In memory of Jan Lucassen (Horst 1937 – Breda 2017)
After grammar school Jan Lucassen studied at the Academy for Industrial Design in Eindhoven (AIVE). He graduated in 1961 with honors ‘not because I was such a good designer, but because I could explain it all so well’. His major sources of inspiration were teachers such as René Smeets, Jan Zwartjes, Karel Elno, Wim Gilles and Emile Truyen. Together with the last mentioned he founded in 1962, a year after his graduation, TEL Design (Truyen En Lucassen). Started in the attic room as one of the first studios where interdisciplinary teams worked together, the studio rapidly developed into a prominent office in the field of Corporate Identity. It was only natural that Lucassen became more and more often the process supervisor/consultant and office manager. Designers such as Gert Dumbar, Frans de la Haye and Ton Haak were associated with TEL. Lucassen initiated, composed and coordinated countless exhibitions abroad for the Export Promoting Service of Economic Affairs and he also assisted customers such as the NS, PTT, Hoogovens, the Hollandse Betongroep etc.
In 1977 he left Tel and founded his own office, Lucassen Design and Consultation, in which he mainly acted as design manager and consultant in the field of identity improvement of organizations.
In 1983, Philips devotee Frans van der Put invited Lucassen to be the interim director of the AIVE and to develop a new vision for his old school. Initially on a part time basis. Lucassen put his own studio ‘on hold’.
In 1987 he became co-initiator of Landmark. This studio, located in the old water tower in Rotterdam, was again an interdisciplinary studio in the field of design and advice. Other partners were Theo Groothuizen, Ton Haak, Ton Haas and Marcel Vroom.
The love for young people, the importance of good education, the opportunities that a specialized academy could offer, these were the reasons why Lucassen stayed on at the AIVE. This was where he could realize his vision on the significance of design in this society. Together with Ulf Moritz and Jan van Duppen he developed a new educational system with a focus on the human being and room for creativity and conceptual thinking. A novelty in those days. The Academy had to be an excellent educational institute. There were far-reaching plans for cooperation with the TU. Ulft Moritz, Gijs Bakker, Marijke van der Wijst, Anthon Beeke, Lidewij Edelkoort, Frans de la Haye, and Axel Enthoven were contracted as senior lecturers. They got full confidence and a free hand. Van Duppen was an excellent Director for Education; he arranged matters internally. Lucassen had his hands free to deal with policy and development.
In the city of Eindhoven Lucassen entered into intensive partnerships with Philips, the Municipality of Eindhoven and the TU. The Academy became co-developer of the Witte Dame (‘you can only enforce control if you also take responsibility’). De Witte Dame was a depreciated Philips property, saved from the demolition hammer. Lucassen developed a new identity for the building: Design, Information and Technology. Other partners were Philips, the Municipality of Eindhoven and IBC/van Straaten. The architect was Bert Dirrix.
Lucassen was of the opinion that ‘design’ had to be developed out of social relevance. And that the Academy therefore also had to be embedded in that society. It was for this reason that he was on the board of Vormgeversoverleg Eindhoven (VOE) and the international designers’ consultation (ICSID). He went with the Academy (as the first in the Netherlands) to the Salone del Mobile in Milan and introduced the Graduation Show to Amsterdam, thus ensuring that the international awareness the Academy got a huge boost. He developed the Masters in order to achieve a higher professional status, started the European Design Centre in ’91 and together with the VOE laid the foundation for what is now The Dutch Design Week.
The trips abroad were sources of inspiration to Lucassen. During one of these trips the idea for the redesignation of Strijp as ‘The Human Village’ emerged. A place where living, working and recreation could be mutually coordinated, the guideline being small-scale creative industry. A stronghold of creativity that would result in an economic boost for the city of Eindhoven.
Lucassen has meant much to all of us. Much to the design profession, which cannot possibly exist without the social relevance. Much to Eindhoven, the city that he helped put back on the map. Much to our ‘different’ view on the designer profession and on this world.
Jan Lucassen died on May 21, 2017.
Text: Dorothé Kurvers
Dorothé Kurvers is currently working on an extensive biography about Jan Lucassen. People who believe to be able to contribute to this biography are welcome to contact email@example.com