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Van Duysen got his start as an assistant to Aldo Cibic in the legendary Milan studio of Ettore Sottsass. In 1990, he went on to establish his own studio in Antwerp, Belgium. He comes from the long and rarefied line of architects who refuse to concentrate only on the shell and also project a sense of living that is as much inside as outside.
Van Duysen calls it the “art of living,” and he’s done much to refine that art in industrial design, having created everything from slender outdoor furniture and earthenware containers to Swarovski crystal chandeliers. His architecture is more purist than minimal, and an exhaustive sweep of it can be seen in a new monograph, Vincent Van Duysen: Complete Works (Thames & Hudson), which is out this May. Also this spring, his studio will show several new product designs at the Milan Furniture Fair, including a cupboard system and bathroom furniture. And in September, the Antwerp youth hostel he designed is set to open. It’s hardly a surprise that Van Duysen is friends with fellow Antwerpian and purist of fashion Raf Simons. The two recently spoke about what minimalism means to them as well as the kinds of houses they really want to call home.
Biography: the man before the myth
Vincent Van Duysen was born 1962 in Lokeren, Belgium. He attended Architecture school at the Architecture Institute Saint-Lucas in Ghent and founded his design studio in Antwerp in 1990.
From the onset there has been a great interest in interior design with mostly residential projects – a complete architectural product with subtle transitions between architecture and interior design combined with a spatial design attitude that always searches the essence.
The use of pure and tactile materials results in a clear and timeless design. An approach that covers all aspects, with respect to context and tradition, within which the senses and physical experience of the space, materials and light place the integrity of the user at its core. Functionality, durability and comfort are the prime components of the work. An architectural language which is not shy of aesthetics, but resists fashion and trends.
Education : 1974 – 1980 Latin-Greek secondary school, 1980 – 1985 Architectural studies (Higher Institute of Architecture Saint-Lucas Ghent.)
Training : 1985 – 1986 Monique Stoop office Ghent, Belgium, 1986 – 1987 Cinzia Ruggeri office Milan, Italy, (Aldo Cibic, Milan, Italy)
1987 – 1989 Jean-Jacques Hervy Brussels
1989 – 1990 Jean De Meulder Antwerp
1990 – present start of Vincent Van Duysen Architects office
1993 – 1994 lecturer architectural design, (Higher Institute of Architecture Saint-Lucas Brussels)
Background & Realizations: the projects
His most recent projects include: Aesop Shop in Hamburg, Germany 2014—2015
Aesop’s latest German signature store, and its first in Hamburg, opened recently in ABC-Viertel. Created in collaboration with Antwerp firm Vincent Van Duysen Architects, it features the brand’s first facial treatment room in Europe. The design relies on simple, natural materials and a subtle palette; it is informed by two primary influences: the building’s status as a protected historic site and the neighbourhood’s vibrant, sophisticated milieu.
Walls and ceiling in the 112-square metre space have been stripped back to their original state and clad in pale, roughly textured plaster, providing a refined tactile element. A sink of solid bluestone, conceived as a sculptural element and evocative of ancient fountains, effects a commanding presence and emphasises the product demonstration experience integral to Aesop’s gracious hospitality. Bluestone is also used for flooring, working in concert with the plastered surfaces to define a serene and timeless setting.
Display shelves are crafted from untreated European Oak and blackened steel – the latter referencing the store’s original cast-iron facade. Floor-length linen curtains hang in a discreet curve behind the point-of-sale counter, secluding the treatment room from the retail area.
Aesop’s sought-after facial treatments are performed in a select few doors internationally by in-house facial therapists. In the aromatic calm of a purpose-built treatment space, the brand’s meticulous formulations are employed to detoxify and stimulate skin and spirit.
Calvin Klein Jeans Store in Hong Kong, China 2014
The Calvin Klein Jeans stores feature a series of volumes and architectural ‘ribbon’ elements in beautiful metallic grey , brass and deep blue colors, combined with natural wood and a warm grey cement finish on floor, walls and ceiling.
The diversity of warm materials creates a sophisticated and textural environment that enhances the display of product and the customer experience. Jeans and products are featured on deep blue and wooden architectural ‘ribbons’ while accessories are showcased on a brass volume and are mixed with wooden modernist seating, felt carpets and a sculpture of light.
Funny Facts about Vincent Van Duysen?
He is a favorite designer of an american actress – Julianne Moore!
Vincent Van Duysen about what inspires him the most : “I’m not a fanatic person who has a “single, ultimate source of inspiration.” I believe for me, daily life, daily encounters—this is what inspires me the most. And my travels. Over the years, I’ve traveled to Mediterranean countries and Morocco and to destinations where people live with primary forms and habitats—you’d have an adobe here, mud architecture in Morocco, and the simplicity of the Greek Islands. This really fascinates me, and blending all the sources of inspiration makes me who I am. I’m a sponge; from the moment I wake up, I’m a very curious person.”
See also – TOP ARCHITECTS | MATTEO THUN
Inspirational quotes by Vincent Van Duysen
“When it comes to Belgian architecture and design, there is one person I need to mention: Axel Vervoordt. He’s a colleague and a friend, and he’s one of the protagonists and founders of the Flemish style. Belgians, and especially Flemish people, they are very individualistic. Aesthetics is in our DNA. We inherited a lot from the past—we have great painters and a history of craftsmanship and linens and carpets and solid wooden furniture and earthy colors.”
“It’s all the art of living. Academically, I was trained as an architect. But I am not a mathematical architect, I am an intuitive architect. I’m not one who says, “I want to predict a new way of living.” I’m not the visionary who wants to tackle large-scale urban enclaves. I’m a little conservative; I would rather go to the essence and the art of living.”
“I want to surprise people with my work and even surprise myself. Every project is customized and tailor-made—it’s all new and each project presents new challenges, but there’s that red thread running through my work. ”
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