Biennale Interieur in Kortrijk, Belgium

The sight of a group of 15-year-old boys in awe of an intricate Conrad Willems modular sculpture, or testing out the comfort of a new HEM sofa, is emblematic of the unlikely symbiosis of the 2018 Biennale Interieur.

From the 18th to the 22nd of October, the Belgium city of Kortrijk welcomed the design invasion for the 26th year. For five days, stylists and designers rubbed shoulders with school excursions and Belgian locals.

Oak zigzagged across Kortrijk exploring the landmarks and the little, the integrated and the abrupt, of the city’s design offering.

Biennale Interieur

In an opening address at the centrepiece fair, project coordinator for the Biennale, Dieter Van Den Storm declared that this was not simply a celebration of interior design but a tribute to how humans, “find meaning in living”.

This was evident in the very scenography of the Kortrijk Xpo halls, where Belgian/Netherlands architectural firm Studio Verter had crafted a traversable space inspired by an archetypal piazza. Claudio Saccucci of Studio Verter described a mission to “collect multiple identities” and “different geniuses”.

Although there were more than 200 exhibitors on display in the halls, there was a rare intimacy to the fair that created a synergy between the cultural and commercial value.

At the fairground, the iconic designs of Carl Hansen & Son and Warm Nordic’s classic collection were present, but interwoven were platforms for up-and-coming brands who are stretching out from this heritage.

Swedish lighting design company Oblure introduced their playful video game inspired designs to the Belgian and Dutch marketplace, and IKON KØBENHAVN’s candy coloured tiled tables were vibrant additions to the Nordic design representation.

Interieur 2018 City Festival

The vacant former AZ Groeninge Sint-Maarten Hospital in the centre of Kortrijk was the eerie setting for the accompanying Interieur Festival. In a program called The New Masters, 20 young designers were commissioned with reinterpreting the last 50 years of Biennale Interieur graphic design.

Rather than simply cloaking the clinical backdrop, designers utilised the spectral setting to create curious juxtapositions. Visitors walked from exam rooms to exam room, weaving around gurneys, x-ray machines and nurse’s stations to find the installations.

In one waiting room, floor to ceiling – including house plant – was coated in a 1980s Kvadrat print. Next door, in a dark clinic room, there was cartoon projection about Belgian domestic violence, in which the domestic weapon switched each slide to a different piece of iconic furniture design.

PLAY

Scattered among the urban scene of Kortrijk was PLAY – a city circuit of contemporary art that’s been running since June. Indoor and outdoor pieces from 40 prominent international artists made for an aesthetically pleasing scavenger hunt through the city. Danish Artist Jeppe Hein’s blood orange modified and twisted park benches sat starkly on the waterfront next to the city’s gothic fairy-tale Broelbrug.

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