Retrospective 2019: Embassy of Sustainable Design

Type Update
Published on 14 July 2020
Retrospective 2019: Embassy of Sustainable Design
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The transition to sustainability can only succeed if we work together openly and transparently. Industry, designers and consumers. With the theme ‘If not now, then when‘, Dutch Design Week 2019 emphasized the urgency for taking action. But how can you create impact as a company or designer? That was the main question for the Embassy of Sustainable Design.

The transition we seek is about more than just sustainable products. It is a change process requiring investment, new business models and sometimes tougher decisions, with a long-term vision. Large companies, in particular, can create major impact thanks to their market position and economy of scale.

But designers too have an important professional responsibility. Towards manufacturers when it comes to devising and developing products, services and projects that are as sustainable as possible. But they also bear a responsibility towards consumers when answering needs, creating awareness and encouraging them to choose more sustainable and circular options.

Photo by Sergio Souza

In the coming years, this Embassy’s partners will collaborate in gatherings, network meetings, workshops and labs. In this way industry, designers, policy makers, product specialists and users unite to design a more circular economy and way of life.

Programme components

Through exhibitions in various prominent locations around the city, the Embassy presented projects dealing with the theme of sustainable design. The Embassy comprised five programme components and attracted a total of 25,000 visitors. An overview of all exhibitions can be found here.

The exhibition in the Innovation Powerhouse with a great many participants, particularly large companies, showed that circular is about a process that often calls for radically new business models. It was clear to visitors that the participating companies are fully – and very professionally – engaged in sustainability, and that, as consumers, they have conscious choices to make. Exhibitors included Circo, Reckitt Benckiser, Firm of the Future, ArtEZ Future Makers, IKEA, Renewi, FrieslandCampina, TU Eindhoven, KPMG and NS.

Adjacent to the Innovation Powerhouse was a fully circular pavilion designed by DeMeeuw. This exhibition featured projects by Design Academy Eindhoven, Wageningen University & Research, DeMeeuw, TU Delft, DSM-Niaga, ECOR, Design Centre Amsterdam and Provincie Noord-Brabant.

The Gloeilampplantsoen was given a premature make-over for the Embassy of Sustainable Design and was connected to Strijp-S by a temporary bridge. Here visitors could visit projects by Gielissen Interiors and NS.

Yksi Expo, photo by Iris Rijskamp
Gloeilampplantsoen, photo by Remco Nagtzaam

Yksi Expo showed presentations by SMEs and 25 young designers with concepts and experiments looking at and using plastic in novel ways. Exhibitors included Dave Hakkens, Studio Thier & van Dalen and NS / VerdraaidGoed.

To top it all, there was the Embassy of Sustainable Design Theme Conference. You can change things on your own, but together you can move mountains. Through joining forces, you can create impact along the way to achieving a circular economy and a more sustainable way of life. The necessary cooperation and knowledge sharing were the central themes of this conference. Speakers included Roald Lapperre, Graeme Smith (Mondi), Reon Brand (Philips), Conny Bakker (TU Delft), Teun van Wetten (curator) and Ad van Berlo (founding partner Embassy of Sustainable Design).

All manner of lectures and workshops took place in parallel to all this. For example, NS, ProRail and Bureau Spoorbouwmeester organised the workshop ‘How do you design the Circular Station of the future? And IKEA set out the company’s steps on the road to circularity.

Embassy theme conference, photo by Jeroen van der Wielen
Embassy theme conference, photo by Jeroen van der Wielen

In addition, 185 guests visited the Embassy of Sustainable Design as part of a DDW programme theme route. They included two international delegations from China and Germany, a tour with the NS board  and a tour of the Top Sectors with figureheads from those sectors and SGs and DGs from various ministerial departments.


The publication list comprises articles in which this Embassy was mentioned, and publications that focused on the Embassy of Sustainable Design. The complete publication list can be found on the World Design Embassies press page. There is also a podcast about the Embassy of Sustainable Design.

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