Jurgen Bey at the Art Institute of Chicago

Tonight, Jurgen Bey gave a lecture on some of his design inspirations and his practice. One theme he mines is the urbanization of civilization. If space in urban environments comes at a premium and you only use 10% of the things you own, why not invest that other 90% into the community? Through time sharing agreements, you can still have a sense of privacy. Through the internet, you can find others willing to contribute to these micro-communities.

Reality is something you make together.

Jurgen works in a warehouse for which he pays no rent. The stipulation is that he must be ready to vacate on two weeks’ notice, should a buyer be found for the commercial space. This results in a real makeshift aesthetic. Office equipment rests on palates. Tents and a motor home represent the only significant private space. These working conditions probably inspired him to consider how other people work. In PROOFF, he rethinks the office environment. Furniture that comes out of this project explores the interaction between private and public space. I like how the Earchairs create open space yet facilitate a sense of privacy among those seated.

Jurgen generally develops a vision before he has a commission. As projects come in, he tries to convince the client that he has thought about the issue and has a solution in mind. It doesn’t necessarily reject user-centered design so much as it supports the use of scenarios. For example, the Nissan cube is a mobile cubicle that relies on a vision of how people will work in an open, shared space.

Jurgen’s business model seems more common in Europe than it does in the United States, where designers might work on a vision statement only after they have been invited to bid. This begs the question: what is the role of a design studio as an incubator of social progress?

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