Less than three years ago we watched the budding Dutch designer Dirk Vander Kooij explain his graduation project to a packed house at Cape Town's Design Indaba conference. The Design Academy Eindhoven alumnus humbly presented Endless Flow, a "dining table chair" made from recycled refrigerator plastics. Warming up with some slides of refrigerator graveyards and design inspiration, suddenly things got interesting when Vander Kooij showed an image of what looked like an industrial-sized cake icing tube. This was actually a self-built extruder, which he made using a heated barrel, a cone and a motor.
With this Tin Man-like contraption, he was able to melt a bucket of plastic refrigerator chips and ooze out one continuous string, which he could then layer to form some sort of large structure. But to build more than a glob of what he described as "meatloaf," Vander Kooij needed something more evolved, so he found a company willing to lend him an old rapid prototyping robot arm that was ready for retirement. By eschewing traditional molds, he was able to continuously refine the design and reprogram the machine which, in the end, led to a perfectly proportioned chair.
More important to Vander Kooij though, is the fact the old robot works in low resolution and therefore leaves a texture reflecting the material pumped through it, unlike new 3D printing machines or molds, which smooth everything out to the point of a generic surface. The old robot shows signs of the production process, as well as striations in color, which change based on flecks of different plastic chips in the mix or if he purposely adds different pigments. Vander Kooij considers this to be an utterly honest aesthetic, in the same way that any piece of wooden furniture will have a different grain, each piece of his recycled plastic furniture has a unique patina.
Vander Kooij has kept extremely busy since that talk and our subsequent interview with him. Recently, we had the opportunity to visit his workshop and showroom in Eindhoven, where we saw a full evolution of his approach through more recently developed designs, like the Chubby Chair, the Oval Fat Line Table and the Satellite Lamp (which he says may be the foundation for an audio speaker design later on).
His vision has also garnered attention from several prestigious institutions—and the Stedelijk Museum, MoMA and the Vitra Design Museum have all acquired his furniture for permanent display. Now, for Dutch Design Week, Vander Kooij will showcase his latest work, a three-meter high vase fitted with 32,000 lenses and 12,000 LED lights. Also on view will be another recent venture called Recycling2; a project that sees the designer making new use of his own waste, which is created from an enormous trash bin of Endless material. The three works include the Left Over Table, the Changing Vase and the Chubby Coat Hanger.
Those in Eindhoven for Dutch Design Week can stop by the workshop on Saturday, 19 October 2013 from 8PM to see his latest work as well as a "dance, a drink and a snack." Also be sure to stop by his girlfriend's expertly curated shop in the center of town, Dutch Design Year, where Vander Kooij's furniture is available for purchase alongside those from other contemporary designers.
Photos by Karen Day