Text by Annemiek van Grondel
Photo by Joost Gijzel
How is Basten Leijh doing?
Basten Leijh has already enriched our lives with innovative bicycles, including the Sandwichbike (DIY bicycle design), a beautiful lamp with a strong slant, and functional but sexy office furniture. But the multiple award-winning Dutch designer is not resting on his laurels. There’s more to come! The harvest of his recent prolific years as a designer (and his vision for the future) is now on display in a major exhibition of ten concepts and products under the provocative title: ‘HOW ARE YOU’.
Basten Leijh is a remarkably constructive bundle of contradictions. An assertive designer and independent consultant with a talent for collaboration, in both the boardroom and the workplace. Flexibility and agility (he once was a dedicated windsurfer) set off against a strict belief in his own abilities. A rich imagination combined with practical sobriety.
The reason for this duality may perhaps be found in his youth. As the child of an architect and an educator/artist, both musically gifted, he was destined for the arts from an early age. But what is a young rebel to do? Study economics, of course. Fortunately for him (and us), he eventually came round and decided on a study course at the Design Academy in Eindhoven.
The core mission of his work? Functionality. ‘In the design process, I always examine the user and producer within myself’, Leijh explains. ‘What is the essence? Is something really necessary for the solution?’
We can examine that goal at Galleria Minini in Ventura Lambrate. HOW ARE YOU, a comprehensive presentation of Basten Leijh Design Studio, is shown in an appropriate 100 m2 space. Ten square meters per concept, project or product – it’s the dream of many a designer. In collaboration with Modular Lighting, the products are individually bathed in a cylinder of light, with the beam encased in a Kvadrat fabric sleeve. This exhibition setup allows for personalization of the light beam’s intensity and warmth through a connectivity application, in keeping with the development of the Internet of Things.
For Modular Lighting, Leijh already designed Médard, a modular dimmable spotlight, which is very slender but equipped with the latest technology. Inside the Modular Connected Series, these lamps can be separately positioned with the help of an app. Suitable for lighting a gallery, shop or living room – all from the comfort of your armchair. The exhibition also includes new highlights from Basten Leijh’s oeuvre, which – so far – has four themes: mobility, lighting, waste solutions, and furniture.
The importance of sustainability in his designs was demonstrated in the award-winning design of his Sandwichbike (2006), in which he made the assembly process transparent by making it possible to put the bike together yourself.
For EcoSmart, he designed efficient yet stylish waste bins: Tulip and Smartbin (the first product in this discipline to receive Cradle 2 Cradle certification).
At HOW ARE YOU, Leijh launches Cartrash, a sleek and clever reusable car trash bin to self-assemble, with a Kvadrat outer covering woven out of PET material. A stylish eco-friendly contribution to keeping both your car and the oceans clean. It’s an innovative idea for Cartrash.com, which is actively promoting initiatives relating to the cleaning of the world’s oceans.
Inventive and playful
Leijh is the creative director of Roels Spaces, a unit of Royal Ahrend that is currently working on products for activity-based working. The successful modular seating programme Loungescape was created in 2010, followed by the award-winning Flexbox, Concentration Corner, and Layers programs, all with leading acoustic and soft-seating office solutions for our increasingly technical world. In open spaces where flexible working is key, Leijh creates resting places to recharge, both literally and figuratively. HOW ARE YOU also includes three new products for Ahrend, including Howareyou, the first acoustic chair to which you can attach your iPad and charge your phone wirelessly, perfect for making a Skype call or preparing a presentation. And Recharged, a pouffe that can accommodate several people, who can then charge their phones in peace. Both pieces of furniture are realized in cooperation with Zens.
But there is much more to see at HOW ARE YOU. Feel free to bring your kids and admire the playful and beautifully finished foot-powered Walcar. Or take a look at Learn-Inn, a line of modular school furniture.
Basten Leijh takes us back to our childhood, when everything was possible and our feelers were out constantly. His antennas are forever receiving signals that lead him to create new products that make our daily lives better, prettier, and more convenient. Want to catch some of these signals? Make your way to Ventura Lambrate this week.
Basten Leijh exhibited during the Milan Design Week 2017, 4-9 April, at Galleria Minini, Via Massimiano Imperatore, 25, Ventura Lambrate.
This article was published in The Dots #14 and distributed during the Milan Design Week 2017. Find the complete magazine here.