in the Category: art

A whole new level of ‘meta’

Bram Vanderbeke is known for his timeless architectural objects and fragmented sculptures. He creates a whole new level of ‘meta’ with subtle, thoughtful commentary through the use of concrete, aluminium and steel. Playing with scale, the artist’s portfolio keeps the size of each piece secret until you see them with their own eyes. From functional to monumental, Vanderbeke drags his viewers passionately into his ode to architectural aesthetics.

Interview by Isabel Elwood
Photos by Tiny Geeroms, shot in Ghent

How would you describe your work?

I call my work ‘architectural objects’ because it connects a lot of architectural elements of the street and the public space. I like to stack things, create rhythm, repeat certain forms. I’m fascinated by patterns and textures.

How did you choose to work with the rough materials of aluminium, concrete and steel?

They come back a lot in urban landscapes. It’s the place that fascinates me the most. I walk around cities with my camera and take pictures of rhythms. As a kid I wanted to become a bricklayer and build things with my own hands, so I studied wood and construction. Later on, at Eindhoven Design Academy, I got to experiment with new tools, see their effect and get different perspectives.


Your work plays between the fields of design, monument, sculpture and furniture, and finds multiple forms and functions. Can you elaborate on your research and construction process? 

I have a free way of building. I don’t think or sketch too much. I cast concrete in a negative shape of the construction that I want to make and then I break the mould. I see where it takes me. It might take me a few days just to build the shape – by trying, not planning. A lot of my pieces have a spacial function and are abstract. The most functional piece I have is a stackable stool. Then again, when you stack it, it transforms into an architectural element – a column – on its own. It’s a fine line. I enjoy it a lot! In my series ‘New Primitives’, I cast concrete into big moulds. I then used my angle grinder to reshape each piece. The natural imperfection of cast concrete gives it this rough texture and soft feeling, it’s very organic. I also add lots of different stones to the mix, like lava stones or basalt stones. When I grind over it, they become visible. It might be subtle but it adds a second layer to the piece.

What’s the most noticeable evolution in your work since you started?

The most changing thing is that I’m going from object-scale towards the ambition to create more monumental objects – some for public spaces – which have an impact on the space itself. I’ve also been working more with architects on art integration projects.


What bigger scale object would you like to create and integrate in the city?

I would choose a public square or a park, a place where many people pass by. I would place an object there which gets activated by people. People could sit on it or walk through it, there would be an interaction with it. It could be an arc, a column… maybe a long balustrade! 

You’re a member of the BRUT collective. What’s your idiom, concept and vision? 

We’re five designers. We all work with architectural, sculptural and emotional values. Each of us designs pieces – they may be more emotional or sculptural – and together they overlap. In the co-decided scenography, we try to find a balance between all these different elements to show a collective narrative.


Which artist has given you the most lasting impression and inspiration?

My all-time favourite architect is Juliaan Lampens, he makes Brutalist buildings. Architecture is my main inspiration. Even when I go on holiday, I plan them in relation to the buildings I want to see.

Discover Bram Vanderbeke’s work as a scenographer for the exhibition Kleureyck. Van Eyck’s Colours in Design at Design Museum Gent.