Mieke Meijer – Interview
Today we present the Eindhoven based industrial designer Mieke Meijer. She talks about her interesting work and collaboration with the designer Roy Letterlé. She also explains her vision of design and where her inspirations come from. We let you read this interview and see by yourself her projects.
Hello Mieke, how are you?
Fine, thanks. Just back from a meeting in Paris and I’m catching up on my emails.
Can you introduce yourself? Tell us more about you and your studio.
I’m 31 years old and live in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. I graduated in 2006 from the Design Academy and work on self initiated and commissioned projects since then together with Roy Letterlé. Characteristics of our work are the constructive form language, the industrial details and the passion for materials and craftsmanship. Regularly we take part in exhibitions in different contexts both nationally and internationally. One day a week I teach at the Design Academy Eindhoven.
Can you tell us more about how you work with Roy Letterlé?
Roy Letterlé has a background in building and construction and is in addition to his job as a teacher of interior design very much involved in all projects. From the very first sketch we already think about how we should actually make it, which is important because most of our designs are made by ourselves in our studio. The thinking and the making go hand in hand. I’m the one who points out directions, Roy takes care of the details. Our work wouldn’t exist without collaborating this way.
Where is your studio based and what do you like about this place?
Our studio is based in a former Philips building at the Strijp-T area in Eindhoven which houses different designers. It’s an industrial area where you can work day and night without disturbing anyone which is great. The space is about 9 meters high and is divided into smaller units by stacked shipping containers which function as small offices and storage. Next to the shipping containers we have our workshop with machinery for woodworking, metal and ceramics.
What is your experience and approach to design?
We never design shape, it’s always the result of a technique or principle. We’re always looking for honesty and transparency in materials and construction. A constructive form language, elegant lines and an industrial character are the key elements in our designs. Our passion for details and materials contribute to a strong, recognizable signature. Our designs are never purely functional but offer the user freedom to use them in his own way. This helps them retain their autonomy.
Although I approach every design project as separate and distinctive, I do see links between different projects and the characteristics of the choices I make concerning shape, material, construction and detail. The combination of these elements forms my handwriting. I approach each object as a construction of individual parts. I focus on the essence of the object and search for timelessness. Because of this, objects keep their value for a long time.
Most of your projects are inspired by industrial archeology. Is that your main inspiration? Why?
We made a series based on this theme but it’s not in all of our works. It started in 2008 when I took part in an architecture excursion and visited Zeche Zolverein in Essen, Germany. It is a very imposing place to visit. The scale of the buildings is overwhelming. The fact that these structures still remain and are being reused is very special. Usually these complexes are torn down when mining is no longer commercially interesting.
In 2009 I saw the Basic Forms book by the Bechers. The memories of Zeche Zolverein reappeared in my mind. What I found most interesting was that the shapes of the buildings are purely determined by the machine inside or the task it is mend to perform. They are not meant to be aesthetically pleasing and that gives them somehow their beauty. By tracing the contours of the structures I found that the drawings where no longer recognizable as industrial buildings. As soon as I traced the contours of the buildings, the sense of scale disappeared and the big buildings became something different: pieces of furniture, vases, lamps, etc…
When I was asked to participate in the Dutch Invertuals show in Milan 2010 I instantly knew that this would become my new project. I also knew that this would never be a single object. From the start it was intended to become a series of objects. I was so fascinated by the matter that I saw endless possibilities. The insanely extensive documentation by Bernd and Hilla Becher inspires me over and over again.
In the past industrial buildings were parts of everyday life. In a sense they determined the skyline of our cities. Like Zeche Zolverein, cities grew around industrial sites and people lived at a walking distance from the sites. Nowadays we have to move further and further from our home in order to see something of the industry. Industrial sites have moved from the city centre to the periphery and from there to low wage countries (Eastern Europe, China, etc.)
By reversing the engineering of the structures I intuitively gave them a new function instead of designing a new form. My industrial furniture intends to bring the disused shapes back into everyday life. By doing so users might become aware of our own industrial heritage and the inherent beauty of the industrial structure.
Do you follow any kind of manifesto?
Is there any designer or movement you appreciate a lot?
All the teachers at the academy are designers themselves. One of the teachers I learned a lot from was Dick van Hoff. He found it very important that if you designed something you could actually make it work. He had lack of mottos like: ‘If you can’t make it, fake it’ that lots of students used as an argument for making a model instead of a working prototype.
Which books are on your bedside table?
The last word…
Make it, don’t fake it!
Interview : Dennis Moya & Tiffany Baehler – 10.13
Images are ©Mieke Meijer.