Sustainability & the New Avant-Garde, Johanenlies


Instant gratification, disinterestedness and disposing of the qualities (and materials) that one needn’t want is now customary practice in the personal and professional spheres. Perhaps some are still boring themselves with talk of this new wave blasphemy and millennial self-fetishism, but it’s always been here. What mustn’t be forgotten is this – there is always someone else out there that will be willing to not only accept, but indulge in the qualities another has chosen to dispose of. As for materials, luckily, there are certain industries, professionals and entrepreneurs that have taken the responsibility to acknowledge and provide au courant solutions to the waste another generates.

Fascinating as it is, the burden of shifting trends and policies has been bestowed upon those industries which most spectators often deem as frivolous, shallow and self-important. Yet a quick glance at the European spectrum of modern art history will display movements such as De Stijl, Bauhaus design and Neue Sachlichkeit – all originating from The Netherlands and Germany, respectively. In their own right, these aesthetic movements placed emphasis on realistic representation, logical building practices and functionality. Modern and post-modern design have, for the most part, followed a tedious path combining these elements while holding the infamous utterance, “form follows function” near and dear. However, the current state of environmental and social affairs has proved to be problematic to the avant-garde nature of modernism – encouraging designers to think slightly less about aesthetics and more about proper sourcing and sustainability.

The avant-garde, the hallmark of modernist aesthetics – the radical, the unorthodox and the critical – is still alive and well. From its conception in the early 20th century, the avant-garde has promoted social change and forfeited the ability to give a damn – ironically, both quality trademarks of Berlin and the designers that exist within it. Combining everything from different nationalities, to styles and aesthetics and materials, Johanenlies is providing upcycled furnishings that are regionally sourced and environmentally friendly. Oh, and aesthetics are certainly not lost on founder, Mike Raaijmakers. Hailing from The Netherlands, Raaijmakers has developed a design process that utilizes materials that are otherwise left unused and unwanted by existing design and construction processes.


Maintaining a close, communicable relationship with their carpenter in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Johanenlies is able to maintain proximity to materials and aesthetic expectations as each piece is uniquely textured and finished. Scaffolding tubes, steel, recycled timber and filigree allow for just enough complexity in design, but it’s specifically the unconventional, futuristic combinations that yield subtle works of art. Those in industrial design are routinely reminded that form should follow function and comfort should give way to aesthetics – but what about abandoning all romanticized notions of modernism for a livable future? For Johanenlies, that is the new avant-garde.