Over the past three years MANIERA has worked on its biggest project so far: the interior design of Silversquare Central in the heart of Brussels, next to the Central Station. Within the framework of the former Shell headquarters, a modernistic building from 1934 by architects Alexis Dumont and his younger fellow Marcel Van Goethem – the duo behind the former Citroën-dealership, which is currently transformed into Kanal Pompidou – MANIERA commissioned twelve architects and artists to develop new pieces that fit the context of a coworking space. In close collaboration with doorzon interieur architecten for the general layout and Piovenefabi for the restaurant MANIERA curated the transformation of the 6.000 m2 big space. To reveal and preserve the beauty of the original architecture, they stripped the space and left technical elements bare. A new concrete central staircase improves the connection between all floors. In this rough context greenhouse frames bring structure and function as closed offices or meeting rooms. In this rather industrial environment the often-colourful furniture and textile pieces come to life.
While circa half of the projects are made by people who already worked with the gallery, MANIERA also used this opportunity to give young and upcoming talents a chance. Within the strict typological requirements of the coworking space, the twelve studios developed furniture within their own artistic language or ‘maniera’. As most of them work with standard building materials, the often-unconventional pieces enter into a natural dialogue. MANIERA 26 brings together a selection of objects, which refer to SQ Central.
In the basement of the gallery Christoph Hefti presents the installation Snake, a hand-painted floor drawing. It refers to one of the floors in SQ Central, which is designed as a gigantic, but therefore invisible snake. Furthermore, the Brussels-based textile designer presents the green curtain Face Landscape, which is also part of the SQ Central’s restaurant. Unconsciously inspired by his walks in a Swiss forest during the first Covid lockdown, Hefti introduces some colourful, natural scenery and a reference to old school textile design. The human ears and eyes give the scenery a mysterious twist. The Metrò Lamp (MANIERA 17) by Piovenefabi, inspired by the Milanese subway, emphasises the playfulness of Hefti’s presentation.
On the ground floor Christoph Hefti’s colourful carpets Mineral No. 1-9 offer a stage to the work of eleven other studios. As Hefti wanted to create a titillating, fun environment he researched the power of colour and the way different colours react to one another. Lead by his intuition, this resulted in rather abstract creations such as the mineral shaped carpets and the curtain The Colour Next to The Colour, which surprises the coworkers throughout SQ Central on a daily basis.
Especially for SQ Central the Brussels-Milanese studio Piovenefabi designed the curved sofa S. CW. 2, which functions as a showpiece throughout the coworking space. The studio blurs historical elements – such as the formal language of woman designers from the thirties like Eileen Gray and Charlotte Perriand – with their own aim to design simple, graphical objects that are evocative enough to withstand the test of time. Ghent-based office FELT Architecture & Design debuts at MANIERA with its Fauteuil, which is made out of industrial translucent glass fibre panels, a leather cushion, a lambswool blanket and wooden balls. FELT turns simple, straightforward building materials into playful, yet sophisticated furniture.
Architectural office A JDVIV shows the stool Zitbankje made out of naked metal studs – a recurrent element in their practice – and a seat upholstered with recycled fabrics. The Ghent-based collective Onbetaalbaar and textile designer Veerle Tytgat designed this upholstery using yarn from ESG Green that is partly made out of recycled jeans pants and partly out of the natural material Tencel®. The small bench was designed as part of an alcove for SQ Central, which consisted out of metal stud curtains on rails, a table and stools. Due to a lack of comfort and too sharp edges, Silversquare refused this complex but visionary design.
New York-based studio MOS participates in the collective show with a collection of beanbags, called Rock No. 1-3. These objects radiate their fascination for rocks. Although rocks come in as many shapes, sizes and textures as one can imagine, the architects love them all. They often use texture maps of rocks in architectural renderings. Some of these rocks are made of printed waterproof canvas with dye sublimation that can be used outdoors like real rocks.
As SQ Central is a coworking space, the typology of desks and tables is omnipresent. For its gallery show, MANIERA selected three models. The first one is Prototype 5 by OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen, an aluminium version of their series of tables for MANIERA 01. Built out of standard commercial components, the frames are made of industrial L-profiles. The structural resistance of the elements has determined the dimensions of the ultra thin tabletop. The second one, which is also used in SQ Central, is the Leporello Desk by Brusselsbased artist Richard Venlet i.c.w. Lander Venlet. The desk is an experiment with anthracite sheet material and an investigation into the possibilities of creating fast, easy and cheap autonomous spaces. While the vertical plates function both as walls and legs, the horizontal plate provides two workplaces. To emphasize the impermanence of the structure and give users the opportunity to rebuild it according to their wishes, black wraps keep the sheets together. The irregular shapes of the panels evoke a city skyline.
Brussels-based designer Stéphane Barbier Bouvet came up with Adjustable Table, which was refused for SQ Central, but which will elevate any home office. By combining the most advanced systems on the market, he came up with a new adjustable desk, which can be locally produced, in the small ecosystem of his own studio. Barbier Bouvet investigates the cultural load of small construction details and standard elements. With his creations he celebrates the specificity of cultural knowledge. The Beam Light, which is a small version of the impressive chandelier he conceived for the concrete staircase at SQ Central, is another example of his design philosophy.
Architect Maxime Prananto’s first piece for the gallery is Autocrat Table, which consists of twelve identical, folded sheets of steel. Its name speaks to a system’s capacity to consolidate, to self-inflict and to perpetuate previous decisions. The table can be read as evidence of both the feats and the strict limitations of standardisation. In the case of a table, this enforced uniformity is quite clearly imposed on a typology that doesn’t need it. Perhaps the reversal of modularity is at play here. Once reassembled, unexpected details emerge from this process of division and unification.
The Fontana table lamp by Rotterdam-based Studio Verter – who’s also new to the MANIERA family – is made of galvanized steel panels and a pressed aluminium top. Its corners are open and its top is lifted, liberating the light from its centre. The top reflects the light on surrounding surfaces. The two different materials reflect the light differently. The top can be removed to allow an alternate setup of the lamp.
Freestanding in the exhibition space, you’ll find the inventive bookshelf or architectural room divider Bibliotheek by Ghent-based jo taillieu architecten. While he used yellow formwork panels at SQ Central, he changed the material into 38 millimetres thick fibreboard with a green coating. To ensure the stability the vertical planks of the bookshelf are placed in an angle of 45 degrees. Besides, the vertical shelves are alternately put in the horizontal ones, both precisely half milled, from the front and back. To lock the whole the last one is put in the opposite direction. Doing so, Taillieu tries to use banal materials in a refined way. doorzon interieur architecten also elevate rather commonplace building materials such as plastic tubes into high-end design. As most of their work, their Planter plays with the tension between their roughness and a beautiful, careful finish. In addition, Taillieu presents the elegantly shaped clothes hanger Kapstok. While experimenting with the standard tubes and searching for an object, which would be beautiful in itself, he found out that the same curved shape could function both as the coat hanger and as the supporting foot. Or how the interaction between a strong concept and material experiments always add value to the final design.