Interview by Federica Marie Carenini
Alex Groot Jebbink is a product designer and interior architect based in Utrecht. He will be presenting his series of lamps at the imm cologne.
Federica Marie Carenini: Repetition seems to be the core feature of your lamps. Why?
Alex Groot Jebbink: Actually, it is not just repetition. It is the repetition of simple forms – something I recently realised has always fascinated me. It all started when I was a little kid playing with Lego. I was able to create new forms beginning with the basic shape of the Lego blocks. Now, that feeling of enthusiasm has developed into the core of all my works. I call it the power of repetition, or even better, of the simplicity of repeated shapes that, together, are able to tell something new.
FMC: What do you mean by ‘telling something new’?
AGJ: Well, behind each design product there is a story. People are curious about these stories, but it is complicated to put into a few words all that your work expresses. For this reason, you have to go straight to the point, to the essence of your designs. The magic happens when you are able to keep the story simple without affecting that essence. Through my designs, I try to express how beautiful this simplicity can be.
FMC: Can you describe the design process behind your works?
AGJ: It all starts in my head. You can often find me staring at nothing – I’m not absent, I’m completely absorbed in my mind; I’m designing. I take inspiration from the world around me and transform it into an already detailed design object in my mind. I do not ‘activate’ this process consciously, it just happens. Once I have completed the object in my mind I start to put pen to paper or use the computer and work on the object until it becomes a prototype.
FMC: When you designed the lamps, did you focus on the product design itself or on the effect the light could create
AGJ: In the creation of these products I mostly focused on the repetition of the shapes and their combination. Only when I first used the lamp did I realise the actual effect that the light created in the room. I was surprised that I had been able to create not just a lamp, but a real light object.
FMC: You are trained both in technology and in the arts. Was this combination important? What have you gained from both?
AGJ: While I was studying mechanical engineering, I had absolutely no idea I could become an interior architect and a designer. Now that I am both, I am much more grateful for this technical background than I was during my studies. This knowledge and experience has physically enabled me to make my products. I can’t picture my life as a designer without it.
FMC: You are also both an interior architect and a product designer. Does this influence your work?
AGJ: Yes, absolutely. To me, my products are a kind of an expression of architecture. Architecture operates on a larger scale than product design – you get used to having a wider perspective on things. I believe I look at the product in an architectural way. It means I am able to explore it on different levels, from many points of view.
FMC: What do you believe sets apart Dutch Designers? Do you feel you are one?
AGJ: In my opinion, Dutch Designers are characterised by curiosity, a need to investigate, and innovation. They dare to explore outside of their comfort zone, and experiment with new techniques and new combinations. I am very proud that a tiny country like the Netherlands is able to contribute so much to design worldwide – I am glad to be part of it. However, I don’t really consider myself to be a Dutch Designer. I mean, I am Dutch, I design, but I am also an interior architect. As I have said before, this part of myself deeply influences my work as a designer. Therefore, I don’t feel the need to label myself as a Dutch Designer.
FMC: What other designers do you admire or inspire you?
AGJ: I deeply admire Mies van der Rohe and Kengo Kuma. They are both architects that deal with form, simplicity, and repetition in a very beautiful way. I owe one of my favourite quotes to Mies van der Rohe: ‘Please, do not confuse simple with naïve.’ I took this quote and put into my own words: ‘My astonishment lies in simplicity.’
The LAMP series is part of the exhibition Enlightened Design during imm Cologne, 15-21 January 2018 in the corridor between hall 2 and hall 3. Click here for more information.