As societies around the world confront the problem of ageing populations and healthcare becomes increasingly complex and expensive, a more comprehensive approach based on new forms of collaboration is becoming ever more urgent. From technology for people with hearing problems to healthy textiles, and from offices that cater for movement and homes that prioritise well-being, Dutch Design Week looks at the designers working on addressing this important and universal theme from a variety of angles.

Health

Speculative designer Frank Kolkman is curating a large exhibition on the topic of health called ‘Emerging Probe Futures’ at the Embassy of Health in the Klokgebouw building. Featuring the work of students from TU Eindhoven, ArtEZ Arnhem and DAE, it will explore future healthcare scenarios. As part of the exhibition recent ArtEZ Arnhem graduate Mireille Steinhage will show ‘The hidden qualities of salt’, a project that looks at the beneficial effects of salt. She has made a series of objects and utensils – such as a humidifier, a lamp, a radiator and mouth cap (a sort of face mask) – that feature saline solution or Himalayan pink salt and are designed to absorb toxic substances and air pollution. 

Also at the Klokgebouw designer Rocco Giovannoni is exhibiting Inmergo, a patent-pending audio technology that used fluids to generate an omnidirectional and vibro-tactile sound experience as well as hi-fi solutions for people with hearing loss. By bypassing the outer and middle ear, it can be used by people with hearing loss and cochlear implants. Bone conduction has recently become popular thanks to devices that let the user hear outer sounds while listening to music, but this has come at the expense of sound quality. Inmergo has the potential of improving the music quality of common earphones and headphones, which are normally limited by the physical nature of air as a sound medium.

Ginseng is deemed to have major anti-ageing properties in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Yet because many believe wild ginseng is more powerful than its cultivated counterpart, there has been mass illegal harvesting and wild ginseng is now endangered in North America and East Asia, creating a conflict between ‘biodiversity’, ecological conservation needs and the cultural value of traditional Asian medicine. The Millennium Ginseng Project by Taiwanese designer Kuang-Yi Ku, who won the Gijs Bakker Award for his ‘Tiger Penis Project’ in 2018, aims to find ways to resolve this complicated situation. In collaboration with scientists he has created a series of new cultivated ginsengs that are conceptually and culturally much stronger than the wild version. The result is a fascinating ‘hybrid-medicine’ that combines both western science and TCM. 

The (healthy) workspace and home

Inspired by space science research into closed micro-ecosystems that enable astronauts to stay in space for a long time, Florapanels are micro-gardens that can feed off CO2 and leaves that have died. The water in the system has its own cycle; it is absorbed, evaporated and drips onto the roots again making Florapanels independent maintenance-free little worlds within a gas-tight transparent block that can be installed on a wall, in a ceiling or on a floor. Its creators aim to inspire architects to make plants an integral part of any design in a bid to make homes and offices happier and more relaxed places.

The Office Jungle is an experimental office environment conceived by designer Ingmar Nieuweboer that attempts to fully integrate physical activity and sensorial richness in the workplace, with the aim of improving people’s general wellbeing. The Office Jungle is a playful and radical re-design of the office space with a climbing area designed to encourage an increasingly sedentary workforce (the Dutch are some of the most sedentary workers in Europe) to explore new ways of moving during office hours. http://bit.ly/31YZ1VL

Spatial design studio Studio LONK and design manufacturer Leolux will present an inspiring vision for what our domestic environments will look like in 2030. By then the so-called ‘synthetic generation’ (a generation that is less materialistic and cares more about authenticity) will have entered the housing market and will increasingly have to share living space as a result of urbanisation and rising prices. How is this generation going to fulfil its need for privacy? This intuitive concept by Studio Lonk allows visitors to experience a future living space through soundscapes and changing installation panels.

Studio Anne Ligtenberg and Atelier Mats recently started exploring what happens if you use design to make things a little more human. People want to live in a nice environment, they want to be heard and understood and they want do things that make them feel good. With ‘WE FEEL FINE’, Anne Ligtenberg and Mats Horbach show how the products that we use, the spaces that we live in, the systems that we are a part of, or the information that we collect, can be designed with more care and attention. And this, so that we can all feel a little better.

Healthy textiles and clothing

The harmful chemicals in textiles don’t only harm nature but can cause disorders and diseases as they enter our bodies via our skin. Studio Nienke Hoogvliet focuses on material research and experimentation and projects that deal with the impact of people on the environment. One of these projects –  H.E.R.B.S  – explores the possibility of textiles releasing substances that could be beneficial for our health and skin. Herbs are known for their medicinal effects and are used in many ways to contribute to our health in the form of food, medication or cosmetics. In this project Hoogvliet asks if herbs could also have this effect if used as a textile dye? In an interactive installation she will turn discarded clothes (brought in by visitors) into new herb-emitting ‘healthy’ textiles.

For her Design Academy Eindhoven graduation project Pauline Agustoni engaged with women recovering from a mastectomy. ‘Mastectomy Caregiver’ presents interviews conducted with specialists and mastectomy patients who share their discomfort at clothes that are not flexible enough to facilitate free movement and whose seams hurt their scars. Agustoni’s answer is a soft and comfortable sweater that tackles these problems and leaves lot of space for movement in the arm area. The design also has a specific collar as most women she spoke to did not want their cleavage area to be seen. The result is a beautiful piece of clothing available in different styles and colours that doesn’t look at all ‘medical’.

A+N (Alissa van Asseldonk and Nienke Bongers) is a material research and design studio founded in 2013. At DDW they will investigate the future of window coverings and exhibit both newly developed projects and large-scale material experiments. These range from woven textile panels with patterns that open and close based on the sunlight (developed for the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in cooperation with TextielLab Tilburg) to blinds of woven cutout patterns made from recycled window panels for the CBG (College ter Beoordeling Geneesmiddelen).

DAE graduate Paisley Fried presents Somatic Symptoms, a highly personal, beautiful and daring collection of garments that creates sensory simulations. Each item represents, both visually as well as tangibly, the physical symptoms or discomforts that are brought on by depression and anxiety disorders. A clothing label is attached to each one describing the symptoms. By wearing the garments for a little while, people can get a sense of what it is like to have these symptoms. The aim of the project is to provide people not familiar with depression or anxiety, or those who still consider talking about these things taboo, with a deeper understanding of mental health issues.

Image: Embassy of Health, Mireille Steinhage | The hidden qualities of salt

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