CONVERSATION

Caleido interviews Gabriel Roland director of Vienna Design Week

Caleido interviews Gabriel Roland, from 2021 director and curator of the Vienna Design Week, which this year took place in Vienna from 24 September to 3 October 2021. Welcome to Caleido, an inspirational diary that narrates many stories: about creative people, trends, travels, objects. / Read the Editor’s letter here

 

Diary of: @roughoutlineofthings

Caleido interviews Gabriel Roland director of Vienna Design Week
Gabriel Roland, Director of Vienna Design Week - Ph. Katharina Gossow
1. When you think of creativity and design, what is your first personal memory?

This is really interesting because, coincidentally, I thought about this recently… When I think of my first contact with a design object I think of toys. Toys are something very important for people because they are the first objects we own… I think that approaching an object as if it was a toy can be a very stimulating exercise for a creative person…

I see my parents playing with my daughter, using the very same toys that belonged to me when I was a child. And that belonged to them before they belonged to me, and before then, they belonged to their parents… They are objects that are handed down over time, from generation to generation… Just like a good design object: something that should never be thrown away, and that in the course of time is rediscovered or reconsidered.

Caleido interviews Gabriel Roland director of Vienna Design Week
Vienna Design Week 2021 - TEAM: Marina Weitgasser, Alexandra Brückner, Laura Winkler, Gabriel Roland (Director), Hanna Facchinelli - Ph. Katharina Gossow
2. So, do you think that good design is something inherently eternal?

Not only that… it is not the only characteristic it must have. I believe that a good design object must also have the ability to leave room for the personality of its owner. Again, making a parallelism with toys, every child uses the same toy in a completely different way: they give it a different name, they make their own use of it, they make it interact in an original way with other toys. All of these are considerations that I think can also serve as inspiration for a designer, a creative person or, as in my case, a curator. Toys teach us something, more than we think…

Caleido interviews Gabriel Roland director of Vienna Design Week

Ph. Kollektiv Fischka/Kramar, Vienna Design Week

3. What is the relationship between tradition (which sometimes also means an old way of doing things) and innovation?

Especially in Vienna, tradition is something very important. In this city we have such a strong connection to our history that it often acts as a filter for the present.  Vienna, like so many other places in the world, has so many traditions that they encompass almost all of life. In Vienna, for example, we are very proud of the traditional “Red Vienna” (click here to discover more), or the new post-1918 town planning: an inclusive town planning operation that completely overturned the existing town planning and it certainly was a positive innovation. Knowing, valuing and embracing this past experience is certainly a crucial step in building an equally innovative present and future.

But tradition – as can be seen in some of the installations that are part of the VDW – is sometimes also the guardian of problematic, negative events, which, although difficult to accept, cannot be ignored. So, what we must do is strive to consider the whole scenario of the past, to build the future from a privileged position.

Caleido interviews Gabriel Roland director of Vienna Design Week
Ph. Philipp Podesser/Kollektiv Fischka, Vienna Design Week 2021
Caleido interviews Gabriel Roland director of Vienna Design Week
Design Everday - Ph. Kollektiv Fischka/Stefanie Freynschlag, Vienna Design Week 2021
4. Do you think that this dualism is also a winner in the world of design?

I am convinced of it. In the past editions of VDW, we have put artisans and designers around the same table (it’s what we named Passionswege) to create something that they would not normally do, something that went beyond the daily dynamics of work and business. The challenge was to create something that could never be done alone. Without a craftsman telling a designer what to do, or vice versa: we at design week were in the middle, acting as moderators, to stimulate experimentation with a new way of doing things, while fully respecting each role. I really believe that this relationship is at the heart of good design.

Caleido interviews Gabriel Roland director of Vienna Design Week
Ph. Kollektiv Fischka/Kramar/Philipp Podesser, Vienna Design Week 2021
Caleido interviews Gabriel Roland director of Vienna Design Week
Ph. Kollektiv Fischka/Kramar/Philipp Podesser, Vienna Design Week 2021
5. I recently read this provocation, which I will quote: do we really still need design weeks, now that everything is accessible from the comfort of our home?

I think the question should dig even deeper. We have to ask ourselves if we should be at work rather than here celebrating? With the Coronavirus crisis we discovered that some work processes can be conducted without big events, and this awareness leads me to be even more critical of our work in the VDW: to be meaningful, it must be be something truly meaningful.

“So, what I would like to say is that design festivals are not necessary to do business. But they are a unique and incomparable opportunity to get out of the daily dynamics of business to experiment, to try new things, to make new connections, to give yourself a chance to explore new points of view, to realise that sometimes you just need to build a ten-step stair (click here to find out more) to reach new perspectives. I’m not saying that participating in a festival is the only way to do it, but it’s definitely a good way to do it”.

Caleido interviews Gabriel Roland director of Vienna Design Week
Vienna Design Week 2021
6. As a creative person, I am often faced with new design challenges. And sometimes I ask myself: do we really need a new chair? Do you ever wonder that yourself?

This question also makes me think of other events around us, which are very product-focused, such as Milan Design Week. I was in Milan for the Salone and I visited the exhibition on Enzo Mari; I read an interview in which he was very critical of the Salone, saying that designers take themselves too seriously, that they believe they hold the key to saving the world… In the end, none of us needs a new chair, but… We want one anyway.

Caleido interviews Gabriel Roland director of Vienna Design Week
Vienna Design Week, Focus District Brigittenau - Ph. Bueronardin/Niko Havranek
Caleido interviews Gabriel Roland director of Vienna Design Week
Vienna Design Week, Focus District Brigittenau - Ph. Bueronardin/Niko Havranek
7. In relation to VDW, you have embraced the idea of bringing the festival to every part of the city, so that it can leave something behind, even when the spotlight is off. What is the ultimate goal you feel you want to achieve with this design week?

I think the main goal is to bring all the people who come into contact with the world of design to a new and higher level of awareness and appreciation of the objects that surround us. Whether they are everyday objects or special objects. I think this is the key: a greater appreciation of objects and the work of designers.

Caleido interviews Gabriel Roland director of Vienna Design Week
Vienna Design Week 2021
8. You have recently become director of VDW, embodying a new generation of creatives. How would you describe the scenario in which you find yourself operating?

First of all, I think that the design world we live in is very saturated… There is everything, we see everything, what else could we invent? What is left to do? We have the impression that we have already discovered everything is there to discover… How many more chairs will we be able to design? The real playing field is therefore one of sociality and connections… between people, between people and objects, in an interconnected system that is sustainable in terms of both social and ecological respect. We need to focus on something that works not just for a few but for many, if not all.

Caleido interviews Gabriel Roland director of Vienna Design Week
Ph. Kollektiv Fischka/Kramar, Vienna Design 2021
9. The last question is about the guest country. Every year you select a guest country and this year you have chosen Europe. Do you think we are moving towards the construction of a Europe-country?

We made the choice of Europe as the guest country for this edition around two questions: what does Europe do for the creative industry? And the other: what can the creative industry do to help create a European identity? And I think these two questions are the beginning of the answer to your question. The European institutions have already taken over some of the functions of individual states to support the creative industries in creating innovative projects. Sometimes there is a difficulty in finding this information, but that is one of our roles. On the other hand, I think designers are in a good position to create, design and shape the European identity. It’s an open question, not really framed in a precise brief, which will keep us thinking for quite a while yet…

Caleido interviews Gabriel Roland director of Vienna Design Week
Dorfplatz EU / studiotut & aufstrich - Ph. Kollektiv Fischka/Stefanie Freynschlag, Vienna Design Week 2021

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