Kortrijk, delighted: for a few days summer turned back around the Broel-towers. Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Sunnyside up!
by Thomas Wagner
Oct 21, 2014

On opening weekend, the whole city was smiling. For a moment it’s summer again. The streets and plazas are buzzing amicably, people are as joyful as so many cavorting Arials. The mood is leisurely, life is given space, becomes public. Curios glances flick back and forth, people are busy looking, laughing, ooing, ahing, asking. The Audi shuttles circulate like peaceful insects between Buda isle and the trade-fair complex, and at Lukas Wegwerth’s tables, printed with snow-gray Alpine themes, in the Buda Factory’s “Fusion Bar”, there are crisps, olives and wine to fortify you before the trip along the line of new talent in the “W/O – We are the next generation” show. Where on display are clothes printed with data, Apps and computer games, a 3D scanner, textiles, and even a stool with a detachable cork seat. In fact the mood is relaxed wherever the Biennale Interieur 2014 presents its treasures.

Un gelato al limone, un gelato al limone

If you look over the shoulders of the men in their snow-white jackets and chef’s hats in the Kortrijk XPO trade-fair halls while they’re making ice-cream, you could be forgiven thinking you hear Paolo Contes smoky voice singing how the taste of lemon ice-cream simply wafts him away into a dream. On an October’s day with the warmth of summer about it in an equally warm trade-fair hall ice-cream really is an attraction, especially if it is made not any old way but by Tour de Fork in a “Mechanical Gelato Machine”. No electricity, just ice and salt and a tasty mixture, and a strong arm stirring, of course.

There’re even olfactory delights and high notes. In a pavilion Germauld Olfactory Design not only presents a fragrance composed especially for the Biennale (available also as scented candles), but also informs about the tempting opportunity to have your very own fragrance created for you. Fitting for a company jubilee – or just so. And you invariably find yourself thinking how your own company might be beautifully scented with its own touch.

As with past editions of the Biennale Interieur, the exhibitors in Kortrijk present their wares in spacious open areas and not in some tedious line of booths and standardized stands. This generously spaced openness has caught on, if one thinks of the change that has seized hold of the imm in Cologne for example. In short: The Biennale Interieur 2014 proves once again that it is an experience for all the senses and, as intended, far more than just a furniture or design show.

New things into the bargain

Anyone who thinks that after the Salone in Milan and before the Orgatec in Cologne there won’t be anything new to discover is soon proved wrong. A few examples: Belgian company Bulo is showcasing “DAN” in Kortrijk, and not at the Orgatec – a new type of furniture system for offices and the home alike. The modular system is practical, easily altered, decidedly elegant and also has a very distinct aesthetic touch of its own. It consists of wooden ladders stained black, which thanks to purpose-developed connecting elements, boards and side sections can be turned into shelves, tables to sit or stand at, not to mention side tables and entire office ensembles, almost at will. On different levels, like the Dan grades in Judo.

Kinnasand has also brought new fabrics and carpets along. Alongside light textiles with a Japanese feel about them, such as “Haikomo” or “Stitcher”, the current collection devised by Creative Director Isa Glink stands out especially for woolen carpets such as “Tassel” (with a vermillion pattern running sideways and individual long tassels), “Twist” and “Bond” (with an ingeniously oscillating mixture of bright and dark). At Danskina, it’s again refined patterns that predominate, while Jan Kath floats off into the depths of the cosmos and in his “Spacecrafted” collection brings images of galaxies and spiral nebula to the walls or floor in carpet form.

Bullerjan comes up with a minor surprise, with not only various versions of the “Free Flow” oven with its characteristic convection pipes are now accompanied by “B2” designed by Max Ratjen and for which Sebastian Herkner came up with the ceramic side panels and a bench. One special “B2”: It not only boasts a smart symmetrical combustion chamber, and an after-burner chamber on top, but also a catalytic converter, meaning that it produces 88% less fine particles than the new permissible level in Germany as of 2015 and 96% less CO2. Last but not least, DCW Éditions are presenting not only Bernard Schottlander’s Mantis luminaires but also Lampe Gras’ renowned industrial and architectural lamp in a larger version for outdoor use.

Moving on, in Hall 3 we encounter nine “Designers of the Year”. While Marina Bautier, the latest prizewinner, is showcasing her timber furniture creations characterized by clear and simple lines, Alain Berteau, Nedda el-Asmar, Stefan Schöning, Sylvain Willenz, Bram Boo, Natalie Dewez, Alain Gilles and Jean-François d’Or are displaying the results of their collaborations with one of the manufacturers – including a contemporary “shisha” that lets you inhale a wealth of scented flavors.

Home in square meters

Turning to another topic of exploration, we might ask: What is a home and how do you define it? Is it simply some uninspired place to hang out, work and sleep; a dull and dreary container we fill with domestic life? Or is it our sanctuary, a place where we feel cozy and protected? To what extent do we project our wishes and desires onto our apartments or houses? And for that reason don’t bother – or have stopped altogether – questioning the economic principles governing what we habitually call “home”? Is our home a kind of military complex, organized by powerful women, or has it long since morphed into a data factory? “SQM – the quantified home” or simply “Square Meter” is the name Joseph Grima and his Space Caviar team have given the central exhibition of the cultural program – as if all those other items on display were not part of our domestic culture. Making the provocative allegation that “the home does not exist”.

That’s all well and good. Yet we should be asking how such a home indeed does exist, how under the current social conditions people live there, furnish it, experience it, love it or hate it. In what district it is situated, which shops and bars there are within walking distance? And how do people adapt to the changes in living conditions? At Space Caviar all this remains abstract, lifeless. Instead, what is spread out before us is a gigantic labyrinth composed of storage shelves that can be accessed at several levels, which – appearances to the contrary – goes by the name of “Theater”, and yet is nothing but dry statistics illustrated by fluorescent tubes, complemented by some elevations, monitors, and light boxes. And no sooner than we start flicking through the book in which the “design research collective” gets to the bottom of the latest trends, from utopian experiments to home-based data factories, to homesteads and even homelands, do we realize that the makers succeeded in compiling a sound study, but not in conceiving an appealing exhibition.

Statistical data on trends in the middle and high income brackets and economic facts on residential space aside (50,000 US dollars will get you 0.9 square meters in Monaco, 1.5 in London, but a whopping 55.6 in Nairobi and even 71.4 in Dar es Salaam), what this presentation is evidently lacking is a social space. Nowhere is the essence of living made tangible and comprehensible. Not surprisingly then, visitors are flocking to the trade-fair halls to the right and left, while the uninspired theoretical construct only attracts the one or other random guest. After all, it is an impersonal and ominous entity speaking from what seems to be a cosmic distance on a subject that affects all of us. Whatever the reason, it is definitely a missed opportunity. The study itself may be well worth reading – the exhibition on the book is decidedly superfluous. The impression of an attitude inspired by theory, art and poetry floating above the lowlands of living is sadly borne out in other parts of SQM, too. Without any feel for the history of the rooms surrounding the Broel School, their somewhat ramshackle beauty serves only to exhibit a peculiar chronology with tacky slogans from autograph books on the walls, which have been randomly opened up. As if there had never been a Gordon-Matta Clark.

With their DIY play, TAAT succeed in imbuing the built and indeed the inhabited space with a tangible look and feel – an approach that is decidedly more playful. “Hall 03” is a space of experience that you – as a protagonist in a short and cheerful drama – wander through alongside one of the actors, complete with surprising insights and encounters. And those who in addition to their sight, taste, touch and smell wished to exercise their auditory senses were well advised to attend a concert by the band “Goose” for a special treat. In the Buda Tower they had covered over their own space, the stage. The result: Each of the four musicians performed on a different story. But their music and efforts were united after all in media images and acoustically in the powerful sound of a piece that could be pigeonholed somewhere between Minimal Music and Techno. Home is very much alive and kicking, that much is sure from Kortrijk this year, again.

Biennale Interieur 2014
Kortrijk, Belgium
Thru October 26

MORE on Stylepark:

It’s all in the right mix: The 23rd edition of the international “Biennale Interieur” in Kortrijk, Belgium, was yet another successful, appealing trade fair.
(25 October 2012)

Like in the mountains: at the „Fusions bar“ by Lukas Wegwerth.
Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Ice, baby: easy by using the gelato machine. Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Spot on the 20 winners of the Interieur Awards category „Objects“.
Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Ladder for life: Bulo presents its new furniture system „Dan“. Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Open rooms are everywhere, also for dinner. Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
New collection by Kinnasand: wool-carpet „Tassel“. Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Like a striped work by Gerhard Richter getting lost on the floor: One of the new carpets at Danskina. Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
A carpet as a mirror of cosmic constellations: from Jan Kath’s collection „Spacecrafted“.
Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Long tables are smart, Pedrali name one of it „Arki-Table“. Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Mirror, mirror on the wall: at Artek stools by Alvar Aalto increase as if by an invisible hand.
Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Thanks to catalytic converter a clean stove: Sebastian Herkner created for the new „B2“ by Bullerjan a bench and ceramic plates. Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Pretty furniture made from wood: Marina Bautier was awarded with „Designer of the Year 2014“. Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Two on an airy couch: Louis Vermeersch, president of the Biennale, and Joseph Grima, curator of “SQM”. Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Jimmy Carter knows it well: Where the normal living ends, the politics of the living room start. Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Do you know the „ceiling cat“? In the internet the cat is a freaked observer.
Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
What counts, is the attitude: at “SQM”. Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark
Ballet without rhythm and not to compare with Stanley Kubrik: Since nobody knows anymore how it feels to dance waltz, cleaning machines were forced. Photo © Thomas Wagner, Stylepark