Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Camiel Weijenberg ("CW") for their original perspective and innovative approach to design as well as their creative lifestyle, we are very pleased to share our interview with our distinguished readers.
CW : My design background is something that has come hand in hand with my upbringing. My grandfather was a contractor of a modest company. My father was educated as an engineer and later build his own plane while my mother is a sculpture. We always made things around and in the house and sometimes a new house. I think this has given me tremendous input in my work and thinking while running the office.
CW : Working life started as a carpenter and after a few years i enjoyed building furniture so much i wanted to learn more and applied for interior design at the Royal academy in the Netherlands and later graduated at the Architectural Association in London. After having worked at Wilkinson Eyre and later at Zaha Hadid in London for couple of years, i decided it was time to go on my own. After collaborating on a project with Ernesto Bedmar in Singapore i decided that this would be my new direction and setup right in the center of town in the heart of China town Singapore.
CW : By choice, my upbringing had been very free and was always given choice to make my own decisions from very early on. I can’t imagine anybody trying to be passionate in anything if you are forced into it.
CW : Its perhaps not so much what you design,but what you want to see different in this world and how would you design that. What would you make it off, it all describes the starting point and direction the journey of design is taken.
CW : Legend could mean many things perhaps. Follow their own interest with great care and be aware of what they want to see different in this world and make that part of their design philosophy. The fact that your design is going to be here a long or short time is effecting its direct and indirect social and physical environment.
CW : Being able to see the bigger picture,while staying innovative and create the opportunity to work with the best talents. Create a believe and design philosophy/sense is perhaps the hardest thing to do while running a design studio with all distractions and clients/deadlines. Designers that set themselves apart and continue their path regardless to me are one of the best designers out their. –Focus-
CW : A good design to us is the impact the design can foster in people.
CW : We think of it this way; for instance a client is going to spend XXXXX amount on a project why not spend x amount on a designer that is the mechanism to create value on that expenditure. Working with somebody from the industry that is specialised to ‘make’ good design and understand which part of a project could be more important than other parts, create a focus in the design and its approach gives momentum and strength to any project and to us a very important factor for good design.
CW : We are very fortunate that we are able to work on a wide range of projects. From intricate furniture pieces to interior and entire condos or master planning a resort. We had the wish to work more closely to the universities in Singapore and Asia and have started doing so this year with more to come in the new year. For some time I had the wish to create a different approach to high rise living and we recently started to piece this desire together into a new project.
CW : Its not so much the dream project, but the way we are able to bring our ideas together. This can be done in any scale project, to be able to bring the ideas together is the real challenge. For instance we are currently designing a pavilion that is inside out, an independent project that we are developing with other consultancy firms and to us would be a through synergy of minds.
CW : If there is one thing I have taken with me over the years is that there isn’t a through form of perfection,but the journey to get as close as possible is a quest that our office strives for and takes us forward.
CW : Huge inspiration is the work of Louis Kahn his designs for the people and Peter Zumthor for his immaculate detail, but also Jann Kaplicky’s drive for ‘beauty’ (not so much an aesthetic beauty), Zaha Hadid’s drive to push forward and embrace the future of technology and the potential design vocabulary it brings.
CW : I have been greatly inspired by a visit to Aran Islands in Ireland, Inishmore to be precise. The island is 10 by 2km long rock slanted to one side creating a huge drop on side and a long gentle coastline on the other. The very harsh weather conditions somehow still didn’t stop people from living there. People have adapted to these conditions by stacking stone walls all over the island adapting the island and their life pattern to the conditions. This has now created a stunning place with a beautiful pattern running across the island with stonewalls that create a live-able surface on this rock. The walls shade people and animals from the weather so now the land can be cultivated and habitable. This adaption of people and place is significant. Its not so much a design but it’s one of my favourite creations, everyone is a designer of his own space being it solo or as a collective.
CW : The greatest design we have worked on… some of our earlier furniture pieces such has the love chair called AJ or the RD table have stayed with us. Currently we are working on some very exciting projects such as the resort in Sri Lanka and a Museum in Penang, Of course restaurant RAW has been a strong project for us. Where we embrace cutting edge technologies to drive for exciting spaces bringing them people together in a comfortable and sustainable way.
CW : I think for young designers it is imperative to be instrumental and learn skill sets, if its software model making sketching programming etc. This will have help to become part of a team more quickly and ultimately helps to produce projects that are relative. We strive to keep improving ourselves by keeping up and learn new programs, invest in the people is the most important part in my view as it is crucial to stay relative as a designer and to understand what is –going on-. Learn from the news, learn programs visit galleries and be out there. Form an opinion on this world and your angle of attack to improve this.
CW : I started my working life as a carpenter and hugely enjoyed this. Perhaps one day I go back to this. It’s a very satisfying type of work and to shape natural materials to create is a fantastic thing to do.
CW : To me design is the threshold where people are brought together in a comfortable way as if they are attracted allowing them to conglomerate and be interactive with one another in a sustainable manner. Technology is my way of making this an intelligent structure or working method to get to a resolution of a project.
CW : My parents have had the biggest influence in this, not so much by directing but by allowing me to be while they were creative and involved with their own projects inspiring me all along my upbringing.
CW : I don’t see myself as a great designer yet, every day we are learning how to create more sustainable unique designs where we look beyond what we already know. Teaching at the local universities has greatly contributed to remain flexible and critical towards many ideas, in a way teaching demands to flex the mind as every students has their own approach. Learning to understand this is like learning to understand a new client and the thinking that goes behind the ideas.
CW : As a designer you have to push boundaries. There always will be challenges and obstacles, finding the way to overcome them is the key.
CW : Anyway they think is suitable. Personally I prefer printed work. It shows much better how someone can structure the work a have the ability to organise their prints properly on the right paper, with the right quality, in the right order.
CW : We love what we do and we aim and hope we can keep surprising our clients with exciting projects. Currently we are working on various projects throughout Asia. From residential to FnB interiors as well as a condominium. We are also working with SUTD university to develop a product on Sustainability and design.
CW : The Ultimate goal….big Q. To have a positive impact on our environment and continue to drive the office and our ideas further with exciting projects
CW : Focus and detail orientated as well as coming up with designs that surprises them. I believe this is very important and telling, if you merely producing the instructions of a client then you should just stop. Clients should expect better designs, clients should be critical towards design and what is produced and build. So much has been build that is just wasting away or painful to the eye and functionally a mess.
CW : In every way. Think about the skyline of a city and how people are given public space at the base of each of those buildings, how people work and behave inside those buildings and how they feel and able to interact with each other. Or the bus they take when going to work. Design is everywhere and the control on this creation perpetuates a world for tomorrow, I hope in a sustainable manner.
CW : All our work is exciting in one form or another if we are not excited about it we must change it! If it’s a resort a skyscraper or a bench each of them should have the power to makes once blood flowing!
CW : I would like to see much more control, there are just so many mis-planned rushed projects that become an aesthetic pollution, often with an overkill on patterns and materials. Its just staggering.
CW : We are pushing towards a more sustainable yet exciting design approach that is intelligent in its production. Parametric design is huge and the hot word for some time now. Parametric design does allow staggering complexities in a design approach without something actually being complicated. The way designers and architects work is transforming continuously and I believe that we should embrace this as it will give direction what we do and can do tomorrow. Timelines will always shrink and as designers we need to respond to various demands, timeline is only one of them.
CW : We always start with having several conversations with the client, especially when it is a new client. We need to understand what drives them and what their ambition with the project is. We find this a far better way to deliver for our clients then to listen what they actually want. This is because the clients view towards design is often not correct with what they actually want to achieve (or can achieve) sometimes a space or a site has limitations and opportunities that we bring into the conversation and make part of the dialogue. The journey we have with clients is most important and we try to show our clients how things can be done differently and what points of focus there are in the project.
CW : Be as good as one can be and be better every round.
CW : Good design sets its own trend. Some designs are not trends and are valued much later. Some projects are downright fun and quirky that don’t really fit in a category and some project match a current trend.
CW : The role of technology is very present, technology allows us to test options and design domains very easily. It allows us to communicate directly with clients and groups of people during the design stage as well as the construction stage. 3D printing is one of them and for us to draw up a project in 3D takes demands to be diligent with the spaces created. It is as if you are creating a physical model but you can actually get into the spaces and test them.
CW : We work with many types of software, each have their own strength but we generally make us of Rhino, Grasshopper and Archicad also known as RH-GH-AC triangle. A fantastic workflow within our team, allowing us the create exciting projects with a large complexity while being organised through BIM software, (building information management) This allows us to be super creative while maintaining full control on all schedules and the different packages required to organise and build a project.
CW : The role of color and material is of course very important and we always look for a synergy between the different parts of a project. It’s all about creating the right mood, materials and colors give accent to what the spaces themselves have been set to do.
CW : Fantastic! A form of enthusiasm is what we live for I believe and a great design inspires and thrills the user or viewer.
CW : The ideal design partner would be somebody that would also want to go the extra step to keep trying or test a different option. Tried to improve this or that. To be relentless in the pursuit to go further and farther with each design
CW : I don’t think there is one specific book, there are many books that had an impact on my thinking. Sometimes a particular stage of a project demands a certain flexibility in the approach and how the project is dealt with. “stuck” as we designers call it. Its very important to get stuck on a design some times and break through this position. I see it as making new creative ground, the angle of attack on a specific situation has to change. Breaking through these moments is something I enjoy very much and this can happen by being influenced or inspired on a particular design approach.
CW : Neil Armstrong
CW : It’s a really a fortunate thing and has helped us to propel the design studio further. Personally not much has changed and our focus is sharp as ever and we keep doing what we love to do - "Making exciting spaces by embracing cutting edge technologies with traditional materials and customs in a sustainable manner".
CW : Blueberry cake in an old canal house in Amsterdam during the Winter
CW : …hmmm well a funny and maybe not so funny there are many experiences perhaps is that we had many key moments during our office starting period 2 -3 years ago, we had several moments where we almost rolled over as a company. When I started with my saving I though we could last 9 months to a year. Once all bills were paid we were setup we were 2 months in and without any cash in the bank. To think of it, our very first project was a divider wall in a friend’s office, a favour from a friend. This quickly led to another project, a small barber store, a tiny project with a modest budget, we worked day and night to make this into a success and get the best for the client. Somehow we got this bar project the Library, at the time we made a good impact in Singapore. Not much later we received a call from a famous chef and he asked if we could work on a project in Taiwan later known as RAW. To think back I have no idea how we got through the first 2 -3 years but we did and I learned a lot and received some grey hairs as a reminder.
CW : Having learned something new that contributes to an improvement of our design ethos and working method. Its sounds boring but it really gives a kick to learn something so specific so related to what we are striving for.
CW : Hhmmm, we hardly have an idea what we are doing in 3 months time…. What I would like to happen is that we live in a balanced world that retained its culture with plenty of clean energy.
CW : We hope we can inspire those around us. We strive to continue creating exciting projects and attract talented people to be part of our growing team here in Singapore where people can learn as an intern or join as a skilled designer where we can work together on a better greener future with fantastic projects.
© 2020 Design Legends - All Rights Reserved
Design Legends platform highlights valuable insights from the best designers from across the globe; a great resource for all designers to learn, reflect and think about good design and how good design helps create value for the society.
Design Legends website was created by DesignPRWire and A' Design Award to promote truly great designers, outstanding architects and inspirational artists that contribute to the development and advancement of society with their outstanding works.