ONE WEEK ABOUT Designers from Eindhoven
Alissa van Asseldonk and Nienke Bongers: ‘A wall can be so much more than just a flat surface’
‘We want to make spaces that create experience, stimulate and amaze people.’ Alissa van Asseldonk and Nienke Bongers (both 1988) worked together during their studies, became friends and now form the design agency Alissa+Nienke, specialized in materials and surfaces. One of their special wall creations now hangs from New York to Shanghai in the boutiques of fashion house Christian Dior.
Surprising optical effect
The wall of their office annex studio is completely lined with several hundred A4 sheets with unexpected combinations of folded, cut or perforated materials. This creates forms of ‘3d wallpaper’ that strike the imagination and ‘do something to you’ when you look at them. Some look amazing and you want to study closely: what exactly is it, how is this made? Others invite you to touch: what kind of material is it, how does this feel? Or you can change the pattern yourself by opening or closing something. Others move when you walk past them, or attract your attention with a surprising optical effect. ‘More than 350 preliminary studies’, says Alissa. ‘We have hung them up as an exhibition for the Dutch Design Week, but also as a kind of permanent ‘interactive archive’. It immediately gave us new ideas and insights.’
See-throughs and reflections
Dangling Mirror is one of their latest designs. It is a framework that is full of small squares of very thin stainless steel. The least or smallest gust of wind creates an intriguing game of see-throughs and moving reflections, as if you see yourself in a rippling water surface of a lake. ‘Some people think it works with sensors. But we are making analogue counterparts of the digital world,’ explains Nienke. ‘Our designs look very simple, but it is quite a process to make them. For example, it was not easy to find a producer for those thin pieces of steel.‘
Alissa (1988, Eindhoven) and Nienke (1988, Arnhem) met at the Design Academy Eindhoven. ‘We had a kind of hobby club on Friday night,’ they say laughing. ‘We collected all sorts of weird things and then started to make something exciting from scratch.’ Alissa’s graduation project Corpus Commodus drew a lot of attention: a book about how parts of the human body are ‘harvested’ and reused. But it was the Mirabilia Wallpaper graduation project by Nieke Bongers that proved to be worth developing. ‘It is good to choose a specialization and go into the depth.’
Their studio is on the so-called NRE site, where formerly a gas factory stood and later the municipal utilities (gas, water and electricity) were located. They share a building with a dozen other creative people from different disciplines such as architects, a graphic designer and a few cultural entrepreneurs, with whom they also form the collective NulZes (ZeroSix) and carry out projects in varying compositions. ‘It’s nice to have your own place where you can develop further, with professionals from other fields around you,’ says Alissa. Together with the large construction company DuraVermeer, NulZes will also carry out plans for two adjacent buildings. In addition, Alissa+Nienke also works together with groups and collectives such as Dutch Invertuals and Enrichers.
Amsterdam around the corner
‘I have been living in Eindhoven for about ten years,’ says Nieke. ‘On the one hand, you want the dynamics and change of a big city. But I travel regularly, and experience again and again that it is nice to have a permanent place with enough space and cooperation with people with good ideas. That gives peace. In addition, we already work quite internationally – and Amsterdam and Rotterdam are around the corner, right?
In cooperation with: Eindhoven365
Text: Walter van Hulst
Portrait photos: Rob Stork