the masks. An essential accessory

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Studio Plastique's exploratory design journey

Interview with Studio Plastique, MAD Lab resident designers.

22 January 2020
© Eline Willaert

Archibald and Theresa.
Two designers. One vision.
A shared passion for cross-cultural investigations and societal topics.
A love for sushi and absurdity.
They link the ratio and the heart, the material and the emotional, the human and the machine, the fish and the rice.

MAD had a talk with Archibald and Theresa - Studio Plastique -  after receiving the Young Talent at Henry Van De Velde Awards 2020 yesterday night.  

First of all, congrats on wining the Henry Van De Velde – Young Talent Award. How do you feel about this recognition?

SP - We are very thankful to have received the trust of the jury on this occasion. Winning this prize obviously gives credit and recognition to our work and methods and helps the public to have a closer look at what we are doing. The projects we work on are long term processes, they are not always a piece of cake to complete or to communicate about. Receiving this recognition motivates us to continue the work we are doing.

How would you define your design approach? Could you please tell us more about the importance of research within your practice?

SP - In our practice, a design project is always approached as an exploration or an investigation. This exploratory journey is driven by our very own curiosity, but also by the strong belief that it is essential for a project to be relevant that it is founded on a deep understanding of the elements at play. Good design has a lot of virtues, but when design is bad the consequences can be disastrous. This is why we collaborate with other disciplines and specialists.
So yes, research stands strongly in the middle of our practice. We strongly believe that design can play an essential role in the evolution of society. Therefore a shift needs to be made in the understanding of what design can be and do beyond being a "styling" tool for commercial purposes, as design has been understood by most people up until now. Therefore it is important for design and designers to prove their relevance in a variety of spheres. How else will politicians and institutions understand the role design can play in helping to shape our world of today and tomorrow? 

"Design shapes what we live for, how we live, where we live and when we live and die. Design shapes what we buy, but also how we buy, why we buy and how we feel about it"

Archibald and Theresa

Commons Sands project
Commons Sands project
Commons Sands project
Commons Sands project
Commons Sands project

Thinking about todays’ pressing ecological, social and economical issues, what is in your opinion the designer’s role in our current society?

SP - Definitions might vary. Intentions might differ. It is indisputable however that design is one of the most powerful forces in our lives. It shapes our daily lives as well as it is shaped by our daily lives and it therefore stands uniquely in the middle of it. Design shapes what we live for, how we live, where we live and when we live and die. Design shapes what we buy, but also how we buy, why we buy and how we feel about it. Not to forget that the act of buying itself is a designed gesture. And it also shapes what we throw away, how we throw away, why we throw away and the resulting consequences. 

In a world where a fair sharing of resources is needed to sustain the health and well-being of an overpopulated earth, efficiency through design obviously plays a key role. But apart from efficiency, design has the ability to question the deeper reasons and behaviours. For example, it can propose a better car but also question the need for a car and propose other scenarios of mobility within a given context. At a time where we face monumental changes, unprecedented in their speed, scale and intensity - from the deepening environmental crisis, to giant leaps in science and technology - design is positioning itself ever stronger as a key discipline in the search for sensible options and alternatives for our evolution. 

In our globalised era, the world became a smaller place. What is bought or consumed on one end is produced and trashed on the other end. And as we are increasingly informed about those things though a plethora of ever faster communication tools, it becomes harder and harder to close our eyes for the consequences of bad design. This new situation is liberating design from the commercial role it played in the industrial age. The complex situations we face today ask for holistic approaches, interdisciplinary practices and collaboration. The aesthetics and shape of a product became as important as the production method, the impact of the production on the people involved, on the resources used, on the environment, the design of the end of life of a product, the traceability, the economic benefit, the distribution… Design really shifts those cards by thinking beyond the walls of a factory, a business, an institution or a country and its government. The topics at stake are none less than the environment, our humanity, our health and well-being, our future! Who is standing more in the middle of it than design!? Well, perhaps politics and their voodoo men. We definitely advocate a stronger integration of design into policy making.


"We strongly believe that design can play an essential role in the evolution of society"

Archibald and Theresa

You will be the Art Director of MAD’s new exhibition in Milan at Fuorisalone, could you tell us a bit more about the concept and the selection of the designers?

SP - When the MAD approached us to work on their exhibition for the Fuorisalone 2020, we thought it was a good moment to highlight the wide scope of skills and fields designers are working in today. More specifically it was our intention and the MAD’s, to put the spotlights on the designers and their work differently. Instead of trying to highlight products of mere styling, we try to highlight the field work and research on topics and systems. Given the territory of the MAD as a support platform, the selection had to be Brussels-based. For us it is a beautiful opportunity to learn more about the designers at work in Brussels and to collaborate with them on this adventure for Milan Design Week.

How do you experience your residency at MAD Lab so far?

SP - The residency at MAD Lab has offered us a platform to start from after our graduation. Establishing ourselves in Brussels meant for us also to discover a complete new territory. The MAD Lab has helped us to grow our practice by offering us an affordable workspace, but also a place of collaboration and exchange. 

How do you experience working as a duo?  Is it rather complementary or does it bring interesting contrasts to your practice ?

SP - The design process is really not an individualistic thing. It is a process of exchange, understanding and collaboration. The two of us have found ourselves on the same wavelength early on and it has literally doubled our efficiency when working together. It is a privilege to be able to rely on each other and our mutual interests and differences. Not to forget that gender plays a big role; different subtleties emerge and lead to often more balanced understandings. 

What's next? Are there new projects in the pipeline except for the exhibition at Milan at MAD?

SP - It is going to be a busy year! We will be working on projects for Ghent, Milano, Lille, … More coming soon!

Studio Plastique is a collaboration between designers Archibald Godts and Theresa Bastek.

Henry Van De Velde awards are organized by Flanders DC.
The exhibition with all the winning projects is running at BOZAR, Rue Ravenstein 23, 1000 Brussels