Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Design
and start talking about it. At the moment about 400 people ride my bikes in the Netherlands and until four years ago that was nothing. DB: Apart from making the wooden bike, what else do you do? JG: I’m known for my bike, but that isn’t even the main part of my business. I design interiors, shops, and restaurants, all with wood, from design to delivery. I always try to bring man and nature back together in my designs. For one restaurant I made a table with a little slot to put your smart phone in, so people won’t be distracted by any beeps or noises, and instead have a proper conversation and listen to each other again. It really helps people to leave the restaurant refreshed.
Jan Gunneweg TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: COURTESY OF JAN GUNNEWEG
Famous for designing a wooden bike, Jan Gunneweg has a love for nature and runs his own design company. With his all-wooden designs he tries to bring people together while creating elegant, simple and accessible designs. Discover Benelux asked the Dutchman: what makes wood so special? DB: You’ve made many designs out of wood, like sunglasses, a bike. Why wood? JG: Constructionally, I believe wood is the best material in the world. It is strong, beautiful and warm and I love the way in which it grows. Take steel, it comes from mines with mine workers, which is quite an ugly profession, or at least I wouldn’t want to do it. Then it is taken to big factories that spew up massive plumes of smoke, with all the health problems associated with it. Then if you look at the production of wood, that is just the forest.
36 | Issue 12 | December 2014
DB: When did you decide to make this your profession? JG: I did a course in ship building and in the final period of my degree I had already made a wooden bike, ten years ago. Then when I was at an exposition, I sold a wooden wheelchair to someone and decided to start my own business. That was not easy, especially as I didn’t have any money. So the first few years I lived on a budget and invested every penny back into the business. Now my business is going really well, and I have the freedom to design what I like, which is great! DB: It’s as if you’re suddenly everywhere, especially in the last year or so, what happened? JG: In terms of getting my name out, it has taken a huge leap. It’s something that grows virally, people see you in the media
DB: Organic, sustainable, green – those are very much current buzz words, is this another reason you like to work with wood? JG: You can call it luck. If steel was sustainable, then I never would have chosen that to work with. I think wood is incredibly beautiful, it feels warm, absorbs vibrations, so the bike is really quiet, and it’s comfortable for interior design. DB: Then finally, are there any highlights of 2014 you’d like to recount? JG: At a presentation for a number of surgeons, one stepped on our electrical wooden bike and said ‘all I can do is smile when I ride this’ and came back laughing. Things like this are each memorable highlights, when people get onto our bikes for the first time and realise how agilely and silently it rides. I absolutely love that.
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