September 15, 2009
by: Murrye Bernard Assoc. AIA LEED AP

Event: Pioneers of Change: Open Talks
Location: Nolan Park, Governors Island, 09.10.09
Speakers: “Towards a New Notion of Luxury”: Laurene Boym — Boym Partner; Marije Vogelzang — Proef; Amale Andraos — WORKac; Christien Meindertsma — Product Designer; Matilda McQuaid — Deputy Curatorial Director & Head of Textiles, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (Moderator);
“New Collaborations”: Jake Barton — Local Projects; Pascale Gatzen — Painted; Arne Hendriks — Platform 21; Scott Stowell — Open; Julie Iovine — Executive Editor, The Architect’s Newspaper (Moderator)
Organizer: Pioneers of Change; Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum


Governors Island, New York, sign ‘LAND! Pioneers of Change’ by Experimental Jetset.

Photograph by Experimental Jetset, courtesy of Droog

As part of NY400 Week, the Dutch have taken over Governors Island to host Pioneers of Change, a festival of Dutch design, fashion, and architecture celebrating 400 years of Dutch-American friendship. Conceived and curated by Renny Ramakers, co-founder and director of Droog, Pioneers of Change is comprised of installations in eleven houses in Nolan Park. Installations include a pop-up store of Dutch design and a slow food café, as well as exhibitions of collaborations between Dutch and American artists and designers. A two-part panel discussion kicked off the festivities.

“Towards a New Notion of Luxury” examined the impact of the economic downfall on perceptions of the finer things in life. Panelists agreed that with the current return to simplicity, space, fresh air, respect, silence, and time are valued more than money. They discussed this idea through some of their projects.

Amale Andraos, co-founder of WORKac, presented the simple luxury of growing food, as featured in Public Farm 1 last summer at P.S.1, and an edible schoolyard for P.S. 216. “Eating-designer” Marije Volgelzang, founder of Proef, explores connections between food, culture, and memory. She organized a Dutch national tap water tasting, sampling water from 12 different regions of the Netherlands, and a Food Memory Workshop, where elderly citizens of Rotterdam were fed typical old Dutch dishes that brought back memories from the WWII era. “It’s luxury in a twisted way,” Volgelzang said, “of getting back what you own.” Laurene Boym, of Boym Partners, discussed a series of handmade objects — Missing Monuments, Buildings of Disaster Series, and Babel Blocks — that she believes are luxurious because they are one-of-a-kind and in limited edition.

“New Collaborations” examined connections between the “design world” and the “normal world” by posing the question: How can non-professionals play an intricate role in realizing creative projects? Local Projects, a media design firm, created StoryCorps, a booth where people document their experiences for a national oral history archive. Similarly, graphic design firm Open creates “designs for people,” according to firm founder Scott Stowell. For its design for architectural signage at the Brown University Friedman Study Center, Open invited students and faculty to submit words and images from the archives, which were then silkscreened on the walls.

Dutch collaborative Platform 21 connects the efforts of amateurs and professionals. Their project “Hacking IKEA” displays how designers and non-designers alike transform their IKEA furniture for new uses. For the Pioneers of Change exhibition, Platform 21 is inviting the public to help them repair and refinish old furniture.

One of the themes of the day was why the Dutch are good designers. Moderator Julie Iovine, executive editor of The Architect’s Newspaper, pointed out that being a designer might be easier in the Netherlands, where the government provides more support than the U.S. According to Dutch fashion designer Pascale Gatzen, the reason is because “we have to reorganize ourselves constantly,” due to the lack of space. Perhaps space isn’t such a luxury, after all.

Murrye Bernard, LEED AP, is a freelance architectural writer and a contributing editor to e-Oculus.


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