Vincent 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.
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)
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Background & Realizations: the projects
His most recent projects include :
in Hamburg, Germany
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 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
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 the 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.
The Most Iconic Projects
Graanmarkt 13 The apartment
“The house is crucial in the entire story. It’s a private House where – on the top floor – a family lives, but at the same time it has several public functions that we wanted to bring together in the same floor. We didn’t go for spectacular architecture, on the contrary.”
Graanmarkt 13 is created as a welcoming and warm home, where everyone should feel at ease. The remarkable concept occupies an entire townhouse in the center of Antwerp with the traditional building being reworked by Vincent Van Duysen, one of Belgian’s best architects. In the past years owners Tim and Ilse turned Graanmarkt 13 into a household name, but wisely kept one secret to themselves. The initial idea was also to include a bed & breakfast on the top floors. But plans changed when they saw the plans developing and decided to turn all available space into one luxurious apartment. Described as ’their best kept secret’ , the apartment is now available for rent for a short and long stay.
The designer’s comment : “It’s a light-flooded space on the top floor with one wall sheltering a fireplace, functioning as the heart of the room, covered by 17th century-old wooden beams. The apartment offers fantastic views on the city and its surrounding trees. The garden chamber comes with a terrace, which is grounded with white gravel and ceramic pots and trees creating a Mediterranean and relaxed feeling. When entering the space you should be taken by a feeling of contemplation and relaxation and think: I feel at home here.”
“I envisioned the apartment as a location that stimulates creativity, so I assume it will draw a creative crowd to Antwerp. After all, It’s the perfect getaway for a director working on a movie, or an artist creating a project. In New York I enjoy staying at The Mercer, a small hotel filled with creative people and bands working on their music. I see the same happening here. It’s an inspiring place tailored to families and creative individuals. I’m very proud that my first hotel is located at Graanmarkt 13. The apartment might turn out to be the most beautiful place to stay in Antwerp.”
The designer, known for his use of natural materials and geometrical shapes, has taken his first steps into jewelry design with a first collection at Swarovski. The famous producer of luxury cut lead glass – celebrating its 120 years of existence this year – is launching the Frost series as part of their Atelier Swarovski line. Having created the stunning ‘Cascade’ and ‘Frost’ chandeliers for Swarovski Crystal Palace, Van Duysen further explores the potential of crystal with a jewelry collection. In this collection, the designer examines the sensuality of crystals in their natural state and investigates an ‘architecture for the body’. The ‘Atelier Swarovski by Vincent Van Duysen’ Frost collection is sensual and surprising, with crystals emerging from the jewelry pieces to create fascinating sculptural shapes. The pieces wrap elegantly around the wrist and neck transforming into shapely constellations.
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.”
His favorite room is his own living room !
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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The Creator’s Choice
2013 – VM Residence nominated for the Belgium Building Award, VM Residence, St Martens Latem, Brussels, Belgium
2011, ADI Compaso d’Oro Award, DRY tile for Brix, Selection by ADI Foundation, Italy
2009, Designer of the year 2009, Créateur de l’année, Scènes d’Interieur, Paris, France
2007, The Edge, competition project Al Mojil Investment Ltd. , Jury Member, Dubai
2006, Design for Europe, Jury member, Interieur Kortrijk, Belgium
2005, Selected for Design contest 615, Masterplan of a park and construction of a home for the elderly, Flemish Master Builder
2005, International Urban Ideas Competition, Second prize winner for the revitalization of Martyrs’ Square, Beirut, in collaboration with Nabil Gholam Architecture and Vladimir Djurovic
2004, Elle Deco International Design Award, Pottery for When Objects Work, Selected for the 19th Edition
2004, Henry Van de Velde Prijs, Pottery for When Objects Work, Selected for National Award
2004, Selected for Design contest 528, West Flander’s High School, Flemish Master Builder
2004, Selected for Design contest 527, Film Academy, Brussels, Flemish Master Builder
2004, Laureat of Design contest 622,Youth Hostel, Antwerp, Flemish Master Builder
2004, Selected for Design contest 605, Sanctuary, Sint-Niklaas, Flemish Master Builder
2003, Vierjaarlijkse prijs voor Architectuur, Nominated with Concordia Offices, Waregem, Provincie West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
2003, Despina Business Park, Selected for Architectural Contest,Bologna, Italy
2002, The awards of Belgian Architecture,Nominated with DC Residence, Waasmunster
2001, The awards of Belgian Architecture, Nominated with Concordia Offices, Waregem, National award
1999, The outstanding young person award, Laureat, Belgium
1995, Arch & Life, Honourable citation, Belgian European Architectural Awards
1994, Charles Wilford, Nominated with DB Residence, Mol, International Award
He also made many exhibitions like Horizon 8300 exhibition in TR Residence From 19.10.14 to 11.01.15 in Knokke, Belgium.
As well, he publishes many articles and publications, for exemple, in 2015 he features in the August-September issue of HÄUSER with a key editorial focusing on his continued collaboration with B&B Italia and the production of the Oskar table.
Top Projects Gallery