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published on 19.08.2021

Roel Vandebeek - The object becomes.

A conversation with Roel Vandebeek, designer, Alexandre Humber, director and Giovanna Massoni, curator.

His designs always start from the identity of the context. They are original, surprising products, objects and installations with a touch of humor. Is it art, is it design, it doesn’t matter, it’s a Roel.

What is a chair?
A chair is something to sit on, or to take along, to put somewhere you want to sit, and so, it's flexible. But it can be anything else. For me, the design of a chair opens up a lot of possibilities, not only for shapes but also for materials.
But the chair presented in the movie is intended to look for emotion, to dialogue with the user. It's more about teasing the user to think differently about the chair, about the act of sitting.
When I was looking for a metaphor to express how a person enters a room and how the room becomes a space for that person, I considered the skirting boards. The skirting boards are all over the space or the area. When you design skirting boards in the right dimensions, they can become a chair. And this is very important because everybody knows that a chair is mostly a flexible thing, you can take it and put it anywhere. But in this case, it becomes one with space. The space is joined with the chair, and vice versa. It's an integral part of the scenery.

Can you talk about the way you work?
I've always worked a lot with the identity of the person, the company or the town I’m designing for. I try to translate it into objects or installations or products. I'm not a painter, I'm not a photographer, but I want to communicate through design, to give things a certain shape, and get emotionally very close to the solution they expect from me.

When you started, did you work on your own?
I started on my own, as most designers do. My wife is an architect and together with her we also did a lot of projects, more architectural and interior design projects. And that made me realize that there was not only the object but also space where the object needs to go or has its place. It was really a relief and really exciting for me to work with space. And the next step in my career was to work with other architects on bigger projects. And the way I develop a project is always the same: I try to look for the identity of a building, and then I translate it into an object that would be part of that specific architectural space.

How do you imagine your practice in ten years?
I would like to develop more installation works, rather than just designing for companies, because installations give me a lot more freedom. It's the combination that fascinates me. Besides that, it's very important to travel more, to go more international. I already work with a couple of companies, abroad, in other countries. The culture, the materials and the people I get to know help me to keep my thoughts fresh. That's my real challenge for the future.

Could you talk about the function of the chair presented in the movie, or the absence of function?
This chair is an image: it's not a chair, it's not on its own, it takes along a lot of area because it's so widely spread over there, over the space.
I hope people forget that's a chair, although it's very obvious that it's a chair… I like to play with people’s minds a bit. I think, how do they see it is much more than a chiar. At first sight, it's just a chair standing against the wall. But if you look further, deeper and longer, you'll see that it's really flowing and creates a kind of dynamic movement, although it's a very quiet image. For me, there's a lot of dynamic there: the two-dimensional skirting board becomes a three-dimensional thing then it comes back to two dimensions. This installation is not shouting for attention. It's there. It's silent. And it gives you another perspective to look at things.

There is a sense of loneliness in the object, are you aware of that?
Loneliness, in this case, is a beautiful thing, because I really designed it with the idea that you can find yourself and your own space in the world. You sit on that chair and the space/world around you becomes stronger: the skirting board is like your arms are wide open and ready to embrace the world. That's the feeling I get when I sit on that chair: I open myself up and at the same time, I'm very lonely and vulnerable.
I see loneliness as a positive state: you have time for yourself to get out of the world. But you don't forget the world. I want this chair to interplay with people's minds and thoughts

An object that takes up space and becomes space, that is the intention of the installation presented in the film. This is accompanied by a certain calm and thoughtfulness that is also transferred to the watcher, placed like a true director who steers, asks questions and takes the lead. This chair subtly dominates the room from the skirting boards.