The Belgian duo have reeled in a band of admirers with a portfolio ranging from geometric basalt lamps to shelves made from fishing nets, writes Bryony Hancock
‘What characterises our approach is our interest in production techniques,’ says Sarha Duquesne of Belgian studio LeviSarha. ‘Our design is led by factory visits, sketching, and collaborations with brands who prototype our designs.’ The duo, Duquesne and fellow Belgian Levi Dethier, have a portfolio that ranges from sober shelving units to playful storage constructed from Greenlandic crabbing nets. Yet, when the ECAL graduates were invited to exhibit their inaugural Perimeter shelves alongside Industrial Facility at the Aram Gallery’s Designers Choose Designers exhibition, they were surprised. ‘My first internship was with Industrial Facility; I had no idea they were still following my work,’ says Duquesne.
Crucial to LeviSarha’s practice is their love of engineered detail. ‘We think of the object in context, then the objects that work around it,’ says Duquesne. Dethier and Duquesne work separately in Brussels and Paris and cater for markets spanning from hospitality to galleries: they’ve learnt to be adaptable.
LeviSarha emerged after the pair discovered they worked well together while studying. Despite both holding degrees from La Cambre in Brussels, they only became close after moving to Switzerland to complete master’s courses at ECAL. Under schooling from Tomas Alonso, Anniina Koivu and Bethan Laura Wood, the duo soon built a rapport. ‘Levi and I were never in the same class, so we could discuss objectively,’ says Duquesne. ‘After graduating, he asked if I’d like to continue working with him.’
Unsure if they could make the joint leap from students to professionals, the newly founded studio decided to test their skills by entering Salone Satellite in 2014. Their efforts were not in vain: their first collection, the modular Perimeter – an anthology of tables, shelving systems and objects, which Duquesne describes as ‘simple, sober assemblies’ – scooped the Design Report Award.
They began designing the collection in 2013, while Duquesne was completing her internship with Industrial Facility in London. She says, ‘I remember asking Sam Hecht for advice on how the shelf should be constructed. We thought it was poetic to repay his help by exhibiting alongside their Soft Tronco Chair at the Aram Gallery this year.’
LeviSarha’s work rests between the realms of serious and experimental. While their Perimeter collection exercises structural integrity, their Knot.2491 project has an exploratory backstory. During a month-long residency in Nuuk, Greenland with Hors Pistes, an organisation that brings together designers and craftspeople, LeviSarha developed a pair of steel shelves inspired by crab cages and fishing nets. ‘We worked with netmakers – it’s really an art and is physically very difficult. Also, they only spoke Greenlandic and perhaps Danish,’ laughs Duquesne.
Not all LeviSarha’s ventures are quite so story-driven. The Drill lamp perches between the craft-based Knot.2491 and the streamlined rigour of Perimeter. Commissioned for Belgium is Design in 2016, the lamps are composed of core drills extracted from basalt, which is often used in Belgium. Duquesne explains how they got involved: ‘The curators didn’t want famous Belgian designers, Alain Gilles or Sylvain Willenz, they were interested in us. We wanted to show a stone that represented Belgium so we worked with Marcel Ziemons, a stone craftsman from Levi’s region who uses 5-axis CNC machines to extract rock.’
LeviSarha is now at a turning point. Following their foray into narrative design, the duo are set on the contract market: ‘We want to make the leap to brands that are more industrial. Design for galleries is always interesting because it’s a playground where you test ideas, but it’s not where we want to go,’ says Duquesne. Over the next year their portfolio will expand to include a wheeled sofa for Paris-based La Manufacture du Design and a collection for Simire, which currently specialises in school furniture. ‘Simire want to launch a range of catering furniture to push their business forwards. That’s why we want to be designers; to help companies progress,’ says Duquesne. ‘It feels like we’re part of their history.’