Glass is more! exposition during Dutch Design Week Eindhoven 2011 Between Heaven and Earth in the Engine room Strijp-S with the sitting elements Water Lens by Saskia van der Steen and on background the lamp shapes by Emmanuel Babled
photo: Fenestra Ateliers


Angela van der Burght

For the first time the applications for the 10th edition of the Dutch Design Week Eindhoven were adjudicated; the selection by co-curators Miriam van der Lubbe and Bruno Ninaber van Eyben should guarantee the quality of the DDW. The assessment of the application of Glass is more! got bogged down in a discussion about what exactly design is and my choices as a curator of the exposition Glass is more! of participants and work were being brought up for discussion. To stir up that discussion I wrote the following essay on the changes of the concept of ‘design’. Two weeks later my concept was accepted.

Posted 12 May 2013

Share this:


For the first time the applications for the 10th edition of the Dutch Design Week Eindhoven were adjudicated; the selection by co-curators Miriam van der Lubbe and Bruno Ninaber van Eyben should guarantee the quality of the DDW. The assessment of the application of Glass is more! got bogged down in a discussion about what exactly design is and my choices as a curator of the exposition Glass is more! of participants and work were being brought up for discussion. To stir up that discussion I wrote the following essay on the changes of the concept of ‘design’.

Angela van der Burght

In May 1968, strikes and protests broke out all over the world, starting in France. The provocative, often playful and sometimes vicious manifestations were unparalleled because they did not represent a certain community, and because they went beyond religion, culture, class and age. In the Netherlands the protest began with the students against the educational system that kept students ignorant, as one of the bastions of power and it resulted in a cultural revolution until the authorities firmly took charge again. At the Academy for Industrial Design the protest targeted the principals and lecturers who had not yet exchanged the old-fashioned crafts for the subjects that could serve the budding postwar industry. Not for the manufacturing of stupid, resource-consuming mass production but for design considering all aspects between individual and society. “Die zijners, die waren” (≈ Those who are, are passé) became the slogan of the strike. Suddenly, the world turned out to be much larger than the prevailing small-mindedness suggested. In America president Johnson withdraw from the presidential race, in Czechoslovakia began the Prague Spring, in Belgium students were striking against the Francophone domination and there was the struggle to achieve equality between women and men. Now, forty years after this happy period when deep thoughts were formulated regarding politics, art and design, society and social justice, Dutch design is more attractive than ever before. Time to take stock once again.

The word design comes from the Latin designare, which means to trace out, to indicate, to plan. The Northern European languages have – in addition to the concept of design – other words like styling/style, pattern, decorate/décor to indicate the various processes for product development. In English (used as from 1910) the word denotes the verb and the noun and in the course of time it came to mean so many different things that it was not clear which was meant exactly: drawing, designing, the process of applied art of concept, the first drafts up to model, pattern, map or figure, each artistic work up to the image in your head and the product itself, too.
And what makes the matter even more unclear, is that the word is mainly used to indicate a style. But is every designed thing design? Is every functionally made object design?

Design is invisible because it is the creative process to develop plans and strategies which realize content and form as product development not only resulting in a design object; they are incorporated in the product in such a way that the design is not visible. Design allows for social, political, ideological, functional and financial aspects so that it can result in an ideal product for a specific target group. And with this – as one total package and from the first idea until the finished product – the packaging, the logistic, the sustainability but also the recycling and the consumer should be considered. Design is therefore a specific type of creative process. It is different from Industrial Design, Craft or Folk Art by the end product as the only possible solution to all requirements. Design is not being defined by the latest trend or the whims of customer and market, because design never gives a simple answer, and certainly does not give an answer right away. Norman Bel Geddes said in 1934: “Design is a matter of thinking.”

However simple the product may seem in the end, the process was never easy or quick. Take, for instance, a yoghurt package. At first the questions will arise: What is yoghurt? Why is there yoghurt? How does it look like? How does it keep? How many must be packed and in what? How do the transporter, the seller and the consumer handle the yoghurt? What will the fastening be? How can you open it and close it again? What is the target group? Should it be a glass container? How does the industry make glass containers? How does the industry fill up that container? How should the label look like? What are we going to do with the empty container; can we create a second function or is it recyclable? How does the industry pack up the empty containers and how the filled ones for transport? What are the costs and what is the right price for it? What are the European laws in question? Who can design it?
And the same goes for all products, such as the Becel bottle of Floris Meijdam.
Now the brainstorming is just beginning, and every question answered will raise new questions.

Design tries to find unconventional answers for truly renewing solutions for new products by using state-of-the-art technology, materials and applications and by, if necessary, building new machines, production lines or factories. Anyway, it solves (however temporarily) all problems.

Meanwhile we all know designer toothpaste, designer hair gel, designer medicines and designer drugs and even designer babies, where technology and knowledge are being used for the general and the specific requirements. These completely recomposed products can only look one way because they are emanating from ecological principles and not from ethnic, regional, religious or intermittent criteria or styles. They are developed as industrial design as the (art) crafts and folk art were before, when man adapted to his environment. Design is the production method itself (often mass production) as industrial design. If the skill, the technique, the material or the tools are the basis of the design, we call the design Craft. Restyled products can never be design.
Design within the visual arts is the creative process itself, whereas at the other end of the spectrum the work of engineers and mechanical engineers (engineering) the field of application is of the knowledge through learning, technique, arithmetic and practical experience being applied to objects like a bridge or hoisting-crane (the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, Originally the concept of engineer stands for somebody who designs machines (engines), but from the Latin word ingeniosus also for ability and in the Arabic languages for geometry. In this context design engineer is now being used for somebody who is a clever, practical problem solver and you stumble across this word in each scientific field, including in medicine, transportation, traffic, ecological problems, computer science, electrical, mechanical and civil applications, architectural engineers (USA), building engineers (UK) and the like.
New forms present themselves every day as in a super-acceleration such as Biodesign with Nanobioscience, Bioenergetics, Ecogenomics, Environmental Biotechnology, Evolutionary Functional Genomics. And glass is very important e.g. in Smart or Intelligent Glass, Nuclear or Fast Glass, Sol-Gel Glass technology, gene modulations with glass and nano applications, such as keeping operating rooms and implants free from bacteria, Nano Glass with nano-engineered coatings and hybrid compositions.
- Sol-gel processes make special ceramic and glass materials at which the sol (a liquid or colloid) transforms into a gel (a solid). The material can get all sorts of form like powder, film, fibre, membrane, monolithic glass, porous aerogel and the like.
- Nano: (symbol: n) is the SI prefix (or metric prefix) used to denote a factor 10-9, that is 1/1,000,000,000. Nano is also used to indicate something in the order of a nanometre, say in nanotechnology. The term is in use since 1960; the name is derived from the Greek word for dwarf.

If in history the industry and trade get the upper hand within designing, the art crafts come with a counterattack: if the technology is overlooked by the manual skills, another movement is being incited. If Modernism seems to be the solution, Postmodernism will be the new challenge. If the consumer cries out for functional, we will turn the function around. Forbid decorating, and we decorate every surface. If only the aesthetic survives, we react with anti- aesthetic or the new ugliness. Because design is so very dear to us due to daily use, we react: action and reaction and counteraction, the never-ending design story. By going through history this process becomes visible in the different ecological styles, the design styles, the process of creating and the formal aspects. By looking at the use of glass, we can define the broad field.

Industrial Revolution
Before the Industrial Revolution, artists, craftsmen and homeworkers designed ornamental and functional glass. Craftsmen and homeworkers seldom made a conscious choice because they were too busy controlling material, technique, the low wages and the everyday routine to meet the prevailing taste. From England the idea came to replace the ??human skills and power with machines which started the Industrial Revolution: in 1833 in France, for example, by mechanizing flat glass by making machine-blown cylinders.
Floatglass, a clear flat polished sheet glass that was also silver-plated for mirrors, was produced by casting and rolling, grinding and endlessly polishing until the sheet was very flat.
In 1839 the Regout glassworks were established in Maastricht. Until 1935, when the container shapes are being cut by steam engines, the factory also processes the rough glass from the glassworks of Val-Saint-Lambert in Belgium. When Maastricht began blowing crystal themselves, they used compressed air for pressing glass and were cutting and polishing machines driven by steam power. In 1851 the first World Fair was being organized in the Crystal Palace in London. The tax on window glass was just lifted. The building was revolutionary with its steel construction with lots of glass; the light could stream in which created an unprecedented clarity and openness. The industry showed the newest products which were not yet able to rival the building’s modern spirit, as within Applied Art and Industrial Design artistic thinking had yet to develop. After consecutive industrial exhibitions like in 1886 in Amsterdam, Nederlandse Nijverheid & Kunst, the break became visible: art became a mass product and ultimately the applied art remained as antidesign. In the second half of the 18th century the Zwarthut (Black hut) opens in Leerdam with brown and green container glass, followed by the opening of the Withut (White hut) where crystal services and decorative glass are blown and in 1866 the mechanical bottle glassworks opens its doors. In Belgium and Germany, too, the first manufacturies, small glassworks and glass refineries are developing. In The Hague the association Arti et Industriae is founded in 1884, supporting the cooperation between artists and industry.
Within the Monumental Arts the Roman Catholics recovered lost ground with stained glass and the stained-glass artists got involved in architecture. Also the Symbolists, trained as Monumentalists, knew all applied arts and disciplines likes murals, mosaics, stained glass, tapestry and ceramic tiles and they went along with the development from Art Nouveau to more abstract forms. The rift between Fine Arts and Decorative Arts was inevitable.

In 1878 Humphrey Davy from England demonstrated the first light bulb. In 1880 the electricity industry in the USA began to get into its stride and in 1881 Edison demonstrated his incandescent light bulb at the International Exposition of Electricity in Paris: this one could burn for 1200 hours. After Gerard Philips had visited the Amsterdam Hotel Krasnapolsky’s winter garden, he became so fascinated by the incandescent light that he decided he was going to produce these lights: they could already burn for 60,000 hours. This idea resulted in the foundation of a light bulb factory in Eindhoven in 1891, where Leopold Lanegger from Vienna accommodates 80 glassblower’s families for Philips Eindhoven in the Glasstraat and will manage the glassworks as Hüttenmeister. The current competitor Innovalight is now working on a Smart light bulb with a life of over 30 years.

Together with the invention of the glass plate photography, it brought a revolutionary transformation within the arts, as light and movement and the recording of these two became important in addition to the manifestations of the Impressionists and the Luminists. As the century draws to an end, the aversion towards machines and industry is still apparent in the works of the English Arts & Crafts Movement after which the revival of the trades is being translated in the neo-Gothic style. In 1902 the Museum van Sierkunst (Museum of Decorating Art) (now the Design Museum) in Gent was opened according to the concept of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
More flat glass was required by Functionalism with curtain wall façades and striplights and pressed-glass building stones enabling more daylight inside the building through walls, ceilings and floors. This was contrary to the use of e.g. Echt-Antik (Genuine Antique) glass – coloured glass of mouth-blown cylinder glass – used in the Arts & Crafts Movement, a closed and dark style by using old techniques and basic materials. Both movements fought against the ugly ordinary products such as cut glassware, crochet work and Persian rugs with meaningless ornaments in brown bourgeois interiors. Adolf Loos declared the ornament a crime and he also thought that everything with a function could not be art because art should provoke the conception of ‘comfort’, whereas architecture and design should serve. The difference between art and design became unbridgeable.

Travelling longer distances in trains, planes and cars made it necessary to be able to take along drinks and food; the thermos, bottle with a marble stopper, swing-top bottle, preserving jar and Coca-Cola bottles made this possible and safe. Because of a lack of glassblowers the Americans develop pressing for mass production and the patterned glass, rolled with metal cylinders, supplies cheap flat glass.

In comparison with Europe, design in the USA was chiefly occupied with ‘good taste’ and different views: the car industry, the mass production of everyday goods and the arts did not criticise the styling and restyling. The streamlined form, led by Raymond Loewy, with the knowledge of aerodynamics, was used in architecture, cars, planes, the Coca-Cola bottle, refrigerator or locomotive. People were proud of the progress and in New York the first Industrial Design Fair was organized.

An ever bigger breach between art and design was made by Marcel Duchamp’s Anti-art which undermined the romance of the artist’s handwriting and the plodding away of the sculptors. The development of The Large Glass (La marieé mise à nu par ses célibataires, même) (The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even) began in 1915, when between two industrially made panes of flat glass pieces of cut painted canvas, paper and lead wire were sandwiched. When in 1923 the window fell, receiving a large crack in the glass, Duchamp declared the work finally finished. With Readymades, Constructions and Deconstructions, Collages and Assemblages the artists provoked with new ideas about what art could be. Also in Russia industrial materials such as glass and steel were used, for instance by Vladimir Tatlin in his Monument to the Third International: Production Art within the Constructivism with a political, educational assignment.
In 1920, when Art-Deco is flourishing, the designers of the Modernism movement such as the Bauhaus architects and artists, the Werkbund, the Wiener Secession, the Stijl and DaDa, design tableware, furniture and lighting. The glass design follows the style of the moulded bakelite and the first synthetic materials.

Industrial designer
In 1930 the profession of industrial designer was born and the machine aesthetic became the accepted idea where appearance became more and more abstract, less personally. Ikea opened its doors for free-formed interior objects, right from Danish Modern, Functionalism and the soft Scandinavian Modernism and the magazine Domus was brought out. Ergonomics was being introduced so that in health care appliance and body were geared to one another. The industry invited professional designers with a specialization.

When the Second World War is raging across Europe, America develops the concept of New Design, making use of the talents of the teachers, architects and artists among the European refugees, as a result of which the Depression Style is pushed aside. They filled the American stylists’ void with Good Design. In Europe the glass industry was on its last legs for lack of materials as those were used for lenses, car lights and land mines for the war industry; Süssmuth in Germany used window glass to slump plates and dishes.
Along with the peace came the first television sets, jeans, LPs and an optimistic view. In 1958 in Brussels the World Fair Expo58 is held where 42 million visitors come and look at the innovations which are supposed to make housekeeping, living and transport more pleasant. The Atom becomes a design issue. In Ulm and Eindhoven Academies for Industrial Design are being established, Pilkington in England develops floatglass in 1959 – flat glass on a bed of tin – to be able to meet the postwar demand for window glass. Within the arts Action Painting and Abstract Expressionism arose, structures with vague shapes and soft contours prevailed. A cheerful Futurism, Science Fiction Design and human-on-the-moon culture brought unisex, psychedelic Op Art and strange blob design in glass, plastic and ceramics.

During the following Crafts Revival, design is considered to be suspicious for triggering off stupid mass consumption. Home Made, Back to Nature is flooding with pottery-making, spinning, weaving, batikking and basket weaving, a trend as a result of which the World Crafts Council was founded. Eerlijk Handwerk (Honest Handiwork), Gouden Handen (Golden Hands), the Eerlijke Keuken (Honest Cooking) and Goed Wonen (Good Living) produce sisal rugs, furniture and attributes made of plain wood and Finnish glass like frozen water.
Especially the Fireborn techniques of the Studio Crafts, using fire for creating metal, ceramics and glass, show the contribution of artists and designers. In 1959 the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York, organizes the first Modern Glass exhibition. The so-called Free Glass breaks away from the glassworks and after 1965 the concept of Studio Glass spreads, after America, all over Europe. New Design and New Glass is becoming the new Antidesign. In their own studio with their own melting furnace medium and technique are being explored over and over again. In Amsterdam the Glass department at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy is being founded; Åsa Brandt is the first student of Sybren Valkema, head of the Glass department and director of the institute. In 1986 at Fort Asperen the exhibition Beelden in Glas (Sculptures in Glass) is being held where the rift between Studio Glass and Art is mended temporarily.

Angela van der Burght, curator © July 2011
Translation Ingrid Bongers

Organisation Glass is more! exposition Engelbert Roovers

Daniel Gaemperle: Six Horizons, 2010; each part 305 x 8 x 1 cm, digital airbrush on reversed glass, Glass is more! edition 2012 in Dutch Design Week in the Engine Room, Strijp-S, Eindhoven, the Netherlands
Photo: Fenestra Ateliers

Jan Stel: Past Glory, PowerPoint presentation abandoned Crystal factory Val Saint-Lamber, 2009,

Mini Big Band Kalishnikovs, openings performance Glass is more!
Photo: Jan Stel

The exposition Glass is more! 2011 Between Heaven and Earth during the Dutch Design Week Eindhoven in the Engine room Strijp-S with the ink-jet on glass panels Ice Branches by Jan-Willem van Zijst
Photo: Fenestra Ateliers

The exposition Glass is more! 2011 Between Heaven and Earth during the Dutch Design Week Eindhoven in the Engine room Strijp-S with the work Omen, 2011 by Carina Riezebos
Photo: Fenestra Ateliers

The exposition Glass is more! 2011 Between Heaven and Earth during the Dutch Design Week Eindhoven in the Engine room Strijp-S with the work Outsider, 2011 by Mariëlle van den Bergh
Photo: Fenestra Ateliers

The exposition Glass is more! 2011 Between Heaven and Earth during the Dutch Design Week Eindhoven in the Engine room Strijp-S with the work Midsummer Night's Dream, 2011 by Sunny van Zijst
Photo: Fenestra Ateliers

Copyright © 2013-2019  Glass is more!        Copyright, privacy, disclaimer