of processes, collaboration with other disciplines and the inclusion of historical or scientific facts play a more prominent role. This is particularly evident in the exhibited works by Austrian designer Sonja Bäumel, Raw Color, Studio Makkink & Bey and Italian duo Studio Formafantasma. A tapestry by the latter, from the series ‘Colony’, incorporates the colonial history of Italy in North Africa.

Switch | Dutch Design on the move 1990-2015 includes designs from the TextielMuseum collection by Atelier NL, Sonja Bäumel, Tord Boontje, Kiki van Eijk, Van Eijk & Van der Lubbe, Glithero, Christie van der Haak/Piet Hein Eek, Jongeriuslab, Claudy Jongstra, Manon van Kouswijk, Christien Meindertsma, Karijn Otjes, Bertjan Pot, Raw Color, Tejo Remy & René Veenhuizen, Tanja Smeets, Studio Formafantasma, Studio Ineke Hans, Studio Job, Studio Makkink & Bey, Studio MKGK, Studio Wieki Somers, and Marcel Wanders.

The majority of the designers featured in Switch have collaborated with the museum on household textiles vfor the 'by TextielMuseum' label. by TextielMuseum makes Dutch Design accessible for everyone, and includes designs by Studio Job, Studio Makkink & Bey, Kiki van Eijk, Van Eijk & Van der Lubbe and Jongeriuslab.