The research of Buro Belén, Front and Claudy Jongstra. Three different approaches to textile design but with a shared objective: to develop the sensorial aspects of the material in more holistic settings, in contact with nature

Not just decoration, fabric can be a way to stimulate synesthetic sensations, starting from interior design, for a more holistic relationship with our environment. Or it can be a tool to experiment with the technical limitations of industrial and artisanal production. It can also become a manifesto for more sustainable and local design. These aspects are represented by three studios that conduct personal research through textiles: interdisciplinary and experimental research, for Buro Belén; expressive research for Front; authentically circular and waste-free activity for Claudy Jongstra.

Holistic view

The Amsterdam-based Buro Belén, founded by Lenneke Langenhuijsen and Brecht Duijf, stands out for its pursuit of a holistic vision of space, materials and colors, activated above all through textiles, seen as a surface in relation to furnishings, rooms or even the whole world. Their Sun+ collection with anti-UV fabrics is famous, as are their experimental creations like lightweight crackling sisal yarns, murals with mulberry bark patterns or biodegradable maize weaves. Recent projects include the textile walls of the late 1700s building of the Felix Meritis company in Amsterdam, which combine the idea of tromp l’oeil with that of shag carpets, and the two installations for the Netherlands pavilion at Expo Dubai 2020: a roof in protective filtering fabric and a curtain in woven maize fiber.

Natural materials and industrial techniques

“We believe it is urgent and important,” says Lenneke Langenhuijsen, “to explore and improve the relationship between people and the environment, starting with well-known and new materials. Because materials have the ability to open up wider themes, by way of the sensorial experience induced by the environment. Yarns, weaves and surfaces support, repair or enliven our sense of place. Our vision is three-dimensional, to approach themes like origin, process, color, consistency and substance. The material is always our starting point. We try to expand the characteristics and to use the qualities to create alternatives that exist inside the materials themselves. And we try to connect natural materials to the most advanced and industrial techniques of the present. In a certain sense, we engage in paradigmatic thinking, while in any case seeking deeper narratives, connected to ancestral traditions and the notion that everything is interconnected with nature. Working with sustainable materials and colors, we encourage people to make ethical choices that foster healthier, more holistic scenarios.” In more specific reference to interior design: “with fabrics we are able to bring comfort, happiness, acoustic properties, warmth and softness to interiors. Fabrics are able to stimulate the senses and even to bring artificial and natural, inside and outside closer together.”

Three-dimensionality and tactility

Design by Nature, developed by the Swedish designer of Front with the More-So brand of Moroso, is a collection of furnishings that resemble fragments of landscape or rocks covered with moss. They are effects created with 3D scanning, milling and – above all – the three-dimensional and tactile impact of fabrics developed for the occasion. “We wanted to create surfaces that differed from traditional textiles,” say Anna Lindgren and Sofia Lagerkvist.

Memory and creativity

“Studies show that spending time in nature has positive effects on our general well-being, memory and creativity. And we wondered how to use this knowledge in our work as a designer. Thus, we acted on the characteristics of the fabrics to recall the textures and tactility of natural surfaces, with the idea of ​​bringing fragments of wild nature into the home. We were also interested in transferring the experiential aspect of contact with nature: when interesting elements are discovered by looking longer or more closely ”.

At FuoriSalone Milan 2022

In these furnishings fabric is not just a covering, but a part of the form itself. The relationship between the shape of the object and the colors and material impact of fabric is something that cannot be repeated, inseparable, because it stems from 3D scanning of a natural reference. The fabrics are first made with digital printing and then worked by hand with embroidery and unique details, giving them the unpredictable, unrepeatable character typical of the living world. The research for Design by Nature is still in progress, and will lead to an expansion of the collection for More-so, an exhibition during the FuoriSalone in Milan in 2022, and a collection of fabrics for Febrik/Kvadrat.

Colors and dyes

Between art and design, Dutch Claudy Jongstra is known for works performed with a traditional wool felt manufacturing technique. In 2001 he founded his studio in the rural north of the Netherlands, where he raises a flock of native sheep, Drenthe Heath, the oldest breed in Northern Europe, and cultivates a botanical garden from which he obtains the colors for the dyes, creating a completely local and without waste.

Working sustainably

“Over time,” Jongstra says, “I have conducted research on ancient dye formulas in collaboration with scientific institutes, and I have tried to pass on my ‘secret knowledge’ to new generations, with the goal of preserving our heritage and exchanging know-how for further implementation. Because working in a sustainable way, recycling and leaving behind no waste, but also working in an inclusive way with others, has an impact on design as well as on the beneficial properties of the spaces of life.”

Comfort and well-being

These textile works go well beyond simple aesthetic pleasure: “created with natural yarns and dyed with vegetable pigments, they transfer healthy characteristics into interiors. Since materials have a direct impact on human health, the inclusion of natural substances like wool in public spaces reduces levels of toxicity and improves quality of life. Furthermore, the native Drenthe Heath wool is hypoallergenic and helps to purify and filter air. Because it is a hygroscopic fiber, wool regulates air humidity and also acts as a sound-absorbing element, improving acoustic conditions in spaces.”