Anna Moldenhauer: Ms van Ast, what attracted you to the task of managing Design Post?
Floor van Ast: I worked in the Dutch cultural industry for a long time and in my work as a curator I pointed out future perspectives in design. I am no stranger to the Design Post, I am related to the owners. So far, however, the connection has been rather loose and I am looking forward to changing that now and being able to contribute my ideas and scenarios. The position of Design Post is very interesting for me – we are in close contact with the industry as well as the creatives. This potential for networking and exchange should be used more. We can be more active and make a greater impact. That is also my personal motivation: I am convinced that it helps everyone in the industry when knowledge is shared between competitors and people strengthen each other.
Can you already tell us some details of your plans?
Floor van Ast: We are starting as an experienced showroom for design brands and I think we know quite well what the manufacturers need. The showroom will remain the core, but I would like to strengthen the function of a communication platform. Besides the well-known events, we are planning more content-oriented programmes, such as a series of salon talks on the circular economy and sustainability. Big topics, but I think currently very relevant for our whole industry, to address the issues of society, but also to recognise the opportunities that are waiting there. This is a peak of what we are planning and I hope we can start again with small, physical events in May 2021. In parallel, we are planning online events, for example with NXT A, the network for young, innovative architects, planners and professionals from the building and creative industries, and materials cologne, the conference for design and innovation.
Would you like to change anything about the structure of the showroom?
Floor van Ast: Working and exhibition areas are currently becoming more fluid in many places, the subdivision is no longer so strict. So we would also like to create spaces in the Design Post that can be used by different groups, not just one brand. Together with Besau Marguerre, we are currently developing a suitable concept for a flexible meeting place in the Design Post that is perfect for agile working. In addition, there will be a studio space that is specially equipped for workshops and can be rented, and a co-working space. So our spaces are meant to offer the industry many opportunities, we want to offer the architects, designers and representatives of the brands an optimal environment. The Design Post is more than just a pleasant place to look at high-end furnishings, it is a multifunctional space for creative work, alone or in a group, and a dynamic tool for the industry.
There are currently no physical trade fairs – so Design Post lacks a "walk-in audience" several times a year. How do you deal with this?
Floor van Ast: It's a challenge for us, because the fairs are always a highlight, but not the only reason for our visitors to come to Design Post. For many brands, Design Post is their German hub all year round, independent of the trade fairs. These are important, of course, but we offer activities all year round, especially in the region. I think even if we have the pandemic under control, we will not and should not go back to the once very tight timing of travel. Our habits have to change and so will the design post adapt to the times. The interpersonal encounter and the experience of the objects will remain important. When I plan a building with 100 tables, I want to see the model at least once beforehand, experience the material, the feel. The need for a real space will not change, but the flow of information can happen digitally and brands are getting better at positioning themselves here. I am confident that this pandemic will also be a catalyst for many forward-looking developments.
To what extent do you want to carry on the concept that your predecessor Volker Streckel developed for Design Post?
Floor van Ast: Volker created a really strong concept that is unique in itself. For me, it's a good foundation that we can be proud of and that now gives me the opportunity to take further steps forward. The market is currently changing, the exchange between brands and end consumers is becoming more intensive, content is increasingly in demand. Design Post can be a part of this transition in a collaborative way. In the industry, we all need each other and my vision is to generate different scenarios for this.