“Race with Nature”: Lithuania at Virtual Design Destination 2020

“…I wanted to select objects that could bring some peace to minds, restore a connection with nature and history, even if some of us are locked inside of our homes because of the virus, not knowing how the nearest future will look.”

– Audronė Drungilaitė, curator of the Lithuanian collection, “Race with Nature”


“Race with Nature” is part of the Virtual Design Destination presented by Adorno at London Design Festival, 12 – 20 September 2020. Join us for a tour of the virtual environment and collection with curator Audronė Drungilaitė in conversation with Kristen de la Vallière of @sayhito_ on Thursday, 17 September at 15:00 PM BST. “Race with Nature” is kindly supported by the Nordic Culture Point, Lithuanian Culture Institute, & Lithuanian Council for Culture.

Between the rolling dunes of the Lithuanian seaside at Curonian Spit, nature and humanity come together in a competition for dominance. Historically, this space has seen wind, sand, and human activity contribute to the ever-changing landscape, with whole villages swallowed in its wake. It is within this landscape that we find this collection, a reflection of the merging of these two entities and a view into the contemporary Lithuanian design scene which champions simplicity and function. With reference to our new reality, these pieces reflect the needs of the present and future through the use of up-cycled and sustainable materials; the creation of pieces which focus on moments of reflection; and furniture which takes its function into deep consideration.

The relationship of humanity and nature is highlighted in the Lithuanian collection, “Race with Nature”, through a range of forms and materials. Curator Audronė Drungilaitė reflects on urbanisation, sustainability, and embodied knowledge through the work of seven innovative makers. From Agnė Kučerenkaitė’s tableware created with reused waste materials, to Evelina Kudabaite’s mirrors and candleholders which makes use of materials from collapsed buildings, to Severija Inčirauskaitė- Kriaunevičienė’s eye-catching rugs created from reused knitwear, this collection examines the impact that nature and humans have on each other – a notion which has been at the forefront during this uncertain time. Ultimately, these pieces remind us of the opportunities available around us and the more measured pace that we can choose to live alongside nature itself.

“Race with Nature” features work by Agnė Kučerenkaitė, Barbora Žilinskaitė, etc. etc. studio, Evelina Kudabaite, Marija Puipaitė & Vytautas Gečas, Monika Gedrimaitė, and Severija Inčirauskaitė- Kriaunevičienė.

Race with Nature

What are the main themes presented across the works in this collection?

The collection “Race with Nature” reflects on several extremely [real] topics nowadays. Design objects from furniture, lighting, textile, glass, and ceramics raise questions about human activity in history, in relation with nature and the urban world.

Marija Puipaitė & Vytautas Gečas, “Envisioned Comfort” Armchair

Which three words would you use to describe the contemporary design scene in Lithuania?

Earth colours. [There is a] long cold season and a lack of sunlight, [which] influence the color picks – grayish, brownish, and greenish colours are always dominating.

Simplicity. Rough, unpolished surfaces, laconic shapes.

Function. Lithuanian design – the same as Lithuanians – are often down to Earth, so pieces of design cannot be just beautiful or very sophisticated.

"Ignorance is Bliss" Carafe

Why have you chosen the scenography of the Lithuanian seaside for this collection?

The sandy dunes in the background hide a true story – four villages and two cemeteries were swallowed by the shifting sand at Curonian Spit, Lithuania in 1675-1854. That was the result of human activity and dominating western winds that encouraged [the] dunes to travel from 0,5 to 15 meters per year. Nowadays, these dunes are called Grey or Dead Dunes, ranging up to 53 meters height. The landscape accommodates various rare and fragile plants. You can see that dunes are still moving, sand is slowly covering objects, symbolizing this never ending process of change.

History, humanity, and nature all come together in “Race with Nature”. Which aspects of the participating designers’ practices best reflect these concepts?

People are always looking for a better environment, like designers Marija Puipaite and Vytautas Gečas who are looking for extreme comfort in the “Envisioned Comfort” Armchair. Urbanisation cultivates different habits than people were used few hundred years ago, but a wish to live in a faster, better, more beautiful environment is part of the progress and humans race with nature should not always be done in a harmful way. The mindset of designers is changing too – the porcelain collection “Ignorance is Bliss” by Agnė Kučerenkaitė was created with reused waste from the metal industry [and it] is like a silent apology and compensation for all the damage created for nature.

etc. etc. studio, “Naïve Chair”

Sustainability, and our human connection to the earth, also seems to play a large role in this collection. How is this theme reflected in the Lithuanian design scene?

If you will look a little bit back to history, medieval Lithuania was the last pagan nation in Europe, officially converted to Christianity only in the 14th century. That’s probably the reason why Lithuanian designers are looking for inspiration in nature quite often, even nowadays. Also, Lithuania had never been such a rich country that we could afford to be not sustainable, follow only current trends, buy short life-cycle things, and pollute the environment.

Pieces in this collection are also made from long-lasting materials such as wood, wool, and gypsum, so objects can be easily recycled or at least last for a few generations, which is one of the key points of a circular economy.

With reference to the Virtual Design Destination’s theme, how does this collection respond to the so-called “New Reality”?

We are living in times that none of the currently alive generation has ever experienced. The pace of mankind’s daily life is enormous – new buildings are constructed in a few months, forests are being cut everyday, you can reach the opposite side of the world in several hours. Pandemics [are] one of the tools for nature to slow down the pace and regulate the numbers of the population, reduce the amount of pollution by simply limiting human activities. As much as this is not always a pleasant experience but that is the new reality we have to live with. Naive Chair is a good illustration of the world nowadays – the chair reflects this quick pulse and new trends: it can be easily flat packed and sent in a pizza size box which helps to save space, time and reduce the amount of CO2 emission created during the transportation.

Has your approach to the curation of this collection been affected by the ongoing uncertainty in the world? Why or why not?

Yes and no. In my opinion, life has never been very predictable, the beauty is hidden in that uncertainty and many good initiatives are about to happen when people are not expecting it at all. This virtual exhibition project probably wouldn’t happen if we could travel like a year ago, when even I could easily expect a war, occupation, or explosion of a power plant more than such a terrible pandemic situation which will take so many lives in the 21st century. Due to this, I wanted to select objects that could bring some peace to minds, restore a connection with nature and history, even if some of us are locked inside of our homes because of the virus, not knowing how the nearest future will look.

Meet Audronė Drungilaitė

Audronė Drungilaitė is a Creative Director at EMKO, a place where simply smart design meets its seekers and creators. She’s a former Executive Director of the Lithuanian Design Forum which is a non-governmental design promotion organization bridging designers with the industry. Audronė had been responsible for the management of Design Week Lithuania, the biggest design festival in the Baltics happening from 2006 in six cities at the same time.

A graduate of Vilnius Academy of Arts with a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design and a Master’s in Cultural Management and Policy, Audronė works there as a visiting lecturer. She is an enthusiastic promoter of Lithuanian design around the world, chairs a few boards, and sometimes curates Lithuanian design exhibitions abroad.

Which aspects of curating a collection for a virtual exhibition have intrigued and/or surprised you?

Honestly, this is my first time curating a virtual exhibition, so everything seems very exciting! There are no big limits – no lack of square meters, no need to calculate transportation costs, or to be afraid that something might be broken during the exposition. Could you find a more perfect playground for imagination?

Also, it’s a pleasure to curate this virtual showcase together with other talented curators that I haven’t seen for a while and probably won’t meet face to face soon.

What are you most excited to share with the Virtual Design Destination audience?

I would like to wish for everybody to stay positive during these strange times and not to forget to follow dreams despite all of the lock-downs, changes, and limitations. The design piece “Afterwards” by Barbora Žilinskaitė, which is an invented ritual, helps people to reach their goals. It suggests treating a flower while having a definite purpose. After completing a single act devoted to a goal, one ball should be thrown into the vase and a drop of water nourishes a flower. I hope everybody will find something surprising in this selection, even a small inspiring detail which will bring some optimism into daily life.

“Race with Nature” is kindly supported by:

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