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Timo de Rijk appointed to new chair in Design, Culture & Society

Leiden University and Delft University of Technology will start the joint new chair Design, Culture & Society as of 1 September 2013. 

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 12-09-2013

Timo de Rijk (1963) has been appointed full professor of the new Design, Culture & Society chair between Delft University of Technology and Leiden University. His teaching and research will comprise the study of the historical and cultural significance of design. De Rijk will provide education to both students of Industrial Design Engineering and Art History.

This of course means De Rijk will no longer be Premsela Professor of Design Cultures at the VU University in Amsterdam – that role was taken over this September by Grace Lees-Maffei.

De Rijk started Design Cultures and says that it now attracts over 30 Masters’ students with a specialization.  “I think Grace being from the UK will make it more international,” he says, “but the content will stay more or less the same with the focus on contemporary design practice and theory.”

The new course at Leiden will do something similar but will combine design, art and art history with De Rijk as a sort of mediator.

“Delft has always been a place where industrial designers have been trained, and Leiden produces art historians,” explains De Rijk.  “Now we will combine modern design, architecture and decorative art in one.  The audiences are different, but there is an overlap and I think what we will offer will match both. It is a first for the Netherlands.”

And it is a necessary move.  Students in Delft are simply not taught enough about history and in Leiden they acquire no practical knowhow.  “You don’t just study history to become a historian,” says De Rijk, “it is about better understanding the profession and being aware of the current discourse.  Every designer needs to be a part of that.  It makes them more self-aware.” De Rijk is editor-in-chief of the Dutch Design Yearbook and chairman of the Association of Dutch Designers (BNO).

De Rijk feels that the widespread cultural funding cuts gives the BNO and The New Institute (’s backers) a cleaner relationship making it possible to establish more mutual understanding.

“The New Institute starts with a cultural perspective and the BNO is service oriented and about the actual designers,” he says.  “They need each other.”