Nine ambassadors of innovation shaped the most recent MaterialDistrict exhibition

Rotterdam – At the 14th edition of MaterialDistrict Rotterdam, which took place last week, nine internationally respected ambassadors were cherry-picked to represent six market sectors, curating exhibitions and helping to select the most promising start-ups and designers to showcase. Each spoke about the most important themes and innovations in their sector.


Ambassadors: Ben van Berkel (UNstudio) and Filippo Lodi (UNsense)
Themes: Technology, Health, Social Impact and Media
Their position: The digital revolution is driving change in every part of our lives, except within the built environment. It’s time to catch up. Besides performance and efficiency, technology offers a great opportunity to return to the essence of architecture, which is people. Our aim is to humanise architecture, to improve people’s physical, mental and social health. Artificial Intelligence and digital and sensorial technologies allow us to create buildings and cities that adapt to the needs of individuals and populations at large.


Ambassador: Anouk Groen from RNA Design, a trendwatcher and industrial designer for the automotive, textile and consumer-electronics industries
Themes: Eat Me, Fold Me, Love Me and Reuse Me
Her position: The future of battery power and moving towards electric are important. For the consumer electronics market, it is important to create products that are easily disassembled, so the parts can be reused or recycled. This is especially relevant to the phone industry because the average user changes phones every two years.


Ambassador: Annemarie Kleve from Anders2, expert on paper and printed matter
Themes: Digital and Effects
Her position: Making choices is one of the most important themes in this sector. As a graphic design company, you have to choose which sector you focus on. Because there are so many printing techniques available, you also have to choose a specialty. Which printing press or printer are you using? What do you want to achieve? The client also has to make choices, but because of the many options, often cannot see the forest for the trees.


Ambassador: Former municipal architect Cees Donkers, who oversaw Eindhoven's transformation from an 'ugly duckling' of a city into a 'design pearl' from the 1990s
Themes: Urban Lab, Water, Green and Social Design
His position: Transformation is the most important innovation in this sector, including the re-use of old buildings, rather than demolition. We used to invent new ways of living by demolishing the past and building updated versions, but over the past 30 years, we have discovered that we have been using the planet ‘for free’ without feeling responsible for future generations. Transformation makes it possible to change and re-use the past.


Ambassadors: Anne Marie Commandeur (Stijlinstituut), interior and apparel textile designer, and Liesbeth in ‘t Hout, former Design Academy Eindhoven dean and founder of the Fashion Council NL
Themes: Digital, Crafts and Recycling
Their position: The source of textile innovations is circularity. Textiles are versatile. In the material, the fibre, the thread, and in myriad processing techniques, many properties can be added to make athletic wear that breathes better, acoustic and smell-absorbing curtains, reflective UV-resistant solar screens and luxurious garments. More fabrics are interactive due to smart materials, or have anti-radiation or antibacterial effects, filter toxic substances, or help regulate humidity. E-textiles are improving and 3D printing is on the rise in accessories, shoes and even complete outfits. The recycling of textiles is mostly about downcycling now, the fibres are used as nonwovens in insulation or composite materials, but upcycling is increasing.


Ambassadors: Niels van Eijk and Miriam van der Lubbe (Van Eijk & Van der Lubbe) architectural, spatial and product designers
Theme: Dialogue
Their position: The development of sustainable production is essential. We have finally become conscious of this. Designers play an important role: by translating ideas and needs into material things, they lay claim to raw materials. But it is also a struggle. There will always be questions like: How much are sustainable elements allowed to cost? How much trouble will they cause during production? How much should you burden the consumer? As a creator, you have to feel responsible and take steps to improve sustainability.


In collaboration with Yksi Expo, MaterialDistrict showcased the exhibition Like Leather, in which projects were presented that make leather(-like) materials from unsuspected resources. That includes leather made from cow stomachs, shot boars, fish and leather waste, but also from vegetable sources, like banana fibres, coffee grounds and tree bark.

Next year's edition of MaterialDistrict Rotterdam takes place from 10-12 March 2020 in the Rotterdam Ahoy. Stay up-to-date with the developments on their website and on their Facebook page.

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