Lone Feifer: “The kind of design that makes a difference”
VELUX architect and Director for Sustainable Buildings, Lone Feifer tells us why design matters – and how The Mindcraft Project shares her belief that great design is rooted in skilled craftsmanship.
Lone Feifer has always been drawn to architecture and design as tools for social change. A trained architect at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen, she spent years working for several architecture practices in Berlin in the late 1990s, before relocating to Denmark. “Architecture studios were a bit different than what they are today, it was often all about the individual,” she says, “and I had no desire to design a building and put my name on it.”
She took up a position as head of the architecture department at VELUX – the Danish family-owned business that has been on the forefront of roof window manufacturing for the past eight decades.
She was well aware that the company shared her view of architecture as a force for social good. Founded by local entrepreneur Villum Kann Rasmussen, VELUX promotes the transformation of unused attics into livable spaces by making good use of natural light and fresh air. And strives to make roof windows a product accessible to many. “Through good architecture you can make a positive difference for all,” says Feifer, stressing that her work largely focuses on improving people’s living conditions around the world. “That’s what brought me here in the first place.”
To give a sense of what her work as an architect involves at a company specialising in the production of roof windows, Feifer mentions Model Home 2020: a project that provides a blueprint for future sustainable homes by building prototypes around the world. After carrying out trials involving families volunteering to take part, the resulting data demonstrated that abundant daylight and good ventilation contribute to the homeowner’s wellbeing. “This is a project about energy consumption as much as it is about design,” Feifer points out, “and how it affects people’s lives.”
It is the very crossover between the technicality of architecture and promoting thoughtful design that led VELUX to support The Mindcraft Project this year. “We need to promote the kind of design that makes a difference,” she says, stressing that there is much that VELUX and the initiative – which showcases designers from Denmark addressing relevant societal and environmental issues through a careful selection of works – have in common.
Yet Feifer’s mission in promoting the role design plays in our lives goes well beyond her work at VELUX. A board member at both the Danish Design Council and at the Royal Academy – Denmark’s leading school for architecture and design – a founding member of the ‘Danish Design DNA’. The online platform, launched in 2016, maps out the ten values underpinning Danish design in a bid to honour its legacy. These include its people-first approach, where anything from a building to a chair are designed for human scale; or its durability, marked by its reliance on long-standing manufacturing techniques.
Yet for Feifer, highlighting the importance of design isn’t just about glorifying any one product, but rather stressing how the craft influences our relationship with our everyday environment. “It’s not that one mid-century chair that will make the difference, but the thought behind it,” she says, “and that’s why The Mindcraft Project is so relevant today.” For example, she emphasises functionality in design, a quality she believes Danish design and VELUX roof windows have in common, “they’re both designed by people, for people,” she says, “products that don’t make sense without a user.”
Today, many of the features that have long defined the art of design in Denmark are being promoted by many businesses worldwide: from championing sustainable manufacturing to crafting sturdy and durable products with a look that lasts. And after years spent treasuring and promoting such values, Feifer and her team are proud to see the work of young designers in Denmark building on the country’s heritage and upholding its legacy. “I always say you have to start with the craft, not industrial production,” she says, “that’s how design can make a difference.”
VELUX is a patron of The Mindcraft Project 2021