I’ve been fascinated with the work of Hella Jongerius for a while (which only increased when I saw the Pulled Washbasin in real life for the first time during a rare travelling design show in New Zealand in 2010). After hearing that Droog employ writers for their copy, I though it work looking at the writing in regard to her highly tactile and evocative work.
The material and form combine to give this washbowl a soft appearance and touch; for a warm and comfortable bathroom feeling. The flexibility of this washbowl means you can bend it without damaging the bowl or yourself, making it particularly suitable for small spaces.
Hella Jongerius wanted to discover the true identity of plastic. To do this she took a basic shape, a half sphere and gave it its form by pushing it inwards. To keep the final shape she used different densities of the material.
From the designer’s own website (where it also notes that it is made from PU rubber and metal), the Pushed Washtub:
The transformation of a nonform into a form through the clever use of the inherent qualities of the material. The varied thicknesses of the skin determine the final shape of Pushed Washtub. Jongerius was one of the first designers to research the application of this relatively young material.
and Folded Washtub:
The same non-form as Pushed Washtub is squeezed inwards and ‘frozen’.
The skin and its material qualities have defined the design of Soft Urn. The archetypal form reveals the results of research into the ageing of an unconventional material for vases, PU rubber. Whereas most artificial materials look forever young, neutral and hygienic, Soft Urn has the feel of handicraft due to the addition of traces of the casting process. Soft Urn was soon recognized as a significant example of the ‘Dutch’ or ‘conceptual’ approach to design. Jongerius contributed to a few projects and exhibitions organized by Droog Design, the Dutch platform for conceptual design, until 1998.
She has rendered traditionally “hard” objects — a sink, say — in disorientingly squishy polyurethane. And she has added old-fashioned embroidery to porcelain bowls, the last place you’d expect to find it.
While I’d need to do more detailed semantic analysis on this to draw any concrete results, some points that are immediately noticeable on reading are terms such as ‘skin’, ‘inherent qualities’, and soft/comfortable. However, Folded Washtub uses notions of both force (‘squeezed’) and, perhaps the most strikingly different from the other terms, ‘frozen’.
The concept of ‘skin’ is one that has been explored in depth not only out of design, but also within it, namely in Ellen Lupton’s book on that very subject. (I will discuss this in a later post).