MWA at New Museum NYC
From the New Museum release:
Makers With Agendas (MWA), cofounded and directed by architect Julien De Smedt and William Ravn with Wouter Dons, is a new design platform with the mission to remove design from aesthetic concerns and towards societal issues. “At Makers with Agendas we’re trying to work with themes and problems rather than just entertain ourselves with a cool design,” says De Smedt. “The culture of making is linked to the culture of curiosity. This bizarre alchemy links curiosity to productivity.” The idea and concept behind MWA emerged out of working together at JDS Architects, De Smedt’s architecture firm based in Brussels, Copenhagen and Shanghai.
Friday 22nd of November
7 – 9pm
The New Museum
New York NY
Design is acts of love. Of care. Of commitment. Of desire.
At Makers With Agendas, we are dreamers and we are makers. We re-imagine the status quo. We ache for challenge. We ask the right questions. We get annoyed by the wrong answers. We are problem solvers.
Makers With Agendas was born out of our passion for design and our loathing of its abuses. We’re on a journey for change because we care.
Makers With Agendas is a new design capacity engaged in thinking, producing and distributing design.
We explore new design typologies for a new society.
“At Makers With Agendas we’re trying to work with themes and problems rather than just entertain ourselves with a cool design.”
“We will engage in everything we want to and in nothing we don’t need to. ”
“I see beauty in the procession that links a design to an experience.”
“The culture of making is linked to the culture of curiosity. This bizarre alchemy links curiosity to productivity.”
Julien De Smedt and Karen Wong part 2
KAREN WONG, deputy director of the New Museum, New York and co-founder of IDEAS CITY
KW: You are currently designing millions of square feet of infrastructure in China, Turkey, Denmark and France. At first glance one might say you abide by bigger is better. The MWA projects are a gigantic downshift in scale. Why do you like these projects? Is the design approach and process different from the architectural one?
JDS: If these projects are smaller in scale, they gather a much wider audience. With architecture I get to intervene in a specific place in society, with specific programs in a specific location. The reach is important and our attitude is definitely similar in trying to always resolve and address more issues than the ones we’re hired for. But with Makers With Agendas we get to pick the issues we want to tackle; we’re not tied to a limited site or location of reach, and we can truly let our minds and ideas expand. In some way I feel like those projects are in fact a lot bigger. If you take the modular shelving system ‘Stacked’, which I designed for Muuto. It’s selling hundreds of thousands of units every year with an exponential growth curve. And even though there’s around two million visitors to our Oslo ski jump a year, that number is pretty steady. So imagine what relevance we can create if we start injecting agendas to the projects we address. With Makers, that’s our intention. Our first batch of projects is very domestic. We need to generate a capital to expand our ambitions. We’re entirely self-financed and the stakes are high, so we need to function on a step-by-step formula. The first agenda we’ve addressed is the one of compact design. Accordion is the best student of that class.
KW: What is bad design?
JDS: Design that doesn’t answer a need, doesn’t generate an emotion and therefore doesn’t live long.
KW: The MWA philosophy is to pursue new design typologies exploring societal issues rather than beauty canons. And yet your designs are beautiful. In particular the Accordion table and tea set. Tease this out for me.
JDS: I think you and I can agree that we find beauty in ingenuity. Just like we can appreciate an artwork that reveals an issue bigger than the boundaries of its context (I’m thinking of Banksy for instance) or a very intricate metaphor in a rap lyric (by the likes of Talib Kweli). Often we try to tone down the expression of a good idea in order to let it live without disturbance. The two products you mention are very much along those lines: Accordion is a foldable trestle that collapses into a single stick, making it extremely compact. The motivation here is very rational. So rational that the result is unexpected and almost looks irrational: an M shape trestle hardly imaginable if it wasn’t for its collapsing function. The T42 tea set is a more poetic product that comes from a simple idea: could we make a product that celebrates the importance of the meeting of two friends by its design? We used tea as a symbol of the moment two people share in relaxed discussion. T42 is basically a tea set for two people, where the two cups embrace the teapot. The act of sharing tea is extended in the act of sharing what appears to be a single object at first. I see beauty in the procession that links a design to an experience.
Stay tuned for part 3 of this interview.
Photo by Canyon Castator.
Design Is Flat
This photograph was taken overlooking Sweden at the Øresund Strait, one of the busiest waterways in the world.
The polluting emission from 15 container ships is equivalent to that of all cars in the world and unlike power stations or cars, they can burn the cheapest, filthiest, high-sulphur fuel. A simple amendment in the law could change that.
Photo by Nikolaj Møller for MWA
Design Is Collective
On June 30th 2013 Vladimir Putin signs a bill making homosexual propaganda to minors illegal in Russia. This photograph was taken during the ‘To Russia With Love” demonstration held on August 20th 2013 in front of the Russian embassy, Copenhagen. The colors on the rainbow flag were designed to symbolize life, healing, sunlight, nature, harmony and spirit.
Photo by Nikolaj Møller for MWA