The End of an Era

Li Edelkoort stands in the background above. Photo from Rossana Orlandi.

Some surprising news: Li Edelkoort, chair of the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands for the past ten years, is resigning this Fall.As one of the few directors who saw the value of promoting her school internationally, Edelkoort was against the idea of the ivory tower and was a visible presence on the design circuit, bringing her students and their work to cities like Milan, Paris, and New York. (Richard Koshalek—president of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, who is stepping down from his position next year—is another director who did likewise). During this year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan, she showed her student’s work at Rossana Orlandi, one of the trendiest design shops in the city.

I remember a few years back, during the Salone del Mobile in Milan, the Academy had a pop-up space in a store near Porta Romana, and Edelkoort was behind a counter handing out pamphlets and talking to journalists and designers about her students’ projects. Edelkoort was committed to seeing her students succeed, and further promoted them through her own company, Trend Union, which publishes trend reports and magazines. Today Maarten Baas, Bertjan Pot, Joris Laarman, and Job Smeets are just a few of her students who have become darlings of the design press. The school’s very conceptual approach to design—one that followed Droog Design in thinking—spawned imitators from around the world. (It’s an approach that has been increasingly criticized in the last few years, though a “Post-Droog” style has yet to replace it.)

When Edelkoort became chair in 1999, she thought she would stay for ten years. She believes it is time to resign, according to Jaap Zandbergen, the chair of the Advisory Board for the Academy. “Li felt that the first five years were necessary to clear up the mess from the predecessors and to come up with new ideas and to plant the seed,” says Zandbergen. “The second five years are for the harvest and to build out the new ideas. And after that it is time for something completely new.”

Anne Mieke Eggenkamp will be the next chair of the school, and Edelkoort will maintain a relationship with the institution, developing international design institutes in close cooperation with the Academy.

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