Dirk van der Kooij exhibited this year as part of the Domus & Audi project – ‘The Future in the Making’. This was “a major exhibition looking at what is to come in the future of design, involving events and live performances in Palazzo Clerici, right in the heart of Milan, close to the Duomo subway station.”
“3,000 kg of gear had been loaded onto the truck destined for Milan. It felt like doing my graduation all over again, loads of stress, worried about not getting things ready on time, not prepared to make any concessions, so do what you have to do and just walk the extra mile. We all groaned under the pressure – up early every morning and keep going until you drop. But we’re very happy with the results!”
Winner of the Dutch Design Award 2011 Dirk van der Kooij produced, “on the spot”, pieces from his Endless furniture line. The manufacturing process is aided by an adapted industrial robot, and uses recycled materials from old electrical appliances (such as computers and refrigerators)
Van der Kooij grinds the plastic to a pulp before feeding it to a modified industrial robot programmed to print out one of several furniture designs, from rocking chairs and dining tables to “little icons”.
With incredible precision the robot pipes continuous stands of viscous material into successive layers to create the sinuous curves and interlocking angles of Kooij’s geometric pieces, each of which can be completed in just 3 hours. Kooij claims his robot can produce 4,000 chairs per year.
Dirk presented four completely new products in Milan. One of them is an aluminium version of the Endless chair and another one is a transparent Endless lamp.
As a designer you constantly want to innovate, so he also presented a table based on a completely new concept. Dirk developed a new product made from ingots (a metal bulk material which is processed to make other products). I have left the material untouched and created a table from these rough shapes.
With the Open Design Archipelago exhibition, Domus brings together a selection of groups, individuals, companies and platforms engaged in reshaping the technological, material, philosophical and economic frameworks of design.
From open-source platforms of collaboration to the phenomenon rise of crowd funding, and from the proliferation of fabrication micro-laboratories to new frontiers in food design, the ubiquity and low cost of new production and networking technologies are profoundly transforming the way we design.
For Salone del Mobile, Palazzo Clerici will become a transient laboratory of advanced experimentation and production in which these distant worlds collide
In 2010, while still a student at the Design Academy in Eindhoven, Kooij acquired an industrial robot from China and reconfigured it into a 3D printer capable of printing furniture with material recycled from discarded refrigerators. The robot prints furniture in layers of thick plastic lines, a process Kooij says is both efficient and shows how the form is built.
Domus 957, April 2012
The adjective which to Dirk Van der Kooij’s mind best defines his way of designing is honest. This is because it is based on experimenting with a material that states its origin, shaped by a robot that creates things “in transparency”.
Honesty is certainly not the first concept that springs to mind on observing the industrial robot programmed by him to “print” furniture and which, in his Eindhoven workshop, extrudes recycled plastic to forge tables and chairs by making its arm carry out a potentially infinite movement. But it surely relates to the Dutch designer and the development of his design path.
A passionate constructor since adolescence, at the age of 13 he designed a collection of tools and later started making small items of furniture for school friends and family. He went on to attend the Wood and Furniture College before enrolling at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. There he progressed from woodwork to the recycled plastic of his Elephant Skin Stool, a project developed while still at the academy.
His method of oven “firing” followed by a cooling phase, resulting in a plastic with a corrugated appearance similar to an elephant’s skin, caught the eye of Ingo Maurer, who offered him a period of apprenticeship at his Munich office. Dirk’s career was thus launched.
While taking his diploma in 2010, he used his new technology to produce tables (the Endless series) and exhibited them the same year at the Salone del Mobile. Again at the fair this April, he will be showing his Endless Robot (with the latest collection of objects) for the live performance at Palazzo Clerici, in conjunction with the Domus exhibition The Future in the Making. Dirk’s “robotic approach” has impressed itself on his work, though he prefers to keep his distance from it.
“I don’t think using 3D moulds is the best way to produce any object,” he explains. “I worked on the robot because there was no similar way of making what I had in mind. I do not aim to be a 3D company, but simply a designer fascinated by textures and materials.”
By way of confirmation, he says his performance at the Milanese fair will consist of breaking the perfection of the chair production by intervening on its process. The robot will produce a much thicker line than the previous one (5 centimetres), pairing it with a second line and bending them while still hot to shape a new kind of chair.
“Without the creative inventiveness indispensable to the quality of an object, what comes out of a 3D mould is not all that special. Machines can only produce homogeneous and absolutely cheap structures.” Loredana Mascheroni.
“This year will be my third time presenting work in Milan, first was with my Elephant-skin stool through an internship at Ingo Maurer, last year with my graduation project Endless for the Design Academy Eindhoven. It was great to see how much my conceptual and experimental ideas were picked up by the public during the Salone del Mobile. People seemed to understand my products and appreciated my work.”
“It brought me a lot of experience. Not only new clients but especially attention from the worldwide press.”
About Dirk Vander Kooij
“I was about ten and at every crack of dawn my mother had to listen to all the great plans I had made during the night for the following day. I was quite convinced I would succeed in realizing them. Until today I firmly believe that Mum had full confidence in me, even though I had to disappoint her each time the day came to an end…”
Today his plans are no less ambitious, but he gets more done nowadays… Dirk Vander Kooij (The Netherlands, Purmerend, 1983) succeeded in developing new techniques that make him capable of creating distinguished designs. Absorbed in engineering, milling around ideas, moulding and refining methods long enough, have now given him a firm grasp on how to realize what he has in mind.
From wood to synthetic material
In 1997 Dirk made his first steps in the creative field by taking up study at the Wood and Furniture College. After four years of planing and sanding and a straight A for his final project he was ready to discover other materials than wood.
His next step was the Design Academy in Eindhoven where he was trained between 2004 and 2010. During this period he designed his first Elephant Skin Stool. The recycled synthetic material that the Elephant Skin Stool is made of, is baked in an oven and as the material cools down, it gets its distinctive thick elephant skin appearance. Ingo Maurer was so impressed by the technique that he offered Dirk an apprenticeship. Dirk Vander Kooij then started producing tables independently, using the Elephant Skin production procedure. The tables were displayed during the Salone Del Mobile at Ingo Maurers exhibition and sold in Rossanna Orlandi’s shop in Milan.
In 2010 it was time to graduate. Says Vander Kooij: “My graduation project was inspired by a shape that was made using an old 3D printer. This principle is 30 years old, but the older machines were not very accurate. By carefully examining that process, one could identify how the shape was being formed: a very thin thread was meticulously moved to and fro, building up the shape very efficiently and without waste. The idea occurred instantly: “I’m going to build a machine specialised in making furniture”. Thick threads of plastic that create a honest ornament by clearly showing how the chair is fabricated… Endless.”
He used an old industrial robot which he programmed in such a way that it would “print” furniture. In a virtually endless movement the robot extrudes recycled refrigerator interiors into chairs.
This did not go unnoticed by the press: a considerable part of the broadcast of AVRO’s Kunstuur was spent on the Endless theme and the professional journals Frame (June 2010) and Items (June 2011) rewarded him with an honourable mention. The Volkskrant even placed him level with classics like Mart Stam and Gijs Bakker: “For 800 euro’s you get a one of a kind design object. Precisely what every collector wants. At the art exhibition Art Basel last summer (2011) this chair was sold to international collectors”.
11 juni 1983 : Born in Purmerend, Netherlands
1999 – 2004 : Wood and Furniture College, Amsterdam (NL)
2005 – 2010 : Design Academy, Eindhoven (NL) / Development Elephant Skin / Development Endless / Internship at Ingo Maurer (DE) / Exhibition Salone de Mobile (Milan, IT)
2011 : Start up Dirk Vander Kooij / Winner Dutch Design Award / Winner DMY Award Berlin / Nominated Brit’s Insurance Award / Speaker at Design Indaba Cape Town (RSA) / Further developing Endless / Exhibition Salone del Mobile (Milan, IT)) / Exhibition DMY Berlin / Exhibition Zuiderzeemuseum / Exhibition Designhuis
2012 : Launch new website / Exhibition The Aram Gallery (London, UK) / Exhibition De Modefabriek (Amsterdam, NL) / Exhibition Oranienbaumexhibition (Germany)