Hans Maier-Aichen


For each Kvadrat Design Project, we curators seek out promising young designers who already have a distinct and recognisable design language. This year we focus on Canvas, a textile that has a broad colour palette but is still restrained in its visual effect, enabling its modest appearance to suit a wider range of finishes.

In the selection of designers, two aspects were pivotal. On the one hand, unbridled imagination, ingenuousness and the courage to take risks in the quest for new paths into the project. On the other, an interdisciplinary approach and a tendency to reject a classic, linear product design ideology.

Taking into account the material specified and the spectrum of classic textile items, works of great freedom and originality have been created through the transformation and reinterpretation of everyday products. Functional, artistic and performative approaches are evidence of an open attitude to interaction and an experimental disposition. A diverse and international selection of designers captures the wide range of today’s reflections on design.

Christien Meindertsma’s Pigeon Service picks up on the broad colour scale of Canvas. One hundred opulently coloured pigeons occupy the room, some arranged on a wooden trestle, others scattered on the ground. They convey limitless presence and a pigeon- professionalism. They compete with each other between foraging, love games and messaging. The craftsmanship in the pigeons’ production highlights the homogeneous surface and the interplay of the material’s colours. The birds are almost within grasp! The project comes to life through its staging and poetic force.

Butternutten AG’s The Principles of Hiding explores camouflage, deception, concealment and misdirection. Inspired by military camouflage nets, large-format, lavishly produced throws have been created which can be stretched, scrunched, compressed or clinched together in different ways via a communicating cord guided by sewn textile sleeves. The work demonstrates how a new piece of furniture or furniture architecture crystallises imposingly, permitting many possibilities of shaping, use or interpretation and yet ‘to praise the beauty of coincidence’.

Martha Schwindling’s Tension at Work is a spatial project demonstrating efficient mobility in picturing space and creating varying moods. The designs play between hard and soft, combining common plywood boards and loops of textile. As individual materials they don ́t provide any stability. During wrapping and stretching, the flat plywood sheets morph into surprising spatial objects: mobile tables, partition walls or shelves. The less material used the better: Tension at Work provides an ecological contribution to a new product ethic with genuine simplicity.

Skin & Bones by Judith Seng is a performative work realised through use in choreographed movement with different tools. In the interaction of body, object, material and space, a sculptural scenario develops. With new images constantly being created with the same materials, our perception moves through a journey of interpretations. The result remains diverse and open.

Tokyo-based design studio YOY was founded by Naoki Ono and Yuki Yamamoto. Their TRUNK is a series of stools made by 3D scanning a tree trunk to create a mould with the texture of real bark, into which is pressed Canvas textile. The transformation of a natural object thus results in a non-designed artefact with a highly decorative surface open to varied perception and interpretation. YOY see ‘fictionality’ as their design theme. The fictional character describes the interest in crossing borders between functional design and artistic exaltation. No matter how far one goes: a trunk is a trunk is a trunk.

Cheng-Tsung Feng describes himself as being young but having ‘an old soul’. The Taiwanese designer places himself in a clear position in relation to his cultural background and simultaneously forces himself to outline his work within limits. In Layers a bunch of textile layers interfere with a simple wooden construction. The juxtaposition between a perfectly constructed piece of furniture and the roughly scissored textile sheets jars and creates refreshing imperfection.

Simply Better Living by Clemens Lauer and Max Guderian (Stabil) alludes to generic German home and lifestyle magazines that service our living space with well-designed products without recourse to the avant-garde or unusual. The two young designers take middle-class furnishings such as the deck chair, cushion and erotic cactus, and transform them by shifting dimension, size and virtue. They break rules and are interested in the radical potential of manipulating daily objects. Never be sure what you see when you look a different way.

Hans Maier-Aichen is a designer, curator and professor of product design. In 1983 he founded the design label AUTHENTICS, which established new standards in the development and production of everyday objects of quality design. He was a presidential member of the steering committee of the German Design Council between 1997 and 2014.

In 1997, Maier-Aichen became a visiting professor at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London. Since 2002 he has been professor of product design at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, Germany. He was a member of the advisory committee and co-curator of the book Spoon: 100 designers, 10 curators, 10 design classics (2002), published by Phaidon Press, London.

Maier-Aichen has established regular workshops and lectureships with international design schools. These have created a vital communication with students, designers and institutions with the aim of pushing boundaries in design cooperation and crossing borders with other disciplines so as to amplify the field of design activities and widen the potential of the designer. Since 2008 he has presented workshops as visiting professor at the China Academy of Art
in Hangzhou.

As curator, his exhibitions include Lapse in Time (2009) and USELESS? – The Wandering Pain (2011), both for the EXD Biennale in Lisbon; From Regular to Bold at the Institute of Design in Kielce, Poland. New Talents – State of the Arts (2009), his book about emerging designers, became a key reference book on innovative design activities. In 2012 he published 10+1 – Eleven Years of Young Design in Progress. In 2016 and 2017 Maier-Aichen was appointed as a nomination expert for the Design Intelligence Award (DIA) in China.