If you could recycle one of your old plastic designs which would it be and what would you make it into?
I hope my old plastic designs will never be recycled. I designed and made them in such a way, in collaboration with my clients, that they are very durable, strong and some of them turned into design icons so I hope they will have a long-lasting life, if not forever, and if they have to be recycled, I don’t care into what they are being recycled into but preferably not into something which is just for single use purpose but for something which has a long lifespan.
Michael named his new chair for Modus after you, what do you make of it?
Of course, it is a big honour and a big pleasure that he named his chair after me and a celebration of our friendship which has lasted over 25 years. We met in the early 90s in Milan, I remember well, in a landscape that is totally different from the design community now and we became true friends and close friends, it’s really nice that I now have the Richard chair.
Do you think the profound impact of rising sea levels on the low-lying Netherlands has encouraged the Dutch to more readily adopt circular economics compared to other European nations?
No. I don’t think so, it’s not being below sea level, it’s not really an issue. For us it’s normal but we also know that we are capable of keeping the sea out when the sea level rises, its’ fairly standard, we have to do it but there is a big awareness in Holland that we have to stop global warming, circular economics and circular design is a small part of the solution but the biggest part is of course that we have to make the transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources.
You are known for your positivity and humourous approach. In a world that seems hell bent on anthropomorphic destruction, how do you maintain your optimism?
Optimism and playfulness, which is also a very important part, and humour, that is the way to get the message through, that we have to change. If you are not optimistic then what the hell are you doing it for? I want a better world and I’m optimistic that we can get a better world, for me there is no other way than being optimistic.
Layers appear a lot in your work, often brightly coloured, how do these stripes or layers relate to your fun-loving nature?
Layers add meaning, so I like to layer products because they have layers of meanings, layers of functions, layers of perception and it gives depth to a product it also gives me the possibility to add colour and colour is definitely a sign of life. The more colourful world, the more bright, the more optimistic, the more fun.
Comfort or aesthetics?
That has to be a balance of both. Comfort is of course essential but designing a chair or bar stool just for comfort reasons is not enough, there are already comfortable chairs and bar stools. So, if I had to choose between the two it would be the aesthetics which can also be called the meaning, the story or whatever you want to call it. Comfort is the starting point but it is never the ending point.
Some of your work has celebrated the copying of copies, do you think it is possible to ever design anything truly original?
That is a very philosophical question. To quote Wittgenstein, what is the definition of truly original? I think it’s possible to design something truly original for sure, I think I did it many, many times, I find it’s the fun part of being a designer to come up with something you never saw before but at the same time are able to relate to.
Apart from cork, which other biological materials would you like to work with?
I really like to work with materials from renewal sources which, by definition, are biological and I think wood is among the favourites, it’s strong, it ages in a nice way and you can do a lot of different things with it, wood is definitely high on my list.
Motörhead’s unbelievable. Motörhead - we are the road crew, ‘life is just a game to me, win some lose some it’s all the same to me’, it’s a fantastic band and when I met Michael the first time we talked about Motörhead, we even went to some of their concerts when Lemmy was still alive, once in Holland, once in Belgium. Music is the highest form of art and Motörhead is definitely on my all-time favourite list.
Do you think technology can save us from our own destruction?
I definitely think that you can call it destruction or extinction. If we continue the way we do mass extinction is unavoidable but if we use technology, especially to make the transition from fossil energy to energy from renewable sources, like air, wind and sun, then it can save us. We also need new technology to come up with alternatives for plastic because plastic is a horrible material when it comes to sustainability but we need it, especially in these COVID times, especially for medical purposes. It is very hard to find alternatives at this moment so we need bio-based plastics to replace fossil fuel, oil-based plastics, technology is essential to save us from mass extinction.