Platform Design and Research Blog

People behind PLATform: interview

PLATform is a manifesto taking various forms. The ideology behind this is to present design-oriented pieces in alternative spaces. The objects presented are crafted by independents or collaboratives, that have a close relationship to their craftsmen and to their public. We are interested in showing the creations that have a disjointed element about them, whether it be through the inspiration, the designers ingrained utility, the materials used. People should have an emotional connection to what they buy and consume, and we would like to highlight this awareness and research for it. PLATform consists of different components through ephemeral exhibitions, an online blog, events and panel discussions.

So how did PLATform start?

Iohanna: It started with the idea of redesigning the space for the collective. We wanted to generate a creative atmosphere, or a place that inspires people. That is something that we were looking for when we talk about the design of Agora or a co-working space. Then, it made sense to exhibit or to show objects with a concept not just a designs for the space, but to have an interesting concept and change chronically, every few months. Then the first exhibition, REFOUND started from the idea of showing new pieces in a space that is already full of second-hand pieces, which were sold in the space. So we wanted to combine pieces from different eras together and see what happens.

Raquel: Basically that’s how it came, that was the first inkling for REFOUND.

Alex: What brought you to design in the first place, what did you want to explain through your work, as a designer, curator, or executive producers?

Raquel: I always liked art but then I don’t know why this thing came about, but when I was younger, I liked the idea of constructing something myself that someone could use, it was more of a functional idea than an artistic one.

Iohanna: It comes from curiosity about objects, and how they express and tell stories, how people use objects and their history.

Raquel: Also when you see something nice, that you desire, I thought that the idea behind creating these beautiful things must be a nice job.

Alex: For me, now i understand, that it was more about telling the stories behind the objects.

Rory: We’ve gone through thousands of years of technological change and it manifests itself in this one object. I went to Baumarkt yesterday and i was looking at all of these little fasteners and screws, I realized that everything in life is designed except you just take it for granted. It’s really interesting to think about the process that we as a society went through. How we came to this point, the thought processes behind them, and how we answer these problems with answers.

Pedro: I just moved and now I have this washing machine and a dryer. These machines were working for 3 days consecutively, and i realized, Ok if I didn’t have this washing machine I would not be able to answer these emails at this time. Everything is linked to something else in a sense, one entity brings the support to have the curiosity and the time to research other things.

Raquel: These tools that make your life easier and speeds up everything. You have the possibility to do several things at once.

Rory: If the first person had never designed or developed the washing machine, we probably would’ve never have come to the point, or time to make a computer.

How do you relate that to PLATform?

Pedro: I relate that to PLATform in the sense that we started here by having the objects from second-hand. Since we started the project, the whole idea of Agora is to have these different entities, platforms interacting with each other. We have a heart and design is so elementary for our space and for life, it emerged from this conversation.

Rory: It’s amazing how what objects within a room, how they are arrange can change, how people use the room, the mood within the room, it’s really important if you want to create a nice café or an exhibition, or whatever, it’s in the minor details.

Alex: And the utility of the pieces differ, they become different depending on how you arrange it, so something that is useful or that you can use, if you put it or you displace it somewhere, it is not useful anymore, and people will understand it differently.

Iohanna: I think it is interesting the meanings we give to objects, but i think that’s why it’s interesting to go to second-hand shops and markets, that you give a new meaning to old objects, you re-contextualize how they influence our lives today. Like for example the Persian carpets: they were designed and produced to rich people, and to show a status. Now you can see them in spaces that are not related to that, and now it’s cool and it’s young after so many years. That’s the new meaning we give to them.

What do you think about IKEA?

Rory: I’ve lived in England for 8 years and so many apartments there are sterile, the way they make them, it’s like a live in factory, they go and get the cheapest sofa at Ikea and just really bland interior design, you go to the next one and it’s exactly the same, it’s like living in a hospital…

Raquel: You mean the content of the houses or the spaces are so similar because of the mass-production..

Rory : Yeah and it really has negative effect on your psyche and the quality of your life, it’s really demotivating and makes it really difficult to be creative. Once in an apartment I was trying to make music and i was so uninspired by this, just because my surroundings were so sterile so you can’t develop personality within these environments. I think it is really important now that we use all of these second-hand goods, not really for environmental reasons but also for our mindsets because it opens up your patterns and processes when you have something that has a story behind it and not just there for one specific purpose.

Raquel: It’s an interesting question because depending on the context it’s we will not have an uniform answer at all. Here it’s so common to have stuff from ikea and it’s like oh ok you have to go to ikea to buy this table or whatever, and eveyone has the same in their house, and it’s kind of boring it becomes a repetition, no personality at all. But i remember the first time I had my own appartment, it was in Brazil and I wanted so much to have an Ikea, because i didn’t have another option to buy stuff at such prices; and at least some more excitable design. I put a lot of value on it because since you don’t have it, and the secret is to balance a bit. It’s great to have these pieces that you have an emotion-relation on it; maybe it’s a sofa from your grandma, or a new piece but you have to build the space in this way, where you print your identity on it. Obviously if you put everything form the same shop or if you make everything second-hand it might also look boring.

Rory: I also think that I like genres of creativity where there is photograph, image, music, interior designers that like some really nice clean elements but there is also something that is damaged, if u have music for example, something that is done so clean on digital, I think it is the same: there is a lack of soul, it’s the same with furniture.

Do you think it is something from our generation?

Rory: I think we have gone through this process, where we were very excited about the fact that we could do something so clean, and then in the 80′s, we went through this journey where we got tired again, and we are looking for a new way of combining things, it’s like remixing cultures.

Raquel: Things become more human, not so perfect, linear or clean..

Iohanna: And about having the balance, I think it is only possible in our generation, but we went through all these styles, and know we are looking for a way to mix them taking different elements from different periods in history and combining.

Alex: I don’t think it only pertains to our generation because there has always been this passing down of furniture, and of these family shrines..

Iohanna: When I grew up, my mother always had this idea to buy new stuff and renovate, and modern, then when I went to my grandmothers house, opening the closet and seeing all this beautiful stuff. My mother kept asking me “why do you want something so old? that is not in fashionable anymore”, then I had to explain to her, what is the value of these things.

Raquel: Actually some time ago things were designed to last for a lifetime. You buy your furniture when you get married and when you have your grandchildren they will be there. It’s known nowadays some products are made to last for 2 years max, 6 months. I still use my grandmothers’ bed and it is still perfect; if you buy this now in 2 years you would have to change it.

Rory: Now we have a full palette to choose from, whereas in the past it would be difficult, now we have so many options, and it makes it a lot easier for us to make these mixes.

Pedro: Everything, like what you were saying, also with music you see a lot, right now, mixing up a lot of sounds and building this music, also because of the huge amount of information we have access to. If you go to youtube, you have so many videos that show so many things, and we are constantly going through so many influences that we have the possibility to mix things in a different way.

Rory: Now we have the access

Iohanna: I think it is about being creative and and the end it’s a way that defines you; how you mix it defines you in a way!

Going on this theme of the internet how do you see the virtual image compared to having the palpable effect? How are we using the internet to create a want and to also create the object that is not tangible at first, but then you get it, as a communication tool?

Iohanna: In the world of design and object it is tricky in the internet because, it makes things flat. You don’t have a sense of scale at all, and when it’s related to space it’s even more different than what you see on the internet and experience in real life. So I think we talked once about a new way of using the internet that actually connect people in real life…

Rory: It’s the next stage, it’s like web 3.0, where internet goes beyond the virtual, reality it’s reality

Pedro: I mean, what you say that internet makes things flat is a matter, it’s relating to what PLATform is and what the internet can do, that’s a qualitative question. There is this amount of information available, and that we all have access to bring, also a paradox of choice. For example you have the chicken and a lot of grains that they can eaten, and normally in the industry, what they do is that they cut the beak so they cannot choose the grain and the eat. They get fatter than they should and then you can produce them; the internet is like that. Drown in this swimming pool of information, so many possibilities, you are likely to stay in this paradox of choice, and in order to get away from that, because we have so much, we are becoming more traditional because you don’t or can’t choose too much, so just give me an option.

Alex: The traditional object is simply something we can relate to easier, because it’s the way we can connect the materiality of the piece in our minds to what it actually is, the virtual 3D informs us but leaves us empty.

Iohanna: Yes, so that’s maybe the reason why the role of the curators and cultural managers it’s so important nowadays, maybe even more important than before.. People need to have a quality selection.

Rory: I always thought that the most valuable thing a person has is their opinion, and this is what all designers do, or anyone who is leading in any field does, they sell their opinion

Alex: There are some people who don’t choose or have an opinion, and follow the demands and consume the products that they are given, or produce according to company demands…but then I guess like you said, that is their opinion

Pedro: The question of what opinions you want comes to the point of having so many styles and things so it comes to a point of realisation where there is nothing. There is always like this museum of news and then what is my idea my opinion, it’s how you put things together. That’s just what defines, you have access to so mmany things so how do you make something with what you have, as long as you have so many options, it becomes challenging.

Rory: You become a gatekeeper for quality, once you have established your reputation, then people start following you, that is when your opinion becomes important

Raquel: Then it comes to the point I was during the whole process of organizing this exhibition. I was thinking: ok first of all can the internet be the media that makes all this information travel so quick and so far; then when we started with the theme of REFOUND, it was for a practical reason for Agora. But then when you go deeper you can see that this is actually a really strong motivation nowadays, for everyone, but why, how is it born? It’s interesting to see that in the context of Berlin, here it’s actually a need, it’s not a lifestyle, it’s cheap to have these old objects, they are more available. So you have to combine them in a nice way, because maybe you cannot buy another product. This kind of information travels through blogs, digital media, so then the industry and the market produce new stuff looking like old.

Alex: But that is how all trends are produced in a way, the poor have a basic resolve their problems by using a product in a certain way, and then others see that it is possible, and then bigger companies catch on to this trend and then market a higher priced product and people consume…and then it starts again…But coming backto the interviews, a lot of them were talking about how it pertains to their childhood, or how there has been so many objects, and you can’t make anything new, so you go back in your memory, and take certain shapes and lines that have the newness of when you were young and having objects that surprise you. That sparks something in you that is different then the gentrified, stainless steel cubes or products that are offered by bigger name company, with an inherent goal to make everything similar and in turn plain

Rory: It’s funny, cuz what you mentioned about Berlin not having money, there is always this fable, that money and creativity they don’t go together, always poor artist that creates things that are held in high esteem

Raquel: The “gentrification” of products, goods, but yeah, people like us, are responsible for making these kinds of things, there are the trends that are far from this point

Pedro: When you don’t have money and you have what you are saying, like the society in Germany and Berlin, you have this individualist society, not a connective one. So when old people when die, their things are thrown away in the market for no value. In Brazil if someone dies you would never think of throwing away their things..

Raquel: Oh ya, you would never

Pedro: This also contributes a lot on having the market full of old things

Is there anything that pertains to your childhood, or that you were influenced by that made you want to go into design, like something in your background or family background that lead you a spark for this

Raquel: For me no, no one in my family is creative, but my childhood, there was always an incentive to cultivated and explore to creation, draw and be inventive.

Rory: I come from a family of engineers, and my great-grandfather was a crazy inventor, and so I guess there is a history of curiosity in design, but in my immediate family it’s not prevalent anymore.

Iohanna: My mother is an architect and my father is a carpenter, and now they have their own ceramics studio together, so the two of them changed their path a bit but yeah the creativity comes from my family completely..

Alex: My dad is an electrical engineer and my mom was into construction, not interested in telling about their job because they were always so tired, so it was more about like creating worlds when we were younger. Yeah, it’s creative in a sense, but we didn’t have access to it because they wouldn’t talk about specifics just what frustrated them.

Pedor: My mom is a homeopathic doctor, and she’s pretty open, very creative in her way, she built houses, always needed to be building things, and i grew up in a dynamic environment, and i grew up with my stepfather which was also an engineer, into philosophy. My father is very pragmatic mathematician, very mixed from things, so I’m a product of a mish-mash of things

Do you see design in a sense and art the relations in between, the fact that an object can be art or a sculpture can be an object that retains a use, what is the link between art and design?

Rory: I think it works to describe the same thing but on different levels

Alex: For me it’s really different though, but at the same time, this we were talking to designers because I have no clue or idea, but there seems to be something very prevalent in their minds: about what design is, the rules and regulations of it, whereas to me, art though a business pertains to the individual creative sense, even if it’s marketed as such, but then meeting these designers you realize that it is also all about the person behind the objects, their stories and life experiences and psyche or mindset, so i guess to a certain extent what you say is right

Raquel: Yeah in the methodical way of explaining design, the book says that you have different functions for different objects, you have a mixture actually of a function and a forum and then you have levels of each one in one object, you have things that are purely emotional , in that same sense it can be functional but maybe you don’t use it, like an old watch that doesn’t work but you keep it, or like a painting, it’s something so beautiful and you want too keep it and give it another function, but nowadays I don’t like to define it so much, I can see so many levels

Rory: There is a huge trend at the moment that will converge things, in technology, in genres, in everything real. I don’t think that it is possible to separate design and art, so there is no direct line, and a lot of the time the things that had impact on you were things that the artist had approached the object or whatever it is, in another way. The ones in between are the things that fascinate me and it is not, but if you look at Leonardo da Vinci he was developping painting, through his medical practice, military practice, he was essentialy an artist and a designer in one person

Alex: I guess the subdivisions come more from Academy and the need to categorize, that you can only be good at one thing, and need to go back to be good at another, you can be easily persuaded to do only that, and to term it in that way

Iohanna: I never saw a difference in my work, between art and design, but I’ve had to fight to try and explain that when they were trying to put labels, form how, but in the last years the academy is realizing that in the intersection in between these different areas of knowledge there is an interesting ground for research. Personally I think there is more interesting to research there! But talking about the academic field, the designers have a lot to learn from artist and vice verse. And that’s way exchanges or collaborations, like in our group, are interesting. Because they come from different sources, so when you combine them, it creates a better field, that has the best of 2 worlds

Raquel: Just like an artist might represent society or communicate something through music, painting or poetry, the designer also has a mission nowadays; you have to be conscious about what materials you choose, the effect of it, the commercial impact, everything. This is good design because you cannot be just responsible for one thing, a product that you want to sell only, is not interesting, there are other factors. You must have some values, I admire this.

Rory: I think the necessity to set boundaries which define a field come from the industrialization, cuz the end goal is to create something that you can sell, and in order to create something that you can sell, it’s necessary to set limits of what you are working on, so that you don’t get lost in the process, it’s endless, your choices are endless unless you define very specifically, what your role is and this time pressure within an industrial level, this

Pedro: Any empiric research is based on, you have to analyze anything in an empiric, you have to define things because you have to relate things and compare all the variations of the past in a way that you can find a pattern in order to define something, it’s bad , everything that is defined is an act of killing, you give boundaries, there is no more in between, you say this is like that so there is no room for other elements

Rory: People have the ability to think between these boundaries, but in a way which gives them the possibility to come up with something entirely new. You achieve the same result but it opens a new field, for example the typewriter and the computer, you are developing typewriters or calculators so the computer came up and totally destroyed your industry. Companies that didn’t realize that they left, and the ones that did realize that, changed and went into developing computers and software. It’s like the words are to understand where the limits and the boundaries are, they are not where most people think they are, and you need to be able to explore where these stand, it’s what separates between something special, and people who are just jumping through hoops to create a product

Raquel: These needs change after a while, like now I think it is really nice to have typewriters. So let’s see in the future what’s going to be the new..

Alex: New products…it’s important to look around you, and see other things which don’t just have an aesthetic value

Raquel: If you are a consumer, compared to a designer, it’s like you are sleeping. There are things you don’t realize, you are so impulsive, emotional, and you don’t care how this product was made, like this or like that, you just want it, you just like it

Rory: Look at how we go through everything, the packaging for what we consume, all of this because we are paranoid about the hygiene

Pedro: But also the idea of going to the supermarket; you don’t want to spend more than a certain amount, you don’t care about the packaging, but you bother about buying an Iphone. The value of things… you buy certain products cheaper so you can buy THE product you want.

What did you learn about all of this process, all of our interviews, the group dynamic, the business part of it?

Iohanna: I learned about the process. Talking with different people, how we could as a group of curators how we adapt ourselves depending on our subjects, how they see design. I learned that when you do an exhibition like, it is not about the objects, it’s about people!



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