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Marthe Biezen is fascinated by the fragmented way in which autistic people perceive the world. This resulted in her project Extended Drawer: a number of stacked drawers 3.2 m long, 4 cm tall and 24 cm deep. The drawers can be stacked endlessly to form a wall. Biezen: “It is an analogue database. I want to show that everyone has their own way of fragmenting and creating order. This project is about a conscious and delicate way of handling things that matter to you.” As there is so little space in the drawers, the user has to think very consciously about what to save and what not. And the limited space means you can only save things if they are fragmented.

Design Academy 2011

Photo by Sadaf Malyar

All parts assembled for the ‘Extended Drawer’ prototype are specially designed and handmade.

(Exception: the small carriers are CNC produced..)

Thanks to ‘Van der Lee Eindhoven’, Terry Weerdmeester and Kubra Nuenen


“Everything we know about the world and ourselves has come through our senses. However, we are not born with ready-made strategies to perceive the world around us. (...) Through interaction with the environment we develop our sensory processing skills, learn how to discriminate different stimuli from chaos of shapes, patterns, movements, and learn how to connect sensory images with meaning.” - O. Bogdashina

Both my graduation projects arose from my research and thoughts on autism. The brain of a person with autism is not wired to determine which sensory stimuli should be ignored. Autistic people process information and distinguish people, things and places not as singular entities but as broken down fragments. As the number of objects seen by them is greater (“because they see different images of one and the same objects from different angles” - VanDalen, 1995), they do not feel safe in our world of chaos; of things and people.

With this in mind I started my designprocess. We all have our way of fragmenting and ultimately viewing the world around us, though it is not as magnified a fragmentation as it is in the case of autism. In using the basic idea of how autism alters one’s perception on life, i proceeded to design a product which gives insight into this fragmentation of life. The ‘Extended Drawer’ is composed of a series of surprisingly long and unconventionally shallow draws, that, when stacked together form a wall. The draws in themselves make up fragments and varying sections of the wall. When taken apart, the draws fulfill a basic function; that of storing goods. But when assembled, the draws become more than simple storage facilities; they make up part of a uniform wall.

The purpose of the drawer is to fragment and therefore increase the value of what is stored.

The draws are made of cedar wood whilst the carriers are made of brass and slides of steel and nylon. The draw of 3m20 is remarkably long whilst the inner compartment has an height of 4cm and an anual depth of 24 cm. This unusual storage space means that it is intended for items of limited size and quantity.

The design of the draws is such that one is encouraged to fragment our conventional mindset for one that betrays our preconceived norms about traditional furniture. The draws imposes certain limitations because of the monumental size of the overall construction, which contrasts greatly with the size of the storage space. The user must therefore make a conscious decision about what is to be stored in this limited space.

By placing specific personal items into each draw, one gives importance to specific memorabilia and objects as opposed to the current trend of accumulating a variety of ‘things’. The items in the draw are given a status of equal significance.

It was necessary to use a material that was stable and maniable, which is why i opted for Cedar wood. When stacked, the draws form a pattern which is further hightened by the lines in the cedar wood. In accordance with the soothing pattern on the wood, the slides mute out any noise, making for an overall tranquil atmosphere. The brass carriers are fixed at three points in the drawer in order to generate extra strenght in the surface.

Today’s consumer society is very much focused on rapidity, in terms of attaining, pilling and consuming products. Even the intangible is stored by means of our computers; where infinite personal and valuable data can be saved on digital memory space.

The true value of our needed possessions is overwhelmed by our indulgence in mass consumption. We have lost focus and fail to gradually accumulate items that relate to our actual state of mind with our present mindset.

The way in which individuals with particular senses, such as autistic people, relate to the world is of substantial interest in this case. In interpreting how they experience the world around them, we can understand the importance of fragmenting out perception on life so as to further understand its intricacies. We can then prioritise what is of actual relevance to us in a world where consumer’s superficiality has gained the best of us.

Studies Balsawood, cartboard and MDF

Studio Zeta

Via Fruili 26

/Porta Romana

Milan 2012

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