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Collaboration O

Section C, the newest former industrial space in Eindhoven to be taken over by designers, is attracting some top names.  Collaboration O is amongst them.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 08-12-2011

Collectives are all abuzz in the world of Dutch design and they make good sense, especially for new graduates who don’t have the financial means to set up studios with expensive machines.

Collaboration O comprises 14 designers – most Design Academy Eindhoven graduates.  Together they have invested in machines to deal with wood and metal.

“It is not just tools and machines but also the sharing of knowledge that makes the whole thing so important,” says Paul Heijnen.  “Everyone working here has his own specialization – from craftsmanship to technical skills with computers and electricity.  The pooled approach benefits us all.”

The idea was the brainchild of Martin Schuurmans who was renting space from Eindhoven creative entrepreneur Rob van der Ploeg.  That space ran into difficulties so Van der Ploeg found Section C and negotiated with the owners to ensure tenants could stay for a minimum of ten years.

"That means it is worth our while setting up and investing in the space properly,” says Heijnen.

The space is set up around a big central kitchen and dining area where the designers prepare meals and eat together.  "That is where a lot of discussions are had,” explains Heijnen.   

Of course such a utopia is bound to have its problems and divvying up bills, expectations and contributions can cause some frictions.

“It can also be hard to find a consensus on things like logos,” says Heijnen, “but we always try to solve everything through open communication. It is also important to keep business and friendship separate.”

Animator Niels Hoebers has been a member of the collective since the beginning.  “At first I thought ten was the maximum amount of people that could really work, but now we are in a bigger space and pay by the square meter so you have to be realistic.  We need fourteen to cover the bills.  Definitely no bigger though or you end up with sub-groups and we do not want that.”

Hoebers says they have been lucky with the current group.  “Of course we all come from the same school so we know about one another. Nobody wants to share their ideas with the competition, but everyone really does have their own way of working and within the group individual strengths really shine.”

Hoebers also mentions the dining table as one of the most important elements of the collaboration.  “Often it can be just asking for opinions that really helps," he says.  “Some people are good with big spaces, others with tactility and materials, or with welding and working with metal.  You get some great feedback on your ideas.”

Another member, Sander Wassink has an even stronger bond with the whole concept.  His own work mirrors the set up.  He works with grids in various forms that can be added to and built up depending on the needs of users.

“When I first started out I was a very individual designer,” Wassink says.  “I thought that was the best way to be.  At the Design Academy the focus is really on personal ideas, which inevitably leads to a very individual approach to projects.  Through collaborating I have only learned that my ideas can get stronger and the work even better.”

And success also comes down to trust.  “You might have an idea that is taken and built on by the group,” says Wassink.  “Eventually you realize that that doesn’t matter, especially if there is a good amount of trust between all the players.” 

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