German-born, Dutch bred design prodigy, Maarten Baas, has captured the attention of the design world with his boundary-less approach to design – refusing to accept a clear and distinct demarcation between what is art and what is design. The multi-award winning Baas,the most recent design honor bestowed upon him was “Designer of the Year at Design Miami 2009”, believes that the long-held design maxim “form follows function” is outdated and should be relegated to design memory.
Acting as a design iconoclast isn’t a goal he has set for himself, all Baas wants, is to free design from artificially imposed boundaries. Telling “Design Miami” that the only boundaries that can be placed upon design are those imposed equally upon all living creatures: “Every day there are only 24 hours in which that day has to happen”.(Source: Design Miami)
Maarten Baas commission piece (exterior view) for Design Miami 2009.
Interior view of Maarten Baas designed wardrobe commissioned for Design Miami 2009.
Baas the Early Years
Maarten’s fresh and bold approach to design has not gone unnoticed. At the young age of 18, while studying at the prestigious Design Academy Eindhoven, Bass designed the “Knuckle” candleholder. The “Knuckle” was quickly recognized as outstanding design, and was sent into production. Baas’,earliest and most industry-reverberating recognition came at the age of 24 with his “Smoke” series. The “Smoke” collection of furniture and decor is composed of several pieces that have been charred,and then sealed in a clear epoxy coating.
In 2004, his “Smoke” chandelier was exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, his “Smoke” chair was on display at the “Nest” exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, and at Moss Galleries where Baas’ international acclaim was sealed. At the Moss exhibit of “Where There’s Smoke…”, Baas, “without fear or reserve, torched the classical designs of Gaudi, Eames, Rietveld, Sottsass and the Campana Brothers among many others.”(Source: Maarten Baas) His fearless approach, gained the attention of the Groninger Museum. They decided to turn over some of their most obscure collections of antique furniture over to Baas. Much like the mythical Phoenix that raises from the burning ashes, these long forgotten antique furniture pieces where raised from the ashes of obscurity and onto a splendid rebirth, at the hands of Baas.
The Baroque armchair reproduction from MOOOI (photo on left) for the Maarten Baas “Where There’s Smoke…” collection. The design for the chair from the “Where There’s Smoke…” collection (right) is inspired by Gerrit T. Rietveld’s Zig Zag chair.
Some of the “Smoke” furniture pieces are reproductions of famous mid-century modern pieces produced by Marcel Wander’s design company MOOOI. Other “Where There’s Smoke…” collection pieces are in the private collections of Philippe Starck, Craig Robins and Lidewij Edelkoort.
The Emergence of Studio Baas & den Herder
Maarten Baas’ continuous battle with artificial boundaries set upon design gained strength with the establishment of Holland based Studio Baas & den Herder. With the assistance of Bas den Herder and a team of ten assistants, Baas was able to increase the production quantity of his unique handcrafted works.
Never losing sight of his design ethic, Baas conceives the idea and then works in close collaboration with his team to birth and nurture the idea from inspiration to conception to production. This tightly woven collaborative sense of design community enables Baas to meet the unending demand to create unique commissions for hotels, museums, private collections, galleries and other establishments.
Baas furniture collections from left to right: Clay chair, The Chankley Bore, Plastic Chair in Wood, Sculpt Dining Chair, and Hey, Chair be a Bookshelf. The “Hey, Chair be a Bookshelf” is a composition of various furniture pieces which have been collected from second hand stores and then assembled into one piece creating a new life and function for each piece. (Design Miami 2009)
In 2005, Baas’ designs for “Smoke”, “Sculpt” and “Treasure” were an integral design component for the Ian Schrager led redesign of the Gramercy Park Hotel. Maarten’s handmade pieces can be found in the rooms, and his “Smoke” billiard table and “Sculpt” furniture pieces are on display in the Gramercy’s lobby.
Yellow Dining Chair (Left) from the “Treasure Furniture” collection. The “Treasure Furniture” collection utilizes furniture factory scrap and waste to give life to a new piece of furniture.
Setting Design Free
At Design Miami 2009, Maarten Baas, “Designer of the Year”, was asked the following question:“‘Does design imply the idea of products that are necessarily useful?” His answer provides tremendous insight into his creations:
“ That comes back to the definition of design. To make it easy you could say: once it’s for use, it’s design. But even that is not a definition which covers all situations.
What would happen if you would use a Mondrian painting as a serving tray, or you hang a serving tray on a wall, and never use it? You can discuss for hours about it…” (Source: Design Miami).
Indeed, what happens when we no longer accept our preconceived notions and are open to a design world that doesn’t dictate that which is appropriate and that which is taboo?
Sources for this article.
- Maarten Baas Website
- Design Miami Interview with Maarten Baas, “Questions excerpted from an interview with Charles Eames in conjunction with the 1969 Musee des Arts Decoratifs exhibition ‘Qu’est-ce Que Le Design?’”