There's no defining the creativity of Jurgen Bey
Cindy Coleman -- Interior Design, 6/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Jurgen Bey isn't out to invent something. Rather, he reinterprets what already exists. From furniture to offices and museum installations, projects undertaken by Studio Makkink & Bey—which he runs with Rianne Makkink—all start with the same mission: To tell a story.
When Bey isn't physically at his desk, he's lecturing or teaching somewhere around the globe. Multitasking aside, though, he defines his area of expertise as product design. He studied in the late 1980's at the Design Academy Eindhoven, then formed a business partnership with his fellow student Jan Konings. Among countless successes, the two created the Folding paper bookcase for Droog Design in 1991.
More than a decade later, Bey was still doing projects for Droog. He and Makkink now head up a staff of five. And Bey recently closed on a 2 1/2-acre polder, where he plans to build a laboratory for ideas that are even more experimental.
What ties your work together?
Progress generally means moving faster and selling more. I see it differently. I appreciate the unsung qualities of things that most people would consider clumsy, unwanted, or no longer cool. Instead of treating them as waste, I let people look at them in a new way.
Could you give an example?
For a government-sponsored restoration project at Schloss Oranienbaum in eastern Germany, Droog Design asked me to contribute an outdoor bench. The grounds were full of fallen trees, so we used the trunks as the seats of the benches and added backs from traditional chairs found in the castle.
You employ interesting shapes.
For another outdoor bench, the Day-Tripper, which is polyurethane foam and found objects covered in glass-reinforced polyester, I was inspired by the postures of people on the street. I observed and took photographs throughout the day. Then, on the computer, I arranged the postures, morphing one position into the next. This produced the overall wavelike silhouette of the 23-foot-long bench. Along that length, I inserted old furniture—so there are places to sit, kneel, lean, or recline—and covered it in the glass-reinforced polyester, which will hold up to the elements. The bright pink silk-screened flower pattern gives the form life and makes old-fashioned furniture youthful.
The Day-Tripper is another design for Droog, which also manufactured my Kokon collection of old furniture encased in PVC. This gray "skin" creates an abstraction of the original form beneath. For Sketch club in London, we applied the same theory to an entire installation, with a settee, chairs, tables, and a wall of picture frames.
What projects are you working on today?
We're collaborating with a firm of landscape architects on a master plan and five 500-square-foot courtyard gardens for an Alzheimer's facility in northern Holland.
What are the project goals?
The question we're asking is: If you had a planet, and you could send only Alzheimer's patients there, what would it look like? Alzheimer's facilities tend to focus on building memory cues for the residents. We're taking the reverse approach. We're hoping to build on the sensory aspects of the garden to provide a sort of fairyland environment that acknowledges the residents' condition.
How do you do that?
Everything is purposely disjointed. For instance, one garden will have a grandfather clock in the center. It's reminiscent of the art brut of Jean Dubuffet—like another state of mind.
What color intrigues you most?
I don't always think in color. Although color is important to the final result, I tend to think and work in gray. It allows other ideas and forms to come forward.
What about materials?
Materials don't intrigue me. Human beings do.