in the Category: art

Balancing between furniture, arts and architecture

In March, Design Museum Gent will close its doors for two years. After nearly thirty years, the plans have been finalised and the building of the new wing, DING, starts this summer. But before we say "see you later," we got to visit it one last time with 'New Master' and architect Theo De Meyer. During our visit, he talked passionately about the many layers of creating and the importance of working together. Together with doorzon interieur architecten and artist Bram Vanderbeke, Theo will take care of the scenography of the new and biennial Design Fest Gent, which will take place from 22 April to 1 May. The completely empty Design Museum Gent will serve as the main location, but there will be more to discover in various other places in the city centre.

Interview by Stefanie De Meerleer
Photos shot by Hania Abassi

Hi Theo! On your website it says that you move between architecture, design and arts. Can you tell us more about that? 

I studied construction and wood and then architecture. After my studies, I worked in an architecture office for a long time. Because I had very hands-on training, I felt the urge to make something myself. Furniture was only thing I was able to make to scale, so I quickly began that work. It’s good to do things yourself, even while working elsewhere. Along the way, you meet all sorts of interesting people who broaden your view of the world. Once I started making furniture, I became entwined with architects, interior architects, designers, artists, all sharing the same interest: to create.
As an artist, you  are always helping your creative circle. I started to build houses for my friends or tables when necessary; we would all exchange work and discuss exhibition possibilities. Soon enough I was balanced between different fields of work, different friends, different questions, and also between furniture, arts and architecture. We like to collaborate, but at the same time we are all individuals: it’s important to acknowledge that. Since 2019 doorzon interieur architecten and I created Stand van Zaken. We like to call it 'a state of affairs' between different collaborations. 

What is this exhibition about?

It's not so much an exhibition as an informative outline of what the new museum will be in the future. What you see is a kind of step-by-step plan, showing all the design proposals and ideas, to the winning proposal and process of designing.
It’s clear that Design Museum Gent took the winning proposal as an opportunity to address and rethink our future approach to building. Ecology plays a large part in the process and in the outcome. The way I see it, Design Museum Gent focuses on making. They ask: How do you make something? If you think about it, the way the architects tread the façade doesn’t differ much from the way Bram Vanderbeke and Wendy Andreu treated their aluminium cabinet: both are turning industrial products into something valuable, with simple means.

It should be about the role Design Museum Gent plays in bringing people together

On the one hand, ConnectDING is literally about the connection with the street and the museum, but on the other I think it should be about the role Design Museum Gent plays in bringing people together, creating an interesting world of different ideas, a platform for and with artists. Then, as a museum, they really are a connection. 

What does ConnectDING mean to you?

What we shouldn’t lose sight of is the power of a good design. The world is now elevated with DIY, everyone can do everything themselves. That’s a good thing, but the danger is sometimes that the result lacks a certain power.  For example, I am not such a good writer: so talented writers can do that much better. It's very important to stay open and learn as much as possible from each other. A better sentence would be: ‘do it together’. The results will be so much stronger.

It's very important to stay open and learn as much as possible from each other

Is that something you often do besides creating, trying to understand things?

I have always drawn inspiration from encounters. When I work with artists, I learn to work in a different way than when I work with architects, and the other way around. I also curate, and in curating you are able to get that ball rolling. You can bring a contractor, a client or someone else together and make something happen that suddenly becomes real. And that's the role I like to play.

Are you curating more these days?

Not more, but I think every year there is a curating job. But even when we get an assignment, we start thinking: do we need someone extra to work on this? Or is this something we can do ourselves?

Do you consider creating to be inseparable from curating?

We like to think that we are more assembling than designing. When I am curating, I can assemble different artists/languages into a new kind of exhibition/story. And when I am designing, I can do the same but with materials.

I think that wherever you think logically, you can also introduce poetry, because things remain structured

That is certainly a sober way of thinking.

I think that wherever you think logically, you can also introduce poetry, because things remain structured. After a while, you start to see things that were not visible before. That works for me: analysing, and trying to think clearly with an open mind.

10 Years Muller Van Severen + connectDING
Until 06 March at Design Museum Gent
Design Fest Gent