Happy Belgium Day: .03 by Maarten van Severen for Vitra.

If A. C. F. Beales is to be believed, Leopold George Christian Frederick is probably the only person ever to have walked out of the job of King.

Only to pick up an equal post some 2 months later.

In his article “The Irish king of Greece” (The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 51, 1931 Part 1 pp. 101-105) Beales argues that Leopold accepted the job as King of Greece in February 1830, but then changed his mind in May 1830 following disputes with Britain over loans to help Greece out of its financial crisis.

Greece? Financial crisis?

On July 21st 1830 Leopold George Christian Frederick became Leopold I, the first King of the Belgians.

Which is all a long way of saying Happy Belgium Day to all in Belgium!

While it is all too easy to mock a country that although itself incapable of forming a democratic Government insists it is the best location for many of the European Union’s most important institutions; furniture design, product design and architecture have a lot to be thankful to the Belgians for.

On the one hand there is Henry van de Velde who had the genial idea of suggesting Walter Gropius as his successor at the Grand-Ducal Saxon School of Arts and Crafts in Weimar – which of course became Bauhaus. And changed the world forever.

Van de Velde himself returned to Belgium and established the L’École de la Cambre which went on produce a string of notable Belgian architects and artists whose influence can still be felt today.

However the Belgian designer most of you will be familiar with is Maarten van Severen.

Born in Antwerp van Severen studied architecture in Ghent. He designed his first chair in 1986 – although “shadow of a chair” is perhaps a better way to describe the almost non-existent leather and steel Chair N° I. Over the next decade van Severen concentrated on architecture and interior design jobs – and an awful lot of table designs – before in 1996 he started a very fruitful co-operation with Vitra that only ended with Maarten van Severen’s untimely death in 2005.

One of Maarten van Severen’s key works is his 1998 Chair N° III – or .03 as it is better known.

Created in cooperation with Vitra the .03 contains all those elements of the man and his approach to product design that make him so interesting, important and, arguably, unique.

The Maarten van Severen Foundation recently organised an exhibition looking at the the birth of the Design Icon .03 – and below is a small trailer video from the exhibition that not only provides a wonderful introduction to the story of the the .03, but much more shows just how genuinely loved and appreciated Maarten van Severen was.

We particularly like the quote from Nick Top from Belgian producer Aiki – a man who worked closely with van Severen for many years and who produced many of his earlier pieces – who on first seeing van Severen’s work at Interieur in Kortrijk said “Who do you think you are? What a child would draw, a pictogram, you appropriate as your own design. You’ve got a lot of nerve”

Great stuff!

The video also includes interviews with Maarten van Severen’s widow Marij and Vitra CEO Rolf Fehlbaum


And Happy Belgium Day!

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