Utopia by Vincent Olm
by sabine7 / April 3, 2010


Simplicity is a mark of work by Belgian designer Vincent Olm, who also injects a self-described quirky sense of humour into designs that encourage the user to really think about the experience. Designing offers Olm "the chance to reinvent himself every day, and (...) to escape boredom." He puts up a fight against dull objects with work that stimulates. Quirky or clever? You decide.



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The idea that stands out among the work in the Utopia collection is that of sitting almost directly on the floor for a meal. How is it that Western cultures have drawn away from this posture? Do you think collections such as Utopia will make us more grounded?

Well, to be honest, I didn't create this project with the aim of changing anybody's behaviour. I simply wanted to give form to my personal interpretation of sociability and the act of sharing, in a quirky and deliberately basic manner. I realise that in creating this collection I am going against the "western model", but the idea is not to criticise it or revolutionise our way of life. Rather, it's about starting the discussion by daring "something other". As for abandoning this posture in the West, I know that some specialists see in the advent of the chair a desire to impose hierarchy. I would personally add that easy also led us to sit up higher. Will we one day return to sitting on the ground? Well, only time will tell...


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The Ham chair offers the user the chance to see things from a different perspective. What have we been missing by not seating ourselves close to the ground?

An experience, just that... the experience of seeing something differently, one that takes us back to childhood. The idea of the Ham chair really came so simply. One day, who knows why, I was sitting on the floor, right in the middle of the kitchen, and I looked around the room. And what a surprise I got: it was as if I had rediscovered it. From where I sat, it was almost like another world. The furniture, for example, suddenly seemed more imposing. I found that funny and intriguing: the simple act of sitting on the floor had redefined the space around me.


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The Utopia dining table also rests on the floor and offers users a chance to partake in a more communal dining experience. How do you respond to suggestions that this is a less hygienic or comfortable way to enjoy a meal?

As far as hygiene is concerned, I understand that one could have reservations on that score, but I don't think it's an issue because whatever you do, it's difficult to avoid dust, whether you're 15 centimetres or 90 centimetres from the floor. I've noticed that many non-western cultures don't share this fear. And we have to admit they're no worse off for it. The West seems to have developed a real phobia about this... It's a bit of a shame really, because it means we miss out on some experiences. As for comfort, it's clearly less comfortable than eating while you're sitting on a nice soft chair. But at the same time, sitting on the ground is no less comfortable than sitting on a wooden chair; they are equally hard. Plus, I love the fact you have to make an effort to sit down and stand up; it means you get a bit of exercise!


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Mom is a dome-like lamp in the shape of a breast. How does Dad fit into this picture?

Unfortunately, there's no place for Dad in this picture... To me, sociability suggests roundness more than anything, and as the maternal breast has the advantage of being a strong symbol of "nourishment", I left Dad on the drawing board. But I'm keeping him on the back burner: he'll definitely appear in a future project!


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Why did you choose the name Utopia for this collection?

I chose the name for two reasons: first, because the term "utopia" means an unrealistic idea, something idealistic, an illusion. And my project grew out of that. It's a way of looking at something. A transposition of what I consider the very essence of sharing: eating from the same plate. The unrealistic aspect of the project, what makes it genuinely "utopian", is the fact that it is born in a society that is bound to have reservations about it, because it goes against the established way of doing things. The second reason is linked to the origin of the term; coined in 1516 by Thomas More (if I remember rightly); it was originally the name of an imaginary island. This "geographical" aspect interested me because it reinforced the idea of criss-crossing a collection of diverse cultural influences.


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In contrast to the slow food theme of the Utopia collection, Rush is a carpet that is an homage to moving feet. Was there a specific event or moment that spurred you to the creation of this design?

To tell you the truth, these two projects pretty well sum up my personality. Rush is not linked to any specific event. Rather, it represents my daily life: a race against time, constantly coming and going, a profusion of ideas... Utopia is kind of the opposite, and something I sometimes aspire to: a bit of calm, a bit of gentleness. These two projects reflect the two sides of my personality: the over-excited designer curious about everything and the calmer side, of the idealist who wants to stop time and escape for a while... to the island of Utopia or somewhere else ...


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+ vincent-olm.com


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