Hullebusch, Biennale Interieur 2018

Designing scenography is a very different exercise than building a house, office, or hotel, or even designing an object which is meant to last “forever.” I work to achieve the timeless, and exhibitions in their very nature are time bound, but the challenge of building lasting memories from temporary spaces was exciting to me. Being invited by Hullebusch (a well-known brand in Belgium and abroad renowned for their specialization in natural stone) to design their exhibition at the Biennale Interieur 2018 was a surprise, since they were not our principal or usual supplier. We could not refuse the project due to the absolute freedom that they were offering us to imagine a space for their exceptional product that we had so much respect for. The respect was mutual; they trusted us to achieve a kind of space for them that had the same serene qualities of our other projects, enabling their stone to shine in new ways. The client did not change a single millimeter of our original design and this was a memorable collaboration on both sides.

We wanted to create a secluded, meditative architecture, something closed-off from the rest of the exhibition hall, something that would put people directly in contact with the stone. We came up with the idea of creating a rectangular box with a single small opening that could be flooded with light. Upon entering the space, you are taken into a completely different mental state, one in which you lose all sense of time. Gravel was used on the floor of the round space to slow down your pace and to create an environment where people would feel compelled to take a seat and enjoy the silence, a welcome respite from the loud exhibition hall outside. Instead of showing a succession of small stone samples, we showed irregular shaped blocks of stone in a fully three-dimensional way.

We created a round secluded space as an homage to two artists who have had a deep influence on our practice: the large dome, open to the sky, is an evident homage to James Turrell’s Skyspaces, while the central installation is an homage to Constantin Brâncuși’s Land Art installation Table of Silence. I have had strong feelings about these two installations for a long time and I wanted to explore the role of emotion in architecture and the field of neuroaesthetics.

Photographs — © Claessens & Deschamps