Architect Vincent van Duysen on color, shape and the future of design

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The Belgian architect spoke about the relationship of architecture with time, how “slow” design is better than “fast” and what kind of house he would build on another planet

Architect Vincent Van Duysen is laconic and rarely gives interviews. He speaks little, but does a lot. He explains his principle of work in one phrase: living space anywhere in the world should give a feeling of serenity and peace. And all his projects are really just like that. Now the architect lives between two countries – his native Belgium and Italy (at the invitation of the Molteni family, he is the creative director of Molteni & amp; C). In addition, the construction of his new home is in full swing in Portugal. We managed to catch the architect in the studio during breaks between traveling.

ELLE DECORATION You started working with postmodernists: Aldo Chibikomassomass, Ettore now describe your style as essentialism, “the search for simplicity.” How did you come this way?

VINCENT VAN DOUISEN It seems to me that the postmodern approach and my style of work are actually not that far from each other. Postmodernism, including the work of Chibik and Sottsass, is based on simple, bold lines and shapes – and powerful colors. I also use pure forms, but avoid intense colors – preferring calm, neutral shades.

Attic floor of the VVD II residence Antwerp, where van Duysen has lived for over 15 years.

ELLE DECORATION So color means less to you than shape?

Color is important to me, I just assign it a specific role. I like to use muted, earthy tones: they are close to nature in mood.

As planned by the architect, concrete and wood in the design of Penthouse C in Antwerp should resemble the city's port warehouses.

ELLE DECORATION How would you define your architecture and design philosophy?

I strive to create spaces that are resistant to the passage of time. Those that give a sense of consistency, do not adapt to any style or trends, and therefore are not able to lose relevance. They should exude serenity and calmness, warmth and friendliness. To achieve this result, I fill the interiors with simple shapes and pure, natural materials.

TR Residence is a farm, three buildings are fully covered with wood paneling.

ELLE DECORATION You are known for your “architectural approach” to design – even the jewelry you designed for Atelier Swarovski is described on your website as “architecture for the body”. What is the essence of the architectural approach?

First of all, I think about the context and purpose of the object. The details can be any, but the main thing is function, ergonomics, comfort and ease of use.

Bedroom in the architect's house.

ELLE DECORATION How do you get ideas?

I am like a visual sponge: I absorb them from everything that surrounds me. Inspiration comes from a variety of sources: art, photography, communication with colleagues, friends, family.

VM project in Sint Martens Latem, Belgium. The buildings frame the perimeter of the garden to create a sense of security.

ELLE DECORATION You studied in Ghent and started your career in Milan. Then you returned to Belgium, and now you live in two countries. Why did Italy become your second home?

I was attracted by Italy, because this country has a very rich cultural heritage. And this heritage, combined with stability and quality, is the basis for the work of many Italian companies. In general, Italy and Belgium have a lot in common culturally. Both countries have strong craft traditions, architecture and art, and a particular passion for quality.

Necklace from the Frost collection, created by van Duysen for Swarovski in honor of the 120th anniversary of the brand.

ELLE DECORATION Recently you have been working as the art director of the Italian brand Molteni & amp; C, but you are still called a Belgian architect. How do you define yourself?

Yes, I really remain a Belgian architect in many ways, although I have been heavily influenced by Italian culture. As I said, I focus on creating timeless objects. That is why it is a great pleasure for me to work with Molteni & amp; C: a brand with a vibrant mentality and a rich history of collaboration with famous designers: Joe Ponti, Luca Meda, Jean Nouvel. I plan to enhance the synergy between Italian cultural identity and my aesthetics.

Bathroom in Graanmarkt 13: the lower floor of the building is a mini-hotel, while the upper floor is where the owners of the apartment live.

ELLE DECORATION Is it really possible to speak of “Italian” or “Belgian” modern design or are the differences between European countries not so noticeable?

Of course, every country is unique. But I think in the digital age, with designers drawing inspiration from global sources, boundaries are blurring.

Fragment of the interior of a private residence in Kortrijk. The wood paneling is a sculpture by Anish Kapoor.

ELLE DECORATION What is the modern design?

I think design today, so to speak, is moving too fast. And plays along with the idea of ​​consumption. This is a passion for shopping for fashionable novelties, and an obsession with “likes”, recognition on social networks. The modern design landscape is focused on approval, recognition, and continuous production of new content, products and services. Durability and quality, on the other hand, seem to have become less important.

Penthouse interior in Belgian Knokke designed by van Duysen.

ELLE DECORATION How do you think the situation will develop? What's in the future for design?

I think that sooner or later the effect of an overdose of digital communications will come, the design and architecture will slow down the pace of the race and, as a result, will become “slower”, “analog”, high-quality.

Private residence in Kortrijk, Belgium, redesigned by Vincent van Duysen.

ELLE DECORATION strong> What projects are you currently working on?

They are scattered all over the world. These are residential properties on the East and West coast of the United States, projects in Belgium, Italy, Paris.

Collection of lamps Infra-Structure, Flos.

ELLE DECORATION In addition, you are building a house for yourself in Portugal. Is this another favorite country of yours? Will a Portuguese home be like your home in Belgium?

Yes, perhaps Portugal is my third favorite country. Its culture, traditions, people, way of life – all this is close to me. In Antwerp I live in a renovated 19th century building with a neoclassical façade. A house in Portugal is being built from scratch. Of course, in both cases I am the author of the interior. Therefore, of course, there will be something in common with the Belgian dwelling. But still, in the new house, I will create a slightly different atmosphere, taking into account the surroundings – Portuguese nature, local landscape.

ELLE DECORATION Buildings always have to fit into some kind of context – cultural, architectural. But let's imagine a fantastic situation: you were asked to design a home for the first humans on another planet. What would it be?

It would not be very different from what is being built on Earth. Except for the technical features dictated by the environment, it would be a home space that can be compared to a warm embrace. One where residents can feel protected, where they can feel comfortable and relaxed.

Paul sofa, Quinten sideboard, all designed by Vincent van Duysen for Molteni & C.

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