KUNSTSPOT: interview Gerard de Hoop
More top design comes from Groningen than you might think. Under the Northern radar, creative minds are quietly conquering the world with their sublime designs. Gerard de Hoop is one such individual. Recently, he won an international award for a cupboard that can be packed so flat that IKEA would probably get excited about it, and thanks to an intriguing and visually striking structure he designed with Ward Huting, you can now proudly say you’re going to the centre of Slochteren. And anyone who can achieve that is a real achiever.
Gerard de Hoop (Stadskanaal, 1968) was probably born as a designer. In his final year of high school, he already designed his first piece of furniture: a foldable desk in the shape of a cassette tape case. This sparked his passion for design: “I was in my final year and I still had to decide which study I wanted to pursue. And then suddenly I thought: art academy, that’s what I want to do!” He graduated from the Minerva Academy in 1995 in ‘architectural design’. Meanwhile, he’s conquering the design world. Big names like Gelderland, Castelijn, and Palau have his designs in production, he designed the Vincent side table for the French department store Monoprix (“a table with one ear”) and he got permission from the Danish design furniture manufacturer Fritz Hansen to modify the world-famous butterfly chair by Arne Jacobsen according to his own insight. A rarity.
Slochteren: the land of gas and follies. Slochteren. Home of the Gas Bubble, supplier of great wealth and collapsed farms. The place to be for capitalists and disaster tourists, but now also for the lover of the folly. You say? The folly: the most decadent child of the architecture family, born in England in the 18th century. Large landowners there began to enrich their landscape parks with artificial caves, fake ruins, Greek or Roman temples, Chinese pavilions, obelisks, mock tombs, and pyramids. Totally useless objects and therefore something to instantly become a fan of because happiness lies in very meaningless things. By the way, the one by Huting and De Hoop isn’t: “This is a so-called history folly and it serves a certain purpose, it refers to the history of the place where it stands,” De Hoop explains, sitting from his own design.
The Swoaistee and its brick neighbour. The folly is called De Swoaistee, which is Groningen for ‘swivel basin’: this is where the tow barges used to turn around to return over the Slochterdiep after unloading goods. The design is one of the ten winners of the project ‘New Follies on Fraeylema and the Heritage Square of Slochteren’, organised by the Fraeylemaborg Estate Foundation. Eight follies are near the borg, two are on the Heritage Square. Next to the Swoaistee, there’s also a pile of stones from the famous architectural firm MVRDV on the square. MVRDV has long broken through internationally and can afford this. The Swoaistee prevents you from feeling like you’ve ended up on a construction site.
Winning team? Don’t touch it! By the way, it’s not the first time Huting and de Hoop have designed a folly together: they previously did this for Noorderzon, in 2006. And never change a winning team, because for the design competition of Fraeylemaborg, they both independently submitted their own designs, but neither of them made it. It turned out to be The Swoaistee: around a center point, seven windows are placed, constructed from consecutively placed frames of impregnated softwood – not intended to last forever, but at least for five years. De Hoop: “The windows point to all the important places and buildings of the village. So, you can capture the whole village from one place. The Swoaistee is at its best when you drive around it: you see it change constantly, and you see the play of lines and the shadow effects particularly well.”
Conquering the world. It is typical of de Hoop’s work, which is mostly graphic and minimalist. This is also strongly reflected in the series ‘FRAMES’ consisting of sleek, open cabinet constructions, with which he is currently making waves. The most recent design from this line, FRAMES 2.5, even won an international prize: the Silver A’ Design Award 2015-2016 in the category Furniture, Decorative items, and Homeware Design. And rightfully so, because what an ingenious cupboard this is! It consists of ten black steel frames, which all fit together when packed, forming a so-called flat-pack. Once set up, there’s a full-fledged cupboard. Which Swedish furniture store does this principle remind us of again? Exactly, and that’s allowed, it turns out: “I would really like to design something for IKEA, it would be really cool to be sold all over the world!”
On Saturday, June 18, the Fraeylema Folly Festival takes place and the follies are officially opened at the Heritage Square of Slochteren. The Festival lasts from 12:00 to 17:00 and admission is free.
Text: Peter Dicke
Image: Sander van der Bij