We bow to no man in our admiration for the people of Belgium.
Not only have they common sense to make chips their national dish, but they have proved beyond all reasonable doubt that politicians are no pre-requisite for a functioning state in 21st century Europe.
We’ve just always found it a real shame that the various parts of the country have never got on.
It’s so unnecessary in such a small nation.
Fortunately, at least in design, that is starting to change, and in the last couple of years Brussels, Wallonia and Flanders have started working together and presenting common shows.
That wasn’t always the case and we can well remember a couple of years ago attending the Wallonia/Brussels show [Les belges]
A truly frustrating show as we recall; lots of products that looked good. But then proved not to be so upon testing.
Fortunately, as we say, times have changed, and in Milan the triumvirate (more or less) united for two “Belgium is Design” shows – one in the Triennale Design Museum and one at Salone Satellite.
The Triennale show was staged under the title Perspectives and claimed to “…. survey the shifting landscape of Belgian design” in the context of five “grids”: industrial design, self-produced design, design art, social design and design as “open work”
We can’t really comment if it did, for that there was simply too little story; however, it did present some wonderful projects.
We were particularly taken with the desk Strates by Mathieu Lehanneur for Objekten, O’Sun portable solar lamp by Alain Gilles, the OS Waterboiler from openstructures and Stein No 1 by Kaspar Hamacher. Kaspar of course being one of the few designers to have produced something we liked at [Les belges]
His shelf “Das Brett” remaining one of those objects we always turn to when the world seems grey and hopeless.
At Salone Satellite “Belgium is Design” presented 10 young designers from Wallonia and Brussels. We hope the absence of Flanders was because there are no good young designers from the north of Belgium. It would be a shame if petty regionalism was at play.
Amongst the exhibits the pieces that most caught our attention was the “Kork Milan” lamps, tables and storage boxes by Liege based studio “Two Designers” With its unapologetic timeless appeal and somewhat cheeky retro language the range simply stood out on its own.
The title of the shows “Belgium is Design” obviously isn’t true.
Belgium isn’t Design. Belgium has never been design.
Maarten van Severn produced some of the most exquisitely elegant and reduced design in post-war Europe.
But small as Belgium is. One designer doesn’t make a tradition.
Tim Baute from interror was for several years one of the true highlights at Designers Fair in Cologne. But was also one of the few Belgian designers you were ever likely to come across outside Milan or Design September Brussels.
Belgium isn’t Design. But Belgium does have potential.
As with British design, we suspect that the potential lies in more co-operations with external producers, but to achieve that potential they need attract more industry people more regularly to Belgium. The Kortrijk Biennale is a good start. But too little.
And for all Belgium needs to raise the profiles of its design schools.
The current flood of high quality Dutch designers is without question related to the status achieved by Eindhoven Design Academy.
Belgium needs a similar institution. And a few more years of shows such as Belgium is Design.
Then they might be in a position to use the name seriously.