Clarity, contemplation, class – that is what characterises the works of the Belgian designer and architect Vincent van Duysen. The 61-year old designs furniture as well as hotels, stylish offices and rooms for Kim Kardashian.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m interested in the wellbeing of people in general and a general serenity in the world. I would like to contribute something to it. I do that by first understanding how people live in their houses, inhabit their homes, their rooms. I incorporate this knowledge into my work.
Have you always wanted to be an architect?
When I was a child, my parents introduced me to many different forms of art, which was a crucial influence and the foundation of my appreciation and understanding of beauty. They also nurtured a natural talent for creativity in me from an early age. I chose architecture because it covers so many aspects of all applied arts and is therefore an all-round course. But it could also have been photography, cinema, fashion or something similar. Architecture gave and gives me the opportunity to express my creativity in many different ways and thus to contribute to the art of living.
You live and work in Antwerp, what fascinates you about the city?
Antwerp is very cosmopolitan, especially when it comes to arts, craftsmanship and culture. The city offers an enormous range of creative outlets, from theatre to performance, dance, fashion to architecture, involving many people, but in different and unique ways. Antwerp is my home, it influences, ‘contaminates’ me in a way, but at the same time it’s one of my two homes where I can also recharge my batteries and feel protected.
What do you love about your work?
There are many aspects that I like about my job. First, that I work first and foremost for people to improve their lives in organic and timeless ways. I also like the fact that my job gives me the opportunity to nurture my creativity and the ability to respond to change without constraints. I also love absorbing the most diverse disciplines like a sponge. Anything has the potential to inspire me: a documentary on YouTube, a picture of someone I follow on Instagram, a book, an artwork, all kinds of visual stimuli, books, galleries, films… Everything goes through the filter of my empathy and my imagination – and from this I draw and create. But I’m only at my most creative when I’m surrounded by people. I think everyday life, everyday encounters are what inspire me the most. And my travels. And my team!
How do you breathe soul into a room?
Since the beginning of my professional career – 30 years ago now – the most important thing has always been to consider architecture as a profession dedicated to people. This means that residents of a place, a piece of architecture, an interior space, need to feel protected and relaxed. This also applies to the furniture and objects around them that they need for a comfortable and happy life. I bring soul to an environment or space by infusing tactility, timelessness, organics, texture, serenity, comfort, natural materials, light and exquisite craftsmanship.
In such a space, people then feel …?
At home. You feel comfortable, protected, inspired. In my work, the focus is on people. That is why I design or plan primarily for people, for their wellbeing, for their serenity and calm.
Do you have a favourite project from your portfolio?
Each project is different in context, location, connections, use and purpose, making it difficult to prioritise some over others. Also, I always design with a narrative in mind and in that sense my projects are a sequence of a more comprehensive «big picture». Still, there are some key projects that come to mind because you always create an emotional connection – such as Casa M, my holiday home in Portugal.
How do you view the trend towards colour and opulence in interior design?
I don’t follow trends, I always try to be true to myself, putting the customer first and creating spaces, buildings or objects that improve people’s lives.
How do you work best?
My design process never stops, I am always designing in my head – never in front of a ‘blank canvas’. I like to be as observant as possible and have a strong visual approach. I regularly meet with my team and discuss ideas and directions to achieve a shared vision. My ceaseless inspiration comes from travel, conversations, exhibitions, people and everyday life.
What are you currently busy with?
With many projects in parallel… residencies in Asia, Belgium, USA, Berlin, projects for Molteni&C | Dada, Zara Home, Flos, hospitality projects in Portugal, too many. In short, too many to list them all.
Is there a dream come true project besides all this?
Nothing in particular, but in general I want to keep creating and designing new examples of architecture, products and interiors, creating something for humanity in an organic way, creating timeless objects. I want to travel more. To be able to work in countries I haven’t been to. I just hope that we won’t build and produce too much because we have to care about the world and think more in terms of timeless structures and objects. In terms of future endeavours, I generally enjoy seeing each project as an opportunity to try out new or unexpected ideas. I’m always designing in my head. Renewing and developing this common thread that runs through my work again and again is a welcome challenge. I look forward to surprising my clients and bringing a sense of integrity and individuality to every project. At the same time, I want to work with people who challenge me, with whom I have creative chemistry and a strong interaction. I enjoy working with people and clients who push me out of my comfort zone.
“My design process never stops, I am always designing in my head – never in front of a ‘blank canvas’.”
Photos Copyrights: Piet Albert Goethals, Mark Seelen, Alberto Piovano, Hélène Binet, Max Zambelli, Matthieu Salvaing, Vincent Van Duysen, Koen Van Damme