Two designers from Taiwan are presenting their work in Microlab during Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. Szu-Han Chen and Kuang-Yi Ku are designers in residence, an exchange program between Eindhoven and Taipei. A vibrant community of designers has arisen between both cities over the last years.

It’s Friday afternoon, only a few hours left before DDW 2016 will kick off. Szu-Han Chen and Kuang-Yi Ku are finishing off their installations, an electrician is making last minute arrangements for the lighting in the hall and a lady – with an eye for detail – is removing pieces of tape from a wall. This is the fifth time that Taiwanese designers are showing their work during DDW through the Designer in Residency programme. You will most likely find them on edgy locations. Places that are not ‘finished’ yet, but still in development and providing space to young artists. This year was chosen for Microlab, a former Philips building at Strijp-S that will be converted into a workplace XL in the coming months. A makers ecosystem on the rise.

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Szu-Han Chen finishing off her installation

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Szu-Han Chen and Kuang-Yi Ku at work in Microlab

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Designer in Residence

Eindhoven and Taipei have been intensifying their relationship for several years now. Nowhere in the Netherlands will you find this many companies from Taiwan as here. Design is a unique selling point for both Eindhoven and Taipei, which is hosting World Design Capital this year. To strengthen ties in this field, the designer in residence programme was initiated in 2014. For three months designers from Taipei are working on a project here, and vice versa.

Design Thinking

Besides inspiring each other, for Eindhoven this is a way to convey our ‘design thinking’ method, says Desiree van Zutphen, area manager Taiwan at Brainport Development. Addressing and dealing with social issues through design is a almost a common practice in the Netherlands. Interesting examples are the Living Lab project on Stratumseind (a vibrant pub street), where dynamic lighting might defuse escalating behavior, KWIEK, an urban exercise route, and ´Next Design for Aging Society´ by Eindhoven University of Technology, Philips and others. This project uses design to research new ways to effectively organize and improve Taipei’s elderly care system and improve workplace quality for staff in care institutions. “But also the Eindhoven multi helix approach (a collaboration between companies, research institutes, government and citizens) is appealing to the Taiwanese.” Conversely, Taiwan still has a real craft industry with skills that we have sometimes lost over the years. That, and the possibilities for producing small series, is interesting for our designers. ”

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Design connected to the Netherlands

Meanwhile Szu-Han Chen is lying under a Batavus (Dutch bicycle brand) frame in Microlab. The recent graduate with an architecture degree wants her audience ‘to realize that they can treat familiar things in a whole new perspective’. And what is more commonplace in her host country than a bike? Her project is called Atelier S.H.CHEN, for which she gathered bike parts at the bicycle repair that would otherwise end up in landfill, and bought some pieces of metal and wood in addition. During DDW she shows four new objects made out of aforementioned materials. Common objects presented in a totally different way. How? “People should use their imagination”, she says kindly.

Next to her is the work of Kuang-Yi Ku, graduated as a communication designer and dentist (still practicing). Ku works on themes such as sexuality, relationship between humans and animals, and medical technology. He connected these themes to a Dutch subject as well, the Dolfinarium in Harderwijk, and to be more precise: the fuss that arose early this year after undercover images were made from a trainer who satisfied a dolphin. His work centers around the sexuality of dolphins. In the Microlab he will be showing a scale model of a ‘Dolphin Eroticarium’: an amusement park for dolphins which, in contrast to the Dolfinarium, should be placed in the sea itself. Ku knows that his work evokes extreme reactions, but is pleased with the dialogue that arises. Especially in a country like the Netherlands, he feels that there is room for this kind of debate.

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Five years of designer in residency programme between Taipei and Eindhoven have not gone unnoticed, says Naomie Verstraeten, program manager International at Brainport Development. A real designer community has arisen between both cities. Some 65 designers are now connected and several collaborations have come to life, which is reflected in DDW’s programme this year. At Section-C you will find Mooi! Taiwan (Beautiful! Taiwan!) – Taiwan Dutch Design Post: an exhibition that shows the work of Dutch designers and Taiwanese craft designers. And the recently opened Enversed Virtual Reality Center in the Veemgebouw presents an installation called Taipeindhoven, where visitors can virtually build their dream city together with people in Taiwan. Further cooperation in VR and AR is the next step in the Eindhoven-Taipei relationship.

Taipei, in return, recently welcomed some designers from Eindhoven for the designer in residence program. Siem Nozza, Vincent Wittenberg and Bennie Meek spent three months in the Taiwanese capital. Their social design projects, DIT#0 and Gewild Groei , are being presented during the International Design House Exhibition in Taipei this month.

Photos: Renske Mehra

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