Bravo to Maarten Baas for being named Designer of the Year of this year's Design Miami (happening December 1-5). The dutch designer joins Zaha Hadid, Marc Newson, Tokujin Yoshioka and the Campana brothers as year five recipient. And, like some of the previous winners, he is as much an artist: His poetic "Sweepers Clock" is actually an installation and short film featuring street cleaners "performing" an analog clock over 24 hours.
And his aesthetic approach to furniture is equally as inspired, as in the Smoke series–where pieces, some by iconic designers, are burned, then preserved in a clear epoxy coating–or the Clay collection–chairs and tables with a metal "skeleton" then covered in vividly colored hand-molded clay resembling melted Crayons.
As a Southern Californian who's spent a chunk of life in backyard parties kicking it on naff patio furniture, I was taken by his "plastic" chair carefully crafted out of elm wood, which premiered at last summer's Design Miami/ Basel fair, a commission from Shanghai-based Contrasts gallery with the edict to make products using Chinese producers.
It's among the limited-edition and one-offs in recent years by a swath of young designers who've reimagined mass products into better or even precious materials, forcing us to rethink the cheap essentials so integral to our contemporary lives.
Good design is not only about finding solutions to challenges. It's also about prompting the discourse that posits the challenge in the first place.
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