Weaving the past into the future
Marcel Wanders grew up in Boxtel, a small town in the Netherlands, and he played with the design before he knew what the word design means. After not being able to live his ideas in the Design Academy Eindhoven he graduated cum laude from the School of the Arts Arnhem in 1988.
Like many other young artists he joined a design collective Droog Design (Dry Design in Dutch) and in 1996. he came up with now famous Knotted Chair. At the first the chair looks simple but it's anything but simple. The famous chair reflects the whole philosophy of Marcel Wanders: always have a connection with the past.
Contrary to the wide-spread thinking of that time, Wanders didn't want to follow well-established paths and design mantras every designer knows, like "less is more", because that teaching led to the strange thinking that there's no past, just design for the futures. As silly as it may seem, and silly it is, that school of thinking is very restrictive. At the end of the day, how to think about future deliberately forgetting what happened yesterday? Guided by that philosophy Wanders decided that his objects must have some connection with the past.
While some may see his design as too complex and in some cases on the verge of kitsch, Wanders' design is far from that. Take for an example one of his famous works, Mondrian South Beach hotel and its fantastic black stairs.
The whole interior creates a sense of space with large supporting spindle-like columns and patterned staircases. The stairs connects fairy tale feeling with the touch of American South and the future depicted in laser-cut shapes. This is a perfect example how Wanders melts old and new, tradition and modernism, old shapes and high-tech machines in one thing which can be described with just one word: art. We could say "beautiful", but his works are art in its purest form.
That philosophy obviously works because Wanders is known as an artist who picks up his clients very carefully, he doesn't want to give his designs to "bad hands", and in turn he is rewarded with many awards and most important, the client such as Brad Pitt and Cappellini, Karl Lagerfeld, Beyonce and B&B Italia, stand in line waiting for his new products.
Moooi, of which he is art director and co-owner, has grown into an internationally renowned design label. Wanders also works on architectural and interior design projects and recently turned his attention to consumer home appliances. He is also the first designer of Droog design, a juror for various prizes like the Rotterdam Design Prize and the Kho Liang Ie prize.
Designs of Marcel Wanders have been selected for the most important design collections and exhibitions in the world, like the Museum of Modern Art in New York and San Francisco, the V&A Museum in London, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and many others. Although Wanders are doing many things and share his time among many projects, his heart is truly full when he sees a smile on the client's face. And that's the design in full meaning of the word. ■