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The Pyramids of Makkum

by Brian Fichtner
on 23 April 2008

For years, Royal Tichelaar Makkum, the Netherlands' longest extant company, has quietly mounted the most impressive displays of ceramic ware during the Milan Furniture Fair and this year is no exception. Two years ago, they released a hugely successful collection of biscuit ware with Studio Job; last year they launched a unique office collection with Dick van Hoff, which turned the ornamental into the functional. This past week, Makkum exhibited an ambitious project called the Pyramids of Makkum.


After a demanding restoration project for the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, which had recently acquired 17th century flower pyramids (highly fashionable aristocratic objects now considered the finest example of Delftware for this period), Makkum engaged a handful of leading Dutch designers to embark on a challenging project of its own. Using a replica of the restored flower pyramid as its starting point (pictured below right), Makkum asked Hella Jongerius, Studio Job, Jurgen Bey, and fashion designer Alexander van Slobbe to create their own modern reinterpretation of the grandiose tower.

While the approach each designer took was somewhat predictable—Studio Job stacking common household objects (above right); Hella using straps to bind the separate sections together (above center); van Slobbe incorporating elements from a woman's dressing room (above left)—the collection still proved to be a highlight of the fair for me.

Without a doubt, Jurgen Bey's interpretation (above) was the most thoughtful. Looking at the flower pyramid as “an ode to the collector,” both a vessel for storage and a collection of stories, he artfully assembled various vessels (a cleaning bucket, a milk pail, a feed bucket), covering each in finely sketched stories of culture and knowledge. The stroke of grace with Bey's pyramid is the shipping containers which, when stacked themselves, can function as a cupboard for the showcasing the disassembled pyramid itself. Its layers of meaning are innumerable, offering infinite depth for reflection. (Click images for detail.)

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