The Solo chair is counterbalanced by a weight on one leg
The Belgian architectural duo branch out into furniture with a super-minimal table and a droll take on a 19th-century classic
For architects, making furniture is a hard job because it's so close to the human body," says David Van Severen. He is discussing the limited-edition furniture that his practice, Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen, recently prepared for an exhibition at new Brussels gallery Maniera.
Working with Dutch architect Anne Holtrop and under the curation of art photographer and frequent collaborator Bas Princen, the Belgian duo created a series of tables and a laconic take on a design classic.
Holtrop, in keeping with his built work which mimics and plays with natural forms and materials, contributed a series of enigmatic shelves, desks and mirrors.
Drawing inspiration from a vast collection of stones and minerals collected by the French surrealist and philosopher Roger Caillois, the architect enlisted Sylvie Van der Kelen, a painter from Brussels decorative arts academy, to recreate the image of the stone patterns on to the timber and MDF furniture pieces.
The tables are held together by a simple "cuff button"
The effect is a lush and mysterious trompe l'oeil. Office KGDVS, on the other hand, approached the commission from a more droll angle. The tables are super-minimal, conceived as the simplest of structural problems, and developed with engineer Arthur de Roover.
They are made from either polyester, aluminium or steel, extruded as angles and spanned by a single sheet of the same material; this is then covered in a coating of resin to create the surface. Each table is held together by a small connection jokingly referred to as a "cuff button".
"We wanted to make it, not out of thickness, but out of thinness," Van Severen says. The relative strength of each material creates a dimensional limitation, which means the tables are about 50 per cent bigger in steel than in polyester. "Each table has a certain atmosphere, not just from the material, but from the size."
In contrast to this reductive slickness, the chair is a more playful object. Taking as a starting point Thonet's famous 19th-century Walking Stick chair, a folding tripod with (again) a surrealist quality, Office KGDVS set about creating a contemporary interpretation.
Table and Solo chair by Office KGDVS
"We were intrigued by the smallness and the awkwardness," Van Severen says. The result is pared down but perhaps richer. Made from steel rather than timber, the hook of the stick has been turned into a small table, with the whole thing counterbalanced by the weight at the end of one leg. It's awkward, perhaps even slightly absurd.
The chair is called Solo, referring to a house that Office KGDVS is working on in Spain that uses a similar motif of circles and squares. The tables, meanwhile, were developed out of a previous project from ten years ago. The works from the exhibition are limited editions, but it was not the designers' intention just to create bespoke artworks.
"They're prototypes, but they have the potential for production," Van Severen says. "For us, it's important that this is not a one-off gimmick."
Images: Maniera; Sven Laurent