ONE WEEK ABOUT Dutch Designers in Milan
Interview with Margriet Vollenberg
Next week is the start of Salone del Mobile in Milan. Our One Week About, curated by Organisation in Design, will be fully dedicated to the world’s biggest design event. Today we kick off with an interview with Organisation in Design founder Margriet Vollenberg. On how it all started and what to expect from her in Milan this year. “I grow along with my generation.”
On the first day as a student of the Design Academy in Eindhoven, Vollenberg already knew: I’m not made to be a designer. The world of design appealed to her, the process of designing did not. What did feel like second nature to her was the final step of every assignment: the presentation. How do you put on object of design in the limelight? And why does a group of people find something interesting?
After graduating from DAE it becomes clear that this will be the focus of her work. And that Milan will play an important role in it. She does an internship in the north Italian city and finds a job with a famous family-owned business, the jewellery studio Pellini.
She becomes responsible for the creations, that are presented for the great Italian fashion houses on the catwalks of Milan. Vollenberg has an hectic job behind the scenes, busy organizing and creating media attention.
The peak of her work each year is in September and February. In April she takes leave. When the world’s biggest design festival takes over Milan.
“In my first year I got a call from Marcel Wanders, whom I knew from the Academy. He was starting a new label and needed local help during the Salone. So I helped him out. The second year designer Piet Boon contacted me.
Slowly my name became known: “If you want to do something in Milan, you have to call Margriet”. All this time I was still doing my usual work next to it. But at some point I decided: I’m starting my own business.” That was 2005.
She chooses to establish her business in the Netherlands. Initially, she has a focus on guiding designers in their PR work. “Where are all my former classmates, I thought. They create the most beautiful things, but I just don’t see them. I really wanted to put these people in the limelight.”
Gradually she expands her activities with organizing events and projects. She works with Maarten Baas, grows to ten employees and starts presenting a selection of talented designers in Milan – and now also in places like Berlin, New York and Dubai – under the label Ventura Projects.
This year Vollenberg has chosen a different approach in Milan, she tells us. After eight years she has decided to leave Lambrate, the industrial district where she organized design events during the Salone. Ventura Lambrate has become a household name among visitors of the Salone.
Vollenberg has helped the Lambrate area to develop. But now it’s time for a new location, she’s ready for the next step: “I’m growing along with my generation of designers”.
She has found a new, exciting location very close to Milan Central Station: the old warehouses next to the train tracks.
The buildings had been closed for decades. When she approached the owners they replied: “Madam, these warehouses have been empty for thirty years. We can’t even find the keys anymore.” But Vollenberg perseveres and finally gets permission to force the locks with the help of a locksmith.
She describes it as a special moment. “You open the gates of a historical place. Once upon a time goods were stored here but it also functioned as a hiding place during the war. Local residents came running across the street when they saw me standing in front of those open doors. They were just as curious as I was.”
Last year she had her first exhibition in the warehouses, under the name Ventura Centrale. A second edition will take place this year. The place is ideal for spectacular design installations.
Walking through the vaults of Ventura Centrale, visitors will discover different elements of contemporary design. The most eye-catching creations are definitely the gigantic wooden figures – up to three meters high – called Giants with Dwarfs. The installations are a special collaboration between horgenglarus, the Swiss company that has been making tables and chairs for almost 140 years now, and architect and designer Stephan Hürlemann.
Chair and table parts from the more than 100 years old component archive at manufacturer horgenglarus were used for the construction of the creations.
Brand new this year is the Ventura Future project, which will be located at three different locations in the city. Here you can see what the role of designers is in creating radical solutions to social, political and technical challenges.
Ventura Future presents designers like Jelle Mastenbroek and Daniël de Bruin. And like every year, Vollenberg also offers a stage to talented students: a new and emerging group of designers to grow along with.
Interview by Renske Mehra
Via Ferrante Aporti 9, Milan
FuturDome building: Via Paisiello 6, Milan
Università building: Viale Abruzzi 42, Milan
Loft building: Via Donatella 36, Milan
17 – 22 April, 2018