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The Collective Class


The various members of Collaboration O, some popping up more than once.  

Victor Sonna’s “design-art bike.”   

Collaboration O
Based in: Eindhoven, The Netherlands

A stack of model houses, based on Russian nesting dolls.  

The 6,000-square-foot studio shared by the fourteen designers who make up the Dutch collective Collaboration O functions like a kind of utopian commune—one in which members own shares of costly workshop machinery, rotate through roles like financial officer and concierge, and bat around ideas over big group lunches and dinners. In reality, of course, working with so many creatives in such close quarters can be “an emotional roller coaster,” says Niels Hoebers, a stop-motion animator who helped found the multidisciplinary group in 2008, when most of its members were still studying at the nearby Design Academy Eindhoven. “The day after we throw a party, half of the collaboration is lying in bed with a hangover while the rest are cleaning up. And when people are stressed, everyone else can feel it.” But the arrangement definitely has its advantages, says Hoebers: Working in such close quarters allows for opportunities that wouldn’t occur otherwise. When a client approaches one collective member with a large commission, he or she will pull in others with relevant skills; several are currently designing freestanding rooms for an upcoming hotel, for instance. And because the members’ skills span so many different disciplines, from carpentry to interaction design, they like to swap specialty work from time to time. “I recently made an animation for someone in the collective, and in exchange, he’s making me a showcase cabinet,” says Hoebers. “It feels like a little village.”


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