Vincent Van Duysen is a Belgian architect and designer whose every international project – in the likes of Paris, London, Beirut and Hong Kong – shares a rare poetic quality. He once worked in Milan with Aldo Cibic (a partner of Sottsass & Associati and a founder of the Memphis Group) before setting up his own studio in Antwerp, and he counts Ilse Crawford and Julianne Moore as fans.
For some time, we’ve followed Vincent’s travels on Instagram where his photographs reveal a unique view of life that’s completely in keeping with his exquisite design work. Here he answers some questions for us and shares a few of the snaps from his travels…
How often do you travel and what kind of places are you drawn to?
“I always consider my senses as my work essentials so, for me, travelling, whether personally or for work, is all connected. I’m drawn to places that stimulate my senses and make me reflect on different ways of thinking and living – I have always been inspired by, and attracted to, the places, forms, and customs of tribal and nomadic cultures.”
Tell us about Beirut, the kind of scenes you shot there and what you make of the place creatively?
“I have a number of projects in Beirut and am always inspired by my travels there – the contrast between old and new and the depth of history in Lebanon is unbelievable. I have a huge appreciation for the culture and find it a very creative place especially with companies like PSLab with whom I work a lot.”
You have also photographed a holiday in Capri. When on holiday, do you continue to find inspiration and what sort of thing takes your eye?
“As I said, it’s all connected so, for me, ‘design’ is just a continuous process – my mind is always working, imagining, connecting. I like to take into account a narrative when designing and I enjoy being a ‘storyteller’ – because it’s not always about pragmatics – it’s about soul. With respect to tradition and familiarity, and besides the utilitarian, my designs have to have something unexpected and create an emotional connection. I find places like Capri are rich with the spirit of life – this I am very drawn to and is something I like to see reflected in my work.”
Do you find your home, Belgium inspiring too – do you seek to travel to places that feel quite different to it?
“Belgium is strongly cosmopolitan in both arts and culture and has a huge breadth of creativity – theatre, performance, dance, fashion, architecture – with participation by many but in varied and unique ways. If you travel as much as I do you want to come home to a place that is calming and Antwerp is ideal for me in that respect. It is a small city but it has a very cosmopolitan outlook. Also, as I have mentioned, experiencing the traditions and customs of other cultures is super important to keep my design engaging and progressive.”
Where is the ultimate place for you to escape to?
“My home in Antwerp is my ultimate escape – it is where I am most centered.”
Where do you go to be most inspired?
“Again, my home is a constant inspiration for me. I worked with a very Belgian palette that combined roughly woven textures but also very neutral smooth surfaces such as plaster, wide poplar floorboards, and Belgian Bluestone. I wanted to reference the rich architectural history of the house but also to create a serene space in which modern art and furniture pieces could sit comfortably and feel timeless.”
How many projects are you working on at one time – and what are you working on just now?
“My office of around 18 collaborators work on a large number of projects both in Belgium and abroad. Predominately I work on a lot of residential projects but my portfolio is becoming much broader than that – I am taking on the design of a large boat and a hotel here in Antwerp, which I have never done before and these are exciting scales to work at. I also have large commercial projects in Beirut and Riyadh which will be completed this year as well as new showroom on Madison Ave. in New York and many exciting furniture collaborations to be released over the coming year.”
Can you explain how you create, how you work?
“As I said, my design process is constant – I am always designing in my mind – never from a ‘blank canvas’. I enjoy being as observant as possible and have a strongly visual approach. I regularly sit with my team and discuss ideas and directions to achieve a shared vision. Inspiration comes naturally from travel, conversations, exhibitions, people, everyday life.”
Your interiors feel poetic – how do you think this happens?!
“I find the evocations to my work are always very personal. I’m not a mathematical architect or designer – more instinctive and intuitive – and the experience of working for and with different people, and their personalities, gives each project a unique context. Also, I think a significant part of the emotion in my work comes from my consideration for the materials within a space. I believe the work goes strongly against the soulless clichéd ideals of minimalism.”
Your photos seem to embody the same mood – do you think this is because you are drawn to particular colours / sights / balances?
“To me light is as much a construction material as a brick – the interplay is so important when I design because it is the quality of light that sculpts the emotions you feel within a space. In my architecture it is always a balance between spaces that are bathed in light complemented by spaces that are darker, more subdued, and calming. I guess I look for similar principals when I take photos.”
What colour or colours could you not live without?
My favorite colours are any that are naturally occurring or derived from nature; mud, bone, plaster, dove grey, moss green, or midnight blue.
Do you have a favourite filter on Instagram?
“My favorite filter is ‘Faded’.”
Follow Vincent’s Instagram here.