If we’re correctly informed, and let’s be honest we’re not always, 2014 saw the Belgian General Consulate in Cologne host their first Passagen Design Week exhibition with an excellent showcase of new and less new works by Atelier Bonk and Cas Moor.
Buoyed by the success of that experience for Passagen 2015 the Consulate is hosting the exhibition MAD ABOUT LIVING – 24 Designers from Brussels.
Organised by the Brussels regional creative promotion agency, MAD Brussels, and staged in the fire damaged and only minimally renovated grandeur of the Belgisches Haus’ Memling-Saal, MAD ABOUT LIVING presents, as the name implies, contemporary objects for contemporary domestic spaces.
Originally shown in a slightly different configuration during the Kortrijk Biennale 2014 MAD ABOUT LIVING features not only works by Belgian designers, but works which when in production, are produced exclusively by Belgian manufacturers.
As we all know, Belgium is the secret powerhouse of contemporary European furniture design, an open secret that MAD ABOUT LIVING delightfully reinforces.
Among the highpoints of the showcase for us are and were the Stepstool kitchen step ladder by Avandi, DISK Wall lamp by Nathalie Dewez and the candle holder Troffel by Beaverhausen, but above all Bureau 01 & Chaise 01 by Ateliers J&J and the Night Club armchair by Alain Berteau.
Formally reminiscent of Herbert Hirche’s 1953 Lounge Chair the Night club armchair is a low slung lounge chair with ottoman, and an object which positively invites you to spend the evening relaxing. And which is comfortable enough to allow you to do just that: for despite the somewhat over-relaxed optic, the chair has obviously been very carefully formed and provides the necessary support in all the correct places. Not something we can say about all lounge chairs. In addition Night club has been designed so as to allow the ottoman to be stored on the seat when not in use and so hide your predilection for slouching behind a conservative, quadratic, guise.
Jean Angelats and Jonathan Renou established Ateliers J&J in 2012 and Bureau 01 & Chaise 01 come from the pair’s first collection: the deviously name Collection 01. Crafted from bent steel tube and wood the collection manages to avoid any formal reference to historical bent steel tubing and wood furniture through on the one hand utilising a much finer tube but also the focus of the design is on creating a form from the bent steel tube and not a furniture object: despite the modernists claims of modernising, much of their furniture was and is formally very reminiscent of the styles they were claiming to replace. Bureau 01 & Chaise 01 by Ateliers J&J don’t try to recreate any particular piece of furniture, rather aim to be themselves. The result is an almost apologetic aesthetic and the most endearing objects.
Plus the desk has a drawer. And that, quite frankly, is always going to get our approval.
MAD ABOUT LIVING – 24 Designers from Brussels can be viewed at the Belgisches Haus, Cäcilienstrasse 46, 50667 Cologne until Saturday January 24th 2015.