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Setting up camp, to weather the storms of revolution

April 15th, 2011

Filed under: ART & DESIGN

Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers

In February this year, Egypt was divided into two camps. The middle east situation was cranking up to critical proportions and the entire world started to speculate – mostly with fear and foreboding. But there is a camp that is flooded in the light of hope. That belongs to Doreen Westphal, who’s designed a lamp which she’s showing at this year’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile until 17 April in Milan, is called “Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers”. It is derived from the first weather forecast given after the ousting of Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak.

The choice of the materials is significant – a delicate, sculptural lamp, made from Ultra High Performance Concrete (Quantz), and “Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers” is the first in the series of Doreen’s Concrete & Detailed collection. She says that designers can no longer intuitively judge a design to be good (or not),  that they need specialised knowledge of available materials, and assessment skills to monitor the impact of one’s own products. Quantz was developed by a German company leading in concrete innovations, G.tecz. This concrete can be cast in forms as fine Arabic script, yet it is as strong and light as conventional ceramic. However, the main feature of this material is that producing a ceramic product from Quantz reduces the energy consumption in the production process by fifty times. Doreen Westphal is now able to use this material to make affordable, socially responsible objects. And my, they are beautiful as well.

Doreen was inspired to create the first lamp for her Concrete & Detailed collection after watching news broadcasts in February. She saw parallels with the events in the Arab world and the concerns of contemporary designers. The authoritarian regimes that are now crumbling were empowered primarily by the West’s addiction to fossil fuels. This reliance has produced not only ecological, but also political imbalance in the world. Reducing energy consumption is therefore both an environmental and political statement.

I am always delighted to see how quickly artists and designers respond to the changes in society, and how laterally they connect their practice to their world view. I am impressed by Doreen’s industry and passion. When you think about her viewpoint, how many camps can you count that she has listed, in order to come to a design conclusion that is her newest collection? The establishment. “The people”. The environment. The economy. There is one more camp –

Examples of how Quantz translates into Arabic texts, at Doreen Westphal's exhibition in Ventura Lambrate

Doreen Westphal: “Here at Ventura Lambrate it’s a really great sphere and it’s a fantastic surrounding to show my work which, as you know, this year is all made from concrete. A new area giving space to new, great projects. For example: I sleep in an indoor camping site set up as an art project around the corner from my exhibition.”

A-ha. Doreen’s two feet are firmly in the designers(-and-artists)’ camp, which sounds like the exact right place to be this week.

Exhibition: Ventura Lambrate – Light Space, Milan, Italy, Part of Designersblock Show, 12-17 April, daily open from 12:00 till 20:00

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