Furniture Inspired By The Unexpected Beauty Of Industrial Architecture

Coal-mining complexes and photos of towers get Mieke Meijer’s creative juices flowing.

It’s been a decade since Mieke Meijer developed Newspaperwood as a student, and the solid, durable material composed of broadsheets has subsequently been put into production on a variety of products by vij5. Material considerations are still fundamental to her process, but the forms she creates have taken on new complexity and significance as her portfolio has grown over the years.


“I’m fascinated by industrial architecture and structures in general,” Meijer Co.Design. The Dutch Design Academy Eindhoven graduate (and current teacher in the Man&Activity department) now runs her own studio in the city where she makes most of her thoughtful, complex works by hand with partner Roy Letterlé.

A 2008 excursion to Zeche Zollverein, the former coal mining site and current UNESCO World Heritage locale in Essen, Germany, had a huge impact on Meijer’s design perspective. “It is a very imposing place to visit,” she says. “The scale of the buildings is overwhelming. Usually these complexes are torn down when mining is no longer commercially interesting, so the fact that these structures still remain and are being reused is very special.”

Not long after, Meijer discovered the “typologies” of German artists Bernd and Hilla Becher, whose straightforward, full-frontal industrial photography recalled her earlier experience. “What I found most interesting was that the shapes are purely determined by the machine inside or the task they are meant to perform. They are not meant to be aesthetically pleasing, and that somehow gives them their beauty.”

Taken together, the Bechers’ images and grand physicality of Zeche Zollverein gave Meijer a new stylistic direction. “By tracing the contours of the structures I found that the drawings were no longer recognizable as industrial buildings,” she says. “The sense of scale disappeared and they became something different: pieces of furniture, vases, lamps, etc.” Meijer’s uniquely modular, almost puzzle-piece units like Gravel Plant and Power Plant display an incredible logic within their geometrical labyrinths, while Relativitytimepieces examine temporality through measurements of mass, volume, and temperature.

This concept of constructive thinking has resulted in an increasingly refined collection that is continually expanding to include both commissioned and self-initiated projects, exhibitions and installations. “In my opinion the most import thing for young designers is to show the world who you are and how you want to distinguish yourselves from everybody else,” she says.